September 28, 2007

Tyrannies And Information Access

Earler this week, the Institute for Public Dialogue proposed a new method for diplomacy called Public Talks. Nations in conflict would put "challenge documents" on the Internet for their populaces to read, and access to both sides would create enough public pressure for both nations to mediate their disputes. As I pointed out at Heading Right, it sounds great -- but since open societies never go to war with each other, their electorates already have access to government positions and much more.

Burma today showed why "challenge documents" won't work with tyrannies (via Michelle Malkin):

Soldiers in Myanmar pounded down on dissent Friday by swiftly breaking up street gatherings of die-hard activists, occupying key Buddhist monasteries and cutting public Internet access. The moves raised concerns that a crackdown on civilians that has killed at least 10 people this week was set to intensify.

Troops fired warning shots in the air and hit protesters with clubs to break up a demonstration by about 2,000 people, witnesses said. Five of the protesters were seen being dragged into a truck and driven away. The clash in an area near the Sule Pagoda was the most serious of the several sporadic — though smaller — protests that were reported in Myanmar's biggest city.

By sealing Buddhist monasteries, the government seemed intent on clearing the streets of monks, who have spearheaded the demonstrations and are revered by most of their Myanmar countrymen. This could embolden troops to crack down harder on remaining civilian protesters.

Efforts to squelch the demonstrations appeared to be working. Daily protests drawing tens of thousands of people had grown into the stiffest challenge to the ruling military junta in two decades, a crisis that began Aug. 19 with rallies against a fuel price hike, then escalated dramatically when monks joined in.

Western diplomats in Burma (Myanmar) now believe the military has killed dozens of protestors. The junta that has run Burma for decades has completely ignored the international community, continuing its brutal crackdown on monks without any concern over global outrage over their methods. The non-violent nature of the protests has not moderated the government response to the demonstrations a whit.

This demonstrates the point I made in earlier posts about the nature of negotiations with tyrannies for real change. It applies to Burma, but also applies to Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, and the entire range of oppressive, top-down dictatorships and kleptocracies. These regimes exist in part by tight control of information. When negative information flows into or out of these nations, the dictators simply ensure that the channels for that information either stop transmitting unapproved communications -- or get shut down entirely.

The end of Internet access will damage the ability of the activists to get images and stories of brutality out to the world. However, that will probably make little difference, because the world hasn't exactly rushed to the aid of the Burmese. Oh, the world has issued their own version of "challenge documents" in condemning the actions of the military junta by condemning them in diplomatic terms for their crackdown on peaceful demonstrations -- but they have done little to put pressure on Burma to end it. The Washington Post's Edward Cody is shocked, shocked! to find Burma's neighbors acting in their own self-interest:

The United States and Europe have fiercely criticized Burma's military rulers for clinging to power during another round of pro-democracy protests, this time led by unarmed monks. But closer to home, the junta's Asian neighbors and trading partners -- China chief among them -- have walked a distinctly more cautious line, expressing distress over the violence and, after long hesitation, renewing calls for reconciliation and eventual transition to democracy.

The discretion by China and Thailand in particular reflects sensitivity over their own political systems. China has been a one-party dictatorship for more than half a century, and its Communist rulers have given no sign they are willing to change anytime soon. In Thailand, a military coup d'etat gave power a year ago to a uniformed junta with different policies but the same origin -- the barracks -- as the one putting down marchers in Rangoon. ...

As a result, neither government can afford to be seen applauding as the Burmese monks cry out for an end to dictatorship. Were they to join the United States and Europe in clearly urging Burma's generals to step aside for democratic elections, the question in Beijing and Bangkok would be obvious: Why is democracy not also the right path for China and Thailand?

Partly out of these concerns, the main regional grouping, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, had for two weeks reacted to the crisis by citing its doctrine of noninterference in the affairs of member nations, which include Burma. Like China, ASEAN limited itself to deploring the violence and urging some kind of peaceful settlement.

And that explains why "challenge documents" and international debating societies like the UN and ASEAN matter little to tyrannies. Their associates in these organizations join to broaden economic ties and solidify their own political positions. They don't support liberty or democracy, because the members of these organizations aren't liberal democracies or open societies themselves. The only measure of concern from China on Burma has to do with whether the violence will disrupt their economic ties. With China's suppression of the monks of Tibet, they're the last nation who will act in defense of Buddhist monks agitating for freedom anywhere in Asia.

