Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Jim Baker: a breath of fresh air: "I believe in talking to your enemies"

With all of the bad news and negativity concerning Iraq, former Secretary of State James A. Baker III is a breath of fresh air, at last. An article in the NY Times entitled "G.O.P.’s Baker Hints Iraq Plan Needs Change" tells us that:

 James A. Baker III, the Republican co-chairman of a bipartisan panel reassessing Iraq strategy for President Bush, said Sunday that he expected the panel would depart from Mr. Bush’s repeated calls to “stay the course,” and he strongly suggested that the White House enter direct talks with countries it had so far kept at arm’s length, including Iran and Syria.

“I believe in talking to your enemies,” he said in an interview on the ABC News program “This Week,” noting that he made 15 trips to Damascus, the Syrian capital, while serving Mr. Bush’s father as secretary of state.

“It’s got to be hard-nosed, it’s got to be determined,” Mr. Baker said. “You don’t give away anything, but in my view, it’s not appeasement to talk to your enemies.”

Boy, that kind of talk is has been considered heresy by the Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby. A Democrat talking that way would instantlly ber ridiculed by many in Congress, although that may quickly change as those some people realize how dire their re-election hopes become as the election draws near and the "civil quagmire" in Iraq looms more ominously over their heads.

On the other hand, I would note that Baker is exactly right when he says that "It’s got to be hard-nosed, it’s got to be determined. You don’t give away anything", and that is not how a lot of diplomacy and negotiations have been conducted in the past, by Democrats as well as Republicans. We have been either too obstinate and inflexible or too willing to compromise on so many fronts. After all these years, the U.S. still hasn't found the "sweet spot" for the middle ground of foreign policy.

It is too soon to say that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but at least we can now catch a glimmer of hope.

I firmly believe that we need to have behind the scenes talks with Iran, Syria, et al. Sure, we need to talk reasonably tough in public, but we need to be constantly trying to convince them that, as Clinton would say, "we can fel your pain".

-- Jack Krupansky


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