April 9, 2007
The Dangers of Pelosi
For once, it is a good thing to have Speaker Nancy Pelosi back in
Washington, D.C. Pelosi just spent the last few days around the Middle
East looking for some media attention, enjoying fancy meals with foreign
figures and buying souvenirs from the Arab street. Oh, and she was
achieving world peace, too.
least that was her justification for visiting and meeting with the
leaders of Syria, a country recognized by the U.S. government as one of
the major sponsors of terrorism and a proven source of instability for
its neighbors, particularly Iraq and Lebanon. Pelosi made the trip to
Damascus against the express wishes of the Bush administration, which is
charged with conducting U.S. foreign policy. In taking this imprudent
step, Pelosi significantly damaged the nature of our foreign policy as
it pertains to Syria, and even possibly broke the law, which forbids
such interactions with hostile regimes against the will of the U.S.
is well understood, and it should be particularly recognized by Pelosi,
that one of the president’s major roles is that of chief diplomat. So
what was Pelosi trying to achieve by taking a trip that blatantly
contradicted the expectations of the chief diplomat and his experienced
team of foreign policy experts?
Pelosi might be misunderstanding the “mandate” she insists she got last
November. Whatever the reason that American voters put her in the
Speaker’s office, it was certainly not to go take pictures with an
anti-American leader that has been sowing discord in U.S.-backed
democracies to his East and West. Pelosi took her “mandate” a step too
Pelosi’s actions were traditionally (and perhaps even legally)
acceptable, then Republican congressmen should have been traveling the
world throughout most of the 1990s when President Clinton was acting as
chief diplomat. Perhaps they could have conducted their own parallel
foreign policy, and thus obstructed North Korea’s nuclear program, or
freed Lebanon from the grasp of the Syrians. Or maybe, just maybe, they
could have accepted the Sudanese offer to hand over Osama Bin Laden on a
silver platter. But they did not do these things, for they knew their
be sure, a handful of Republican congressmen have indeed met with
elements of the Syrian regime in recent months. Their actions, of
course, are no more acceptable than Pelosi’s. Compared to the Speaker’s
self-assigned mission, however, the other congressmen’s visits are
virtually unnoticed and highly irrelevant. These congressmen are not
claiming to represent the American people nor attempting to start a new
track of negotiations with Syria. Pelosi, on the other hand, as the
person third in line for the presidency, is doing both – and she should
addition to the inappropriateness of explicitly undermining the U.S.
government’s position toward a hostile foreign government, Pelosi should
understand that occupying the Speaker’s office does not necessarily
translate into possessing the skills necessary to handle such crucial
and sensitive initiatives. After all, this is the same woman who
appointed Silvestre Reyes, a congressman who revealed his inability to
differentiate between Sunnis and Shiites or appreciate the significance
of their inter-religious conflicts, to chair the House Intelligence
Committee, which is increasingly responsible for matters that cover such
issues of tremendous importance.
Damascus, Pelosi made another crucial faux pas when she told the Syrian
government that she was bringing a message from Israeli Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert that Israel is ready for peace talks with Syria. Soon
thereafter, Olmert loudly clarified that he had entrusted Pelosi with no
such message, a statement that resonated around the world, embarrassing
both Pelosi and the United States. One would think that before getting
excited about involving herself in international relations and seeking
to achieve world peace, Pelosi would act less intrepidly considering her
negligible experience in that department.
The Syrian government has been allowing for civilians and troops to die
en masse in Iraq, and has been actively working to destabilize Lebanon,
where it still maintains much of the influence it had before being
forced to withdraw its troops from there in 2005. Despite much
international pressure, the Syrians have been unrelenting in continuing
their wicked behavior and sponsoring terrorism. Syria has thus been
isolated by much of the rest of the world (except for countries such as
Iran and Venezuela), and appropriately so. Pelosi’s visit, however,
signaled something very different to the Syrians, and hinted that the
U.S. is willing to lower its expectations vis-ŕ-vis Syrian behavior.
Pelosi should not think that she will be able to turn things around in
the Middle East just because she recently got a political boost at home.
She has confused the Syrians, the Israelis, the Lebanese, the Iraqis and
the U.S. government. Unless she is willing to engage in foreign policy
within the boundaries drawn by the chief diplomat, Pelosi’s activism
will not help – in fact, it will continue to be plainly dangerous.
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