One might think that the overwhelming naiveté that afflicted 1930s Europe on handling dictatorships would have taught these lessons to the West permanently. Unfortunately, we continue to learn the hard way that shame doesn't work with tyrants and kleptocrats.

UPDATE: Tom Shipley asks in the comments, "You say this is not a good idea because tyrannies won't take part. First of all, you don't know that for sure. Second of all, what harm would come from trying?" It's not an unreasonable question, and it deserves an answer. The harm comes from people believing that it will actually result in change -- and the focus it shifts from that change to winning a silly debating contest. The point of diplomacy should be to free people from bondage, not essay contests that will have no impact on thugs and tyrants.

This process enables people to change action for rhetoric. We do that often enough already. In the case of Burma, even the testimony of diplomats attesting to dozens dead in the streets hasn't convinced China, Thailand, or India to cut off Burma and close down trade with them. Are we to believe that a strongly-worded letter from the State Department recapping what everyone already knows about the Burmese military dictatorship will exceed the power of those images?

Reliance on challenge documents just lets everyone off the hook. It seeks to embarrass governments that have no accountability to their people. Shame doesn't work in that setting, and for those who think that is the ultimate in diplomatic offensives, it keeps other solutions off the table. That's the harm.


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Comments (34)

Posted by Tom Shipley | September 28, 2007 6:38 AM

You say this is not a good idea because tyrannies won't take part.

First of all, you don't know that for sure. Second of all, what harm would come from trying?

These documents would act to open up the world, putting more internal pressure on governments who choose not to participate. It could serve as an isolating tactic.

Open dialog is always good. Just because some won't take part, doesn't mean others shouldn't. And even if a country like Iran turns its down, documents could be put on the Web for residents of Iran to see what they are missing because of their government.

The more you open up the world, and the more tyrannies isolate themselves from it, the more internal pressure they will hopefully feel.

Posted by Tom Shipley | September 28, 2007 6:43 AM

And this isn't a war in which thousands of people will die for a chance to bringing openness to other countries.

It's an attempt to exchange ideas. I don't understand the resistance to it. What's the downside to failure?

Posted by Michael Smith | September 28, 2007 6:45 AM

The liberal mind has an infinite capacity for evasion and is completely immune to reason, evidence or logic. Liberal policies and ideas have failed, failed spectacularly, failed uniformly and consistently, but are nontheless vigorously reasserted at the appearance of each new problem.

The utter and obvious failure of the League of Nations to contain Hitler led to what? World War II in Europe and the death of millions followed by the next liberal idea for avoiding such catastrophes: The United Nations.

Indeed, the pattern is that the disastrous consequences of one failed liberal policy become the excuse to advocate more of the same. Just as the liberals now advocate more government health care programs in response to the problems created by the current government health care programs, so they will demand more international diplomacy and negotiations in response to problems that international diplomacy and negotiations have long since failed to resolve. The liberal mind is thus trapped in a death-spiral of ever worsening consequences that result from each fresh application of their ideas and policies.

Unfortunately for us, they are determined to take us with them on that ever-tightening downward spin into economic chaos and collapse at home while our enemies abroad grow ever stronger.

Posted by Tom Shipley | September 28, 2007 6:47 AM

Blah, blah, blah, liberals are bad.

Let's try for once to stick to the issue at hand and not just use this as an excuse to bash the other side.

Posted by Jerry | September 28, 2007 6:58 AM

I always appreciate what Tom Shipley has to say (not always apparent) because although he trots out the usual party line he does it with an intelligence that is lacking in the trolls who usually show up. (ref gil from yesterday)

Now that I have finished praising Caesar let me bury him.

In his post Tom shows what is wrong with Leftist thought and why the "ism" can never be expunged from Western Culture. There is no amount of empirical evidence that can persuade someone like Tom Shipley that tyranny cannot be defeated with mere words. There is always the hope that next time will do the trick and when that fails the next time after that. One has to wonder if he really believes in this nonsense of challenge documents or just feels obliged to follow the Party Line on this and similar issues. That is the problem with the leftwing addiction to what ever "ism" is out there. Solidarity and group think is more important then truth.

