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. Zero-BS-Tolerated

    Dont you think Senator Obama is really naive about foreign policy? Today he criticized President Bush (and actually all the past presidents of America) for a Do Nothing Policy in Cuba. Short of invading cuba – we have done everything as permitted by our constitution. His Do Something option would be to meet all the dictators of the world – and lend legitimacy to them – who in his view would be so inspired by his persona that they would willingly give up their tyrannic ways. The heavens will part indeed and light will shine upon the whole world……

    February 28, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  2. reggie

    The President is an elected official, not the King or Queen. Why are we acting like it is a privileged position? Don't we – the taxpayers – pay the President's salary?

    I think there is nothing wrong with extending an olive branch to another country. Remember the quote from the Godfather – "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer"

    February 28, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  3. Mike

    I too would ask anyone who buys into Bush's logic: in the 7 years of his administration, what improvements have there been within Cuba or Iran, or in the relationship between our countries, as a result of his foreign policy philosophy? Absolutely none. So if what he espouses has shown no effectiveness whatsoever, why on earth would anyone accept that it is the best course of action? Isn't trying a different tact the smart thing to do? We can always go back to the current policy if that doesn't work. Remember the definition of insanity: making the same mistake over and over again and expecting a different result.

    As for the first post here and the ad-nauseum whining by HRC supporters that she is treated unfairly by the media: have you really forgotten already how this same media had all but designated her the nominee before a single vote was ever cast? How fair was that to the other candidates at the time?

    February 28, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  4. dHussein

    Wow Lance...a few lines up...profound saying! Love it

    February 28, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  5. Sam from Paris

    Bush doesn't talk to Syria, to Iran, to Hamas and the situation there is getting worse and locked. Bush has talked to North Korea and we see a kind of improvement. By saying that he will engage with ennemies, Obama certainly means that he will allow his administration to talk to the ennemies and that at a certain point of these discussions, to boost the dynamism, he will personaly get into the scene. That is good Idea.

    February 28, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  6. henriettap

    There is nothing wrong with talking with our adversaries as long as there is a preparedness done before we enter into any talks with them.The reason that we are in the situation with the countries of the world now is because we are looked upon as the bullies.We have this train of thought that we should hit first then we can go in and fix up what our president has messed up.We spend trillions of dollars on a war that Bush ,Clinton and McCain wanted and we have jets that can't be fixed because we don't have the money it is all going towards their war fund.Had they taken to time to listen to the inspectors and to top that we had soldiers coming back to Walter Reed hospital and it was falling apart. It was not only that we troops coming home that are homeless from this war if only some diplomacy had been used maybe things would be different.Yes there should be talks whenever possible.

    February 28, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  7. mamady sylla (london)

    If you are the father, you will get good and bad child. By refusing to speek to the bad one, will make him worst. America, you guide the world : you are the father. Please talk to anyone, you will be able to solve whatever you want. 8 years of Bush without talking has been non-productive. So try the opposite.
    I think America need a credible leader capable to transform America and the world. Not another Bush style. Only Obama has catched my eyes and many more around the world.

    February 28, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  8. Mecca

    I strongly agree with Paul and Patrick: "You cannot just go and hug our enemies, there has to be some type of diplomatic preparation as Senator Clinton said and Obama agreed with her".
    Hillary is our gal! She's done no wrong so far, that we know. Who knows the real Obama? He's got plenty of time to prove himself in the coming years. We don't need a big risk and possible flop now! These are really hard times, and although we do need change, it doesn't have to be so radical and risky for our country. We know the Clintons, we had a good economy during their times and the world was not our enemy. Let's have the change with Hillary!

    February 28, 2008 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  9. Bob

    Meeting with leaders and giving into them are two separate things. The first does not imply the second. But it does enable both sides to move toward giving a little, which usually alleviates a dangerous situation. Not always, but usually.

    February 28, 2008 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  10. S S

    Its a no brainer. We talk our adversaries. Obama presents a view that is refreshing and absolutely correct. Its like fighting with your wife and then just letting things resolve itself. The most effective way is to sit down and talk it out before you get a divorce.

    Obama has at every opportunity shown us why he is a true leader and that why experience does not define a leader, but rather widsom and judgement. He has been able to excite the American people, allow us to look at old problems in new ways, and thats the only way to solve the problems of a country that if it continues to follow its current, will no longer be great. I pray for Obama as President of this country for the sake of my children and yours

    February 28, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  11. Scott Anthony Patterson

    All Obama is saying is that we cannot accomplish ANY diplomacy without performing diplomacy. He has said that he would set up an agenda for the meetings beforehand. If he's talking to Raoul Castro, then Castro will know ahead of time that getting political prisoners released is on the agenda. The same goes for the serious issues in other countries. Cuba has not changed in fifty years, and by refusing to PERFORM diplomacy, we have insured that their wrong doing goes unchllenged. Of COURSE we have to meet with those we disagree with. Nothing will be accomplished otherwise, as we have proven with prolonged and ineffective emargos against Cuba which hurt not only the Castros but the Cuban people as well.

    February 28, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  12. Eduardo - San Diego California

    Senator Obama is not suggesting a novel idea, he is just the right man, for the right visit, at the right time. Of course, he’ll make preparations and not go in unprepared.

    Wolf, having just returned from visiting China (GuangZhou, ShanTou, ShenZen) the fact that US presidents have met with China in the past and present can be attributed to the positive attitude our entourage experienced and I am certain that many other US Tourists may share the same sentiment.

