Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has placed an op-ed column in the Washington Post. Rouhani explains: “Why Iran seeks constructive engagement.” D
Rouhani presents himself as the harbinger of a benign international order. He appears to be spending his spare time consuming columns and books by the New York Times’s Thomas Friedman. Drafting his Washington Post column, Rouhani may even have sought assistance help from the Friedman op-ed generator. The internal evidence suggests as much to me.
Rouhani’s column makes an interesting contrast with Russian Presidnet Vladimir Putin’s New York Times op-ed column. Putin’s column was a calculated assertion of mastery over Barack Obama, intended to humiliate. Rouhani is all sweetness and light, purring bromides to appeal to our own presidential lightworker. Rouhani announces a new order of the ages:
The world has changed. International politics is no longer a zero-sum game but a multi-dimensional arena where cooperation and competition often occur simultaneously. Gone is the age of blood feuds. World leaders are expected to lead in turning threats into opportunities.
The international community faces many challenges in this new world — terrorism, extremism, foreign military interference, drug trafficking, cybercrime and cultural encroachment — all within a framework that has emphasized hard power and the use of brute force.
We must pay attention to the complexities of the issues at hand to solve them. Enter my definition of constructive engagement. In a world where global politics is no longer a zero-sum game, it is — or should be — counterintuitive to pursue one’s interests without considering the interests of others. A constructive approach to diplomacy doesn’t mean relinquishing one’s rights. It means engaging with one’s counterparts, on the basis of equal footing and mutual respect, to address shared concerns and achieve shared objectives. In other words, win-win outcomes are not just favorable but also achievable. A zero-sum, Cold War mentality leads to everyone’s loss.
Rouhani explores the mysteries of identity. These mysteries include the mystery of Iran’s “peaceful nuclear energy program.” Rouhani explains:
At their core, the vicious battles in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are over the nature of those countries’ identities and their consequent roles in our region and the world. The centrality of identity extends to the case of our peaceful nuclear energy program. To us, mastering the atomic fuel cycle and generating nuclear power is as much about diversifying our energy resources as it is about who Iranians are as a nation, our demand for dignity and respect and our consequent place in the world. Without comprehending the role of identity, many issues we all face will remain unresolved.
Rouhani comes out in favor of “national dialogue,” so Iran can continue to explore its identity while speaking with President Obama in search of a “win-win solution.” Rouhani offers this novel approach:
Rather than focusing on how to prevent things from getting worse, we need to think — and talk — about how to make things better. To do that, we all need to muster the courage to start conveying what we want — clearly, concisely and sincerely — and to back it up with the political will to take necessary action. This is the essence of my approach to constructive interaction.
“We need” this and “we need” that. As William Buckley once said with less provocation than Rouhani’s gaseous effusions on behalf of a terrorist regime, we need to cut the crap.