Thursday, October 23, 2008

Word of the Week - Precondition


1. Something that must come before or is necessary to a subsequent result; condition: a precondition for a promotion.
2. to subject (a person or thing) to a special treatment in preparation for a subsequent experience, process, test, etc.: to precondition a surface to receive paint.

From Unabridged (v 1.1)
I bring this up because of this exchange (which takes place beginning at about 5:14 of the embedded video below): (Well since I can't get the damned embedding thing to work you will just have to check out the video here at Sorry about that.)

Williams: Gov. Palin yesterday you tied this notion of an early test to the new president with this notion of preconditions that you both have been hammering the Obama campaign on. First of all what, in your mind, is a precondition?

Palin: You have to have some diplomatic strategy going in to a meeting with someone like Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong-Il one of these dictators that would seek to destroy America or her allies. It is so naive and so dangerous for a presidential candidate to just proclaim that they would be willing to sit down with a leader like Ahmadinejad and just talk about the problems, the issues that are facing them. So that's some ill-preparedness right there.

What Palin* is refering to is Obama's oft repeated willingness to meet with leaders with whom the U.S. is at odds without preconditions to the meeting. This first came up during the Democratic primary races, specifically at the YouTube/CNN debate on July 23rd, 2007 where Stephen Sorta asked:

In 1982, Anwar Sadat traveled to Israel, a trip that resulted in a peace agreement that has lasted ever since. In the spirit of that type of bold leadership, would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?

Obama responded:

I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them -- which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration -- is ridiculous. Now, Ronald Reagan and
Democratic presidents like JFK constantly spoke to Soviet Union at a time when Ronald Reagan called them an evil empire. And the reason is because they understood that we may not trust them and they may pose an extraordinary danger to this country, but we had the obligation to find areas where we can potentially move forward.

I would like to think that it is clear to any rational human being that Obama, should he become President, would not meet with these people without having any sort of diplomatic strategy. The mere suggestion of that is so, pardon my French, fucking silly that it boggles the mind that someone would even suggest it. Of course any meetings with the leaders would be only one part of a larger diplomatic initiative. What Obama meant is that he wants to get away from the tactic we have been employing in the Bush years of flat-out refusing to talk to people until they give in to our demands, something Iran is going to now attempt. At that point what is the point of even talking with them? We have gotten what we want and they have given up everything. It is a wonderful negotiating tactic when it works and one I engage in on occasion, however when it does not work one of two things happens. Either there are no negotiations or the party which made the demand and then backed off begins at a disadvantage, having already essentially lost one round.

It would bother me that the Republican ticket still tries to make hay out of this whenever they are given the opportunity, and I am fully aware that Brian Williams opened this door for Palin and there is a world of difference between that and bringing it up during campaign stops, however in this case Palin again demonstrated her, to use her phrase, ill-preparedness for assuming the office for which she is, according to a shrinking number of Republicans, qualified.

It also makes me smile that one could, were one of the mind, to turn this around and point out, as McCain has attempted to do with Obama, perhaps Palin does not know the difference between strategy and tactics. The short version being that preconditions, or lack thereof, is a tactic used in a diplomatic strategy.

* I am still trying to get to a Plain/pale in comparison joke but it is not working out well.

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