Presented by Lapham's Quarterly and the Institute for the Future of the Book

Table of Comments

Total Comments in Report: 92

Comments on

1. The New Diplomatic Offensive

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No paragraph in the report more enraged right-wing commentators, who summarily rejected the idea that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has anything to do with the war in Iraq. Their reaction was indicative of how far the administration is from facing even the most elemental realities in the Middle East. A polite silence was maintained when our one remaining ally, Tony Blair, showed up in Washington soon after the report was issued and said much the same thing about the need to link all these issues.

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Does the security environment in Baghdad allow for such a meeting? Considering Bush had to meet al-Maliki in Jordan, would it be possible or economically to guarantee the safety of the delegates to these proposed conferences?

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Missing from this overview–and from the report overall–is an assessment of America’s diplomatic position in the region and around the world. In general, concerning Iraq, we are negotiating from a position of weakness. Iraq is an open wound in our foreign policy, and we are seeking concessions and help. We are not, generally speaking, in a position to demand or coerce those concessions or help. We will have to win them through concessions of our own.

Secondly, “The New Diplomatic Offensive,” is a terrible title for this effort. Besides being an easy target for derision (one could quip that our diplomacy concerning Iraq has been offensive enough), it is the wrong image, and I wonder how it will translate into Arabic. Better titles would be a New Diplomatic Initiative, or a New Diplomatic Effort, which would convey the reality of our situation: we must renew and improve our diplomacy to achieve an acceptable result in Iraq, and that means bargaining with other countries, some of them unsavory. This is not an offensive. We are not on the attack. We are seeking and inviting cooperation from a position of diminshed strength and prestige.

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A great recommendation, with an important deadline specified in it that underlines the extreme urgency the ISG members saw in the situation.

The President, however, seems not to share this sense of urgency…