With a less than an optimal outcome on his first foreign trip as the presumptive Republican nominee for the presidency, focus must now be on his contacts with the leaders of Israel. Here is some background that just might be useful.
Perhaps, when Romney meets his former corporate colleague and now Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, Romney will re-think the idea of arming yet another group of Islamic rebels especially in the current Syrian conflict.
The failure to have a plan for the control of the Libyan arsenal as well as NATO arms supplied to Libyan rebels in the fight to overthrow Qadaffi, led to some of those weapons being used to shell Israel from the Gaza Strip by the Hamas run governemnt there. Some Libyan and NATO weapons were used to topple the government of Mali, while others have surely entered Syria through Muslim Brotherhood middlemen in the region of the troubled Syrian border with Turkey.
There is no doubt that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Republican presidential hopeful Romney will discuss one of Israel's main concerns, that is, what will happen to the arsenal of Syrian chemical as well as conventional weapons when the Assad government falls? Of paramount concern is what will happen if there is no smooth and immediate transition in control of the arsenal of weapons in Syrian, and how will that arsenal be kept out of the hands of those who would use them against Israel?
If control of the Syrian arsenal is not assured that eventuality could leave Israel with no alternative but to invade Syria and take control of those weapons. An Israeli invasion of Syria would draw fighters from around the Arab world into the fray, as the American invasion of Iraq drew such fighters. And, it should be remembered that more Islamic fighters went to Iraq from Libya with the specific intent of killing Americans than from any other Arab nation.
Arming yet another group of Islamic rebels is not a good idea? Has the reality of our fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan and the arming of al Qaeda now become so distant that subsequent events have been forgotten?
Listening to the following Fox interview with the Prime Minister might prove instructive for presidential candidate Romney. And, this carries with it more positive implications than negative ones. As Romney illustrated rather brillantly in the etch-a-scetch arm-wrestling match with Santorum, it is his ability, and willingness to learn in public under the glare of minute scrunity that is one of his endearing qualities. [see: http://www.theoxfordscientist.com/palimpsest.html ]
The Obama administration has shown little in the way of diplomatic wherewithal to advance the cause of peace between Israel and its neighbors. There have been a series of missed opportunities recently, where American diplomacy could have given the US increased credibility with all sides in the current upheaval between Israel and Gaza over the fuel supply route.
The fuel crisis in Gaza presented an opportunity for American diplomats to work with Israel, Gaza and Egypt to reach a workable solution to the fuel supply problem. Especially when one considers the fact that even the Egyptians favored the Israel to Gaza route over the route between Egypt and Gaza. The people of Gaza were suffering severe blackouts due to a lack of fuel after a barrage of rockets from Libya launched from Gaza rained down on southern Israel.
Dangerous times in the Middle East
As Romney ventures into the tepid waters of US foreign policy and its underlying military doctrine, it is important to know what our current doctrine is.
We begin by acknowledging the great opportunity for change in our foreign relations which presented itself with the fall of the Soviet Union. Although the fall of the Soviet Union began in 1957 when Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev denounced Stalin in a speech before the Politburo, it would be more than three decades before the walls came tumbling down.
The radipity with which things unravelled once they began to unravel was unexpected, but normal in the history of the collaspe of empires especially relatively young ones, the Soviet Union lasted only three score and ten. Although not central to this premise it should be remembered that the rise of the Bolsheviks to power in 1917 was preceded by a reign of terror that lasted 100 years in Russia.
By the mid 1990's, after nearly five years of trying to come to grips with the enormity of the changes that the fall of the Soviet Union had unleashed, a post-Soviet Union, American foreign policy began to emerge. Its unveiling took place in 1995 during the third quarter of the first Clinton administration. Little attention was paid to what was at that time a significant shift in the direction of US foreign policy away form reliance on diplomats of the calibre of John Kenneth Galbraith and Ralph Bunche, to one in which the State Department and the Department of Defense would become merged into a seamless alliance from the development of strategy in the situation room to their on the ground tactical implementation.
For all practical purposes the State Department had become imbeded within the military apparatus. Nor longer would we engage in military operations and then turn matters over to the diplomats but the entire range of State Department capabilities would be introduced as an integral part of all miliitary operations from their inception.
This doctrine was coined Smart Diplomacy, the details of which we will explore later in this article, but it is important to state that this new approach continued to gain force throughout the second Clinton term. Many of the adherents to the new policy remained in the State Department and served under Colin Powell. It is difficult to surmise what direction Powell would have taken American diplomacy as Secretary of State, but the events of 9/11 sealed the tenure of the former joint chief of staff head and National Security Adviser Rice to the war in Afghanistan and the opening of a second front in Iraq.
