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The Good Friday Agreement: Ending War and Ending Conflict in Northern Ireland

The Good Friday Agreement: Ending War and Ending Conflict in Northern Ireland

The 1998 Agreement that ended Northern Ireland's bloody civil war has often been attributed to many of the remarkable individuals involved in the peace process. But how much of a difference did they really make? James Steinberg explores this question by…

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                    [post_content] => Twenty years ago, Northern Ireland’s bloody civil war ended with the signing of the “Good Friday” Agreement.[1] The scale of the conflict may seem small in terms of absolute numbers of those killed and wounded when compared to larger tragedies of the 20th century.[2] Nevertheless, its duration, spanning nearly 30 years from the onset of the “Troubles” until the Agreement was signed in 1998, and its pervasive impact — not just on Northern Ireland, but on the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, and even the United States — more than justifies the importance attached to the achievement of peace. Since 1998, implementing the Agreement has proved difficult and the peace remains fragile, tested now by the fallout from Britain’s “Brexit” vote. Yet, the Agreement remains one of the most important examples of how a decades-long sectarian conflict can come to an end.[3]

There have been many books and articles written by participants, journalists, and academics that have sought to describe the process leading up to the Agreement and to explain why it came about.[4] Peace, like victory, has a thousand fathers, and studies of the peace process have identified a wide range of factors that arguably contributed to the outcome. Why then yet another article on this topic? My contribution seeks to “bridge the gap” between two complementary perspectives: the viewpoint of a diplomat deeply involved in the negotiations and that of a teacher and scholar of international relations and conflict resolution.[5] My goal is twofold: to help practitioners think about how to orchestrate the various tools of diplomacy in support of current and future peacemaking efforts,[6] and to contribute to the long-standing academic debate among historians and political scientists about causal explanations in international relations. In particular, I want to examine the interaction between structural factors (such as demographics, economics, and the end of the Cold War), the peace process, and efforts made by key individuals involved in the process.

In any analysis of this kind, the question of agency looms heavily. The Northern Ireland peace process involved many remarkable, dynamic individuals, in and out of government, who populate the narrative. It is relatively easy to describe the decisions these individuals made, while it is somewhat more complex to explain their motivations and calculus (although memoirs abound, there is always danger that the accounts are self-serving).[7] More challenging is the question of how much, if any, difference these individuals made, or whether the deeper economic and social forces at work would have led to an end of the conflict independent of the peace process itself. The very vividness of the first-hand accounts of events and the colorful personalities of the central players may contribute to over-attribution of causality. Almost every major actor in the drama has, at one point in time, been “nominated” as the “indispensable” figure in making the Agreement possible, from David Trimble and John Hume, who were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, to Gerry Adams and his co-negotiator Martin McGuiness, George Mitchell, Tony Blair, Bertie Ahearn, Bill Clinton, Monica McWilliams, May Blood (of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition), and even the shadowy MI5 agent who helped broker key talks between the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the British government in the early 1990s.

For this reason, I begin my analysis by examining the broader, structural factors, before delving into the specifics of the negotiators and the negotiation. I then turn to the motivations and goals of the principal actors: the political parties in Northern Ireland, civil society, and the three governments involved (the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the United States).[8] Next, I look at the negotiating process leading up to the 1998 Agreement. Finally, my analysis turns to some conclusions about how to assess the impact of the various factors and the potential implications of that analysis for future peace processes.

The Historic, Economic, and Social Context

The conflict in Northern Ireland — the Troubles — in its violent form spanned three decades, from about 1968 to 1998. It led to the loss of thousands of lives and even more casualties, affecting Catholics and Protestants; paramilitaries and civilians in the North; British security forces serving in Northern Ireland, England, and on the European continent; and British civilians who were victims of IRA attacks in England. The violence caused billions of dollars of economic harm and left deep social and psychological scars. It had its roots in the complex history of Ireland’s relationship with Great Britain, especially the settlement that led to the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and the partition of the island into the Irish Free State and the “province” of Northern Ireland, the six northern counties on the island that opted out of the Irish Free State under the provisions of the treaty. The source of the Northern Ireland conflict was, in part, political — the legacy of the dispute among Irish nationalists about whether to accept, even temporarily, the partition of Ireland. It was also social and economic. While Catholics made up most of the island, Protestants composed the majority in the six Ulster provinces. For historic and geographic reasons, the counties of Ulster were more industrialized and prosperous than the more rural south, and wealth and political power was largely controlled by Protestant elites.[9] Thus, class, religious and ethnic distinctions, as well as a legacy of de jure and de facto religious discrimination against Catholics in the North all combined to set the stage for sectarian strife. But just as the violence erupted in the 1960s, societal and economic forces began to change this equation. Differential birth rates and patterns of emigration led to a relative increase in the Catholic population of Ulster. Immediately after the partition in 1921, the percentage of Catholics in Ulster was just under 35 percent,[10] but by the time of the 2001 census the proportion had risen to 40.2 percent, compared with 45.6 percent non-Roman Catholic Christians.[11] Equally important, Catholics make up an even greater share of the younger population, a plurality in all age groups up to 39 in the 2011 census, with predictable consequences for the future makeup of the Northern Ireland electorate. The growing Catholic population meant that Catholics — if they chose to participate — would have a growing voice in the politics of the province, even under a pure majoritarian governance model without a formal power-sharing arrangement. Thus, provincial self-governance provided, at least in theory, an alternative, or complementary strategy to empowering the Catholic/nationalist community in Ulster. Perhaps even more significant, it opened up the prospect that at some time in the foreseeable future, a majority in the North might favor leaving the United Kingdom and joining the South, a possibility that both the Irish and British governments foresaw and implicitly endorsed by enshrining the principle of “consent” in the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985.[12] [quote id="1"] Changes in the economic fortunes of the two parts of the Irish island also had an impact on the course of the conflict and the eventual peace agreement. During the second half of the 20th century, the economy of the Irish Republic was transformed, fueled to a considerable degree by the entry of Ireland and the United Kingdom into the European Union in 1973.[13] This trend began to take effect in the 1980s and accelerated in the 1990s with the emergence of high rates of growth in the South, earning the Republic the sobriquet “Celtic Tiger.” At the same time, demographic and economic forces, combined with negative impact from the Troubles on investment prospects in Ulster, led to a relative decline in the economic performance of the North.[14] The result was a growing convergence in living standards between the two parts of Ireland. By 2018, GDP per capita in Northern Ireland was less than half that of the Republic, although this figure, in part, reflects the outsized role of multinationals in the South. But even by more conservative estimates, the standard of living today is at least relatively comparable, North and South.[15] The improved economic fortunes of the South enhanced the attractiveness of the Republic as an economic partner for Northern Ireland, especially among the business community, increasing interest in cross-border cooperation. This was particularly true for border districts, which were among the poorest parts of both North and South. This trend accelerated with completion of the Single European Act in 1993, which both deepened economic ties among E.U. members and diminished the significance of the border between the North and South.[16] It is also important to consider how the wider international environment might have contributed to achieving peace in Northern Ireland. Some have suggested that the end of the Cold War reduced the salience of the U.S.-U.K. relationship and thus opened the door for greater U.S. engagement — including American President Bill Clinton’s willingness to incur British Prime Minister John Major’s anger by granting Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams a visa to visit the United States. To some extent, progress in solving other, arguably more difficult, conflicts — including the Oslo Agreement between Israel and the Palestinians and the Dayton Agreement, which ended the fighting in Bosnia — put pressure on the Northern Ireland protagonists to take similar “risks for peace.” Finally, growing international attention to the problem of terrorism posed challenges to the IRA’s ability to arm itself through ties with other terrorist organizations, such as Spain’s Basque separatists and Columbia’s Revolutionary Armed Forces, as well as through its previously vital ties to Libya under Muammar Qaddafi’s rule.[17]

The Actors

The Northern Ireland Political Parties The political landscape in Northern Ireland leading up to the 1998 Agreement consisted of two key parties on the Catholic side — the republican Sinn Fein (the political wing of the IRA) and the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party[18] — and two on the unionist side — the Ulster Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party[19] — along with smaller loyalist parties associated with Protestant paramilitaries,[20] and one non-sectarian party, the Alliance Party. The Catholic Side Sinn Fein, as a party, has its roots in the struggle for Irish independence in the early 20th century, but its deep involvement in Northern Ireland dates from the 1960s, and particularly from the 1969 party conference when the IRA split between the “official” wing,[21] which favored peaceful political measures to protect Catholics rights and bring about the unification of Ireland, and the “provisional” wing, which sanctioned the use of violence (both to protect the Catholic community and to force the British to abandon Northern Ireland). The “provos” viewed efforts to introduce reform measures in the North or power sharing as simply a means to perpetuate British colonial rule.[22] In the early 1980s, Sinn Fein shifted to a dual-track strategy known as “the ballot box and the Armalite”[23] — participating in parliamentary and local elections (IRA hunger-striker Bobby Sands was elected to the British Parliament in 1981) while continuing its campaign of violence. The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), formed in 1970 out of several smaller parties, was also committed to a united Ireland, but foreswore the use of force and focused much of its attention on the civil and political rights of Catholics under British rule. The SDLP believed that simply forcing the British out would not solve the problem — without the support of the unionist community, unification would simply continue the violent civil war (albeit under Irish rather than British sovereignty). The party emphasized the necessity for the Republic of Ireland to play a formal role in decision-making for the North. The SDLP saw this as a way  to give expression to nationalists’ sense of Irish “identity,” to complement their British “citizenship” as residents of the United Kingdom. The two parties (and their charismatic leaders, Adams and John Hume, respectively) were political rivals in the 1980s, contesting local elections in the North. Although Sinn Fein had some electoral success in its early efforts, its share of the nationalist vote fell throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, and, despite early fears, Sinn Fein was not successful in overtaking the SDLP until after the signing of the 1998 Agreement.[24] During the late 1980s, Sinn Fein’s views about the long-term prospects for achieving republican goals through violence began to shift. Analysts and historians have offered a number of complementary explanations for this crucial development. These include the “Ulsterization” of security, which reduced the number of British military targets and forced the IRA to attack indigenous Northern Irish security personnel;[25] the increasing effectiveness of British intelligence and security operations; and the inherent tensions in the “ballot box and Armalite” strategy, as IRA attacks, especially those resulting in non-combatant causalities, cut deeply into Sinn Fein’s electoral support, both in the north and south of Ireland.[26] Adams publicly described this evolving perspective in an interview in 1988, in which he seemed to rule out the prospect of a military solution to the conflict.[27] This set the stage for a series of meetings between Adams and Hume leading, in 1993, to a joint agreement which included two key provisions:
As leaders of our respective parties we have told each other that we see the task of reaching agreement on a peaceful and democratic accord for all on this island as our primary challenge. We both recognise that such a new agreement is only achievable and viable if it can earn and enjoy the allegiance of the different traditions on this island, by accommodating diversity and providing for national reconciliation.[28] (emphasis added)
The discussions between Sinn Fein and the SDLP took place in parallel with secret discussions between Sinn Fein and the British government.[29] This signal from Sinn Fein (and thus implicitly from the IRA itself) helped trigger a series of events — including the Downing Street Declaration and the decision by Clinton to grant Adams a visa to visit the United States, both discussed below — that were crucial to the 1998 Agreement. Most importantly, they led to the IRA ceasefire of 1994. Although this was not the first announced ceasefire, and although it did not last (the 1996 Canary Wharf bombing brought it to an end), it was seen both then and subsequently as a decisive shift in the trajectory of the conflict. Sinn Fein’s turn toward taking a political approach was, in part, a response to the improved prospect that its goal of unification might be achieved through peaceful means. It may also be attributed to backlash against IRA violence and Sinn Fein’s continued electoral difficulties.[30] One of the key barriers to including Sinn Fein in the peace process was the nature of its ties to the IRA, the paramilitary organization responsible for most of the attacks on British and Ulster security forces and loyalist paramilitaries, as well as a number of high-visibility attacks in England, including a failed assassination attempt on Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that killed one of her aides. The exact nature of the ties between the two groups was (and remains) hotly disputed, both in the lead-up to the Agreement and its implementation. Sinn Fein leaders always insisted that the two were separate and that Sinn Fein could not speak for the IRA.[31] To some extent, this was a kind of deniability designed to give the IRA flexibility to explore what was possible using Sinn Fein as a “cut out”  to explore possible outcomes of the negotiations without actually committing the IRA to accepting the political route.[32] At the same time, there is good reason to believe that at crucial moments the Sinn Fein leadership did not have sufficient clout within the IRA to bring about Sinn Fein’s preferred outcomes, particularly on the issue of the IRA decommissioning its arms.[33] But here, too, it is impossible to rule out the judgment that this was a familiar negotiating ploy designed to persuade the other parties (unionists, Dublin, London, and Washington) that Sinn Fein had reached the end of its flexibility. Reg Empey, a key Ulster Unionist Party negotiator and unionist member of parliament, called the argument that Sinn Fein and the IRA were distinct a “charade.”[34] The Unionist/Protestant Parties The dominant Protestant party in Northern Ireland for much of the 20th century was the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), which, as the name makes clear, had as its central tenet preserving the union with the United Kingdom. Led from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s by James Molyneux, a strong figure who served as a member of parliament in Westminster, the UUP held uncompromising attitudes on the important issues facing Ulster: It opposed greater involvement and a greater voice for Catholics through power sharing in Ulster institutions (including in the short-lived provincial parliament, created in 1973), reforming the Royal Ulster Constabulary (seen by many Catholics as a sectarian force), and giving the Republic of Ireland a role in Northern Ireland affairs.[35] Although the UUP had strong ties to the Conservative (Tory) Party in Great Britain, there were also tensions, stemming from history, cultural differences, and economics, as well as an abiding fear that unionism was more important to the UUP (and Northern Ireland Protestants generally) than it was to Tories. This fear was stoked by the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, which opened the possibility that Ulster’s ties to the United Kingdom could be sacrificed through the political process.[36] The 1990 statement by Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Brooke that “The British government has no selfish strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland” further stoked these fears.[37] [quote id="2"] This unionist anxiety about depending on Westminster to protect their interests led to increasing unionist focus on autonomy and self-governance for Northern Ireland, in contrast to the arguments of “integrationists” like Enoch Powell, who argued that Ulster should be governed directly from Westminster, no different than the rest of the United Kingdom.[38] Some unionists placed their hopes on Conservative Prime Minister John Major’s dependence on the votes of unionist members of parliament to maintain his parliamentary majority following the 1992 elections. That hope was undercut first by Major’s decision to support the Anglo-Irish “Frameworks” document of 1996, seen by unionists as a sellout to the Irish, and later by Labour’s victory in 1997. The unionists’ desire to achieve greater control over their destiny played a crucial role in the final decision to accept the 1998 Agreement, as Empey later explained:
We had been dying death by a thousand cuts for 30 years. Unionism had been excluded from the decision-making process since 1972. Throughout that period, direct rule [by the U.K. government in London] had worked against Unionism. Policy decisions had been taken on a whole range of issues that were not in the interest of Unionism.[39]
The growing focus on autonomy as a way to protect unionist/Protestant interests in Northern Ireland played an important role in the rise of David Trimble as the head of the UUP. Although Trimble had a long history in unionist politics, he was largely overshadowed by other prominent UUP leaders, both among unionist members of parliament and constituency figures. His involvement in the Drumcree Orange Order parade in 1995 propelled his rise to the top, burnishing his apparently hardline unionist credentials by ostentatiously defying the British attempt to limit a Protestant parade through a Catholic neighborhood.[40] This association helped sustain his credibility with unionists, who, during the negotiations, were required to abandon traditional “red lines,” including participating in talks with Sinn Fein in 1997 without prior decommissioning and, ultimately, signing the 1998 Agreement without decommissioning. Although Trimble secured a majority of his party’s council in support of the Agreement, the decision triggered a split within the UUP and ultimately contributed to the UUP’s electoral eclipse by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The second leading party on the unionist side was the DUP, formed in the 1970s. Led by the fiery Presbyterian minister, Reverend Ian Paisley, the DUP was even more rigid in rejecting any accommodation with either the nationalists in Northern Ireland (especially through power sharing) or with the Irish government in the South. The DUP largely boycotted the peace negotiations, in part because it insisted on a complete and credible renunciation of violence and prior decommissioning before sitting down with any of the parties linked to paramilitaries (republican or loyalist). Ironically, following the Agreement, the longest period of stable devolved government in Northern Ireland came during a time when the DUP shared power with Sinn Fein (2010–17).[41] The other key parties on the Protestant/unionist side were those associated with the loyalist paramilitaries. They were, in many respects, the counterparts of Sinn Fein/the IRA. These included the Progressive Unionist Party, headed by David Ervine and associated with the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force, and the Ulster Democratic Party, headed by Gary McMichael and associated with the Ulster Defence Association. Although the loyalists were, during the 1970s and 1980s, the most militant of the Protestant groups, they also suffered the most from the fighting — and their decision, much like that of the IRA, to turn from violence to political negotiations gave significant momentum to the peace process. The first evidence of this new orientation emerged in the form of a split between the two principal loyalist groups, the Ulster Defense Association, which remained committed to violence, and the Ulster Volunteer Force, which began to advocate for negotiations. Ultimately, both groups declared a ceasefire shortly after the IRA ceasefire of Aug. 31, 1994, and, in the ensuing years, became an important advocacy group within the Protestant/unionist movement at difficult moments in the negotiations.[42] Non-Sectarian Involvement The Alliance Party was founded in 1970 as a pro-union, but non-sectarian, party. The Alliance was the only political party that sought votes from both the nationalist and unionist constituencies.[43] It received an estimated seven to 10 percent of the vote in the 1980s and 1990s and it participated in the Northern Ireland Forum (from which the participants in the negotiations for the 1998 Agreement were chosen) and won six seats in the first Northern Ireland Assembly election. Its leader, Lord John Alderdice, was an active participant in the all-party negotiation. One Alliance official later described the party’s contribution as a “weathervane” — making sure that proposals were neither too pro-union nor too pro-nationalist and advocating for the integrity of the process, particularly the commitment to exclusively peaceful means.[44] Civil Society Groups A variety of civil society organizations functioned as peace advocates and ultimately were involved in the talks that led to the Agreement through the election of representatives from the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition to the Northern Ireland Forum and, as a result, the formal peace talks. These groups frequently complained that their representatives were excluded from key discussions, both formal and informal. It is hard to assess their specific impact on the signing of the 1998 Agreement. To some extent, they represented a concrete expression of underlying public sentiment, which yearned for an end to the violence, that would have had an impact on the traditional political leaders even in the absence of the groups’ formal participation in the talks. Some analysts have argued that civil society organizations contributed by acting as honest brokers, broadening the agenda, and building public support for the Agreement’s subsequent ratification and that their involvement helped make the Agreement more durable.[45] Skeptics like Fred Halliday, however, have challenged the importance of civil society in the Northern Ireland peace process:
[W]hen it comes to internal conditions, the central issue remains the intentions of the main military and political players….Protest, denunciation, scorn may play a role, but this is not enough to sway the ‘hard’ men and women….it comes through a decision by the nasty people that it is, at that particular moment, more advantageous to pursue peace than war.[46]
Religious leaders were involved at various stages of the peace process, beginning as early as the 1960s, though as institutions they largely resorted to exhortation. Individual clergy, notably one Catholic priest, Father Alec Reid, did at times play a significant role.[47] The referendum that followed the signing of the Agreement revealed the differences between the two communities — while virtually all nationalists/Catholics voted to approve the Agreement, only about half of unionists voted “yes.” In the subsequent decision to go into government without decommissioning, the UUP ruling council split 58-42. But even on the Catholic side, a small splinter maximalist group, the “Real IRA,” continued to oppose the Agreement, including through the use of violence. The Governments The British Government During the early years of the Troubles, the British government’s strategy centered around a strong commitment to the “union” and a conviction that peace could only be achieved through a tough security posture. This approach was crystallized when Edward Heath’s Tories replaced the Labour government of Harold Wilson in 1970.[48] In an attempt to quell the violence, in 1972 Heath abolished the Protestant-dominated Parliament of Northern Ireland, known as the “Stormont” Assembly,[49] which had exercised limited self-government in Northern Ireland since partition. In 1973, the British government proposed a new approach, the Sunningdale Agreement, returning most of the previous powers (other than security) to a reformed Northern Ireland Assembly, which would take decisions under a power-sharing arrangement between unionists and nationalists. Sunningdale also included a role for the Republic of Ireland in the form of North-South bodies designed to foster cooperation across the island. Each of these elements were to feature prominently, 25 years later, in the 1998 Agreement. While Sunningdale was narrowly embraced by the UUP under its leader Brian Faulkner (as well as by the SDLP), grass roots unionist opposition crushed the agreement and pushed Faulkner from his leadership role. Heath’s successor, Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was strongly unionist both by personal inclination and by Tory politics. Her hardline instincts were reinforced by the 1984 IRA attack on the Conservative party conference in Brighton in which she narrowly escaped and a key advisor was killed.[50] Nonetheless, Thatcher’s decision to conclude the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement without consulting unionist leaders was, in retrospect, a pivotal moment toward launching the peace process. Although her goal was to gain Irish support for a tougher crackdown on the IRA, her willingness to accept an Irish role in Northern Ireland affairs stunned unionists and helped fuel a sense that devolution (regional self-government) and power-sharing, rather than dependence on Westminster, was a more reliable means of protecting unionist interests. Thatcher’s successor, John Major, was less personally wedded to unionism, and some credit him with making the major decisions — including the Downing Street Declaration and the Anglo-Irish Frameworks document[51] — that ultimately led to the 1998 peace agreement. Major indisputably demonstrated considerable courage in engaging with his Irish counterparts (and indirectly with the IRA). But these actions further deepened unionist suspicions, and Major’s dependence on unionist votes for holding onto his parliamentary majority constrained his room to maneuver, which led him to emphasize a permanent cessation of violence and prior arms decommissioning as pre-conditions for Sinn Fein entering peace talks, tests that nearly collapsed the process. It was thus somewhat ironic that the 1997 election of Prime Minister Tony Blair, from the more traditionally “green” Labour Party, helped pave the way for the 1998 Agreement. Although unionists historically mistrusted Labour, Thatcher’s and Major’s actions had damaged unionist faith in the Tories. Moreover, during his first weeks in office, Blair made a major effort to demonstrate his support for the “consent” principle, which was fundamental to the unionist approach.[52] In addition, Blair’s broad support for devolution (for Scotland and Wales as well as Northern Ireland) helped ease unionist fears that self-government for Northern Ireland was a first step toward leaving the Union or being given second-class status within the United Kingdom. The Irish Government The issue of Northern Ireland has played an outsized role in Irish politics. The identities of the major political parties in the South were built on their approach to unification. Fianna Fail, the party of Eamon de Valera, rejected the partition of Ireland and the continued ties to the Irish crown in the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty, which created the Irish Free State. Fine Gael was the heir of Michael Collins and the pro-Treaty forces, who acquiesced in the exclusion of the six northern countries from the Irish Free State. Fianna Fail’s subsequent 1932 electoral triumph led to the enshrinement of a constitutional claim (in the 1937 Constitution) of sovereignty over the entire island of Ireland, a key point of contention in the 1998 negotiations until the very end. Fine Gael, by contrast, took a much harder anti-IRA line, opposing direct talks with Sinn Fein or the IRA. Although the centrality of the Northern Ireland issue came, over time, to define the two parties less and less, there remained a perception that Fianna Fail was more nationalist. This was reflected in the approach of Fianna Fail Taoiseach Charles Haughey and, later, Albert Reynolds (who replaced Haughey in 1992), who worked hard to get Sinn Fein into the peace process. By contrast, Fine Gael Taoiseach John Bruton (1995–97) took a tougher line on decommissioning that was much closer to the British view and was considered more sympathetic to the unionist view on the importance of consent.[53] [quote id="3"] Initially, the elevation of Fianna Fail’s Bertie Ahearn in 1997 seemed to presage a throwback to greater support for more maximalist demands of Sinn Fein and the SDLP, although Ahearn made gestures designed to reassure unionists.[54] This more traditional Fianna Fail approach was reflected in the draft agreement Blair and Ahearn presented to the peace conference in the crucial final days of negotiation, which leaned heavily toward the nationalists’ insistence on strong and quasi-independent North-South institutions. The tabling of this draft nearly caused the talks to collapse. However, in the face of unionist revolt, Ahearn agreed, against the advice of his aides, to radically dilute these provisions in order to secure unionist agreement — a decision which has led some to nominate Ahearn as yet another candidate for the “indispensable actor” award.[55] The United States Two competing forces shaped U.S. policy toward Northern Ireland during the early years of the Troubles. On the one hand, the United States and the United Kingdom shared a strong political bond, with historic roots reinforced by the Cold War. These ties inclined Washington to defer to London on what the United Kingdom saw as a domestic conflict. Pulling in the opposite direction was a large and active Irish Catholic diaspora that sympathized with the plight of the Catholics in Northern Ireland. Irish Americans were largely in favor of Irish unification, though divided between those who came to support Sinn Fein/the IRA (IRA sympathizers in the United States provided substantial financial and material support to the group)[56] and those who opposed violence and supported the SDLP. The latter group had strong adherents in the U.S. Congress (including leaders such as House Speaker Tip O’Neill and Sen. Ted Kennedy) but the executive branch largely prioritized U.S.-U.K. ties. Clinton had no prior involvement in the issue before taking office, but, in an unscripted moment during the presidential campaign, indicated his openness to granting a U.S. visa to Adams, who had been denied entry in the past because of his links to the IRA.[57] As a result, unionists were apprehensive when Clinton was elected. Despite the campaign statement and the presence on Clinton’s National Security Council staff of former Kennedy aide Nancy Soderberg, during his first months in office, Clinton initially adopted the pro-British line of the State Department, which opposed granting Adams a visa without the IRA first renouncing violence. But in January 1994, Clinton decided to grant the visa at the urging of Irish Taoiseach Reynolds, members of Congress (including Kennedy, who himself changed his position at the urging of Hume), and Clinton’s White House staff. Clinton had been persuaded that it was more likely to achieve an IRA ceasefire by granting the visa without pre-condition, a judgment that seemed to be vindicated by the IRA ceasefire in August 1994, although at the time Major was furious with Clinton.[58] U.S. involvement following the issuance of the visa followed two tracks. First, there was an effort to promote economic development and investment in Northern Ireland to demonstrate the benefits peace could confer to both communities.[59] This was followed by more direct diplomacy through the appointment of former Senator George Mitchell to lead the negotiations and Clinton’s own personal involvement. During his dramatic visit to Belfast at Christmas 1995, Clinton went out of his way to emphasize his consultations with Trimble, leading one former unionist member of parliament, Roy Bradford, to observe at the time that the visit “significantly changed the feeling among unionists that the American agenda is exclusively nationalist.”[60] Clinton’s willingness to lend support to unionist positions came into play again in the peace process end game, when, in a phone call with Trimble, Clinton backed up Blair’s commitment to “bring down” the power-sharing agreement if the IRA did not begin decommissioning following Sinn Fein’s entry into government.

The Peace Process

The Formal Process During the early 1990s, momentum began to build for launching a formal peace process for the first time since the failed Sunningdale conference of 1973. Initial talks began in 1991 (the inter-party or Brooke-Mayhew talks) involving the moderate parties — the two main unionist parties (the UUP and DUP), the SDLP, and the Alliance Party — and excluding the parties associated with the paramilitaries — Sinn Fein and the loyalist parties. The British government began a secret back channel dialogue with Sinn Fein in 1990 but the initiative failed and was shelved in 1993 because the British government insisted on a permanent end to violence as a condition of Sinn Fein’s participation in the peace process.[61] Following a wave of violence in October 1993, and with talks on the brink of collapse, the governments of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland issued the Downing Street Declaration in December 1993. The declaration addressed a number of the key principles to govern any settlement and opened the door for Sinn Fein to participate in formal talks following a renunciation of violence, including a “handing over of arms.”[62] In response, the IRA, in August 1994, announced “a complete cessation of military operations,” but the two governments insisted that the action was insufficient and that the IRA had to commit to a permanent renunciation of violence and arms decommissioning to participate in negotiations. In an effort to break the stalemate, the two governments established an international body, chaired by Mitchell, to look into the decommissioning issue. The group produced a report that concluded that the IRA/Sinn Fein would never accept decommissioning as a pre-condition,[63] but proposed instead that all parties be required to affirm a set of principles (“the Mitchell Principles”), which included, inter alia, a commitment to total disarmament. The report provided the British government a way out of the decommissioning stalemate, and the governments in London and Dublin announced that they would convene talks in June 1996 that would be open to all parties that accepted the Mitchell Principles (but without a decommissioning pre-condition). They did insist that the IRA restore its ceasefire (which the group had broken in February 1996) in order for Sinn Fein to participate, which happened in 1997. The process of selecting delegates was a complex formula based on elections to a Northern Ireland Forum for Political Dialogue. Delegates to the negotiations were chosen by members of the forum in a way that ensured the negotiations would be dominated by the major parties but would also guarantee the participation of smaller parties, including those associated with the loyalist paramilitaries, as well as women, Labour, and the Alliance Party.[64] The process included arrangements for expelling any party that violated the conditions of entry. The hardline unionists (the DUP and the United Kingdom Union Party) walked out at the outset, in part, in protest of the selection of Mitchell to chair the negotiations. But the UUP stayed in, partially because it didn’t trust the British government to protect its interests.[65] The hardline unionists walked out again when Sinn Fein was admitted to the talks in July 1997. Mitchell believes that their absence gave the moderate UUP room to negotiate, and that, had they stayed, an agreement might not have been possible.[66] The talks were divided into three strands: The first, chaired by the United Kingdom, was focused on governance issues for Northern Ireland. The second strand was focused on relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and was chaired by Mitchell and Harri Holkeri, a former Finnish prime minister.[67] The third was focused on Irish-U.K. relations, and was chaired by the two countries’ governments. Decisions were taken on the basis of “sufficient consensus.” For Strands Two and Three, this required a majority of each side (unionist and nationalist) separately, plus an overall majority of all delegates, as well as agreement by the two governments. Strand One had similar requirements, except the Irish government had no vote.[68] This arrangement meant that, at least theoretically, the UUP and SDLP could do a deal without either Sinn Fein or the DUP. Blair and Adams met following Sinn Fein’s entry into the talks, the first time a Sinn Fein leader had met with a British prime minister in 76 years.[69] The negotiations were protracted and by late 1997 were largely at a stalemate. This was followed by a rash of sectarian killings, which threatened to derail the process.[70] In January 1998, the British and Irish governments tabled a short document that had been negotiated with Trimble.[71] In March 1998, Mitchell announced a deadline of April 9 for conclusion of the talks. The choice of date was not entirely arbitrary, as the legislation that established the forum was due to expire in May 1998.[72] In addition, Mitchell believed that the agreement had to be completed, and a ratifying referendum held, before the “marching season” in July, a time of high tensions in Northern Ireland.[73] The parties reached an agreement on Good Friday, April 10, 1998, after side interventions by Blair (in the form of a written letter) and Clinton (in the form of a telephone call with Trimble) designed to assure the unionists that the agreement would not be implemented if the IRA failed to move forward with decommissioning. All told, the formal talks lasted 21 months. The Informal Negotiations The formal peace process unfolded in parallel with a complex set of inter-related secret and informal negotiations. These included talks between the British and Irish governments; between the British and Sinn Fein/the IRA; and between the Irish and various parties, including Sinn Fein, the SDLP, and the unionists. They also included dialogue that took place in Washington in connection with various parties’ visits to the United States and frequent contacts in Northern Ireland between U.S. diplomats and all the Northern Ireland parties.[74] Notably, there were almost no secret negotiations between the Northern Ireland parties themselves, with the notable exception of the Hume-Adams dialogue in the late 1980s. The secret talks allowed the parties to escape the pre-conditions barriers that impeded public dialogue with “terrorists,” but at the same time, the periodic exposure of the secret talks did pose challenges to the governments’ credibility and angered the moderate parties who felt their anti-violence stance was undermined by the governments’ willingness to negotiate with parties associated with active paramilitaries. The Agreement and Its Aftermath The Agreement mirrored the three-strand approach of the negotiations. Strand One established the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive. “Key decisions” could only be taken by “cross-community” consent defined as:
  1. either parallel consent, i.e., a majority of those members present and voting, including a majority of the unionist and nationalist designations present and voting; or
  2. a weighted majority (60 percent) of members present and voting, including at least 40 percent of each of the nationalist and unionist designations present and voting.
The Executive is run by the first minister and deputy first minister, jointly elected on a cross-community basis under the same rules for making key decisions in the Assembly. The jurisdiction of the devolved government was initially based on areas previously within the scope of the Northern Ireland government departments but could be enlarged with the approval of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Strand Two represented the North-South dimension: It created the North–South Ministerial Council and the North–South Implementation Bodies. The Agreement provided three different mechanisms for “all-island” actions: through the adoption of common policies, through coordinated policies implemented separately by the Northern Ireland and Irish governments, and through actions by North-South “implementation bodies.” To provide nationalists some confidence that the North-South dimension would not be subject to a unionist veto, the Agreement provided that the council had to agree on at least 12 “matters” for cooperation through cross-border institutions, drawn from a list of permissible subjects.[75] [quote id="4"] Strand Three established the East-West dimension: the British-Irish Council and the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference. The council consists of the two national governments plus the devolved governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, with a focus on “practical co-operation” on issues within the competence of the devolved governments, while the intergovernmental conference involves only the two national governments and was designed to give the Irish government a voice on non-devolved issues, in particular, security issues. The Agreement resolved the constitutional issues by enshrining the principle of consent: opening the prospect of unification with the South but only with the consent of a majority of the North. The Republic of Ireland agreed to amend its constitution to eliminate claims to sovereignty over the North,[76] while the British government repealed the 1920 Government of Ireland Act, which, in fact, provided a British veto over the status of Northern Ireland. The Agreement protected the option of dual citizenship for residents of Northern Ireland, irrespective of whether, in the future, Northern Ireland remained in the United Kingdom or became part of Ireland. It additionally included human rights provisions that specifically addressed some of the major Catholic concerns, including the establishment of a Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. There were also hortatory provisions on issues such as economic development and linguistic diversity. The Agreement largely sidestepped several of the substantive issues underlying the conflict. Although recognizing the importance of reconciliation and the need to address victims of violence, the Agreement established no mechanisms for this purpose. It deferred to subsequent decisions by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning on matters relating to the timing and modalities of decommissioning.[77] Similarly, the parties deferred to a newly created Independent Commission on Policing with regard to questions of policing and justice. Finally, the Agreement included no timetable for the withdrawal of British security forces and emergency powers. The implementation of the Agreement has faced significant challenges over the past two decades.[78] During the first decade following the signing of the Agreement, the British government twice had to restore direct rule, in 2000 and 2002, the second time for a period of five years. The first devolved government was led by the moderate parties (the UUP and SDLP) but subsequent elections have promoted Sinn Fein and the DUP to the fore. On the plus side, paramilitary violence has largely disappeared, though dissident groups remain a threat, and the British no longer play a direct security role. For an extended period following the Hillsborough Agreement (2010), when the two communities finally agreed on important issues not addressed in the 1998 Agreement (especially policing and criminal justice), the institutions were functioning reasonably well. The Northern Ireland economy received a significant boost in the first decade following the Agreement, notably in lowered unemployment rates. Since the 2008­–09 recession, growth has been much lower, but comparable to the rest of the United Kingdom.[79] Notably, the difference in unemployment rates between Catholics and Protestants has narrowed dramatically. But political scandal in 2017 led to institutional paralysis, which remains unresolved.[80] Inter-communal mistrust remains high, and volatile issues including language, parades, and symbols continue to be flash points. Despite intensive discussions since the Agreement was signed, there is still no agreed mechanism to address historical legacy issues. Brexit further complicates the prospects for the future. The DUP supported Brexit while a modest overall majority — 56 percent — opposed it. Sinn Fein has called Brexit “the most serious threat in the history of the peace process.”[81]

Who and What Made the Agreement Possible?

