With the departure of U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson, and the continual upheaval of the U.S. Department of State, American diplomatic relations and U.S. national interests are jeopardized. The world watches with trepidation as the U.S. Department of State once again processes new leadership.The implications for numerous bilateral and multilateral agreements remain unknown. The Trump Administration, thus far, has failed to recognize that diplomacy is not like running a business. There is no profit model or clear revenue determination of success. While in the private sector, at times, it may be effective management to cut leadership at the top, and start with fresh new ideas, diplomacy does not work in the same way. Diplomats are not selling a product,they are promoting an idea. They give voice to what the U.S. stands for, its values, and ideals. While Secretary of State Tillerson and President Trump are often praised by their supporters as being successful businessmen, they need different skill setsto carry out successful diplomatic work. Namely, diplomacy requires the long game. Relationships in diplomatic engagements are cultivated for years, or even decades, with long term gains. It is often slow, nebulous work that is hard to measure. However slow, this work is vital to U.S. long-term economic and security interests.
It is important for the United States to continue engagement globally towards a stable, peaceful, democratic world. Democratic leaders make better allies; stable countries make better trade partners. However, as most U.S. leaders have understood prior to this administration, democracy development takes time, even generations. In 1992, Presidential candidates Bill Clinton and Ross Perot recognized the large pay-off and importance of long term American diplomatic engagement, specifically in assisting with stable democratic in post-Soviet states. During their presidential debate, they echoed nearly identical sentiments to this end. Bill Clinton stated, “I think we will have a continuing responsibility, as the only remaining superpower, to stay involved. The Soviet Union is no more. Now we’re working to help them become totally democratic through the FREEDOM Support Act that I led on.” To this Perot, famously replied, “Well, it’s cost-effective to help Russia succeed in its revolution. It’s pennies on the dollar compared to going back to the cold war.” Both leaders understood the long-term value and important investment of democratic development.
It remains unclear if leaders within the Trump Administration, clear novices as to the inner workings of the U.S. government, and complexities of U.S. foreign policy, grasp the far-reaching impact of the State Department. One pundit from the Washington Post speculated that Tillerson did not comprehend the full extent as to how the Office of the Secretary of State exerts power and influence globally. Thus far, the current leadership seems to lack an understanding of the diverse diplomatic programmatic work of the Department. One such important program funded by the Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA) Bureau of the Department of State is the Fulbright Fellowship. Established in 1945,during post-war reconstruction, the goal of the Fulbright Fellowship is for “the promotion of international good will through the exchange of students in the fields of education, culture, and science.” Former ECA Assistant Secretary of State Evan Ryan said,“We view exchanges as long-term investments. Exchange is something foundational that we build upon. We might not be able to see the exact benefits of it for many years, but we know it is there.” One benefit is shaping positive relations with Americans and future global leaders. Numerous world leaders have been Fulbright Fellows;37 as heads of state. The Prime Ministers of Korea and Ghana, to name just a few,were Fulbright scholars early in their careers. Decades later, at times,they have implemented policies in their own countries that engendered a positive relationship with the United States. While the pay-off is slow, the return on investment for the U.S. national interest is enormous.
Worldwide, the U.S. is one of the largest donors to international humanitarian aid. Part of this assistance is human rights promotion, work that also is slow, but important for America’s long-term interest. In Jordan, for example, American diplomats forge relationships with Jordanians to “assist political parties in the country, improving the ability of parties to develop platforms, diversify membership, and more effectively advocate for the passage of legislation in line with party values and citizen interests.” Jordan remaining a stable nation in the Middle East is critical to U.S. interest in the region. In other countries, diplomats work towards religious tolerance, the rights of persons with disabilities, ending trafficking in persons, and beyond.
Diplomats also work to protect American citizens;indeed, this is a core responsibility of embassy staff. In 2010, when Morocco began expelling American Christians allegedly for proselytizing, for it was the work of countless hours of diplomatic engagement that made the expulsions stop. Some of these Americans had lived in Morocco for decades running orphanages, and after diplomatic intervention, they were reunited with their families,and manyallowed to remain in the country. This example of quiet diplomacy does not often make headlines. In fact, successful diplomatic engagement is often to stop a public incident or row over a specific issue with the host country. No news, is often good news for an embassy. It is this unsung work that the current administration seems either ignorant of, or disregards entirely. Whether to protect American citizens, promote religious freedom, women’s rights, or free and fair elections, diplomats conduct long-term work critical to U.S. national interests and strengthening stability the world over.
