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October 12, 2003 Odds and Ends

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Odd Pronouncements About Diplomacy.  
A thoughtful writer says we should try to be more like the French, or at least we should treat the French as if they were Canadian, while a Christian conservative leader claims he would be pleased if some patriotic American bombed our own State Department with a nuclear weapon.

Adam Gopnik's book Paris to the Moon was pretty good.  Here he is in the current New Yorker.  The full text is at http://www.newyorker.com/talk/content/?031013ta_talk_gopnik (only two key paragraphs here - the rest is a discussion of Chirac kissing Laura Bush's hand, how the press covered that, and how French folks don't really do that at all, they kiss cheeks)
The Bush Administration has been conducting a kind of long-term experiment in what it would be like to have a foreign policy without any diplomacy at all. Even the President, in his recent appearance before the United Nations General Assembly, seemed to sense the dead end implicit in this approach: it's hard to tell the rest of the world that, if it doesn't do what you want it to, you'll just take your ball and go home when you've already done that. The art of diplomacy isn't forcing people to do what you like. It's persuading people to do what they don't like. It is organized hypocrisy for the sake of the common good. The Kennedys didn't go to Paris to reward the French for being sympathetic and accommodating. They went because the French were being balky and difficult, and after their trip de Gaulle was marginally but crucially less so.
The real question isn't why the French are the way they are but, rather, why so many other people are now like the French. A good piece of advice for the weasel-bashers would be that, every time France makes their blood boil, they should substitute the magically pacifying word "Canada." For the truth is that the Canadians - who, last time we checked, kissed a woman's hand only when they couldnt get at her face through all the winter wear - have virtually the same policy of emphatic non-participation in the war on Iraq. (The Canadian foreign minister, Bill Graham, in a meeting with Colin Powell, had made the same points that Chirac made at the U.N., but no one seems to have noticed.) The great majority of countries and people in what used to be called the "free world" don't oppose us because they are weasels or because they come from Venus or because they have read too much Kant. They have their own interests, but they oppose us because they think that we are wrong. If we're going to get anywhere with the rest of the world, we might try shaking fewer fists and kissing some more hands ourselves, even at the price of sometimes looking silly in the papers.
From Rick Brown in Atlanta (see October 12, 2003 Opinion )
If anyone ever writes the book "The Case Against Bush" (I sometimes daydream of doing it, if ever I could find the time), they should definitely include Gopnik's wonderful observation, found in the first line of this clipping, that "The Bush Administration has been conducting a kind of long-term experiment in what it would be like to have a foreign policy without any diplomacy at all."
From Just Above Sunset to Rick.
Rick, you may be in total agreement with Gopnik - "The Bush Administration has been conducting a kind of long-term experiment in what it would be like to have a foreign policy without any diplomacy at all." - but, as I have pointed out a few times, there are those who think the whole State Department should be shut down - just close the damned place.  Rumsfeld's folks have been calling it the "Department of Nice" for many months now.   Well, he and Colin Powell do not seem to get along. 

Everyone who calls himself or herself any kind of conservative is reading Joel Mowbray's new book.  Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Endangers America's Security is a constant topic on the testosterone-fueled radio talk shows.
Diplomacy is, indeed, consider a bad thing these days.

Friday Bush spoke in Washington on our new plans for Cuba, explicitly calling for "regime change" in Cuba, by peaceful means "if possible."  Yep, that embargo that has worked so well for the last forty years is going to be tightened, dramatically.  And then?  (Heck, when I was working in Canada I used to buy Cuban cigars and bring them home to Los Angeles and smoke them with my nephews.  I'm in trouble now.)

And we are funding the insurgents in Venezuela who are trying to get rid of Hugo Chavez  - the Caracas airport and a military base were bombed this last weekend - your tax dollars at work.  Obviously those crazy-ass Venezuelans were flat out wrong to elect Hugo Chavez, so we need to do something there.  It ain't diplomacy.  And then there's the lefty union populist Lula fellow who managed to get himself elected to run Brazil last year.  Another problem.  John Boulton thinks we ought to take out Iran.  We fund folks making trouble there now.  Yipes.

We're calling for regime change in lots of places.  We're funding folks to subvert leaders who we think need to go away.  Who needs a State Department?

Now the Christian right has come up with a possible way to reorganize the administrative departments in Washington.  See below:
State Department Protests Televangelist's Remark

WASHINGTON (Reuters, Friday, October 10, 2003) - The State Department has protested to televangelist Pat Robertson about his "despicable" suggestion that someone blow up the department with a nuclear bomb, an official said on Thursday.

Robertson, a former presidential candidate, made the remark in an interview with Joel Mowbray, author of a new book entitled Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Endangers Americas Security.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, asked to comment, said on Thursday: "I lack sufficient capabilities to express my disdain. ... I think the very idea is despicable."
The department has made its views clear to Robertson, added a State Department official, who asked not to be named.

Introducing Mowbray on his Christian Broadcasting Network, Robertson said that a person who read Mowbray's book would reach the conclusion that a nuclear explosion at the State Department was the best solution.

"I read your book. When you get through, you say (to yourself): 'If I could just get a nuclear device inside Foggy Bottom (the State Department's main building), I think that's the answer' and you say: 'Weve got to blow that thing up.' I mean, is it as bad as you say?" he said.

"It is," Mowbray replied. Mowbray himself did not make the suggestion, either in his book or in the interview.

According to the network's Web site, Mowbray's book "exposes the mixed allegiances, hidden agendas, and outright anti-Americanism found in the State Department."

A group of conservatives, including former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, accuses the State Department of undermining U.S. interests by protecting dictatorial governments abroad.
And this from a discussion by, Joel Mowbray, the book's author, in Townhall October 12th, about what Pat Robertson said and how Boucher at State replied - Source: <http://www.townhall.com/columnists/joelmowbray/jm20031012.shtml> 
...seen in context, Robertson's remark hardly should have caused a fuss. It was clear to all watching that Robertson was not advocating the mass murder of thousands of innocents.

In fairness to the diplomatic corps, any bombing metaphor, such as Robertson's, is probably not in the best taste considering that embassies have repeatedly been targeted by terrorists and many fine Foreign Service officers have given their lives in defense of our freedom.  That said, Bouchers temper owed less to Robertson's possibly poor taste and more to State's inability to handle any criticism.
Oh well.  Pat Robertson said we should all pray that several Supreme Court justices listen to God telling them they're old, sick and dying so they resign and George Bush can replace them with more "godly" folks.  Apparently God hasn't spoken directly the justices yet.  Pat Robertson led prays to keep Hurricane Isabelle from hitting the East Coast.  That didn't work either.  And now?  Hoping someone nukes the State Department?  A harmless enough wish.  Probabaly no one at Trinity University or Trinity Broadcasting can get their hands on a small-yield nuclear device - nope, that's Jerry Falwell's group, I think.  Pat is the CBN, Christian Broadcasting Network.  Whatever.
Oh heck, Pat was just venting his frustration, perhaps "in poor taste" as Mowbray sees it.  And Mowbray says "possibly poor taste" - and is that because he's not sure what Pat Robertson said really was in poor taste?
Really, there's not much here to worry about.  No soldier on the Christian Right is likely take Pat seriously and bomb the State Department.  The only thing to consider is that this Robertson man is always claiming God speaks to him.  And claiming God answers his prayers, in spite of the evidence God isn't always doing as He's told He should do.  The only harm here is how many people believe both of Pat's contentions.

But Colin Powell should, perhaps, watch his back.  Just to be careful.  One never knows... one of Pat's followers might not understand what Pat said was just a metaphor, in poor taste.  These are, after all, the people who say nothing in the Bible is a methapor, that all in that book is literally true.