Diplomacy in the Land Down Under

Posted by Sean McCormack
July 26, 2008
Secretary Rice in Australia

More on Secretary Rice's Travel to the Middle East, Asia and the PacificSean McCormack: Away from the PodiumAbout the Author: Sean McCormack serves as Department Spokesman and Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs.

Thursday, we left the permanent summer of Singapore for Australia, where we landed with enough time left in the day to attend a dinner in Secretary Rice's honor at the Western University of Australia in Perth. Foreign Minister Smith had invited Secretary Rice for a "home" visit during their first meeting about six months back, and this trip to "the region" for ASEAN provided the opportunity to fulfill a promise. People from a cross-section of western Australian political, civil society, arts, and sport communities attended the dinner, which included a welcome performance by a Noongar dance group. I was lucky enough to be seated up front and had the chance to speak with Perth's Mayor, City Council members and representatives from the business community. It's certain that I profited from the conversation more than my table companions, as I had hit a "wall" of jet lag and accumulated sleeplessness that made stringing together simple, declarative sentences a challenge. By the time we left for the hotel, the small group of protesters (no more than 15 people) present outside the university on arrival had left.

Friday, we began with a stop at the Foreign Minister's local coffee shop, where he and Secretary Rice sat down for a cup with the Foreign Minister's parents who still live in the neighborhood. I had a much needed "flat white," local coffee talk for coffee with milk, and watched while cameras and our traveling press corps took in the stop. Other stops included remarks at Mercedes College, where the Foreign Minister's daughter attends high school. Read the transcript for an example of one effective way to conduct retail public diplomacy. At root, I see it as allowing the individual to connect with a sense for who we are and our values, and we take away a better sense for how they see us. These types of visits are one way to accomplish that goal.

The Foreign Minister and Secretary also laid a wreath at Perth's memorial to those who had fallen in combat, originally erected after WWI, and also later held a press conference. After the press conference, both the Foreign Minister and Secretary walked past the area to where the motorcade was staged (if you've seen us blow into town, we don't arrive anywhere unnoticed) to shake hands with a group from a local boys’ high school -- equal time, as Mercedes College is an all girls’ school.

In between time, we visited the Campbell Defense Barracks, where Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) troops hosted the Foreign Minister and Secretary in the Sergeants' Mess. Press was not at the event. Lt. Gen. Ken Gillespie (Australian Chief of the Army) and Lt. Col. Dan McDaniel (SASR Commanding Officer) greeted the Foreign Minister and Secretary at the entrance to the Sergeants’ Mess. We walked down a hallway lined with photos of former Australian army chiefs, SASR officers, and fallen SASR members. We walked into the mess, where soldiers were assembled in three lines -- all of whom looked as though they could hike up a mountain, bench press a grizzly bear, and come back down without breaking a sweat. Both the Foreign Minister and Secretary made brief remarks from a podium and then spent the next 30 minutes talking with the soldiers individually and in small groups. Also present were some families of regiment members who lost their lives in combat. This group had lost several members to combat in Afghanistan over the past several years. This was meant to be a private moment, so I'll not violate that for the sake of a blog post, but I was struck by how brave these family members were who had lost a son, brother, husband, or father.

After a six hour flight from Perth, we landed last night in Auckland. After a good night's sleep (the first in three days) I’m ready for the day's program, though the news is reporting that we should brace this afternoon for an afternoon of torrential rain and gale force winds. More later.

Comments

Comments

Syrian P.
|
Syria
July 26, 2008

SNP in Syria writes:

One wonder, do State have a compendium of speeches that are stock ready with little customizations per event, or someone actually has to write one up for every function, and each country on the trip agenda. Do they ever cut and paste paragraphs and slogans from previous work or prior visits, just ones that sound nice for the moment! Or there maybe a business producing talking points for these functions, like the one for the Television hosts. Who is the famous brain behind President Bush slogans; Mission Accomplished, Axis of Evil, Coalition of the willing? I think George Bush can easily win an award for being the only U.S. President who used more slogans in his eight years in office than Stalin, Kim ill Song and Castro combined. The sad part, he will win another award for having the emptiest slogans in history, such as the one he gave recently at Ronald Regan center or other notorious venues in the past. My favorites are his Freedom and Democracy Slogans and the number one is this; FOOL ME ONCE SHAME ON YOU, FOOL ME TWICE SHAME ON ME.

Anna
|
District Of Columbia, USA
July 26, 2008

Anna in Washington, DC writes:

I'm glad Secretary Rice is showing our support for the Australians. The American people appreciate and value their friendship.

