Noah, your cogent argument is shared (albeit in less detailed form) by Rudy Giuliani (named the Republican Convention keynote speaker, by the way). And, we can safely assume, by John McCain. In a conference call Giuliani got to the heart of the matter: you’d better be darn sure you are not being used for propaganda points (a risk which Kurtzer readily conceded does exist) before you open negotiations. If McCain understands and agrees with this analysis it is encouraging. His track record in condemning Syria’s de facto partition of Lebanon gives one hope that he has not, as I fear the Bush administration has done, lost track of or chosen to ignore Syria’s aggressive and destabilizing behavior. And the fact that Giuliani would be sent out to make just this point suggests the McCain camp would like nothing better than to add this to the list of national security differences which set him apart from Barack Obama.