Casey, Murkowski Endorse a “Comprehensive Diplomatic Offensive” — Now for the Next Step


Last weekend, Henry Kissinger wrote a syndicated op-ed defending the President’s position in Iraq but qualified with a critical point:

The second and ultimately decisive route to overcoming the Iraqi crisis is through international diplomacy. Today the United States is bearing the major burden for regional security militarily, politically and economically.

Certainly arguments have been levied to challenge Kissinger’s strategic outlook, but far less disputed and patently evident is that the current administration has fallen short on this diplomatic effort upon which Kissinger predicates his support. In the absence of a robust diplomatic strategy coming from the White House, two Senators have stepped up to take on this role.
Senators Robert Casey (D-PA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) are the latest to have joined the ranks of other leading figures (including


Representative Lantos and Senator Hagel) in calling for a “diplomatic offensive” as outlined nine months ago in the Iraq Study Group (ISG) report. The Senators have filed an amendment to promote both a diplomatic and civilian surge, which have been neglected of late. The press release reads:

The amendment calls for the following steps, among others:
–The United States should take the lead in organizing a comprehensive diplomatic offensive, consisting of bilateral, regional, and international initiatives, to assist the Government of Iraq in achieving national reconciliation and meeting security, political, and economic benchmarks;
–The United States should bring together Iraq’s neighbors through a regional conference or other mechanism to develop specific measures to stabilize Iraq and, in particular, end the outside flows of weapons, explosive materials, foreign fighters, and funding that contribute to the current sectarian warfare;
–The President and the Secretary of State should invest their personal time and energy in these diplomatic efforts to ensure that they receive the highest priority within the U.S. government and are viewed seriously in the region;
–The President should appoint a seasoned, high-level Presidential envoy to the region to supplement the efforts of Ambassador Crocker and focus on the establishment of a regional framework to help stabilize Iraq;
–The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations should seek the appointment of an international mediator in Iraq to engage political, religious, ethnic, and tribal leaders in Iraq to foster national reconciliation efforts;
–The United States should more directly press Iraq’s neighbors to open fully operating embassies in Baghdad and establish inclusive diplomatic relations with Iraq so that the Iraqi government is viewed as legitimate throughout the region;
The amendment reflects a key recommendation of the Iraq Study Group which called upon the United States to “embark on a robust diplomatic effort to establish an international support structure intended to stabilize Iraq and ease tensions in other countries in the region.”
Finally, the amendment also focuses attention on the need to implement a “civilian surge” to ensure that all components of the U.S. government are contributing to assist the Iraqi government to strengthen its capabilities to provide essential government services.

The Senators should be applauded for their efforts to revitalize this debate, but I at this point I doubt it will produce the stability the ISG suggested 10 months ago. I’m increasingly of the opinion that a diplomatic offensive is necessary, as Richard Haass put it — to rebalance our portfolio in the Middle East and diversify our overall position in the world — in other words, to hedge against the damage from Iraq.
I understand that politics is the slow boring of holes and welcome this effort, especially one co-sponsored by moderates in the Senate, but at some point these amendments calling for diplomacy need to develop real teeth and define with greater precision what we mean when we invoke the phrase “regional diplomacy”. As I’ve written before, so long as it remains amorphous and devoid of specific contents, even the John Boltons of the world can claim to be pursuing diplomacy.
Unlike the ISG, the Senators said not a word about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process which will be central to improving our position in the region. The major Middle East conference on the horizon in November is already imperiled due to the absence of specific contents or agendas.
Beyond calls for diplomacy, we need to begin talking about what a regional security architecture that includes Israel would look like and what security assurances are we willing to exchange for it.
And though the amendment calls for assistance to internal and external Iraqi refugees, it provides no specifics. We’ve done little to nothing to assist neighboring states and allies who are taking in the 2 million or more refugees spilling out of Iraq and taking on the onerous economic burden that accompanies the refugees. For instance, one of our key allies, Jordan, estimates that Iraqi refugees are costing the government $1 billion a year. In 2003, our economic assistance to Jordan jumped by almost $1 billion to cushion effects of the Iraq war but then dropped back down to normal levels since everything was going so swimmingly in that part of the world. If we were serious about assisting refugees and bolstering our critical allies in the region (the few we have left), we would need to start putting our money where our mouths are.
If we’re serious about a civilian surge, we need to define the contents of that as well. Does it involve more private contractors or does it mean activating our civilian wings of government to take on a larger share of our foreign policy portfolio? If it’s the latter, then it requires more than statements in the well of the Senate. It requires making some hard choices in budgets — as a Senate Foreign Relations Committee report suggested last December — and moving more resources in the budget process from the military into the State Department and USAID (not simply shifting resources within departments as the amendment proposes).
I don’t mean to diminish the significance or work done for this amendment — this is more of an urging onwards in a Frost-ian “miles to go before I sleep” manner.
Senators Casey and Murkowski have drawn up an excellent outline of where we need to go on this, but unless others in the Administration and Congress begin to populate it with specific mechanisms and begin making some hard choices on resources, the outline will remain only that, and eventually swept into the dustbins of history.
–Sameer Lalwani


20 comments on “Casey, Murkowski Endorse a “Comprehensive Diplomatic Offensive” — Now for the Next Step

  1. Kathleen says:

    Oh, oh, Carroll… better bring that pillow with you when they save you a place at the nearest Halliburton built “relocation center”.


