Monday, November 02, 2009
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton backed off her previous make-nice comments towards Israel after various Persian Gulf ministers registered their unhappiness.
This minor diplomatic dust-up does nothing to alter the fact that the Netanyahu government is basically going to do what it wants to do on the issue of settlement growth, regardless of what the Obama administration says:
Clinton's comments in Jerusalem on Saturday appeared to reflect a realization within the Obama administration that Netanyahu's government will not accept a full-on settlement freeze and that a partial halt may be the best lesser option. Her appeal on Saturday seemed designed to make the Israeli position more palatable to the Palestinians and Arab states.Setting aside for the moment the pluses and minuses of settlement growth, it is clear that just as the adversaries and quasi-adversaries of the U.S. have taken the measure of the Obama administration and have adjusted their actions -- or not -- by saying, "OK, whatever," the allies of the U.S. have acted in a similar fashion. Both friend and foe alike can apparently pursue their agendas without consequence, other than perhaps a carefully worded diplomatic statement from Washington. Walk softly and carry a big teleprompter.
Basic Diplomacy 101
There is a dispute between parties X and Y.
If you choose to side with party X, you piss off Y and reduce your standing with them but gain standing with X.
If you choose to side with party Y, you piss off X and reduce your standing with them but gain standing with Y.
If you choose to side with party X, and then back off and side a little more with party Y, you've pissed off both X and Y and reduced your standing with both. At best, it's a wash less expended time, effort, money, and credibility.
So much for all that imagined goodwill from the Arabs.
I recall it as a move by the Obama Administration, supposedly an inspired move, that set US policy as requiring a settlement freeze, and a promise to not build any apartments for Jewish people in Jerusalem, which was more that the PA would have ever expected. Once offered this, the PA adopted it as a new minimum requirement.
In an effort to move the parties closer together, the Obama Administration has forced them into hardened and incompatible positions.
As for the Secretary of State, I have noted how marginalized her role has been from the very beginning. Now that she is taking a more high profile role with Mitchell traveling with her, and in her tow, she also looks unqualified to manage foreign policy.
Hope springs eternal, there's a lot to be said for the lessons of battle, but so far this bunch doesn't even look half competent. I'm about at the point of embracing the suggestion that someone picked at random from the Brooklyn phonebook be placed in charge of US foreign policy.
When growing up and going to school, did anyone ever get the substitute teacher that couldn't control the class? Spitballs, pranks, sass, and disruptive behavior were met with, 'You kids better straighten out or there will be consequences." Of course there were none. Anyway, that's the impression I have of Obama's foreign policy. The substitute who can't control the class.
E81 makes a good point: the administration has so confused the situation that we are becoming less relevant. Worse, our appeasement of evil regimes and our walk-back on our allies will be more war, not less.