Saturday, December 16, 2006


"The Statesman manipulates reality; his first goal is survival; he feels responsible not only for the best but also forthe worse conceivable outcome. His view of human nature is wary; he is conscious of many great hopes which have failed, of many good intentions that could not be realized, of selfishness and ambitions and violence. He is therefore, inclined to erect hedges against the possibility that even the most brillant Idea might prove abortive and that the most eloquent formulation might hide ulterior motives. He will try to avoid certain experiments, not because he would object to the results if they succeeded, but because he would feel himself responsible for the consequences if they failed. He is suspicious of those who personalize foreign policy, for history teaches him the fragility of structures dependent on individuals. To the statesman, gradualism is the essence of stability; he represents an era of average performance, of gradual change and slow construction.

By contrast, the prophet is less concerned with manipulating than with creating reality. What is possible interests him less than what is 'right'. He offers his vision as the test and his good faith as a guarantee. He believes in total solutions; he is less absorbed in methodology than in purpose. He believes in the perfectability of man. His approach is timeless and not dependent on circumstances. He objects to gradualism as an unnecessary concession to circumstance. He will risk everything because his vision is the primary significant reality to him. Paradoxically, his more optimistic view of human nature makes him more intolerant than the statesman. If truth is both knowable and attainable, only immorality or stupidity can keep man from realizing it. The prophet represents an era of exaltation, of great upheveals, of vast accomplishments, but also of enormous disasters."

Henry Alfred Kissinger, "Domestic Structure and Foreign Policy", in Daedalus (Spring 1966).

With the diplomatic and military debacle in the Near East, followed by political debacle in the recent American Congressional elections, the sacking of Secretary Rumsfeld, and the release of the Iraq Study Group report, it was hoped that the American President George Bush and his closest advisors, would relent and recognize the dangerous pass that their policy has landed the United States in. However, from the public statements and comments by Mr. Bush, it would appear that a newfound appreciation of 'realism' is the very last thing that the American President has time for. On the 13th of this month for example, the White House put out a statement attacking the current regime of Assad fils, for ruling by 'brute force' (see the statement in Similar statements have been made about there being no 'graceful exit' from Iraq, and, that there is no need for any type of negotiations with Persia over the same.

In a similar vein were the comments made by Secretary of State Rice, to the Washington Post, which were published on Friday the 15th. The interview is quite remarkable due to the essentially positive, indeed almost optimistic sounding, language and verbiage that Dr. Rice used. A good example of which is her comment that the present time in the Near East far from being a difficult one for American policy, was in fact, one that: 'provided the United States with new opportunities'. And, while she did promise to pursue much more aggressively some type of peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians, for the most part, Rice's words betray a stubborn adherence to prior American policy in the area. A policy which has been roundly condemned by not only much of the American public, but, by much of Official Washington as well. Indeed, at this point, it would appear that it is only the President and his innermost circle, which still holds fast to the neo-conservative concept of forced Democratization of the Near East. In that respect, using the definitions offered up by Henry Kissinger forty years ago, both Bush and his Secretary of State, are in effect 'revolutionaries', and definitely not Statesmen. Belief in the ideology of both 'regime change', and forced Democratization, appears consistently to have trumped any realistic concepts or knowledge of the region. Which given the abysmal ignorance of both the history and politics of the region , displayed by much of the inner circle of the Bush regime is very much par for the course. Concomitant with the virtual exclusion from decision-making, almost anyone who did possess any such knowledge...

To conclude what Rice's interview (see below) clearly shows, is that both she and the Mr. Bush are truly the last of the Mohicans,insofar as it concerns American policy in the Near East. Unfortunately, unlike some more optimistic observers, such as Professor Joshua Landis, who think that the Bush policy has about four months to run, before being forced by pressure here and abroad to change course altogether, I am more doubtful. Even the appointment of Mr. Robert Gates to replace, while a positive step, does not, to my way of seeing things, fundamentally change the internal dynamics of the Bush regime: a Presidency where the decision-making circle, is probably the smallest and the most incompetent, at least in terms of foreign affairs, in probably the twentieth century. The comparisons that spring to mind, are in fact less with those of previous American history, than such discredited (if not worse) regimes as late Tsarist Russia and late Wilhelmine Germany. Regimes where Weberian bureacratic rationality of the decision-making process was overthrown due to the whims (if not worse) of the Head of State. Consequently I do not see any change occurring in the Administration's policy dealing with either Iraq or the Near East. I only see a failed set of policies being followed through to the very end. Please see below for the interview:

Rice Rejects Overture To Iran And Syria
By Glenn Kessler and Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, December 15, 2006; A01

"Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday rejected a bipartisan panel's recommendation that the United States seek the help of Syria and Iran in Iraq, saying the "compensation" required by any deal might be too high. She argued that neither country should need incentives to foster stability in Iraq.