Posted by Bennett | September 28, 2007 6:59 AM

I think Burma's government made its "challenge document" openly and readily accessible, easy for all to read and nobody needed an Internet connection either. It was attached to the end of the rifles Burma's army used to shoot the monks.

There is no meaningful negotiation with a government willing to slaughter unarmed citizens. Burma's government doesn't care about international condemnation or isolation or any of our fashionable western concepts encouraging dialogue and peaceful conflict resolution. And why should it? It's all sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Posted by Tom Shipley | September 28, 2007 7:05 AM

Appreciate the kinds words Jerry. You may have kicked some dirt on me, but bury?

Ironically, you have just trotted out the same talking points of righty bloggers. Again, you just attack liberals and don't address this specific issue.

I think I ask legitimate questions here. Care to address them?

There is no amount of empirical evidence that can persuade someone like Tom Shipley that tyranny cannot be defeated with mere words.

Words alone will not defeat tryanny. But they sure as hell do help.

Look at the American Revolution. Would it have occurred without Common Sense or other writings calling for action against the British?

Posted by Dishman [TypeKey Profile Page] | September 28, 2007 7:06 AM

What's the downside to failure?

Just more wasted time and effort, while the bodies continue to pile up... whether it's a slow accumulation like Sudan, an orgy like Rwanda or a flash like Tel Aviv.

Oops. Last one hasn't happened, yet. Let's all talk it to death.

Posted by Michael Smith | September 28, 2007 7:07 AM

It's an attempt to exchange ideas. I don't understand the resistance to it. What's the downside to failure?

The downside is that you will never admit that it has failed, whatever bureaucracies are set up to administer it will go on sucking in tax dollars indefinitely and the next time some manifestation of the problem bubbles to the surface you will advocate another such program and demand to know, "What is the downside to failure?"

"Let's meet and exchange ideas with Hitler. What is the downside to failure?"

This is the manner and the pattern in which you insure that no action will ever be taken to address a mortal threat like Iran's promise of "Death to America", her willingness to aid in the killing of our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and her ongoing program to acquire nuclear weapons. You will always find an excuse to evade the problem, thereby insuring that when it reaches the point where it can no longer be evaded, it will be as bad as possible.

Posted by Bennett | September 28, 2007 7:09 AM

"Look at the American Revolution."

This is not the best example, Tom, unless you are suggesting that pamphleteering as a prelude to armed rebellion is the goal here. If so, let's get those rifle shipments ready and on their way to the monks post-haste.

Posted by Mikey NTH | September 28, 2007 7:17 AM

What guarantee is there that the population of the tyranny will (a) see the challenge documents in an uncensored form, (b) will see the challenge documents at all, (c) will have free communications to discuss the documents, (d) etc.?

The tyranny will lie and cheat at every opportunity - its what tyrannies do. They can be trusted to keep their end of a bargain so long as a gun is to their heads. The long sad roll of history tells us that.

Posted by Michael Smith | September 28, 2007 7:19 AM

Look at the American Revolution. Would it have occurred without Common Sense or other writings calling for action against the British?

But the documents being proposed -- the so-called "challenge documents" -- aren't "calls to action"; they are calls to inaction, they are calls for more diplomatic intercourse and negotiation.

How much good would it have done the American Revolution if Common Sense had advocated a cessation of hostilities with the British and a fresh round of negotiations instead?

Posted by rbj | September 28, 2007 7:24 AM

Common Sense came out in the midst of the Revolution. 1776. War started in 1774.

The main point however, Tom, is that the military junta in Burma is not interested in dialogue, or a search for Truth or anything like that. The junta is solely interested in preserving its power. That is why they have no qualms about killing their own unarmed citizens.

Now, if you want to aim words at someone, try the troops out in the streets, convince them not to shoot their fellow countrymen.

Posted by Tom Shipley | September 28, 2007 7:25 AM

This is not the best example, Tom, unless you are suggesting that pamphleteering as a prelude to armed rebellion is the goal here.

