September 27, 2008

Henry Kissinger, ever the diplomat

It seems to me that one of the more significant episodes in last night's debate was John McCain struggling to tar — unsuccessfully — Barack Obama as a foreign policy naïf with respect to diplomatic relations, specifically with Iran.

Afterwards, Henry Kissinger tossed this out:
Senator McCain is right. I would not recommend the next President of the United States engage in talks with Iran at the Presidential level. My views on this issue are entirely compatible with the views of my friend Senator John McCain.
That's nice, but they're also "entirely compatible" with Obama's.

But that's not the point. Senator McCain's premises are that 1) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an irrational nutcase and 2) President Obama wants to sit down with and legitimize this irrational nutcase.

First of all, the president of the United States is not going to sit down with Ahmadinejad. If the president sat down with any Iranian leader, it would be Ali Khamenei, the U.S. president's political counterpart. But McCain never said anything about Ali Khamenei.

And Obama never said anything about any particular political figures at all. Obama's point is that the Bush administration's position, that Iran must meet several U.S. objectives — "preconditions" — before the U.S. will even begin talks, is counterproductive, especially when those very objectives would be the subject of the talks.

Much like the often articulated veiled threat of military force, that of "not ruling out any options," Obama is simply not prepared to rule out talks with Iran if, as he said, they would contribute to the enhanced security of America. That's the bottom line, after all, and one of the most important roles of the U.S. chief executive.

Obama's understanding is considerably broader than McCain's, or at least as it was on display last night. Russia and China, for instance, also have interests with Iran, and U.S. interests are tied up with all three. Simply ignoring — or demonizing, as the Palin/McCain ticket is bent on doing — one of those players is self-defeating.

All McCain has done is picked out a foreign leader, Ahmadinejad, who has said a number of really idiotic things to enliven his fanbase, and attempted to couple him with Obama. It's a cheap tactic, unworthy of a statesman, and completely misrepresents Obama's stated views.

As a matter of fact, in one respect, McCain is playing the same fearmongering games as is Ahmadinejad himself. Some folks might buy it, but I don't. And that's just one of the many reasons why McCain's performance last night was singularly unimpressive.


gnarlytrombone said...

A. Professor:

Now that [Obama] can no longer argue that victory is not possible, he still wants to bail because, near as I can tell, he thinks we should have left Saddam in power and he wants to use the money elsewhere. What he doesn't understand, yadda yadda...

(And,of course, if we manage to establish a friendly Muslim democracy in the middle east, the war will have accomplished something extremely important.)

Of course.

(I love how the one-sentence "thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them" geostrategic insight is a one-sentence parenthetical to the main point, calling Obama a cheap coward.)

illusory tenant said...

It's easy to toss around words like "victory" and "defeat" when you're not defining either of them.

To try and change that subject by saying that the war should not have been fought in the first place is senseless.

Well sure it is, when it makes your man's judgment look suspect. McCain was wanting to bomb Iraq on 9/12/01.

capper said...

I think that Friday night should have squelched that particular line of argument. After all, Obama spent an hour and half in discussion with a certified nutjob with a clinically diagnosable mental health condition, and the country did not cease to be.