Ambassador Chas W. Freeman Jr: Diplomacy as Risk Management

Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.)
Senior Fellow, Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island, 17 April 2018

This is the third and last of three connected lectures on diplomatic doctrine.  The series was preceded by an introductory presentation.  This lecture deals with diplomacy as risk management.  The first lecture described diplomacy as strategy; the second as tactics. 

At its most basic level, diplomacy is the management of foreign relations to reduce risk to the nation while promoting its interests abroad.  In this task, diplomacy’s success is measured more by what it precludes than by what it achieves.  One can never prove that what didn’t happen would have happened if one had not done this or that.  But, for the most part in foreign affairs, the fewer the surprises and the less the stress, the better.

The ideal outcome of diplomacy is the assurance of a life for the nation that is as tranquil and boring as residence in the suburbs.  And, like suburban life, in its day-to-day manifestation, diplomacy involves harvesting flowers when they bloom and fruits and berries when they ripen, while laboring to keep the house presentable, the weeds down, the vermin under control, and the predators and vagrants off the property.  If one neglects these tasks, one is criticized by those closest, regarded as fair prey by those at greater remove, and not taken seriously by much of anyone.

Viewed this way, the fundamental purpose of U.S. foreign policy is the maintenance of a peaceful international environment that leaves Americans free to enjoy the prosperity, justice, and civil liberties that enable our pursuit of happiness.  This agenda motivated the multilateral systems of governance the United States created and relied upon after World War II – the Pax Americana.  Secretary of Defense Mattis has called this “the greatest gift of the greatest generation.”  Institutions like the United Nations. its specialized agencies, like the International Monetary Fund and the World Health Organization, and related organizations like the World Trade Organization sought to regulate specific aspects of international behavior, manage the global commons, provide frameworks for the resolution of international disputes, and organize collective responses to problems.

In the aggregate, these offspring of U.S. diplomacy established and sustained widely accepted norms of behavior for many decades.  International law drew on consensus to express these norms as rules.  To the extent they were accepted internationally, these rules constrained state actions that could damage the common interests of the society of nations the rules had brought into being.  Despite its uneven performance, the Pax Americana assured a relatively high degree of predictability in world affairs that facilitated peaceful international interactions.   It did so on the same philosophical basis as the rule of law in domestic affairs – a belief that rules matter and that process legitimizes outcomes rather than the other way around.

Today, that philosophy and its ethical foundations are under attack both at home and abroad.  For the time being, at least, Washington has set aside the rule-bound international order and the market-driven economic interactions it enabled.  The United States is discarding the multilateral strategic framework that it built to restrain the behavior of lesser states in the last half of the 20th century.  In its place, the Trump administration is experimenting with neo-mercantilist theories that seem to have been crowd-sourced to right-wing talk radio.  Washington seeks to maximize U.S. leverage over trading partners by dealing with them only on a bilateral basis.  Trade and investment are increasingly government-managed and hence politicized rather than freely contracted between private buyers and sellers.  So far, it must be said, bird-brained bilateralism is proving no substitute for the complex regulatory regimes it is replacing and the supply chains it is disrupting.

With the fading of previously agreed codes of conduct and the principle of PACTA SUNT SERVANDA [“agreements must be kept”], what could once be taken for granted in managing relations with other states must now be repetitiously renegotiated and affirmed bilaterally.  But Washington has demoted diplomacy as a tool of American statecraft in favor of primary reliance on military and economic coercion.  Escalating uncertainties are driving nations toward unrestrained unilateralism and disregard for international law.  As this century began, the United States popularized contemptible practices like the assassination and abduction for questioning under torture of foreign opponents.  A lengthening list of other countries –  China, north Korea, Russia, and Turkey, to name a few – have now brazenly followed this bad example.  More issues are being deferred as intractable, addressed ad hoc, or dealt with through the threat or use of force.

