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. Obama vs. McCain

    Please post this –

    I am confused as to why CNN did not report the latest tiff the way I remember it happening....

    1. I remember that during the debate Senator Obama said that he would leave some troops behind and would go back into Iraq if there was evidence of the insurgency developing a presence there (or something to that effect)

    2. Then Senator McCain said that he had news for Senator Obama – they are already there. Which they are.......

    3. Then CNN shows Senator Obama talking about how they wouldn't be there but for the Bush Administration bla bla bla but Senator Obama never retracted his statement from the debate.

    The story is: That Senator Obama misstepped during the debate and it clearly showed that he does not have a complete handle on the current state of affairs in Iran, Iraq, etc. Senator McCain clearly showed him up and CNN covered Senator Obama by not criticizing his disjointed response.

    Is there a way to actually do a segment on this? It is important.....

    February 28, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  2. Poly

    Why the heck are you asking us? You should be asking the foreign policy experts. TELL US what they are saying. And this is not about Bush, it is about the strategy of the U.S. over the last 40 years (or longer).

    And next time, just say: Who's right...Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama? Because that's what the purpose of this thread is anyway.

    When is the media going to report information instead of getting it from us!!!

    February 28, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  3. LAC

    Safer. And Wolf, I really despise your push poll type commentary. We need to start being the leader of the free world again, instead of alienating it with our arrogant hubris.

    February 28, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  4. James

    Hey....It is a new world. We are not in the Cold War Days. We have the best Military in the World. We need to start communicating on the same level with the rest of the World. We got attacked once George Bush took Office pretty much. We need to use new tatics of diplomecy.

    We need to change into a country that is about education and better situations for Americans not the country we have been in the past which was support Military Based Businesses and try to be bully to other countries in the world that we do not agree or like their leadership.

    We need to change and help change the world....The world is screwed up and has major issues but our solution can not scared tatics or bullying a country to meet our expectations we need to work together and involve neighboring countries to put pressure on countries that need to change

    Hopefully Obama will help make this happen......because our same old government will not today or in the future if we do not make a change.....

    February 28, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  5. Johan Bc Canada

    Not having first hand information can cause misunderstanding and bad judgement. It does allow for scapegoats in case decisions turned sour. It takes courage, Good for Obama.

    February 28, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  6. Sgt Baird


    I see it as two ways. If the president is willing to meet with the leaders of rogue nations it will have an impact. This impact can not be foreseen as good or bad, but itwill be an impact none the less. However, if we continue to operate the same way we have, then the same things will occur, without change and zero impact. Even with the risks, I would rather see a president that is willing to try and change this country and our influence abroud for the better, then the same-o-same-o. It is time for someone to step in and do something, or this country will surely go down the drain.

    February 28, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  7. Larry Buchas, New Britain, CT

    Barack Obama would rewrite history by meeting with both our allies and enemies. Our foreign relations will improve on day one!

    Imagine our allies are excited about these prospects too.

    February 28, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  8. Daniel McIntosh

    What Obama is obviously saying is he wouldn't rule out meeting with the head of an adversary and would seek to do that as a way of seeking to resolve diferences when that is possible. To say (as Clinton and Bush do) this means he wouldn't give diplomats and others the chance to lay necessary groundwork is untrue and completely misses the point. What Obama is saying is no more or less than what John F. Kennedy said: we should never negotiate out of fear but never fear to negotiate.

    February 28, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  9. Texasgirl

    No, unless they are willing to make some effort to change. The President should actively meet with organizations in the country that are actively working towards change.

    February 28, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  10. Dave, Santa Barbara

    Obama said it best in a recent debate: the times call for extraordinary measures in the wake of Bush's alienation of world leaders.

    February 28, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  11. brianr

    We are the United States of America, what are we afraid of? When you shun these leaders you elevate their status. What good has come out of the Cuban embargo or shunning of relations with Cuba? No one likes a bully and that's what George Bush's policies come off as to the rest of the world. It rallies the world against us. Obama has never said he's going to parade around to these world leaders. He's implied that if he has to he will not be afraid to meet these leaders face to face to tell them where America stands.

    February 28, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  12. Bill Gunther

    I really don't understand the "make you afraid" technique used by political fortune hunters. The wisdom of Hilary Clinton and John McCain is what should be questioned. You know what I know? Meeting with freinds and foes alike is really quite brilliant. Why would the president of the greatest nation and only superpower in the world ever be afraid to talk to leaders of other nations. It would be like the CEO of Walmart running from the manager of the 7-11. Time for our leadership to develop a better argument, stop making the undecided's nervous. We have a lot more to fear by being distant than being familiar.

    February 28, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  13. reasonable John

    Barack Obama wanting to sit down and talk to the leaders of countries opposed to the US could be beneficial. Back before the fall of the Soviet Union, US presidents would sit down with them to discuss issues and avoid conflicts. Why do people think talking to other leaders is a bad idea? Is it because we haven't done it in a while? If we keep doing the same thing as we've been doing lately (not talking to them) do you really think they are just going to stop opposing us? Not likely. I say lets try sitting down with them and try to come to some agreement. If it doesn't work we can always go back to ignoring them.

    February 28, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  14. Robert J.

