Comments: The Iraq War and Mediation?

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Paul , Pittsburgh p   12/07/04
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I hesitate to reply to a reply - but since nobody else is doing it I will. Your response is thought provoking and a bit worrysome. First, you blur or obliterate the distinction between diplomacy and mediation, feeling that your readers are more likely to relate to mediation than diplomacy as a descripter. If that is true - "we've come a long way, baby" Worrysome is your setting up GBush I as a practitioner of mediation so you can contrast GBush II's gung ho militerism to the reasoned father. If we have to distort our history that much to get a point across, there is something wrong. We get enough flak from people who call themselves mediators but do everything but mediate (mandatory custody mediators who handle everything in 20 minutes - for example) - that we can only lose be claiming George Bush I as a mediating president. Thank you for your clarification, at least I know where you are coming from. Paul Wahrhaftig

John Willis, Shelbyville KY     11/24/04
Bush I, Bush II, and More TruthSeeking
Paul is correct in his fundamental criticisms, which I anticipated from a sector of readers. Perhaps these words of explanation and elaboration will clarify why I blurred, nay, obliterated, the lines between diplomacy and mediation, and presented Bush I as I did. The article was written prior to the recent elections and was an installment in my regular newspaper column. That column is to be nonpartisan. There are many Americans who view advocacy of diplomacy to be prima face evidence of weak will and compromise at any price. We remain in a political atmosphere of great fear in the U.S. Some Republican propagandists have made fundamental criticism of the current President’s policies nearly equal to un-American activity. To have more of my reading audience consider the fundamental points—particularly ultra-nationalists who rankle and dismiss any content when embedded under the rubric, “diplomacy”—I avoided the term and used mediation. Though awkward and over-extended, it still carries the denotations of reasoned communications and processes aimed to reduce or resolve conflicts. While Bush the First did systematically build his “international law-and-great-patience” case, anything said favorable about him and his strategy was only in foil to the current situation created by his son, his son’s advisors, and both. My personal view is that Bush I was intent on going to war with Iraq for a range of reasons, the least of which was liberation of Kuwait or democracy; nevertheless, he DID build a case over time to cover his real motives and legitimize what was soon to happen. Bush II, however, did not even cover the thorn by the rose of an affected diplomacy. His father still could, however, appeal to all he “tried to do,” though medicre minds could see through the subterfuge. Bush I was put in a favorable light to Bush II precisely because of the current political environment where many good Americans are told by fear-mongers and propagandists that criticism of the current administration is un-American activity, potentially treasonable, but surely a sign of a corrupt and unpatriotic mind. I sought, first, to even be published on these delicate subjects; second, to highlight the current policy weaknesses from history; and, third, to show that Bush II had some defects, even by his own father’s methods (which were lip-service to mediation processes while he planned otherwise). In closing, I agree, oddly enough, with the critics of the history of diplomacy in this point: the enormous linguistic machinery of double-meanings and public obfuscation used by diplomats in every nation should be abandoned by leaders who should use truthful, candid, understandable, unmistakable dialogue in the interests of their own citizens who will shed the blood and pay the bullet-bills. Thank you, Paul, for your kind thoughts. JDW

Paul , Pittsburgh PA   11/23/04
GW Bush I and Iraq
Fortunately I don't have to agree with an article to post it. This one is interesting, and probably controversal, in its blurring the lines between mediation and diplomacy. I don't think I would have called the negotiations leading up to building a network of allies mediation. I would have called it solid diplomacy. Secondly, I think he looks back at Bush the First through rose colored lenses. My memory is that as the Gulf War was being prepared and it looked like we were geariing up for an invasion, many of us (including Roger Fischer of "Getting to Yes" fame) felt that the entire conflict between Iraq and Kuwait was mediatable. That's where George H.W. should have put his mediative efforts rather than rounding up allies by whatever process for the attack, I would be glad to pull a couple of contemporary articles from that period to help folks understand the history of the Iraq conflicts.