Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Talking to Enemies is NOT Appeasement!

Well, Bush, who gave up golf as a sacrifice for the troops in Iraq (you can’t make this stuff up!), betrayed the American political tradition of refusing to criticize other politicians while abroad, intervened in the election process after promising not to do so, shamed the presidency (again) and has single-handedly angered and energized and united the entire Democratic Party by going to the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) and saying that Barack Obama would appease Israel’s enemies like Iran and Hamas, comparing him to appeasers of Nazis!  John McCain immediately echoed this. 

Of course, this is incredibly hypocritical.  Bush’s own Defense Secretary advocates citizen diplomacy with Iran.  And, as that same article notes, in ’04, he urged official U.S. engagement.  McCain advocated talking with Hamas two years ago.  He has also previously backed diplomatic talks with Syria.  (You can see McCain’s hypocrisy in video on those links.) That was when conservatives were attacking then-Sec. of State Colin Powell for going to Syria and McCain’s approval of Powell’s actions came despite his admission that Syria was a sponsor of terrorism!

As Obama has remarked often in his foreign policy speeches, one should never negotiate out of fear (THAT’S appeasement–trying to buy off an enemy as Chamberlain did with Hitler), but one should not fear to negotiate. So, Eisenhower negotiated with Kruschev as did Kennedy. Nixon went to China when it was declared our enemy.  Carter brokered the Egypt-Israeli peace treaty (not one line of which has ever been broken) and continued the SALT II nuclear talks with the USSR.  Reagan negotiated with the USSR (as well as arming Iraq and Iran!). Even Bush II negotiated with North Korea–after being dragged to do so.

UPDATE: A more complete list of enemies that U.S. presidents have engaged in dialogue and debate:

  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt (D) talked often with brutal dictator Josef Stalin of the USSR. They even formed an alliance in order to beat Hitler, Mussolini and Emperor Hirohito.  Harry Truman also talked to Stalin.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower  (R)talked to the North Koreans–it was part of ending the Korean War.
  • John F. Kennedy talked to Nikita Kruschev of the USSR both before, during, and after the Cuban missile crisis. Far from appeasement, he combined tough diplomacy with a naval blockade to get the nuclear missiles removed from Cuba without starting WWIII.
  • Richard M. Nixon (R) opened formal diplomatic relations with China–which had urged the USSR to attack Alaska during the Korean War–and secured the Chinese’ help in the long process of winding down the Vietnam War.  His Sec. of State, Henry Kissinger, talked directly to the North Koreans who were killing and torturing our soldiers.
  • Jimmy Carter talked often with Leonid Brezhnev of the USSR–sometimes in mutual negotiation, sometimes in harsh reality checks, such as when the USSR invaded Afghanistan.  He negotiated the Israeli-Egypt Peace Treaty–not one line of which has been broken–ending the only real threat to Israel’s existence, though only beginning the work of making real peace in the Middle East.
  • Ronald Reagan (R) negotiated face to face with Mikhail Gorbachev of the USSR–and, if he had not insisted on keeping “missile defense” could have negotiated the complete abolition of ALL U.S. and USSR nukes.  He also secretly negotiated for American hostages to be released from Iranian revolutionaries (terrorists)–but only after Carter lost the election.  Then he sold WMDs to Iraq and then to Iran and used the funds to help the Contra terrorists in Nicaragua–in violation of U.S. law.

No U.S. president has boasted of his Christianity more than George W. Bush–but few have been as ignorant of Jesus’ teachings.  Bush considers talks with the enemy a reward for good behavior. Jesus didn’t. He gave them as a COMMAND to all Christians, MATT. 5:21-26. It is a command that is even to interrupt worship–peacemaking has THAT much priority!  This, of course, builds on the Torah’s command to help an enemy’s ox out of the ditch. 

One may have to tell an enemy some hard truths: negotiating can be tough and negotiations can break down.  There is no guarantee of success.  But dissing talks with enemies as “weak” is sheer nonsense–and absolute disobedience for any Christian.

It is time the Christians of the U.S.A. STOP letting this man smear our faith with his gross misrepresentations of it. It’s also time for the citizens of the U.S., Christian and otherwise, to kick out Bush and deny the presidency to his echoing wannabe, McCain, and restore sanity to our foreign policy!


May 16, 2008 - Posted by | peacemaking, U.S. politics


  1. I noted one speech in which Bush said we should not live quiet lives, which is obviously a direct contradiction to Paul’s exhortation to do just that.

    Comment by Steven Kippel | May 16, 2008

  2. Well, everyone wondered if the Democrats could unite — George Bush just gave Barack Obama a gift no one would have expected. Even Hillary jumped in on his side. And now, Hillary isn’t talking Obama, she’s talking Bush and McCain. If she continues this direction staying through June 3rd probably doesn’t hurt.

    Comment by Bob Cornwall | May 16, 2008

  3. Excellent post, Michael.

    Comment by Dan Trabue | May 17, 2008

  4. I’m not a Christian, so I can’t really say anything on that end, but I would agree with the rest of your post. Citizen diplomacy – in fact any form of diplomacy – with Iran or any other “enemy” is essential. Like you point out, Presidents have often employed diplomacy when it comes to dealing with our so-called enemies. Bush simply has lost this lesson. I guess it is up to us to now be the diplomats.

    Comment by Citizen diplomacy man | May 19, 2008

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