The Instigator
Ahking
Pro (for)
Losing
13 Points
The Contender
SnoopyDaniels
Con (against)
Winning
33 Points

Cutting Diplomatic Ties Resolves Nothing: Unconditional diplomacy is best.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/24/2008 Category: Politics
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,700 times Debate No: 4165
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (10)
Votes (13)

 

Ahking

Pro

As Pro, I am going to argue that unconditional diplomacy and negotiations with opposing states are better policies than cutting diplomatic ties with them to talk only when a state meets certain conditions.

As Con, you argue the opposite.

Define 'opposing state' as a state - at peace - that presents an economic or security threat to America or an ally.

Good luck!

Unconditional diplomacy is much more likely to achieve favorable results whereas conditional diplomacy is not.

When you demand a state to meet certain conditions - change a policy or submit in some way before diplomacy commences - they remain with different options to pursue to continue opposition and gain advantage. Iran and the United States, for example, are not pursuing official talks until Iran ceases its nuclear program. Iran's nuclear program has been known about since 2003 and diplomatic ties have been cut since 1979. The option for conditional talks has been on the table since May 2006. Its been two years, three rounds of UN sanctions, and multiple attempts by the Iranian government to hold talks later - but still nothing has changed. The program is being defended by Iran as a peaceful energy program. Ending the program for conditional talks puts Iran at a disadvantage, and thus is not a strategic option for them. Unconditional diplomacy gives the opposing country a strategic option to pursue, while simultaneously fulfilling our own goals.

The Cuban Missile Crisis is a good example of this. When the Soviet Union brought nukes to Cuba the USA went to diplomacy to resolve the issue instead of bombing Cuba. Diplomacy worked because the USA offered to remove Nukes from Turkey in exchange for the removal of Cuban nukes. This was resolved in thirteen days. This negotiation gave the Soviet Union a strategic offer - something to gain - from benefiting us by removing the nukes. Otherwise, the Soviet Union would have had nothing to gain by removing those nukes and would have kept them there.
SnoopyDaniels

Con

Thanks for the challenge Ahking.

I would like to begin by saying that I have little regard for diplomatic talks of any kind, whether they are conditional or unconditional. This is not to say that I don't believe in diplomacy. However, no international problem was ever solved merely by talking about it. The example you cited, the Cuban Missile Crisis, is a case in point. Were it not the case that the United States had nuclear assets in Turkey, no amount of talking would ever have brought the situation to a peaceful conclusion. Diplomacy is a complete waste of time without something to bargain with, such as a trade resource, or finances. Even those two things have no real bargaining power without a military to ensure that our enemies don't simply take what they want and give nothing in return. All effective diplomacy is contingent upon a strong military. This is not meant as a counter-argument, only as a brief explanation of where I'm coming from.

If it's all the same to you, I will refer to Iran specifically, rather than "our enemies" in general, because it is both less vague and more convenient. Since you have essentially done the same thing, I doubt you will find this unacceptable.

I begin my arguments by way of a question. Since you support talking to our enemies, what do you propose we say to them? Imagine, for example, you are face to face with Mahmoud Ahmadenijad right now. What, exactly, would you say to him that hasn't already been said by President Bush in his various speeches?

Agreeing to speak to our enemies without preconditions is foolishness. Any diplomatic talks that would result from eliminating preconditions would INEVITABLY end in discussions of Iran's nuclear program. If Iran is unwilling to end its refining activities for the purpose of nuclear weapons, then there is simply nothing to talk about. If they are also unwilling to discontinue their threats and posturing with relation to Israel, then there is likewise nothing to talk about.

Establishing preconditions simply ensures that any talks that do take place will not end in a stalemate, and waste our time. Accepting our preconditions shows a willingness to cooperate, not just with us, but with the world community. Remember, too, that when we talk about "diplomacy" with another country, we are really talking about discussions with the government of that country, which is often an illegitimate regime which seized power through force. Thus, by talking to these "leaders," we are only reinforcing their legitimacy, and are failing to talk with those who's interests are truly worthy of consideration. What Ahmedenijad says and wants is completely different from what the people of Iran want for their country. Iran is its people, not its government. Why, then, would we even bother conducting talks with little Mahmoud? Establishing preconditions may provide motivation for the people of a country to replace their leadership, and truly seize their own destiny, where possible.

