In the post below, John Hinderaker examines the flawed assumptions behind the destructive diplomacy in which the Bush administration is now deeply engaged. You’d think that Secretary Rice might pause to reflect on the damage the Bush administration’s diplomacy has already done in the region, such as the support of elections in the Palestinian Authority including terrorist parties. Or you’d think that other issues (Pakistan, Iran, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Lebanon, Syria) might be more pressing. But Rice soldiers on robotically. The Arab-Israeli conflict is the key to all mythologies for her likes. Rice is proving herself the inheritor of the mantle of Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright, whose attention to dictators and thugs went hand in hand with a high tolerance for humiliation.
In his account of the Clinton administration’s devotion to the “peace process,” Rich Lowry recalls that the administration showered particular attention on Syria’s Hafez el-Assad. Warren Christopher met with him 20 times in four years, becoming literally a pain in the neck. Rich quotes Christopher in Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years:
From meeting to meeting, there were virtually no deviations in [our] routine, and no surprises, pleasant or otherwise. The structure of our encounters was so fixed and familiar that when, after two years of these meetings, Assad decided that I should sit in his customary chair and he in mine, he explained through his translator that he’d been having neck pains and his doctor thought they might be caused by having to turn in the same direction every time he addressed me.
After a brief meeting with Syria’s designated new leader, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright declared today that she found him ready to pursue the peace talks that the Clinton administration has tried to broker between Israel and Syria.
The lanky figure of the new leader, Bashar al-Assad, the 34-year-old son of Hafez al-Assad, towered over the secretary. Dr. Albright described him as ”very poised” and ”somebody who is ready to assume his duties.”
The secretary and the senior administration officials who accompanied her hope that Dr. Assad will be a modernizing reformer.
Several days before the death of President Assad, Dr. Albright met with the foreign minister, Farouk al-Shara, to explore reviving the Syrian-Israeli peace talks. She said she and Dr. Assad agreed today to ”continue discussions about the peace process.”
That, she said, will be done at an ”appropriate time,” presumably sometime after the official 40-day period of mourning.
Dr. Albright spent about 15 minutes with Dr. Assad in a side room of the People’s Palace after standing momentarily before the coffin of the late president and then moving down a vast hall with her delegation to greet the heir apparent.
The encounter was the first by a senior member of the Clinton administration with Dr. Assad. Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, who was in the group with Dr. Albright, said the new leader had been emphatic in his interest in the peace efforts. He quoted Dr. Assad as volunteering, ”I’m going to carry on peace just like my father did.”
Mr. Specter, who met with President Assad about a dozen times, said he and Dr. Albright interpreted the remark not as a reflection of the intransigent attitude of the father, who was an obstacle to American policy, but rather the more flexible approach of the younger man.
The humor in Senator Specter’s quoting Assad as volunteering, ”I’m going to carry on peace just like my father did,” was, I am quite sure, unintentional.
As for Rice’s current efforts, Rick Richman quotes a pointed passage toward the conclusion of John Bolton’s memoir Surrender Is Not an Option:
Because of its location, Israel experiences the terrorist threat almost daily, facing Hamas, Hezbollah, and other Islamic terrorist groups, not to mention being within range of Iranian missiles. Hamas has now seized control of the Gaza Strip, fracturing the Palestinian Authority, leaving the