Democrats & Liberals Archives

Why Wouldn't We Talk?

Watch out: if you talk to a dictator, you’re tacitly approving of his evil. Wait, Nixon talked to Mao. Does that make him a communist? Bush 41 and Reagan talked with Gorbachev. Did the Republicans elect Russkies? Detente was a Kissinger Policy, started under Nixon. Reagan and Bush helped further peaceful negotiations with the Soviet Union. According to some in the Republican, and regrettably the Democratic parties, that shouldn’t happen.

Fact is, countries, friendly or not, talk. Even competitors and enemies have things to talk about, disputes to resolve. Only, the current Republican theory is, we must stonewall in the face of evil, blankly staring our enemy down. We must have Syria, North Korea, and Iran on the ropes, right? No, not quite.

To the extent we've gotten anywhere in dealing with these countries, it's been by talking with them, negotiating with them.

Bush has gone back to the Clinton drawing board, essentially returning to the agreed framework. In the face of an uncertain future in Iraq, we have two competing strains of activity: Cheney's people loudly pushing things towards further war in Iran (ask them where we're getting the soldiers and the resources for all that.) and other elements quietly working to try and defuse the mess the war's left us with.

Will diplomacy solve all our problems? No more than war will. The question, in terms of these policies, is what we're trying to achieve, and how far our plans can get us.

A threat of war does you little good without the army to back it. War itself doesn't yield victory unless you've got your ducks in a row, and/or luck on your side. Diplomacy does you little good unless what you say presents meaningful consequences, and you have the next steps in mind. The big, headline grabbing goals often are too vague and general to do good. Often enough, good diplomacy is about disappointingly mundane things, no glorious golden battle-flags of verbal victory. What matters are the consequences. Mundanity does not necessarily translate into unimportance.

We should talk to Castro, should talk to Chavez. And why not? We talked to Ghadaffi, and not so long ago: it was out of negotiations, not the threat presented by the Iraq War to dictators worldwide, that we got Libya's WMD program put on ice, and struck a big blow against the A.Q. Khan network's problematic spread. It's not about appeasement. Often it's about slapping these guys upside the head with the realities and giving them a face-saving way out of being in our way. Or it could be about getting something we want for something we could care less about losing. Talking doesn't mean giving in to our enemies and rivals, it means being engaged, letting them know where we stand, and manuevering to our country's advantage.

Military force is an otpion that only occasionally fits the bill. Most of the time, we are better served by those quiet little messages that make our enemies and friend alike sit up and take notice. We certainly have a lot to talk about with Chavez and Castro. Nobody says we have to agree with them, just because we're talking with them.

The real problem the Neocons and their allies have, is that if we're talking, we're less likely to go to war. It should be noted, though, that America had considerably more power and its threats were taken much more seriously when we were talking more than fighting. This gets even more true when our CINC has us fighting a war that's grinding our readiness into the dirt, and is focusing our eyes exclusively on the Middle East. It's not as if our rivals aren't noticing our weakness, much less Bin Laden, and other true enemies like him.

Our approach should be concentrated not on favoring one approach over another, but using both approaches with a good idea of what is necessary to get what we want, and the logistics in place to carry out the plans in question. Overextension and empty rhetoric will not show our country's strength, but will instead make our weaknesses glaringly obvious, when it doesn't create them fresh.

That, my friends, is what really emboldens our enemies. Ignoring them will not make them go away.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at July 27, 2007 5:01 PM
Comments
Comment #227573

Stephen

You are absolutely right. From a negotiating and military power standpoint it is those things that others can only guess at that is one of our biggest allies. Once we have displayed all our ducks our rivals can easily plan how to attack them. And to the contrary uncertainty has been the death of many plans.

I believe this administration takes the bully approach simply because they are weak when it comes to foreign relations. Our president obviously does not have a clue. Cheney knows nothing but the power of force. And to be honest I have yet to be impressed by Rice. I am of the impression that she is nothing more than an extension of Bush and Cheney and probably is not allowed to make any serious decisions or deliberations on her own. Lets face it detente is not a word these folks are familiar with.

Posted by: RickIL at July 27, 2007 7:16 PM
Comment #227575

Stephen, why frame your article as a republican issue when in fact it is Hillary and Obama who are engaged in a war of words and nuance. As I see it, Hillary should be Prez and Obama should be SecState and all would be well. She could remain aloof while he does the jetting around the world. Talking to leaders of terrorist promoting nations after withdrawing from Iraq in humiliation may just work. They would dictate terms and Congress would ratify it. Peace would prevail as all Americans knelt on their prayer rugs and pledged alligence to our captors.

Posted by: Jim at July 27, 2007 7:56 PM
Comment #227578

Jim-
To be quite honest with you, my eyes have just rolled. Look at Egypt and Saudi Arabia, two major sources of our enemies, who were friendly with us during that time. The right kind of diplomacy might have helped us there. Going to war? No. Not a chance.

Even Pakistan is more difficult than that, and they’re harboring Bin Laden, for crying out loud.

Prayer rugs in America. The only people who are going to bowing down on those are those who have been peacefully persuaded to do so by proselytizers of Islam. America, a nation our size, with our strength will not be taken over by the Arabs or the Muslims any time soon. You have to imagine bizarre, implausible scenarios with people just suddenly converting for that to happen.

The terrorists are not going to take us over. They might, though, get us so fricking paranoid that we let our democracy collapse into a shut-in police state, and we alienate everybody in sight and sow the very disruption into Arab and Muslim countries that these provocateurs are looking to incite.

Or put another we, we are doing these bastard’s dirty work for them, and making a mockery of our own values.

Yes, this is an argument between two Democrats that brings this about. Yes, I frame it as a Republican issue because Hillary is trying to look tough, and needlessly so, by taking the Neocon’s position. Truth is, the whole neocon idea of walling off American diplomacy from our enemies, especially when everbody else, including our allies, are talking with them, is just idiocy, and I’m ashamed to see Hillary giving in to it. It’s not toughness to stonewall these guys, it’s sidelines in the games we’re playing with these guys, taking up what has to be the weakest position you can, when other players are engaged.

Under the Neocons, the Vulcans as James Mann’s group bio on Bush’s foreign policy staff calls them, our diplomatic image to the world has been of people who don’t know when to keep their big mouths shut, and folks who blithely assume that America can isolate these countries when we can’t get other countries to join our diplomatic boycott.