  2. Carroll says:

    Posted by jonst at September 22, 2007 10:44 AM
    Posted by Kathleen at September 22, 2007 01:59 PM
    Posted by PissedOffAmerican at September 22, 2007 11:11 AM
    Posted by arthurdecco at September 22, 2007 10:02 AM
    I am ready to fight…I’ve been calling for a revolution for 4 years.
    I am willing to do whatever is necessary to bring this cancer of a government down.
    But….if I show up all by myself with a torch outside congress all I will accomplish is just get laughed at and arrested…it takes more than one or even a dozen people to start a revolution.
    I swear to God that if someone will get a revolt going I will be there (and bring family and friends) with bells on or what ever the proper attire is for a coup.
    Someone has to start it and others will join…there are a lot of mad Americans out here that have private daydreams of beating some slimey politican or lying war monger to a bloody pulp and hoisting their head on a stick.
    The thing about civil disobedience is, for it to work and attract others to your cause, you have to be willing to fight back against the goons and not stand there like an idiot letting them beat you and push you around.
    I like the new Absolut ad, the public armed with pillows marching against the helemted, jack booted cops. What if we attacked Congress with pillows..wouldn’t that be cute, goons shooting civilians armed with pillows.
    Of course the press would report the insurgent American terriers were armed with IEPB’s..inprovised explosive pillow bombs.


  3. Kathleen says:

    Again, if we were invaded, we would fight. We’re doing that without being invaded.
    We’ve got the “protecting our country from foreign enemies thing” down, real or imagined, but not the domestic variety. That seems to be beyond our imagination, or should I say “conditioned responses” even when hit over the head with it.
    My point is, why is it so damned hard for Americans to understand why Iraqis are still fighting us, over there, where they live, as Dopey likes to say? Duuuuh.


  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Your country has been stripped away from its citizens without a peep of protest. The good ol’ U.S. of A. has LEFT THE BUILDING!’
    I have to agree. You’de have to take away American’s toilet paper, dildos, and AAA batteries to get a rise out of them. And even then, if they can still manually change channels, they’d be content to stand on the sidelines.


  5. Kathleen says:

    jonst… you’re right…
    Optimist Gone Wild, I guess. i’ll recover my senses soon. It’s from banging my head on the wall so mcuh, lately.


  6. Kathleen says:

    arthrdecco.. I meant if Iraq had attacked us and were occupying us. After 9/11 everyone got behind Dopey and was itching to attack someone, anyone apparently, without regard to whether they had anything to do with 9/11. Anyone questioning our attack on Afghanistan, even though we paid Osama and his 40 theives to go to Afghanistan in the first place, was soundly ridiculed and called a traitor, so I’m sure Iraqis feel the same way about us, which was my point. Our whole excuse for going to Iraq was that Republiklans conflated the 9/11 attack with Saddam in peoples’ “minds”.
    That few are fighting the Fascists among us, I don’t dispute. Whether there is anything left of Constitutional America is a valid question. We’re a Pavlocracy now, lashing out on cue.


  7. jonst says:

    You seem wildly optimistic. Let’s hope you are correct.


  8. Kathleen says:

    jonst.. with 70% of us on to their game, at this point, they are only fooling themselves.


  9. arthurdecco says:

    Kathleen said: “If we would not accept a peace plan proposed by the elected gov’t of Iraq, when it truly could have been a “Mission Accomplished” moment, why would Iraqis accept a diplomatic arm twisting? It’s their country and they’ll fight to the death, just as we would if the situation were reversed.”
    With the greatest respect, Kathleen, I disagree with the last part of your quoted statement. Your comment that Americans would fight to the death if the situation were reversed is not true. It’s Fantasy – a jagged shard of the Myth About America you all use to avoid and/or mask your demonstrated collective cowardice.
    Your country has been stripped away from its citizens without a peep of protest. The good ol’ U.S. of A. has LEFT THE BUILDING!
    Not one newspaper bombing, not one criminal politician’s assassination, not one right wing television personality beaten in the streets. Not one businessman thrown into prison for stealing billions from American taxpayers by war profiteering. Not one General held responsible for the criminal actions of his troops. Your legal system has been turned upside down and inside out with Rats like Roberts and thugs like Gonzales distorting justice and the law for partisan and ridiculous ideological ends.
    Do you need any more convincing your point is poppycock?
    Your country, (at least the one you think you live in), is gone – dead and buried under the detritus formed by decades of denial and avoidance.
    Get used to it. Accept it. Or move. That’s about the only freedom you have left.


