Thursday, April 05, 2007

If Foreign Policy Were Like High School: The Mean Girls Episode

Not that I was expecting much, but the reaction on the part of the Bush administration to Nancy Pelosi's trip to Syria really does exemplify how deeply un-serious this group is when it comes to almost all matters dealing with foreign policy (uh, and for the record, some Republican's also went to Syria at the same time, but that was far less controversial for some reason. I wonder why...).

Dick Cheney explains how Pelosi's trip has cost us dearly:

Vice President Dick Cheney was livid, saying Assad has "been isolated and cut off because of his bad behavior. And the unfortunate thing about the speaker's visit is, it sort of breaks down that barrier."

"It means that without him having done any of those things he should do . . . he gets a visit from a high-ranking American anyway. In other words, his bad behavior is being rewarded," Cheney told ABC News Radio.

Breaks down the barrier? What on Earth is that supposed to mean? Was there some invisible force field of stultifying isolation around Assad and now that Pelosi and a handful of Republicans have traversed its boundary...what exactly? He's no longer isolated? Ah, I see it. Now he is flush with a sense of connectedness to the world. His peace of mind has been improved in immeasurable ways. His heart, it sings. Damn you Pelosi!!!!!!

Further, what does it mean that he's been "rewarded"? We all know how popular US politicians are in Syria - and the Middle East generally speaking. Such that the mere presence of Pelosi in Syria is sure to enhance Assad's profile dramatically. As I'm told, anything that has any association with America is well thought of, praised and looked on with unconditional admiration. Like translators in Iraq. The envy of Baghdad they are.

Think about it though: Pelosi's trip has resulted in no tangible gains for Syria - no relaxation of punitive economic measures, no aid promised, no concessions made with respect to the Hariri investigation, no progress on Golan...nothing. Yet the mere fact that Pelosi and some Republican lawmakers visited Assad is some significant reward?

You know, I kind of like this. I might try out the Dick Cheney approach next Christmas. I'll show up with no gifts for anyone, but explain to all that my mere presence is already a great reward. Further, that none of those present would have to worry about excessive isolation in the new year. I can't wait to see the look of gratitude on their faces.

Bush, as is his wont, is no better:

"There have been a lot of people who have gone to see President Assad -
some Americans, but a lot of European leaders and high-ranking
officials. And yet we haven't seen action." [...]

But Bush maintained that "sending delegations hasn't worked. It's just simply been counterproductive." [emph. added throughout]

Ah. Not only have previous meetings been unable to solve most of the formidable problems associated with Syria's role in the region - but those meetings have in fact been "counterproductive." How, exactly, is unclear. But I assume it has something to do with the "force-field of excruciating isolation" that was on the verge of bringing Assad to his knees. If it wasn't for those meddling Europeans...and Americans.

Speaking of which, it should be pointed out that the Bush administration's approach to Syria hasn't produced any positive "action" either. But I'll go further. If the Bush team is to be believed with respect to Syria's disruptive policies vis-a-vis Iraq, then one could make a compelling case that the "totally mean cold shoulder" model has actually been, dare I say, counterproductive.

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