We are now in a position to take on the difficult question of judging the importance of three factors — circumstance, people, and process — in achieving the 1998 Agreement. There has been considerable debate about and attention given to the importance of individuals to the successful conclusion of the Agreement. Many of the participants themselves are quite explicit in crediting the efforts of individuals. For example, in an article written after the signing of the Agreement, Trimble singled out Blair, Ahearn, and Mitchell for credit.[82] Mitchell, in turn, focused on Blair and Ahearn,[83] as well as David Ervine, head of the Progressive Unionist Party.[84] Analysts, too, have weighed in, crediting, inter alia, Adams, Major, and Reynolds.[85] One well-connected BBC commentator later claimed that Father Alec Reid’s role was “absolutely critical” to the peace process.[86] In addition, analysts have focused on the personal relationships between key actors in the peace process, both positive and negative, as well as lack of relationships, as important factors. For example, Clinton’s strong ties with Blair facilitated coordination, in contrast with his frosty relationship with Major. Major’s strong personal relationship with Irish Taoiseach Albert Reynolds contributed to their ability to manage the sharp substantive differences between the two countries’ priorities.[87] Indeed, many assessments of why the process succeeded focus on trust-building exercises such as the extended Adam-Hume dialogue of 1988–93 and the decision to move the talks from Northern Ireland to the U.S. ambassador’s residence in London after the Agreement was signed but before it was implemented (providing a sharp contrast with tensions arising from the lack of personal contact or direct talks between the parties during the negotiations that produced the Agreement).[88] Clinton’s various meetings — with Trimble in Belfast during his 1995 visit and with all the key leaders during the annual St. Patrick’s Day events in Washington D.C. — and especially his close ties with Blair, all seem to have contributed to the successful outcome as well. But subsequent difficulties with implementing the Agreement raise questions about just how much trust was generated, and, therefore, how much it might have contributed to the Agreement in the first place. Of course, there is no definitive answer to the agency question, to the counterfactual “but for” claim.[89] There seems little doubt, for example, that Adams’ belief in the efficacy of political action rather than violence and Trimble’s willingness to engage in power sharing represented breaks from the past that were staunchly opposed by others in their parties until the very end (and beyond). At the same time, the two men’s rise to positions of power reflected broader forces. In the case of Sinn Fein/the IRA, Adams’ interest in pursuing a political solution was strengthened by the public backlash against violence, particularly after British security forces withdrew from the front lines. Indeed, it can be argued that Adams only turned to the political solution once the “ballot box and Armalite” strategy had failed. For Trimble, political changes at Westminster, which had nothing to do with Northern Ireland, left Northern Ireland’s unionists more isolated and dependent on themselves to protect their interests through devolution. In that sense, both Adams and Trimble had the fortune of being at the right place at the right time to assume leadership. Similarly, those who would give the laurel to Blair and Ahearn can argue that they succeeded in achieving, in relatively short time, what Major and his various Irish counterparts failed to accomplish. Yet, it is also possible to argue that what constrained Major, and what empowered Blair, was the size of the parliamentary majority — a fact that had little or nothing to do with their Northern Ireland policies.[90] Major has also been singled out for his willingness to engage both with Dublin and Sinn Fein, but here, too, his choices were highly constrained. While the security strategy had blunted the IRA’s efforts, there was widespread belief within British security circles (parallel to thinking in Sinn Fein) that force alone could not bring the conflict to an end. One way to try to answer this question of agency is to examine SDLP leader Seamus Mallon’s widely-quoted aphorism that the 1998 Agreement was “Sunningdale for slow learners.”[91] The implication of his statement is that, had “faster” learners been around in 1973–74, power sharing and North-South cooperation based on the principle of consent might have succeeded much earlier and the war might have ended much sooner.[92] Yet, it is hard to see in the context of the violence of the first years of the Troubles that there was much that unionist leader Brian Faulkner, or any other unionist leader, could have done to rally unionist support for power sharing, or that a different British prime minister (much less a different Taoiseach), through force or guile, could have countered the ferocious unionist opposition to the Sunningdale agreement. Similarly, it is difficult to see who within the IRA could have carried the day in favor of accepting the legitimacy of a reconstituted Northern Ireland Assembly and the unionist veto over Irish unification. (It is notable that Adams himself was propelled into a leadership role by his critique of the IRA’s 1975 ceasefire.)[93] Finally, there seems to have been no plausible Conservative leader (much less one from Labour) who could have pushed the deal through over the violent unionist opposition. In other words, Sunningdale failed, not because of poor leadership (or “slow learners”), but because circumstances were not propitious for an agreement that embodied the key principles of consent, power sharing, and cross-border institutions. Put another way, the structural changes that were just beginning to work themselves out following the onset of the Troubles were a necessary condition to the acceptance of the framework that was on offer, but they were rejected by both Sinn Fein/the IRA and the unionists in 1973. [quote id="5"] At the same time, it is possible to imagine that the 1998 Agreement might have failed. It is plausible that crucial decisions in the run-up to the Agreement might have gone a different way — Ahearn’s decision to revise the agreement he had reached only days before on the North-South institutions, Trimble’s willingness to accept Blair’s promise on decommissioning, or Mitchell’s decision to impose a firm deadline. In other words, the structural forces may have been necessary, but alone they were insufficient to account for the fact that the Agreement happened when it did, in the precise shape that it took. Of course, all of the central actors faced considerable constraints on their freedom of action. For example, Trimble spent an extraordinary amount of time and effort dealing with internal dissension within his party, and on several occasions was forced to renegotiate after finding that he could not sell a proposed deal to them. Adams, too, emphasized the constraints he faced from other leaders and the rank and file.[94] Even Hume faced internal dissension when he launched his dialogue with Adams. It is reasonable to assert that these protestations also reflected a well-known negotiating tactic — “My hands are tied.” But it is also true that many of these leaders made important choices along the way that built sufficient credibility with their constituents to give them the necessary leeway. This was dramatically illustrated following the brutal IRA attack on a loyalist headquarters in Belfast’s Shankill Road on Oct. 13, 1993. Adams’ appearance as a pall bearer at the funeral of one of the IRA gunmen led many to believe that his action would kill any hopes for making progress toward peace. Yet, two months later, Adams used his credibility with the IRA to persuade its Army Council not to reject publicly the Downing Street Declaration, issued just two months after the bombing. Both governments later acknowledged that Adams’ failure to participate in the funeral would have irreparably damaged his credibility with the IRA.[95] More broadly, Adams and McGuinness demonstrated extraordinary dexterity in managing the almost unimaginable process of bringing the IRA leadership to accept the unthinkable changes in republican orthodoxy embodied in the 1998 Agreement. Similarly, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Mo Mowlam’s audacious decision in January 1998 to meet with the loyalist prisoners at the Maze Prison is frequently credited with saving the process, despite the outcry of the UUP.[96] Even Trimble’s notorious “dance” with the DUP’s Ian Paisley at Drumcree can be seen in this light.[97] As Martin Mansergh, senior advisor to several Fianna Fail Taoiseachs during the peace process, observed, “the thin centrist strand made a valuable contribution but was not nearly strong enough to support a settlement on its own.”[98] The inclusion of parties associated with hard-line positions complicated their interactions with each other and with the governments but strengthened their legitimacy with their bases when the time came to do a deal. This argues strongly for the importance of individual choice. Perhaps the best way to characterize the role of agency is to say that circumstance dealt each of the major players a reasonably favorable hand which facilitated agreement, but that each played the hand quite skillfully.[99] Each saw, earlier than many others, the path forward that led to the Agreement. It is certainly possible to imagine that others who might plausibly have been in their place — even those who shared the same basic approach to the conflict — might not have sealed the deal when it came about. At the same time, the very fact that the Agreement ultimately found implementation through a pact that featured Paisley as first minister is a reflection of the power of the forces pushing to end the fighting. Agency played an important role in the timing and precise terms of the Agreement, but arguably a much less significant one in the broader turn away from violence. A similar analysis applies to assessing the role of process — both formal and informal — in ultimately reaching the Agreement. At its core, the most significant feature of the process was the focus on inclusivity,[100] especially the controversial decision to involve the parties associated with the paramilitaries before they unequivocally and demonstrably renounced violence, rather than seeking to achieve an agreement involving only the “constitutional” parties. From the early days of the Troubles through the early 1990s, both the British and Irish governments had pursued a different approach, seeking to marginalize the paramilitaries and limit the negotiations to the constitutional parties.[101] By almost all assessments, the very presence in the negotiations of individuals strongly associated with the “guns” — McGuinness (Sinn Fein/the IRA), Ervine (Progressive Unionist Party), and Gary McMichael (Ulster Democratic Party) — which caused such heartburn for more traditional political leaders, proved central to bringing about an agreement that would stick. Thus, Major’s reluctant decision to find a way to begin inclusive talks following the Mitchell report proved vital. A related feature of the process that was instrumental was the sequencing — the willingness to move the process forward without a firm commitment to a permanent ceasefire and at least initial steps toward the paramilitary groups decommissioning their arms. The decision to move from pre-conditions to “conditions subsequent” was another feature that distinguished this negotiation from the Sunningdale agreement and unblocked the stalemate that plagued the process during most of the Major years. The decision seems vindicated not only by the successful conclusion of the negotiations, but also by the subsequent IRA decommissioning and the relative low level of defection by dissatisfied members of the paramilitaries. It is not hard to imagine that a deal done by the SDLP and the UUP alone might have met serious resistance from the IRA and the loyalists, though of course, the declining effectiveness of violence, apparent by the late 1980s, might have tempered the scale and duration of the backlash. At the same time, the inclusion of such diverse perspectives had an impact on the content of the Agreement in two important respects. First, the parties’ mutual suspicions drove them toward a consociational model that blocked vetoes. This reduced the risk of either party being outvoted and thus made the Agreement more palatable to their respective constituencies.[102] But this came at the cost of possible paralysis. Left on their own, an agreement involving only the UUP and SDLP might well have tilted the balance toward a more flexible approach. Second, the deep divisions even within the two camps led the parties to defer important decisions on key substantive issues ranging from the future of policing to the role of the North-South bodies, setting the stage for the predictable crises that followed. A number of commentators have focused on the role of civil society in bringing about the Agreement, both as an outside force pressing the parties and as formal participants in the negotiations. It is difficult to assess how much the grass roots peace movement helped to build opposition to violence and thus facilitate the paramilitaries’ decision to give it up. Peace groups had been active throughout the Troubles, for example, in the women’s movement in the 1980s, with only limited success in bringing an end to the fighting. Several commentators have focused on the formal role of civil society organizations in the process. Maria Power, for example, concludes that “the negotiations leading up to the agreement demonstrated the centrality the peacebuilding or community-relations sector had in conflict resolution.”[103] Others give more measured judgments: “[W]hile the contribution of the [civil] sector was not crucial to the eventual outcome of the political negotiations in 1998, it was nonetheless positive and significant.”[104] These assertions are difficult to assess, most importantly because the formal process itself was relatively less important compared with the proliferation of secret channels and private negotiations, which excluded civil society. Other features of the process seem less consequential. On the whole, the formal processes, especially the Stormont negotiations, played a very modest role at best. The combination of the setting, which was sterile and forbidding,[105] and the parties’ unwillingness to deal with each other face-to-face in public settings, relegated the formal sessions to play acting, mostly designed to reassure the parties’ constituents that they were holding fast to their uncompromising positions. Even in private, the parties rarely engaged with each other directly. This accentuated the importance of the governments (primarily the United Kingdom and Ireland, but, at critical moments, the United States as well) and Mitchell as go-betweens. Much has been written about the role of Mitchell and his two colleagues as third-party mediators. On the substance of the negotiations themselves, the three chairs played relatively modest roles compared with the British and Irish governments. Indeed, during the crucial final days of the negotiations, Mitchell reluctantly gave the parties a draft proposal on Strand Two, drafted by Blair and Ahearn, against his own judgment since he believed the provisions were anathema to unionists and would torpedo the negotiations.[106] As noted above, much of the negotiations took place outside the formal process, where the role of the three chairs was limited. Nonetheless, Mitchell’s personal integrity, reputation for impartiality, and patience played a valuable role in keeping the negotiations going. Similarly, the availability of the de Chastelain commission as a third-party means of validating decommissioning was critical to its attainment. One area where the formal process arguably did make a difference was the use of deadlines, particularly to bring the negotiations to a conclusion. Mitchell imposed a two-week deadline in March 1998 ahead of marching season, which triggered an intense period of engagement leading to Mitchell’s tabling of a “composite” document on April 6, including the abortive British-Irish proposal on Strand Two, which triggered the final crisis of the negotiations.[107] By contrast, the open-ended nature of the process following the first IRA ceasefire contributed to its breakdown in early 1996.

Lessons for Practitioners: What Does This Mean for Future Peace Negotiations?

The Importance of “Ripeness” and How to Recognize It The experience of Northern Ireland strongly underscores a major factor highlighted in the literature on conflict resolution — the importance of ripeness.[108] The very fact that the parties adopted in 1998 what they had rejected in 1973 strongly suggests that changed circumstances played a critical role. But this observation is of limited value to the practitioner without some guidelines for assessing when circumstances are “ripe.” While policymakers are often limited in what they can do to create the conditions that make a conflict ripe for settlement,[109] it is a vital tool of statecraft to be able to spot an opportunity when it is emerging. It is equally important to understand when a conflict is not ripe for negotiation: It can be argued that the premature effort leading to the Sunningdale agreement in 1973 actually contributed to prolonging the conflict. Should this have been apparent to the British government at the time? One lesson of the Northern Ireland experience is that the secret channels developed in the late 1980s and earlier 1990s played a crucial role in providing the governments and the political parties themselves an opportunity to judge whether the circumstances were ripe for agreement before launching a speculative — and perhaps counterproductive — public negotiation. There were risks involved in secret diplomacy. The desire to preserve secrecy led the governments perilously close to public dishonesty, which, when exposed, endangered their credibility. Nevertheless, the groundwork that this diplomacy laid ultimately reduced the risks that each side took by engaging in the process. These secret contacts allowed the key parties to explore the implications of flexibility and to adapt their positions without the risk of embarrassment if the gambits proved unsuccessful and the other side unforthcoming.[110] [quote id="6"] Some commentators have focused on the idea of “stalemate” as a central characteristic of ripeness. Here, it is true that Sinn Fein had concluded that it could not “bomb” its way to Irish unification. British officials, especially in the security community, similarly concluded that despite the growing efficacy of their efforts in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the IRA could not be “defeated.” Thus, some have argued that the more effective British security policies of the late 1980s and early 1990s worked to create a stalemate ripe for settlement. But it seems unlikely that stalemate by itself would have brought about the 1998 Agreement. The return to violence in the mid-1990s (after the initial ceasefire declaration in 1994), suggests that many in the IRA still considered violence (or at least the threat of violence) an important element of leverage in the negotiations. Similarly, some in the unionist community (dissenters within the UUP as well as the DUP and United Kingdom) were not convinced of the need to compromise. For this reason, I think it is more useful to see the Agreement as a result of the fact that each side could see the agreement as a “win” (at least in relative terms) rather than a product of a stalemate from which they sought to extricate themselves. Another feature of ripeness goes to the question of how the parties assess the impact of the passage of time on their chances of achieving their goals. The parties in this case reached an agreement because their assessments of time converged. The unionists believed that time was not on their side — that demographics and the politics of the United Kingdom were steadily eroding their leverage. So they accepted a power-sharing arrangement, which they had firmly rejected as a matter of principle for decades, and acquiesced in the idea that sovereignty might be transferred from the United Kingdom to the Republic by a popular vote. In return, they got the Republic of Ireland to amend its constitution to repeal its claim of sovereignty over the six counties and secured a more limited form of North-South institutions. Trimble articulated this view in a speech shortly after the conclusion of the Agreement:
A number of responses were possible to the changed situation [the Hume-Adams process leading Sinn Fein to pursue the political track]… . I remember a parliamentary colleague saying…we should revert to saying No all the time… . The important point that I draw from this, generally speaking, is that it is not enough to be passive, to adopt a tactic or an approach that consciously or deliberately leaves the decision in the hands of other people. It is not always the way you like and you can never be certain exactly how it is going to work out.[111]
Sinn Fein, too, was influenced by its assessment of the future. On the one hand, its leaders believed they had extracted most of what they could get from the use of violence. They also feared that they would be unable to sustain the IRA’s ceasefire much longer if they failed to produce a result through negotiations. But they also perceived that by making key concessions (e.g., abandoning their insistence that Britain renounce sovereignty over Northern Ireland and accepting the principle of consent), they could turn the passage of time in their favor by achieving an agreed unification through the ballot box. Thus, both unionists’ fears about the future and republicans’ hopes for it led each side to conclude that this agreement, with all its painful compromises, was better than walking away and taking a chance on the future. This sense of ripeness helps explain why the terrorist attacks that plagued the peace process throughout the 1990s (the IRA Shankill Road bombing in 1993 and the subsequent loyalist revenge attacks or the Canary Wharf and Manchester bombings in 1996, for example) did not derail the talks. Once the parties had made the strategic decision to seek peace, violence actually seemed to have served as an impetus rather than a barrier to compromise.[112] Understanding each party’s assessment of the impact of time can help the peacemaker both decide when to intervene and how to use these assessments to achieve an agreement. The Dayton Accords, which ended the Bosnian War, are instructive. It was at the moment that the Serb forces saw the tide of battle turn against them, but before the Bosnians and Croats had the means to defeat the Serbs on their own, that the United States had maximum leverage in bringing about an agreement. The Impact of Process on the Shape of the Outcome Many have held up the process leading to the 1998 Agreement as a model of successful conflict resolution. Whether the process contributed to the success depends, of course, on the definition of success. There is little doubt that the Agreement has led to a decrease in intercommunal violence. Including the paramilitaries made it less likely that they would attack the process or the agreement that the process produced. Equally important, it gave them a stake in taking on dissidents who wanted to challenge the Agreement. Although splinter groups persisted on both the republican and loyalist sides, their impact has been marginal. But this process decision has come at a cost. Because the process helped lead to a consociational agreement that protects the rights of the two communities but deferred tackling many of the underlying sources of conflict (e.g., policing, economic equality, etc.), the peace continues to be fragile, sectarian tensions remain high, and the institutions created by the agreement are barely functional, at best.[113] These concerns were raised by many of the civil society participants during the negotiations, but their voices were marginalized in favor of the priority attached to getting the men with the guns to lay down their arms. In this respect, there are important resemblances to the way in which the Dayton process shaped the substance of the Dayton Accords, which ended the fighting in Bosnia. Both processes included the hard men who had stoked the conflict, resulting in agreements that, in somewhat similar ways, froze sectarian identity in the framework of the settlement and thus perpetuated the underlying conflict. In both cases, hopes that the passage of time and public pressure would lead to an evolution of the political arrangements away from their sectarian roots have been disappointed. Of course, including former paramilitaries in peace negotiations does not guarantee this kind of result. In South Africa, the Africa National Congress party and the apartheid government created more unitary structures in their peace agreement, which included explicit elements of reconciliation. Nonetheless, it seems fair to say that the shape of the peace process in South Africa contributed both to the success of the agreement and its limitations. The lessons of these cases are clear: Practitioners need to consider the potential long-term costs of a peace process that focuses primarily on the short-term goal of ending the fighting. One commentator has called this the choice between a “no more shooting” and “no more fighting” type of agreement.[114] Empowering the Peacemakers The analysis of the role of agency in the Northern Ireland peace process suggests that people do matter. However, the practitioner’s tools for creating “peacemakers” is limited. But practitioners can help support the people who have both the inclination and the capacity to make the choices for peace. Throughout the Northern Ireland peace process, the governments involved made conscious efforts to support those whom they believed wanted to, and were capable of, making the deal — from Clinton granting Adams a visa to his embrace of Trimble during his visit to Belfast, to Mo Mowlam’s visit to the Maze prison to meet with loyalist paramilitaries. Of course, these kinds of efforts require finesse. Sometimes embracing a peacemaker can backfire —arguably Clinton’s support for Shimon Peres after Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination did Peres more harm than good. In Northern Ireland, there was considerable wariness about outside parties — whether from Dublin, London, or Washington — attempting to influence events in Ulster. In some cases, such outside involvement ended up raising suspicions, rather than enhancing the authority those outsiders sought to promote. Third Party Guarantors For the Agreement to work, it was critical for the unionists to believe that, whatever long-term risks they might run in terms of demographics, etc., the IRA’s cessation of violence — and the resort to exclusively peaceful means — was not simply tactical. To some extent, unionists saw decommissioning as reducing the IRA’s capability to return to war. But most recognized that the IRA might easily replace any arms it destroyed. More important was the unionist belief that, because the IRA had so strongly resisted decommissioning in the past, an agreement to decommission was a real sign of peaceful intent. For that very reason, however, the IRA was unwilling to take even modest steps on decommissioning until the deal was complete. [quote id="7"] The success in breaking this stalemate — and the unionists’ ultimate willingness to accept decommissioning as a subsequent condition of the Agreement — highlights the importance of credible interlocutors and third-party guarantors. Only when Blair gave Trimble his personal assurance that he would eject Sinn Fein from the Northern Ireland Executive if the IRA failed to decommission (a commitment reiterated by Clinton in the closing hours), did Trimble agree to go along.[115] The British government had helped earn that credibility through its actions, for example, when Mowlam temporarily ejected Sinn Fein from the talks in February 1998 after a series of killings linked to the IRA, at the risk of collapsing the talks. Trimble’s willingness to accept the procedures for decommissioning depended on the credibility of a report from an independent commission rather than relying on the word of “interested parties.”[116] Sequencing The challenge posed by decommissioning was, perhaps, the most consequential of a recurring set of problems surrounding sequencing. By the early 1990s, the contours of the Agreement had emerged, but issues of sequencing proved a major obstacle to progress. Whether Sinn Fein’s participation in talks should follow or precede a ceasefire or whether Adams’ visa to the United States should be made conditional on a cessation of violence are just two examples. As late as 1995, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Patrick Mayhew’s insistence that some act of decommission precede Sinn Fein’s entry into the talks (even after the IRA had entered into a ceasefire) nearly collapsed the whole project.[117] Willingness to accept a condition subsequent rather than a pre-condition was a major test of how much each side was willing and able to take risks for peace. Sinn Fein, in particular, insisted that it needed prior actions by the British and Irish governments to permit it to move forward. The problem of sequencing in regards to decommissioning returned following the conclusion of the 1998 Agreement, when the question arose of whether decommissioning had to precede Sinn Fein taking its place in the Northern Ireland Executive. This impasse was again resolved in a review conducted by Mitchell, which led to the pre-condition being dropped.[118] As Quentin Thomas, a senior British civil servant, observed, “the question is whether one accentuates the positive and seeks to bring people in when they appear at the door of democracy and want to join talks. Or whether you hold them there and subject them to some examination to see whether their shoes are clean.”[119] Perhaps Clinton’s decision was the easiest, as he had the least to lose if the IRA returned to violence after Adams was issued the visa. But even there Clinton risked causing complications in the U.S.-U.K. relationship. Practitioners face strong pressure to impose pre-conditions to negotiations. They fear that entering into open-ended negotiations may be perceived as a sign of weakness and may subject them to domestic criticism for abandoning important red lines.[120] Yet, the imposition of pre-conditions often becomes a straightjacket, as the other side is unlikely to give up valuable leverage without some confidence in the overall shape of the outcome. The secret negotiations in the lead-up to the Agreement helped reduce the danger that Sinn Fein/the IRA would simply pocket dropping the pre-conditions, but in the end the British and Irish governments understood that the only possibility of reaching an agreement was to take that risk. It was crucial that the governments establish credibility that they would enforce the conditions after the Agreement was signed. Practitioners can draw an important lesson from this on how to avoid the pre-condition trap. Substance The parties involved in the peace process made little effort to resolve the substantive issues that divided them. The constitutional and process issues that formed the heart of the Agreement largely involved broad issues of principles. By contrast, the substantive concerns — policing, criminal justice, social welfare — were areas where the details were as important as the principles. For these kinds of issues, the parties chose to defer resolution by handing the problem to independent commissions (for things like decommissioning and policing), to the Assembly (on devolved issues), and to the British and Irish governments (on non-devolved issues). The last minute snag on Strand Two illustrates the problem of dealing with detail. The Irish government and the nationalists wanted strong substantive commitments on the scope of North-South bodies, but in the end had to settle for broad language and hope that the specifics could be agreed to later.[121] This approach facilitated concluding the Agreement at the expense of littering the landscape with landmines that have continued to dog its implementation. Thus, practitioners face a choice in deciding whether to tackle detailed issues of substance similar to the issue of inclusivity — whether to seize a short-term gain (e.g., stopping the fighting) at the risk of long-term costs (e.g., perpetuating underlying sources of conflict).

