Nixon to China


If the Iranian regime manages to remain in power, should the Obama administration go forward with diplomatic negotiations with them?

It’s an interesting question.  In my opinion, the answer is yes.

The issues we need to discuss with Iran — nuclear proliferation chief among them — are of the sort that you can’t just let drop, just because the government you’re negotiating with is in power only through violent repression of their people.  It’s why Nixon went to China to talk with Chairman Mao.  It’s why presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan engaged in talks with Soviet dictators.

People say it would be politically risky for Obama to negotiate with Khamenei and Ahmadinejad now.  True, there would be people who would explode in opposition to it.

Take Nixon, again.  Remember all the politicians who went apey over Nixon’s visit to China?

Me, neither.

Which is my point.  Those people were so terrifically wrong that history has forgotten them.  Negotiating with China was the right thing to do, despite the fact they were really, really bad guys.

How about Reagan.  Remember all those people who blew their stack when he went to Reykjavik to negotiate nukes with Gorbachev?

Me, neither.  History has completely forgotten them, too.

In both cases, it’s not that there weren’t politicians and groups who strenuously objected to negotiating with those regimes.  There were — hard-core anti-communists.  But they were wrong.  The judgment of history is so utterly against them that it’s not even worth remembering their names.  What we do remember is that Nixon made the world safer by opening relations with China, and that Reagan made the world safer by signing a nuclear reduction treaty with the Soviets.

Obama would do well to remember that.

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4 Responses to “Nixon to China”

  1. jazzbumpa Says:

    The irony is – and this was quite openly discussed at the time – that Nixon could get away with* talking to China because his Gop/anti-communist/right wing hair shirt credentials were so impeccable. Kennedy couldn’t have done it. Johnson couldn’t have done it. And Carter, give me an F’n break . . .

    See – results don’t matter. Appearances are everything.
    * Yes – GET AWAY WITH IT.

  2. urbino Says:

    Sure, but we can’t always wait around for a president the GOP will allow to do the thing it knows to be correct. Stuff happens, and every now and then a president has to do the correct thing even though the GOP would rather wait for somebody they like better to do it.

    I guess what I’m saying is: I’m tired of the Dems being so afraid of what the GOP will say about the appearance that they don’t even try to get the results. Sooner or later, somebody’s got to say the emperor has no clothes.

    The Dems’ positions, by and large, are correct; they correspond with reality. Not only that, the GOP’s positions, by and large, are just laugh-out-loud funny. Given how big that gap is, pointing it out and therefore changing the appearance just ain’t that hard. It only takes some people willing to do the work.

    If Obama isn’t going to do his part, who needs him?

  3. jazzbumpa Says:

    You’re absolutely right.

    Back in the day, there was political debate that was at least rational.

    From a liberal perspective, Obama is and will continue to be a big disappointment. From a centrist-conservative POV, he’s just about right.

    And he’s not stupid. I think he’ll do ok on most of the foreign policy items.

    Thank Moloch John McCain is not our President.

  4. urbino Says:

    Yeah, I can remember when there were 2 reality-based, rational parties in this country, both of whom had responsible notions about governance. I’m not one for gratuitous bashing of conservatism or the GOP, but the sad truth is they really have degenerated into a self-parody.

    C’mon, people. Give me something to work with.

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