Desperately dumbing down debate on diplomacy - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Desperately dumbing down debate on diplomacy

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Posted: Friday, May 30, 2008 11:06 pm | Updated: 11:53 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Can it be that elections tend to bring out whatever latent stupidity candidates and their supporters may harbor, or that they induce people to say stupid and simplistic things in the belief that voters respond only to the stupid and simplistic?

What inspires such dire reflection at this moment is the increasingly shrill and pointless debate over whether likely Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama will or should go on what some call a freshman tour of egregious dictators, talking for the sake of talking, to show them that he’s not President Bush. The discussion doesn’t reflect well on either side.

Last July in a debate, Obama said he would be interested in direct talks with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other detestable leaders, and Hillary Clinton immediately accused him of terminal naïveté.

He probably should have said something like: “I probably didn’t put that very well. Of course there would have to be lower-level diplomatic preparations and the prospect of something constructive coming out of it.”

But American politicians these days, whether they think the voters will punish them or because they have bought into the ridiculous image of the all-wise infallible president, seem to have forgotten how to admit minor errors.

He has tried to add some nuance to his position, but it has done little good. From what we hear on the campaign trail (and in Israel) you would think there are only two possible approaches: that the U.S. will never talk to dictators or terrorist leaders because to do so would “elevate them to our level” and reward them for bad behavior, or that the U.S. president should talk directly with everyone because talking is inherently good.

Neither of these positions is sensible, nor is it likely any president would embrace either. The Bush administration has undertaken extensive talks and made agreements with North Korea, one of the original reputed members of the “axis of evil” and a decidedly reprehensible regime.

Anybody with any sense knows this. Whether they think voters are stupid or to energize their bases, however, both parties want to perpetuate and magnify this phony “issue” in the stupidest ways.

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