Alan Grayson

Correspondence with Rep. Alan Grayson About the Iran Talks

[In what follows, I have redacted email addresses, phone numbers, and the names of people who were copied in the exchange but did not participate in it. These are replaced by “X.” When the identity of a participant in the exchange was identified by their email address, the name follows the redacted email address in brackets. -RN]

The key problematic statement in Grayson’s email claiming that critics of his position on the Iran talks are “concocting a conflict that doesn’t exist” is this [my emphasis]:

"As I said, I think that the final agreement should include a complete end to Iran’s nuclear program and its ICBM program, and an end to Iran supplying missiles to terrorist groups."

The reasons this statement from Grayson is so problematic are: 1) no reasonable informed person thinks that "a complete end to Iran’s nuclear program" is a remotely realistic goal for diplomacy, so Grayson's statement is setting up an impossible "unicorns and ponies" standard for a "good deal" (which Grayson, as an informed person, surely knows); 2) the other issues are outside the scope of the talks, and attempts by opponents of the framework deal to add these issues to the talks or argue that these issues are standards by which the comprehensive deal should be judged are a key point of dispute between supporters and opponents of the framework deal. Indeed, language in the original Corker Congressional review bill which the Administration and Senator Cardin successfully removed using the Administration’s veto threat concerns exactly this issue. As the New York Times reported [my emphasis]:

The Taliban Might Negotiate, Even If They Think They're Winning

You can't follow U.S. print media coverage of the war in Afghanistan for any length of time without running into some variation of the following assertion:

 

"The Taliban Will Never Negotiate, As Long As They Think They're Winning."

No serious effort is usually made to substantiate this claim, which is asserted as if it were a self-evident truth. What you generally don't see, reading the newspapers, is a sentence that looks like this:

 

"The Taliban will never negotiate, as long as they think they're winning, and the reason that we know this is...."

Yet, if you look back over the course of the last year, the assertion that "the Taliban will never negotiate, as long as they think they're winning" is a very important claim. Why did the U.S. send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan last year? Because "the Taliban will never negotiate, as long as they think they're winning." Why are we killing innocents today in Kandahar? "Because the Taliban will never negotiate, as long as they think they're winning."

A claim that is a key buttress of life and death decisions about people we have never met and know little about and who have no say in our decisions, and yet which has never been substantiated, is a claim that deserves sustained scrutiny.

How could it be a self-evident truth that "the Taliban will never negotiate, as long as they think they're winning?" Logically, two possibilities present themselves:

1) It is an immutable fact of human nature that no party engaged in a conflict ever negotiates as long as they think they're winning. The US never negotiates as long as it thinks it is winning; Britain never has; France never has; no guerilla army or insurgent movement ever has.

A Hundred Cities Against Escalation As the President Announces It

Recent press speculation suggests at least even odds that sometime in November, President Obama will give a speech announcing that he intends to send tens of thousands of more U.S. troops to Afghanistan in 2010. Not a temporary "surge," but a permanent escalation. While certainly it's good news - at least temporarily - that AP is reporting that President Obama "won't accept any of the Afghanistan war options before him without changes," and that the Washington Post is reporting that U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry is lobbying strongly against sending more troops, note that AP goes on to say:

Obama is still expected to send in more troops to bolster a deteriorating war effort.

He remains close to announcing his revamped war strategy - troops are just one component - and probably will do so shortly after he returns from a trip to Asia that ends Nov. 19.