Conclusion

The 1998 Agreement came at a time of considerable post-Cold War optimism about the prospects for resolving long-standing political conflict, from the Middle East to the Balkans to Colombia. The passage of time has tempered those hopes, as many conflicts have proved resistant to settlement, and even those agreements that have remained intact have largely proved disappointing in bringing about true reconciliation. The 1998 Agreement certainly falls into that category, but the brutal violence has not re-emerged. As the international community contemplates future peacemaking efforts, in Afghanistan, Yemen, South Sudan, and beyond, the Northern Ireland peace process continues to offer important lessons to scholars and practitioners alike.   Hon. James B. Steinberg is professor of social science, international affairs, and law at Syracuse University and previously served as dean of the Maxwell School, from July 2011 until June 2016, and dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin from 2005 to 2009. His government service includes deputy secretary of state (2009–11), deputy national security advisor (1996–2000) and director of the State Department Policy Planning Staff (1994–96). Recent publications include, “China-Russia Cooperation: How Should the US Respond,” in Richard J. Ellings and Robert Sutter, eds., Axis of Authoritarians (National Bureau of Asian Research 2018); “US versus China: A Technology Cold War,” Nikkei Asian Review, March 19, 2019; and A Glass Half Full? Rebalance, Reassurance and Resolve in the US-China Relationship (Brookings Institution Press, 2017) and Strategic Reassurance and Resolve: US-China Relations in the 21st Century (Princeton University Press, 2014) (both with Michael O’Hanlon).   Image: Robert Paul Young [post_title] => The Good Friday Agreement: Ending War and Ending Conflict in Northern Ireland [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-good-friday-agreement-ending-war-and-ending-conflict-in-northern-ireland [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-09-12 17:45:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-09-12 21:45:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tnsr.org/?p=1453 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => The 1998 Agreement that ended Northern Ireland's bloody civil war has often been attributed to many of the remarkable individuals involved in the peace process. But how much of a difference did they really make? James Steinberg explores this question by examining the interaction between structural factors, the peace process, and efforts made by key individuals involved in the process. He also looks at what lessons this history holds for future peace negotiations. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 2, Iss 3 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => The source of the Northern Ireland conflict was, in part, political — the legacy of the dispute among Irish nationalists about whether to accept, even temporarily, the partition of Ireland. It was also social and economic.  ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The unionists’ desire to achieve greater control over their destiny played a crucial role in the final decision to accept the 1998 Agreement... ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Although the centrality of the Northern Ireland issue came, over time, to define the two parties less and less, there remained a perception that Fianna Fail was more nationalist.  ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The Agreement resolved the constitutional issues by enshrining the principle of consent: opening the prospect of unification with the South but only with the consent of a majority of the North. ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Perhaps the best way to characterize the role of agency is to say that circumstance dealt each of the major players a reasonably favorable hand which facilitated agreement, but that each played the hand quite skillfully. ) [5] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => While policymakers are often limited in what they can do to create the conditions that make a conflict ripe for settlement, it is a vital tool of statecraft to be able to spot an opportunity when it is emerging.  ) [6] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Practitioners need to consider the potential long-term costs of a peace process that focuses primarily on the short-term goal of ending the fighting.  ) ) [style] => strategist [type] => Strategist [style_label] => The Strategist [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 1811 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 20 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] As with almost every issue, large and small, involving Northern Ireland, even terminology is controversial and tinged with partisan overtones. In the United States, the Irish Republic, and among Northern Ireland nationalists, the agreement is commonly referred to as the “Good Friday Agreement.” Among unionist, it is often called the “Belfast Agreement.” In this essay I will use the “1998 Agreement” or simply the “Agreement,” to describe the outcome of the peace process. [2] Approximately 3,500 people were killed during the Troubles. Of these, a little more than 1,500 were from the Catholic community in Northern Ireland, 1,250 from the Protestant community, and the rest (around 700) from outside Northern Ireland (including British security forces). See, “Statistical Breakdown of Deaths in the ‘Troubles,’” Wesley Johnston, accessed May 8, 2019, http://www.wesleyjohnston.com/users/ireland/past/troubles/troubles_stats.html. [3] This paper largely focuses on the events leading up the 1998 Agreement, but, in order to assess what happened and why, I touch briefly on subsequent developments, without going into detail into the many follow-on negotiations involving the Agreement’s implementation. [4] This paper draws on a number of these studies, as well as my own personal involvement, beginning in the 1980s as an aide to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, and, more substantively, as director of policy planning at the State Department (1994–1996) and deputy national security advisor to President Bill Clinton (1996–2000). The studies include Eamon Mallie and David McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2001); Thomas Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process: Ending the Troubles (New York: Palgrave, 2001); George J. Mitchell Making Peace (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999); Cathy Gormley-Heenan, Political Leadership and the Northern Ireland Peace Process (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2007); Maria Power, ed., Building Peace in Northern Ireland (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2011); Tim Pat Coogan, The Trouble: Ireland’s Ordeal 1966-1996 and the Search for Peace (Boulder, CO: Roberts Reinhardt Publishers, 1996); Paul Bew, Peter Gibbon, and Henry Patterson, Northern Ireland 1921-2001: Political Forces and Social Classes (London: Serif, 2002); Paul Bew, The Making and Remaking of the Good Friday Agreement (Dublin: Liffey Press, 2007); Ed Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA (New York: W.W. Norton, 2002). [5] At least one other scholar-participant has written extensively about the peace process: Paul Bew, long-time professor of Irish Politics at Queens University, Belfast, was an advisor to David Trimble. [6] The idea for this essay arose out of a RAND conference designed to help those involved in the Afghanistan peace process think about lessons learned from past peace conferences. I am grateful to RAND for its support of the initial research on this project. [7] In addition to George Mitchell, see, for example: Alastair Campbell, The Blair Years: Extracts from the Alastair Campbell Diaries (London: Hutchinson, 2007); Gerry Adams, An Irish Journal (Kerry: Brandon, 2001); Gerry Adams, Hope and History: Making Peace in Northern Ireland (Kerry: Brandon, 2004); David Trimble, To Raise Up a New Northern Ireland (Belfast: Belfast Press, 2001); Kate Fearon, Women’s Work: the Story of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1999), as well as the memoirs of President Clinton, Prime Minister Major, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Marjorie “Mo” Mowlam, etc. [8] Some might fairly argue that I have left out one key group of actors — the civil servants and policy advisors (including government ministers) who played a role that was somewhat independent of their political masters. This group includes important figures such as Peter Brooke, Quentin Thomas, Jonathan Powell, and Mo Mowlam on the British side; Martin Mansergh, Sean O’Huiginn, and Paddy Teahon on the Irish side; and Tony Lake and Nancy Soderberg in the United States — to name just a few — as well as the advisors to the various parties in Northern Ireland. For a rich, first-hand account of the role of officials on the British side, see Graham Spencer, ed., The British and Peace in Northern Ireland, (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015). [9] Within the Protestant community there were significant class and social differences. Although the dominant forces in Northern Ireland were Protestant, many Protestants were also poor or marginalized, and these differences accounted in part for the divisions and strains within the unionist community, a dimension richly documented in Dean Godson’s biography of David Trimble: Himself Alone: David Trimble and the Ordeal of Unionism (London: Harper Collins, 2004). [10] 1926 census. Hennessey puts the Catholic percentage at about 33 percent at the time of partition. Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 2. [11] “2001 Census, Key Statistics, Table KS07a,” Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, accessed May 16, 2019,  https://www.nisra.gov.uk/sites/nisra.gov.uk/files/publications/2001-census-results-key-statistics-report-tables.pdf,;  See also “Background Information on Northern Ireland Society,” Conflict Archive on the Internet, accessed May 16, 2019, https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/ni/religion.htm, for the long term trends. In the most recent census, Catholics now make up 45 percent of the population, while Protestants make up 48 percent. “2011 Census: Religion in Northern Ireland,” Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, https://www.ninis2.nisra.gov.uk/public/census2011analysis/religion/religionCommentary.pdf. Charles Landow and Mohammed Aly Sergie, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, Council on Foreign Relations, last updated March 12, 2019, https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/northern-ireland-peace-process. [12] “If in the future a majority of the people of Northern Ireland clearly wish for and formally consent to the establishment of a united Ireland” the two governments “will introduce and support in the respective Parliaments legislation to give effect to that wish.” To be clear, even those sympathetic to the nationalist cause did not believe that demography would change the outcome quickly. Bew, The Making and Remaking of the Good Friday Agreement, 28. [13] Andy Bielenberg and Raymond Ryan, “Irish Economic Development: Past, Present, Future?,” Irish Examiner, May 20, 2013, https://www.irishexaminer.com/business/irish-economic-development-past-present-future-231714.html; “Economies of Ireland, North and South, Since 1920,” Encyclopedia of Irish History and Culture, accessed May 8, 2019, https://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/economies-ireland-north-and-south-1920. [14] John Bradley, “The History of Economic Development in Ireland, North and South,” Proceedings of the British Academy, no. 98 (1999): 35–68, https://www.thebritishacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/98p035.pdf. [15] Peter Donaghy, “Is Northern Ireland Dramatically Poorer than the Republic?,” Slugger O’Toole, March 26, 2018, https://sluggerotoole.com/2018/03/26/is-northern-ireland-dramatically-poorer-than-the-republic/. [16] The importance of single market and more broadly the E.U. dimension was reflected in John Hume’s first draft of what became the Downing Street Declaration. Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 111. It’s worth noting that the challenge Brexit now poses to this “economics will drive politics” approach to all-island integration was foreshadowed in the divergent decisions of Ireland and the United Kingdom on the single currency. See Bew, The Making and Remaking of the Good Friday Agreement, 26. [17] For an extensive treatment of the IRA-Libya connection, see Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, especially the “Prologue.” [18] The term “republican” relates back to the divisions within the anti-British forces during the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1920. Republicans rejected the residual links to Great Britain retained in the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. Their efforts were partially vindicated by the creation of the Republic in 1949, which not only broke the formal ties to the United Kingdom but also included a constitutional claim, under Articles 2 and 3, to the counties of Northern Ireland. The repeal of these provisions was central to unionist support for the 1998 Agreement. [19] There was a third, smaller mainstream party, the United Kingdom Union Party, largely the platform for a prominent, anti-agreement Protestant member of parliament from Northern Ireland, Robert McCartney. [20] The DUP was affiliated with the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force, which, together with the Progressive Unionist Party, was affiliated with the Ulster Defence Association. The perspectives of the loyalist parties are discussed in more detail below. [21] The “official” wing was heavily influenced by Marxist theory, and focused on the class conflict that it believed united the North and South rather than on the political identity of being “Irish,” which had spawned the IRA at the beginning of the 20th century. See Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 56–79. [22] Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 44. [23] The phrase was coined by IRA director of publicity, and long-time Adams ally, Danny Morrison in 1981: “Will anyone here object if with a ballot paper in this hand and an Armalite in this hand, we take power in Ireland?” Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 203. [24] In the first elections contested by both the SLDP and Sinn Fein in the early-to-mid-1980s, the SDLP led Sinn Fein by 5–6 percentage points. That margin grew to around 10 to 12 percent in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Sinn Fein finally overtook the SDLP in local elections and in elections to Westminster in 2001, in elections to the Stormont Assembly in 2003, and in European elections in 2004. For complete Northern Ireland elections results, see: “Election Results in Northern Ireland Since 1973,” Elections: Northern Ireland Elections, accessed May 8, 2019, https://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/gallsum.htm. [25] Hennessey focuses on the “Ulsterization” of security in the North, which led to a reduced British military presence. This had the effect both of removing a major nationalist grievance and forcing the IRA to focus its violence on “Irish,” albeit Protestant, victims, rather than what they considered the colonial oppressor. Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 39. [26] Others, especially Moloney, argue that Adams’ decision to move Sinn Fein to a political approach was part of a long-term plan conceived much earlier and which became more explicit around 1983–84. Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 240. Moloney also notes the decline in the Sinn Fein vote compared with the SDLP beginning with the 1984 European Parliament elections and accelerated by the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement as well as the increasing effectiveness of British security operations and the electoral backlash stemming from a number of botched IRA operations. Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 326–49. The Enniskillen bombings, which led to the death of a number of non-combatants at a Remembrance Day event in 1987 was a particular turning point. Sinn Fein/IRA leader Martin McGuinness himself later observed, “Obviously it was going to deal a damaging blow to Irish Republicanism.” Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 63. [27] Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 41. [28] “John Hume/Gerry Adams Joint Statement,” Sinn Fein, April 23, 1993, https://www.sinnfein.ie/contents/15217. [29] For accounts of these discussions and the importance of maintaining confidential channels throughout the conflict, see: Peter Taylor, Provos: The IRA and Sinn Fein (London: Bloomsbury, 1997) chap. 22; and Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, chap. 5. [30] The backlash also had its roots in the British strategy to move away from using British forces to provide security in favor of Northern Ireland security personnel, in particular the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The IRA could argue that violence against British forces was an attack on an “occupying force,” but attacks on the constabulary represented the killing of fellow Irish citizens. It should be noted that some skeptics have suggested that Sinn Fein/the IRA never really embraced the political track, but rather, cynically backed the process leading up to the Agreement and ultimately the Agreement itself on the expectation that unionists would ultimately reject it, allowing Sinn Fein to revert to it traditional unification objectives after having demonstrated that compromise with Unionism was futile. See: Bew, The Making and Remaking of the Good Friday Agreement, 30–31. Moloney disagrees, arguing that while IRA leaders Adams and McGuiness continued to make arguments of this kind to hardliners in the IRA, in fact, they had “made the choice for peace.” Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, chap. 17. [31] Most in the unionist community and in Great Britain believed that Adams was a member of the IRA’s governing Army Council, an assertion consistently denied by Adams. McGuiness’ links to the IRA were clearer. Moloney makes the most detailed case in support of the argument that Adams played a central, formal role in the IRA from the earliest days of the Troubles until the Agreement itself, although even by Moloney’s account, there seemed to be a substantial disconnect between Adams’ evolving political strategy and the active (and politically damaging) actions of the IRA in the late 1980s and early 1990s, such as the use of “human bombs.” Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 347–49. [32] This was most obvious at the time the all-party talks began in 1997, when Sinn Fein accepted the Mitchell principles, allowing Sinn Fein to enter the talks, while at the same time the IRA indicated that it “had problems” with some aspects of the principles, thus preserving ambiguity about whether it had accepted exclusively peaceful means: “The Sinn Fein position actually goes beyond the Mitchell Principles. Their affirmation of these principles is therefore quite compatible with their position. As to the IRA's attitude to the Mitchell Principles per se, well, the IRA would have problems with sections of the Mitchell Principles. But then the IRA is not a participant in these talks.” “Mitchell Principles Problematic – IRA,” Irish Times, Sept, 12, 1997, https://www.irishtimes.com/news/mitchell-principles-problematic-ira-1.105491. [33] In A Secret History of the IRA, Moloney catalogues the serious challenges to Adams’ strategy during the key months leading up the Agreement. [34] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 281. [35] For a rich history of the evolution of the UUP during this period, see Godson, Himself Alone. [36] The Anglo-Irish Agreement had a complex impact on subsequent events. As noted above, it did appear to contemplate a political process that could lead to a united Ireland, as well as conceded a role for the South in Northern Ireland affairs. At the same time, this possibility was undercut by Thatcher’s own hardline unionist sensibilities, reflected in the her famous “out, out, out” speech of 1984, in which she ruled out the three solutions for Northern Ireland proposed by the Irish government — unity, federation, or joint authority (between the United Kingdom and Ireland). Thatcher justified the concessions in the Anglo-Irish Agreement as a way to gain Irish support for tougher security measures against the IRA. Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 26. [37] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 72. [38] Hennessey argues that Molyneux did not share this distrust, despite the Downing Street Declaration, quoting Molyneux’s statement, “There is no possibility of us being betrayed.” Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 92. But the subsequent release of the British-Irish Framework Documents in 1995, which proposed to create North-South bodies with more than consultative powers, badly undercut Molyneux’s credibility and helped lead to his replacement by Trimble. Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 97. [39] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 251. [40] Trimble had earlier established his unionist bona fides by helping to bring down the Sunningdale Agreement in 1974, an earlier attempt at resolving the Northern Ireland conflict. Mitchell, Making Peace, 174. Trimble himself has argued, “I am a product of the destruction of Stormont” — the decision of the British government to abolish the Protestant-dominated Stormont Assembly, first by direct British rule and then by a power-sharing arrangement with nationalists. Godson, Himself Alone, 25. [41] Although the UUP held a plurality of unionist votes in the first election for the Northern Ireland Assembly, the DUP supplanted the UUP in the second election in 2003 and its margin over the UUP has grown since then. “Election Results.” UUP’s troubles were earlier apparent in the 1999 European parliamentary elections, where it was outpolled by the DUP. [42] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 179–80. Hennessey argues, “The UFF [Ulster Freedom Fighters] and UVF [Ulster Volunteer Force] support for the peace process was the decisive difference. It robbed extreme Unionism of a cutting edge.” The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 90. [43] Mitchell, Making Peace, 44. [44] See Brian Eggins, History and Hope: The Alliance Party in Northern Ireland (Dublin: The History Press, 2015) fn. 162. [45] See Jamille Bigio and Rachel Vogelstein, “Women’s Participation in Northern Ireland Peace Negotiations Made Them Less Likely to Fair,” The Hill, April 13, 2018, https://thehill.com/opinion/international/383059-womens-participation-in-peace-negotiations-in-northern-ireland-made. [46] Fred Halliday, “Peace Processes in the Late 20th Century,” in A Farewell to Arms: From “Long War” to Long Peace in Northern Ireland, ed. Michael Cox, Adrian Guelke, and Fiona Stephens (New York: Manchester University Press, 2000), 285. See also the essays in Power, Building Peace in Northern Ireland. [47] Moloney offers a detailed look at the role of the Catholic Church and key clergy. [48] That said, even under the Tories, there were periodic efforts to talk directly with the IRA, including the secret 1972 Cheyne Walk talks between Secretary of State for Northern Ireland William Whitelaw and an IRA delegation, including Gerry Adams, which led to an early, but brief ceasefire. [49] One of the early Northern Ireland Prime Ministers, James Craig, called it “a Protestant Parliament and a Protestant state.” Godson, Himself Alone, 26. [50] Prior to taking office in 1979, Member of Parliament and Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Airey Neave, had been killed by a splinter republican paramilitary group, the Irish National Liberation Army. [51] The British and Irish governments issued “Frameworks for the Future” in February 1995, with proposals on all three strands of the talks. Unionists most strongly objected to provisions that allowed the two governments to decide on the authority of a future North-South body, without the prior consent of a future Northern Ireland Assembly. See Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 92–99. [52] Specifically, Blair indicated his support for the “triple lock” — the requirement that any change in the status of Northern Ireland required the agreement of the parties in the North, the public in the north through a referendum, and the approval of the British parliament. Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 104. [53] Albert Reynolds dubbed Bruton “John Unionist.” Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 435. It was during the administration of an earlier Fine Gael prime minister, Garrett Fitzgerald, that Ireland first accepted the idea that unification should only come about with the consent of the people of Northern Ireland, leading to the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985. [54] After taking office, Ahearn announced “irrendentism is dead.” Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 106–107. [55] Hennessey observed, “It is doubtful that any of his Fianna Fail predecessors would have had the vision to do this.” The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 167. [56] Irish American support for the IRA, including money and weaponry such as the notorious “Armalite” (AR-15), is discussed in detail in Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 114–15. [57] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 150. [58] Shane Hickey, “Major Was Furious with Clinton for Granting Adams a Visa,” Irish Times, Dec. 28. 2018, https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/major-was-furious-with-clinton-for-granting-adams-a-visa-1.3738286. [59] This initially took the form of the Northern Ireland Investment conference in Belfast chaired by George Mitchell and U.S. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. [60] Roy Bradford, “Straws in the Wind Show Signs of Hope and Change,” Irish Times, Jan. 3, 1996,  https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/straws-in-the-wind-show-signs-of-hope-and-change-1.18637. [61] Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 70–74. Moloney argues that the secret process dates back to indirect contacts between Adams and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Tom King in 1986 or 1987. Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 247. Notably Moloney argued that Adams acted without the approval of the IRA Army Council. [62] Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 81–83. [63] Mitchell reached this conclusion after consulting with the head of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Hugh Annesley. This conclusion was shared by Chilcot: “if you set a long time condition, a period of rehabilitation in which no violence took place, it would not happen.” Mitchell, Making Peace, 79. [64] Mitchell, Making Peace, 42–45. [65] Mitchell, Making Peace, 50, 60. [66] Mitchell, Making Peace, 110. [67] The third international chair was John de Chastelain, former chief of Canada’s defense staff. [68] Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 102. [69] Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 113. [70] As a result of the violence, the governments voted to expel, at least temporarily, both the Ulster Democratic Party (linked to the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Freedom Fighters) and Sinn Fein. Although the decision risked collapsing the talks, in the end, it buttressed the credibility of the condition subsequent approach by demonstrating the government’s willingness to carry out its threats against non-compliant parties. Mitchell, Making Peace, 134–42. [71] Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 115–18. The document, called “Propositions on Heads of Agreement,” included almost all of the key features that ended up in the final Agreement. [72] Mitchell, Making Peace, 103; Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 22. [73] Mitchell, Making Peace, 143–46. [74] Among the most consequential of the secret talks were the meetings between Sinn Fein and a British MI5 agent, “Fred,” which led to the Peter Brooke statement that Britain had “no strategic interest” in Northern Ireland, and to the Sinn Fein-Reynolds meeting. See Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, chap. 6. Another important secret channel was between the Irish and loyalist paramilitaries, fostered by a former unionist leader, Roy Magee. Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 140. [75] Agriculture, education, transport, environment, waterways, social security/social welfare, tourism, E.U. programs, inland fisheries, aquaculture and maritime, health, accident and emergency services, and urban/rural development. [76] The amendment was approved by referendum in both parts of Ireland in May 1998. [77] Interestingly, the approach used by the Decommissioning Commission drew on the experience of disarming the Kosovo Liberation Army. See Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 276. [78] For a summary of developments since the Agreement, and on-going issues, see Kristin Archick, Northern Ireland: Current Issues and On-Going Challenges in the Peace Process, Congressional Research Service, March 12, 2018, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RS21333.pdf. [79] Archick, Northern Ireland, 19 [80] Ben Kelly, “Why Is There No Government in Northern Ireland and How Did Power-sharing Collapse?” The Independent, April 30, 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/northern-ireland-talks-latest-power-sharing-deal-stormont-sinn-fein-dup-a8893096.html. [81] Connla Young, “Sinn Fein Say Good Friday Agreement Facing Its Biggest Threat,” Irish News, May 14, 2019, https://www.irishnews.com/news/2017/12/04/news/sinn-fe-in-say-good-friday-agreement-facing-its-biggest-threat-1202189/. [82] Gormley-Heenan, Political Leadership and the Northern Ireland Peace Process, 37, quoting David Trimble, “The Belfast Agreement,” Fordham International Law Journal 22, no. 4 (1999), https://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/ilj/vol22/iss4/2/. Moloney argues, in A Secret History of the IRA, that Adams’ triumph was part of a long-term strategic plan that took years to bring to fruition. It may well be that, unlike Trimble, Adams was guided by a masterplan. But the fact that it took Adams 25 years to realize this goal suggests that favorable exogenous factors, as well as Adams’ efforts, were necessary for the plan to succeed. [83] Mitchell credits Ahearn’s willingness to reopen the “Strand Two Agreement” (against the advice of his aides), which he had reached with Blair just days before the Good Friday Agreement: “Had Ahearn insisted on the Strand Two provisions he had worked out with Blair, there would not have been a Good Friday Agreement.” Mitchell, Making Peace, 171. [84] Gormley-Heenan, Political Leadership and the Northern Ireland Peace Process, 37–38, quoting George J. Mitchell “Toward Peace in Northern Ireland,” Fordham International Law Journal 22, no. 4 (1999), https://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/ilj/vol22/iss4/2/. [85] Thus, Moloney, in arguing that the credit belongs to Adams, asserts, “The Irish peace process was a not a spontaneous phenomenon, tossed around by forces outside its control, nor was it forced upon its architects by the fortunes of war. The process was like a precooked dinner whose basic menu had largely been decided long before most of the diners knew the meal was planned.” Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, xvi. At other points, Moloney indulges in what feels like a parody of the “Cleopatra’s nose” version of counterfactual analysis: “If Annie Adams [Gerry Adams’ mother] had not insisted on making the move to Ballymurphy [an IRA stronghold in West Belfast], the IRA might never have been led by Gerry Adams, and Irish history would now look very different.” Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 46. [86] Peter Crutchley, "IRA Ceasefire 20 Years On: The Priest Who Brokered the Peace," BBC News, Aug. 31, 2014,  https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-28812366. This view is echoed by Moloney: “To say that Father Alec Reid is the unrecognized inspiration of the peace process would be an understatement.” A Secret History of the IRA, 223. [87] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 115. [88] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 218. One British government official observed, “The body language changed after Winfield. Before that it was always stiff and stilted, but afterwards they no longer seemed stiff and stilted in each other’s presence. Winfield was the psychological breakthrough.” Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 264. [89] The narrative presented in the earlier sections of this essay is a form of “process tracing,” which helps clarify the key decisions and those responsible for the decisions. By itself, however, this approach can’t really answer “what mattered” — either as necessary or sufficient cause. For this reason, counterfactual analysis is particularly useful. For a discussion of some of the considerations and difficulties, see Jack S. Levy, “Counterfactuals, Causal Inference, and Historical Analysis,” Security Studies 24, no. 3 (September 2015): 378–402, https://doi.org/10.1080/09636412.2015.1070602; Francis J. Gavin, “What If? The Historian and the Counterfactual.” Security Studies 24, no. 3 (September 2015): 425–30, https://doi.org/10.1080/09636412.2015.1070610; and Neil J. Roese, ed., What Might Have Been: The Social Psychology of Counterfactual Thinking (London: Psychology Press, 1995). [90] See for example Mallie and McKittrick’s judgment: “The election of 1997 transformed the peace process.” Endgame in Ireland, 213. [91] See Mary Holland, “A Very Good Friday,” Guardian, April 11, 1998, https://www.theguardian.com/uk/1998/apr/12/northernireland. [92] Hennessey challenges at least part of the claim, arguing that the 1998 Agreement had a much weaker North-South dimension which allowed for unionist acceptance. Thomas Hennessey, “‘Slow learners’? Comparing the Sunningdale Agreement and the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement,” in Sunningdale, the Ulster Workers' Council Strike and the Struggle for Democracy in Northern Ireland, ed. David McCann and Cillian McGrattan (Manchester: Manchester University, 2017). [93] See Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 142. [94] This was particularly true on the issue of decommissioning, where Adams repeatedly insisted on the limits of his influence over the IRA. His position was corroborated by the British head of the Northern Ireland police (the Royal Ulster Constabulary), Hugh Annesley, who, when asked by Mitchell at a key juncture in 1995 whether Adams could get the IRA to decommission before an agreement, replied, “No, he couldn’t do it even if he wanted to. He doesn’t have that much control over them.” Mitchell, Making Peace, 30. [95] Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 414–16. [96] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 221–23. [97] Godson describes the episode in detail. Godson, David Trimble and the Ordeal of Unionism. [98] Martin Mansergh, “Forward,” in Lessons from the Northern Ireland Peace Process, ed. Timothy J. White (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2013), ix. [99] Gormley-Heenan examines this problem at some length. Political Leadership and the Northern Ireland Peace Process, 91–96. [100] Inclusivity has several different meanings in the context of these negotiations. The term was sometimes used to refer to the inclusion of the full range of stakeholders, including civil society, but was also used more narrowly, by Sinn Fein and the loyalists, to refer to the protagonists in the conflict. See for example, Timothy J. White, “Lessons from the Northern Ireland Peace Process: An Introduction,” in Lessons from the Northern Ireland Peace Process, 7. Broad inclusivity of civil society was valuable but it was the inclusion of the former paramilitaries that was crucial. See Paul Dixon, “The Victory and Defeat of the IRA,” in Lessons from the Northern Ireland Peace Process. [101] Mitchell, Making Peace, 19. This is an important difference between the 1998 Agreement and Sunningdale. [102] Whether the agreement is truly a consociational agreement is a matter of much debate among political scientists, see White, “Lessons from the Northern Ireland Peace Process: An Introduction,” 4; and articles cited in footnote 2. [103] Power, Building Peace in Northern Ireland, 8. [104] Feargal Cochrane and Seamus Dunn, People Power? The Role of the Voluntary and Community Sector in the Northern Ireland Conflict (Cork: Cork University Press, 2006), 173. [105] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 216. [106] See Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 164–65 and Mitchell, Making Peace, 173. “As I read the document I knew instantly that it would not be acceptable to the Unionists.” Godson, Himself Alone, 327. As noted above, the ensuing crisis was only resolved when Ahearn agreed to walk back the draft and dilute the provisions opposed by the unionists. [107] In fact, the deadline actually slipped by a day; on the evening of the formal deadline the talks were still at an impasse. Mitchell, Making Peace, 177. The deadline also helped Adams gain IRA assent to enter the talks — his critics feared that an open-ended negotiation predicated on a continued IRA ceasefire would be used as a British ploy to weaken the IRA’s operational capacity as well as its rank and file support. See Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 471. [108] The classic statement is presented by William Zartman in “Ripeness: The Hurting Stalemate and Beyond,” in International Conflict Resolution After the Cold War, ed. Paul C. Stern and Daniel Druckman (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2000), https://doi.org/10.17226/9897. As noted below, the approach I suggest here relies less on Zartman’s idea of a “hurting stalemate” and more on the perception by both sides of a positive gain. [109] But not impossible. Arguably the decision to arm the Bosnians and bomb the Serbs during the Bosnia conflict, and the bombing of the Serbs in Kosovo, helped produce circumstances that made those conflicts “ripe” for settlement. See Zartman, “Ripeness,” 244. [110] Gormley-Heenan, Political Leadership and the Northern Ireland Peace Process, 14, quoting Paul Arthur, Peer Learning: Northern Ireland as a Case Study (New York: Carnegie Corporation, 1999), 10. “The participants shared a concern that something needed to be done and that at the very least they should explore each others’ options. Track two presented the best opportunities to do so. The absence of the media, the physical location, the neutral back up support, all were as far removed as possible from the rawness of Northern Ireland’s political arena.” [111] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 257. See also, Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 19. [112] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 129. [113] See Timothy J. White, “The Role of Civil Society in Promoting Peace in Northern Ireland,” in Building Peace in Northern Ireland, ed. Maria Power, 38–40. [114] See Maria Power, “Introduction,” in Building Peace in Northern Ireland, 4. [115] On Blair’s decommissioning side letter, see Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 169–70. [116] This view of the role of third parties is, thus, distinct from the focus on third parties as “neutral” mediators. What mattered most here was not neutrality but that third parties could offer something of value to the parties themselves. This more traditional understanding of the role of neutral actors in peace processes was illustrated by the creation of the Independent Commission on Policing, which produced a blue print for policing reform — something the parties themselves were unable to accomplish. [117] Mitchell, Making Peace, 25. [118] The IRA completed decommissioning in 2005. [119] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 205. [120] For a discussion of the problem of “open” diplomacy (without preconditions) see Oriana Skyler Mastro, The Costs of Conversation (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2019). [121] Mitchell, Making Peace, 175. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 696 [post_author] => 60 [post_date] => 2018-08-28 05:00:23 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-08-28 09:00:23 [post_content] => Editor's Note: In light of the public interest in U.S.-Russian relations, especially in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Helskinki this summer, the Texas National Security Review will be publishing a series of essays in our “Strategist” section on past U.S. presidents and their engagements with Soviet and Russian leaders. As many were decrying the lack of any formal record of the one-on-one meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, the Clinton Presidential Library in July posted online nearly all of the declassified memoranda of conversation (“memcons”) from the in-person meetings and telephone conversations (“telcons”) between President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin from Jan. 23, 1993, to Dec. 31, 1999, when Yeltsin abruptly resigned from office and made way for Putin. With 18 memcons and 56 telcons available through the library’s website, it is possible to view directly the key discussions between these two leaders over time, from the early days when Clinton publicly backed Yeltsin in his bloody political standoff with the Russian parliament to their later disagreements over NATO enlargement and Kosovo, along with numerous conversations about arms control, Chechnya, Iran, and other global issues.[1] As someone who worked in the Clinton administration and has written about U.S.-Russian relations in this period,[2] I found that the documents allow a much deeper and broader understanding of three core features of the Clinton-Yeltsin interactions. First, the two leaders established a close personal rapport and used those positive feelings to interact effectively even when they were being frank in their disagreements, the most serious of which were over NATO enlargement and the Kosovo War. Throughout, from the 1993 political turmoil in Russia through the 1998 Russian financial crisis and beyond, Clinton offered Yeltsin his full personal support. Second, the two men used their meetings and phone calls to build trust in one another by explicitly referring to delivering on promises made in their prior conversations. This proved particularly important in their discussions of NATO enlargement. Clinton was trying to thread a needle: He sought to keep the issue from harming Yeltsin’s reelection bid in the summer of 1996 while ensuring that the United States responded to Central and Eastern European desires to join the Western alliance. Because Clinton believed the issue would affect his own reelection bid, he wanted to make clear to voters of Central and Eastern European descent in the Midwest before November 1996 that he was moving forward with enlargement. From 1994 to 1996, Clinton reminded Yeltsin often of his assurances about the timing. Third, and perhaps most important when their interactions are compared with those of other U.S. and Soviet (and later Russian) heads of state during the Cold War and after, an enormous power differential existed between the two countries in this period and was the backdrop to their conversations. Yeltsin’s Russia was extremely weak, a country in economic free-fall and strategic decline. Clinton’s America was enjoying its unipolar moment.[3] In no other era before or since has the Russian president been in such a weak position when meeting with his American counterpart, and the declassified memcons and telcons from this period show how that imbalance of power permeates the discussions. The meetings largely consist of Yeltsin agreeing to Clinton’s requests after some back and forth. But also clear is Yeltsin’s desire for Russia to be seen as an equal to the United States, something that was important for his predecessors and successors alike and a factor in U.S.-Russian relations often underappreciated by many in the West.

Clinton’s Support for Yeltsin and the Building of a Personal Rapport

In his first term, Boris Yeltsin needed Bill Clinton’s support as he battled domestic Russian opposition to his policies. It was not just financial support for Russia that was critical, although that assistance was important, including when Clinton publicly endorsed what became a $10.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund announced in the midst of the 1996 Russian presidential campaign.[4] Clinton also offered Yeltsin complete public support when the latter used military force in a standoff with the Russian parliament in the fall of 1993. Clinton did so because he believed he needed Yeltsin — a Russian president committed to good relations with the West who could thereby enable the American president to shrink the U.S. defense budget to pay for cherished domestic programs. One of the first big moments in their relationship came in April 1993, when Yeltsin held a referendum that asked voters whether they trusted him, approved of his socioeconomic policies, and believed new presidential and parliamentary elections should be conducted ahead of schedule. Russia experts in the U.S. government thought that Yeltsin would lose overwhelmingly, and Clinton’s top Russia adviser, Strobe Talbott, wrote later that the president “followed the referendum as though it were an American election.” Remarkably, given the state of the Russian economy, 58.7 percent of voters affirmed their trust in Yeltsin and 53 percent approved his socioeconomic policies. Clinton happily threw his support behind the Russian president.[5] In a call the next day, Clinton told Yeltsin, “I’m about to issue a statement in support of your policies. I want you to know that we’re in this with you for the long haul.” Yeltsin closed the call by saying, “I hug you from the bottom of my heart.”[6] By September, however, parliamentary opposition to Yeltsin grew stronger. Clinton called Yeltsin early that month to convey his continued support amid the standoff in Moscow. In a follow-up call on Sept. 21, Yeltsin told him, “Bill, the Supreme Soviet [the Russian parliament] has totally gone out of control. It no longer supports the reform process. They have become communist. We can no longer put up with that.” He added, “I think there will be no bloodshed,”[7] which turned out to be mistaken. The battle between Yeltsin and the opposition legislators came to a head on Oct. 3, when Yeltsin ordered his military to shell the parliament building. A bloody clash between the executive and legislative branches was not exactly a sign of a healthy democracy, but Clinton phoned two days later to tell Yeltsin, “I wanted to call you and express my support.” Yeltsin responded, “Now that these events are over, we have no more obstacles to Russia’s democratic elections and our transition to democracy and market economy.” Yeltsin even mused that he might hold elections for president at the same time as parliamentary elections in December and told Clinton that he “might end up in the Guinness Book of World Records for standing for election three times in three years.” (He did not carry out this plan.) Yeltsin closed by telling Clinton once again, “I embrace you with all my heart.”[8] [quote id="1"] Clinton continued to emphasize his personal support for Yeltsin over the course of their terms in office. In late 1994, Russia invaded the breakaway province of Chechnya. Clinton expressed concern about the impact of this war on Yeltsin’s image. Referring to an upcoming speech by the Russian president to parliament, Clinton told him, referring to Yeltsin’s pivotal role during the August 1991 coup against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, “It is also an opportunity to remind the world of why you are the best hope for continued reform in Russia. I want everyone to see you as the person who stood on the tank and stood up for freedom.”[9] In the run-up to the first round of the Russian presidential election in June 1996, Yeltsin was growing desperate for financial assistance. He told the U.S. president, “Bill, for my election campaign, I urgently need for Russia a loan of $2.5 billion.” Yeltsin explained that he was not seeing results yet from the rescheduling of Russia’s debt by the group of major creditor countries known as the Paris Club, and the bulk of the recently announced IMF loan would not arrive until later in the year. “But the problem,” said Yeltsin, “is I need money to pay pensions and wages.” Clinton assured him, “I’ll check on this with the IMF and some of our friends and see what can be done.”[10] No matter what challenges they faced, domestically or in their relationship, they maintained a strong personal bond. In a telephone exchange in late October 1997, months after the two had met in Denver in June, Yeltsin told Clinton, “You know, I started missing your voice.” Clinton replied, “I miss you too.” (They had a similar exchange in February 1998 only three weeks after their previous call!)[11] Clinton saw Yeltsin as a significant figure in Russian history, and he tried to convey that at various points. At a meeting in May 1998, Clinton said, “You know, Boris, we really are working with the stuff of history here. I’m convinced that 20 years from now, when the Russian economy is booming, people will look back and say we were right; we did the right things. I just hope you get all the credit you deserve while you’re still around, because you’ve done a terrific job of leading your country during one of the two or three most important moments in Russian history.”[12] The greatest test of their personal relationship came during the Kosovo bombing campaign in March 1999. Clinton and his European counterparts believed that NATO needed to carry out airstrikes against Serbia to bring its leader, Slobodan Milosevic, to the bargaining table. Yeltsin was stridently opposed to any use of force, not just because of the close ties between Russia and Serbia but partly because, unlike the situation in Bosnia a few years earlier, this would mean military intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign country. Russia’s ability to wield a veto in the U.N. Security Council meant that authorization for the war from that body would not be forthcoming.[13] In a phone conversation between the two men as NATO was about to launch airstrikes, Clinton, after rehashing all that Milosevic had done, told Yeltsin bluntly, “Basically, it will be your decision if you decide to let this bully destroy the relationship we worked hard for over six and a half years to build up.” He reminded Yeltsin of all his public and private support over the years, including providing economic assistance to Russia and his multiple visits to Moscow. “You may decide to let this get in the way of our relationship, but I’m not going to because I do not think he’s that important. I’m sorry he is a Serb. I wish he were Irish or something else, but he is not.” Clinton tried telling Yeltsin that maybe after a few strikes, Milosevic would seek diplomacy; after all, he had come to the table in 1995 to end the earlier Balkan war. Yeltsin would have none of it: “[O]ur people will certainly from now have a bad attitude with regard to America and with NATO. I remember how difficult it was for me to try and turn the heads of our people, the heads of the politicians towards the West, towards the United States, but I succeeded in doing that, and now to lose all that. Well, since I failed to convince the President, that means there is in store for us a very difficult, difficult road of contacts, if they prove to be possible.” He signed off with “Goodbye,” with no added embrace.[14] The latter part of the war led to quite an up-and-down in their conversations. In early May 1999, as they were coming to agreement on what needed to be done, Yeltsin told Clinton, “I owe you a bear hug.” Clinton replied, “Yes, I want a bear hug.”[15] Clinton called Yeltsin on June 10, after discussions between Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, and Milosevic appeared to end the conflict, and Yeltsin told him, “I would like to hug and kiss you, and I am sincerely glad that in such a difficult situation our friendship wasn’t broken.”[16] [quote id="2"] Alas, in the next few days, Russian forces occupied the airport in Pristina, and it looked like NATO and Russian forces might come into conflict. Clinton and Yeltsin spoke multiple times by phone. Clinton made clear that a failure to resolve the conflict would harm the upcoming Group of Eight meeting in Germany: “We were about to have in Cologne a celebration of Russia in the peace operation,” an angry Clinton remarked. “Instead, we face day after day, international embarrassment that Kosovo will be wrecked.”[17] Russia’s weakness and Yeltsin’s desire to be feted by his G-8 colleagues in Cologne were key factors in the ultimate resolution of the conflict but so, too, was the importance of the relationship the two presidents had built, a relationship that was tested over the years by the U.S. decision to expand NATO eastward.

Clinton’s Promises on Enlargement

Perhaps no issue provides a greater window into the nature of the relationship between the two presidents than their lengthy discussions from 1994 to 1997 about NATO enlargement. An undercurrent of their exchanges involved Clinton’s efforts to ensure that he did not harm Yeltsin politically while giving him a very bitter pill to swallow. Another recurrence was Yeltsin’s explanation of the damage this issue was doing to him while ultimately going along with Clinton’s various proposals. There was a brief moment in the fall of 1994 when Yeltsin believed that Clinton was reneging on a commitment not to rush the process and exploded at a Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) summit. The huge power imbalance between the two countries hung over the relationship and punctuated the presidents’ interactions.[18] In their meetings and phone calls, Clinton drove the agenda, as he did for nearly all of the issues they discussed over seven years. The two men genuinely got along, partly because they were similar political animals. But at the end of the day, the United States called the shots in the relationship. Clinton was always trying to make sure that Yeltsin knew he was giving him what he could, and Clinton expected Yeltsin to go along with his proposals. Generally, Yeltsin did. Throughout their conversations on enlargement, Clinton was eager for Yeltsin to know that the United States was keeping a promise Clinton made in September 1994 in one of their discussions in Washington (the declassified memcon of this exchange is not among the cache of documents recently released): namely, that he and his NATO colleagues would go slowly on expanding the alliance given Clinton’s (publicly unstated but understood) desire to see Yeltsin safely reelected in 1996. Meanwhile, Yeltsin focused Clinton’s attention on the domestic political ramifications of NATO enlargement. Interestingly, he did not raise the issue (as others later would) that the United States and its Western European allies had assured Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev during the 1990 negotiations over German unification that NATO would not expand eastward.[19] In October 1993, when discussions first began in earnest about NATO’s future, the possibility of enlargement seemed quite distant. Secretary of State Warren Christopher explained to Yeltsin at the latter’s country dacha that the United States planned to pursue the “Partnership for Peace,” which would include all members of the former Warsaw Pact, and NATO enlargement would be considered only as a “longer-term eventuality.”[20] Christopher told Yeltsin, “There could be no recommendation to ignore or exclude Russia from full participation in the future security of Europe. As a result of our study, a ‘Partnership for Peace’ would be recommended to the [January 1994] NATO summit which would be open to all members of the [North Atlantic Cooperation Council] including all European and [former Soviet] states. There would be no effort to exclude anyone and there would be no step taken at this time to push anyone ahead of others.” Yeltsin was obviously relieved. “This is a brilliant idea, it is a stroke of genius,” he said. “It is important that there is an idea of partnership for all and not new membership for some.” Yeltsin exclaimed, “It really is a great idea, really great,” adding, “Tell Bill I am thrilled by this brilliant stroke.”[21] In late December, a few weeks before Clinton was to meet Yeltsin in Moscow after the NATO summit, the two men spoke by phone. The primary purpose was to discuss the recent Russian parliamentary elections and for Clinton to remind Yeltsin of how the United States had delivered on the economic assistance announced at their first meeting, in Vancouver, the previous April. Clinton stated simply, “I will be in Brussels for the NATO summit and in Prague before I see you and will want to discuss Russian participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace proposal.” Yeltsin responded that he had recently met with NATO Secretary General Manfred Woerner: “We discussed a plan of action for the countries of Eastern Europe to cooperate with NATO in a way that would not be at the expense of Russia and also a plan of action for Russia to join NATO.” While Clinton did not respond to Yeltsin’s comment, their discussion was quite cordial; after all, as far as Yeltsin understood, NATO enlargement was not on the table in a serious way.[22] While the Clinton Library collection does not contain the declassified memcon from the presidents’ January 1994 summit in Moscow, nor the specific discussion they had regarding NATO that September in Washington, Clinton’s top Russia adviser, Strobe Talbott, has written that in the latter meeting Clinton told Yeltsin that NATO was going to expand but tried to reassure him that he had no timetable yet. “We’re going to move forward on this, but I’d never spring it on you.” Clinton said there would be “no surprises, no rush, and no exclusion.” He then added, “As I see it, NATO expansion is not anti-Russia. … I don’t want you to believe that I wake up every morning thinking only about how to make the Warsaw Pact countries a part of NATO — that’s not the way I look at it. What I do think about is how to use NATO expansion to advance the broader, higher goal of European security, unity and integration — a goal I know you share.”[23] Clinton knew Yeltsin was not going to be happy, so he kept emphasizing that he was promising not to spring anything on Yeltsin and that “no exclusion” meant that Russia would be eligible to join someday. In reality, it was no exclusion in theory but not in practice. Russia was not going to become a NATO member. Even so, Clinton had reason to believe he was managing the process well; after all, Yeltsin told him in a phone call on Oct. 5, 1994, that “the Washington Summit proved a success.”[24] At their September meeting, Yeltsin asked Clinton to come to the CSCE summit in Budapest that December. The CSCE was being upgraded to the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), and Yeltsin wanted to signal that perhaps there could be alternatives to NATO in addressing European security. Clinton agreed to go. He kept that promise even after the 1994 midterm elections resulted in a Republican takeover of both houses of Congress for the first time in four decades. His White House team scheduled a congressional reception the night of the Budapest summit precisely to try to keep the president from leaving town. But Clinton’s foreign policy team said he had to go, and he did.[25] It turned out to be the most disastrous public encounter the two presidents would have. On Dec. 1, the NATO foreign ministers announced that they would complete a study by the end of 1995 (i.e., a half-year before the 1996 Russian presidential election) on how NATO would enlarge. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, who had gone to Brussels to sign Russia’s Partnership for Peace program document and a document on a NATO-Russia dialogue, was ordered by a furious Yeltsin not to sign. At the Budapest summit a few days later, Clinton gave what his deputy secretary of state, Talbott, described later as the “most in your face” manifestation of the U.S. position on NATO enlargement. In remarks Talbott said were drafted not in his office but within the National Security Council (where National Security Adviser Anthony Lake had been pushing NATO enlargement for more than a year), Clinton declared, “We must not allow the Iron Curtain to be replaced by a veil of indifference. We must not consign new democracies to a gray zone.” He added that “no country outside will be allowed to veto expansion.”[26] Yeltsin publicly responded, “Europe, not having yet freed itself from the heritage of the Cold War, is in danger of plunging into a cold peace.”[27] Clinton was stunned and angered by the tone of Yeltsin’s remarks. Talbott, who was not on the trip, thought he might be fired for not having adequately prepared his boss for what would occur.[28] Soon, however, Clinton had things seemingly back on track thanks in part to visits by others in his administration, including Vice President Al Gore, to see Yeltsin. In advance of his own trip to Moscow in May 1995, Clinton called Yeltsin to discuss NATO. “We recognize how sensitive this issue is for you. That is why I want to assure you that this process is proceeding along a path that is consistent with what you and I agreed upon last September and that Vice President Gore reiterated to you when he saw you in December.” Yeltsin responded, “I fully agree with you on that.” Clinton added, “For the future stability of Europe, it is important that Russia is a vital part of the new security structures that are emerging. That means OSCE, the post-COCOM [the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls established by the West after World War II] regime, the new NATO—all of them. None of this can develop normally unless Russia is involved in the process.” Yeltsin stated, “We’ll both have difficult discussions with regards to NATO, but I’m confident we’ll be able to find an acceptable solution for this issue.” Clinton then reported that Secretary of State Christopher and Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev had just described to him a proposal for the upcoming NATO foreign ministers’ meeting that would again affirm that there would be no acceleration of the enlargement process, announce a strengthening of the Partnership for Peace, and begin discussions about a NATO-Russia special relationship.[29] [quote id="3"] Nevertheless, the issue remained an enormous sore spot for Yeltsin and a domestic political problem. In a three-hour meeting at the Kremlin on May 10, 1995, Yeltsin asked for a better understanding of what Clinton was doing on NATO enlargement “because now I see nothing but humiliation for Russia if you proceed. How do you think it looks to us if one bloc continues to exist while the Warsaw Pact has been abolished?” He called it a “new form of encirclement” and repeated his plea to develop a new pan-European security architecture. “You and I are heading for elections,” Yeltsin said. “The extremists and hardliners are exploiting this issue for their own purposes — on both sides. I am being attacked from both the right and the left on this. We need a common European space that provides for overall security. So let’s postpone any change in NATO until 1999 or 2000. … But for me to agree to the borders of NATO expanding toward those of Russia — that would constitute a betrayal on my part of the Russian people.” Instead, Yeltsin said in desperation, “Let’s say that Russia will give every state that wants to join NATO a guarantee that we won’t infringe on its security.” When Clinton asked rhetorically whether the United States still needed to maintain a security relationship with Europe, Yeltsin fired back, “I’m not so sure you do.” Clinton tied his approach to the Victory Day ceremony for which he had come to Moscow and the lessons of history. “Our goal is for the U.S. to stay in Europe and promote a unified, integrated Europe.” He was doing that, he said, by trying to make the Partnership for Peace important, keeping open the door to Russian NATO membership, creating a special NATO-Russia relationship, and ensuring that the NATO membership review process was a deliberate one. Clinton reminded Yeltsin of how this process had unfolded, that he had told Yeltsin in January 1994 that NATO was open to taking in new members, and that in December NATO had agreed to study how to do it. Responding to that study would take the first half of 1996, said Clinton. For Yeltsin, this time frame was vital, because, the Russian leader noted, “my position heading into the 1996 elections is not exactly brilliant.” Clinton, however, had his own political concerns. He explained to Yeltsin that the Republicans were using NATO expansion in their effort to win over voters of Central European descent in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ohio. He suggested to Yeltsin that they accept what each other needed to do politically. Yeltsin would not have to embrace expansion. Clinton would not say he was slowing down the process. And meanwhile Yeltsin should sign the documents for Russia to join the Partnership for Peace and to establish a NATO-Russian dialogue:
So here is what I want to do. I’ve made it clear I’ll do nothing to accelerate NATO. I’m trying to give you now, in this conversation, the reassurance you need. But we need to be careful that neither of us appears to capitulate. For you, that means you’re not going to embrace expansion; for me, it means no talk about slowing the process down or putting it on hold or anything like that.
Then Clinton told Yeltsin to sign the two documents. Yeltsin asked again that NATO move forward only after his election. Clinton reiterated the timetable, trying to reassure Yeltsin that nothing concrete would happen until after the summer of 1996. Yeltsin said they should publicly say they discussed the issue, understood each other, and would discuss the issue further at their next meeting. Clinton responded, “Good. So join PFP.” Yeltsin agreed.[30] A few months before the NATO leaders’ 1997 announcement in Madrid that the alliance was inviting Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to join, Yeltsin made one last effort to shape the future at a small meeting with Clinton in Helsinki on March 21. He opened by acknowledging the inevitable. “Our position has not changed,” Yeltsin said. “It remains a mistake for NATO to move eastward. But I need to take steps to alleviate the negative consequences of this for Russia. I am prepared to enter into an agreement with NATO not because I want to but because it is a forced step. There is no other solution for today.” Yeltsin sought a legally binding accord, signed by all 16 NATO members, that would make clear that NATO decisions would not be made “without taking into account the concerns or opinions of Russia.” He also wanted assurance that no nuclear or conventional arms would move into the new members’ territory, “thus creating a new cordon sanitaire aimed at Russia.” Then he put on the table what he most wanted. “[O]ne thing is very important: enlargement should also not embrace the former Soviet republics. I cannot sign any agreement without such language. Especially Ukraine.” Recognizing he was unlikely to receive this, he changed tack slightly,
I propose that in the statement we could accept the fact that Russia has no claims on other countries. In fact, regarding the countries of the former Soviet Union, let us have a verbal, gentlemen’s agreement — we would not write it down in the statement — that no former Soviet republics would enter NATO. This gentlemen’s agreement would not be made public.
Clinton responded that he was “trying to change NATO.” He had language in the proposed agreement between NATO and Russia on nuclear and conventional forces. And he wanted to make sure they signed something before the NATO summit “so we can say to the world that there is a new NATO and a new Russia and that’s the right spirit,” to which Yeltsin agreed. But Clinton added that he couldn’t make an agreement on former Soviet republics: “it would be a bad thing for our attempt to build a new NATO, but it would also be a bad thing for your attempt to build a new Russia.” NATO was assisting the process of building an “integrated, undivided Europe,” Clinton argued what Yeltsin was proposing would mean “Russia would be saying, ‘we have still got an empire, but it just can’t reach as far West.’” Clinton didn’t want to come out of the meeting having discussed new lines being drawn in Europe, and he wouldn’t be able to go forward with a treaty because of Senate opposition. Yeltsin tried again, saying that the Duma would likely make this a condition of its ratification of a NATO-Russia charter. He asked Clinton to tell him what he wanted to hear “one-on-one — without even our closest aides present — that you won’t take new republics in the near future; I need to hear that. I understand that maybe in ten years or something, the situation might change, but not now.” Clinton shot back,
If I went into a closet with you and told you that, the Congress would find out and pass a resolution invalidating the NATO-Russia charter. I’d rather frankly that the Duma pass a resolution conditioning its adherence on this point. I just can’t do it. A private commitment would be the same as a public one. … I know what a terrible problem this is for you, but I can’t make the specific commitment you are asking for. It would violate the whole spirit of NATO.
Yeltsin tried one last time to get what he wanted, but to no avail, and so they moved on to other items. [31] At their last meeting, in Istanbul in November 1999, Yeltsin said to Clinton, “I ask you one thing. Just give Europe to Russia. The U.S. is not in Europe. Europe should be the business of Europeans. Russia is half European and half Asian. … Bill, I’m serious. Give Europe to Europe itself. We have the power in Russia to protect all of Europe, including those with missiles.”[32] This was, of course, not a statement the United States would take seriously, and it was hard enough for Russia to be taken seriously by the United States as an equal.

