The Israeli government’s slap in the face of visiting US Vice-President Joseph Biden—announcing 1,600 new homes in the contested territory of East Jerusalem during his stay—has heightened the perception that the foreign policy of the Obama administration is not going well.
The problem, some argue, is that there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians. Besides Biden, there are the powerful secretaries of defence and state, Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton. There are the special troubleshooters for the middle east and Afghanistan, George Mitchell and Richard Holbrooke. There is the president’s own intimate staff. On top of that, the national security adviser is supposed to keep all these lions in harness. That is the job Henry Kissinger did for Nixon and Ford, that Zbigniew Brzezinski, who I interviewed for Prospect, did during the Carter presidency, and Brent Scowcroft did under George Bush Senior. This is not to say the present incumbent, General James Jones, is a weakling. He is not. It is just that the coterie he has to deal with is more experienced and better politically connected than he is.
But now Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of an influential think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, has thrown a firecracker into the ring by suggesting that Brzezinski be brought back in to take over as foreign policy adviser. Brzezinski, who is 81, was one of Obama’s early heavyweight supporters and a professor at Columbia University while the future president was an undergraduate there. Later, Obama sidelined him after he made remarks considered to be anti-Israeli.
As if on cue, Brzezinski wrote the cover story of the February issue of Foreign Affairs, the Council’s bi-monthly magazine, praising Obama for having upturned the world’s perception of America through improved relations with the Islamic world, reducing of nuclear weapons, and sharpening the focus on the environment.
But there are three urgent issues, he says, that the president has not got a proper hold on: the Israel-Palestine conflict, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and Afghanistan-Pakistan.
Obama has not taken on board the internationally-favoured blueprint for peace in Israel and Palestine, involving the sharing of Jerusalem, the resettling of refugees (duly compensated) in Palestine, and land swaps to…