The trick of diplomacy is to look for common points. This is true between nations and among individuals. The problem arises when overlapping interests are perceived as few, or one party does not want to negotiate. How do you break that nut? It is hard. You can walk away or work it. More often, working it is the better course.
Two cases come to mind. The first is Iran. Iran is intent on building a nuclear weapon, as demonstrated by past and present enrichment of uranium to weapons grade, if nothing else. Their internationally aggressive, internally repressive Islamic government has amassed hundreds of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.
Iran is a malefactor in the region, theologically possessed of a desire to forcibly expand its influence, raise havoc, disturb seeds of peace, sponsor anti-American, anti-Israeli, and anti-Sunni terrorism, support civil wars, and foment radical Islamic instability.
Recent events are more than troubling. They suggest Iran does not understand the stakes, does not want to understand the stakes, is spoiling for war or has backed itself into an untenable corner – and does not know how to get out.
The second case of collapsing diplomacy is closer to home. Americans seem increasingly unable to talk with each other, understand that they share a common past, values and future. We seem unable, or more accurately unwilling, to give ground in conversation, even to bring our fellow American closer to core truths. We grow impatient with the impatience – and hotheadedness – of others.
Many of us – an estimated 250 million – are citizens of faith, 75 percent avowed Christians, others minority faiths. Many of us are believers in limited government – which means smaller federal presence in our lives, lower taxes, less regulation.
We step up for constitutional rights, untrammeled speech and unpunished association to free exercise of religion and petition for grievance. We expect to be secure in homes and papers, not subject to warrantless search or seizure.
We understand the right to confront and cross examine accusers, respect equality before the law, and the privacy of other citizens. We boldly defend the right to keep and bear arms, even as we sit on juries and pay our taxes. We also respect – and expect others to respect – citizenship, our borders and our veterans. In short, we understand history – and how special America is.
All this gives rise to frustration – right here at home – when it seems others do not appreciate what we think of as common sense, common roots, and common values, the sort that made America what it is.
Nothing in this column will solve modern frustrations, or not directly. But timeless tricks of diplomacy help. On Iran, we can hope President Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign will lead Iran to realize developing a nuclear weapon is worse than senseless; it is existentially dangerous.
If Iran wakes up, they will come to the negotiating table. Their future will be brighter if they do. So will the world’s future. If they do not, two other outcomes are likely – neither diplomatic. One is that the West will destroy or nobble Iran’s ability to create a nuclear weapon; the other is the Iranian People will speak, changing their government.
Closer to home, hope is higher for diplomacy. If we can remember with one another that we are one people joined by profound ideals, we can get back to respect for each other, democracy, and liberty. We can do that, even while we disagree.
To get there, we must remember just who we are. We are – funny enough – cut from one cloth. We are not genetically alike but bound by high ideals. We are beneficiaries of courage and foresight, must now show some of our own.
We draw strength from individuality, and each other’s differences. We cannot return to ordered liberty by tearing down beliefs of our fellow man. We must ask them to respect ours, even as we respect theirs. Only in that way, are truth and comity found. That is how America became the powerhouse we are. We were impatient with ourselves, less with each other.
While not an American, Winston Churchill’s mother was American. He was proud of that. Maybe that is why, as he aged, he grew closer to America. He thought we were exceptional, and we are. He was the one who said: “It takes courage to stand up and speak; and it takes courage to sit down and listen.” He learned to do both. We can too.
The trick of diplomacy is to look for common points. This is true between nations and individuals. The problem is that some nuts are hard to crack, common points hard to find. We may not get there with Iran, but we can work on our diplomatic skills closer to home. As “One Nation under God,” the beneficiaries of greatness before us, we owe this to each other.