Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 21, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

SYRIA....Turkey is mediating peace talks between Syria and Israel. The New York Times comments drolly:

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."

Indeed. But I guess the State Department didn't get the message either:

A U.S. official in Washington praised the talks. "I think Turkey played a good and useful role in this regard," senior State Department official David Welch said of the talks, according to the Reuters news agency. "Israel and Turkey have apprised us in the past of these discussions and kept us informed."

This has been in the works for a while, so there's not really anything all that new or surprising here. But even if Syria and Israel manage to reach agreement, Syria almost certainly needs direct assurances from the United States too before it would enter into any kind of comprehensive deal — something which would, among other things, have the salutary effect of cutting off Iran from an ally and increasing Hamas's isolation. President Obama has made it clear that he'd be willing to be a part of that. President McCain, not so much. That's your foreign policy choice this November in a nutshell.

Kevin Drum 11:02 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (17)

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Comments

So, it is a good thing to remove the Shia protective barrier we have in place, from Iran to Hezzbolah; letting Bush's Al Queda friends return to power throughout the middle east?

Obama has it right, the one good thing that Bush has done is strengthen Persia, even though the lunacy of the resentful Iran is likely to cause war with Israel.

We have it wrong, we, a second rate power with 57 trillion in unfunded liabilities is going to invest in a process that reverses a 2 trillion investment we just made in Iraq.

It is like, we practice stupidity, we actually get lunatics to attempt a proof that the Sun is dark and the rivers flow gold.

Posted by: Matt on May 21, 2008 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't Israel's willingness to sit down and negotiate with a state sponsor of terror appeasement? Will the Bush administration and the McCain campaign be making statements shaming the Israelis and likening them to Chamberlain? And why doesn't the Obama campaign point this out? Ask McCain if he thinks Israel's willingness to meet with Syria is tantamount to appeasement.

Is it January yet?

Posted by: Bagel on May 21, 2008 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

I don't follow this too much cuz it seems to me there will never be peace in the middle east.

Hey, Kevin, why is there no blog mention of Sen Kennedy's diagnosis-- or did I miss it?

I think this is so very sad.

Posted by: Clem on May 21, 2008 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

I don't follow this too much cuz it seems to me there will never be peace in the middle east.

Hey, Kevin, why is there no blog mention of Sen Kennedy's diagnosis-- or did I miss it?

I think this is so very sad.

Posted by: Clem on May 21, 2008 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

It seems a lot of this (nmeetings between our allies an terrorists- I think the last one I heard of was France and Hamas) has been going on lately. I wonder if the Bush White House is being kept out of the loop, or if they just think it's still worth their while to call Barack someone who negotiates with terrorists because of the mutual inability of the American people and the mainstream media to keep the American people informed-- the media isn't likely to report the stories of these meetings more than they report stories of animals being caught in trees, and the average American citizen isn't likely to pay close enough attention to the news to notice when Bush is being hypcritical or contradicted by what everybody else who seems to have a clue about their own interests is doing.

Posted by: Swan on May 21, 2008 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

What? We have a State Department? Who knew?

Posted by: thersites on May 21, 2008 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Hey talking through an intermediary is not the same as the President of USA sitting down with the Islamofascist Mullah without any precondition that he remove his cap and shave his beard before he comes to the meeting. McCain Bush has it just right. We cannot talk to to bearded old mean in funny dresses.

Posted by: gregor on May 21, 2008 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

Syria will make appeasements to Israel, in the hopes of achieving peace in our time, which will be disregarded when American gifted tanks and jackbooted IDF forces cross over agreed upon borders, crushing innocent civilians beneath their tracks to increase Israeli territory for security reasons.

Posted by: Brojo on May 21, 2008 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

That's your foreign-policy choice this November in a nutshell.

First Israel starts negotiating with Hamas, and now Syria. Ohlmert could never be elected President in the US. He's not nearly pro-Israel enough.

Posted by: junebug on May 21, 2008 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

It was the Republican Party's god, Ronald Reagan, who sold arms to Iran to try to appease them enough to get hostages released.

