Missed Opportunity

A perfect example of what I said earlier about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit is in the news today:

TEHRAN, Iran: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has extended an invitation to U.S. President George W. Bush to speak at an Iranian university if the American leader ever traveled to the Islamic Republic, state-run television reported Friday.

If President Bush declines the invitation, certainly nothing’s gained. If he accepts and is rudely treated, it’s certainly understandable under the circumstances. If he accepts and (as I would expect) he’s well treated, Americans look like boors.

6 comments… add one
  • PD Shaw Link

    Dave, if you’re anticipating a new environment of competitive civility, I look forward to Bush’s next trip to Europe.

    But seriously, I remain at a loss as to what you expected from this visit (foreign policy wise). If we were to go back in time and remove the President’s introduction, would things look any differently today? I can’t imagine they would. College speaking engagements do not initiate foreign policy changes.

  • PD Shaw Link

    On further reflection, Churchill’s speach at Westiminster College would be an exception, but the differences between Ahmadinejad and Churchill and their respective messages are immense.

  • What I would have preferred, rather than just the speech at Columbia University, was a reception below the level of a state visit but a little more recognition than he got. Unlike practically everybody I don’t think that a visit to Ground Zero would have been outrageous. I think that Mayor Bloomberg should have entertained him a little, perhaps noting that Ahmadinejad had been Mayor of Tehran.

    What would I expect? Not much. But I think it would have been better than nothing (or even the step backwards that I think was taken).

    As I’ve said repeatedly the only alternatives presently available are going to war with Iran or engaging in diplomacy with Iran. If we’re to avoid war, diplomacy must start somewhere.

  • Precisely mate. Small costless gestures of civility can sometimes open doors. And if they don’t, well the Americans gain outside Iran by improving their image, reducing the “war mongering imperialists” image that’s built up in recent years (excluding the lunatic Left of course which are uninfluencable and hardly matter).

  • PD Shaw Link

    Dave, thank you for responding. I guess I operate from a number of fundamentally different premises. First, I believe that Ahmadinejad is destined to aggravate and anger Americans, that the cause of diplomacy sometimes requires taking into consideration that a flawed messenger will make matters worse. The less of him the better. And I am talking about regular Americans, not statesmen.

    Second, the Clinton administration made a number of pleasant gestures to Iran in its second term which earned them the response from Khamene’i that negotiating with the U.S. would be an act of treason. Sometimes people don’t want to make a deal, which is essentially what Ahamdinejad said in New York.

    Third, I reject the dichotomy of negotiations versus war. If you want someone to negotiate who is uninterested, then you have to change the underlying dynamics. I support steps to isolate Iran, impose economic sanctions and provide military support to its neighbors. There is some evidence that threatening Iran’s regional aspirations will bring them to the table.

  • The way I read the tea leaves, we’re unlikely to get more sanctions than have already been put into place. France is on board now and that’s a good thing but I doubt that both Russia and China will agree to more stringent sanctions or, if they agree, will actually enforce them.

    We’re already providing military support to Iran’s neighbors, most notably the KSA. That’s proving controversial and, although I suspect that the Administration would be willing to give the Saudis pretty much anything they want along those lines, the Congress might not be so agreeable.

    This Congress is much given to symbolic actions and I suspect a little symbolic defiance WRT the KSA any time now.

    The problem we’re having with Iran is that we really need a strong, viable, united Iraq.

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