There’s been a fair amount of criticism of Obama lately by George Bush and John McCain, in what they are terming “appeasement.” As usual, I tend to fall somewhere between the two extremes. I feel a little bit like Homer Simpson when deciding whether or not to vote for Sideshow Bob: “Hmmm. I don’t agree with his Bart Killing policy. But I do approve of his Selma Killing policy.”
I’ve more or less always disagreed with the Cuban embargo and our refusal to talk to them. I also agree with Obama’s general proposition that Venezuela is not a threat and that we should keep dialogue open. When it comes to Iran and North Korea however, the options get a little fuzzier. I find it, not necessarily disingenuous, but at least misleading for Obama to group those four countries together.
The fact is, we already talk to the North Koreans and the Iranians. With North Korea, we do it via the Six-Party Talks. South Korea, North Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S. are all working to resolve the “North Korea Problem.”
We are also already dialogueing with the Iranians. It is the EU-3 however that are leading these negotiations.
That’s what annoys me about all this appeasement talk. Negotiating itself is not appeasement. We do it all the time. But if we are going to change policy by having a President which is going to engage in direct dialogue with the Iranians and the North Koreans without condition in his first year as President, then Obama needs to acknowledge that that, in and of itself, is a serious concession. Not appeasement, but a concession. What, if anything, does the United States require from the Iranians if we are going to make that concession? Maybe the answer is nothing. I for one have often drifted towards that view.
I’d like to even believe in the possibility of huge Mid-East peace conference.
If you’re going to negotiate however, you have to negotiate from a position of strength. The Iranians need to hear from Obama over the next fews months of campaigning that he will not let them get the atomic bomb. That we will protect our allies in the Middle East.
Obama often refers to Reagan negotiating with the Soviets as evidence that his call for negotiation is the right one. This is only partially true. Reagan saw little point in negotiating with Brezhnev. But, when Gorby arrived, Reagan saw a man with whom he could deal. Importantly however, even while negotiating with Gorbachev, Reagan was an unflinching anti-communist who was willing and able to draw hard lines in the sand. To give speeches which called out the Soviet leadership publicly.
For all his flowery prose, I just can’t see Obama making a speech like that. I don’t hear him taking a hard enough stand against Iran such that I would trust him at the negotiating table. He has five months to convince me.
One more thing: ask ordinary Russians how they feel now about the results of Gorbachev negotiating with Reagan from a position of weakness. I’m not sure how you say Neville Chamberlain in Russian, but I betcha it sounds something like Gorbachev.