I was listening to Condoleezza Rice this morning. She was commenting on, actually criticizing, some of the conclusions and suggestions of the Baker-Hamilton Report.
She commented specifically on Baker’s suggestion that we talk to our enemies – like Iran and Syria.
Baker and Hamilton have compared the current situation with the former policy of talking to are enemies, like our former arch-enemy the Soviet Union. Rice believes the comparison is invalid, for various reasons. One thing she suggested about former policies of engagement with the Soviet Union was that our goal concerning the Soviets was centered on changing their behavior. Likewise, she suggests that the refusal to talk to countries like Iran or Syria is intended to illicit the same result – a change in their behavior.
I was struck by her repeated use of the word “behavior.” The goal of the present administration is to force these countries to change their behavior. The next thought that came to mind was the intent of the Religious Right to change the behavior of American citizens. Their intent is to change “homosexual behavior” into “heterosexual behavior” or at least no sexual behavior, to change “pro-environment behavior” to “pro-business behavior”, to change abortion behavior, fornication behavior, and adultery behavior – lots of other kinds of behaviors, too.
All laws are for the purpose of changing behavior for the well ordering of society. All law is morally determined in some way or another. However, this present administration, supported and encouraged by the Religious Right, is intent on changing (or forcing the change of) the behavior of our citizenry. They are intent on changing the behavior of whole other countries.
The question that doesn’t seem to come up a lot, or at least in public, is WHY people or countries behave in certain ways. To understand why, it seems, would go a long in better understanding how to respond and react. To understand necessitates talking and LISTENING to the other person or country. There are reasons why people and countries behave in certain ways. Some of those reasons of legitimate and some aren’t. In the development of foreign policy, or even domestic laws that emphasize one moral position over another, to talk to the “enemy” will only benefit the cause a peaceful existence. I think Baker and Hamilton are right. We need to talk to even our enemies.
The problem is that those with their hands on the levers of power do not believe talk and listening are appropriate with some. There is no reason to talk to domestic or foreign “enemies.” They already know how people and nations aught to behave, so there is no point in listening to why or how or to think that they might misunderstand or be wrong. How about changing our behavior – why do we not ask why, talk and listen? It seems a wiser course of action and behavior than to bomb and invade and demean others. In the long run, this may be our best course of action against international terrorism!