If, as Emerson once said, consistency is “the hobgoblin of little minds” then Barack Obama certainly cannot be said to have a little mind, because he is constantly producing masterpieces of inconsistency.
He came up with another such treasure last week when he was in Israel, while addressing the issue of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territory on the West Bank. When confronted with the obstacle that they pose to peace talks, he was critical of the Palestinians for allowing those settlements to interfere, saying that it was bad form to be “constantly negotiating about what's required to get into talks in the first place,” and that talks should proceed without preconditions.
That’s similar to the position he held in his first election campaign, criticizing Bush for the position he held over negotiations with Iran, and saying that if elected he would meet with Iran without any preconditions. That changed within minutes of his election, of course, and he now says he will not meet with Iran unless they first agree to halt their nuclear weapons program, which certainly sounds like a precondition to me.
The Palestinian precondition actually sounds rather reasonable to me, sort of like, “I’m not going to negotiate a lump sum price for a warehouse full of goods with you while you’re in the process of emptying the warehouse,” but Obama thinks they should just lump it and negotiate for a diminishing warehouse, right up to the point that it’s empty.
Obama’s precondition for Iran is somewhat harder to justify. Iran can’t really halt its nuclear weapons program, since it says that it doesn’t have one and no international inspection has ever confirmed accusations made by us and by Israel that it does have one. We are doing the classic “have you stopped beating your wife” thing, where there is no response which is not self destructive. What we gain by that has never been really clear to me, but perhaps I’m just a dimwit.
Not to mention that halting the putative nuclear weapons program is the purpose of the negotiations, so he wants to make the negotiations moot before they start by making the subject of the negotiations the precondition to the negotiations. Sort of, "I'm not going to negotiate a price on your warehouse until we first agree on a price for your warehouse. Then we can meet to discuss the price on your warehouse." How wierd is that?