The Obama foreign policy lynchpin known as “engagement” has run into one more eminently predictable quagmire in the case of Chen Guangcheng. State Department officials knew full well that five seconds out of American custody and into Chinese hands they could not guarantee Chen a thing.
So what did they do? They took a man who had suffered years of Chinese human rights abominations and in less than one week they asked him -- of their own admission -- over and over: What do you want to do now? What do you want to do now? What do you want to do now?
It is hardly a surprise that eventually they got the answer they wanted -- the response that made their life a whole lot easier given Chinese banquets for visiting Obama emissaries were waiting and Hillary Clinton was coming to town. And yet astoundingly Obama officials expect us to believe that the atmosphere at the embassy was one of “no pressure.”
With Chen reportedly out of the embassy just a few hours after Clinton’s arrival, the image of the bum’s rush surely comes to mind.
Whichever way it now works out -- that is, whatever political bribe, public or private, is or is not, paid to the Chinese to resolve the mess -- one thing is clear. Usama bin Laden’s death is not going to save this President’s catastrophic foreign policy.
Remember that this President casts himself as being pro-human rights. Joining the U.N. Human Rights Council was one of his first foreign policy moves. Who else is on this “human rights” council? His pals, the Chinese. There are no conditions for membership and the usual so-called “reform” efforts to institute such conditions, crashed and burned a year ago, which means membership includes the Chinese, the Russians, the Saudis and other illustrious human rights exemplars.
In March, the Israeli government begged the president to get off this “human rights” council so as not to further legitimize the body. After all, almost half of its resolutions condemning specific states are directed at Israel alone -- and not a single one at China. Obama’s response? He decided to seek a second term, with the council election scheduled for the fall. The message was not lost on the Chinese.
The president rode into office on a wave of support from human rights believers -- who have automatically connected caring about rights and freedoms to Democrats. But six months later in June 2009, he left Iranian democracy-seekers dead and bleeding in the streets and torture-chambers of Tehran. The administration’s responses of choice from the President on down: “we’re still waiting to see how it plays itself out” and “the door is still open for engagement.” Three years later it’s business as usual for Iranian thugs still hell bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. And business as usual for Chinese-Iranian oil and gas companies. The “human rights” message has not been lost on the Chinese.
And then there’s Syria. Labeled officially by the State Department as one of four state-sponsors of terrorism, what did the Obama administration do? It sent an American ambassador to Syria for the first time in six years for nothing in return. Today, despite more than ten thousand dead and counting -- and China still saying no at the Security Council -- the administration is still singing the praises of the U.N. “human rights” council and stressing U.N.-led solutions. The human rights message is not lost on the Chinese.
No wonder the president is desperate to turn killing bin Laden into a foreign policy, rather than admit the obvious of having been lucky enough to have been handed a trigger that virtually no American would have failed to pull. His actual foreign policy of “engagement,” aka appeasement, is having anti-human rights consequences around the globe. Poor Mr. Chen is only its most recent victim.
Anne Bayefsky is director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust.
Anne Bayefsky is director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust. Follow her on Twitter @AnneBayefsky.