NEGOTIATING WITH TERRORISTS…. Barack Obama chatted with Time’s Joe Klein this week, and indicated that U.S. negotiations with the Taliban may be worth pursuing. This, under normal circumstances, would send Republicans and conservative activists into an unbridled frenzy.

The problem, though, is that Gen. David Petraeus has expressed support for U.S. negotiations with the Taliban, too. Obama told Klein:

“This is one useful lesson that is applicable from Iraq. The Sunni awakening changed the dynamic in Iraq fundamentally. It could not have occurred unless there were some contacts and intermediaries to peel off those who are tribal leaders, regional leaders, Sunni nationalists, from a more radical, messianic brand of insurgency. Whether there are those same opportunities in Afghanistan I think should be explored.”

It’s an uncomfortable reality that often goes unmentioned, but as part of his strategy in Iraq, Petraeus reached out to Iraqis who were responsible for killing Americans. For all of McCain’s demagoguery about talking to Iran or North Korea, Petraeus negotiated with those who had American blood on their hands, precisely because Petraeus kept the bigger picture in mind.

Now that he’s the Centcom commander, and conditions in Afghanistan are deteriorating, Petraeus sees the utility of negotiating with the Taliban, just as he negotiated with Sunni insurgents. As Petraeus explained two weeks ago, “I do think you have to talk to enemies…. I mean what we did do in Iraq ultimately was sit down with some of those that were shooting at us.”

Obama sees this as a possibility for Afghanistan, as well. Hell, even Gates’ Pentagon is grudgingly coming to the same conclusion.

So, here’s the challenge for the right: how does one attack Obama for his willingness to talk to the Taliban without also attacking David Petraeus for agreeing with Obama’s approach? For that matter, how does one make John McCain look credible on foreign policy and national security, when his approach is so far from the mainstream?

And if McCain does agree with Petraeus/Obama, how does he justify talking to the Taliban while condemning talking with Iran?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.