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Friday, March 14, 2003

Is This The Grand Gesture? Or Just "Petit Mal"?

Bush will go to the Azores on Sunday to meet with Blair of Great Britain and Aznar of Spain to discuss plans for the disarmament of Iraq. And today, Bush announces that he holds in his hand a road map to peace in Palestine, and will hand it over as soon as someone stops and asks for directions. Being men, they won't, at least until the new Palestinian Prime Minister takes office.

And what does it mean? Well, I have some ideas that are presented in the order that they appeared in my brain:

1. Petit Mal - we are just thrashing about as the diplomatic live improv of the last week continues. I thought the President said that he was going to ask folks to show their cards this week; instead, he is showing road maps and airline tickets. Confusion Reigns!

2. Stand By Me - surely there are Arab leaders who have supported Bush on Iraq, and have gotten so nervous waiting for President Godot to lead this invasion that they have no more fingernails left to chew on. This "road map" announcement simply gives them something else to chew on - stand by your man for a few more weeks, and Bush will reveal himself to be your partner for peace in Palestine.

3. The Grand Gesture - bring out the stepladder for the Big Climbdown. If this comes through, then Mickey and Josh Marshall were right, and I was wrong. Hmm, I worry that not all of you share my surprise. Here is the plan:

Bush meets with Blair and Aznar in the Azores, and it is karaoke night. Blair and Aznar share their story of domestic political woe over Iraq by joining to sing "I Would Do Anything For Love, But I Won't Do That". Bush takes the subtle hint that more time is need, and goes home to deliver the big speech, which I paraphrase here.

I am a bold and resolute man, and I am ready to be bold and resolute for peace.

We have a unique opportunity for peace in Palestine. I will not let Saddam hold hostage our hopes for peace. Therefore, I am proposing a six month extension of the UN deadline, and offering specific compliance targets.

In Palestine, we have a timetable which is important...

Fine. The upshot is, if we make GREAT progress in Palestine, we will stay out of Iraq. Message: I Care! Sorry, that was a 41 flashback. Message: anyone who wants to prevent the forcible disarmament of Iraq had better turn up the heat on the Palestinians to make a deal.

Now, once you yoke these two horses, who knows where you will be pulled? And the most likely outcome is that, on both issues, we won't have enough progress to placate the hawks, and we won't have enough transgressions to ruffle the doves. But if nobody cooperates on anything, then we lash out this fall, and they will know the wrath of a righteous man!

Anyway, this linkage may be a reason to delay a war with Iraq that some hawks can accept (I can't spell "Likudniks", or I would mention it here). And who knows, it may work. In which case, I boldly predict the following: if Saddam goes into exile, we have peaceful regime change and the disarmament of Iraq under UN supervision, a new Palestine state, and the dismantlement of Israeli settlements, Bush will NOT get the Nobel Peace Prize. Messr. Chirac and (maybe) Mr. Blair, are you ready for your photo?

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