There's been much talk among our presidential candidates on whether or not they would communicate with foreign leaders deemed to be against U.S. interests.
Most of this discussion started in the aftermath of the Democratic YouTube debate and has been going on since. During that debate, Obama got hammered for his response to a question asked to him about whether or not he would be willing to meet with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea.
Obama's response: "I would." He went on to say, "The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them, which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration, is ridiculous".
I couldn't have said it better myself.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of people who think otherwise, including Hillary who immediately pounced by responding, "I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year."
As Charles Krauthammer and everyone else who slammed Obama's response put it, Hillary began "ticking off the reasons any graduate student would tick off: You don't want to be used for their propaganda. You need to know their intentions. Such a meeting can make the situation worse."
This sort of viewpoint has carried on to the Republican candidates as well, since most of them have declared that they, too, would not engage in conversation with such leaders (Giuliani would rather bomb them, in fact). Ron Paul was recently booed at the Republican debate in Iowa for stating he would communicate and interact with Fidel Castro of Cuba.
Here is my take on the things that Mr. Krauthammer said are being taught to our graduate students:
1. Propaganda - Leaders refusing to meet with leaders for reasons of propaganda is the beginning of propaganda itself.
2. Knowing their Intentions - How do you really know their intentions if you don't talk to them? How do they really know yours?
3. Making the Situation Worse - By this logic, I should never cross the street because I could always be hit by a car. Things are going to go wrong, sometimes. But not attempting to do anything will guarantee that they go wrong every time.
Perhaps the interaction that Ron Paul and others plan to use - talking to our enemies - is not the way we usually do things, but it should stand to reason that the way we have been doing things isn't working.
It should stand to reason that perhaps much of the mess that we are in today throughout the world is due to "the way we have always done things" - the notion that "an American president should not share the honor of his office with malevolent clowns like Hugo Chavez", as Mr. Krauthammer put it in his article.
It's this sort of elitism that has steered us in the wrong direction throughout the world. An attitude such as the one I just described is nothing more than pure ego, a false sense of identity, fear, and poison for interaction among nations in the world and society in general.
Don't get me wrong, I think Chavez and the others are poor examples of leaders. But, this does not mean we should not communicate with him or others like him.
The Cold War was won by this method without a wartime shot fired. Direct talks occurred between Regan and Gorbachev. One might say that the Soviet Union was "worth" the direct talk because they were a superpower. So, that makes other countries like Venezuela and Iran not worth talking to, directly, because they are not a superpower and because they have leaders who have caused trouble for us? Incorrect.
The leaders of those countries are still leaders, nonetheless. They might be poor examples of leaders, but they are still that country's leader. If we think the leaders of North Korea and Cuba, for example, are such bad leaders, then that's all the more reason to talk to them, to show them the way, to show them how good leadership is conducted, and to show the world how good leadership is conducted. That's good leadership.
Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution allows for a President "to make Treaties". One cannot do that if one does not communicate with other leaders.
How can anyone be the President of a free country - a country that allows dissent and disagreement - yet not be willing to talk to foreign leaders who disagree and dissent? It's a Free Country, and what's good for us should be good for others as well.
We need a President that leads by such an example - the example of freedom.