The United States, comparatively, is still a young country. Nations such as China or leaders in the Middle East often calculate much longer-term goals in their diplomacy. They may entertain delegations and diplomatic engagements to build relationships,not necessarily because they have any plans to implement near-term policy suggestions in the immediate future. China is famous for “playing the long game” in diplomacy. One example is Chinese construction of approximately sixty athletic stadiums across sub-Saharan Africa. While a huge expense in the near term to build a stadium, and no clear short-term interest for the Chinese people, Chinese leaders calculate the long-term gain of gaining good will and diplomatic ties with these nations as part of their national interest and worth the investment. The Arab world also values long-term diplomacy by way of personal relationships built over many years or decades in diplomatic relations. Thus, the jarring nature of changing U.S. leadership, or not valuing the true worth of diplomacy by the current administration, hurts U.S. ties across the world.
Diplomacy is not a short-term, for-profit venture. Rather, it is a slow, long-term endeavor to ensure American national interests.The long-term security investment of funding programs such as the FulbrightFellowship, democracy, and human rights programs is also clear: military and security cooperation can be linked back to decades of education and programmatic good will between two nations. Unstable leadership in the U.S. erodes critical trust between world leaders; with the leadership turnover agreements might not be honored and policies abruptly discontinued. Therefore, moving forward, it behooves the current U.S. leadership to stabilize its diplomatic core and run the State Department more…diplomatically.
 Müllerson, Rein 1997, 2004. Human Rights Diplomacy. Routledge, London, UK.
 Source: The Second Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate Oct 15, 1992
 Source: The Second Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate Oct 15, 1992
 U.S. Department of State. Jordan “Advancing Freedom and Democracy Reports.Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor May 23, 2008
Venezuelan refugee crisis and how it is altering the surrounding regions
Venezuela’s migration crisis has been in the news lately and recent UN polls show that nearly 2.3 million have already migrated from their homeland over the past few years. However, other estimates show a figure closer to four million Venezuelan immigrants.
This crisis is rapidly sinking its claws in the neighbouring countries and if the amount of people migrating keeps increasing, it might become the worst man-made disasters since the First and Second World Wars after the Syrian refugee crisis. The Syrian crisis gave birth to more than six million refugees, and although the number here is still around half of that toll, the Venezuelan crisis doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. The inflation over there is nearly a million percent – a number so absurd that the common people around the world are not able to even grasp the sheer magnitude of the situations developing every day in this country. The minimum monthly wage is a few American dollars, putting essentials like food – particularly rations like chicken – into the category of luxurious items. The economy has shrunk by half in five years. To explain the extent of this downfall, Girish Gupta – founder of Data Drum and former investigative, multimedia journalist in Venezuela/LatAm – tweeted: If you’d bought a million dollars in Venezuela’s local currency when President Nicolás Maduro came to power in 2013, it’d now be worth $3.40. Diseases that were once overcome – like measles and diphtheria – are making a comeback. Infant mortality rates are going up while approximately 1.3 million refugees who have already escaped Venezuela were suffering from malnourishment (according to UN officials).
However, these are not the last of the Venezuelans’ problems; the nations to whom the refugees sought to escape to are closing their doors on their faces – literally. Sunday saw Ecuador closing border crossings with Colombia to people who don’t have passports. This was seen as a certain way to reduce the bulk of refugees from entering other countries as passports are fairly difficult to obtain amidst the economical and political chaos. Jonnayker Lien, a migrant standing outside the Peruvian border with his entire family said, “Imagine people like us who have sold everything, down to our beds, to come here, and they close the door on us. We don’t know where to sleep, and we don’t have money to go back.” Crisis broke out in the town of Pacaraima, north Brazil, after local throngs started struggling against the refugees and pushed them back to the border. Already a penurious town, the locals resent sharing their remaining resources with these migrants. However, even a strong military force could not stop these migrants from coming into Brazil. Peru had twenty thousand migrants arriving in the past week.
