Monday, February 21, 2011

On Obama administration's clumsy UNSC diplomacy

Elliott Abrams puts it quite well:

"How to Lose Friends and Not Influence People," Elliott Abrams. Council on Foreign Relations Blog. Feb. 18, 2011.
 The Obama Administration cast its first veto in the United Nations on Friday, February 18, killing a Security Council resolution that would have condemned Israeli settlement activity.  Its poor handling of the entire episode has left just about everyone angry at the United States , and is therefore a manifest failure of American diplomacy.
The Palestinian Authority began to talk about this resolution months ago.  The United States could then have adopted a clear position: put it forward and it will be vetoed.  That very clear stand might have persuaded the Palestinian leaders and their Arab supporters to drop the effort early on, when it could have been abandoned with no loss of face.  Instead the Administration refused to make its position clear until the final day. In its Friday edition the New York Times was reporting that “the Obama administration was trying Thursday evening to head off an imminent vote in the United Nations Security Council that would declare Israel’s settlement construction in the West Bank illegal, but would not declare publicly whether it was prepared to veto the resolution.”  It seems clear that the Administration was desperate to avoid a veto, indeed desperate to go four years without spoiling its “perfect record.”  But a “perfect record” in the UN requires vetoes, given the persistent anti-Israel bias of the organization.  The Administration’s desire to avoid vetoes only served to reduce its bargaining power, for the credible threat of a veto has long served American diplomats seeking to achieve an outcome more favorable to our interests.