Commentary Magazine


Topic: Madeleine Albright

Madeleine Albright’s Witless Commentary on Israel and Hamas

On CNN today, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made the following observations: (1) There should be a cease-fire in the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, but Hamas is the one that hasn’t accepted one; and (2) Israel has the right to defend itself when being attacked by rockets.

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On CNN today, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made the following observations: (1) There should be a cease-fire in the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, but Hamas is the one that hasn’t accepted one; and (2) Israel has the right to defend itself when being attacked by rockets.

But the bottom line, she said, is this is a matter of Israel not exercising proper “proportionality.” What she didn’t say, but surely she must know, is that Israel has exercised extraordinary restraint in this operation, far beyond what America would do in a similar circumstance. Israel would rather not have gone to war–but provoked into the war, it now needs to shut down the terrorist catacombs that are allowing Hamas to infiltrate Israel and kill Israelis. How exactly does she propose Israel do this? By appealing to Hamas’s sense of decency and fair play?

Ms. Albright then brought up the need for a “two-state solution.” What she didn’t say, but surely she must know, is that Israel has repeatedly offered the Palestinians a two-state solution. Yet the Palestinian leadership has time and again refused it, in part because its goal is the elimination of the Jewish state. In addition, Gaza has been Palestinian territory for nearly a decade. There has been no Israeli presence in Gaza since 2005. Israel gave up land–and what it got in return was war.

Ms. Albright then added this:

I do think that it is very hard to watch the number of Palestinians that are being killed – innocents. It is hard to dispute the fact that, as Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that, in fact, there are innocents being put in the way in order to act as shields.

But the bottom line is, I think that this is hurting Israel’s moral authority. I do think it looks as though they’re overdoing, which is why I think there has to be more emphasis on the fact that they have accepted the cease-fire. And then try to figure out who has any influence over Hamas in order to get them to accept a cease-fire.

Let’s continue to untangle what Ms. Albright said, shall we?

She concedes that Hamas is responsible for using innocent Palestinians as human shields–yet somehow it’s Israel’s moral authority that is being hurt.

How on earth can it be Israel’s fault when the Israeli military is doing everything in its power to protect innocent civilians while Hamas is doing everything in its power to have them killed? Among the reasons Hamas is following this malignant strategy is for propaganda purposes, so people like Madeleine Albright will offer up witless commentary on television, shamefully turning Hamas’s war crimes into Israel’s moral failure.

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The Kosovo Precedent

The New York Times has an amusing article today about how Madeleine Albright, Wesley Clark, and other former Clinton administration officials and generals are trying to cash in in Kosovo, which American intervention rescued from Serbian oppression. As a result of the Clinton administration’s actions, Kosovo has become one of the most pro-American places in the world with streets named after both Bill Clinton and Bob Dole and a statue of Clinton in the capital, Pristina.

What are the odds, I wonder, that there will be any similar outpouring of pro-American affection in Syria where, instead of intervening, the Obama administration is standing by even as the death toll climbs north of 45,000? The administration has now recognized a rebel government and blacklisted the Al Nusra Front as a terrorist organization but these small, symbolic steps are hardly leading to an outpouring of affection for Uncle Sam. Far from it. Indeed, as another Times article reports:

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The New York Times has an amusing article today about how Madeleine Albright, Wesley Clark, and other former Clinton administration officials and generals are trying to cash in in Kosovo, which American intervention rescued from Serbian oppression. As a result of the Clinton administration’s actions, Kosovo has become one of the most pro-American places in the world with streets named after both Bill Clinton and Bob Dole and a statue of Clinton in the capital, Pristina.

What are the odds, I wonder, that there will be any similar outpouring of pro-American affection in Syria where, instead of intervening, the Obama administration is standing by even as the death toll climbs north of 45,000? The administration has now recognized a rebel government and blacklisted the Al Nusra Front as a terrorist organization but these small, symbolic steps are hardly leading to an outpouring of affection for Uncle Sam. Far from it. Indeed, as another Times article reports:

A growing number of anti-government groups — including fighters in the loose-knit Free Syrian Army that the United States is trying to bolster — have signed petitions or posted statements online in recent days expressing support for the Nusra Front. In keeping with a tradition throughout the uprising of choosing themes for Friday protests, the biggest day for demonstrations because it coincides with Friday Prayer, many called for this Friday’s title to be “No to American intervention — we are all Jabhet al-Nusra.”

These groups are rallying to the Al Nusra Front not because they like it–many of the other rebels hate the jihadist extremists who are intent on hijacking their struggle for freedom. But they are also pragmatic enough to know that the jihadists are fighting hard against Bashar Assad while the U.S. does nothing to help.

The administration’s stance would be akin to the Roosevelt administration in 1942 designating the NKVD as a terrorist organization and refusing to cooperate with Stalin. FDR was shrewder than that–he realized that, for all his dislike of Communism, sometimes the enemy of your enemy is your friend, at least temporarily. That is something that the current Democratic president does not seem to grasp.

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The Genius of Madeleine Albright

My first reaction upon reading Madeleine Albright’s letter on foreign policy, co-signed by some other foreign ministers, was: this woman was secretary of state? She apparently now specializes in pablum. Her counsel consists of such blazing insights as this:

In almost every part of the globe, there continue to be people who have chosen — whether out of ignorance, fear, or ill will — to sow conflict where reconciliation is needed. It is up to responsible voices on all sides to make the case for constructive action based on shared interests and values. This is a duty that extends beyond governments alone, to include decision makers and other people of influence from all sectors of society. The standard we seek to achieve is not mere tolerance, but a widespread attitude of genuine mutual respect.

Not only is this boring and prosaic, it’s also wrong. The goal of American foreign policy should not be conflict resolution but the promotion of American interests and values. As her own writing aptly demonstrates, the notion that we should seek accommodation with everyone raises the question as to whether others want accommodation with us:

We favor policies and initiatives that will improve the environment for cooperation across the boundaries of nation and creed. We recognize, of course, that the present state of relations between Muslims and the West must be viewed within an historical context and that the terms “Muslim” and “the West” refer to entities that are resistant to easy generalization. We also acknowledge that the prospects for success will be profoundly affected by the future direction of events in such areas of conflict as Afghanistan and Pakistan, and by progress in the Middle East peace process. We believe, however, that certain broad steps can and should be taken to strengthen the foundation for intercultural understanding.

