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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Isolation: Dealing With Despots, Tyrants and Thugs

A couple days ago, I was stunned to read that President Bush sat down with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

U.S. President George W. Bush and his Russian counterpart Dmitri Medvedev has met in Lima on the sidelines of the ongoing APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) economic leaders' meeting, Peru's Andina news agency reported Sunday.

Bush and Medvedev agreed during their meeting Saturday to continue cooperation on a number of issues including piracy off the Somali coast and international security.

They also discussed their positions on Iran and Georgia, the news agency said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the two sides also discussed the global economic crisis and that Moscow hopes that practical cooperation would continue after U.S. President-elect Barack Obama takes office early next year.

It wasn't but a couple months ago that Russia brazenly violated the sovereignty of its much smaller neighbor and invaded Georgia. The world talked tough. They said there would be punishment and there would be consequences. Now, just a couple months later our President sits down with theirs as though the invasion never happened.

There has been a lot of debate about whether or not our President should sit down with the leaders of Iran. The argument against such a meeting is that their leader would gain legitimacy from such a meeting. Yet, that's exactly what this meeting provided to the thug, Dmitri Medvedev.

To me dealing with thugs, tyrants, and despots would be fairly easy if the world spoke with one voice. That voice, in my opinion, should be the voice of isolation. In April, our ambassador to Venezuela was attacked in Caracas. My first question was why we had an ambassador in Venezuela.

To me, dealing with tyrants is simple. All you need to do is isolate them. Kick out their ambassadors. Remove your own from their embassies. Furthermore, you isolate them economically. For instance there is the website Divest Terror. This site encourages pension funds from U.S. states to divest from any company that does business with Iran, Syria, North Korea and other despots. If there were real economic punishment for doing business in Iran, Iran would immediately be economically isolated. If the peace loving world came together to isolate tyrants, then the only folks tyrants would ever interact with is other tyrants. In such an environment, tyrants wouldn't be able to stay in power very long.

Such isolation is difficult and it is painstaking. The model for success of such isolation was the apartheid government of South Africa. That took decades but eventually the will of the South African government was broken.

The problem is that much of Europe is in love with the idea of engagement and dialogue. They welcome any opportunity to engage countries like Iran. We have diplomatic apparatus like the United Nations that welcome despotic regimes like Iran so that business can't be done. If we lived in a world where peace loving nations did everything they could to isolate despots, despots would survive for a very short time. Unfortunately, the world hasn't reached a consensus on how to deal with despots. As such, the forces of isolation are countered by the forces of engagement.

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