Part 1 is here.
With Senator Barack Obama’s recent statements that the would open direct talks with the Communist Leaders of Cuba (link), the debating over direct negotiations with perceived and actual enemies of the United States has come front and center.
I believe that we must elect a President who is committed to direct communication with the leaders of our enemies around the world. Not only do we have a long and beneficial history of such direct negotiations but the absence of such a policy is destructive, counterproductive and downright wrong. The arrogance of aloof refusal to talk to those who are perceived as our enemies is rapidly becoming a hallmark signature of a possible President McCain's presidency and most if not all Americans are uncomfortable with such a position.
Throughout my tenure in the military not only was there a special commission established to talk directly between the American Navy and our Soviet counterparts but while those navy to navy structured talks were ongoing all levels of government built and maintained communication with each Administration reaching out for summit level activity that saw every Soviet leader and each American President visiting each other's countries. While the Soviet Union maintained thousands of nuclear tipped missiles aimed at us, and we at them, we talked. We talk and talked and talked. And as long as we were talking we were not killing each other due to fundamental misunderstandings.
In fact it was through the dialogue that the United States finally found the Achilles heel of the Soviet Union. And in the end it was not B-52s and tanks that brought down the Soviet Union but rather it was McDonalds and Madonna. The monolithic Soviet Union was defeated from within, not as a result of invasion and war.
The same is true for the regime of Moammar Gadafi. Throughout the late 70s and 80s the sight of the costumed Libyan strongman was routine content for evening news. Gadafi would appear in a different gaudy uniform and rant against the United States, swearing to burn us in oil or turn his particular brand of religious fundamentalism against us. He sponsored hideous acts of international violence against American military personnel in Europe and claimed, with justification, the authorship and responsibility for the deaths of many US personnel.
Following one such bombing at a nightclub heavily frequented by off duty American personnel in Europe, the United States Sixth Fleet and the US Air Force struck directly at him and bombed targets across a wide range of Libya - killing by some reports one of the Libyan leader’s children. For all the bravado and military action it was not aircraft carriers or air force bombers that brought down Gadafi. Rather, today we see a moderate government committed to joining the economic community of the western world.
Gone, with verification, are the aspirations for a nuclear capability that Gadafi once strived to build. Gone in large measure are the radical elements of Islam that threatened to turn Libya from a potential threat to a centerpiece in the development of international terrorism. Today, American energy companies fight to get into Libya, not out of it. And the reports of a growing tourism industry that is attracting Americans and Europeans dominate the economic landscape of this once uninviting nation. And we talk to them. At every level we worked through the challenges that we saw on the horizon.
Senator McCain's central themes of both keeping us in a war for 100 years and refusing to talk to our enemies are two elements of failed international strategy that will ensure that we have no friends to talk to and only enemies to refuse to meet with. I am not some sort of rose-colored glasses Pollyanna nor am I someone who believes that you can negotiate successfully with all enemies. But we must negotiate from a position of strength. The strong confront their enemies face to face and through that interaction can make some real progress.
No one should know this better than John McCain. If we had not committed ourselves to a real and direct series of negotiations, the release of American POWs in the Vietnam War would have never been possible. At the time Vietnam was clearly a sworn enemy of the United States. We were in a full blown "contained war" with North Vietnam that eventually saw the loss of over 50,000 thousand Americans and hundreds of thousands of wounded. Yet, through direct negotiations we were able to secure the release of our POWs. Yes, there was accompanying military pressure brought to bear and yes I believe that some were tragically left behind. But for over 600 returning military personnel, negotiations were key.
Senator McCain himself returned to Vietnam and met with the highest level of Communist government officials and then voted for a Free Trade agreement that continued the giveaway of American jobs without any real change in the nature of the communist government that he fought against and was tortured by. And that government still takes every advantage of our inability to secure our jobs here at home.
Yet, McCain now rails against the communist government of Cuba. For over 40 years we have maintained an economic embargo that today has become so porous and so unenforceable that even the Cuban government laughs at it. If it was economic involvement with the Soviets that was most responsible for bringing down the Communist regime, and it was, then why not engage the Cubans? Do we really want to watch Senator McCain stand on Key West and shake his fist at yet another four years of economic isolation while the Europeans, the rejuvenated Russians and the Chinese reap the benefits of developing the Cuban economy?
If McCain could visit the nation of his incarceration and agree to send them huge chunks of American living wage jobs then why not agree with the Cubans that we could create economic opportunity for Americans on that long underdeveloped island nation? If McCain states that he will not talk to the Cuban government so long as they do not respect the basics of human rights that we stand for, then why is he embracing the Communist Chinese government, a government much worse in its scope and nature? The hypocrisy of selective ethics and targeted morality cannot be ignored and we need a government that lays out broad principles that apply to all - not just to the potential voting blocks of the day.
McCain’s most recent statements about Cuba are wrong, counterproductive and destructive to the short and long term interests of the United States and the Western hemisphere. (See Senator Obama on McCain’s Cuba statements here) I am in fear of a McCain Presidency. I live in fear of a McCain presidency without a veto proof majority in he House of Representatives and toward that end I will fight around the clock to not only support he Democratic nominee for President but I will also fight to become part of that Democratic majority.
For three years I have been meeting the people of the 29th Congressional District as a candidate and my resolve to bring common sense voting to Washington has strengthened with each passing day. This Presidential election that resolve is committed to not only my race but also to the larger picture of the future of the entire country as seen through the lens of a Presidential election.
McCain's vision of the future is rooted in the 1970s when Cold War bombast and American arrogance dictated not only our own foreign policy but also the deployment of our military and diplomatic forces. We need a new direction and a new coalition between the White house and House of Representatives. With a clear understanding of what is at stake we must all unite to support the nominee and should that nominee be Senator Obama we must support his vision for an international policy of talk first.
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