The idea that unconditional diplomatic discussions are somehow virtuous is based on the false proposition that talking in itself, is virtuous. If, simply by talking, two nations formed a spiritual connection which brought them closer to each other and put them in harmony with earth, then I would agree that we should resume normalized relations with our enemies. Unfortunately, the virtue of talking for the sake of talking has never been demonstrated. Instead, talking to our enemies inadvertently legitimizes them and increases their political clout.

Thus, preconditions have a very important function, not only in ensuring that any talks which do take place promise success, but that we don't legitimize leaders who have no real desire to cooperate or compromise in the first place. Preconditions are simply those points which, were discussions to eventually take place, that are non-negotiable. We use preconditions all of the time in daily life and negotiations. A precondition, before negotiating the price on a piece of merchandise, for example, is that you actually have money. If you have no money, then there is no point in continuing negotiations.

You musn't believe that simply because we don't have normalized relations with a country or countries, that we are not on some level "talking to them." Bush frequently talks about Iran in public speeches, and obviously Ahmadenijad can hear him just as well as you or I can. Furthermore, by establishing preconditions, we are essentially conducting diplomacy. For example, I took a trip to Israel in 2006. While there, we visited old city Jerusalem, where there are numerous shops and bazaars. The posted price on every item was FAR above and beyond their true worth. I'm a very poor negotiator, so most of the time I ended up paying at or slightly below what they were asking. However, a friend of mine who had experience with this kind of bargaining managed to get things ridiculously discounted. He did this by naming a price far below theirs, and when they did not accept, he simply walked away. Each and every time, the shopkeeper would call him back and give him the price he asked. By not walking away, I showed the vendor that I wanted a particular item too badly to walk away, but when my friend did exactly that, it showed that he didn't want it badly enough to let them rob him of his money.
Preconditions are analogous to "walking away." By talking to our enemies without preconditions, it tells them that we want something bad enough from them that we're willing to make concessions. It's a small step from there to actually making the concessions. Preconditions are the very vestiges of the "tough diplomacy" that you've said you support.
Debate Round No. 1
Ahking

Pro

Thank you for accepting, you've made some worthy opening points.

Yes, Iran is the most practical example to commonly use, but use it remembering that we are discussing the broader idea to theoretically apply to everyone.

And yes, there is a difference between official talks and unofficial talks, which we have with Iran through Iraq about Iran's role in Iraq. So thus, diplomacy should mean official talks and not unofficial ones.

I agree with your first point, that diplomacy is worthless without something to bargain with, just like talking for the sake of noise is worthless. But alas, the point of diplomacy is always to reach an end through the means of dialogue, and it is assumed that there is some mutually beneficial outcome which can be achieved without the costs of military force or economic sanctions.

Which leads me to my second point, that there is always a mutually beneficial outcome which can be achieved through unconditional diplomacy - so I'd like to bring back your story about Israeli market bargaining for reexamining. The analogousness of 'preconditions' to 'walking away from the bargain' is flawed, because in a marketplace there is competition to get what one wants, while in one on one/state on state relations, there is not. Persian rugs only come from one place so to speak. Your buyer friend walking away signifies that he'll get what he wants from someone else, but in state to state relationships, you can only get what you want from a state from that state itself. Knowing this, the 'seller' so to speak, has no reason lower his price and bend over backwards for you, because he has the same amount of leverage that you have.

But like the buyer and seller, their interactions have the potential to be mutually beneficial. Remember that an enemy is only someone who is perceived to harm or diminish you in some way, and in two enemies this trait is shared by both sides. (Example: USA threatens Iran and Iran threatens USA.) Diplomacy presents the opportunity for both sides to agree to end this threat simultaneously, like was the case in the Cuban Missile Crisis (in which, to remind you, the Russians removed the Cuban missiles, and America removed the Turkish missiles simultaneously).

