DECEMBER 14, 2008

Bush Was No Unilateralist

The president’s longest-serving senior diplomat says conventional wisdom is wrong.

Paula Dobriansky is too much the diplomat to ever “bristle” at a question. But the word “unilateralism” elicits something close to that response. Sitting in her comfortable office, located in a drab wing of the drab State Department, I ask the undersecretary for democracy and global affairs just what she thinks of the conventional judgment that the Bush administration has practiced a “go it alone” foreign policy.

“If you look at every issue here, every issue I deal with, I can tell you our method has not been to take the U.S. experience and merely transplant it on the soil of another country,” she says firmly. “Every issue here has had a rather vibrant, multilateral component to it. And you can see the results.”

On the face of it, her remit — “global affairs” — encompasses a bewildering set of responsibilities: climate change, human trafficking, pandemic disease, women’s issues, democracy, refugees, oceans, migration. The only glue that officially binds these issues together is that none can be solved with bilateral negotiations. They all require global cooperation, or as the undersecretary likes to put it, a “holistic” response.

One reason why these efforts haven’t been as noticed is that most aren’t the subject of “hard” foreign policy debates. When critics level their unilateralism charge against the Bush administration, they tend to focus on its tougher actions — the invasion of Iraq, or the refusal to directly engage with rogue leaders.

[The Weekend Interview] Zina Saunders

Paula Dobriansky

Ms. Dobriansky’s efforts have instead been focused on what scholars like to term “soft power.” Coined by Harvard professor Joseph Nye (one of Ms. Dobriansky’s former professors), soft power describes the goal of engaging other countries on issues of culture and ideology. Considering President Bush’s strong commitment to freedom, it should come as no surprise that — even as he takes a tough line on terrorism or nuclear weapons — his State Department has been busy trying to foster democratic values across the world.

This is Ms. Dobriansky’s bailiwick, and she comes to her passion not just via Mr. Nye, but through her father, the late Lev Dobriansky, a scholar and relentless anti-communist who also served as a U.S. ambassador. “Coming into this job, my father had a great impact on me. He talked about the importance of the human condition and he said that freedom and human dignity are essential components of the human condition. . . . All of my areas, when you look at them, they all relate to the human condition and to those fundamental needs. . . . And all of these issues — health, human rights, women’s issues, democracy, the environment — are interwoven into our broader national security priorities of peace and stability.”

To make the point, she tells a story of Afghan women. “On one of the first visits that we made to Afghanistan, we met two young women in their 20s in Kabul. They were setting up a micro-finance bank, and they said, ‘We need resources so women can set up their own businesses.’ One of our members from the private sector did give resources specifically to help. . . . The next time we came to Afghanistan, we had to meet at the cafeteria at the embassy, because now there were 80 to 100 women, and they were all owners of businesses, everything from kites to a cement factory, to furniture to rugs.

“The third time we went to meet with them, we had to meet at their headquarters, and those headquarters encompassed an entire federation of Afghan women entrepreneurs. They are incredible. And it was striking to us, what a little targeted assistance could do to support this fundamental change from the time of the Taliban.” The point, she explains, is that no country can be stable so long as only half of its population is free to succeed. And foreign stability makes the U.S. safer.

With a staff of 800, Ms. Dobriansky’s office oversees a whirlwind of similar programs. Early on, the Bush administration created an office to combat the trafficking of persons. Today, dozens of countries are actively working on prevention, prosecutions, and the protection of victims. In 2002, the U.S. announced the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, in which some 40 governments and groups work to preserve the world’s second-largest area of tropical rain forest. In 2005, President Bush announced an international partnership to combat a pandemic avian influenza outbreak. At the time, about 40 nations had preparedness plans; today, as many as 130 countries do.

And then there are the democracy initiatives. With U.S. leadership, in 2005 the United Nations created the Democracy Fund, designed to finance projects that build democratic institutions. More than 35 countries have contributed some $100 million to the fund, which has already green-lighted 85 projects. In 2002, the Bush State Department created the Middle East Partnership Initiative. It is now funding more than 350 initiatives in 15 countries, focusing on everything from press rights in Algeria to legal rights for Yemeni women. One project brings young women here from every country in the Middle East to work in Fortune 500 companies.