An emergency regional summit has been called by officials from Ecuador where Venezuela and its neighbours could deal with the crisis. Yukiko Iriyama, a representative in Colombia for the U.N. refugee agency said, “The capacity of the region is overwhelmed. The magnitude of the situation really requires a regional comprehensive approach.” The recently implemented passport checks by Peru and Ecuador aimed to reduce the flow of refugees into the countries. However, all it did was reduce the legal way of entering into these nations and increased the illegal border crossings. To deal with this disaster and the refugee predicament, representatives from Colombia, Ecuador and Peru will meet in Bogota next week. Christian Kruger, the head of Colombia’s migration authoritysaid in a statement, “The exodus of Venezuelan citizens is not a problem exclusive to Colombia, Peru, Ecuador or a single country. This is a regional problem and as such we must address it. Demanding passports from a nation that does not have them and whose government does not facilitate the issuance of this document is to encourage irregularity.” Peru is also calling a meeting at an individual level of the permanent council of the Organization of American States to discuss the migration.
The toll of migrants entering Colombia is around a million in fifteen months but nations like Chile, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru are also receiving these refugees. Low skilled Venezuelans have flooded some Latin American job markets to find work and send money back home. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo that he will set up a UN team that will respond to the crisis. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that Guterres “told him that he would put together an internal coordination mechanism to make sure that the UN regional response is well coordinated.” “This is something that is not uncommon in these types of crises,” he added. Dany Bahar of the Brookings Institution suggested declaring this as a refugee crisis in order to seek help, saying, “It is up to the United Nations, together with the Organization of American States, to step up and recognize this problem as a refugee crisis so that the world can turn the proper attention to it and provide solutions.” He also added that none of the nations in the regionhave taken the initiative to provide a sustainable solution to the problem.
Trump: The Symbol of America’s Isolation in the World
The president of the United States, who came to power in 2016 with the slogan of “Reviving Washington’s Power”, has become the messenger of failure and defeat of his country in the West Asian region and in the international system. The U.S. numerous military and political defeats in countries such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon were so outstanding that there’s no way Trump can brag about his achievements in the region.
On the other hand, many Democrats in the United States, and even the traditional Republicans, have been criticizing the President’s costly and barren foreign policy in West Asia. In such a situation, Trump attempts to attribute this failure to the country’s previous administrations and condemn them over what is happening in today’s world, especially in the West Asian region, and he blames Obama for Washington’s constant and extensive failures in this area.
Besides, Trump’s other projections about the hard conditions of the U.S. in West Asia are noteworthy. In his recent remarks, Donald Trump said that if he wasn’t at top of the U.S. political and executive equations, Iran would capture the Middle East (West Asia)! This is while Islamic Republic of Iran created stability in the West Asian region, and besides, has stood against the long-term, medium-term, and short-term and destructive goals of the United States and its allies in the region.
Trump’s strategic weakness in the West Asia is an important issue which can’t be easily overlooked. Of course this strategic weakness did exist during Obama’s presidency, but the truth is that it reached its peak during Trump’s presidency. And in the future, this weakness will bring severe blows to the United States.
The fact is that the strategic calculations of the United States in the West Asia region have all failed. And many of the pre-assumptions that Washington called them “strategic propositions”, have never turned into reality for some reasons, including the vigilance of the Resistance movement in the region. This is the reason why America is so confused in confronting the equations of West Asia.
Under such circumstances, the only way before the President of the United States is to leave the region and confess to his defeat; an issue that many American analysts and strategists have noted. It shouldn’t be forgotten that in spite of his campaign slogans for stopping the military intervention in the region, the current president of the United States has intensified conflicts and created constant security crises in West Asia.
The direct, perfect, and comprehensive support of Donald Trump for takfiri terrorists reflects this fact. Trump started his support for ISIL since the beginning of his presence at the White House in early 2017, and he stood for the terrorists until the fall of ISIL in Syria. Even now, Trump is attempting to revive terrorist and takfiri groups in Iraq and Syria.
Despite passing half of his presidency, Trump has claimed that the defeat in Yemen, Syria and Iraq was Obama’s legacy. There is no doubt that Obama and his two secretaries of state, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, played a major role in creating terrorist and takfiri groups (especially ISIL), and committed bloodshed in Syria and Iraq.
