February 28th, 2008
03:49 PM ET
7 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. Bill zabowski

    Absolutley!
    Please tell me whats worng with talking, discussing, negotiating first?

    Man to man or woman to man?

    Get the hacks, minions, bloggers, news media and polticos out of the eqaution right away.

    If you solve the issues with dialogue, great!
    If not there are many avenues to go down after that.

    Lets not make the same mistakes of the Bush administration ever again!

    February 28, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  2. Texasboo

    yes it would. Reagon did it with Soviet Union, JFK said we sholud never be afraid to meet with our enemies, Nixon meet with our enemies.

    Look at our relationship with Japan and Vietnam? If we continue to practice outdated foreign policies an avoid diplomacy, then how do we make this world a more peaceful one if we dont't try? Cowboy politics obviously hasn't worked. Each and every day we are becoming a global economy.

    TEXAS OF OBAMA!! OBAMA 08

    February 28, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  3. Dan Sado

    It is not a novel idea for a US president to speak with the president of an enemy state. Nixon I beleive visited "red" China and Reagan negotiated with Gorbachev during the height of the cold war. Speaking with the leader of an enemy country gives the US president the opportunit to tell them directly what he or she thinks directly so they can be in no doubt.

    February 28, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  4. Ron, TX

    I just don't see how it would embolden adversaries at all. If we don't give them their way, they can't claim that we gave them their way. If they are going to play propaganda games, they will play propaganda games either way. It can't hurt. It can only help. The silent treatment worked great on 5 year olds. Unfortunately, history has proven that it does NOT work on adults.

    February 28, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  5. Veronica in CA

    Obama's comments demonstrate his naivete in foreign relations. He states that we are not "talking" with these five countries because we feel superior to them. I believe democracy IS superior to dictatorships in which citizens are being tortured and human rights are being continually violated.

    Meeting with such leaders sends a message to the rest of the world that we may be okay with their policies. That we may be negotiating trade deals with them. That, even if a country violates its citizenry's human rights, they can still make a buck with America and benefit from America's largesse.

    Extremely naive and dangerous on the world stage.

    I also believe his comments on his willingness to re-invade Iraq and "strike" Pakistan militarily, made during a presidential primary, have been destabilizing in the Middle East. These comments have huge ramifications in the world. I have HOPE Pakistan won't use a nuclear bomb on us after Obama "strikes" them unilaterally, although that sure would be a CHANGE.

    February 28, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  6. Charlie Norris

    Successful people and succesful leaders for that matter, are willing to accept and explore alternate possibilities. The "status quo" is obviously not working given all the recent and historical tension with our adversaries. I think that Mr. Obama can be a unifying force and by engaging in direct talks I believe he gives us a better chance at peace than anyone before him, present company included.

    February 28, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  7. John-Douglas

    The I.R.A. conflict lasted 50 years ,with untold bloodshed,including one of Britons heroes Lord Mount Batten . Nothing was ever settled with brute force .It was settled with the two parties negotiating face to face . This arrogant attitude of "we are not going to talk to you unless you do what we tell you",is the kind of gunboat deplomacy that has unfortunately and,unfairly earned the American population as the most disliked in the world . It does not reflect the kind of Americans I fought alongside as a Royal Navy seal in w.w.2 , for which I had nothing but the highest admiration .

    February 28, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  8. John, Raleigh, NC

    Of course we need to have dialogue with other countries, even if they are not completely in agreement with us. Dialogue could have prevented the Iraq war and saved thousands of American and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives.

    Further, the illusion that Obama would go to Tehran with conditions is a ridiculous straw man. Low level meetings would precede any presidential visit, and meetings could take place in neutral countries. This is how the world operated until the "cowboy diplomacy" of the current administration began.

    February 28, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  9. HCheng

    Look at the recent decades and one could find many examples where direct dialog had produced results otherwise impossible.

    Reagan with the Soviets. Nixon with the Chinese. Clinton in Northern Ireland.

    People should not mischaracterize "dialog" as mere talking. It is an integral part of a comprehensive diplomatic plan with well defined goals.

    February 28, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  10. Ronald monis Ventura ca

    Definitely, we should meet our adversaries with no preconditions. I was born in a different country and have some morals differences to those of the US. My point is , we should meet and tell them where we stand as Obama stated. We will never get ahead if we sit and act arrogant like we are the Master of the world. We have to lead and tell other countries where we stand not just ignore their cultures and way of life by imposing our beliefs on them. MC CAIN BUSH AND HILLARY ought to be ashamed of themselves for embracing that same innefective mentality.

    February 28, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  11. JJ

    Of coarse it would create a more stable relationship than we have now. Thats a simple rule. I think Obama is right on this one. You must remember the critisism is coming from a man that has gotten nothing right in Iraq and one man who is in lock step with him. Bush has somehow convinced folkes that you are not supposed to talk to your enemies. It may sound Cliche but I always heard to keep your friends close but your enemies closer.

