Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Where Is The American President?

There has been conflict in the Middle East for centuries over land, religion, and periphery issues, causing the sand from Jerusalem to Damascus to be sowed with blood. In the late twentieth century, after the State of Israel was created and the early victories that carved out more land for Israel and created buffer zones between Arab and Jew, American presidents have become increasingly interested in the region. The rationale might be termed differently by Administration and individual “peace-plans” have different names, but the general intent is the same: solve the violence.

It is with this understanding that there is puzzlement at the slow reaction by President Bush. There are many factors that may explain his, let us say, restraint, however, silence should not be one of them. There are complex issues—it has never been solely a kidnapping—with ramifications largely unseen that might have made the president take pause before responding.

The trouble is that the response is to late and has not come from the United States. Neither confirming nor denying reports that Secretary of State Rice will be flying to the region in the coming days, a “hands-off” response to Israeli heavy-handiness, and a trite frustrated response, caught on a microphone in Moscow this weekend, is NOT the image the United States of America should be showing the world.

Secretary of State Kissenger invented the term shuttle diplomacy, setting the new standard for American response to crisis around the world during his tenure under President Richard Nixon. It was President Reagan and President Clinton who were known to call international leaders on the Oval Office phone, though much credit to this practice should be given to President Bush, Sr. whose phone calls and personal relationships during the build-up to the First Gulf War was masterly.

So, with this knowledge of the past and the knowledge of the present, with the U.S. militarily engaged in Iraq, diplomatically engaged with North Korea, Iran and the nations in each region, the question is what is the president doing?

Why did he not call President Bashar Al-Assad (Syria) Prime Minister Fouad Siniora (Lebanon) and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (Israel)? Why has Secretary of State Rice not been sent to the Middle East? Why did the American president not call for a cease-fire? And why in Moscow was it Prime Minister Blair and not President Bush who prodded G8 leaders into making their joint statement?

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for urgent action from the international community to stop the violence between Israel and Lebanon. This is a reiteration on a call for an international force to be deployed in the border region. This will happen, but where is the input from President Bush and his ORIGINAL idea to solve the current crisis?

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