The Imbalance of Power and Russia’s Drive for Equal Status

Yeltsin’s desire to be seen as an equal, and Clinton’s efforts to provide window dressing to help with appearances, permeated their conversations throughout the two presidents’ time in office, and not only during their conversations over NATO enlargement. During the September 1994 Washington summit, Yeltsin said, “[T]here are some people in the White House and Congress who believe that Russia has lost its superpower status. Of course, not you personally, Bill.” Clinton responded, “I have tried in every way to relate to Russia and to you as a great power and to enhance your role, whether in the G-7 or bilaterally.”[33] Still, neither could escape the fact that the two countries occupied completely different status levels in the international system. At their May 1995 meeting in Moscow, Clinton said to Yeltsin, “You have to walk through the doors that we open for you.”[34] The Russians wanted to be treated as equals, and the idea of walking through doors the United States was opening for them made clear that they were not. The dynamic was such, however, that when Yeltsin got spun up on these issues, Clinton would soothe him. In a one-on-one meeting (with Talbott and Yeltsin’s assistant Dmitry Ryurikov as notetakers) in Moscow in April 1996, Yeltsin came into the meeting clearly angry because Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov had told him that the United States was trying to sideline Russia in the Middle East. Clinton said, “That’s not correct. No one’s sidelining anybody.” When Yeltsin said he was not convinced, Clinton reminded him of all they had done together since their first meeting three years earlier: “We’ve done a remarkable job in getting a lot done and also in being honest about our differences. My objectives are first, an integrated, undivided Europe; and second, a cooperative equal partnership with a democratic, economically successful Russia which is influential in the world.” He added, “I want historians fifty years from now to look back on this period and say you and I took full advantage of the opportunity we had. We made maximum use of the extraordinary moment that came with the end of the Cold War.” Yeltsin zeroed in on the one word that mattered to him: “The key word you just used was ‘equal’ partnership. This will restore trust and confidence.” Clinton explained how Russia could play an important role in the Middle East due to its influence with Syria and Hezbollah. Yeltsin appeared mollified.[35] One of the major issues in their relationship was Russia’s ascension to the group of advanced industrialized democracies. The G-7 was to become the G-8. Clinton faced significant opposition to this move from his own Treasury Department, which was concerned about diluting a body of the world’s leading market economies with membership for a country that did not yet have a market economy and whose gross domestic product was quite small.[36] At a larger meeting of the two leaders and their teams in April 1996 at the Kremlin, Clinton explained that the G-7’s work coordinating fiscal policy “among the world’s richest countries” was important and that if Russia were included, countries such as Mexico, South Korea, and Brazil would ask to join as well. Yeltsin argued, “Russia will be on the rise. I cannot agree to the ‘7 plus 1’ formula; I also understand that we cannot reach the level of a full G-8. You have to keep in mind that we are a great power, which affects how people think about this.”[37] A year later, at their March 1997 meeting in Helsinki, Clinton publicly stated:
We will work with Russia to advance its membership in key international economic institutions like the W.T.O., the Paris Club, and the O.E.C.D. And I am pleased to announce, with the approval of the other G-7 nations, that we will substantially increase Russia’s role in our annual meeting, now to be called the Summit of the Eight, in Denver this June.[38]
At a bilateral meeting of the two presidents and a small group of advisers in Paris in advance of the “Summit of the Eight,” Yeltsin raised the issue of how Russia’s economy was labeled. National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger explained that by law, Russia would be far worse off in terms of trade preferences being labeled a market economy than if it were designated a non-market economy or a transition economy. Yeltsin did not care for the designation, seeing it as an insult: “Russia is not a transition economy. We have transformed. It is a market economy.” Labels mattered to him; Yeltsin wanted Russia to be seen as a great power on par with the other leading world powers.[39]

Conclusions

These records are an important reminder that notes of presidential meetings and phone calls are not simply documents for scholars trying to make sense of history. They are critical in real time for officials who need to follow up on what their bosses have discussed. The recently released Clinton White House records show the distribution of these conversations, typically to the secretary of state, Deputy Secretary of State Talbott (who often was with the president for the meetings and phone calls), and the U.S. ambassador to Moscow. The role these documents play in developing policy is a major reason why there was so much concern when Donald Trump met with Vladimir Putin one-on-one for more than two hours in Helsinki in July 2018 with no notetakers present.[40] [quote id="4"] Reading these memcons and telcons as a narrative record of the seven years of interactions between Clinton and Yeltsin left me feeling rather sad. The two leaders certainly accomplished a great deal: Yeltsin ensured that Russian troops left the Baltic countries, worked to keep Russian entities from transferring missile technologies to Iran, and participated in the Implementation Force in Bosnia alongside NATO and under American command. The two presidents worked with their counterparts in Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine to transfer to Russia the strategic nuclear weapons those countries inherited upon the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is notable that many of their accomplishments occurred during their first terms and were largely issues related to the collapse of the Soviet Union such as the removal of Russian troops from the Baltics and the stationing of strategic nuclear weapons. They had big plans throughout their two terms for new arms-control agreements, but domestic political constraints got in the way. Ultimately, neither the United States nor Russia found a place for Russia in the basic architecture of European security. Meanwhile, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine ended up in a zone of insecurity, not able to join NATO and each with Russian military forces on its territory. A conversation at the end of their time together regarding Yeltsin’s successor was more hopeful than was warranted. In September 1999, Yeltsin informed Clinton by phone,
It took me a lot of time to think who might be the next Russian president in the year 2000. Unfortunately, at that time, I could not find any sitting candidate. Finally, I came across him, that is, Putin, and I explored his bio, his interests, his acquaintances, and so on and so forth. I found out he is a solid man who is kept well abreast of various subjects under his purview. At the same time, he is thorough and strong, very sociable. And he can easily have good relations and contact with people who are his partners. I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner. I am very much convinced that he will be supported as a candidate in the year 2000.[41]
In their in-person conversation in Istanbul in November 1999, Clinton asked who was going to win the Russian presidential election the next year, and Yeltsin did not hesitate: “Putin, of course. He will be the successor to Boris Yeltsin. He’s a democrat, and he knows the West.” He added, “He’s tough. He has an internal ramrod. He’s tough internally, and I will do everything possible for him to win — legally, of course. And he will win. You’ll do business together. He will continue the Yeltsin line on democracy and economics and widen Russia’s contacts. He has the energy and the brains to succeed.”[42] On Dec. 31, 1999, Clinton called Yeltsin just after Yeltsin’s announcement that he was stepping down in favor of Putin, who of course went on to win the presidential election a few months later. In that final call, Clinton said, “You have guided your country through a historic time and you are leaving a legacy that will leave Russians better off for years to come. … Boris, I believe that historians will say you were the father of Russian democracy…” After telling Clinton once again that Putin would win and that he was a strong, intelligent democrat, Yeltsin ended their call as he had done so often over the previous seven years: “I would like from the bottom of my heart to embrace you.”[43]   James Goldgeier is a professor of international relations at American University, visiting senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and the 2018-19 Library of Congress chair in U.S.-Russia relations at the John W. Kluge Center. You can follow him on Twitter: @JimGoldgeier. Image: FDR Presidential Library [post_title] => Bill and Boris: A Window Into a Most Important Post-Cold War Relationship [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => bill-and-boris-a-window-into-a-most-important-post-cold-war-relationship [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-17 13:05:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-17 18:05:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tnsr.org/?p=696 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => Against the backdrop of an enormous power differential between their two countries, Clinton and Yeltsin established a close personal rapport. They used those positive feelings to interact effectively even when they were being frank in their disagreements, the most serious of which were over NATO enlargement — a major sore spot for Yeltsin — and the Kosovo War, the greatest test of the two leaders' personal relationship. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 1, Iss 4 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => In no other era before or since has the Russian president been in such a weak position when meeting with his American counterpart. ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => No matter what challenges they faced, domestically or in their relationship, they maintained a strong personal bond. ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Perhaps no issue provides a greater window into the nature of the relationship between the two presidents than their lengthy discussions from 1994 to 1997 about NATO enlargement. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => [N]otes of presidential meetings and phone calls are not simply documents for scholars trying to make sense of history. They are critical in real time for officials who need to follow up on what their bosses have discussed. ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => ) ) [style] => strategist [type] => Strategist [style_label] => The Strategist [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 836 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 60 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] The documents are in two files labeled “Declassified Documents Concerning Russian President Boris Yeltsin.” The first covers the period from Jan. 23, 1993, to April 21, 1996, and can be found at https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57568. The second covers the period from April 21, 1996, to Dec. 31, 1999, and can be found at https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57569. The letters they sent one another have not been declassified. [2] James M. Goldgeier and Michael McFaul, Power and Purpose: U.S. Policy Toward Russia After the Cold War (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2003). [3] Charles Krauthammer, “The Unipolar Moment,” Foreign Affairs 70, no. 1 (1990/1991), https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/1991-02-01/unipolar-moment. [4] Paul Quinn-Judge, “Clinton Gives Yeltsin a Vote of Confidence; Declares Support for $9 Billion Loan,” Boston Globe, Jan. 31, 1996. The agreed-upon loan amount ended up being $10.2 billion. See Michael Gordon, “Russia and I.M.F. Agree on a Loan for $10.2 Billion,” New York Times, Feb. 23, 1996, https://www.nytimes.com/1996/02/23/world/russia-and-imf-agree-on-a-loan-for-10.2-billion.html. See also the Clinton-Yeltsin discussion of the loan in Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, “The President’s Discussion with President Yeltsin on the Russian Election, Bilateral Relations, START II Ratification and NATO,” Feb. 21, 1996, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57568, 357. [5] Goldgeier and McFaul, Power and Purpose, 125; Strobe Talbott, The Russia Hand: A Memoir of Presidential Diplomacy (New York: Random House, 2002), 70. [6] Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, “Telcon with President Yeltsin of Russia,” April 26, 1993, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57568, 51–52. [7] Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, “Telcon with President Boris Yeltsin of the Russian Federation,” Sept. 7, 1993; Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, “Telcon with President Boris Yeltsin of Russian Federation,” Sept. 21, 1993, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57568, 95, 107. [8] Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, “Telcon with President Boris Yeltsin of Russian Federation,” Oct. 5, 1993, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57568, 119–21. [9] Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, “Telephone Conversation with Russian President Yeltsin: Chechnya, START II,” Feb. 13, 1995, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57568, 269. [10] Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, “Telephone Conversation with Russian President Yeltsin on CTBT, Chechnya, Economics, CFE and Russian Election,” May 7, 1996, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57569, 26–27. [11] Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, “Telephone Conversation with Russian President Yeltsin,” Oct. 30, 1997; Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, “Telephone Conversation with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Feb. 23, 1998, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57569, 183, 253. [12] Memorandum of Conversation, “President Boris Yeltsin of Russia,” Birmingham, England, May 17, 1998, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57569, 316. [13] John Norris, Collision Course: NATO, Russia, and Kosovo (New York: Praeger, 2005). [14] Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, “Telephone Conversation with Russian President Yeltsin,” March 24, 1999, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57569, 432–36. Note that the document is dated 1998, but given the content and the placement in the records, it is clear the call was from 1999. [15] Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, “Telephone Conversation with Russian President Yeltsin,” May 2, 1999, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57569, 472. [16] Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, “Telcon with President Yeltsin of Russia,” June 10, 1999, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57569, 488. [17] Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, “Telephone Conversation with Russian President Yeltsin,” June 13, 1999, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57569, 535. [18] For more on the impact of NATO enlargement on their relationship, see Goldgeier and McFaul, Power and Purpose. [19] See Mary Elise Sarotte, “Perpetuating U.S. Preeminence: The 1990 Deals to ‘Bribe the Soviets Out’ and Move NATO In,” International Security 35, no. 1 (Summer 2010): 110–37, https://doi.org/10.1162/ISEC_a_00005; Mary Elise Sarotte, “Not One Inch Eastward? Bush, Baker, Kohl, Genscher, Gorbachev, and the Origin of Russian Resentment toward NATO Enlargement in February 1990,” Diplomatic History 34, no. 1 (January 2010): 119–40, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7709.2009.00835.x; Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson, “Deal or No Deal? The End of the Cold War and the U.S. Offer to Limit NATO Expansion,” International Security 40, no. 4 (Spring 2016): 7–44, https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/ISEC_a_00236. For arguments that the notion of promises or assurances are mistaken, see, for example, Mark Kramer, “The Myth of a No-NATO-Enlargement Pledge to Russia,” Washington Quarterly 32, no. 2 (2009): 39–61, https://doi.org/10.1080/01636600902773248; James M. Goldgeier, Not Whether But When: The U.S. Decision to Enlarge NATO (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1999); Steven Pifer, “Did NATO Promise Not to Enlarge? Gorbachev Says ‘No,’” Brookings Institution, Nov. 6, 2014, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2014/11/06/did-nato-promise-not-to-enlarge-gorbachev-says-no/. [20] “Secretary Christopher’s Meeting with President Yeltsin,” Moscow, Oct. 22, 1993, https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=4390822-Document-08-Secretary-Christopher-s-meeting-with. This document was posted by the National Security Archive at George Washington University earlier this year and was declassified through a Freedom of Information Act request I made many years ago. [21] For a discussion of this meeting’s importance for future developments, see James Goldgeier, “Promises Made, Promises Broken? What Yeltsin Was Told About NATO in 1993 and Why It Matters,” War on the Rocks, July 12, 2016, https://warontherocks.com/2016/07/promises-made-promises-broken-what-yeltsin-was-told-about-nato-in-1993-and-why-it-matters/. [22] Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, “Telcon with President Boris Yeltsin of the Russian Federation,” Dec. 22, 1993, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57568, 144–45. Unfortunately, the declassified memcon from their meeting in Moscow in January 1994 is not included in the cache of documents recently made available by the Clinton Library. [23] Talbott, The Russia Hand, 136; Ronald D. Asmus, Opening NATO’s Door: How the Alliance Remade Itself for a New Era (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 90. For an explanation of how U.S. policy developed from January to September 1994, see Goldgeier, Not Whether But When. [24] Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, “Telephone Conversation with Russian President Yeltsin,” Oct. 5, 1994, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57568, 227. Note that the document itself is dated 1993, but the content and the date on the transmittal memorandum make clear that it is from 1994. [25] Goldgeier and McFaul, Power and Purpose, 189–90. [26] Talbott, The Russia Hand, 141; “Remarks by the President at Plenary Session of 1994 Summit of the Council on Security and Cooperation in Europe,” White House Office of the Press Secretary, Dec. 5, 1994, https://clintonwhitehouse6.archives.gov/1994/12/1994-12-05-president-remarks-at-csce-summit-in-budapest.html. [27] Daniel Williams, “Yeltsin, Clinton Clash over NATO’s Role,” Washington Post, Dec. 6, 1994, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1994/12/06/yeltsin-clinton-clash-over-natos-role/19b7b3a1-abd1-4b1e-b4b2-362f1a236ce9/. [28] Goldgeier and McFaul, Power and Purpose, 192. [29] Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, “Presidential Telephone Call,” April 27, 1995, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57568, 281–82. [30] “Summary report on One-On-One Meeting Between Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin,” St. Catherine’s Hall, The Kremlin, May 10, 1995, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57568, 290–96. [31] Memorandum of Conversation, “Morning Meeting with Russian President Yeltsin: NATO-Russia, START, ABM/TMD,” Helsinki, March 21, 1997, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57569, 106–10. [32] Memorandum of Conversation, “Meeting with Russian President Yeltsin,” Istanbul, Nov. 19, 1999, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57569, 562–63. [33] Memorandum of Conversation, “Meeting with President Boris Yeltsin,” Sept. 27, 1994, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57568, 214–15. [34] “Summary report on One-On-One Meeting Between Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin,” St. Catherine’s Hall, The Kremlin, May 10, 1995, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57568, 293. [35] “POTUS-Yeltsin One-on-One,” Presidential Ceremonial Office, The Kremlin, April 21, 1996, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57568, 381–85. [36] Goldgeier and McFaul, Power and Purpose, 207. [37] Memorandum of Conversation, “Luncheon Meeting with Russian President Boris Yeltsin,” The Kremlin, April 21, 1996, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57569, 11–12. [38] “The President’s News Conference with President Boris Yeltsin of Russia in Helsinki,” March 21, 1997, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=53904. [39] Memorandum of Conversation, “Meeting with Russian President Yeltsin: NATO-Russia, Arms Control, Economics, Denver Summit of the Eight, Afghanistan, Iran,” Paris, May 27, 1997, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57569, 148–49. [40] James Goldgeier, "Trump and Putin one-on-one is not a good idea. Here’s why." Monkey Cage blog, July 19, 2017 (revised and republished July 13, 2018), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/07/19/there-are-no-notes-on-trumps-meeting-with-putin-thats-a-big-deal/. [41] Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, “Telephone Conversation with Russian President Yeltsin,” Sept. 8, 1999, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57569, 548. [42] Memorandum of Conversation, “Meeting with Russian President Yeltsin,” Istanbul, Nov. 19, 1999, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57569, 565–66. [43] Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, “Telcon with Russian President Boris Yeltsin,” Dec. 31, 1999, https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/57569, 582–84. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 583 [post_author] => 171 [post_date] => 2018-05-15 04:35:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-15 08:35:01 [post_content] =>

Politics is the art of the possible.

–Otto von Bismarck, 1867

  The furor over Russia’s poisoning of a former spy in Britain reflects a worrying, and accelerating, trend: America’s relations with its primary rivals appear to be entering a period of lasting crisis. With new U.S. tariffs, trade disputes, clashes over international rules and norms in the South China Sea, and growing reports of Chinese influence-seeking, the competition with China is intensifying. Meanwhile, the Russian poisoning case and dozens of other provocations from Moscow have produced a situation of deep hostility that has been described as “even more unpredictable” than the Cold War.[1] The new U.S. National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy fittingly reflect this emerging strategic moment, offering a narrative of bellicose great powers that seek to expand their influence, shape the world according to their interests, and gain greater sway over the international order. Both strategies anticipate precisely the sort of aggressive rivalries we are seeing today. The National Security Strategy paints a dire picture of China and Russia challenging “American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity” while being “determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence.”[2] The National Defense Strategy warns of the “reemergence of long-term, strategic competition” with “revisionist powers.”[3] Some great power relationships are indeed reverting to a more tooth-and-nail kind of competition. China and Russia are ever more determined to claim the status and influence they believe is their due. But the response likely to emerge from these strategies, a reaction with deeper roots in U.S. foreign policy than the views of any one administration, deserves a more significant debate. That rejoinder calls for a reaffirmation of U.S. military and geopolitical predominance, accompanied by a defense build-up to empower a direct and ongoing confrontation with Russia and China in their own backyards — all in the name of a sprawling and uncompromising interpretation of the rules and norms of the post-World War II order. Unfortunately, such an approach is likely to fail, transforming the emerging competitive era into something far more confrontational and zero-sum than it needs to be. The National Security Strategy's renewed reference to “peace through strength”[4] and the National Defense Strategy's attendant focus on restoring military supremacy reflect a habitual and ongoing American post-Cold War quest for predominance.[5] Yet, while military strength is important to deter hostile powers, trends in key regions and challenges to U.S. power projection make it virtually impossible to recapture the level of military superiority the United States enjoyed for the last three decades. Nor is it capable of stemming the tide of change: American primacy is visibly eroding,[6] world politics are increasingly multilateral,[7] and other major powers are noticeably less willing to accept American dictates. Paradoxically, too, America’s military strength and martial tradition have, in some ways, contributed to the growth of these emerging challenges by displacing America's ability to effectively engage in the nuanced balancing of interests that are so central to international politics. In the post-9/11 era of persistent counterterrorism operations, the United States has tended to view every challenge as an outright threat, every problem as subject to the application of military power, and every contest as something to win rather than to manage.[8] This is not to say that American leadership is doomed, or that the post-war international order the United States worked so hard to build — the set of institutions, rules, and norms that have helped provide a stabilizing force in world politics since 1945[9] — is destined to come to an end. In that regard, the call by the authors of these strategy documents for continued U.S. leadership is welcome and reassuring, and many of their specific policy prescriptions would help reaffirm that leadership. But clinging to visions of predominance and absolutist conceptions of U.S. goals poses great dangers to global stability during a time of turbulent transition that will only be survived through more flexible and pragmatic leadership. During our years of exposure to U.S. national security processes, policies, and officials, we have watched as U.S. economic, military, and political dominance has underwritten a missionary approach to the international system. That approach is not only unsustainable given the shifting balance of power, but it ultimately represents one of the dominant fault lines between the United States and other major powers. We are not proposing anything close to retrenchment. American leadership, a rules-based international order, and an extended network of alliances and partnerships that help keep the peace, remain valuable not just to the United States but also to small and middle powers alike. The heart of the American strategic challenge is how to reset the balance between ideology and pragmatism in foreign policy without killing off the key norms of conduct or the essential foundations of U.S. global engagement. The United States will have to make the present order truly multilateral in order to retain its leadership, keep dissent within the international system rather than forcing it outside, and accommodate competition. More than at any time in the last 70 years, dogmatism will be the enemy of strategy. The resulting challenge constitutes what is arguably the most difficult balancing act that U.S. foreign policy has confronted since 1945 — and perhaps, at any time in the country’s history.

The Church of American Foreign Policy: Overdue for a Reformation?

Today, the malign intentions of states that wish to challenge the status quo are not the only factors increasing instability and raising the risk of conflict. After more than two decades of an ideological, values-driven approach to international affairs, the tone and tenor of American foreign policy can seem to have more in common with theology than statecraft. In approaching countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, or Libya and issues ranging from human rights to nonproliferation to the promotion of democracy, difficult choices of balance and priority are presented as normative absolutes. Increasingly after 1989, the imperative to forcibly extend the liberalism of the Western order has been viewed as self-evident. As that order became more institutionalized and rule-based, and as American leadership of it became — for a time — more unquestioned, Washington (and other ambitious advocates of a more fully liberal order, particularly European nations and NATO members) has come to equate strategic judgments with moral imperatives. One risk of confounding strategy with morality is that the architect and enforcer of such an order loses the ability to compromise. Absent any meaningful checks on American power, forcible democracy promotion, humanitarian intervention, the unbridled extension of alliances, and global campaigns against extremism came to dominate U.S. foreign policy. Critics of the ambitions of an ideology-driven U.S. foreign policy, from George Kennan to Andrew Bacevich, warned for decades about the hubristic missionary spirit at the core of U.S. global strategy.[10] “We seem to be in one of those periodic revivals of the American missionary spirit,” New York Times editor Bill Keller argued as recently as 2011, “which manifests itself in everything from quiet kindness to patronizing advice to armored divisions.”[11] This trend helps explain the marriage of neoconservatives and liberal interventionists, which played a major role in justifying the Iraq War. Despite their differences, these two groups agreed on the most elaborate vision of rule enforcement and value promotion. [quote id="1"] The story of the liberal turn of the post-war order in the 1990s was thus, at least partly, one of mission creep and of the gradual acquisition of a far more uncompromising, indeed pious, tone and tenor.[12] These changes to the post-war order eventually found expression in the enlargement of NATO, which was justified as a right rather than a strategic judgment; humanitarian intervention in Kosovo; the emergence of a doctrine of a Responsibility to Protect (R2P), interpreted to overrule the sovereignty of other countries;[13] rhetorical support for the Arab spring, leading to intervention in Libya;[14] political backing for the Eastern European color revolutions;[15] and material support for pro-democracy nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in dozens of other states.[16] The post-9/11 embrace of a “global war on terror,” the plunge into nation-building in Afghanistan, and the choice to invade Iraq all flowed from the same maximalist instinct. One depressing sign that this kind of missionary overreach continues today is the fact that the United States will spend, in 2018 alone, $45 billion in Afghanistan[17] — more than the 2017 budget of the Department of Homeland Security, $10 billion more than the budgets of either the Department of Housing and Urban Development or the Department of Justice, and nearly twice the budget of the Department of Energy. Unlike the post-World War II order, which was principally underwritten by great powers and, eventually, by middle powers, this vision of foreign policy activism was one held primarily by the United States and a handful of its allies. Over time, the demand for purity in rule-making and enforcement has achieved a sort of religious fervor. Allowing such an uncompromising and moralizing vision to take the wheel of the post-war order was a strategic mistake, sparking the widespread perception that the United States was ideologically driven to advance regime change abroad, including the unilateral employment of force, whether permissible by international law or not. It signaled to some rivals that the United States reserved the right to challenge the survival of their regimes at any moment, and thus tempted them to believe that their security was only guaranteed by military power, in particular nuclear weapons. The National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy offer sensible warnings about the dangerous implications of this dynamic, implications such as Russian efforts to disrupt Western democracies and North Korean nuclear ambitions. But as we consider means of addressing these risks, it is worth keeping in mind that the seeds of that harvest were sown in part by America’s own post-Cold War missionary tendencies. The stability of any international order ultimately depends on the leading powers seeing one another as abiding by shared and predictable rules of the game. These powers must also believe that the international order is willing to recognize their interests on some level.[18] With the unipolar moment over, the system cannot be considered legitimate if the rules are interpreted by one power as it sees fit, even if the underlying intent is to promote what that power views as the greater good. This fundamental objection to the conventional American mindset is held most passionately, of course, in Moscow and Beijing, but varying degrees of the same frustration are evident in the statements and policies of a host of other countries, such as India, Brazil, South Africa, Germany, and France.[19] It is a false assumption that the middle powers, which are important to the order's endurance, underwrite, or subscribe to, American unilateralism in action and in interpretation of the rules. What we are seeing today, therefore, is not only the rise of militaristic predator states, but also the insistence of other self-defined great powers that the United States both restrain its missionary impulses and interpret the rules of the post-war order in a way that does the least possible damage to their interests. The great danger of the post-Cold War American mindset is that the United States has lost the ability to take seriously or grant any legitimacy to these types of strategic objections. After all, one must grant adversaries some degree of legitimacy even to engage in basic diplomacy, let alone to create the foundations for stable strategic relationships. Yet Washington only seems capable of detecting normative wrongs and decrying them as sinful. If the United States responds to demands by other major powers for an independent voice by doubling down on a moralistic and uncompromising vision, then this emerging era of competition will become more perilous than it already is.

Misreading History: Pragmatism, Absolutism, and Order

Part of the irony of the U.S. mindset is that it harkens back to a conception of the post-war order that never really existed, mistaking it for something far more uncompromising than it ever was and drawing the wrong lessons from history. American discourse on the international order conflates three very distinct phases: the post-World War II period, the post-Cold War period,[20] and the present, yet-to-be defined phase. During the Cold War, while Washington’s policy outlook certainly began to acquire a more missionary character, the prevailing order was principally underwritten by the great powers left standing amid the ashes of World War II. The system prized sovereignty, spheres of influence, deterrence, and a balance of terror between the leading superpowers.[21] To be sure, the United States led in the creation of the institutions and norms of the post-war order, and has labored diligently to preserve them, for both self-interested and altruistic reasons.[22] The resulting institutions — the U.N. system; the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/World Trade Organization structures; international economic institutions like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and G-20; and hundreds of smaller and more discrete organizations, treaties, and conventions — bolstered U.S. strategy over the decades. Associated norms, rules, and conventions began to build a sense of quasi-legalistic obligation at the foundations of world politics. But it remained a Westphalian order first and foremost, one built on the rule of sovereignty, a live-and-let-live spirit of mutual accommodation, and some degree of collective attention to shared problems.[23] It quite consciously attempted to balance great power interests with universal and nondiscriminatory rules, rather than simply enforcing such rules without regard to those interests.[24] That order was founded with World War II as its backdrop, and thus had the management of great power competition in mind. At its inception, therefore, and for much of its history, the post-war order never was conceived of as constitutional, absolute, or without exceptions. Balancing where its dictates would be enforced — and when they would be intentionally overlooked — was a central preoccupation of U.S. foreign policy. The emphasis on human rights provides a leading example. The managers of U.S. foreign policy have upheld this ideal, but they also have set it aside at various times for different reasons: a sense that long-term democratization demanded compromise, as in South Korea or Taiwan; a conviction that worse rights violations would occur without U.S. support, as was the case in Vietnam and Central America; or the demands of short-term national interests, admittedly sometimes craven, as in U.S. policy toward Iran and Chile.[25] Washington’s emphasis on creating a post-war order that is based on institutions, rules, and norms was therefore balanced with a recognition that these aspirations had to be aligned with a real world that would only imperfectly reflect them. In the gap would go statecraft, an effort to herd key members of the international community toward those important normative goals — but always with the recognition that the allowance for exceptions would be as important as the rules themselves.[26] Push too hard, hold too inflexibly to the ideals, and the whole thing would collapse. The statesmanship required to balance these multiple considerations — that is to say, the acceptance of inconsistencies in the rules and norms of the order — was not limited to achieving liberal goals like human rights. The global trade regime reflects the same pattern, having developed amid traditions of industry-protecting, quasi-mercantilist behavior, and occasional bouts of protectionist fervor.[27] In regard to the norm against interstate aggression, the United States and its friends offered clever legal justifications (and sometimes not even those) for what looked like outright aggression in Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere. The presence of American forces in Syria, to take the leading current example, has involved sustained combat operations on the territory of another state outside any discernible national or international legal basis.[28] [quote id="2"] During the Cold War, Washington was forced to live with uncomfortable strategic half-measures. The military balance as well as the risks of nuclear war, escalation, and miscalculation, imposed a sober approach and restraint in the face of Soviet and, later, Chinese vital interests. There was no way to stop Soviet intervention in Hungary in 1956 or in Czechoslovakia in 1968. It may not be how we remember it, but the Cold War’s lasting accomplishment was maintaining a time of peace between adversarial superpowers that possessed the ability to destroy the world. Despite the global competition, collaboration took place to resolve disputes, manage conflicts among allies or client states, and avoid dangerous gambits like the Cuban Missile Crisis. There was no need to refer to “spheres of influence” to recognize the simple reality that the closer one gets to the borders of a rival, or the more vital their interests at stake, the more one has to treat with care whatever rules or norms are at play.[29] The imperative not to normalize an undesirable reality in international politics was always there, but policy and strategy recognized objective realities. Like any set of rules, therefore, the post-World War II order has endured, and in some ways, flourished as much through its exceptions as its uncompromising enforcement. That flexibility allowed the United States to avoid fundamental breaks with key states. It overlooked human rights violations, the stretching of nonproliferation norms, and occasionally bellicose behavior even by the Soviet Union as part of this careful balancing act. This approach recognized that for any order to endure, all the leading powers must endorse it to some degree — and they will never do so if the application of its norms proves fundamentally inimical to their vital interests.

The Russia Problem

Gradually during the Cold War and then with much more energy after 1989, this pragmatic tenor of American leadership — a willingness to compromise on the road to greater order and community — transformed into a much more uncompromising mindset of missionary zeal. This shift has helped produce some real dangers, one of which was the failure to secure the post-Cold War peace with Russia. That failure resulted in a cycle of engagement and disappointment that eventually helped drive U.S.-Russian relations into their present abyss. Undoubtedly, a large share of the blame can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the Russian elite. However, it was the United States’ decision to take a decidedly missionary, rather than strategic, approach to Russia that played an important role in the current breakdown in U.S.-Russia relations. Arguably, the United States should not be blamed for taking advantage of the Soviet Union’s collapse in seeking to advance a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace.[30] However, this was meant to be a slogan — not an ideology that led to perpetual NATO expansion, democracy promotion, and half-hearted bids for the former Soviet sphere. Nor was it ever consciously defined as a strategic concept. Taken too far and too quickly, some of these policies have resulted in negative-sum gains for all concerned. The United States never made a serious effort to establish a security framework in Europe in which Russia had a stake. Washington vacillated between ignoring Moscow as a defunct great power and naively seeking to convert Russian elites to Western values, rather than securing post-Cold War peace via structured settlement, negotiation on issues in dispute, and a strategy that planned for its inevitable return as a power in Europe. In any scenario, Russia would have taken decades to complete a successful transition from being an imperial power to a constructive participant in a collective regional order, as did Britain and France at one point in their own histories. And yet, the United States took little notice of the long-running determinants of Russian strategy or foreign policy that would come into play in that transition. Russia had always sought buffer states in Europe to accommodate for its lack of depth and history of costly wars fought on Russian territory.[31] This history, together with a natural inclination to establish regional hegemony, predictably yielded a zero-sum outlook in Moscow when it came to the expansion of military or political blocs. A national security elite rooted in the Soviet experience would have always proven resistant to liberal democracy, and struggled to respect the independence of former Soviet republics. These convictions did not need to be indulged by the United States — but they did need to be understood, planned for, and accommodated in a strategy designed both to advance liberal values and acknowledge Russian imperatives. It was precisely this sort of nuanced approach that a post-Cold War United States, certain of its values and fueled by a unipolar moment, never managed to acquire. Instead, a host of well-meaning policy elites accepted Russian absence from European politics as a green light to engage in what Timothy Snyder terms the “politics of inevitability,” believing that the cycle of history was somehow stopped, and that Russian weakness could be taken as a license for strategic malpractice.[32] NATO intervention in Kosovo demonstrated that the alliance now saw itself as able to dictate security terms in Europe unconstrained by international institutions in which Russia had an equal voice.[33] The long-term consequences of the unilateral use of force in Europe at a time of Russian weakness and insecurity would only be realized years later. Tearing up the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty destroyed what Moscow thought was a pillar of strategic stability at a time when the conventional military balance was entirely in America’s favor.[34] Reframing NATO as a mechanism for out-of-area operations in support of American-led interventions made an equally powerful impression on Russia. A hodgepodge of efforts to promote democracy, political meddling, and NATO expansion ever further despite Russian warnings contributed to an elite consensus in Moscow that the West would only stop when faced with use of force. This is not a myopic argument about blowback from NATO expansion alone, but the inherent cumulative effect of American policies, many of which were uncoordinated, on U.S.-Russian relations.[35] Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled the upshot of this cumulative effect in his 2007 address at the Munich Security Conference.[36] Years of efforts to engage Russia and lectures on the benefits of Western integration, Putin’s broadside made clear, had in no way caused Russian leadership to redefine its fundamental national security assumptions, its outlook on the former Soviet space, or its enduring suspicion of Western intent. Simply put, more than 10 years ago, Russia’s obvious frustrations and public warnings should have made it clear to Western officials that American foreign policy, together with European desires to expand their own supranational political institutions, would lead to conflict in Europe. This was evident to leading Cold War strategists in the 1990s, well before Putin took power or anyone in the West even knew his name.[37] After many years of failure to get its interests taken seriously by Washington, Moscow thought the Russia-Georgia War made its concerns and outlook clear. Yet after 2008, a different group of American policy elites took the helm, still missionary in outlook, and holding on to the belief that with a few transactions in areas of mutual interest, Russian elites somehow could be convinced to abandon longstanding precepts of Russian strategic culture. Washington was then once again caught flatfooted over the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014. The architects of these post-Cold War U.S. policies will insist that their intentions were good, that each of these actions was aimed at upholding some rule or norm of the international order, that Russia need not have been offended, and that it all would have been different if Moscow had made different choices. Some will admit that mistakes were made. But even those who do still cast Russia as the essential problem. They use renewed confrontation with Russia as a strange kind of retroactive justification for the policies that played a hand in creating that confrontation in the first place. It goes without saying — and we must stress this point — that Russia’s historic strategy for attaining security at the expense of others, its paranoid and narrow strategic culture, and its elite-driven decision-making process all constitute the real nub of the problem. But it is precisely because of those realities that almost every aspect of this conflict was predictable. Russia’s spate of aggressive assaults on the post-war order do not exculpate U.S. policymakers for not only failing to secure the post-Cold War peace, but also for failing to prepare for Russia’s inevitable return as a major power in the international system, and in particular a military power in Europe. The harsh realities of Russian interests and intentions only reinforce the dangers of a post-Cold War policy toward Russia fueled by hegemonic overreach and missionary absolutism, rather than by an effort to deal with Russia as it is. Many of Moscow’s demands need not threaten the security of the West and those that do must be vigorously countered. But America’s approach to Russia in the wake of the Cold War looks like an almost willful 30-year effort to ignore Russian prerogatives, threats, and internal mobilization in the name of the rules and norms of the post-World War II order — an order that, as Moscow is busily reminding us (and as Beijing is likely to do as well), simply cannot endure if other powers don’t subscribe to it. The only reason Russia has not left this order entirely — as an aggrieved Japan once withdrew from the League of Nations in the 1930s[38] — is that it has few options in the way of allies today, remains dependent on the global financial system, and appears still to crave some degree of international legitimacy.[39] While Russia has not taken such fundamental steps as abandoning the United Nations or even many international treaties, there is growing evidence that Moscow perceives itself to be unconstrained by existing rules and norms. If anything, Russia seems increasingly unconcerned about its reputation, credibility, and legitimacy in the West. This is likely due not simply to desperation, but to the perception that there is little the West can do to impose its will. Russia has become unbridled in its use of political and cyber-enabled information warfare against the United States and its allies. Its military campaign in Syria has demonstrated that Russia is able to independently and effectively project power in another region, reaffirming that Moscow is still a great power in the international system and that it was underestimated in 2015. [quote id="3"] One of the barriers to the necessary course correction in U.S. strategy is that the missionary sensibility now guiding much of America’s foreign policy is grounded in some very real — but also very qualified — truths. America’s role is different from that of other great powers.[40] American values do travel. Soft power, a network of allies and partners, and a leading role in the order's governing institutions do constitute some of America's greatest advantages. Many other countries, perhaps most, do believe that their interests are better served with Washington at the helm than Beijing or Moscow — or no one at all. Equally important is that, despite the preponderance of American power in the post-Cold War period, small and middle powers do not see the United States as a threat.[41] The post-war order has strongly benefited U.S. interests, in ways ranging from the creation of institutions that help stabilize the global economy to wrapping U.S. power and purpose in legitimizing multilateral context.[42] Such realities account for why so many other countries are willing to overlook the occasional hypocrisy, give the United States credit for good intentions, and remain firmly wedded to the order Washington cobbled together in the aftermath of World War II. They are also a major reason why Russian and Chinese calls to balance American power have long gone unheeded, and why, despite the inherently unstable nature of a unilateral system, it has continued for over 25 years. Yet how to maintain the current order, and American leadership, after the demise of unipolarity could prove the most vexing question of this looming transition. Continuing this post-Cold War pattern of standing too straight-backed at the altar of the shared order, holding too inflexibly to its rule set, will at best produce a brittle and unsustainable system — and at worst, magnify the dangers of unfathomably destructive wars.

