What does the press coverage of the Canadian trucker strike and Russia’s threatened attack on Ukraine have in common?  Matt Taibbi’s column on the “The Great International Convoy Fiasco” will tell you. For good measure, he added that “On February 4th, 2004, the Wall Street Journal published, ‘A Historian’s Take on Islam Steers U.S. in Terrorism Fight’, about the influence of a Princeton Scholar named Bernard Lewis on George W. Bush’s Iraq policy. The ‘Lewis Doctrine’ was simple. The good professor believed there was no point to asking, Why do they hate us?”

For many weeks the American press (I apologize for lumping our somewhat diverse collection of newspapers into one camp) have been shouting that Russia might invade Ukraine any day now. Volodymyr Zelensky, the President of Ukraine, says that that is nonsense and to please stop saying it. I am inclined to believe him over our newspapers.

Something similar is going on with the striking Canadian truck drivers. The message in both cases is that we need to be tough. Arrest them and remove their trucks that are blocking the border with the U.S. Beef up our troops in Europe and tell Putin all the nasty things we will do to him if Russian troops cross the border. The mindset that reacts in these ways is not in our national interest.

Why are the truckers striking and why is Putin demanding a rethink of European defense architecture? While Putin has told us explicitly what he wants, to my knowledge no meetings have occurred between the Canadian truckers and the Canadian government. We may or may not sympathize with some of the Trucker’s concerns, but the proper (dare I say adult) starting point is to sit down with them and understand what they want.  At least the Biden administration is talking with the Russians, but it would be healthier if more were said in the Press about these talks and the issues that Russia has raised, and less about the potential for, if not eminence of, war. Such discussion of the pros and cons of mutually acceptable options are out there, but you need to search for them.

The role of diplomacy (the first intergovernmental tool of civilized nations) is to understand the concerns and desires of the other side. That is the essential first step in seeking out areas of common ground that each side can live with. War is (or should be) a last resort.  I am sure that Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, etc. can figure out other uses for their manufacturing and technical capabilities. “National Defense”

Author: Warren Coats

I specialize in advising central banks on monetary policy and the development of the capacity to formulate and implement monetary policy.  I joined the International Monetary Fund in 1975 from which I retired in 2003 as Assistant Director of the Monetary and Financial Systems Department. While at the IMF I led or participated in missions to the central banks of over twenty countries (including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgystan, Moldova, Serbia, Turkey, West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Zimbabwe) and was seconded as a visiting economist to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (1979-80), and to the World Bank's World Development Report team in 1989.  After retirement from the IMF I was a member of the Board of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority from 2003-10 and of the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review from 2010-2017.  Prior to joining the IMF I was Assistant Prof of Economics at UVa from 1970-75.  I am currently a fellow of Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise.  In March 2019 Central Banking Journal awarded me for my “Outstanding Contribution for Capacity Building.”  My recent books are One Currency for Bosnia: Creating the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina; My Travels in the Former Soviet Union; My Travels to Afghanistan; My Travels to Jerusalem; and My Travels to Baghdad. I have a BA in Economics from the UC Berkeley and a PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago. My dissertation committee was chaired by Milton Friedman and included Robert J. Gordon.

3 thoughts on “Diplomacy”

  1. Warren thanks for your view on these many different conflicts. It’s hard to follow the writeup’s logic as these conflicts are very different in nature and have different implications. Diplomacy (unlike your view) does not always follow a civilized code. USA diplomacy has been more effective when the USA has demonstrated its economic and military prowess – around a table or in the battle field. Even better, diplomacy has worked better when the USA has led a group of mind-like free countries in conflict. Indeed there have been historical times where the west played a pollyannish attitude at diplomacy to find out 6 million deaths later that their diplomacy failed. At a time when peaceful countries are been threatened and bullied by autocratic countries, the USA must lead the West to defend the democratic values we believe in. And even if we do not want conflict, we should not shy from one.

    1. Diplomacy exists, or should exists between two people, two or more groups or between countries and starts with understanding the views, issues, concerns of your counterparts. Justin didn’t even talk with the Truckers. Not good.

  2. I suppose that as often happens the whole story requires more dwelling on the subject than most people are prepared for or even capable of. To understand that Canadians love truckers while disliking those that don’t know how to play fairly requires the observation that some people are influenced by bad press while others are not. We live in almost a quantum mechanical chaotic world in which outcomes are dependent on spheres of influence that may seem unrelated. I am sure Canadian truckers driving across the United States listen to what I would call dubious news stations with very little depth. Drivers making there way back and forth across Canada listen to more wholesome news stations by and large. So we see the idea of being a Canadian driver by citizenship gets mixed up with being a driver in the United Staes with Canadian citizenship. The outcomes are different. Perhaps, a study of what truckers listen to would reveal data about how their attitudes are formed with regard to the merits of vaccination?

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