Last week in this space I wrote about Secretary of State Clinton’s cavalier call for the people of Aleppo to rise up against the Assad regime. When they did — as when President Bush (41) called on the Shi’ites and Kurds of Iraq to rise up against Saddam in 1991 — the U.S. declined to support the rebels, and the results were bloody. It seemed that neither was aware of the impact the words of the government of the United States can have on people in distress.
The problem, actually, is different, as seen on Page 2 of the Style Section of The Washington Post (15 August)1. It was just a little blurb in the “Names & Faces” column, noting that back in April, Secretary Clinton, “indulging in a bit of wishful thinking … about the plight of blind dissident Chen Guangcheng,” said, “You know, this is such a long flight, maybe they’ll have the problem all worked out by the time we land. Maybe all the problems everywhere will be worked out by the time we land.”
The real problem is twofold — first that the secretary of state of the United States begrudged the long flight that carried her to her duties and wished that those duties would be obviated by other people “working things out.” (Helpful hint to Mrs. Clinton: don’t go everywhere; you didn’t need more frequent flier miles than Madeleine Albright2.)
Remember that in April, human rights activist Chen Guangcheng had been released from prison but was under house arrest and severe mental stress until he made a daring and dangerous escape from his residential prison to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. The Embassy escorted him to a government-run hospital and accepted its dictate that American officials leave him there alone. He spent several days isolated. And she was complaining about the job of talking to his jailors. That’s a small, nasty problem.
The bigger, nastier problem is that Clinton seems not to understand that for many governments, problems don’t get “worked out”; they get bludgeoned. For them, repression is a solution; the people in the Chinese government thought the Chen Guangcheng problem was worked out when they stuck him in a hole. How many other prisoners remain hidden? Ethnic cleansing is a solution; after the forcible removal of hundreds of thousands of people during the Yugoslav wars, Croatia and Serbia are tourist destinations. War crimes are a solution; it was Putin’s solution to Chechnya, and Mrs. Clinton is not complaining.
It is true that the secretary of state is not the secretary of war, but the two are intimately related. This administration is waging/has waged war or is helping someone else do it in Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Uganda (where 100 U.S. combat troops are helping to track down a single warlord), and Somalia (where the U.S. is training a pan-African force for Mogadishu). Iraq is omitted deliberately, but Syria counts because the CIA is “vetting” and funding rebel groups in tandem with Turkey, which is arming them. This administration bears responsibility for the brutal war waged in Mali with arms taken from Libya, and some responsibility for the war in Sudan by “working out” a deal with warcriminal Omar Bashir in Khartoum and assuming he was serious. Opening talks to open talks with the Taliban has an impact on the Taliban’s behavior in Afghanistan. Providing a visa for an Egyptian senior member of a known terror group encouraged boldness on the part of the Muslim Brotherhood — to the consternation of Egypt’s minorities.
Under the circumstances, The Washington Post should carry the secretary of state in the news section, not the style section. It might remind her that even cavalier and thoughtless words are taken seriously elsewhere in the world, if not at home.
1That it was in the Style Section rather than International News attests to the willingness of the press to give her a pass for what would have been a faux pas in another administration.
2Mrs. Clinton is the most frequently traveled secretary of state in U.S. history.