Making the Rounds
Baker Says Talking With Enemies Is Not Appeasement
Updated 1:18 p.m.
By Glenn Kessler
A video clip of former secretary of state James A. Baker is making the rounds of the Internet, providing an interesting counterpoint to the furious argument between Sen. Barack Obama and the Republicans over whether it is proper to talk to enemies. President Bush started a furor when, during a speech to the Israeli parliament last week, he said that negotiating with "terrorists and radicals" such as Iran was "the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."
Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee, joined in the attack, which was decried by Obama and Democrats. "Why does Senator Obama want to sit down with a state sponsor of terrorism? What does Senator Obama want to talk about with [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad?" McCain asked reporters.
But now Baker's Oct. 6, 2006, interview on Fox News' "Hannity and Colmes" has emerged. In the interview, he emphatically dismisses the notion advanced by his Republican brethren that talking with enemies -- even state sponsors of terrorism -- is any sort of appeasement.
"You don't just talk to your friends, you talk to your enemies as well," an animated Baker said. "Diplomacy involves talking to your enemies. You don't reward your enemies necessarily by talking to them if you are tough and you know what you are doing. You don't appease them. Talking to an enemy is not in my view appeasement."
Baker noted that when he was secretary of state for President Bush's father, he made 15 trips to Syria in 1990 and 1991, "at the time when Syria was on the list of countries who were state sponsors of terrorism. On the 16th trip, guess what, lo and behold, Syria changed 25 years of policy and agreed for the first time in the history to sit at the table with Israel, which is what Israel wanted at the time."
Baker concluded: "All I am saying, that would never happened if I, if we, hadn't been sufficiently dedicated that we were going to keep at it."
Baker, incidentally, has endorsed McCain, telling reporters in February: "John is what I think I am, a principled pragmatist. He prefers to get things done rather than to insist on ideological purity."
McCain welcomed his support and praised his acumen at the time. "Secretary Baker has a distinguished record of service to our country and our party," said McCain. "I look forward to his counsel and am honored to have his support."
Posted at 12:35 PM ET on May 20, 2008
Making the Rounds
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