Thursday, March 5, 2009

Look Who's Talking

When President Obama said, "We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.", apparently he was referring to House Republicans. While the President's extended hand was met by clenched fists by all but three Republicans in Congress, his diplomatic outreach is being received warmly abroad.

After eight years of virtually no diplomacy, which is a diplomatic way of saying the Bush Administration alienated allies and antagonized foes, a veritable sea change has come to our foreign policy. America is talking again. Secretary of State Clinton announced this week that high level talks will take place between the U.S. and Syria. This is in stark contrast to Bush's disdain for Israel and Syria's attempts at diplomacy. Bush's view was probably that, "Israel and Syria should not talk peace until they fully explore all their military options."

And talking about the Middle East, a place where less talking went on the past eight years than at a dysfunctional family dinner, the U.S. is doing a lot of talking. Clinton talked to Israeli President Shimon Peres, because she would have had to do a lot of talking if she talked to all 35 of Israel's political parties. One party actually merges Holocaust survivors with those wishing to legalize marijuana. Which shows that Israel, despite its pressing problems, still has a sense of humor.

And while Clinton met with Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, she didn't talk to Hamas, because it is considered a terrorist group. People forget that not too long ago, Fatah was considered a terrorist group that shouldn't be talked to. So while it's good to talk to your friends, you have to also talk to your adversaries. Israel can talk to Canada if it has some hockey or health insurance related questions, but when it comes to peace they must talk to Hamas.

Conservatives were aghast when a "secret" letter Obama wrote to the Russian President was revealed. I guess it's not too secret when it's on the front page of every newspaper. The letter supposedly raised the possibility of the U.S. not putting missile shields in Poland and the Czech Republic if Russia used its influence to get Iran to pull back from its nuclear ambitions. Besides the fact that many Poles and Czechs really didn't want the shield anyway, and that it might not even work and still cost billions, if Iran could be persuaded not to develop those weapons, there would be no need for a missile shield in the first place. And the Russian President must have been pretty impressed to receive a snail mail letter. Because President Obama knows you don't text Russia to negotiate with Iran. "Hey Dmitri, can u c what u can do about Iran? Thnx. B" Emily Post would be so proud.

"All talk, no action" used to be a derogatory term. But after eight years of disastrous actions with hardly any talk, our very diplomatic President is giving us change we can believe in, as well as talk about.