In 2012, there are no obvious signs that candidates in the current election are meeting with the Taliban, with whom the Obama administration has opened its doors to peaceful negotiations, or with Tehran, against whom many American conservatives are urging military action over its suspected nuclear weapons program.
But even without a conspiracy, there are lessons worth learning. The Taliban and the Iranians don’t need agents within the US political establishment to further their own interests. America’s system of lengthy and public presidential politics gives adversaries such as the Taliban and Iran all the leverage they need. Speeding up talks or stalling them rewards certain US politicians and punishes others. Progress, or the mere hint of progress, can be sugar or arsenic, depending on one’s political interests. So while America’s adversaries may not be able to actually pull key strings to choose America’s next president, the penchant of American politicians for politicizing American foreign policy ends up giving enemies – and friends – the tools they need to manipulate the US.