Nicholas Burns steps down

Nicholas Burns resigned his position as undersecretary of state for political affairs this week. The resignation is effective in March. Upon his promotion to the third-ranking position in the Department of State, the New York Sun ran a prescient editorial describing Burns as a putative member of “John Kerry’s State Department.” The Los Angeles Times reports on Burns’s resignation here.
While Condoleezza Rice has devoted her efforts to becoming Birmingham’s new princess of peace (Neville Chamberlain was Birmingham’s original prince of peace), Rice delegated responsibility for diplomacy regarding Iran to Burns. The diplomacy has predictably arrived at a dead end. Now what?
Among the numerous items on Burns’s resignation, only Andrew McCarthy’s Corner post recalls Burns’s defense of Yasser Arafat on the occasion of one of Rudy Giuliani’s great moments in office. As mayor of New York City Giuliani ejected Yasser Arafat from Lincoln Center when he crashed a private event held in connection with the UN’s fiftieth anniversary. In the face of the Clinton administration’s criticism of him for his action, Mayor Giuliani responded:

[T]he Mayor, explaining his decision yesterday, called Mr. Arafat a murderer and terrorist, and said he was not impressed by the fact that Mr. Arafat had twice been invited to the White House to sign the Middle East peace accords, or that he shared the Nobel Peace Prize.
“I would not invite Yasir Arafat to anything, anywhere, anytime, anyplace,” Mr. Giuliani said at a news conference yesterday. “I don’t forget.”

As McCarthy notes, Burns spoke up on Arafat’s behalf:

Arafat “is the leader of the Palestinian people,” Burns scoffed at the time, according to Agence-France Presse (Oct. 24, 1995). “He should be given the respect, dignity and hospitality in the US that a Palestinian leader deserves.” When it was pointed out that Fidel Castro, as well as Arafat, had been excluded from several City functions, Burns countered, “Arafat is someone we have a good relationship with. I have no comment on Castro.”

As I recounted in “How Arafat got away with murder,” Arafat was responsible for the murder of State’s own Curt Moore and Cleo Noel in 1973. Arafat should have been accorded the respect a murderer deserves. That Burns instead expressed great indignation on Arafat’s behalf makes him a perfect represenative of the State Department bureaucracy. Coincidentally, the incident is a reminder of the clarity that Mayor Giuliani contributes to the current race on the great issue of our time.
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