    Ours was not an official visit, nor did we visit places where VIPs or US Diplomats frequent, therefore we got a first hand look at the vibrant day to day life of these cities. Most impressive was that we did not experience any anti-U.S. sentiment, on the contrary intrigue and a desire to visit with US tourists delighted the Chinese folks we met.

    Let’s dust off this approach of US Presidents visiting with “adversarial” countries and be proactive, discard the arrogance, discard the practice of demanding “our way or no way”.
    Senator Obama has the foresight, the attitude, temperament and the only candidate that can adequately articulate and negotiate results from those we currently consider adversaries.

    February 28, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  13. Jimmy

    I'm certainly glad that the presidents of my youth decided to sit down and talk with our major adversary, the Soviet Union. With thousands of missles pointed each way, I'm glad they were able to communicate with each other.

    The policies of the Bush Administration in ignoring the advice of our friends and refusing to meet with or negotiate with our adversaries has been a total disaster. We live in a more dangerous world as a result of this arrogance and incompetence.

    I support the efforts of Barack Obama in changing Bush's myopic paradigm and returning to the policies of previous and more thoughtful presidents.

    February 28, 2008 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  14. Morrie Amitay

    Our enemies would not possibly believe that an American president could be so naive. Obama's overtures would also be interpreted as weakness and could only embolden those who despise our freedom and values. Obama, with all good intentions, simply lacks the experience and judgement to lead our nation in a time of great peril.

    February 28, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  15. Robert H. Grefe

    Maybe those leaders wouldn't want to meet with Bush or the other people who want to enforce our policies on the world by force. Our current president is a tyrant who has also abused, not only his own peopl, but also those of many counties througout the mid east and the world. If eliminating tyrants is a prerequisite to talks, we must eliminate the Saudi's for sure, regulars on the most oppressive regime lists. If any of those old time anachronistic poloticians would care to point out to me the benefits of the current system of diplomacy I would be happy to listen. We need a new vision, and a totally new way of doing thigs and Barak is the one to give us both!

    February 28, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  16. Laurence "Keeping it real"

    Bush is about the saddest case of masquerading around as a president I've seen in my nearly half century of life. Barack Obama is head and shoulders above the other wannabe's running in this election cycle. New techniques and innovative thinking is what this nation needs right now. Leadership that is not arrogant and divisive will do us all a world of good. I agree that we need to get real. Real about the fact that if we don't change our ways we're doomed to a repeat of everything we hate about government and the results of it. We need to get off of idiot avenue and turn onto smart highway. Obama '08

    February 28, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  17. Karen

    Of course a president of any country should meet and speak with all other world leaders. That is a must. U.S. arrogance is at an all-time high thanks to W. Best of luck, Senator Obama! You – and you alone – can improve our standing in the world. Make us proud once again!

    February 28, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  18. Wisdom

    Wolf, don't you get it? Mere meeting enemies with "preparation" would not only encourage and show support for the enemies, it can potentially be dangerous for the president.
    What I believe Senators Clinton and McCain and President Bush are saying is that in the event these enemies change their ways, they'd be more than willing to meet them.
    That's my two cents!

    February 28, 2008 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  19. Dylan Sides

    Kennedy met with Krushev(sp?)–he was a bitter adversary. Our president should meet with the prickly ones–and show them who's got the big stick in the world. We shouldn't be afraid to meet with a leader we don't like–it's high time we get our international prestige and intimidating moxy back in gear–which we lost under George II. Thankfully Bush won't be on the ballot again–so he can't steal another election!!

    February 28, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  20. Dave

    Yes we should talk with leaders we don't like. Nixon went to China, Reagan kept a dialog with Gorbachev. It's how diplomacy is done. Keep your friends close... Keep your enemies closer!

    February 28, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  21. Tom Wittmann


    You write:

    'That's how the cuban crisis was avoided in the 60's,how communism died ,and how north korea is gradually disposing off their nuclear arsenal '

    You should make some due research. Obviously President Kennedy,
    nor anybody high ranked met wit Fidel Castro, and as far as I know,
    Neither President Clinton nor Bush, or their Secretary pf State, met
    with Kim father or son !!


    February 28, 2008 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  22. D,M CA

    Wolf, It appears most naysayer think Obama is going to start talking to our enemies the first day he is on the job. I would think he has to get his staff picked and settled in.And by the Obama has run his campaign I think he will pick the best people to advice him on all matters.just like he did for his campaign.
    I hardly think he is going to get on the phone on one day and start calling the bad guys.

    February 28, 2008 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  23. Anthony Izzo

    YES we should be talking to adversaries! What possible positive outcomes could be met by issuing blind orders to countries without a face-to-face meeting? This is a very frequently asked question in the business field – should representatives be flying to meet with prospective partners or just call them? Research has conclusively shown the impact of face-to-face meetings on positive outcomes – can't argue with the scientific method.

    February 28, 2008 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  24. gumac

    Obama is right in meeting with both his friends and enemies alike because the policy of isolation has not worked for the US for over half a century. if any candidate is ready to take advice from Bush, then get ready for another four years of bush-style adminstration.

    February 28, 2008 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  25. Ben, CA


    We should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate.
    Strong leaders tell their adversaries where they stand.

    The politics of arroagnce of president Bush has made us very vulnerable in the world. Our military and our economy are very badly impacted.

    This needs to change with the next administration.

    OBAMA is the right candiate for this crucial job.

    Vote for OBAMA!

    February 28, 2008 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
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