Rice: No settling for the status quo

“I have no interest in diplomacy for the sake of returning Lebanon and Israel to the status quo ante.” No, that wasn’t John Bolton, but Condi Rice at her presser today. Rice made clear that a key aspect of the Bush worldview remains intact: Anything is preferable to the status quo in the Middle East. ...

607765_Rice_05.jpg
607765_Rice_05.jpg

"I have no interest in diplomacy for the sake of returning Lebanon and Israel to the status quo ante." No, that wasn't John Bolton, but Condi Rice at her presser today. Rice made clear that a key aspect of the Bush worldview remains intact: Anything is preferable to the status quo in the Middle East.

Rice had earlier remarked that a cease fire "simply returns us to the status quo" and would be a "guarantee of future violence." Maintaining stability, goes the Bush administration's thinking, is a guarantee of future violence. The facts on the ground have to change if there is to be a genuine—rather than a sticking plaster—solution to the problems that 9/11 illuminated.

This thinking underpinned the invasion of Iraq. The question is: Can things get worse rather than better?

“I have no interest in diplomacy for the sake of returning Lebanon and Israel to the status quo ante.” No, that wasn’t John Bolton, but Condi Rice at her presser today. Rice made clear that a key aspect of the Bush worldview remains intact: Anything is preferable to the status quo in the Middle East.

Rice had earlier remarked that a cease fire “simply returns us to the status quo” and would be a “guarantee of future violence.” Maintaining stability, goes the Bush administration’s thinking, is a guarantee of future violence. The facts on the ground have to change if there is to be a genuine—rather than a sticking plaster—solution to the problems that 9/11 illuminated.

This thinking underpinned the invasion of Iraq. The question is: Can things get worse rather than better?

Events in Iraq have led lots of people to conclude yes. George Will wrote earlier this week: “Neoconservatives have much to learn, even from Buddy Bell, manager of the Kansas City Royals. After his team lost its tenth consecutive game in April, Bell said, “I never say it can’t get worse.” In their next game, the Royals extended their losing streak to 11.” But others argue that this instability is needed to “break the fever.”

Rice sidled up to that point of view today when she observed “it’s a new Middle East and it’s hard and we’re going through a very violent time.” Another thing worth noting from the briefing is that Rice is going to Rome for talks – not an Arab capital. The WSJ reports that the meeting was originally meant to be held in Egypt, but the Egyptians – fearing popular unrest – balked at hosting it while the Israeli offensive was ongoing. Rice will now apparently stop in on the way back from Malaysia the week after next when the Israelis will likely have scaled down, or ended, operations.  

James Forsyth is assistant editor at Foreign Policy.

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