There is also little ambiguity in the strategic, operational and even tactical defeat of the Obama administration in the battlefields of Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. However, Trump can’t deny his share in this defeat, and pretend as if he’s the messenger of the victory of the United States in these scenes! The fact is that Trump completed the military and political defeats of the United States in the West Asia region. Today, the United States is defeated in the battlefield, and can well see that its pieces had failed in these wars.
On the other hand, the White House has lost the political arena of the region. The failure of the United States in the Lebanese and Iraqi elections, on the one hand, and the popular support for the resistance groups in Yemen and Syria, has left Trump and his companions disappointed in the region. In such a situation, attributing the recent and ongoing defeats of the United States to the Obama administration is completely expectable, and at the same time, unacceptable!
Finally, we can see that just like Obama, George W Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan and Carter, Trump is stuck in this strategic miscalculation in the West Asian region. Undoubtedly, in his last days in power, Trump will also understand that there’s no way he can overcome this strategic weakness through Saudi and Emirati petrodollars.
However, it seems that the scope of Trump’s defeat in West Asia would be wider than the previous presidents of the United States. Undoubtedly, in the near future, Trump, John Bolton, Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley will become the symbols of failure in the US foreign policy, especially in the West Asia. In other words, the president of the United States and his companions at the White House will have to admit to defeat in the West Asian region at a great expense, and this is exactly what frightens the American authorities.
first published in our partner Tehran Times
Weather and White House Turmoil as Elections Loom
Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc as it traversed the Florida panhandle. The first Category 5 hurricane to hit the area since 1881 when records began, its 155 mph winds (only 5 mph short of Category 6) felled massive trees, blew away houses, collapsed buildings and left devastation in its wake. Relatively fast moving at 14 mph, it was soon gone continuing as a Category 3 into neighboring Georgia and then further up its northeasterly path. It seemed to signify a stamp of approval for the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on holding earth to a 1.5 degree Celsius warming issued a couple of days earlier. We are at one degree now so storms can only be expected to get worse.
In northeastern Turkey, a 300-year old stone bridge disappeared overnight. Villagers convinced it had been stolen called in the police. Further investigation concluded it had been washed away by a flash flood caused by a sudden summer thunderstorm further upstream — clearly far more intense than in the previous three centuries.
Ever more powerful hurricanes, monsoons and forest fires point to a proliferation of extreme weather events that experts relate to global warming. Yet President Donald Trump and his administration remain obdurate in climate change denial.
Thins are certainly warming up in the White House. Nikki Haley announced her resignation in an amicable meeting with the president. A staunch defender of many of Mr. Trump’s most egregious foreign policy changes, the UN Representative will be leaving at the end of the year to pursue opportunities in the private sector. So said the announcement. An astute and ambitious politician she has probably reassessed the costs versus benefits of remaining in a Trump administration. Some tout her as a future presidential candidate. Should she be successful she will be the first woman president, who also happens to be of Indian and Sikh ancestry.
The rap singer Kanye West visited the president in the Oval office. A ten-minute rant/rap praising him was followed by a hug for which Mr. West ran round the wide desk that had been seemingly cleared of all paraphernalia for the performance. He is one of the eight percent of blacks voting Republican. Sporting the Trump trademark, Make-America-Great-Again red hat, he claimed it made him Superman, his favorite superhero. And some suggested it was all further proof the place had gone insane.
A little over three weeks remain to the U.S. midterm elections on November 6th. Their proximity is evidenced not by rallies or debates rather by the barrage of negative TV ads blasting opponents with accusations of shenanigans almost unworthy of a felon. A couple of months of this and you lose any enthusiasm for voting. Perhaps it is one reason why nearly half the electorate stays home. Given such a backdrop, the furor over ‘Russian meddling’ in elections appears to be a trifle misplaced. Others call the whole business a ‘witch hunt’ and state flatly the U.S. does the same.
The old idiom, ‘put your own house in order’ is particularly apt when we realize the beginning of this affair was a Democratic National Committee email leak showing ‘the party’s leadership had worked to sabotage Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign’. It resulted in the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Always fair, aboveboard elections? Not bloody likely, as the British would say. Given the rewards, it’s against human nature.
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