Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Speaking with forked tongue

When we're for a free press, but against al-Jazeera, people conclude that we're not really for a free press. Again, not because we're not communicating our message, but because we're actually hostile to the essence of the idea of a free press -- that the powers that be and their agenda may be subject to criticism, including overly-harsh criticism, by the media. When we say that we can't have diplomatic relations with Iran because it's a dictatorship, and Israel can't have relations with the Palestinian Authority until it becomes democratic, but we have no problem dealing with the existing regimes in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, then democracy looks like an excuse rather than a reason for US policy taking the shape that it does. Again, we're not failing to communicate the sincerity of our desire for democracy. We're failing to be sincere. Or, at least, we're failing to take actions that would be consistent with a sincere belief. I'm sure that in some sense the president's subjective understanding of what he's doing is perfectly genuine, but communicating the contents of his heart isn't the issue. To effectively communicate the message that the United States is a force for good, we need to act like we are. To effectively communicate the message that we don't have a hidden agenda in Iraq, we need to not have hidden agendas. To effectively communicate the message that we're on the side of freedom, political reform, and justice, we need to actually be for these things, even when it creates short-term inconveniences.

Couldn't have said it better myself.
Well, actually, I didn't. Matthew Yglasias did.
That, and a good deal more.

Pretty smart observer in the comments thread, too. Bush will not have an instrument of foreign policy in Condi Rice. He will have a spokesperson.

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