If you actually read all that (c’mon, you skimmed, right?), you’d wonder if there were a sale on empty platitudes. How can we hope to “strengthen the foundation for intercultural understanding,” and more important, what if others want to kill rather than understand us, or to oppress their people rather than to understand them, or to wipe out their neighbors rather than understand them?

Oh, no problem. Albright says that all we have to do is “not duck hard issues” (hmm, like the oppression of women?) and censor ourselves by cutting out terms like “Islam.” (Wait, wouldn’t this be ducking a hard question?) Then we need to “emphasize the firm connection that exists between democratic and Islamic values while also heeding the lesson of Iraq, which is that democracy must find its roots internally.” I couldn’t follow that either. And what lesson does she mean — that America can overthrow tyrants and introduce democracy to the Middle East? We also have to work on immigration (“search for answers that take into account economic and demographic realities, while discouraging reactions based on prejudice or fear”) and step up “business, scientific, academic, cultural and religious contact.”

OK, how is any of that going to keep Iran from getting the bomb? Where in there do we curb Putin’s aggressive tactics? Is there something that would help rebuff Hugo Chavez? I hope Pakistan wants to “understand us,” for if not, there is precious little to help us deal with a corrupt, unstable Islamic state. And, more important, was she this inane when she was in office?

I will say this: Albright reminds us that there could be worse choices than Hillary for secretary of state.

My first reaction upon reading Madeleine Albright’s letter on foreign policy, co-signed by some other foreign ministers, was: this woman was secretary of state? She apparently now specializes in pablum. Her counsel consists of such blazing insights as this:

In almost every part of the globe, there continue to be people who have chosen — whether out of ignorance, fear, or ill will — to sow conflict where reconciliation is needed. It is up to responsible voices on all sides to make the case for constructive action based on shared interests and values. This is a duty that extends beyond governments alone, to include decision makers and other people of influence from all sectors of society. The standard we seek to achieve is not mere tolerance, but a widespread attitude of genuine mutual respect.

Not only is this boring and prosaic, it’s also wrong. The goal of American foreign policy should not be conflict resolution but the promotion of American interests and values. As her own writing aptly demonstrates, the notion that we should seek accommodation with everyone raises the question as to whether others want accommodation with us:

We favor policies and initiatives that will improve the environment for cooperation across the boundaries of nation and creed. We recognize, of course, that the present state of relations between Muslims and the West must be viewed within an historical context and that the terms “Muslim” and “the West” refer to entities that are resistant to easy generalization. We also acknowledge that the prospects for success will be profoundly affected by the future direction of events in such areas of conflict as Afghanistan and Pakistan, and by progress in the Middle East peace process. We believe, however, that certain broad steps can and should be taken to strengthen the foundation for intercultural understanding.

If you actually read all that (c’mon, you skimmed, right?), you’d wonder if there were a sale on empty platitudes. How can we hope to “strengthen the foundation for intercultural understanding,” and more important, what if others want to kill rather than understand us, or to oppress their people rather than to understand them, or to wipe out their neighbors rather than understand them?

Oh, no problem. Albright says that all we have to do is “not duck hard issues” (hmm, like the oppression of women?) and censor ourselves by cutting out terms like “Islam.” (Wait, wouldn’t this be ducking a hard question?) Then we need to “emphasize the firm connection that exists between democratic and Islamic values while also heeding the lesson of Iraq, which is that democracy must find its roots internally.” I couldn’t follow that either. And what lesson does she mean — that America can overthrow tyrants and introduce democracy to the Middle East? We also have to work on immigration (“search for answers that take into account economic and demographic realities, while discouraging reactions based on prejudice or fear”) and step up “business, scientific, academic, cultural and religious contact.”

OK, how is any of that going to keep Iran from getting the bomb? Where in there do we curb Putin’s aggressive tactics? Is there something that would help rebuff Hugo Chavez? I hope Pakistan wants to “understand us,” for if not, there is precious little to help us deal with a corrupt, unstable Islamic state. And, more important, was she this inane when she was in office?

I will say this: Albright reminds us that there could be worse choices than Hillary for secretary of state.

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The 31 Years’ War

Bret Stephens makes a convincing argument that we took too long to decide to and then act decisively to oust Saddam Hussein. Dubbing it the Twenty Years’ War (beginning with Desert Storm, which “proved an apt name for a military operation that had been blinded to its own real purposes”), he writes:

Kuwait was liberated but Saddam stayed on for another 12 years, supposedly—as Madeleine Albright notoriously put it—”in a box.” In that box, he killed tens of thousands of Iraq’s Shiites, caused a humanitarian crisis among the Kurds, attempted to assassinate George H.W. Bush, profited from a sanctions regime that otherwise starved his own people, compelled a “no-fly zone” that cost the U.S. $1 billion a year to police, defied more than a dozen U.N. sanctions, corrupted the U.N. Secretariat, evicted U.N. weapons inspectors and gave cash prizes to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. …

The Twenty Years’ War lasted as long as it did because the first Bush administration failed to finish it when it could, and because the Clinton administration pretended it wasn’t happening. Should we now draw the lesson that hesitation and delay are the best policy? Or that wars are best fought swiftly to their necessary conclusion? The former conclusion did not ultimately spare us the war. The latter would have spared us one of 20 years.

Well, this would seem equally apt for the Thirty-One Years War that Iran has waged against the U.S. and the West more generally. Multiple administrations have done nothing as it waged a proxy war through terrorists groups against the West. Neither the Bush administration or the current one has responded to the deaths of hundreds of U.S. soldiers (and Iraqi allies as well) killed by Iran’s weapons and operatives in Iraq. Iran too has committed human-rights atrocities against its own people and defied UN resolutions.

So now we are faced with the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran that would, if it possesses nuclear weapons, certainly be emboldened to continue and step up its war on the West. The question for the Obama administration is whether to finally engage the enemy, thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and commit ourselves to regime change. The chances are slim indeed that this president would rise to the occasion. But perhaps, if Israel buys the world sufficient time (yes, we are down to whether the Jewish state will pick up the slack for the sleeping superpower), the next president will.

