Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Talk Talk

I hate wading into the primaries too much, but I think Yglesias has a good point here. In addition Senator Clinton had a rather stirring defense of direct talks recently.

The Administration announces it will propose timetables or benchmarks and the Iraqi Prime Minister denounces them. President Bush says we are adjusting tactics but Secretary Rumsfeld insists we are staying the course. The Administration tells Iran and Syria they're responsible for helping keep the peace but won't talk with them about how to do it. We continue to deny evident reality, proceeding with few or no allies and precious little direct communication with people who matter. No wonder the American people think that we are adrift.


We have to keep all options on the table, including being ready to talk directly to Iranians should the right opportunity present itself. Direct talks, if they do nothing else, lets you assess who's making the decisions -- what their stated and unstated goals might be. And willingness to talk sends two very important messages. First, to the Iranian people, that our quarrel is with their leaders, not with them; and second, to the international community, that we are pursuing every available peaceful avenue to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.


But I have thought for a long time we made a mistake not talking directly to North Korea. North Korea's neighbors have long supported direct U.S. --North Korea talks on security matters. In the past, such engagements have prevented the development of plutonium bombs and the testing of long-range missiles. Kim Jong Il needs to hear a single, unified message: choose between nuclear weapons and aid from South Korea, China, and the international community. You cannot have both. Right now, we seem to be relying too much for my taste on China's good will to restrain North Korea. But at the end of the day, Pyongyang will have to hear this message directly from us.

This is just bringing us back into the stupid parameters of debate established by the Bush administration. I don't want the country to stay in that very stupid place. We need leaders who are willing to get us out of that spider hole of stupidity.

I'm not claiming there's a direct contradiction here. In the latest round Clinton's talking about presidential meetings, instead of just standard diplomacy. But these distinctions are rather unimportant. Either in general terms it's important to reach out to the leaders of countries we have disagreements with or it isn't.