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SUNDAY, MAY 6, 2007
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EDITORIAL

Rice’s dialogue with Syria a positive step

Syria is not a friend of the United States, a fact made clear by its apparent support of insurgents in Iraq.

Which is precisely why U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice deserves congratulations for engaging in talks with Syria’s foreign minister Thursday.

Ending diplomatic efforts is a lousy but common U.S. response to hostilities with other countries. The highest goal of diplomacy is to avoid war. It is therefore an essential tool in dealing with countries that are hostile to the United States.

Our diplomatic standoff with Iran is irresponsible. Refusing to communicate with that country unless it discontinues production of materials that could be used in nuclear weapons verges on childishness. Penalizing them may be appropriate, but closing the door to dialogue is a mistake. We should always be willing to talk to other countries, especially our enemies. Diplomacy should supplement sanctions, not be replaced by them.

Ms. Rice did not expect major breakthroughs with Syria, but through her diplomacy she provided the country with an outlet for its complaints against the United States other than violence. “I didn’t lecture him and he didn’t lecture me,” she said of her meeting with Syria’s Waleed Moallem. The encounter, she said, was “professional” and “businesslike.”

Soldiers die when diplomacy fails. Penalizing countries that act against U.S. interests is often appropriate. Ending diplomatic relations, however, is not.

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