Senator’s Obama’s view that as President of the United States he would be willing to talk to so-called enemies of the US seems to have remained a topic of controversy. First it was Senator Clinton who termed it as “naive“. Now we have conservative columnists lamenting that Senator Obama’s gaffe has become policy. There are really two issues here. One, what is Senator Obama’s actual stand on the issue? Second, should the US should be willing to talk to purported problem states?
Firstly, Senator Obama deserves credit for at least being consistent. Just as he has always been against the war in Iraq, this is another issue where he has been very consistent and thankfully, different and bold. When asked about Cuba in an earlier debate he clearly pointed out that he was against the mindset that meeting with the US President was a privilege that had to be earned. It’s heartening to learn that there is at least one candidate in the race who fervently believes in talking to one and all. Clearly, without a doubt there is no ambiguity about Senator Obama’s position on the issue.
Another recent article pointed out that President Kennedy had a similar mindset and ended up having a rough meeting with the Russians where Krushchev lectured him. The ultimately objective when world leaders meet is often world peace among other things. Besides, considering all the harm the US has caused around the world (along with the good) shouldn’t there at least be room for other world leaders to vent their frustrations, anger and disappointment in close doors meetings with the US President? It is only fair that the US President give other world leaders a hearing even if it risked getting a earful. At a minimum it will send the message that the US is willing to listen as opposed to always lecturing the world on freedom and democracy when it suits the US. The widely accepted reality after eight of President Bush is that the US is significantly disliked all around the world and there is plenty of appeasement (yes appeasement!) that the US could indulge in across the globe. The fear that the US President might be lectured to because of the precedent from over 40 years ago is irrelevant and out of place in today’s world.
On a related note, it helps to realize that we are living in an age where the bulk of the US population is extremely active on the Internet and the rest of the world is following suit. The Youtube, Facebook and Google generations live a life of near complete openness and seemingly inherent equality. This generation (and possibly future generations) talks about everything under the sun to everyone on their blogs, forums and emails. They hold mass conversations online, give and take advice from all and sundry from across the planet. It is ironical that is in this day and age US elected representatives and so called thought leaders in the media are debating over who the US President should talk to or not talk to! As Fareed Zakaria points out, “the world has shifted from anti-Americanism to post-Americanism”. It’s about time the US got off its high horse and talked actively to countries around the world while they still want to talk to the US!
How out of tune with the future can John McCain, Hillary Clinton and others get? At a minimum Senator Obama deserves all the credit for at least bringing an independent forward-looking view to the discussion.