Even Josh Earnest agrees with me, though it's not clear whether he got his boss's permission first; there may have been some testy exchanges behind the scenes after that announcement. The only commentator I've found (besides you!) who disagrees is Ron Fournier.John Kerry has explained helpfully that Victoria Nuland, Asst. Sec'y of State, was somewhere in the crowd with some miscellaneous staffers, so no biggie. No one to my knowledge has found a photo of the U.S. Ambassador who was reported to have drifted out of her nearby office to join the crowd at some point. But assuming she really was there, it's not like we sent no one. It's just that we showed we could scarcely care less. As Peggy Noonan said, "Lafayette, we are not here."One thing I'm happy about is that we were spared the spectacle of the POTUS disrupting the march with demands about his elaborate personal security arrangements. It's one thing to cancel a serviceman's wedding so you can have a safer golf game, but this could have been embarrassing.
What I've heard about security is that Shin Bet was really unhappy about the short notice and difficulty coordinating security, but that the Secret Service wasn't asked even to look into the possibility. If that's right, then neither the President nor anyone at the top levels in the White House even considered going.It's an interesting question why they didn't think this was a big enough deal to even take a look at what would be involved. I stand by my position that, if the President or VP wasn't going, the Ambassador was the right person in terms of diplomatic protocol; but I'm curious why no one in the upper Administration even considered sending someone. Obviously the President wasn't personally interested, and maybe everybody who works with him just knew he wouldn't be.
I stand by my position that, if the President or VP wasn't going, the Ambassador was the right person in terms of diplomatic protocol; but I'm curious why no one in the upper Administration even considered sending someone.I agree to a certain point. An Ambassador is the stand in for a Head of State given that any single Head of State cannot be at many places at once. Nor is it seemly to have the Head of State at the beck and call of a foreign nation. So we have a stand in that allows the Head of State to maintain their dignity of position without shunning the host nation. That is the protocol, and it has existed for centuries. But we live in an age where the protocol is much like the business suit you once spoke of. It signifies a particular message, but other than that, it serves no purpose.By that I mean that there is really no need for the position of Ambassador other than for ceremony in this day and age. If the King of Whereverstan wishes to speak with the President of the United States, and such a meeting is determined to require immediate attention, then there is little reason that they cannot hold an immediate teleconference. Time zones and sleep cycles notwithstanding. And if the President wishes to snub the King of Whereverstan, he can refuse to take the call, or let some other functionary do so, in the exact same manner that a current Ambassador could. And if teleconference won't do, it is completely feasible to fly one or the other to a location suitable to all in very short order. Personally, I think requiring face to face meetings is particularly stupid, given modern technology, but I will concede that it is important to some. But the days when messages could take weeks to get back to the home country and potentially months to arrange a meeting of heads of state are long gone. Communications technology has made such inconveniences trivial.That said, I do not hold that the Administration behaved in a serious or diplomatic manner. "We didn't get an invite" or "there wasn't enough time" is a shameful prevarication. Quite literally, heads of state from other nations, and ones facing far more serious security threats were able to make it. And we could not even be bothered to look into the possibility of sending the Vice President (perhaps the most ceremonial of roles in the modern US government)? Hogwash. They didn't want to go for whatever reason. And that is yet one more diplomatic snub to a long standing US ally by this Administration. And the "we didn't want to overwhelm them with our security needs" is also a load of bovine excrement. Quite literally, with that many world leaders in one place, you absolutely cannot convince me that much more additional security would be needed for the POTUS.
The empty Barcolounger:Calling France the United States' 'oldest ally,' President Obama said Friday, 'I want the people of France to know that the United States stands with you today, stands with you tomorrow.'Two days later no U.S. officials, save for the relatively unknown deputy secretary of state and U.S. ambassador to France Jane Hartley, stood with the French at the unity march against barbarity, however.According to an administration official, President Obama spent part of his Sunday afternoon watching a National Football League game on television. Remember, these are the folks who were going to restore Smart Power to the global community :p Yeah, I know - it's a cheap shot. But you have to admit it's funny.