She is quick to note that much of this has been driven by President Bush himself. She singles out Africa, where Mr. Bush has more than quadrupled health funding. “I used to have that portfolio,” she says. “But the president has devoted such personal time to issues such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria that the State Department created a whole new department, the U.S. Global Aids Coordinator.”

It might also be the case that the Bush administration doesn’t get credit for leadership on key issues for the reason that the results aren’t always to the liking of the liberal intelligentsia. When Mr. Bush first took office in 2001, he met howls for his decision not to submit the Kyoto Protocol for ratification. That event helped create the storyline of Bush unilateralism.

Less noticed is that in the intervening years, the global community, pushed by Ms. Dobriansky, has taken a dramatically different view of how to approach global warming. “Today, there isn’t just a focus on the short term, but on the medium and long term. There is a belief that there needs to be a revolution in technologies. There is an understanding that the world is much different than in 1990, that you now have these major emerging economies, and that they can contribute significantly to the challenges of climate change.” None of this sits well with environmentalists, who still believe the only course of action is carbon restrictions that punish developed countries. But especially with the recent economic crisis, governments are taking a more rational view.

Nor is the Bush administration’s “multilateralism” restricted to governments. Civil society is obviously comprised of all sorts of groups and, like prior administrations, the Bush team has made these outside forces integral to their efforts.

One of Ms. Dobriansky’s favorite examples is the administration’s ongoing effort to completely eradicate polio. Spearheading that effort are, in fact, two nongovernmental organizations — the U.N. Foundation (Ted Turner’s group) and Rotary. “We all sat together to come up with a strategy. And while we reached out to the diplomatic corps in key countries, those groups were on the ground, putting out the resources, doing the work. It is great cooperation,” she explains.

The administration has also tried to integrate the business community. In 2006 the State Department established the Global Internet Freedom Task Force, a coalition of human-rights organizations and business players to come up with ways technology can combat censorship and repressive regimes. As a result of that group, the State Department’s annual human-rights report now includes an evaluation of a country’s Internet freedoms.

And then there is Hollywood. Yes, Ms. Dobriansky moves with the stars. “America’s best advocates for positive change are its best-known faces,” she confirms. She’s stood beside Angelina Jolie to talk about refugees. (She admits to some worry that nobody would ask her any questions.) She’s worked with Bo Derek on animal trafficking. She recounts singer Ricky Martin’s request to help deter trafficking of individuals. “He does wonderful work in and throughout Latin America, and has been able to reach communities that I don’t know we would have otherwise been effective in reaching — younger people in particular,” she says.

“She is a dynamo. She was creative collaborator on so many issues,” says actor Richard Gere, who has worked with Ms. Dobriansky on Tibet and HIV/AIDS. Mr. Gere admits he’s no fan of many Bush actions, but on those two areas he offers praise. He talks about Ms. Dobriansky’s efforts to obtain the Congressional Medal of Honor for the Dalai Lama, an award that both honored His Holiness, but also sent a signal to China of America’s support for Tibet. “This is a deeply interconnected world. And there is no good for us unless there is an overall good. That’s her approach,” he says.

As Ms. Dobriansky prepares to leave State, she holds one unusual distinction. Appointed to her job in the first days of the Bush administration (she had been president of the Council on Foreign Relations), she is now the longest serving person in her post. The next closest would have been FDR’s undersecretary of state, Sumner Welles, who had similar responsibilities.

That long service means Ms. Dobriansky has worked under both Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, and I ask her to describe the difference. “Well, Secretary Powell came with a military background, and Secretary Rice comes with an academic background. I think that has maybe had a little bit of influence. With him, he was very efficient on how to organize. In her case, she really enjoys bringing different experts together to brainstorm on this or that issue.”

