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February 27, 2008

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Jonathan Bizman

You violated basic journalistic principles by printing this article, and you know it.

Shame.

Nick Commons-Miller

"and they should not in any way undercut their country’s foreign policy."

So do we live in a democratic republic? Or do people have to agree and conform to all government policy? (mind you, I am not talking about law, but policy)

Nick Commons-Miller

Though also, law can be protested if it is unjust.

Nick Commons-Miller

"First, it legitimizes figures that should not be a part of civilized discourse. The State Department lists Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization, and the policy of the United States, and of its ally, Israel, is not to recognize or negotiate with terrorists. It was evident from the meeting that that policy did not enjoy universal support. “What can be achieved by pretending that they don’t exist?” asked one participant. “How can you move the peace process along when a governmental entity refuses to recognize one of the primary instigators in the conflict?” Still, if students oppose the policy, they should work to reverse it through domestic democratic channels, and not undermine their leaders by meeting with terrorists themselves."

Taking action yourself is part of a democratic government.

Beyond that, that is a weak justification for why it is unacceptable. You have to give an actual reason why meeting with the terrorist leader is unacceptable, other than "the government does not think it is good."

If you really wanted to look at the situation, you should examine whether it is actually good or bad to meet with such a leader, and whether what you call "legitimizing" is actually a valid way to look at the situation, or whether dialogue would actually help.

"Second, meetings between Americans and America’s enemies are sometimes used for propaganda purposes, as evidenced by Jane Fonda’s controversial 1972 trip to Hanoi."

There is no comparison. Jane Fonda was and is famous. There is no weight behind using people who simply don't have much name recognition as propaganda, for the obvious reason that no one would care and it would be totally ineffective. Also, if they believe the only way of fixing the problem is dialogue, then wouldn't that be irrelevant? Maybe the leader will use it as propaganda, but if it is indeed the only solution and it works in spite of that, then it would not matter.

"But if relevancy is their only criterion in determining whom to meet, then logically, they ought to agree to all interviews with important players even if those players use the encounter for their own public relations purposes in addition to providing them with pertinent information."

Saying "but if relevancy is their only criterion" is really misleading. It is about relevancy, but the more specific point is that you have to talk to people who potentially could make a difference. You also have to realize that everyone, even if you totally disagree with their perspective, has a viewpoint not only to consider but to work with and work around diplomatically in order to achieve a result. If you count people out of diplomatic talks, then you simply cannot have too much of an effect on their actions and dispositions, and in fact, it can alienate them further. If someone thinks that diplomacy is an effective way to achieve results in this instance, they are clearly not going to think that leaving that person out is a good idea...

Maybe what you should have written about was the merits and disadvantages of diplomacy, but at the moment you just seem to be denying its validity and bashing it with little supporting logic or arguments.

"However, its mission of working for peace means that it is not, and cannot be, objective."

Why not? Not only should you actually give a reason (just because you shouldn't make unjustified statements), but it is simply not necessarily true. One could support peace but still not want to meet with certain people.

"Unlike reporters, who have no political goals and can therefore meet with whomever they believe is relevant, NIMEP must use discretion in planning its trips."

The only reason they can have to meet with "relevant" people (I put quotes because it is a major oversimplification).

Why can't people meet with someone if that is something that they think would be good? Also, why is objectivity the only criteria to be used here? If they think that it would help bring peace, isn't that also a justification for their actions? If you can give a reason why objectivity is such a good reason that it absolutely overrides all other reasons, then this could be valid.

Maybe this would be better if you so that you think they should not, rather than that they cannot. I don't think one should assume their viewpoint is so absolute or more importantly, imply some kind of institutional necessity that what they are doing is not ok, especially when you provide very little justification for your standard.

"Blowing someone off is not especially rude when that individual has blown people up."

Well, that is outright false. It is still rude. The question is whether you think it is ok to offend that person or not. You are also way oversimplifying just so you can say something provocative... I mean, by the logic you provided, any soldier who has piloted a bomber is someone you shouldn't interview. It just seems to indicate to me that you are not really thinking that deeply about this. You really need to look at the whole situation and put it into perspective.

Nick Commons-Miller

I am sleepy, and this statement is simply a jumble, and I made my point anyway:

"The only reason they can have to meet with "relevant" people (I put quotes because it is a major oversimplification)."

So just forget it.

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