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Diplomatic Bores in the Age of Blowhards

| January 28, 2016

republican debate

Les folies bergeres, 2016: a screen shot from the Jan. 14 Republican debate.

A couple of weeks ago two American patrol boats violating Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf were seized and their crews of 10 detained by Iranian authorities. American authorities would have done the same or worse if roles had been reversed and, say, an Iranian patrol boat was snooping within 200 miles of Jacksonville port. (Or even if roles had not been reversed: We’ve naturally forgotten all about the USS Vincennes not only violating Iranian territorial waters that July day in 1988, but shooting down an Iran Air plane and killing its 290 civilian occupants as it flew over Iranian airspace 28 years ago.)

pierre tristam column flaglerlive.com flaglerlive The 10 American sailors were luckier. In a matter of hours rather than days, they were released.

What started as a potential crisis to rival the taking of hostages from the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979, then as now during a presidential cycle, fizzled to a bump on Persian Gulf wavelets. Diplomacy spoke louder than guns. It always does. It’s dull, it doesn’t lend itself to fat headlines and vows of vengeance. It’s certainly not useful to the current brand of Cheerios and Cocoa Puffs running for president. But it works.

For all that, those candidates on the Republican side found a way at least briefly to let us know that unlike those pansies Barack Obama and John Kerry, they would not have tolerated the sight of those 10 sailors kneeling at Iranian gunpoint. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz especially—the Laurel and Hardy of the Republican field—trotted out their semi-automatic rhetoric of force and bombast at their last shared burlesque.


“If I am elected president,” Cruz said, “no serviceman or servicewoman will be forced to be on their knees in any nation that captures our fighting men and women. We’ll field the full force and fury of the United States of America.” In other words, if Cruz had been president when those sailors were captured, we’d have been at war within hours, and if I understand “full force and fury” correctly, as I very much hope Cruz does not, Cruz would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons to get his debating-club point across.

After the sailors were released he didn’t wait to release a campaign ad doing exactly what the Iranian government had done days earlier with those men on state TV: he paraded them in his ad for political gain, and had the gall to tell them he’ll have their back (just as soon as he’s done using them).

Trump in comparison was relatively mild for someone who thinks winning back the Middle East is just a matter of carpet-bombing every sand dune and raghead (or is that Cruz’s thing too? Hard to keep up with hysterical inflation). He just used all caps in a Tweet to demand that Iran release the sailors, giving us another fascinating insight into his brand of diplomacy: he too likes to fire his missiles by remote control.

Meanwhile our own Marco Rubio, who was 9 years old when Ronald Reagan was elected, reminded us why he has a way to go in his political education when he credited Ronald Reagan for the release of those 52 hostages 35 years ago. It was his way of saying that had he been president, Iran would have been too scared to defy American power, even, presumably unlawful American power. Of course Reagan had nothing to do with the release of those hostages. It had been all Jimmy Carter’s and Algeria’s legwork, not to mention that old bore, diplomacy.

I’m not excusing Carter’s role in provoking the hostage-takers’ madness and “the shattering of relations between the United States and Iran,” as the New York Times put it in 1981. It was Carter who, after wisely resisting his hawkish aides for months, agreed finally to let into the United States  the man once ridiculously known as the Shah of Iran—the title means “king of kings”—who by then was on the run and dying of cancer. Mohammed Pahlavi was a tyrant, a torturer and a mass-murderer. Also, a close friend of successive presidents going back to Lyndon Johnson.

Carter knew the risk he was taking by letting him in that time. But anticipating the Cruz-Trump-Rubio brand of screw-you brinkmanship, he took it anyway. It took him 444 days to atone. He did. But at a price we’re still paying. Obama was paying down that debt when he included that $150 billion, if that’s the true amount, as part of the Iranian nukes deal. The money belongs to Iran (or, more accurately, the assets belong to Iran), frozen stiff since Carter’s great misjudgment, and now misinterpreted by Trump and friends as somehow “our” money to give or not to give.

Imagine if any one of those friends had been president during the hostage crisis. Doubtful those 52 hostages would have come home alive. Then again, Reagan was thought to be crazier than Barry Goldwater when he took office, and look how he handled Iran’s next rash of hostage-taking. With felon-to-be Oliver North doing his dirty work he not only dealt arms for hostages with Iran but took his illegal entrepreneurship multinational by channeling the profits to those terrorist Contras he called “freedom fighters” in Nicaragua, back when he couldn’t convince Congress to pay for his war there. Lucky for him his term was nearly up and senility had set in, so the administration of “I Don’t Recall” could drown its crimes in a vat of forgetting, an 80s version of Roman emperors’ last baths. Too bad Rubio’s knowledge of his hero’s history is as shady as Rubio’s own.