Could be, for sure. And maybe not for Burma, but maybe for other countries. Democracy has to come from within. the only way to get that done is by a motivated populace.

this could be a way to either engage the populace of nations under tyranical rule, or a chance to further expose their governments for what they are.

Any potential war would have a unique set of circumstances that would have to be addressed at the time. This idea can be a useful tool in diplomacy and the spread of democracy.

I don't understand why you all are so quick to shoot it down, given I don't see much of a downside at all.

Posted by coldwarrior415 | September 28, 2007 7:26 AM

Why is it that in this day and age with all the media and communications and learning opportunities available to us so many still hold on to the belief that merely talking to a nation will solve all the problems?

There are countries and leaders of those countries who have already made abundantly clear their intention to do what they want when they want and how they want and the rest of the world be damned.

In order to sit down with Leader A or Leader B and "discuss" things one has to assume that Leader A or Leader B actually wants to resolve an issue through discussions, give up something in order to obtain something. One has to assume that Leader A or Leader B will act in good faith.

What happens when they do not act in good faith or have no intention of using discussions as anything more than a propaganda ploy, or a means to gain time?

Trying to use rational actor models with irrational leaders or regimes does nothing to solve the problem. Such only serves to demonstrate that one of the goodie-two-shoes nations is willing to talk while Rome burns. In essence, the g-t-s nation clearly shows weakness. Thus Leader A or Leader B already understands the sentiment of the g-t-s nation, and can act with impunity without fear of reprisal...and has the additional benefit of showing the rest of the world that Leader A or Leader B tried all they could to discuss issues but it was that g-t-s nation that just didn't bring the right stuff to the negotiations.

Having viewed the debates thus far, I find it amazing that in this day and age there is this irrational belief by too many candidates that negotiations and diplomacy can solve everything and anything. Yet, history has shown over the past centuries that there are nations that simply want more and more and negotiations are but a speedbump in their road to accomplishing those goals.

At some point, with some nations, with a Leader A or Leader B, one has to come to grips with the empirical or cut bait.

Sure, it looks nice, looks good to some, but we can talk with some nations until the cows come home and we will be talking still when they have already moved agressively. Doesn't anyone remember Paris? The Assemble Nationale was still talking even as German forces occupied the city.

In world affairs, in world history, there are countless examples of bold counter-aggressive actions being far far more efficacious than merely talking. Negotiating from fear is a certain way to negotiate a nation into surrender.

Posted by Tom Shipley | September 28, 2007 7:43 AM

Shame doesn't work in that setting, and for those who think that is the ultimate in diplomatic offensives, it keeps other solutions off the table.

Robert McNamera, it the film Fog of War, makes the point that empathizing with one's enemy can save thousands of lives on the battle field.

This is the guy who fire-bombed Tokyo, not John Lennon.

In one sense, this is an attempt to do that. Using this as a tool does not mean military action is off the table. It's just another tool of diplomacy.

And to me, these challenges are not necessarily aimed at the regimes, but those who live under them. This is not an attempt to "shame" a tyrannical regime, but to put pressure on them. Engage their citizenry. That's the most dangerous thing we can do against repressive governments.

I've seen a lot of talk on here about spreading democracy around the globe. Any attempt to reach out to people currently living in repressive regimes I can only think will help the potential for democracy.

Posted by jerry | September 28, 2007 8:03 AM


I was just using a little Shakespeare as an additional compliment to you.

As someone else posted in the first thread on this subject, the use of "challenge" documents is not new to diplomacy. Hitler certainly used the concept to outmaneuver his European rivals prior to the Second World War. This challenge document concept is nothing more the public diplomacy designed to influence public opinion in countries with representative governments. Challenge documents are useless in influencing dictatorships because the dictator only listens to his immediate advisors and silences its opponents by any means necessary.

This kind of public diplomacy is heavily skewed toward the interests of dictatorships. Our "challenge" documents have little or no effect on a the dictator while his documents sow dissention and opposition in our country. I can see how this concept is attractive to the usual suspects at or the EUrocrats in Brussels. However, the concept is not useful in promoting peace and democracy in the face of aggression by dictators and their friends.

