August 11, 2009

Finally, there's Hillary!

I have to say, I forgot she had it in her. This brought a smile to my face. An exhausted Secretary of State Clinton who was learning of all the horrific and despicable ways the Congolese where treating women, girls and boys. One really can't blame her for getting testy. Not to mention the fact that even though she is still the most powerful woman in the world, people are still asking her what men think.

This women is not baking cookies, she's trying to make serious policy. I do feel sorry for the translator and the student, but it sure is great to see the original Hillary back! Now if only she will remain.

March 11, 2009

The Two-State "Solution" is No Solution

The "Two-State" rhetoric currently being pushed by the U.S. and its international allies neither ensures Israeli security or Palestinian self-determination. Much to everyone's dismay, their destinies are intertwined. Israelis have not, and will not, allow Palestinians to govern their own borders, airspace or -- as history has shown -- democratic process. The only solution is for the two groups to work and live together.

Read the full article here The Huffington Post.

March 8, 2009

Hillary Clinton: Trying to Reset while on Overload

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's whirlwind trip to Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Belgium, Switzerland, and Turkey over the last seven days made one thing abundantly clear - American foreign policy is thankfully on reset. Current efforts to engage allies and others is way overdue.

You could almost hear the sigh of relief from NATO partners as the SecState reassured them that the US is back and working with them instead of against them. Even though Secretary of Defense met with the NATO defense ministers last month, the SecState's visit reassured that the US was staying true to its diplomatic promises for robust engagement.

Never mind the fact that the US desperately needs its NATO partners to step up in Afghanistan, balance Russia's attempt to reestablish colonialism and sidestep Iran's journey toward nuclear hegemony in the Middle East.

Her 'new' style of relationship building is quite refreshing to us all. It is too bad though in the midst of giving European (and Asian) assurances the US itself still needs to tip toe through the Middle East.

Quite frankly with TalQaeda rising and AfPak falling, the US needs to get its Middle East policy squarely in order, that is toward peace, or Israel won't be worrying about Iran at all, instead it'll be dodging unsecured Pakistani nukes being lobbed by those who still don't believe that the West is or ever will treat parties other than Israel fairly.

I'm sure her Turkish counterparts told her this. They themselves said they appreciated Clinton's candor, but did she hear theirs when they outlined their need to back out of an long-term Israeli relationship - for awhile anyway - due to Israel's devastating military action in Gaza.

Turkey itself is important on all fronts. Not only can it help with Syria in the Middle East, but Turkey can also assist the West by speaking freely with Iran, staying close to NATO, continuing to provide Afghan assistance and consel and, finally, providing, if needed, assistance on the border of Iraq for US troop withdrawal. As the US leaves Iraq, any continued Kurdish partition plans may stir up more border violence so, as a friend and ally, the US must be the one to honor and stand with the Turks should problems arise.

After NATO and before her Turkish visit, Clinton stopped off in Geneva to meet the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, with a defective reset button signifying that US foreign policy has been exactly that - defective. Nevertheless, Clinton is trying to turn over a new leaf of engagement and just in time.

The US does not need the Russians entering neighboring countries at will or playing roulette with their military supply routes to Afghanistan. The efforts in Afghanistan are far too important.

The gift of the defective reset button was more an embarrassing irony than a Russian insult so I wouldn't worry about Moscow taking it personally. That button shows just how disengaged this country has become. If our best and brightest can not even get the correct Russian word on the button how are they supposed to clearly analyze the complexity of AfPac, TalQaeda, the Middle East, Sudan (a most recent fiasco) or anywhere else.

I, for one, couldn't help feeling ashamed and concerned about the future of the State Department. Its predecessors stripped its budget - including depleting the Peace Corps, which is one place you can find the best equipped foreign policy experts. They also skimped on funds to maintain 'expert' knowledge, keep experts trained and knowingly weeded out some of our best people.

Now Clinton must not only fight to reinstate these lost programs funds,and recruit excellent people, but she must also work to the best of her ability to represent the richest, most powerful country in the world with so little monetary and, more importantly, constituent support.

Ironically, while trying to reset, Clinton is actually finding that her whole department is on overload.

March 4, 2009

Hillary Clinton Sends a Message to the Middle East: No change necessary.

I was on Hannity and Colmes some time ago when Sean Hannity asked me if Israel would got to war 'again' with its neighbors. I was so nervous - it was my first time on national television - that I said something like "I hope it never does." What I should have said was"excuse me Mr. Hannity, but I was under the impression that Israel is still at war with its neighbors and has been since its very existence."

Hindsight is twenty-twenty and I for one learned my lesson. It is too bad though that the Obama Administration and the current Secretary of State never learned theirs.

I just don't get how we can keep ignoring that the Middle East is at war with itself and various neighbors. Further, I don't get how we can keep trying to stop the war with the same old war stopping formula.

AND the same people.

James Steinberg, Dan Kurtzer, Dan Shapiro, Martin Indyk and Dennis Ross (who has already been reported to be discussing his Iranian talking points with the soon to be Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu instead of the American President Obama? Hmm.) - all former Clinton envoys or Ambassadors to Israel - are all working with George Mitchell on the 'pandering one party" process for peace?

Well, we certainly have enough Jewish Americans on the job. However I'm confused - Where are the Iranian Americans? Arab-Americans? Muslim and Christian Americans? (Ok so George Mitchell is half Lebanese and Christian). Further, where are the women? New people?

Where are the new ideas for that matter?

Here we go again no negotiating with Hamas, Hezbollah or a mouse that may have said someting interpreted by someone in AIPAC to be anti-Israeli or pro-Palestinian.

We want a two State with no settlement or land confiscation halted in what is supposed to be the Palestinian state. As for the Palestinian houses soon to be demolished in Jerusalem "unhelpful" said SecState Clinton. Unhelpful? It is down right disturbing. If Israel is so concerned about illegal housing, it should do the same to thousands of new settlements and outposts who apparently are not subject to the same permit required laws and shall remain erect and inhabited.

People what are we thinking? It is time for new ideas, new thoughts, new people, and new rules. Everybody must be required to tow the same line and stop the violence. Clinton said "bombing was at the very crux of the problem." The only problem with that was that she didn't mention the continued strikes by Israel just those perpetuated by the other side.

This should not be called the "Roadmap to Peace," it should be called the "Roadmap to Failure" and the bumper sticker should read 'no one bothered looking at the past, thus the crash.'

February 23, 2009

Three Cups of Tea and Hillary

Americans want to do business upfront, then maybe they will find time for a bit of pleasure. This is because most are impatient and want the deal done. The priority is to do the work, then relax and get to know the people across the aisle or maybe not.

Knowing the other is more often than not a U.S. mission. Alternatively, most countries spend hours, days, months and sometimes even years getting to know another party before establishing trust, only then can the real work be done and, I might add, that relationship will usually last a lifetime.

In his book, Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson outlines how learning this enabled him to make incredible strides in Pakistan. Apparently our new Secretary of State has learned it as well.

As news stories and blogs analyze Hillary's style as a cross between stern diplomat and cultural inquisitor who is redefining the role of Secretary of State, field experts like myself are wondering why this type of diplomacy took so long!

I, for one, was completely unsure of Hillary in this job. I did not like her campaign's hawkish rhetoric. Quite frankly the world has had enough of Americans shoving self-interested policy down their throats.

I am now tentatively saying that Hillary may actually know what it takes. A firm stance with honesty and relationship building gets you a lot further internationally than the use of any weapon ever did or ever will.

Dare I say Hillary may be at least one member of this Administration who is truly implementing the change in strategy that more than a few foreign policy experts have spent a long time hoping for. Let's see.