How Not to Do Diplomacy

 

During the last four years, one of the regular complaints about President Trump was that he was too nice to our enemies. He met with them (gasp!), he spoke well of them (horrors!), he complimented them (mon dieu!). And this was why Democrats (and far too many Republicans) kept insisting he was an agent of Russia or some such nonsense.

The fact is, when you’re trying to get someone on your side, you do exactly what President Trump did. You kill them with kindness. You show an interest in them. You speak well of them. You highlight their successes. It’s all right there in How to Win Friends and Influence People, the kajillion-selling book by Dale Carnegie. (A book I recommend to everyone, but especially those who seek public office.) It’s probably found in The Art of the Deal, too, but I haven’t read that one.

It seemed as if Democrats (and far too many Republicans) wanted President Trump to enter into delicate negotiations by insulting world leaders or otherwise telling them off.

How well does that tactic work?

About this well.

It goes without saying that when conducting high-level diplomacy, you don’t insult the other party at a joint press conference before the negotiations begin. And if you choose to do something so foolish, you must be ready when the other party retaliates in its response.

It is incredible that secretary of state Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan did not understand this when they began talks with their Chinese counterparts in Alaska yesterday. At what was supposed to be perfunctory two-minute statements by the US and Chinese delegations to the press before the talks began, Blinken and Sullivan criticized Chinese activities against the Uighurs, in Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as for cyber attacks on the US and economic coercion of US allies. Blinken said China’s behavior ‘threatens the rules-based order that maintains global stability’. Sullivan added that ‘China has undertaken an ‘assault on basic values’.

Although Blinken and Sullivan needed to raise these issues with their Chinese counterparts, doing so publicly at a joint press conference deeply insulted them and needlessly damaged US-China relations. Chinese Communist party foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi and foreign minister Wang Yi angrily responded with long diatribes against the United States which included accusing the US of human rights and freedom of the press violations. The Chinese officials also accused Blinken and Sullivan of being condescending and staging the Alaska meeting to embarrass China on US territory.

Blinken looked like a deer in the headlights when the Chinese officials responded. He and Sullivan obviously decided to criticize China at the press conference to counter Republican criticism that President Biden is weak on China. This was not diplomacy — it was virtue-signaling for America’s Biden-lapdog mainstream media. But it is inexplicable that Blinken and Sullivan were not prepared for a furious response by their Chinese counterparts.

Blinken and Sullivan seemed genuinely surprised by the reception they got. But Washington is now operating under the rule “Whatever Trump did, do the opposite.” (Even regarding things that should have bipartisan support — like lowering the cost of insulin.) It’s now “opposite day” — or “opposite four-years” to be precise. And we’re seeing the results of how well that approach works.

President Trump didn’t much care for diplomatic niceties, but he knew from his career as a dealmaker how to conduct diplomacy with America’s adversaries. When he appeared before the cameras with officials such as Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un, Trump set a cooperative and optimistic tone. Trump also often bragged about his personal friendships with these leaders. The former president knew building trust through these personal relationships was part of what he called the ‘Art of the Deal’ to get these countries to the negotiating table and to strike deals with them.

That is exactly correct. That’s how you turn adversaries into partners. Enemies into friends.

President* Biden, known for insulting random Americans at campaign stops, decided to extend his tough-guy image beyond the borders by repeating a claim that back in 2011 he looked Vladimir Putin in the eye and declared that he had no soul. To which Putin allegedly responded, “we understand each other.” It’s one of those oft-told stories that you get with old men like Joe. It most likely didn’t happen. But Joe wants to look tough. I guess we’re lucky he didn’t call Putin a “lying dog-faced pony soldier,” because that would probably have started World War III. But in declaring Putin a “killer” and telling the old “had no soul” story, what did Biden expect would happen? He probably didn’t expect anything to happen. He gets away with this stuff all the time. It’s red meat for his media sycophants.

However, sometimes there are consequences.

Moscow then took the unusual move of temporarily recalling its ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, in what’s believed to be the first such instance in more than 20 years.

And Putin one-upped the “tough guy” ploy.

