The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Monday, December 04, 2006

Muddle diplomacy

It wasn't a good week for the White House's diplomatic efforts. Cheney was reportedly "summoned" to Saudi Arabia, Bush got the brushoff from Iraq's prime minister, and there's been endless speculation that Baker's Iraq study group amounts to "the grownups" stepping in and trying to save Bush's neocon agenda from complete catastrophe.

Then there's the part the White House really dreads-- that's exactly the way it's all being reported:

But instead of flaunting stronger ties and steadfast American influence, the president's journey found friends both old and new near a state of panic. Mideast leaders expressed soaring concern over upheavals across the region that the United States helped ignite through its invasion of Iraq and push for democracy — and fear that the Bush administration may make things worse.

President Bush's summit in Jordan with the Iraqi prime minister proved an awkward encounter that deepened doubts about the relationship. Vice President Dick Cheney's stop in Riyadh yielded a blunt warning from Saudi leaders. And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's trip to the West Bank and Israel, intended to build Arab support by showing a new U.S. push for peace, found little to work with.

Visits designed to show the U.S. team was in charge ended, instead, in diplomatic embarrassment and disappointment, with U.S. leaders rebuked and lectured by Arab counterparts. The trips demonstrated that U.S. allies in the region are struggling to understand what to make of the difficult relationship — and to figure whether, with the new Democratic control of Congress, Bush even has control over his nation's Mideast policy. (. . .)

The allies' predicament was described by Jordan's King Abdullah II a week ago, before Bush left Washington. Abdullah, one of America's steadiest friends in the region, warned that the Mideast faced the threat of three simultaneous civil wars — in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. And he made clear that the burden of dealing with it rested largely with the United States.