U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations sent this email to her staff at the U.S. mission this morning:
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
As you have likely now heard, this afternoon President Obama announced that he is appointing me his next National Security Advisor. I am deeply honored and excited to continue to serve our country in this new capacity.
But, in truth, I am very sad to leave the work and the people of the US Mission to the UN. Serving with you at USUN has been the best job I have ever had – challenging, fun, multifaceted and never, ever dull. The greatest part, however, has truly been the people. Every morning, no matter how tough or arcane the issue, I have awakened with a bounce in my step because I knew that whatever was coming at us, I would have the privilege of confronting it with the best team of people I have ever worked with. Your dedication, commitment, kindness, good humor and excellence have been unfailing.
So, above all, I am deeply grateful to each of you – from the UPOs whose smiling faces lift my spirits when I walk in the building to each officer and OMS, each driver, advisor and Ambassador, each DS agent, each military staff committee member, each IMO. Every single one of you has given me your best. It has been my greatest privilege to serve alongside you, the remarkable public servants at the lean and mean U.S. Mission to the UN.
I could not be prouder of you and of all that we have accomplished together. As a team, we have strengthened America’s relationships and advanced U.S. interests and values at the United Nations. None of this would have been possible without your professionalism and commitment.
I will begin to make this transition shortly, but my last day at USUN will be at the end of June. I am very excited that President Obama has nominated Samantha Power to be my successor. If confirmed, you all will love working with her, as many of you have already discovered. She is wicked smart, energetic, strong, principled and a truly lot of fun.
In the meantime, I am confident that USUN will continue to excel in all areas of the mission’s work, under the extremely able leadership of Ambassadors DiCarlo, DeLaurentis, Cousens and Torsella. I know I will leave the mission in excellent hands, and there will be a great deal of continuity.
I look forward to seeing you all and being able to thank you in person next week. I plan to honor you all at a Happy Hour in the near future.
I will greatly miss the USUN family. You are the best!
New Study Suggests U.S. Ambassador Rice Isn’t Engaging the UN
We actually heard from Susan Rice more during the presidential campaign when she was a foreign policy adviser to then-candidate Barack Obama than we have over the last year, when she has been representing us at the UN. It has been just over one year since Rice was confirmed by the United States Senate to be the Permanent Representative to the UN and she so far has been wildly inattentive in New York. While Rice has been active in the social scene of Washington and The White House, a new study released by the uber-serious Security Council Report suggests that this past year has been the most inactive Security Council since 1991. For an Administration that promised to utilize the UN and improve our reputation around the world, its dinner-party circuit strategy isn’t making America more secure.
Much of the blame for that belongs to Rice and her habitual silence. Rice has not conducted the hard negotiations nor done the sometimes unpopular work of engaging the UN on the United States’ priority issues. When Rice does attend UN negotiations, she is all too willing to avoid confrontation. She has instead opted to spend time networking in Washington and making nice with her colleagues in New York. While other foreign Ambassadors speak fondly of Rice and her easy ways, she has been a weak negotiator for the American people.
This lack of American leadership has resulted in the general Security Council inactivity spotlighted in the new study by the Columbia University-affiliated Security Council Report.
The Report says:
“In 2009 the total number of Council decisions (resolutions and presidential statements) decreased by 26 percent from 2008. The number dropped from 113 to 83, the lowest level since 1991.
Resolutions dropped from 65 to 48 and presidential statements from 48 to 35.
This significant trend is also mirrored in a matching reduction in formal Council activity. The number of formal Council meetings decreased by 20 percent, from 243 to 194.
The number of press statements, which is one indicator of Council decision making at the informal level, also decreased by 23 percent, from 47 to 36.”
Rice has been spending several days a week in Washington with her larger than normal DC-based staff and spending less time with the 200-plus employees who work for her in New York. While Rice launched her tenure with a glamour spread in Vogue Magazine by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz showing her kicking back in an empty Security Council Chamber, she seems to not enjoy the Chamber when it’s full of diplomats. During the recent Haiti crisis, Rice was not only absent from the Security Council vote to expand the UN’s peacekeeping operation but she also failed to call an emergency meeting in the immediate aftermath to request more help. In fact, 7 days after the Haiti earthquake left tens of thousands of people in the streets without food or shelter, it was UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that came to the Security Council to request more troops – the American Ambassador hadn’t bothered.
Rice has gambled this past year that keeping America unengaged at the UN is the best way to keep the Obama Administration and herself popular with other countries. But while the newly released report suggests that the Security Council has been cordial and pleasant in 2009, the number of crisis situations, international conflicts and peacekeeping operations haven’t decreased. No meaningful improvement has been seen to the international issues monitored by the Security Council; in fact, the study suggests that some situations have gotten worse. Without American leadership at the UN, countries just continue to talk and socialize and spend taxpayer dollars. The Security Council Report also highlights the fact that fewer decisions were made by the Security Council in 2009 than in previous years. Tough decisions are never popular to make and even less popular to force upon the UN. But the American people expect their representative to utilize the UN to further America’s priority issues and demand that their money is spent wisely.
