February 28th, 2008
03:49 PM ET
6 years ago

Blitzer: Would U.S. be better off if it met with adversaries?

Is it a good idea for a president to meet directly with adversaries?
Is it a good idea for a president to meet directly with adversaries?

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Barack Obama has been receiving some serious criticism on three fronts for his stated willingness to meet directly as president with the likes of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Hillary Clinton has been quite critical as has John McCain. And now President Bush has weighed in as well - insisting it’s a bad idea.

Their bottom line is that these kinds of high-level meetings require lots of advance work. They say in effect that a president should not give aid and comfort to a tyrant who is abusing his own people. Such a meeting with the president of the United States, they add, would be used by a tyrant for propaganda purposes to further oppress his people.

“The Bush Administration’s approach has been to say, unless they agree with everything we say ahead of time, we won’t meet,” Obama told me the last time we spoke. “That is a doomed policy. "The National Intelligence Estimate, our 16 top intelligence organizations, have themselves indicated that the Iranian leadership responds to both carrots and sticks and that we should be engaging in direct talks. That’s the kind of leadership I want to show as president of the United States.”

This is a serious area of disagreement. So who is right in this debate? Would the U.S. and the world be better off if an American president were to sit down publicly without preconditions with Ahmadinejad, Cuba’s Raul Castro, North Korea’s Kim Jung Il, or Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez?

Would that help make for a more stable and peaceful world or would it simply embolden U.S. adversaries? I would be interested to know what you think.

– Wolf Blitzer

Filed under: Wolf Blitzer
soundoff (394 Responses)
  1. John Smith

    I too will vote for McCain if Obama gets the nomination. Writing in Hillary negates the vote and can still give Obama the election so that is not an option. We cannot stand on principle any longer. We Hillary supporters must unite and stop this guy despite how the Democratic party will force Hillary to priase Obama at the convention. This is no longer in Hillary's hands. It is in our hands and we need to vote for McCain. I suspect at least 30% of Hillary supporters will cross party lines Nov 4th and give McCain the election. There is no way in hell Obama can win with that crossover. This will be our way of sticking it to the media the way they stuck it our girl!
    This backlash can change the way the media shows bias for one candididate and return the country to objective news reporting

    February 28, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  2. Tiffany

    What are doing now is obviously not working so I say we should go for it! Of course we should take all pre-cautions, but I believe a face to face meeting is much more likely to resolve issues.

    February 28, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  3. Austin, Texas

    Once again, it's Obama telling the public what he'd like to do without thinking it through. For once, I can agree with Bush. These things need to be weighed appropriately. You can't just rush into a meeting not understanding what will happen. As a leader of a nation, You must embrace the fact that every single thing you say and do will have consequences. Obama's outlook on this subject shows how little experience he has in foreign policy. There are no do-overs in foreign policy. What you say and do will effect millions of people world-wide. Obama is not ready for that.

    February 28, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  4. Praetorian, Ft. Myers, FL

    The fact that we don't reward obstinate behavior (Korea, Hamas, Iran) by meeting with them–is not President Bush's policy!!!

    This is not new thinking!!!

    The policy of insisting on some compliance before political concessions are made–is recommended by numerous foreign policy institutes, universities, think tanks, senior political officials of both parties, and the military services graduate education centers.

    What Obama is suggesting is truly totally new. And totally against U.S. foreign policy guidelines that date back to the 1970's. If he bows to dictators and terrorist leaders–he will turn back the hands of time and rapidly destroy our relationships with our NATO and other allies–who've attempted to follow the courses of U.S. Presidents–past and present.

    He's a nuncio.

    Another good reason to take a closer look at John McCain.

    First lesson in government–don't repeat past mistakes. This wet behind the ears wannabe...promises to break them all!!

    February 28, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  5. Pete

    When it comes to foreign policy decisions, if Bush thinks it's a bad idea, it's a good thing.

    February 28, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  6. Anderson Imes

    How would we be worse off by meeting with them? What's the downside? I say go for it.

    The plus side to the Bush doctrine is that there is very little that we can do that will make us look weak after all of our war mongering. With no downside, why not?

    February 28, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  7. Rose - Baltimore, MD

    If we have been doing the same things over and over and getiing same results, I believe its time to try new ways. We have behaving like mad/crazy people here in the US. Year after year we have been treating prez from other countries that are not our friends differently and have been obtaining same result. Its time for us to take our medication, try something different to see what will work. I just need to add about George Bush's comment – look who's talking. Clinton and McCain are agreeing with you on this, just like the issue on Iraq. Go figure!!

    February 28, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  8. James ( Independent )

    I don't know about you , but it is pretty clear to me that the Bush policy of not talking to people we have problems ,with has been a total train wreck.

    Obama is not only right in wanting to set down with these people , he is the right person to do it.

    February 28, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  9. Mk

    The United States needs to undo the era of arrogance that George W Bush has created.
    Talking has never hurt anyone. Wars on the other hand hurt many.
    Seems like such a simple choice. When the price tag for not talking is the possiblity of war it seems to me that we ought to be more than willing to talk.

    February 28, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  10. Adam

    It is ridiculous to think that what has NOT worked in in creating peace on the international level is better than Senator Obama's plans to meet with these leaders. What the U.S. has done in the past and at the present time, has only created more disdain for America among the international community. As the leader of the free world, it is the president of the United States' duty to meet with leaders that others will not. Senator Obama is a pioneer in U.S. politics and it is because he refuses to give in to the status quo that he is our best prospect for the Presidency.