Diplomacy is both the easiest and most affordable way to get what you want. Wars are expensive, as the Iraq War shows by costing over 500 billion dollars, and wars as not a last resort have enormous costs in international standing. Also, unconditional diplomacy has not been proven to work yet. We've not had ties with Cuba for over 40 years and they still haven't made any of the changes we'd like, the same way Iran continues to defy us.

It is incorrect to say talking is not a virtue to be valued. With talk comes understanding. With understanding comes trust. With trust, cooperation. And your evaluation of Iran proves to me the need for a greater understanding. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not the foreign policy maker of Iran, instead Ayatollah (Supreme Leader) Khameinei is. And according to Khameinei, Iran's foreign policy is one of "nonaggression towards all United Nations members" - a statement he made two days after Ahmadinejad's controversial 'wipe Israel off the map' comment.

Furthermore, it is incorrect to assume that a country is unwilling to change its ways should a better option appear. The nature of Iran's quarrel with Israel is Israel's invasion of Lebanon and the fighting with Shi'ite Muslims (Hezbollah), which Iran has a history of forming policy around to protect. Also the oppression of Muslims in Palestine is a cause of Iran's concern. Should these things be remedied, Iran would have no reason to threaten Israel. The idea that they are self-evident or natural-born enemies for no reason other than their own existences is one that holds no weight.

Furthermore, I would argue that conditional talks actually grant more legitimacy to states than you think. Conditional talks would grant more strength to that state's actions because you are not allowing the country any option to pursue but submitting. Tensions can escalate, as they have been with Iran, and a country who is threatened - where its people suffer from economic sanctions or the threat of a possible war - grant the utmost legitimacy to the leader. Just look at the legitimacy we gave to Bush for the Iraq war when there was no threat except its very perception. So indeed, conditional talks stand to further push the people of Iran away as well as the government.

Yes, it would be naive to think diplomacy will always work. Perhaps if you were trying to talk to the Mongols or Hitler, you would fail miserably to find a mutually beneficial outcome. But with countries like Iran and North Korea, there is proof that you can. But you would never know unless you tried, and if you insist on holding conditional talks, you've never tried.
SnoopyDaniels

Con

"there is always a mutually beneficial outcome which can be achieved through unconditional diplomacy"

As I pointed out in my opening arguments, this is certainly not the case. No compromise which does not include Iran halting its nuclear program, cutting off funds to terrorist organizations and the insurgency in Iraq, and ceasing their anti-Israeli rhetoric, cannot possibly be accepted. Why, then, should we waste our time talking to an enemy country (and I use the term "enemy" loosely. Clearly there are countries with which we have no formal diplomatic relations which pose no real threat of any kind, e.g. Taiwan) if they are not willing to make these concessions?

What I think you're trying to say is that by establishing preconditions, we are essentially saying that we are not willing to give these countries anything in return for these concessions. If I'm understanding you correctly, then I certainly see your point. However, there are two sides to every coin. In the case of Iran, if, in unconditional negotiations, we offered them something in return for their cooperation, we would set a horrible precedent. It would amount to rewarding misbehavior, and from that point on every rogue government on the face of the planet would realize that they could get anything they wanted by threatening and warmongering and violating human rights. In return for their cooperation they could get any number of concessions from the United States. It is far better to establish preconditions. Reward countries for their cooperation by opening diplomatic channels, allowing for secondary negotiations which can enhance the prosperity of both the United States and the nation in question.

Like every analogy, my anecdote about the market in Israel is imperfect. It nevertheless demonstrates the power of tough bargaining, which is precisely what removing preconditions is not.

"It is incorrect to say talking is not a virtue to be valued. With talk comes understanding. With understanding comes trust. With trust, cooperation."

The above statement is true when talking about interpersonal relationships; However, it has very little application to diplomacy. Ahamadinejad has made his intentions perfectly clear, which is the very reason we have cut diplomatic ties and are having this discussion in the first place. The preconditions we have established arise, not from a lack of understanding, but an overabundance of it.

"Furthermore, it is incorrect to assume that a country is unwilling to change its ways should a better option appear... Should these things be remedied, Iran would have no reason to threaten Israel."

