Thursday, November 30, 2006
Bush and Maliki: The Un-Snub
I think I know a snub when I see one, Bush. I'm a Brit. We've been practitioners of this not-so-subtle art for centuries. It's in the blood, along with the stiff upper lip, the nose in the air, and the inbred knowledge of who's who and what's what. And--sorry, Bush--no matter how you slice this one, no matter how your palace people spin it, this was a snub. You hop on your Air Force One amid great advance hoohah, you make a stopover in Latvia to get a kiss of approval from the lady president there and tell your NATO partners--unsuccessfully, it seems--that you're expecting more from them by way of help to fix your other problem in Afghanistan; and then on through the darkening skies to fulfill the purpose of your odyssey--that meeting with al-Maliki--and you find out just before you land that he has decided to postpone it. Now that's a snub. (I suspect he was smarting, Bush, from that report that your people leaked to the New York Times before you left--the one in which your national security advisor questioned his competence and authority. And who could blame him?)
Oh, I know you had your meeting with the King of Jordan. He had something different on his mind, however. His main concern was the continuing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians which he sees to be at the center of all Middle Eastern problems. Many agree with him. Me too. One of the less discussed failures of your administration's foreign policy since your taking of the White House in 2000 has been the scandalous American neglect of an issue to which your predecessor brought much energy and passon. While Clinton reached the very brink of success, but lost out in the end, there were still avenues to pursue, and your apparent distaste for exploring them has certainly contributed significantly to the deterioration of relations in the region. Even this past summer's war between Israel and Hezbollah, the invasion of Lebanon and the simultaneous battle with angry Palestinians to the south failed to provoke much more than a yawn from your administration.
Now, it seems--perhaps in recognition of King Abdullah's willingness to host your meeting with al-Maliki--your Rice stays on in the Middle East as you fly home and meets with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, all smiles and handshakes across the conference table. Too little, many think, and much too late to repair the damage done. But I do hope that this might still open the door at least a crack.
Meanwhile, there is total confusion on the subject of Iraq. Before leaving Amman, you continue preaching solidarity with Iraq, faith in the government there, and eventual victory: "getting the job done." Your "study group" is talking "gradual withdrawal"--a bow to Democrats and, now, the vast majority of the American people; but without a timetable--a bow to you. They're likely to recommend direct talks with Syria and Iran---which you have once again unambiguously ruled out. They're also sure to recommend intensified training of Iraq's security forces, army and police--a strategy that has already proved disastrously misguided. If all the combined might of the American military and that famous "coaltion of the willing" has failed to pacify that troubled country in three years, how can anyone possibly expect results from a ragtag group of poorly trained, poorly motivated men who are themselves divided by sectarian loyalties?
It's sheer bloody chaos, Bush. I recall that boast, not so very long ago, that you were the "uniter", not the "divider." But all I see now, everywhere I look, is division, disagreement, dissenssion, dischord. And that's a lot of "diss." I don't envy you on your return to what you have created in this country. And, alas, I see it only getting worse.
al-maliki, bush, jordan, maliki, president
Posted by PeterAtLarge at 6:40 AM