If Bill Clinton had outsourced a serious problem in his foreign policy to some unaccountable EUrocrat, the Republicans would rightly still be up in arms about it. What are we to do when a president who we support appears to be doing that?
Iran’s new chief nuclear negotiator made his international debut in Rome on Tuesday, to a chorus of unusually blunt criticism by politicians in Tehran that the departure of his predecessor was unwise.
Saeed Jalili, the negotiator, met with the European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, who has been asked by the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany to find a formula to persuade Iran to suspend key nuclear activities.
Curiously, at Mr. Jalili’s side was Ali Larijani, his predecessor, who took the lead in the closed-door talks and in remarks afterward to reporters.
Mr. Solana described the talks as “constructive,” and Mr. Larijani called them “good.” But there was no movement on the one issue that matters, said participants in the meeting who spoke under normal diplomatic rules: Iran’s refusal to suspend uranium enrichment as required by the United Nations Security Council.
What sort of strength are we bringing to the table with a consensus guy like Xavier Solana? Not a great deal, unless you’re a big fan of the UN.
There is no EU army. Mr Solana cannot – should the desire ever take him – order up an air strike or send a fleet to hover off the coast of a country.
He carries no fat commercial contracts to use as persuasion, nor does he have the power to impose embargoes.
Even the EU’s sizeable aid and development budgets are disbursed by other departments.
He is instead a cajoler and a persuader. He is a symbol of that still nebulous thing, European foreign policy.
Hard and soft power
EU foreign policy is not the sum of the policies of the member states that make up the union. It is different.
Freed from the restraints and demands of national self interest, it starts from a different base – at its best, the desire to spread democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Yes, yes, except for the inconvenient facts that the EU is hardly democratic and the UN is hardly a model of moral authority. The former is actually run by unaccountable bureaucrats who do their own thing under the guise of a rotating and largely meaningless presidency; the latter is constantly embroiled in sex scandals and colossal financial shenanigans, when it’s not putting the likes of Syria and Libya on its Human Rights Commission.
What are the odds that UN/EU gray man Xavier Solana is going to get Mahmoud and the mullahs to stand down on the nukes? Exceedingly slim, I’d say.
So why are Bush and Condi depending on him? Probably because they’re out of ideas of their own.
(h/t Chris R.)