Thursday, April 14, 2005

America's Next Ambassador to Paris and His Outlook on Diplomacy

In nominating Craig Roberts Stapleton as the next ambassador to Paris, President George W. Bush is sending a self-described risk-taker and straight-shooter to handle one of the most delicate and important U.S. diplomatic missions
writes Brian Knowlton in the International Herald Tribune. Notice how, in the following paragraph, the New York Times-owned newspaper puts, as usual, the brunt of the responsibility for bad (or deteriorating) relations on Uncle Sam. Deteriorating relations due to the acid and ugly comments of do-nothing, unengaged spectators doing their criticizing from the safety of their cozy living rooms.
If the Senate confirms him to the much-coveted Paris post — a process expected to go smoothly — Stapleton will have key responsibility for nursing back to health the U.S.-French relationship, which is still haltingly recovering from the strains of the Iraq war.
The strains of the Iraq war. While Americans ands their allies acted, and bled, in the deserts of Mesopotamia, what, might it be asked, did the Iraq war ever strain among peace camp members, except their desire to successfully oppose Uncle Sam, as well as their high-falutin' ideals (and pocketbooks) according to which, if only everybody (democrats and dictators alike) got together to converse in a talk shop, a way might be found in which the whole world would come together as one? Gratefully, Stapleton will not be one of those Americans who sucks up to his foreign hosts by putting the basic blame af all problems on America.
…In an interview in 2003, as Stapleton was about to leave [the Prague embassy] for the United States to help with Bush's re-election … he linked himself to a tradition of more "free-spirited" American ambassadors who do not always fit traditional molds.

When he first arrived in Prague, he told a Prague Post interviewer, "I wasn't careful as a diplomat because I wasn't a diplomat.

"I tried to be reflective and not to say the first thing that came to my mind, but I was very confident, knowing the president, knowing the secretary of state, that I knew what they wanted me to do here."

The Czech press reported that in March 2003, Stapleton stormed out of a meeting with President Vaclav Klaus, who had criticized U.S. use of force in Iraq, undiplomatically slamming the door behind him.

There is now a small Czech contingent in Iraq.

Asked about the incident later, Stapleton reportedly replied, "The meeting ended because we were done discussing the topic that was on our agenda."

…Untypically of Bush nominees, Stapleton, 55, remains a registered Democrat. His grandfather, Benjamin Stapleton, was the Democratic mayor of Denver, Colorado. But he long ago threw in his political lot with Bush, whom he has known since college days.

Strangely, the electronic edition of the IHT article ends with (a slightly differently-worded edition of) the next-to-last paragraph, leaving out the last one, and one of the most important to understanding Stapleton's character.

Remember the following the next time you hear diplomats and common citizens, American and foreign alike, criticize American society as irresponsible for being one in which one goes over the heads of bona fide State Department employees towards political appointees in choosing its ambassadors (emphasis mine).

Stapleton, in his Prague Post interview, was asked what advice he would leave for his successor there. "Don't be careful," he replied. "Try everything. American ambassadors and American people in general are very open and do not try to pretend to be something they are not. American ambassadors are free-spirited and would do things that would not occur to some who have spent their lives in the foreign service."
When asked by Dinah Spritzer about Iraqis' frustration with the pace of reconstruction, incidentally, Stapleton, who turns 60 in three days, replied
I am sure there are irritants in their life, but for those who were thrown into prison and had their hands chopped off or saw their sisters raped, I think life is better. It's a more democratic country than it was before and the leadership is more diversified than it's ever been. But winning the peace takes a long time.

No comments: