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July 19, 2006

Scorn the Past, Repeat it Twice as Hard
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Condoleezza Rice should be muttering two words to herself:  Madeleine Albright, Madeleine Albright.

When you're a celebrity Secretary of State, you get strange fan mail, and while I worked for her Albright received a letter from the husband of a woman who, late in pregnancy, had been working a crossword puzzle with the clue "first woman Secretary of State."  She couldn't recall the name.  But something about going into labor later in the day tripped her memory, and she was wheeled into the hospital shouting "Madeleine Albright, Madeleine Albright."

Touching, no?  Rice has never given birth, of course, but with all the calls for her to head to the Middle East this week she ought to recognize the feeling.

Albright has publicly and privately been giving Rice, and before her Colin Powell, advice she learned the hard way:  you think, as Secretary of State, you can avoid getting sucked into painful Middle East shuttle diplomacy.  But you can't.

And if that isn't enough, today we have Newt Gingrich offering a comparison to another of Albright's unlovely second-term assignments:  "Is the next stage for Condi to go dancing with Kim Jong Il?"  I wish I were skilled enough in computer graphics to create a photomontage of that. 

Newt does have a way with a phrase, and he puts his finger on a nasty little reality here:  the next stage is for Rice to talk to Kim Jong Il's representatives; and, however long they postpone it in (misguided) hopes that Israel's military strategy can produce something other than the pro-Hezbollah alignment that it already seems to be ratifying, Rice will eventually have to go lead a press for a cease-fire.  Why?  Because we've let years go by without helping Israelis, Palestinians and their other neighbors build machinery that could do it without us.  Because we can't afford to have Iraqi Shiite extremists taking actions in support of Hezbollah.  Because we ought to care about the fate of Lebanese democracy, as this Arab blogger wisely points out.

The Bush Administration is about to learn, considerably later than its predecessor, that "creative chaos" is best kept inside the Administration.  The rest of its tenure will be spent trying to tamp down the fires that they either allowed to spring up (North Korea, which figured out a "good" way to get our attention after this Administrration determined to ignore it in 2001-2) or deliberately unleashed (an Arab power vacuum which Hezbollah is hoping, by new feats of ugly attacks on civilians, to spring). 

So stock up on support stockings for the plane ride, take a cushion for the hard chairs outside the Syrian president's office... and think of it as prep for dealing with all those NFL owners when Rice becomes commissioner.


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