I do hope you’ll pick up Ken Cloke’s new book Conflict Revolution. Keep it on your night stand. Dip into it when you feel angry, hopeless, and grief-stricken at a local, national, or international act of violence.
Here’s a little good news from Ken’s book to cheer myself and my readers up after the last lengthy post on the Robert F. Kennedy assassination.
It is possible, as has been demonstrated in Northern Ireland, for former combatants to recognize that nothing can be gained through military methods that is worth the cost; that their mutual slaughter has been a gigantic, tragic, absurd, pointless waste; and that they can reach out at any time to each other without glossing over their differences.
It is possible, even for the most battle-hardened opponents, to learn that there are no differences they cannot solve through dialogue, negotiation, and conflict resolution, or are worth the damage created by their assumptions of evil; that they can engage in open, honest, collaborative negotiations over ongoing issues of justice and equality; cooperate in strengthening their political, economic, and social democracies; develop interest-based conflict resolution skills; and elicit heartfelt communications that invite truth and reconciliation. To do so, they need to penetrate beneath the layer of moral rationalization they have erected to solidify and buttress these cycles of internecine conflict.
Remember Détente? Take a Look at the June 2 NY Times “Backgrounder” on Negotiating with Hostile States. Campaign rhetoric aside, all U.S. Presidents do it; the only questions being when and who and under what circumstances and how. Excerpt below:
Republican President Richard M. Nixon accelerated contacts with Soviet leaders in the early 1970s. Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, introduced a policy of détente that aimed to establish new linkages on issues ranging from arms control to improved trade terms. The goal was to lessen superpower tensions as well as induce positive changes in Soviet international behavior. Kissinger writes in his book Diplomacy that Nixon’s advisers “saw no contradiction in treating the communist world as both adversary and collaborator: adversary in fundamental ideology and in the need to prevent communism from upsetting the global equilibrium; collaborator in keeping the ideological conflict from exploding into a nuclear war.”
The new contacts bore fruit in the signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) in 1972 by Nixon and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. But within a year, tensions related to the October 1973 Arab-Israeli War showed superpower competition remained vigorous, at one point prompting a heightened nuclear alert for U.S. forces. In 1974, congressional critics of détente, led by Democratic Sen. Henry M. Jackson, sidelined a U.S.-Soviet trade agreement with the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which linked trade to emigration of Soviet Jews. Writing in Foreign Affairs, historian John Lewis Gaddis called détente a “sophisticated and far-sighted strategy” that Nixon and Kissinger failed to put across to their “own bureaucracies, the Congress, or the public as a whole.” Robert S. Litwak, director of international security studies at the Woodrow Wilson Center, writes in his book Rogue States and U.S. Foreign Policy that the détente policy was hampered by the “Soviet leadership’s ability to compartmentalize relations and frustrate the Nixon administration’s efforts to establish linkages.”
Some Cold War analysts say more effective as a counterweight to Soviet ambitions was the Nixon administration’s simultaneous diplomacy with China, which led to the formal establishment of a dialogue with the 1972 Shanghai Communique. While not posing the direct threat that the Soviet Union represented, Communist China was viewed as no less odious by critics of the Nixon negotiations due to its intervention on North Korea’s side in the Korean War, and because of massive human rights abuses, especially in the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution. Despite such concerns, Nixon saw value in ending China’s isolation. He wrote in an October 1967 Foreign Affairs article: “We simply cannot afford to leave China forever outside the family of nations, there to nurture its fantasies, cherish its hates and threaten its neighbors.”
In the years that followed, U.S. administrations held a number of adversarial states at arm’s length, diplomatically. These states included Fidel Castro’s Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea, Libya, Nicaragua, Syria, and Sudan. In some cases, like Vietnam, diplomatic ties have been fully restored. In others, such as North Korea, dialogue has resumed over the issue of the country’s denuclearization. Relations with Iran were severed after the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy, and diplomatic contacts have occurred only sporadically since then. High-level contacts with Cuba remained a remote prospect in 2008 as an economic embargo continued over U.S. concern at political repression.
President Ronald Reagan took office signaling a tough posture toward the Soviet Union and an intention to stanch communist support for rebellions in Central America. But Reagan also stepped up negotiations on nuclear arms control and participated in summits with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, a practice continued by George H.W. Bush until the Soviet Union’s collapse. In the 1990s, the Clinton administration pursued dialogue with Pyongyang and normalized relations with Vietnam, while seeking to contain and isolate Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, and Afghanistan’s Taliban leadership.
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