Bret Stephens makes a convincing argument that we took too long to decide to and then act decisively to oust Saddam Hussein. Dubbing it the Twenty Years’ War (beginning with Desert Storm, which “proved an apt name for a military operation that had been blinded to its own real purposes”), he writes:

Kuwait was liberated but Saddam stayed on for another 12 years, supposedly—as Madeleine Albright notoriously put it—”in a box.” In that box, he killed tens of thousands of Iraq’s Shiites, caused a humanitarian crisis among the Kurds, attempted to assassinate George H.W. Bush, profited from a sanctions regime that otherwise starved his own people, compelled a “no-fly zone” that cost the U.S. $1 billion a year to police, defied more than a dozen U.N. sanctions, corrupted the U.N. Secretariat, evicted U.N. weapons inspectors and gave cash prizes to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. …

The Twenty Years’ War lasted as long as it did because the first Bush administration failed to finish it when it could, and because the Clinton administration pretended it wasn’t happening. Should we now draw the lesson that hesitation and delay are the best policy? Or that wars are best fought swiftly to their necessary conclusion? The former conclusion did not ultimately spare us the war. The latter would have spared us one of 20 years.

Well, this would seem equally apt for the Thirty-One Years War that Iran has waged against the U.S. and the West more generally. Multiple administrations have done nothing as it waged a proxy war through terrorists groups against the West. Neither the Bush administration or the current one has responded to the deaths of hundreds of U.S. soldiers (and Iraqi allies as well) killed by Iran’s weapons and operatives in Iraq. Iran too has committed human-rights atrocities against its own people and defied UN resolutions.

So now we are faced with the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran that would, if it possesses nuclear weapons, certainly be emboldened to continue and step up its war on the West. The question for the Obama administration is whether to finally engage the enemy, thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and commit ourselves to regime change. The chances are slim indeed that this president would rise to the occasion. But perhaps, if Israel buys the world sufficient time (yes, we are down to whether the Jewish state will pick up the slack for the sleeping superpower), the next president will.

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Wanted: Female Justice with Small Children (Pets a Plus)

Another Supreme Court nomination is in the works, so it’s time for another round of inanity on court appointments. The latest dose of condescension comes from Peter Beinart, who thinks it’s time for not just a woman but “a mom with kids.” (Is three better than two? What about a single mom? A divorced dad with sole custody?) Why does this matter — so they can decide cases in favor of women? No, really: he wants a woman justice “because female justices, on average, will be more sensitive to the problems women face. Since they will have likely encountered gender bias themselves, they will be more likely to support government action to remedy it.” In other words, they will violate their oath of office and give the gals a break. And then there is the old standby: we need more tokenism:

It’s not just that they may alleviate gender injustice through their rulings; they may alleviate it through their example as well. Just as Barack Obama empowers African-American kids to believe that there are no limits to what they can achieve, female Supreme Court justices send the same message to young women. As anyone who has ever watched their daughter eye a Barbie Doll can attest, role models matter.

Not Sarah Palin as VP, mind you. And Madeleine Albright, Condi Rice, and Hillary Clinton don’t suffice. Neither do the two women currently on the Court. More role models! But what’s with the kids? Beinart explains it’s the role models (again):

It’s important because otherwise, the message you’re sending young women is that they can achieve professionally, or they can have a family, but they can’t do both. And without quite realizing it, that is the message our government has been sending. According to the Census Bureau, 80 percent of American women over the age of 40 have children. But look at the women who have held Cabinet posts in the last three presidential administrations. Only two of the Clinton administration’s five female Cabinet secretaries had kids. (Attorney General Janet Reno got her job only after two women with children, Zoë Baird and Kimba Wood, were dinged for hiring illegal immigrants as nannies). In the Bush administration, the figure was two of seven. In the Obama administration, so far, it is two of four. And if Obama chooses Elena Kagan for the High Court, the figure there will be one of three.

There’s nothing wrong, of course, with appointing childless women (or men, for that matter) to high office. But our government is actually doing a pretty good job of providing role models for the 20 percent of American women who don’t want kids. Where it’s failing is in providing role models for the 80 percent that do.

But Sandra Day O’Connor had three children. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has two children. Don’t they count? Well, maybe they have to be young. So what we need is  a woman justice with at least two children under the age of 10 so that other women with children under the age of 10 will know that they too can be on the Supreme Court. Thunk.

Beinart is a smart fellow. So maybe this is a sly parody of the rampant racial and gender preferences that have overtaken Supreme Court selections. They have turned these into embarrassing “diversity” rackets in which the White House searches for the person most likely to tip the scales for this or that interest group or to bolster the self-esteem of some key demographic. So if Beinart meant to show up all that and urge us to get back to the old-fashioned notion of merit, then bravo! If not, he should be embarrassed.

Another Supreme Court nomination is in the works, so it’s time for another round of inanity on court appointments. The latest dose of condescension comes from Peter Beinart, who thinks it’s time for not just a woman but “a mom with kids.” (Is three better than two? What about a single mom? A divorced dad with sole custody?) Why does this matter — so they can decide cases in favor of women? No, really: he wants a woman justice “because female justices, on average, will be more sensitive to the problems women face. Since they will have likely encountered gender bias themselves, they will be more likely to support government action to remedy it.” In other words, they will violate their oath of office and give the gals a break. And then there is the old standby: we need more tokenism:

It’s not just that they may alleviate gender injustice through their rulings; they may alleviate it through their example as well. Just as Barack Obama empowers African-American kids to believe that there are no limits to what they can achieve, female Supreme Court justices send the same message to young women. As anyone who has ever watched their daughter eye a Barbie Doll can attest, role models matter.

Not Sarah Palin as VP, mind you. And Madeleine Albright, Condi Rice, and Hillary Clinton don’t suffice. Neither do the two women currently on the Court. More role models! But what’s with the kids? Beinart explains it’s the role models (again):

It’s important because otherwise, the message you’re sending young women is that they can achieve professionally, or they can have a family, but they can’t do both. And without quite realizing it, that is the message our government has been sending. According to the Census Bureau, 80 percent of American women over the age of 40 have children. But look at the women who have held Cabinet posts in the last three presidential administrations. Only two of the Clinton administration’s five female Cabinet secretaries had kids. (Attorney General Janet Reno got her job only after two women with children, Zoë Baird and Kimba Wood, were dinged for hiring illegal immigrants as nannies). In the Bush administration, the figure was two of seven. In the Obama administration, so far, it is two of four. And if Obama chooses Elena Kagan for the High Court, the figure there will be one of three.