“I’ve just thought of this now,” Putin told a Russian state television reporter. “I want to propose to President Biden to continue our discussion, but on the condition that we do it basically live, as it’s called. Without any delays and directly in an open, direct discussion. It seems to me that would be interesting for the people of Russia and for the people of the United States.”

Ouch. Clearly Biden’s (and therefore America’s) weakness is on full display, internationally, and Putin is taking full advantage of it. So yes, Russia’s playing games here. But the Democrats and their media allies have been blaming every domestic ill on Russia for the last four years. If I were Putin, I’d be growing tired of being their whipping boy, too.

It should be no surprise that the Biden administration, which even treats American citizens as enemies, can’t build bridges with other countries either. But Russia and China are our two biggest international rivals. You’d think they’d at least try to be diplomatic. But they don’t seem to understand the first thing about diplomacy.

Published in Foreign Policy
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  1. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Another that should be on the Main Feed.

    • #1
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Now, if I were the Chinese, I would have laughed it off Reagan-style.

    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone: Blinken said China’s behavior ‘threatens the rules-based order that maintains global stability’.

    “We are merely seeking a different global stability, a new and longer-lasting stability where China is on top.”

    • #2
  3. DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone Coolidge
    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Now, if I were the Chinese, I would have laughed it off Reagan-style.

    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone: Blinken said China’s behavior ‘threatens the rules-based order that maintains global stability’.

    “We are merely seeking a different global stability, a new and longer-lasting stability where China is on top.”

    No doubt China’s pearl-clutching is every bit as much international political theater as Putin’s response.

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone (View Comment):
    No doubt China’s pearl-clutching is every bit as much international political theater as Putin’s response.

    Oh, definitely, but both show weakness and brittleness.

    • #4
  5. DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone Coolidge
    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Arahant (View Comment):

    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone (View Comment):
    No doubt China’s pearl-clutching is every bit as much international political theater as Putin’s response.

    Oh, definitely, but both show weakness and brittleness.

    I think the Biden administration is coming off weakest of the three.

    • #5
  6. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone (View Comment):
    I think the Biden administration is coming off weakest of the three.

    Not only weak, but clueless. The others know what they do, even if methinks she doth protest too much.

    • #6
  7. MWD B612 "Dawg" Member
    MWD B612 "Dawg"
    @danok1

    I think that Trump sometimes went overboard with his praise of Kim Jong-Un, Putin, etc., but he at least understood that there’s nothing to be gained by acting hostile in public (at least until your negotiating partner gives you a reason to do so). Biden and his administration are wrong-footing it from the get-go.

    • #7
  8. DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone Coolidge
    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone
    @DrewInWisconsin

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):
    there’s nothing to be gained by acting hostile in public

    Yep. When tough talk is necessary, you save it for when the cameras are off and you’re behind closed doors.

    In public you help the other guy save face. That can have the effect of putting the other guy in your debt.

    • #8
  9. DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) Coolidge
    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!)
    @DonG

    Biden Hat trick:  mocked by Russia, mocked by China, mock Chevy Chase.

    • #9
  10. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone (View Comment):

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):
    there’s nothing to be gained by acting hostile in public

    Yep. When tough talk is necessary, you save it for when the cameras are off and you’re behind closed doors.

    In public you help the other guy save face. That can have the effect of putting the other guy in your debt.

    Also, tough talk should be general and not individualized. Reagan had no problem going after the Evil Empire, but he certainly extended warmth to Gorbachev – even though Gorbachev was just as much the dictator as Putin or Xi or Kim are now. Anyone who’s ever met any person probably knows this intuitively. Just goes to show that just because someone is smart doesn’t mean they can’t be dumb. Then too, much of the criticism directed at Reagan and Trump was totally disingenuous and even shamelessly obtuse.

    • #10
  11. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I have mixed feelings about this. A chill went up my spine last fall when I saw the clip in which Biden said plaintively, “China is our friend.”

    So I agree with your main point, and I am also a fan of Dale Carnegie, but then there’s Neville Chamberlain.

    Where I agree with your primary point is that I believe the Russians are not our enemy. A lot changed when the USSR collapsed in 1991. I would like to improve that relationship.

    Our enemies are actually in Iran, North Korea, Syria, and China–specifically their leaders, not their average citizens.

