The Realist Prism: Why the U.S. Always Calls for Dialogue, and Why it Always Fails

The Realist Prism: Why the U.S. Always Calls for Dialogue, and Why it Always Fails

Whenever political violence breaks out anywhere in the world, one can predict the U.S. response without any hesitation. The State Department will: solemnly declare that the United States abhors the use of violence and sends its condolences to the casualties; promise that the U.S. will hold “all sides” accountable for their actions; demand that the government “show restraint”; and call for immediate “political dialogue” to resolve the crisis. This preset script has been followed, with minor modifications, as tensions have escalated in Ukraine, Venezuela and Thailand, among others; it was the initial response when violence broke out in in Syria and Egypt.

Yet the repetition of this well-worn narrative every time a news camera captures scenes of protest and violence in yet another capital city’s central square seems to have little effect on conditions on the ground. It is a seemingly hollow incantation recited by Washington policymakers who simply want to show that they are involved, engaged and “monitoring the situation” and is usually dismissed as such by the participants.

Or is it? The United States still retains a great deal of influence throughout the world and usually has some levers of influence either with the government, which may be an ally, trading partner or recipient of aid; or the opposition, which may receive U.S. support and funding—or even with both. Why would U.S. calls for dialogue be dismissed?

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