Posted by Tom Shipley | September 28, 2007 8:13 AM

How exactly were "challenge documents" or something similar used with Germany in the 1930s?

Posted by jerry | September 28, 2007 8:24 AM


Don't be obtuse. The German government was adept at getting out their story through the dissemination of Foreign Ministry and other statements to the European press. In each European crisis, Germany made clear what its objectives and negotiating positions were. They did a masterful job of sounding reasonable until Hitler made his decision to go to war. Germany had even won the propaganda war against Poland by September 1939. It is likely that Hitler could have gotten the Allies to meet his public demands without a fight.

Posted by gregdn | September 28, 2007 8:25 AM

Lot of tough talk here but the bottom line is that America has absolutely no strategic interest in Myammar and doesn't need to do anything.

Posted by Tom Shipley | September 28, 2007 8:27 AM

I'm not saying Germany didn't have a good propaganda machine. But you inferred that the concept of "challange documents" were used with Germany. I don't think they were.

Posted by jerry | September 28, 2007 8:34 AM


The topic isn't Myammar. It is being used as an example to show why this new diplomatic concept of Challenge Documents is stupid.


Challenge documents are a form of public diplomacy. Some would say that these documents are propaganda. What do you think a Challenge Document would be?

Posted by Tom Shipley | September 28, 2007 8:37 AM

And I think "challenge documents" would potentially be a great tool against propaganda.

Others have brought up concerns about whether citizens would receive government-altered documents. I would think if this idea came to fruition, that the UN or some other moderating body would be in charge of disseminating the documents and be "in country" to monitor what the people are actually receiving.

If that weren't possible, the Internet makes it infinitely more possible for a populace to receive these documents unfiltered despite any attempts of its government to shield them.

Posted by Michael Smith | September 28, 2007 8:48 AM

Any potential war would have a unique set of circumstances that would have to be addressed at the time. This idea can be a useful tool in diplomacy and the spread of democracy.

Assuming by "democracy" you mean a free society, i.e. a society based on individual rights with a government dedicated to protecting those rights, a society characterized by doctrines such as equality before the law, seperation of church and state, freedom of speech and press, independent judiciary, etc. -- assuming that is what you mean by "democracy", can you name a single instance where diplomacy has moved a totalitarian nation closer to that goal?

What are the success stories that so endear you to diplomacy?

There are the Camp David Accords, wherein President Jimmy Carter used a $2 billion a year bribe to get Anwar Sadat to agree to quit having the Egyptian army periodically slaughtered by the Israelis. So I’ll grant that diplomacy-by-bribe has helped remove a threat to Israel.

But other than that -- which, incidentally, did not move any nation closer to "democracy" -- what are the success stories that give you such faith in diplomacy?

We have plenty of counter-examples of diplomacy achieving the opposite. For instance, consider the results achieved by diplomatic initiatives such as the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, Woodrow Wilson’s “Fourteen Points”, the League of Nations, the Dawes Plan of 1924, the Locarno Agreements of 1925, the Young Plan of 1930, the Lausanne Conference of 1932 and the World Disarmament Conference of 1933.

These were all diplomatic maneuvers undertaken in an attempt to restrain and deal with an undefeated, unrepentant Germany after the Armistice that ended WWI. The net result of all these diplomatic initiatives was the following:

1) Germany was excused from paying 90% of the reparations they had originally agreed to pay in the Treaty of Versailles.

2) American loans, grants and subsidies of various sorts to Germany actually exceeded what reparations were paid, so Germany in the period from 1920 - 1932 had a net inflow of capital. Germany was not economically crushed by the Versailles Treaty as is commonly believed. This series of diplomatic initiatives allowed Germany to weasel out of it almost completely.

3) The Versailles Treaty’s limits on German re-armament were also abandoned, so Hitler was free to begin building the army and navy he would need to launch WWII.

By 1938, after Hitler had re-occupied the Rhineland without resistance in 1936, the English began to realize the magnitude of the mistakes they’d made with these diplomatic initiatives. Hitler’s 1938 annexation of Austria created a panic. What was the British response? More diplomacy. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain began a series of diplomatic negotiations (!) with Hitler in an effort to determine what it would take to appease the Fuehrer.

