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May 21, 2008

Comments

I suppose this underscores the point James Baker made on Fox News the other day:

http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2008/05/you_dont_just_talk_to_your_fri.cfm

It's tough to underscore just how boneheaded the McCain/Bush stance on this point is.

FWIW, I think Obama's take on this has been near pitch-perfect so far. "What are they afraid of?" hits them right in the knees.

Here's the link to the URL with the Baker video (I hope!).

64% of Israelis already disagree with Bush and McCain's stance on diplomacy.

But it is nice to see that there are still some grownups on the world stage.

When we were in Israel in 2005, our tour guide told us (when we were on Mt. Bental in the Golan Heights) that Israel was quietly negotiating to end its war with Syria. It was being done quietly, unofficially, with no fanfare or press coverage.

It contrasts starkly with the petulant manner with which our President and his team have handled foreign policy the past seven and a half years.

FWIW I have heard it argued that an agreement with Syria would be a major breakthrough, not only in itself, but because it would provide cover for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States to reach agreements with Israel as well.

I don't know how much truth there is to this, but it seems plausible to me.

Can we cut a deal with Israel whereby we swap out their current government with ours, at least until the next election? I don't particularly care for their government, but it seems to be a lot smarter than ours is at the moment. On the downside, this plan would really suck for Israel.

Can we cut a deal with Israel whereby we swap out their current government with ours, at least until the next election? I don't particularly care for their government, but it seems to be a lot smarter than ours is at the moment. On the downside, this plan would really suck for Israel

Hrm. That'd be a justifiable pretext for Israel to declare war on the US...

ChrisWWW says:

“64% of Israelis disagree”

Israeli leadership willfully ignores the concepts of hudna and 8:66. I believe that this is rooted in a genetic defect afflicting many Western minds, a defect especially prevalent in Jews. Arab minds do not have this defect.

Zechariah says that 4 million Jews will be killed and then the remaining 2 million Jews will:

(1) Be refined as silver is refined; and
(2) Be tried as gold is tried.

Zechariah goes on to say that this will happen to those who attack Israel:

Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.

Which would be interpreted by those in the Israeli military as license to go ahead and nuke population centers.

I don’t know if the Bible is a collection of old tales or the literal word of God. But it really doesn’t matter. People cling to religion and guns when times get tough.

The public disclosure that Israel, albeit indirectly, is talking with Syria, one of its most implacable enemies and a sponsor of groups that both Israel and the United States consider terrorists, came less than a week after President Bush, speaking to the Israeli Parliament, created a stir by criticizing those who would negotiate with “terrorists and radicals.”

The Knesset speech was obviously part of Bush's brilliant reverse psychology Mideast peace strategy.

*blink*

Israeli leadership willfully ignores the concepts of hudna and 8:66. I believe that this is rooted in a genetic defect afflicting many Western minds, a defect especially prevalent in Jews. Arab minds do not have this defect.

I understand researchers at Tel Aviv University are working feverishly to identify the "understands hudna" gene in the hopes that Israeli officials can be tested for it before being assigned to negotiate with Arabs.

Now that Israel has betrayed Israel by negotiating with the terrorists, it's clear that Israel has sided with the terrorists.

So our only recourse, as Ann Coulter would surely tell us, is to invade Israel, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity.

"I believe that this is rooted in a genetic defect afflicting many Western minds, a defect especially prevalent in Jews."

You've reached a new high water mark, Bill. Jews have a genetic defect afflicting their minds. Gotcha.

I've never, ever -- contrary to some people's misstatements -- suggested, or desired, let alone called for, Bill to be banned.

And I don't suggest that he be banned now, and I wouldn't be happy if he were. I think ObWi, and the range of allowed opinion, should be as ideologically wide-ranging as possible.

Posting rules: "Like Tac, we don't ban for ideological reasons (unless you're a Nazi or something equally vile)"

Until statements cross the line of outright racism, antisemitism, and other forms of clear bigotry. I do suggest that such statements should be viewed as violations
of the Posting Rules, and responded to with a firm warning that the poster is welcome to continue commenting, but that crossing that line isn't allowed. And that this, too, be made explicit in the Posting Rules.

Naturally, this is just a suggestion offered for consideration of the blogowners.

But my personal view is that outright claims that Jews -- or any other ethnic group -- have an imaginary genetic affliction affecting their minds is over the line. Y, whomever Y may be, MV.

