Tuesday, June 21, 2005

NewsWEAK doesn't hide agenda

Diplomatic Dance

Condi Rice’s Mideast tour has been littered with a minefield of half-hidden hypocrisies. But its outcome could shape Bush’s legacy.

Now slogging into its third year, the Iraq war has been a devastating, draining experience. Bush has lost much of his political standing and capital at home, polls show, and his Army is almost certain to remain occupied with this task for the remainder of his term. American credibility abroad is badly damaged; the tally of American lives and limbs is climbing so high that Republicans are even worried about the Iraq effect on the 2006 by-elections—a campaign usually not determined by foreign policy. It is now settled wisdom in Washington and around the world that Iraq was not, as Bush once said, a “gathering” threat. So perhaps only democratic transformation can justify this ambitious war in history’s eyes. If democracy overtakes the Arab world—ridding it of the backward, autocratic regimes that have generated so much anger and terror—Bush could go down as a visionary president. If democracy doesn’t take hold, he may well be remembered mainly for starting a premeditated, disastrous war. The stakes are high.

The amount of diplomatic energy—not to mention taxpayer dollars—being spent on this democracy campaign is striking. At various stops on her tour Rice has gingerly prodded the Saudis and Egyptians, lashed out at the Iranians and Syrians, exhorted the Iraqis and badgered the Europeans to help with all this government reform. She has brought in some of Bush’s heaviest hitters from the first term to help—among them former Bush political advisor Karen Hughes and former chief Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, an evangelical Christian who wrote some of the president’s most soaring rhetoric (and who’s along on this trip.)

To the extent Egyptians and others take this U.S. pressure seriously—and many do—even they ascribe it to Bush’s sense of near-desperation over the Iraq project and his political weakness at home. “This is the main way that the Iraq war has had impact on us,” says a former Egyptian diplomat who declined to be identified in Cairo. “Not because of what’s happened in Iraq, but because we know only by making democracy succeed can Bush justify the war. So he will keep up the pressure.” Even some Arabs who are skeptical about Bush’s sincerity believe it will now be next to impossible, with the White House watching, for autocrats like Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak to simply jail their opponents and make them go away. Rice made that clear after she canceled a trip to Egypt earlier this year in protest at Mubarak’s arrest of opposition candidate Ayman Nour. She rescheduled only after Nour was released.

Yada, yada, yada ... we hate Bush and Christians ... blah blah blah ... we love the terrorists ... yada, blah, yada ... whatever you do we'll find a way to make it negative ... blah, yada, blah

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