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Contentions

Durban II — Finally Getting to “No”

We learn from this report that the U.S. will not be attending Durban II:

White House aides told Jewish leaders on a conference call today that the United States will boycott the United Nations’ World Conference on Racism over hostility to Israel in draft documents prepared for the April conference.

The aides, including an advisor to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, Jennifer Simon, and longtime Obama advisor Samantha Power, said the administration will not participate in further negotiations on the current text or participate in a conference based on the text, sources on the call said.

They left open the option of re-engaging on a “much shorter, much different text,” a source said.

This is good news, and I don’t want to minimize the importance of the U.S. avoiding Durban II. But even when it gets it “right,” this administration seems disinclined to be definitive (well, if the text is a bit less anti-Israel, they will reconsider?).

Moreover, this was not a tough call. The feigned participation in the planning conference, the “gosh we tried” attitude suggests that moral preening and pretense is central to the administration’s modus operandi. As we saw on rendition and even the executive order (with a wide back door) on extraordinary interrogation techniques, the practical result often is not much of a change from the Bush administration policy. But that would be too much of an embarrassment, I suppose, for the  Change Administration. Hence, the need to dress up “we’ll do what Bush was doing” with grand pronouncements and self-serving rhetoric.

Does this help in the long run? Perhaps it soothes Obama’s netroot critics. But on the international scene I wonder if we lose credibility with friends and foes, and whether the artifice leaves both more confused about our policies and level of commitment.

So in the future, perhaps when the Obama administration is inclined to do the right thing, they can just do it. And leave out the self-serving set dressing.


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