    February 28, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  11. sigrid johnson

    I agree with Obama's idea that a US president should meet with heads of other nations without any preconditions. I think that Bush, McCain and Clinton's approach is rather arrogant and that attitude will never contribute to the understanding and peace with other countries around the world.

    February 28, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  12. Joseph

    Please post this comment CNN, make it at least 1 for 10 today...

    Ok, this entire line of argument is flawed. The Bush/McCain/Hillary position is "a president should not give aid and comfort to a tyrant who is abusing his own people." Really? Then explain why every president meets with, hosts, accepts gifts from, and presents gifts to the saudi royal family. Explain why Bush unconditionally supported Mushareff.

    The issue isn't giving credence or credibility to those who are oppressive to their own people, its simply a matter of their not lining up with our interests. If the Saudi's didnt have oil, they'd be blasting their human rights record and mocking anyone "naive" as Obama to suggest that we need to engage them in discussions as a way to work towards some situation that is in the best interest of both participants. Stalin was a huge tyrant. we met with him. Communist China has an appalling human rights record but we have more trade with them than almost any other country.

    This isn't a "higher moral authority" question, its a question of arrogance and stubbornness and an overall unwillingness to relent from a flawed policy that has historically proven detrimental to our national interests.

    February 28, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  13. Stacy Clarks, Texas

    it will save us a lot of money if we can resolve some differences through diplomacy. If we can solve an issue without using armed forces, and at the same time keep Americans safe, I do not see what the problem is!!!!

    stop the hate, obama 08!!!!

    February 28, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  14. Nuke

    It is naive and a bad idea to meet the world presidents who support the terroists without preconditions.

    Go Hillary

    February 28, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  15. Jason in Fairbanks, AK

    I can't believe there's even a debate about this. You can't get people to do what you want if you aren't even willing to talk to them. A strong President can lay out where America stands and tell 'em how it's gonna be, right to their faces, and get some cooperation. George W. Bush has inexplicably adopted his diplomatic strategy from the stereotypical teenage girl who's angry at her parents. That needs to end.

    February 28, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  16. Sameer from Detroit

    Talking to adversaries doesn't embolden them, it reduces the adversity that's there in the first place! Dialogue and trade are always better methods of spreading democracy than illegally undeclared preemptive wars. To put it simply, if you disagree with somebody, do you think they'd be more likely to listen to you if you sat down and discussed it civilly or... if you sucker-punched them in the face?

    February 28, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  17. Rose - Baltimore, MD

    If we have been doing the same things over and over and getiing same results, I believe its time to try new ways. We've been behaving like mental people here in the US. Year after year we've been treating prez from other countries that are not our friends differently and have obtained same results. Its time for us to take our medication to treat this mental illness, try something different to see what will work. I just need to add about George Bush's comment – look who's talking. Clinton and McCain are agreeing with you on this, just like the issue on Iraq. Go figure!!

    February 28, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  18. Jolease Marshall

    It is ludicrous to expext to solve problem by ignoring one's adversaries; our current policy has been woefully ineffective with dealing with North Korea, Iran and Veneszuela; We cannot expect the rest of the world to see things as we do; dialogue is the basis of diplomacy. Mr McCain, Mrs Clinton and Mr Bush apply the same failed policy, we know the end result of their approach. Why not try a fresh approach

    February 28, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  19. Deb

    I think Obama is on the right track. I agree with his statement that because worldwide perception of us is so bad, we have to go the extra mile in meeting with world leaders- even the bad ones. What we say at those meetings will convey our expectations to those leaders. Obama has good judgement and he would not put our country in peril.

    February 28, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  20. jacq

    Wolf, I'm glad you bringing up this issue. Obama's right in what he says about changing the mentality of America's arrogance towards other nations. That's the kind of stuff that gets us into unnecessary wars costing us not only precious American lives but think about the precious lives of innocent people in other countries, is war fair to them? It doesn't hurt to talk. America needs to quit playing the "bully".

    February 28, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  21. Vote2008

    Bush's foreign policy was abysmal, perhaps the worst in US history. I think that any policy that does the exact opposite of what Bush did is certain to lead to improved foreign relations.

    February 28, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  22. Jeff

    With this approach, Obama is once again getting past the black-and-white thinking that has done harm to this country. He's not saying he'd make his entire presidency about meeting with tyrants, just that it's senseless to rule out such action upfront given that in the right circumstances, it could be beneficial. Ruling it out for the sake of some superficial clarity is not in America's best interests.

    February 28, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  23. Dennis Thompson

    Ancient wisdom says, "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." Winston Churchill said, "Jaw, jaw is better than war, war."

    International discussions with both friends and enemies is the best policy.

    February 28, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  24. trix, OH

    WELL IF BUSH SAYS THAT ITS A BAD IDEA IT MUST BE A GOOD ONE!!!! WE NEED TO DO THE DIRECT OPPSTE OF WHATEVER BUSH SAYS OR DOES

    February 28, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  25. Linda

    NOT being willing to talk with our adversaries unless all of OUR demands are met, is old, failed politics. Senator Obama isn't stupid, so why does our President foster that idea? He's the poster child for stupid. America needs to continue to demonstrate that we're world leaders in many areas. The willingness to negotiate with our adversaries is integral to that perception. Maybe it would help us get rid of the bully persona we've taken on with Bush as our leader. I'm all for it. The perception of America throughout the world couldn't possibly be worse. What do we stand to lose?

    February 28, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
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