Hitler demanded Czechoslovakia. England, France and Italy gave it to him. The rest is history.

For more recent examples of what diplomacy achieves, consider the Paris Peace negotiations that “ended” the Vietnam War. Look what happened after that.

Or consider the Oslo Accords. Look what has happened to Israel since then.

In the face of this track record of various totalitarians using diplomacy to get what they want, why do still favor it as a means of dealing with such people?

Posted by mags | September 28, 2007 8:50 AM

we were led to believe that the u.s brings democracy and freedoms,a beacon,the last hope for mankind.
Exceptional people blessed by god. Who has shed more blood for others lberty then the rest of the world put together.
'no strategic interest'
I appreciate you clearing that up for me.

Posted by jerry | September 28, 2007 8:54 AM


I get the feeling you are defending this position out of obligation and not conviction. As you well know, authoritarian governments really don't pay a lot attention to the UN. Afterall, an organization that can not make a decision on what to do about genocide will hardly be effective in ensuring that documents are properly distributed.

You seem to be having some trouble getting over the barrier that the public does not influence an authoritarian government. Public opinion only has an effect on representive governments. This is something that dictators have known for a long time.

Posted by Tom W. | September 28, 2007 9:01 AM

When people talk about dialog with tyrannies, I always think of the end of the 1951 sci-fi movie "The Thing from Another World."

Throughout the film, the detached, appeasing scientist, Dr. Arthur Carrington, argues that the monster can be reached through dialog, even though this creature has done nothing but kill, grunt, and dismember.

Carrington refuses to believe what he sees with his own eyes. He even tries to sabotage the soldiers' effort to stop the Thing, because he considers it superior to humans and can't accept that he and his colleagues are at war.

(Spoiler alert. Whoop! Whoop!)

In the final scene, the soldiers have rigged up an electric floor, but Carrington runs past them and makes one last, desperate appeal to the monster's good side, begging it to respond. The Thing smashes Carrington aside and is then roasted to death by the military.

Monsters that kill everything in their path must be roasted to death. They don't deserve dialog. In the name of humanity, regimes that mow down unarmed monks should be destroyed, not invited to chat.

Of course this view is considered barbaric, so we'll just talk instead, and people will keep dying. Oh, well. La-dee-da.

Posted by coldwarrior415 | September 28, 2007 9:01 AM

And Myanmar[Burma} has cut all internet access to and from Burma this morning. So much for unfiltered receipt of documents on the internet.

Gee, how long has it been since Ang San Sui Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? How long has it been since the government of Burma has decided to step down and let democracy flourish?

The U.S. does have vital interests in Burma.

Those vital interests are in the form of having the U.N. through resolutions and declarations from the Security Council having weight and consequence. Those vital interests are in the form of standing up for a people who have no one else to stand up for them.

For those who think diplomacy is the answer, what about the effectiveness of the U.N. to actually resolve issues? How can the U.N. be effective when it does nothing to uphold and back up its own resolutions? And we still have too many who talk of concensus building at the U.N. as being necessary before we take the next step beyond diplomacy. Why?

When a nation such as Burma understands that it needs only one ally in the Security Council [China, in this instance] it knows that it can act with impunity and make the murders in Rangoon merely an internal matter not subject to the U.N..

Sure, the internet is wonderful to pass along challenge documents and other evidence to show Leader A or Leader B is committing atrocities. So what? Can the internet stop these attrocities? We had the internet when Rwanda was deep into a bloodbath. An internal matter, not subject to the U.N.? Or Darfur? An internal matter not subject to the U.N.?

The internet or challenge documents useful in challenging propaganda? Sure, to the armchair diplomats sitting at home. But to the people on the ground? To those governments who couldn't care less about challenge documents and having their propaganda challenged?

Public diplomacy is generally a feel good exercise. Nothing more.

Diplomacy itself does have efficacy.

Having an ability to meet eye-ball to eye-ball with Leader A or Leader B in private, and have that leader(s) understand that at some point soon talking will not suffice and a nation has the ability and resolve to end their days is a fairly effective means to accomplish goals.

Posted by Tom Shipley | September 28, 2007 9:12 AM

What are the success stories that so endear you to diplomacy?