Excuse me, but there is never any reason, or excuse, to threaten to wipe out an entire nation. This is precisely what little Mahmoud has done. It is that kind of mantra that must be discontinued if talks are to proceed, not the threat of military action per se. At least another entire debate could be dedicated to the question of Israel, Lebanon, and Palestine. I will not distract from the current topic by trying to refute your statements on the matter.

"The idea that they are self-evident or natural-born enemies for no reason other than their own existences is one that holds no weight."

This is completely off-topic, but theirs is a 3000-year-old feud at least. It is difficult to explain that without some kind of naturally occurring hostility.

"Conditional talks would grant more strength to that state's actions because you are not allowing the country any option to pursue but submitting."

How would removing a foreign government's options strengthen their actions? You may simply have to be more specific with your wording to get your point across. Removing a state's options and leaving only the options we with them to pursue would, I would think, be ideal.

"Tensions can escalate, as they have been with Iran, and a country who is threatened - where its people suffer from economic sanctions or the threat of a possible war - grant the utmost legitimacy to the leader.

Once again, some clarity is missing here. Are you saying that tensions grant the "utmost legitimacy" to the leader of another country? In a situation in which a country's leaders, such as Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah, are far more radical than the population itself, things like economic sanctions and the prospect of war severely undermine the legitimacy of the government. When the people realize that their government is to blame for the hardships, support for the government drops, and further motivates them to replace their government. This, of course, would depend on the preconditions. If, for example, a precondition to talks was that Iran had to give all of its oil to the United States for free, the sanctions and hostility, coupled with this outrageous demand, would indeed strengthen a government in much the same way that support for president Bush remained high shortly after 9/11, as you pointed out. However, if our preconditions are reasonable, the opposite would be the case.

In the specific case of Ahmadinejad, I don't see a whole lot of difference between him and Hitler. Their propaganda, rhetoric and threats have run remarkably parallel. If you've seen the documentary "Obsession" you know what I'm talking about.

I would like to say that I'm not entirely sure that cutting diplomatic ties is always justified, and that, by extension, establishing preconditions for negotiations is always constructive. I keep going back to Taiwan, which presents no real threat, but with whom we have no relations because of diplomatic pressure from China. This does not mean that preconditions aren't productive when appropriate, as is the case with Iran.
Debate Round No. 2
Ahking

Pro

There is always a mutually beneficial outcome which can be achieved through unconditional diplomacy.

Indeed, any diplomacy that in effect rewards a country without resolving the main issues we have with them would be appeasement. But I will present some solutions which can serve as examples for mutually beneficial outcomes concerning Iran.

1. Good Neighbor Agreement - Iran and the United States both share a common interest in seeing Iraq stabilized yet not hostile to their interests. The US has oil and security interests in Iraq, while Iran has security, economic, and Shiite interests in Iraq. Iraq, on the other hand, is trying to gain both the favors of the US and Iran yet both sides continue to fight. An agreement from Iran and the US to both support Iraq's stability aid-wise and to end military operations (US troops and Iranian backed support for militias) would end the USA's security qualms about an Iranian-backed Iraq as well as Iran's for a US-backed Iraq, and see to it that Iraq is helped even more than before.

2. Nuclear Non-Proliferation agreement - In a clause of the UN's NPT, a country is allowed to pursue a peaceful nuclear program. But to ensure that this program is not manipulated into a weapons program, there are a number of steps that can be taken. Foreign countries can act as benefactors for the nuclear plants and remove the enriched uranium once it has been used up in the plant. The country's plants can be inspected. The main point of contention with Iran's nuclear program is not them getting safe nuclear power, but of them making weapons from this power. The US or a proxy country can exchange certain benefits like ending the sanctions or including Iran in some trade deals for allowed control over Iran's nuclear power program. This would give US the means to make sure that Iran can't get a nuke, while Iran would end the international isolation that is hurting their economy.

