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March 10th, 2009
11:11 AM ET

Dear President Obama #50: With friends like the Taliban...

Reporter's Note: The President wants voters to give him advice on how to run America. Every day I am writing a letter with my suggestions. Whether or not he is reading them remains a mystery.

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

When I was in junior high a guy started giving me a hard time. Heaven knows why. I’ve always been the very soul of peace; share and share alike; a model citizen with whom no one could take issue. Well, ok, perhaps I’m not that agreeable, and no doubt I gave Stan some reason to dislike me. Perhaps it was my habit of pointing out how much he resembled Arnold the pig on Green Acres. Some people are sensitive about such things, you know.

In any event, despite our differences I really did not want to fight him. I’ve always been more of a “let’s chat it over” guy, instead of a “let’s knock out some teeth” guy. But as the days went by, the tension grew, and finally nothing would suffice but a brief and unauthorized round of fisticuffs. It happened as we were gathering for a class, lasted about fifteen seconds, and ended amid a shamble of tipped over desks and one very irate math teacher. I won’t mention who got in the most good hits (although it was me) nor who was found to be to blame (although it was both of us.)

My point is, as much as we’d like to think that we can reasonably talk about our differences with anyone, there are some people who simply will not accept anything except a punch in the nose.

Now, I hear that you are open to some kind of talks with the Taliban? I don’t want to be a wet blanket, but this group has not been particularly keen on negotiating with the opposition in the past.

Let’s review their greatest hits. Afghan women would like to go to school and hold jobs. The Taliban? Why don’t you gals wear these head to toe black drapes, and fear for your lives as the property of men. Afghan men would like to shave, listen to music, and speak freely about their government. The Taliban? Let’s drag them into the street and beat them senseless, or just kill them outright. I’d like to have a photo album of my family. No. I’d like my children to be educated in the ways of the world. No.

I know the idea is to reach out to the “moderates” in the Taliban, but that’s like finding the friendlier members of the Manson family.

For crying out loud, this is the group that blew up those giant, ancient sculptures of Buddha, even as people around the globe begged them not to. Seriously, if these guys can’t get along with a statue, what precisely do you think there is to discuss?

Best of luck if you go ahead with this. I’ll be watching of course, but don’t hesitate to call if you want to discuss it a bit. I’ve got a lot to say, but I’m always a good listener too. See how easy I am to get along with?

Regards,

Tom

For more of the Foreman Letters, click here.

soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Eric Roberts, Aurora, IL

    Well the Taliban were our buddies right up until 9/11 happened. In case you are suffering from seelctive memory Tom, then President Bush sent the taliban a nice sum of money to help them fight the opium trade. Much like Saddam Hussien, Manuel Noriega, Fidel Castro, and many many other dictators, we were good friends with the Taliban...until they no longer served our purposes. If I remember correctly, there was something to do about a oil pipeline involved. Then magickally we had a reason to dislike them. hmmm

    March 10, 2009 at 7:32 pm |
  2. Kenyan Bwana

    The West has never understood the Islamic world and never will.

    They have been fighting within themselves for centuries, how are you going to change them?
    How can you talk sense to a person who rationalizes every issue they take on is in the name of Allah!
    The West can not change them to think like we do! Only their Allah can show them Light ! .........So RELAX......... and leave them alone in the hands of their Allah.

    March 10, 2009 at 6:29 pm |
  3. Ira Bloom

    Dear Mr. President,
    I am beyond words in how the British Prime Minister was treated by you who represents all Americans. Britain has been our strongest ally when all others have turned there back on us yet you chose to insult him and all the British people by acting like a kid with no formal upbringing. I was not a fan of our last president but at least foreign dignartaries were treated with respect even if we didn't agree with their politics. All I can say is shame on you & unfortunately now it is shame on all of us even though most of us love our English brothers.
    Oh! & you may have come across to many Americans as a rock star but just remember most rock stars burn strong for a very short time & then nothing is left!

    Ira Bloom

    March 10, 2009 at 4:32 pm |
  4. AmericanVoter

    Mr. Foreman:

    Another great letter to the president wherein a simple truth lies in between some well-written humor. While diplomacy is always the objective whenever possible, occasionally there are differences in philosophy that prevent it.

    If the president does decide to engage the Taliban perhaps a starting point would be a verbal word association game designed to determine their definition/understanding of terms like 'negotiation' and 'compromise'?

    March 10, 2009 at 4:13 pm |
  5. MRB

    Americans tend to feel we're dealing with people who have the same values, and ideals. That's simply not the case. When it comes to the Taliban, we're trying to tell them to discard their religious beliefs. That's simply not going to happen. It's absolutely no different than if they were to come to America and try to tell us we had to discard some of the core Christian priciples and adopt theirs. Good luck with that one.
    Leave them alone and if they are found to be associated with any attacks against America, then let them meet their maker, and don't worry about civilians in the process.