    Don’t you think it is better that they fear us than befriend us? That’s a genuine question. I go back and forth on answering it in my own mind. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, as they say. And some of these would be the enemies of my enemies, which makes them my friend. It gets complicated.

    If we cut off diplomatic ties with the CCP, we won’t know what they are doing, and they will make friends with the Russians, actually re-forming the alliance that Henry Kissinger sought to disrupt.

    • #11
  12. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    The CCP et al probably already know that Biden and co. aren’t serious as soon as they see Biden et al wearing masks.

    • #12
  13. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) (View Comment):

    Biden Hat trick: mocked by Russia, mocked by China, mock Chevy Chase.

    Chevy could play Biden. He’s less than a year younger.

    • #13
  14. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    The administration is doing what it set out to do. Diminish the role of America in the world. We already know that they view America as deeply flawed and an evil imperialist, and they are acting accordingly. They are destroying our country from the outside and from the inside. 

    • #14
  15. DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone Coolidge
    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone
    @DrewInWisconsin

    The interesting thing is how the Democrats’ talk against its domestic enemies is backfiring on the international stage.

    Democrats are constantly repeating the “America is fundamentally racist” nonsense, so the Chinese said “Well, if that’s true, then you have no grounds for lecturing us on human rights.”

    See where all that virtue signalling got you, Dems? Now you have no leverage at all.

    • #15
  16. DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone Coolidge
    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone
    @DrewInWisconsin

    MarciN (View Comment):
    Don’t you think it is better that they fear us than befriend us? That’s a genuine question. I go back and forth on answering it in my own mind.

    Same.

    I don’t know if I want them to fear us. I want them to know that if they cross us there will be consequences. I don’t think that’s necessarily fear. I think that’s respect. See us as more powerful or even equal in power. But know that if we want a mutually beneficial relationship, we have to play by certain rules, and if they break those rules, we’re not going to be chumps about it. (This is what President Trump was attempting with one-sided trade deals.)

    • #16
  17. DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone Coolidge
    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Oh, and catch this: failed novelist Ben Rhodes blames the disastrous meeting with the Chinese delegation on . . . who else? President Trump.

    Remember, Ben Rhodes is the Obama administration flack famous for bragging about how easy it is to lie to the press and get them to be your public relations department, because, as he says, the press is so dumb.

    “All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” he said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

    In this environment, Rhodes has become adept at ventriloquizing many people at once. Ned Price, Rhodes’s assistant, gave me a primer on how it’s done. The easiest way for the White House to shape the news, he explained, is from the briefing podiums, each of which has its own dedicated press corps. “But then there are sort of these force multipliers,” he said, adding, “We have our compadres, I will reach out to a couple people, and you know I wouldn’t want to name them — ”

    “I can name them,” I said, ticking off a few names of prominent Washington reporters and columnists who often tweet in sync with White House messaging.

    Price laughed. “I’ll say, ‘Hey, look, some people are spinning this narrative that this is a sign of American weakness,’ ” he continued, “but — ”

    “In fact it’s a sign of strength!” I said, chuckling.

    “And I’ll give them some color,” Price continued, “and the next thing I know, lots of these guys are in the dot-com publishing space, and have huge Twitter followings, and they’ll be putting this message out on their own.”

    This is something different from old-fashioned spin, which tended to be an art best practiced in person. In a world where experienced reporters competed for scoops and where carrying water for the White House was a cause for shame, no matter which party was in power, it was much harder to sustain a “narrative” over any serious period of time. Now the most effectively weaponized 140-character idea or quote will almost always carry the day, and it is very difficult for even good reporters to necessarily know where the spin is coming from or why.

    So now he’s running to MSNBC to make sure the proper Biden Administration spin gets repeated. And it will.

    • #17
  18. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone: It should be no surprise that the Biden administration, which even treats American citizens as enemies, can’t build bridges with other countries either. But Russia and China are our two biggest international rivals. You’d think they’d at least try to be diplomatic.

    It’s hard to be diplomatic with countries that want to destroy you.  But you’re right, if you mean by being diplomatic “polite but firm” . . .

