Bush of Arabia?
I was pouring a sip of my apple martini on the concrete in memory of The Diplomad
the other day when it occurred to me how profound an impact the new Secretary of State is having so far, despite having been in office for only a few weeks.
It reminded me of the very first post I ever wrote for the Daily Demarche
, when we were young, foolish, and had not a pot to pee in, so to speak.
In that post I wrote:
I take Rice's appointment to mean that the President is serious about effective multilateralism (I'm prepared to argue that Bush's reputation for"unilateralism" is much more the product of an abrasive style than any of his actions, but not in this post). Putting a firm ally of the President in the hot seat at Foggy Bottom sets up the President for a series of "Nixon-to-China" moments, particularly vis-a-vis the Israeli-Palestinian issue and the remaking of the Middle East in general. As any Arab leader will tell you, solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to addressing all the other issues in the Middle East (not that I believe that, mind you- but solving it would remove the most obvious figleaf covering the true problems of the Middle East, and take one major excuse for failing to reform out of play).
If Bush, with Condi pulling strings for him, can bring about a solution (and that is a big "if") he will have gone a long way towards his accomplishing his objectives in the Arab world, particularly if he is able to stabilize Iraq and pull off relatively fair elections in the process. Given that all these items (and much more) appear be on the agenda for Bush in his second term, the appointment of his most trusted advisor as our nation's chief diplomat would indicate that he intends to use the State Department to further this mission- and that he trusts Condi enough that he will listen if she should, in the course of heading the Department, develop some points of view that differ from his own.
So far, this seems to be the way things are unfolding. In addition to the elections in Iraq, which all but the most ardent Bush-o-phobe must concede (if only grudgingly) were far more successful than imagined (I'll admit I was pleasantly surprised at how well they went), Palestinian elections have created the first real window of opportunity for some kind of settlement in that conflict. Elections in Saudi Arabia, however tentative a first step, would never have occurred without American adventurism in the Middle East.
Among the many things Bush's detractors are now saying is that they will "wait and see" if he is sincere about wanting to promote democracy abroad and do the necessary arm-twisting to bring about a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I find this kind of questioning betrays a total lack of comprehension of George Bush, or perhaps a cynicism that refuses to acknowledge that he may be capable of anything positive.
If there is one thing that even Bush's most ardent detractors should note about the man, it is that he has a tendency, refreshing among politicians, to actually follow through on what he says he will do. Whether or not one likes him, one must at least acknowledge this. I'm not saying that he always follows through, this is impossible in any human being, much less a politician, but Bush has a track record of saying what he means and meaning what he says. So if Bush says he wants to spread democracy and freedom to parts of the world, then by golly, his detractors would do well to believe him. Some of them, if they are honest with themselves, might even admit (if only privately) that it is a pretty good idea.
Naturally, he will open himself up to charges of hypocrisy, and in some cases, the American foreign policy apparatus will take actions seen as hypocritical -- not that this is anything new. To synchronize America's foreign policy simply on the basis of not appearing hypocritical is not only dangerously simplistic, it is also impossible, and the fear of such an appearance should not stop the US from doing something when it is plainly the right thing to do.
Currently, the situation which obtains in the Middle East is unlike any in its history, and the opportunities there are real, if fleeting. And that is an idea to which I can toast my apple martini.