September 20, 2007
Great Moments in Public Diplomacy
This is really so sad. "People who want to be Cal Ripken in Pakistan", says Condi (save the detail they are cricket crazy, not baseball, of course!). Yes, that will materially impact our global reputation. Don't get me wrong. I know Cal Ripken is a good guy. I know baseball is our great national past-time. I'm happy Karen and Condi are sports fans. But does anyone seriously believe Cal Ripken regaling young Indonesian, Pakistanis or Saudis with tales of his RBI averages, interspersed with talk of 'character' and 'leadership' and such, is going to make one iota of difference for us strategically vis-a-vis our public diplomacy efforts?
No, it's all on par with Zathras' comment here regarding the celebrification (is that a word(?), if not, it should be...) of policy players etc. Why be surprised? It's well in keeping with this cheapened era. For Brooke Astor, we have a new breed of socialite that enjoys moonlighting as porn-star. For Secretary of States we have Ms. Wiesbaden Uber-Boots strutting her stuff. For public diplomacy tsarina we have an old Texan friend of the Decider who doesn't know squat (sorry...) about the Middle East.
Look, if we were at all serious about public diplomacy, we'd have had all our regional experts who speak Arabic flooding the airwaves apologizing for Condi's immensely tone-deaf "birth pangs" comment during the Lebanon-Israeli war the summer before last, when the entire Islamic world was enraged by images of cluster munitions being littered willy-nilly through south Lebanon, not to mention the horrific incident at Qana. Or she would follow her predecessor Colin Powell's recommendation to close Guantanamo without delay, by having a come to Jesus w/ the Decider about how the Cuban penal colony (along with the hooded man at Abu Ghraib) was overshadowing the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of America among many around the world.
These would be the makings of a serious public diplomacy effort, not this breezy, palsy-walsy festiveness with Cal. But what good does it do to scream on like this? You do public diplomacy with the public diplomacy team you have....
P.S. Did anyone notice how relaxed and happy Condi looks in the YouTube above? I couldn't help wondering, she really might well be happier as NFL Commissioner, and is just (mostly) treading water until '09....
P.P.S. For avoidance of doubt and spurred on by this commenter at Yglesias' place, I want to be clear. I'm not a big baseball fan, but from the little I know of him, I think Cal Ripken is a great guy. I really do. So yeah, good on him to want to pitch in and try to help. Nor am I trying to cheaply beat up on Rice or Hughes, as all told (and relatively speaking given the awfulness of this Administration), they too are trying to help on the margins. My point is just that we're grossly in over our heads, that's all...and not enough people are pointing it out.
MORE: Alex Massie weighs in:
Equally tellingly, you'll notice that Dr Rice doesn't mention the one country where Mr Ripken might conceivably (and even then it's a stretch) do some good for the Yankee image. That would, of course, be Venezuela - the one South American country that considers baseball, not soccer, its national sport. But then again, why would you want to engage with the Axis of Evil's Junior Varsity skipper?
Send Cal to Caracas!
Meantime reader SG writes in: "You didn’t have to mention you were not a big baseball fan; your use of the phrase “tales of his RBI average” does that for you. You could have said batting average or RBI totals..." Forgive my mortifying ignorance! With apologies...Posted by Gregory at September 20, 2007 11:20 AM
About Belgravia Dispatch
Gregory Djerejian, an international lawyer and business executive, comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.
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