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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Diplomatic Scapegoats and Martyrs

The objections to the appointment of Ambassador Chris Hill to Baghdad are quite rich in the wake of America’s mini-Dreyfus Affair over the appointment of Chas Freeman to head the National Intelligence Council.

Senators McCain, Brownback and Graham are objecting to Hill’s lack of Middle East background. Hill is one of the United States’ most experienced diplomats and has served very well in many posts around the world. That’s the whole point of having a professional diplomatic service.

Of course it was Ambassador Freeman’s own experience and interest in the Middle East, or more precisely, his opinions about Israel, that did him in. Every single Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee signed a statement of objection to his appointment, even though it wasn’t even in the confirmable category.

So, do the Americans want their senior officials to be neophytes or not? Or maybe they just want to clone Dennis Ross.

To be fair [sic], we must note a few other agendas at play in Hill’s case. The Senators object to his handling of the North Korean negotiations. But surely he was doing the bidding of his bosses. Do they assert him to have been disloyal? Should he have been less effective?

The Senators also may be hitting back at the Obama administration for its clumsy handling of the near-nomination of General Anthony Zinni to Iraq. But if they really are objecting to consent minus advice, then they should clearly state so rather than taking it out on the nominee.

It’s no wonder that much American diplomacy is conducted nowadays by colonels, major generals, spooks and “special envoys.”

Advice from a French friend: the people’s representatives should start taking their duties more seriously; or they should just change the Constitution and get out of the way.

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