As a former official of the George W. Bush administration, I’ve always been amazed and amused by the foolish trope that that administration believed in military power and bullying, as contrasted with the Obama administration’s belief in diplomacy.
For an administration that claims to believe in diplomacy, this one has left a lot of vacancies for a very long time. Case in point: despite the extremely complex developments in Egypt, it is eight months since we had an ambassador in Cairo. This can’t be blamed on senatorial dilly-dallying, nor on obstructive Republicans: no one has been nominated. The previous incumbent, Anne Patterson, is now Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, so the administration had plenty of warning about her departure; after all, it picked her.
What’s the excuse? It doesn’t matter, because excuses are always available or can be manufactured. The fact is that during this period of change in Egypt, the post is vacant–depriving Washington of eyes and ears that are supposed to be vital. If you really believe in diplomacy, that is. If not fine–but let’s hear no more speeches about how this administration believes in engagement and diplomacy. Vacancies don’t engage.