And, after all, I'm doomed by my genetic heritage to this mental affliction.

I wouldn’t make a good Nazi Gary, my kids have Jewish ancestry by my choice. Jews are some of the smartest people on the planet. But they have a consistent track record of being on the wrong side of history. I believe that this has to do with their thought processes.

Jews are some of the smartest people on the planet.

I hear they're good at making money, too.

"Which would be interpreted by those in the Israeli military as license to go ahead and nuke population centers."

Needless to say, this is as accurate and fact-based as the rest of Bill's hallucinations.

Bill, might I ask if you're any sort of believing Christian, or follower of any other religion, or are you agnostically/atheistically inclined, or what? I'd like to know, so we can start making announcements about what you must believe, and ignoring all your protests that you believe otherwise, so as to do unto you as you believe in doing unto others.

Thanks.

my kids have Jewish ancestry by my choice

I imagine that this translates to something like "I married an ethnic Jew, and we reproduced", but I'm not optimistic about the accuracy of my imagination.

"I believe that this has to do with their thought processes."

Which are caused by their genes. I understood you.

Some of your best friends are Jews. And you eat lunch with dark-skinned people, and hire them, freely!

And make a point of telling people about it.

To Bill's, um, credit, when I read his first comment about the Jews and their genetic defect (shared by all the non-Arabs!), I thought to myself, "Self, there is no way that he could possibly top that". Oh how wrong I was.

So congratulations Bill: you've "exceeded" expectations.

Bill,

wow, i mean...just...wow. man, wow.

are you for real?

There's another interpretation of "my children have jewish ancestors by my choice" and that is that Bill is some kind of mormon and adopted and baptized those ancestors long after their death. It doesn't make much sense, but then his original comment that the Jews' genetic heritage is somehow distinct from the Arabs' genetic heritage is equally nonsensical. As is the self contradictory really smart but always on the wrong side of history because of their thought processes. Either "thought processes" don't matter much, or control much (in which case we can't blame that hudna gene for pushing us jews to the wall) or they matter a lot, in which case being "really smart" may still matter but not be able to affect everything. Either way, bill's comment is pretty weird.

aimai

Israel is negotiating from strength (ability and willingness to use force) and with preconditions. Moreover, the carrots they bring to the table (2 state solution, trade with one of 2 functioning and wealthy countries) is one to which they are already amenable. Nobody, especially McCain, suggests no diplomacy. Rather they see the need to negotiate from strength, to have both carrots and sticks, and to vet negotiating partners by having them demonstrate bona fides (preconditions). Leaving Iraq and the military staging grounds it represents does not qualify as strength, and allowing Iran to continue to work towards becoming an atomic state while still meeting with them indicates to the people of Iran that their government’s policy of pursuing nukes is correct, as it gets them a seat at the table. They are using a full quiver of international relations arrows, just as McCain suggests. Obama on the other hand is “absolutely” going to meet “within 1 year” “without preconditions”. Sounds like he only has 1 arrow.
For people who’s candidate claims nuanced views and that “words matter” you sure like to ignore both.

"allowing Iran to continue to work towards becoming an atomic state"

Are you aware that Iran is fully entitled to be "an atomic state" by international treaty, and that the U.S. is pledged to adhere to this treaty, and in fact wrote it?

They're not entitled to nuclear weapons, but that's an entirely different thing than having as much legal right to enrich uranium than the next signatory to the IAEA & the NPT.

"For people who’s candidate claims nuanced views and that 'words matter' you sure like to ignore both. "

Whom are you addressing?

"Obama on the other hand is 'absolutely' going to meet 'within 1 year' 'without preconditions'. Sounds like he only has 1 arrow."

You seem to have the notion that the only way to "negotiate" with someone is to insist that they first agree to all your conditions. This is a strange way of negotiating, as it's generally been considered that one brings all one's tools to a negotiation, rather than exhausting them all beforehand, as you seem to, curiously, advocate.

And besides, as we keep pointing out, this is the policy advocated by James Baker, Colin Powell, former head of Mossad Efraim Halevy, and other leftists with no interest in the safety of Israel and no clue about how to negotiate.

Pardon me if I prefer their experienced views to that of Some Guy On The Internet.

Right, atomic state was incorrect, state in posession of atomic weapons is more accurate. However the heavy water facilities they have built would indicate an interest in plutonium, not uranium, which indicates an interest in weapons, as they are not working on reactors fueled by plutonium.