If you think Diplomacy has no effect, ask yourself this question: did America have to fight a full-scale war for the last decade or so before the Iraq war in order to disarm Saddam, or were able to keep those weapons out of his hands by means of international institutions and rough diplomatic handling? Do you think we could have maintained no-fly zones or sanctions without such coordination? You guys are so worried about having absolute power to dictate terms that you miss where the real power is. In a world where the vast majority of people aren’t American, American power is mostly wielded by non-American governments on our behalf. Treaties, international law enforcement, peacekeeping, economic forces… At the end of the day, much of that power comes from the acceptance of American supremacy, the credit of our mystique.

Which you folks have spent the past six years flushing down the toilet because you won’t accept any power which comes with conditions attached to it’s use. Never mind that you can talk people into letting you have more play with that power later; it’s instant gratification or nothing.

Like I said, it’s mundane details and hard-nosed, subtle negotiation that gains us the most. Trying to browbeat and Bash the world into doing our will is an exercise in extended alienation. I’d just as soon America become great once again, rather than descend into mediocrity because folks have adopted such an impatient, short-sighted foreign policy.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 27, 2007 9:20 PM
Comment #227582

Some of us grew up with the “you can catch more flies with sugar than with vinegar” theory, and it does usually work.

Posted by: Sandra Davidson at July 27, 2007 9:40 PM
Comment #227584

Stephen,

Excellent points. I will presume you are alluding to the recently publicized descent between Obama and Clinto. To invoke the need for diplomacy and open-mindedness relative the Bush administration would be analgous to organizing a Christian revival meeting in Terrhan, AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN.

I agree with your position on talking with our supposed enemies like Castro, Chavez, etc. So many Americans have become so mind-numbed by the Bush administration rhetoric, tactics, recklessness, false bravado, that they are all too willing to jump on the Bush band wagon of “talking” = “weakness.”

IGNORANCE = WEAKNESS, which is precisely what this so called “president” displays. He is responsible for both our dwindling armed forces “readiness” as you put it and the fact that no one gives a rat’s ass what the US (at least under this current fascist regime) has to say about anything. Even now, when minimal “talks” with Iran seem to be occurring, jihadists are very eager to represent this apparent about-face as weakness.

Posted by: Kim-Sue at July 27, 2007 10:06 PM
Comment #227589

Talking is just not the same thing as diplomacy. And sometimes the president meeting to talk to dictators and/or human rights abusers is very bad diplomacy indeed.

I actually thought that this was something the left understood—just look at South Africa. A crucial factor in ending Apartheid was the isolation and international ostricization of the Apartheid regime.

You have to understand that in many of these countries, there are human rights advocates, prisoners of conscience, and a democratic opposition which can be seriously undermined if “The Beloved Leader” is publicly seen on the same stage with the President of the United States.

Hillary understands this because she’s actually been very close to presidential power as First Lady, and understands its effects.

You cannot underestimate the prestige and legitimacy involved in meeting with the President of the United States. We take this for granted in the US, but when our President spends time in a foreign nation or when a foreign leader meets with him, it tends to get 24-hour coverage in those places. You cannot ignore how such meetings can be used as pro-regime propaganda and as a means of disheartening and marginalizing internal opposition.

Sometimes the best diplomacy is the diplomatic pressure provided by NOT bestowing legitimacy on a government. There are all kinds of ways to communicate with foreign leaders without face-to-face meetings of heads of state. In fact, such face-to-face meetings are mostly pomp and circumstance where little if anything of importance is ever accomplished anyway.

You have to realize that even if the President were to meet with the leader of a tyrannical regime, the citizens that live under that regime are not going to get the whole story of what actually took place in those talks.

It is very easy, in these places with state-controlled media, to present a mirage in which the President of the United States felt forced to come hat-in-hand to the Beloved Leader because the Beloved Leader is so very powerful, clever, and fear-inspiring in the eyes of the United States. Whatever the President said in a meeting face-to-face to someone like Kim Jong Il to his face is NOT the same message that would be passed on to the public by a state-controlled media.

I’m not actually bothered by Obama’s remarks here, however. I don’t think that he’d actually go through with such an ill-advised course if he were president, and that he only made those remarks because he doesn’t have much if any experience with international diplomacy. Not many do, but it’s the kind of thing that would become abundantly clear to anyone who was actually serving in that role. I mean, even Jimmy Carter knew better than that.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at July 27, 2007 10:29 PM
Comment #227590

Stephen

Obama showed his inexperience and Hillary jumped on it. There is a proper order to these things. Before the leaders meet, their representatives iron out all the details. That is what happened with Nixon in China. Hillary knows this because of her experience with Bill. Obama lacks this experience.

Obama may or may not make a good president. We just do not know enough about him and he actually does not know enough about himself. Perhaps for someone of his inexperience, it might be a good idea for him to name some of his chief advisors in advance, especially in foreign policy.

Clinton was right that w/o proper preparation many of our enemies would just make propaganda points. They would take the opportunity to embarass the president and the U.S.

I am not saying that Clinton would make a better president than Obama, but she clearly displays more experience than Obama. That will be the major Clinton theme and one of the ways the Clinton machine will crush Obama.

Posted by: Jack at July 27, 2007 10:31 PM
Comment #227604

And do not forget that Rumsfeld met with Saddam for one picture twenty years ago, and never heard the end of it. Talking to bad guys is not always a good idea.

Posted by: Jack at July 28, 2007 12:14 AM
Comment #227612

Stephen,

This is another excellent article, as usual.

Jack, You wrote:

And do not forget that Rumsfeld met with Saddam for one picture twenty years ago, and never heard the end of it. Talking to bad guys is not always a good idea.
Thanks for reminding us, almost forgot about that one - not. Your point made me stop and think though. I like to catch your side talking out of both sides of their mouths. It is so much fun. Your point here made me think that maybe I / we had been doing the same thing here. After all, we certainly do criticize Bush for not talking and I (and others)have criticized Rummy for meeting with Saddam So I had to think about it. How then can I justify this?

The Devil is in the details. We should talk to our enemies, but what are we saying to them? Are we on the correct side of the issue? Are we advocating policies for the “good” of our country and the world? Who’s idea of “good” are we using? “Good” for who? Good for America? Is America the American people? Or Haliburton, Exxon - Mobile, et al.

When Rummy shook hands with “the evil” Saddam, Saddam was not our enemy. He was our friend, our bulkhead against Iran and that is source of the difference. We were not confronting an enemy with diplomacy - “walking softly and carrying a big stick.” We were shaking hands with a friend. In that context, it seems obvious to me, but at least likely, that we were encouraging Saddam to maintain “stability” in Iraq, and to use whatever means necessary to accomplish that. That is why I criticize Rummy for shaking hands with Saddam. I would not criticize him if I thought that he was diplomatically confronting Saddam. Unfortunately, I am convinced that he was encouraging Saddam.