The time has also given Ms. Dobriansky a chance to contemplate some of those big foreign-policy divides, for instance the famous split between “realists” and “idealists.” Her own view is that the split is greatly exaggerated. “This office brings together idealism and realism. It is the nexus. You pursue goals that are idealistic, but in the end all of these issues are absolutely integral to our greater national security strategy. These issues can be used to advance relationships with other countries, and in the process affect the lives of real people.”

Spoken, some might say, like a true multilateralist.

Ms. Strassel is the Journal’s Potomac Watch columnist.

Even Chicago’s Crooks Are Appalled by Blagojevich

Extorting Children’s Hospital is a new political low.

Chicago

Chicagoans and Illinoisans love political scandal the way that Milanese love opera.

We trade recollections, like baseball cards, about the secretary of state (Paul Powell) who stashed money in shoeboxes, and the Chicago mayor (Harold Washington) whose birthday was April 15 but never filed his income tax return.

Rod Blagojevich stands a chance to be the fourth Illinois governor in recent history, and the second in a row, to wind up in prison. This run suggests that Illinoisans are indifferent to political corruption, and it’s hard to argue with such an impressive procession of felonious officials.

But all of Illinois’ disgraced former governors were considered honest pols when they were elected. Otto Kerner had gone to Cambridge, won the Bronze Star, and was a respected judge. Dan Walker was a self-righteous reformer of such blatant rectitude that he managed to cast Illinois Congressman Paul Simon — bow-tied Paul Simon, a man who wouldn’t try to sneak a tenth apple into a Nine Items or Less checkout line — as a stooge for the Chicago machine. George Ryan was considered a slightly frumpy small-town druggist who would keep a wary eye on Chicago sharpies. Mr. Blagojevich, for that matter, ran as a fresh face to chase out Ryan’s stale old ways.

[Even Chicago's Crooks Are Appalled by Blagojevich] Associated Press

I leave it to biographers and psychiatrists to ponder if these governors of both parties were honest men who got corrupted in high office, or lifelong crooks who had simply been waiting for the opportunity.

President-elect Barack Obama has never been close to Mr. Blagojevich. He has aligned with the Daley division of the fractured Democratic machine, while Mr. Blagojevich, chiefly through the sponsorship of his father-in-law, a powerful Chicago alderman, has been from that faction that has always resented the mayor’s good fortune for being born with the Daley name.

But while calling for historic change globally, the president-elect has never professed to be a reformer locally. Mr. Obama has surrounded himself with some of the best political talents of Richard M. Daley’s team (observe the number of former Daley chiefs of staff and campaign managers among his close associates), and reassured voters across the country that his Chicago roots confer a kind of priceless political street cred that he cites (“Hey — I’m from the South Side of Chicago!”) when skeptics wonder if someone who was a state legislator just four years ago is prepared to sit down with the likes of Vladimir Putin.

In Chicago politics, outright reformers have always been held a little suspect. They are considered too smug to forgive human frailty and temptation, while regulars have a human touch. Larceny may beat in their hearts — but at least you can tell what’s in their hearts; whereas reformers expect people to live by rules.

Reform gets identified with well-educated people who are comfortable with laws that say city jobs should go to the person who is best qualified. After all, educated people usually are the best qualified. Regulars know that regular people sometimes need a little help. Under this kind of ethic, steering rewards to friends and family becomes a virtue. As Mayor Richard J. Daley once famously exclaimed when caught trying to shovel city insurance business to one of his sons (not Richard M. or Bill Daley), “Any father who doesn’t do for his son isn’t a good father, and if they don’t like it, kiss my ass.”

A Chicago alderman once complained to me about modern reform hiring laws — the line was so good, I borrowed it, unembellished, for a novel — “What’s this world coming to when a guy can get a job for a stranger more easily than he can for his brother in law?”

But even those who live by this kind of code are appalled by the allegations against Mr. Blagojevich. Reaping reward for appointing someone to the senate is not unprecedented, or even unethical. I am confident that if Gov. Blagojevich had appointed Valerie Jarrett, Mr. Obama’s reported favorite, to the seat, the people in his administration would consider that they owed the governor some sort of favor, and would have resurfaced a highway, or invited him to a White House dinner with Angelina Jolie. But unsubtly putting a senate seat up for personal auction, as if it were a piece of family jewelry, is arrogance that makes even hardened pols shudder.

