Rogue regimes don’t operate by the normal rules of diplomacy.
They play us.
And we should learn from this.
That’s the overarching message that Michael Rubin wants to share with the world.
A resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Rubin recently published a book, “Dancing with the Devil: The Promise and the Perils on Engagement,” and shared its main conclusions at the Savannah Council on World Affairs.
“I’d rather solve a conflict through diplomacy than through military force,” Rubin says. “But this notion that ‘simply talking’ is enough, and indeed, that ‘simply talking’ is without cost, is absolutely an artifact of, just really, the last decade or maybe decade or two. It has no basis in reality.”
In this hour-long talk, Rubin details the ways in which the United States has weakened its interests by engaging with regimes such as the Taliban, North Korea and Iran.
He goes back into history and presents case studies from the Iran hostage crisis during the Carter administration and nuclear weapons talks during the Regan administration.
In the latter, he argues that the Soviet Union made concessions because there was a real threat of force, or leverage.
“I would argue today that leverage, too often, has become a bit of a dirty word,” Rubin says.
He also looks at more recent episodes.
In one case, with the Taliban, he says that the United States allowed the Afghanistan rogues to open a diplomatic office in Qatar.
The Taliban promptly raised their flag and got access to sources of money laundering, which were their two main goals in the first place.
In another case, in Cuba, the United States released five high-profile detainees simply by engaging with them.
“Whatever you think of Guantanamo Bay, the fact of the matter is, that was the Taliban’s initial demand in order to get negotiations going,” Rubin says. “Once that demand was met, are they really interested in peace or did we already give them everything they wanted when they came to the table?”
He says that tyrants seek to legitimize their standing in the world and boost their image at home first by opening their hand to the United States and then by slapping us in the face.
This has happened time and again with North Korea and Iran.
Rubin argues that the United States should take a more holistic approach to rogue regimes.
He says that, too often, failed military and economic strategies have been used as excuses for an over-reliance on diplomacy.
“Just because A and B don’t work doesn’t mean C automatically does,” Rubin says.
Diplomatic, intelligence, military and economic (DIME) approaches should be used together, he says.
It’s a fascinating and timely talk that will get you thinking.
Rubin, a former Pentagon official, is not a “military is always right” guy.
And he’s not a “diplomacy is always right” guy.
This 65-minute talk was recorded for the Savannah Council on World Affairs at the Coastal Georgia Center in Savannah, Ga.