There’s nothing wrong, of course, with appointing childless women (or men, for that matter) to high office. But our government is actually doing a pretty good job of providing role models for the 20 percent of American women who don’t want kids. Where it’s failing is in providing role models for the 80 percent that do.

But Sandra Day O’Connor had three children. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has two children. Don’t they count? Well, maybe they have to be young. So what we need is  a woman justice with at least two children under the age of 10 so that other women with children under the age of 10 will know that they too can be on the Supreme Court. Thunk.

Beinart is a smart fellow. So maybe this is a sly parody of the rampant racial and gender preferences that have overtaken Supreme Court selections. They have turned these into embarrassing “diversity” rackets in which the White House searches for the person most likely to tip the scales for this or that interest group or to bolster the self-esteem of some key demographic. So if Beinart meant to show up all that and urge us to get back to the old-fashioned notion of merit, then bravo! If not, he should be embarrassed.

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Spokesman For Evil

Busy, busy, busy — a trip to Iran, a series of cringe-inducing (for non-Kool-aid-drinking readers) blogs, and then a debate. Flynt Leverett is working overtime for the mullahs. In his face-off with Michael Ledeen at the Atlantic Council, he chides Obama, who just isn’t living up to expectations — the mullahs’ expectations, that is:

Hillary [Mann Leverett] and I have just come back from a trip to the region and we were able to spend the better part of a week in Tehran.  And I can tell you from discussions with Iranian officials that the Iranian leadership had a certain amount of hope about President Obama.  And when he changed the rhetorical tone about Iran early in his administration, in his inaugural address, in some interviews, in the Nowruz message last year, this had an effect.

Two days after the Nowruz message, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, came out publicly and said, okay, if you change – you, the United States change – your policies towards us, we will change, too.

From an Iranian perspective, there has been no change.  There’s no change in the red lines on the nuclear issue, there’s no change in U.S. support for both overt and covert activities which the Iranians see as threatening to their internal stability.  And in that kind of climate, the Iranians will not respond favorably to American overtures.

But, if the United States put on the table a real author of a grand bargain, a real author aimed at a fundamental realignment of U.S.-Iranian relations, I believe that the Iranian leadership, under successive presidents and throughout Ayatollah Khamenei’s tenure as leader, has wanted that kind of fundamental realignment and that they would respond positively to it.

The key is to realize America is washed up and to give the Iranian regime what it wants. The Iranian people? Leverett says those darn neocons have been expecting a revolution, and they’re not going to get it. And besides, what’s the protestors’ beef? Ahmadinejad won fair and square:

Many advocates of regime-change in Iran – those who have been uniformly wrong about the Islamic Republic’s internal politics for 30 years – say, okay, maybe we were somewhat ahead of our time, premature in our judgment, but look at the situation today.  There’s never been anything like the Green movement; we have to be right now.

Well, sorry, no, you’re not.  Hillary and I have been arguing since June of last year that there is no hard evidence that the Islamic Republic’s presidential election of June 12, 2009, was stolen.  I say no “hard evidence,” not “must have been,” “had to have been,” “no way Ahmadinejad could have won” stuff, but “hard evidence.”  Even the suggested evidence that some people claim to find in the election results, supposedly more votes cast in some districts than there were registered voters in those districts, how could Ahmadinejad have won in Azeri-majority areas when Mousavi was ethnically Azeri, et cetera?

And in case that wasn’t clear, he explains that the protestors dying on the streets are on a fool’s errand: “This is not a place that is on the verge of revolution.  They had a revolution 31 years ago.  They don’t want another one.” They? Who is they? (Maybe the gang that orchestrated his tour and provides that precious access so Leverett can regurgitate the regime’s talking points.) What would help matters? Why, if America renounced any intention to “interfere in the internal affairs of the Islamic Republic.” The regime really wants to engage America — they told Leverett, so it must be true. (“I heard from Iranian officials that they want to engage with the Obama administration.  But they want to see signs, indications that the United States really does want a fundamentally different kind of relationship with the Islamic Republic.”)

And on it went. One questioner, an Iranian woman, could barely contain herself. She told Leverett:

But Mr. Leverett, you are – for the last 30 years, you’ve had negotiations with the regime of Iran from Mr. Reagan with – (inaudible) – and on through Mr. Clinton, eight years, through Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright and through Ms. Rice and during Bush administration, and now 14 months with Obama administration.

Iranian regime is not going to make any deals because they cannot.  They took over Iran by anti-Western civilization – America being the symbol of it.  And they are not going to give it up.

Indeed. Back to the talking points (the regime’s, that is). Leverett — and his regime pals — have a larger goal in mind: the U.S. must simply retreat. “What does Iran need to do to signal – look, I think that, in itself, reflects a certain mindset that the United States is still the hegemonic power that it was in the 1990s and can basically dictate the terms by which problem states realign with the United States. You know, that model might have worked with Libya – I was involved to some degree in that process, think that it was a very successful outcome for the United States.  It’s not going to work with Iran.”

You get the picture. Makes one’s blood run a bit cold, doesn’t it — to hear the rhetoric of the butchers of Tehran articulated through an American mouthpiece with such stunning sincerity? Really, who are we to say Iran can’t have its nuclear program?

The polls, which show that the public is perfectly supportive of trading off aspects of the nuclear program that might be purely weapons-related in return for better relations with the United States, but they do not see uranium enrichment fuel cycle activities in that light.  That is seen as something that Iran has a right to do.  It is part of Iran becoming a technically modern and advanced society.  And I don’t think there is any political appetite or support in Iran, at this point, for giving up uranium enrichment.

The regime continues to say, the government continues to say to its own people that this is a peaceful nuclear program.  Iran does not have nuclear weapons, does not want nuclear weapons, and that Shia Islam forbids the acquisition of nuclear weapons.  But I think that there is very, very broad popular support for the nuclear program, including fuel cycle activities.

The mullahas must be delighted. All their points covered, all their arguments made. Look how their visit with Leverett and his wife has paid off!

Busy, busy, busy — a trip to Iran, a series of cringe-inducing (for non-Kool-aid-drinking readers) blogs, and then a debate. Flynt Leverett is working overtime for the mullahs. In his face-off with Michael Ledeen at the Atlantic Council, he chides Obama, who just isn’t living up to expectations — the mullahs’ expectations, that is:

Hillary [Mann Leverett] and I have just come back from a trip to the region and we were able to spend the better part of a week in Tehran.  And I can tell you from discussions with Iranian officials that the Iranian leadership had a certain amount of hope about President Obama.  And when he changed the rhetorical tone about Iran early in his administration, in his inaugural address, in some interviews, in the Nowruz message last year, this had an effect.