As an educator, I'm glad to see that she reached out to students on her trip, too. Education is an important part of diplomacy. It inspires us to learn more about others, hopefully improving our understanding of them, and builds relationships through exchange programs.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 28, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ SNP, if you are ever going to truly understand that soundbites are creations of the press' reaction to a phrase a politician or gov appointee uses to describe a situation, and often taking them out of context in presenting their third party accounting of events to the public, then the only way one is going to get to the meat of US policy and grasp its intent is to get the full context directly from the source. So I've provided a few links to help you on a number of subjects.

Foreign affairs is a reciprocal process of finding common ground upon which to solve problems. Here's a fair example of the diplomatic approach taken in general by the US:

"New Zealand and the United States, Kiwis and Americans, have a long history of partnership. It is one that is grounded in common interests, but it is elevated by common ideals. And it is always defined by the warmth and the respect of two nations, but more importantly, of two peoples who are bound together by countless ties of friendship and family and shared experience.

We do not always agree on every point of policy. But we share our opinions in good faith, and openly, in the way that friends do. Our partnership is strong and enduring today in this century, as it was when our citizens stood shoulder to shoulder throughout the last century to be on the front lines in defense of freedom, to expand the reach of peace and prosperity, and not just here in the Pacific, but indeed, across the globe.

Now, today, that relationship is being put to good use to look at the challenges of the 21st century, a century that is being defined by different challenges, but by challenges, nonetheless: challenges of the proliferation of dangerous weapons, dangerous weapons that could end up in the hands of those most dangerous of people, terrorists, and that, in fact, are already in the hands of dangerous regimes.

And I, therefore, very much appreciate the fact that New Zealand has been an active partner in promoting security and peaceful aspirations of nations. The support of New Zealand for the Six-Party framework to try and denuclearize the Korean peninsula has been really extraordinary. And I was saying earlier that when the North Koreans exploded a nuclear device in 2006, one of the first calls that I made was to Winston Peters, who immediately was there to support us and to work toward the Security Council resolution that we passed. And then he went to Pyongyang in 2007 to press the case for denuclearization, and continues to do so, as he has just done, at the Asian regional forum. And so, New Zealand's friendship and support in this very important endeavor has been very much appreciated."

-Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Auckland War Memorial Museum
Auckland, New Zealand
July 26, 2008

----

MEPI Announces $1.8 Million Program to Support Women Leaders in the Middle East
http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2008/07/107245.htm

Department of State Welcomes South Asian Seeds of Peace Participants
http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2008/07/107029.htm

Joint U.S.-Russian Statement: One Year of Progress Following the Joint Declaration on Nuclear Energy and Nonproliferation
http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2008/07/106502.htm

Roundtable With Traveling Press
http://www.state.gov/p/eap/rls/rm/2008/07/107415.htm

Ronald
|
New York, USA
July 28, 2008

Ronald in New York writes:

Getting Way Down Under..

I recently met with an Australian investments expert, who told me a special group of super-banks are joining forces to take the American Dollar "way down under"...the move is to destroy the US banking system and the Dollar's worth in the global currency markets. This is to punish USA for "illegal, reckless and irresponsible financing of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to prevent USG from starting any new wars. The super-banks are called; The Senior Bnking Group and are operating under a secret pact of high-level persons of influence..OK...sounds like a wacky conspiracy theory or a great James Bond plot....but; I have lived long enough to see these kinds of rumors play out in reality....Besides didn't IndyMac Bank just fold?

Sorry if this is off the point of our great relationship with Australia; but I got this from a mate-from-down-under.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 28, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Ronald, your "mate" was pumping you up in preparation to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge....eh what? I think you got your leg well pulled sir.

(chuckle)...

HIROSHI
|
Japan
August 1, 2008

Hiroshi in Japan writes:

Dear Sir,

We will soon have the anniversary of the end of the Pacific War. Looking back the World War 2, the most bad person is TOJO and HITLER. They are the root of all corruption.

Joe
|
Tennessee, USA
August 2, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

Australia has a multitude of Security issues. From the largest growing Islamic population base to exiled sect leaders. The death of a Russian retied KGB agent residing there has not yet been resolved.

Economically, if they pulled all criminal monies being laundered there from England, Israel, Russia and America, they would not have an economy.

Recently they have been trying to merge with U.S. Homeland Security for training of their personal as well...

Their territorial proximity is an issue for everyone...

Why retire?

.

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