August 25th, 2006

“Unsatisfactory” is diplomatspeak for bad, bad, bad

France gives Iran quite the tonguelashing: Foreign Affairs Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy describes Iran’s refusal to halt its uranium enrichment program as “unsatisfactory”.

“Unsatisfactory” is such a tepid way to describe what Iran is actually doing, which is to defy and mock the entire international community, and to continue blithely with its nuclear brinksmanship.

“Unsatisfactory.” It’s a term that conjures up my grade school report cards. Remember those report cards, fellow boomers?

Well, I happen to have one of mine from third grade, circa 1950-something:

Not an “unsatisfactory” among those grades, I’m proud to state. Satisfaction all around. And note that my better marks were in reading, writing, and spelling. There’s a certain consistency in my life, I guess.

As there is consistency in diplomatic life. That’s probably why John Bolton isn’t regarded as the diplomat’s diplomat; he’s much too blunt for that. Diplomacy is all about nuance and appearances, about allowing others to save face while deals are cut behind the scenes.

I hope that some deals are being cut behind these dismal scenes, because there’s absolutely no evidence that Iran is negotiating in good faith. Here are a few clues that there might be at least some sort of method behind what appears to be the diplomatic madness:

State Department officials, on the other hand, pressed to “keep the temperature down,” as one American put it….”The thinking was, even though we all know the Iranian response doesn’t amount to much, before rejecting it out of hand we should remember that at least two members of the group have a Security Council veto,” one European diplomat said, referring to Russia and China and their historic aversion to penalties. He referred to the strategy as “giving Iran the rope to hang itself.”

Even though diplomats–especially European ones–are not known for hyperbolic rhetoric, this “enough rope to hang itself” routine seems an exaggeration, to say the least. And speaking of exaggerations, I think the UN could give Iran an infinite amount of rope without there being quite enough for it to “hang itself.” Because all of this delicate diplomatic maneuvering leads, in the best-case scenario–to what? Sanctions.

And to “weak sanctions,” at that. China and Russia both have substantial economic interests in Iran, and are loathe to shoot themselves in the foot, to coin another hyperbolic metaphor (but then, I’m not a diplomat).

What are some of these sanctions China and Russia might be persuaded to get behind? Why, “a ban on travel by Iranian officials and curbs on imports of nuclear-related technology.”

I am sure that the mullahs are shaking in their robes. I was probably more terrified of getting an “Unsatisfactory” on that third-grade report card than they are of whatever the diplomats might impose on them in the way of penalties.

47 Responses to ““Unsatisfactory” is diplomatspeak for bad, bad, bad”

  1. armchair pessimist Says:

    I wish the prisses in the state department would direct their nuances and subtilities towards busting up the China/Russia club. Iran may or may not be start raving nuts; these countries are not. Bastards maybe, but not nuts. Somehow we must get one or the other over to our side.
    It’s odd that we Americans who love putting deals together, are so bad at the old fashioned diplomacy by bribery.

  2. troutsky Says:

    Thats a pretty clear and concise analysis. In my opinion,the reason Iran is negotiating from such a strong position is 1. oil, 2.Israels nuclear weapons which everyone has winked at,and 3. US inconsistency when it comes to using international consensus and diplomacy to solve issues.You can’t be all for certain UN resolutions and ignore others.You can’t use certain international laws and ignore others.

  3. Iris Says:

    troutsky said,

    “You can’t be all for certain UN resolutions and ignore others.You can’t use certain international laws and ignore others.”

    Sure you can, that’s what being a sovereign country is all about.

    That is why none of the signees of the Kyoto agreement have actually complied with the Kyoto agreement. There are too many examples to mention.

  4. holmes663 Says:

    I am not sure I understand Troutsky. Why is Israel, a liberal democracy, having nuclear weapons the same as a Jihadist Fascist government having nuclear weapons?

    Eventually this technology will be available to all, it’s just a matter of the type of governement and people who wield it. It makes all the difference in the world.

  5. snowonpine Says:

    State Department “cookie pushers” have their own foreign policy which is usually different from that of the sitting President and is very different from that of President Bush; they push their foreign policies, they obstruct his. From what I’ve seen, the State mindset is very multiculti, with State apparatchiks believing that negotiations and agreements written on paper, no matter how unlikely they are to be adhered to, are all. Concrete results, on the other hand, are not someting they seem to be particularly worried about. If one has expertise and is sophisticated enough, one understands the world and “appreciates” and “understands” countries like Iran, China and North Korea and the Muslim world in general. Israel, on the other hand, seems to be looked on with distaste.

