Fiddling while Burns roams

In his intensely reported June 2 Weekly Standard cover story on Secretary Rice, Stephen Hayes took a look at the major areas of foreign policy committed to Rice’s care during Bush’s second term: North Korea, Syria, Iran and Iran’s terrorist proxies. In these areas, the administration’s record is one of miscalculation, retreat and failure. Why?

In May Secretary Rice hailed the Lebanese government’s capitulation to Hezbollah as “a positive step toward resolving the current crisis.” Hayes’s article showed that Secretary Rice applies similar verbal dexterity to address a series of foreign policy disappointments.

To outward appearances Secretary Rice has delegated responsibility for diplomatic issues with North Korea to Christopher Hill, with Iran to Nicholas Burns, and reserved Israeli-Palestinian issues to herself. While Secretary Rice seeks to salvage a legacy out of her weak record, American interests in every one of these areas have suffered. The “surge” of troops to Iraq has produced the signal foreign policy success of George Bush’s second term.

This week the decomposition of American policy on Iran was visibly on display. In the new issue of the Weekly Standard, Hayes updates his cover story to document the administration’s latest foreign policy reversal in “Stunningly shameful.”

How has Secretary Rice persuaded President Bush support her in policies that abrogate key tenets of the Bush doctrine and other administration policies? How, for example, has she persuaded him on one day to announce a Middle East peace conference limited to those states that recognize Israel’s right to exist, and only a few months later to join her in securing the attendance of several enemies of Israel’s right to exist together with one such enemy that is also a designated state sponsor of terror?

Today’s news brings word that at the talks with Iran, with the United States in attendance for the first time, Iran ruled out suspending its uranium enrichment. According to the AP report, the presence of Undersecretary of State William Burns at the talks had led to hopes Iran would compromise on suspension. Or something.

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