Rebuilding the City on a Hill

Part of the danger of a missionary attitude, then, is that it damages America’s ability to take the interests of other major powers into consideration and encourages the adventurist promotion of Western values and the enforcement of rules in ways guaranteed to manufacture continual disputes and crises. A theological approach to foreign policy has warped Washington’s judgment and, combined with the immense power at its disposal, impelled the United States to take more risks than its interests would dictate.[43] Ask a typical group of U.S. national security hands behind closed doors whether Washington should go to war over Ukraine, Georgia, or Syria, or to ensure free navigation in the South China Sea — as both of us have done on numerous occasions — and they are likely to laugh uncomfortably and shake their heads. And yet the inherent value of defending the norms established by the post-war order imbues each of these things with a supposed precedential value that supersedes the strict national interests involved. This is not the first time that secondary issues have taken on primary importance because of their symbolic value. The Cold War was full of such examples. But there is a perilous difference between fighting off a global ideological menace in far-flung places with little inherent significance and defending abstract global norms along the borders of other great powers. The nature of the credibility imperative has changed, and yet the United States is sliding quickly back into Cold War thinking that, because general principles matter, everywhere and everything matters — even issues and places of far more intrinsic importance to our competitors than to us.[44] Jack Snyder argues that the myth of “cumulative losses,” which often appear in the form of unsubstantiated domino theories (i.e., that any setbacks in international affairs will necessarily escalate into a cascade of defeats) is a recurring theme among policy establishments heading towards over-extension and strategic insolvency.[45] It is, of course, true that some of the states testing the boundaries today do have malign, or at least aggressive, intentions. The United States cannot simply disregard Russian aggression in Ukraine or meddling in Western political processes, or declare itself unconcerned with the potential for Chinese aggression against Taiwan. Our recommendations are designed to sustain, not abandon, a broadly shared, rules-based order. Even without the prompting of exaggerated domino theories, some rules must be enforced if and when the violations are profound enough. But an approach guided by statecraft rather than theology urges the United States to ask critical discriminating questions in the process of making such judgments. Which are the rules that must be rigidly enforced? What norms must be forcibly advanced? How, precisely, should the United States go about both of those tasks? There is a good reason why some form of compromise and respect for mutual interests has been part of every successful program to manage rivalry. Merely saying some things matter less than others is not tantamount to saying nothing matters. If Washington is not careful, a refusal to temper U.S. ambitions will produce a series of unnecessary and exhausting wars that, in the most tragic of ironies, end up generating the only scenarios likely to pose a truly existential threat to the U.S. homeland. It is time to finally abandon the crude, unqualified domino theories and credibility obsessions that plague our policy establishment. Russian annexation of Crimea is not a prelude to an invasion of NATO. Lithuania is not Ukraine. And none of them is Germany. In order to deter other powers and make room for compromise, the United States should stop lecturing these nations about what their interests ought to be and instead determine which of those interests America can live with and be willing to grant those interests some measure of political legitimacy. To refuse to admit the legitimacy of a rival’s core interests is to make the conflict total, rendering it impossible to offer them assurances that if they refrain from undesired actions, we will forgo punishment. There is a profound difference between delegitimizing enemies when at war, which is commonplace, and delegitimizing countries with whom you wish to avert war, thus reducing your own space for compromise, settlement, and any incentive they might have to negotiate. Without such assurances, effective deterrence becomes both difficult and expensive. As Thomas Schelling has argued, the “pain and suffering” embodied in deterrent threats “have to appear contingent on” a potential aggressor’s behavior.[46] Adversaries who assume that the United States will punish them no matter what they do have no incentive for restraint. Ideological purity also limits America’s options for resolving disputes by making it difficult to compromise or broker imperfect deals out of fear of political backlash at home. The missionary mindset makes the United States unwilling to surrender one iota of freedom of action (by constraining missile defense deployments, for example), or institutionalize anything but the purest enforcement of rules. This makes most treaties or compacts impossible to pass and creates a host of constraints that result in Washington only having the “big stick” to use as its principal means of management. This pattern has accelerated since 1989: The United States has become constitutionally incapable of signing, ratifying, or upholding limited deals to manage complex problems — whether that’s the Agreed Framework with North Korea, a series of climate accords, or the nuclear deal with Iran. But dismissing diplomatic half-measures in favor of the big stick is a strategy with little coercive value against powers with similarly sized sticks and a growing allergy to American dictates. If something like the entirely sensible post-Cold War U.S.-Russian arms agreements were to give way to a world without any arms control, for example, U.S. interests would only suffer.

The International Order: Back to the Old Testament

What, then, is the alternative? The answer does not lie in one of the variants of retrenchment on offer today.[47] The U.S. role as the leader and hub of a flexible but still meaningful rule-based world order — including the deterrent power of a potent and globally-postured U.S. military — underwrites peace and stability. The general U.S. strategy of “deep engagement” has benefited both U.S. interests and global economic and political security,[48] and the commitments to such engagement found in the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy are heartening indeed. But there is a readily-available middle ground between retrenchment and predominance: The United States should remain internationally engaged while abandoning the dangerous implications of the missionary mindset that has prevailed for more than three decades. A more humble and restrained version of U.S. engagement would have several basic characteristics. First, it would require greater power-sharing in setting and enforcing rules in the international order, ranging from trade and finance to regional security.[49] As more states become determined to have a voice in the setting and enforcement of rules in the post-war international order, and as they acquire the power to make their voices heard, that order will have to become more legitimately multilateral if it is going to survive.[50] Keeping the other major powers vested in the system is an essential component of any strategy to constrain them and contain the competition; the lower their stake in the current order, the shorter its lifespan will be. There is some evidence that a shared order, with leadership coming from more corners of the world, could work. Consider Europe’s drive to save the Paris climate deal absent America,[51] Japan’s leadership of a rump Trans-Pacific Partnership,[52] or China’s desire to lead and change, rather than destroy, established international institutions.[53] [quote id="4"] A more multilateral order can work, but Washington must find a way to make it work, because an order based solely on American unipolarity is not sustainable. Simply put, American power, both relative and absolute, is insufficient to underwrite the order as it is currently conceived and being enforced by its own policy community. The more stakeholders and centers of leadership, the more resilient the current order actually will become, but this of course means the United States will have to learn to share the steering wheel. Otherwise the United States risks discrediting its leadership and surrendering even more influence to others. It is Beijing’s quest to take charge of the current order, rather than destroy it and make enemies of its beneficiaries. That is what ought to worry Washington the most. Second, a revised approach would counsel patience rather than urgency in the promotion of key norms and values. The great insight of U.S. Cold War strategy was that America’s job was not to force a value change on the Soviet Union. It was instead to establish and safeguard an international system that ultimately would outlast and envelop the Soviet Union. The United States channeled conflict with the Soviet Union to distant proxy wars, where escalation dynamics could be controlled and the stakes to both parties were far from existential. In the process, beginning with Dwight Eisenhower’s rejection of an outright “rollback” strategy,[54] successive U.S. administrations displayed a recognition of Soviet core interests, and a realization that the United States could not prevail if it competed so hard that it provoked the other side into a cataclysmic war. In the end, the Soviet Union’s own internal contradictions caught up with it, as cynicism and dysfunction consumed the system from the inside. Over time, it voluntarily signed up for the institutions of a system that would contain the competition, such as the Helsinki Final Act of 1975. Arms control, transparency, and confidence building treaties followed. In the end, the Soviet Union ceased being a revolutionary power and became a satisfied power in Europe. The same concept — taking steps to gradually and inexorably create a context that produces desired changes rather than dispatching military forces or implementing economic sanctions to force those changes overnight — can and should be the starting point for a revised conception of the international order. With properly employed statecraft, values that Americans believe to be self-selling goods, from free markets to human rights to democracy, ought to prove attractive of their own accord. U.S. policy can sponsor and support these outcomes with a continuing and powerful strategy for liberal value promotion. But the primary goal of such a strategy would be to encourage established and emerging trends toward liberal values rather than force them into infertile soil. In the process of executing this strategy, the United States should eschew military intervention for humanitarian purposes except in select cases. Those would include situations in which the United States can obtain fairly universal endorsement in the form of such signs as U.N. Security Council support. This rule would generally avoid throwing American weight behind region-wide revolutions, especially those that are likely to wash up on the doorsteps of other great powers. Washington should not cease being a beacon for democracy, but it also should think carefully about where democracy promotion is liable to engender political crises that could translate into security contests. The United States can amply fulfill its commitment to liberal values without disregarding the sovereignty or interests of other major powers. It can craft closer and more overtly supportive partnerships with rising democracies, boost foreign aid to developing countries that are building nascent democratic systems, expand humanitarian assistance missions and programs, and advance technical assistance and human capital development programs around the world. Third, the revised approach to U.S. engagement would prioritize diplomacy and statecraft over military power. Secretary of Defense James Mattis — like many recent secretaries of defense — has spoken repeatedly and passionately about the importance of placing diplomacy at the forefront of U.S. national security strategy, and the need to invest in the tools required for such an emphasis.[55] Multiple diplomatic initiatives are now underway, from the Indo-Pacific-inspired engagement of India and Japan to negotiations with North Korea to close cooperation with NATO on enhancing deterrence. Read in isolation, however, and considered alongside recent boosts in defense spending,[56] the new strategy documents seem to convey a vision in which the United States amasses military might to reaffirm U.S. dominance while avoiding hard political choices, essentially doubling down on raw power to compensate for loss of influence. In an era when leading competitors are discovering effective means of bolstering their influence outside the military lane and below the threshold of conflict, while also investing heavily in the capacity to offset U.S. power projection in their regions, this approach seems destined to disappoint. Despite some emerging concepts such as “multi-domain operations,” “dynamic force employment,” and “joint lethality,” there is little in the new National Security Strategy or National Defense Strategy to suggest a rethinking of how the United States integrates the military with other instruments of national power. Direct competition, contesting regional balances of power with Russia and China, and a capability-centric approach continue to dominate the national security mindset. In these documents, Washington recognizes the rise of great power competition, and the erosion of America’s military power, but not the need to change its strategy or outlook on the international order. As a consequence, the “whole of government” approach we so often hear espoused often turns out to be little more than a whole of Pentagon approach: The military toolkit is not used in integrated combination with non-military approaches, but as a substitute for them. Placing statecraft before military power would amount to a tacit acknowledgement that the United States is overburdened by an expansive alliance network in which the credibility of extended deterrence is every day more difficult. Arming the regional adversaries of powers like Russia and China, or further expanding existing alliances, will have profound consequences, as these great powers have both the will and the power to enact stronger and destabilizing countermeasures. This requires exercising judgment in the choice of weapon systems and forces deployed on Russian or Chinese borders. It demands choosing deterrence over dominance in such theaters as the South China Sea, aiming to block potential Chinese aggression with far less expectation of power projection.[57] It also means indefinitely deferring NATO membership for some countries, a proposition many in Western circles find uncomfortable. However, it does not preclude creating other forms of affiliation, cooperation, and partnership beyond what has become a myopic fixation on NATO expansion. As this last example suggests, the fourth and final characteristic of implementing a revised approach in U.S. strategy will be to confront hard choices and make painful compromises in dealing with Russia and China. These are major, resilient, and nuclear-armed adversaries, and there is no getting around the fact that these illiberal states will have a say in the order, just as the Soviet Union did before them, and just as the great powers did in the eras prior to the Cold War. Absolutists will respond that any compromise on the order’s rules and norms is tantamount to surrender.[58] In some of the more pitiless conceptions of a global order, that is certainly true: An unapologetic great power-centric order would embrace value-free spheres of influence. Some believe that this is the Manichean choice that confronts the United States in Europe and Asia and that no acceptable middle ground exists on which Russia and the West, or China and the United States, can each see their vital interests upheld while the rules and institutions of a shared order persist. There is now a tragic degree to which this has become a reality. For the foreseeable future, the U.S.-Russian relationship will be adversarial and the potential for cooperation or engagement extremely small. In order for relations to stabilize, some form of settlement must come into place concerning Ukraine. And that may take a while. The current confrontation is not only likely to be the new normal, it is also certain to continue as long as Putin is in power. There is no deal to be made with him for two reasons. First, there is a broad political consensus in Washington that, after interference in the 2016 elections, Putin is de facto beyond the pale, and any condominium with him would be tantamount to betrayal. The second is more practical: Congressional sanctions passed in July 2017 make the confrontation structural, and it is rather difficult to see any scenario in which these sanctions are lifted absent Putin’s departure. Even if the executive branch were so inclined, Congress has dramatically curtailed its ability to make any deals with Russia. For much of the policy establishment, the confrontation with Russia is, if not personal, highly personalized when it comes to Vladimir Putin. However, Washington can begin thinking about how to position itself in such a way as to avoid repeating this same tragic cycle after Putin’s departure. Were he to stay, the problem would remain much the same. U.S. policymakers need to take heed not to indulge in some fantasy that a new Russian leader, or elite power structure, will be willing to redefine how Russia conceives of its security. Russia not only should be constrained, but also dealt with — and the only effective way to strike the necessary balances will be through statecraft rather than missionary confrontation. Absent a change in approach, the same fate will befall U.S.-Chinese relations, as many in Washington prepare for a confrontation with Beijing over its regional and global ambitions. From the perspective of the missionary mindset, China too has sinned, by failing to liberalize as its economic power grew and refusing to behave “responsibly” in the international system — code for not behaving like a classical great power.[59] The real complaint is that American missionary expectations have been unfulfilled: China is not simply “joining” the U.S.-led order as it stands, subordinating its own objectives, and interpretations of its interests, to American and Western models. Such an outcome should never have been expected. China’s history, size, and self-conception mean that it ultimately wants no one but itself to determine at least the Asian regional order. This is not, again, to suggest that the United States must accede to China’s view of the regional order, and quietly accept any behaviors Beijing undertakes. Some Chinese provocations would be incompatible with central rules and norms of any meaningful international order: paramilitary aggression against the Senkaku Islands, military adventurism to claim sovereignty in the South China Sea, an unprovoked attack against Taiwan, or accelerated economic espionage and coercive industrial policies against outside companies. The United States should lead multilateral processes to deter such actions (though not always with military threats, even in the case of military aggression). But such negotiations can unfold in a mutually respectful dialogue between two great powers who retain fundamental respect for each other’s prerogatives. The risk today is that the U.S. national security dialogue on China is becoming increasingly overheated and theological, nominating China for the role of ideologically motivated militarist. The new National Defense Strategy already paints China as having a sinister, shared vision with Russia, to “shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model.”[60] If the result is a replay, in different terms, of the refusal to take Russian interests seriously that unfolded after 1991, then China, like Russia, will be likely to break with the rules of the post-war order in a more overt manner. The conflict will then become total and ideological, just as it has with Russia. Yet, if the United States has failed to cow or isolate Russia, the prospects for doing so with China are virtually nonexistent. [quote id="5"] The truly dangerous dynamic here does not reflect the cliché of the Thucydides trap — the idea of an explosive relationship between a rising and an established power.[61] It is rather the reality of transforming any broad and nuanced strategy into a religion. When a predominant power, convinced of its indispensability, and viewing the world through the lens of moralism rather than statesmanship, holds so tightly to an immovable reading of shared rules and norms, it can provoke unnecessary opposition and perhaps even trigger a disaster.[62] Correcting America’s approach to these two rivals would require seeking a serious, renewed dialogue with Moscow and Beijing about what a stable regional order would look like. It would also mean taking seriously each country’s interests and ambitions rather than dismissing their legitimacy under the shadow of global rights and wrongs. This new approach would lay down a few hard and fast rules designed to sustain the fundamentals of a rule-based order — prohibitions on outright territorial aggression, destructively predatory economic policies, and actions taken to disrupt and fracture the politics and societies of other states — but otherwise it would be open to compromise and half-measures. At the same time, it would work even more energetically to gain truly multilateral support for that narrower set of rules. America would need to acknowledge that arguments about how to achieve a shared goal (such as Iranian or North Korean denuclearization) are not tantamount to norm violations, and cease, for the most part, trying to coerce others into favored American tactics through such tools as “secondary sanctions.”[63] This fresh approach to U.S. engagement would require admitting that, increasingly, the United States will have to compromise on some of its own favored policies to get the deals it wants. A new consensus limiting Russian-style political interference, for example, is likely to require painful concessions on U.S. efforts to promote democracy abroad. A revised strategic mindset would redouble efforts, and offer bold compromises, in order to achieve or renew bilateral arms agreements with both Russia and China. The changing military balances in Europe and Asia-Pacific call for regional security arrangements, treaties, and political agreements on behavior in global domains, such as cyber or space. A more robust American military presence should be coupled with stabilizing initiatives in conventional arms control and measures to drive the competition into stable deterrence rather than security dilemmas and spiral decision-making models, which Washington can doubtfully afford to sustain. Russia’s break with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty may mean that this agreement will not survive, but Washington can only gain by looking for new ways to restrain Russian force modernization and expanded force posture in Europe. As the single superpower with both global responsibilities and burdens and a normative vision for the international order, the United States has everything to defend, and only stands to lose from an uncontrolled competition. History offers valuable lessons here. Although the period of détente (1969–1979) failed to stop the Cold War, in part because of unrealistic expectations that it would do exactly that, it had a profoundly stabilizing effect at a time of transition in the global balance of power. This period led to formal arms control agreements, recognition of political borders, military confidence-building measures, and economic and cultural exchange along with an acknowledgment of the importance of human rights.[64] The Soviet Union sought to reduce tension on its Western borders at the same time as the United States was dealing with an objective loss of global superiority. Then, as now, the policy establishment was looking to find its footing in the face of American decline in its predominance in both military and political spheres. Détente didn’t last, but it was profoundly beneficial for Washington, and by engaging Moscow, it set in motion a host of processes that would ultimately lead to the Soviet Union’s demise. Today, similar forms of political, economic, and military agreements can be part of the recipe for reducing tensions with Russia and structuring the competition such that the United States retains leadership without eroding the order — that is, if the settlements become a way of reestablishing the order rather than forsaking it.[65] The challenge with this time period, unlike 1980, which saw the end of détente and a reinvigorated Cold War competition at a time of Soviet stagnation, is that history seems unlikely to repeat itself. Setting aside Washington’s problems with Russia, rogue states, and international terrorism, China alone has the range of power and ambitions to confront the United States with a competition it would struggle to resource and sustain. Hence the United States should revisit stabilizing periods like détente, when deals and compromises were made with adversaries, and restore that element of pragmatism to its strategic outlook. In sum, then, a new U.S. approach to international affairs would include treating Russia and China with a degree of political respect and legitimacy, rather than as miscreants opposed to the true and right vision of the future. This does not mean that the United States should abandon its efforts to hold them to some standard. Quite the contrary. It is only by reining in its absolutism and behaving in a more multilateral and flexible fashion that the United States is likely to gain the global support it needs to sustain the most essential rules of the post-war order. And it is only by addressing the rising grievances of these two potentially dangerous revisionist powers — rather than simply declaring those grievances illegitimate — that the United States will begin to create the basis on which China and Russia themselves feel able to compromise. At the same time, to succeed in the intensifying competition now underway, the United States will have to face the reality that if it does not get its own economic, political, and social house in order, it will be increasingly weak and vulnerable regardless of its military prowess. Americans have now elected four presidents in a row who claimed that making America strong internationally meant, first and foremost, attending to the domestic sources of national power. Yet pressing issues like exploding debt, entitlement reform, a crumbling infrastructure, criminal justice reform, climate change, political polarization, and information security, to name a few, continue to beg for solutions. But that will require the political will to conceive of bold answers. Major progress on several of these issues would do more to set back the ideological challenge of China and Russia and reaffirm the American model as the one to emulate, than any conceivable addition to the defense budget. The strategic moment, in other words, demands a lighter and more flexible touch abroad combined with bold action at home. Left unattended, however, the missionary mindset of U.S. foreign policy is likely to drive the nation in precisely the opposite direction. America’s experience in creating and then managing the post-World War II international order has repeatedly disproven the idea that it must choose between appeasement and war, or between value promotion and compromise. In his seminal 1961 speech, John F. Kennedy rejected these rigid formulations, arguing that
each of these extreme opposites resembles the other. Each believes that we have only two choices: appeasement or war, suicide or surrender, humiliation or holocaust, to be either Red or dead. Each side sees only ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ nations, hard and soft policies, hard and soft men.
Instead, he believed that “diplomacy and defense are not substitutes for one another” and that “as long as we know what comprises our vital interests and our long-range goals, we have nothing to fear from negotiations at the appropriate time, and nothing to gain by refusing to take part in them.”[66] This is the vision that America must rekindle, and it is this kind of America that is missing from the world stage.   Michael Mazarr is a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. He also serves as an adjunct professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He holds A.B. and M.A. degrees from Georgetown University and a doctorate from the University of Maryland School of Public Affairs. He has been a faculty member and associate dean at the U.S. National War College, president of the Henry L. Stimson Center, senior vice president for strategic planning at the Electronic Industries Alliance, senior fellow and journal editor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, legislative assistant for foreign affairs and chief writer in the office of Representative Dave McCurdy, and special assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He served seven years in the U.S. Navy Reserve, in both enlisted and commissioned ranks, as an intelligence specialist. He has authored over a dozen books, including North Korea and the Bomb (1995) and Unmodern Men in the Modern World: Radical Islam, Terrorism, and the War on Modernity (2007). The views expressed here are his own. Michael Kofman is Director of the Russia Studies Program at CNA Corporation and a Fellow at the Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, D.C. Mr. Kofman directs the Russia Studies Program at CNA, where he specializes in the Russian armed forces and security issues in the former Soviet Union. Mr. Kofman is also a fellow at the Modern War Institute at West Point, and a Senior Editor at War on the Rocks. Previously he served at National Defense University as a Program Manager and subject matter expert, advising senior military and government officials on issues in Russia/Eurasia. He has published numerous articles on security issues in Russia/Eurasia, along with analyses for the U.S. government. Mr. Kofman holds a M.A. in International Security from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, and a B.A. in Political Science from Northeastern University. ISSN (Print): 2576-1021 ISSN(Online): 2576-1153 Image: Wikimedia Commons [post_title] => Rediscovering Statecraft in a Changing Post-War Order [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => rediscovering-statecraft-in-a-changing-post-war-order [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-17 14:16:57 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-17 19:16:57 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?p=583 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => If Washington doubles down on U.S. military and geopolitical predominance, it risks transforming the emerging competitive era into something far more confrontational and zero-sum than it needs to be. If it hopes to retain its position of leadership, the United States will have to make the present international order truly multilateral. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 1, Iss 3 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Over time, the demand for purity in rule-making and enforcement has achieved a sort of religious fervor. ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => [T]he post-war order never was conceived of as constitutional, absolute, or without exceptions. ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => [I]t was the United States’ decision to take a decidedly missionary, rather than strategic, approach to Russia that played an important role in the current breakdown in U.S.-Russia relations. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Adversaries who assume that the United States will punish them no matter what they do have no incentive for restraint. ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Simply put, American power, both relative and absolute, is insufficient to underwrite the order as it is currently conceived. ) ) [style] => strategist [type] => Strategist [style_label] => The Strategist [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 641 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 171 [1] => 121 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Andrew Higgins, “It’s No Cold War, But Relations with Russia Turn Volatile,” New York Times, Mar. 26, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/26/world/europe/russia-expulsions-cold-war.html. [2] The White House, National Security Strategy of the United States of America,  December 2017, 2, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf. [3] The Department of Defense, Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America: Sharpening America's Competitive Edge, January 2018, 2, https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2018-National-Defense-Strategy-Summary.pdf. [4] National Security Strategy, 2017. [5] Hal Brands, “Choosing Primacy: U.S. Strategy and Global Order at the Dawn of the Post-Cold War Era,” Texas National Security Review 1, no. 2 (February 2018), https://tnsr.org/2018/02/choosing-primacy-u-s-strategy-global-order-dawn-post-cold-war-era-2/. See also Eric S. Edelman, “The Broken Consensus: America's Contested Primacy,” World Affairs 173, no. 4 (December 2010), http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/article/broken-consensus-americas-contested-primacy. Van Jackson argues in a thoughtful essay that America never sought primacy, at least in Asia; see “American Military Superiority and the Pacific-Primacy Myth,” Survival 60, no. 2 (March 2018). We would suggest he has defined the required elements of a strategy of primacy too narrowly. [6] Charles A. Kupchan, “The Decline of the West: Why America Must Prepare for the End of Dominance,” Atlantic, Mar. 20, 2012, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/the-decline-of-the-west-why-america-must-prepare-for-the-end-of-dominance/254779/. For a more extended argument, see Charles A. Kupchan, No One’s World: The West, the Rising Rest, and the Coming Global Turn (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), https://doi.org/10.1080/09700161.2014.895245. [7] This was the conclusion of the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends report from 2008; see Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008), https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/Newsroom/Reports%20and%20Pubs/2025_Global_Trends_Final_Report.pdf. See also Matthew Burrows and Roger George, “Is America Ready for a Multipolar World?” National Interest, Jan. 20, 2016, http://nationalinterest.org/feature/america-ready-multipolar-world-14964. [8] Andrew J. Bacevich, The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013). See also Daryl Press and Benjamin Valentino, “A Balanced Foreign Policy,” in How to Make America Safe: New Policies for National Security, ed. Stephen Van Evera, (Cambridge, MA: The Tobin Project, 2006). [9] For a description of the current order, see Michael J. Mazarr, Miranda Priebe, Andrew Radin, and Astrid Stuth Cevallos, Understanding the Current International Order (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2016). See also the analysis of John Bew, “World Order: Many-Headed Monster or Noble Pursuit?” Texas National Security Review 1, no. 1 (Dec. 2017). [10] See John Lewis Gaddis, George F. Kennan: An American Life (New York: Penguin, 2009) and Andrew J. Bacevich, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (New York: Holt, 2009). [11] Bill Keller, “The Return of America’s Missionary Impulse,” New York Times Magazine, Apr. 15, 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17Lede-t.html. [12] Mark Kersten, “The Responsibility to Protect Doctrine is Faltering. Here’s Why,” Washington Post, Dec. 8, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2015/12/08/the-responsibility-to-protect-doctrine-is-failing-heres-why/?utm_term=.1ec01eb7adb1; Edward Rhodes, “The Imperial Logic of Bush's Liberal Agenda,” Survival 45, no. 1 (2007), https://doi.org/10.1080/00396330312331343356; Michael C. Desch, “The Liberal Complex,” American Conservative, Jan. 10, 2011, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-liberal-complex/. [13] Anthony C. Zinni, “The ‘Responsibility to Protect’ and the Dangers of Military Intervention in Fragile States,” in Secular Nationalism and Citizenship in Muslim Countries, ed. Kail C. Ellis, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 171-177. See also Mohammed Ayoob, “Humanitarian Intervention and State Sovereignty,” The International Journal of Human Rights 6, no. 1 (September 2010), https://doi.org/10.1080/714003751. [14] Henry Kissinger, “A New Doctrine of Intervention?” Washington Post, Mar. 30, 2012, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-new-doctrine-of-intervention/2012/03/30/gIQAcZL6lS_story.html?utm_term=.041085544113. [15] Russian views of this process are described in Andrew Radin and Clinton Bruce Reach, Russian Views of the International Order (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2017). [16] A sympathetic account of such activities which nonetheless describes their risks is Thomas Carothers, “Responding to the Democracy Promotion Backlash,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, June 8, 2006, http://carnegieendowment.org/2006/06/08/responding-to-democracy-promotion-backlash-pub-18416. [17] Ellen Mitchell, “Pentagon: War in Afghanistan Will Cost $45 Billion in 2018,” Hill, Feb. 6, 2018, http://thehill.com/policy/defense/372641-pentagon-war-in-afghanistan-will-cost-45-billion-in-2018. [18] This is a major theme of Henry Kissinger, World Order (New York: Penguin Books, 2014). [19] An excellent source on these trends is Oliver Steunkel, Post-Western World: How Emerging Powers Are Remaking Global Order (London: Polity, 2016). [20] For a fine survey of U.S. strategy in the post-Cold War period, see Hal Brands, Making the Unipolar Moment: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Rise of the Post-Cold War Order (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2016). [21] This distinction is made in Mazarr, Priebe, Radin, and Cevallos, Understanding the Current International Order. [22] See, for example, Stewart Patrick, The Best Laid Plans: The Origins of American Multilateralism and the Dawn of the Cold War (Rowman and Littlefield, 2008). [23] An excellent recent survey of the evolution of thinking on sovereignty in the modern international order is Stewart Patrick, The Sovereignty Wars: Reconciling America with the World (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution Press, 2017). See also Richard N. Haass, “World Order 2.0: The Case for Sovereign Obligation,” Foreign Affairs 96, no. 1 (January/February 2017), https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2016-12-12/world-order-20. [24] The story of the origins of the United Nations is told in Mark Mazower, Governing the World: The History of an Idea, 1815 to the Present (New York: The Penguin Press, 2012), 191-213. He concludes that the framers of the system “ended up creating an organization that combined the scientific technocracy of the New Deal with the flexibility and power-political reach of the nineteenth-century European alliance system.” [25] The literature on the inconsistencies of U.S. human rights policy, especially during the Cold War, is immense. For a brief survey, see Mark P. Lagon, “Promoting Human Rights: Is U.S. Consistency Desirable or Possible?” Council on Foreign Relations, Oct. 19, 2011, https://www.cfr.org/expert-brief/promoting-human-rights-us-consistency-desirable-or-possible. See also David Carleton and Michael Stohl, “The Foreign Policy of Human Rights: Rhetoric and Reality from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan,” Human Rights Quarterly 7, no. 2 (May 1985), http://www.jstor.org/stable/762080; Ted Galen Carpenter, “The Hypocritical Strain in U.S. Foreign Policy,” National Interest, May 4, 2011, https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/hypocritical-strain-us-foreign-policy; and Kathryn Sikkink, Mixed Signals: U.S. Human Rights Policy and Latin America (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2004). [26] The concept of balance and flexibility is a major theme in Dennis Ross, Statecraft: And How to Restore America's Standing in the World (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008). [27] Indeed, this concept was given a theoretical foundation with John Gerard Ruggie’s notion of “embedded liberalism,” the idea that the post-war socioeconomic order gained strength through the flexibility to allow a certain amount of domestic variations from the liberalizing norms of the system. John Gerard Ruggie, “International Regimes, Transactions, and Change: Embedded Liberalism in the Postwar Economic Order,” International Organization 36, no. 2 (Spring 1982), https://doi.org/10.1017/S0020818300018993. [28] For arguments on this score, see Craig Martin, “International Law and U.S. Military Strikes on Syria,” Huffington Post, Aug. 31, 2013,  https://www.huffingtonpost.com/craig-martin/international-law-and-the_b_3849593.html; Sharmine Narwani, “Is the Expanding U.S. Military Presence in Syria Legal?” American Conservative, Aug. 4, 2017, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/is-the-expanding-u-s-military-presence-in-syria-legal/; and Laurie Blank, “Syria Strikes: Legitimacy and Lawfulness,” Lawfare, Apr. 16, 2018, https://lawfareblog.com/syria-strikes-legitimacy-and-lawfulness. The international reaction to the legality of the latest round of U.S. and allied strikes has been mixed, with most states declining to take a formal position one way or the other. See Alonso Gurmendi Dunkelberg, Rebecca Ingber, Priya Pillai, and Elvina Pothelet, “Mapping States’ Reactions to the Syria Strikes of April 2018,” Just Security, Apr. 22, 2018, https://www.justsecurity.org/55157/mapping-states-reactions-syria-strikes-april-2018/. [29] Edward A. Kolodziej laid out an especially ambitious conceptualization of this de-facto mutual agreement in “The Cold War as Cooperation,” Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 44, no. 7, (April 1991), http://www.jstor.org/stable/3824660. [30] James Goldgeier has argued that a series of U.S.-Russian meetings in the early years of the post-Cold War period “symbolize the narrative of the entire decade: While desirous of a new relationship with Russia, the United States saw itself as the Cold War victor and had the power to shape the security dynamic across Europe.” The result, he argues, is that “while NATO enlargement spread security across a region more accustomed to insecurity or unwelcome domination, the failure to provide a place for Russia in the European security framework (for which Russia is responsible as well) left a zone of insecurity between NATO and Russia that continues to bedevil policymakers.” See James Goldgeier, “Promises Made, Promises Broken? What Yeltsin Was Told about NATO in 1993 and Why It Matters,” War on the Rocks, July 12, 2016, https://warontherocks.com/2016/07/promises-made-promises-broken-what-yeltsin-was-told-about-nato-in-1993-and-why-it-matters/. He is less critical of the post-Cold War U.S. strategy than our analysis; see also Goldgeier, “Less Whole, Less Free, Less at Peace: Whither America’s Strategy for a Post-Cold War Europe?” War on the Rocks, Feb. 12, 2018, https://warontherocks.com/2018/02/less-whole-less-free-less-peace-whither-americas-strategy-post-cold-war-europe/. [31] For historical surveys of Russian foreign policy that touch on this perennial imperative in Russian strategic culture, see for example Robert Legvold, ed., Russian Foreign Policy in the Twenty-First Century and the Legacy of the Past (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007) and Stephen Kotkin’s “Russia’s Perpetual Geopolitics, Foreign Affairs 95, no. 3 (May/June 2016), https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/ukraine/2016-04-18/russias-perpetual-geopolitics. For a general discussion, see Dmitry Trenin, “Russia’s Spheres of Interest, Not Influence,” The Washington Quarterly 32, no. 4 (October 2009), https://doi.org/10.1080/01636600903231089. [32] Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (New York: Tim Duggan Books, 2017). [33] For the role of resentment over Kosovo in sparking recent Russian actions, see Masha Gessen, “Crimea is Putin’s Revenge,” Slate, Mar. 21, 2014, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2014/03/putin_s_crimea_revenge_ever_since_the_u_s_bombed_kosovo_in_1999_putin_has.html. See also Ted Galen Carpenter, “How Kosovo Poisoned America’s Relationship with Russia,” National Interest, May 19, 2017, http://nationalinterest.org/feature/how-kosovo-poisoned-americas-relationship-russia-20755; and Stephen J. Blank, Threats to Russian Security: The View from Moscow (Carlisle, PA: U.S. Army Strategic Studies Institute, 2000). [34] Tom Z. Collina, “Dumping the ABM Treaty: Was It Worth It?” Arms Control Now, June 12, 2012. [35] For a general review of events, see Jeffrey Tayler, “The Seething Anger of Putin’s Russia,” Atlantic, Sept. 22, 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/09/russia-west-united-states-past-future-conflict/380533/; and Radin and Reach, Russian Views, 23-29. [36] See “Putin's Prepared Remarks at 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy,” Washington Post, Feb. 12, 2007, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/12/AR2007021200555.html. [37] See Thomas Friedman, “Foreign Affairs; Now a Word From X,” New York Times, May 2, 1998, https://www.nytimes.com/1998/05/02/opinion/foreign-affairs-now-a-word-from-x.html; and Kenneth N. Waltz, “Structural Realism after the Cold War,” International Security 24, no. 1 (Summer 2000), http://www.columbia.edu/itc/sipa/U6800/readings-sm/Waltz_Structural%20Realism.pdf. [38] Eri Hotta, Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013). [39] Radin and Reach, Russian Views. [40] One recent argument on this score is James Traub, “America Can’t Win Great-Power Hardball,” Foreign Policy, Nov. 16, 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/11/16/america-cant-win-great-power-hardball/. [41] Keir A. Lieber and Gerard Alexander, “Waiting for Balancing: Why the World is Not Pushing Back,” International Security 30, no. 1 (Summer 2005), https://doi.org/10.1162/0162288054894580. [42] Michael J. Mazarr and Ashley L. Rhoades, Testing the Value of the Postwar International Order (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2018). [43] A number of analysts have written about the tendency of modern American predominance to generate expanding ambitions. See, for example, Christopher Preble, The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous, and Less Free (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009), especially 87-115. Our own recommendations are less comprehensive than Preble’s, and we do not agree with every aspect of his portrait of U.S. military power. [44] Stephen M. Walt, “Why Are U.S. Leaders So Obsessed with Credibility?” Foreign Policy, Sept. 11, 2012, http://foreignpolicy.com/2012/09/11/why-are-u-s-leaders-so-obsessed-with-credibility/; and Christopher Fettweis, “Credibility and the War on Terror,” Political Science Quarterly 122, no. 4 (Winter 2007), http://www.jstor.org/stable/20202929. [45] Jack Snyder, Myths of Empire: Domestic Politics and International Ambition (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991). [46] Thomas Schelling, Arms and Influence (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966), 4. [47] For one recent example see Eugene Gholz, Daryl G. Press, and Harvey M. Sapolsky, “Come Home America: The Strategy of Restraint in the Face of Temptation,” International Security 21, no. 4 (Spring 1997). [48] Stephen G. Brooks, G. John Ikenberry, and William C. Wohlforth, "Don't Come Home, America: The Case against Retrenchment," International Security 37, no. 3 (Winter 2011/2012): 7-51, https://doi.org/10.1162/ISEC_a_00107. [49] See for example Amitav Acharya, The End of American World Order (New York: Polity, 2014). [50] A good recent statement of the need for a multilateral conception of a shifting order is Trine Flockart, Charles A. Kupchan, Christina Lin, Bartlomiej E. Nowak, Patrick W. Quirk, and Lanxin Xiang, Liberal Order in a Post-Western World (Washington, DC: Transatlantic Academy, 2014). [51] Alison Smale, “Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron Unite Behind Paris Accord,” New York Times, June 2, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/02/world/europe/paris-agreement-merkel-trump-macron.html. [52] Shawn Donnan, “Globalization Marches On Without Trump,” Financial Times, Nov. 6, 2017, https://www.ft.com/content/d81ca8cc-bfdd-11e7-b8a3-38a6e068f464; Koichi Hamada, “The Rebirth of the TPP,” Project Syndicate, June 29, 2017, https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/tpp-revival-japan-us-by-koichi-hamada-2017-06?barrier=accessreg. [53] Besma Momani, “Xi Jinping’s Speech at Davos Showed the World Has Turned Upside Down,” Newsweek, Jan. 18, 2017, http://www.newsweek.com/davos-2017-xi-jinping-economy-globalization-protectionism-donald-trump-543993. [54] Robert R. Bowie and Richard H. Immerman, Waging Peace: How Eisenhower Shaped an Enduring Cold War Strategy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 158-177. [55] Robert F. Worth, “Can Jim Mattis Hold the Line in Trump’s ‘War Cabinet’?” New York Times, Mar. 26, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/26/magazine/can-jim-mattis-hold-the-line-in-trumps-war-cabinet.html. [56] Greg Jaffe and Damian Paletta, “Trump Plans to Ask for $719 Billion for National Defense in 2019 — A Major Increase,” Washington Post, Jan. 26, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-plans-to-ask-for-716-billion-for-national-defense-in-2019--a-major-increase/2018/01/26/9d0e30e4-02a8-11e8-bb03-722769454f82_story.html?utm_term=.aff638a5bce1. [57] See Terrence Kelly, David C. Gompert, and Duncan Long, Smarter Power, Stronger Partners, Volume I: Exploiting U.S. Advantages to Prevent Aggression (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2016). [58] For an interesting perspective on spheres of influence and balance of power, see Robert Kagan, “The United States Must Resist a Return to Spheres of Interest in the International System,” Brookings Institution, Feb. 19, 2015, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2015/02/19/the-united-states-must-resist-a-return-to-spheres-of-interest-in-the-international-system/. For a similar argument on realism, see Roger Cohen, “The Limits of American Realism,” New York Times, Jan. 11, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/12/opinion/the-limits-of-american-realism.html. [59] For two powerful recent arguments to this effect, see Kurt M. Campbell and Ely Ratner, “The China Reckoning: How Beijing Defied American Expectations,” Foreign Affairs 97, no. 2 (March/April 2018), http://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/fora97&div=37&id=&page=; and Hal Brands, “The Chinese Century?” National Interest, Feb. 19, 2018, http://nationalinterest.org/feature/the-chinese-century-24557. [60] National Defense Strategy, 2018. [61] Graham Allison, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’ Trap? (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2017). For good critiques, see Rosemary Foot, “Two Differing Views on U.S.-China Conflict Find Common Ground in Their Solutions,” and Neville Morley, “History Can’t Always Help to Make Sense of the Future,” both in “Book Review Roundtable: Is War with China Coming? Contrasting Views,” Texas National Security Review, Nov. 1, 2017, https://tnsr.org/roundtable/war-with-china-contrasting-visions/. [62] That model reflects a more accurate reading of the cause of war in Thucydides anyway — with the United States playing the role of the hubristic, overconfident Athens, gathering distant allies and goading Sparta into a war it neither desired nor sought. For a critique of the notion as applied to China, see Arthur Waldron, “There Is No Thucydides Trap,” Straits Times, June 18, 2017, http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/there-is-no-thucydides-trap. [63] Yeganeh Torbati, “Sanctions ’Overreach’ Risks Driving Business from U.S.: Treasury’s Lew,” Reuters, Mar. 30, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-sanctions-jacklew/sanctions-overreach-risks-driving-business-from-u-s-treasurys-lew-idUSKCN0WW1VM; and Aaron Arnold, “Watch Out for the Blowback of Secondary Sanctions on North Korea,” Diplomat, Apr. 28, 2017, https://thediplomat.com/2017/04/watch-out-for-the-blowback-of-secondary-sanctions-on-north-korea/. [64] Robert G. Kaiser, “U.S.-Soviet Relations: Goodbye to Détente,” Foreign Policy 59, no. 3 (America and the World 1980), https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/russian-federation/1981-02-01/us-soviet-relations-goodbye-d-tente. [65] Steven Pifer, “Arms Control, Security Cooperation, and U.S.-Russian Relations,” Brookings Institution, Nov. 17, 2017, https://www.brookings.edu/research/arms-control-security-cooperation-and-u-s-russian-relations/; and Strobe Talbott, “U.S.-Russian Arms Control Was Possible Once — Is It Possible Still?” Brookings Institution, Dec. 12, 2017, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2017/12/12/u-s-russia-arms-control-was-possible-once-is-it-possible-still/. [66] John F. Kennedy, “Address in Seattle at the University of Washington's 100th Anniversary Program,” Nov. 16, 1961, available at http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=8448. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 439 [post_author] => 128 [post_date] => 2018-02-06 04:00:24 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-06 09:00:24 [post_content] => Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivered the following remarks at the University of Texas at Austin, on February 1, 2018, ahead of his first trip as secretary of state to South America. This trip comes at an important time for the Western Hemisphere. This diverse region — which includes Canada, Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean — is a priority for the United States for reasons other than simply our geographic proximity. We share an interwoven history and chronology. Our nations still reflect the New World optimism of limitless discovery. And importantly, we share democratic values — values that are at the core of what we believe, regardless of the color of our passport. And for generations, U.S. leaders have understood that building relationships with Latin American and Caribbean partners is integral to the success and prosperity of our region. In 1889, at the urging of then-Secretary of State James Blaine, the United States hosted the First International Conference of American States — the precursor to today’s OAS, or Organization of American States. At the beginning of the 20th century, President Teddy Roosevelt visited Panama — the first foreign visit of a U.S. sitting president in our history. And during the 1960s, President Kennedy established the Alliance for Progress — his ambitious plan to strengthen economic cooperation among the United States and the hemisphere, and to, in his words, “eliminate tyranny from a hemisphere in which it has no rightful place.” Today, we share these same goals as the visionary leaders before us: to eliminate tyranny and to further the cause of economic and political freedom throughout our hemisphere. As 2018 begins, we have an historic opportunity to do just that. A few weeks ago, the United States cohosted a ministerial with our counterparts in Canada in Vancouver. Twenty countries joined us to discuss the global threat posed by North Korea. In April, Peru will host the Summit of the Americas to highlight our region’s commitment to fighting corruption. Two months later, Canada will host the 44th G7 Summit. And at the end of this year, the G20 states will convene in Buenos Aires, the first South American city ever to host. So in many ways, 2018 marks the year of the Americas. Many of the world’s leaders will be in this hemisphere, and as such, the eyes of the world will turn to the Americas. So today I want to focus on three pillars of engagement to further the cause of freedom throughout our region in 2018 and beyond: economic growth, security, and democratic governance. The hemisphere has significant potential for greater economic growth and prosperity. We will build upon the solid foundation of economic cooperation with our Latin American and Caribbean partners. Brazil, for instance, is the region’s largest economy and the ninth largest in the world. The United States is Brazil’s second-largest trading partner, with two-way trade at record highs in recent years totaling more than $95 billion in 2015. The United States has free trade agreements with 20 countries; 12 of those countries are in the Western Hemisphere. And every year, the United States trades almost $2 trillion worth of goods and services with Latin America and Caribbean nations, supporting more than 2.5 million jobs here at home. Instead of a trade deficit, we actually have a $14 billion trade surplus with the hemisphere. But today we have an opportunity to further our economic partnership and the prosperity of the peoples in this hemisphere. An important step to strengthen North American economic prosperity and integration is to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. I’m a Texan, former energy executive, and I’m also a rancher. I understand how important NAFTA is for our economy and that of the continent. But it should come as no surprise that an agreement put into place 30 years ago, before the advent of the digital age and the digital economy, before China’s rise as the world’s second-largest economy — that NAFTA would need to be modernized. [quote id="1"] Our aim is simple: to strengthen our economy and that of all of North America, to remain the most competitive, economically vibrant region in the world. We appreciate the hard work of our Mexican and Canadian counterparts throughout these negotiations. Last week, we concluded round six, and we will continue to work toward a modernized agreement with another round scheduled next month. Building greater prosperity by integrating the wealth of energy resources within the hemisphere is an opportunity that is unique in the world to the Americas. Over the past decade, North America has been leading an energy renaissance. By 2040, North America is expected to add more oil production to the global markets than the entire rest of the world combined and more gas production than any other single region. The flow of crude oil, natural gas, refined products, and electricity already crosses our borders in both directions, leading to greater reliability, more efficiency, and lower costs to consumers. Our continent has become the energy force for this century, thanks in large part to rapid expansion in natural gas and tight oil production, and, of course, thanks to some great engineers, many produced right here at UT. The rest of the hemisphere can use the North American experience as a model. We see a future where energy connectivity from Canada to Chile can build out and seize upon energy integration throughout the Americas, delivering greater energy security to the hemisphere and stability to growing economies. South America is blessed with abundant energy resources. Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Guyana, and Argentina all have significant undeveloped oil and natural gas. The United States is eager to help our partners develop their own resources safely, responsibly, as energy demand continues to grow. Our hemispheric energy trade is already beginning to meet these needs: 36 percent of U.S. liquefied natural gas exports since 2016 have landed in Latin America. That’s more than any other region in the world. Between now and 2030, Latin America is expected to spend at least $70 billion on new electric power generation plants to fuel economic growth. Many of those plants will be powered by natural gas. The United States should be a substantive and reliable supplier. By building out a more flexible and robust energy system in our hemisphere, we can power our economies with affordable energy. We can lift more people out of poverty. And we can make our hemisphere the undisputed seat of global energy supply. To support and capture this opportunity requires the opening of more market economies. The opening of energy markets in Mexico, for example, has led to greater private investment, more competition, and more energy trade with the United States than ever before. Truly, a win-win. [quote id="2"] Further south, we are partnering with Central America to strengthen its regional electricity market and modernize its grid. Creating stronger Central American economies by lowering energy cost is critical to building a more secure Central America. We have the chance to develop an energy partnership that spans the Western Hemisphere, to the benefit of all of our citizens. We cannot afford to squander this moment. A transition to more market-based economic reforms are not limited to the energy sector. Argentina, under President [Mauricio] Macri’s leadership, has made monumental strides in delivering reforms to open the Argentine economy and pursue growth for all Argentinians. Its historically high inflation rate is finally decreasing. GDP is going up, spurred on by investment and soaring consumer confidence. And one week after the U.S. Congress passed landmark tax reform policy, Argentina’s legislature took action to overhaul their tax system as well. All of these efforts are making the second-largest economy in South America ripe for more investment and growth. We hope more countries take a similar path — to help the entire hemisphere grow in prosperity. But for prosperity to take root, we must create the conditions for regional stability. Economic development and security reinforce each other. When individuals are living in poverty, a life of crime can look like the only opportunity available to make a living. Legal and illegal immigration increases as people look for more opportunity elsewhere. And innocent people are more likely to become victims of drug cartels, human traffickers, and corrupt law enforcement authorities. The United States approach is holistic — we must address security and development issues side by side. You cannot expect to have one without the other. The most immediate threat to our hemisphere are transnational criminal organizations, or TCOs. In their pursuit of money and power, TCOs leave death and destruction in their wake. As humans, weapons, opioids, and other drugs are smuggled, law enforcement and civilians become the targets. Here at home, Americans do not necessarily see the day-to-day violence that is so common in other parts of our hemisphere. But U.S. demand for drugs drives this violence and this lawlessness. We acknowledge our role as the major market for illicit drug consumption and the need for shared approaches to address these challenges. The opioid epidemic we are facing in this country is a clear, tragic representation of how interconnected our hemisphere truly is. Violence and drugs do not stop at our southern border. That is why we continue to employ a coordinated, multilateral approach to diminish the influence of these groups. It is time we rid our hemisphere of the violence and devastation that they promote. I co-chair a high-level dialogue with Foreign Secretary [Luis] Videgaray of Mexico to discuss new and strategic ways to disrupt TCOs. We must take new approaches to disrupt their business models — models of cartels which operate much like any other business organization that maximizes their value chain from feedstock to manufacturing to distribution to marketing and sales. The second meeting of our dialogue was held in Washington this past December, which included Secretary [Kristjen] Nielsen of the Department of Homeland Security and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as well as our Mexican counterparts. We also had with us law enforcement representatives from both countries. [quote id="3"] Dismantling TCOs is not just a diplomatic issue. Obviously, it requires integrating the skills and expertise of law enforcement to interdict shipments of illegal drugs, attack the revenue streams and the weapons feeding TCOs, and to track down and prosecute the middlemen who enable them. Close collaboration among multiple agencies — within our own government, and with our international partners — is essential. The way we combat threats to our southern border security is to work collaboratively with Mexico to strengthen Mexico’s southern border. Through the Merida Initiative — a partnership between the United States and Mexico focused on improving security and the rule of law — the United States is providing assistance to build the capacity of Mexican law enforcement and judicial institutions. By providing inspection equipment, canine units, and training, we equip law enforcement officers with tools to eradicate opium poppy production, tighten border security, and disrupt trafficking activities — not just in drugs but in trafficking of humans. By improving cross-border communications, we make both sides of the border safer. And our security partnerships extend beyond just our southern border or Mexico’s southern border. Colombia has been one of our strongest partners in the region.  Following decades of long internal battle with Revolutionary Forces of the FARC, Colombia has charted a pathway to peace. We continue to support this sustainable peace, but challenges do remain. Colombia is the world’s largest producer of cocaine — the source of 92 percent of the cocaine seized in the United States. Last year, and with U.S. support, Colombian police and military forces eradicated 130,000 acres of coca fields — the highest number since 2010. The same year, Colombian forces seized nearly 500 metric tons of cocaine. There is more work ahead. Regrettably, coca cultivation has skyrocketed in recent years. In 2016, more than 460,000 acres in Colombia were used for coca cultivation — a record. We keep a very open and frank dialogue with the Government of Colombia to address the eradication of this very large feedstock for cocaine and to identify alternative cash crops to support rural Colombian farmers. In Central America, through the Alliance for Prosperity, we support countries as they address security and economic development in tandem. Last June in Miami, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, along with our Mexican counterparts, cohosted the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America. Through many productive conversations with public and private sector leaders across the region, opportunities were identified to help Central American countries grow their economies, strengthen their institutions, and better protect their people. More opportunities for Central Americans will weaken the hold of transnational criminal organizations, address the underlying causes of legal and illegal immigration, and result in less violence. That makes their nations stronger, and it makes ours safer. And through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, partners along our third border, the Gulf of Mexico, are increasing their ability to perform maritime interdictions, rein in illegal firearms, counter corruption, and prosecute criminals. Over the summer, we submitted our Caribbean 2020 Plans. This comprehensive strategy fosters closer security cooperation and reaffirms our commitment to encourage private sector growth and diversification of energy resources, creating energy security in the Caribbean. We also maintain our partnerships in education and health initiatives, including PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The United States knows that our country — and the rest of the region — benefits from greater regional stability and the prospect of a growing economy throughout the hemisphere. The United States’ partnership with nations in the hemisphere is founded on shared values and democratic governance, but we cannot take it for granted. Many still live under the oppression of tyranny. The corrupt and hostile regime of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela clings to a false dream and antiquated vision for the region that has already failed its citizens. It does not represent the vision of millions of Venezuelans — or in any way comport with the norms of our Latin American, Canadian, or Caribbean partners. [quote id="5"] Our position has not changed. We urge Venezuela to return to its constitution — to return to free, open, and democratic elections — and to allow the people of Venezuela a voice in their government. We will continue to pressure the regime to return to the democratic process that made Venezuela a great country in the past. Venezuela stands in stark contrast to the future of stability pursued by so many others in the hemisphere. The great tragedy is that, although Venezuela could be one of the most prosperous countries in the region, it is one of the poorest in the world. Venezuela GDP growth in 2004 was as high as 18 percent. Ten years later, it is nearly a negative 4 percent — all the result of man-made collapse. Venezuela boasts the world’s largest proven oil reserves, but riches are reserved only for the ruling elites. As a consequence, the people suffer. Venezuelans are starving, looting is common, and the sick do not receive the medical attention they desperately need. Venezuelans are dying of malnutrition and disease. There has been no natural disaster — nothing like that earthquake that took me to Peru. The Venezuelan people suffer because of a corrupt regime that steals from its own people. The Maduro regime is squarely to blame and must be held to account. The United States has imposed sanctions on more than 40 current or former Venezuelan government officials — individuals who support Maduro and his efforts to undermine democracy. Over the past year, we have worked with many of our Latin American partners — through the Lima Group and the Organization of American States in particular — to build support for coordinated action to counter the country’s slide into dictatorship. We appreciate the Lima Group of major regional leaders who have met regularly to support the Venezuelan people’s quest to regain their country. Canada too has sanctioned dozens of Venezuelan leaders, including Maduro himself. And recently, the European Union joined the growing global chorus to sanction leaders in the regime for human rights abuses. The world is waking to the plight of the Venezuelan people. We encourage all nations to support the Venezuelan people. The time has come to stand with freedom-loving nations, those that support the Venezuelan people, or choose to stand with the Maduro dictatorship, if that is your choice. Elsewhere we will continue to encourage others in the region, like Cuba, who disregard their people and ignore this democratic moment in Latin America, to give their people the freedom that they deserve. Cuba has an opportunity in their own transfer of power from decades of the Castro regime to take a new direction. In June, President Trump laid out a new vision for our approach to Cuba — one that supports the Cuban people by steering economic activity away from the military, intelligence, and security service which disregard their freedom. [quote id="4"] The administration’s policy — as written in the National Security Presidential Memorandum — also seeks to, quote, “ensure that the engagement between the United States and Cuba advances the interests of the United States and that of the Cuban people.” It includes advancing human rights and encouraging the nascent private sector in Cuba. The future of our relationship is up to Cuba — the United States will continue to support the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom. Venezuela and Cuba remind us that, for our hemisphere to grow and thrive, we must prioritize and promote democratic values. We must root out corruption in all of its forms. Ineffective, corrupt governance damages countries. The economy suffers. People lose faith in institutions. And crime increases. Recent steps taken against corruption in Guatemala, Peru, the Dominican Republic, and Brazil underscore the importance of directly addressing it. In Guatemala, we continue to support the CICIG — a U.N. body created in 2006 — to uphold the rule of law, strengthen accountability, and independently investigate illegal, corrupt activity affecting government institutions. 2018 should be the year countries in the Western Hemisphere restore their trust with their people, the people they represent, and take serious anti-corruption action. As I mentioned, the Summit of the Americas will be hosted by Peru in April. We wholeheartedly support this year’s theme: “Democratic Governance Against Corruption.” And we encourage every nation in the region to fully embrace it. Encouraging transparency, increasing accountability, rooting out corruption — all of these are essential to creating a sound economy for the region, promoting security, and protecting our values. Strong institutions and governments that are accountable to their people also secure their sovereignty against potential predatory actors that are now showing up in our hemisphere. China — as it does in emerging markets throughout the world — offers the appearance of an attractive path to development. But in reality, this often involves trading short-term gains for long-term dependency. Just think about the difference between the China model of economic development and the United States version. China’s offer always come at a price — usually in the form of state-led investments, carried out by imported Chinese labor, onerous loans, and unsustainable debt. The China model extracts precious resources to feed its own economy, often with disregard for the laws of the land or human rights. Today, China is gaining a foothold in Latin America. It is using economic statecraft to pull the region into its orbit. The question is: at what price? China is now the largest trading partner of Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Peru. While this trade has brought benefits, the unfair trading practices used by many Chinese have also harmed these countries’ manufacturing sectors, generating unemployment and lowering wages for workers. Latin America does not need new imperial powers that seek only to benefit their own people. China’s state-led model of development is reminiscent of the past. It doesn’t have to be this hemisphere’s future. Russia’s growing presence in the region is alarming as well, as it continues to sell arms and military equipment to unfriendly regimes who do not share or respect democratic values. Our region must be diligent to guard against faraway powers who do not reflect the fundamental values shared in this region. The United States stands in vivid contrast. We do not seek short-term deals with lopsided returns. We seek partners with shared values and visions to create a safe, secure, and prosperous hemisphere. The U.S. approach is based on mutually beneficial goals to help both sides grow, develop and become more prosperous, and do so by respecting international law, prioritizing the interests of our partners, and protecting our values. With the United States, you have a multidimensional partner — one that benefits both sides with engagement to support economic growth, education, innovation, and security. This year the United States is eager to create even deeper relationships with Latin America and Caribbean partners, with the aim of expanding freedom to more people. We have a tremendous opportunity to build upon our shared history, culture, and values to generate more opportunity, more stability, more prosperity, and more resilient governance in South America, Central America, North America, and the Caribbean. In this year of the Americas, the United States will continue to be the Western Hemisphere’s steadiest, strongest, and most enduring partner. Rex Tillerson is the secretary of state. ISSN (Print): 2576-1021 ISSN(Online): 2576-1153 Image: U.S. Department of State [post_title] => U.S. Engagement in the Western Hemisphere [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => u-s-engagement-western-hemisphere [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-17 14:07:08 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-17 19:07:08 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?p=439 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => Secretary of State Rex Tillerson discusses the United States' enduring partnership with South America, Central America, North America, and the Caribbean. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 1, Iss 2 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => We have an opportunity to further our economic partnership and the prosperity of the peoples in this hemisphere. ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => We have the chance to develop an energy partnership that spans the Western Hemisphere, to the benefit of all of our citizens. ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Close collaboration among multiple agencies is essential. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Venezuela and Cuba remind us that, for our hemisphere to grow and thrive, we must prioritize and promote democratic values. ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Venezuela stands in stark contrast to the future of stability pursued by so many others in the hemisphere. ) ) [style] => strategist [type] => Strategist [style_label] => The Strategist [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 557 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 128 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) ) [post_count] => 4 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1453 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2019-05-21 05:00:55 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-05-21 09:00:55 [post_content] => Twenty years ago, Northern Ireland’s bloody civil war ended with the signing of the “Good Friday” Agreement.[1] The scale of the conflict may seem small in terms of absolute numbers of those killed and wounded when compared to larger tragedies of the 20th century.[2] Nevertheless, its duration, spanning nearly 30 years from the onset of the “Troubles” until the Agreement was signed in 1998, and its pervasive impact — not just on Northern Ireland, but on the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, and even the United States — more than justifies the importance attached to the achievement of peace. Since 1998, implementing the Agreement has proved difficult and the peace remains fragile, tested now by the fallout from Britain’s “Brexit” vote. Yet, the Agreement remains one of the most important examples of how a decades-long sectarian conflict can come to an end.[3] There have been many books and articles written by participants, journalists, and academics that have sought to describe the process leading up to the Agreement and to explain why it came about.[4] Peace, like victory, has a thousand fathers, and studies of the peace process have identified a wide range of factors that arguably contributed to the outcome. Why then yet another article on this topic? My contribution seeks to “bridge the gap” between two complementary perspectives: the viewpoint of a diplomat deeply involved in the negotiations and that of a teacher and scholar of international relations and conflict resolution.[5] My goal is twofold: to help practitioners think about how to orchestrate the various tools of diplomacy in support of current and future peacemaking efforts,[6] and to contribute to the long-standing academic debate among historians and political scientists about causal explanations in international relations. In particular, I want to examine the interaction between structural factors (such as demographics, economics, and the end of the Cold War), the peace process, and efforts made by key individuals involved in the process. In any analysis of this kind, the question of agency looms heavily. The Northern Ireland peace process involved many remarkable, dynamic individuals, in and out of government, who populate the narrative. It is relatively easy to describe the decisions these individuals made, while it is somewhat more complex to explain their motivations and calculus (although memoirs abound, there is always danger that the accounts are self-serving).[7] More challenging is the question of how much, if any, difference these individuals made, or whether the deeper economic and social forces at work would have led to an end of the conflict independent of the peace process itself. The very vividness of the first-hand accounts of events and the colorful personalities of the central players may contribute to over-attribution of causality. Almost every major actor in the drama has, at one point in time, been “nominated” as the “indispensable” figure in making the Agreement possible, from David Trimble and John Hume, who were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, to Gerry Adams and his co-negotiator Martin McGuiness, George Mitchell, Tony Blair, Bertie Ahearn, Bill Clinton, Monica McWilliams, May Blood (of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition), and even the shadowy MI5 agent who helped broker key talks between the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the British government in the early 1990s. For this reason, I begin my analysis by examining the broader, structural factors, before delving into the specifics of the negotiators and the negotiation. I then turn to the motivations and goals of the principal actors: the political parties in Northern Ireland, civil society, and the three governments involved (the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the United States).[8] Next, I look at the negotiating process leading up to the 1998 Agreement. Finally, my analysis turns to some conclusions about how to assess the impact of the various factors and the potential implications of that analysis for future peace processes.

