As Andrew C. McCarthy, writing at National Review Online, put it, "There is no mutuality of interest." And when there is no mutuality of interest, there is nothing to talk about. With respect to Winston Churchill, "jaw jaw" is not always better than "war war." And I strongly doubt he would have approved of "jaw jaw" during "war war."
There is an even greater problem with the premise of these negotiations. Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is someone whose concerns have far less to do with this world than the "next," whose rationale is shaped not by the consequences of economic sanctions or air raids, but rather by a Islamic vision of the apocalypse. Indeed, as the Hudson Institute's Laurent Murawiec has pointed out, Ahmadinejad, while mayor of Tehran, "insistently proposed that the main thoroughfares of Tehran should be widened so that, he explained, on the day of his reappearance, the Hidden Imam, Mohamed ibn Hassan, who went into the great occultation in 941 A.D., could tread spacious avenues."
This not-so-trivial Ahmadinejad trivia came from a trenchant speech entitled "Deterring Those Who Are Already Dead?" in which Murawiec analyzed the jihadist mindset in thrall to violence, death and the afterlife. One conclusion: "Contemporary jihad is not a matter of politics at all (of `occupation,' of `grievances,' of colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism and Zionism), but a matter of Gnostic faith. Consequently, attempts at dealing with the problem politically will not even touch it."
This, in Murawiec's analysis, neutralizes strategies of deterrence. It would also seem to upend any dangerously nave hopes for a level negotiating table in Baghdad. "Deterrence only works if the enemy is able and willing to enter the same calculus," Murawiec wrote. "If the enemy plays by other rules and calculates by other means" -- the triumph of Allah on earth, for instance -- "he will not be deterred."
But he will come, it seems, to Baghdad to meet with ... the Bush administration.