  6. Jeanne Capozzoli Says:

    Why can Israel who occupies territory in violation of international law and who invaded Egypt in 1956 and Lebanon in 1982 and Lebanon in 2006 have nuclear weapons and not Iran? Israel abducts people all of the time, why can’t Hezbollah?

  7. Sergey Says:

    1. International law does not exist.
    2. Egypt was invaded after naval blocade of Israeli ports and a massive concentation of tank armies on its border – all this is an act of war. Preemptive strike was the only Israeli option to survive.
    3. Israel do not abduct people, it arrests terrorists.

  8. Sergey Says:

    I have read in some blog the following definition: “Democracy is when two wolfves and a lamb discuss what they will have for lunch. Freedom is when a lamb is well armed.” There are 57 states in UN that are members of Organization of Islam Conference, 22 of them are Arabic. Israel also has his vote in UN – but only one, of course. So we have a real democracy in UN. But I prefer freedom – when Israel is well armed.

  9. maryatexitzero Says:

    Israel abducts people all of the time, why can’t Hezbollah?

    Cops arrest and shoot people all the time, why can’t John Gotti?

    Surgeons cut people all the time, cooks make a living serving meat, why did we make such a fuss about Jeffrey Dahmer?

    Israel is a legitmate and legal state, and their actions are restricted by their laws and by internationally recongnized laws governing war. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization whose existence is not legitimate or legal under any state or international organizations’ laws. All of their actions are therefore not legitimate or legal.

  10. Brad Says:

    Sergey, I think that quote is from one of the founders, Jefferson or Franklin maybe.

  11. snowonpine Says:

    Jeanne Capazzoli–So what is this, some sort of schoolyard game for you, where each nation gets to have a turn? There is no rule of “fairness” in life or in international relations. This should be a no-brainer. Just as you would not want an evil, violent or unstable person to have access to powerful weapons, so too, you don’t want evil, aggressive, violent or unstable nations to have access to these most destructive of weapons.

    In March of 1988 Saddam Hussain’s Iraqi armed forces used a witches brew of several chemical weapons and perhaps biological weapons too, to attack the Kurdish people of the town of Halabja. Some 5,000 men, women and quite a few children were killed outright, dropped in their tracks. The few medical researchers who have visited Halabja in recent years have discovered a contaminated landscape, a sick population with abnormally high rates of cancer and many unusual illnesses, survivor’s children have many bizarre genetic anomalies and malformations that medical researchers have never seen before. Saddham was pursuing nuclear weapons, should he have gotten them because it was unfair that he didn’t have them?

    During the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war the Iranians used thousands of children, the Basiji, to clear Iraqi minefields by sending them out to march across these minefields in formation so that they could detonate Iraqi mines by stepping on them: each child was given a cheap plastic key to wear around his neck, to open the gates of the Islamic Paradise for him. Contemporary Iranian articles about Basiji mine-clearing operations and human wave attacks during the Iran-Iraq war look back on these episodes with pride. The contemporary Basiji forms a popular milita supportive of Iranian President Ahmadinejad. The Iranians are trying, in every way they can, to obtain nuclear weapons. Shouldn’t they get them to be fair?

  12. Trimegistus Says:

    I can see one possible diplomatic avenue the US could take with Russia and China: “Look, we know you’ve got interests in Iran. If we have to invade you’ll lose everything. So you’ve got to keep us happy. You can be the good cop and try to talk the Mullahs into cooperating.”

  13. Senescent Wasp Says:

    The “wolves and the lamb” is from Franklin and I used it just the other day here.

    Sergey, thanks for reminding the fish that there is no “international law” simply international agreements between sovereign states. They fall into bi-lateral and multi-lateral and can sometimes be called “treaties” which I believe is French, the language of diplomacy, “made to be broken” when new realties present themselves.

  14. Patrick Carroll Says:

    My report cards circa 1960’s were like that, except we had E for Excellent, which I guess replaced S(o) What does the superscript (o) stand for? Outstanding perhaps?

