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Commentary

Negotiating with “Terrorists and Radicals”


     
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It has been suggested that it is hypocritical of President Bush to implicitly attack Barack Obama for his outrageous suggestion that the United States should actually talk to its adversaries. The President likened efforts to negotiate with “terrorists and radicals” to attempts made to appease Adolf Hitler prior to World War II. Yet even his administration has negotiated with North Korea, Iran, and Syria, all of which are on the U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism. Additional examples include Libya, which was involved in the terrorist attack on Pan Am Flight 103 that killed 270 people, and Iraq, where former Sunni guerillas who had previously attacked U.S. troops are now being paid by the Bush administration to fight al Qaeda.

Moreover, Washington’s allies are currently negotiating with state sponsors of terrorism and even terrorist and radical groups. The U.S. client government in Iraq, headed by Nouri al-Maliki, negotiated with the powerful and radical Mahdi army of Moktada al-Sadr so that it could triumphantly enter both Basra and Sadr City. There have also been negotiations between the Sunni Gulf Cooperation Council sheikdoms of the Persian Gulf and Shi’i Iran. France and Egypt, both U.S. allies, have had diplomatic contacts with Hamas, the Sunni militant Islamist group that took over Gaza and has since been strengthened in the West Bank. After a powerful show of force in Beirut by the radical Shi’i Hezbollah, Lebanese President Fouad Siniora’s U.S.-backed government had to appease the militia by giving it veto power over government decisions. Finally, Israel—one of the United States’ most hawkish and intransigent allies— has begun negotiating with its archenemy Syria. And since the United States incompetently removed Saddam Hussein—Iran’s major adversary in the Gulf region—Israel, which bungled its own attack on Lebanon, has feared a rising Iran and a strengthened Hezbollah..

The bottom line is that despite its macho rhetoric, the Bush administration has been forced to communicate with “radicals and terrorists” due to its own blundering in the world. For example, the U.S. invasion of Iraq likely motivated North Korea to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and detonate a nuclear weapon and encouraged Iran to accelerate its nuclear program and increase its activism in the Persian Gulf region. In both cases, these countries were likely compelled to quickly obtain nuclear weapons to prevent the same thing from happening to them. Israel feels a need to negotiate with the Syrians in order to separate them from the rising Iran and neutralize Syria, enabling Israelis to focus on the Iranian threat. Additionally, Iran, being more assertive and powerful, is a threat to the nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Today, Sunni guerrillas and Mahdi Army are only threats because the U.S. destabilized Iraq by invasion. Hamas was first empowered by its predictable win in the Palestinian election, which the Bush administration insisted on holding to demonstrate that it was exporting democracy abroad. Hamas’s forceful takeover of Gaza was merely an extension of this empowerment. Finally, the U.S. supported Israel’s unnecessary and counterproductive attack on Lebanon, which resulted in strengthening Hezbollah. Similar to Hamas’s ascension, Hezbollah’s show of force and gain of veto power within the Lebanese government arose out of prior U.S. bungling.

Thus, not only does the Bush administration privately negotiate with “terrorists and radicals,” it has no choice. And Barack Obama is smart enough to know that if he takes office and inherits the mess Bush created, he will have to do so as well.


Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. Dr. Eland is a graduate of Iowa State University and received an M.B.A. in applied economics and Ph.D. in national security policy from George Washington University. He has been Director of Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, and he spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. He is author of the books Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, and Recarving Rushmore.


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Taking a distinctly new approach, Ivan Eland profiles each U.S. president from Washington to Obama on the merits of his policies and whether those strategies contributed to peace, prosperity, and liberty. This ranking system is based on how effective each president was in fulfilling his oath to uphold the Constitution.






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