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Talk To Them

Weekly commentary by CBS Evening News anchor and Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer.

Here's my question about the events of last week. Why aren't we talking to Syria?

The answer to that, we are told, is for the same reason we don't talk to Iran and North Korea lately: to talk now would be a reward for bad behavior.

And there is no question Syria has been guilty of some bad behavior. As have Iran and North Korea. I can't think of much to admire about the leaders of any of those countries.

But we stayed in touch with the leaders of the Soviet Union through the long and dangerous decades of the Cold War. It would have been dangerous not to. But these days we seem to find more and more people not to talk to. Then when we need to talk, we can't for fear of rewarding bad behavior.

The truth is it would be difficult if not impossible for Iran to funnel weapons to the Lebanese terrorists without Syria's help. If we could drive a wedge between Syria and Iran, Israel and Lebanon would be safer places.

But how do you do that without talking?

No power on earth, Israel or us -- even if we wanted to -- could kill every Arab who wants to destroy Israel. There are just too many of them. That leaves but one option: convince countries like Syria that it is in its own self-interest to take another approach.

Simplistic? Hardly. It worked with Egypt, once a far greater threat to Israel than a small poor country like Syria could ever be.

America's Middle East policy needs to be broader and more complex than just after-the-fact crisis intervention. We should be talking on a daily basis to any and all who want to talk.

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By Bob Schieffer