03 April 2009

A Rebuttal

The overzealous simplification of complex analytical issues for popular consumption is everywhere and gets me hopping mad most of the time, but here's one case in which I can't let it slide without an appearance on the glorious pages of HG:

Just like the Obama administration, the Bush administration went about seeking to play a “win-win” game with Moscow, pointing out common interests and priorities. It found out the hard way the perils of playing a win-win game when faced with a zero-sum opponent. The Obama administration will surely learn the same lessons; let us hope that it will do so sooner than its predecessor did.
According to the author, the U.S. can't hope to "reset" its relationship with Moscow because the latter is motivated by virulent "anti-Americanism at the heart of the 'Putinist' ideology." This anti-Americanism supposedly obscures or overwhelms the long-term national interests of Russia.

Of course this falls apart if the alternatives aren't "win-win" versus "zero-sum." Obviously the United States and Russia do not have a complete harmony of interests, else cooperation would be irrelevant or trivial, and they do not have a complete conflict of interests, else cooperation would be completely impossible and it would be irrational to attempt to pursue it. Rather, the reality is, as Obama's foreign policy seems to clearly recognize, that the Americans and Russians converge and diverge over a broad spectrum of issues. So, for example, the Russians might not want NATO to win an easy victory in Afghanistan, but to stabilize the country and do so at a high enough cost that they do not remain in the region afterward. And that's precisely why there is room for cooperation.

No comments: