I wonder if people might want to consider that George Bush is shrewder than they think he is. Yes, he failed to get France on board for the liberation of Iraq. Big deal. So he's not a magician. But while everyone else is talking about failed middle eastern and world diplomacy, we see:
- Egypt releasing a democracy advocate after pressure from the U.S. to do so. Not a huge step, but a step nonetheless.
- The PLO appointing a prime minister and giving him power, despite Yasir Arafat's objections. We'll have to wait and see whether it's genuine, and we'll have to see whether there's any follow through by this prime minister in stopping terrorism, but it does meet the first American demand in order to start the peace process.
- Turkey considering reversing itself on cooperating with the United States in this conflict.
- Countries in East Asia quietly cooperating with the United States in containing North Korea.
Perhaps, just maybe, Bush deserves more credit than people are giving him. No, he isn't very "diplomatic," as that word is traditionally used. But, frankly, how often does being "diplomatic" actually accomplish anything? (I don't count "winning the respect of the New York Times' editorial board" as an accomplishment.) Did it accomplish anything with regard to Iraq? Some might argue that it was the first President Bush's diplomatic skills that put together the coalition to defeat Iraq in the first Gulf War. And that may be true -- but on the other hand, it was that coalition that prevented the United States from finishing the first Gulf War, thus leading to this crisis. Some might argue that it was Bill Clinton's diplomatic skills (or, heaven forbid, Jimmy Carter's) that allowed us to reach agreement with North Korea and prevent a war in 1994. Again, that may be true -- but all it did was postpone the crisis and make it worse.
Traditional diplomacy is useful when dealing with countries who share the same interests. When both sides want the same thing, then they can negotiate how to get there. But when the two sides are opposed not just in means, but in ends, then polite talk isn't generally an effective approach. And when one side has everything to lose from making concessions to the other side, then polite talk is never an effective approach. Bush appears to recognize that, but too many people (both in the media and in foreign governments) don't have any other options, so they pretend not to recognize that. And then they criticize Bush for not pretending the same.