The Historic, Economic, and Social Context

The conflict in Northern Ireland — the Troubles — in its violent form spanned three decades, from about 1968 to 1998. It led to the loss of thousands of lives and even more casualties, affecting Catholics and Protestants; paramilitaries and civilians in the North; British security forces serving in Northern Ireland, England, and on the European continent; and British civilians who were victims of IRA attacks in England. The violence caused billions of dollars of economic harm and left deep social and psychological scars. It had its roots in the complex history of Ireland’s relationship with Great Britain, especially the settlement that led to the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and the partition of the island into the Irish Free State and the “province” of Northern Ireland, the six northern counties on the island that opted out of the Irish Free State under the provisions of the treaty. The source of the Northern Ireland conflict was, in part, political — the legacy of the dispute among Irish nationalists about whether to accept, even temporarily, the partition of Ireland. It was also social and economic. While Catholics made up most of the island, Protestants composed the majority in the six Ulster provinces. For historic and geographic reasons, the counties of Ulster were more industrialized and prosperous than the more rural south, and wealth and political power was largely controlled by Protestant elites.[9] Thus, class, religious and ethnic distinctions, as well as a legacy of de jure and de facto religious discrimination against Catholics in the North all combined to set the stage for sectarian strife. But just as the violence erupted in the 1960s, societal and economic forces began to change this equation. Differential birth rates and patterns of emigration led to a relative increase in the Catholic population of Ulster. Immediately after the partition in 1921, the percentage of Catholics in Ulster was just under 35 percent,[10] but by the time of the 2001 census the proportion had risen to 40.2 percent, compared with 45.6 percent non-Roman Catholic Christians.[11] Equally important, Catholics make up an even greater share of the younger population, a plurality in all age groups up to 39 in the 2011 census, with predictable consequences for the future makeup of the Northern Ireland electorate. The growing Catholic population meant that Catholics — if they chose to participate — would have a growing voice in the politics of the province, even under a pure majoritarian governance model without a formal power-sharing arrangement. Thus, provincial self-governance provided, at least in theory, an alternative, or complementary strategy to empowering the Catholic/nationalist community in Ulster. Perhaps even more significant, it opened up the prospect that at some time in the foreseeable future, a majority in the North might favor leaving the United Kingdom and joining the South, a possibility that both the Irish and British governments foresaw and implicitly endorsed by enshrining the principle of “consent” in the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985.[12] [quote id="1"] Changes in the economic fortunes of the two parts of the Irish island also had an impact on the course of the conflict and the eventual peace agreement. During the second half of the 20th century, the economy of the Irish Republic was transformed, fueled to a considerable degree by the entry of Ireland and the United Kingdom into the European Union in 1973.[13] This trend began to take effect in the 1980s and accelerated in the 1990s with the emergence of high rates of growth in the South, earning the Republic the sobriquet “Celtic Tiger.” At the same time, demographic and economic forces, combined with negative impact from the Troubles on investment prospects in Ulster, led to a relative decline in the economic performance of the North.[14] The result was a growing convergence in living standards between the two parts of Ireland. By 2018, GDP per capita in Northern Ireland was less than half that of the Republic, although this figure, in part, reflects the outsized role of multinationals in the South. But even by more conservative estimates, the standard of living today is at least relatively comparable, North and South.[15] The improved economic fortunes of the South enhanced the attractiveness of the Republic as an economic partner for Northern Ireland, especially among the business community, increasing interest in cross-border cooperation. This was particularly true for border districts, which were among the poorest parts of both North and South. This trend accelerated with completion of the Single European Act in 1993, which both deepened economic ties among E.U. members and diminished the significance of the border between the North and South.[16] It is also important to consider how the wider international environment might have contributed to achieving peace in Northern Ireland. Some have suggested that the end of the Cold War reduced the salience of the U.S.-U.K. relationship and thus opened the door for greater U.S. engagement — including American President Bill Clinton’s willingness to incur British Prime Minister John Major’s anger by granting Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams a visa to visit the United States. To some extent, progress in solving other, arguably more difficult, conflicts — including the Oslo Agreement between Israel and the Palestinians and the Dayton Agreement, which ended the fighting in Bosnia — put pressure on the Northern Ireland protagonists to take similar “risks for peace.” Finally, growing international attention to the problem of terrorism posed challenges to the IRA’s ability to arm itself through ties with other terrorist organizations, such as Spain’s Basque separatists and Columbia’s Revolutionary Armed Forces, as well as through its previously vital ties to Libya under Muammar Qaddafi’s rule.[17]

