Joel Himelfarb decries what he calls the "Carter-Brzezinski-Hagel" approach to engaging Syria and Iran. It's not just Carter, Brzezinskin and Hagel's approach, but also James A. Baker III's and to a disappointingly large extent, Condoleeza Rice's.
As Washington waits breathlessly for luminaries like Jim Baker, Lee Hamilton, Vernon Jordan, Sandra Day O'Connor and the rest of the Iraq Study Group to tell us what to do about Iraq, it's past time to knock down a myth that appears to be driving the panel's deliberations: the notion that the Bush administration's refusal to talk with Iran and Syria is the reason for our inability to stabilize Iraq.
The premise--pushed by Democratic politicians and others--is absolutely false. The people pushing this, among them Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Sen. Chuck Hagel, seem intent on sandbagging President Bush into negotiating from a position of weakness over some form of "grand bargain" with some of our most deadly enemies. But the fact is that plenty of engagement has already been taking place. . .
The real issue today is that the Bush administration, which has been repeatedly burned in recent years when it tried to engage these governments, prefers discretion and holding lower-level talks. These regimes insist on holding well-publicized summits that yield them P.R. windfalls without forcing them to substantively change their policies. The fact is that, since the Carter's presidency, U.S. administrations of both parties have tried unsuccessfully to persuade these governments to end their support for terrorism and their efforts to sabotage Washington's efforts to facilitate peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. . .
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Based on the historical record, the advocates of U.S. engagement with these regimes are delusional. The record, from Carter to Bush II, strongly suggests that neither regime has any interest in cooperating with us in Iraq, and are more likely than not to view the Carter-Brzezinski-Hagel approach as a demonstration of American weakness.