Commentary Magazine


Topic: Gabon

Another Obami Foreign-Policy Debacle

With the Obami, one never knows whether to chalk up a slam at an ally as incompetence or venality. Although with this crew, we often see both at work, especially when it comes to Israel. A prime example occurred yesterday. This report explains:

A U.S. official denied on Friday that Washington had consented to a U.N. Security Council statement to reporters voicing concern about the fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinians.

Gabon’s U.N. Ambassador Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet, president of the Security Council for March, read the nonbinding remarks on behalf the 15 council members after a closed-door discussion of the violent clashes.

“The members of the Security Council expressed their concern at the current tense situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem,” Issoze-Ngondet said.

And the report dryly notes:

A U.S. official, however, told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the American delegation had not agreed with the statement and said it was adopted due to what the official described as “procedural confusion.”

It was not immediately clear what the “confusion” was.

Several council diplomats familiar with the negotiations on the statement, however, told Reuters that the U.S. delegation made no attempt to raise any objections to the final version of the text, which they said was adopted by consensus.

Confused? Well, what we do know is that this sort of thing virtually never happens with Israel-bashing UN resolutions.  (“Historically, the U.S. delegation has a tendency to block Security Council statements condemning Israel.”) Not just a tendency: a former foreign-policy official knowledgeable in this sort of thing tells me, “If it is a mistake, it is one that NEVER happened in 8 years of Clinton and 8 years of Bush.”

So was this a shot at Israel, an attempt to make clear just who is in charge before the arrival in Israel of Joe Biden?  (Biden’s appearance is more insulting than it might otherwise be, given that the president has chosen to send his hapless minion in contrast to his earlier personal appearance in the “Muslim World” at Cairo. But then again, perhaps Biden might hew to actual history rather than his boss’s fractured version.) Maybe someone on the NSC team then lost nerve, realizing how it would be perceived in Jerusalem, and thought it better to put out an after-the-fact sniveling explanation seeking to slink away from the UN statement – one that should never have seen the light of day. Still, perhaps this is just the Keystone Kops at work, and no harm was meant.

Here’s the thing: it doesn’t really matter all that much which explanation is correct. Both our allies and adversaries have come to regard the Obami as unreliable and, yes, confused. Some aggrieved allies attribute hostility to the Obami’s moves — after all, there have been enough swipes at erstwhile friends to discern a pattern. But one thing we know — this gang has not “re-established our place in the world.” One pines for the days when we had far more adept –”smarter” – diplomats.

.

With the Obami, one never knows whether to chalk up a slam at an ally as incompetence or venality. Although with this crew, we often see both at work, especially when it comes to Israel. A prime example occurred yesterday. This report explains:

A U.S. official denied on Friday that Washington had consented to a U.N. Security Council statement to reporters voicing concern about the fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinians.

Gabon’s U.N. Ambassador Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet, president of the Security Council for March, read the nonbinding remarks on behalf the 15 council members after a closed-door discussion of the violent clashes.

“The members of the Security Council expressed their concern at the current tense situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem,” Issoze-Ngondet said.

And the report dryly notes:

A U.S. official, however, told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the American delegation had not agreed with the statement and said it was adopted due to what the official described as “procedural confusion.”

It was not immediately clear what the “confusion” was.

Several council diplomats familiar with the negotiations on the statement, however, told Reuters that the U.S. delegation made no attempt to raise any objections to the final version of the text, which they said was adopted by consensus.

Confused? Well, what we do know is that this sort of thing virtually never happens with Israel-bashing UN resolutions.  (“Historically, the U.S. delegation has a tendency to block Security Council statements condemning Israel.”) Not just a tendency: a former foreign-policy official knowledgeable in this sort of thing tells me, “If it is a mistake, it is one that NEVER happened in 8 years of Clinton and 8 years of Bush.”

So was this a shot at Israel, an attempt to make clear just who is in charge before the arrival in Israel of Joe Biden?  (Biden’s appearance is more insulting than it might otherwise be, given that the president has chosen to send his hapless minion in contrast to his earlier personal appearance in the “Muslim World” at Cairo. But then again, perhaps Biden might hew to actual history rather than his boss’s fractured version.) Maybe someone on the NSC team then lost nerve, realizing how it would be perceived in Jerusalem, and thought it better to put out an after-the-fact sniveling explanation seeking to slink away from the UN statement – one that should never have seen the light of day. Still, perhaps this is just the Keystone Kops at work, and no harm was meant.

Here’s the thing: it doesn’t really matter all that much which explanation is correct. Both our allies and adversaries have come to regard the Obami as unreliable and, yes, confused. Some aggrieved allies attribute hostility to the Obami’s moves — after all, there have been enough swipes at erstwhile friends to discern a pattern. But one thing we know — this gang has not “re-established our place in the world.” One pines for the days when we had far more adept –”smarter” – diplomats.

.

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