I was addressing the Obama supporters on this site.

I suggest that asking negotiating partners make a gesture of good faith (such as abiding by the IAEA rules you just quoted) makes them more trustworthy at the table. Why would you trust their next round of tlaks if they blew off the last round? Unconditional negotiations is not the policy advocated by Sec Baker, General/Sec Powell and UrSpook Halevy. They all recognize that actually coming to the table is a concession for the more powerful partner, and that something should be had for that concession.

I agree with you on your distinction between competant authorities and guys on the internet, but it does bring up the question of why you would read/respond on an opinion blog.

That post (by three tours) contains a few assertions that might or might not be true.
a) Iran's leadership is hellbent on acquiring nuclear weapons
b)"We" can not allow that
c) Iran would have to show bona fides

My opinion on that:
a) Although it would be rational for Iran to have nukes (because the cases of North Korea, Pakistan, India show the advantages), there is yet no proof that they are willing to take the risk of acquiring them. One might even say there is no proof that they actually desire them.
b) What "right" does the US have to allow or forbid other countries to "go nuclear" for either civilian or military purposes?
c)If I were the Iranian leadership I would not trust anything coming from Washington and showing bona fides would require unconditional surrender (and Washington would not be content even with that, see Saddam's WMDs). In the Iranian position, I'd be on the alert at least until Obama is in office (and stay that way, if it Clinton or the Son of Cain instead), since the possibility of an US attack is non-negligible (and be it as a parting shot by Bush to force the hand of his successor).
Iran made some real offers before Bush walked into Iraq but Bush rejected them unread in a way that can only be considered deliberately insulting. If there is anyone to show bona fides, it would be the US but the current administration has proven itself to be at least as untrustworthy (in my opinion even more) as they claim Iran to be.
Even if the US were honestly interested in negotiations (not unconditional surrender), any nation with a sense of pride would demand at least the withdrawal of the excess carrier strike forces from the area (i.e. those not needed for the Iraq operation). Would the US negotiate with Russia, if Moscow paraded its fleet just outside the US territorial waters with occasional "accidental" incursions (especially, if Russia had just occupied Canada and Mexico and payed terrorist groups inside the US to work towards regime change)?

Zechariah goes on to say that this will happen to those who attack Israel

The NIV has 'rot' rather than 'consume', which is actually not a very good description of what happens in a nuclear blast.

Can you give us the Hebrew to help us sort this out?

What about the woman in the box with the lead lid, who is carried away by the two women with the stork wings to go live in Babylonia? Is the lead lid to protect her from the nuclear fallout?

As an aside, do you make a practice of reading the whole bible, or just the gory bits?

The fault here, dear Bill, may not be in the genes, but in ourselves.

Thanks -

Hartmut -

"b) What "right" does the US have to allow or forbid other countries to "go nuclear" for either civilian or military purposes?"

This may have merit from the point of view of an objective human being. However, this attitude is worthless to actual American diplomats or leaders. If our intention is to bargain, we need to have our own "side" to support and cannot preface discussions with the idea, "what right have we to demand X?"

Luckily, nobody within reach of power in America actually believes the best approach to bargaining with rivals is, "first off, if you really feel strongly about it, have it your way."

If an American leader or diplomatic can be *empathetic* about the position of a nation whose policy we would like to constrain, it means he's got a better understanding of realiy. If he is *sympathetic* to the other side's point of view to the point that he does not advocate for an advantageous position from an American, then he's failing to qualify as a leader. What's the point of bargaining in that case? Why not just say, "have a ball" and mind our own business.

Powerless little people like us on blogs have the luxury of talking like impartial judges of international affairs. National leaders and their employees, as long as we live in a world of sovereign states instead of world government, should not be impartial judges but instead advocates of what they determine the national interest is.

So, the bottom line is that when I'm participating in a debate about preferred US foreign policy, I cringe a little bit when people talk about being "fair" or are protective of the "rights" of other nations to their position.

Powerless little people like us on blogs have the luxury of talking like impartial judges of international affairs. National leaders and their employees, as long as we live in a world of sovereign states instead of world government, should not be impartial judges but instead advocates of what they determine the national interest is.

Generally, I think determining the national interest HAS to start with being an impartial judge of of international affairs. Being completely self interested bites you in the end. You have to deal with other nations' interests eventually---doing it sooner saves you effort in the long run.

