This is Bush's bash. His name is on the invitation. The party is at his place. The guests are strictly A-list. Every country that matters, and a lot that don't, will be represented. The European Union, the United Nations and the Arab League will be there too. They are all coming for the same reason: They have been summoned by the one man in the world to whom no one wants to say no.
It turns out that Bush, far from wrecking America's prestige and influence, has compounded it. Every government in the world knows that attending the Annapolis conference under the aegis of the president of the United States is an unmistakable acknowledgment that America remains the world's indispensable state. [...]
Despite the assurances of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. has not been humiliated in Mesopotamia. On the contrary, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the subsequent determination of the American occupation have concentrated the minds of the (ever fewer) anti-American Arab despots.
Disregard his disastrous policies, and the radioactivity of brand America throughout the world - a condition that has deteriorated under his stewardship - because those assessments are just the product of partisan spin. The proof? Bush actually...got world leaders to attend a conference. Wow. No President before him, or likely after, will be able to make that claim. Or something. I mean, it's not John Hinderaker, but it's not as far off as it should be either.
Sadly, the conference itself is unlikely to produce any breakthroughs in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict - an end result that can hardly be placed at the feet of George W. Bush alone, though his inattention hasn't aided the process any either. Worse still, his lack of concern has actually exacerbated the negative image that Chafets comically claims has been undermined by the mere attendance at Annapolis of actual factual world leaders.
On the other hand, Blake Hounshell thinks that there is a compelling backstory worth paying attention to: whether the decision by Syria to attend signals a potential opening in the effort to normalize relations with Syria and thus peel that nation away from its alliance with Iran.
The Syrians are desperate for a deal, but they don't want it to look like they're surrendering—and they don't want to burn their bridges with Tehran until they have faith that entering the Western and Arab fold will be worthwhile. Many questions remain, among them:
-Are the Syrians willing to essentially "sell out" the Palestinians and make a separate peace, à la Egypt? Or will they hold out for a comprehensive settlement?
-Is the United States willing to sell out the Siniora government? The Syrians will seek to reassert their hegemony in Lebanon as part of any bargain.
-And how to square this with Syria abandoning its support for Hezbollah, as the Israelis want?
-Is Israel willing to give up the Golan back to the 1967 lines, as the Syrians have been demanding for years?
Blake's checklist covers the central tenets, but again, we run into one of the key impediments to an Olmert/Abbas brokered accord: an Olmert that is too weakened to hammer out a deal with Abbas isn't really in a position to offer the necessary concessions to the Syrians either. Nor will Assad have faith that Olmert could follow through such that he would be willing to sever ties with Iran under the circumstances.Still, there is something to be said for the concept of getting everyone together to talk and begin the process of moving toward larger deals if and when leaders with more robust mandates come to power. But then, to echo the Armchair Generalist, we didn't have to wait seven years for that.
(cross posted to Total Information Awareness)