For Rice, the UN budget reform efforts started by the Bush Administration have been too controversial to continue. Rice has avoided tough negotiations and public feuds and has made little to no effort to engage her colleagues on reforming the UN budget process. U.S. citizens pay 22% of the UN’s regular budget, 26% of the UN Peacekeeping Budget and give millions more in voluntary contributions to a plethora of other UN programs. They deserve an ambassador who doesn’t duck even a messy public fight with other countries looking to spend American taxpayers’ dollars.
According to several UN veteran reporters and some US Mission staff, Rice has been missing from crucial negotiations on Iran’s continued enrichment of uranium, too. She’s failed to build on Bush Administration progress on sanctioning Iran. While the Russians and Chinese have historically complained publicly about a vote forced upon them, in the end they voted for such resolutions. Despite multiple deadlines missed by the Iranian government, Rice and her team have so far been unsuccessful in getting a single sanctions resolution. The irony that the French are tougher than the Americans on the Iran issue has prompted former Bush Administration officials to say, “thank God for the French”.
Although Obama and Rice campaigned on the promise to restore America’s reputation internationally, they have chosen the easy path of popularity over progress. Ambassadors will always be loved at the UN when they ignore the important debates and discussions that will keep America strong and safe. It is short-sighted and dangerous to choose likability over the safety and security of those who actually pay your salary. And one sure way to weaken the UN is to placate it, neglect it and marginalize it, as Rice has done this past year. The UN and the American people deserve better.
Where Has Susan Rice Been This Past Year?
This week marks the one year anniversary of Susan Rice’s confirmation by the United States Senate to represent the American people at the United Nations. Over the past 12 months, the U.S. has faced some serious foreign policy challenges such as Iran’s nuclear ambitions, North Korea’s ongoing nuclear weapons’ tests, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, freezing terrorists’ assets world-wide and now the on-going disaster in Haiti. But while the UN struggles to find common ground on these and other important issues, Susan Rice has chosen to spend several days of the work week over the last year in Washington, DC hanging out at the White House and not engaging seriously in New York at the UN.
Rice started off her tenure at the UN with a glamour spread in Vogue Magazine by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz showing her kicking back in an empty Security Council Chamber. It was this silly piece that first signaled to the UN reporters and diplomats that Rice was in New York to have fun and participate in the events that Upper East Side diplomats do. While Rice does commute from Washington, DC every week, she lives in the penthouse of the Waldorf Astoria when in New York. She also has the largest Washington, DC office and staff of any U.S. Ambassador to the UN in history. She regularly attends White House social functions appearing as the Disney character “Goofy” at this year’s White House Halloween Party and attended multiple Christmas Parties at The White House this holiday season.
While Rice, like all Democrat-appointed US Ambassadors to the UN, also serves in the President’s cabinet, she has nevertheless been absent at many crucial Security Council meetings in New York during some of the world body’s most turbulent times. Rice was even missing from this week’s Security Council debate and vote to add new Peacekeepers to a beleaguered UN operation in Haiti. According to several UN veteran reporters and some US Mission staff, Rice has been missing from crucial negotiations on Iran too. They say that when Rice does attend UN negotiations, she is all too willing to avoid confrontation. The Permanent Members of the Security Council – the U.S., the U.K., France, Russia and China – rely on American leadership to drive issues to a close and force votes. While the Permanent Members historically complain publicly about being forced to vote or meet on certain issues, without one country driving issues to completion the UN Members will keep talking or find ways to continue fruitless discussions. After spending 8 years inside the UN and watching the Security Council debate a plethora of issues, I can personally attest to the fact that an effective American Ambassador cannot worry about being the most popular person in the room. Forcing an end to a UN debate and calling for the Security Council to vote on an issue is never popular.
Over the last year, Rice has avoided tough negotiations and public feuds at the UN and has subsequently produced very few UN resolutions on America’s priority issues. While other foreign Ambassadors speak fondly of Rice and her ability to make nice at the UN, she has been a weak negotiator for the American people. Many UN veterans have indicated that Rice’s lack of leadership on the Iranian issue in particular has forced the French Ambassador to pick up the slack in trying to forge a new Security Council resolution to increase sanctions. The irony that the French are tougher than the Americans on the Iran issue has not been lost on career State Department officials.