Posted by: Ray Guest at July 28, 2007 1:22 AM
Comment #227618

Stephen

I would unfortunately have to disagree with your assessment of Hillary’s statement. Her statement wasn’t an attempt to appear strong; it was a demonstration of her understanding of geo-politics.

Every example you gave of our President’s meeting with other head’s of states, was preceded by months of lower level negotiations. There have been volumes of books written about these negotiations, specifically on the cases you mention. Issues tend to be too complex to be left to the head’s of states to tackle on their own. Even though there are some famous instances where compromises are blurted out unexpectedly by a head of state. But would you really want any president to negotiate the intricacies of nuclear arms control on their own?

Hillary’s specifically said she would not rule out meeting with any head of state, but only after the proper groundwork was laid first. In the case of Nixon going to China, Kissinger wrote about how intense negotiations were behind the scenes, and how they continued throughout Nixon’s visit.

I suspect even Obama knows this; unfortunately in the world of politics he cannot retract his original statement without appearing to be weak.


Posted by: Cube at July 28, 2007 2:25 AM
Comment #227637

We should not forget that this is going to be a CHANGE election,for good or ill. It should also be noted that two of our more regular Rep contributers are backing Clinton in this little tempest.First time I have read Jack metioning Clintons experience positively.Tell you something?
We have plenty of time. Let the two frontrunners beat each other up.Edwards is the better candidate anyway.
I am more interested in how those two react to the proposed 20 billion dollar arms deal to the Sauds and the rest of the pack of despotic califate states in the mideast that call themselves allies. Of course we also have to increase arms aid to Isreal at the same time.The MIC is loving it. Lets start an arms race in the region.That will bring peace.
I am also wondering in this debate just how Chavez got on the list of bad guys. He was twice democratically elected with the elections certified by international observers. More than we can say about Bush.Is he a bad guy because he disses Bushco? In which case the majority of Americans also qualify. Is he a bad guy because he has stuck it to American oil companies? I’ll bet the majority of Americans would be happy to do the same.I know. He is bad because he spends oil money to help poor people including supplying free heating oil to Inuits in Alaska. He must be all bad.

Posted by: BillS at July 28, 2007 12:12 PM
Comment #227640

LO-
First, effective isolation requires cooperation from other nations. To echo the George Clooney line from Oceans 13, Some of these countries know most of the people we would enlist to isolate them, and those guys like them better than us. Saddam had the virtue of having pissed everybody in the neighborhood off.

If we can’t do that, isolation is just not going to work. Belligerence isn’t much better. As things go, these police states and dictatorships can use our threat to their country to impugn domestic dissent and pro-American and Democratic attitudes.

The Economic dissociations give us less leverage as well. The less these people have to lose, as far as we’re concerned, the less inhibited they are about being defiant.

As for legitimacy, if we are not successful in isolating them, their defiance gives them a certain measure of legitimacy. Hugo Chavez gets a huge amount of mileage from his antagonism with Bush. So too has Ahmedinejad. If we were less belligerent towards these nations, their belligerence would reflect less well on the leaders. We’re not the only country that can lose prestige and support by being too angry, too bitter, too hardline.

Support for dissenters is an important matter, but unless they are serious contenders for power, neither we nor they stand to gain much by isolation. If we have diplomatic relations with a country, we have an embassy, and we can run subversive operations out of an embassy. It also helps to break the hermetic seal that isolated countries develop, which make it more difficult to both corrode hardline social structures, and introduce intelligence assets into a place.

We have to stop obsessing about image and explicit messages. We got to start thinking more subtly. Yes, we talk. We of course start small, and build up, finagling compromise inch by inch. But in that way, we can rein in all but the most hostile leaders. And those, we can better approach.

I’m not advocating diplomacy and talking without real appreciation for the complexity of the negotiations. What I’m doing is opposing an all-or-nothing purist’s approach, which equates tough foreign policy with either silence or warmongering. There’s plenty of aggressive alternatives available, if we need them. The Neocons and those who just blindly follow their lead trying to look tough are simply taking too narrow-minded of an approach.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 28, 2007 12:32 PM
Comment #227649

The time to talk to Iran was before Iran launched a proxy war in Iraq, a time when the United States was in a position of strength — to be sure, the time between 9/11 and the Iraq invasion would have been a good time to talk with Iran.

The UN and IAEA have been talking to Iran, and Iran has used talks to continue its nuclear march. Talking has not changed Iran’s nuclear program.

The circumstances of when we talk with other world leaders is important. It is always better to talk from a position of strength than a position of weakness.

Let us not forget that Iran has created and armed a host of terrorist groups, both Sunni and Shia. The purpose of the groups is to create instability. Iran did this because they believe in an Islamic unity and because their nation’s constitution mandates they export their Islamic revolution. President Ahmadinejad, said after his election the second Islamic revolution shall reach around the world. Because Iran’s goals are religious, the idea of changing religious extremists by talk is not rational. In addition the regime has raised children for nearly 30 years shouting “death to America.” President Ahmadinejad called homicidal-sucidal martyrdom and “art.”

Cuba is different. There are no longer any Soviet missiles in Cuba. The Cold War has ended. The leaders of Cuba are growing old. Now is the time to talk to Cuba.

Every single nation is different. Ms. Clinton’s response showed wisdom and leadership. Foreign Policy is not talk-therapy. Not every problem of foreign policy can be solved by talking. So too, not every foreign policy problem can be solved by bombing campaigns.

Some say Iraq is an oil war. If Iran obtains control of Iraqi oil, combines it with its own oil, Sudan’s oil, Venezuela’s oil and then uses its proxy, Hezbollah, to disrupt Saudi Arabian oil, the the United States economy will grind to stop. The US imports 2/3rds of oil. If the economy collapses the US will go the way of the Soviet Union. Therefore part of any foreign policy and defense policy must be energy independence - and it is needed yesterday.

The issues affecting the nation are complex. Foreign policy even more complex. Extremist solutions do not work, but negotiating from weakness could mean the end of the nation.

If this nation learned anything from the recent Bush Presidency it should have learned that any Prsident elected needs to have significan foreign policy experience.

Posted by: RoxieAmerica at July 28, 2007 1:15 PM
Comment #227666

Ray

Saddam had been our enemy. We talked to him because we thought it was in our interest to do so, given the situation in Iran. That is the whole problem with talking to your enemies.

I do not say we should not do it. I was merely pointing out that Obama showed his inexprience by advocating talks too soon at too high a level. Reagan sent Rumsfeld, who was not even a prominent member of his government. It still caused trouble. Imagine if RR had done it personally.