Two days after the Nowruz message, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, came out publicly and said, okay, if you change – you, the United States change – your policies towards us, we will change, too.

From an Iranian perspective, there has been no change.  There’s no change in the red lines on the nuclear issue, there’s no change in U.S. support for both overt and covert activities which the Iranians see as threatening to their internal stability.  And in that kind of climate, the Iranians will not respond favorably to American overtures.

But, if the United States put on the table a real author of a grand bargain, a real author aimed at a fundamental realignment of U.S.-Iranian relations, I believe that the Iranian leadership, under successive presidents and throughout Ayatollah Khamenei’s tenure as leader, has wanted that kind of fundamental realignment and that they would respond positively to it.

The key is to realize America is washed up and to give the Iranian regime what it wants. The Iranian people? Leverett says those darn neocons have been expecting a revolution, and they’re not going to get it. And besides, what’s the protestors’ beef? Ahmadinejad won fair and square:

Many advocates of regime-change in Iran – those who have been uniformly wrong about the Islamic Republic’s internal politics for 30 years – say, okay, maybe we were somewhat ahead of our time, premature in our judgment, but look at the situation today.  There’s never been anything like the Green movement; we have to be right now.

Well, sorry, no, you’re not.  Hillary and I have been arguing since June of last year that there is no hard evidence that the Islamic Republic’s presidential election of June 12, 2009, was stolen.  I say no “hard evidence,” not “must have been,” “had to have been,” “no way Ahmadinejad could have won” stuff, but “hard evidence.”  Even the suggested evidence that some people claim to find in the election results, supposedly more votes cast in some districts than there were registered voters in those districts, how could Ahmadinejad have won in Azeri-majority areas when Mousavi was ethnically Azeri, et cetera?

And in case that wasn’t clear, he explains that the protestors dying on the streets are on a fool’s errand: “This is not a place that is on the verge of revolution.  They had a revolution 31 years ago.  They don’t want another one.” They? Who is they? (Maybe the gang that orchestrated his tour and provides that precious access so Leverett can regurgitate the regime’s talking points.) What would help matters? Why, if America renounced any intention to “interfere in the internal affairs of the Islamic Republic.” The regime really wants to engage America — they told Leverett, so it must be true. (“I heard from Iranian officials that they want to engage with the Obama administration.  But they want to see signs, indications that the United States really does want a fundamentally different kind of relationship with the Islamic Republic.”)

And on it went. One questioner, an Iranian woman, could barely contain herself. She told Leverett:

But Mr. Leverett, you are – for the last 30 years, you’ve had negotiations with the regime of Iran from Mr. Reagan with – (inaudible) – and on through Mr. Clinton, eight years, through Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright and through Ms. Rice and during Bush administration, and now 14 months with Obama administration.

Iranian regime is not going to make any deals because they cannot.  They took over Iran by anti-Western civilization – America being the symbol of it.  And they are not going to give it up.

Indeed. Back to the talking points (the regime’s, that is). Leverett — and his regime pals — have a larger goal in mind: the U.S. must simply retreat. “What does Iran need to do to signal – look, I think that, in itself, reflects a certain mindset that the United States is still the hegemonic power that it was in the 1990s and can basically dictate the terms by which problem states realign with the United States. You know, that model might have worked with Libya – I was involved to some degree in that process, think that it was a very successful outcome for the United States.  It’s not going to work with Iran.”

You get the picture. Makes one’s blood run a bit cold, doesn’t it — to hear the rhetoric of the butchers of Tehran articulated through an American mouthpiece with such stunning sincerity? Really, who are we to say Iran can’t have its nuclear program?

The polls, which show that the public is perfectly supportive of trading off aspects of the nuclear program that might be purely weapons-related in return for better relations with the United States, but they do not see uranium enrichment fuel cycle activities in that light.  That is seen as something that Iran has a right to do.  It is part of Iran becoming a technically modern and advanced society.  And I don’t think there is any political appetite or support in Iran, at this point, for giving up uranium enrichment.

The regime continues to say, the government continues to say to its own people that this is a peaceful nuclear program.  Iran does not have nuclear weapons, does not want nuclear weapons, and that Shia Islam forbids the acquisition of nuclear weapons.  But I think that there is very, very broad popular support for the nuclear program, including fuel cycle activities.

The mullahas must be delighted. All their points covered, all their arguments made. Look how their visit with Leverett and his wife has paid off!

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Al Qaeda and America’s Role in the World

Today, Rear Admiral Patrick Driscoll, a spokesman for the Multi-National Force in Iraq, seemed to back away from recent remarks made by Ryan Crocker. Speaking to reporters yesterday in Najaf, the American ambassador summarized the trend of developments in Iraq this way: “You are not going to hear me say that al Qaeda is defeated, but they’ve never been closer to defeat than they are now.” Today, Driscoll stated that the group remains “a very lethal threat.”

Nonetheless, the military spokesman pointed to important signs of progress. Last week, the number of attacks “decreased to the level not seen since March 2004,” Driscoll noted, and violence has fallen 70 percent since the surge began a year ago. Of course, al Qaeda can still mount attacks, and a well-timed surge of its own could determine the outcome of the American presidential campaign. Yet, as Driscoll declared, “We will not allow them to reorganize themselves.”

So if present trends hold and the Iraqi government continues to assert itself, what will be the effect on American opinion? “The national mood is retrenchment,” writes James Traub in today’s New York Times. “We recognize that our heroic designs have come to grief in Iraq. We see how very little we have accomplished in the Middle East, for all our swelling rhetoric.”

Of course, Traub has correctly gauged public sentiment in an anti-Bush, anti-idealism America. Just look at the amazing trajectory of the “change” candidate, Barack Obama. And despite the American military’s continuing success in Iraq, there is pressure on the President to end the war, bring troops home, and disengage from the world as fast as we can. Yet this is nothing new. We do this after every conflict, whether ending in victory (both World Wars), defeat (Vietnam), or stalemate (Korea). Last decade, we turned away from historic responsibilities after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Yet the general sentiment that Traub describes may not be as long-lasting as many assume. For one thing, the desire to turn inward will be undercut by the success in Iraq that Crocker and Driscoll describe. And, of course, the world has a way of drawing Americans back into involvement in its affairs. We can solve some of its problems peacefully, but others are not capable of amicable resolution. As Madeleine Albright once said, “If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation.”

