Getting the facts right about Presidential chit-chats

In an earlier post, I tackled Obama’s incredible naiveté  (or stupidity) in proposing that, if he were President, he’d just go off and have a little chat with dictators who gleefully kill their own citizens and who promise to kill the citizens of other nations.  I said that the President of the United States never “just goes off” for a meeting with a hostile leader without there first having been lots of prior meetings by underlings to lay the groundwork.  Only in that way can the President be assured that he isn’t putting his prestige on the line simply so that a dictator can enhance his own standing and, potentially, thumb his nose at the world’s most powerful leader.  (Not to mention the risk that the American president, so as not to leave empty handed, makes terrible and dangerous concessions.)  In the comments, I was asked to provide examples of these “pre-meetings,” and I didn’t before.  I can now:

Mr. Obama’s Sunday statement grew out of a kerfuffle over his proclaimed willingness to meet – eagerly and without precondition – during his first year as president with the leaders of Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba. On Monday, he said it was a show of confidence when American leaders meet with rivals; he insisted he was merely doing what Richard Nixon did by going to China.

I recommend that he read Henry Kissinger’s book, “The White House Years.” Mr. Obama would learn it took 134 private meetings between U.S. and Chinese diplomats before a breakthrough at a Jan. 20, 1970 meeting in Warsaw. It took 18 months of behind-the-scenes discussions before Mr. Kissinger secretly visited Beijing. And it took seven more months of hard work before Nixon went to China. The result was a new relationship, announced in a communiqué worked out over months of careful diplomacy.

The Chinese didn’t change because of a presidential visit. In another book, “Diplomacy,” Mr. Kissinger writes that “China was induced to rejoin the community of nations less by the prospect of dialogue with the United States than by fear of being attacked by its ostensible ally, the Soviet Union.” Change came because the U.S. convinced Beijing it was in its interest to change. Then the president visited.

The same is true with other successful negotiations. President Ronald Reagan prepared the ground for his meetings with a series of Soviet leaders by rebuilding the U.S. military, restoring confidence in American intentions, and pressuring the Soviets by raising the specter of a missile defense shield.

Reagan knew rogue states only change when they see there are real consequences of their actions, and when it is in their interest to change. This requires patience, vision, hard work and the use of all the tools, talents and relationships available to the U.S. We saw a recent example when Libya, fearful of American resolve after 9/11, gave up its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs. These programs, incidentally, were more advanced than Western intelligence thought.

Reagan knew he must not squander the prestige of the American presidency and the authority of the United States by meaningless meetings that serve only as propaganda victories for our adversaries. Mr. Obama seems to believe charisma and smooth talk can fundamentally alter the behavior of Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba.

Read the rest here, and see what dangerous concessions Obama might be forced to make if he goes on his Magical Mystery Tour.