I believe in talking to anybody willing to talk to us. I understand that this compromises our “purity” but it is usually necessary. But, as Hillary knows and Obama is only learning, there is a way to do it.

Posted by: Jack at July 28, 2007 2:56 PM
Comment #227680

Jack, what President hasn’t benefited from some on the job training? I mean we have one now, who hasn’t hardly learned a thing since becoming governor save who to know to get elected.

JFK opposed civil rights legislation at first. Reagan had to relearn Lincoln’s warning to future politicians about how many and how often of the public you can fool before getting caught in an Iran Contra illegal activity. Carter, whose strength was compassion led with numbers and engineeringly precise statistics and never learned how hardball international politics is played. Bush I had to learn the oldest political lesson in the books on the job, don’t say promise one thing and do the opposite.

History is full of hundreds of stories about Presidents getting OJT in the White House, or, in a few cases, even their wives (the real President in their terms).

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 28, 2007 6:17 PM
Comment #227686

Jim you got it all wrong.
Look at how it is now. King of the World George says one things, Rice says, if you don’t do what we(george/dick) wants then we are going to invade/bomb/attack/, pick whatever you want to call it.
All the money we spent in Iraq and they don’t want to take over any of the projects or don’t have the smarts to. They must have been taking lessons from gw.

Posted by: KT at July 28, 2007 8:29 PM
Comment #227688

Stephen, nice piece.
Of course we should always talk — whenever possible. Because talking is always preferable to war. Indeed, dentente used to be very effective diplomatic tool, but the entire concept was something the Neocons beginning with Reagan rejected completely. On behalf of the Military Industrial Complex who they actually represent.
Look at the Saudi Arms deal being floated as we speak. These people are all about making war, and cranking out business deals for the war machine.

Posted by: Adrienne at July 28, 2007 9:44 PM
Comment #227691

RoxieAmerica-
I don’t care for us to negotiate from weakness, but fighting from weakness, or sitting around doing nothing strikes me as little better

Iran is not quite as simple as you think at this moment, and that could be helpful to us. Ahmedinejad and his meddling in Iraq are not that popular. The only thing that keeps him legitimate now, not to put too fine a point on it, is our belligerence.

Iran was and is a source of terrorist trouble, but the religous hardliners who sit on the top of the heap there aren’t all that connected with Sunni Terrorist group, as they are Shia fundamentalists, and think the Sunnis are heretics. That would include al-Qaeda. Another thing to keep in mind is that Iran is not monolithic. There is a generation of Iranians who aren’t all that enthralled with the restrictive, hardlines Mullahs running the place. It’s gotten bad enough to the point where Ahmedinejad was mobbed (and not in a good way) at a speaking engagement at a technical college.

This is part of the harm of the assumptions made by right about who we’re dealing with. Not everybody is as fundamentalist in Iran as we think. If we went about it smartly, we could play the friendlier members of the Iranian public against their masters, diminishing their role and making them mor unpopular Diplomacy is not merely about relating messages, it’s about making friends and dividing enemies. Few people are actual jihadists. Many people just consider those people stuck-up prigs who’re going to get them killed, and who aren’t doing crap for the economy.

As for Oil wars? I think there are serious problems with the scenarios you present. Shia in Iraq want the riches of the oil for themselves. Iran will have to deal with a society that didn’t turn against their fellow Iraqis even in the midst of the Iran/Iraq War. Additionally, Iranians have something to lose by not maintaining the petrodollars

But, regardless of that, I do agree that it’s a good idea to get energy independent.

For the time being, even if we don’t necessarily negotiate from that strong of a position, we can do things to strengthen that.

Jack-
Hindsight. Saddam was our proxy against the Iranians. He wasn’t our enemy, no more than Marcos or Noriega were in the mid-eighties. We sort of made a habit of getting friendly with dictators in that day and age. We could have done better than that, but that was the way people thought of policy then.

Besides, we’re not even talking about being friendly, we’re talking about talking. It can be tough talking, it can be carrot and stick manipulation. Only the Neocons believe that talking has to be an obstacle in the way of necessary wars.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 28, 2007 10:16 PM
Comment #227694

Stephen

In hindsight Saddam overreached by attacking Iran. It served no U.S. interest for him to do what he did nor his interests for that matter. What we should have done was learned that the man was not very clever and prone to miscalculation and not been so surprised when he made the same kinds of miscalculations by invading Kuwait.

If you look back at the sources FROM the 1980s, you notice that many Arabist and experts were complaining that Reagan was not doing enough for Saddam and that the relationship was too distant. It is only revisionism that makes Saddam look like a friend at that time. 0.47%. That is the amount of Saddams weapons supplied by the U.S. Saddam was a Soviet client until the fall of the Soviet Empire. That is why he had mostly Soviet weapons and why the Warsaw Pact engineers did so much work in Iraq.

The problem with talking with bad guys is that you get associated with whatever bad things they do later. The problem with not talking to them is that you may lose influence.

In any case, the argument here is whether we should talk to our enemies. I say we should, but I am merely pointing to the caveat, with Saddam as the example.

There is also another place where Obama showed his inexperience. We clearly ARE talking to the Iranians, N. Koreas, Hugo etc. I wonder how the president making it personal will help much. Hillary understands this. That is why she was able to kick Obama’s keister on this issue. Presumably he will learn from his mistake.

Posted by: Jack at July 28, 2007 11:09 PM
Comment #227698

Jack:
“Hillary understands this. That is why she was able to kick Obama’s keister on this issue.”

In the debate she certainly scored a small rhetorical point. But then she got nasty by following it up with the “irresponsible and naive” comments, whereupon Obama turned around the next day and kicked Hill really hard in the crotch with these comments:

“her vote to authorize the Iraq war was “irresponsible and naive.”“

Ooof. Good point.

“The notion that I was somehow going to be inviting them over for tea next week without having initial envoys meet is ridiculous. But the general principle is one that I think Senator Clinton is wrong on, and that is if we are laying out preconditions that prevent us from speaking frankly to these folks, then we are continuing with Bush-Cheney policies.”

Wham! Lord knows we don’t want that…

Posted by: Adrienne at July 28, 2007 11:28 PM
Comment #227701

Adrienne

I got no dog in this Dem fight. However, Obama is just showing his inexperience and perhaps his dishonesty. We always lay out preconditions. That is what those envoys are doing. Obama lays out preconditions. Didn’t he refuse to debate on Fox? So he is willing to talk to our greatest foreign enemies who may have killed Americans but unwilling to talk to Americans who MAY disagree with him politically?

Obama is a smart guy. I figure he will learn quick enough, but I also believe that the Clinton machine will be exploiting his weakness and finding a way to blame Republicans for it.

