Let’s Stop Pretending Rice Is Doing Something


The trouble with policy wonks is that they think everybody is as knowledgeable and logical as they are despite all compelling evidence to the contrary. Eric Martin riffs on a Josh Landis piece about the “meeting” between the fabulous NeoCondi and Syrian foreign minister Walid Moualem in an attempt to analyze what might be going on.

The recent diplomatic thaw between the US and Syria may be a manifestation of a nascent strategy to de-link Syria from Iran (which would then, presumably, make it easier to isolate Hezbollah in Lebanon by eliminating Iran’s middleman). This reading is not made any less credible by the obvious empowerment of Iran in the region, and the perceived need to assemble and fortify an effective counterbalance. The question remains, however, what would the US offer Syria in return for its cooperation? The return of the Golan Heights, and the killing of the tribunal investigating Syria’s role in the Hariri assassination, are the two most obvious Syrian objectives.

This is all nonsense. There is no “thaw”, the US has no intention of offering Syria anything for their “co-operation” except calling off its potential invasion – maybe (there are three carrier groups off the Iranian coast, a stone’s throw from Syria) – and no one in the Bush Admin understands the concept of “counterbalance”, let alone is looking for a way to achieve it.

Landis isn’t much better, though he does at least hint that Condi offered, in fact, nothing, and quotes Iran’s foreign minister to that effect.

Mottaki was more honest. He explained that the US needs Iran more than Iran needs the US. The US had not prepared for the meeting properly and was not willing to discuss the an agenda important to Iran, comsequently Iran passed up the chance to talk to the Americans at the ministerial level.

(emphasis added)

Of course we hadn’t “prepared properly”. Since when has the fabulous NeoCondi prepared for anything properly?

Look, at some point it would be helpful if we stopped talking about these people as if they were sentient, rational human beings with knowledge, goals, and strategies for how to attain them. They are none of the three. They are not-very-bright ideologues who feature a deep-seated disdain for most foreigners and a heavy penchant for throwing their weight around. They know how to bully, they know how to threaten, and that pretty much exhausts a list of their negotiating tactics.

Landis circles around the truth without actually landing on it, finally acknowledging, sort of sideways, like a crab, that the whole trip was pretty much a PR exercise.

The US met with Syria in order to assuage Iraqi and Arab demands that the US re-engage, as well as to undercut opposition at home. The Democrats have been scoring points by pointing out how stupid the isolation policy has become.

That’s all the fabulous NeoCondi ever does. She jets around the world having high-level meetings so it will appear to wonks like Landis that she’s doing something of substance when all she’s doing is getting her picture taken so she can come home and insist she was doing something of substance even though she can’t tell us what, where, when, or with whom.

NOBODY in Bush’s State Dept is a genuine diplomat, especially not Rice, and even if she were, she would be handcuffed by the Cheney-Bush foreign “policy”: Swing a Big Stick at Their Heads and Fuck the Carrot. With imperialist oligarchs, every deal is one-way: theirs. They don’t negotiate, they give orders. They don’t make deals, they make demands. Most of the time, they don’t bother to talk at all, not to their enemies or their friends. Do I have to remind you that in August of ’01, a month before the attack on the WTC and at a time when peace threatened to break out between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Bush refused to take phone calls from Yassir Arafat about negotiating a deal because he was on vacation and didn’t want to be disturbed? And this despite the Israeli Prime Minister begging him to take them?

I realize that it’s hard for wonks to forego the pleasures of analytical prognostication, or resist the temptations of ferreting intentions out of the clues in stray words and phrases uttered by people who are supposed to have intentions, but that’s Old School, non-Bushian thinking. It doesn’t help us understand the one, true reality:

THERE IS NO NEGOTIATION GOING ON, ANYWHERE, IN ANY SPHERE, ABOUT ANYTHING. PERIOD.

It’s all a shell-game with no pea, a set of empty gestures with no meaning, a charade with no objective. If you want to help, stop treating these people as if they fit into the normal spectrum of US diplomatic negotiators, which they don’t, and hammer away at the fact that there is no policy, there are no diplomatic initiatives, there’s no plan that doesn’t involve the military, and nobody in the Bush Admin has the remotest interest in developing one.

If you can drive that truth home, you might do some good. Otherwise, you’re just talking to hear yourselves talk.

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