WHEN HE hinted to the Israeli Knesset this week that Barack Obama was an appeaser for being willing to talk to Iran, President Bush broke an unwritten rule against partisan politicking on foreign shores. He also displayed confusion about his own policies and about the cause of his calamitous foreign policy failures.
Perhaps Bush forgot that his ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, has been holding talks about Iraq with an Iranian counterpart. If so, there were Knesset members who could have reminded him. Israelis are intensely aware of the strategic gifts that Bush bestowed on Iran by toppling Saddam Husseins regime and empowering Irans Shiite proteges in Iraq. Indeed, few have done more to enable Iran than George W. Bush.
Some seem to believe, Bush told the Knesset, that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. He was comparing unnamed appeasers of today to isolationists who thought they could negotiate with Nazi Germany and keep the United States out of World War II. Bush implied that Obama would be just that naive.
In reality, the likely Democratic nominee seems inclined toward a tough and prudent statecraft in the mold of Bushs father and his secretary of state, James Baker. It also seems to have slipped the younger Bushs mind that his own policy for keeping nuclear weapons out of Irans grasp is to encourage diplomacy along with mild United Nations sanctions.
The diplomatic discussions have been conducted between Iran and key European allies, Britain, France, and Germany with the explicit approval of Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Bushs secretary of defense, Robert Gates, also favors talking to Iran. Does Bush consider Rice and Gates appeasers, too?
On the matter of negotiating with radicals and terrorists, somebody on Bushs staff ought to remind him that among his few foreign policy achievements are the agreements his diplomats negotiated with Libyas Moammar Khadafy and Kim Jong Il of North Korea. Taking nuclear weapons out of the hands of those old terrorists has meant talking to them and giving them some things they wanted badly.
Maybe the worst thing about Bushs Knesset attack on Obama is that it shows how oblivious Bush still is to his own failings. His unilateral military ventures, his disdain for international treaties and organizations, his refusal to negotiate with Iran when the regime in Tehran was eager to cut a deal with the United States these mistakes produced the disasters that Obama or another successor will have to overcome.