  15. Cappy Says:

    Pretty good report card, Neo. I did OK, except for that damn persistend U in “works and plays well with others”.

  16. harry Says:

    Wow! I had forgotten what those old report cards looked like. Except mine had a lot more “U”‘s.

    And um. I think my entire score for each period added up to 5.

    Well, maybe less.

  17. David Lindsay Watch Says:

    Defend a leading Scoop Jackson/Tony Blair politician against a challenge from paleo-Labour: the old Socialist means to the Buchananite ends. Visit URGENTLY

  18. Roger Says:

    maryatexitzero wrote: Israel is a legitmate and legal state, and their actions are restricted by their laws and by internationally recongnized laws governing war.

    According to internationally recognized laws, you cannot build settlements on occupied territory. However, Israel has consistently done so.

    Remember that Britain was also internally a liberal democracy when it was occupying all its colonies (such as India) in the first half of the twentieth century.

    If Hezbollah is an illegimate state-within-a-state, Israel, which constantly violates international law, is also a rogue state. It is shameful that a rogue state like Israel is allowed to have nuclear weapons.


  19. Roger Says:

    You aren’t happy with Russia and China’s response, my neoconservative friends?

    So go and invade Iran! What are you afraid of? Why depend on China and Russia?

  20. Charlemagne Says:

    I think Roger says it very well. While they’re at it, why don’t the neocons invade Russia and China as well?

    If the neocons can’t stand the heat, they should get out of the kitchen.

    Come on, neocons! Show some guts!

  21. Senescent Wasp Says:

    charley and roger: As usual you are confused.

    To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven Ecclesiastes 3:1. All in good time lads don’t get impatient.

    That’s the problem with the goblins and orcs of the Left; no sense of priorities or timing.

  22. camojack Says:

    “And note that my better marks were in reading, writting, and spelling.”

    Neo honey, I luv ya, and the occasional typo is almost a given…but that one I found particularly amusing. Please feel free to delete this comment if/when you amend it…

  23. neo-neocon Says:

    camojack: what makes you think that typo wasn’t an intentional joke?

    But I cannot tell a lie, it wasn’t. And just to show you what a big person I am, I won’t delete your comment.

    And in the interests of truth, I will go on to say that I’ve never been good at spelling. I haven’t a clue why I got an “outstanding” in it in third grade.

    But what I really want to know is: what’s up with spellcheck? Why didn’t it catch the error?

  24. maryatexitzero Says:

    If Hezbollah is an illegimate state-within-a-state, Israel, which constantly violates international law, is also a rogue state. It is shameful that a rogue state like Israel is allowed to have nuclear weapons.

    Roger – Hezbollah isn’t a state or a legitimate political organization. Despite the press’ extorted admiration of Nasrallah, he isn’t recognized as a legitimate military leader. Even the UN thinks he should be disarmed. He lives in hiding, like a roach. He makes the Crips and the Bloods look like statesmen.

    Israel’s policies are comparable to Britain’s policies, France’s policies and just about every other nation that has held some power throughout history, including Sweden. Under your reasoning, all nations are rogue states. Your reasoning here isn’t just flawed, it’s nonexistent.

  25. lenny Says:

    Sergey said: “Israel do not abduct people, it arrests terrorists.”

    “Terrorist” = Anyone who resists or opposes Jewish domination/hegemony of Palestine

    “Arrest” = Detain indefinitely without charge and without due process of law, never going to trial.

    So, who is spreading the idea that Israel a warm friendly western liberal democracy, anyway? The facts sure dont back it up

  26. Tatterdemalian Says:

    Israel has had nukes for twenty years, yet only now is Iran in desperate need of nukes to counter them.

    It’s not due to fear of Zionist imperialism, but due to recognition of the golden opportunity the progressives are giving them.

    They all really want to destroy the world, you know. Reality is brutally racist, sexist, ableist, and dozens of other -ists that are developed at the Huffington Post every day.

    For this high crime of ist-ism, all reality has been sentenced to death, and Iran will be this planet’s executioner.

