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Thursday, May 29, 2008


One of the presidential candidates has said he will talk to anyone (for example, the nut-case presidents of Iran or North Korea) and many have been shocked at this naive notion, while his supporters have cheered this splendid idea.

Just what does talking with a foreign leader who is pretty much a maniac actually accomplish?

Not enough people ask that. Liberals assume that "just talking" is a good thing in itself. It might be, but probably is not.

In the case of the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it's hard to see what would be gained. He wants US troops out of the Middle East (since they are in the way of his idea to take over the place). We can hardly agree to that, not until we no longer need the Middle East's oil. He wants Israel destroyed and we're not going to give him that either. He already plans to build nuclear weapons over UN objections, and he's not going to give that up. (Nor should he. Having a nuke or two means two things: one is that if the US flattens Iran he can at least get one shot back, even if a freighter has to deliver it, and the second is if he goes down fighting he could at least lay an egg on Israel and go down in Arab history as a hero.) He wants to continue supporting terrorists, and no one believes that "just talking" with him is going to result in him giving that up.

In the case of Kim Jong-IL, the nut-case dictator of North Korea, what good would talking do? He wants to remain in power, and (given the mess made when Saddam was removed) nobody is really anxious to see him go. He wants US troops out of South Korea, and that's not something we or South Korea are going to agree to (not with a communist dictatorship still in power.) He wants access to Western banks so he can sell his counterfeit US $100 bills, something the US isn't going to agree to. He wants to build nuclear weapons (and probably is) and no matter how charming the US president is, he's not going to stop (see above for why, but ignore the part about
Israel.) He wants to keep selling missiles to people who point them at our friends, and no amount of charm is going to stop his big cash export.

Talking is OK, and if Kim or Ahmadinejad want to talk to ME, I'll pick up the phone, but nobody should think that just talking is going to solve the problem. Contrary to myth, there is no big "misunderstanding" involved that is going to go away when two people meet face-to-face and have a broad-ranging chat and suddenly discover the mistake that caused all the problem. I've been in conversations with angry people who suddenly realized that they misunderstood, but that's not the case here. We understand perfectly well why Kim and Ahmadinejad want nukes. We just don't want them to have them because having a "final defense against US aggression" also means having a "sneaky way to get in a cheap shot before the US can even start being aggressive."

Talking also has a downside. Just talking with Kim or Ahmadinejad means we accept them as equals and accept that their point of view is just as worthy as our own, and that's not the case. When a US president meets Kim or Ahmadinejad and (surprise) absolutely nothing happens as a result, who is going to look bad in the eyes of the Third World? It's not going to be Kim, and it's not going to be Ahmadinejad.