I understood from the beginning that Barack Obama's way with our adversaries--political and military, moral and intellectual--would be different from that of
George Bush. Our new president believes that he can change the dynamics of our
hostile relationships with talk and with suasion. Maybe. Maybe not. I don't
pretend that Obama will never talk tough or that his efforts to convince will
omit coaxing and cajoling or, more important, even intimidation and menace. But he hasn't yet, and maybe it wasn't the right time.
On the other hand, the Obama administration has just revealed, according to the New York Times, that it will dispatch 17,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan during the coming months. This makes for an increase of roughly half, and without knowing what the Europeans will contribute, if anything. That is belligerent enough for me.
Still, the news from Russia has not been friendly...or from North Korea and Venezuela and Pakistan. Are these countries testing Obama's will? It could be. I suspect, however, that Russia is carrying on with its long-term goals, mutatis mutandis, as they say. That North Korea really does want nuclear weapons. That the Venezuelan tyrant is actually a tyrant. And that the territory constituting Pakistan is not and has never been a real nation-state, and that ceding a huge chunk of land to the Taliban is just ceding a huge chunk of land to another gang of criminals.
The first full-fledged exercise in accommodating our international antagonists so they might accommodate us is now playing itself out in Geneva where the planning for Durban II is taking place. Our delegation of three is made up of small fry so if they come home with nothing not much will have really been lost, or some at Foggy Bottom will say. I suppose sending this grouplet of unknown was better than sending Mrs. Clinton: if the White House had sent her and she came back with empty hands the whole enterprise would of reeked of loss and defeat. Maybe Ambassador Rice should have been sent. Apparently, that the U.S. should attend this pre-extravaganza extravaganza was her cause. But there is no indication that she wanted to be directly saddled with the costs of going herself. She certainly grasped what the likely results would be. My guess, moreover, is that, contrary to the right-wing blogoshpere, Samantha Power was not especially hot on this experiment in public diplomacy. The two ladies are old antagonists, sharing only the affections of the president. Can you imagine Ms. Rice before some college audience when some smart-assed undergraduate like I was, holding Ms. Power's A Problem from Hell, (co-published by New Republic Books), begins to read: Rice said, "If we use the word 'genocide' and are seen as doing nothing what will be the effect on the November elections?" Rice later confessed that her remark was "inappropriate" and "irrelevant." But that was only if we planned to do nothing, which is exactly what we planned. How many people died in Rwanda? A million? Well, certainly not as bad as Gaza.
You do remember Durban I, don't you? It happened in August 2001, just before 9/11. It was a witches' sabbath of anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, anti-liberalism and anti-Americanism. Of course, it was partly funded by the United States itself and hordes of non-governmental organizations plus--how could they be left out of the ideological jollies?--the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. (I don't know whether they are still signing checks for Durban II. I wouldn't be surprised if they are. But I hope not. I really do.) The money of these oh, so high-minded financial angels did not temper anything. My guess is that they were thrilled to be a wild teen-aged party.
Durban II will be chaired by Libya, with its co-chairs being filled by Cuba, Pakistan, Iran etc. Do you have confidence in this group?
In any event, the preparatory documents are already out. They are horrendous.
Read the analysis by Pascal Bruckner, one of the great philosophers of contemporary France, of what will come out of Durban II. It is a suicidal act for the United States to participate.