Well, in fairness, he said "today" and "tomorrow," not "two days from now." :)
...the protocol is much like the business suit you once spoke of. It signifies a particular message, but other than that, it serves no purpose.Well, it's a little more than that, I think. It's like table manners, rather than like the suit. Used to be people would wear a coat and tie to dinner. Now they don't. But the table manners have persisted, at least among the class of folks who used to wear a coat and tie to dinner, because they're less disposable. Which is funny, in a way, because they're completely contingent. It doesn't matter if the knife goes on the left or the right, as long as we agree on where it goes. It doesn't matter how you arrange the forks, and -- wine snobs notwithstanding -- it really doesn't matter which glass holds the water and which the wine. You could pour them into Mason jars (which is what we usually do at my place, usually with beer instead of wine).But there has to be some order we all agree on, just so everyone can feel comfortable and know they're not accidentally giving offense. If there's a right thing to do, and you do it, you can be comfortable knowing that you're being acceptable. I suppose I do have to give way on my earlier claim that this respect for diplomatic protocol indicated a professionalism somewhere. Clearly, nobody at the White House knows to explain that this is why the Ambassador attended instead of Eric Holder. John Stewart doesn't know it, but he's not a diplomatic professional. The very fact that we haven't heard the explanation means that they got this part right by accident, I must now suspect. They don't know to defend themselves with the forms because they don't really know the forms. They just dropped the ball, and the Ambassador (being a professional) did the right thing -- but nobody appreciates her, because nobody but her knows what fork to use anymore.
Jonah Goldberg:"The simplest explanation . . . is that President Barack Obama doesn’t really want to put his personal stature and credibility on the line to support something like Charlie Hebdo. Since those awful attacks, we’ve witnessed a lot of allegedly intellectual leftists offer versions of “the attacks were terrible, but--” and then explaining why Hebdo was offensive, hate speech, an unnecessary provocation, foolish, etc., and imply that the magazine isn’t really worth defending and that the world would be a better place if these immature, impudent cartoonists would stop making fun of one of the world’s great religions."
Well, in fairness, he said "today" and "tomorrow," not "two days from now." :)Bada boomBada BING!!!(translation: The United States stands with you... in theory, at least :p)
Tex, I really think that what he doesn't want to associate himself with is any linkage between Islam and terrorism. And condemning violent acts by Islamist thugs comes perilously close (in his view, and I think he's wrong) to condemning Islam in general because.... STEREOTYPES!!!!
But there has to be some order we all agree on, just so everyone can feel comfortable and know they're not accidentally giving offense. If there's a right thing to do, and you do it, you can be comfortable knowing that you're being acceptable. But isn't that just what you said the wearing of the suit was about? Making others feel comfortable? Signaling your purpose? I see the position of Ambassador as really no different. And let's be clear, most US Ambassadors are not chosen for their experience, or foreign policy expertise. They're chosen because they had the right political connections. Most US Ambassadors are substantial donors to the President's election campaign.In fact, I think you might find the biography of both our current US Ambassador to France and that of the preceding Ambassador interesting.
Cass, that, but also the all-purpose "their anger is understandable" thing. In his philosophy, understanding how someone feels goes a long way toward being incapable of combatting his actions, because that would be unempathetic.I mean, unless he's a Tea Partier. Those people are just terrorists.
