Candor and diplomacy together may not deliver desired results, experts caution Obama

June 7th, 2009 - 12:47 pm ICT by ANI  

Barack Obama Washington, June 7 (ANI): US President Barack Obama may have laid down a marker for candor in American diplomacy, but experts have cautioned that it might not be the best policy.

When Obama declared that the United States will “say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs”, it drew applause from his Arab audience, but experts warned that candor and diplomacy are not synonymous, and if Obama were to apply the same approach to thorny problems like Iran and North Korea, it might not produce the intended desirable results.

“There are two home truths in diplomacy — One is, don’t tell lies. The other is, you can say more in private than you can in public, but they have to be consistent,” the New York Times quoted Thomas R. Pickering, one of the nation’s most experienced career diplomats and a former under secretary of state, as saying.

“There are times with authoritarian regimes (like Iran, China and North Korea) that you are trying to nudge in a positive direction when you do not want to say things too publicly,” added R. Nicholas Burns, a former under secretary of state for political affairs, who handled the talks on Iran’s nuclear program during the Bush administration.

Burns, who now teaches at Harvard, cautioned that such an approach worked only in certain cases. In other cases, he said, the United States needed to articulate its values clearly and publicly.

At some point, the White House will have to decide whether to pursue more substantive talks on issues like Tehran’s nuclear program, said the experts.

What makes the president’s declaration about public and private talks with the Middle East unusual, experts say, is that he applied it to Israel, one of America’s closest allies.

“The basic rule of diplomacy is that with allies, you try to solve problems quietly,” Burns said.

Burns, who supports pushing Israel on settlements, said the Middle East might be a rare case in which candid diplomacy, even with an ally, makes sense. (ANI)

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