In this new world disorder, the need for diplomacy to tend fraying relationships is manifestly greater than ever.  The Congress and public, as well as the U.S. military, sense this.  They have resisted efforts by the Trump administration to slash budgets for peaceful international engagement by the U.S. Department of State and related agencies.  Still,  the American diplomatic imagination has not been so myopic and enervated since before World War II.  Nor have U.S.  investments in diplomacy, Americans’ expectations of their diplomats, or international trust of the United States been so low.

Diplomatic preparedness requires constant attention to other nations and their views.  Showing that one’s government is interested in and understands what others think encourages them to be more receptive to one’s own ideas.  Attentiveness to their needs, views, and doubts signals willingness to work together and cultivates willingness to cooperate in defending common interests.  The regular nurturing and reaffirmation of relationships is what makes it possible to call on a network of friends in times of need.  Responding politely and considerately – in the least offensive way one can – to others’ messages conveys respect as well as substance.  It invites their sympathetic study of the logic, intent, and interests behind one’s own messages.

Constant diplomatic intercourse promotes stability and predictability.  It inhibits inimical change, reducing the risk that amicable states will become adversaries or that adversaries will become enemies.  And it  provides situational awareness that reduces surprise and enables governments to respond intelligently and tactfully to trends and events.

All this may seem obvious.  But it takes a sustained commitment by national leaders, public servants, and well-trained diplomats as well as reliable funding to carry it off.  In the contemporary United States, none of these is now assured.  The safety net provided by routine diplomacy as I have just described is increasingly neglected.  The resulting disarray in American international relationships is shaking our alliances, eroding cooperation with our international partners, raising doubts about U.S. reliability, causing client states to seek new patrons, and diminishing deference to U.S. national interests by friends and foes alike.   Increases in military spending demonstrate eagerness to enhance warfighting capabilities.  But greater capacity to wreak havoc does nothing to rectify the doubts of foreign nations about American wisdom, reliability, and rapport in our conduct of relations with them.

U.S. military power is as yet without effective challenge except at the regional level.   But, on its own, it is proving consistently incapable of producing outcomes that favor our national security.  It is a truism that those who cannot live by their brawn or their wallets must live by their wits.  Neither war nor the threat of war can restore America’s lost political primacy.  Only an upgrade in American competence at formulating and implementing domestic and foreign policies, coupled with effective diplomacy in support of credible American leadership, can do that.

In recent years, Americans have become better known for our promiscuous use of force and our cynical disregard of international law than for our rectitude and aspirations for moral excellence.  U.S. foreign policy has featured unprovoked invasions and armed attacks on foreign countries, violations of their sovereignty through drone warfare and aid to insurgents, assassinations and kidnappings, interrogation through torture, the extrajudicial execution of citizens as well foreigners, universal electronic eavesdropping, Islamophobia, the suspension of aid to refugees, xenophobic immigration policies, and withdrawal from previously agreed frameworks for collective action on issues of global concern, like climate change.  This sociopathic record inspires only the enemies of the United States.  It is not a platform that wins friends, influences people in our favor, or encourages them to view us as reliable.

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US Embassy Jerusalem Opens With Palestinian Deaths, Protests, and FAM Confusion

Posted: 12:19 PT

 

We’re days late on this but the United States opened the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14. The event sparked protests at the Gaza border which resulted in the deaths of over 50 Palestinians and hundreds of wounded protesters.

With the Embassy officially moved to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv has not been designated as a consulate general but as a “Branch Office”. The State Department did update its 2 FAM 440 on Changing Post Status on May 18, four days late and it does not enlightened us on what happens to the Tel Aviv post, the consular districts, the role of the chief of mission to USCG Jerusalem or for that matter, what happens to place of birth names on passports as 7 FAM 1300 Appendix D has not been updated.  Note that previous to this move, USCG Jerusalem’s consular districts include the West Bank, Gaza, and the municipality of Jerusalem while Embassy Tel Aviv’s consular district includes all other territory in Israel.

