Well, I was typing along and had just sent this posting to TNR in Washington. A minute after I get an e-mail that made part of my Spine obsolete. But not mistaken. In fact, on all the points I was correct. Please read.
I may turn out to be wrong. But, frankly, I do not believe the story by Marc Ambinder, sent to me by a friend in China, reporting that Richard Haass was about to be president-elect Obama's and secretary of state-designate Hillary Clinton's special envoy to the Middle East. First of all, Haass is a me-me-me person who spends much of his time and energy plugging, well, "me-me-me." More important, I don't think that either Obama or Clinton need to go back to the era when James Baker and his associates (including Haass, of course), was greasing Saddam Hussein's way in the world. Very smart, these people were! After all, it took two wars to rid the planet of this monstrous aggressor and tyrant. Haass is the author of about a dozen books. I asked three foreign affairs types if they could name anyone of them. None could.
Richard Holbrooke is one of the dazzling American diplomats of our time, and by dazzling I don't at all mean showy. He can put himself in the middle of an intricate conflict with deep historic resonance and rhetorical opportunities for demagogues and somehow bring angry minds together. He also knows how American power should be used, that is, carefully and deftly. His designation as special envoy in Southwest Asia (India, Pakistan and Afghanistan) is simply the best.
Dennis Ross has two positions open to him. One is as deputy to General Jim Jones who'll become National Security Adviser on January 20. This post, I believe, will give him greater sway in the general foreign policy of the Obama administration. Still, the other job, as Clinton's special deputy for the Middle East, is nothing to sneer at, nothing at all. Clinton is building an intellectually formidable and politically experienced staff, a staff that will not deal in soothing cliches or bluster. My guess is that that the choice for Ross, highly suitable for both posts, will not be his. It will be Obama's.