American officials keep insisting they won’t negotiate with Russia, but now they’re also leaking a belief that Ukraine can’t win. Is this 4-D chess, or cluelessness? Or is there no plan at all?
Fifteen years ago, in a July 2007 Democratic primary debate in Charleston, South Carolina, Senator Barack Obama won applause by saying sure, he’d meet with the leaders of countries like Iran, Cuba, and North Korea. “The notion that somehow not talking the country is punishment to them” was ridiculous, he said, adding even JFK and Reagan were willing to talk to the Soviets.
“They understood that we may not trust them, and they may pose an extraordinary danger,” Obama said. “But we have the obligation to find areas where we can potentially move forward.”
Obama’s line won him new admirers and helped dent progressive support for frontrunner Hillary Clinton. The episode is now mostly forgotten, as Talking to Bad People has again been deemed forbidden, even by former liberals, perhaps especially by them, even with the country suddenly at greater risk of nuclear war than at any time since the Cuban Missile crisis.
These dynamics resurfaced in a confusing way this week. To no one’s surprise the Biden administration continued to say it won’t negotiate with Russia, but it suddenly also began leaking a belief that it doesn’t think fighting will work, either. If both strategies are off the table, what exactly are we doing?
Biden was also at that 2007 debate. When New Mexico’s Bill Richardson said he favored sending U.N. troops and showing “diplomatic leadership” in Darfur, the future veep could barely contain his disgust.