It used to be said that all roads lead to Rome. Today, roads from Rome are not leading to peace. The tension on Kofi Annan's face was visible even in a medium length camera shot as he emerged from the international conference on the Middle East in which Condi Rice pushed framing to heights that even the most consummate diplomat could not abide.
"We urgently want a cease-fire ", she says, but we want it to be permanent. Condi Rice is rewriting the rules of diplomatic engagements, much as Don Rumsfeld has rewritten the rules of military engagement to include torture. As a Middle Eastern diplomat yesterday pointed out, a cease-fire is entered into in order to permit negotiations. The Bush administration wants to put the cart before the horse: "First do as we ask, then we'll cease firing". Countries fire because they don't want to do what the other side wants.
Israel and Lebanon are two equally small states with populations that include Christians, Arabs and Jews. Instead of dreaming about detaching the Arab countries from Persian Iran, our diplomats should be thinking how to create the equivalent of Benelux between a Palestinian state, Lebanon and Israel. A reading of twentieth century history in the area suggests that would prevent larger countries like Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Iran from competing for influence among their tiny neighbors. The Muslim-Christian confrontation will only subside as Muslim sects accept each other. If the United States can keep its big boots out, the current conflict may help that happen.
The Senate begins hearings on President Bush's recess appointment of John Bolton as U.N. Ambassador. It is to be feared that Israeli blinders will prevent the Democrats from mounting a successful campaign to oust him, at a time when U.N. authority is desperately needed.