Town Square

Post a New Topic

David Petraeus says a good leader has to be willing to talk to the enemy

Original post made by Greg K, Downtown North, on Oct 10, 2008

Speech to the Heritage Foundation on Oct. 8:

Web Link

Comments (28)

Posted by Donald
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 10, 2008 at 12:27 pm

Sounds like Gen. Petraeus is agreeing with Barack Obama. You need to plan and prepare for the meeting, but negotiations with the enemy can end wars and prevent many others.

Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 10, 2008 at 12:47 pm

Petraeus seems to have gotten out of step with the Repubs who have been hero-worshipping him as the savior of Bush's *bleep* in Iraq. I expect they'll be calling him Betrayedus.

Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 10, 2008 at 3:08 pm

Petraeus is saying the same as McCain, he will be the next Republican VP or President.

obama wants talks without preconditions leader to leader like Chamberlain with Hitler, McCain wants the groundwork laid by diplomats, like Nixon and China, not Munich "peace in our time" white flags

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 10, 2008 at 3:14 pm


You are misrepresenting Obama here. You should have paid attention to what Obama said about this in the first debate.

Obama, unlike McCain, is a cautious sort. He's not going to give away the store, so take a deep breath and relax. Even conservatives such as David Brooks and Charles Krauthammer think Obama's a thoughtful, intelligent man.

Posted by Gary
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 10, 2008 at 3:24 pm

I would recommend to everyone to watch this video of Patraeus at the Heritage Foundation (see link in first post). He is as good as it gets.

He said that we need to talk to our enemies who are reconcilable, but to kill or isolate those who are irreconcilable. Obama said he would place no preconditions on talking to the irreconcilable Ahmadinejad.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 10, 2008 at 3:43 pm


Wouldn't you expect a military guy to see fewer diplomatic options than people who go into diplomacy?

I don't expect Petraeus to be an expert in diplomacy--that's not his skill, that's not his background.

The point is, the non-talk approach has made matters worse, not better. There's a wider and wider consensus on this.

Posted by Jane
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 10, 2008 at 3:55 pm

Obama has no experience in diplomacy,
he has experience with the Chicago mob,
ACORN shakedowns of banks,
black liberation theology
and throwing friends,
relatives and advisers under the bus when it is convenient.

He is a charming sociopath whos only "friends" are other sociopaths.

His only drive is blind ambition, not unusual in someone who was abandoned by his mother, his father and his stepfather before the age of 10 years.

Posted by Peter
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2008 at 4:05 pm

Jane, why don't you knock off the unsubstantiated smears? Look up some responsible fact checking sites that give the lie to your garbage before you post it.

You have also offered a useless, flawed pop psych "analysis" of Sen. Obama. For two more responsible looks at Sen. McCain's worrisome physical and mental states check out this exhaustive profile Web Link and this video Web Link which ought to scare the the bejeezus out of any sane person.

Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 10, 2008 at 4:25 pm

" liberation theology..."

You're almost to the n-word, Jane. It's a slippery slope.

Posted by Gary
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 10, 2008 at 4:26 pm


Listen to the Patraeus speech. He is more than just a military guy, although that is his main mission. I suspect he would be a great diplomat. Also, he works side-by-side with Crocker, the head U.S. diplomat in Iraq.

"The point is, the non-talk approach has made matters worse, not better."

OP, I don't know how you could gauge this. Bush was on good speaking terms with Putin, but Putin still invaded Georgia. Chamberlain talked to Hitler....

What, exactly, would Obama tell Ahmadinejad that would make him give up his nukes? The EU has been talking to him all along, and it has not worked. Why? Becasue Ahmadinejad wants nukes, and he is determined to get them. Both Obama and McCain say this is unacceptable. Really? What do they plan to do about it?

A strong and confident and free Iraq is the best counterbalance to Ahmadinejad (and al qaeda, btw). That is why it is important to stay the course in Iraq.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 10, 2008 at 4:40 pm


Are we down to Godwin's law here? It would seem so. Again, Bush's cold shoulder approach made matters worse, not better.

