The Corner

The one and only.

The First Big Test Of Obama Diplomacy


Is apparently going to be Zimbabwe. As Jim noted, London Times tells us that the Obama administration is going to attempt regime change via “tough diplomacy” and sanctions in concert with the British and French, while bringing all our diplomatic energies to bear on Russia and China to prevent a Security Council veto.

I’m all for bringing down Mugabe, although, between you, me, and the lamp post, the opposition isn’t very inspirational, even if Tsvangirai is a name that’s fun to pronounce. And I’m delighted that there will be an early test case of the religious belief that sanctions can bring down a hostile government. So far as I know, that has never happened (the two examples advocates usually give–Chile and South Africa–weren’t hostile, and the sanctions had a decisive political effect precisely because the Chileans and South Africans felt stigmatized, not because of misery). And of course it remains to be seen if the Russians and the Chinese will go along with this policy.

The Times also speaks of sanctions and legal charges against individuals, namely Mugabe’s friends and associates. It will be interesting to see how various “progressive” governments, from Europe to South America, react to this. So far, this tactic has been primarily directed against Serbs, Israelis, and Americans. Terrorists, along with their enablers and their bankers, have been targeted by the United States to good effect (and one of the really good personnel decisions by the new administration is the move to keep Stuart Levey at Treasury. If Bush and Rice had been true to their announced principles, they’d have arranged a Freedom Medal for Levey, a true national hero), and we’ve convinced a few friendlies to cooperate, but the big international campaign is of course aimed at us and the only democracy in the Middle East.

Full marks to Obama, Hillary, and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice (prominently cited in the Times story) for engaging on this one. Maybe they’ll enjoy regime change in Harare so much they’ll go for it in Tehran and Damascus. Or, unlikely though it may seem today, they may learn that this is not the way to bring down a tyrannical and evil regime, and do it better when the same methods fail in Tehran and Damascus.