We understand that  the Consul General in Jerusalem will continue to live in the chief of mission residence (CMR) on the Agron Road consulate site. It is also our understanding that USCGJerusalem — a separate post with its own chief of mission that reports directly to the bureau and was never a constituent post of then Embassy Tel Aviv —  “will go on as usual” even after the ambassador and mission to the State of Israel move to Jerusalem. So the USG will have two posts in Jerusalem, each with a different mission? Are there going to be one or two separate consular sections? What’s bidding going to be like? We’re having a moment with FAM confusion, help would be appreciated from folks in the know.

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Ambassador Anthony Quainton: “there are more and more hammers in the policy toolbox…”

Posted: 4:04 am ET

 

From Militarization and Marginalization of American Diplomacy and Foreign Policy via American Diplomacy
Ambassador Anthony C. E. Quainton 
Former U.S. Ambassador to CAR, Nicaragua, Kuwait, Peru
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security, DGHR, and CT Coordinator

“[W]e are not facing a militarization of American foreign policy but the marginalization of diplomacy as the effective alternative to military force. The denigration and dismissal of soft power, even when it is renamed smart power, has led to a perception of diplomatic weakness and the concomitant rise of military influence on the policy process. It is a sad reality that there are more and more hammers in the policy toolbox and fewer alternative weapons. The result may be that a president anxious to make America great again and to demonstrate the effectiveness of American leadership and power may look for a place of his choosing to demonstrate American power. President Trump does not seem temperamentally interested in the prolonged and protracted process of diplomacy. His recent tweet questioning the utility of Secretary Tillerson’s efforts to engage the North Koreans in dialogue is an example of this skepticism. In these circumstances we should not be surprised if the United States were to decides to choose a target of opportunity in Iran or North Korea or Syria to show off its military might. This will not reflect the institutional militarization of American foreign policy but rather the emotional need of many Americans, frustrated by our loss of global standing to demonstrate that America can indeed be great again. Neither a resourced military nor an marginalized diplomacy should want that to happen.”

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Photo of the Day: Secretary Tillerson Lunches With Former Secretary of State Rice and Shultz

Posted: 3:29 am ET

 

Via state.gov

01/17/18 Remarks on The Way Forward for the United States Regarding Syria;  Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson; Hoover Institute at Stanford University; Stanford, CA

Secretary Tillerson Meets With Former Secretary of State Rice and Shultz
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson participates in a luncheon event with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and George P. Shultz at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, Stanford, California on January 17, 2018. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

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USUN Ambassador Haley Hosts Reception For “Friends” With US Against UN Jerusalem Resolution

Posted: 3:11  am ET

 

The eight countries who voted with the United States include Guatemala and Honduras, countries with significant interest in migration policies and have large number of nationals on DACA status. Guatemala has already announced that it will follow the United States in moving its embassy to Jerusalem. We’re watching how soon Honduras will follow this move. Last November, DHS extended the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Honduras until July 5, 2018. We’ll have to see what happens next; state actions are in the country’s national interest, intentional, and never coincidental.

USUN Ambassador Niki Haley’s shit list includes the top recipients of American foreign aid for years like Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and a host of other countries. How this will end? (see Snapshot: @StateDept Aid Allocation by Region and Top Recipients, FY2016 RequestSnapshot: Top 10 Recipients of US Foreign Aid in FY2012 and FY2013 RequestSnapshot: Top 10 Recipients of US Foreign Aid in FY2010, FY 2011 RQSnapshot: Top 10 Recipients of US Foreign Aid).

On January 4, the United States announced that it is suspending at least $900 million in security assistance to Pakistan according to Reuters “until it takes action against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network militant groups.”

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More than just sanctuary, migrants need social citizenship #seventhperson

By Nancy Berlinger:  a research scholar at The Hastings Center in New York. Her most recent book is Are Workarounds Ethical? Managing Moral Problems in Health Care Systems (2016). She co-directs the Undocumented Patients project. | Via Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivatives

 

In 1975, the English author John Berger wrote about the political implications of immigration, at a time when one in seven workers in the factories of Germany and Britain was a male migrant – what Berger called the ‘seventh man’. Today, every seventh person in the world is a migrant.

