Monday, August 18, 2008

A Treaty is nothing but a Line drawn in the Sand

It's a simple but vital question. Between friendly or non-hostile nations, a treaty is a mutually beneficial compact creating advantages for both sides. Between hostile nations or entities, a treaty is simply a line in the sand.

You draw the line in the sand to make a point. This line you shall not cross. Drawing the line unilaterally means you will use force to prevent that line from being crossed. Drawing the line through a treaty means the same exact. The only difference is that the line has been drawn by mutual agreement.

That is the reality of negotiating with an enemy. It's a dangerous reality that the media and the upbeat tendency of First World nations to view every negotiation as the triumph of peace over war, and benevolence over man's innately savage nature. Such a feast of wishful thinking tends to blur or even blot out the reality of the situation, that the treaty is nothing more than a line in the sand.

This sort of blurry thinking resulted in celebrations when Chamberlain returned from Munich promising, "Peace in our Time." The line in the sand had been drawn but the Allies had shown no ability to back it up with force. The resulting disaster is known as World War 2.

The ancient truism states, "If You Would Have Peace Prepare for War." As contradictory a premise as this seems to those for whom peace requires credibility in seeking peace, credibility in war is as equally important in drawing that line in the sand. Genuinely seeking peace is important to drawing the line, genuinely being prepared for war insures that the line means something more than wishful thinking.

The problem with multilateral lines in the sand is that when the celebrations are done and the pens have been brought out and ink put to paper, it is those preparations for war that make the treaty more than just mere paper and inkblots.

Because when dealing with a genuinely aggressive enemy, sooner or later he will put his toe across that line and if you do nothing, he will put a foot and then an army and then overrun it and you, as a courtly gentleman named Neville Chamberlain to his regret, who then had to resign in favor of a portly bully named Winston Churchill to try and put things right again.

The worst mistake you can make when you've negotiated an agreement is to ignore that toe and then that foot. That is how nations are lost, empires shattered and bodies piled in burning heaps rising to the sky.

It is the mistake that Israel made with the PLO, granting their enemies legitimacy, drawing lines in the sand that were stepped over time and time again, and each time redrawn further and deeper inside Israeli territory.

It is the mistake that Sarkozy made with Russia. It is the mistake that the United States made with Saddam. It is the mistake that civilized nations keep making over and over again when dealing with uncivilized nations.

When civilized nations sign treaties, they take the principles of negotiations and international agreements with such seriousness that they confuse paper and ink with binding force, and are unable to grasp that they are negotiating with an enemy that views them as nothing more than paper and ink distractions to completing his goals.

When uncivilized nations sign treaties, the treaties are simply a means to an end. The degree to which they comply with the treaty is wholly and utterly dependent on their evaluation of the force the other side will bring against them if they violate it.

That was the gap between Hitler and Chamberlain or Stalin and the West. Both sides made agreements, but only one side took them seriously. For an uncivilized nation to take that line in the sand seriously, he must also take seriously the threat of force behind it.

To civilized nations a treaty or agreement is a step toward peace. To uncivilized nations it is an invitation to subterfuge and surprise attack. When the pendulum of force swings their way, they will test and prod the treaty and if finding weakness, will seize the advantage and attack. When the pendulum of force swings away from them, they will practice subterfuge and undermine their opponents in more circuitous ways.

Either way it is not the treaty that counts, but the force behind it. A treaty is a statement of intent by both sides, both spoken and unspoken. It is the unspoken intent that matters more than the spoken.

If I cross this line that we have drawn together in the sand, what will you do now? If I set a foot across it, if I bring an army through it, if I snipe at you past it? What will you do? Will you strike? Will you defend yourself? Or will you offer to negotiation our differences and draw another line in the sand, deeper behind your own lines? If you do then I will know your weakness for what it is and destroy you.


Lemon said...

We should never negotiate with evil, just fight and stop it wherever it exists.

Keli Ata said...

Yep. Never negotiate with evil or give blanket concessions without the enemy first sticking to their side of the bargain for more than twelve hours.

Bar Kochba said...

To a dictator, war and peace are interchangeable means of staying in power and furthering their goals. Peace with a dictator does not have the same meaning as it would have in a dictatorship.

Yobeeone said...

It's the same mistake America is making with muzlims on our own turf. They've already begun deciding what we can and can't publish. That one little step will eventually lead to total control over the publishing companies.

Toe inch by toe inch.

PS: To quote the Highlander, "You don't talk to evil - you destroy it."

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