With one-sixth of the Obama administration's term of office complete, last week it revealed its profound commitment to an unprecedented policy of eschewing the exercise of great-power diplomacy -- and indeed of being willing to consciously accept humiliation -- in the hope of gaining future advantage from talking with hostile but weaker nations.
Following up on his campaign commitment to unconditional diplomatic talks, the president -- in dealings last week with Iran and North Korea through his government -- yielded previously asserted conditions for negotiations as a price his administration is willing to pay for talks with those nations.
Earlier in the year, the president set Sept. 30 as a deadline for Iran to suspend its nuclear program in return for substantial talks with the United States -- or face tougher economic sanctions. Also, the president previously sent personal letters to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in hopes of direct, private engagement.
On Sept. 8, Iran responded that talks are possible, but only on various general international issues; the country's nuclear program would continue.
The U.S. government then announced that Iran had achieved a "possible breakout capacity" to develop bomb-grade materiel from its enrichment of uranium -- quickly, if it chose to do so.
"We have serious concerns that Iran is deliberately attempting, at a minimum, to preserve a nuclear weapons option," said Glyn Davies, U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The administration continued to hold out the threat of U.N. sanctions, although Russia and China would need to support or not oppose such measures in the United Nations.
Nonetheless, the administration defied expectations by taking up the offer to negotiate directly with Iran. Then Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, briefly raised expectations, saying he would not rule out discussing the nuclear issue "should the conditions be right."
Parallel to these considerations, in July, our president entered into negotiations with Russia to possibly give up anti-missile defenses (against Iranian missiles) in Poland and the Czech Republic as part of a proposed "reset" of U.S.-Russia relations. This followed a private letter from the American president to the Russian president suggesting we would get rid of anti-missile missiles in exchange for Russia's supporting sanctions against Iran for its nuclear development. This private letter was ridiculed publicly and rejected by Russians.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.