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Intransigent Diplomacy

There is a disturbing pattern over the decades in Washington’s negotiations with countries deemed to be adversaries.  It is a tendency to adopt a rigid stance marked by unrealistic demands that make achieving a settlement virtually impossible.  Often, harsh economic sanctions against the target country reinforce the provocative diplomatic posture.

Most recently, that conduct has characterized the Obama administration’s strategy for dealing with the civil war in Syria.

Not only has Washington meddled in that internecine conflict by providing financial aid and supposedly “nonlethal” supplies to insurgent forces, but U.S. officials have taken an active role on the diplomatic front in a most unhelpful fashion.  A key U.S. demand is that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down before any settlement ending the fighting can be reached.  In essence, Washington insists on Assad’s preemptive surrender.  The Syrian autocrat rebuffed that demand even when the fortunes of war appeared to be going in favor of the insurgents.  Now that government forces are repelling an increasingly divided rebel movement, he is even less inclined to step aside.  That was a major reason why a frustrated Obama administration sought to escalate matters and launch missile strikes against Syrian government targets.  Fortunately, strong congressional opposition and a timely Russian diplomatic...

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