It is now up to President Bush to continue to remind the American people that we, whether we want to assume the role or not, remain the only guarantor of the international system. With his Knesset speech he redirected the national conversation in the presidential campaign. Now he can take this discussion and put it into the broader context.

Today, Rear Admiral Patrick Driscoll, a spokesman for the Multi-National Force in Iraq, seemed to back away from recent remarks made by Ryan Crocker. Speaking to reporters yesterday in Najaf, the American ambassador summarized the trend of developments in Iraq this way: “You are not going to hear me say that al Qaeda is defeated, but they’ve never been closer to defeat than they are now.” Today, Driscoll stated that the group remains “a very lethal threat.”

Nonetheless, the military spokesman pointed to important signs of progress. Last week, the number of attacks “decreased to the level not seen since March 2004,” Driscoll noted, and violence has fallen 70 percent since the surge began a year ago. Of course, al Qaeda can still mount attacks, and a well-timed surge of its own could determine the outcome of the American presidential campaign. Yet, as Driscoll declared, “We will not allow them to reorganize themselves.”

So if present trends hold and the Iraqi government continues to assert itself, what will be the effect on American opinion? “The national mood is retrenchment,” writes James Traub in today’s New York Times. “We recognize that our heroic designs have come to grief in Iraq. We see how very little we have accomplished in the Middle East, for all our swelling rhetoric.”

Of course, Traub has correctly gauged public sentiment in an anti-Bush, anti-idealism America. Just look at the amazing trajectory of the “change” candidate, Barack Obama. And despite the American military’s continuing success in Iraq, there is pressure on the President to end the war, bring troops home, and disengage from the world as fast as we can. Yet this is nothing new. We do this after every conflict, whether ending in victory (both World Wars), defeat (Vietnam), or stalemate (Korea). Last decade, we turned away from historic responsibilities after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Yet the general sentiment that Traub describes may not be as long-lasting as many assume. For one thing, the desire to turn inward will be undercut by the success in Iraq that Crocker and Driscoll describe. And, of course, the world has a way of drawing Americans back into involvement in its affairs. We can solve some of its problems peacefully, but others are not capable of amicable resolution. As Madeleine Albright once said, “If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation.”

It is now up to President Bush to continue to remind the American people that we, whether we want to assume the role or not, remain the only guarantor of the international system. With his Knesset speech he redirected the national conversation in the presidential campaign. Now he can take this discussion and put it into the broader context.

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NEW HAMPSHIRE: What Hillary Does That Obama Can’t Do

What was notable about Hillary Clinton’s victory speech tonight was what was missing: No sign of her husband, or Madeleine Albright, or Terry McAuliffe, or the rest of the Democratic Sopranos who had been so notably on stage behind her in Iowa. Obama in Iowa talked about “this moment.” Tonight, Clinton talked about “this moment of big challenges.” She is substance over theory. She quickly got into the quicksand where Obama dares not tread: College loans, housing foreclosures. Her “promise of America” is her answer to Obama’s “hope and change.” She argues for American credibility and ending the war “the right way.” She is getting out of the Iowa and New Hampshire pandering and moving back to the center. This was a gracious, patriotic, confident, American victory lap speech.

What was notable about Hillary Clinton’s victory speech tonight was what was missing: No sign of her husband, or Madeleine Albright, or Terry McAuliffe, or the rest of the Democratic Sopranos who had been so notably on stage behind her in Iowa. Obama in Iowa talked about “this moment.” Tonight, Clinton talked about “this moment of big challenges.” She is substance over theory. She quickly got into the quicksand where Obama dares not tread: College loans, housing foreclosures. Her “promise of America” is her answer to Obama’s “hope and change.” She argues for American credibility and ending the war “the right way.” She is getting out of the Iowa and New Hampshire pandering and moving back to the center. This was a gracious, patriotic, confident, American victory lap speech.

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Take Back the Night

Has anyone else noticed that we seldom ever hear the time-defying slogan, Take Back the Night, being chanted on college campuses these days? Is that because I have simply tuned it out, or is it because feminism has long since moved on to other things?

Either way, if one listened closely earlier this week, one could hear Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff whispering the slogan after a debate in which their candidate suffered what they evidently regard as a violent assault by a gang of male competitors who had “piled on.”

A number of conservative commentators have pointed out that this whispering was nothing more than an old-fashioned and extremely convenient feminist maneuver to play the victim card. But Paul Mirengoff of powerline speculates interestingly that it might be part of a deliberate strategy of garnering sympathy and votes from “disaffected women” among whom such “whining will resonate.”

Paul might well be right that the whining will bring in votes. But I have my doubts that any of this is part of a deliberate strategy. Playing the female victim card seems to be something of an automatic reflex in Clintonian circles.

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Has anyone else noticed that we seldom ever hear the time-defying slogan, Take Back the Night, being chanted on college campuses these days? Is that because I have simply tuned it out, or is it because feminism has long since moved on to other things?

Either way, if one listened closely earlier this week, one could hear Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff whispering the slogan after a debate in which their candidate suffered what they evidently regard as a violent assault by a gang of male competitors who had “piled on.”

A number of conservative commentators have pointed out that this whispering was nothing more than an old-fashioned and extremely convenient feminist maneuver to play the victim card. But Paul Mirengoff of powerline speculates interestingly that it might be part of a deliberate strategy of garnering sympathy and votes from “disaffected women” among whom such “whining will resonate.”

Paul might well be right that the whining will bring in votes. But I have my doubts that any of this is part of a deliberate strategy. Playing the female victim card seems to be something of an automatic reflex in Clintonian circles.

Back when she was Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright repeatedly engaged in this same kind of maneuver–at least, as we learn from her memoir, Madame Secretary, she engaged in this same kind of maneuver inside of her own head. 

Even as she took great pride in being our country’s first female Secretary of State, Albright seemed to see herself less as a Margaret Thatcher or a Golda Meir–that is, a woman who made it to the top based upon her own smarts and strengths–than as a somewhat undeserving beneficiary of affirmative action who had to be perpetually on guard for sexual slights.

