Saturday, July 28, 2007

Naïve and Irresponsible...

Barack Obama said Monday during the Democratic debate that he would meet during his first year in office with the leaders of Cuba, Syria, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, and maybe a few other governments that I'm forgetting - governments whose leaders despise America, whose leaders may even sponsor terrorism. Obama tried to set up that proposed course of action as a contract to the failed foreign policies of President George W. Bush.

The press exploded with criticism of Obama for his statements. Hillary Clinton called the idea "naïve and irresponsible." And Clinton's criticism of Obama has changed the tone of the campaign.

Is Obama's proposal naïve and irresponsible? I'd say yes. And the contrast he's trying to set up doesn't work.

President Bush has had most of seven years now to come to terms with the rouge states of the world. It is no shame that he didn't have Kim Il Sung to dinner in 1991. But Bush's foreign policy in general has been characterized by stubborn refusal to ever change direction - a "don't confuse me with the facts" approach that says "we started out in this direction and if we keep going this direction we'll eventually get somewhere."

Hillary says that she doesn't want to be used for propaganda purposes. Those governments will make propaganda anyway. They will tell their people and their allies what they want, regardless of truth.

There is groundwork that has to be laid, though. And the idea that heads of state can meet on short notice without laying the groundwork for some sort of accomplishment is, well, naïve and irresponsible. Would it better than the reckless and stubborn policies of the Bush administration? Yes. It might even accidentally accomplish something; but any accomplishment would be largely accidental.

If Obama had said that he hoped to meet with such leaders in his first term, after laying the groundwork for some constructive dialogue, then the contrast would have worked.

Obama's mistake? He's in too much of a hurry. But changing course and entering into dialogue (even with North Korea's Kim Il Sung or Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) doesn't give away anything when the current course is not working.

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