Sunday, May 22, 2005

Has Condi been "captured" by State?

As our readers will recall we discussed exhaustively Secretary of State Rice’s comments on her various trips to Europe and compared them to President Bush’s speech, which unequivocally placed the emphasis on Europe and European countries rather than the European Union.

Condoleezza Rice, on the other hand, seemed wavering, uncertain in her opinions (though her last comments were made in response to a carefully placed question by the Financial Times that was clearly intended to trip her up).

We hear a great deal of what “the Americans” think or what the “United States” wants or thinks. There is no such thing. The size and the variety of the country would preclude that and as a number of our commentators know to their cost, the self-appointed “elite” on the two coasts no longer represents anybody.

There is, however, no one opinion even on the government level. If there is one thing we learnt from the early months of the Iraq war it was that the State Department and the Defence Department had different ideas and different plans. It was, in fact, the multiplicity of plans that was the problem rather than the lack of one, as some people said.

So it is with the European question. By and large, it is the State Department, viewed by many in America and, even, in Washington in much the same light that we view the Foreign Office, to whom the idea of a united and even integrated Europe appeals.

The argument that the European Union, should it ever acquire a common foreign and security policy, will be anti-American, cuts little ice with the diplomats of State. They are there, as someone told to me in Washington, to explain to Americans why the world does not like them, not to represent American interests. (The world in their case consists of other diplomats and members of various multilateral and transnational organizations – the international great and the good, in other words.)

As with our own Foreign Secretaries, so it is with Secretaries of State, only more so: one watches for signs of capture. Sad to say, it is beginning to look as if Condoleezza Rice may have been captured by State. One hopes not but the signs are not good.

ISN Security Watch reports that Secretary of State Rice
“… has told the leaders of the US Congressional Task Force on the UN that there was a “very poor rationale” for giving Germany a permanent seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC) because the EU was already represented on the council.”
The report is based on a leaked memorandum, so it may not be entirely accurate, but it is worrying to think that there is an acceptance at that level of the concept of the EU as one unit that can have so much representation on international organizations but no more.

What happens then with the much-touted Anglo-American alliance and friendship? Where does Britain come into this scheme? Or for that matter the new member states of Eastern Europe, whose good sense was so notably lauded by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld?

Having Germany as a permanent member of the Security Council would be in everybody’s interest. For one thing, it would open the floodgates to other members, thus ensuring that the Security Council would never make any decisions at all. Since most of its decisions are either bad or dangerous or lead to corruption, that would be an entirely good thing. Let them squabble while individual countries would get on with the work through various “coalitions of the willing”.

Then again, if Germany has a permanent seat, Italy may want one as well. Once a country achieves that eminence, it will not want to retreat. Three or four European countries with permanent seats, unwilling to give them up, would signal the end of any EU ambition to become THE one to sit on the Security Council.

Still, even according to the leaked memorandum, Condoleezza Rice makes it clear that she thinks the UN has a long way to go before it can be taken seriously.
“In the leaked memo, Rice also said one guideline for restructuring the Security Council should be that “no non-democratic state should become a permanent member”.

The memo also quoted Gingrich as saying he doubted that serious change would take place unless the current UN leadership was removed, adding that an entire layer of the UN’s bureaucracy would continue to deteriorate unless the current leadership was cut out. His sentiments were similar to those of the controversial US nominee for the post of ambassador to the UN, John Bolton.

According to the memo, Rice responded to Gingrich by saying: “You won’t get an argument from me.”

Rice also said the principle of allocating jobs in the UN via geographic distribution was a "disgrace”.”
It’s just this problem of Europe and the European Union that she seems to have problems with. This is a little worrying as the general opinion is that Rice has President Bush’s ear. So far, he has not followed her lead in his pronouncements and may well be listening to other people on this subject.

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