April 13, 2007

Damascus: Detente Talk of the Town; Washington: Same Ol' Crapola

Marc Perelman has the best analysis (by far) I've seen of late regarding Damascus' strategic posture. Contrast it w/ the latest insipidness from Liz Cheney (note too the nauseatingly cheap trotting out of Basil Fleihan's tragic cries for his wife, the better to get the true believers' blood pumping), and thank your lucky stars she's no longer Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. We need sober crisis management leavened by regional experience in key policy-making roles, more than ever, not mawkish sentiment masquerading as policy, or the airing of fatuous historical analogies (e.g., see immediately below).

Imagine if, in 1776, James Madison, John Adams or Thomas Jefferson had been struck down by assassins. Could America have been born without them? It seems a calculation has been made that if enough Lebanese democrats are killed, Lebanese independence will die in its cradle.

Riveting stuff, this, and for "birth pangs" we've now got instead, ta-da, the "cradle". Charming. Look, make no mistake. The Hariri assasination was a horrific crime. Ditto the killing of Gemayel, as well as Gibran Tueni (and many others). But Cheney's narrative is infantile in its monocausal view of what ails Lebanon, and serves to showcase well the easy certitudes of the good/evil dichotomies that have defined policy-making during the Bush years. We must do better than this, much better. The region is bleeding, and needs sustained, intelligent and nuanced attention, which apparently is still very much in short supply. Far too much of what passes as supposed significant policy musings, as above, are outrageously unrealistic when applied to the real world.

Cheney, again:

It is time to face facts. Talking to the Syrians emboldens and rewards them at the expense of America and our allies in the Middle East. It hasn't and won't change their behavior. They are an outlaw regime and should be isolated. Members of Congress and State Department officials should stop visiting Damascus. Arab leaders should stop receiving Bashar al-Assad. The U.N. Security Council should adopt a Chapter VII resolution mandating the establishment of an international tribunal for the Hariri murder.

The Security Council should also hold Syria accountable for its ongoing violations of existing resolutions. The U.S. government should implement all remaining elements of the Syria Accountability Act and launch an aggressive effort to empower the Syrian opposition. European governments should demonstrate that they value justice over profit and impose financial and travel sanctions on Syria's leaders.

It's all here. "Outlaw regime" (and guess who gets to play Vice-Sherriff?!?) Chapter VII sanctions! Travel bans on Bashar the Evil Eye Doctor! An "aggressive effort to empower the Syrian opposition" (who will be the Great Syrian Ahmad Chalabi, dear Liz?)! Of course, people in the neighborhood, like the Israelis, realize that Cheney's tired, recycled neo-con gospel, as applied to Syria, would create another Iraq, only on the doorstep of Israel, and want none of it. Which was why Olmert asked Pelosi to transmit reassuring messages to Bashar Assad in the first place. Aren't we all getting tired of this tiresome 'more Catholic than the Pope' fervor? Time to face facts indeed...the biggest foreign policy debacle since at least Vietnam is raging next door, and this is no time to throw more gas on the fire.

Posted by Gregory at April 13, 2007 01:57 AM

The Cheney daughter who has not (yet) been given a book contract wrote that talking to Syria emboldens the regime in Damascus and will not change its behavior. Does that sound like an odd statement to anyone else? Emboldened enemies would be expected to change their behavior (for the worse, presumably) would they not?

It's not unusual for public figures, which I guess Ms. Cheney is, to submit op-eds under their own names that were assembled from talking points written by others -- if the op-eds are not completely ghostwritten. The presence of two dueling talking points in the same sentence could, I suppose, suggest not only that Mr. Cheney's daughter did not actually write the op-ed she submitted to The Post, but that her ghostwriter was a committee rather than an individual.

My understanding is that The Washington Post asks people submitting pieces for publication if they are submitting them only to The Post. It does not ask whether the person submitting an op-ed actually wrote it. One can see why. The question sounds, well, rude, and an affirmative answer cannot easily be checked. Still, asking the question would force an untruthful person to leave a hostage to fortune -- say, if he or she should have a falling out with a ghostwriter, the resulting embarrassment could be considerable, though in Washington today one never knows. TPM says today that Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt thinks it imposing too much on Ms. Cheney to identify her as the Vice President's daughter, since she is an accomplished professional woman. Her professional accomplishments are largely a consequence of her being the Vice President's daughter, and evidently her husband's were also, but oh well.

Anyway, Mr. Hiatt would very likely think it an egregious breach of etiquette to inquire of Ms. Cheney whether she actually wrote the piece she submitted about emboldening the Syrian government and not changing its behavior, let alone ask that she identify her ghostwriter(s). So the suspicion that this accomplished professional woman is simply letting her name be used as a vehicle for her father's office or some staffer at the RNC to attack her father's political critics on the Post's Op-Ed page will just have to hang there.

Posted by: Zathras at April 13, 2007 05:59 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"aggressive effort to empower the Syrian opposition."

Who would this be? Some type of Islamists... would be the only real opposition in a nation like this!

Posted by: centrist at April 13, 2007 04:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The notion that one has to follow US policy and obtain US approval for one's own foreign policy is bizarre. That there is a parallel set of foreign policy goals and initiatives is all the more disastrous for the US. One comes out of State (and is not necessarily its own work product) and the other insinuates itself via the Post and other accommodating outlets from the VP's office.

Until Americans decide to follow one of these two the countries targeted by USFP will treat us with the contenpt we deserve. And there is a lot of contempt to go around just now.

Posted by: Alan at April 14, 2007 11:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There are probably some substantive points in this post, but it's too much trouble to try to extract them from the all-too-typical sarcastic rhetoric. There's already way too many blogs that "rant" against the neocons and I come to this site because there's often something better.

Posted by: ami at April 15, 2007 03:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

About Belgravia Dispatch

Gregory Djerejian comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.

More About the Author
Email the Author

Recent Entries

The News
The Blogs
Foreign Affairs Commentariat
Law & Finance
Think Tanks
The City
Epicurean Corner
Syndicate this site:

Belgravia Dispatch Maintained by:

Powered by