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. doug

    No – I agree with Mcain and Clinton.

    February 28, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  2. Disgusted

    U.S. would be better off if it eliminated their adversaries not meet with them.

    February 28, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  3. Jesse

    It's the only way. Obviously, policies of the past have been unsuccessful at creating genuine and peaceful relationships with other countries. Obama's plan could be an innovative way to bring about positive world changes and US relations.

    February 28, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  4. eibreh3

    ABSOLUTELY!!!! As the saying goes:

    Keep your friends close, keep your enimies closer!

    OBAMA 08!

    February 28, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  5. Paul

    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. Obama changed his original statement in which he would just meet with tyrants around the world without any sort of conditions. That s too risky since it would jeopardize our moral authority or at least the strenght that we wanna show to the rest of the world.

    Hillary, you are the best candidate we have, together we will make it happen!

    March 4 for Hillary 08 – President of the United States of America
    Marzo 4 para Hillary 08 Presidente de los Estados Unidos de America

    Estamos contigo!
    We are with you !

    February 28, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  6. Grif

    Speak with countries like Iran, after their #2 Leaders comes to the USA, and insults your own , Elected Leader? Maybe I'm only partial right.
    Nevertheless, I still think the suitable answer is no, until Russia stops interfering in that Country. Cuba? Maybe, they are really no threat.

    February 28, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  7. Xtina, Chicago, IL

    Why are we afraid to talk to our enemies? Ignoring each other will only make matters worst. We can't just hope that our enemies will one day meet all our demands and will suddenly want to talk to us.

    February 28, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  8. Brian

    I am surprised that Obama does not cite the recent and unfortunately forgotten Iraq Report. the bipartisan effort to determine how America should proceed in Iraq. One of its key recommendations was to meet with other leaders in the region regardless if the country leaders were considered enemies or not of the US. It is interesting how a failed president has garnered the support of Hillary Clinton and others that one should not meet with "dictators". Historically this has not been the case be it Reagan, Nixon, Carter, and earlier on. In fact, one can point at almost all of our greatest foreign policy moments and they started with enemies without any pre-conditions talking to one another. It is the greatest failure of the nation in the last seven years is our lost diplomacy and standing throughout the world. After 9/11 we had a chance to really remake the world against terrorism and unite people across the globe to this common threat, and we failed miserably.

    February 28, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  9. FFD

    The world would certainly benefit from all world leaders recognizing their responsibility to the global community to sit together and consult about pressing issues. I cannot think of any way that a discussion would embolden adversaries. In contrast, requiring another nation to satisfy some type of qualification in order to begin a dialog is more likely to fuel resentment, hate, anger, and disunity. This type of behavior only says "we are better than you". It is quite absurd and out dated.

    February 28, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  10. Ron LaFlamme

    For me Wolf it is better than our current plan. For those who don't know what that is, it is saying "La la la I can't hear you!" while sticking your fingers in your ears.

    February 28, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  11. Cali guy

    Obummer is right about this particualr issue, we should not limit ourselves to only talking to our friends. I'm a Hillary suppoter and feel on many more issues she's got a much better plan but she's wrong to some degree on this. Since not many of my post get posted I won'twaste time to elaborate on this but to say I agree in principle with Obummer on this.

    February 28, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  12. Eric M

    I think that talking with other world leaders, whether we agree with them or not, would be a very positive step forward in our foreign policy. If we set the precedent in the talks, and make the focus of the discussion on human rights, then that can only be a positive thing in the effort to move issues of human rights forward.

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

    I don't know the solution to this problem, but what I do know is that Bush's approach for dealing with the leaders mentioned in your peice is not working. I do think, however, that some steps should probably need to be made before a president meets with roque leaders.

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

    If Bush doesn't like Obama's ideas, I think we've found ourselves a candidate who could actually fix things. Whoever Bush doesn't want in 08!

    That aside, American's need to stop playing the over hyped "I'm too important to talk to you" card every time someone steps on our foot. It'll only makes our enemies want to step on our foot that much harder the next time.

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

    Absolutely. We are all people, and sometimes when you can talk to someone face to face you avoid misunderstandings that are apt to arise from speaking though surrogates. There is a difference between talking, negotiation, and pandering. Let's start working with people instead of against them. Go Obama!

    February 28, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  16. obvious lee

    "Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer" It is never a wise choice to distance yourself from your enemies. I think it shows strength, confidence, and leadership for Obama to be willing to discuss future relations with our adversaries. If we're going to change for the good we need to be able to re-introduce America to world.

