Forty years ago, Richard Nixon, a Republican President, took a bold step and went to visit and negotiate with the government of the People’s Republic Of China, better known in America as Communist China or Red China.
We had had no negotiations or dealings with mainland China since 1949, had made a career of demonizing the leadership of that nation, and had made clear that we would defend the island of Taiwan (Nationalist China) at all costs. We had also fought Chinese troops in the Korean War, and had known of Chinese support of the North Vietnamese in the Vietnam War, and were still bombing near the Chinese border.
But with all that, Richard Nixon went to China, negotiated trade and travel and cultural exchanges, and opened up our country and China to the promotion of less fear and more diplomacy and understanding in the interests of international harmony and avoidance of war.
Many conservatives bitterly condemned Nixon for going to China, and reversing his own anti Communist stand of twenty five years standing. But Nixon went anyway, and this occurred in an election year. It was statesmanlike and showed Nixon to be a pragmatic man in foreign policy.
Today, in 2012, forty years later, we are on the brink of possible military conflict with Iran, with which we have not had real dealings since the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the fall of the Shah of Iran from power. Iran has become a very belligerent state, heavy on rhetoric and threats, similar to what China was for 25 years. In the case of Iran, it is now 33 years since the two nations, in the midst of tensions and stress, have sat down and tried to negotiate differences.
It may seem as if there is very little hope for a breakthrough with a harsh enemy who wishes us ill, but remember that was the same mentality toward China, and even more so, toward the Soviet Union, during the Cold War years, but still Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and even Reagan all agreed to joint meetings, often in each other’s country, and made progress toward coexistence, and to avoid a direct confrontation that would benefit neither side.
So when the Republican candidates for President, conservative talk show hosts, and many others call for war on Iran, and think the idea of negotiations with Iran are fruitless, remember what Richard Nixon, the ultimate anti Communist did forty years ago this week. He went to the enemy and NEGOTIATED, and prevented any conflict with China, a dramatic and significant moment in world history!
It is time for Barack Obama to show courage and statesmanship, and since the Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said he is ready for diplomatic talks, it is wise to take him up on it, and see if it can go anywhere. If it does not, and war results, at least we will be able to hold our heads high and say we TRIED! Is Ahmadinejad really any worse than Mao Tse Tung, Nikita Khrushchev Leonid Brezhnev, or Mikhail Gorbachev?
It is not cowardly to agree to talk and negotiate; it is cowardly to refuse to talk and negotiate, with the possibility of avoiding war that neither the United States citizens or Iranian citizens really want. And it would be better for Israel too, if war could be avoided which would likely have a very heavy toll on their citizens, in a country so small in population, it cannot afford to lose even one hundred people in an unnecessary war that MIGHT be avoidable!