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Obama's engagement policy isn't naive politics

Business Times - 20 Aug 2009


Obama's engagement policy isn't naive politics

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

ONE of the central themes of presidential candidate Barack Obama was his willingness to engage with foreign governments whose policies ran contrary to American interests and values.

Mr Obama's suggestion that he would be willing to start a dialogue - and perhaps even meet the ayatollahs in Teheran, the Ba'athists in Damascus or members of the antiquated communist regimes in Pyongyang and Havana - ignited a lot of criticism among his political rivals who portrayed him as 'inexperienced' and 'naïve' - not to mention his depiction as a Chamberlain-like 'appeaser'.

But Mr Obama dismissed those charges, rejected the axiom promoted by then president George W Bush - that US diplomatic engagement with so-called 'rogue regimes', including the members of the 'Axis of Evil', amounted to providing legitimacy to these 'bad guy…