  27. Sergey Says:

    There is a major persistent contradiction in leftist philosophy: postmodernism is totaly incompatible with such concepts as evolution and progress. If all cultures have equal value, progress is empty concept. If some are advanced, then some are retarded. Progress logically implies inequality. Evolution logically implies consequental, step-by-step process, it includes an appropriate order of stages and appropriate timing – that what all history is about. Assertion “all humans are equal” is denial of history. As a norm of law it can be valid; as a statement of fact it is always false. Equality before law is not factual equality, it even constantly produce factual inequality, and to make people factually equal you need to break the law, deny them any rights and extinguish liberty. That is why all social utopias inevitably devolve into nightmare.

  28. Sergey Says:

    Equality before law imply existence of law. And any written law have any meaning only when there is some preceding non-formal, general agreement about the rules of the game – so called common sense. Only in community of people with some common background and tradition, some common values this agreement can evolve. International law does not exist because there is no such thing as international community. Some people live in 21th centuary, some – in seventh, some in stone age. They simply cannot have any common values and norms.

  29. Good Ole Charlie Says:


    You want a violin playing in the background, too? I do a mean “Hearts and Flowers”…

    Sergey: You are perfectly correct. I put to you another quote from Hobbes’ Leviathan.

    “Pacts without swords are scraps of paper.”

    You can write all the marvelous treaties you want, but unless you can enforce your will on any and all, they are worthless. Our “professionals” at State need to do some Applied Reading in philosophy…if they can read.

    Lenny, charlemagane,roger and associates:

    You could also spend some time in basic texts.

    Sorry, guys, there is no “International Law” since there is no overarching power. Back to the drawing board.

  30. Sergey Says:

    Hollywood westerns can not substitute learning history, but still they are educative. Small town communities at the frontier could not afford such niceties as two-house parlament, division of powers and courts of law, but they need some kind of civil order. So they elected sheriff – usually not whole-time occupation – and he selected several helpers. This rudimentary law-enforcement body do not require law school diploma or any other credentials, exept these men should be sane, honest and have good reputation amongst town population. No written law operated these days, for most of these guys were illiterate. This was simply Coalition of Willing, their law was common sense. And, of course, they must be The Toughest Guy in the neighborhood.
    This metaphore depicts the status of International Law in our days.

  31. Ralph Mott Says:

    Ahmadinejad launches new nuclear project
    Sat Aug 26, 2006 11:47 AM BST

    By Parisa Hafezi

    ARAK, Iran (Reuters) – Iran’s president launched a new phase in the Arak heavy-water reactor project on Saturday, saying Tehran would not give up its right to nuclear technology despite Western fears it is aimed at producing a bomb.

    You neocons are all bark and no bite. When are you going to invade instead of chattering and chattering about it?

  32. Good Ole Charlie Says:


    I’m not a neocon, but I’d be glad to turn the key and launch a few IBMs where they’d do some good.

    Like right over Ahmadinejad’s turban.

    In the old days I’d gladly toggle a megaton or three from a B-52…willingly.

    That answer your question?

    Peace unto thee, man…

  33. Sergey Says:

    To invade Iran immediately is not the best strategy. Less drastic measures should be tried first. For many years there was following approach to rogue states: contain it long enough, and it will implode because of inherent inconsistencies. This turned true with Soviet Union and partly with China. Both countries also used proxies in their wars against West in Korea, Vietnam, Angola and Nicaragua combined with promoting terrorist activity in dozen other places. This, of course, is no proof that this will be successfull with Iran. Islam is more robust ideology than communizm. Problem with Iran is not that it is a death cult, but that it is eschatological death cult. They not only organized children death marches through mine fields but are ready to national sucide to bring about advent of their Messiah. This apocalyptic delusion is tough to overcome by any means except nuclear option. But American public and leadership are hardly ready for this.

  34. snowonpine Says:

    Sergey–The problem with using a containment strategy against Iran is that containment is a long-term project and I don’t think we have anywhere near the time needed for implementation, nor do we have the many reliable allies needed to assure its effectiveness.

    I suspect that things have gotten to the point that, as in the old high school science experiment with super-saturated liquids, one more drop may lead to a very rapid and dramatic change; that drop is a nuclear weapon. Publically available estimates for when Iran will have a nuclear weapon range from months to one idiot who thought it would take ten more years. My bet is on less than a year, maybe less than a few more months, to judge from the steam rising from the pot of international conflict that Iran’s President is stirring so vigorously. So, I think the sanctions/containment boat has long since sailed and the only boat left in the harbor is labled, premption and war.