I think I cringe when people forget this fact--no nation is an island, after all.

Regarding Israel & Syria:

This is undercutting McCain's argument at the moment. And, despite the importance of the Palestinian track, these talks should not be mutually exclusive with them. What makes Syria a more promising negotiating partner is that, if it chooses, it is a regime that can deliver.

However, if negotiations spoil and the situation turns violent at the right time in our political cycle, this could turn out to be very bad for Obama and good for McCain.

The million shekel question involved these talks is also the implications for Hizballah. Can Syria credibly constrain Hezbollah as part of a deal? If not that,could it promise to stay neutral in an Israel-Hezbollah fight should one occur? If so, that's awesome and it scratches one of Israel's biggest itches. If not, then what's the upside for the Israelis in a Syrian deal that is worth trading real estate? Unlike many, I don't think the Golan is so essential that Israel must reject any deal that involves giving it up. But, since Syria is not an irresistible conventional threat anyway, a peace treaty with Syria alone is not worth it unless it helps Israel's broader regional security position.

spockamok,
that's a fair point, but one could rephrase Hartmut's comment to be that the US needs to conform to the laws and guidelines that they have essentially set down, and attempts to force other, smaller countries to agree to the dictates of the US is problematic because of the resentment and ill will it generates, which will ultimately harm the national interest in the long run. An advocate of the national interest should do all that it can within the frameworks set down, but much US rhetoric is outside the set down frameworks.

bbbbbzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

you're unqualified to be a diplomat or politician. What's your strategy, be butt boy for everybody who wants something from you.

Do live in some fantasy world where every act of kindness or understanding is automatically reciprocated by the universe?

Let's apply this in real life.
You're right. No man is an island. Your welfare suffers as long as I am unfulfilled. therefore how's about if you grant me check writing privileges from your personal accounts, or allow me to use my rifle to shoot rodents on your friend's property, or let me set up a crack house next door to your place. I know you might think these are unreasonable requests, but, what's the alternative, isolate me, deny me fulfillment? That just delays the day you'll need to *inevitably* engage me.

Hey, after all, you won't be able able to honestly and properly appraise your own interests into you take into account my interest in check-writing from your accounts, bb gun firing onto your friends property, and setting up a crack house next door to you.

I say this all tongue in cheek, for effect, because you responded to my critique of the fairness trap by digging deeper into the very same trap.

Gwangung- if you are all about understanding, you're incomplete. Understanding needs to be blended with assertiveness as well.

Liberal Japonicus,

You know, to me it boils down to whether we want Iran to have nukes or not. If it helps that cause to concede wiggle room on nuclear-generated electricity, or some kind of non-aggression pact, so be it,but why gratuitously say 'you're AOK with me' if we're not going to get something we want out of it?

If we're going to take the attitude that we can't protest other nation's potential nuclear weapons as long as we and our allies possess them, then there's little to struggle for in international security relations.

If we can't be "unfair" towards North Korea's and Iran's nuclear weapons "prerogatives" and have to accept them, well then fuck it, why don't we just react by ensuring at least our allies near them have their own nukes, call it a day and become militarily isolationist. We can call it a treaty trade-in program...if you're an ally we let you have nukes but we get to cancel any military guarantees we have to you.

spockamok: the posting rules forbid profanity. They also forbid incivility, like: "What's your strategy, be butt boy for everybody who wants something from you."

And here's the challenge for you Publius.

You've talked for years about how the only way to change destructive political tendencies in the United States is to put the fear of political death into the hearts of those who practice that kind of politics. Bipartisanship for its own sake is crap. Broderism sucks. Morally complaining about your enemy being unfair does not cut it. What counts is denying him political success.

It's an essentially hardline, competitive, prison yard, view of the political world.

I like it. It's perceptive. I'd actually like to see right-wing political agendas in this country stymied.

You have suggested remedies that not only involve stopping bad behaviors that have weakened progressives in the past, but also affirmative, even aggressive steps to confound the political right in the US.

However, on international affairs, I've pretty much only heard you talk about negotiations and halting activities that bother foreigners we have disagreements with. It's as if all the hardball, prison yard assumptions about US domestic politics stop at the water's edge, and maybe all the world needs is a little Broderism.

But other Americans are not the only people who practice forms of politics I'd like to see stymied. The world is filled with regimes or movements that follow aggressively nationalist agendas, or religious supremacist agendas.