During the Bush Administration, much to the dismay of many UN members, the United States delegation passed several sanctions resolutions on Iran for their continued uranium enrichment. The Russians and Chinese, in particular, complained publicly about a vote forced upon them, but in the end they voted for the UN sanctions resolution. Rice and her team have so far been unsuccessful in getting even one single sanctions resolution despite having given multiple deadlines to the Iranian Government.
Rice’s weak and sporadic attention to U.S. priority issues actually damages the UN’s credibility by sending the message that U.S. tax dollars can be spent without regard to effectiveness. Americans have always demanded that the UN reform its bloated system and it has fallen to the American Ambassador to the UN to spearhead that reform. Under Rice’s leadership, the U.S. delegation has been astonishingly quiet on UN budget and reform issues. While Peacekeeping operations continue to be expanded without challenge and the UN Budget dramatically increased, Rice and her team have drawn few lines in the sand with the UN. Not surprisingly, Rice has chosen to abandon a messy public fight with other countries looking to spend American taxpayers’ dollars. The U.S. taxpayer pays 22% of the UN’s total budget and 26% of its Peacekeeping budget – more than $1 Billion every year. While the Bush Administration had some success in starting a top to bottom review of every UN mandate and program, the Rice team has dropped the effort altogether. On November 19, 2009, the U.S. Government’s General Accounting Office issued a report questioning how some of the $330 million the U.S. gave to the UN Office for Project Services’ was spent, including a citation of $200,000 to renovate a guest house. So far, Rice and her team have done very little to follow up on this and other questionable budget issues. Demanding UN reform won’t endear you to other Ambassadors, but the American people expect it.
Rice often says that she is different than her predecessors and chooses to socialize and engage her UN colleagues quietly. But the irony is that engaging the world body, as John Bolton did, gives the American people the confidence that our Representatives at the UN are watching how the money is spent and how effective the programs are being implemented. Fighting for quality UN international peacekeeping programs only strengthens the UN and allows it to do more. Reforming the UN makes it more effective and ensuring that the UN spends our money wisely enables it and us to do more for suffering people around the world. One sure way to weaken the UN is to marginalize it, placate it and not engage it as Rice has done this past year.
Perhaps the best example of how Susan Rice views her responsibilities at the UN this year is seen in her revamp of the Bush era website for her office. While previous U.S. Ambassadors to the UN have prominently displayed the American flag on their website and proudly displayed the site in red, white and blue coloring, Rice has changed the site to UN Blue, added a large UN logo and only later added a small American flag after several reporters inquired about the dramatic change and missing American stars and stripes. Rice has gambled this past year that keeping America unengaged at the UN is the best way to be the most popular Ambassador. Unfortunately, though well-liked during her sporadic visits to the UN, Rice has so far been unable to produce any meaningful progress on the world’s most troubling issues.
Barack Obama’s First Year in Foreign Policy
This past year has not been a successful year for the 44th President of the United States. Although the Barack Obama Administration has had the incredible luxury of having its own political party – the Democrats – control the House of Representatives and the Senate by wide margins, there has been little progress on domestic and international issues. Obama and his team have the ability to pass any bill and create any new law they want without relying on a single Republican vote. And yet, the Obama Administration has failed to capitalize on that advantage. As Obama came into office, he promised lots of change. But so far, not much has changed. Domestically, the United States is facing the largest unemployment in decades and the American budget deficit is at an all time high. Internationally, the United States may now appear to be more popular but it’s largely because we aren’t asking countries to do much these days. The Obama team isn’t leading the world. They have chosen the easy path of non-confrontation. Copenhagen is proof. Sadly, the Administration has confused popularity with progress. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy priorities over the last year:
Consecutive United Nations Security Council resolutions on Iran were passed during the Bush Administration and the pressure was placed on the Iranian government to stop enriching uranium. Resolution 1737 imposed strict sanctions on the Government of Iran and was passed unanimously by the Security Council on December 23, 2006 after weeks of negotiations and stalling tactics from China and Russia. Resolutions 1696, 1747 and 1803, all passed during the Bush Administration, kept the pressure mounting on Iran to abide by the international community’s demands to suspend all nuclear enrichment activity. Despite grumblings from Security Council members about having to vote for such measures, the Bush Administration forced the votes and in the end was able to get multiple resolutions passed with unanimous support. Where Bush successfully isolated the Government of Iran, the Obama Administration has eased the pressure on them and the members of the Security Council. Instead of building on all of the work that had been done to negotiate sanctions, the Obama Administration pushed the “reset button” and started over, thereby releasing the mounting pressure. The Russians and Chinese were relieved that UN resolution negotiations were not proceeding with urgency. China and Russia even complimented the Obama Administration as a group of “good listeners” and the new process as “respectful”. The Government of Iran, too, was pleased to have more time to enrich uranium and less pressure to stop their delivery system testing. The Obama Administration hasn’t produced a single UN Security Council resolution on Iran since it took office – the last one passed by President Bush a full 15 months ago. The Obama Administration’s policy on Iran has been a complete failure and has only strengthened Iran’s resolve.