  35. Tatterdemalian Says:

    Plus, Islam has survived almost unchanged since its invention in the seventh century AD. It is much, much more stable than any of the high-minded utopias our intellectual superiors have tried to create. Islam, as a system, is as stable as the death they worship. In fact, in many ways it represents the death of all progress and innovation, replacing them with a set of carefully memorized rules and a fearful and fatalistic apathy that opposes any form of improvement, for fear that it might cut one off from the promised rewards after death.

    Containment only builds Islam’s power. This is just one of the reasons why the New Cold War the liberals hope to establish with Islam, in the name of creating a new “balance of power” to put limits on the US, will not work.

  36. Zeno Says:

    Worse than comments about “international law” (where is it written? there are pacts and conventions, no more), is the idea of “fairness” in the possession of nuclear weapons. As if the right to nukes were the new “human right” and every country should have one, even if they have promissed several times to blow up another country with them.

    Some people are so stupid that they would rather die in a nuclear blast than run the risk of being “unfair”, or “pollitically incorrect”, or “offending sensibilities of the Other”.

  37. Zeno Says:

    “Let’s give our enemies all our best guns, after all, it’s only fair! why should we have the best military technology and those poor victims be forced to use IEDs?”

    /”progressive mode”

  38. Sergey Says:

    I am in no way advocate of containment stategy and clearly noted reasons why it doomed to fail: unmovability of Islam and evident insanity of Iran leadership. At present time I cannot see any viable solution acceptable to US public. Alas!

  39. camojack Says:

    camojack: what makes you think that typo wasn’t an intentional joke?

    But I cannot tell a lie, it wasn’t. And just to show you what a big person I am, I won’t delete your comment.

    And in the interests of truth, I will go on to say that I’ve never been good at spelling. I haven’t a clue why I got an “outstanding” in it in third grade.

    But what I really want to know is: what’s up with spellcheck? Why didn’t it catch the error?
    neo-neocon | Homepage | 08.25.06 – 11:27 pm

    I already knew you were a big person. As for the spell check thang [sic], I guess writting is the act of producing a writ…e.g., of habeus corpus.

  40. Tatterdemalian Says:

    Iran just opened a heavy water plant.

    While heavy water can be used in the creation of fusion bombs, there is an even more worrisome use, for the heavy water generator itself. The fuel used to produce heavy water – neutron emitters – can also be used as the detonator for nuclear bombs. They’re what make fission bombs explode, instead of just melt down.

    Now Iran can claim an industrial / scientific use for neutron emitters, and there will probably be someone dopey or multiculturalist enough to supply them. And if a little bit happens to find its way into an Israel-bound nuke, well we can hardly blame the Iranians for that, right?

  41. Harry Forbes Says:

    OCD at work here, but I cannot help marveling at the fact that you have kept a report card from 3rd grade and that I AM SURE MY REPORT CARDS HAD ALMOST EXACTLY THE SAME FORMAT!!! I can remember them only because you kept one. Thanks, I guess.

  42. anon Says:

    Deleted for obscene comment.

    Anon: warning.

    Edited By Siteowner

  43. anon Says:

    Delected for obscene comment.

    Anon: warning.

    Edited By Siteowner

  44. snowonpine Says:

    I just wonder if the public show in Iran isn’t a piece of misdirection to fix our attention on these readily observable events, while the real R & D process is going on behind the scenes that will produce a nuclear weapon much faster than the highly visible program would.

  45. Senescent Wasp Says:

    Oh, look conned is back. Hi conned! You know the spittle flying off your lips is very unattractive and it can’t be good for your monitor.

    Listening to: Bob Marley, Redemption Song

    (Another drain bamaged ganja sucker)

  46. Terry Crane Says:

    Start creating problems for Russian officials spending money in EU and US, like arrrest their accounts, try to get their children on minor (or major) offences.

  47. Ymarsakar Says:

    To invade Iran immediately is not the best strategy. Less drastic measures should be tried first. For many years there was following approach to rogue states: contain it long enough, and it will implode because of inherent inconsistencies.

    Back when reality was on this planet, the way we dealt with rogue people like the South during the Civil War, was to put up a naval blockade. Because this is a less drastic measure and because this works, few people are for it when they could talk to Iran or even bomb Iran.

    Police states are very consistent, they consistently continue existing.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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