U.S. POLICY - GOING
IN THE WRONG DIRECTION
Look, it's not at all
true that I am angry with the grand lady Condoleezza Rice just because she
canceled a planned trip to Asia; notable stops to have included Tokyo,
Beijing, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur and Hanoi.
Sure, it's true I've
been writing about Asia for more than a decade, mainly out of the
conviction that Asia is the most important region this current century.
But it would be absurd to ignore the unraveling horror in the Middle East.
And I'm not at all
angry with Secretary Rice personally. My friends on the knee-jerk
Democratic Left do so hate it whenever anything nice is remotely opined
about Rice, so I will avoid personal comment to escape their wrath. I will
simply note that Americans have a roughly 2-1 favorable opinion of her,
and an even larger margin in the poll expressed a positive opinion about
her professionalism. This was from a poll of U.S. adults nationwide. It
was conducted by the Washington Post, not exactly a conservative organ.
It's true that the
same poll showed scarcely one-in-five Americans holding a favorable view
of Bush policies. But most Americans, if not my knee-jerk friends on the
Democratic Left, understand full well that it is the President of the
United States that sets out the administration's main foreign policy
goals, that all major foreign-policy decisions are therefore presidential
choices, and that no Secretary of State is at the end of the day, amounts
to much more than secretary to the boss, at least on the very major
I'm angry because of
the excruciating box that U.S Middle East foreign policy now finds itself
in. The fact is that we look - especially to the Muslim and Arabic world -
no more independent of Israel than – of -- Ms. Rice is of Mr. Bush. The
term Israeli lapdog comes quickly to mind.
To my many readers
outside the United States, yes, you should know that many of us in America
are observing the tragic carnage in southern Lebanon in absolute agony.
The viciousness of the violence from both the relentless Israeli war
machine and the animalistic anti-Israeli guerrilla organizations is
profoundly dispiriting. By the time both sides have spent all their energy
and agreed to cease fire, the level of destruction will have placed a
black mark forever on the region - and on the Bush administration.
Early on in its
existence, the Bush administration cavalierly turned its back on past
practices of intense meditative involvement in the Middle East that were
characteristic of prior White Houses. Though admittedly short on permanent
solutions, such missionary work by U.S. plenipotentiaries had the net
intermediate effect of tamping down tension. Instead, this administration
chose to direct its collective energies not on peace in the Middle East --
but on war in Iraq.
So, have the Bush
people been preoccupied with Iraq? I would answer this with the
well-chosen response to this question from the great conservative-champion
columnist William F. Buckley, Jr.: Preoccupied, he responded, is not quite
the word; the better word would be "engulfed."
They have also been
engulfed by the felt need to side, relatively uncritically, with the
pugnacious Ehud Olmert administration in Tel Aviv. But is it in the U.S.
interest to adopt a posture so aligned with Israel that it has the effect
of making Israel's enemies therefore our enemies, too?
Am I in fact an
anti-Semite simply for asking such a question when Hezbollah rockets are
winging into Israeli towns, pointedly aimed at civilian targets? Is such
calumnious branding of anyone who might have a thought independent of the
Israeli policy of near-massive retaliation the cost of partaking in open
and frank debate in America these days?
On this point, listen
to Dimitri Simes, long-serving president of The Nixon Center in
Washington: "Pointing out that U.S. support for Israel complicates
America's standing in the Arab and Muslim world does not mean that one
believes abandoning Israel would be a net positive for the United States
.. [But] simply raising these points," as he writes in the current issue
of The National Interest, "should not be grounds for vitriolic attacks.
And ignoring facts because they are inconvenient is irresponsible and
unconditional support for Israel would entail great cost even if we hadn't
been bashing heads in Iraq, the Muslim and Arab land that we invaded
uninvited -- and even if we weren't vaguely threatening to do something to
Muslim Iran now.
This is the policy
and posture of America that Ms. Rice inherited, not created. So I cannot
bring myself to gush angrily in her direction. But, as an American who
likes to speak his mind, I note that U.S. policy and pusillanimity has
contributed to the inferno in a historic way.
that China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam have been temporarily
shoved onto the backburner. The problem is, do they have to be in utter
flames to make it to the diplomatic front-burner?