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U.S. POLICY - GOING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION

美國在亞洲的外交政策走向偏差

Tom Plate

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 issues.

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 offensive."

America's relatively 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.

It's understandable 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?

 

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