Foreign and Defense Policy


Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “The government of Libya has a responsibility to respect the universal rights of the people, including the right to free expression and assembly. Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed. We are working urgently with friends and partners around the world to convey this message to the Libyan government.”

Her statement, which might have be called tough if it were followed by any sort of action—which it was not—got me to thinking about what is “unacceptable.” Turns out, most of what senior U.S. officials find “unacceptable,” they’re really willing to, you know, accept. Thanks to our rapid reaction research intern Alex Della Rochetta, here is a quick, short list of recent “unacceptable” actions.

—President Obama on Egypt (2/4/11): “Attacks on reporters are unacceptable, attacks on human rights activists are unacceptable, attacks on peaceful protesters are unacceptable.”

—Obama on militant safe havens in Pakistan (11/8/10): “We will continue to insist to Pakistan’s leaders that terrorist safe-havens within their borders are unacceptable, and that the terrorists behind the Mumbai attacks be brought to justice.”

—Admiral Mike Mullen on Iran acquiring nuclear weapons (8/26/2010): “Iran is a particularly difficult issue. Their achieving a nuclear weapon capability is unacceptable and incredibly destabilizing.”

—Hillary Clinton on North Korea sinking a South Korean ship (5/25/10): “This was an unacceptable provocation by North Korea, and the international community has a responsibility and a duty to respond.”

—Hillary Clinton on Iran acquiring nuclear weapons (3/22/10): “In addition to threatening Israel, a nuclear-armed Iran would embolden its terrorist clientele and would spark an arms race that could destabilize the region. This is unacceptable. It is unacceptable to the United States. It is unacceptable to Israel. It is unacceptable to the region and the international community. So let me be very clear: The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

—Hillary Clinton on Eritrea supporting Somali militants (9/6/09): “It is long past time for Eritrea to cease and desist its support of al-Shabab and to start being a productive rather than a destabilizing neighbor. We are making it very clear that their actions are unacceptable. We intend to take action if they do not cease.”

—Dick Cheney on Russia invading Georgia (9/6/08): “Russia’s actions are an affront to civilized standards and are completely unacceptable. Russia has offered no satisfactory justification for the invasion, nor could it do so.”

—George W. Bush on Russia (8/11/08): “I said this violence is unacceptable. I expressed my grave concern about the disproportionate response of Russia and that we strongly condemn bombing outside of South Ossetia.”

—Condi Rice on Russian threats towards Ukraine (2/13/08): “The unhelpful and really—I will use a different word—reprehensible rhetoric that is coming out of Moscow is unacceptable, and it’s not helpful to a relationship that actually has some positive aspects.”

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