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Clinton's secretary of state reminds us how lucky


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Warren's Piece

Clinton's secretary of state reminds us how lucky we are to have a Bush administration.

by William Kristol

08/07/2006, Volume 011, Issue 44

Every time neocon warmongers like me get exasperated by the Bush administration (and we've had increasingly good reasons for exasperation in the last year or so, I might add), someone like first-term Clinton secretary of state Warren Christopher pops up. Maybe "pops up" isn't quite right, conveying as it does an implication of activity and even energy. So let's just say that Warren Christopher presented his credentials to the Washington Post op-ed page Friday, criticizing the Bush administration, more in sorrow than in anger. Bush, you see, had "resisted all suggestions that the first order of business should be negotiation of an immediate cease-fire between the warring parties," i.e., between the state of Israel and the terrorist group Hezbollah.

Christopher's piece needs to be read to be believed. It needs to be read as an example of the fatuousness of liberal elite opinion about the world we live in. That opinion is dominant in the Democratic party--and, unfortunately, has penetrated the Bush State Department more than one would wish. Still, Christopher's op-ed is such a convenient reminder of how much worse things could be that one wonders whether he's on Karl Rove's payroll.

He's probably not. After all, this is the man who, as secretary of state, allowed ethnic cleansing to go on far too long in the Balkans, presided over humiliations in Somalia and Haiti, did nothing in the face of genocide in Rwanda, didn't respond to terror at Khobar Towers, and allowed Hafez al-Assad to treat him as a supplicant. He's back, basically articulating the line of the non-Lieberman wing--that is, 95 percent--of the Democratic party.

What's his line? That "we should focus our efforts on stopping the killing." How? Three recommendations. First, "an immediate cease-fire must take priority, with negotiations on longer-term arrangements to follow." In other words, the fact that one of the warring parties is a state that had withdrawn from occupied territory and was scrupulously complying with its obligations, and the other is a terror group that was arming itself to the teeth and killing and kidnapping citizens of a neighboring country, is irrelevant. And the notion that a terror group should be in any way disadvantaged by the "longer-term arrangements to follow," that the terrorists should pay any price for their actions, is nowhere suggested by Christopher. Indeed, he is so much the Compleat Diplomat that he never mentions the incident that caused the outbreak of hostilities: Hezbollah's attack across the Israel-Lebanon border.

Second: "If a cease-fire is the goal, the United States has an indispensable role to play." The highlighting of U.S. indispensability is a (moderately clever) way of disguising the fact that Christopher wants the United States to yield in its view of the Middle East conflict to the Europeans and the United Nations. What does U.S. indispensability mean to Warren Christopher? That only we can muscle the Israelis into an agreement, and that "the Europeans are unlikely to participate in a multinational enforcement action until the United States commits to putting its own troops on the ground." In other words, what is indispensable is not a distinctively American view of the situation or the exercise of American leadership. It is helping the international community to impose an evenhanded settlement on Israel and Hezbollah.

Third: The United States has to engage in "direct dialogue" with Syria, since Syria has "more leverage over Hezbollah's actions than any other country save Iran." And what about Iran? Christopher leaves unsaid what would undoubtedly be his recommendation: direct engagement without conditions with that regime as well. He does write, "as the situations with North Korea and Iran confirm, refusing to speak with those we dislike is a recipe for frustration and failure." It would, I suppose, be undiplomatic to mention North Korea's missile launches and Iran's nuclear weapons program. They just happen to be nations "we dislike."

In Warren Christopher's world, we should dislike fewer regimes. Then, presumably, we'd be disliked less. Israel, however, we should dislike. After all, "every day America gives the green light to further Israeli violence, our already tattered reputation sinks even lower." This isn't even evenhandedness. Nowhere in his op-ed is Christopher as harsh about Hezbollah--or Syria or Iran--as he is about Israel. Israeli violence is the problem. Anti-Israeli policies are the solution. Warren Christopher, meet Kofi Annan.

The Bush administration has wavered and floundered too much over the last year. Its State Department remains in some considerable denial about Iran, and its Defense Department about Iraq. We look forward to resuming our constructive criticisms of the administration. But we pause this week to say this: Given the spirit of today's liberal establishment and Democratic party, so perfectly personified by Warren Christopher, thank God we have a Bush and not a Kerry administration.

--William Kristol


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