    February 28, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  17. Serious discussion

    It is so foolish to think that the President of the United States can begin to repair our reputation around the world by keeping the attitude that we are "better" than other people. What Obama is getting at that our reputation is sullied BECAUSE we make "conditions" before we "lower" ourselves by reaching out to other countries leaders. The plan for Cuba is genius! First, loosening up of visits for family members, non-restrictions for those same members sending money to families in Cuba-then, requesting a meeting with an agenda that has items of interest to both countries. Please remember, that when we don't agree to meet with leaders of other countries because they won't do as we demand of them WE LOOK LIKE BULLIES! Clinton's position is no different than that of the last 50 years.

    February 28, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  18. don berry

    I have found it totally ridiculous that our government says they will not talk with leaders of countries they deem as our "enemies". How can one find a common ground with an enemy if they do not talk? Americans have no problem going in and bombing a country into oblivion, but they have a problem with talking first? Very Christian like don;t you think? The idea that it emboldens our enemies is also ridiculous. The only reason they do not wish to talk first is that many people would find there are two sides to the story and besides, there is a lot more money in war then in peace.
    On a side note. Am I the only one who finds our policy with Cuba ironic? We were told that we trade with China, even tho they are a communist country, because by trading with us we hope it will help ease them into democracy. Same with Vietnam. But for some reason, the same logic does not apply to Cuba. So while we have been busy selling our country to China at wholesale prices to bring them democracy, we are too scared of Cuba to even let them sell a cigar here.

    February 28, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  19. Osama Akhtar

    Well, President Kennedy met with adversaries without preconditions and America's standing was the best in the world then so..yes. A US president MUST meet adversaries without preconditions.

    February 28, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  20. Lionel

    In Obama own words "silliness"

    February 28, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  21. Emmanuel, MA

    Why would we NOT meet with adversaries? No one is suggesting to become buddies with them, but diplomacy wouldn't hurt. Bush has tried the opposite, and look where our international reputation and credibility is today.

    February 28, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  22. HomoSapien

    The whole idea that the United States can change behavior or change regimes simply by not talking, is a laughable idea. The US did not talk to Castro for decades, did not talk to Iran for decades, and did not talk to North Korea. What was the result?

    Well. Nothing.

    Nothing changed. In Cuba, Fidel resigned at his convenience, in Iran the Ayatollahs remain in command and defy the US at every step, and in North Korea, nothing changed until – gasp – the US talked to them!

    Talk emboldening US adversaries?? That kind of reasoning is caused by a delusion of grandeur that makes American leaders believe that the entire world holds its breath for a word from the President of the United States. That may have been true 30 years ago, but it is not true anymore.

    The world is increasingly becoming multi-polar, and the US influence is steadily eroding all across the world – in part because it refuses to talk.

    So, let's get rid of this failed policy and outdated thinking, and let's talk. Remember – we can talk and still be firm on our principles. Talking does not indicate weakness – it signifies strength.

    February 28, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  23. Sam, New Orleans, LA

    I think Barack is on the right track. Ever since the end of WWII, the US has felt the need to stick their noses in the affairs of nations around the world. We did it in Iran in the 1950s, when the CIA helped overthrow Mossadegh, a moderate reformer and instilled a new Shah who oppressed his people so much that they rose up in the 70s, creating the situation we have now. Why shouldn't we talk to our enemies? The President says its because it will only strengthen them, when in reality, men like Hugo Chavez are allowed to criticize Bush without any voice from the US, only entrenching them amongst their people. With Senator Obama as President, perhaps there will be a day when the world doesn't view the US as the world's bully.

    February 28, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  24. Tommie

    It is high time for America to stop placing itself above the rest of the world. One of the most effective ways of persuasion is diplomacy. Meeting with world leaders that do not share the same vision as the US can only increase comprimise. Clearly the arrogant approach of the current administration has not helped our world reputation. Unfortunately, Hillary offers more of the same.

    February 28, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  25. Terry in Texas

    Wolf, I certainly don't see what we have to lose. Our credibility abroad has been totally ruined in the last 8 years. Other countries look down on us now. Even our own close allies have problems with our foreign policy. I totally agree with Barack Obama's policy. What can it hurt to try. We can always go back and "BOMB BOMB IRAN" like George Bush has done and John McCain proposes

    We have to get our credibility back, the only way I see to do that is to be willing to talk things out.

    February 28, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
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