At one juncture fighting battles inside the Clinton White House, Albright recounted how she “found it hard to argue” with Colin Powell at Cabinet meetings, especially because of his imposing medals. At another juncture, she caught herself wondering “whether gender played any role” in causing National Security Advisor Anthony Lake to drum his fingers impatiently on the table as she spoke.” These were not isolated incidents of male chauvinist needling. As she, too, whined, “I had to deal with the problem of operating in a predominantly man’s world.”

Hillary Clinton’s situation is very different from Madeleine Albright’s. The former needs votes and is seeking sympathy to get them. The latter didn’t need votes; she was merely telling her tale and seeking sympathy en route. But in both cases, and no matter what other compelling factors might explain why critics are “piling on,” gender is being cited nstead.

This may be a good way to win primaries: we will find out this coming winter and spring. But as an explanation for what happened to Hillary Clinton in this week’s debate, it makes about as much sense as the nonsensical slogan: Take Back the Night.

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Evil Empire Symphonies

The announcement that the New York Philharmonic likely will travel to North Korea next February, at the behest of that country’s Culture Ministry, brings up memories of orchestral maneuvers during cold wars past. First Run Features has just issued on DVD the Oscar-winning 1979 documentary From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China, in which the great violinist hears direct testimony of the ghastly sufferings experienced by Chinese classical musicians during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Any trip to North Korea looks likely to be just as harrowing. Kim Jong Il, according to his official biography, has written 1,500 books and six operas, “all of which are better than any in the history of music.” In 2001, the University Press of the Pacific published Kim Jong Il’s Art of Opera, which contains such gems as: “An opera singer must sing well. A stage actor’s main task is to speak well and act well. While an opera singer’s main task is to sing well.” We are also informed that an “orchestra must accompany songs skillfully.” These gross banalities are natural from a philistine who requires that all music in his country be in praise of himself and Communism.

Jasper Becker’s Rogue Regime: Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea from Oxford University Press accuses Kim and his father Kim Il Sung of responsibility for the deaths of 7 million North Koreans from famine, war, and political oppression. Becker particularly condemns politicians, from Vladimir Putin to Madeleine Albright, who returned home after trips to North Korea reporting “how rational, well-informed, witty, charming, and deeply popular Kim Jong Il is.” This kind of flattering publicity is already being churned out by the Philharmonic, whose public relations director Eric Latzky informed the New York Times that Pyongyang, based on a preliminary visit, is “clean and orderly and not without beauty, and had a kind of high level of culture and intelligence.”

Isaac Stern visited Communist China after the worst of the Cultural Revolution was already past, but North Korea is still a tragedy-in-progress. In Famine in North Korea: Markets, Aid, and Reform, published earlier this year by Columbia University Press, co-authors Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland point out that Kim Jong Il’s “culpability in this vast misery elevates the North Korean famine to the level of a crime against humanity.” Mismanagement, after Soviet subsidies slowly stopped in the 1980′s, was aggravated by brutal state policies like the notorious 1991 “Eat Two Meals a Day” campaign and the 1997 songun or “military first” policy, giving the army and political hacks first claim on any foreign aid. Haggard and Noland state that by 2005, around 30 percent of foreign aid had been stolen by Kim and his cronies, while the famine deaths continued. New York Philharmonic musicians might choke on their after-concert dinners if they read these books. Nero fiddled while Rome burned, but he was not a Philharmonic violinist.

The announcement that the New York Philharmonic likely will travel to North Korea next February, at the behest of that country’s Culture Ministry, brings up memories of orchestral maneuvers during cold wars past. First Run Features has just issued on DVD the Oscar-winning 1979 documentary From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China, in which the great violinist hears direct testimony of the ghastly sufferings experienced by Chinese classical musicians during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Any trip to North Korea looks likely to be just as harrowing. Kim Jong Il, according to his official biography, has written 1,500 books and six operas, “all of which are better than any in the history of music.” In 2001, the University Press of the Pacific published Kim Jong Il’s Art of Opera, which contains such gems as: “An opera singer must sing well. A stage actor’s main task is to speak well and act well. While an opera singer’s main task is to sing well.” We are also informed that an “orchestra must accompany songs skillfully.” These gross banalities are natural from a philistine who requires that all music in his country be in praise of himself and Communism.

Jasper Becker’s Rogue Regime: Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea from Oxford University Press accuses Kim and his father Kim Il Sung of responsibility for the deaths of 7 million North Koreans from famine, war, and political oppression. Becker particularly condemns politicians, from Vladimir Putin to Madeleine Albright, who returned home after trips to North Korea reporting “how rational, well-informed, witty, charming, and deeply popular Kim Jong Il is.” This kind of flattering publicity is already being churned out by the Philharmonic, whose public relations director Eric Latzky informed the New York Times that Pyongyang, based on a preliminary visit, is “clean and orderly and not without beauty, and had a kind of high level of culture and intelligence.”

Isaac Stern visited Communist China after the worst of the Cultural Revolution was already past, but North Korea is still a tragedy-in-progress. In Famine in North Korea: Markets, Aid, and Reform, published earlier this year by Columbia University Press, co-authors Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland point out that Kim Jong Il’s “culpability in this vast misery elevates the North Korean famine to the level of a crime against humanity.” Mismanagement, after Soviet subsidies slowly stopped in the 1980′s, was aggravated by brutal state policies like the notorious 1991 “Eat Two Meals a Day” campaign and the 1997 songun or “military first” policy, giving the army and political hacks first claim on any foreign aid. Haggard and Noland state that by 2005, around 30 percent of foreign aid had been stolen by Kim and his cronies, while the famine deaths continued. New York Philharmonic musicians might choke on their after-concert dinners if they read these books. Nero fiddled while Rome burned, but he was not a Philharmonic violinist.

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Albright’s Amnesia

Madeleine Albright writes in the Washington Post that she can’t figure out what our troops are fighting for in Iraq.

“A cynic might suggest that the military’s real mission is to enable President Bush to continue denying that his invasion has evolved into disaster,” she writes. She then goes on to suggest that the way out of this morass would be for President Bush to admit “what the world knows—that many prewar criticisms of the invasion were on target” and essentially throw himself on the mercy of the international community in the hopes that someone (France? India? The United Nations?) will come to our rescue.

