I’m just returning from a presser with UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband hosted by the New American Foundation. (Catch the webcast on The Washington Note). First, contrary to my prediction he was asked about Sri Lanka — by the New Yorker writer and New American Foundation president Steve Coll no less. Miliband said there is no question that the LTTE is a murderous organization, but democracies like Sri Lanka must be held to a higher standard; governments are not allowed to say ‘the ends justify the means.’ And in describing the plight of some 50,000 civilians trapped in a three square kilometer sliver of land and coming under heavy bombardment, Miliband said “that is the definition of hell.”
I would have liked Miliband to have addressed what sort of policy options are available to the UK and Europe for addressing this crisis, particularly given the fact that Russia and China do not seem to be willing to take this up at the Security Council. Still, all in all he offered a welcome response.
Finally, the newsiest bit (for those, um, not obessively covering the Sri Lanka crisis) was the way in which Miliband framed the foreign policy era that we are poised to enter. He said that while the global economic recession will never have the searing trauma of 9-11, the long term foreign policy consequences will be just as profound. At the same time, says Miliband, the Obama administration has recognized that although it is the only superpower, it cannot bring solutions to heel on its own. Rather, Miliband says that Obama administration understands that the combination of American leadership and international cooperation will be the most powerful force for taking on some of the world’s toughest challenges. The G-20 meeting, says Miliband, is a good example of this principal made manifest.
“Progressive multilateralism,” in the words of Miliband, is making a comeback.