Published 4:19 pm Tuesday, April 21, 2009
America through dialogue
During the presidential campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama pledged to reach out and forge ties with other countries.
He emphasized that opening dialogue, even with countries the United States had previously shunned, would strengthen America’s hand. The dialogue would also help recapture the respect America had lost during the Bush administration.
Obama’s recent four-day trip to Latin America signals a long-overdue shift in American policy and shines a light on Obama’s diplomatic talent — a quality sorely lacking in his predecessor.
The president offered cautious, but sincere, overtures to two traditional nemeses: Cuba and Venezuela.
Though Obama was photographed smiling and shaking hands with Venezuela’s leftist leader Hugo Chavez and Cuban President Raul Castro, it’s a mistake, we believe, to confuse courtesy with weakness.
The majority of American people made it abundantly clear in the last election they want the United States to embrace the world, not repel it. In his short time in office, Obama has accomplished just that, but not at the expense of his moral compass.
During the Latin American trip, he made sure to inject clear-cut expectations for the countries if they expect to gain our support.
While in Cuba, Obama urged Castro to release political prisoners, embrace democracy and reduce fees on the money Cuban-Americans send back to their families. Obama also has shown no sign of easing the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, wanting, instead, to approach the issue gradually.
Obama’s meeting with Chavez, meanwhile, drew at least as much attention as his groundbreaking foray into Cuba. Chavez, whose tirades against the United States have been well-publicized, signaled a willingness to forge a new relationship with America.
And that, at least, is a start.
Talk is cheap, of course, but Obama’s desire to explore stronger ties with foreign countries is sensible and pragmatic. But though the president has opened the door to reconciliation, he must be careful not to sacrifice America’s fundamental values just to assuage sweet-talking foreign rulers.
We’re confident he won’t.