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Clinton’s Spring is Sprung

by Editor on June 14th, 2011

Last night, while listening to NPR’s  “All Things Considered,” I heard Secretary of State Hillary Clinton say:

“If you believe that the freedoms and opportunities that we speak about as universal should not be shared by your own people — men and women equally — or if you do not desire to help your own people work and live with dignity, you are on the wrong side of history and time will prove that.”

I stopped what I was doing and went back to the beginning of the story, to make sure I had the context right. I did. It was a news piece titled “Clinton Pushes African Nations To Break With Gadhafi,” in which NPR’s Michele Keleman reported on a meeting at the headquarters of the African Union in Ethiopia.

And so I listened to Clinton again, and all I could think about was the degree to which our government–nearly all of it, both the legislative and executive branches–is opposed to the Palestinian plan to declare independence this September. How do we align this with the view expressed above by our very own Secretary of State? We can’t. We justify a different policy perspective  with Israel / Palestine by declaring that the details are flawed, that the Palestinian’s step is out of sync with broader movements for peace, or by throwing up bogus defense arguments. (In his “Daily Dish” column on Sunday, Andrew Sullivan had a great take on this.)

Searching for consistency in foreign policy is certainly a fool’s errand. After all, the same problem arises if we look at Bahrain, where we quietly support (through our lack of public opposition) that government’s brutal repression of protests–by people asking for the same things as those in Egypt and Libya: a more democratic, representative, and inclusive government. Our excuse here seems to be either that the protesters are Shia Muslims, and therefore implicitly allied with Iran, or that any change would endanger our massive military installation in Bahrain. But again, these are just excuses.

Hillary Clinton is right about the way the world is trending. Syria and Bahrain and other places may be on the longer, slower side of that curve, but change is coming. To Palestine, too. So perhaps the Department of State should take her advice and start getting behind legitimate movements for freedom a bit more energetically. Otherwise, it will be us that winds up on the wrong side of history.

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