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By John Helmer in Moscow

In a recent commentary on Iranian political thinking [A grand bargain Russia might just refuse, Jun 14] Kaveh L Afrasiabi takes seriously this proposal from the US academic Joseph Nye: “We should offer Russia a grand bargain: we delay our plans for missile defense in Eastern Europe, while the Russians agree to back stronger sanctions against Iran.” Nye was a colleague of mine, years ago, at Harvard. As Harvard professors go, his career has been less than successful. He never rose out of the junior ranks of government; he bombed nobody, but saved no one from being bombed. He committed no war crimes; he earned no peace prizes. From such a record Nye has made ineffectuality his calling card. Thus an undergraduate-level theory has come into being, with Nye’s name on it as author, called “soft power”. Apparently, it helps to know what this is, if you want to be hired as an assistant professor in some places. However, for Nye to step off the lecture podium, into the real world, and propose a “grand bargain” to the Russian leadership is nonsense. And the reason is obvious to everyone but Nye and the US foreign-policy establishment – the US cannot offer any bargains to anyone, because two terms of the Bush administration demonstrate that the US doesn’t honor its word – on anything, to anybody, anywhere. The implication of Nye’s proposal is a cynical choice between less US war against Russia in Europe in return for Russian backing for more US war against Iran and its allies in the Middle East. This isn’t a case of soft power, so much as a case of soft in the head.

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