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

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

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/20/art.wolf2006.cnn.jpg caption="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 Clinton

    Sadam was once our ally, Cstro has outlasted 9 presidents with this policy, just grow up talk to them, keep your friends close and enemies closer.

    February 28, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |

    Obama shows how naive and very inexperienced in foreign policy he is, which could prove fatal for the American people today. With the condition of the world today, experience is A MUST to counter all that is going on. Look at Israel and Gaza Strip and Iran today in the news. All American voters, this should be an eye opener. This is reality as it really will be to the next president. It happens at a moments notice and you must know how to respond appropriately to save our country. Look what has happened in seven years with inexperience, two wars going on, terrorists attacks, economy in shambles, no jobs, people unable to afford the medical care they need or at times limited food or no food. Think long and hard if EXPERIENCE is a PRIORITY because a WRONG DECISION could mean the DEMISE of the AMERICA we once had and the one we have today if you don't make the RIGHT CHOICE.

    February 28, 2008 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  3. Claire, Austin, TX

    We need to get off our high horse, honestly. Why hold the ideas of meetings above foreigners heads?

    February 28, 2008 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  4. Whose had Enough

    Sen. Obama is rightly taking criticism for this......There is a difference though with the current administrations go-it-alone foreign policy and what needs to be done in the next administration to repair relations with other countries by nominating people like John Bolton to the United Nations.

    It is to bad Condolesa Rice has basically had her hands tied by an overbearing neo-con agenda.

    February 28, 2008 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  5. Matt

    I may be naive but I know in the business world..."keep your friends close and your enemies closer"......it may work here as well since the vast majority of the world sees us as arrogant.

    February 28, 2008 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  6. ted

    All of these people who think talking with and appeasing our enemies reminds me of Neville Chamberlain the Prime Minister of Great Britain who thought he could deal with Adolf Hitler through diplomacy. It wasn't very effective was it?

    February 28, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  7. Kadri Walcott

    dont you think its being hypocritical to start peace talks among two nations and you cannot with one of your enemies? i think the usa need to start talking and show they are not hypocrites.

    February 28, 2008 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  8. Jan

    Doesn't it seem hypocritical to denounce Obama for his position
    on meeting with adversaries and today Bush talked about
    continuing personal relationships with Putin. Putin is turning
    democracy into a socialist/communist country once again. There are many violations of human rights. Bush also confirmed he would
    go to the Olympics in China. Isn't it ironic that he feels free to meet with the Chinese who have a long history of violating human rights and freedom of religion. I don't see the difference between what is happening in Cuba and what is happening in Russia. Please, think a little bit before condemning Obama. Yes, our country meets with enemy leaders when it benefits us. You don't think ithat is arrogant from a world view?

    February 28, 2008 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  9. Gillis

    So far our dealings with other countries borders dictatorship. You must agree with us and do as we tell you before we can give you the honor of a meeting with our godly, civilized, moral, and wealthy president.

    Let's try diplomacy for a change. Compete in the FREE market place of ideas.

    February 28, 2008 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  10. colene

    if anyone has ever had a lawsuit against someone before court time the judge will tell you to set down and try to talk it out, I believe that you can go in as president and have a heart to heart talk first and i know you would have preparations first. All presidents have advisers, it seems as if BUSH is the only one who does not listen to them.

    February 28, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  11. Miguel Diaz

    Well Wolf, I seriously think that Barack Obama is taking the right approach. The United States needs to regain its status in world. Too many countries in the world despise us for what we have become. By having talks, the U.S. can lower the tension it has with these countries. I think Obama made a very bold move to present his idea, which shows his movement towards change. Having talks does not neccessarily mean that the U.S. is negotiating with these countries. Why wouldn't a country who desires to spread democracy like the U.S., not spread democracy where it is needed the most.

    February 28, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  12. MM

    There is no subsitute for strong diplomacy. Entering into negotiation with pre condition is based on the notion that US is above other countries. Senator Obama has said that he will meet with adversaries with preparation but not pre condition. That is the right thing to do. Give diplomacy an oppurtunity. Cherry picking among dictators of the world just for the sake of US interest is double standard that has hurt US credibility in the world.