John Kerry has explained helpfully that Victoria Nuland, Asst. Sec'y of State, was somewhere in the crowd with some miscellaneous staffers, so no biggie.Apparently the crowd she was in was a walk in DC, not France. But what's half a world to a big picture guy like our motorboat skipper and politics dilettante. he said "today" and "tomorrow," not "two days from now."Today and tomorrow are two days. And they extend from now. And they creep in their especially petty pace....I agree with Mike regarding the degree of appropriateness of ambassadors as stand-ins. Forty other heads of state presented themselves for that march. They didn't send their ambassadors to represent them, they didn't send their foreign secretaries or secretaries of state, they didn't send their attorneys general, they didn't send their therapy dogs. They showed up.Sending our ambassador was a calculated insult. Sending a bundler who masquerades herself as an ambassador was a calibrated insult.Doug Schoen wrote earlier that Obama's behavior had made him ashamed of his country. I do think that goes too far. Obama's behavior, though, has shamed and embarrassed me.Eric Hines
Mike,But isn't that just what you said the wearing of the suit was about? Making others feel comfortable? Signaling your purpose? I see the position of Ambassador as really no different.You made an argument that sounded pretty good to me, which likened ambassadors to business suits in the sense of being a holdover from an earlier time that now serves no purpose (except to signal). That's plausible, in the sense that business suits are just holdovers from the costume of the business class in 19th century England. At the time and in that place, wool suits and scarves around the neck made great practical sense. In most of the rest of the world, and especially with modern air conditioning and heating, they're outdated and absurd. We just use them to express pure formalities. I wanted to say that, while I see your point, I think diplomatic standards are more like table manners. It's not that they're merely holdovers from an earlier time that we still use to signal things; it's that you really do need to have diplomatic forms, just as you need table manners. It doesn't really matter what they are, but everyone needs to know them. Turns out no one but the State Department knows, and only the pros there: even Kerry hasn't referenced the Ambassador (though he's new to diplomacy -- he's really a long-term Senator who is just playing at the office).I don't know if the Ambassador has taken her job seriously in spite of her background; it is her full-time job, after all, so maybe she did. If not, she has a staff of full-time Foreign Service professionals. Somehow, she got out there and did the right thing, but it doesn't matter because nobody knows the rules anymore.What that means, by the way, is that international embarrassment is nearly inevitable. When there are agreed-to table manners, you can avoid embarrassment by doing the right thing. When there aren't, you're going to hit a clash in what people think is appropriate just every now and then.
Well, as long as we haven't definitively ruled out the possibility that she takes her job seriously instead of continuing as the mere hack she'd always been up to the time of her appointment, I don't see why the French should feel dissed. It was technically correct.
When there are agreed-to table manners, you can avoid embarrassment by doing the right thing.A major purpose of the rules of table manners, and of business suits, is to provide the comfort of predictability. Absent generally agreed rules, though, the comfort still can be provided simply by acting in a consistent manner. What this administration has done works contrary to that.Obama and his cabinet do not seem to be acting consistently, objecting internationally here and not objecting there to much the same stimulus. Or it is behaving entirely consistently, but so far at odds with the US' past behaviors and/or so far at odds with what might be viewed as international norms that our enemies, friends, allies, and acquaintances cannot understand, much less predict, our behavior.Thus, to swat the horse one more time, sending our ambassador when 40 other heads of state thought it appropriate to appear themselves, seems insulting even if Obama meant no offense. And that, despite the thought that might have gone into any consistency of Obama's international behaviors, strikes me as...thoughtless.Eric Hines
It's not that they're merely holdovers from an earlier time that we still use to signal things; it's that you really do need to have diplomatic forms, just as you need table manners. It doesn't really matter what they are, but everyone needs to know them.Thank you, that is much clearer. That the business suit is in some ways counterproductive does indeed differentiate it from table manners which (at worst) are fussy.I don't know if the Ambassador has taken her job seriously in spite of her background; it is her full-time job, after all, so maybe she did. If not, she has a staff of full-time Foreign Service professionals. Somehow, she got out there and did the right thing, but it doesn't matter because nobody knows the rules anymore.I guarantee you that she has a very professional staff of dedicated Foreign Service officers who make sure she knows what to do, where to go, and what to sign. I doubt very much if she ever makes a single policy decision that affects anyone outside of the Embassy staff.
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