If there's one thing I love , it's good, culturally sensitive diplomacy. We've had too little of it for too long. Too many Americans still believe that talking big and never apologizing is the key to a successful relationship with Asia and the Middle East. As if! Have you not read James Clavell? Leon Uris? The Bible, for heaven's sake?
These cultures are governed by shame and saving face, not by unnuanced self-aggrandizement... and bigger-than-you guns.
And so when Bill Clinton, a man I didn't vote for or like or respect (you know, back when I looked just like a Dittohead), manages to get two of our reporters released from North "Send Nukes into the Sky" Korea, ya gotta give the man props... but even more, wonder how on earth he did it? (And let's just say right here - has there ever been a man more interested in having a legacy than Bill Clinton? I enjoyed his success this week for his ego's benefit, after the thrashing he's been through in his personal life during his presidency—all by his own complexity of failings, to be sure, but still. I'm all about humans fumbling their way toward better choices, growth and contributions that matter. I'd hope we'd all be!)
So anyway, back to what I was feeling, writing. Here's what the NYTimes had to say about how Bill may have pulled this off:
As president, Mr. Clinton had sent Mr. Kim a letter of condolence on the death of his father, Kim Il-sung, according to a former official. For Mr. Kim, the former official said, freeing the women was a “reciprocal humanitarian gesture.”Did you read that? Try it one more time. A gesture of human caring for someone's father (family being everything in Asia), sending the appropriate human gesture, led to a reciprocal humanitarian release. Americans rarely get how powerful it is to show respect, to honor someone's set of values, to get outside our own western, gun-slinging point of view long enough to be genuinely diplomatic! Bill Clinton! Amazing. The guy has got some of it goin' on.
Now granted, we don't know what that release will cost us. Asians have much longer memories than Americans, and they don't do anything for nothing. We can be sure this "gesture" will go on a tally sheet somewhere. Still, for now, today, a decision Clinton made in office to show respect and care came back to serve America this week. That's a lesson we all ought to internalize.