    Wolf, On this matter I think Obama has said some pre -work needs to be done. Shunting countires because we think are ideology is so perfect is insane and doomed. We say we respect sovriegn nation rights to live as they choose as long as the human rights policy are like our. Which I agree, but that doesn;t mean if you don't play my way
    I'll just take my ball and go home. Its a global economy now . Dialogue is good, look what happen to the berlin wall,and the changes in Russia after the meetings President Reagan and Gorbachev had. On judgement Obama has a gift for how the world is and how they precieve us. Americas image as a war mongering bully needs to stop. President Kennedy said " the world is very different now" and the same thought process applies today!.
    Thanks for your time in advance
    Robert J .( Danville , VA.)

    February 28, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  15. Kirby Lafayette La.

    You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.

    February 28, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  16. pat

    someone needs to talk to obama.Personally, I think his lack of experience speaks for itself.Why not just invited everyone to tea.
    We are already the laughing stock of the world because of George
    but at least he would not sit down with our enemies without pretermined conditions.

    God help America if we get obama.

    February 28, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  17. ML reloaded

    Why not try a new approach. Apparently the apporach of the "establishment" is not and has not worked. Obama is a man of change so allow him to try and change things. Since when was a different approach the worst approach. Allow me to remind you that there was once a time when people thought that the earth was flat. Open your mind and back away from the ignorance. Back away I say. People hate Americans and I am often afraid to even travel internationally because American arrogance has turned so many people to hatred.

    February 28, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  18. Gobo

    I would agree with Sen. Obama's position. You should talk to your adversaries.
    Let me challenge the other side by raising some question:

    First, where does this theory 'if you hold meet with your adversaries, they will be emboldened and they will continue to do what you disagree with' come from? Is there any empirical evidence? I you love to hear from a conflict resolution expert.

    Second, are those who say that a US president should not meet with the adversaries because by doing so the president in effect is giving "aid and comfort to a tyrant who is abusing his own people" taking this stance out of principle? If a matter of principle, they should also be against meeting tyrants who may not have been labeled "adversaries" at the moment?

    February 28, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  19. Justin W.J. in Phoenix

    First of all, any candidate who refuses to consider talking with our enemies is dangerous. At least consider it.

    February 28, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  20. Shaunna

    This is the main reason my vote goes to Obama.This is just common sense.The reason the rest of the world despises us is because our previous leaders make us look like tyrants.I says it's worth a try, it doesn't look like our previous bully approach has been working with other nations.

    February 28, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  21. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    The list of those countries we are not talking to is not getting any smaller, leaves only one possibility, that it will continue to grow. Yes, it's imperative that the president of the United States does meet with our adversaries Our adversaries can only be embolden as the list grows.

    February 28, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  22. Gaurav

    I think what Obama is proposing is the right approach. Not talking or putting sanctions or waging war leads to more disharmony and distrust. Throughout the cold war, a US president never said NO to talk to premier of USSR.

    The objective is to resolve all the issues in such a manner that at the end of the day everyone comes out as is a winner. If US president takes the initiative to discuss (with out pre-conditions) about issues, he/she'll find more than a willing audience at the other end of the table.

    February 28, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  23. Sandy

    Everyone is taking Mr. Obama's words out of context. He didn't say he would rush to talking with different world leaders. He said after much preparation he would do so. There's nothing wrong with sitting down and talking and putting your cards on the table. There are a lot of battle that can be won by talking and not rushing to war. He also states that if this doesn't work he will have to use force. Please, report the facts as they are. Also, President Bush never chose to talk to Castro, but simply put, Cuba does not have much to offer him..there's no oil in Cuba. He only goes where there lies some interest and where he can make a statement. Clinton can talk all she wants because if the shoe was on the other foot, she wouldn't talking about Obama by now. He is a very intelligent man and the Bushes and the Clintons know it and aint nothing they can do about it. They have tried everything possible to degrade hi; his wife, his clothing, his church, what's next? will it be his little girls? I wonder. Just when I though we had moved beyond yesteryear........I wake up and find we have not progressed at all. How sad.

    February 28, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  24. Crystal Mitchell

    This is a response from McCain WORD FROM WORD:

    "Yesterday Senator Obama said, 'Well we shouldn't have gone in the first place. If we hadn't gone in the first place we wouldn’t be facing this problem.' " McCain said at a town hall event in Houston, Texas. "Well that's history. That's the past. That's talking about what happened before. What we should be talking about is what we're going to do now.

    Now see how quick we are ready to cast aside, all the lives that we have lost not just the ones who served our country, but there families, and McCAIN IS SAYING THIS IS THE PAST. Come on here when are we going to wake up, stand up, and put up? Come together as a people and do the right thing. We can not afford to make another mistake like this one. And call it the "Past” Lives have been lost abroad and here at home. Don't let them dupe us again, put the right Man in office, and let's take our place as American people. Correct the wrongs and make the rights.

    February 28, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  25. Roland

    Wolff, isn't this why our relationships with even our allies have been lukewarm lately? Many people do not appreciate American unilateralism. We're like the spoiled brat who wants everything our way. Diplomacy is talking to other countries in hopes of coming to a peaceful resolution, not bullying others into positions that are agreeable only to us.

    If we continue in the manner President Bush has been leading us, pretty soon we'll have no friends on the international scene. With developing powers like China on the rise, we must be very diplomatic if we want to continue to be a relevant player on the international stage.

    February 28, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
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