The Actors

The Northern Ireland Political Parties The political landscape in Northern Ireland leading up to the 1998 Agreement consisted of two key parties on the Catholic side — the republican Sinn Fein (the political wing of the IRA) and the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party[18] — and two on the unionist side — the Ulster Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party[19] — along with smaller loyalist parties associated with Protestant paramilitaries,[20] and one non-sectarian party, the Alliance Party. The Catholic Side Sinn Fein, as a party, has its roots in the struggle for Irish independence in the early 20th century, but its deep involvement in Northern Ireland dates from the 1960s, and particularly from the 1969 party conference when the IRA split between the “official” wing,[21] which favored peaceful political measures to protect Catholics rights and bring about the unification of Ireland, and the “provisional” wing, which sanctioned the use of violence (both to protect the Catholic community and to force the British to abandon Northern Ireland). The “provos” viewed efforts to introduce reform measures in the North or power sharing as simply a means to perpetuate British colonial rule.[22] In the early 1980s, Sinn Fein shifted to a dual-track strategy known as “the ballot box and the Armalite”[23] — participating in parliamentary and local elections (IRA hunger-striker Bobby Sands was elected to the British Parliament in 1981) while continuing its campaign of violence. The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), formed in 1970 out of several smaller parties, was also committed to a united Ireland, but foreswore the use of force and focused much of its attention on the civil and political rights of Catholics under British rule. The SDLP believed that simply forcing the British out would not solve the problem — without the support of the unionist community, unification would simply continue the violent civil war (albeit under Irish rather than British sovereignty). The party emphasized the necessity for the Republic of Ireland to play a formal role in decision-making for the North. The SDLP saw this as a way  to give expression to nationalists’ sense of Irish “identity,” to complement their British “citizenship” as residents of the United Kingdom. The two parties (and their charismatic leaders, Adams and John Hume, respectively) were political rivals in the 1980s, contesting local elections in the North. Although Sinn Fein had some electoral success in its early efforts, its share of the nationalist vote fell throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, and, despite early fears, Sinn Fein was not successful in overtaking the SDLP until after the signing of the 1998 Agreement.[24] During the late 1980s, Sinn Fein’s views about the long-term prospects for achieving republican goals through violence began to shift. Analysts and historians have offered a number of complementary explanations for this crucial development. These include the “Ulsterization” of security, which reduced the number of British military targets and forced the IRA to attack indigenous Northern Irish security personnel;[25] the increasing effectiveness of British intelligence and security operations; and the inherent tensions in the “ballot box and Armalite” strategy, as IRA attacks, especially those resulting in non-combatant causalities, cut deeply into Sinn Fein’s electoral support, both in the north and south of Ireland.[26] Adams publicly described this evolving perspective in an interview in 1988, in which he seemed to rule out the prospect of a military solution to the conflict.[27] This set the stage for a series of meetings between Adams and Hume leading, in 1993, to a joint agreement which included two key provisions:
As leaders of our respective parties we have told each other that we see the task of reaching agreement on a peaceful and democratic accord for all on this island as our primary challenge. We both recognise that such a new agreement is only achievable and viable if it can earn and enjoy the allegiance of the different traditions on this island, by accommodating diversity and providing for national reconciliation.[28] (emphasis added)
The discussions between Sinn Fein and the SDLP took place in parallel with secret discussions between Sinn Fein and the British government.[29] This signal from Sinn Fein (and thus implicitly from the IRA itself) helped trigger a series of events — including the Downing Street Declaration and the decision by Clinton to grant Adams a visa to visit the United States, both discussed below — that were crucial to the 1998 Agreement. Most importantly, they led to the IRA ceasefire of 1994. Although this was not the first announced ceasefire, and although it did not last (the 1996 Canary Wharf bombing brought it to an end), it was seen both then and subsequently as a decisive shift in the trajectory of the conflict. Sinn Fein’s turn toward taking a political approach was, in part, a response to the improved prospect that its goal of unification might be achieved through peaceful means. It may also be attributed to backlash against IRA violence and Sinn Fein’s continued electoral difficulties.[30] One of the key barriers to including Sinn Fein in the peace process was the nature of its ties to the IRA, the paramilitary organization responsible for most of the attacks on British and Ulster security forces and loyalist paramilitaries, as well as a number of high-visibility attacks in England, including a failed assassination attempt on Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that killed one of her aides. The exact nature of the ties between the two groups was (and remains) hotly disputed, both in the lead-up to the Agreement and its implementation. Sinn Fein leaders always insisted that the two were separate and that Sinn Fein could not speak for the IRA.[31] To some extent, this was a kind of deniability designed to give the IRA flexibility to explore what was possible using Sinn Fein as a “cut out”  to explore possible outcomes of the negotiations without actually committing the IRA to accepting the political route.[32] At the same time, there is good reason to believe that at crucial moments the Sinn Fein leadership did not have sufficient clout within the IRA to bring about Sinn Fein’s preferred outcomes, particularly on the issue of the IRA decommissioning its arms.[33] But here, too, it is impossible to rule out the judgment that this was a familiar negotiating ploy designed to persuade the other parties (unionists, Dublin, London, and Washington) that Sinn Fein had reached the end of its flexibility. Reg Empey, a key Ulster Unionist Party negotiator and unionist member of parliament, called the argument that Sinn Fein and the IRA were distinct a “charade.”[34] The Unionist/Protestant Parties The dominant Protestant party in Northern Ireland for much of the 20th century was the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), which, as the name makes clear, had as its central tenet preserving the union with the United Kingdom. Led from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s by James Molyneux, a strong figure who served as a member of parliament in Westminster, the UUP held uncompromising attitudes on the important issues facing Ulster: It opposed greater involvement and a greater voice for Catholics through power sharing in Ulster institutions (including in the short-lived provincial parliament, created in 1973), reforming the Royal Ulster Constabulary (seen by many Catholics as a sectarian force), and giving the Republic of Ireland a role in Northern Ireland affairs.[35] Although the UUP had strong ties to the Conservative (Tory) Party in Great Britain, there were also tensions, stemming from history, cultural differences, and economics, as well as an abiding fear that unionism was more important to the UUP (and Northern Ireland Protestants generally) than it was to Tories. This fear was stoked by the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, which opened the possibility that Ulster’s ties to the United Kingdom could be sacrificed through the political process.[36] The 1990 statement by Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Brooke that “The British government has no selfish strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland” further stoked these fears.[37] [quote id="2"] This unionist anxiety about depending on Westminster to protect their interests led to increasing unionist focus on autonomy and self-governance for Northern Ireland, in contrast to the arguments of “integrationists” like Enoch Powell, who argued that Ulster should be governed directly from Westminster, no different than the rest of the United Kingdom.[38] Some unionists placed their hopes on Conservative Prime Minister John Major’s dependence on the votes of unionist members of parliament to maintain his parliamentary majority following the 1992 elections. That hope was undercut first by Major’s decision to support the Anglo-Irish “Frameworks” document of 1996, seen by unionists as a sellout to the Irish, and later by Labour’s victory in 1997. The unionists’ desire to achieve greater control over their destiny played a crucial role in the final decision to accept the 1998 Agreement, as Empey later explained:
We had been dying death by a thousand cuts for 30 years. Unionism had been excluded from the decision-making process since 1972. Throughout that period, direct rule [by the U.K. government in London] had worked against Unionism. Policy decisions had been taken on a whole range of issues that were not in the interest of Unionism.[39]
The growing focus on autonomy as a way to protect unionist/Protestant interests in Northern Ireland played an important role in the rise of David Trimble as the head of the UUP. Although Trimble had a long history in unionist politics, he was largely overshadowed by other prominent UUP leaders, both among unionist members of parliament and constituency figures. His involvement in the Drumcree Orange Order parade in 1995 propelled his rise to the top, burnishing his apparently hardline unionist credentials by ostentatiously defying the British attempt to limit a Protestant parade through a Catholic neighborhood.[40] This association helped sustain his credibility with unionists, who, during the negotiations, were required to abandon traditional “red lines,” including participating in talks with Sinn Fein in 1997 without prior decommissioning and, ultimately, signing the 1998 Agreement without decommissioning. Although Trimble secured a majority of his party’s council in support of the Agreement, the decision triggered a split within the UUP and ultimately contributed to the UUP’s electoral eclipse by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The second leading party on the unionist side was the DUP, formed in the 1970s. Led by the fiery Presbyterian minister, Reverend Ian Paisley, the DUP was even more rigid in rejecting any accommodation with either the nationalists in Northern Ireland (especially through power sharing) or with the Irish government in the South. The DUP largely boycotted the peace negotiations, in part because it insisted on a complete and credible renunciation of violence and prior decommissioning before sitting down with any of the parties linked to paramilitaries (republican or loyalist). Ironically, following the Agreement, the longest period of stable devolved government in Northern Ireland came during a time when the DUP shared power with Sinn Fein (2010–17).[41] The other key parties on the Protestant/unionist side were those associated with the loyalist paramilitaries. They were, in many respects, the counterparts of Sinn Fein/the IRA. These included the Progressive Unionist Party, headed by David Ervine and associated with the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force, and the Ulster Democratic Party, headed by Gary McMichael and associated with the Ulster Defence Association. Although the loyalists were, during the 1970s and 1980s, the most militant of the Protestant groups, they also suffered the most from the fighting — and their decision, much like that of the IRA, to turn from violence to political negotiations gave significant momentum to the peace process. The first evidence of this new orientation emerged in the form of a split between the two principal loyalist groups, the Ulster Defense Association, which remained committed to violence, and the Ulster Volunteer Force, which began to advocate for negotiations. Ultimately, both groups declared a ceasefire shortly after the IRA ceasefire of Aug. 31, 1994, and, in the ensuing years, became an important advocacy group within the Protestant/unionist movement at difficult moments in the negotiations.[42] Non-Sectarian Involvement The Alliance Party was founded in 1970 as a pro-union, but non-sectarian, party. The Alliance was the only political party that sought votes from both the nationalist and unionist constituencies.[43] It received an estimated seven to 10 percent of the vote in the 1980s and 1990s and it participated in the Northern Ireland Forum (from which the participants in the negotiations for the 1998 Agreement were chosen) and won six seats in the first Northern Ireland Assembly election. Its leader, Lord John Alderdice, was an active participant in the all-party negotiation. One Alliance official later described the party’s contribution as a “weathervane” — making sure that proposals were neither too pro-union nor too pro-nationalist and advocating for the integrity of the process, particularly the commitment to exclusively peaceful means.[44] Civil Society Groups A variety of civil society organizations functioned as peace advocates and ultimately were involved in the talks that led to the Agreement through the election of representatives from the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition to the Northern Ireland Forum and, as a result, the formal peace talks. These groups frequently complained that their representatives were excluded from key discussions, both formal and informal. It is hard to assess their specific impact on the signing of the 1998 Agreement. To some extent, they represented a concrete expression of underlying public sentiment, which yearned for an end to the violence, that would have had an impact on the traditional political leaders even in the absence of the groups’ formal participation in the talks. Some analysts have argued that civil society organizations contributed by acting as honest brokers, broadening the agenda, and building public support for the Agreement’s subsequent ratification and that their involvement helped make the Agreement more durable.[45] Skeptics like Fred Halliday, however, have challenged the importance of civil society in the Northern Ireland peace process:
[W]hen it comes to internal conditions, the central issue remains the intentions of the main military and political players….Protest, denunciation, scorn may play a role, but this is not enough to sway the ‘hard’ men and women….it comes through a decision by the nasty people that it is, at that particular moment, more advantageous to pursue peace than war.[46]
Religious leaders were involved at various stages of the peace process, beginning as early as the 1960s, though as institutions they largely resorted to exhortation. Individual clergy, notably one Catholic priest, Father Alec Reid, did at times play a significant role.[47] The referendum that followed the signing of the Agreement revealed the differences between the two communities — while virtually all nationalists/Catholics voted to approve the Agreement, only about half of unionists voted “yes.” In the subsequent decision to go into government without decommissioning, the UUP ruling council split 58-42. But even on the Catholic side, a small splinter maximalist group, the “Real IRA,” continued to oppose the Agreement, including through the use of violence. The Governments The British Government During the early years of the Troubles, the British government’s strategy centered around a strong commitment to the “union” and a conviction that peace could only be achieved through a tough security posture. This approach was crystallized when Edward Heath’s Tories replaced the Labour government of Harold Wilson in 1970.[48] In an attempt to quell the violence, in 1972 Heath abolished the Protestant-dominated Parliament of Northern Ireland, known as the “Stormont” Assembly,[49] which had exercised limited self-government in Northern Ireland since partition. In 1973, the British government proposed a new approach, the Sunningdale Agreement, returning most of the previous powers (other than security) to a reformed Northern Ireland Assembly, which would take decisions under a power-sharing arrangement between unionists and nationalists. Sunningdale also included a role for the Republic of Ireland in the form of North-South bodies designed to foster cooperation across the island. Each of these elements were to feature prominently, 25 years later, in the 1998 Agreement. While Sunningdale was narrowly embraced by the UUP under its leader Brian Faulkner (as well as by the SDLP), grass roots unionist opposition crushed the agreement and pushed Faulkner from his leadership role. Heath’s successor, Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was strongly unionist both by personal inclination and by Tory politics. Her hardline instincts were reinforced by the 1984 IRA attack on the Conservative party conference in Brighton in which she narrowly escaped and a key advisor was killed.[50] Nonetheless, Thatcher’s decision to conclude the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement without consulting unionist leaders was, in retrospect, a pivotal moment toward launching the peace process. Although her goal was to gain Irish support for a tougher crackdown on the IRA, her willingness to accept an Irish role in Northern Ireland affairs stunned unionists and helped fuel a sense that devolution (regional self-government) and power-sharing, rather than dependence on Westminster, was a more reliable means of protecting unionist interests. Thatcher’s successor, John Major, was less personally wedded to unionism, and some credit him with making the major decisions — including the Downing Street Declaration and the Anglo-Irish Frameworks document[51] — that ultimately led to the 1998 peace agreement. Major indisputably demonstrated considerable courage in engaging with his Irish counterparts (and indirectly with the IRA). But these actions further deepened unionist suspicions, and Major’s dependence on unionist votes for holding onto his parliamentary majority constrained his room to maneuver, which led him to emphasize a permanent cessation of violence and prior arms decommissioning as pre-conditions for Sinn Fein entering peace talks, tests that nearly collapsed the process. It was thus somewhat ironic that the 1997 election of Prime Minister Tony Blair, from the more traditionally “green” Labour Party, helped pave the way for the 1998 Agreement. Although unionists historically mistrusted Labour, Thatcher’s and Major’s actions had damaged unionist faith in the Tories. Moreover, during his first weeks in office, Blair made a major effort to demonstrate his support for the “consent” principle, which was fundamental to the unionist approach.[52] In addition, Blair’s broad support for devolution (for Scotland and Wales as well as Northern Ireland) helped ease unionist fears that self-government for Northern Ireland was a first step toward leaving the Union or being given second-class status within the United Kingdom. The Irish Government The issue of Northern Ireland has played an outsized role in Irish politics. The identities of the major political parties in the South were built on their approach to unification. Fianna Fail, the party of Eamon de Valera, rejected the partition of Ireland and the continued ties to the Irish crown in the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty, which created the Irish Free State. Fine Gael was the heir of Michael Collins and the pro-Treaty forces, who acquiesced in the exclusion of the six northern countries from the Irish Free State. Fianna Fail’s subsequent 1932 electoral triumph led to the enshrinement of a constitutional claim (in the 1937 Constitution) of sovereignty over the entire island of Ireland, a key point of contention in the 1998 negotiations until the very end. Fine Gael, by contrast, took a much harder anti-IRA line, opposing direct talks with Sinn Fein or the IRA. Although the centrality of the Northern Ireland issue came, over time, to define the two parties less and less, there remained a perception that Fianna Fail was more nationalist. This was reflected in the approach of Fianna Fail Taoiseach Charles Haughey and, later, Albert Reynolds (who replaced Haughey in 1992), who worked hard to get Sinn Fein into the peace process. By contrast, Fine Gael Taoiseach John Bruton (1995–97) took a tougher line on decommissioning that was much closer to the British view and was considered more sympathetic to the unionist view on the importance of consent.[53] [quote id="3"] Initially, the elevation of Fianna Fail’s Bertie Ahearn in 1997 seemed to presage a throwback to greater support for more maximalist demands of Sinn Fein and the SDLP, although Ahearn made gestures designed to reassure unionists.[54] This more traditional Fianna Fail approach was reflected in the draft agreement Blair and Ahearn presented to the peace conference in the crucial final days of negotiation, which leaned heavily toward the nationalists’ insistence on strong and quasi-independent North-South institutions. The tabling of this draft nearly caused the talks to collapse. However, in the face of unionist revolt, Ahearn agreed, against the advice of his aides, to radically dilute these provisions in order to secure unionist agreement — a decision which has led some to nominate Ahearn as yet another candidate for the “indispensable actor” award.[55] The United States Two competing forces shaped U.S. policy toward Northern Ireland during the early years of the Troubles. On the one hand, the United States and the United Kingdom shared a strong political bond, with historic roots reinforced by the Cold War. These ties inclined Washington to defer to London on what the United Kingdom saw as a domestic conflict. Pulling in the opposite direction was a large and active Irish Catholic diaspora that sympathized with the plight of the Catholics in Northern Ireland. Irish Americans were largely in favor of Irish unification, though divided between those who came to support Sinn Fein/the IRA (IRA sympathizers in the United States provided substantial financial and material support to the group)[56] and those who opposed violence and supported the SDLP. The latter group had strong adherents in the U.S. Congress (including leaders such as House Speaker Tip O’Neill and Sen. Ted Kennedy) but the executive branch largely prioritized U.S.-U.K. ties. Clinton had no prior involvement in the issue before taking office, but, in an unscripted moment during the presidential campaign, indicated his openness to granting a U.S. visa to Adams, who had been denied entry in the past because of his links to the IRA.[57] As a result, unionists were apprehensive when Clinton was elected. Despite the campaign statement and the presence on Clinton’s National Security Council staff of former Kennedy aide Nancy Soderberg, during his first months in office, Clinton initially adopted the pro-British line of the State Department, which opposed granting Adams a visa without the IRA first renouncing violence. But in January 1994, Clinton decided to grant the visa at the urging of Irish Taoiseach Reynolds, members of Congress (including Kennedy, who himself changed his position at the urging of Hume), and Clinton’s White House staff. Clinton had been persuaded that it was more likely to achieve an IRA ceasefire by granting the visa without pre-condition, a judgment that seemed to be vindicated by the IRA ceasefire in August 1994, although at the time Major was furious with Clinton.[58] U.S. involvement following the issuance of the visa followed two tracks. First, there was an effort to promote economic development and investment in Northern Ireland to demonstrate the benefits peace could confer to both communities.[59] This was followed by more direct diplomacy through the appointment of former Senator George Mitchell to lead the negotiations and Clinton’s own personal involvement. During his dramatic visit to Belfast at Christmas 1995, Clinton went out of his way to emphasize his consultations with Trimble, leading one former unionist member of parliament, Roy Bradford, to observe at the time that the visit “significantly changed the feeling among unionists that the American agenda is exclusively nationalist.”[60] Clinton’s willingness to lend support to unionist positions came into play again in the peace process end game, when, in a phone call with Trimble, Clinton backed up Blair’s commitment to “bring down” the power-sharing agreement if the IRA did not begin decommissioning following Sinn Fein’s entry into government.

The Peace Process

The Formal Process During the early 1990s, momentum began to build for launching a formal peace process for the first time since the failed Sunningdale conference of 1973. Initial talks began in 1991 (the inter-party or Brooke-Mayhew talks) involving the moderate parties — the two main unionist parties (the UUP and DUP), the SDLP, and the Alliance Party — and excluding the parties associated with the paramilitaries — Sinn Fein and the loyalist parties. The British government began a secret back channel dialogue with Sinn Fein in 1990 but the initiative failed and was shelved in 1993 because the British government insisted on a permanent end to violence as a condition of Sinn Fein’s participation in the peace process.[61] Following a wave of violence in October 1993, and with talks on the brink of collapse, the governments of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland issued the Downing Street Declaration in December 1993. The declaration addressed a number of the key principles to govern any settlement and opened the door for Sinn Fein to participate in formal talks following a renunciation of violence, including a “handing over of arms.”[62] In response, the IRA, in August 1994, announced “a complete cessation of military operations,” but the two governments insisted that the action was insufficient and that the IRA had to commit to a permanent renunciation of violence and arms decommissioning to participate in negotiations. In an effort to break the stalemate, the two governments established an international body, chaired by Mitchell, to look into the decommissioning issue. The group produced a report that concluded that the IRA/Sinn Fein would never accept decommissioning as a pre-condition,[63] but proposed instead that all parties be required to affirm a set of principles (“the Mitchell Principles”), which included, inter alia, a commitment to total disarmament. The report provided the British government a way out of the decommissioning stalemate, and the governments in London and Dublin announced that they would convene talks in June 1996 that would be open to all parties that accepted the Mitchell Principles (but without a decommissioning pre-condition). They did insist that the IRA restore its ceasefire (which the group had broken in February 1996) in order for Sinn Fein to participate, which happened in 1997. The process of selecting delegates was a complex formula based on elections to a Northern Ireland Forum for Political Dialogue. Delegates to the negotiations were chosen by members of the forum in a way that ensured the negotiations would be dominated by the major parties but would also guarantee the participation of smaller parties, including those associated with the loyalist paramilitaries, as well as women, Labour, and the Alliance Party.[64] The process included arrangements for expelling any party that violated the conditions of entry. The hardline unionists (the DUP and the United Kingdom Union Party) walked out at the outset, in part, in protest of the selection of Mitchell to chair the negotiations. But the UUP stayed in, partially because it didn’t trust the British government to protect its interests.[65] The hardline unionists walked out again when Sinn Fein was admitted to the talks in July 1997. Mitchell believes that their absence gave the moderate UUP room to negotiate, and that, had they stayed, an agreement might not have been possible.[66] The talks were divided into three strands: The first, chaired by the United Kingdom, was focused on governance issues for Northern Ireland. The second strand was focused on relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and was chaired by Mitchell and Harri Holkeri, a former Finnish prime minister.[67] The third was focused on Irish-U.K. relations, and was chaired by the two countries’ governments. Decisions were taken on the basis of “sufficient consensus.” For Strands Two and Three, this required a majority of each side (unionist and nationalist) separately, plus an overall majority of all delegates, as well as agreement by the two governments. Strand One had similar requirements, except the Irish government had no vote.[68] This arrangement meant that, at least theoretically, the UUP and SDLP could do a deal without either Sinn Fein or the DUP. Blair and Adams met following Sinn Fein’s entry into the talks, the first time a Sinn Fein leader had met with a British prime minister in 76 years.[69] The negotiations were protracted and by late 1997 were largely at a stalemate. This was followed by a rash of sectarian killings, which threatened to derail the process.[70] In January 1998, the British and Irish governments tabled a short document that had been negotiated with Trimble.[71] In March 1998, Mitchell announced a deadline of April 9 for conclusion of the talks. The choice of date was not entirely arbitrary, as the legislation that established the forum was due to expire in May 1998.[72] In addition, Mitchell believed that the agreement had to be completed, and a ratifying referendum held, before the “marching season” in July, a time of high tensions in Northern Ireland.[73] The parties reached an agreement on Good Friday, April 10, 1998, after side interventions by Blair (in the form of a written letter) and Clinton (in the form of a telephone call with Trimble) designed to assure the unionists that the agreement would not be implemented if the IRA failed to move forward with decommissioning. All told, the formal talks lasted 21 months. The Informal Negotiations The formal peace process unfolded in parallel with a complex set of inter-related secret and informal negotiations. These included talks between the British and Irish governments; between the British and Sinn Fein/the IRA; and between the Irish and various parties, including Sinn Fein, the SDLP, and the unionists. They also included dialogue that took place in Washington in connection with various parties’ visits to the United States and frequent contacts in Northern Ireland between U.S. diplomats and all the Northern Ireland parties.[74] Notably, there were almost no secret negotiations between the Northern Ireland parties themselves, with the notable exception of the Hume-Adams dialogue in the late 1980s. The secret talks allowed the parties to escape the pre-conditions barriers that impeded public dialogue with “terrorists,” but at the same time, the periodic exposure of the secret talks did pose challenges to the governments’ credibility and angered the moderate parties who felt their anti-violence stance was undermined by the governments’ willingness to negotiate with parties associated with active paramilitaries. The Agreement and Its Aftermath The Agreement mirrored the three-strand approach of the negotiations. Strand One established the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive. “Key decisions” could only be taken by “cross-community” consent defined as:
  1. either parallel consent, i.e., a majority of those members present and voting, including a majority of the unionist and nationalist designations present and voting; or
  2. a weighted majority (60 percent) of members present and voting, including at least 40 percent of each of the nationalist and unionist designations present and voting.
The Executive is run by the first minister and deputy first minister, jointly elected on a cross-community basis under the same rules for making key decisions in the Assembly. The jurisdiction of the devolved government was initially based on areas previously within the scope of the Northern Ireland government departments but could be enlarged with the approval of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Strand Two represented the North-South dimension: It created the North–South Ministerial Council and the North–South Implementation Bodies. The Agreement provided three different mechanisms for “all-island” actions: through the adoption of common policies, through coordinated policies implemented separately by the Northern Ireland and Irish governments, and through actions by North-South “implementation bodies.” To provide nationalists some confidence that the North-South dimension would not be subject to a unionist veto, the Agreement provided that the council had to agree on at least 12 “matters” for cooperation through cross-border institutions, drawn from a list of permissible subjects.[75] [quote id="4"] Strand Three established the East-West dimension: the British-Irish Council and the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference. The council consists of the two national governments plus the devolved governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, with a focus on “practical co-operation” on issues within the competence of the devolved governments, while the intergovernmental conference involves only the two national governments and was designed to give the Irish government a voice on non-devolved issues, in particular, security issues. The Agreement resolved the constitutional issues by enshrining the principle of consent: opening the prospect of unification with the South but only with the consent of a majority of the North. The Republic of Ireland agreed to amend its constitution to eliminate claims to sovereignty over the North,[76] while the British government repealed the 1920 Government of Ireland Act, which, in fact, provided a British veto over the status of Northern Ireland. The Agreement protected the option of dual citizenship for residents of Northern Ireland, irrespective of whether, in the future, Northern Ireland remained in the United Kingdom or became part of Ireland. It additionally included human rights provisions that specifically addressed some of the major Catholic concerns, including the establishment of a Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. There were also hortatory provisions on issues such as economic development and linguistic diversity. The Agreement largely sidestepped several of the substantive issues underlying the conflict. Although recognizing the importance of reconciliation and the need to address victims of violence, the Agreement established no mechanisms for this purpose. It deferred to subsequent decisions by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning on matters relating to the timing and modalities of decommissioning.[77] Similarly, the parties deferred to a newly created Independent Commission on Policing with regard to questions of policing and justice. Finally, the Agreement included no timetable for the withdrawal of British security forces and emergency powers. The implementation of the Agreement has faced significant challenges over the past two decades.[78] During the first decade following the signing of the Agreement, the British government twice had to restore direct rule, in 2000 and 2002, the second time for a period of five years. The first devolved government was led by the moderate parties (the UUP and SDLP) but subsequent elections have promoted Sinn Fein and the DUP to the fore. On the plus side, paramilitary violence has largely disappeared, though dissident groups remain a threat, and the British no longer play a direct security role. For an extended period following the Hillsborough Agreement (2010), when the two communities finally agreed on important issues not addressed in the 1998 Agreement (especially policing and criminal justice), the institutions were functioning reasonably well. The Northern Ireland economy received a significant boost in the first decade following the Agreement, notably in lowered unemployment rates. Since the 2008­–09 recession, growth has been much lower, but comparable to the rest of the United Kingdom.[79] Notably, the difference in unemployment rates between Catholics and Protestants has narrowed dramatically. But political scandal in 2017 led to institutional paralysis, which remains unresolved.[80] Inter-communal mistrust remains high, and volatile issues including language, parades, and symbols continue to be flash points. Despite intensive discussions since the Agreement was signed, there is still no agreed mechanism to address historical legacy issues. Brexit further complicates the prospects for the future. The DUP supported Brexit while a modest overall majority — 56 percent — opposed it. Sinn Fein has called Brexit “the most serious threat in the history of the peace process.”[81]

Who and What Made the Agreement Possible?

We are now in a position to take on the difficult question of judging the importance of three factors — circumstance, people, and process — in achieving the 1998 Agreement. There has been considerable debate about and attention given to the importance of individuals to the successful conclusion of the Agreement. Many of the participants themselves are quite explicit in crediting the efforts of individuals. For example, in an article written after the signing of the Agreement, Trimble singled out Blair, Ahearn, and Mitchell for credit.[82] Mitchell, in turn, focused on Blair and Ahearn,[83] as well as David Ervine, head of the Progressive Unionist Party.[84] Analysts, too, have weighed in, crediting, inter alia, Adams, Major, and Reynolds.[85] One well-connected BBC commentator later claimed that Father Alec Reid’s role was “absolutely critical” to the peace process.[86] In addition, analysts have focused on the personal relationships between key actors in the peace process, both positive and negative, as well as lack of relationships, as important factors. For example, Clinton’s strong ties with Blair facilitated coordination, in contrast with his frosty relationship with Major. Major’s strong personal relationship with Irish Taoiseach Albert Reynolds contributed to their ability to manage the sharp substantive differences between the two countries’ priorities.[87] Indeed, many assessments of why the process succeeded focus on trust-building exercises such as the extended Adam-Hume dialogue of 1988–93 and the decision to move the talks from Northern Ireland to the U.S. ambassador’s residence in London after the Agreement was signed but before it was implemented (providing a sharp contrast with tensions arising from the lack of personal contact or direct talks between the parties during the negotiations that produced the Agreement).[88] Clinton’s various meetings — with Trimble in Belfast during his 1995 visit and with all the key leaders during the annual St. Patrick’s Day events in Washington D.C. — and especially his close ties with Blair, all seem to have contributed to the successful outcome as well. But subsequent difficulties with implementing the Agreement raise questions about just how much trust was generated, and, therefore, how much it might have contributed to the Agreement in the first place. Of course, there is no definitive answer to the agency question, to the counterfactual “but for” claim.[89] There seems little doubt, for example, that Adams’ belief in the efficacy of political action rather than violence and Trimble’s willingness to engage in power sharing represented breaks from the past that were staunchly opposed by others in their parties until the very end (and beyond). At the same time, the two men’s rise to positions of power reflected broader forces. In the case of Sinn Fein/the IRA, Adams’ interest in pursuing a political solution was strengthened by the public backlash against violence, particularly after British security forces withdrew from the front lines. Indeed, it can be argued that Adams only turned to the political solution once the “ballot box and Armalite” strategy had failed. For Trimble, political changes at Westminster, which had nothing to do with Northern Ireland, left Northern Ireland’s unionists more isolated and dependent on themselves to protect their interests through devolution. In that sense, both Adams and Trimble had the fortune of being at the right place at the right time to assume leadership. Similarly, those who would give the laurel to Blair and Ahearn can argue that they succeeded in achieving, in relatively short time, what Major and his various Irish counterparts failed to accomplish. Yet, it is also possible to argue that what constrained Major, and what empowered Blair, was the size of the parliamentary majority — a fact that had little or nothing to do with their Northern Ireland policies.[90] Major has also been singled out for his willingness to engage both with Dublin and Sinn Fein, but here, too, his choices were highly constrained. While the security strategy had blunted the IRA’s efforts, there was widespread belief within British security circles (parallel to thinking in Sinn Fein) that force alone could not bring the conflict to an end. One way to try to answer this question of agency is to examine SDLP leader Seamus Mallon’s widely-quoted aphorism that the 1998 Agreement was “Sunningdale for slow learners.”[91] The implication of his statement is that, had “faster” learners been around in 1973–74, power sharing and North-South cooperation based on the principle of consent might have succeeded much earlier and the war might have ended much sooner.[92] Yet, it is hard to see in the context of the violence of the first years of the Troubles that there was much that unionist leader Brian Faulkner, or any other unionist leader, could have done to rally unionist support for power sharing, or that a different British prime minister (much less a different Taoiseach), through force or guile, could have countered the ferocious unionist opposition to the Sunningdale agreement. Similarly, it is difficult to see who within the IRA could have carried the day in favor of accepting the legitimacy of a reconstituted Northern Ireland Assembly and the unionist veto over Irish unification. (It is notable that Adams himself was propelled into a leadership role by his critique of the IRA’s 1975 ceasefire.)[93] Finally, there seems to have been no plausible Conservative leader (much less one from Labour) who could have pushed the deal through over the violent unionist opposition. In other words, Sunningdale failed, not because of poor leadership (or “slow learners”), but because circumstances were not propitious for an agreement that embodied the key principles of consent, power sharing, and cross-border institutions. Put another way, the structural changes that were just beginning to work themselves out following the onset of the Troubles were a necessary condition to the acceptance of the framework that was on offer, but they were rejected by both Sinn Fein/the IRA and the unionists in 1973. [quote id="5"] At the same time, it is possible to imagine that the 1998 Agreement might have failed. It is plausible that crucial decisions in the run-up to the Agreement might have gone a different way — Ahearn’s decision to revise the agreement he had reached only days before on the North-South institutions, Trimble’s willingness to accept Blair’s promise on decommissioning, or Mitchell’s decision to impose a firm deadline. In other words, the structural forces may have been necessary, but alone they were insufficient to account for the fact that the Agreement happened when it did, in the precise shape that it took. Of course, all of the central actors faced considerable constraints on their freedom of action. For example, Trimble spent an extraordinary amount of time and effort dealing with internal dissension within his party, and on several occasions was forced to renegotiate after finding that he could not sell a proposed deal to them. Adams, too, emphasized the constraints he faced from other leaders and the rank and file.[94] Even Hume faced internal dissension when he launched his dialogue with Adams. It is reasonable to assert that these protestations also reflected a well-known negotiating tactic — “My hands are tied.” But it is also true that many of these leaders made important choices along the way that built sufficient credibility with their constituents to give them the necessary leeway. This was dramatically illustrated following the brutal IRA attack on a loyalist headquarters in Belfast’s Shankill Road on Oct. 13, 1993. Adams’ appearance as a pall bearer at the funeral of one of the IRA gunmen led many to believe that his action would kill any hopes for making progress toward peace. Yet, two months later, Adams used his credibility with the IRA to persuade its Army Council not to reject publicly the Downing Street Declaration, issued just two months after the bombing. Both governments later acknowledged that Adams’ failure to participate in the funeral would have irreparably damaged his credibility with the IRA.[95] More broadly, Adams and McGuinness demonstrated extraordinary dexterity in managing the almost unimaginable process of bringing the IRA leadership to accept the unthinkable changes in republican orthodoxy embodied in the 1998 Agreement. Similarly, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Mo Mowlam’s audacious decision in January 1998 to meet with the loyalist prisoners at the Maze Prison is frequently credited with saving the process, despite the outcry of the UUP.[96] Even Trimble’s notorious “dance” with the DUP’s Ian Paisley at Drumcree can be seen in this light.[97] As Martin Mansergh, senior advisor to several Fianna Fail Taoiseachs during the peace process, observed, “the thin centrist strand made a valuable contribution but was not nearly strong enough to support a settlement on its own.”[98] The inclusion of parties associated with hard-line positions complicated their interactions with each other and with the governments but strengthened their legitimacy with their bases when the time came to do a deal. This argues strongly for the importance of individual choice. Perhaps the best way to characterize the role of agency is to say that circumstance dealt each of the major players a reasonably favorable hand which facilitated agreement, but that each played the hand quite skillfully.[99] Each saw, earlier than many others, the path forward that led to the Agreement. It is certainly possible to imagine that others who might plausibly have been in their place — even those who shared the same basic approach to the conflict — might not have sealed the deal when it came about. At the same time, the very fact that the Agreement ultimately found implementation through a pact that featured Paisley as first minister is a reflection of the power of the forces pushing to end the fighting. Agency played an important role in the timing and precise terms of the Agreement, but arguably a much less significant one in the broader turn away from violence. A similar analysis applies to assessing the role of process — both formal and informal — in ultimately reaching the Agreement. At its core, the most significant feature of the process was the focus on inclusivity,[100] especially the controversial decision to involve the parties associated with the paramilitaries before they unequivocally and demonstrably renounced violence, rather than seeking to achieve an agreement involving only the “constitutional” parties. From the early days of the Troubles through the early 1990s, both the British and Irish governments had pursued a different approach, seeking to marginalize the paramilitaries and limit the negotiations to the constitutional parties.[101] By almost all assessments, the very presence in the negotiations of individuals strongly associated with the “guns” — McGuinness (Sinn Fein/the IRA), Ervine (Progressive Unionist Party), and Gary McMichael (Ulster Democratic Party) — which caused such heartburn for more traditional political leaders, proved central to bringing about an agreement that would stick. Thus, Major’s reluctant decision to find a way to begin inclusive talks following the Mitchell report proved vital. A related feature of the process that was instrumental was the sequencing — the willingness to move the process forward without a firm commitment to a permanent ceasefire and at least initial steps toward the paramilitary groups decommissioning their arms. The decision to move from pre-conditions to “conditions subsequent” was another feature that distinguished this negotiation from the Sunningdale agreement and unblocked the stalemate that plagued the process during most of the Major years. The decision seems vindicated not only by the successful conclusion of the negotiations, but also by the subsequent IRA decommissioning and the relative low level of defection by dissatisfied members of the paramilitaries. It is not hard to imagine that a deal done by the SDLP and the UUP alone might have met serious resistance from the IRA and the loyalists, though of course, the declining effectiveness of violence, apparent by the late 1980s, might have tempered the scale and duration of the backlash. At the same time, the inclusion of such diverse perspectives had an impact on the content of the Agreement in two important respects. First, the parties’ mutual suspicions drove them toward a consociational model that blocked vetoes. This reduced the risk of either party being outvoted and thus made the Agreement more palatable to their respective constituencies.[102] But this came at the cost of possible paralysis. Left on their own, an agreement involving only the UUP and SDLP might well have tilted the balance toward a more flexible approach. Second, the deep divisions even within the two camps led the parties to defer important decisions on key substantive issues ranging from the future of policing to the role of the North-South bodies, setting the stage for the predictable crises that followed. A number of commentators have focused on the role of civil society in bringing about the Agreement, both as an outside force pressing the parties and as formal participants in the negotiations. It is difficult to assess how much the grass roots peace movement helped to build opposition to violence and thus facilitate the paramilitaries’ decision to give it up. Peace groups had been active throughout the Troubles, for example, in the women’s movement in the 1980s, with only limited success in bringing an end to the fighting. Several commentators have focused on the formal role of civil society organizations in the process. Maria Power, for example, concludes that “the negotiations leading up to the agreement demonstrated the centrality the peacebuilding or community-relations sector had in conflict resolution.”[103] Others give more measured judgments: “[W]hile the contribution of the [civil] sector was not crucial to the eventual outcome of the political negotiations in 1998, it was nonetheless positive and significant.”[104] These assertions are difficult to assess, most importantly because the formal process itself was relatively less important compared with the proliferation of secret channels and private negotiations, which excluded civil society. Other features of the process seem less consequential. On the whole, the formal processes, especially the Stormont negotiations, played a very modest role at best. The combination of the setting, which was sterile and forbidding,[105] and the parties’ unwillingness to deal with each other face-to-face in public settings, relegated the formal sessions to play acting, mostly designed to reassure the parties’ constituents that they were holding fast to their uncompromising positions. Even in private, the parties rarely engaged with each other directly. This accentuated the importance of the governments (primarily the United Kingdom and Ireland, but, at critical moments, the United States as well) and Mitchell as go-betweens. Much has been written about the role of Mitchell and his two colleagues as third-party mediators. On the substance of the negotiations themselves, the three chairs played relatively modest roles compared with the British and Irish governments. Indeed, during the crucial final days of the negotiations, Mitchell reluctantly gave the parties a draft proposal on Strand Two, drafted by Blair and Ahearn, against his own judgment since he believed the provisions were anathema to unionists and would torpedo the negotiations.[106] As noted above, much of the negotiations took place outside the formal process, where the role of the three chairs was limited. Nonetheless, Mitchell’s personal integrity, reputation for impartiality, and patience played a valuable role in keeping the negotiations going. Similarly, the availability of the de Chastelain commission as a third-party means of validating decommissioning was critical to its attainment. One area where the formal process arguably did make a difference was the use of deadlines, particularly to bring the negotiations to a conclusion. Mitchell imposed a two-week deadline in March 1998 ahead of marching season, which triggered an intense period of engagement leading to Mitchell’s tabling of a “composite” document on April 6, including the abortive British-Irish proposal on Strand Two, which triggered the final crisis of the negotiations.[107] By contrast, the open-ended nature of the process following the first IRA ceasefire contributed to its breakdown in early 1996.

Lessons for Practitioners: What Does This Mean for Future Peace Negotiations?

