A new arms control agreement with Russia "would ensure that the Russian arsenal will remain more limited", but it would also ensure that the US would be similarly restrained. Is this the real reason US might not want to renew the obviously mutually beneficial agreement? It is hard to see, with fog of war, who is "winning" in Ukraine and what the final outcome will be. But it looks like US weapons are not giving Ukraine the much anticipated boost, at least not yet. So who will have the "incentive" to use nukes? A terrible question to contemplate.

Expand full comment

By Brett Stephen's logic, we shouldn't make deals at all, ever, with anyone.

Of course, if I were the Mullahs, I'd be making sure that whatever else I did, I got my mitts on The Bomb, because force is the only thing that sociopaths like Brett Stephens and the American foreign policy establishment respect.

Expand full comment
Aug 26, 2022·edited Aug 26, 2022

When Kennedy refused LeMay’s urging to nuke Cuba and plunge the world into nuclear Armageddon, the general leveled the “Chamberlain” charge against the sitting president.

When Reagan went to Reykjavik for diplomatic engagement with Soviet premier Gorbachev, it was Newt Gingrich who conjured the “Munich conference” as a criticism.

In any diplomatic process, there is give and take. It takes no substance, seriousness, or brain power by backbenching onlookers to assert that too many concessions were made for too few benefits received compared with some nebulous hypothetical alternative approach that they are never under any burden to clarify.

As to Mr. Stephens, all diplomacy looks like dishonor, from the vantage of a Manhattan sofa.

Expand full comment

"You consider war to be inevitable? Very good. Let everyone who advocates war be enrolled in a special regiment of advance-guards, for the front of every storm, of every attack, to lead them all!"

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Expand full comment

I recently heard an argument that diplomacy in America died the day Alexander Haig was sworn in as Secretary of State. Not an unreasonable date for the headstone. America's diplomacy was subsumed by the MICIMATT on that day and remained there ever since.

Expand full comment

I hear what you’re saying, but it’s hard for me to agree with that.

I’m a liberal dove so I was never personally a fan of George HW Bush (but I was only in HS when he left office), but given the policy options in play under the political realities and majority viewpoints of the time, I’d concede now that he was a good president on diplomacy.

His ability to generate solid Arab support for Operation Desert Storm against Saddam Hussein and the relatively peaceful implosion of the Soviet Union were underappreciated master-strokes of behind-the-scenes diplomacy. Plus he was the only president with the balls to force real concessions from the Israelis to get the 2SS moving in Madrid.

Expand full comment