Yet that’s not even the item that angers me most. Among U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s bill of particulars is the charge that Gov. Blagojevich sought to rescind a state payment of $8 million to Children’s Memorial Hospital if their CEO failed to organize a $50,000 contribution to the governor.

Many shameless politicians would send free turkeys to a children’s hospital. The publicity is good, and it might help them sleep at night. But this governor was willing to stint on their care if a hospital official didn’t oblige him with cash.

When I was in high school, a group of friends and I would pass out toys and candy to children in the hospital wards there. It was both the saddest and sweetest event of the season, and the thought that a public official would dare diminish the care of sick, innocent children over a campaign contribution doesn’t just deserve an indictment. I think it reserves that politician a seat in Hell.

Mr. Simon is the host of NPR’s Weekend Edition and author of the novel, “Windy City” (Random House, 2008).

Fitzgerald Should Keep His Opinions to Himself

As in the Libby case, his behavior is ‘appalling.’

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s “conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave,” according to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. But Mr. Fitzgerald’s statement would, at the very least, make well-regarded former Attorney General Robert Jackson flinch in his. Almost seven decades ago, Jackson admonished a meeting of U.S. attorneys that they should be dedicated “to the spirit of fair play and decency . . . . A sensitiveness to fair play and sportsmanship is perhaps the best protection against the abuse of power . . . .”

In the Dec. 9 press conference regarding the federal corruption charges against Gov. Blagojevich and his chief of staff, Mr. Fitzgerald violated the ethical requirement of the Justice Department guidelines that prior to trial a “prosecutor shall refrain from making extrajudicial comments that pose a serious and imminent threat of heightening public condemnation of the accused.” The prosecutor is permitted to “inform the public of the nature and extent” of the charges. In the vernacular of all of us who practice criminal law, that means the prosecutor may not go “beyond the four corners” — the specific facts — in the complaint or indictment. He may also provide any other public-record information, the status of the case, the names of investigators, and request assistance. But he is not permitted to make the kind of inflammatory statements Mr. Fitzgerald made during his media appearance.

[Fitzgerald Should Keep His Opinions To Himself] Associated Press

Patrick Fitzgerald

I am as repulsed by the governor’s crude statements — captured on tape by investigators — as anyone. And although I am a Republican, I am first an officer of the court. Thus, I take no joy in a prosecutor pursuing a Democratic politician by violating his ethical responsibility. I fear for the integrity of the criminal justice system when a prosecutor breaks the rules.

What’s more, Mr. Fitzgerald is a repeat offender. In his news conference in October 2005 announcing the indictment of Scooter Libby for obstruction of justice, he compared himself to an umpire who “gets sand thrown in his eyes.” The umpire is “trying to figure what happened and somebody blocked” his view. With this statement, Mr. Fitzgerald made us all believe he could not find the person who leaked Valerie Plame’s name as a CIA operative because of Mr. Libby. What we all now know is that Mr. Fitzgerald knew well before he ever started the investigation in January 2004 that Richard Armitage was the leaker and nothing Mr. Libby did or did not do threw sand in his eyes. In fact — since there was no crime — there was not even a game for the umpire to call.

In the Libby case, rather than suffer criticism, Mr. Fitzgerald became a media darling. And so in the Blagojevich case he returned to the microphone. Throughout the press conference about Gov. Blagojevich, Mr. Fitzgerald talked beyond the four corners of the complaint. He repeatedly characterized the conduct as “appalling.” He opined that the governor “has taken us to a new low,” while going on a “political corruption crime spree.”

Additionally, Mr. Fitzgerald violated another ethical mandate under Justice guidelines for prosecutors: He is supposed to “exercise reasonable care to prevent” law enforcement — in this case the FBI Agent — from making the same type of extrajudicial statements. Mr. Fitzgerald exercised no care.

Special Agent Rob Grant volunteered that when he arrived in Illinois four years ago, he was asked by the media whether Illinois is the “most corrupt state in the United States.” He then answered that four-year-old question claiming, “[I]t’s one hell of a competitor.” Mr. Grant did not stop there. He revealed that the FBI agents who participated in the case were “thoroughly disgusted and revolted by what they heard.”

