Thursday, September 28, 2006

Secretary Rice's comments

Nothing is more unfortunate in interpersonal or diplomatic circles than when an attempt to make an objective comment (or even to offer a compliment) is taken as an offense. This happens all too often in the field of humor, and that of religion.

Earlier in the week, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was being interviewed by the Wall Street Journal and said this of Mexico's electoral process

"it's been a vote of confidence in the Mexican democratic system which is ... just now maturing in a kind of two party system."

Ruben Aguilar, spokesman for President Fox, expressed some concern that a foreign government was criticising Mexico's internal process.

Dr. Rice, as a Stanford political science professor, might be used to having her comments received as objective information or an authoritative evaluation, but in the world of diplomacy, things are interpreted as value judgments, and even attempts at praise can be construed as criticism. "Maturing" could be seen as "not grown up yet" and the two party system comment could be seen as pushing a north American model that may not fit Mexico's political climate (or Israel's or Canada's).

Now is the time for Rice to demonstrate her diplomacy skills and issue some kind words, and to follow this up with a show of respect for president Fox. Hopefully, in early December she will be meeting with the new president and work out some important deals benefitting both sides of the border.

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