Leave aside the issue of whether “a coordinated international effort” offers any real prospect of improving the on-the-ground situation in Iraq. (I address that question more fully in my COMMENTARY article, “How Not to Get Out of Iraq.”) What impresses me the most about Albright’s contribution is her selective memory loss—similar to that suffered by other liberals who were onetime hawks when it came to Iraq but have since changed their plumage.

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Madeleine Albright writes in the Washington Post that she can’t figure out what our troops are fighting for in Iraq.

“A cynic might suggest that the military’s real mission is to enable President Bush to continue denying that his invasion has evolved into disaster,” she writes. She then goes on to suggest that the way out of this morass would be for President Bush to admit “what the world knows—that many prewar criticisms of the invasion were on target” and essentially throw himself on the mercy of the international community in the hopes that someone (France? India? The United Nations?) will come to our rescue.

Leave aside the issue of whether “a coordinated international effort” offers any real prospect of improving the on-the-ground situation in Iraq. (I address that question more fully in my COMMENTARY article, “How Not to Get Out of Iraq.”) What impresses me the most about Albright’s contribution is her selective memory loss—similar to that suffered by other liberals who were onetime hawks when it came to Iraq but have since changed their plumage.

Readers interested in recalling what Ms. Albright and other former Clinton officials once said about Saddam Hussein might want to read this, posted on the website of the now-defunct Project for a New American Century. In particular, anyone curious about why American troops are now in Iraq should turn to page iv:

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on February 19, 1998 told an audience at Tennessee State that the world had not seen “except maybe since Hitler, somebody who is quite as evil as Saddam Hussein.” In answering a question, she expressed concern about what Saddam Hussein might do if he were able to “break out of the box that we kept him in,” including the possibility that “he could in fact somehow use his weapons of mass destruction” or “could kind of become the salesman for weapons of mass destruction—that he could be the place that people come and get more weapons.” Arguing that action needed to be taken sooner rather than later, Albright noted that one of the “lessons of this century [is that] if you don’t stop a horrific dictator before he gets started too far . . . he can do untold damage . . . .” She continued: “If the world had been firmer with Hitler earlier, then chances are that we might not have needed to send Americans to Europe during the Second World War.”

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Mahmoud, Hugo, Kim, Fidel, Barack, and Hillary

The Miami Herald calls it one of the “biggest dust-ups of the presidential race so far,” and the sprinkling continues.

At the YouTube Democratic presidential debate on Monday, Barack Obama was asked whether he would meet with the leaders of Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, and Iran without preconditions. “I would,” he replied, saying it was a “disgrace” that we were not. Hillary Clinton, for her part, demurred, saying that “Certainly, we’re not going to just have our President meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and you know, the president of North Korea, Iran, and Syria until we know better what the way forward would be.”

Obama has subsequently called Hillary’s stance “Bush-Cheney lite.” Clinton has called the Illinois Senator’s comments “irresponsible and frankly naive.”

Thus far, conservatives and conservative outlets have tended at least implicitly to side with Clinton. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney of Massachusetts called Obama’s statement “outrageous,” saying it “suggests an agenda that is not in keeping with an agenda focused on building friendships with our allies.” Investor’s Business Daily said it bespeaks an inability to handle “curveballs,” reinforcing “the idea that [Obama is] an inexperienced lightweight.”

As for Clinton’s entourage, it has weighed in with arguments of its own. At the behest of Hillary’s campaign organization, Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, held a conference call with reporters in which she characterized Hillary’s approach as meaning that we should not engage in talks without preparation. “Without having done the diplomatic spade work, it would not really prove anything,” Albright said.

What are the real issues here, and who is right?

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The Miami Herald calls it one of the “biggest dust-ups of the presidential race so far,” and the sprinkling continues.

At the YouTube Democratic presidential debate on Monday, Barack Obama was asked whether he would meet with the leaders of Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, and Iran without preconditions. “I would,” he replied, saying it was a “disgrace” that we were not. Hillary Clinton, for her part, demurred, saying that “Certainly, we’re not going to just have our President meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and you know, the president of North Korea, Iran, and Syria until we know better what the way forward would be.”

Obama has subsequently called Hillary’s stance “Bush-Cheney lite.” Clinton has called the Illinois Senator’s comments “irresponsible and frankly naive.”

Thus far, conservatives and conservative outlets have tended at least implicitly to side with Clinton. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney of Massachusetts called Obama’s statement “outrageous,” saying it “suggests an agenda that is not in keeping with an agenda focused on building friendships with our allies.” Investor’s Business Daily said it bespeaks an inability to handle “curveballs,” reinforcing “the idea that [Obama is] an inexperienced lightweight.”

As for Clinton’s entourage, it has weighed in with arguments of its own. At the behest of Hillary’s campaign organization, Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, held a conference call with reporters in which she characterized Hillary’s approach as meaning that we should not engage in talks without preparation. “Without having done the diplomatic spade work, it would not really prove anything,” Albright said.

What are the real issues here, and who is right?

Albright’s comments make plain that Hillary, like Obama, would engage these four odious regimes in talks, only she would do so with diplomatic preparation. In other words, before the U.S. President would sit down with a Kim Jong Il or a Hugo Chavez, an agenda would first be hammered out, and the two sides would have some agreements in place before the leaders gathered at the table. In this way, in Clinton’s words, she would not put “the power and prestige of the United States President” at risk “by rushing into meetings.” Obama, by contrast, would meet with an Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or a Fidel Castro without any sort of diplomatic spadework.

Paradoxically, that might seem a preferable approach. Under it, a President could tell things as they are, declare directly, say, to Ahmadinejad in front of the world that his denial of the Holocaust is disgusting, reprehensible, and unacceptable and his pursuit of nuclear weapons something the U.S. will never abide. Meeting with Chavez, Castro, Kim Jong Il and the rest, Obama could engage in Reaganesque theater on the world stage—the equivalent of traveling to Berlin and demanding Mikhail Gorbachev “tear down this wall.”

Now let’s see what Hillary and her people have in mind when they talk about diplomatic “spadework.” They don’t say. But diplomacy and negotiation imply give and take, concessions from both sides. Will the U.S. come out the winner, or will the mere fact of interchange confer legitimacy, and a propaganda victory, on pariah regimes?

Of course, in attacking Hillary’s unwillingness to talk to dictators as “Bushy-Cheney lite,” Obama is signaling that he himself has no diplomatic agenda beyond talk itself. That would indeed be the worst of all worlds, but is it worse than, or materially different from, what Hillary has in mind?

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