William Saletan, in Slate, explores Tenet to Mitchell to Chance:
Unofficially, Mitchell and Tenet, like Zinni, Oslo, and Madrid, are buzzwords designed to create an impression of progress where none exists.
The theory put forward by Powell, President Bush, the U.N. Security Council, and other peace process exponents is that Zinni will lead to Tenet, which will lead to Mitchell, which will lead to Oslo, which will lead to peace. But the history of the invention of these steps suggests the opposite. Mitchell was created because Oslo failed. Tenet was created because Mitchell failed. Zinni was created because Tenet failed. The peace process is growing ever more complicated not because each stage leads to the next but because it doesn’t.
But back up a minute. Gary Kamiya in Salon derides the Bush foreign policy catastrophe as a whole:
The Bush administration’s foreign policy is in shambles. Each passing day in the Middle East brings new horrors, new bloodshed, new hatred. And it isn’t just the Middle East: The bankruptcy of the Republican administration’s approach, not just to the most explosive and strategically crucial region in the world, but to foreign policy in general, has become impossible to ignore. In a little over a year in office, Bush has allowed the Israeli-Palestinian crisis to explode from a small brush fire to a raging conflagration; squandered the global goodwill toward the United States after Sept. 11; set back the cause of moderates in Iran with a comic-book invocation of “evil”; endangered key allies in South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Egypt; failed to pursue vital peacekeeping and nation-building efforts in Afghanistan; clumsily pushed the Arab world into greater solidarity with Saddam Hussein; put forward a potentially dangerous new first-use nuclear doctrine; and filled our European allies with contempt and rage at our heavy-handed unilateralism. The Bush administration is rapidly staking a claim as one of the most incompetent foreign policy presidencies in the post-World War II era.
As FmH readers know, I’m the first to deride Bush administration ideology, policy, ethics, etc. After all, what can you expect when the President’s main foreign policy analyst has a supertanker named after her by one of her transnational paramours? But, while I agree that the administration’s track record, when you assemble it all together as in the paragraph above, classes it as an incontrovertible flop, I’m not sure I would blame Bush for the Middle East conflagration. The assumption that failure at peacemaking equals responsibility for bloodshed is not a natural one except in a certain narrow subset of the public which accepts a notion of noblesse oblige re: policing foreign conflicts (even though my sentiments lean toward a US obligation, as the sole superpower, to expend its resources around the world in humanitarian crises…). The judgment of history, also, will probably be that there has been a longer-term failure of the US commitment to Middle East peace, at least partially inherited from previous administrations.