Turkey, Brazil and the French Paradox

It looks like Turkey and Brazil might be making the same mistake that France made in 2003, which still serves as the textbook example of an old friend of mine’s admonition regarding marital disputes: Being right is overrated. Clearly subsequent events vindicated France’s position on the Iraq invasion. But anyone who thinks that France did not pay a price for actively lobbying to shoot down the U.N. resolution authorizing it — including then-Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin’s ill-advised tour of African capitals — is mistaken. The move demonstrated France’s ability to build consensus among a strategically weightless constituency, but led to at least a couple of years of marginalization in the consultative bodies that count.

Similarly, by raising the volume in the current “he says, she says” dispute with Washington, Turkey and Brazil are only calling more attention to the limits of their diplomatic skill set (i.e., dissuasion and coercion) instead of its strengths (i.e., persuasion and connection). The problem seems to be one of overreach and unrealistic expectations, with an ill-advised triumphalism upon signing the deal that probably made what we’re seeing now inevitable. Too bad, because a more sober, business-like signing, accompanied by a knowing grin and a call for patience probably would have been more effective.

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