Friday, July 21, 2006

Of false promises, birth pangs, the purpose of shuttling, and establishing an endurable peace


In case you were wondering, the White House issues one of its Setting the Record Straight briefings to prove that “President Bush’s Foreign Policy Is Succeeding.” Written in response to something on the Today show, um, today, it shows some signs of hasty preparation, such as the sentence “The United States Is Rallying The World Behind North Korea.” In an odd move, it denies that Max Boot is no longer behind Bush, quoting Boot saying that Bush is right to stand back and “Let Israel Finish The Job.”

Speaking of letting Israel finish the job, Condi explains that “a ceasefire [in Lebanon] would be a false promise if it simply returns us to the status quo.” And we wouldn’t want that. Taking a leaf from that consummate diplomat Donald Rumsfeld, she dismissed calls for a ceasefire as coming from an “old” Middle East. “This is a different Middle East. It’s a new Middle East. ... What we’re seeing here ... are the birth pangs of a new Middle East and whatever we do, we have to be certain that we are pushing forward to the new Middle East, not going back to the old one.” Push! Push! World’s worst lamaze coach.


There is, of course, no one reason to talk to Syria – “Syria knows what it needs to do” – much less Hezbollah – “Hezbollah is the source of the problem”. Defending the delay, she said that “Okay, I could have gotten on a plane and rushed over and started shuttling and it wouldn’t have been clear what I was shuttling to do.” Ask the people being bombed and forced out of their homes what you should have been shuttling to do. She said, “we also seek to address the root causes of that violence so that a real and...” wait for it... “endurable peace can be established.”


The Israelis have called up the reserves, amassed tanks and troops on the border, and told the Lebanese to evacuate a twenty-mile-long zone, but when asked about all this, Condi replied, “Well, I’m clearly not going to speculate on something that is just speculation. The Israelis have said that they have no desire to widen this conflict. And I take them at their word that they have no desire to widen this conflict.”


She won’t be taking, or indeed hearing, the word of any actual Arabs. Asked why she wasn’t going to any Arab country (or as far as I know meeting a single Arab or Lebanese), she gibbered, “Look, I am going to go to a place where we can all meet and talk about what needs to move forward. ... I also felt that it was important to have come to a meeting of the minds of some of the elements that might actually provide a political framework for a stable peace.” In between those sentences she said this, which is just talking for the sake of talking: “But everybody also needs to unite. The people need to stand strong now, because the time has come not to just take a temporary solution”. Who needs to unite? Who needs to stand strong? Possibly this displays my ignorance of the art of diplomacy, but shouldn’t you be able to have some idea what the hell a country’s chief diplomat is talking about?

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