Not a promising opening gambit, if the prize is the enhancement of human rights.  In Forbes Anne Bayefsky reveals the the President’s doubling-dealing on Israel.

…the State Department chose late Friday night to put the real deal in print. Their release reads: “the current text of the draft outcome document is not salvageable,” and “the United States will not … participate in a conference based on this text,” but we will “re-engage if a document that meets [our] criteria becomes the basis for deliberations.” A new version must be: “shorter,” “not reaffirm in toto the flawed 2001 Durban Declaration,” “not single out any one country or conflict,” and “not embrace the troubling concept of “defamation of religion.”

And by the way, it continued, the U.S. will “participate” for the first time in the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The effects on America’s leadership role in the world?

…America’s mixed message has sent human rights organizations and states scurrying. They are looking to inject some creative ambiguity into “not reaffirming in toto”–or as Stewart put it, “not unequivocally reaffirming”–the Durban Declaration. Instead of leadership and clarity of convictions, the U.S. has started a race to the bottom of the diplomatic barrel.

Not everyone likes State’s statement.  Some complaints:  insisting on “no reference to a single country or conflict is very problematic and destructive to the Durban Review process,” and concerns that this policy “boxed in the administration” and “undercut the ability of the U.S. to re-engage.” Apparently it’s all about process.  Principles be damned.

Speaking of principles, Ms. Bayefsky notes,

In fact, Obama’s four deal-breakers do not include many other troubling provisions still on Durban II’s negotiating table. These include: questioning the veracity of the Holocaust, a variety of attacks on freedom of expression in addition to “defamation of religion,” and incendiary claims of “Islamophobia”–the general allegation of a racist Western plot to discriminate against all Muslims.

Why has the President said the U.S. will participate in the Human Rights Council?

The administration’s decision to slip in the Human Rights Council as a consolation prize for Durban enthusiasts is an attempt to downplay a major move. State Department officials intimated that they intend not only to observe but to run for a seat–subject to the “likelihood of successful elections.” Council members and human rights gurus, like China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are sure to welcome the instant legitimacy provided by U.S. participation. The Council–controlled by the Organization of the Islamic Conference–has adopted more condemnations of Israel than all other 191 U.N. states combined, while terminating human rights investigations on the likes of Iran, Cuba and Belarus. Obama’s move denies the opportunity to leverage the prospect of American membership to insist on reform.

In an earlier post I implied that Obama is a lousy poker player, because essentially he shows all his cards to his opponents.  It looks like he needs some instruction in chess, too.

Or maybe not.  It depends on the goal.  If he’s more interested in “engagement” than in the results of it, he’s doing just fine.

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