Thursday, May 22, 2008

Risky Conversations

I'm going to comment soon on the talking versus appeasement question that President Bush recently raised with his speech before the Israeli Knesset last week. But first, I want to recommend an article that speaks to the related (but different) question of the risks associated with high level diplomacy with adversaries.

First, let me say that I with those that say the United States should be pursuing far more expansive and aggressive diplomacy with our adversaries. Under the right circumstances, I even support these talks on the Presidential level.

I've been frustrated recently by the low level of debate around this issue and it has caused me to dig in around my opinion that increased high level diplomacy is a superior course of action. In other words, I have lost some objectivity.

This "digging in" has happened to the extent that I have not allowed myself to reflect on the fact that Presidential-level diplomacy is NOT a risk-less proposition if not done properly. Some of our wisest leaders have made that mistaken assumption to disastrous effect.

The New York Times ran a strong editorial today that reminded me of that fact. It used the example of John F. Kennedy's direct discussions with Nikita Khrushchev to make the point. It makes the argument that Kennedy's weakness in those discussions emboldened the Soviet Premier so much that it may have been a contributing factor behind his decision to move the weapons to Cuba that ultimately led to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

If you want to read more, it's a 5 minute essay..

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