In defending his stated intent to meet with America’s enemies without preconditions, Sen. Obama said: “I trust the American people to understand that it is not weakness, but wisdom to talk not just to our friends, but to our enemies, like Roosevelt did, and Kennedy did, and Truman did.”
I assume the Roosevelt to whom Sen. Obama referred is Franklin D. Roosevelt. Our enemies in World War II were Nazi Germany, headed by Adolf Hitler; fascist Italy, headed by Benito Mussolini, and militarist Japan, headed by Hideki Tojo. FDR talked directly with none of them before the outbreak of hostilities, and his policy once war began was unconditional surrender.
Harry Truman also was president when North Korea invaded South Korea in June, 1950. President Truman’s response was not to call up North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung for a chat. It was to send troops.
Perhaps Sen. Obama is thinking of the meeting FDR and Churchill had with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in Tehran in December, 1943, and the meetings Truman and Roosevelt had with Stalin at Yalta and Potsdam in February and July, 1945. But Stalin was then a U.S. ally, though one of whom we should have been more wary than FDR and Truman were. Few historians think the agreements reached at Yalta and Potsdam, which in effect consigned Eastern Europe to slavery, are diplomatic models we ought to follow. Even fewer Eastern Europeans think so.
Kelly addresses JFK. For anti-Communist Cubans and Puerto Ricans, the Kennedy administration was a huge disaster that sentenced thousands of Cubans to death and which perpetuated a dictatorship that has caused enormous damage in Latin America and Africa. When Kennedy pulled out his full support for the Bay of Pigs invasion, he signalled to the Soviets that America was not willing to fight:
Elie Abel, who wrote a history of the Cuban missile crisis (The Missiles of October), said the crisis had its genesis in that summit.
“There is reason to believe that Khrushchev took Kennedy’s measure in June 1961 and decided this was a young man who would shrink from hard decisions,” Mr. Abel wrote. “There is no evidence to support the belief that Khrushchev ever questioned America’s power. He questioned only the president’s readiness to use it. As he once told Robert Frost, he came to believe that Americans are ‘too liberal to fight.'”
That view was supported by New York Times columnist James Reston, who traveled to Vienna with President Kennedy: “Khrushchev had studied the events of the Bay of Pigs,” Mr. Reston wrote. “He would have understood if Kennedy had left Castro alone or destroyed him, but when Kennedy was rash enough to strike at Cuba but not bold enough to finish the job, Khrushchev decided he was dealing with an inexperienced young leader who could be intimidated and blackmailed.”
Too liberal to fight. Indeed.
When the U.S. negotiates with “terrorists and radicals,” it gives them legitimacy, a precious and tangible political asset. Thus, even Mr. Obama criticized former President Jimmy Carter for his recent meetings with Hamas leaders. Meeting with leaders of state sponsors of terrorism such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il is also a mistake. State sponsors use others as surrogates, but they are just as much terrorists as those who actually carry out the dastardly acts. Legitimacy and international acceptability are qualities terrorists crave, and should therefore not be conferred casually, if at all.
Moreover, negotiations – especially those “without precondition” as Mr. Obama has specifically advocated – consume time, another precious asset that terrorists and rogue leaders prize. Here, President Bush’s reference to Hitler was particularly apt: While the diplomats of European democracies played with their umbrellas, the Nazis were rearming and expanding their industrial power.
In today’s world of weapons of mass destruction, time is again a precious asset, one almost invariably on the side of the would-be proliferators. Time allows them to perfect the complex science and technology necessary to sustain nuclear weapons and missile programs, and provides far greater opportunity for concealing their activities from our ability to detect and, if necessary, destroy them.
Go read the rest.
(The Carnival of Latin America’s coming up in an hour or two. Please bear with me.)
Venezuela: Chavez’s sponsorship of FARC and destabilization of the region. From a House hearing: “Venezuelan passports can be forged with ”child-like ease” and that the United States is detaining at our borders an increasing number of third-country aliens carrying false Venezuelan documents. According to a 2003 U.S. News report, ”Thousands of Venezuelan identity documents are being distributed to foreigners from Middle Eastern nations, including Syria, Pakistan, Egypt and Lebanon. There are other worrisome reports of radical Islamist activity in Venezuela. State Department officials have expressed concerns about ”groups and individuals” in Venezuela with ”links to terrorist organizations in the Middle East.” The al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah cells in South and Central America are tied to fundraising and to so-called charity and transnational criminal networks that are key to terrorist mobility.”
Cuba: Ask Jimmy Carter about the Mariel Boatlift, and whether a “tiny” country can have an enormous impact on the daily lives of Americans in Florida.