The Importance of “Ripeness” and How to Recognize It The experience of Northern Ireland strongly underscores a major factor highlighted in the literature on conflict resolution — the importance of ripeness.[108] The very fact that the parties adopted in 1998 what they had rejected in 1973 strongly suggests that changed circumstances played a critical role. But this observation is of limited value to the practitioner without some guidelines for assessing when circumstances are “ripe.” While policymakers are often limited in what they can do to create the conditions that make a conflict ripe for settlement,[109] it is a vital tool of statecraft to be able to spot an opportunity when it is emerging. It is equally important to understand when a conflict is not ripe for negotiation: It can be argued that the premature effort leading to the Sunningdale agreement in 1973 actually contributed to prolonging the conflict. Should this have been apparent to the British government at the time? One lesson of the Northern Ireland experience is that the secret channels developed in the late 1980s and earlier 1990s played a crucial role in providing the governments and the political parties themselves an opportunity to judge whether the circumstances were ripe for agreement before launching a speculative — and perhaps counterproductive — public negotiation. There were risks involved in secret diplomacy. The desire to preserve secrecy led the governments perilously close to public dishonesty, which, when exposed, endangered their credibility. Nevertheless, the groundwork that this diplomacy laid ultimately reduced the risks that each side took by engaging in the process. These secret contacts allowed the key parties to explore the implications of flexibility and to adapt their positions without the risk of embarrassment if the gambits proved unsuccessful and the other side unforthcoming.[110] [quote id="6"] Some commentators have focused on the idea of “stalemate” as a central characteristic of ripeness. Here, it is true that Sinn Fein had concluded that it could not “bomb” its way to Irish unification. British officials, especially in the security community, similarly concluded that despite the growing efficacy of their efforts in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the IRA could not be “defeated.” Thus, some have argued that the more effective British security policies of the late 1980s and early 1990s worked to create a stalemate ripe for settlement. But it seems unlikely that stalemate by itself would have brought about the 1998 Agreement. The return to violence in the mid-1990s (after the initial ceasefire declaration in 1994), suggests that many in the IRA still considered violence (or at least the threat of violence) an important element of leverage in the negotiations. Similarly, some in the unionist community (dissenters within the UUP as well as the DUP and United Kingdom) were not convinced of the need to compromise. For this reason, I think it is more useful to see the Agreement as a result of the fact that each side could see the agreement as a “win” (at least in relative terms) rather than a product of a stalemate from which they sought to extricate themselves. Another feature of ripeness goes to the question of how the parties assess the impact of the passage of time on their chances of achieving their goals. The parties in this case reached an agreement because their assessments of time converged. The unionists believed that time was not on their side — that demographics and the politics of the United Kingdom were steadily eroding their leverage. So they accepted a power-sharing arrangement, which they had firmly rejected as a matter of principle for decades, and acquiesced in the idea that sovereignty might be transferred from the United Kingdom to the Republic by a popular vote. In return, they got the Republic of Ireland to amend its constitution to repeal its claim of sovereignty over the six counties and secured a more limited form of North-South institutions. Trimble articulated this view in a speech shortly after the conclusion of the Agreement:
A number of responses were possible to the changed situation [the Hume-Adams process leading Sinn Fein to pursue the political track]… . I remember a parliamentary colleague saying…we should revert to saying No all the time… . The important point that I draw from this, generally speaking, is that it is not enough to be passive, to adopt a tactic or an approach that consciously or deliberately leaves the decision in the hands of other people. It is not always the way you like and you can never be certain exactly how it is going to work out.[111]
Sinn Fein, too, was influenced by its assessment of the future. On the one hand, its leaders believed they had extracted most of what they could get from the use of violence. They also feared that they would be unable to sustain the IRA’s ceasefire much longer if they failed to produce a result through negotiations. But they also perceived that by making key concessions (e.g., abandoning their insistence that Britain renounce sovereignty over Northern Ireland and accepting the principle of consent), they could turn the passage of time in their favor by achieving an agreed unification through the ballot box. Thus, both unionists’ fears about the future and republicans’ hopes for it led each side to conclude that this agreement, with all its painful compromises, was better than walking away and taking a chance on the future. This sense of ripeness helps explain why the terrorist attacks that plagued the peace process throughout the 1990s (the IRA Shankill Road bombing in 1993 and the subsequent loyalist revenge attacks or the Canary Wharf and Manchester bombings in 1996, for example) did not derail the talks. Once the parties had made the strategic decision to seek peace, violence actually seemed to have served as an impetus rather than a barrier to compromise.[112] Understanding each party’s assessment of the impact of time can help the peacemaker both decide when to intervene and how to use these assessments to achieve an agreement. The Dayton Accords, which ended the Bosnian War, are instructive. It was at the moment that the Serb forces saw the tide of battle turn against them, but before the Bosnians and Croats had the means to defeat the Serbs on their own, that the United States had maximum leverage in bringing about an agreement. The Impact of Process on the Shape of the Outcome Many have held up the process leading to the 1998 Agreement as a model of successful conflict resolution. Whether the process contributed to the success depends, of course, on the definition of success. There is little doubt that the Agreement has led to a decrease in intercommunal violence. Including the paramilitaries made it less likely that they would attack the process or the agreement that the process produced. Equally important, it gave them a stake in taking on dissidents who wanted to challenge the Agreement. Although splinter groups persisted on both the republican and loyalist sides, their impact has been marginal. But this process decision has come at a cost. Because the process helped lead to a consociational agreement that protects the rights of the two communities but deferred tackling many of the underlying sources of conflict (e.g., policing, economic equality, etc.), the peace continues to be fragile, sectarian tensions remain high, and the institutions created by the agreement are barely functional, at best.[113] These concerns were raised by many of the civil society participants during the negotiations, but their voices were marginalized in favor of the priority attached to getting the men with the guns to lay down their arms. In this respect, there are important resemblances to the way in which the Dayton process shaped the substance of the Dayton Accords, which ended the fighting in Bosnia. Both processes included the hard men who had stoked the conflict, resulting in agreements that, in somewhat similar ways, froze sectarian identity in the framework of the settlement and thus perpetuated the underlying conflict. In both cases, hopes that the passage of time and public pressure would lead to an evolution of the political arrangements away from their sectarian roots have been disappointed. Of course, including former paramilitaries in peace negotiations does not guarantee this kind of result. In South Africa, the Africa National Congress party and the apartheid government created more unitary structures in their peace agreement, which included explicit elements of reconciliation. Nonetheless, it seems fair to say that the shape of the peace process in South Africa contributed both to the success of the agreement and its limitations. The lessons of these cases are clear: Practitioners need to consider the potential long-term costs of a peace process that focuses primarily on the short-term goal of ending the fighting. One commentator has called this the choice between a “no more shooting” and “no more fighting” type of agreement.[114] Empowering the Peacemakers The analysis of the role of agency in the Northern Ireland peace process suggests that people do matter. However, the practitioner’s tools for creating “peacemakers” is limited. But practitioners can help support the people who have both the inclination and the capacity to make the choices for peace. Throughout the Northern Ireland peace process, the governments involved made conscious efforts to support those whom they believed wanted to, and were capable of, making the deal — from Clinton granting Adams a visa to his embrace of Trimble during his visit to Belfast, to Mo Mowlam’s visit to the Maze prison to meet with loyalist paramilitaries. Of course, these kinds of efforts require finesse. Sometimes embracing a peacemaker can backfire —arguably Clinton’s support for Shimon Peres after Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination did Peres more harm than good. In Northern Ireland, there was considerable wariness about outside parties — whether from Dublin, London, or Washington — attempting to influence events in Ulster. In some cases, such outside involvement ended up raising suspicions, rather than enhancing the authority those outsiders sought to promote. Third Party Guarantors For the Agreement to work, it was critical for the unionists to believe that, whatever long-term risks they might run in terms of demographics, etc., the IRA’s cessation of violence — and the resort to exclusively peaceful means — was not simply tactical. To some extent, unionists saw decommissioning as reducing the IRA’s capability to return to war. But most recognized that the IRA might easily replace any arms it destroyed. More important was the unionist belief that, because the IRA had so strongly resisted decommissioning in the past, an agreement to decommission was a real sign of peaceful intent. For that very reason, however, the IRA was unwilling to take even modest steps on decommissioning until the deal was complete. [quote id="7"] The success in breaking this stalemate — and the unionists’ ultimate willingness to accept decommissioning as a subsequent condition of the Agreement — highlights the importance of credible interlocutors and third-party guarantors. Only when Blair gave Trimble his personal assurance that he would eject Sinn Fein from the Northern Ireland Executive if the IRA failed to decommission (a commitment reiterated by Clinton in the closing hours), did Trimble agree to go along.[115] The British government had helped earn that credibility through its actions, for example, when Mowlam temporarily ejected Sinn Fein from the talks in February 1998 after a series of killings linked to the IRA, at the risk of collapsing the talks. Trimble’s willingness to accept the procedures for decommissioning depended on the credibility of a report from an independent commission rather than relying on the word of “interested parties.”[116] Sequencing The challenge posed by decommissioning was, perhaps, the most consequential of a recurring set of problems surrounding sequencing. By the early 1990s, the contours of the Agreement had emerged, but issues of sequencing proved a major obstacle to progress. Whether Sinn Fein’s participation in talks should follow or precede a ceasefire or whether Adams’ visa to the United States should be made conditional on a cessation of violence are just two examples. As late as 1995, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Patrick Mayhew’s insistence that some act of decommission precede Sinn Fein’s entry into the talks (even after the IRA had entered into a ceasefire) nearly collapsed the whole project.[117] Willingness to accept a condition subsequent rather than a pre-condition was a major test of how much each side was willing and able to take risks for peace. Sinn Fein, in particular, insisted that it needed prior actions by the British and Irish governments to permit it to move forward. The problem of sequencing in regards to decommissioning returned following the conclusion of the 1998 Agreement, when the question arose of whether decommissioning had to precede Sinn Fein taking its place in the Northern Ireland Executive. This impasse was again resolved in a review conducted by Mitchell, which led to the pre-condition being dropped.[118] As Quentin Thomas, a senior British civil servant, observed, “the question is whether one accentuates the positive and seeks to bring people in when they appear at the door of democracy and want to join talks. Or whether you hold them there and subject them to some examination to see whether their shoes are clean.”[119] Perhaps Clinton’s decision was the easiest, as he had the least to lose if the IRA returned to violence after Adams was issued the visa. But even there Clinton risked causing complications in the U.S.-U.K. relationship. Practitioners face strong pressure to impose pre-conditions to negotiations. They fear that entering into open-ended negotiations may be perceived as a sign of weakness and may subject them to domestic criticism for abandoning important red lines.[120] Yet, the imposition of pre-conditions often becomes a straightjacket, as the other side is unlikely to give up valuable leverage without some confidence in the overall shape of the outcome. The secret negotiations in the lead-up to the Agreement helped reduce the danger that Sinn Fein/the IRA would simply pocket dropping the pre-conditions, but in the end the British and Irish governments understood that the only possibility of reaching an agreement was to take that risk. It was crucial that the governments establish credibility that they would enforce the conditions after the Agreement was signed. Practitioners can draw an important lesson from this on how to avoid the pre-condition trap. Substance The parties involved in the peace process made little effort to resolve the substantive issues that divided them. The constitutional and process issues that formed the heart of the Agreement largely involved broad issues of principles. By contrast, the substantive concerns — policing, criminal justice, social welfare — were areas where the details were as important as the principles. For these kinds of issues, the parties chose to defer resolution by handing the problem to independent commissions (for things like decommissioning and policing), to the Assembly (on devolved issues), and to the British and Irish governments (on non-devolved issues). The last minute snag on Strand Two illustrates the problem of dealing with detail. The Irish government and the nationalists wanted strong substantive commitments on the scope of North-South bodies, but in the end had to settle for broad language and hope that the specifics could be agreed to later.[121] This approach facilitated concluding the Agreement at the expense of littering the landscape with landmines that have continued to dog its implementation. Thus, practitioners face a choice in deciding whether to tackle detailed issues of substance similar to the issue of inclusivity — whether to seize a short-term gain (e.g., stopping the fighting) at the risk of long-term costs (e.g., perpetuating underlying sources of conflict).

Conclusion

The 1998 Agreement came at a time of considerable post-Cold War optimism about the prospects for resolving long-standing political conflict, from the Middle East to the Balkans to Colombia. The passage of time has tempered those hopes, as many conflicts have proved resistant to settlement, and even those agreements that have remained intact have largely proved disappointing in bringing about true reconciliation. The 1998 Agreement certainly falls into that category, but the brutal violence has not re-emerged. As the international community contemplates future peacemaking efforts, in Afghanistan, Yemen, South Sudan, and beyond, the Northern Ireland peace process continues to offer important lessons to scholars and practitioners alike.   Hon. James B. Steinberg is professor of social science, international affairs, and law at Syracuse University and previously served as dean of the Maxwell School, from July 2011 until June 2016, and dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin from 2005 to 2009. His government service includes deputy secretary of state (2009–11), deputy national security advisor (1996–2000) and director of the State Department Policy Planning Staff (1994–96). Recent publications include, “China-Russia Cooperation: How Should the US Respond,” in Richard J. Ellings and Robert Sutter, eds., Axis of Authoritarians (National Bureau of Asian Research 2018); “US versus China: A Technology Cold War,” Nikkei Asian Review, March 19, 2019; and A Glass Half Full? Rebalance, Reassurance and Resolve in the US-China Relationship (Brookings Institution Press, 2017) and Strategic Reassurance and Resolve: US-China Relations in the 21st Century (Princeton University Press, 2014) (both with Michael O’Hanlon).   Image: Robert Paul Young [post_title] => The Good Friday Agreement: Ending War and Ending Conflict in Northern Ireland [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-good-friday-agreement-ending-war-and-ending-conflict-in-northern-ireland [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-09-12 17:45:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-09-12 21:45:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tnsr.org/?p=1453 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => The 1998 Agreement that ended Northern Ireland's bloody civil war has often been attributed to many of the remarkable individuals involved in the peace process. But how much of a difference did they really make? James Steinberg explores this question by examining the interaction between structural factors, the peace process, and efforts made by key individuals involved in the process. He also looks at what lessons this history holds for future peace negotiations. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 2, Iss 3 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => The source of the Northern Ireland conflict was, in part, political — the legacy of the dispute among Irish nationalists about whether to accept, even temporarily, the partition of Ireland. It was also social and economic.  ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The unionists’ desire to achieve greater control over their destiny played a crucial role in the final decision to accept the 1998 Agreement... ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Although the centrality of the Northern Ireland issue came, over time, to define the two parties less and less, there remained a perception that Fianna Fail was more nationalist.  ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The Agreement resolved the constitutional issues by enshrining the principle of consent: opening the prospect of unification with the South but only with the consent of a majority of the North. ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Perhaps the best way to characterize the role of agency is to say that circumstance dealt each of the major players a reasonably favorable hand which facilitated agreement, but that each played the hand quite skillfully. ) [5] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => While policymakers are often limited in what they can do to create the conditions that make a conflict ripe for settlement, it is a vital tool of statecraft to be able to spot an opportunity when it is emerging.  ) [6] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Practitioners need to consider the potential long-term costs of a peace process that focuses primarily on the short-term goal of ending the fighting.  ) ) [style] => strategist [type] => Strategist [style_label] => The Strategist [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 1811 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 20 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] As with almost every issue, large and small, involving Northern Ireland, even terminology is controversial and tinged with partisan overtones. In the United States, the Irish Republic, and among Northern Ireland nationalists, the agreement is commonly referred to as the “Good Friday Agreement.” Among unionist, it is often called the “Belfast Agreement.” In this essay I will use the “1998 Agreement” or simply the “Agreement,” to describe the outcome of the peace process. [2] Approximately 3,500 people were killed during the Troubles. Of these, a little more than 1,500 were from the Catholic community in Northern Ireland, 1,250 from the Protestant community, and the rest (around 700) from outside Northern Ireland (including British security forces). See, “Statistical Breakdown of Deaths in the ‘Troubles,’” Wesley Johnston, accessed May 8, 2019, http://www.wesleyjohnston.com/users/ireland/past/troubles/troubles_stats.html. [3] This paper largely focuses on the events leading up the 1998 Agreement, but, in order to assess what happened and why, I touch briefly on subsequent developments, without going into detail into the many follow-on negotiations involving the Agreement’s implementation. [4] This paper draws on a number of these studies, as well as my own personal involvement, beginning in the 1980s as an aide to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, and, more substantively, as director of policy planning at the State Department (1994–1996) and deputy national security advisor to President Bill Clinton (1996–2000). The studies include Eamon Mallie and David McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2001); Thomas Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process: Ending the Troubles (New York: Palgrave, 2001); George J. Mitchell Making Peace (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999); Cathy Gormley-Heenan, Political Leadership and the Northern Ireland Peace Process (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2007); Maria Power, ed., Building Peace in Northern Ireland (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2011); Tim Pat Coogan, The Trouble: Ireland’s Ordeal 1966-1996 and the Search for Peace (Boulder, CO: Roberts Reinhardt Publishers, 1996); Paul Bew, Peter Gibbon, and Henry Patterson, Northern Ireland 1921-2001: Political Forces and Social Classes (London: Serif, 2002); Paul Bew, The Making and Remaking of the Good Friday Agreement (Dublin: Liffey Press, 2007); Ed Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA (New York: W.W. Norton, 2002). [5] At least one other scholar-participant has written extensively about the peace process: Paul Bew, long-time professor of Irish Politics at Queens University, Belfast, was an advisor to David Trimble. [6] The idea for this essay arose out of a RAND conference designed to help those involved in the Afghanistan peace process think about lessons learned from past peace conferences. I am grateful to RAND for its support of the initial research on this project. [7] In addition to George Mitchell, see, for example: Alastair Campbell, The Blair Years: Extracts from the Alastair Campbell Diaries (London: Hutchinson, 2007); Gerry Adams, An Irish Journal (Kerry: Brandon, 2001); Gerry Adams, Hope and History: Making Peace in Northern Ireland (Kerry: Brandon, 2004); David Trimble, To Raise Up a New Northern Ireland (Belfast: Belfast Press, 2001); Kate Fearon, Women’s Work: the Story of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1999), as well as the memoirs of President Clinton, Prime Minister Major, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Marjorie “Mo” Mowlam, etc. [8] Some might fairly argue that I have left out one key group of actors — the civil servants and policy advisors (including government ministers) who played a role that was somewhat independent of their political masters. This group includes important figures such as Peter Brooke, Quentin Thomas, Jonathan Powell, and Mo Mowlam on the British side; Martin Mansergh, Sean O’Huiginn, and Paddy Teahon on the Irish side; and Tony Lake and Nancy Soderberg in the United States — to name just a few — as well as the advisors to the various parties in Northern Ireland. For a rich, first-hand account of the role of officials on the British side, see Graham Spencer, ed., The British and Peace in Northern Ireland, (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015). [9] Within the Protestant community there were significant class and social differences. Although the dominant forces in Northern Ireland were Protestant, many Protestants were also poor or marginalized, and these differences accounted in part for the divisions and strains within the unionist community, a dimension richly documented in Dean Godson’s biography of David Trimble: Himself Alone: David Trimble and the Ordeal of Unionism (London: Harper Collins, 2004). [10] 1926 census. Hennessey puts the Catholic percentage at about 33 percent at the time of partition. Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 2. [11] “2001 Census, Key Statistics, Table KS07a,” Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, accessed May 16, 2019,  https://www.nisra.gov.uk/sites/nisra.gov.uk/files/publications/2001-census-results-key-statistics-report-tables.pdf,;  See also “Background Information on Northern Ireland Society,” Conflict Archive on the Internet, accessed May 16, 2019, https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/ni/religion.htm, for the long term trends. In the most recent census, Catholics now make up 45 percent of the population, while Protestants make up 48 percent. “2011 Census: Religion in Northern Ireland,” Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, https://www.ninis2.nisra.gov.uk/public/census2011analysis/religion/religionCommentary.pdf. Charles Landow and Mohammed Aly Sergie, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, Council on Foreign Relations, last updated March 12, 2019, https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/northern-ireland-peace-process. [12] “If in the future a majority of the people of Northern Ireland clearly wish for and formally consent to the establishment of a united Ireland” the two governments “will introduce and support in the respective Parliaments legislation to give effect to that wish.” To be clear, even those sympathetic to the nationalist cause did not believe that demography would change the outcome quickly. Bew, The Making and Remaking of the Good Friday Agreement, 28. [13] Andy Bielenberg and Raymond Ryan, “Irish Economic Development: Past, Present, Future?,” Irish Examiner, May 20, 2013, https://www.irishexaminer.com/business/irish-economic-development-past-present-future-231714.html; “Economies of Ireland, North and South, Since 1920,” Encyclopedia of Irish History and Culture, accessed May 8, 2019, https://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/economies-ireland-north-and-south-1920. [14] John Bradley, “The History of Economic Development in Ireland, North and South,” Proceedings of the British Academy, no. 98 (1999): 35–68, https://www.thebritishacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/98p035.pdf. [15] Peter Donaghy, “Is Northern Ireland Dramatically Poorer than the Republic?,” Slugger O’Toole, March 26, 2018, https://sluggerotoole.com/2018/03/26/is-northern-ireland-dramatically-poorer-than-the-republic/. [16] The importance of single market and more broadly the E.U. dimension was reflected in John Hume’s first draft of what became the Downing Street Declaration. Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 111. It’s worth noting that the challenge Brexit now poses to this “economics will drive politics” approach to all-island integration was foreshadowed in the divergent decisions of Ireland and the United Kingdom on the single currency. See Bew, The Making and Remaking of the Good Friday Agreement, 26. [17] For an extensive treatment of the IRA-Libya connection, see Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, especially the “Prologue.” [18] The term “republican” relates back to the divisions within the anti-British forces during the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1920. Republicans rejected the residual links to Great Britain retained in the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. Their efforts were partially vindicated by the creation of the Republic in 1949, which not only broke the formal ties to the United Kingdom but also included a constitutional claim, under Articles 2 and 3, to the counties of Northern Ireland. The repeal of these provisions was central to unionist support for the 1998 Agreement. [19] There was a third, smaller mainstream party, the United Kingdom Union Party, largely the platform for a prominent, anti-agreement Protestant member of parliament from Northern Ireland, Robert McCartney. [20] The DUP was affiliated with the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force, which, together with the Progressive Unionist Party, was affiliated with the Ulster Defence Association. The perspectives of the loyalist parties are discussed in more detail below. [21] The “official” wing was heavily influenced by Marxist theory, and focused on the class conflict that it believed united the North and South rather than on the political identity of being “Irish,” which had spawned the IRA at the beginning of the 20th century. See Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 56–79. [22] Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 44. [23] The phrase was coined by IRA director of publicity, and long-time Adams ally, Danny Morrison in 1981: “Will anyone here object if with a ballot paper in this hand and an Armalite in this hand, we take power in Ireland?” Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 203. [24] In the first elections contested by both the SLDP and Sinn Fein in the early-to-mid-1980s, the SDLP led Sinn Fein by 5–6 percentage points. That margin grew to around 10 to 12 percent in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Sinn Fein finally overtook the SDLP in local elections and in elections to Westminster in 2001, in elections to the Stormont Assembly in 2003, and in European elections in 2004. For complete Northern Ireland elections results, see: “Election Results in Northern Ireland Since 1973,” Elections: Northern Ireland Elections, accessed May 8, 2019, https://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/gallsum.htm. [25] Hennessey focuses on the “Ulsterization” of security in the North, which led to a reduced British military presence. This had the effect both of removing a major nationalist grievance and forcing the IRA to focus its violence on “Irish,” albeit Protestant, victims, rather than what they considered the colonial oppressor. Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 39. [26] Others, especially Moloney, argue that Adams’ decision to move Sinn Fein to a political approach was part of a long-term plan conceived much earlier and which became more explicit around 1983–84. Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 240. Moloney also notes the decline in the Sinn Fein vote compared with the SDLP beginning with the 1984 European Parliament elections and accelerated by the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement as well as the increasing effectiveness of British security operations and the electoral backlash stemming from a number of botched IRA operations. Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 326–49. The Enniskillen bombings, which led to the death of a number of non-combatants at a Remembrance Day event in 1987 was a particular turning point. Sinn Fein/IRA leader Martin McGuinness himself later observed, “Obviously it was going to deal a damaging blow to Irish Republicanism.” Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 63. [27] Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 41. [28] “John Hume/Gerry Adams Joint Statement,” Sinn Fein, April 23, 1993, https://www.sinnfein.ie/contents/15217. [29] For accounts of these discussions and the importance of maintaining confidential channels throughout the conflict, see: Peter Taylor, Provos: The IRA and Sinn Fein (London: Bloomsbury, 1997) chap. 22; and Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, chap. 5. [30] The backlash also had its roots in the British strategy to move away from using British forces to provide security in favor of Northern Ireland security personnel, in particular the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The IRA could argue that violence against British forces was an attack on an “occupying force,” but attacks on the constabulary represented the killing of fellow Irish citizens. It should be noted that some skeptics have suggested that Sinn Fein/the IRA never really embraced the political track, but rather, cynically backed the process leading up to the Agreement and ultimately the Agreement itself on the expectation that unionists would ultimately reject it, allowing Sinn Fein to revert to it traditional unification objectives after having demonstrated that compromise with Unionism was futile. See: Bew, The Making and Remaking of the Good Friday Agreement, 30–31. Moloney disagrees, arguing that while IRA leaders Adams and McGuiness continued to make arguments of this kind to hardliners in the IRA, in fact, they had “made the choice for peace.” Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, chap. 17. [31] Most in the unionist community and in Great Britain believed that Adams was a member of the IRA’s governing Army Council, an assertion consistently denied by Adams. McGuiness’ links to the IRA were clearer. Moloney makes the most detailed case in support of the argument that Adams played a central, formal role in the IRA from the earliest days of the Troubles until the Agreement itself, although even by Moloney’s account, there seemed to be a substantial disconnect between Adams’ evolving political strategy and the active (and politically damaging) actions of the IRA in the late 1980s and early 1990s, such as the use of “human bombs.” Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 347–49. [32] This was most obvious at the time the all-party talks began in 1997, when Sinn Fein accepted the Mitchell principles, allowing Sinn Fein to enter the talks, while at the same time the IRA indicated that it “had problems” with some aspects of the principles, thus preserving ambiguity about whether it had accepted exclusively peaceful means: “The Sinn Fein position actually goes beyond the Mitchell Principles. Their affirmation of these principles is therefore quite compatible with their position. As to the IRA's attitude to the Mitchell Principles per se, well, the IRA would have problems with sections of the Mitchell Principles. But then the IRA is not a participant in these talks.” “Mitchell Principles Problematic – IRA,” Irish Times, Sept, 12, 1997, https://www.irishtimes.com/news/mitchell-principles-problematic-ira-1.105491. [33] In A Secret History of the IRA, Moloney catalogues the serious challenges to Adams’ strategy during the key months leading up the Agreement. [34] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 281. [35] For a rich history of the evolution of the UUP during this period, see Godson, Himself Alone. [36] The Anglo-Irish Agreement had a complex impact on subsequent events. As noted above, it did appear to contemplate a political process that could lead to a united Ireland, as well as conceded a role for the South in Northern Ireland affairs. At the same time, this possibility was undercut by Thatcher’s own hardline unionist sensibilities, reflected in the her famous “out, out, out” speech of 1984, in which she ruled out the three solutions for Northern Ireland proposed by the Irish government — unity, federation, or joint authority (between the United Kingdom and Ireland). Thatcher justified the concessions in the Anglo-Irish Agreement as a way to gain Irish support for tougher security measures against the IRA. Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 26. [37] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 72. [38] Hennessey argues that Molyneux did not share this distrust, despite the Downing Street Declaration, quoting Molyneux’s statement, “There is no possibility of us being betrayed.” Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 92. But the subsequent release of the British-Irish Framework Documents in 1995, which proposed to create North-South bodies with more than consultative powers, badly undercut Molyneux’s credibility and helped lead to his replacement by Trimble. Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 97. [39] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 251. [40] Trimble had earlier established his unionist bona fides by helping to bring down the Sunningdale Agreement in 1974, an earlier attempt at resolving the Northern Ireland conflict. Mitchell, Making Peace, 174. Trimble himself has argued, “I am a product of the destruction of Stormont” — the decision of the British government to abolish the Protestant-dominated Stormont Assembly, first by direct British rule and then by a power-sharing arrangement with nationalists. Godson, Himself Alone, 25. [41] Although the UUP held a plurality of unionist votes in the first election for the Northern Ireland Assembly, the DUP supplanted the UUP in the second election in 2003 and its margin over the UUP has grown since then. “Election Results.” UUP’s troubles were earlier apparent in the 1999 European parliamentary elections, where it was outpolled by the DUP. [42] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 179–80. Hennessey argues, “The UFF [Ulster Freedom Fighters] and UVF [Ulster Volunteer Force] support for the peace process was the decisive difference. It robbed extreme Unionism of a cutting edge.” The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 90. [43] Mitchell, Making Peace, 44. [44] See Brian Eggins, History and Hope: The Alliance Party in Northern Ireland (Dublin: The History Press, 2015) fn. 162. [45] See Jamille Bigio and Rachel Vogelstein, “Women’s Participation in Northern Ireland Peace Negotiations Made Them Less Likely to Fair,” The Hill, April 13, 2018, https://thehill.com/opinion/international/383059-womens-participation-in-peace-negotiations-in-northern-ireland-made. [46] Fred Halliday, “Peace Processes in the Late 20th Century,” in A Farewell to Arms: From “Long War” to Long Peace in Northern Ireland, ed. Michael Cox, Adrian Guelke, and Fiona Stephens (New York: Manchester University Press, 2000), 285. See also the essays in Power, Building Peace in Northern Ireland. [47] Moloney offers a detailed look at the role of the Catholic Church and key clergy. [48] That said, even under the Tories, there were periodic efforts to talk directly with the IRA, including the secret 1972 Cheyne Walk talks between Secretary of State for Northern Ireland William Whitelaw and an IRA delegation, including Gerry Adams, which led to an early, but brief ceasefire. [49] One of the early Northern Ireland Prime Ministers, James Craig, called it “a Protestant Parliament and a Protestant state.” Godson, Himself Alone, 26. [50] Prior to taking office in 1979, Member of Parliament and Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Airey Neave, had been killed by a splinter republican paramilitary group, the Irish National Liberation Army. [51] The British and Irish governments issued “Frameworks for the Future” in February 1995, with proposals on all three strands of the talks. Unionists most strongly objected to provisions that allowed the two governments to decide on the authority of a future North-South body, without the prior consent of a future Northern Ireland Assembly. See Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 92–99. [52] Specifically, Blair indicated his support for the “triple lock” — the requirement that any change in the status of Northern Ireland required the agreement of the parties in the North, the public in the north through a referendum, and the approval of the British parliament. Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 104. [53] Albert Reynolds dubbed Bruton “John Unionist.” Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 435. It was during the administration of an earlier Fine Gael prime minister, Garrett Fitzgerald, that Ireland first accepted the idea that unification should only come about with the consent of the people of Northern Ireland, leading to the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985. [54] After taking office, Ahearn announced “irrendentism is dead.” Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 106–107. [55] Hennessey observed, “It is doubtful that any of his Fianna Fail predecessors would have had the vision to do this.” The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 167. [56] Irish American support for the IRA, including money and weaponry such as the notorious “Armalite” (AR-15), is discussed in detail in Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 114–15. [57] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 150. [58] Shane Hickey, “Major Was Furious with Clinton for Granting Adams a Visa,” Irish Times, Dec. 28. 2018, https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/major-was-furious-with-clinton-for-granting-adams-a-visa-1.3738286. [59] This initially took the form of the Northern Ireland Investment conference in Belfast chaired by George Mitchell and U.S. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. [60] Roy Bradford, “Straws in the Wind Show Signs of Hope and Change,” Irish Times, Jan. 3, 1996,  https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/straws-in-the-wind-show-signs-of-hope-and-change-1.18637. [61] Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 70–74. Moloney argues that the secret process dates back to indirect contacts between Adams and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Tom King in 1986 or 1987. Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 247. Notably Moloney argued that Adams acted without the approval of the IRA Army Council. [62] Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 81–83. [63] Mitchell reached this conclusion after consulting with the head of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Hugh Annesley. This conclusion was shared by Chilcot: “if you set a long time condition, a period of rehabilitation in which no violence took place, it would not happen.” Mitchell, Making Peace, 79. [64] Mitchell, Making Peace, 42–45. [65] Mitchell, Making Peace, 50, 60. [66] Mitchell, Making Peace, 110. [67] The third international chair was John de Chastelain, former chief of Canada’s defense staff. [68] Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 102. [69] Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 113. [70] As a result of the violence, the governments voted to expel, at least temporarily, both the Ulster Democratic Party (linked to the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Freedom Fighters) and Sinn Fein. Although the decision risked collapsing the talks, in the end, it buttressed the credibility of the condition subsequent approach by demonstrating the government’s willingness to carry out its threats against non-compliant parties. Mitchell, Making Peace, 134–42. [71] Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 115–18. The document, called “Propositions on Heads of Agreement,” included almost all of the key features that ended up in the final Agreement. [72] Mitchell, Making Peace, 103; Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 22. [73] Mitchell, Making Peace, 143–46. [74] Among the most consequential of the secret talks were the meetings between Sinn Fein and a British MI5 agent, “Fred,” which led to the Peter Brooke statement that Britain had “no strategic interest” in Northern Ireland, and to the Sinn Fein-Reynolds meeting. See Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, chap. 6. Another important secret channel was between the Irish and loyalist paramilitaries, fostered by a former unionist leader, Roy Magee. Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 140. [75] Agriculture, education, transport, environment, waterways, social security/social welfare, tourism, E.U. programs, inland fisheries, aquaculture and maritime, health, accident and emergency services, and urban/rural development. [76] The amendment was approved by referendum in both parts of Ireland in May 1998. [77] Interestingly, the approach used by the Decommissioning Commission drew on the experience of disarming the Kosovo Liberation Army. See Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 276. [78] For a summary of developments since the Agreement, and on-going issues, see Kristin Archick, Northern Ireland: Current Issues and On-Going Challenges in the Peace Process, Congressional Research Service, March 12, 2018, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RS21333.pdf. [79] Archick, Northern Ireland, 19 [80] Ben Kelly, “Why Is There No Government in Northern Ireland and How Did Power-sharing Collapse?” The Independent, April 30, 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/northern-ireland-talks-latest-power-sharing-deal-stormont-sinn-fein-dup-a8893096.html. [81] Connla Young, “Sinn Fein Say Good Friday Agreement Facing Its Biggest Threat,” Irish News, May 14, 2019, https://www.irishnews.com/news/2017/12/04/news/sinn-fe-in-say-good-friday-agreement-facing-its-biggest-threat-1202189/. [82] Gormley-Heenan, Political Leadership and the Northern Ireland Peace Process, 37, quoting David Trimble, “The Belfast Agreement,” Fordham International Law Journal 22, no. 4 (1999), https://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/ilj/vol22/iss4/2/. Moloney argues, in A Secret History of the IRA, that Adams’ triumph was part of a long-term strategic plan that took years to bring to fruition. It may well be that, unlike Trimble, Adams was guided by a masterplan. But the fact that it took Adams 25 years to realize this goal suggests that favorable exogenous factors, as well as Adams’ efforts, were necessary for the plan to succeed. [83] Mitchell credits Ahearn’s willingness to reopen the “Strand Two Agreement” (against the advice of his aides), which he had reached with Blair just days before the Good Friday Agreement: “Had Ahearn insisted on the Strand Two provisions he had worked out with Blair, there would not have been a Good Friday Agreement.” Mitchell, Making Peace, 171. [84] Gormley-Heenan, Political Leadership and the Northern Ireland Peace Process, 37–38, quoting George J. Mitchell “Toward Peace in Northern Ireland,” Fordham International Law Journal 22, no. 4 (1999), https://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/ilj/vol22/iss4/2/. [85] Thus, Moloney, in arguing that the credit belongs to Adams, asserts, “The Irish peace process was a not a spontaneous phenomenon, tossed around by forces outside its control, nor was it forced upon its architects by the fortunes of war. The process was like a precooked dinner whose basic menu had largely been decided long before most of the diners knew the meal was planned.” Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, xvi. At other points, Moloney indulges in what feels like a parody of the “Cleopatra’s nose” version of counterfactual analysis: “If Annie Adams [Gerry Adams’ mother] had not insisted on making the move to Ballymurphy [an IRA stronghold in West Belfast], the IRA might never have been led by Gerry Adams, and Irish history would now look very different.” Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 46. [86] Peter Crutchley, "IRA Ceasefire 20 Years On: The Priest Who Brokered the Peace," BBC News, Aug. 31, 2014,  https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-28812366. This view is echoed by Moloney: “To say that Father Alec Reid is the unrecognized inspiration of the peace process would be an understatement.” A Secret History of the IRA, 223. [87] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 115. [88] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 218. One British government official observed, “The body language changed after Winfield. Before that it was always stiff and stilted, but afterwards they no longer seemed stiff and stilted in each other’s presence. Winfield was the psychological breakthrough.” Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 264. [89] The narrative presented in the earlier sections of this essay is a form of “process tracing,” which helps clarify the key decisions and those responsible for the decisions. By itself, however, this approach can’t really answer “what mattered” — either as necessary or sufficient cause. For this reason, counterfactual analysis is particularly useful. For a discussion of some of the considerations and difficulties, see Jack S. Levy, “Counterfactuals, Causal Inference, and Historical Analysis,” Security Studies 24, no. 3 (September 2015): 378–402, https://doi.org/10.1080/09636412.2015.1070602; Francis J. Gavin, “What If? The Historian and the Counterfactual.” Security Studies 24, no. 3 (September 2015): 425–30, https://doi.org/10.1080/09636412.2015.1070610; and Neil J. Roese, ed., What Might Have Been: The Social Psychology of Counterfactual Thinking (London: Psychology Press, 1995). [90] See for example Mallie and McKittrick’s judgment: “The election of 1997 transformed the peace process.” Endgame in Ireland, 213. [91] See Mary Holland, “A Very Good Friday,” Guardian, April 11, 1998, https://www.theguardian.com/uk/1998/apr/12/northernireland. [92] Hennessey challenges at least part of the claim, arguing that the 1998 Agreement had a much weaker North-South dimension which allowed for unionist acceptance. Thomas Hennessey, “‘Slow learners’? Comparing the Sunningdale Agreement and the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement,” in Sunningdale, the Ulster Workers' Council Strike and the Struggle for Democracy in Northern Ireland, ed. David McCann and Cillian McGrattan (Manchester: Manchester University, 2017). [93] See Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 142. [94] This was particularly true on the issue of decommissioning, where Adams repeatedly insisted on the limits of his influence over the IRA. His position was corroborated by the British head of the Northern Ireland police (the Royal Ulster Constabulary), Hugh Annesley, who, when asked by Mitchell at a key juncture in 1995 whether Adams could get the IRA to decommission before an agreement, replied, “No, he couldn’t do it even if he wanted to. He doesn’t have that much control over them.” Mitchell, Making Peace, 30. [95] Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 414–16. [96] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 221–23. [97] Godson describes the episode in detail. Godson, David Trimble and the Ordeal of Unionism. [98] Martin Mansergh, “Forward,” in Lessons from the Northern Ireland Peace Process, ed. Timothy J. White (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2013), ix. [99] Gormley-Heenan examines this problem at some length. Political Leadership and the Northern Ireland Peace Process, 91–96. [100] Inclusivity has several different meanings in the context of these negotiations. The term was sometimes used to refer to the inclusion of the full range of stakeholders, including civil society, but was also used more narrowly, by Sinn Fein and the loyalists, to refer to the protagonists in the conflict. See for example, Timothy J. White, “Lessons from the Northern Ireland Peace Process: An Introduction,” in Lessons from the Northern Ireland Peace Process, 7. Broad inclusivity of civil society was valuable but it was the inclusion of the former paramilitaries that was crucial. See Paul Dixon, “The Victory and Defeat of the IRA,” in Lessons from the Northern Ireland Peace Process. [101] Mitchell, Making Peace, 19. This is an important difference between the 1998 Agreement and Sunningdale. [102] Whether the agreement is truly a consociational agreement is a matter of much debate among political scientists, see White, “Lessons from the Northern Ireland Peace Process: An Introduction,” 4; and articles cited in footnote 2. [103] Power, Building Peace in Northern Ireland, 8. [104] Feargal Cochrane and Seamus Dunn, People Power? The Role of the Voluntary and Community Sector in the Northern Ireland Conflict (Cork: Cork University Press, 2006), 173. [105] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 216. [106] See Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 164–65 and Mitchell, Making Peace, 173. “As I read the document I knew instantly that it would not be acceptable to the Unionists.” Godson, Himself Alone, 327. As noted above, the ensuing crisis was only resolved when Ahearn agreed to walk back the draft and dilute the provisions opposed by the unionists. [107] In fact, the deadline actually slipped by a day; on the evening of the formal deadline the talks were still at an impasse. Mitchell, Making Peace, 177. The deadline also helped Adams gain IRA assent to enter the talks — his critics feared that an open-ended negotiation predicated on a continued IRA ceasefire would be used as a British ploy to weaken the IRA’s operational capacity as well as its rank and file support. See Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, 471. [108] The classic statement is presented by William Zartman in “Ripeness: The Hurting Stalemate and Beyond,” in International Conflict Resolution After the Cold War, ed. Paul C. Stern and Daniel Druckman (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2000), https://doi.org/10.17226/9897. As noted below, the approach I suggest here relies less on Zartman’s idea of a “hurting stalemate” and more on the perception by both sides of a positive gain. [109] But not impossible. Arguably the decision to arm the Bosnians and bomb the Serbs during the Bosnia conflict, and the bombing of the Serbs in Kosovo, helped produce circumstances that made those conflicts “ripe” for settlement. See Zartman, “Ripeness,” 244. [110] Gormley-Heenan, Political Leadership and the Northern Ireland Peace Process, 14, quoting Paul Arthur, Peer Learning: Northern Ireland as a Case Study (New York: Carnegie Corporation, 1999), 10. “The participants shared a concern that something needed to be done and that at the very least they should explore each others’ options. Track two presented the best opportunities to do so. The absence of the media, the physical location, the neutral back up support, all were as far removed as possible from the rawness of Northern Ireland’s political arena.” [111] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 257. See also, Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 19. [112] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 129. [113] See Timothy J. White, “The Role of Civil Society in Promoting Peace in Northern Ireland,” in Building Peace in Northern Ireland, ed. Maria Power, 38–40. [114] See Maria Power, “Introduction,” in Building Peace in Northern Ireland, 4. [115] On Blair’s decommissioning side letter, see Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, 169–70. [116] This view of the role of third parties is, thus, distinct from the focus on third parties as “neutral” mediators. What mattered most here was not neutrality but that third parties could offer something of value to the parties themselves. This more traditional understanding of the role of neutral actors in peace processes was illustrated by the creation of the Independent Commission on Policing, which produced a blue print for policing reform — something the parties themselves were unable to accomplish. [117] Mitchell, Making Peace, 25. [118] The IRA completed decommissioning in 2005. [119] Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame in Ireland, 205. [120] For a discussion of the problem of “open” diplomacy (without preconditions) see Oriana Skyler Mastro, The Costs of Conversation (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2019). 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