Wednesday, February 09, 2005
The Soft Bulletin

Condoleeza Rice, in Mary Archer mode, gave a lecture at the Institute d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, restating the historical ties between France and the United States, recast in the 'drive for liberty' that characterises foreign policy under Bush. Whilst the predictable references to shared friendship drop from the lips of every American diplomat who stops in Paris, Rice was careful to avoid issues that emphasised the divide between the two countries. The two biggest issues were Iran and the EU embargo upon China.

There was no concrete policy statements within the speech, marking the public omissions where Rice could draw upon to show affirmation of French friendship. Instead, Rice noted the useful co-operation of sovereign states (did she sanction Diplomad?) as a success story, a narrative missing from EU soft power.

There are also other important fora. Sometimes we can do things through NATO. Sometimes we can do things through the OSCE. And increasingly, it is a good thing when ad hoc coalitions of countries get together on a regional basis because they have some particular interest. I'll give you three quick examples.

One is, the United States and Russia, China, South Korea, Japan are engaged with North Korea in the six-party talks, because those are the regional neighbors who most want to be sure that there is not a nuclear-armed Korean Peninsula.

That's an example of an ad hoc arrangement for a regional problem. A problem, by the way, that could have very big international implications, but where the neighborhood is trying to manage it.

A second example is that at the very beginning of the tsunami -- when the tsunami hit, the United States, Japan, India and Australia, which had navies in the area, formed a core group so that we could use that naval -- those naval assets to make sure that, at the very beginning, aid was getting to the affected areas of the tsunami.

And a third example is a very large coalition, ad hoc group, called the Proliferation Security Initiative, to which France belongs, which is an effort to interdict dangerous cargos related to weapons of mass destruction, using our international laws, using our national laws.

So we have great respect for and want to use the United Nations and the Security Council. But there are times when other mechanisms are equally important. I think we will need to be judged by how effective we are, not just by the forms that we use.

The reader could interpret the whole speech as a reiteration of Bush's foreign policy, directed at France and softened for the audience. This underestimates the message that Rice wished to give to her listeners, where the carrot of co-operation was proffered and the stick was silent.

However, the omission of those actions which the Bush administration consider contrary to US interests was telling. Rice stated that the United States wished to consider the European Union as a partner that would align itself towards establishing democracies in the Middle East and build up its military potential. Rice did not say what the alternative was, but that which is silent in public, must be deafening in private.


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