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About Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld
Dr. Ehrenfeld is the Director of the New York-based American Center for Democracy and the Economic Warfare Institute. She is the author of hunderds of articles, academic publications and three books: "Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed," "Evil Money," and "Narcoterrorism." Along with ACD fellows, Dr. Ehrenfeld is at work on a new book, "The Muslim Brotherhood, Inc." Dr. Ehrenfeld is an authority on economic warfare, terrorist financing, the shadowy movement of funds through international banking and money laudering. She has a unique understanding of the challenges of international terrorism to democracy and freedom, and how manipulations of financial markets, Islamic banking, transnational criminal groups, money laundering and political corruption facilitate terror financing and economic terrorism. An American citizen fluent in several languages, Ehrenfeld has testified before Congressional Committees, as well as the Canadian and European Parliaments, and provided evidence to the British Parliament, and consulted government agencies such as the Department of Defense and Homeland Security. She organized numerous international conferences and with the ACD team served as an election observer in Central Asia, North Africa and Eatsern European countries. She is also a Member of the Board of Directors of the Committee on the Present Danger along with former Secretary of State George Schulz and former CIA Director James Woolsey. She has been a visiting scholar at the Columbia University Institute of War and Peace Studies, a research scholar at the New York University School of Law, and a fellow at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and Jesus College at Cambridge University. She has a Ph.D in Criminology from the Hebrew University School of Law. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Newsweek, Guardian, Los Angeles Times, The WAshington Times, Huffington Post, and The Jerusalem Post and she is a frequent guest on The O'Reilly Factor, and CNN, NBC, CNBC, FoxNews, FoxBusiness, and other national and international TV and radio programs.
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Washington’s Artful Diplomatic ‘Engagement’
Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld
January 25, 2014
Mirabile Dictu! Even Fareed Zakaria says the Joint Plan of Action, signed between Iran + P5+1 countries in Geneva, Switzerland, is a "train wreck." Why? Because Iran has no intentions to freeze any parts of Iran's nuclear program. "They talked about dismantling the heavy water reactor at Arak. But he [Rouhani] made clear, categorically, specifically and unequivocally, none of that is going to happen."

Too bad neither he nor many others wonder about the root cause for the different understandings of what was agreed to on November 24 in Geneva. Or, why when Iran is allowed to decide, a posteriori, which parts of the agreement it will adhere to, there is no reaction from Washington apart from "oh, they're only speaking for domestic political consumption." Delay easing sanctions as a response? Not a chance. Shhh! We're still negotiating!

The futile attempts to end Syria's civil war and the US "mission" to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord are also train wrecks. "Analyzing" US Middle East policy has become a past-time, mostly attributing sophistication to Washington's approach. There is, however, no agreement on what our approach is other than banalities like 'trying diplomacy first', 'avoiding war', 'giving Iran a chance to join the community of nations', etc. However, there is nothing sophisticated in a lack of strategic plan. The Administration is just busy "negotiating" -"engaging."

Secretary of State John Kerry, in a typical manner, admitted as much on Friday, January 23, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. There, he told business leaders that the notion that the US is disengaging from the Middle East is not only wrong but, in fact, flies in the face the fact that we are engaging more than ever. As reported widely in the media, Kerry was quoted as using the term "doubling down" to describe US engagement in pursuing a negotiated end to the Iranian nuclear threat, an end to the Syrian civil war, and an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. That's what his constant presence in the region is all about – engagement. That there is nothing to show for it, that nothing good is happening, apparently does not seem to bother him or the administration.

'International relations' is more like marriage than engagement. We're all stuck with one another and we are what we are. If we don't like one another, the only choices are divorce (war), or passive aggressive "toughing it out." "Engagement," between or among states, is no more a guarantee of blissful coexistence than seeing a marriage counselor is for an unhappy couple.

Among states, negotiation is generally a stall to avoid doing something, to do nothing, or to cover-up while the parties continue their assault on one another. To adapt an old Ambrose Bierce line from The Devil's Dictionary, "Engagement is a period of cheating between two periods of fighting."

Multilateral engagement is even worse than the bilateral kind. It's like proposing to multiple would-be "partners" without the slightest intention of marrying any of them. Each couple gets its picture in the newspaper shaking hands, kissing, etc., after which no one will remember to look to see if the wedding actually took place. Even polygamy and polyandry are more conducive to peace among the assorted participants than is multilateral engagement.

We allow our leaders to get away with engagement-aka diplomacy-because we don't like conflict. Our leaders wish to stay our leaders, so they sell us on the notion that engagement and diplomacy can prevent conflict. Besides, "no one can fight while they're talking." (Want to bet?) Winston Churchill's nostrum that "jaw-jaw is better than war-war" is frequently (mis)used to this end.

"Engaging" actual or potential enemies diplomatically has been a central tenet of the current administration's policies. Hillary Clinton made it the focal point of her "maiden" major policy address to the Council on Foreign Relations in 2009. She also made it clear that the administration demanded to be judged on its commitment to "process," i.e., "engagement" efforts, rather than results. How could she make that demand? Easy: If righteous process doesn't achieve positive results, it's not the administration's fault, but its predecessors (all of them, not just George W. Bush), who left the Obama with a bad hand to play.

So here we are in the midst of the Iranian train wreck, the Syrian train wreck, and the train wreck of US-led Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Doubled-down engagement. It's time to call the administration's bluff on foreign policy engagements before the US loses whatever leverage it retains, after squandering its short-lived accomplishments in Iraq and Afghanistan; its "all options still on the table" approach to the Iranian nuclear program; developing a an acute case of color blindness to deny the "red-line" that was repeatedly crossed in Syria; and US modification of genuine backing of Israel.

Does real disengagement lead to feckless diplomatic engagement or vice versa? It hardly matters when it comes down to the disappointing outcomes of this administration's "engagements."

This article was originally published at the American Center for Democracy. Refer to original article for related links and important documentation.

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