We may feel continuity in international relations is good. But a continuity defined by a weighty (and arrogant) bureaucracy makes our votes meaningless. Surely, that is not good. A&L links to Richard Perle’s “Ambushed on the Potomac” in The National Interest.
Perle’s argument is motivated by a desire to distance himself – and neoconservatism in general – from Bush. He is critical of Bush’s inability to force the policies enacted at State and CIA to match his rhetoric (despite speeches Perle describes as often eloquent). The early speech that moved me and made me sense Bush’s vision – partially because it so clearly had its roots in the vision of Winthrop’s “On Christian Charity” from 1630 – is one Perle discusses:
Perhaps in one of the most egregious examples, consider Bush’s radically new approach to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. His speech of June 24, 2002, put forward a new American policy, pledging for the first time to support a Palestinian state provided the Palestinians elected “new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror” and built “a practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty.” In only ten months this was neatly transformed by the State Department into yet another version of its preferred, well-worn “land for peace” policy. It is not clear whether the president understood that the “road map” substituted for, and effectively killed, his push for a new policy.
Of course, the Palestinians did not seem to understand: how could they, when so few Americans did? Bush’s refusal to deal with Arafat was of a piece with that vision. But he did not make that clear – he didn’t seem to try, but if he did, he didn’t succeed. It certainly wasn’t understood in (or by) the press. If Obama’s words, delivered with the power he honed by listening closely to his mentors but which are neither as eloquent nor historically rich as Bush’s, are empowered by his charisma, an admiring press, and an agreeable bureaucracy, policy may match rhetoric. But, we might ask, is the bureaucracy motivated by Obama – or Obama by the bureaucracy? And in the end, do our votes count?