Well, weren’t we all? Even though the governer’s maneuvering to sell the Senate seat most likely had not yet crossed the line to become criminal behavior, it was base, sordid conduct. But those thoughts and words are for the rest of us to express before the trial. It is unethical for those who are government prosecutors to do so.

Ms. Toensing, a former Justice Department official, is a lawyer in Washington.

Mitch McConnell’s Finest Hour

The same can’t be said for President Bush on the auto bailout.

In the Senate’s Thursday night automobile showdown, the United Auto Workers said “No thanks” to a bailout with strings attached. Most Senate Republicans took them at their word and voted to block the bill. But within hours, President Bush blinked and Treasury is now scrambling to use money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Who’d have thought Mr. Bush would want to join the long line of Detroit executives in caving to the UAW?

Senate Republicans had more gumption. Led by Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, they asked the auto workers to show they were serious about making Detroit competitive again. In exchange for a lifeline from Washington, Mr. Corker wanted the union to set a “date certain” in 2009 for lowering the Detroit Three’s hourly labor costs to the average of foreign-owned auto makers in the U.S. He also wanted creditors to bring down Detroit’s total debt by two-thirds through an equity swap, making sure debtholders share the cost of restructuring.

The union’s counteroffer was that it would bring down labor costs in 2011, when its current contracts run out. Maybe we missed something, but we thought GM and Chrysler were facing bankruptcy now, not in three years. As Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor, that sounds like “taxpayer money today for reforms that may or may not come tomorrow.”

Thursday’s showdown marked an important political moment for the Republican Party. By refusing to write a blank check to Detroit, Senate Republicans have started to reclaim some credibility on fiscal policy and the role of government in the economy. They did so standing up to a Republican President who doesn’t want any more bad headlines, as well as to Democrats who will blame the GOP if the auto makers collapse.

They also stood up for the right reasons. No bailout will ever restore the car companies to profitability without a restructuring. Yet an explicit UAW goal is to use the bailout to avoid any such thing. The union and their Democratic protectors want to avoid the discipline that a bankruptcy could impose under Chapter 11. A government-directed salvation would also give environmentalists huge leverage over the cars Detroit builds, a power they and Democrats have wanted for decades.

Sorry to say, within hours Friday morning the White House was saying that it would be “irresponsible” to let the companies fail. If the Administration believes that, it would be equally irresponsible not to insist on the same commitments that Mr. Corker couldn’t get. If the Treasury gives GM and Chrysler bridge loans without strict conditions, Democrats will pocket that precedent and avoid any serious changes when they work out a long-term deal in January.

The TARP wasn’t designed and was never intended to bail out industrial firms. The moral hazard inherent in TARP was substantial even when it was limited to financial companies. If it becomes a pot of gold for any industry needing a hand, it will become a real monster. Treasury has already run through the TARP’s first $335 billion, with just $15 billion left before he has to seek further authorization from Congress. That $15 billion might tide GM and Chrysler over until the new Congress convenes, but it will leave him with little running room to help out the banking system. As the recession deepens, more banks are likely to fail, and preventing a systemic financial collapse was the justification for giving Treasury the authority it enjoys under the TARP.

The bailout’s backers argue that a GM bankruptcy would hold as much systemic risk for the real economy as a huge bank failure, but those risks are overstated. Chapter 11 is a well-established tool for financial restructuring. It is not tantamount to collapse or liquidation. If White House economist Ed Lazear is worried that no one will accept a car warranty from a bankrupt company, then Congress can address that specific problem rather than write an open-ended check. Chapter 11 could well offer a speedier resolution to the auto makers’ plight than a slow-motion, politically infected catastrophe that could easily cost $125 billion or more.

President Bush is on a valedictory tour talking up his accomplishments, but he’d do more for his legacy if he refused to offer Detroit, Democrats, unions and the greens a taxpayer E-Z pass. At least the rest of his party has figured out what’s really going on.

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