If he gets nominated, Obama should name some of his major cabinet posts before the election. A guy with his lack of foreign policy experience will need to hit the ground running. It will be a very dangerous time when the new president makes the transition.

Posted by: Jack at July 29, 2007 12:05 AM
Comment #227708

Jack:
“Didn’t he refuse to debate on Fox? So he is willing to talk to our greatest foreign enemies who may have killed Americans but unwilling to talk to Americans who MAY disagree with him politically?”

Get real. It wasn’t Americans who may disagree with him politically that he (any of them) didn’t want to talk too. It was the Slime Machine that’s been working overtime for years bashing and discrediting and lying about Democrats that he turned his back on. The machine lost out on the ratings, and they sent a message to the whole country about just how unfair and imbalanced that machine truly is. Smart move, IMO.

“Obama is a smart guy. I figure he will learn quick enough, but I also believe that the Clinton machine will be exploiting his weakness”

I agree.

“and finding a way to blame Republicans for it.”

???

“If he gets nominated, Obama should name some of his major cabinet posts before the election. A guy with his lack of foreign policy experience will need to hit the ground running.”

That’s a good idea, I agree.

“It will be a very dangerous time when the new president makes the transition.”

Sorry, but I really don’t see how could be any more dangerous than it already is with these Bushco clowns. Truly competent people can hit the ground running in more ways than one.

Posted by: Adrienne at July 29, 2007 1:20 AM
Comment #227710

when a leader says “i” what he really means is as a leader he will have his peaople not he himself. such as he will bring health care to the people or he will bring peace. that means he will direct his people to do the things that have to be done with his leadership. hillary did what politicians do she played gotcha with an inexperienced politician which i think is great it showed he is wet behind the ears. i think she will make a great president and obama a great pres. in time but he needs more grooming.

Posted by: albert at July 29, 2007 1:43 AM
Comment #227712

To All
Just another reminder. There are more than two Dem presidential candidates.If anybody gains from this bruhaha it is Edwards.

SD

You are correct that Iran is not monolithic and also correct that our beligerence is probably the only force that could make them so. They have good reason to bear emnity towards us. The list of our injuries to them is long. A brief rundown: Overthrow of a democratic government and installation of the brutal Shah ,Cia support and advice to his notorious Savak,wholesale looting of Iranian oil,support for Saddam including providing WMDs , logistic and tactical support for their use against Iran.The Iranians lost more than fifty thousand troops in the last battle alone. A nation does not soon forget such things,even one as old as Persia.Yes we should talk to them and an apology and promise to stop hurting them should be the first order of business.

Posted by: BillS at July 29, 2007 2:10 AM
Comment #227718

Jack-
What was our original response to Halabja? Who asked us whether we would have a problem with them invading Iraq? Saddam certainly accepted help from the Soviets, but also accepted it from us. Why else was Rumsfeld showing up on their doorstep?

My understanding is that we were giving him just enough help so he wouldn’t lose the war. It was indeed in our interest that he not lose, lest Iran be a hostile superpower in the Middle East. The policy was not entirely without its merits, given what we had to deal with. We could complain about what idealistic approach wasn’t taken, but it doesn’t solve the problems at hand.

But there’s another angle to this: we were forced to side with Iraq because Iran took a side against us. Iran took a side against us because of our installation and support of a brutal dictator. We were trying the easy way there to create a friendly power. We ended up creating a monster. Can we simply ignore the rest of the world, stick to our hemisphere? No. First, we’re too dependent on globalization, second, Pearl Harbor and 9/11 prove that oceans, while still an obstacle to our enemies, are no longer impregnable barriers.

What we have to do is strike a balance between expedience and avoiding these satanic bargains. But still, we have to talk. Even with evil dictators, we have interests running through things. What we have to realize is that we are not without our leverage, or the ability to use it.

Yes, we are negotiating with North Korea and Iran now. But let’s not forget Bush’s response for much of the last few years, where he refused to consider that. Only after these countries showed progress despite our threats and insinuations, did we come back to the bargaining table. That’s a weaker position than being at the bargaining table with the option to take military action, than to be aloof, make threats nobody takes seriously, and then come back.

That’s the kind of thinking Hillary and the Republicans are unfortunately supporting. It’s supposed to look tough, but supposed is meaningless besides how it’s actually looks. And what it looks like is that America is writing checks its military can’t cash. Bush’s policy has greatly reduced our power in the world, and given us new handicaps for the new century.

On the subject of refusing the Fox debate, it’s no secret that FOX is hostile as an organization to Democrats. Why should we be rewarding them by showing up to a debate they’re holding? They won’t treat us fairly.

Which is not to say we don’t talk to Republicans. We do that all the time. We negotiate even when it’s not necessary. We could have passed any number of votes party line, if we chose. We involved Republicans instead. We talk to Republicans. We talk to folks in general. We don’t kid ourselves that we just bluff and bluster.

As for Debates, what about the Youtube Debate that the Republicans are running away from. Are they afraid to talk to the people themselves, as the Democrats did?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 29, 2007 9:23 AM
Comment #227721

Stephen

Our goal in the 1980s was for neither Iraq nor Iran to win that war. That is hardly a position “friendly” to Saddam. It is merely trying to let neither bad guy get too strong, sort of like hoping Hitler and Stalin would weaken each other.

In that respect, we gave Saddam almost nothing. We allowed Arab allies to share intel that allowed Saddam to anticipate and defeat Iranian attacks. Even if we look back on this with the benefit of all the hindsight was now possess, the policy of trying to prevent a victory by either of these guys was probably the best choice from among several bad ones.

Re Iran – We supported the Shah and that policy produced a reasonably stable relationship nearly 30 years. This is a fairly successful thing to do, BTW. Governments around there usually do not last that long. I agree that Jimmy Carter screwed up the transition, which led to an unfortunate chain of events that resulted in our current situation..

In any case, Obama is advocating doing just that sort of thing, whether he knows it or not. As he gets a little more experience, he will come to understand that his meetings have such consequences. If you seriously talk to the bad guys, it implies you are willing to deal with them and if you deal with them you are seen as supporting them. This would be especially true if the president meets with them. Obama would have met Saddam, following his logic.

I find this whole conversation very interesting and I am enjoying it. You guys are falling all over yourselves to support a policy that is essentially what you criticized when done by conservatives. I support the general principle of engagement, but I understand that Obama is just a babe in the woods in this. That is why Hillary kicked his kiester. I enjoyed that too.

I would agree that we should only talk to our opponents when subsequent events prove it was a good idea. If you Dems know how to ensure that, please let me know.

