Friday, February 10, 2006

Shifting our Weight

I don't talk much about diplomacy. Many diplomats (the John Bolton's excepted) fail to realize when the time for talk is ended. Some fall in love with their own position and status (Madeleine Albright comes to mind) and end up leaving little real accomplishment.

Condoleezza Rice seems to be doing a good job. She is traveling the world, pressing our case, and talking tough when it seems right to. This move, a large shift in the placement of U.S. diplomatic assets, is an important one. It reflects changing needs and looming problems:
  • India: Increasingly important U.S. trade partner, huge English speaking population
  • China: Huge economy, national security threat
  • Indonesia: huge Muslim population and emerging economic power
  • Israel: Historic ally facing tough times with Iran
  • Lebanon: emerging Arab democracy?
  • Bolivia: New president hostile to U.S. interest in drug war
  • Venezuela: Crackpot Chavez needs a lot of supervision

The reductions in assets for Europe, Brazil, and Japan are appropriate. Although they may reflect some king of "diplomatic downgrade" in some circles, it is evidence of change in a monolithic State Department badly in need. The market demands that businesses change rapidly to reflect evolving trends. This is a small step, but one that indicates our government can sometimes do the same.


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