But this isn’t the age of fact or accuracy. It’s the age of YouTube and Twitter, where anything goes as long as it fits in 140 characters or a 30-second spot. No one will hold madness, ignorance, science fiction or gibberish against you. Evidence and diplomacy are the only sins.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him @PierreTristam. A version of this piece aired on WNZF.

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20 Responses for “Diplomatic Bores in the Age of Blowhards”

  1. Veteran says:

    We all know you are a liberal Pierre, so l guess it was a coincidence that Iran released the hostages the day or day after Reagan was sworn in? My guess is if they didn’t release them there would have some serious bombing within days. I would like to know who you support for president. Surely not Hillary or Bernie!

  2. Sgt. Sasmi says:

    I’m with Ted Cruz on this one. You keep kissing ass and one day ALL your enemies will know what you are and use it against you. Sorry Pierre , the world is NOT a Kum-Baya world and its going to get worse !
    Wake Up and put on your American Tie and recite the National Anthem. Ah, that’s the AMERICAN NATIONAL ANTHEM incase you forgot where you are !

  3. r&r says:

    Trump is the only person that can bring this country back from the Islams and the ongoing BS coming from the present administration. He has what it takes to make us as a country strong and respected again throughout the world.

  4. Tired of it says:

    Not surprising that you would print this piece of crap article. If you don’t like the way things are here in OUR country why not go back to where you originally came from.

  5. Jim O says:

    Pierre, Hard to read this type of article from you. You are so left it is really wasting time. Maybe pick a topic you know about. Darts, cooking..

  6. snapperhead says:

    The pussy Trump blew off a debate because a reporter was mean to him….yeah…let’s put him in charge….lmfao

  7. Joan Whttemore says:

    Thank you for a lone voice of reason in this ever increasingly insane rhetoric.

  8. Mark says:

    We will be much better off with a criminal or a socialist president. More free stuff.

  9. Knightwatch says:

    The first response from the right in any provocative situation is to demand that we bomb and kill. No talk, no caution, no situational awareness, no consideration of cause and effect or alternatives … just shoot. I wonder if these ultra-hawks think with their brains or their balls. I wonder if they have the capability of introspection, of rational analysis or understanding of the consequences of their bellicosity.

    If the right completes its power grab – President, Senate and House – we can only assume the very real threat of ground wars in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, and possibly in Russia (remember the proposed “no fly zone in Syria?). Is that what you all want?

    These people frighten me and they should frighten all of America and the rational nations of the world.

  10. Sherry says:

    Right On “Knightwatch”!

    No one can simply “carpet bomb” away even horrific IDEOLOGIES! They are extreme “ideas” people! The enemy is a “state of mind”. . . not a murdering dictator, not a country, not even a particular race or religion. Terrorists do not wear uniforms and march “at attention”. They come in all colors, shapes and sizes. They manipulate through the mass media, they lobby Congress, they kill freedom from within as well as from afar!

    Fighting this kind of war does NOT require us to throw our way of life out the window and become brutal animals ourselves. We should NOT be acting out of panic and fear. We should be courageous and defeat the evil ideologies with our own honorable ideals of American values of humanity, equal justice, equal opportunity, the work ethic, freedom of critical ideas . . . and oh so much more!

    We are in a war of IDEAS, Not lethal weapons! Now that is what we should be calling “fighting fire with fire”!

  11. Mark says:

    Let me think before I act. Beheaded people, burned people, blown up people, sex slaves, and children being taught to kill because you think different ideas. Let me negotiate? Are you kidding? If I don’t join them they still want to kill me. I think I’ll be an ultra hawk and kill them first.

  12. Sherry says:

    Yeah, Mark. . . and just exactly how in the world are YOU going to PRECISELY identify THEM???? You know, those that you FEAR and HATE so much that you absolutely feel YOU can be a GOD that knows all and can be Judge and Jury and Executioner your self. How omnipotent of you! .

