In June, Miss Rice announced a trip that would take her to France, Egypt, Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The reporters who travel with her were pleasantly surprised by the diverse itinerary, only to be disappointed a few days later when it was slimmed down to just Paris.
Miss Rice’s traveling style has critics among current and former diplomats, who say that many countries interpret her focus on the Middle East as a sign that she cares little about the rest of the world.
“It’s important to visit a country without pressing business to attend to — that’s how you maintain good relations,” one diplomat said.
Madeleine K. Albright, the first female secretary of state who served in the Clinton administration, often took extended trips that did not involve solving a crisis or brokering a deal.
She said in a 2004 interview that a “traveling secretary,” no matter what the reason for his or her trips may be, is extremely important for achieving an effective foreign policy, because, in addition to “showing the flag,” a secretarial visit is an “action-forcing mechanism.”
“One, it creates the necessity for your own government bureaucracy to get its act together as to what the message will be, and then the place you are going to is trying to figure out how to respond,” Mrs. Albright said.
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