Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Foreign policy versus public relations in a twitterverse

Criticizing John Kerry for schmoozing both Cairo's military "coup" (without every calling it one,) and the House of Saud, the principal funding agent of Al Qaeda's Islamic terrorist movement around the globe, as Robert Sheer does in his truthdig.com piece below, ("Pay No Attention to That Imperialist Behind the Curtain") while legitimate and warranted, is nevertheless missing a more fundamental conflict between the immediate and transitory goals of public relations and the longer term objectives of foreign policy, no matter which state is involved.

Foreign policy by public relations is akin to a stiff embrace of the shoulders as a form of warm human greeting to a life-long friend, superficial and inauthentic in the extreme. Managing the headlines, all of them negative with respect to the United States coming out of almost all Middle Eastern countries including both Egypt and Saudi Arabia, is and must never be considered to be confused with foreign policy. However, neither should or can "schmoozing" as an exercise in diplomacy be removed as an important quiver of foreign policy, in the long-term.
The current White House is operating in what might legitimately be diagnosed as a "siege mentality" in which the voices, headlines, opponents and enemies of the White House, and everything it stands for are drowning out the voices of support, advocacy, and even independence and when the walls of the house are caving from a tidal wave of whatever proportions, there is a greater likelihood to revert to "damage control"...which, by itself, cannot be interpreted as anything more than that....a Band-Aid on an "oweee".
Public statements by too many politicians reek of the stench (to many) of hypocrisy. However, hypocrisy is one of the essential diplo-psycho-fossil fuels necessary for the gears of foreign relations even to operate, never mind operating smoothly. Kerry is all too well aware of the hollowness of his words, to his home audience; simultaneously, he is also all too well conscious of his immediate face-to-face encounters, with the men who lead both Egypt and Saudi Arabia who are in the room along with their "sycophant" media scribes, and he is attempting, however unsuccessfully and ineffectually from our perspective, to smooth the waters of turbulence that are pushing the U.S. off the table in too many Middle East conversations.
Having moved to the centre of the table on issues with both Syria and Iran, the United States has incurred the inevitable wrath of the Saudi's, and has never yet healed the breach that resulted from the turbulence that began with the overthrow of Mubarak, supported by Washington, and then followed by elections of the Muslim Brotherhood president, Morsi, followed by his overthrow by the military. These developments, in foreign policy terms, moved faster than the latest tweet from the Vatican to all church hierarchy, not like the more normal glacial movement of previous "developing stories"...and all countries continue to scramble to keep pace with the changing actors, and their public and hidden agendas, without a program worthy of the name, beyond an hour on the international clock.
We now live in an age in which instant global awareness of the latest syllable uttered by whomever is being digested, interpreted and disseminated around the planet at lightning speed. And that process is being engaged in by literally millions of observers, both "official" media and government sources, as well as non-entities like the one whose fingers are tapping these keys on this laptop.
However, the level of the rhetoric, like calling Kerry an imperialist, to put a human face on the long history of American imperialism, says more about the deep-seated anger and contempt of the writer for his country's history and foreign policy, than it really does about Kerry.
And when the radical left or the radical right indulge in their paint-ball rhetoric, no one is informed or enlightened and only the converted are being sung "at" from the pulpit. Intellectual discernment cannot be sacrificed on the pyre of propaganda.
And both the right and the left will have to rein in the "extreme" over-reach, if the governments and people in all countries, religions and ideologies are to temper both their words and their actions.
We are collectively, and consciously, becoming a planetary "frog" in a common beaker of water that is verging on the boiling point, through, not the fossil fuel of Bunsen burner energy, but the rhetorical fuel of overheated feelings of powerlessness and inadequacy.
And Kerry shares our feelings of powerlessness and inadequacy, as the principal U.S. voice in meetings wherever he goes...and it is that very state "powerlessness" that prompts the kind of hollow "schmoozing" in the first place, just as it does in all of us, sadly. Just ask any husband who has been judged harshly by his spouse about his feeling the need to "schmooze" that same judging spouse, and how hollow that exercise really is, except in the nano-second of its emergence.

