Monday, December 18, 2006

Without Rumsfeld and Bolton, Who Will Keep Rice From Overcooking?

According to UPI: no one.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice now enjoys far greater clout in foreign policy-making following the fall of her arch-nemesis, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. And Rice has repeatedly made clear she wants to see a revived Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
The secretary of state defied powerful neo-conservative pressure at a time when the neo-cons still dominated the White House, the National Security Council and the Department of Defense to choose David Welch, a highly respected veteran Middle East hand, as her assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs.

Also, the departure of John Bolton from his key diplomatic position as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations removes a passionate opponent of any revival of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
It's not clear who is going to replace Bolton, what we do know that Robert Gates is going to replace Rumsfeld. Gates, is described as a 'traditional moderate Republican internationalist'--whatever. He is also supposed to have close ties to James Baker and was a member of the ISG until he was picked to replace Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.

According to UPI, things will be very different for Israel in particular--and the article gives the nowadays obligatory hint at the "Israel Lobby" claim:
Under Rumsfeld, Israeli military officials had the run of the Pentagon and enjoyed unprecedented access to Rumsfeld and his top officials. They could count on the enormous clout of the DoD, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Rumsfeld himself to block any diplomatic initiatives by the Bush administration that the Israeli government did not like. But once Gates is running OSD, he appears far more likely to make common cause with Rice to pressure the Israelis to make new concessions on reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Whether this is actually true or not of course remains to be seen. Powerline, for example notes that remarks made by Gates at his confirmation do not reveal the opponent of Iraq that Bush's opponents claim Gates is:
I agreed with President Bush’s decision to go into Iraq. Our men and women in uniform and our coalition partners have served admirably there, and, if confirmed, I look forward to working with them on a daily basis to help make the future better for the Iraqi people.

...I believe that leaving Iraq in chaos would have dangerous consequences both in the region and globally for many years to come.
But on Iran, Gates does not take Iran's nuclear threat seriously, nor does he see in Iran a serious threat to Israel either. Powerline quotes Claremont's Seth Leibsohn about one exchange in the hearing:
This exchange between Lindsay Graham & Bob Gates today is disturbing, to say the least. Asked by Senator Graham if Iran would use nuclear weapons against Israel, Gates responded, "I don't know that they would do that, Senator." Somewhat astounded, Graham pushed back:

Graham: The president of Iran has publicly disavowed the existence of the Holocaust, has publicly stated that he would like to wipe Israel off the map. Do you think he's kidding?

Gates: No, I don't think he's kidding, but I think there are, in fact, higher powers in Iran than he, than the president. And I think that, while they are certainly pressing, in my opinion, for nuclear capability, I think that they would see it in the first instance as a deterrent.
As Powerline puts it, according to Gates--other religious fundamentalists higher up than Ahmadinejad are going to keep him in check and act as a moderating influence.

In any case, with Israel's greatest mortal threat reduced to the rantings of an underling, the Israel-Palestinian conflict is free to become a central theme for Rice to continue to hammer away at.

Can 2008 come soon enough?
And will it make any difference?

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