Fiddling while Burns roams, part 2

By all accounts, President Bush adamantly insists that there is no discrepancy between the major foreign policy positions he took during his first term with those he has taken in his second term. Indeed, he is said to become irate when the question of such discrepancies is put to him. He denies that such discrepancies exist.

What about the abandonment of the “roadmap” approach to the creation of a Palestinian state? Or the concessions made to North Korea despite its role in the proliferation of nuclear weapons and despite its failure to account for its nuclear programs? President Bush does not concede that these developments represesent a fundamental rethinking of his foreign policy positions.

The past few days have brought us the example of Iran. Why did President Bush decide to shift policy and send a senior U.S. envoy (William Burns) to talks with the Iranian regime regarding its nucelar program. Glenn Kessler reports that “U.S. officials” have explained that the decision to send Burns was made after increasing signs that Iran was open to possible negotiations and that international sanctions were having an impact on the Islamic republic. According to Kessler, Secretary Rice is the driving force behind this shift. Kessler quotes one on-the-record White House statement:

“The substance remains the same, but this is a new tactic,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. She added: “What this does show is how serious we are when we say that we want to try to solve this diplomatically.”

When the administration abandons a key tenet of its policy regarding Iran, surely something more is called for.

To the extent that President Bush denies that he has significantly shifted course in his foreign policy during his second term, he appears removed from his own administration. To the extent that he fails to provide a frank explanation for the policy shifts he has engineered during his second term, he appears to be riding out the waning days of a defeated presidency.

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