Obama pointed out that when we invaded Iraq we took care of Iran's main enemy. It was short-sighted and pretty obvious to anyone who'd ever paid attention to the developments in the Middle East.

Fact is, we don't have the wherewithal to launch a full-scale war into Iran. We can't really afford an endless occupation of Iraq. We weakened ourselves tremendously by the lack of forethought in the Middle East.

None of what you're saying is a reason to not open up lines of communication--isolationism is dangerous in this case. No one's saying that Ahmadinjehad's statements should be condoned. That's not what talks mean.

Posted by Gary
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 10, 2008 at 5:39 pm


Godwin's law? You mean that guy who said that Hitler analogies will eventually arise? If so, that could be true, but I used the Hitler discussions with Chamberlin, more properly Chamberlain's eagerness to have such discussions, as an appropriate analogy in the present context. Talking to fanatical dictators does NOT change their behavior. It only buys them time.

We need 2-3 more years in Iraq, before we pull down sharply. This could happen sooner, if things continue to go well. However, a time certain or, as Biden says, "We will end this war!", is irrepsonsible. I have said before that Obama will NOT cut and run...he just lies about it to get his base on board.

Did you listen to the Patraeus link? It is very good, even for you lefties.

Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 10, 2008 at 5:55 pm

Gary, you have to realize that you are trying to have a reasonable discussion with someone

+ who thinks David Brooks is a conservative,

+ who believes that stating that the "cold shoulder approach made it worse" somehow makes it true ( s/he must have a crystal ball which can give alternate historical timelines),

+ who thinks we are even considering an "endless occupation" ( completely misusing the word occupation and apparently having no idea what the exit strategy is, even after all these years),

+ who really believes that "talking" to deranged psychopaths like those who have a death grip on N. Korea and Iran actually does any good, in spite of every historical experience showing such "talks" actually do more harm in the long run.

+ who really believes we "can't afford" to go into Iran..the richest nation on earth, going through a "diet" of its fat ( to paraphrase something I just read somewhere..can't remember where)

+ who doesn't see the horror of his/her stating we should have left in charge of Iraq a tyrant who was responsible for the deaths of well over a million Muslims, between his two wars and the 300,000 people he killed in order to counteract another tyrant in Iran??? As if leaving an Iraqi tyrant with the stated goal of having his own nuclear arsenal would have somehow discouraged Iran's nuclear goals? Or any other country's nuclear goals?

Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 10, 2008 at 5:58 pm

Paul, apparently you have no idea that black liberation theology is an actual theology developed by blacks for blacks.

Look it up.You will have your eyes opened.

Posted by Greg K
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 10, 2008 at 9:55 pm

Meanwhile, it looks like the Bush administration is happy to talk with their good friends in North Korea and the Taliban:

Web Link
Web Link

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 11, 2008 at 1:19 am


David Brooks is a conservative. Admittedly, his years at the NY Times have opened him up a little, but he still loves his Reagan, which is your basic conservative touchstone.

I don't need a crystal ball--we changed our policies--and under Bush's strategy, the situation's deteriorated. Which is why all those ex-secretaries of state suggest sitting down.

Psychopaths, like everyone else, can be managed--but it helps if you actually talk to them.

We may be rich, but we're also indebted and in a deep financial crisis. So, no, $10 billion a month isn't sustainable. We need to take care of economy. More than one country's wrecked itself financially by overspending on offense and defense. The Soviet Union comes to mind, but you find examples throughout history.

As for Iraq, less drastic measures would have done--Hussein was a much weaker dictator than he had been--certainly weaker than when we were supporting him against Iran under Reagan.


I don't, in fact, think we can walk away from Iraq overnight. Unfortunately, I think the ideal timetable for Iraq, which, indeed, might be a couple of years may no longer work for us because of the recession we're facing. We could use that $120 billion a year at home.

