U.S. Diplomats Doing Their Thing

In the case of the head diplomat-in-chief, Secretary Kerry tries a risky, ambitious, and energetic push for a Middle East Peace Deal that, for now, has some White House support. A Thursday story explores his background efforts–that quickly make headlines and are part of a complex strategy:

Mr. Kerry’s prodigious energy and desire to make a mark have made him a more activist secretary of state than his famous predecessor, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and so far at least, more willing to take risks than Mrs. Clinton, who may have another presidential campaign in her future. Aides say Mr. Obama has marveled at how Mr. Kerry spent seven hours with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, negotiating the fine points of a peace deal with the Palestinians.

via Active and Improvising, Kerry Is Taking On Tough Problems – NYTimes.com.

Another, outgoing U.S. Ambassador to China Gary F. Locke, plays it casual (raising eyebrows) and then leaves a little early (prompting speculation):

Appointed by President Obama, Mr. Locke held the job, one of the most important and difficult American diplomatic posts, for a little more than two years, a relatively short time for a top ambassador.

Mr. Locke’s early informal style drew attention even before he landed in Beijing, when he bought his own Starbucks coffee at the Seattle airport with his young daughter, creating a flurry of interest among the Chinese public.

That informality, including wearing a backpack on his inaugural trip to Beijing, may not have helped his standing among the protocol-conscious Chinese leadership, Chinese and American officials said.

via Gary Locke to Leve as U.S. Ambassador to China – NYTimes.com

Brazil’s Leader Postpones State Visit to Washington Over Spying – NYTimes.com

One Brazil specialist calls it “a friction point…but not a breakup.”  Julia Sweig at the Council on Foreign Relations muses that “Washington doesn’t do contrition very well.”

In the case of Brazil, Latin America’s largest nation, the move to effectively suspend a state visit to the United States — a remarkably rare decision in the annals of diplomacy — threatens to unravel years of Washington’s efforts to recognize Brazil’s rising profile in the developing world and blunt the growing influence of China, which has surpassed the United States as Brazil’s top trading partner.

via Brazil’s Leader Postpones State Visit to Washington Over Spying – NYTimes.com.

Is Brazil flexing is muscle or just plain petulant?

Seize the Moment for a New Golden Age of Coercive Diplomacy – Council on Foreign Relations

What happens when you use a ‘forceful’ diplomacy of threats, consequences, and demands?  Usually not much, but Ray Takeyh argues that now may be the time to give it a shot:

It has long been a truism among pundits that coercive diplomacy is imprudent and usually ineffective. Diplomatic history suggests that it is nearly impossible for one country, however powerful, to compel another to change its values and outlook. The US may be stronger than Iran, but it would be wise to seek a negotiated solution to the nuclear impasse. The answer to the Syrian imbroglio is to craft a power-sharing arrangement between Bashar al-Assad and his detractors. Such sentiments ignore recent changes in the international system that now make diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions effective in disciplining adversaries. We may be entering an age where the US and its European allies can achieve their maximalist objectives in the Middle East without resorting to force

via Seize the Moment for a New Golden Age of Coercive Diplomacy – Council on Foreign Relations.

Meetings Matter

Great visual (“Obama Goes Dancing…” as a time-lapse of 1000+ images; unembeddable, unfortunately) and Reporter’s Notebook story on “the diplomatic equivalent of speed dating”… at  Win a Meeting With the President – NYTimes.com.

The language lesson in diplospeak is very instructive, on “bilats,” “readouts,” and “matters of mutual interest.”

Obama in China | Bilateral Scorecard

Diplomacy is more than who wins/loses, but in bilateral relations between two great powers, a scorecard is inevitable.  One US  view is that Obama misplayed his hand:

Thus, China won a diplomatic victory by getting Washington to agree to “cooperate” on issues of peace and development in South Asia. If China and America work together on South Asian issues, such as peace between India and Pakistan, then China is the great power while India is simply another South Asian country that needs help from others to solve its problems. With the joint statement, Obama officially accorded India junior status in Asia.

We should not be surprised by China’s positions. What is surprising — and extremely problematic — is that on these key issues Obama is acquiescing in them.