President Obama’s December announcement that he will send 30,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan was a welcomed sign for the peoples of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Although the Obama team spent too much time fretting over their decision to add the troops because it would upset activists in the Democratic Party, Obama’s decision was a courageous one. Democratic leaders, however, are not pleased with the President’s decision. Nancy Pelosi recently said that it will be up to President Obama to make his own case for the troop increase because lawmakers are skeptical and Dennis Kucinich has vowed to offer a bill that would pull all American troops from Afghanistan immediately. President Obama is now in the uncomfortable position of having to count on Republicans to support his troop increase decision and give him one of his few victories this year. Obama’s announcement now makes the war in Afghanistan his war to win or lose. In Pakistan, the Obama team has a mixed record over the last year. While making the Afghanistan announcement in conjunction with a new robust strategy to confront terrorists in Pakistan, the Obama team has signaled their willingness to think strategically in the region. For America, a successful Afghanistan strategy can only be achieved when al-qaeda and the Taliban are wiped out in both countries – Pakistan and Afghanistan. Afghanistan alone is of no strategic value to the United States. While we hope that democracy can be achieved for the people of Afghanistan and that they will be able to have a greater quality of life, these pursuits of human rights and development should be led by the United Nations. Pakistan, however, is a more important strategic partner for the United States and Obama has yet to recognize it. Ensuring that the Government of Pakistan is able to deal with its extremists should be a top priority for America. So far, Obama has not been able to develop a strategy to deal with President Asif Zadari and the growing anti-Americanism in his country.
Candidate Obama promised to pull troops from Iraq as soon as he took office. But President Obama learned that it wasn’t possible. Republicans were pleased that Obama took the advice of his military advisors and changed his policy but his Democratic colleagues have continued to complain about a campaign promise that is still unfulfilled. In trying to capitalize on the growing American frustration over the lack of progress in Iraq, candidate Obama outmaneuvered Hilary Clinton and then John McCain. The many Americans who voted for Obama because they wanted the troops to come home from Iraq have also been disappointed. But the Administration is gambling that an emphasis on a troop increase in Afghanistan and a new robust strategy for Pakistan will insulate them from charges of military weakness in Iraq.
Israel and Palestine
Perhaps the one issue that brought Arabs around the world the most hope for progress with the election of Barack Obama was the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Even some in America were hopeful that Obama would be able to reassure the Palestinians and America’s historical tie with Israel would be sufficient enough to bring the parties together to form a permanent peace. But Barack Obama stumbled early on with his Cairo speech and his directive on settlements. He failed to challenge Arabs to act during his Cairo speech and it was seen by Israel and many in America as a missed opportunity. His public instruction that Israel cease all settlement activity was also a misstep. American Presidents can privately cajole and push the parties to negotiate but no American President can dictate to the parties what should be done. Obama must learn that the Palestinians and the Israelis must each bargain and agree to the terms of any peace deal on their own if it is to last.
Obama’s Popularity Isn’t Translating Into Progress
The White House staff should never allow Barack Obama to go to Copenhagen again. The last time Obama went to Copenhagen the United States got thrown out of the 2016 Olympic bidding process in the first round. This last week, Obama went to Copenhagen for the UN Climate Change Conference and he lost an international agreement on one of his priority issues. If Obama can’t convince the international community to go along with one of his signature issues then the President’s clout isn’t what some Americans claim it is. Other than healthcare reform, President Obama has talked about global warming and climate change issues more than almost any other issue during the campaign and since taking office. The Copenhagen disaster is a real sign of Obama’s shallow influence internationally.
The biggest news coming out of Copenhagen, but not covered by the American media, is that Obama hasn’t been able to convince other Countries to act even though he is the most popular Head of State. One year into Obama’s Presidency and the international community has yet to take action on any U.S. priority. You have to wonder why world leaders claim to love him but won’t follow him.
Obama’s popularity and charisma failed to convince the world to bring the Olympics to the U.S., to sign the Copenhagen agreement, to produce new additional NATO troops for Afghanistan or Iraq, to produce any additional action on confronting Iran’s continued uranium enrichment and even to convince his own Democratic party to support some of his priority issues.
Candidate Obama received the media’s overt support throughout the primary and general elections and became an international super star. Today, Barack or Michelle Obama continue to appear on large and medium sized magazine covers from health and fitness publications to news periodicals to cooking and sports magazines and in nearly every language.
