Archive for the ‘Diplomacy’ Category

You Go Girl!

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

In today’s Washington Post, Clinton’s Candor Abroad Draws Mixed Reviews tells of “Hillary Rodham Clinton’s blunt and unadorned style of diplomacy”. According to the article, this style

has been evident throughout her first trip as secretary of state the past week in Asia. She questioned the efficacy of sanctions against the repressive junta in Burma, spoke openly about a possible succession crisis in North Korea and admitted that she expected to make little progress on human rights in China.


To a certain extent, these comments crossed taboo lines in international diplomacy. U.S. officials generally do not say their sanctions have failed, or speculate about the future government of another country, or suggest that a carefully watched human rights dialogue is largely a farce.

Clinton’s willingness to speak frankly — combined with an extensive effort to get beyond ministerial meetings in order to hold town hall meetings and conduct local television interviews in the countries she visits — suggests she will put a distinctive personal stamp on the Obama administration’s foreign policy. What is emerging is something less rigid, less cautious and more open.

Before her meetings in Beijing, for instance, Clinton said she would raise human rights issues with Chinese officials, “but we pretty much know what they’re going to say.”

I don’t much care for go-along-to-get-along diplomats that mean no offense and accomplish nothing but a full dance card. So Clinton’s style is exactly the kind of diplomacy that has been lacking. A dose of honesty, similar to that provided by former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, and that provided by Hilary Clinton now as Secretary of State, is just what the doctor ordered.

The article focuses especially on Clinton’s remarks on China.

In foreign policy circles, Clinton’s remarks on human rights have stirred consternation that she is giving up possible leverage with China before any dialogue has begun. Others say that she is inviting criticism from Capitol Hill and human rights groups that undermines her ability as a diplomat.

And later

James Mann, a Johns Hopkins University scholar who wrote a history of U.S.-China relations, viewed Clinton’s remarks as part of a further downgrading of the importance of human rights in American policy toward China over the years.

And the article ends with this

“Bill Clinton told the leader of China he was on ‘the wrong side of history,’ ” Mann noted. “Now, Hillary seems to be giving them the reverse message: that China is on the right side of history.”

This seems like a bit of a downer. But earlier in the article, there is this

“I think she clearly feels it’s necessary to induce realism and perspective to expectations and performance, and to tell the Chinese that Obama knows that we all need to work together, so she is determined not to let less centrally vital issues handicap that,” said Chris Nelson, who writes an influential newsletter on Asian policy.

This seems to be about the right balance, though certainly the human rights groups would disagree strongly. I hope Hilary Clintons continues to call ’em as she sees ’em.