My take on Obama is that he's a cautious guy, I agree that the departure from Iraq won't be instant. I think he does have a tremendous advantage in being not-Bush. And, frankly, that middle name isn't going to hurt. Nor will his acute social intelligence. It's underplayed, deliberately, in the campaign, but he spent part of his childhood in a Muslim country--that's going to help with trust in the Arab world. My fingers are crossed that the situation can be improved a little faster.

I do think Obama's right in that we do have to attend to Afghanistan.

Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 11, 2008 at 7:50 am

I see, now you are a shrink, and from your vast experience with psychopaths who control enough weapons to kill millions of people, you state that psychopaths can be managed with sitting down to talk?

Obama has invoked Reagan, I guess that makes Obama a conservative like Brooks? Please name the ex-Secretaries of State you refer to, and which admins they worked for, and what they want us, specifically, to do. I dare you.

You really believe we need to talk more with Iran? It has completely ignored every UN Security Council ( of which we are part) "discussion" and "recommendations"..and we are going to do what?? Doesn't it sound like another recent tyrant ( to be clear, I mean Saddam), ignoring resolution after resolution? So, we are supposed to just keep issuing "talks" and resolutions and demands, until one day after 17 Resolutions being ignored we find another excuse to go after Iran and de-nuke it?

You actually really believe that there is ANYTHING we can say or do for a guy who has promised to eradicate Israel and us to change his mind?

Please, name me one thing we could do/say which would change him into a nice guy forever, willing to live and let live, without allowing him to build his strength and ability. Just one.

Money? Oh yes, that worked well for us with Saddam, didn't it, as you are fond of reminding us.

Oil for food? See above, think "corruption"

Let him have Israel?( sound like Chamberlain to you? And how did that work out?)

Free trade? (look how well that is working out for us and China)


Posted by booyah
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2008 at 8:08 am

I'll accept your dare:

Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Warren Christopher, Henry Kissinger, and James A. Baker III.

Web Link

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 11, 2008 at 2:21 pm


Booyah is right. Again, I'm finding your lack of knowledge making it not worth the trouble. Rant too much and I start skimming.

Are *you* an expert on diplomacy? Do you know more than those five secretaries of state who advise talking to these guys?

As for talking to sociopaths--you can't cure them, but you can certainly talk to them. There's a difference.

By the way, the death-to-Israel quote from Ahmed-impossible-spelling seems to have been a mistranslation. It was a less violent figure of speech about sinking into the sands of time that is a not uncommon Farsi figure of speech.

Posted by Gary
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 11, 2008 at 2:47 pm


Ahmadinejad is an apocalyptic Muslim, who follows a literal interpretation of the Quran. Give him a nuke, and he will, indeed incinerate Israel (and other nonbelievers). He would be a hero to many in his neighborhood, if he did. He denies the holacaust, prevents minority religions from proselytizing...typical Muslim bigotry stuff in the area.

Obama has stated that he would have uncondidtional, presidential level talks with the guy. Kissinger, for one, denied that such talks should occur.

Ahmadinejad, and other Iranian leaders, know what the views of Bush are, and Bush knows their views. The have been low level communications, through the EU for several years. If Obama shakes hands with Ahmadinejad, without preconditions, it will be a major political victory for Ahmadinejad and other Muslim radicals. It will bring war, not peace.

That was not one of your best posts, in terms of judgement, OP.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 11, 2008 at 3:00 pm


I know Kissinger denied it--unfortunately for him there is video of him saying it.

Obama clarified in the debates that he won't just sit down without lower-level negotiations.

The realpolitick here is that our getting into Iraq strengthened Iran's position by removing their long-time enemy. And, yeah, it's a mess. A predictable one, by the way.

Now Ahmadinejad has said he's building a nuclear-enrichment program not a bomb. As a fan of nuclear power, Gary, I'm a little surprised that you don't support the guy's commitment to alternative energy sources. Tsk, tsk, dude.

But, anyway, since the guy's up for election in Aug. 2009 and he doesn't actually have final say in the use of the military--I'd say there's something to be said in miring him down in lower-level talks for several months while working behind the scenes to get a more moderate candidate elected.

