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May 16, 2008

Brooks interviews Obama
Posted by Shawn Brimley

So I started reading David Brooks' column on the whole appeasement thing this morning and I almost had an aneurysm before Brooks had the good sense to give the presumptive (can we say this yet?) Democratic nominee a call. Some choice excerpts:

"The debate we're going to be having with John McCain is how do we understand the blend of military action to diplomatic action that we are going to undertake," he said. "I constantly reject this notion that any hint of strategies involving diplomacy are somehow soft or indicate surrender or means that you are not going to crack down on terrorism. Those are the terms of debate that have led to blunder after blunder."

Obama said he found that the military brass thinks the way he does: "The generals are light-years ahead of the civilians. They are trying to get the job done rather than look tough."

I asked him if negotiating with a theocratic/ideological power like Iran is different from negotiating with a nation that's primarily pursuing material interests. He acknowledged that "If your opponents are looking for your destruction it's hard to sit across the table from them," but, he continued: "There are rarely purely ideological movements out there. We can encourage actors to think in practical and not ideological terms. We can strengthen those elements that are making practical calculations."

Obama doesn't broadcast moral disgust when talking about terror groups, but he said that in some ways he'd be tougher than the Bush administration. He said he would do more to arm the Lebanese military and would be tougher on North Korea. "This is not an argument between Democrats and Republicans," he concluded. "It's an argument between ideology and foreign policy realism. I have enormous sympathy for the foreign policy of George H. W. Bush. I don't have a lot of complaints about their handling of Desert Storm. I don't have a lot of complaints with their handling of the fall of the Berlin Wall."

I wonder if Democrats might try to flip the fear question on its head and ask why our opponents are afraid to talk to our enemies. What are they really afraid of? And really, can someone please press McCain/Bush on how they square their comments with what Rice, Gates, Petraeus, and Crocker are actually doing? Can someone please ask Colin Powell or James Baker what they think? This is a good fight for Democrats – bring it on!


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