The Lost Art of Diplomacy

In Iraq, the standoff between Sadr’s militias in Najaf and 2500 US Army troops (and their tanks, artillery, and air support) is a tense and extremely dangerous one. However, it looks like some careful diplomacy by an Iranian delegation may be easing the situation there. The Iranians, being from the only Shiite-ruled country in the world, have special influence with the Shiite community in Iraq. Happily, news reports are saying that since the Iranian delegation has arrived in Najaf to try to diffuse the situation, Sadr has relented on many of his most contentious demands.

So why do I refer to diplomacy as a “lost art”? Because it turns out that the only reason the Iranians are so helpfully mediating in the standoff is because the British asked them to. If it hadn’t been for the initiative of the British diplomatic corps, it seems likely that no negotiated progress would be being made, and that there would be no possibility of a peaceful resolution to the standoff. To the Bush administration, diplomacy is indeed a lost art. Whatever small diplomatic successes do happen in Iraq are despite the Bush administration’s efforts, not because of them.