This year’s election gives us a clear contrast between candidates with differing views on diplomacy in general, and specifically regarding
Senator Obama says it is “ridiculous” to think that “somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them.” He says he is “willing to meet with the leaders of all nations, friend and foe. [Obama] will do the careful preparation necessary, but will signal that
Senator McCain says that Obama is mistaken: “Senator Obama proposes to conduct presidential summit meetings with the world’s worst dictators…While [McCain] supports robust diplomacy with our allies and adversaries, he would not rush to bestow the prestige of unconditional presidential meetings on the world’s worst dictators.” (Click on “Foreign Policy” here.)
The McCain charge about a “rush” to “presidential meetings” is in response to an Obama answer at last year’s CNN/YouTube Democratic debate. Asked if he would be “willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries,” Obama said, “I would.” He went on to criticize President Bush’s foreign policy and to praise the way Presidents Kennedy and Reagan conducted relations with adversaries such as the
Obama has since emphasized that he is not looking for “a social gathering” with Raul Castro, and that his diplomacy with
So the issue is joined. Since it is central to Obama’s critique of the Bush foreign policy, and because McCain won’t let Obama forget his “I would” answer in the CNN/YouTube debate, the argument will surely continue. Coupled with Obama’s proposal to end restrictions on Cuban American travel and family remittances, and McCain’s opposition to that proposal – and a neat division on that issue between the three
Now, what if we actually did try to start talks with
Senator Obama looks for a dialogue that would get to the big political issues. Apart from the fact that he envisions a direct diplomatic approach, his idea isn’t very different from tit-for-tat offers that President Bush has made on a few occasions. From Obama’s
“I will maintain the embargo. It provides us with the leverage to present the regime with a clear choice: if you take significant steps toward democracy, beginning with the freeing of all political prisoners, we will take steps to begin normalizing relations. That's the way to bring about real change in
My bet is that it’s far more likely that the two countries, if they were to meet and listen to each other’s proposals for talks, would start small.
They could revive the twice-yearly discussions about the implementation of the Clinton-era migration accords, which President Bush has honored, and about which both sides have complaints.
They could talk about law enforcement issues involving alien smuggling, drug trafficking, and other matters. President Bush, following President Clinton’s practice, has continued to assign a U.S. Coast Guard officer to our diplomatic mission in
They could talk about terrorism and related issues – Havana’s proposal that the two sides reach a formal agreement on anti-terrorism cooperation, Washington’s desire to secure the return from Cuba of fugitives from American justice, and more.
Finally, considering all the talk about Cuba drilling for oil in its Gulf waters, and U.S. desire to protect Florida’s marine environment, it seems negligent not to have experts on both sides talk about what would happen, and what they would all do, in the event of a spill.
Time will tell if a future American government would be interested in pursuing these issues, and if