Friday, July 27, 2007

Talking With Our Enemies

Since most of you follow political news and likely know the details of the Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama "scuffle" this week I won't rehash it here. Though I have some pretty strong personal feelings on the subject in its political context, I'm not going to get into that here since this blog's focus isn't on partisan politics or candidate favoritism. When we write in support of Democrats it is because we support their policies. We'd do the same if we agreed with Republicans more often and we don't shy away from criticizing Democrats when we think they are in the wrong.

However, since conservatives have decided to wade in on the debate, I wanted to bring up this article from Newsweek's Jonathan Alter that I think does a pretty good job of tearing down their ridiculously stupid position of refusing to engage in diplomacy with hostile states. Specifically, he takes to task their usual tactic of comparing Democrats to Neville Chamberlain in any foreign policy situation:
For starters, Chamberlain’s unforgivable mistake was not that he met with Hitler, but that he gave away Czechoslovakia to Hitler. It’s what comes out of the meeting that counts. Meeting a bad, even evil, head of state is not appeasement; it’s diplomacy. Otherwise, it’s hard to argue that Nixon and Henry Kissinger should have gone to Beijing to meet with Mao, one of the greatest mass murderers in history.

Moreover, the GOP’s Churchill infatuation ignores some inconvenient realities. For instance, The New York Times and other news organizations have quoted U.S. government sources confirming that nearly a third of the suicide bombers in Iraq are Saudis. That’s right—a lot of the guys killing our guys are, like 19 out of 20 of the hijackers on 9/11, from one of our top allies in the region. But that didn’t stop Bush from holding hands with Saudi King Abdullah at his Crawford ranch. Did the royal family send Saudi nationals to Iraq to be insurgents fighting with their fellow Sunnis? Probably not. Did they look the other way? Some U.S. officials now think so. This puts Saudi Arabia in about the same position as Iran when it comes to infiltration over the border into Iraq.

The point is, we are way past us-versus-them and good-versus-evil in the Middle East. And anyone who thinks the United States has the stature to demand that foreign leaders renounce their threatening and stupid views before meeting with us is living in a dream world.

If the next president has any sense, that person will convene a big international conference where all the parties will talk to each other—and to the United States—about how to repair some of the damage in the region. There’s a good bet that even the Israelis will show up. They now realize that all those years of not talking to the Palestinians didn’t bring them much. (Witness how often Prime Minister Olmert has met recently with Prime Minister Abbas).

Next year, the Democratic nominee will likely argue for a conference. And if he wants to win, the Republican nominee will edge in that direction. It’s not 1938 anymore. Or even 2001. After all the squabbling, the candidate who best understands that new reality will be the next president.

UPDATE: Pat Buchanan illustrates the point even better.


Xanthippas said...

Good points and completely sensible. This is of course why the right-wing rejects them.

Nat-Wu said...

I can't believe Pat Buchanan made that much sense. Solid opinion though. Engagement is the only way to avoid war, and the only people who don't believe we need to avoid war are those who think Iraq is going well.