Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Perlious Tight-Rope of Negotiating with Our Enemies

Yesterday, I reached a point which many of us come to during the course of our lives. In short, my idealism suffered a severe hit and I came to a kind of epiphany that there really is no fairness in life. It's a tough pill to swallow, friends, particularly because in this country we perpetuate an ideal of fairness and justice that often does not come to pass in reality.

I'm still an Obama supporter and will be from now until November, but I am no longer the starry-eyed true believer as I once was. In my opinion, support for a candidate must be tempered by constructive criticism of said candidate when justified.

And in that spirit...

At the prompting of Republican friends, I have recently been studying up on the history of JFK's presidency. If Obama will draw the JFK comparison to himself, I figure I ought to follow the connection and entertain a major GOP talking point. Obama's willingness to negotiate with terrorists is seen by the right as foolish and counter-productive. The obvious snafu they allude to parallels one of the major mistakes of the Kennedy Administration.

Kennedy followed the Bay of Pigs debacle with a hasty and ill-thought-out summit meeting with Khrushchev in Vienna in June of 1961. Poorly prepared and nearly incapacitated by agonizing back pain, Kennedy made little headway.

Khruschev saw no need to bargain and subjected him to intimidating tirades. "He just beat the hell out of me," Kennedy told a reporter. Coming after Kennedy's refusal to salvage the Bay of Pigs by military intervention, the meeting left the Soviets with the impression that the President was weak and dangerously erratic.

To exploit Kennedy's perceived vulnerability, the Soviet Union renewed tension over Berlin, deep within East Germany.

-The American Journey

This action led directly to the establishment of the Berlin Wall by the Soviets.

So yes, I have done my homework. I know the right is afraid Obama will lack the experience and the judgment to know how to properly deal with Ahmendinajad at the bargaining table. Yet, in saying this, I believe that Obama has the ability to handle a delicate situation like this one admirably. Throw out the Kennedy comparison all you wish--Kennedy had a variety of hidden health problems that, had they been brought to the public consciousness before his election, could have easily resulted in his defeat in 1960. Nor is Obama a Kennedy clone.

In conclusion, those two ancient variables are in play again: trust and fear.

Do you trust Obama or to do you fear Obama?

The choice is yours.

1 comment:

John J. said...

This negotiation is a horrible one to compare JFK and Obama on. As you said in your post, this happened immediately after the debacle of the Bay of Pigs. That means Kennedy was negotiating from a clear disadvantage against an equal.

These things just aren't the case in Iranian-American relations. We aren't negotiating from a position of weakness (beyond what Bush has already given us) and Obama, judging from his stance on military action, wouldn't put us in such a position. Iran also isn't anywhere near us in military or any other capacity.