There are quite a few interesting articles out there on the new Palestinian bid for statehood and the likely U.S. veto. But the most interesting is this one
by former CIA vet Robert Grenier. Speaking on his experience during the Clinton years.
The situation back then: The sale of F-16s to Pakistan. The U.S. had made a decision not to deliver the planes and not to refund the money. As you read, understand that Barack Obama now faces a similar test:
When the entire US foreign policy/national security apparatus begins to move in one direction, it is an impressive sight. A vast bureaucracy churns out elaborate rationales for its decided policy, and these are mind-numbingly repeated in dozens of different ways for use in dozens of different fora. This was a classic case in point.
I saw it myself from inside the State Department bureaucracy, where I was serving at the time. Justifications for the patently unjustifiable were delivered to the Pakistanis at all levels. They were mouthed by State Department and White House spokesmen, repeated in Congressional testimony, delivered to the press in many different settings, elaborated in written responses to inquiries from congressmen and the public, to say nothing of internal communications in the Executive Branch.
All of this bureaucratic momentum hurtled forward towards the climactic moment when President Clinton would deliver the same message, in person, to Prime Minister Bhutto.
The preparations for such encounters are, again, highly impressive. Huge briefing books requiring hundreds of man-hours are drawn up. They contain scene-setters, and backgrounders, and elaborate policy justifications, backed up with legal briefs organised under alphabeticised tabs, followed by detailed talking points designed to turn the president into a virtual ventriloquist's dummy. And then the whole lot is coordinated and cleared up through the system, through the secretary of state, and the National Security Council, to the president himself.
And so it was here. But in this case, at the very end, having carefully studied all this codified nonsense, this monument to bureaucratic inertia, and just before walking in to meet with Bhutto, when he would have to look the Pakistani prime minister in the eye and defend the patently indefensible, Clinton did something no one - but no one - in the bureaucracy would ever have anticipated.
With simple, clear-eyed common sense and the innate sense of justice with which God has endowed most five-year-old children, he said, simply, "but this is not fair". And then, wonder of wonders, he walked in and said just that to Bhutto.
Here are Clinton's words recorded moments later, when the two leaders emerged to speak before the press: "I have already made it clear to you, and I don't think any American president has ever said this before, I don't think it's right for us to keep the money and the equipment. That is not right. And I am going to try to find a resolution to it."
If you have not served in America's foreign policy bureaucracy, if you have not seen this from the inside, you cannot imagine the effect which these words would have had - to have a fully elaborated policy position publicly repudiated by the president, completely and unexpectedly, at the last possible moment, and on a world stage.
Again, the question now before us comes to this: Is there any chance -- any chance at all -- that Barack Obama could break from The Script and start improvising?
I don't think so. And that's the difference between the two presidents.
Barack Obama, like other presidents, has signaled approval of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem. (As readers know, I don't favor that idea.) But that approval is in the abstract. Now that there is a definite move in that direction, he is to expected go along with Israeli obstructionism. In fact, the U.S. is bribing nations
to go along with Israeli wishes in the U.N.
Obama's recent (and laudable) shifts to the left on domestic economic issues may be dismissed as political maneuvering. Why not
ask for higher taxes on millionaires when he knows he won't get it? But if he were to "pull a Clinton" on this
...well. We really would be seeing a new Obama.