Tuesday, February 12, 2002

QUICK THOUGHTS In the aftermath of Bush's "axis of evil" State of the Union address, one school of thought -- granted, one which is not gaining a whole lot of traction anywhere that matters -- is that "The world now thinks the U.S. has lost its mind." So says former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, anyway. Writing for the Toronto Sun, columnist Eric Margolis declares, on behalf of our wobbly allies, that Albright is "dead right."

In response, my esteemed colleague William Quick dredges up this unsettling visual image:

"This would carry a lot more weight with me if I could just get out of my head the picture of Albright wobbling and jiggling as she frantically rushed after Yassar Arafat to beg him to return to the bargaining table in Paris.

Okay. Call me an Albright Apologist if you wish. Cry to the rooftops that the Clinton administration spent its last ounce of political capital coddling terrorists, if you must.

But critics of the previous administration's foreign policy must understand that we can only now declare Arafat irrelevant precisely because Clinton and Albright already gave him every possible opportunity to rise to the challenge of playing Statesman and Peacemaker.

Had Albright not dragged Arafat back to the table, kicking and screaming -- so that he could later respond to Barak's "97% compromise" offer with Intifada II -- Powell would not now be in a position to give Israel carte blanche to defend its borders by any means necessary.

Where are we now? Arafat sits under de facto house arrest, and Israel's strategy appears to be that he will remain there until he names a successor. And yet, there's hardly a peep of outrage in the "Arab Street." The Palestinian sympathist opinion-makers may grumble at the margins, but they, too, know that Arafat is finished. That sea-change would not yet have begun to take place, except that Clinton-Albright forced him to the negotiating table where he could either succeed or fail spectacularly.

In short -- block this metaphor! -- the Bush-Powell foreign policy can successfully consign Arafat to the ash heap of history because the Clinton-Albright policy was to give him enough rope by which to hang himself. At least give them that much credit.

UPDATE: I completely glossed over the rest of Eric Margolis's anti-American screed, dismissing it as unworthy of the time it would take to properly skewer. Fortunately, Rand Simberg had no such reservations.


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