The View From 1776

Diplomacy is Not a Popularity Contest

European nations will respond favorably to President Bush’s upcoming visit only to the extent that their foreign policy objectives and ours coincide.

Clive Crook’s National Journal article, Are American and Europe Now Friends? Maybe Not For Long, presents a good summary of the issues and attitudes that will shape the President’s discussions.

News media are describing President Bush’s upcoming visit to Europe as a second chance to win favor with European nations.  This is a straw man erected to declare his mission a failure, in the expectation that European liberal-socialist mobs will mount their usual demonstrations in the streets.

Beyond the normal courtesies of discourse, pleasing the Europeans is important only in so far as our foreign policy objectives are achieved.  No matter how much Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder despise George W. Bush, they will support his policy initiatives whenever they further European policy objectives.  No matter how well liked and charming a President may be, other nations will be superficially polite, but in reality ignore or actively oppose American foreign policies that don’t coincide with their policy objectives or local political platforms.

In assessing the President’s visit, keep in mind that effective diplomacy is hard-headed, secret negotiations, not the Academy Awards for Best Actor.  What counts is subsequent actions, not public perceptions manipulated by liberal-socialist media.

The “mainstream” media loved the carefully orchestrated “candid” video shots of President Clinton playing an African drum in his hotel during a visit to Africa.  This symbolic display went over well with the general public, here and abroad, but amounted to zero where the rubber meets the road.  President Clinton, with great fanfare, declared that the United States was guilty in not having acted to stop the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Africans in tribal warfare.  Of course, neither the UN nor the United States did anything to stop the mass murders, but the liberal media swooned at Clinton’s public blubbering about compassion.  What a great guy! how empathetic can you be! not only the saxophone, but the African drum as well!

This is the much bruited “sensitivity” and “nuance” demanded by socialists like Senators Teddy Kennedy, John Kerry, and Charles Schumer.

One of President Woodrow Wilson’s ill-advised Fourteen Points at the Paris conference ending World War I was opposition to secret diplomatic agreements.  He preferred open conferences at which the agendas were announced beforehand and all agreements and discussions publicly revealed afterwards.  His work product, the League of Nations, in practice, was an abject failure, all public display and no action.

So-called summit meetings were a product of World War II, when President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill met on several occasions to confer on strategic war objectives. This cooperative approach went big-time after the war with the San Francisco conference that produced the ill begot United Nations.

After World War II, President Eisenhower wisely shied away from summit meetings with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.  Such meetings were reduced to publicity stunts that had little to do with conducting foreign affairs.  In a celebrated instance, Khrushchev publicly embarrassed President Eisenhower by announcing that an American U-2 spy plane had been shot down and that American pilot Gary Powers was being held for public trial as a spy.  Shortly after his election, President John F. Kennedy was cowed by a belligerent Khrushchev at a Vienna summit meeting.  This PR coup led Premier Khrushchev to believe that he could get away with basing long-range, nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba to blackmail the United States.

Public diplomacy, in the full glare of the world news media, is another example of the pernicious effect of public opinion, which is generally uninformed, therefore wrong, on foreign policy.  When the European mobs and anti-American students and liberal-socialist agitators here were clamoring against American military action in Iraq, they were ignorantly unaware that France opposed the Iraq invasion because it vitiated France’s contracts to develop Iraqui oil fields, cut off large-scale illegal weapons sales to Iraq, and stopped multi-million dollar, under-the-table payments to French companies and government officials in the blood-money-for-oil scandal administered by Kofi “Coverup” Annan.

The fact is that, when political leaders take public diplomatic stands, playing to their voting constituencies, opposing political leaders are compelled to respond with public pronouncements to satisfy the opinions of their voters, made ignorant by the liberal media.  Diplomacy has far better odds of success when negotiations are kept secret, and negotiators can openly discuss their real points of disagreement or mutual interest.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/19 at 11:04 PM
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