But Copenhagen has shown that we shouldn’t confuse Obama’s popularity with progress. He is clearly popular in other countries but it is because he isn’t asking them to act. Or if he is, he isn’t strong enough to convince them. They love the easy ride.
Iran’s illegal enrichment of uranium is a perfect example of Obama’s weakness. During the Bush Administration, President Bush and his team were able to isolate Iran and organize the international community to produce Security Council sanctions and a total of 3 UN resolutions. Although forcing the Security Council to negotiate and ultimately vote on tough resolutions is never easy and always unpopular, it is an important leadership test. China, Russia and others weren’t happy to be forced to confront Iran – but ultimately Iran sanctions were passed with unanimous support.
The Obama team has chosen to take the easy and popular path. There has been no increase in sanctions or additional UN resolutions on Iran since the Bush Administration ended. In fact, multiple deadlines have passed without repercussions for the Government of Iran. Enrichment continues at multiple sites in Iran even though the UN Security Council has demanded the Government suspend enrichment with verification.
Obama’s popularity may produce large crowds and warm compliments, but one thing I learned while serving 8 years at the United Nations is to be suspicious when you are the most popular guy in a room full of international negotiators.
The Obama Team is Taking Credit for a Bush Policy
The White House this week leaked intelligence information to the New York Times to suggest that their North Korea policy is working. And although David Sanger from the Times was all too quick to buy the Administration’s line, an honest assessment of the Obama team’s claims shows that the successful policy they highlight was designed and first implemented in the Bush Administration.
Over the weekend, an airplane leaving North Korea with a cargo of illegal weapons was seized by Thailand. The Thai intelligence authorities worked with American officials to determine that the 5 member crew from a cargo company in the Republic of Georgia was carrying roughly 30 tons of illegal military equipment.
The Obama team points to the recently passed United Nations Security Council Resolution on North Korea, Resolution 1874, as evidence that they can design a strategy to contain North Korea from gaining weapons and materials to make or launch a nuclear weapon like seizing the Georgian plane. UN Security Council Resolution 1874, however, authorizes countries to board sea vessels and ships, not airplanes. The New York Times highlighted story in Thailand was an airplane and therefore technically didn’t fall under the Obama team’s UN resolution – it was a Bush Administration resolution that gave the authority to seize the plane.
Additionally, the White House and the New York Times missed the fact that the UN Security Council has had sanctions on the DPRK for years. In rushing to trumpet the Obama team’s erroneous claims, the New York Times failed to understand that it is already illegal to carry arms in or out of North Korea. The Bush Administration passed the UN Security Council resolution that made it illegal to transfer illegal weapons by sea or air – or any means. Thailand has been authorized, albeit expected, to seize ships and planes suspected of carrying illegal cargo since 2006. Resolution 1695, passed July 15, 2006, reads in operative paragraphs 3 and 4:
3. Requires all Member States, in accordance with their national legal authorities and legislation and consistent with international law, to exercise vigilance and prevent missile and missile-related items, materials, goods and technology being transferred to DPRK’s missile or WMD programmes;
4. Requires all Member States, in accordance with their national legal authorities and legislation and consistent with international law, to exercise vigilance and prevent the procurement of missiles or missile related-items, materials, goods and technology from the DPRK, and the transfer of any financial
resources in relation to DPRK’s missile or WMD programmes;
And Resolution 1718, passed October 14, 2006, says in operative paragraphs 7 and 8:
7. Decides also that the DPRK shall abandon all other existing weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programme in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner;
8. Decides that:
(a) All Member States shall prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the DPRK, through their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in their territories…
Further, early in the Bush Administration John Bolton conceived of and implemented a successful program called The Proliferation Security Initiative or PSI. PSI acted as a coalition of the willing searchers. Several countries in and around North Korea have been working together for quite some time to patrol the water, land and air for possible illegal shipments going in and coming out of North Korea. The Japanese, in particular, have been very concerned and have aggressively been watching North Korean exports and imports. Countries interested in intercepting cargo going in and out of North Korea have been stopping and boarding suspicious vessels for many years. Once Bolton was at the United Nations as our American Ambassador, he was able to draft similar language used from the successful PSI program into UN Security Council mandated resolutions thereby compelling countries to work to ensure no illegal weapons entered or left North Korea with a UN mandated appeal.
However, The New York Times’ David Sanger yesterday wrote, “The Obama administration is trying to show that it will choke off the North’s illicit exports even while attempting to reopen nuclear talks. In interviews in recent weeks, several officials said they believed that the Bush administration, which came to office seeking to topple the North Korean government of Kim Jong-il, mistakenly eased pressure on him while pursuing disarmament accords, almost all of them since renounced by the North.”
