David Ignatius writes:
In a rapidly changing Islamic world, the Obama administration is weighing how best to talk with adversaries such as the Taliban and, perhaps, Hezbollah.
One model for the administration, as it thinks about engagement of enemies, is the British process of dialogue during the 1990s with Sinn Fein, the legal political wing of the terrorist Irish Republican Army. That outreach led to breakthrough peace talks and settlement of a conflict that had been raging for more than a century.
In the case of the Taliban, the administration has repeatedly stated that it is seeking a political settlement of the war in Afghanistan rather than a military one. That formula sometimes seems hollow when more than 100,000 U.S. troops are in combat. But it got more definition last month from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who opened the doors wider for dialogue.
Clinton, in a Feb. 18 speech to the Asia Society, subtly altered the terms for Taliban participation in peace talks. She repeated the administration’s “red lines for reconciliation” — that Taliban representatives must renounce violence, reject al-Qaeda and abide by the Afghan constitution. But rather than making these preconditions for talks, as before, she said they were “necessary outcomes of any negotiation.”