    March 10, 2009 at 3:40 pm |
  6. Helen

    Regarding stem cell: To all those opponents of stem cell, my son is losing his sight due to disease, the only hope it stem cell. I would gladly give my eyes to my son if I could, so that he maybe a productive citizen. I challenge any opponent to be in my son's place and see what it is to be disabled without any treatment. I applaud the President, I can only hope that I may thank him personally from the bottom of my heart.

    March 10, 2009 at 3:39 pm |
  7. JIM FALLBROOK CA

    First of all, you can't negotiate with muslims. History proves that, Taliban are muslims. It would be like negotiating with a brick wall. Unfortunately, our socialist president Barack Hussein Obama will make concessions to the Taliban. Just like Jimmy Carter did to the terrorist fanatics who removed the Shah from power. The Shah was Pro West. That one blunder alone is still costing us billions of dollars. We would never be in Afghanistan or Iraq if Carter supported the Shah. That is one of the many reasons that Jimmy Carter will go down as the worst president in history.

    March 10, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  8. Rachel

    Dear Tom

    Question Do you read all the comments that people send you?

    Question Do you know the difference b/n Taliban and Al Qaeda?

    My guess is No you don't read all the comments and you know the difference. Yes we don't like the way they treat women but we don't like a whole lots of things that other people do too. We want everybody to be civil and live happily ever after. Peace and war go hand in hand.
    Just like love and hate.
    We need to chill take it easy we can't solve every problem in every country.

    Rachel
    Atlanta GA

    March 10, 2009 at 2:26 pm |
  9. Neo

    You have a good point. NOW, it may be out of hand but what provoked it? It sucks to ruffle the feathers of an uncivilized mind. America needs more tact and saavy when they deal with psycho's, but unless provoked we need to really stay out of people's business. I hope that's the overall lesson.

    Agree with meenas17.

    March 10, 2009 at 2:03 pm |
  10. Shelvey Milwaukee, WI

    Well I do believe Tom make good points but at the same time Afganistan it proving to be much much more difficult for the US to show any signs of victory. The situation is getting worse and worse. I think a lot of you don't have any idea how bad it really is over there. I think had George W. Bush spent the time in Afganistan and not had gone to Iraq in the first place maybe a lot more would have been accomplished. Now it is unfortunate but I think Obama and the administration have no chooice but to talk to moderate members of the taliban. In no way he's trying to be friends with. That will never happen and Obama knows this. I don't think he would ever trust the taliban either but at the moment things are not looking good over there.

    March 10, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
  11. Mari, Salt Lake City

    Keep your friends close, and your enemies even closer!

    Diplomacy is the answer. Killing, maiming, destroying yet another country as we have Iraqis not the answer.

    The ONLY way to win the war against terrorism is to win over the hearts and minds of the people who live in the Middle-East.

    War is not the answer.

    March 10, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  12. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    Sooke Gill---walk softly and carry a big stick--walk to softly and soon that stick will be inserted--the time for talking is over-famous saying-better to ask for forgiveness that permission.

    March 10, 2009 at 12:28 pm |
  13. meenas17

    The U.S should keep out of Afghanistan. Let them solve their problems. Let them fix it up. The Big Brother attitude should be annihilated from the mind of U.S

    March 10, 2009 at 11:59 am |
  14. Sooke Gill

    I agree and disagree with Tom.

    First, didn't the US and the Taliban start off as talking buddies when Osama was convenient in fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan?

    Then, they fought when the Taliban thought hey I'm powerful too and I defeated the Soviets, so let's take on the US!

    So, since everything is cyclical, why not start talking again, it saves lives! If it doesn't work out, you can always resume fighting?

    I think the US may involve itself in too many wars or problems and spread itself too thin in: Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea?, Iran?, China?, Russia?. The US needs to relax.

    Famous quote, "Walk softly and carry a big stick."

    Thank you. ;O)

    March 10, 2009 at 11:04 am |
  15. M

    Maybe we should taunt them and tell them real men can keep their wives happy and satisfied so they WANT to stay versus having to stay? Sure they might get offended, but men love a good bet/dare and will go out of their way to prove they're just as "good" as the next guy. Heck...if we play the card right, they may change their laws and force women to run around spending money, going to college, while wearing Daisy Duke's to prove to the world how great they are and how happy their wives are. Other than that, I think you're right on target with the letter.

    March 10, 2009 at 10:42 am |
  16. Julie San Diego, CA

    Hey Tom,

    What's YOUR solution? I think talking with the Taliban is a brilliant idea.

    "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." – Sun Tzu

    March 10, 2009 at 10:40 am |
  17. Cindy

    Tom,
    Totally agree with ya! There just is no talking to the Taliban at all! They hate us and don't give a rats butt what we have to say. They may meet to "talk" with us but it'll only be used as propaganda by them and nothing else. To think talking to them is going to change anything is absurd!!

    Cindy..Ga.

    March 10, 2009 at 10:27 am |