Tag Archives: diplomacy

Another Take on Obama’s Worldview

We are still talking about what past U.S. Presidents meant to national interests and strategy and how their decisions shaped the world (or failed to do so). Consider this new take on Eisenhower or Nixon or Wilson. And so, we will still be talking about the Obama Presidency for a long time. He told Doris Kearns Godwin that he “didn’t want to be Millard Fillmore or Franklin Pierce”. He seems to be reshuffling the deck, rethinking the game–even dissing the Special Relationship. So what will be Obama’s legacy?

If you want to read the latest  round of journalism-to-maybe-become-history longform, head over to Jeffery Goldberg’s lengthy piece in The Atlantic.

But if you want a shorter take, Max Fischer does a nice job on Vox. He breaks down the notion of Obama as a “Hobbesian optimist” and someone who sees long-term historical thinking as a key part of U.S. strategic interests–contrary to a foreign policy establishment that is focused on quick wins, especially by use of military power:

This spoke to how Obama sees challenges as well as opportunities: as a matter of encouraging that global progress toward peace and prosperity, while also acknowledging how dangerous it can be when that progress stalls or reverses. But it sees the latter as the exception rather than the norm.

Source: The best articulation yet of how President Obama sees the world – Vox

His critics may be status quo. His critics are certainly inflamed. They may even be right.

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Kissinger the Freedom Fighter – WSJ

A new book by Nial Ferguson makes that case that Kissinger was an “idealist”, of sorts. Is his book, Kissinger, 1923-1968: The Idealist, credible?

As Kissinger observed, there was something unforgivable about the way the “protest movements [had] made heroes of leaders in repressive new countries,” oblivious to “the absurdity of founding a claim for freedom on protagonists of the totalitarian state—such as Guevara or Ho or Mao.” The student radicals failed to see that they were living through a fundamental transformation of the postwar international order. “The age of the superpowers,” Kissinger announced, “is drawing to an end.”

Source: Kissinger the Freedom Fighter – WSJ

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U.S. Diplomat Killed on Afghan Mission She Coveted – NYTimes.com

A tragic loss for the US Foreign Service, Anne Smedinghoff worked with another young BYU diplomat in Caracas–the first to post about this on Facebook on Saturday:

Sam Hopkins, a lawyer and a friend of Ms. Smedinghoff’s from her college days, described her as a “very focused very disciplined and very calm” woman who had breezed through a panoply of examinations to enter the Foreign Service at an unusually young age.

On her first posting to Caracas, he said, she expressed strong desire to leave the embassy compound and plunge into the city’s gritty, often dangerous streets.“She said she wanted to get a car and drive around,” Mr. Hopkins said. “She had no fear.”As a public diplomacy officer, Ms. Smedinghoff was on the front lines of an effort to move Afghanistan beyond its decades-long struggle with war and oppression to a place where women might walk openly in the streets and where children, including young girls, might go to school.

It is a job fraught with dangers and frustrations that have been compounded as the United States, along with its NATO allies, has shrunk its military footprint. Bases have been scaled back and ground and air transports reduced, meaning less security for development work.

via U.S. Diplomat Killed on Afghan Mission She Coveted – NYTimes.com.

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U.S. Demands Chinese Block Cyberattacks

National Security Advisor Tom Donilon demanded in a speech yesterday that China put a stop to the theft of U.S. firms’ data through cyberattacks. This is the first time that a U.S. official has specifically named China in regards to cybercrime. A cyber security firm recently released information that attacks were coming from an area in China that is home to a large cyberunit of the People’s Liberation Army, information which lines up with the U.S.’s own data on the attacks, making it difficult for the U.S. to not deal with this problem directly. This comes at a complicated time for U.S.-Chinese relations as the U.S. is seeking the diplomatic help of the Chinese government in negotiations with an increasingly hostile North Korea.

Although not fully addressed by the article, the theft of U.S. firms’ data brings up the issue of intellectual property rights and the ease of the dissemination of information during this technological age. It has become increasingly difficult for companies, governments, and individuals to protect their intellectual property, and developing countries (read: China) view the international organizations in charge of protecting those rights, such as WIPO, as biased towards the wealthy, developed countries (read: U.S.). Although the announcement came as a demand, one of the things the U.S. wants China to do is to work together to help establish a set of rules to act as a global standard on cyberspace protocol in order to alleviate these problems.

