Diplomacy means being polite

Cortland Standard
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Visiting relatives can quickly become unwanted guests. Maybe they’re too loud, too intrusive, too oblivious. Maybe they eat all the food in the fridge or don’t flush. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of easily avoidable acts that can make a host never want to deal with a guest again.

Diplomacy is much the same. So far on President Donald Trump’s visit to Great Britain, he has, amid affirmations of friendship, renewed a Twitter fight with the mayor of London and gotten into the middle of a British political fight over Brexit. This is the government equivalent of a bad guest, and Trump should know better.

Indeed, it’s hard to imagine Trump himself reacting well if other leaders acted toward him the way he’s acted toward leaders in Britain. Such actions don’t wreck the nations’ relationship, but they do create unnecessary bad moments. Those bad moments can turn into bad memories. Bad memories can turn into grudges. And grudges, in diplomacy, can be poison when they’re dredged up at a later date.

Of course, not all diplomacy is sunshine and daffodils. However, there is little reason for iron words with a longtime friend like Great Britain. They’re one of the United States’ most reliable allies. Indeed, at a turbulent and divisive time for Britain it needs support, not provocation.

It’s no more than our nation’s government and people would expect from other countries. If Trump’s words seem irrelevant or merely opinion, it’s important to remember that presidents are always part of diplomatic relations, whether they want to be or not. Americans would no doubt not appreciate a foreign leader stopping by in the middle of domestic disputes and loudly telling us what we should or should not do.

Save the bluster, keep relations steady. A Great Britain looking for consensus in the midst of deeply personal Brexit turmoil needs to know that one of its largest trade partners will remain a constant friend, not a predatory loan shark ready to feast at the first sign of vulnerability. Quiet words behind closed doors have more credibility when they’re not contradicted by loud shouting.

No one wants an annoying house guest and, in Britain’s case, they don’t deserve one. The president should do what good presidents do: go over, strengthen relations with important allies and come home. Anything else is forgetting to flush. Just don’t imagine that Great Britain will enjoy having to scrub the toilet.

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