Without direction to the contrary the smart diplomacy doctrine continued to develop during the first term of the GW Bush administration, an administration focused upon terrorism, homeland security, and two war fronts.
Condolezza Rice and Colin Powell
When National Security advisor Rice assumed the helm at the State Department in 2005 the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were in there fourth and second year respectively, and the adherents of smart diplomacy had been gaining momentum within the upper chambers of State and Defense for a decade. Rice was not a willing participant in the smart diplomacy movement at that time.
In a 2006 speech at Gorgetown University, Rice laid out her doctrine for US foreign policy with particular reference to the greater Middle East, she termed that policy - Transformational Diplomacy.
The September 11, 2001 attacks, according to Secretary Rice, were rooted in oppression and despair, and therefore, the US should advance democratic reform and support basic rights throughout the greater Middle East.
To do so Rice envisioned the US cooperating with our 'partners around the world' and to assist in building and sustaining democratic, well-governed states, that would respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system.
Current realities however, paint a much different picture. Hamas is the government in Gaza, the Muslim Brotherhood has taken control in Egypt and will in all likeihood emerge as a dominat player in a post-Assad Syria, hardly the ingedients for a well-governed state that will respond to the needs of its people.
Diplomacy is all too often about missed opportunities and we are witnessing a major one as we are brought to contemplate an all-out civil war in Syria. And yet, Rice must find some solace in the final statement issued by the world's two most powerful presidents at the close of the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico.
In a joint statement delivered by Obama and Putin they committed to the shared goal of bringing about a “political transition to a democratic, pluralistic political system that would be implemented by the Syrians themselves.” The significance of Putin joining in on a statement that could have been written by Rice herself should not be undervalued.
Progress will come when both Obama and Putin accept, given the doomed Kofi Anan UN mission, that the only realistic option to try to avoid all-out civil war in Syria is to allow Putin the world-stage diplomatic role he craves as mediator. All other contingencies having been mapped out this approach is the only logical one to pursue.
While the Syrian chess match continues, Libya hangs in the balance, Mali has been overthrown with weapons and fighters returning from the 'revolution' in Libya, the newly emerged North and South Sudan are again a very troubled region. The first state to tumble, Tunisia, is not a settled matter by any means, and their neighbors have all seen increased unrest and low level, but continuous and escalating violence.
The US Fifth Fleet is armed to the teeth in and around the Straight of Hormuz, and Israel and Iran are on a collision course. Iraq is an ethnic and religious battleground steadily slipping into an all out multiple factioned civil war.
Our military leaders have since the Clinton years, requested that the State Department be more active within its areas of operation. This request has heightened as a result of the years-long war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Secretary Rice retorted, "We will not meet the challenges of the 21st century through military or any other means alone. Our national security requires the integration of our universal principles with all elements of our national power: our defense, our diplomacy, our development assistance, our democracy promotion efforts, free trade, and the good work of our private sector and society. And, it is the State Department, more than any other agency of government, that is called to lead this work."
However, Rice by the time she returned to Georgetown University in February of 2008, less than a year before the end of her term as Secretary, appears to have, albeit relunctedly, a least acknowledged much of the thrust of what is now the operative Foreign policy doctrine of the United States 'smart diplomacy.'
'America will need to forge a partnership between our civilians and our military', Rice stated. We are urging Congress to meet the President’s request to double the number of our positions for political advisers to military forces, diplomats who can work not only with four-star generals, but also deploy as civilian experts to Navy SEAL teams and to North Africa.
However, most illustrative of Rice no loger wishing to stand in the way of the smart diplomacy movement came when she called for the 'Establishment of a Civilian Response Corps. This expeditionary group will be led by a core team of diplomats that could, deploy with the 82nd Airborne within 48 hours of a country falling into conflict. These first responders would be able to summon the skills of hundreds of civilian experts across our federal government, as well as thousands of private volunteers – doctors and lawyers, engineers and agricultural experts, police officers and public administrators.
Rice's 2008 Georgetown speech, unlike her 2006 attempt to redefine American foreign policy, reads like the definition of 'Smart Diplomacy' as defined by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in 1995. Smart diplomacy is 'an approach that underscores the necessity of a strong military, but also invests heavily in alliances, partnerships, and institutions of all levels to expand American influence and establish legitimacy of American action.' The operative words being 'a strong military, but also'.
In short, the military doctrine that suggests that the State Department is an integral part of our military has become the predominant one.
Smart diplomacy emerged during the first Clinton administration and is the failed, althugh working doctrine of our current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Update - 1 August 2012
This video should futher illustrate why we do not want to arm any group of Islamic rebels in the Syrian conflict