Posted by Gary
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 11, 2008 at 3:58 pm


Of course I support nuclear power for electricity...among the rational countries on this planet. Rational countries understand the consequences of first use of nuclear bombs (mutally assured destruction). Ahmadinejad could care less.

Iran is sitting on a pool of oil, and it does not need nuclear power, until it gets a rational leadership. However, I think he (Ahmadinejad) WILL get nukes, attack Israel, other nonbelievers, then the West will need to crush Qum with Mecca and Medina as neogtiating tools. BTW, Russia and China will join us in this response...maybe even the EU.

Russia had a deal on the table whereby it would reprocess all nuclear fuel rods from Iran, assuming the purpose was electrcity production. It was not.

OP, stick with me here for a moment: What EXACTLY does Obama talk to Ahmadinejad about, after he shakes his hand in public?

Wouldn't it be a lot better if no American president appeared in public with Ahmadinejad?

Did you watch the Patraeus video?

Posted by KaBoom
a resident of another community
on Oct 11, 2008 at 5:59 pm

David Petraeus says a good leader has to be willing to talk to the enemy....

Sure, as long as that enemy understands that total destruction will result.

You plant a road side IED or drive a VBIED you will meet an unfortunate fate.

Just like these guys.
Web Link

Posted by Peter S
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 11, 2008 at 6:58 pm

David Petraeus has a great deal of experience with diplomacy, which is war by other means, after all.

He recommends this approach to managing uncooperative enemies prior to sitting down with them for mint tea step # 1 view Web Link

Step # 2 after this the guy across the table is often diplomatic, so lets talk.

Step # 3 if he does not give us what we want then reapply Step# 1

Petraeus did not go to Princeton for nothin!, unlike an aluma who loves the Rev Wright.

Posted by obama mama
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 11, 2008 at 7:02 pm

Hey you guys, there is another approach, have you not heard of Ghandi?

Here is his advice Web Link

Well the post 9-11 version

Posted by geography lesson
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 11, 2008 at 8:33 pm

You suggest "save Mecca and Medina as neogtiating [sic] tools."
When did you declare war on Saudi Arabia?
If you thought John McCain's "Bomb, bomb Iran" moment was bad, here's Gary advocating that we declare war on and threaten to bomb Saudi Arabia dependent on the actions of the president of Iran.

Posted by Beef Cake
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 11, 2008 at 8:52 pm

Once again it is time for a little edumication on the Purpose of War.

War is to not only destroy the enemy but to gain a strategic result.

When diplomacy in under way often a meal is served. Sometime when steak is served A-1 sauce is complementary to the meal.

General David Petraeus has a great deal of experience with diplomacy and knows how to serve a home cooked meal with all the fixings. There is nothing like a little A-10 sauce to tenderize the meal like this:

Web Link

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 12, 2008 at 1:14 am


Basically you believe some of what Ah. says and not others. *He* claims it's all peaceful nuclear enrichment stuff.

But, anyway, Ah. doesn't actually have the authority to launch a nuclear strike against Israel. Iran's still a theocracy and an Ayatollah, not Ah . . . is commander-in-chief.

And, no, I haven't watched the Petraeus clip--rotten computer connection.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Analysis/paralysis: The infamous ‘Palo Alto Process’ must go
By Diana Diamond | 6 comments | 2,237 views

Common Ground
By Sherry Listgarten | 3 comments | 1,769 views

The Time and Cost Savings of Avoiding a Long Commute
By Steve Levy | 6 comments | 1,601 views

Planting a Fall Garden?
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 1,055 views


Sign-up now for 5K Run/Walk, 10k Run, Half Marathon

The 39th annual Moonlight Run and Walk is Friday evening, September 29. Join us under the light of the full Harvest Moon on a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon. Complete your race in person or virtually. Proceeds from the race go to the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund, benefiting local nonprofits that serve families and children in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.