The White House, Mr. Donilon said, is seeking three things from Beijing: public recognition of the urgency of the problem; a commitment to crack down on hackers in China; and an agreement to take part in a dialogue to establish global standards.

Via U.S. Demands Chinese Block Cyberattacks – NYT.com

What result will come from the U.S. calling out China on this issue remains to be seen.

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RIP – R. Richard Rubottom- Helped Shape Cuban Policy

An obit on a key figure in Cuba policy, who also was an educator at SMU, but played an important role on a number of Latin American issues:

With the rise of Mr. Castro, Mr. Rubottom represented the State Department in meetings with military and intelligence officials on whether, how and when to try to eliminate him both before and after he seized power in January 1959.

via R. Richard Rubottom, 98, Is Dead – Helped Shape Cuban Policy – NYTimes.com.

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More WikiLeaks (in Context)

An outstanding compilation of commentary via Alexis Madrigal at the Atlantic:

Writers pulling at the knot of press freedom, liberty, nationalism, secrecy and security that sits at the center of the debate have produced dozens of fantastic pieces. We’re collecting the very best here. This page will be updated often. New links will be floated near the top of this list.

via How to Think About WikiLeaks – Alexis Madrigal – Technology – The Atlantic.

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WikiLeaks, Facebook and the Perils of Oversharing – NYTimes.com

Compelling article on a number of intersting ideas, including the defense of privacy for diplomacy–and the larger idea that “oversharing” leads to a less circumspect life, or, in the words of Zadie Smith, may undermine the development of “a private person, a person who is a mystery, to the world and–which is more important–to herself.”

The conservative commentator Tunku Varadarajan, writing in The Daily Beast, was among the most direct in making the point: “Diplomacy, to work at all effectively, must draw a line between the ‘consultative process’ and the ‘work product.’ This is but part of the human condition: Human beings need to consult, speculate, brainstorm, argue with each other — yes, even to gossip and say dopey things — in order to find their way through the difficult task of coming to an official, or publicly stated position which would then be open (legitimately) to criticism.”

So, without a zone of privacy it becomes impossible for a government to sustain complicated, even contradictory, ideas about relationships and about the world — in other words, it becomes impossible to think. And, imagine that: apparently governments need to think.

via WikiLeaks, Facebook and the Perils of Oversharing – NYTimes.com.

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Reading Woodward in Karachi – By Mosharraf Zaidi | Foreign Policy

A little dated (in web-time, but only by a few weeks) but the Woodward book makes allusions to Afghanistan as Vietnam and seems to tell the Pakistanis something they may have wondered about.  They are the enemy.

Into this environment comes Woodward’s account of the Obama administration’s decision to embrace a surge strategy in Afghanistan, which also offers a pretty good window into what American power sees when it looks at Pakistan. Woodward’s emphasis on the “Pak” in AfPak reflects a larger shift in emphasis in official Washington. Perhaps inadvertently, the book is also likely to confirm many of the darkest suspicions that ordinary Pakistanis have about their erstwhile American allies.

via Reading Woodward in Karachi – By Mosharraf Zaidi | Foreign Policy.

As a side note, Kristof writes in his Sunday column that he doesn’t think the US policy in Afghanistan is working.

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Politics, not diplomacy

This brings to mind a great anecdote of an ambassador who used parliamentary rules jujitsu to avoid having to contradict a previously held position–that he used to forge a vast coalition of more than one hundred other countries during a multilateral negotiation.  It was the Diplomatic Principle in action.

This, however is not–Republican pontificators backing the other side.  And its not over yet.

  • George Will started much of this, by foisting this criticism: It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?
  • Bill Kristof used his NYT op-ed platform to urge McCain to “fire the campaign
  • Christopher Hitchens in Slate notes “It therefore seems to me that the Republican Party has invited not just defeat but discredit this year, and that both its nominees for the highest offices in the land should be decisively repudiated”
  • Christopher Buckley has now resigned from National Review and said he had “been effectively fatwahed by the conservative movement” after endorsing Barack Obama in a blog posting on TheDailyBeast.com

These are examples of players of the game we call the Parliamentary Principle–that the majority wins. In diplomacy, you keep your foes around because you always need them.  Who knows what each of these movers and shakers’ individual political calculation is, or what the implication will be should McCain defy the present odds and win.  (Eternal exile to a Blue State? Wait, they all live in Blue States!)

Postscript:  Watch Republican Gordon Smith today. Maybe he combines both principles (and maybe not).

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