Posted by Rosa Brooks
Never thought I would write that. But this morning, for once, I read something by Henry Kissinger with which I wholeheartedly agree (along with about twenty things with which I wholeheartedly disagree). In a lengthy column on Iraq, Kissenger tosses off plenty of tendentious, wrong-headed rhetoric-- but he also concludes that for any viable way forward in Iraq,
Two levels of diplomatic effort are necessary:
(1) The creation of a contact group, assembling neighboring countries whose interests are directly affected and which rely on American support. This group should include Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. Its function should be to advise on ending the internal conflict and to create a united front against outside domination.
(2) Parallel negotiations should be conducted with Syria and Iran, which now appear as adversaries, to give them an opportunity to participate in a peaceful regional order. Both categories of consultations should lead to an international conference including all countries that will have to play a stabilizing role in the eventual outcome, specifically the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council as well as such countries as Indonesia, India and Pakistan.
When progressives suggestions direct negotiations with Syria and Iran, commentators on the right tend to sneeringly suggest that we imagine all will be well if only everyone gets together and sings Kumbayah. Will they now say that Kissinger's gone soft? Perhaps-- but I doubt it. Of the various criticisms one might make of Kissinger, "gone soft" isn't one of them. But maybe-- unlikely, but maybe-- Kissinger's suggestion that we might try diplomacy as well as force will give pause even to Bush Administration true believers.
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I've asked this question before, without ever getting much of a response. Who, exactly, is supposed to conduct the diplomacy Kissinger recommendeded this past weekend, or that the ISG suggested last month?
It can't be Condoleezza Rice. She is no Kissinger or Jim Baker; after six years in high office it ought to be clear that she isn't even a Madeleine Albright. There are people with thresholds of inspiration substantially lower than mine who think it says great things about America that a black woman can become Secretary of State. It doesn't. All it says is that a little symbolism can go a long way to divert attention from the volumes of evidence that this black woman is just no damned good at her job.
And that's the job she has now, not the one she'd be required to undertake if the administration actually did start a "new diplomatic offensive." Sec. Rice doesn't even have all the senior positions in her department filled; in fact, when people leave State their positions tend to stay vacant for months. Why do people think that is?
Look, I like conceptualizing about strategy as much as the next guy, probably more -- but any sports fan can tell you that the best game plan is no good if you don't have the players to execute it. If the administration did decide to act on Kissinger's ideas (or the ISG's for that matter), Rice would screw it up. There isn't much point in proposing diplomatic initiatives unless you're also proposing that Sec. Rice be replaced -- the best course -- or at least that your initiatives be entrusted entirely to someone else. So far I don't hear many people talking about this at all, which for my money makes all this talk about new diplomatic directions just so much idle wheelspinning.
Posted by: Zathras | January 22, 2007 at 02:08 PM