On a kinda side note, Iran with a nuclear weapon is not necessarily a dangerous thing. If we negotiated with Russia at the height of their nuclear program to reduce their's and our arsenals with the INF treaty, why can't we negotiate with Iran? Only one country has used nukes, and that is the USA. That is because no other country had nukes to use back against us. Iran would be subject to a certain Cold War idea called MAD - mutually assured destruction (think Dr. Strangelove) and would know that nuking Israel would warren nuclear retaliation from Israel and the USA. If you were to say that Iran is not a rational actor and would commit nuclear suicide, then I would ask you what proof is there? The USA's rhetoric on Iran is almost as bad as Iran's on Israel - Bush has called them evil on more than one occasion. So I think that the rhetoric is simply a way of getting public support and not a real policy description in these cases.

I agree that we should stay away from the Israel-Palestinian thing.

To clarify my argument that unconditional diplomacy strengthens the other country's leadership amongst the population, I say so because any self-interested country with enough power to resist will not comply because they believe their actions to be right. In doing so, they invite economic sanctions upon themselves, international isolation, and threats of military action. Any crafty leader can turn these things into support for his cause - painting the other country as a heartless enemy and evil foe. This rhetoric coupled with the real impact of economic sanctions or the real fear of war can be enough to push a population to rally behind their leader. The ones that disagree with their leader are usually rooted out and removed from society. This is Iran, Cuba, N.Korea we are talking about, not America where there are civil liberties. Even in America, anyone who questioned G.W.B's post-9/11 actions were deemed unpatriotic and ignored. Putting oneself in the position of 'enemy' inevitably leads to the strengthening of their leadership and limits their options to one fit to deal with 'enemies'.

Indeed, you do bring up that this could also undermine a govt's support. In every country where is a split in the population between pro-gov't and anti-gov't. In Iran it is between the conservatives and the reformers. So in this point, I concede that whether it strengthens or weakens the government depends on a case-by-case basis on what country it is. In the case of Iran, which we've used as an example in this debate but not the main focus, I would argue that it would strengthen it like I stated above.

As with Taiwan, I don't know if they apply. I was thinking mainly of arguing whether unconditional diplomacy is better than conditional diplomacy for getting what one wants from opposing states. Taiwan hasn't really opposed us.

Thank you again for this debate, and good luck in the voting
SnoopyDaniels

Con

"Indeed, any diplomacy that in effect rewards a country without resolving the main issues we have with them would be appeasement."

No no, giving the Iranians anything in return for "behaving," for lack of a better term, would amount to appeasement. They shouldn't need to be bribed in order to do the right thing.

Your list of "mutually beneficial agreements" is logically valid, but unfortunately rests on some pretty flawed assumptions, making it an unsound argument. First:

"Iran and the United States both share a common interest in seeing Iraq stabilized yet not hostile to their interests."

This is assumption. Ahmadinejad has made it abundantly clear in several speeches (none of which are ever reported in major media) which indicate that the United States is second on his list of nations which must be destroyed. Israel is the little satan, the United States is the great satan. This doesn't lend much credence to the claim that Iran and the United States both share a common interest in anything, much less Iraq. In fact, Iran is more likely behind what little instability is left in Iraq.

"Iran has security, economic, and Shiite interests in Iraq."

Could you explain what these interests are? Iran most certainly would not benefit by having yet another rival in the oil export business. The only one of these three interests which might be true is that they represent a common branch of Islam.

"An agreement from Iran and the US to both support Iraq's stability aid-wise and to end military operations (US troops and Iranian backed support for militias) would end the USA's security qualms about an Iranian-backed Iraq"

This is erroneous. No agreement could possibly assuage our security qualms about an Iranian-backed Iraq. Iran doesn't have a very good track record with regard to its financial and logistic beneficiaries. These beneficiaries can be summed up by one word: terrorists. It could not possibly be in the interest of the United States to see Iranian influence spread, least of all to Iraq.

"But to ensure that this program is not manipulated into a weapons program, there are a number of steps that can be taken."

There is no fool-proof way to ensure that a country doesn't use an otherwise peaceful nuclear program for nefarious purposes. You clearly underestimate the incompetence of a bureaucracy as large as the United Nations. Do you honestly think it's wise to take such chances with a nation with such clear ties to terrorism all over the world, and with a leader who has been quoted as saying "Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury," and "As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map." and other timeless classics?

