To forestall any potential conniptions from those for whom “Durban II” conjures up all sorts of fervid demons, thisdoes not mean that the United States has decided to participate in April’s anti-racism conference. What it does mean is that the Obama Administration intends to actually interact with the rest of the international community, rather than to rashly erect walls and issue pre-emptive boycotts (not to mention other sorts of pre-emptive action).
What’s more, the administration seems to be handling this tricky issue — which has become both a diplomatic and a domestic one — quite adroitly. Instead of simply appeasing the very vocal constituency distorting and shouting down the conference’s purpose, administration officials took the step of actually talking with Jewish leaders about the decision to send a delegation. Contrary to suggestions that the Durban process is a priori anti-Semitic, not all of these prominent Jewish groups have come out against U.S. participation in the conference. Talking, then, does not amount to capitulation to America’s enemies; it turns out to be what our friends at home want, too.
While shrillvoices on the Right proclaim that anything short of an out-and-out boycott of all things remotely connected to Durban, announced loudly and vehemently, would amount to a surrender of moral leadership, Obama’s team seems to be conscious of not only the potential pitfalls of the conference, but also the benefits of interacting with the rest of the world on a very important issue. Sending a delegation to preparatory meetings does not bind the United States to anything opposed to its interests; on the contrary, the decision falls very much within U.S. interests to renew its role as a global leader and willing conversant. This is not naivete; it is intelligence.