It looks like the Bush White House has hit the diplomatic flip-flop trifecta. It’s quite an accomplishment.
In April, administration said U.S. officials should not have any contact with the Syrian government, accusing the Syrians of meddling in Lebanon, supporting terrorism, and being unhelpful on Iraq. A month later, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem for a one-on-one discussion.
In January, the administration rejected the notion of talking to Iran out of hand, saying it would amount to “extortion.” Four months later, after a generation of silence, U.S. and Iranian officials had direct bilateral discussions.
And from the outset of the Bush administration, the idea of bilateral talks with North Korea was considered folly. As Fred Kaplan explained, “As long as the North Koreans were pursuing nuclear weapons, even to sit down with them would be ‘appeasement,’ succumbing to ‘blackmail,’ and ‘rewarding bad behavior.’” Well, guess what?
I’m curious how Bush’s political allies will respond to all of this. For years, they’ve defended the president’s stubborn refusal to engage rivals on the international stage, suggesting that silence was akin to strength, and that bilateral diplomacy rewards “evildoers.”
And then the president turns around and engages in the kind of diplomacy Dems have recommended for years. Are they fine with that?