Re Fox v the Iranians, it shows Dem priorities. Iranians threaten to kill Americans (and do); N. Koreas brag that they have a bomb and that they might use it against us; Hugo says that the U.S. is the biggest problem the world faces today. Castro has held his country (and some political prisoners) in tyranny for more than 40 years. Dems are willing to talk to them and Obama will do it w/o preconditions. Meanwhile, Bill O’Reiley makes fun of some Dem positions and so none of them will associate with anything his network does.

Posted by: Jack at July 29, 2007 11:29 AM
Comment #227737

The Shah wasn’t reasonably stable, it was a time bomb waiting to go off. This is my worry about Iraq: you make people suffer long enough, and they will self-assemble and lash back at you.

What Obama said was shorthand. It could mean an actual meeting, or it could mean Obama’s staff meeting with them. What it means in the end, is no more empty intimidation, no more weak-as-water complaints about the evil that a country is, and no more of this useless belligerence that our enemies not only see through, but use to justify their own extremism.

Most People in the Middle East want peace, just like you and I want it. We don’t want bombs going off in our back yards, they don’t want it either. People just want to live their lives. If we’re disruptive enough, the leaders can convince people that they are threatened, and use that fear to gather support for more hardline policies, especially those which might pose a threat to us. If we don’t get belligerent, there’s no guarantee that we’re safe, but we can go after our enemies with them unable to honestly say that we provoked them, that we’re the ones who caused the trouble. That was the smart thing about Bush Sr.’s handling of the Gulf War: we were minding our own business, rather than being the primary driving force behind the cause of the war.

As for Fox vs. The Iranians? Good heavens. Apples and Oranges.

FOX is a private news service which has decided to take a very anti-Democratic Party stance, and whose reporting is heavily biased, openly biased even, in the Republican’s favor. We have no desire to lend them our credibility.

Iran is a country, made up of diverse groups of people, among them some hardliners, but mostly moderates who once, long ago, bought into a religiously steeped system. The honeymoon, if you keep up with the reports, has been over for some time. There are few people within FOX News that we’d profit by negotiating with, and plenty within Iran that we could help, who could set Iran on the path to reconciliation with the West.

At the end of the day, FOX is not an organization in tension, Iran is.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 29, 2007 2:12 PM
Comment #227775

Stephen

The people suffered more under the theocracy in the 1980s. Unfortunately, those sorts of governments are common in the region. The Shah time was not so bad based on regional standards.

Besides, we supported the Shah. We did not hold him in power. I know that people like to blame the U.S. for everything. I only wish we had that kind of power.

Re Fox news, it is apples and oranges. That is why it is so odd that Obama will talk w/o preconditions to America haters, murderers, holocaust deniers etc, but it unwilling to talk to journalists (many of whom come from NPR, New Republic, Washington Post etc) because their employer’s politics vary from those of the Daily Kos.

I never thought I would be saying this, but Hillary clearly is the only one who at least has an idea of the right thing to do.

BTW - let me say again that I believe in talking to enemies. But not right away at the presidental level. But that means you have to accept talking to Saddam, the Shah etc. We do not get to know which contacts will work out in the long run before the fact.

BTW 2 - re president Obama meeting one-on-one w/o preconditions with Castro or Hugo, these guys are not the equal of the U.S. president. We cannot afford to spend too much chief executive time on these little guys, no matter how offensive they might be. They should be the concern of someone farther down the chain. President Obama could maybe say hi. Of course, we all hope Castro will be dead by then anyhow.

Posted by: Jack at July 29, 2007 7:22 PM
Comment #227805

Jack-
They raised the Ayatollah Khomeini to power in the Shah’s place. Don’t tell me they didn’t hate the guy pretty intensely. Additionally, our CIA operation helped put the guy in place, and we trained the SAVAK secret police. Don’t tell me we weren’t involved there.

As for FOX News? Tell me why we have to dignify a highly slanted news operation that makes its money off of its collection of Right-Wing Pundits with showing up for their debate, much less treat dealing with it as equal in importance to dealing with that rather troublesome nation. If we don’t deal with FOX News, there won’t be the threat of Nuclear War. Things are quite different for Iran.

As for folks being the equal of a President? I’m almost inclined to agree, but what occurs to me is that if we get too snobbish about it, it might not help things. Respect goes a long way. If Bush had showed Chavez respect, instead of denouncing the coup, we might not be seeing the B.S. we see out of him now, or it might be more difficult for him to support it on the grounds that we actually were out to get him.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 29, 2007 9:25 PM
Comment #227811

Stephen

Who is they? A violent revolution raised the Ayatolla. They did not hold a plebecite. There followed a general terror where thousands were murdered. My guess is that most of the people so affected were not fans of the Ayatolla. You are mistaking the people of Iran with the rulers of Iran.

I do not know if you watch Fox. I do. Today I saw Juan Williams, Neil Gabler, Mora Liason & Elanor Clift and Jane Hall among the commentators. What they said did not seem particularly conservative. The guest list and topics on Fox News Sunday are similar to those on Meet the Press or This Week, which come on about the same time. In fact, I see many of the same commentators and guests on the News Hour and other shows.

Something like Special Report or Fox News Sunday are certainly in the same levels of credibility as CBS Evening News, This Week etc. I watch them too, BTW.

I think the Dems rejecting Fox indicated their ignorance and intolerance. It made the Daily Kos people happy. It shows, however, how much a - kissing the Dems have to do to the left wing of their party. I suspect the presidential election in 2008 will be close. In the general election this kow tow to the left wing of the party will not be helpful. Remember that the only Dem to win a second term since FDR was Clinton who was a DLC Dem. The Daily Kos will help with the nomination, but it will not win over the less partisan folks.

Fox News Channel has some news entertainment programs. Those are the things that liberals probably find offensive at times.

Posted by: Jack at July 29, 2007 10:50 PM
Comment #227813

Stephen, the last Shah of Iran came to power in 1941 and ruled until 1979, but the CIA didn’t even come to existence until 1947. I’d love to hear more about this “CIA operation” of ours that put the Shah in place before there even was a CIA. Talk about deep cover. I’m truly amazed what liberals are willing to believe if it reflects badly on the United States. They’re even willing, apparently, to believe that the CIA travels back in time to foment revolutions in the past.

Fox News has its slant, but so do all of the networks and news organizations. From the New York Times to MSNBC, the Wall Street Journal, or CBS, all of them lean one way or the other ideologically. If Fox has O’Reilly and Hannity, MSNBC has Olbermann and Chris Matthews. MSNBC is clearly hostile to Republicans, yet the Republicans allowed them to host a Republican debate.

