Republican James Baker III, who served as Ronald Reagan's Chief of Staff and George H. W. Bush's Secretary of State had an interesting interview on Fox News' Hannity and Colmes show on Friday, October 6 2006 during which he said "Talking to an enemy is not, in my view, appeasement."
James Baker is one of those Republicans that other prominent Republicans turn to for advice and help. Baker is who George W. Bush relied on to be his public face during the Florida recount in 2000. Democrats, like me, don't necessarily like him, but we have a grudging respect for him. Baker doesn't play political games with things like the security and diplomatic goals of this country. Baker is a genuine international diplomat with credentials and a record of achievement, unlike the current Bush administration and unlike John McCain. He knows what it takes to go abroad and hammer out an agreement under difficult circumstances. He knows how to make progress with countries with whom we have disagreements.
Below is a partial transcript of the October 2006 Fox News interview. The entire transcript can be seen at http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,218260,00.html :
COLMES: A level of engagement which some have said is not present today. Is this administration engaged enough with the people they should be talking to, to solve the kind of problems you're talking about?
BAKER: My view is that you don't just talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies, as well. And the diplomacy involves talking to your enemies.
You don't reward your enemies...
BAKER: ... necessarily, by talking to them if you're tough and you know what you're doing. You don't appease them. Talking to an enemy is not, in my view, appeasement.
I made 15 trips to Syria in 1990-1991 at a time when Syria was on the list of countries who are state sponsors of terrorism. And the 16th trip, guess what? Lo and behold, Syria changed 25 years of policy and agreed for the first time in history to come sit at the table with Israel, which is what Israel wanted at the time. And, thereby, implicitly recognized Israel's right to exist.
Now, all I'm saying is that would never have happened if we hadn't been sufficiently dedicated that we were going to keep at it. And that's the only...
COLMES: You deserve a lot of credit for that, and I think the Bush 41 administration does. Is this administration as dedicated to that level of dialogue worldwide, to enable those kinds of relationships.
A partial video clip of the above interview can be seen at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYC3jVaDDEg .In those few words, Baker showed how superficial and empty the rhetoric is coming from John McCain and the current Bush administration. Of course you talk to countries with whom you have a disagreement. Of course you talk to enemies. How do you think you resolve differences with countries if you don't talk to them? Baker visited Syria sixteen times in order to make progress. SIXTEEN! As he indicated, those visits came at a time when Syria was considered a state that sponsored terrorism.