    • #18
  19. DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone Coolidge
    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Stad (View Comment):

    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone: It should be no surprise that the Biden administration, which even treats American citizens as enemies, can’t build bridges with other countries either. But Russia and China are our two biggest international rivals. You’d think they’d at least try to be diplomatic.

    It’s hard to be diplomatic with countries that want to destroy you. But you’re right, if you mean by being diplomatic “polite but firm” . . .

    A lot of stuff falls under the umbrella “diplomacy.” But I think if you can turn enemies into allies, you’re doing it right.

    I don’t think the Biden team’s approach will do that.

    • #19
  20. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Remember the “iron hand in the velvet glove”?  Now, it’s the hand of straw in the velvet glove.  No threat there.

    • #20
  21. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone: It should be no surprise that the Biden administration, which even treats American citizens as enemies, can’t build bridges with other countries either. But Russia and China are our two biggest international rivals. You’d think they’d at least try to be diplomatic.

    It’s hard to be diplomatic with countries that want to destroy you. But you’re right, if you mean by being diplomatic “polite but firm” . . .

    A lot of stuff falls under the umbrella “diplomacy.” But I think if you can turn enemies into allies, you’re doing it right.

    I don’t think the Biden team’s approach will do that.

    I’m worried their appoach is “bend over and grab the ankles” . . .

    • #21
  22. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Remember the “iron hand in the velvet glove”? Now, it’s the hand of straw in the velvet glove. No threat there.

    More like hand of straw in the sandpaper glove.

    • #22
  23. Flicker Member
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone (View Comment):

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):
    there’s nothing to be gained by acting hostile in public

    Yep. When tough talk is necessary, you save it for when the cameras are off and you’re behind closed doors.

    In public you help the other guy save face. That can have the effect of putting the other guy in your debt.

    Saving face, huh? :)  Who ended up with more face?

    Added:  Putin was the one assaulted here.  And he hit back with a knock-out.

    I ask again, Who authorized that Biden answer?

    Added again: I’m not disagreeing with Drew’s comment, I’m just surprised that Biden spoke completely contrary to anyone’s saving face, not even his own, and he got embarrassed for it (if such a thing is possible).

    • #23
  24. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Flicker (View Comment):

    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone (View Comment):

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):
    there’s nothing to be gained by acting hostile in public

    Yep. When tough talk is necessary, you save it for when the cameras are off and you’re behind closed doors.

    In public you help the other guy save face. That can have the effect of putting the other guy in your debt.

    Saving face, huh? :) Who ended up with more face?

    Added: Putin was the one assaulted here. And he hit back with a knock-out.

    I ask again, Who authorized that Biden answer?

    Corn Pop?

    Or someone he met yesterday while having breakfast at that diner he goes to, that closed 20-something years ago?

    • #24
  25. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Not hoe Reagan did it. Biden could learn. Mmm. Imagine voting for this man as a Republican now.

    • #25
  26. DJ EJ Member
    DJ EJ
    @DJEJ

    I’ll repost with slight revisions my impression of Trump’s approach to public interaction with foreign leaders that I put into a comment on an Area 45 podcast episode from last year about Vladimir Putin:

    My impression was that Trump’s modus operandi was to speak glowingly of any individual foreign leader he had a personal relationship with regardless of the democratic or anti-democratic nature of the leader’s country…except if they 1) verbally threaten the US and/or 2) personally insult him. He always punches back if 1) and/or 2) occur. After Trump felt he sufficiently responded (via tweet and/or public statement), he returned to speaking well of the foreign leader. What Trump said was never an accurate predictor of the policy his administration carried out (a fact that the pundit class never figured out).

    So while speaking glowingly of the personal relationship he had with Putin, the Trump administration’s actions were to restore the missile defense deal to eastern Europe that Obama cancelled in 2009, provide lethal weaponry to Ukraine that the Obama administration denied, promoted US oil and natural gas production to the point that we’re now the largest producer and a net exporter in competition with Russia [but probably not for much longer under Biden], pulled out of the INF treaty after accusing Russia of breaking it, and authorized our soldiers in Syria to use lethal force to kill 200+ Russian troops?/mercenaries? when they advanced too close to and attacked our position. Related to the Trump administration policy on Russia is Trump publicly berating Merkel for making a natural gas deal with Russia rather than a NATO ally (i.e. I think he took her actions personally because his cajoling NATO allies to pony up more money showed that a strong NATO alliance was really important to him).