Migrants are likely to settle in cities. In the United States, 20 cities (accounting for 36 per cent of the total US population in 2014) were home to 65 per cent of the nation’s authorised immigrants and 61 per cent of unauthorised immigrants. In Singapore, migrant workers account for 20 per cent of the city-state’s population. (Migrants continue to be a significant rural population. In the US, three-quarters of farm workers are foreign-born.)

Scholarship on migration tends to focus normative arguments on the national level, where policy concerning borders and immigration is made. Some prominent political philosophers – including David Miller at Nuffield College, Oxford, and Joseph Carens at the University of Toronto – also outline an account of ‘social membership’ in receiving societies. This process unfolds over five to 10 years of work, everyday life and the development of attachments. As Carens writes in ‘Who Should Get In?’ (2003), after a period of years, any migrant crosses a ‘threshold’ and is no longer a stranger. This human experience of socialisation holds true for low-wage and unauthorised migrants, so a receiving society should acknowledge that migrants themselves, not only their economic contributions, are part of that society.

Carens and Miller apply this argument to the moral claims of settled migrants at risk of deportation because they are unauthorised or because the terms of their presence are tightly limited by work contracts. In the US, for example, most of the estimated 11.3 million people who crossed a border without authorisation or are living outside the terms of their original visas have constituted a settled population for the past decade, with families that include an estimated 4 million children who are US citizens by birthright. In The Ethics of Immigration (2013), Carens writes that the prospect of deporting young immigrants from the place where they had lived most of their lives was especially troubling: it is ‘morally wrong to force someone to leave the place where she was raised, where she received her social formation, and where she has her most important human connections’. Miller and Carens concur with the Princeton political theorist Michael Walzer’s view of open-ended guest-worker programmes as ethically problematic. The fiction that such work is temporary and such workers remain foreign obscures the reality that these migrants are also part of the societies in which they live and work, often for many years, and where they deserve protection and opportunities for advancement.

Not all migrants will have access to a process leading to national citizenship or permanent legal residence status, whether this is because they are unauthorised, or their immigration status is unclear, or they are living in a nation that limits or discourages immigration while allowing foreign workers on renewable work permits. If we agree that migration is part of the identity of a society in which low-wage migrants live and work, whether or not this is acknowledged by non-migrants or by higher-status migrants, what would it mean to build on the idea of social membership and consider migrants as social citizens of the place in which they have settled? And what realistic work can the idea of social citizenship do in terms of improving conditions for migrants and supporting policy development?

Social citizenship is both a feeling of belonging and a definable set of commitments and obligations associated with living in a place; it is not second-class national citizenship. The place where one’s life is lived might have been chosen in a way that the nation of one’s birth was not; for a Londoner or a New Yorker, local citizenship can be a stronger identity than national citizenship. Migrants live in cities with a history of welcoming immigrants, in cities that lack this history, and also in cities where national policy discourages immigration. Considering how to ensure that social citizenship extends to migrants so that they get to belong, to contribute, and to be protected is a way to frame ethical and practical questions facing urban policymakers.

Considering migrants as social citizens of the cities in which they settle is related to but not the same as the idea of the city as a ‘sanctuary’ for migrants. Throughout the US, local officials have designated ‘sanctuary cities’ for undocumented immigrants subject to deportation under policies announced by the federal government in February 2017. This contemporary interpretation of an ancient concept refers to a policy of limited local cooperation with federal immigration officials, often associated with other policies supporting a city’s migrant population. Canadian officials use the term ‘sanctuary city’ similarly, to refer to local protections and potentially also to limited cooperation with border-control authorities. In Europe, the term ‘city of sanctuary’ tends to refer to efforts supporting local refugees and coordinated advocacy for refugee admission and rights. These local actions protecting migrants are consistent with a practical concept of social citizenship in which civic history and values, and interests such as being a welcoming, diverse or growing city, correspond to the interests of migrants. However, the idea of ‘sanctuary’ suggests crisis: an urgent need for a safe place to hide. To become social citizens, migrants need more from cities than sanctuary.

