I have long proposed the idea of soft diplomacy, i.e., trade, aid, investment and empowerment strategies, as opposed to hard diplomacy, i.e., pre-emptive war, as a way of winning friends and allies in the Islamic and Arab world in search of a successful settlement of the Iraq war.
As a student and strong supporter of the Truman model for war-ravaged Western Europe and Japan, post World War II, as encompassed in the Marshall Plan, I believe it could be a powerful tool of soft diplomacy in this messy insurgency. A bipartisan 21st century Marshall Plan, updated with an Arabic face and with Islamic input, might very well be the type of soft diplomacy that would allow Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to achieve a successful ministerial meeting next month in Istanbul, Turkey, with Iraq's regional neighbors in attendance. At this critical moment in the history of the Middle East, with huge global ramifications, we need a surge of diplomacy and statecraft as opposed to just a surge of more troops.
I strongly support Gen. David Petraeus' strategy as the only practical way to buy time and help stabilize the situation on the ground that could lay down the predicate for a political solution to this mess that just about everyone from center left to center right says they want to achieve. This will never convince the leave-now left or the neo-con right to stop trying to micro-manage this incredibly complex strategy for a successful conclusion to the situation.
It's equally true the neo-cons will never agree to talk to Iran and Syria, as called for by the Iraq Study Group, for in the eyes of my neo-con friends talking to adversaries while there are outstanding and difficult differences of opinion is tantamount to surrender. Of course they totally ignore the lessons of history, particularly of President Reagan, who kept open the lines of communication with Moscow, even in the midst of some very troubling events during the Cold War.
It's true we should never negotiate out of weakness and fear, but it's equally true that we should never fear to negotiate from strength.
Right now we have more strength than is acknowledged by all too many. For instance, those two carrier task forces the Bush administration dispatched to the Persian-Arabian Gulf are not-so-subtle reminders of U.S. extended air power.