    This disconnect between what he said about an individual ruler and administration policy played out over and over again, e.g. with North Korea and China. He said nice things about Xi, but Trump negotiated forcefully against Chinese trade imbalances, intellectual property theft, currency manipulation, etc. and imposed harsh tariffs. He said nice things about Kim Jong-Un after meeting with him, but called him little Rocketman when North Korean public statements got too bellicose or after they tried to intimidate us with another missile test, and walked away when the deal was no good.

    Democrats talk tough but do nothing. Obama drew a red line in Syria but did nothing when it was crossed. The Iranians repeatedly made a fool of Obama. The Biden administration wanted to talk tough to China in the initial public statement for the favorable press it would generate here – “look at how strong Biden is”, and then spin the results of their weak negotiations (Biden is completely compromised by China) behind closed doors after the meeting was over. I’m honestly wondering, what foreign policy successes have the Democrats had in over 20 years?

    • #26
  27. DJ EJ Member
    DJ EJ
    @DJEJ

    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone (View Comment):

    Remember, Ben Rhodes is the Obama administration flack famous for bragging about how easy it is to lie to the press and get them to be your public relations department, because, as he says, the press is so dumb.

    “All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” he said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

    In this environment, Rhodes has become adept at ventriloquizing many people at once. Ned Price, Rhodes’s assistant, gave me a primer on how it’s done. The easiest way for the White House to shape the news, he explained, is from the briefing podiums, each of which has its own dedicated press corps. “But then there are sort of these force multipliers,” he said, adding, “We have our compadres, I will reach out to a couple people, and you know I wouldn’t want to name them — ”

     

    Rhodes brags about fooling an uninformed press to secure a deal that was never actually signed, that the Iranians were breaking immediately, and whose terms were so lax that it wasn’t breaking the deal for the Iranians to conduct intermediate range missile tests and leak video footage of it to the world (remember the missiles with threats toward Israel written on them?). The Obama admin “defeated” the press, while the Iranians mopped the floor with them. Let’s also not forget the shameful capture of our sailors, the propaganda coup it was for the Iranians, and John Kerry’s vacillating resolution of the incident.

    • #27
  28. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Most of us–and I reluctantly include myself–backed Bush 43’s voluntary, unforced error leading a “coalition of the willing” against Iraq. It was a colossal mistake, right up there with the Democrats backing an easy little jungle war in southeast Asia 35 years earlier. That’s one big reason why the words “Republican foreign policy” don’t impress many independents. It was probably Trump’s best rejection of GOP orthodoxy. 

    Trump’s expert handling of Russia and Putin could have achieved results on a Nixon-like scale if he’d had two terms. 

    • #28
  29. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    DJ EJ (View Comment):
    Democrats talk tough but do nothing. Obama drew a red line in Syria but did nothing when it was crossed. The Iranians repeatedly made a fool of Obama. The Biden administration wanted to talk tough to China in the initial public statement for the favorable press it would generate here – “look at how strong Biden is”, and then spin the results of their weak negotiations (Biden is completely compromised by China) behind closed doors after the meeting was over. I’m honestly wondering, what foreign policy successes have the Democrats had in over 20 years?

    But they will have more flexibility after they are re-elected. Isn’t that enough for starters?

    • #29
  30. DJ EJ Member
    DJ EJ
    @DJEJ

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    DJ EJ (View Comment):
    Democrats talk tough but do nothing. Obama drew a red line in Syria but did nothing when it was crossed. The Iranians repeatedly made a fool of Obama. The Biden administration wanted to talk tough to China in the initial public statement for the favorable press it would generate here – “look at how strong Biden is”, and then spin the results of their weak negotiations (Biden is completely compromised by China) behind closed doors after the meeting was over. I’m honestly wondering, what foreign policy successes have the Democrats had in over 20 years?

    But they will have more flexibility after they are re-elected. Isn’t that enough for starters?

    I assume you’re referring to the Obama / Medvedev hot mic incident, and applying it to a second term Harris administration (let’s be honest here, ain’t no way Biden makes it to or runs for a second term).

    • #30