Local policies that frame social citizenship in terms that apply to settled migrants should go beyond affirming migrants’ legal rights and helping them to use these rights, although this is certainly part of a practical framework. Social citizenship, as a concept that should apply to migrants and non-migrants alike, on the basis of being settled into a society, can build on international human rights law, but can be useful in jurisdictions where human rights is not the usual reference point for considering how migrants belong to, contribute to, and are protected by a society.

What can a city expect or demand of migrants as social citizens? Mindful that the process of social integration usually takes more than one generation, it would not be fair to expect or demand that migrants integrate into a new society on an unrealistic timetable. Most migrants are adults, and opportunities to belong, to contribute, and to be protected should be available to them, as well as to the next generation. Migrants cannot be expected to take actions that could imperil them or their families. For example, while constitutionally protected civil rights in the US extend to undocumented immigrants, using these rights (by identifying themselves publicly, for example) can bring immigrants to the attention of federal authorities, a reality or fear that might constrain their ability to participate in civic life.

In his novel Exit West (2017), Mohsin Hamid offers a near-future fictional version of a political philosopher’s ‘earned amnesty’ proposal. Under the ‘time tax’, newer migrants to London pay a decreasing ‘portion of income and toil’ toward social welfare programmes for longstanding residents, and have sweat-equity opportunities to achieve home ownership by working on infrastructure construction projects (the ‘London Halo’). Today, the nonfictional citizens of Berlin are debating how to curb escalating rents so that the city remains open to lower-wage residents, including internal and transnational migrants. A robust concept of social citizenship that includes migrants who have begun the process of belonging to a city, and those who should be acknowledged as already belonging, will provide a necessary framework for understanding contemporary urban life in destination cities.Aeon counter – do not remove

Nancy Berlinger

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

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USUN Ambassador Nikki Haley Says United States Taking Names. Again. #UNGA #Thursday

Posted: 3:40 am ET

 

Back in January, Ambassador Nikki Haley made her first appearance before the press as USUN ambassador prior to presenting her credentials. She made a huge splash with her opening salvo:  “For those who don’t have our back, we’re taking names – we will make points to respond to that accordingly.” (see @USUN Ambassador Nikki Haley: Taking Names and Diplomatic Dustup).

Now, she’s taking names again of those who will criticize the impending US embassy move.  The UN General Assembly is set to meet on Thursday for an emergency discussion on the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Haaretz is reporting that in an attempt to avoid embarrassment, “Israel has instructed its diplomatic missions to seek meetings with high-level officials to persuade them to direct their representatives at the UN to oppose, not to support, or at the very least not to deliver a speech at the General Assembly.”

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Amb-Designate Callista Gingrich Still Waiting to Present Credentials Six Weeks On?

Posted: 12:14 am ET

 

Ambassador-Designate to the Holy See Callista Gingrich was sworn in at the White House on October 27, 2017. She arrived at post on November 6. As of this writing, the embassy website lists a brief bio of Ambassador-Designate Callista L. Gingrich, as well as Chargé d’Affaires Louis L. Bono.

According to the press archive of the Holy See, the designated top representative of the United States to the Vatican is still waiting to present her credentials six weeks after she arrived at post. Since her arrival, the Pope has received the credentials of the ambassadors from Myanmar, Montenegro, Portugal, Ecuador, Nigeria; and last week, the ambassadors from Yemen, New Zealand, Swaziland, Azerbaijan, Chad, Liechtenstein and India to the Holy See.

