Op-ed: The Merits of an Unconventional Approach

Senior Policy Director Alexandra Bell wrote an op-ed in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists following the Trump-Kim summit.

We’ve come a long way since 2007, when then-Senator Barack Obama was roundly chastised for saying he would meet with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea during a presidential primary debate.Then-Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain called it “naive” and “reckless.” PresidentGeorge W. Bush said that meeting with despots and dictators could “send chilling signals and messages to our allies,” adding that such interactions could “send confusion about our foreign policy.”

The American public, it seemed, was not taken aback by the suggestion that we could meet with leaders that might pose a threat to this nation. Upon his election, President Obama did, in fact, seek to engage those very leaders. He was driven, he said, by the actions of Presidents Reagan and Kennedy who spoke to the Soviets even in the darkest of times. “They understood,” he said, “that we may not trust them, they may pose an extraordinary danger to this country, but we have the obligation to find areas where we can potentially move forward.”

Obama’s initiative to forge a nuclear deal with Iran received a substantial amount of criticism, but he pressed ahead anyway, balancing the risk of public and political failure with potential breakthroughs on a long-standing nuclear challenge.

Fast forward to today and President Donald Trump has just sat down with the leader of a repressive, despotic, and nuclear-armed regime. Read more