Part of an Interview with former Sec. of Defense Jim Baker
Friday October 6, 2006
You were — during the Reagan/Bush years — known for shuttle diplomacy. That phrase was used a lot. Going back and forth between the Palestinians, between the Israelis.
A level of engagement which some have said is not present today. Is this administration engaged enough with the people they should be talking to, to solve the kind of problems you're talking about?
My view is that you don't just talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies, as well. And the diplomacy involves talking to your enemies.
You don't reward your enemies...
... necessarily, by talking to them if you're tough and you know what you're doing. You don't appease them. Talking to an enemy is not, in my view, appeasement.
I made 15 trips to Syria in 1990-1991 at a time when Syria was on the list of countries who are state sponsors of terrorism. And the 16th trip, guess what? Lo and behold, Syria changed 25 years of policy and agreed for the first time in history to come sit at the table with Israel, which is what Israel wanted at the time. And, thereby, implicitly recognized Israel's right to exist.
Now, all I'm saying is that would never have happened if we hadn't been sufficiently dedicated that we were going to keep at it. And that's the only...
You deserve a lot of credit for that, and I think the Bush 41 administration does. Is this administration as dedicated to that level of dialogue worldwide, to enable those kinds of relationships.
I think the president gave a magnificent speech in 2002, when he said, "We — I have a vision of a Palestinian state and an Israeli nation living side by side securely in peace." And it would be good if we can get that vision implemented. I think that's what you're asking me.
Yes, it would be great if we could get that vision implemented. But I'm one who believes that you — I don't think it's appeasement to talk to someone who happens to be an enemy.