Time magazine’s cover story this week, [The End of Cowboy Diplomacy] is notable for two things: the hilariously snarky cover illustration, that suggests someone can’t fill his Texas-sized hat, and the poor quality of the analysis they provide about recent apparent shifts in US foreign policy.
The gist of the article is that Condi Rice has effected a palace coup and effectively replaced the bellicose unilateralism of the past 5 years with a more realistic and moderate diplomatic approach. They tick off the places in the world where the US is hamstrung by our inability to leverage influence because of our over-committment in Iraq and Afghanistan: North Korea, Iran, Sudan, China, Palestine, and use recent moderate utterences from the president about working with allies as proof that there has been a sea change in approach. Oh, and of course there are the unnamed “presidential advisors” who remark that even Dick Cheney has come around to the virtues of RealPolitik (invoking Kissinger!).
What they fail to report on is the status of the Cheney-Rumsfeld alliance — still firmly in place at the White House and DOD, or — most amazingly — Karl Rove and the fact that this is a mid-term election year in which Republicans are in real danger of losing their lock on Congress. Might the recent moderation in tone be directed more toward a domestic audience than the world, designed to reassure disgruntled voters about their priorities? If so, it seems to be working in the offices of Time. Maybe they should wait until after the Republicans retain control of Congress (if they do) to see if there has been a real shift in policy approach.
In an [earlier piece] on Rice’s influence, written last August, Time engages in similar wishful thinking about the moderating influence she will have on the president’s policies — but in that article were at least careful to point out the challenge she faced in the past from Cheney and the ideologues. One wonders, a year later, at the evidence of her influence on the most vexing challenge that underpins all others for US foreign policy: unilateralism in Iraq. I don’t see a diplomatically-engineered multi-national effort there, no pan-Arab alliance to rebuild Iraq and contain Iran. If it ain’t happened in an election year — it ain’t happening.