Governments negotiate with adversaries all the time. McCain knows this. He has just been told by his Karl Rove types to adopt the pseudo-macho "we kill bad guys not talk to them" mantra of the chickenhawks in his party.

All this is probably moot anyway. Obama will not be elected because of his race - I'm sorry to say that but it is true.

Posted by: Midwest Yahoo on May 21, 2008 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

It was the Republican Party's god, Ronald Reagan, who sold arms to Iran to try to appease them enough to get hostages released.

Governments negotiate with adversaries all the time. McCain knows this. He has just been told by his Karl Rove types to adopt the pseudo-macho "we kill bad guys not talk to them" mantra of the chickenhawks in his party.

All this is probably moot anyway. Obama will not be elected because of his race - I'm sorry to say that but it is true.

Posted by: Midwest Yahoo on May 21, 2008 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

It is all very simple Kevin. One must consult the Republican Foreign Policy Playbook for guidance...

It is not appeasement and it is ok to talk with your enemies if you are a Republican and it is in your personal best interest or for the good of rich folks (though we never admit to doing it). It is ok and not appeasement if you are Israel because we support them unconditionally and they fund the GOP. It is traitorous, terrah-lovin' appeasement if a Democrat talks with any country not on the approved play list.

Or something like that.

Posted by: ckelly on May 21, 2008 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

"Syria almost certainly needs direct assurances from the United States too before it would enter into any kind of comprehensive deal"

What does Syria get out of such a deal? An assurance that Israel or the US won't bomb them - what's that worth?

"it would, among other things, have the salutary effect of cutting off Iran from an ally and increasing Hamas's isolation."

Why "salutary"? Maybe it's because I'm not a US citizen, but I don't understand the assumptions - is an Iran/Syria partnership (assuming it, substantively, exists) a bad thing? Couldn't reasonable people believe that the US and Israel are, on balance, responsible for most of the destabilization, death and destruction in the region? (I think if you count up the civilian dead, it's an unavoidable conclusion. Adding in "motivation" complicates things, but it's not, at all, a clear cut case of US/Israel=good guys).

If so, then reasonable people wouldn't cheer for the demise of countervailing forces. Or is it just a matter of rooting for the home team?

Posted by: flubber on May 21, 2008 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

junebug: Ohlmert could never be elected President in the US. He's not nearly pro-Israel enough.

It's early yet, but this is a serious contender for best comment of the day.

Posted by: thersites on May 21, 2008 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

For some insight on the current administration's love affair with bogus historical analogues re: appeasement, there's an interesting article about the false idolatry of Churchill in a recent edition of the NYRB. Fair warning: one of the books under review is by the xenophobe you love to hate & hate to love, Pat Buchanan. From the article:

... having rightly observed that "there has arisen among America's elite a Churchill cult," Patrick Buchanan devotes a chapter, "Man of the Century," to denouncing the cult, and the man. He not only looks askance at Churchill's saying in September 1943 that "to achieve the extirpation of Nazi tyranny there are no lengths of violence to which we will not go"; he chastises the administration of George Bush the Younger—who installed a bust of Churchill in the Oval Office—for having emulated "every folly of imperial Britain in her plunge from power," and having drawn every wrong lesson from Churchill's career. There is by now an entire book to be written about the way that "Munich," "appeasement," and "Churchill" have been ritually invoked, from Suez to Vietnam to Iraq, so often in false analogy, and so often with calamitous results.

Broken clocks, correct time, & all that.

Posted by: junebug on May 21, 2008 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

lost in the obama/appeasement flapadoodle, a few contrarians thought that President Bush's criticizing those who would negotiate with "terrorists and radicals," was actually aimed at Israel for having the temerity to speak to our enemies Syria.

in other words, speaking before parlimant during a birthday bash, bush tried to piss in the punch bowl.

Posted by: dj spellchecka on May 21, 2008 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Bin Laden's primary grievance was the stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, and Bush appeased him by removing these troops. We haven't had an attack in the U.S. since, so it would appear that appeasement is a good policy to employ with terrorists.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/terrorism/international/fatwa_1996.html

A little appeasement of Hitler, if in good faith, on the Sudenland and Danzig might have avoided WWII.

Posted by: Lutherf on May 22, 2008 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK
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