On November 9, the Pope received the Credential Letters of the Ambassador of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar to the Holy See

On November 22, the Pope received the Credential Letters of the Ambassador of Montenegro to the Holy See

On November 25, the Pope received the Credential Letters of the Ambassador of Portugal to the Holy See

On December 4, the Pope received the Credential Letters of the Ambassador of Ecuador to the Holy See

On December 9, the Pope received the Credential Letters of the Ambassador of Nigeria to the Holy See

And on December 14, the Holy Father received the credentials of ambassadors from seven countries, the United States excepted. See the Credential Letters of the Ambassadors of Yemen, New Zealand, Swaziland, Azerbaijan, Chad, Liechtenstein and India to the Holy See.

At the December 14 credentialing ceremony, Pope Francis also delivered the following remarks:

I extend a warm welcome to all of you for this presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See on the part of your respective countries: Yemen, New Zealand, Swaziland, Azerbaijan, Chad, Liechtenstein and India. I would ask you to convey to the Heads of State of your respective countries my sentiments of appreciation and esteem, and to assure them of my prayers for them and the people they serve.

At the beginning of your new mission, I am conscious of the diverse countries you represent, and of the various cultural and religious traditions that characterize the history of each of your nations. This gives me the opportunity to emphasize the positive and constructive role that such diversity plays in the concert of nations. The international community faces a series of complex threats to the sustainability of the environment and of the world’s social and human ecology, as well as risks to peace and concord stemming from violent fundamentalist ideologies and regional conflicts, which often appear under the guise of opposing interests and values. Yet it is important to remember that the diversity of the human family is not itself a cause of these challenges to peaceful coexistence. Indeed the centrifugal forces that would drive peoples apart are not found in their differences but in the failure to set out on the path of dialogue and understanding as the most effective means of responding to these challenges.

Your very presence here is a reminder of the key role that dialogue plays in enabling diversity to be lived in an authentic and mutually enhancing way in our increasingly globalized society. Respectful communication leads to cooperation, especially in fostering reconciliation where it is most needed. This cooperation in turn assists the progress of that solidarity which is the condition for the growth of justice and due respect for the dignity, rights and aspirations of all. A commitment to dialogue and cooperation must be the hallmark of every institution of the international community, as well as of every national and local institution, for all are charged with the pursuit of the common good.

The promotion of dialogue, reconciliation and cooperation cannot be taken for granted. The delicate art of diplomacy and the arduous craft of nation-building need to be learned afresh with each new generation. We share the collective responsibility to educate our young people about the importance of these principles that sustain the social order. Passing this precious legacy on to our children and grandchildren will not only secure a peaceful and prosperous future but will also meet the demands of intergenerational justice and of that integral human development that is the right of every man, woman and child.

Dear Ambassadors, as you take up your high responsibilities in the service of your nations, I assure you of the support of the various offices of the Holy See. I offer you my prayerful best wishes for your important work, and upon you, your families, and all your fellow citizens, I willingly invoke an abundance of divine blessings.

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The Middle East in the New World Disorder

By Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.)

Not so long ago, Americans thought we understood the Middle East, that region where the African, Asian, and European worlds collide.  When the Ottoman Empire disintegrated in World War I, the area  became a European sphere of influence with imperial British, French, and Italian subdivisions.  The Cold War split it into American and Soviet client states.  Americans categorized countries as with us or against us, democratic or authoritarian, and endowed with oil and gas or not.  We acted accordingly.

In 1991, the Soviet Union defaulted on the Cold War and left the United States the only superpower still standing.  With the disappearance of Soviet power, the Middle East became an exclusively American sphere of influence.  But a series of U.S. policy blunders and regional reactions to them have since helped thrust the region into chaos, while progressively erasing American dominance

In the new world disorder, there are many regional sub-orders.  The Middle East is one of them.  It is entering the final stages of a process of post-imperial, national self-determination that began with Kemal Atatürk’s formation of modern Turkey from the rubble of the Ottoman Empire in 1923.  This process is entrenching the originally Western concept of the nation state in the region.  It led to Gamal Abdel Nasser’s repudiation of British overlordship and overthrow of the monarchy in Egypt in 1952, Ayatollah Khomeini’s rejection of American tutelage and replacement of the Shah with the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, and the misnamed “Arab Spring” in 2011.  Its latest iteration is unfolding in Saudi Arabia.