  13. Lin says:

    But unfortunately some people with Ideas are also exhibiting violent sickening behaviors that need to be stopped

    Someone has to get off the kumbaya cloud and actually do something to stop the behaviors
    Evil exists
    Talking, standing back, negotiating, leading from behind hasn’t worked
    Ask the victims or their families

  14. Sherry says:

    Well. . . ya know what, Lin. . .. . one thing we could do is stop arming those evil doers with guns. We could stop the selling of AK47 styled guns and limit the amount of ammunition and require more extensive background checks NATIONWIDE. The majority of our citizens want those kinds of regulations. But, NO. . . the NRA owns Congress and the NRA says we can’t even keep statistics on gun violence!!!

    But, ya know what. . . often the same people who want to “carpet bomb” those “rag heads” are often the same ones who insist that the sale of ALL guns be as “unregulated” as possible.

  15. Lin says:

    Talking about the evil in the Mid East — those killers/terrorists are spreading in Europe and already here.
    I don’t see how taking legal guns protected by 2nd amendment away from our citizens is going to stop terror and hostage taking.
    Using those derogatory terms as you use — not my usual style, Sherry.
    Just want to keep us safe. And I do approve of checking out the prospective gun purchasers.

  16. Just me says:

    Sherri ‘we” do NOT arm evil doers with AK47 style guns in this Republic. in this Republic citizens have the Constitution backing the natural right of self defense and that would be the second amendment. Most Americans do NOT want more regulations on their constitutionally secured rights. Every member of the NRA I would guess do NOT want criminals to own a gun no matter if its a small revolver hand gun, a shotgun for hunting and sport shooting, a deer rifle or a modern sporting rifle. I would say other then a criminal NOBODY is against a background check to keep as many criminals from owning them as possible.

  17. Sherry says:

    Dear Lin. . .it would be absolutely great if you would discontinue putting on shoes that do not quite fit. . . in other words, please don’t take absolutely everything I say so very personally. Most often when I comment it is about the story or “issues” in general.

    It’s about horrific Trump and Cruz and their followers. . . those that fear and hate humans to the point of destroying our country from within. Hopefully that shoe doesn’t fit you, Lin.

  18. Sherry says:

    BTW for those that erroneously think the majority of Americans are against any gun regulations, this from smartgunlaws.org:

    As gun law experts, we know universal background checks and more effective mental health screenings will help prevent many of the headline-grabbing shootings we’ve seen in the last several years—these are effective, powerful ways to curb gun violence in our communities. But it’s also important that we consider our nation’s security by looking at gaps in our gun laws–specifically concerning acts of terrorism.

    Which is why we partnered with Americans for Responsible Solutions to provide policy guidance on one such weakness, known as the the “terror gap.” It persists because a hole in federal legislation does not bar those on the terrorist watchlist from purchasing firearms. Unlike felons, the dangerously mentally ill, and certain drug abusers, federal law fails to prohibit known or suspected terrorists from purchasing guns

    Though 82% of NRA members and 86% of non-NRA gun owners support such legislation, only one state (New Jersey in 2013) has taken appropriate steps to address the terror gap. Congressional failure to act on this important issue has resulted in terrible consequences:

    Between 2004 and 2014, known or suspected terrorists attempted to purchase guns from American dealers at least 2,233 times. And, 91% of the time, they succeeded.

    On more than 1,300 occasions, the FBI was unable to block sales to known or suspected terrorists because the person did not fall into a prohibited category.

    Suspected terrorists have used firearms in a number of high-profile shootings, such as in the firefight that followed the Boston Marathon bombing and the November 2009 massacre at Fort Hood.

    While acts of terrorism like the mass shooting in San Bernardino are very different from the 300-plus shootings that happen every day in communities across the United States, both scenarios are enabled by easy access to deadly weapons by people who wish to commit harm. By closing the terror gap with effective smart gun laws, we can take the necessary steps to ensure a safe and secure nation for everyone.

  19. Lin says:

    Actually Sherry, don’t worry about my shoes fitting or which shoes fit — I’ll let you in on a great secret, SAS shoes, made in Texas. They always fit. They feel like slippers.

    If I address you or enter a general discussion, I’m speaking about my thoughts, opinions, feelings, so yes that is personal. Whose thoughts are in your posts? Aren’t they personal?

    This isn’t just theoretical — we are all talking (I thought) about what is happening in our world now and Back in history. How can it not be personal?

  20. Quentin says:

    I do not know what fantasy world you are living in pierre , but you need to actually get out in America and ask real people how are we doing!

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