Award-winning foreign correspondent Georgie Anne Geyer
has interviewed countless world leaders, diplomats, guerrillas
and poets. Geyer's ability to predict political events
and social changes with remarkable accuracy fascinates
readers while her tenacious pursuit of the facts and insightful
analyses have built a loyal following. *Also
Available in Spanish
GOOD SUFFERS WHEN ETHNIC LOBBIES RUN FOREIGN POLICY
-- We've had so many conspiratorial breaches of security
here this last year that perhaps this city should be called
"Casablanca West." First, there was the case
of the laptop computers, filled with arms secrets, mysteriously
disappearing from the State Department. Then we had the
Russian diplomat sitting outside the department, busily
monitoring electronic transmissions from a tiny bugging
device placed inside the building. Meanwhile, the Wen
Ho Lee "spy" case exploded -- and imploded.
a new case of "security lapses" has raised further
concerns about the casual state of diplomacy and security.
No one dreamed that Ambassador Martin Indyk, envoy to
Israel, would have such problems with alleged security
lapses and become the first U.S. ambassador to lose his
security clearance. After two Senate committees came across
information that Indyk had used an unclassified laptop
computer for writing a classified document and that he
had taken classified documents home to review, he was
suspended from his security clearance during the investigation.
was only because of an odd confluence of factors that
he was charged. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee
and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence suspected
there was evidence against him, but he was not being charged
with anything. The two committees complained to the State
Department and action was taken. The case is pending.
to many onlookers, the Indyk case raises security issues
in a different way: questions of who should represent
the United States in countries involving specific ethnic
or religious loyalties, questions of dual nationality
and citizenship, and of the true nature of American "interests."
In these matters, Ambassador Indyk and his rapid rise
in the American diplomatic decision-making ranks, despite
his very public special-interest credentials, are an especially
revealing case study.
Indyk, now 49, was an Australian Jew who was chosen by
newly elected President Bill Clinton in l993 to fill the
highest-ranking Middle East post on the National Security
council. He became a citizen only days before being sworn
in. His background was openly partisan, since he had held
jobs with two pro-Israeli, Israeli-backed organizations.
When he was sent back to Israel last week for a highly
unusual second posting to Tel Aviv, it was at the request
of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
when the news broke this week of his suspension from duties
(although he still officially remains the U.S. ambassador
to Israel), leaders of the Israeli lobby immediately complained
that he was the victim of American anti-Semitism. They
charged that he was the "only one" so treated,
despite recent fears over security lapses and the fact
that numerous officials, even former CIA Director John
Deutch, were being investigated. Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright had recently warned in an emotional meeting of
State Department officials that she was going to throw
the book at such security-endangering practices.
have here at least two syndromes that should be taken
very seriously by our politicians and our diplomats:
Over the past l0 years, and particularly during the Clinton/Gore
administration, a trend has developed of sending to other
countries Americans who have a special (and often an overriding
emotional, religious or racial) interest in those countries.
African Americans are sent to Africa, Hispanic Americans
to Latin America, Jewish Americans to Israel and the Middle
example, the Rev. Jesse Jackson was sent as the president's
special envoy to West Africa. Instead of diplomacy, he
conducted a kind of political "personalismo,"
or racial nepotism, of the type that many Third World
countries are trying desperately to emerge from. Because
of his "friendship" with Liberian President
Charles Taylor, he appeared last spring so complicit in
the Liberians' support of the bloodbath in neighboring
Sierra Leone that the Sierra Leone government would not
allow him to go there.
American diplomacy was never meant to be carried out by
people who have their own special interests in, or commitments
to, any other country. They can, and certainly should,
have commitments and loyalties to larger principles, such
as human rights or the security of minorities, but not
these troublesome, potentially conflicting personal ones.
In addition, such appointments tell the countries and
leaders in question that the United States does not have
its own foreign policy anymore.
Over the last 20 years, America has increasingly, on every
level, allowed and even encouraged the formation of other
ethnic and cultural alignments and loyalties at the expense
of the traditional American ones. Dual citizenship, forbidden
until now under American law, is permitted. With dual
citizenships, and sometimes even without it, Americans
can vote in foreign elections as well as American ones.
Ethnic lobbies have become so dominant in forming foreign
policy -- not only the Israeli lobby with Israel, but
the Cuban-Americans with Cuba and the Armenian-Americans
with Armenia -- that larger American interests are often
sacrificed to the specific.
"Balkanization," in turn, affects every part
of the political process. "There are no terms of
commonality," Jean Bethke Elshtain, professor of
philosophy at the University of Chicago, says perceptively,
"so even things like coalition politics become impossible."
process will before long neutralize the country. Too many
disparate, discordant interests in place of the common
good: All are already serving to break down the larger
moral voice of the nation.