North Korea practices an international politics of recklessnes, blackmail based on threats of large-scale aggression and actual aggression against individuals (lethal border incidents, assassinations, abductions), gratuitous dirspect toward the other government of Korea, and the government of Japan.

Iran practices a politics of rejecting peace agreements in the Levant, backed up by assassinations or the threat of force. It gets to fight the Israelis the last Palestinian or Lebanese Shia. It practices a politics of rejecting the existence of a nation, essentially working to sabotage any deal that is not based on a demographic makeover of Israel. It does this not only when Presidents named Bush are running US policy, but also when a President named Clinton is attempting to goad Syrians, Palestinians and Israelis into agreement.

Many Muslim extremists worldwide, violent and nonviolent, practice a form of identity politics that is deliberately divisive along religious lines, choosing to cast clashes of political ambition as clashes of civilizations.

Some believe that murdering civilians in any number and any location is the appropriate and laudable political tactic to use to pressure countries like the US and Egypt into dropping relationships the extremists disapprove of. Countless numbers of people who don't physically or logistically support these attacks, support them morally, politically, intellectually, rhetorically and financially.

Important as it may be to stymie right-wing political agendas in the US, I think its important for the welfare of alot of people around the world to stymie those other political agendas I just mentioned. Opposing one agenda need not be mutually exclusive with opposing another.

Any ideas on how to put the fear of political failure into the hearts of the Iranian or North Korean regimes, or Muslim extremists, such that they feel a need to change their political tactics and strategies?

Any ideas other than simply not continuing certain Bush policies? Any ideas for imposing costs for their pursuit of destructive politics?

Is there a reason that hardball should be appropriate with domestic political opponents but exactly wrong with foreign political opponents? If so, why?

Nobody, especially McCain, suggests no diplomacy.

George W Bush:

some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along.

John McCain:

I think Barack Obama needs to explain why he wants to sit down and talk with a man who is the head of a government that is a state sponsor of terror

Maybe I'm missing something. If so, clue me in.

You know, to me it boils down to whether we want Iran to have nukes or not.

I hear you, and am actually at least empathetic to the point you're making, but in the specific case of whether Iran can have a peaceful nuclear program or not, the final call is not really ours to make. Certainly not exclusively.

Unless I misunderstand the situation, we participate in international treaties and agreements that constrain the limits we can put on Iran's ambitions there.

I guess we can bigfoot it and tell them we'll kick their behinds if they proceed, but we'll pay a price for that. And not just us, it will undermine the agreements themselves.

To your general point:

I haven't seen anything in any of Obama's statements that indicates any concessions of any kind will be made to Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, or anyone else. To my knowledge, all he's said is that he'd talk to them. Actually, in the case of Hamas, I'm not even sure he's gone that far.

It's a far cry from "if you really feel strongly about it, have it your way."

why don't we just react by ensuring at least our allies near them have their own nukes

Too late. That horse is out of the barn.

Pakistan, India, Israel -- all have the bomb. Also China and Russia, although I'm not sure they count as allies.

Who's left, the Saudis? Nuclear energy is in the works. Turkey too.

Thanks -

to the point that he does not advocate for an advantageous position from an American, then he's failing to qualify as a leader

Who gets to define what's an advantageous position for an American?

If it helps that cause to concede wiggle room on nuclear-generated electricity

Concede wiggle room? Um, no. We've guaranteed by treaty that they've the right to not only non-military nuclear power generation, but also to the fuel cycle to provide therefore. Period. Full stop.

Failure to acknowledge this is in the eyes of many failure to advocate for an advantageous position for an American, as it debases our credibility and reduces the value of treaties we sign to that of the paper they're written on. Whilst you may feel it better to be "assertive" and abrogate treaties if it serves what you perceive to be "our" interests, you're in no position to credibly attack those of us who actually like to have nation-states capable of making treaties with one another, and believe that they'll be kept, even when inconvenient.

Spockamok, it seems to me that to be effective in the international realm, you have to understand the logic of your adversary's position, even if you do not acknowledge its justice. Its fine to have non-negotiable positions, so long as you recognize that your adversaries also see some things as non-negotiable. Survival is usually at the top of the list.

Consider the logic of Iran's position. The army of a hostile power is camped out on their doorstep. The leaders of that hostile power have broadly hinted that as soon as Iraq is subdued, they will attack Iran next. Some have gone farther and broadly hinted that the currently Iranian government is unacceptable, and that their goal is regime change.