While Resolution 1874 is an additional constraint on North Korea, it is redundant and not as thorough as Resolutions 1695 and 1718. Resolutions 1695 and 1718, more important resolutions passed during the Bush Administration, established wide-ranging sanctions on DPRK back in 2006.
The simple fact is that during the Bush Administration the pressure was greatly increased on the North Koreans, not decreased as the White House and the Times says. I have written to David Sanger asking him and the New York Times to correct the record but so far I haven’t heard back.
What Peace Did He Achieve?
Jimmy Carter, Al Gore and Barack Obama have all been given Nobel Peace Prizes. Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher have not.
Since 1901, the Nobel Committee has awarded the annual Prize to an entity, group or individual who works for peace in a significant way. Well, technically there have been 19 times that the Committee felt as if no one deserved the Prize and chose not to name a winner. The last time no winner was named was 1972.
Nancy Reagan must surely be disappointed that her husband helped bring Communism to its knees and yet President Reagan didn’t get the Prize, Mikhail Gorbachev did in 1990. Although maybe there is still hope for Reagan since Dag Hammarskjold won the prize in 1961 after he was dead. And Jimmy Carter was first ignored in 1978 after bringing Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat together to forge a peace deal between Egypt and Israel. Begin and Sadat won that year instead and Carter won a make-up award in 2002. Gore didn’t win as a sitting U.S. Vice President – he also got a make-up win later in 2007. Although Charles Dawes was a sitting U.S. Vice President in 1925 when he won for the Allied Reparation Commission.
Although you don’t have to be Mother Teresa to win one (she won in 1979), Bill Clinton still hasn’t been awarded the Prize and I am sure he must be furious. All that work on the Dayton Peace Accords and handshakes on Middle East peace at Camp David weren’t enough to get President Clinton the nod. Although other sitting Presidents have won – Woodrow Wilson in 1919 and Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.
While some people talk about Obama’s win as an award for the HOPE of peace, last week’s escalation of war in Afghanistan with the announcement of an additional 30,000 American troops certainly is awkward timing.
And if the criteria to win the Prize is about HOPE, then why not John Danforth in 2004 for bringing the Northern and Southern Sudanese leaders together to sign an agreement in front of the United Nations Security Council whom he brought to Kenya, Africa in a special session? Or George Mitchell could have been this year’s make-up win, like Carter was, for the plethora of issues he has worked on or is currently working on. At least HOPING for Mitchell is based on past performances.
The United Nations seems to win without the Committee looking at its performance record. And UN Secretary-Generals are a shoe-in to win the Prize just by getting their title. Kofi won in 2001, the UN peacekeepers in 1988, UNHCR in 1981. And although UNICEF hasn’t won since 1965, they are currently led by a Republican so we all understand why they aren’t currently eligible.
The Nobel Prize Committee has damaged its credibility by giving the 2009 Prize to Barack Obama. It should have chosen a make-up award from past credible peace makers or it could have made this the 20th time it hasn’t named a winner.
let’s hope he is fair and confident. fair enough to not treat conservatives with disdain and confident enough to withstand the elitism of some in the international community.
this story is disturbing on so many levels. one of the many lessons i learned from working at the UN for more than 7 years is that there is no greater threat to democracy than voter fraud and intimidation. people should not be coerced at the polls. i challenge everyone who cares about our democracy to volunteer on election day at the polls to ensure that those who are voting are not intimidated or coerced or participating in fradulent schemes.
U.S. Spokesman at the U.N. Makes His Mark
Monday, August 11, 2008 2:35 PM
By: Ronald Kessler
In February 2006, both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times ran editorials saying that John Bolton, America’s ambassador to the United Nations, was right to reject sham proposals to reform the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
Noting that some of the world’s most abusive regimes hold seats on it, the Times called the commission “disgraceful.”
The paper even applauded Bolton’s refusal to go along with a “shameful charade” to make cosmetic changes in the commission.
The New York Times is normally a cheerleader for the United Nations and a critic of the Bush administration, not to mention then U.S. Ambassador John Bolton.
“It was a coup for Ric Grenell,” says Maggie Farley, who covers the United Nations as bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times.
Since 2001, Grenell has been the U.S. spokesman at the United Nations, a position officially called “director of communications and public diplomacy for the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations.”
“He had both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times saying that Bolton was right and Secretary General Kofi Annan was wrong,” Farley recalled, noting his ability to reach out to the media.
Working Behind the Scenes
Grenell is a not exactly a household name; he stays in the background and works diligently behind the scenes to make his bosses look good as he promotes and protects America’s reputation. The longest-serving U.N. spokesman, Grenell has advised four U.S. ambassadors — John D. Negroponte, John C. Danforth, John R. Bolton, and Zalmay Khalilzad the current U.S. ambassador — on the formulation and articulation of U.S. policy at the United Nations.
