Unconditional Conditions

Democrats, apparently, consider this “subtlety.” Republicans call it “incoherence.” Criticized for being willing to meet with President Ahmadinejad of Iran “without preconditions,” Barack Obama responded, as the New York Times reports:

For nearly a month, Republicans have stepped up attacks on Mr. Obama’s foreign policy perspective, highlighting a Hamas official’s complimentary comments about him in mid-April, as well as Mr. Obama’s statements that he is willing to meet with leaders of so-called rogue states like Iran, Syria, North Korea and Venezuela “without preconditions.” On Friday, Mr. Obama tried, not for the first time, to deflect and counter the criticisms by articulating his view of foreign relations, one in which military might is accompanied by diplomatic engagement with all countries, including enemies. His most specific example was a significantly changed policy toward Iran, one that would be equal parts carrot and stick.

“It’s time to present Iran with a clear choice,” Mr. Obama said. “If it abandons its nuclear program, support for terror and threats to Israel, then Iran can rejoin the community of nations. If not, Iran will face deeper isolation and steeper sanctions.”…

Mr. Obama drew a distinction, saying his administration would start negotiations with Iran “without preconditions” and being directly involved himself. For that to occur, he added, Iran would have to meet benchmarks or conditions.

That reiterates remarks he has made numerous times in the past year…. [emphasis added]

What’s going on here? Does Obama not understand that if-statements are conditionals?

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