 

Pay No Attention to That Imperialist Behind the Curtain

By Robert Scheer, truthdig.com November 4, 2013
What John Kerry did this week in Egypt and Saudi Arabia is nothing short of despicable. He, and the president who appointed him, managed to honor both a vicious military dictatorship and a totalitarian medieval monarchy as examples of progress toward a more democratic Middle East, as if neither stood in contradiction to professed U.S. objectives for the region.
“Egyptians Following Right Path, Kerry Says,” read the New York Times headline Sunday trumpeting the secretary of state’s homage to ruthless military dictators who the very next day were scheduled to stage a show trial of Egypt’s first democratically elected president. 
This was all part of a “road map” to democracy “being carried out to the best of our perception,” Kerry intoned, apparently embracing the calumny that the destruction of representative government in Egypt was always the American plan.
Kerry’s perception did not extend to the court farce the next day when Egypt’s duly elected president, Mohamed Morsi, held incommunicado for four months and denied access to his lawyers, was put on trial on accusations of causing violence among protesters in the streets, violence that paled in comparison to the deliberate killing of civilians by an Egyptian military trained and financed by the government Kerry represents.
Indeed, the Obama administration has refused to categorize the Egyptian military’s overthrow of the Morsi government as a coup, for fear that would automatically trigger the legal requirement of a cutoff of most of the $1.5 billion in annual aid to the Egyptian military. Kerry was at great pains to assure Egyptian reporters that even the temporary hold on some weapons that the U.S. had implemented was not intended to penalize the Egyptian military for destroying Egypt’s experiment in democracy.
“It is not a punishment,” Kerry said. “It’s a reflection of policy in the United States under our law.” Drat that law that says we should not be rewarding military dictators who jail freely elected presidents.
At the moment Morsi was denouncing “this criminal military coup” from his courtroom cage, Kerry was off in Saudi Arabia paying tribute to “a true relationship between friends (that) is based on sincerity, candor and frankness, rather than mere courtesy.” But not so frank that Kerry would answer questions concerning the recent protest by Saudi women attempting to obtain the right to drive a car. Certainly never so frank as to get to the bottom of why this great U.S. ally funded the most virulent anti-American Islamic fanatics throughout the world; was one of only three nations to recognize the Taliban-run government of Afghanistan when it harbored al-Qaida as it directed terrorist attacks aimed at the United States; and was home country of 15 of the 19 hijackers who attacked America on 9/11 as well as bin Laden, their leader.
If there is logic to the U.S. position, it clearly has nothing to do with the stated goals of American policy to prevent terrorist attacks on the U.S. while somehow advancing human rights as a means of creating a more stable, peaceful world. Were that this government’s objective, Kerry would not have traveled to Saudi Arabia to assure the monarchy that the U.S. still favors the Saudi-financed opposition in Syria that includes a considerable contingent of fighters the American intelligence agencies have labeled as Islamic terrorists. Nor would he now embrace a deeply corrupt military oligarchy in Egypt that can continue to enjoy the perks of its disproportionate power only by denying political freedom to the people of Egypt.
There is nothing new in this ugly embrace of the dark side of Mideast life. Cynicism of purpose and contempt for the well-being of most of the region’s inhabitants have underscored centuries of Western imperial intrusion, and the current U.S. example is of that pattern. Indeed, the backdrop issue driving the current drama, the role of Iran, has its origins in past Western machinations when the U.S. overthrew Mohammad Mossadegh, the last freely elected leader of Iran, when he was threatening to nationalize Western oil interests. 
In Saudi Arabia, Kerry said that President Obama had dispatched him to assure the monarchy that the United States remained committed to protect the Royal Kingdom against external threats. That presumed threat refers to Iran, and Kerry is out to assuage Saudi, Egyptian and, most important, Israeli fears that peace might break out between Iran and the United States. Sadly Israel, which long has cultivated an image as providing the only democratic presence in the region, favored the coup in Iran, as it has this year in Egypt, preferring the security of totalitarian regimes to those that might be more responsive to popular sentiment, including support for the human rights of occupied Palestinians.
The problem with this all too familiar game is that it has consequences that at some point will spiral out of control. The entire region desperately needs modernization for its stability or the eruptions of violence that have affected the world will become ever more commonplace. But modernization without representation is a contradiction all too long apparent in this most tempestuous region. That is the sad consequence of the imprisonment of Morsi, who was elected with more than 50 percent of the vote of Egyptians, and the U.S. acceptance of the military that ousted him along with the Saudi royalty who detest everything that is post feudal in the country’s culture.
John Kerry, despite his democratic pretense, has sent a message to the disenfranchised of the Muslim world that the call for representative democracy on the part of the United States is nothing more than a public relations gimmick.  

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