Negotiating with Iran

The basis of all agreements is shared goals, or what Sun Tzu called "tao," the way. A shared mission is what holds organizations together. Diplomacy is the art of finding shared goals by avoiding conflict. It assumes that a negotiated agreement can be better for both parties than the best alternative to a negotiated agreement (called the BATNA in negotiation talk. Negotiations can often work because, as Sun Tzu taught, conflict is inherently costly to both parties, even the winner. If there is no shared advantage to an agreement and no fear of the costs of conflict, agreements are impossible. For example, as Obama was interviewed by Tim Russert this morning, he claims that by negotiating with Iran he can diffuse the situation. If Tim Russert understood what was strategically possible, he would have instantly asked about the basis of negotiations since Iran's only goals are spreading their form of Islam and destroying Israel. If Russert or Obama had been following the "diplomacy" news, they would have known that even Putin couldn't find any common ground with Iran on his recent visit, more or less coming to the conclusion that they were just crazy. If Putin, whose only goal is to keep oil prices high by keeping the area in turmoil cannot find common ground with these people, what can common ground can any American president find? As Europe and the rest of the world wakes up to the threat of Islamic terror, electing one pro-American leader after another, how long can the Democrats maintain that they have an edge in diplomacy?