Small World: New style creative diplomacy

Henry Precht

Henry Precht

By Henry Precht

BN Columnist

President Obama’s offer to Israel to release imprisoned spy Jonathan Pollard if Israel would prolong Palestinian peace negotiations may or may not work. Whatever, the unique proposal was an extremely creative addition to the annals of diplomacy. A traitorous jailbird swapped for merely spinning out words — who could have imagined such a move?

The flood gates of diplomatic imagination having now been opened; let’s see what other ideas might sluice through:

First, we ought to generalize the Pollard release. Why not create a “Get-out-of-jail-free” card, which we could offer to other countries with which we want to cut a deal? Surely there are some prisoners from Cold War days whom the Russians and Cubans would like to bring home? Moscow: Leave Ukraine alone — get one freed spy. Havana: Extend the lease on Guantanamo — bring home a Cuban spook. The list of deals could be as long as the sentences cut short.

Sticking with Monopoly, our diplomatic sharks could offer a target country the right to construct houses and hotels on properties they do not own. (Thus, openly violating the rules of the game.) A difficulty might be that the prime target for that privilege would be Israel, which is already doing exactly that in the Occupied Territories.

Returning to the Russian target, Obama might propose to Putin that they calm tensions with a friendly game of basketball — Kremlin vs. White House, that is, skins (them) vs. shirts (us). Loser has to pull back forces 100 miles from Russia’s land or sea borders.

While the WH team is on the road they might stop off at North Korea to challenge the Kim Jong Un-led squad. Loser would be required to surrender one nuclear bomb after each loss — until supply is exhausted.

What about the Iranian nuke negotiations? Some members of Congress fear the outcome will not be tough enough. Creative diplomacy would impose a new condition: That is, in addition to regular IAEA inspections of nuclear facilities, the Iranian leadership would be obliged to attend Sunday school lessons led weekly by Jimmy Carter in Tehran. In addition to transmitting Baptist doctrine, it might teach them a measure of humility, mercy, kindness and love.

Speaking of kindness, the British are soon to be quite down in the dumps when Scotland breaks away and goes independent. How to cure an ally's depressing morosity? Obama could offer them West Virginia — a kind of ornery state. Although the men don’t wear skirts, they do make their own whiskey like the Scots. At the same time, that poor state could serve another diplomatic purpose — it could provide the residence in exile of Bashar al-Assad. With the constant feuding between sects and families, he would feel quite at home. Syria’s civil war would be ended. Chalk up another win for creative diplomacy.

Now we know that the French are also morose, their berets not longer at a jaunty angle, their president having lost three lovers in almost as few years. What might puritanical Washington offer as a pick-me-up? Sorry, we have to draw the line there — too many others — Italy, Spain, all of Latin America — would be at our doorstep demanding equal favors.

Speaking of the doorstep, what can we do about badly divided Canada — riches in the west, poverty in the east. Confused and depressed Quebec has just voted yet one more time not to secede. Suppose a different question were posed? Suppose Quebec and the Maritime Provinces were asked if they would like to leave Canada and unite with Maine. Advantages all around: the Maine-Maritime Lobster War would be ended — or would become a more manageable civil conflict. And the ex-Canadian bloc of voters would undoubtedly elect one of their own as governor in Augusta. Happiness all around.

Finally, China, the looming competitor. Like any clever diplomat we start with the facts: We know that the Chinese like to gamble and they love poetry. One of the biggest gambling bosses in China is a multi-billionaire supporter of Republican candidates. One of Beijing’s biggest headaches comes from politically obnoxious poets. Put the two together with the opposite of what we started with, i.e., a “Go directly to jail” spot. Using it, China will nationalize the American’s casinos and rusticate him as in Cultural Revolution days. For our part, we will award scholarships to the Iowa Writers’ Program to Chinese political poets. And they will never be heard from again.

Henry Precht is a retired Foreign Service Officer.

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