Is it any wonder that the Iranians are trying to make things hot for the hostile army next door, or that they seek nuclear weapons (or at least the credible threat of nuclear weapons) as a deterrent? This lays the groundwork for an obvious deal -- Iran drops is nuclear weapons program in exchange for security guaranties.

Next comes the issue of Iraq. Obviously Iran is trying to dominate a weaker neighbor. But consider again the logic of Iran's position, even if you will not concede its justice. The United States claims the right to invade a country on the other side of the world and take over, but for Iran to try to exercise sway over its next-door neighbor is unconscionable interference? The deal is not so obvious, and the Iraqis will understandably want to be in on the negotiations, but I do not think it unreasonable to acknowledge that Iran has some sort of legitimate security interest in what goes on next door.

And as for Iran's farther-reaching influence, through allies such as Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah, those are complex, involve many other parties, and will not resolve overnight. But I don't think Obama or his supporters are being so naive as to assume that sitting down and holding a summit will resolve all conflict between us and Iran or that we will become best friends. Perhaps you fear that that is the expectation. But I think that our side generally understands that conflict won't end in a day. The realistic goal is merely to reduce it.

If we can't be "unfair" towards North Korea's and Iran's nuclear weapons "prerogatives" and have to accept them, well then ...

While the profanity may indicate the depth of your sentiments, it doesn't constitute a meaningful debating point. Furthermore, the 'prisonyard' model you advocate means that it is possible for any number of other inmates to gang up on the US and make life miserable. You want to put the fear of political death into the North Korean regime? That means you want to put me and my family at risk every time we board an airplane or just spend some time at the beach in Fukuoka. You want to force the South Koreans (and the Japanese) to deal with the mess that is left when the Pyongyang regime collapses, something that every other government (including China) wants to avoid. This is not to defend the legitimacy of Kim Jong-Il or to claim that the rights of North Korea are being abrogated. This is about taking steps to avoid the worst possible outcome. If you fail to understand that, please reconsider that career in diplomacy.

PS Russell, I'd point out that Japan(!), at about the same time as Bush visited, offered help in setting up Saudi nuclear plants.

FWIW: This seems to be worth some consideration.

Kennedy Talked, Khrushchev Triumphed
...
If Barack Obama wants to follow in Kennedy’s footsteps, he should heed the lesson that Kennedy learned in his first year in office: sometimes there is good reason to fear to negotiate.

Sorry, I posted a link explaining the possibility of Japan helping with Middle east nuclear development, but it fell afoul of the spam catcher.

Sorry, I posted a link explaining the possibility of Japan helping with Middle east nuclear development, but it fell afoul of the spam catcher.

OCSteve,

I don't see why that op-ed piece merits consideration. As far as I can tell, the point seems to be "Kennedy negotiated with Khrushchev and it had disastrous consequences: Khrushchev called Kennedy names, and then a bunch of stuff that was going to happen no matter what actually happened". Am I missing something or did the op-ed contain a serious argument for anything bad coming out of the negotiations except for the fact that Kennedy's feelings were hurt? I mean, does anyone want to argue that if the negotiations hadn't happened, the Berlin Wall would not have been constructed? That the USSR would never have put missiles in Cuba?

I thought both those actions were rational responses to larger strategic concerns. Even if the negotiations never happened, the Soviet Union was still threatened by US missiles based in Turkey; Kennedy's hurt feelings seem pathetically irrelevant in the face of strategic realities of that magnitude.

Also, any damage that can come from negotiations is proportional to the power of your counterparty. If you screw up negotiating with the USSR, that might have dire results (but I don't see any in this op-ed) because the USSR was a massive threat and if you screw up dealing with a massive threat in ANY way, you're going to have problems. In contrast, Iran is a middling threat; screwing up negotiations might be bad, but the worst case scenario is significantly less dire than in the Soviet case.

"If Barack Obama wants to follow in Kennedy’s footsteps, he should heed the lesson that Kennedy learned in his first year in office: sometimes there is good reason to fear to negotiate."

If your point is that Obama shouldn't go into any negotiations unprepared and not have severe back pain and take drugs for it, I'm right with you.

If that's not what you're saying, but that simply that therefore there should be no meetings with anyone, I'm not with you, and otherwise I don't know what you're saying.