    February 28, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  12. Ben

    Well, I'm not involved in foreign policy, so I don't know what would be the best idea, but I think this "won't meet them unless they agree with us completely" idea seems to stem from the "with us or against us" mentality that has been tearing this country apart for the past seven years. I personally think it could be a good idea to extend a sliver of goodwill out to even the most ruthless tyrants...we should in no way condone their actions or behaviors, but show that we still do respect the fact that they are human beings and that maybe, if we just talk things out, some good may come of it. Again, I don't know, but I haven't seen any good argument against it yet.

    February 28, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  13. Charlotte

    Not if that President is Obama. Unless, Hillary can answer their questions first. He dosen't know how to negotiate, he might give away the farm.

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

    Obama is right on this one. We should talk with our adversaries. " We have nothing to fear but fear itself. " Jesse Jackson was able to free political prisoners in Syria, Cuba, Kuwait, and Iraq through friendly talk .
    Obama has the personality to effect these types of talk while Clinton and McCain are not peaceful enough to effect this. Our adversaries would be more receptive to Obama than Clinton or McCain.

    February 28, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  15. Well, umh

    Take Raul for example, 49 years of this policy hasn't changed Cuba and they're a podunk little island that's devastated by our embargo. I like Ike, but not necessarily sure his policies should still be the rule! So time to rethink. I think hiding behind the presidency is another way to ignore what's going on. I also think the concept of using a picture for propaganda is whack. If I wanted to send around a photo of me w/ Bush I could photoshop it and send it to all my peeps that don't know better. If anything it's propaganda for us if we meet with them, its shows their people we want to be friends with them.

    February 28, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  16. Wayne, Greenville TX

    Did Richard Nixon put any preconditions on his visit to Red China in 1972? I don't remember him doing that – if memory serves correctly, he just went over and met with Chairman Mao. And the world wound up safer, because a sworn enemy became a trading partner.

    Face-to-face diplomacy works far better than Bush's brand of "cowboy diplomacy".

    February 28, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  17. Alfa2

    I think Bush's policy is wrong. Our policy is very adhoc in nature. We treat some tyrants as allies and others as enemies. Some countries do not support US because of our own double standard. I think around the world because of illiteracy and poverty leaders of those countries take their citizens for granted. If we neglect those countries because of their leaders and not engaging them with dialog we are going to lose the support of their people. It is not going to be easy, many Americans won’t like it but in the long run it will be good for America.

    February 28, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  18. John-Douglas

    The I.R.A. conflict lasted 50 years ,with untold bloodshed,including one of Britons heroes Lord Mount Batten . Nothing was ever settled with brute force .It was settled with the two parties negotiating face to face . This arrogant attitude of "we are not going to talk to you unless you do what we tell you",is the kind of gunboat diplomacy that has unfortunately and,unfairly earned the American population as the most disliked in the world . It does not reflect the kind of Americans I fought alongside as a Royal Navy seal in w.w.2 , for which I had nothing but the highest admiration .

    February 28, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  19. Obamista NYC

    I totally agree.

    February 28, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  20. Harry, Atlanta, GA

    Wolf,
    Considering that the Soviet Union leader met with Reagan and we saw some changes in the 90s, I personally do not see Obama's idea as bad at all. He didn't say he will just go unprepared.

    February 28, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  21. Perrell, Lincolnton, NC

    Why not meet, as you can see we have not made ground on doing the opposite, so HRC, GWB, and JM can be critical all they want, but what they are arguing has not helped us at all. Why not do the opposite I would take that chance rather sit back and act fearful knowing that we are the most powerful country, how about we start acting like that county.

    February 28, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  22. Amy

    Showing our enemies that we are willing to communicate with them and are eager to understand their point of view (even if we strongly disagree) would be the common sense approach. These leader are PEOPLE. The only way we will ever get them to come around is to establish a relationship with them. War, sanctions, and verbal insults via the media have gotten us nowhere. Hopefully we will soon have a common sense government in the form of Barack Obama. Hillary and McCain are too far stuck in the Washington mind set that they've lost their common sense. Just the fact that they're against reaching out to our enemies shows just how out of touch they are.

    February 28, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  23. cindy barba

    I agree with Hillary Clinton, President Bush and McCain that our country should not give aid to any coutry that is abusing their people Obma doesn't know what he's talking about in his speeches. It is scary that so many people are not asking more questions about his goals for our country. It seems that most people are enchanted with his speeches. I watched all the debataes and he seems to agree with Hillary Clinton on almost every point. Wake up people.

    February 28, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  24. barbara ballentine

    Did anyone listen to McNamara? His first rule is understand (he used the word "empathize") with the enemy.
    How can you understand the enemy, if you don't talk to him???

    What about Teddy Roosevelt? "Walk softly, but carry a big stick".

    Look to the experience with N. Korea. Talks helped!

    February 28, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  25. Henrique

    Obama is on the right path.
    Dialogue and Diplomacy should be the best way to solve political problems. Not by indirect or direct war.

    February 28, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
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