politics, history and the war on terror
Monday, August 02, 2004
Limits of Diplomacy  

Diplomacy has its limits when fighting the War on Terror. Diplomatic pressure alone cannot force friendly nations to cooperate. Recent events in Iraq illustrate this problem. Put aside the lead up to the war, where France, Russia (both have a veto on the United Nations Security Council) and Germany blocked attempts by the United States Britain to enforce UNSC resolution 1441. Post-war it became obvious that Al Qaeda, Hezbolloh and Iran were fueling a significant portion of the insurgency. France, Russia and Germany continued to impede coalition efforts to rebuild Iraq's security forces and assist with peacekeeping, steps that would assist with defeating terrorism in the fledgling nation. In Afghanistan, NATO has failed to provide the forces required to assist with protecting the upcoming elections from terrorist attacks by al Qaeda and Taliban remnants. Iran continues to sponsor terrorism and attempts to obtain WMD while failing to concern the internationals.

Indifferent or hostile nations further demonstrate the difficulty of relying on diplomacy to fight terrorism. Other than the threat of sanctions, there is little motivation for hostile nations to cooperate. The Executive Summary of the 9-11 report aptly sums up the failures of diplomatic efforts prior to 9-11:

Beginning in February 1997, and through September 11, 2001, the U.S. government tried to use diplomatic pressure to persuade the Taliban regime in Afghanistan to stop being a sanctuary for al Qaeda, and to expel Bin Ladin to a country where he could face justice. These efforts included warnings and sanctions, but they all failed.

The U.S. government also pressed two successive Pakistani governments to demand that the Taliban cease providing a sanctuary for Bin Ladin and his organization and, failing that, to cut off their support for the Taliban. Before 9/11, the United States could not find a mix of incentives and pressure that would persuade Pakistan to reconsider its fundamental relationship with the Taliban.

The full report notes some interesting details on the methods used to capture bin Laden. As diplomatic relations did not exist between the United States and the Taliban, the U.S. was forced to negotiate first via Saudi Arabia.
Frustrated by the Taliban’s resistance, two senior State Department officials suggested asking the Saudis to offer the Taliban $250 million for Bin Ladin. Clarke opposed having the United States facilitate a “huge grant to a regime as heinous as the Taliban” and suggested that the idea might not seem attractive to either Secretary Albright or First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton—both critics of the Taliban’s record on women’s rights. The proposal seems to have quietly died.
After attempts with Saudi Arabia failed, the Clinton administration attempted to deal with Pakistan, an indifferent state at the time, with predictable results. Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, was not threatened by the diplomatic actions of the United States and had no reason to be. Economic sanctions, barring travel visas and the severing of diplomatic ties have little effect on insular regimes such as the Taliban.

In fact none of the outside pressure had any visible effect on Mullah Omar, who was unconcerned about commerce with the outside world. Omar had virtually no diplomatic contact with the West, since he refused to meet with non-Muslims. The United States learned that at the end of 1999, the Taliban Council of Ministers unanimously reaffirmed that their regime would stick by Bin Ladin. Relations between Bin Ladin and the Taliban leadership were sometimes tense, but the foundation was deep and personal. (Page 125)

By late 1999, more than a year after the embassy bombings, diplomacy with Pakistan, like the efforts with the Taliban, had, according to Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering, “borne little fruit. (page 126)
The failures of relying exclusively on diplomacy and negotiated, half-hearted peace keeping efforts to resolve conflicts against brutal regimes litter the history of the 1990s. The Taliban, Iraq, Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo and North Korea are clear examples of the failures of relying exclusively on diplomacy, with little or no threats of consequences. The current process of debate and negotiation, with little chance of intervention, plays itself out before our eyes in the Sudan, where government sponsored genocide are being conducted in the Darfur region.

Afghanistan and Iraq showed America's commitment to take hard action against enemies unwilling to work within the confines of international law. Outlaw nations have taken notice of America's ability to dismantle the militaries and capture the leaders of terror states. Some, such as Iran, Syria and North Korea continue to work to undermine the United States, but these nations have been given fair warning. Libya has decided to end its program of WMD and renounce terrorism because of American resolve after 9-11.

Indifferent nations are impacted as well. Pakistan is a prime example of a nation that has begun to actively cooperate against terrorism. It has capture and killed over a thousand al Qaeda operatives, and is responsible for the capture of Khalid Sheihk Mohammed and Ramsi bin-Alshib, two of the operational planners of 9-11. A recent arrest of a high level al Qaeda operative in Pakistan may have thwarted planned attacks in New York City and Washington, DC. It is highly unlikely diplomacy alone can be responsible for Pakistan's change of heart.

The War on Terror requires all options to be available for use. Law enforcement and diplomacy are important tools in the toolbox to fight terrorism, but cannot be relied upon exclusively to win the war. Nor can diplomacy be an obstacle. There are times the war must be fought in the trenches, be it covert or overt military actions, without the approval of others.

Posted by bill roggio @ 12:43 AM

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