Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Deal Maker?

As someone who has routinely criticised Condolezza Rice for what I regarded as a terrible performance as National Security Advisor and not withstanding her silly shoe shopping moment at a less-than-appropriate time, Rice seems to be settling into the job of Secretary of State pretty well, at least lately. This is a surprise to me. After a faulty start and her apparent cluelessness regarding the India reaction to the Pakistan F-16 deal, she has been behind some interesting middle east diplomacy lately and her criticism of Mubarek at his intransigence in the Middle East democracy forum was bold and to the point. Rice stood firm, looked tough and sincere in backing the demands that Mubarek refused to abide. She didn't back down and coddle Mubarek and Mubarek clearly looked like the chump in this case. Well, he looked like more of a chump than he normally does.

Her latest effort has brokered a deal between the Israelis and Palestineans that, to say the least, is rarity for anyone. Palestinians and Israelis reached an agreement that would now give Palestinians relatively free passage to and from Gaza. Without getting into the larger Palestinian issue, I have to veiw this as at least a small positive step. At least, I want to view it that way, which is hard to do considering how the Gaza withdraw turned out to be exactly what everyone expected: a unilateral mandate to expand Israeli settlement on the West Bank.

Nonetheless, after initially thinking Rice was just another Bush hack, which she certainly was as the NSA, her removal from the turmoil in Washington appears to have suited her well and she actually seems to getting some positive results, however minor they may be. And that is certainly a refreshing change from what we have been seeing with the rest of this administration. And because of that, I really want to believe that what we are seeing with Rice is what is really going on. I also expect that she is just damn happy to be far, far from Washington and this elation may be carrying over into her actually wanting to do a good job. I know, it all sounds like a fantasy for someone who was front and center in snowing the 9/11 commission and disembling about Saddam's WMD.

It remains to be seen whether this Gaza deal will last or even mean much of anything. These Middle East deals have a tendency toward evaporation in the face of the broader conflict. I am just hoping Rice has found her niche and will continue to do what I see as the only positive job performance coming out of the White House. I may be confessing some naivete here. She hardly deserves much trust yet, but there are some hopeful signs. I just hope she doesn't make me regret this opinion.


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