"If they have an interest in a stable Iraq, they will do it anyway," Rice said in a wide-ranging interview with Washington Post reporters and editors. She said she did not want to trade away Lebanese sovereignty to Syria or allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon as a price for peace in Iraq.

Rice also said there would be no retreat from the administration's push to promote democracy in the Middle East, a goal that was de-emphasized by the Iraq Study Group in its report last week but that Rice insisted was a "matter of strategic interest." She reiterated her commitment to pursuing peace between Palestinians and Israelis -- a new effort that President Bush announced in September but that has yielded little so far.

"Get ready. We are going to the Middle East a lot," Rice said.

In a separate interview with Post editors and reporters, Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte provided an assessment of the situation in Iraq that did not deviate much from the Iraq Study Group's grim appraisal. He said the Iraqi insurgency could now finance itself from inside Iraq "through corruption, oil smuggling and kidnappings."

Rice's remarks indicated that, despite a maelstrom of criticism of Bush's policies by outside experts and Democrats, the administration's extensive review of policy in Iraq and the region will not yield major changes in its approach. Rice said that Bush could be "quite expansive" in terms of a policy review and that the new plan would be a "departure." But the president will not radically change any of his long-term goals or commitment to Iraq, she said.

Indeed, Rice argued that the Middle East is being rearranged in ways that provide the United States with new opportunities, what she repeatedly called a "new strategic context."

She said the range of struggles in the Middle East, such as the election of Hamas in the Palestinian territories, the conflict between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government, and strife in Iraq, represents a "clarifying moment" between extremists and what she called mainstream Arabs.

"This is a time for pushing and consulting and pressing and seeing what we can do to take advantage of this new strategic context," Rice said.

But she said democracy in the Middle East is "not going to be concluded on our watch" and acknowledged that "we've not always been able to pursue it in ways that have been effective."

"I take that criticism," she added.

Rice's comments on Iran and Syria were among her strongest on one of the key recommendations of the Iraq panel, co-chaired by former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former congressman Lee H. Hamilton. The report noted that Iran cooperated with the United States on Afghanistan and urged the administration to "explore whether this model could be replicated in the case of Iraq."

Bush called Iran part of an "axis of evil" shortly after the 2001 Bonn conference that led to the formation of the Afghan government, a label that Iranian diplomats have said soured Tehran's interest in cooperation.

In May, Rice offered to join talks on Iran's nuclear program if Tehran suspended its uranium-enrichment program, but Iran has rejected that condition. She said that Syrian officials have been unreceptive to previous entreaties by U.S. diplomats.

Negroponte noted that Iran was in a "defensive posture" three years ago when Iraq was invaded, wondering whether it would soon be a target. But now, flush with oil wealth, he said, it has become a major factor in the Middle East.

Rice said the administration's goal over the next two years is to give Iraqis the space to marginalize extremists and create a moderate middle that can hold the country together. The violence may not have ended before the administration leaves office, she acknowledged, but she said she hopes that Iraqis would "get to a place that is sustainable" by the end of 2008.

Although the administration is reviewing its troubled strategy in Iraq, Rice said the United States ultimately does not hold the key to solving the country's multifaceted military and political crises.

"The solutions to what is happening in Iraq lie in Baghdad, in their ability to deal with their own political differences," she said. The U.S. role is only in a support capacity, she said, reflecting the emerging undercurrent of the ongoing White House policy review to shift the mission from combat to support in both security and political reconciliation.

Rice said Iraqi officials have appealed to the administration to show greater flexibility and to hand over more responsibility to the new government, which was elected last December and took office in May.

Rice voiced support for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki but said the full array of sectarian and ethnic leaders must be prepared to bring their diverse communities along in tackling the most sensitive issues, including political reconciliation and disarming militias.

The administration has been pressing this message in meetings with two of Iraq's most prominent leaders, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of Iraq's largest Shiite party, who was in Washington last week, and this week with Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the highest-ranking Sunni in Iraq's government.

"You can't ask a prime minister in a democracy to take difficult steps that nobody will back that up," Rice said.

Although Shiite militias and death squads are behind much of the sectarian violence, Rice said she believes that most Iraqi Shiites are "firmly" on the side of democracy. The Shiite-dominated government is committed to Iraq's national identity and does not want Iraq to be dominated by Iran, Rice said."


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