Thursday, February 03, 2005
Washington's rising star steps onto the world stage.
It's been a long time back, but Condoleezza Rice's trip to Europe would appear to be the best start to renewing my blogging.
There's an interesting analysis in the WaPo this morning by two of the paper's big hitters, Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler. The two reporters examine the European reaction to Rice, her ascent to power, and of greatest import, the expectations that are to be managed by her trip to Europe. Here's an outtake:
"She will be greeted as a rising star in the sky of Washington, a confidante of President Bush and a woman of great power and influence," a European ambassador said.
Still, there is little indication that Rice plans to offer any significant policy changes, European and American officials said. "We are in a moment of growing convergence on a number of issues," the ambassador said. "The substance has not changed; the positions are the same as a few months ago. But the style and circumstances have changed."
There is less of a disagreement about Iraq than there was in the past, or so it appears. I suspect that while the populations of Europe have maintained their antiwar sentiments and their suspicion of American intentions, the Continent's chanceries understand that closer American engagement with Europe is necessary to manage the coming problems of the new year. The success of this past weekend's elections in Iraq provide Rice with an entire armory of arrows in her diplomatic quiver; the votes of millions of Iraqis have provided a legitimacy to the argument that Bush and Rice have been making that a thousand white papers could not. I fully expect Chirac and Schroeder to become more engaged in the process of reconstruction, if only to buy influence with the new Iraqi regime. There is money to be made, after all.
The elephant in the room is Iran, whose nuclear weapons program appears headed towards a successful conclusion. Britain, France, and Germany are engaged in diplomatic talks to convince the Iranians to buy into the Nuclear Nonproliferation regimes. I happen to believe that the Iranians are stalling for time, in the belief that the Americans have their hands full in Iraq and that the Europeans wouldn't dare back an American military strike. Graph:
On Iran, some Europeans are frustrated because they believe their efforts to restrain Iran's nuclear program through diplomacy will fail without U.S. involvement -- and the Bush administration has not budged from its position that it will not join in any talks.
"It is not some sort of cozy discussion. It is very serious," John Bruton, the European Commission's ambassador in Washington, told reporters over lunch yesterday. "It is important that if you want the Iranians to truly get to the bottom line, there has to be a sense that there is a U.S. 'buy-in' " to any final deal.
Perhaps the Europeans are correct and that the Iranians are holding out to see what kind of deal they can get from the U.S.. It is for Rice to disabuse the Europeans of the conviction that meat thrown to the crocodile can bring relief from danger. And yet, she must be prepared to offer several ideas of her own to complement Europe's diplomacy. I'm not sure that she's ready to, simply because I don't believe that the interagency arguments have been settled among the Principals. However, I do believe that Bush is giving her the lead in policy formation and will allow her to have the primary word among his War Cabinet members. It's up to Condi and the Department to guide Bush out of this morrass, if there even is a way out.