McCain-Obama Foreign Policy Debate Ignores Reality in Iraq

McCain-Obama Foreign Policy Debate Ignores Reality in Iraq

The sniping between Barack Obama and the GOP over negotiating with rogue state leaders and other unsavory characters is even more removed from reality than the usual campaign rhetoric. The question of whether a President Obama would sit down with Iranian leaders grabs attention, but is largely irrelevant. Far more relevant is the fact that in Iraq -- the highest-stakes arena of U.S. foreign policy -- Americans already routinely negotiate with their enemies.

From American soldiers and Marines meeting with Sunni insurgents and Shiite militiamen, to American diplomats meeting with their Iranian counterparts, negotiation has been at the heart of America's Iraq strategy for years now. In the case of the Sunni insurgents, a willingness to negotiate and compromise yielded one of the most stunning successes of the mostly disastrous American occupation. By identifying and exploiting conflicts between hard-core religious radicals and more pragmatic insurgents, the U.S. military has been able to decimate organizations that had been its most vicious and implacable foes.

Of course, there's a difference in terms of international prestige between meetings that involve American troops and meetings that involve the American president. But while McCain has made that point, President Bush was not so nuanced in his remarks to the Israeli Knesset. In that speech Bush compared anyone who would negotiate with terrorists and radicals to the men who appeased the Nazis.

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