« Bush's Slide Continues | Main | Theocracy is Bad »

May 02, 2005


The contrast with Administration handling of North Korea is especially instructive, now that it appears that Bush's statements on Thursday night had such a (predictably) negative impact on N. Korea. As you and others have said, putting Bolton (the bad cop) at the UN so clearly means dropping the pretense that we have any more nuanced approach that it ought to give at least some senators pause.

Condi Rice, despite her flaws in managing the competing egos as National Security advisor, has shown as Sec of State that she has some ability to learn and to adapt to increase policy success. But she is as at risk as Powell of being undermined by those who want to drop the pretense and just talk tough for the good feeling it brings them. Why should she believe she can control him at the UN when she couldn't control anyone as NS Advisor?

Don't say we are going to be stuck with Bolton at the UN. It is becoming clearer by the day just what that means, and I have to believe that at least some minimum of adults will come to their senses before that happens.

Perhaps Lula really believes it, or perhaps he was just making nice-nice with Condi Rice. Me, I'm not convinced there's a quarter-teaspoon of difference between Rice's "good cop" and Bolton's "bad cop" since the administration is filled with bad cops.

Just nine months ago, the Defense Science Board noted:

Although many observers correlate anti-Americanism with deficiencies in U.S. public diplomacy (its content, tone, and competence), the effectiveness of the means used to influence public opinion is only one metric. Policies, conflicts of interest, cultural differences, memories, time, dependence on mediated information, and other factors shape perceptions and limit the effectiveness of strategic communication [...]

There is consensus in these reports that U.S. public diplomacy is in crisis. Missing are strong leadership, strategic direction, adequate coordination, sufficient resources, and a culture of measurement and evaluation. America's image problem, many suggest, is linked to perceptions of the United States as arrogant, hypocritical, and self-indulgent. There is agreement too that public diplomacy could be a powerful asset with stronger Presidential leadership, Congressional support, inter-agency coordination, partnership with the private sector, and resources (people, tools, structures, programs, funding). Solutions lie not in short term, manipulative public relations. Results will depend on fundamental transformation of strategic communication instruments and a sustained long term, approach at the level of ideas, cultures, and values.

The number and depth of these reports indicate widespread concern among influential observers that something must be done about public diplomacy. But so far these concerns have produced no real change. The White House has paid little attention.

Perhaps some upper-level somebodies in the Administration read and digested and were persuaded by this document, and now we're going to get some nuance in foreign policy. But, again, I am not convinced.

Since January 1, 1992, with the demise of the Soviet Union, the U.S. has given Latin American little attention. Those countries - Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras - into which we poured billions of military aid in the 1980s are now partial democracies with economic (and growing political) problems only slightly different than they were when U.S.-backed dictators ran them. Washington doesn't care.

The only places that have received any attention are Brazil when it appeared Lula would be not much different than Chavez, OPEC member Venezuela, Cuba (as always). Oh yeah, and Chile when the hardcore Social Security privatizers need a model.

What I think should never be forgotten is all this tough-talk-upfront vs. behind-the-scenes approach is that the goal is the same: if not Imperium Americanum, then American primacy, worldwide and unquestioned, whether that's in Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan where the U.S. encourages monster rulers, or in Iraq, Iran or Venezuela, where a pretense is put forth that all Washington cares about is democracy and freedom.

Here's another theory on why they may be trying to at least appear to be making nice with Venezuela:

OPEC oil producers do not need to increase production when they meet later this month as the factors pushing oil prices to near-record highs are not related to the cartel, Venezuela President Hugo Chavez said on Friday.

He also told reporters on his arrival for a visit to India that his country, the world’s fifth-largest producer, would not cut off oil supplies to the United States, its biggest export market, unless the U.S. government “got crazy” and showed any aggression.

Asked whether OPEC needed to raise output, Chavez said: “No, we are producing enough.”

“The increase in prices has nothing to do with OPEC. It’s the structure of the market. We are evaluating the factors in the market,” he told reporters in New Delhi. “Venezuela is producing more than 3 million barrels per day.”

Deep throat said "follow the money" regarding the Nixon administration; with these crooks, I think it's "follow the oil."

Minor correction, MB: Colombia has gotten a lot of attention in the war on drugs. The NYT regularly features stories on that country.

4jkb4ia, I was thinking of Columbia, too. Our Israel of sorts in well-placed location in Latin America.

I am sure the goal is still the same, whether they're using good cop or bad cop. But I think it less likely that the US will be able to invent some casus belli with Chavez if they're not allowed to set up his bellicose rhetoric. And I think in the eventuality that the sane people ever take control again (Venezeula was a major point of contention in the COndi hearings, since she was such an obvious hypocrite), it will make it easier to establish a reasonable relationship with Venezuela. And who knows, then maybe it can finally start developing a healthy democracy??

The comments to this entry are closed.

Where We Met

Blog powered by Typepad