When I took part in a wash-up after Copenhagen with a group of American policy makers, I was struck by the sense that, although the summit had been tough for the United States, they took great consolation that the Europeans had had a much worse time of it during the climate talks.
It all made me think of a quip attributed to Gore Vidal: “It’s not enough to succeed. Others must fail.”
Today, Richard posts the following digest of Hillary Clinton’s meeting with the UK’s new Foreign Secretary, William Hague (a man she is yet to grow as fond of as she was of his predecessor):
If you want to boil all this down to essentials, I’d suggest the following: (i) Mrs Clinton effectively said, “you’d better show discipline when it comes to the EU”; and (ii) Mr Hague basically said “OK”.
I’d parse the ‘better show discipline’ line in two ways. First, the US wants the UK to play an active role in Europe. Second, it needs the Europeans to respond with one voice to a growing roster of global problems.
But to take this beyond complacent lecturing (“we may have a lamentable recent foreign policy record, but at least we’re not as shambolic as those awful old worlders”), the Obama administration needs to do what it can to create an incentive for European cooperation.
When it (i) starts listening to Europeans when they have caucused and arrived at a joint position; (ii) continues to listen, even if it doesn’t agree 100% with the European position; and (iii) foregoes the temptation to divide and conquer by playing favourites among European nations for short term tactical advantage – then, and only then, will I believe that the US is serious once again about the transatlantic relationship.
If Obama’s team wants a ‘disciplined Europe’, good. But it should back this up with its actions. Reward Europe with access when it’s united (as it was, more or less, on climate incidentally). Sideline it when it’s divided. And see the extent to which that makes Europeans pull together in the face of transnational challenges…
– Writing in the New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell explains how “the roots of Wall Street’s crisis were not structural or cognitive so much as they were psychological”. Overconfidence among bankers, he suggests, in addition to the more familiar arguments about poor regulation and simple incompetence, played a significant role in the financial crisis.
– The Prospect blog, meanwhile, discusses how “the Indian Ocean is emerging as a focus for Chinese logistical and naval expansion” – something being felt acutely in Washington and New Delhi. Staying with the US and India, WPR takes an interesting look at Hillary Clinton’s recent trip to South Asia.
– Elsewhere, the Channel 4 News blog has more details about the UK’s upcoming Iraq War Inquiry – suggesting that it is due to hear “mountains of evidence” and, given the expansive nature of its remit, is unlikely to have lawyers present.
– Finally, Adam Roberts has an interesting piece in The World Today assessing the current state of the Geneva Conventions. Sixty years later, he ponders, are the laws of war still relevant to the changing nature of conflict?
We will be doing this quadrennial review, which will be, we hope, a tool to provide us with both short-term and long-term blueprints for how to advance our foreign policy objectives and our values and interests. This will provide us with a comprehensive assessment for organizational reform and improvements to our policy, strategy, and planning processes.
– Hillary Clinton, announcing the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review last week
More than 230 years ago, Thomas Paine said, “We have it within our power to start the world over again.” Today, in a new and very different era, we are called upon to use that power. I believe we have the right strategy, the right priorities, the right policies, we have the right President, and we have the American people, diverse, committed, and open to the future.
– Hillary Clinton, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations yesterday
– Over at Politico, Ben Smith has more news about the Secretary of State’s big foreign policy speech, to be delivered today at the Council on Foreign Relations. Placing the last six months of US diplomacy into perspective, it will also offer Hillary the chance to begin putting her own distinctive stamp on policy. As Smith comments:
Clinton appears increasingly comfortable expressing her views. State Department officials have suggested that she’s been a hawkish internal voice, pushing Obama toward more confrontational stances toward adversaries from Iran to Cuba.
– The NYT has an interesting article highlighting the importance of water, as well as land, to Middle East peace. “[W]hen it comes to water”, Stanley Weiss suggests, “every nation is in the same boat”.
– Elsewhere, the FT’s Brussels blog identifies five priorities for the next European Commission – defending the single market; reforming financial regulation; clarifying climate change and energy security policy; unifying a foreign policy voice; and finally the small matter of appointing a new President. Deutsche Welle, meanwhile, has an interview with Hans-Gert Pöttering, the outgoing President of the European Parliament.
– Finally, a veritable slew of polls – well ok, two – on British defence spending. A PoliticsHome poll suggests 66% of voters feel defence should be protected from inevitable cuts in public spending (79% among Conservative supporters, 64% for Labour supporters, and 49% among Lib Dems). Details here. The Guardian, meanwhile has an interesting ICM poll (pdf) indicating that 54% of British voters now support nuclear disarmament, with only 42% in favour of replacing Trident.