[...] BESCHLOSS: In May of 1961, John Kennedy re-injured his bad back in a tree-planting ceremony in Canada. It put him in a very difficult situation because he was planning to meet Nikita Khrushchev at a summit in Vienna at the beginning of June. He said, privately, as I have in the book, "I don't want to go see Khrushchev as a cripple on crutches." He had to act fast. As it turns out, in order to fix his back trouble, he resorted to a doctor in New York called Max Jacobson, who we now look on as a not very serious or responsible doctor -- someone who experimented with amphetamines, put a lot of things in his hypodermic needles that most doctors would not consider to be a very good thing. As it turns out, Kennedy had this doctor flown to Vienna. He injected Kennedy, on some occasions during the intermissions between his meetings with Khrushchev. I was interested, as a historian, whether this affected Kennedy's performance. Amphetamines can make you go up and down, can make you garrulous or sometimes make you sometimes very low. From the transcripts of the Vienna meetings, there is no sense that Kennedy was affected by these amphetamines. This was a gamble that he took and won.
See also, e.g.:
[...] Shortly after agreeing to the terms of the summit, Kennedy addressed both congress and the American people on May 25. In this speech, he requested “higher defense spending, including a threefold increase in funds for fallout shelters.”174 The main reason for the speech was to try to show Khrushchev that, even though Kennedy was young and had suffered humiliation from the Bay of Pigs fiasco, he planned to maintain his aggressive stand towards communism and the Soviet Union. Kennedy meticulously prepared for the summit by reading countless briefing books and reports on the Soviet leader. The president believed Khrushchev was a formidable opponent and confided to an advisor, “He’s not dumb. He’s smart….He’s tough.”175 Furthermore, Kennedy consulted personally with Soviet experts on what to expect from the Soviet leader. He spoke at length with George Kennan, who was a State Department employee who worked in the Soviet Embassy during the Truman administration who wrote the “Long Telegram” in 1946, and is credited with creating the containment strategy used ennedy also spent copious amounts of time planning with his brother, Robert, preparing to meet Khrushchev at the summit. One plan that the Kennedy brothers agreed upon was to make a stand on issues, such as Berlin and Laos, and then try to avoid those subjects, as little was likely to be accomplished. Instead, Kennedy wanted to focus on something that would benefit the United States and the Soviet Union. Therefore, he hoped that both sides could agree on some sort of plan regarding arms control and nuclear testing.176

Before meeting with Khrushchev in Vienna, Kennedy planned on making a stop in Paris to visit with French President, Charles De Gaulle. However, the trip had an ominous beginning. Despite the fact that Kennedy was young and always appeared
vibrant, he suffered from several ailments, including chronic back pain and Addison’s
disease. Before leaving for the summit, Kennedy was once again down in his back and taking a cocktail of medicine for his ailments that included “cortisone…the anesthetic procaine…and a mixture of amphetamines, vitamins, and enzymes.”177 Therefore, the president arrived in Paris for his meeting with De Gaulle nervous about the meeting with
Khrushchev and in constant pain.

[...]

While in Paris, Kennedy met with Averell Harriman, who had advised both Roosevelt and Truman on American-Soviet relations. Harriman spoke with Kennedy for a short while, telling the president, Go to Vienna….Don’t be too serious, have some fun, get to know him a little, don’t let him rattle you; he’ll try to rattle you and frighten you, but don’t pay any
attention to that. Turn him aside, gently. And don’t try for too much. Remember that he’s just as scared as you are…he is very aware of his peasant origins, of the contrast between Mrs. Khrushchev and Jackie….His style will be to attack and then see if he can get away with it. Laugh about it, don’t get into a fight.

Rise above it. Have some fun.179

In his meeting with De Gaulle, Kennedy spent much of his time discussing his upcoming meeting with the Soviet premier.

Read the rest for a detailed account of the meeting, if you're interested in more than a contemporary partisan account with an ax to grind.

Had Kennedy not been willing to talk to Krushchev in 1961, do you think his communications with Kruschev during the Cuban Missile Crisis would have gone as well? Those early talks gave him personal insight about Krushchev, and gave him personal credibility to Krushchev. It is generally acknowledged that the Cuban Missile Crisis brought us close to nuclear war. It seems likely enough that without the leaders' personal contact, it would have gone over the edge.

So explain to me again how it helps to not engage the enemy before a war starts.

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