Monday, July 17, 2006

When Will George Learn? Thanks For Turning Off the Mic Tony

The interesting thing about living in Korea is we're a day ahead which, most of the time, is cool. When the rest of the world is getting up I'm winding down.

I got up around 5am this morning so that's exactly what I was doing when I heard this report. I'm tucked in bed watching CNN before I go sleep, and they run a recording of Bush speaking with Tony Blair on the Israel - Hezbollah conflict.

The recording caught Bush speaking frankly about the crisis. Now this is one of my biggest personal fears as I'm known for being quite animated and expressive when I speak with close friends. I know how to hold my tongue and be presentable in formal or business situations, but I'm not like that in my private life. I also tend to pepper casual speech with close friends with choice swear words. It's very funny, and it's very American.

So, knowing this is a cultural fixture among Americans, I was braced and sure enough Bush let it rip. Eventually, Blair leaned forward and switched off the microphone, so either Blair figured out that what they were saying was being overheard or someone tipped him off because the CNN clip seems to be around a minute.

SAINT PETERSBURG (AFX) - US President George W. Bush, caught on an open microphone, said that a key to defusing the Middle East crisis was for 'Hezbollah to stop doing this shit'.

Talking to British Prime Minister Tony Blair at a working lunch at the G8 summit, Bush also hinted that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would take a bigger role in the crisis, and appeared to express frustration about UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

'I think Condi's going to go pretty soon,' the US president said, leaving Rice's destination unclear, though she is widely expected to travel to the region after a UN fact-finding team returns.

Later, Bush added that 'the irony is, what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over,' though he does not specify who 'they' are.

And he appeared to express frustration about Annan, saying 'I felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad, make something happen.'

The recording picked up as Bush, apparently expected to make remarks, declared: 'I'm just going to make it up. I'm not going to talk too damn long like the rest of them. Some of these guys talk too long.'

Here is the full transcript of the conversation from Adam Boulton's weblog: Bush & Blair Raw & Uncut

Now, in a way, this is good because Bush has basically laid out what everyone knows is the U.S. perspective on this conflict. He also did well by saying that the U.S. wasn't blaming Lebanon for this conflict. It's clear my government is laying responsibility squarely on the shoulders of Hezbollah.

However, the problem is Bush took a very disrespectful tone and approach to the whole process of diplomacy. If you read my other posts on international politics, you already know that I have a big problem with the lack of diplomacy the Bush administration engages in. I don't think diplomacy is calling nation-states you don't like names and telling sovereign countries what they "must" do. Granted, I have very strong opinions on what certain nation-states should or must do, but I've learned by living in a foreign culture that you can't talk to people from different cultures the way you talk to your friends or family.

Also, it's very important to take the time to talk to your counterparts because it is key to fostering understanding and agreements. That's not to say that sitting around in "getting to know you" sessions always saves the day, but it seems that not one person in Bush's cabinet has taken a basic negotiations and strategy course. Clearly, all of them need a crash course ASAP because having such a cavalier attitude and saying people "talk too much" when many think we could be on the brink of World War III is short-sighted.

After all of the mishaps in international diplomacy since Bush has taken office you'd think that they would finally get that maybe their approach to diplomacy has been wrong.

Sphere: Related Content