Grenell has a no-nonsense approach – he quickly responds to attacks against the United States. That has raised some hackles among reporters who see the United Nations as a perfect launch pad for anti-American diatribes.
Still, many of the most respected reporters who cover the United Nations and State Department view him as a breath of fresh air who makes their jobs easier while getting the U.S. message out to the world. In that respect, many of them say, the White House press office could take a few lessons from Grenell.
Few outside the media grasp how much a good public relations person can shape coverage. Reporters are human, and if they are given respect and attention, they are more likely to be open to the official line. If they are ignored or simply “fed” a story, they often take it out on the agency or person they are covering.
“Ric Grenell is one of the sharpest press officers I’ve dealt with,” James Rosen, Washington correspondent for Fox News, tells Newsmax.
“He knows the policy underlying the talking points, the personalities, and the issues. He also understands the black-is-white, up-is-down bizarro world that the United Nations can sometimes become. Ric can be exceptionally helpful to an honest reporter — when he wants to be . . .
“The U.S. government is lucky to have him.”
Grenell looks younger than his 41 years. He’s articulate, well dressed, and comes across as poised as a veteran politician. In fact, before arriving at the United Nations, Grenell earned his stripes in the political world.
He worked on several political campaigns, then served as press secretary on Capitol Hill to then Congressman Mark Sanford — who went on to become South Carolina’s governor — and Congressman Dave Camp of Michigan.
From Washington he moved on to Albany and served as a spokesman for New York Gov. George Pataki. Later he joined San Diego Mayor Susan Golding as her press secretary.
Despite his media background, Grenell said dealing with the press at the United Nations offered different challenges.
“The U.N. press corps viewed themselves as international civil servants,” Grenell told Newsmax. “They certainly were journalists, but they viewed themselves differently than the press corps of Washington. They saw themselves as helping the world’s poor and needy. They were friends with Secretary General Kofi Annan, and they felt it was their job to trumpet the obscure reports produced by him and the U.N. They weren’t, for example, looking at how the billions of dollars were spent at the U.N.”
As aggressive reporters for Fox News, The New York Sun, and a few other news outlets arrived on the scene, “The press corps began to have a fight among themselves,” Grenell remembers.
“The old deans of the U.N. press corps immediately started talking loudly about those who were rocking the boat. And what really irritated me at this point was those old deans of the press corps not only were upset that people were rocking the boat and doing stories that they weren’t supposed to do, but they dismissed these people as not really true journalists. It was that elitist attitude of, You just don’t know the world, and we do.”
So, Grenell says, he focused on helping “those journalists who wanted to act like journalists.”
Instead of deferring to The New York Times and Washington Post, Grenell began pushing his staff to go online, blog, start MySpace and Facebook pages, and reach out to the new media.
“I’m not from the East Coast, and I don’t think like an East Coast press person,” Grenell says. “I don’t naturally think The Washington Post and New York Times are the be-all, end-all. I understand it’s all about digital media.”
Farley of the Los Angeles Times confirms, “Ric was very aware of the online presence of new media like The Huffington Post and Slate, and he made sure the news was accessible to them.”
Normally, government spokesmen confine themselves to passively working with the daily press. But Grenell made a point of reaching out to editorial writers, including those at The New York Times.
“I was doing monthly editorial writers’ calls with our ambassador to update the editorial writers, even at medium-size papers,” Grenell says. “When you have a conference call with the ambassador to the U.N., these people get very connected into what we are doing.”
At least once a week, Grenell checks in with two editorial writers at The New York Times. Such proactive work often pays dividends, as it did when the Times ran its Feb. 26, 2006 editorial, “The Shame of the United Nations.”
“When it comes to reforming the disgraceful United Nations Human Rights Commission,” the editorial said, “America’s ambassador, John Bolton, is right; Secretary General Kofi Annan is wrong.”
“Nobody could believe it,” recalls Farley.
Receptive to All Press Reps
Keeping in mind the need to convey to the rest of the world what America stands for, especially in the wake of Sept. 11, Grenell has cultivated the Arab press.
“All of the Arab bureau chiefs are integral to what we are doing here at the U.S. mission, and so I befriended them and really reached out to them, socialized with them,” Grenell says.
“I joined them on domestic trips sponsored by the State Department, so that I could encourage these Arab journalists to see more of America and understand that America is more than just Washington and New York.”
Grenell took them not only to Chicago, Denver, and Kansas City, but also to Las Vegas.
“Ric strongly defended his government’s position but always gave me the informational tools I needed to build a comprehensive and meaningful picture of that position for my audience,” says Abderrahim Foukara, bureau chief of Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel.
“On many occasions, he arranged for me to hear that position from the horse’s mouth, in one-on-ones with those representatives, whatever the issues may have been. This is extremely significant in light of the difficulty that some of my colleagues experienced in getting that kind of access to people and information in Washington.”
Raghida Dergham, senior diplomatic correspondent at the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat, says she never felt like a second-class citizen because her publication is not American.
“Ric Grenell changed the tier system and understood that he served American policies best at the U.N. though dealing with the international press as equal to the American press,” she says.
Grenell uses the carrot and the stick: If he feels certain reporters are not interested in doing an honest story, he shuns them.
“When we’re dealing with reporters who are biased from the beginning, and who don’t allow us to speak our mind and explain our policies, then that’s a vicious cycle,” Grenell says.
And if a reporter gets a story wrong, he tells him.
“I fully believe that it is my job to follow the story to the end,” Grenell says. “If a reporter writes a story that is erroneous, I feel that it is my responsibility to the public to correct the record as much as possible.”
Grenell says his job is to get the story out; he only has a limited number of ways to do that.
“I ask myself every day, ‘Am I getting the story out? Am I explaining our policy enough?’” he says.
As noted in the Newsmax story “Dana Perino: Press Job Like Herding Cattle,” President Bush’s approach is to present his message publicly in speeches and press conferences. Bush believes this approach minimizes leaks.
When it comes to the press, the White House has been known as a buttoned-down operation, often unwilling to feed the media even harmless tidbits that would make their stories more colorful and help to tame snarky reporters.
If Grenell differs in his approach from the more traditional White House press operation, that has not raised eyebrows at the White House.
“They recognize that New York is a different place and that the U.N. press corps is a huge challenge,” he says, “so they have given me a long leash.”
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com.
© 2008 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
Sanctions may be in store if Iran rebuffs nuclear offer
By WARREN P. STROBEL
The United States and Europe are poised to seek harsher U.N. financial sanctions against Iran if it fails to meet this weekend’s deadline to accept an international offer of negotiations in exchange for freezing its nuclear program, diplomats said Friday.
It’s uncertain how, or even whether, Iran will formally respond to the offer. Authorities in Tehran have given no sign that they’re willing to accept the offer of a “freeze for a freeze” – to cap Iran’s uranium enrichment at current levels in exchange for a moratorium on further sanctions against it.
A snub by Iran could open a new chapter in the long-running confrontation as President Bush enters his final months in office. While diplomats plan to push for new sanctions, Israel’s leaders and Bush administration hawks, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, argue that military strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities must be considered.
“It’s clear (Iran) has not complied with the international community’s demand to stop enriching uranium. We, the United States, will work with our allies to come up with another resolution in the Security Council,” Richard Grenell, a spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, told McClatchy.
What new sanctions will be sought hasn’t yet been decided, U.S. and European officials said. In the past, it’s sometimes taken months to get agreement on new U.N. action from China and Russia, who are unenthusiastic about sanctions.
But one idea under discussion is to target Iran’s reliance on imported gasoline and other petroleum products. Despite its vast oil reserves, Iran lacks refining capacity and imports much of its gasoline. Sanctions could target shipping directly or dissuade insurers from insuring shipments to Iran.
The idea has the backing of some Israeli and U.S. officials but is controversial, because it could hurt Iran’s citizens as much as it would their leaders.
The international community offered the “freeze for a freeze” to Iran two weeks ago at a Geneva meeting in which a senior U.S. diplomat, Undersecretary of State William Burns, was present for nuclear talks for the first time.
Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States offered to suspend consideration of further sanctions for six weeks in return for Iran not expanding its enrichment of uranium that can be used for nuclear weapons.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said this week that the country wouldn’t be dissuaded from its nuclear program, which Iran says is aimed at generating electricity, not making weapons. Diplomats at Iran’s U.N. mission weren’t available for comment Friday.
“I would say the Iranians sent mixed messages this week, and it’s really hard to tell what the bottom line is,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said. “And so we’ll need to wait and see if they do respond formally.”
“You never know what the Iranians are going to do,” said a European diplomat, who requested anonymity to discuss diplomatic options.
While State Department officials say that there’s still time for diplomacy to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Israel’s leaders – who view an Iranian nuclear weapon as a threat to the country’s existence – are increasingly blunt in warning that time is running out.
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz warned Friday that Iran is on the verge of a nuclear breakthrough.
“The window of influence is becoming smaller and, I believe, is about to close,” said Mofaz, a possible candidate to replace outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
“Even diplomacy has its limits,” he said at an appearance at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The United Nations has imposed three previous rounds of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. They’ve failed to persuade Tehran to change course, but U.S. officials argue that they’ve compounded Iran’s economic problems and prompted a debate among Iran’s fractured leadership over the country’s course.
(McClatchy Newspapers correspondent Jonathan S. Landay contributed to this report.)