Fox, for all of its rightward lean, has never done the equivelant of airing a story based on obviously forged documents in order to discredit the Democrats, as did CBS in 04.

We know full well what the response would be if Republicans began boycotting and shutting out news organizations because of their liberal slant: a hue and cry about “censorship” and attempting to undermine the free press.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at July 29, 2007 11:16 PM
Comment #227814

Jack, I had the same problem sorting out Stephen’s shifting references. Apparently “they” refers to the Iranians who overthrew the Shah and installed the Ayatolla, but “the guy” we supposedly put in place (with our nonexistent CIA) was the Shah.

That’s the only thing that makes sense because nobody would be dumb enough to say that the CIA installed the Ayotalla, and the SAVAK were an Iranian police force under the Shah.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at July 29, 2007 11:23 PM
Comment #227831

No big deal but didn’t the reps. debate on msnbc? imo it was a stupid battle the dems. decided to take on.

Posted by: andy at July 30, 2007 2:32 AM
Comment #227865

Jack-
They didn’t have a plebiscite, but neither did the government they replaced. The Ayatollah’s forces were numerous enough to allow him to sweep over the Shah’s loyalist forces despite the lack of any major military or economic setback before it. I won’t say that the majority supported it, but takeovers like this require numbers, and the Ayatollah had them.

Let’s not be so foolish as to make these three assumptions:

1)That acceptance or even embrace of the government created by fear tactics and intimidation will automatically disappear just because we show up to overthrow that government.

2)That the non-democratic aspects of the government make it impossible for the government to have substantial support in the population.

and

3)That the people and the government are not entangled and integrated in some fashion, that the government is just a veneer over huddled masses yearning to breathe freely.

These are among the assumptions that proved wrong in Iraq. They’ll likely prove much more wrong in Iran. It is not wrong to treat the issue of the Theocracy in Iran as if a substantial part of the population has something to do with both their continued rule and their rise to that position. It might be the convenient Rhetorical position to pretend as if all tyrannical governments lack the true support of the people, but in truth, no tyrannical government, the Mullah’s predecessor’s included, can long survive the opposition of a large segment of the population, if they see fit to rise up and destroy it. Where they survive, they have at least a substantial minority to draw on.

The Council that heads Iran has had to concede many things to the populace, to keep things from boiling over. When we’re threatening Iran, though, it validates stooges of the Mullah like Ahmedinejad, who can use our threats as a means to justify their own belligerence, and impugn the motives of those who support reforms. We have to recognize that these people are not Americans wearing Iranian skins, but folks who can see our threats to their country as threats to them.

As for FOX? Please don’t tell me that just because of the fact that they invite some liberals to be on their Sunday Politics Roundtable, that they’re somehow balanced. They’ve got John Gibson and Brit Hume reading the news, both who’re on the record making political commentary on stories and items in the middle of these broadcasts, behavior rarely seen in MSM newscasters, even those considered far left by Right Wing Media critics. They’ve got Neil Cavuto carrying water for Bush. They’ve got two of the most Hardline pundits out there right in their primetime.

They invite fifty guests who are conservative for every six that are not. They keep on air people who talked about burning ballots in the 2000 election, saying Bush is president and everybody should deal with it; that happened to be anchor John Gibson, not even one of the pundits.

If that isn’t enough, they report made up crap, just to hurt the Democrats. Hence, this:

Two days after the 2006 election, web blog The Huffington Post reported they had acquired a copy of a leaked internal memo from Mr. Moody that recommended: “… let’s be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled congress.” Within hours of the memo’s publication, Fox News anchor, Martha McCallum, went on-air with reports of Iraqi insurgents cheering the firing of Donald Rumsfeld and the results of the 2006 Congressional election.[55] [56]

Kind of funny, eh, when people are told to go looking for that kind of story, rather than just stumbling upon it. There’s also the matter of just making crap up, as in the Barack Obama “Madrassa” story, which Fox ran with, despite the fact that it was patently false on the facts. That right there should raise questions for any Democrat wanting to attend a debate hosted by FOX. It’s one thing for the network to have a slight slant, but when facts take a back seat to opinions and inflammatory, sloppy reporting, then Democrats have to ask themselves what they have to gain by giving FOXNews the time of day, much less a chance to hurl questions at them that they have to answer on the spot.

LO-
Yes, the Shah of Iran came to power in 1941, but his power was not always constant. Nor do Britain or America find any absolution for the responsibility of putting him in place, and restoring him to his place when popular reaction against him sent him into exile.

I suppose what I said was somewhat over-generalized. He was Shah at the time that Mossadegh was deposed. He was, however, almost shut out of the important day to day decisions, in self-imposed exile in Rome. The CIA was involved in Operation Ajax, which helped elevate the Shah to absolute power in the early fifties, deposing the Mossadegh once and for all.

Britain was also involved, though, in forcing the abdication of the Shah’s predecessor, his father. In all cases, the notion was to control Iran’s substantial fossil fuel reserves, but the strategic result of both British and American interventions was to create a rather nasty backlash by the people. The Shah’s government becomes much more despotic in the wake of the coup, with SAVAK born in that latter part of his reign.

It is quite arrogant, and quite dangerous, to assume that people will not and should not react negatively to our policy when it takes this shape. This kind of colonialist and imperialist disregard for the wishes of the public only sets up situations where a critical tide of anger will rise up against what controls we set up in place. You might see it as establishing more direct control of the situation, for legitimate policy reasons, but the folks we effect will not think that way, and won’t necessarily weigh the consequences of their reaction rationally, much less according to our points of view.

As for SAVAK? It did serve a role as a “domestic security service”, which would justify labelling it a secret police.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 30, 2007 1:53 PM
Comment #227903

Stephen

My only point re Iran is that one authoritarian was replaced by another who probably killed more per year. When you say the “Iranians” you are not using the proper term if you mean the government. Small numbers of ruthless or organized people can often dominate much larger groups.


Tell me what the people of Iran want and if their government is giving to them. If they blamed the U.S. before, who will they blame now? I suspect leftist Americans will still blame the U.S. and if we talk to the Iranians, they will later show pictures to prove their point.

Posted by: Jack at July 30, 2007 9:26 PM
Comment #227912

Stephen, et. al.

The Iranian conversation was interesting. Stephen, it seems as if you are trying to paint the failed policies and programs of two or more generations through leadership of both parties as indicative of the current Republican policy.

There appear to be some stark differences along with these similarities. Are you suggesting that our policy in Afghanistan or Iraq closely paralell that of the 1950’s Iranian policy?

Re, the broader point of talking, you seem to be making both arguments at the same time. You are still vilifying Rumsfeld for talking to Sadam while supporting the ability for a future leader to do something similar, aren’t you?

