Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Concerns over early U.S. foreign affairs decisions

As President Obama's team begins to work out its plans for putting a new face on U.S. foreign policy, I am certainly encouraged by its apparent commitment to multilateralism, an approach that had taken quite a beating during the Bush administration. Usually, working together cooperately with one's allies works better than striking it out alone.  However, I am also concerned over two of the early decisions that this new administration has taken.

The first is the decision for the U.S. to send a delegation to the planning sessions for what is being called Durban 2, a follow-up on the 2002 UN Conference Against Racism.  For a conference against racism, Durban 1 certainly contained a 31801lot of it, as anti-western, anti-American, and anti-Israel resolutions poisoned the event. At the instigation of notorious human rights abusers, Israel was demonized as a "apartheid state" and anti-Jewish drawings filled with vile hatred adorned protest signs and even NGO displays.  Already there are clear signs that this conference in April will be a continuation of the same tactics and themes as the 2002 debacle.  Canada and Israel have already declared their plan to boycott the event.  The U.S. walked out of Durban 1, but seems prepared to look conciliatory in the hopes of not isolating too many other countries so early in Obama's presidency.  This is not the time for half-measures or trying to look reasonable, especially if only to impress unreasonable people.  This tight-rope that they are trying to walk here is untenable and will please no one ultimately.  The U.S. must choose the path that seems moral and stay with it, even if it makes them look like the previous administration at least temporarily.

Equally concerning was the announcement last week by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her first official trip to China that U.S pressing on human rights issues, "can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis. We have to have a dialogue that leads to an understanding and cooperation on each of those."  At least, as one British columnist put, Clinton is being honest about it. "For 20 years Western, particularly British and American, leaders have assured their publics that they would pressurise Beijing on Tibet, political dissidents and freedom of religion. The rhetoric was empty."  That is unfortunately largely true, and was, in my opinion, characteristic even of President Bush's administration in regards to China. 

However, Clinton's approach is quite wrongheaded to publicize at a time when freedom in China is at such a tipping point.  Okay, it'll be good for business in the midst of an economic meltdown, but, as the Herald Tribune put it, "Clinton's position has two potentially detrimental effects. It undermines the long-fought campaign for a comprehensive foreign policy, one recognizing the interdependence of human rights concerns with traditional strategic goals. And it ultimately fails civil society groups in China and those suffering human rights abuses."


Matthew said...

One might have hoped that Obama might do better than Bush in this regard-- respecting and defending human rights abroad was never a Bush administration priority=-- but it seems he might sink to a new low. Very, very sad.

Anonymous said...

The USA is depending on China for money and China is depending on the West to buy its goods.So it is important for the USA to have a good relationship with China.The leaders on China do adhere to communist principles.The hearts and minds of the people are to be in submission to the state.That immediately creates a conflict with the the church as she submits to Christ only.
For president Obama it is a choice,let communism rule or stand up for human rights.
To my mind comes what Jesus said:"No servant can serve two masters.Either he will hate the one and love the other or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.You cannot both serve God and Money."Luke 16:13 NIV