Who's Online

We have 333 guests online

Popular

3403 readings
Tomgram: Karon, Why Condi's Diplomacy Should Start with Bush PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Saturday, 31 March 2007 17:13

Tomgram: Karon, Why Condi's Diplomacy Should Start with Bush

Tom Engelhardt ~ Ever since September 2001, the President's central operative image has been "war" -- specifically, his "global war on terror" (promptly transformed into the grim acronym GWOT). With it went the fantasy that we had been plunged into the modern equivalent of World War II with -- as George loved to put it -- "theaters" of operation and "fronts" on a global scale. Remember how, as we occupied Baghdad in April 2003, administration pronouncements almost made it seem as though we were occupying Tokyo or Berlin, 1945? And when things went badly in Iraq, that country quickly became "the central front in the war on terror" in the President's speeches. Well, now it may indeed be just that.

www.tomdispatch.com

Tomgram: Karon, Why Condi's Diplomacy Should Start with Bush


Tome Engelhardt
~ Ever since September 2001, the President's central operative image has been "war" -- specifically, his "global war on terror" (promptly transformed into the grim acronym GWOT). With it went the fantasy that we had been plunged into the modern equivalent of World War II with -- as George loved to put it -- "theaters" of operation and "fronts" on a global scale. Remember how, as we occupied Baghdad in April 2003, administration pronouncements almost made it seem as though we were occupying Tokyo or Berlin, 1945? And when things went badly in Iraq, that country quickly became "the central front in the war on terror" in the President's speeches. Well, now it may indeed be just that.

In the framework -- essentially a fundamentalist religion -- of global force and "preventive" war adopted by the Bush administration, the only place for diplomats was assumedly on the sidelines, holding the pens, as the enemy surrendered to the military. (Too bad, when we hit Baghdad, there was no one around to surrender, no way to put a John Hancock on our "victory.") Otherwise, as classically happened in Iraq, where the State Department, despite copious planning for the postwar moment, was cut out of the process and left in the Kuwaiti or Washingtonian dust by Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon, all issues of diplomacy were essentially relegated to Wimp World. After all, as the infamous neocon slogan once went, "Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran." And it was well known that diplomats were not "real men."

Nowhere on the planet was a diplomat worth a sou. Not surprisingly, then, the two central figures in George W. Bush's second-term diplomatic non-endeavors became his two key female enablers, Condoleezza Rice, now secretary of state, and Karen Hughes, now undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs. Not surprisingly, Rice has managed to do nothing of significance on our planet -- even the great diplomatic "success" of this administration, its shaky deal with North Korea, was basically crafted by the Chinese on terms worse than could have been obtained years earlier -- and Hughes, as diplomacy's spinmeister, has managed to put less than no polish on our globally disastrous image.

By now, of course, we've arrived at a moment in the Middle East so grim, so fraught with dangers, so at the edge of who knows what, with so many disparate crises merging, that it's even occurred to Rice something must be done. As Tony Karon, savvy guy, senior editor at Time.com, and the creator of the ever-thoughtful and provocative blog Rootless Cosmopolitan points out, Rice has so far gotten a free ride here. Her approval ratings, until recently, hovered well above 50%, while the President's were sinking close to 30%. Let Karon now explain to you where we really are in the Middle East, diplomatically speaking. Tom

Condi's Free Ride

The Fantasy of American Diplomacy in the Middle East

Tony Karon


    They must serve up some pretty powerful Kool Aid in the press room down at Foggy Bottom, judging by U.S. media coverage of Condi Rice's latest "Look Busy" tour of the Middle East.

    Secretary of State Rice's comings and goings have long been greeted with a jaded disdain by the Arab and Israeli media. As Gideon Levy wrote plaintively (and typically) in Israel's Haaretz last August,

    "Rice has been here six times in the course of a year and a half, and what has come of it? Has anyone asked her about this? Does she ask herself? It is hard to understand how the secretary of state allows herself to be so humiliated. It is even harder to understand how the superpower she represents allows itself to act in such a hollow and useless way. The mystery of America remains unsolved: How is it that the United States is doing nothing to advance a solution to the most dangerous and lengthiest conflict in our world?"

    The fact that -- this time -- Rice professes to be advancing just such a solution has hardly convinced Middle Eastern scribes. As Beirut's secular, liberal Daily Star put it in an editorial on Monday, "Already this is Rice's fourth Middle East tour aimed at reactivating a stalled peace process, but so far the only measurable progress she has achieved has been racking up extra mileage on her airplane."

    Mainstream U.S. media outlets were alone in their willingness to swallow the preposterous narratives offered by Rice's State Department spinners on the significance of her latest diplomatic efforts. For months, we have been reading a fantasy version of American diplomacy in which Rice was at the center of a realignment of forces in the Middle East, building a united front of Arab moderates to stand alongside the U.S. and Israel against Iran and other "extremist" elements. Last week, we were asked to believe that Rice was now about to head back to the region to choreograph a complex and dramatic diplomatic dance that would include such "challenges" as "trying to get the Saudis to talk to the Israelis." Perhaps none of her aides bothered to let her in on the open secret that the Saudis have been doing that for months -- and not under the tutelage of, or at the prompting of, the Secretary of State either.

    On the eve of her departure, the Washington Post informed us, Rice would remake the peace process via a new math: 4+2+4. This was cute jargon for grouping various discussions among the Israelis and Palestinians, the "Quartet" (the U.S., the European Union, the UN, and Russia), and an "Arab Quartet" comprising Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. By Monday, only three days later, however, the new math had mysteriously disappeared -- as if Rice had suddenly entered a world of innumeracy -- replaced by "parallel discussions." With the Israelis unwilling to talk to the Palestinians about the "contours of a Palestinian state," each side was instead to discuss such things separately with Rice in a kind of diplomatic confession booth.

    For anyone disappointed by the sudden demise of "4+2+4," Condi assured all involved that "we'll use many different geometries, I'm sure, as we go through this process." A day later, the trip's crowning achievement was reported by the New York Times: "After three days of shuttle diplomacy between Israeli and Arab cities and a late night of haggling, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday that she had persuaded Israeli and Palestinian leaders to hold talks twice a month." But not, it turned out, on the "final-status issues" -- the contours of a Palestinian state. They would simply chat to "build confidence," while, presumably, regularly reentering her confession booth.

    As Lebanon-based Jordanian journalist Rami Khouri put it,

        "To overcome the chronic stalemate of bilateral Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy, [Rice] is now expanding this into a trilateral failure, as the principal parties who won't talk to each other only to talk to her. It's hard to decide if this is a comedy or a horror show."

    It may be a sign of the contempt with which the Bush administration treats the American media that Condi expects such a Pollyannaish pantomime to be reported as if it were history-in-the-making. And it may be a mark of the naivet

Last Updated on Saturday, 31 March 2007 17:13
 

Latest News