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The real "appeasement" questions
Posted by: McQ on Monday, May 19, 2008

Dave Nalle comments on the Bush "appeasement" kerfuffle and Obama's reaction:
As Obama rides the mighty wave of enthusiasm into the Democratic nomination, I wonder why his supporters aren't more concerned about his ongoing display of what can only be described as a fatal level of naiveté and poor judgment born of inexperience which could well doom his campaign.

The latest example is his reaction to Bush's comments before the Israeli Knesset. Bush made a general comment, accusing 'some people' of naively leaning towards appeasement with terrorist regimes. Bush didn't mention the Democrats and didn't even make an oblique reference to Obama, though the media immediately jumped on the speech and turned it into an accusation against Obama. He could just as easily have been talking about the useless leaders of the European Union.

Obama could have wisely ignored the comment, or brushed it off with a comment about Bush's foolish warmongering, but instead he proved that he was as naive as Bush accused him of being by reacting in a defensive way which made it clear he assumed the comments were about him, and that he believed there were legitimate grounds for accusing him of being an appeaser. Even if Bush may have very well meant to target the Democrats or Obama with his comments, he didn't explicitly do so. Obama did that for him.
Nalle hits on what has puzzled me about the Obama reaction. Why react at all? By reacting, doesn't Obama necessarily admit to Bush's premise but argue it is false? Wouldn't the smarter political long-term move be to ignore it and not grant the premise legitimacy?

US News and World Report quotes Karl Rove about the politics of Obama's reply:
Karl Rove, appearing on Fox News Sunday, said he thinks Sen. Obama's response to Bush's remarks was "very smart politics" in the short term "meaning next Tuesday. ... Broader frame, going up to November, I'm not certain it's a smart move. If the argument is who's a better commander in chief, who's going to be tougher on foreign policy, then the answer is going to be John McCain."
The basic point to be made about "talks" is well made by, of all people, Thomas Friedman:
[T]he right question for the next president isn't whether we talk or don't talk. It's whether we have leverage or don't have leverage.

When you have leverage, talk. When you don't have leverage, get some — by creating economic, diplomatic or military incentives and pressures that the other side finds too tempting or frightening to ignore.
So the question to be answered by Obama is, given his declaration that he will hold presidential level talks with no preconditions with terrorist regimes, what leverage will he take into them?

If, as I suspect, the answer is none, then why can't the planned talks be characterized as "appeasement", even if Bush wasn't specifically talking about Obama when he made the comment?

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Previous Comments to this Post 

But look what happened, Bruce, in that reaction; A complete turn around in Obama’s Iran talking points. As I wrote at my place this morning, the shift has been breathtaking... in less than 4 hours he goes from ’Bush is laying about Iran, and they’re no threat" to "Iran is a threat to us all".
Written By: Bithead
It’s almost as if Bush questioned Obama’s patriotism by, you know, not questioning it at all.

Republican: Some people’s rhetoric isn’t helpful to the war effort, and actually emboldens our enemy.

Democrats: How DARE you question our patriotism!!!
Written By: Keith_Indy
Mr. Obama’s campaign brings up that other president’s have negotiated with our enemies and they were not appeasers. They neglected to mention one situation that almost resulted in nuclear war. Anyone old enough, as I, to remember what we went though during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the causes of that event can imagine similar errors from BHO due to his lack of experience and our present enemies lack of knowledge of our system of government; apparently much less knowledge than that of the Soviets.

Perceptions, unfortunately, are important and in the information age the media provides the ammunition. Mr. Obama, as was Mr. Kennedy, is a likeable, personable individual and one who inspires people but Mr. Obama hasn’t had his mantel tested politically or in a leadership position such as a CEO. America has already experienced, in President Kennedy, the dangers of having a President , even one surrounded by the “best and brightest” of the times, who inspired but was young and had limited political and international experience. President Kennedy was a war hero, unlike Mr. Obama who has never even served, yet that apparently didn’t register with the Soviets. But because of JFK’s fate we tend to forget about his failures in our highest office.

When he and America were challenged in Cuba, those who noticed, saw the cause; the Bay of Pigs disaster, the failure to challenge the building of the Berlin Wall and Mr. Khrushchev’s sizing up of him during their one-on-one meeting that lacked sufficient planning. JFK was eager to engage our adversaries in negotiations but the ground work was obviously not properly laid. Those failures cumulatively persuaded the Soviets to place nuclear tipped missiles in Cuba and the result was us close to entering into a nuclear war. The meeting notes from the 1961 Kennedy-Khrushchev summit meeting in Vienna give a sense that Kennedy’s Cuba language was vague enough to have contributed to Mr. Khrushchev’s belief that he could get away with putting missiles on the island.

While Mr. Kennedy was considered inexperienced by many, at least he had considerably more congressional experience than Mr. Obama, his father was a diplomat so he was exposed to that part of government, and had lived In Great Britain a young man during a time of conflict and saw the effects of war as a PT boat captain. Mr. Obama is a lightweight compared to the young and inexperienced JFK.

I would prefer not to experience that type of situation again; this time it could easily be with Iran or their surrogates, who are much less rational and reasonable adversaries who have shown to be caught up many times in suicidal religious zealotry.

Written By: AMR
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