    February 28, 2008 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  13. Kelly

    There are many comments detailing successful negotiations in the past with brutal regimes in the Soviet Union and China. But there have also been disasterous negotiations with tyrants. Remember the nieve and idealist Neville Chamberlains negotiations with Adolph Hitler? He returned from a meeting with Hitler in 1938 regarding the "Czechoslovakian problem" and proclaimed that a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. Well, Chamberlin was wrong and misjudged Hitler and close to 50 million people lost their lives in the resulting second World War. Would negotiating with tyrants be beneficial or more harmful? I can't say for certain one way or the other. However, if you are going to negotiate, go in with both eyes open, do not sacrifice your principles and trust but verify.

    February 28, 2008 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  14. Keith

    What Senator Obama fails to realize is that meeting with these leaders gives them legitimacy on the stage of world politics that they will attempt to use futher their own agendas. It screams of his inexperience in international politics and statesmanship. Both his and Senator Clinton's stated policy of pulling U.S. forces out of Iraq within the first two months of taking office further demonstrate his and her failure to understand the dangers of the situation. Our immediate abscence would generate a humantarian nightmare that one wishes to see. Senator McCain has my full support!

    February 28, 2008 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  15. A.B, from OHIO

    I think talking to your enemies opens window of possibility that could have more impact of finding common grounds of bring peace and solutions to centuries old of haters. And to move forward into the 21th century, it's importantly acceptable to face adversaries anywhere in the world.

    February 28, 2008 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  16. av

    the present administration has cost us prestige around the world with his foreign policy. when he labled them (axis of evil) he enraged them, and lost an uportunity fo any kind of diologe. i think sen. obama would be able to reduce tensions with on all sides

    February 28, 2008 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  17. 1stMarine

    Weighing In – One of my favorite line's is: "Stupid is, as Stupid does". Just scanning over some of the latest comment's truly shows just How ignorant, some of civilian's are. There's No critical Thinking ... just emotional 'knee-jerk' reactions about some very important & Critical issues, facing America.
    Pointing fingers, posting moronic & meaningless remarks, should be restricted to the bill o'reilly's & louie dobbs baby crib.
    Here's some facts to muse over – Reagan,a Republican, who also had No foreign policy experience, did indeed meet with one of our oldest adversarial enemies, the USSR and something significant came about. Reagan, was criticized for lacking any experience, since he was an actor.
    Neither Obama nor Hillary nor McCain have any extensive Training/experience in foreign affairs or running the World Bank or have a rock solid Immigration policy blueprint. It's going to come down to Voting for the candidate who is smart enough, is both Committed & motivated, is persistent and his the testes or ovaries to bring about definitive SOLUTIONS to our country's major problems and Trustworthy of your Vote. I previously lived in Little Rock, but I won't share my views about Hillary & Bill (the real vice-president)
    To be sure, the incoming president will 'Inherit' someone else Screw-up's, ie, Iraq-Afghanistan, NAFTA, Immigration, Healthcare & Taxes. As a Combat Veteran & with other family members on Iraqi/Afghanistan tours, This Issue is important to me; as I'm not interested in seeing our military there, whether it's 100 more days nor 100 years.
    A quick Reality check for me regarding our Economy is that recently while traveling abroad, I Have NEVER seen our US Dollar sink so Low! The rate exchanges used to be so great for us, now it's like we have to pay other countries extra just go there. Whether it's the Canadian dollar or the Euro, it's a good way to keep all of us in a financial rat box.

    February 28, 2008 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  18. David

    Yes, I think the President meeting with all foreign leaders is a good idea. Senator Obama's heading down the right path. Preconditions just delay and stall negotiations.

    War solves nothing and is so costly in many ways. Neglect of U.S. economy, Loss of lives, Hurts U.S. status in the world community.

    The next President (Senator Obama) needs to wipe the slate clean, cut to the chase, and set the tone and pace for others (policy-makers, cabinet level staff) to quickly start a meaningful and serious dialogue for establishing a positive relationship between the U.S. and other foreign governments.

    By establishing good communications with all foreign leaders and their government the U.S. can lead by example that diplomacy is the best answer in this dangerous, complex world.

    Isolation and disrespect of other governments and cultures is not the answer. If the U.S. and the rest of the world want to live in peace and harmony then all Nations must be included regardless of race, religion, culture, and politics.

    February 28, 2008 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  19. Jecone

    "Let ye throw the first stone." Who are we that deserve such

    honor? What precondition? Meeting with those that we

    hate so badly, may set the tone for reconciliation. This is the wisest

    move to make in this era of ethnocentrism. Let's set the example for

    the world to follow. Differences can be settled from the the top down,

    and from the bottom up. Shalom

    February 28, 2008 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
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