Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Gold Standard for Diplomacy?

The advance copy of Ambassador Edward Djerejian's Danger and Opportunity: An American Ambassador's Journey Through the Middle East has arrived in the office. Reading through the sections dealing with the ambassador's time in Syria--and his dealings with the Asad regime--it seemed light-years from what is occurring today. Back then, the focus seemed to be on achieving results but to focus on smaller, incremental steps--and to engage with other regimes, even hostile ones. As a result of this approach, Syria took part in the anti-Saddam coalition in 1990-91, helping to provide greater legitimacy for the war, and then agreed to attend the 1991 Madrid peace conference on the Middle East. One cannot help but compare the aftermath of the first gulf war--the start of new tracks in the Israeli-Arab peace process and the beginnings of cautious but tangible reform efforts especially in the Gulf emirates, and even the first steps towards acceptance of Israel as a Middle Eastern state--with the situation today.

It also reminded me of a comment made by Flynt Leverett at last week's event in New York--that the first gulf war was essentially paid for by other states backing up the U.S.-led effort; again in real contrast to today.

So what is real surprising is why the Bush-Baker-Scowcroft approach--which looks to be quite successful in managing crises and in enhancing U.S. leadership--is not being cited more as the standard to which the next administration should aspire. Understandable why the Obama camp would not want to celebrate a largely Republican team--but the absence of references on the Republican side is quite telling.

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