Did Bush ever say categorically that he wouldn’t talk to the North Koreans? My understanding is that he said that we would join the negotiations willingly when preconditions were met.

I believe that LO made a very valid point that not talking to South Africa was a successful policy. For what it is worth, not talking to China before Nixon also made his ability to negotiate once he decided to go there that much more effective as well.

Was JFK a neo-con because he decided to start the diplomatic and economic embargo against Cuba?

Overall, I think nearly all agree that talking is a great option. It should not be thought of as the only one. Like the Taoist view that the cup is not complete without the hole, talking is not complete without the threat not to talk.

Posted by: Rob at July 30, 2007 10:38 PM
Comment #227939

Rob-
The Republican and Neocon policy of the present seeks to vindicate the policy in Vietnam. The Policy in Vietnam was a botched attempt to maintain a colonial status quo, in the naive belief that because Americans had taken over, the economic, political, and military domination of the country was somehow redeemed from being as bad as what the French, Britons, or others had done.

What the Republicans and Neocons want is for America to be a unilateral actor, which goes around using its brute economic and military strength to contain threats. They want us to act like the colonial powers and the imperialists did, backing governments who back us, punishing those who don’t. They want to remake the Middle East by force, and they don’t want to have to bother with dealing with other powers on a respectful basis in order to get what they want. You’re either for them or against them.

The problem with Bush’s approach is that you get nothing done until they agree to your conditions, and in the meantime, they have nothing to lose by simply defying you, especially when you aren’t gathering international support. What they’re talking about is a kind of diplomatic seige, and seige warfare typically depends on either active military intervention, which can be fairly costly in casualties, or people just being starved out.

North Korea’s not going to get starved out anytime soon. They’re already starving in that place, and The Government simply doesn’t care. Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba are hardly as internationally isolated as we’d like to pretend, so our siege diplomacy would hardly work there. Even with Iraq, it might have been better in the long run for us to give Iraq a clean start, rather than continue the policy of containment.

I know people are going to scream at me for that, but let me lay it out: it’s not as if we couldn’t give Saddam pause anytime he got ideas about attacking somebody. If he did, we’d have the perfect excuse to go in there and remove him permanently. Yes, he’d probably redevelop his weapons program, but we would make it clear that if he went Nuclear, we’d put him right back in the hole we found him in, and we’d set up the alliances in the surrounding country to ensure this would work. In the meantime, we would do our best to open up the place to business and commerce, which would allow us to insert more of a human intelligence element into the country, rather than bounce them off of Saddam’s shell of security.

Most importantly, we would punish any lapse into genocidal behavior, any use of chemical or biological weapons on the populace.

The Diplomatic policy to achieve this would not be a simple one, or one that could fit on a bumper sticker. It would, however, be aimed more at working in the real world, than looking good to hawks and neocons back home.

The key is to tie the hands of tyrants with their own interests, to extend our reach into these countries that present these kinds of problems by appealing to the connections of economy.

The key is to have a number of options present. Additionally, the key is to engage people in the country with the respect necessary to where they actually have to think when wondering who they want to support.

I’m not against intervention, diplomatic or military, but I think we should have a more multi-dimensional, sympathetic, and creative approach to it, rather than copying the colonial and imperial attitudes of our European forebearers. We need an American version of it, one that suits our real values, rather than come into conflict with it.

As for your last two paragraphs? No, JFK was not a Neocons. Listen to what the Neocons are talking about right now: Invading Iran. The reason the Neocons want silence is that they feel diplomacy is the road to appeasement. Evil regimes must be dealt with and subjugated, in their view. Anything less is immoral.

As far as the threat not to talk , there has to be reason for these people to consider that a bad thing. They have to have something to lose by not negotiating, and it’s got to be more important that that which would keep them away from the bargaining table. We can’t simply walk away and expect to keep in the game.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 31, 2007 9:54 AM
Comment #227996

Stephen,

Much to reply to, the last paragraph is really what I was most interested in, so I’ll take it first, I’ll come back to the rest later.

You said, “As far as the threat not to talk , there has to be reason for these people to consider that a bad thing.” Do you believe that the N.K. thought not having the U.S. at the table was a bad thing?

“They have to have something to lose by not negotiating, and it’s got to be more important that that which would keep them away from the bargaining table.” Agreed, I think. The option of not talking is better served when the other side wants to talk. See LO’s comments on South Africa above.

“We can’t simply walk away and expect to keep in the game.” I’m not sure that anyone here is advocating simply walking away. There are methods to maintain relations and get information and views exchanged short of diplomatic visits and negotiations. However, there does come a time when the time for talking is over. Do you believe that we should have started with negotiations with the Taliban before we invaded Afghanistan?

I think overall you are missing my point that choosing not to talk and not to negotiate are part in parcel to talking and negotiating. The decision made by JFK to completely embargo Cuba was a diplomatic decision. Was it the right one? My personal opinion was that it was the correct decision. It isolated the Cuban regime from the West for the better part of three decades after they had already tied their alliance to the Soviet Union.

I believe that the decision not to Castro by Eisenhower 6 years earlier was a bad one. Cuban had not defined alliances nor openly embraced Communism at the time. We had a chance to shape the allegiances of Castro at that point. It was lost 6 years later. At this point, any decision to change that policy should be carefully made with an eye toward what renewed relations mean. I believe that to openly begin talking to Castro at this point would be fool-hardy. Instead, the time to reestablish relations with Cuba would be with his successor.

Maybe I’m misunderstanding you, but what I hear you saying is that talking is always superior to not talking. I think that is a flawed argument. They both have their place and to abandon completely an arrow in the diplomatic quiver seems to greatly comprimise our overall effectiveness in that arena.

Posted by: Rob at July 31, 2007 8:56 PM
Comment #228285

I would normally agree with you stephen on your main point of negotiating with dictators, and I still think that we should persue this in many cases with the one BIG exception of radical islamic regimes. Remember, the old communist blocs were political institutions, and as such it can be argued that political ideologies can be changed/shaped/molded based upon what works for society.

Fundamentalist religion - especially when used as a tool to foster terror and subjugate the populace to further its goal - cannot be negotiated with. If we accept this as truth (and there are far too many examples, both past and current), then we are left with two choices:

1) turn a blind eye and accept the situation as well as the consequeces, for allowing these hate filled regimes to fester.

2) take direct action. no more talk. Just because the peace keeping mission in Iraq is (arguably) failing, does not mean that we lost the war in Iraq. My recollection is that we won that war in very short order…

Posted by: b0mbay at August 3, 2007 7:17 PM
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