Sunday, March 8, 2009

Talking with the Taliban?

Looks like the say-do gap might be closing a bit after all. According to a New York Times article published today, President Obama might be willing to actually talk with the Taliban. In an interview that covered additional topics (i.e. the U.S. economy), the President "opened the door to a reconciliation process in which the American military would reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban, much as it did with Sunni militias in Iraq." The BBC's reporting of the NYT interview focused on this open door and even quoted Afghan President Hamid Karzai who supported Obama's possible talks. "'This is the Afghan government's long stand,' he [Karzai] said. 'We wanted this and we support and stand with them to bring peace and stability to this land.'"

While these potential talks may be considered traditional diplomatic efforts, one can't help but see the strategic public diplomacy angle behind this announcement. By having the President cautiously discuss this potential option with reporters, the Obama administration is now prepared to gather public opinion and feedback on this new foreign policy effort. Additionally, Obama continued to prove his own credibility, using a strategy never accepted by George W. Bush, by bluntly commenting on the military's current presence in Afghanistan:

Asked if the United States was winning in Afghanistan, a war he effectively adopted as his own last month by ordering an additional 17,000 troops sent there, Mr. Obama replied flatly, “No.”

How's that for honesty?

I'm curious to see how the public responds to Obama's suggestion over the next few weeks. While open discussion with 'the enemy' was an ideal for which Obama was criticized and praised during his run for office, what will the American people think now? While our class discussions generally lead to support for efforts to enhance the U.S's international credibility and gain back the chance to get a 'pass' on foreign policy blunders, is Obama pushing his luck by announcing his intents to the world? I fear that as the President's celebrity status and momentum of hope wears down, once his Roman Candle of optimism burns out, support for efforts so drastically different from those of the Bush administration will dwindle as well.

On a less related topic, I thought Obama's comment on his trust in blogs was interesting. I guess he won't really be reading what I say here anyway:

Mr. Obama rode to the White House partly on his savvy use of new technology, and he has a staff-written blog on his presidential Web site. Even so, he said he did not find blogs to be reliable, citing the economy as one example.
“Part of the reason we don’t spend a lot of time looking at blogs,” he said, “is because if you haven’t looked at it very carefully, then you may be under the impression that somehow there’s a clean answer one way or another — well, you just nationalize all the banks, or you just leave them alone and they’ll be fine.”

1 comment:

  1. If Obama is to be successful in galvanizing public opinion around talks with the Taliban, he would do well to explain that the "Taliban" is many things, and varies from region to region. Afghanistan is not just the Karzai gov't and the Taliban, as the MSM has so simplistically led us to believe.