Can we talk? Joan Rivers
What gives a detractor of President Obama legitimacy is having the ability to defend him when he occasionally does something right. Why not encourage him to be correct? His shaking hands with and speaking to Hugo Chavez is one of those times.
Something has gone wrong with how Americans view diplomacy and as usual it’s the fault of the left. Unfortunately, rather than proving the left wrong, the right has allowed the left to drag them into the world of un-enlightenment, where those on the right start acting as wrong as those on the left.
Adopting the rhetoric of the left and using it against them might be fun in a “give them a taste of their own medicine” sort of way, but those on the right have to Stop doing that at some point and come back into the real world.
Of recent vintage is this idea that if a President meets with, has a picture with, shakes the hand of or even acknowledges a leader of another country he is signaling his absolute approval of that country’s past and future.
That silly concept is an outgrowth of photographs coupled with the emergence of mindless “gotcha” politics.
Note this very well: Talking to someone does not signal affirmation of the other party. Sometimes talking is the only chance you will have to grab him by the lapels, put him against the wall and tell him that if he doesn’t stop acting contrary to American interests, you are going to have to punch his ticket. It matters not that you talked to someone - it matters what you say to him.
For 8 years of the Bush Presidency, the left constantly brought out this picture of Don Rumsfeld, then a special envoy to Iraq for President Reagan, shaking hands with Saddam Hussein in 1983:
According to the loons on the left, because Rumsfeld later worked in the Bush administration, it meant that President Bush owned and was responsible for everything Hussein did both before and after that handshake. That is perhaps the dumbest assertion the left has ever made, but it was pervasive, and it never went away. Gotcha Gotcha Gotcha!
Tired of combating the left’s force-field that allows them to repel incoming logic, the right decided to give the left a taste of their own medicine. The right would drag out this photo of Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State to President Clinton, smiling with Kim Jong Il (she also met with Slobodan Milosevic):
I suggest everyone take a look at this photo of FDR, Stalin and Churchill:
This photo was taken in Tehran of all places (Yalta was later). Stalin was a communist dictator and his Great Purge killed millions of people. He had designs on weakening the West. FDR met with him several times and negotiated with him, referring to Stalin as “Uncle Joe.”
Can you image any President today, of either party, jokingly calling Chavez “Uncle Hugo?” There would be enough conspiracy theories to fill a library. Bad man or not, Stalin was the leader of a country, so FDR and Churchill had to deal with him.
Take a look at this picture:
That’s President Nixon meeting with Chairman Mao Zedong in 1972. The PRC in China considered themselves an enemy of America at the time. Did this handshake make Nixon a believer in Communism? Did it make Nixon responsible for the deaths caused by Mao? Would serious people attempt such an argument then or now?
Look at this photo:
That’s President Reagan and Vice President Bush meeting with Gorbachev in New York in 1988. In the many meetings between Reagan and Gorbachev, did anyone claim they were together because Reagan believed in Communism or loved the Soviet Union? Certainly not. Reagan met with Gorbachev to right him and promote American interests. Again it mattes not who you meet with – it matters what you say to them when you do.
Critics will always claim a meeting “legitimizes” the enemy. To quote Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
In political vernacular “legitimizing” means this: If some foreign country held an election and the outcome was uncertain, or there was a coup and the outcome was uncertain, if the American politician called on one of the sides and not the other, the American could be seen as “legitimizing” the side they called upon, by “recognizing” them as the winner of the contest.
After the contest is settled, the word no longer applies. Legitimizing is not a synonym for “met with.” Once the foreign nation has an established leader, be it by vote, coup, fiat or primogeniture, there is no “legitimizing” the leader simply by talking to him.
Unfortunately, the misunderstanding about “legitimizing” is causing us to abandon diplomacy altogether. So right now, the political modus operandi of America is to talk only to those we agree with, and not talk to those with whom we have differences to settle. Backwards. Recently I was walking past the UN and stopped to think, “I wish there were some neutral territory where world leaders could talk to one another.”
We need to change our view of diplomacy, and applaud, not ridicule, when leaders speak. It seems to me if you aren’t talking, you’re fighting.
That brings me to the troops. Above everyone else, diplomacy with the enemy is owed to the troops.
Our fighting men and women are moral human beings, not robots. They don’t want to kill anyone. While they don’t question orders, it helps if they believe the orders are moral. To look through a scope and shoot a piece of lead through another person’s heart requires moral clarity – a just cause.
How can a President give an order to the troops to kill while saying, “I have not tried to talk to their leader to convince him of his errors. The photo-op would look politically bad for me, so just go kill his people instead.”
An order to kill can morally come from a President only when he can assure his troops he has tried diplomacy but those threatening us won’t back down. That is the only time you can expect a soldier to be able to square killing human beings with his religion.
I recall, as an example, 17 ignored UN Resolutions against Iraq before we attacked Hussein. Of course a response to a physical attack as with al-Qaeda requires no diplomacy.
Here’s the rule: Talk first – kill only when talking fails. That’s diplomacy.