Well, U.S./U.S.S.R never engaged in direct battle. It took nearly 50 years, but "glasnost" finally took down the communist regine.

Though, progress in Russian seems to be stalling lately.

And Jerry, I am arguing this out of conviction.

Posted by jerry | September 28, 2007 9:32 AM


The US-Soviet competition was constrained by nuclear weapons. The lack of a beyond death eschatology in Marxism heavily constrained Soviet behavior. Blowing up the planet would have negated the dialectic of victory. Glasnost did not bring down the Soviet System. Bankruptcy did. The Soviets themselves say this. Anticipating your response, I take their word over the word of the Cold War pro-Soviet lobby.

Posted by CheckSum | September 28, 2007 11:00 AM

Who would get to write the challenge documents for the United States? The Republican administration, the Democrat congress, or an un-elected ''bi-partisan'' commission?

Just wondering?

Posted by Michael Smith | September 28, 2007 12:57 PM

Tom offered the following as an example of a diplomatic success.

Well, U.S./U.S.S.R never engaged in direct battle. It took nearly 50 years, but "glasnost" finally took down the communist regine.

Diplomacy didn't cause this to happen. In fact, it was one of diplomacy’s fundamental premises -- the belief that our enemies will eventually come to their senses if only we'll be nice to them and show them we mean them no harm -- that dragged out and delayed the collapse needlessly for decades.

In 1920, after three years of communist rule, Russia was in chaos and its population was starving. Lenin asked for the west's help -- and he got it. Here, said the diplomats, was a chance to show the communists that we mean them no harm.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the West supplied the USSR with airfields, railroads, gold, copper and iron-mining installations, ship, aircraft and textile factories, automobile factories and oil refineries. Whole factories were shipped across to Russia. Mackee Steel provided the equipment for huge steel plants at Magnitoglorsk. Calder of Detroit equipped and installed the material for an enormous tractor factory at Chelayabinsk. Henry Ford and Austin Company provided all the equipment for a major automobile plant at Gorki. Hugh Cooper, creator of the Muscle Shoals Dam, built the giant hydroelectric installation at Dnieprostroi.

Along came WWII and under the lend-lease program, the USSR was granted $10.8 billion dollars worth of equipment (in 1962 dollars no less) completely free of charge.

You should read the 1962 book by German historian Werner Keller titled, "East - West = Zero". In this book he details the myriad ways in which the west -- especially the U.S. -- has kept the USSR afloat instead of allowing it to collapse.

And the aid continued long after the publication of Keller’s book. In 1963, President Kennedy, pushed by Dean Rusk, began the policy of supplying the USSR with wheat and credits, all for purposes of trying to "normalize" relations. The aid and the sales continued right on through to the Reagan administration, who didn’t stop them either.

The USSR eventually fell, but not because of diplomacy. Diplomacy, or at least the type of thinking on which diplomacy often rests, kept the USSR afloat -- and millions of people enslaved -- for needless additional decades.

I’m not saying we should have gone to war with the USSR. We didn’t need to. All we needed to do was stop helping them.

Posted by runawayyyy | September 28, 2007 9:27 PM


Respectfully, you really need to just concede at this've given 2 examples that you claimed backed up this stupid idea, and they were both shot down in the most complete, articulate manner possible. I mean, come on....the revolutionary war? What could be more irrelevant? And not only were you wrong about that, but your only other example was the USSR, and we all KNOW you prefer the system they had to anything America has ever done. But that doesn't mean it was a good idea....why is this so difficult for you to understand? There has NEVER been a SINGLE example where diplomacy prevented a totalitarian regime from oppressing it's people. To continue to push this idiotic agenda makes you look pretty stupid, and although you are a committed leftist you can at least articulate your point of view....give this one up, you can't win it.

Posted by unclesmrgol | September 29, 2007 1:26 AM

Inherent in this concept is the fact that we would expect a "challenge document" to hold publicly the BAFO (best and final offer) with regard to a government's negotiating position.

Would any government put any position publicly forward in a "challenge document" unless that document was asserting the BAFO (AKA "take it or leave it")?

And, if this is the case, how is it different from diplomacy today, other than making the BAFO public?

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