"On a kinda side note, Iran with a nuclear weapon is not necessarily a dangerous thing."

You mentioned the Nuclear non-Proliferation Agreement. The whole premise behind this agreement is that for every nation which acquires a nuclear weapon, the world becomes a more dangerous place, ergo, Nuclear NON-PROLIFERATION. Besides, I think it's pretty clear from the previous paragraph that Iran's possession of a nuke would be a very bad thing. Mutually assured destruction obviously worked very well with the Russians, who were NOT religious radicals bent on conquering the world and placing it under the banner of Islam. Something tells me that allowing a man who believes that he is supposed to usher in the apocalypse is not a good thing.

"This rhetoric coupled with the real impact of economic sanctions or the real fear of war can be enough to push a population to rally behind their leader."

I agree, unless the population in question realizes that it is only the radicalism of their leader which is responsible for the sanctions in the first place. If the world community established sanctions against the U.S. because we began lobbing nukes indiscriminately across the Canadian border, I doubt he would have much success in rallying the American people behind his leadership against the evil nations of the world.

"This is Iran, Cuba, N.Korea we are talking about, not America where there are civil liberties."

Why should we talk to these oppressive governments? Obviously their aim isn't to further the interests of their people, so why even attempt to cut a deal with them in the first place?

You mentioned something very important earlier: trust. Unfortunately, the real world bears very little similarity to that portrayed by Disney. Trust cannot be won simply by talking about it, but by actions. Actions speak louder than words after all. Diplomacy cannot succeed with out the mutual trust that each party will live up to the conditions of the agreement. In the case of Iran, we have no reason whatsoever to confer this amount of trust on them, so what is the point of talking to them? If, however, they agree to our preconditions, this would represent an act of good faith which justifies further talks. Without these "actions" to back up their words, there is simply nothing to say to our enemies. By the way, I noticed that you never answered my question about what you would say to Ahmadinejad if given the chance. Making assertions of mutual interest and possible agreements is one thing, but giving an example of what you would say to bring about such an agreement is quite another.
Debate Round No. 3
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by SnoopyDaniels 8 years ago
SnoopyDaniels
Same here. I've been spending just about every spare moment I have on here. Time to take a break.
Posted by Ahking 8 years ago
Ahking
On second thought, I'm going to take a break from debate.org for a bit. This was a good debate, I look forward to bumping into you again in the future on this site.
Posted by SnoopyDaniels 8 years ago
SnoopyDaniels
I don't think we got terribly side tracked. Iran is the most accessible example of what we're talking about. I'm not sure this debate would have worked at all without a specific example to discuss. What exactly about Iran would you like to debate?
Posted by Ahking 8 years ago
Ahking
by the way snoopy, I think we got sidetracked a LOT in this debate, particularly about Iran, which we shouldn't have focused on that much. Would you like to debate Iran sometime?
Posted by Ahking 8 years ago
Ahking
I said always and I'm sticking to it. If that mutually beneficial outcome is the knowledge that you tried everything and that are going to war and that means you don't have to waste anymore time wondering, then so be it. I didn't say this in the debate and it shouldn't be taken into account when voting.
Posted by Derek.Gunn 8 years ago
Derek.Gunn
If peace is better than war, why risk inflaming a situation?
Cutting diplomatic ties is not a small thing, and it sends a clear message of that country's opinion.
Posted by SnoopyDaniels 8 years ago
SnoopyDaniels
Great debate. Good luck in the voting.
Posted by SnoopyDaniels 8 years ago
SnoopyDaniels
Ahking, to prefix ANY claim with the word "always" is extremely bold.
Posted by Ahking 8 years ago
Ahking
Flatwhite! good to see you buddy. What, may I ask, do you know about 6 thousand years of human history? What a bold claim!
Posted by flatwhite 8 years ago
flatwhite
"There is always a mutually beneficial outcome which can be achieved through unconditional diplomacy."

Always? Unconditional?

There's six thousand years of recorded human history that disagrees with you.
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