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The Arc of Obduracy

Alan Cowell has an interesting piece in the New York Times today:

In some of the same lands described by President George W. Bush as an axis of evil, the Obama administration confronts an arc of obduracy from Pyongyang to Tehran. The riddle persists for the new administration as much as a solution eluded its forerunner: how can America change the bellicose behavior those who do not wish to be changed, least of all at Washington’s behest?  (…)

Regimes that tighten their grip on their people by invoking a threat from beyond their borders cannot survive by embracing that same perceived foe, even if the adversary offers a prospect of dialogue and benefit. The safer response is bluster and threat.

According to the new Moscow rules laid out this week, yesterday’s enemies may become tomorrow’s partners in the benign exercise of power. But then, as Mr. Obama quoted a Russian student as saying, “The real world is not so rational as on paper.”