In the Middle East, as elsewhere, regional rather than global politics now drives events.  The world is reentering a diplomatic environment that would have been familiar to Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, who served nineteenth century Britain as secretary of war, foreign affairs, and prime minister.  In his time, the core skill of statecraft was manipulation of regional balances of power to protect national interests and exercise influence through measures short of war.

Palmerston famously observed that in international relations, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests.  In the new world disorder, with its narcissistic nationalism, shifting alignments, and wobbling partnerships, this sounds right, even if national interests are also visibly evolving to reflect fundamental shifts in their international context.  Palmerston’s aphorism is a reminder that the flexibility and agility implicit in the hedged obligations of entente – limited commitments for limited contingencies – impart advantages that the inertia of alliance – broad obligations of mutual aid – does not.  One way or another, it is in our interest to aggregate the power of others to our own while minimizing the risks to us of doing so.

To cope with the world after the Pax Americana and to put “America first,” we Americans are going to have relearn the classic vocabulary of diplomacy or some new, equally reality-based version of it.  If we do, we will discover that, in the classic sense of the word, we now have no “allies” in the Middle East.  The only country with which we had a de jure alliance based on mutual obligations, Turkey, has de facto departed it.

Today, Ankara and Washington are seriously estranged.  Turkey is no longer aligned with the United States on any of our major diplomatic objectives in the region, which have been: securing Israel, excluding Russian influence; opposing Iran; and sustaining strategic partnerships with Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.  Americans can no longer count on Turkey to support or acquiesce in our policies toward the Israel-Palestine issue; Syria; Iraq; Iran; Russia; the Caucasus; the Balkans; Greece; Cyprus; Egypt, the Gulf Cooperation Council countries; the members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation; NATO; or the EU.

Having been rebuffed by Europe, Turkey has abandoned its two-century-long drive to redefine its identify as European.  It is pursuing an independent, if erratic, course in the former Ottoman space and with Russia and China.  The deterioration in EU and US-Turkish relations represents a very significant weakening of Western influence in the Middle East and adjacent regions.  As the list of countries Turkey affects suggests, this has potentially far-reaching consequences.

Meanwhile, U.S. relations with Iran remain antagonistic.  American policy blunders like the destabilization of Iraq and Syria have facilitated Iran’s establishment of a sphere of influence in the Fertile Crescent.  Our lack of a working relationship with Tehran leaves the United States unable to bring our influence to bear in the region by measures short of war.  U.S. policy is thus all military, all the time.  The White House echoes decisions made in Jerusalem, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi.  It no longer sets its own objectives and marshals others behind them.

For our own reasons, which differ from country to country, Americans have unilaterally taken under our wing a variety of client states, some of which are each other’s historic antagonists.  Our commitments have not changed despite the fact that the regional context of our relationships with our client states and their orientations and activities are all in rapid evolution.  Other than Turkey, the United States has never had a Middle Eastern partner that has seen itself as obliged to come to our aid or, indeed, to do anything at all for us except what might serve  its own immediate, selfish interests.  The obligations all run the other way – from us to them.

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Question of the Day: Do you personally agree with the President’s decision?

Posted: 3:27 am ET

 

Via Special Briefing with David M. Satterfield
Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs
December 7, 2017

QUESTION: As a veteran diplomat and representative of NEA, do you personally agree with the President’s decision?

AMBASSADOR SATTERFIELD: Oh, now. I am an employee of the U.S. Government. I am a Foreign Service officer. We all – and I speak of my boss, the Secretary, and the other principals in the U.S. Government – we are all part of this team. This is a decision which we will work our best to execute and advance.

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