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Debate: Obama, meeting with hostile foreign leaders without preconditions

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*'''Meeting rogue leaders better reveals their true interests.''' Barack Obama said in May, 2008, "[when] you have engaged in those direct talks, and you're listening about what their interests are, number one, we get a better sense of what their true interests are"[http://factcheck.barackobama.com/factcheck/2008/05/29/obamas_consistent_position_on.php] *'''Meeting rogue leaders better reveals their true interests.''' Barack Obama said in May, 2008, "[when] you have engaged in those direct talks, and you're listening about what their interests are, number one, we get a better sense of what their true interests are"[http://factcheck.barackobama.com/factcheck/2008/05/29/obamas_consistent_position_on.php]
 +
 +*'''Talking to hostile leaders takes the higher moral ground.''' The greatest philosophers in history have all espoused the importance of compassion, empathy, humility, and open-mindedness to one's enemies. Jesus Christ even espoused the principle of loving one's enemy. A willingness to speak with hostile nations upholds the principles. Shutting off contacts does not.
*'''Speaking with rogue leaders demonstrates US is not impeding progress.''' Barack Obama said in May, 2008, "[when you meet with rogue leaders without preconditions] you have sent a message to the world that we are not the impediment of making progress, that they're the ones who are holding up progress" which allows us then to strengthen our alliances to impose the kinds of tough sanctions that may be necessary to change their behavior."[http://factcheck.barackobama.com/factcheck/2008/05/29/obamas_consistent_position_on.php] *'''Speaking with rogue leaders demonstrates US is not impeding progress.''' Barack Obama said in May, 2008, "[when you meet with rogue leaders without preconditions] you have sent a message to the world that we are not the impediment of making progress, that they're the ones who are holding up progress" which allows us then to strengthen our alliances to impose the kinds of tough sanctions that may be necessary to change their behavior."[http://factcheck.barackobama.com/factcheck/2008/05/29/obamas_consistent_position_on.php]

Revision as of 22:48, 27 July 2008

Is Barack Obama justified in his willingness to talk to foreign leaders without preconditions?

Contents

Background and Context of Debate:

The debate over Barack Obama's position on meeting with foreign leaders without preconditions became a central component of the 2008 elections during a CNN/YouTube debate, on July 24th, 2007. He was asked, "Would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?" Obama responded, "I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them -- which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration -- is ridiculous."


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Yes

  • US has a history of meeting rogue leaders without preconditions President Kennedy met with Nikita Khrushchev at a time when the two nations were on the brink of nuclear war. Kennedy said, we should never negotiate out of fear but we should never fear to negotiate. President Nixon met with China's Mao Zedong, even "with the knowledge that Mao had exterminated millions of people." Obama said, "And yet, we understood that we could advance our national security by at least opening up lines of communication. It's a signal of how badly our foreign policy has drifted over the last eight years."[1]
  • Iraq Study Group recommended meeting Iran, Syria without preconditions. Iraq Study Group Report - "Dealing with Iran and Syria is controversial. Nevertheless, it is our view that in diplomacy, a nation can and should engage its adversaries and enemies to try to resolve conflicts and differences consistent with its own interests. Accordingly, the Support Group should actively engage Iran and Syria in its diplomatic dialogue, without preconditions."
  • Meeting foreign leaders is a means of engaging in aggressive diplomacy. An interview on Fox News in May, 2008 - "MS. KELLY: Senator, do you assume too much about men like Ahmadinejad? In other words, that you could reason with someone as irrational as he is? SEN. OBAMA: First of all, he's not the most powerful leader in Iran, so he might not be the person that we would need to meet with. But more importantly, the reason that you have discussions and diplomacy is not because you assume reason or good motives on the other side. That would be naive. What you assume is that if you are very clear about the need to stand down on nuclear weapons, that you are very clear about the need to stop funding Hezbollah and Hamas and to stop threatening Israel"[2]
  • Meeting rogue leaders better reveals their true interests. Barack Obama said in May, 2008, "[when] you have engaged in those direct talks, and you're listening about what their interests are, number one, we get a better sense of what their true interests are"[3]
  • Talking to hostile leaders takes the higher moral ground. The greatest philosophers in history have all espoused the importance of compassion, empathy, humility, and open-mindedness to one's enemies. Jesus Christ even espoused the principle of loving one's enemy. A willingness to speak with hostile nations upholds the principles. Shutting off contacts does not.
  • Speaking with rogue leaders demonstrates US is not impeding progress. Barack Obama said in May, 2008, "[when you meet with rogue leaders without preconditions] you have sent a message to the world that we are not the impediment of making progress, that they're the ones who are holding up progress" which allows us then to strengthen our alliances to impose the kinds of tough sanctions that may be necessary to change their behavior."[4]
  • Speaking with rogue leaders helps build alliances, enables action. Barack Obama said in May, 2008, "[when you meet with rogue leaders without preconditions] you have sent a message to the world that we are not the impediment of making progress, that they're the ones who are holding up progress, which allows us then to strengthen our alliances to impose the kinds of tough sanctions that may be necessary to change their behavior."[5]
  • "Preconditions" for talking are often what need to be talked about. Barack Obama said in May, 2008, "Preconditions, as it applies to a country like Iran, for example, was a term of art because this administration has been very clear that it will not have direct negotiations with Iran until Iran has met preconditions that are, essentially, what Iran views and many other observers would view as the subject of the negotiations. For example, their nuclear program. The point is, is that I would not refuse to meet until they agreed to every position that we want."[6]
  • Not talking to nations does not punish them; talking is no concession. Obama, D-Ill., said after being asked at the CNN/YouTube debate whether he would meet with rogue nations without preconditions, replied, "Yes. I would. And the reason is this: that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them -- which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration -- is ridiculous."[7]
  • Obama is only willing to meet rogue leaders when it's in US interests. Meeting without "preconditions" does not mean meeting with rogue leaders without any specific purpose in mind that relates to US and global interests. Furthermore, a willingness to meet with rogue leaders is not a promise to meet. Obama has not committed to meeting with all rogue leaders. He has only said that he is willing to meet without setting pre-conditions regarding the behavior of those states. An important condition on all meetings remains: that it be within US strategic interests to meet, and work toward something.


No

  • Obama's offer would cause rogue leaders to invite a meeting. Michigan Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra, responding to the notion of these requests, predicted, "That would be an untenable position for the President of the United States to be put in."[9]
  • Obama's position on meeting hostile leaders is naive; poor judgement.
  • Hilary Clinton criticized Obama's position on meeting hostile leaders. Clinton referred to Obama as "irresponsible and, frankly, naive", referring to his willingness to meet with leaders of hostile nations without preconditions.[10]


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No

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