Making Friends of Enemies?

Okay, all things considered, I can understand Obama’s overtures toward Raoul Castro.  As irksome as it is to have to back down and leave a Castro in power, our position achieves very little in real terms, except as a splendid example of what economic sanctions CAN’T accomplish (despite the UN’s absurd dependence on them for enforcing UN mandates).  Moreover, it’s possible–unlikely, perhaps, but possible–we can perhaps use thawing relations as a balance to Russia’s expanding sphere of influence.  There is some precedent:  witness our fairly cordial relations with communist Vietnam. 

Less comforting is Obama’s interest in improving relations with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.  Of course, it may not be as surprising as all that–Obama, after all, has a strong socialist streak himself.  But do we really want to embrace someone who has seized American-owned assets and is trying to grow a socialist empire in South America?  I  suppose it’s unrealistic to hope that last year’s collapse in the price of oil has done much to alter Chavez’s goals.  But perhaps I’m reading too much into one handshake…I hope.

Most baffling of all is Obama’s agreement to join six-party talks designed to address Iran’s nuclear ambitions.  Why?  We’ve been involved in six-party talks with North Korea over their nuclear ambitions for years, and we’re no further toward denuclearizing the peninsula than we were–we may have slowed them down a bit (though nobody’s completely sure), but they’ve made it clear that they’re willing to start back up any time they don’t get their way.   And what’s there to talk about in Iran?  We don’t trust them with nuclear energy.  They have not been forthcoming with evidence that would support their claims that they’re only interested in domestic energy production.

There’s a time-honored custom in diplomacy and negotiations called offering a concession.  In theory, the concession should not involve giving away the game.  Let’s hope Obama realizes this.

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