Dennis Ross and diplomacy-derangement syndrome

Marc Ambinder reports that Barack Obama will make Dennis Ross his “chief emissary” to Iran. This strikes me as bad, though hardly surprising, news.

Ross presents himself as reasonable and moderate in his writings and television appearances. But in social settings, when the cameras are off, he can come across quite differently. In such a setting, I heard him say of Hurricane Katrina that people already think we don’t care about the rest of the world and now it turns out that we don’t care about our own people either. This kind of vicious, stupid remark is the stuff of left-wing bloggers, not U.S. “emissaries.”

But my main objection to Ross isn’t Bush-derangement syndrome, but rather diplomacy-derangement syndrome. By this I mean boundless faith in diplomacy which, when possessed by a diplomat, probably reflects boundless faith in himself.

For roughly a decade, Ross persisted against all the evidence in believing that Yasser Arafat was a “peace partner” with whom Israel and the U.S. should negotiate and to whom Israel should make concessions. If Ross could believe this, the odds aren’t terribly long that he believes, or will come to believe, that negotiations with, and concessions to, Ahmadinejad (as evil as Arafat and even more dangerous) and the Iranian regime are just what the doctor ordered.

At that point, for diplomats with diplomacy-derangement syndrome, “getting to yes” can easily become an imperative, without serious regard to the cost of getting there or what (if any) the actual benefits of “yes” may be. The resulting mischief is likely to be great, as was the case for Israel the last time Ross was an “emissary.”

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