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Foreign Policy Advice

It is a month before Barack Obama's inauguration, and everyone seems to want to get into the advice business, especially in foreign affairs. Some are still putting themselves forward for high office, although the top or near-top jobs seem to have already been designated, a goodly number already announced and others in the pockets of the president-elect.

We are now getting the has-beens, already consigned  to be the "former" whatever-it-was for the rest of their lives or those still racing to get one of those "special envoy" posts which have been the burial grounds of many unfittingly ambitious folk.

In this category, there stand out Richard Haas, the major domo of the Council on Foreign Relations, a once dignified post in which the incumbent used to encourage views other than his own, and Martin Indyk, who has all the credentials except at least for once having been smart as to what was possible in the Middle East. (Indyk does have the bravos of television zillionaire Haim Saban who has installed him as head of the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution where temporary or not-so-temporary exiles from power sit and do heavy chat.)  Anyway, Haas and Indyk have done a long essay on our options in the Arab and Islamic orbits for the current issue of Foreign Affairs and which they have abridged for so many other publications  that one expects to see it also in Parade.  It is all so simple, so simple that you can reduce it to one sentence: everything is possible.    

Well, everything is not possible. Two of yesterday's people, custodians of Bill Clinton's foreign policy while he was busy in the Oval Office, Madelaine Alrbight, secretary of state to the otherwise engaged president, and William Cohen, his secretary of defense, make a heartfelt and convincing plea that the United States actually stand up against genocide. The participated in what seemed like a grab-bag of memos, not exactly to Obama but to his top associates and to his wider public. The Albright-Cohen plea, passionate and rational at once, appeared in Sunday Times. It argues persuasively, I believe, that given the ways of the world fighting mass murder must be a cornerstone of our approach to international affairs. But they do not bite the bullet, so to speak, which is to press for Americans with arms in Africa.  The Clinton administration did itself no honor with its brazenly blind attitude to Rwanda, and France and the United Nations are culpable in the murder of nearly a million Tutsis in that country. But Albright (and Richard Holbrooke) restored our honor in Bosnia whose stability, however, now again seems rickety.

An editorial in the last issue of The New Republic directs itself towards the Congo calamity, more enormous perhaps than Rwanda and Darfur combined.  But this editorial also holds back, not from describing the real situation but by trimming about what is needed if the Congolese who have suffered for a half century from enflamed madmen enthusiasts are to be freed from their collective death sentence. Here in this editorial appears the old deus ex machina, another special envoy.

And back to today's Times and its kitchen-full of diplomatic delicacies. For months now, there's been a good deal of blather about how Syria can be coaxed away from Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and to peace with Israel and calm with Lebanon. Danielle Pletka has no taste for these sweet deserts which she believes are dangerous to us and to our friends. To us, especially.