9/28/2008

Which world leader should the next president meet in the Oval Office first?

Much has been made by Republicans and many pundits about Barack Obama's willingness to have diplomatic-level conversations, and even personal policy discussions with leaders of countries that have been long-standing enemies such as Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. McCain blasted the freshman senator for this position during the first debate and earned the public defense of Henry Kissinger, perhaps the most established diplomat in modern history. The charges of naivety and poor judgement made against Senator Obama are fair when considered under the 20th century foreign policy paradigm; we live in the 21st century and paradigmatic disruptions are weekly occurances this day in age and in my opinion the end of the Cold War should have been the first sign that Kissinger's relevance was fleeting.

What I would ask both presidential candidates if given the opportunity to meet them in person, I would ask them which world leader they would meet first and what was their motivation for choosing that individual. The subtle signals that this seemingly random and unavoidable choice sends to the global community are immeasurable and can set the tone for global trade, security and development on a path which serves the incoming administration's goals during their first term. President Bush had his first major foreign summit at his Texas ranch with the newly inaugurated president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and the decision set a clear tone for his first four years. From that time forward it was considered exclusive to be invited to the Crawford ranch as the leader of a foreign government and Bush used these high-profile summits to establish his image with voters as a dude.

Now Prime Minister Putin wouldn't be a bad choice for the first face-to-face policy discussion the next president has in the White House, if for no other reason than to show the world that his puppetry of new Russion President Dmitri Medvedev and Russian oligarchs around the world is transparent. If Putin is going to be ruling Russia, which it seems clear he still is and will be for the indefinite future, he needs to be forced to ratify the Russian constitution and eliminate the term limitation of the Russian executive that were unnecessary twenty-five years ago when instituted. That is probably what I would do and perhaps something either candiate may decide, though I suspect Obama would be more likely to go through the charade with Putin's pawns to get at Putin personally.

Whom would you choose to meet with Senators McCain and Obama?
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