  10. jonst says:

    Kathleen wrote:
    >>>>>What puzzles me is why it is so important for Busholini to have that piece of paper making our piratizing of Iraqi oil “legal”? Who are we kidding here?<<<<<
    The Cokie Roberts, David Broders and David Brooks of the world. So they can out and spread their own brand of bullshit to fool the ultimate target…the American people. The rest of the world has, I suspect, peeped our hole card.


  11. Kathleen says:

    Is Lisa Murkowski just trying to keep the Senate Ethics Committee off her tail by sounding like a bi-partisan peacenik?
    If we would not accept a peace plan proposed by the elected gov’t of Iraq, when it truly could have been a “Mission Accomplished” moment, why would Iraqis accept a diplomatic arm twisting? It’s their country and they’ll fight to the death, just as we would if the situation were reversed.
    What puzzles me is why it is so important for Busholini to have that piece of paper making our piratizing of Iraqi oil “legal”? Who are we kidding here?
    As for our long term military presence in Iraq, beyond Dopey’s term, that doesn’t mean he’ll actually leave office, when his term is up. And if he expects to stay there indefinitely, he better re-think health care for children or he won’t have any poor cannon fodder.
    As for Democraps… all I can do is groannnnnn. It takes a village to impeach an idiot.


  12. jonst says:

    And who, in the frigging world, is to carry out this ‘offensive’? Condi? I’d rather have Elmer Fudd. Bush? Enough said. This is all crap windbagism. I’m put in mind of Nietzsche’s saying, “if I were to believe in nonsense…this is the kind of nonsense I would believe in’. It all sounds great Steve. But there is no one to carry it out. Change US ME policy…change our oil consumption, not even on a dramatic scale mind you, and things will change. Short of that…get ready for the draft.


  13. Marcia says:

    When one speaks of diplomacy I think the first question is, what are the goals?
    Since the goals of this invasion and occupation have never been expressed or defined but have shifted constantly to appease public opinion from WMDs, to freedom, to democracy, to preventing even worse carnage and since it is evident, the mega embassy, the enormous permanant bases, the proposed oil contracts, that no real withdrawal is envisaged the supposed negociations concern only modalities in order to stabilize a permanent occupation.
    The plight of the Iraqi people is increasingly dramaticas well as the American military given tasks for which it was never trained are all the more a tragedy in the hands of an administration with no diplomatic skills and no will or intent to neogciate.
    It is time that Congress realizes the size of the wall ahead and uses its power to impose at least a choice if nothing else.
    If the screams of pain and fear could be heard I think few would sleep at night.


  14. FYI says:

    It is too little too late.
    The President is not interested in diplomatic give and take.
    One could hope that the next President will be more amenable to such an approach but it is rather doubtful.
    I think we need to wait for the elections of 20012 or 2016 before we can see any change in US.


  15. Ahren U. Stupit says:

    Wait a minute…I thought shock and awe was the “new” diplomacy. I thought renditions were the “new” diplomacy. I thought illegal detention and torture were the “new” diplomacy. Then, there’s that illegal preemptive war stuff and the political hypocrisy and an insane idiot for a president stuff and that trite David Brooks stuff and golly, America is in a world of hurt. Diplomacy is dead and how does a dead diplomacy gain a resurrection? America’s President Messiah won’t be able to perform this minor miracle. Golly and, I thought that Nelson Mandela was STILL alive.


  16. arthurdecco says:

    Will you pundits puh leaze stop adding the word “SURGE” to every article, op-ed and essay you pen about Anything?
    Don’t you realize you’re buying into the mood manipulation designed by the Right’s psy-ops personnel? Your lazy, repetitive use of their bullshit word helps legitimize their disgusting opinions and immoral intentions.
    Do you all use the same toothbrush too?
    Smarten up. Stephen Colbert was right when he described the Washington Press Corps as stenographers. (Did he mention pundits?)
    & thank you, Carroll, for providing a glimpse into the mind of a writer who thinks – who doesn’t regurgitate. I’m ashamed to say that I have never read anything by Glenn Greenwald until tonight.
    When I’m done here, I’ll be googling him.


  17. Carroll says:

    Their suggestions on this have been made a thousand times by dozens of people. So what is new?
    Thank you Glenn Greenwald:..for pointing out the obvious, that none of our presidential candidates will condemn or challenge this Israeli lunacy, that they are all the same on this…there will be no diplomacy and no changes in policy , no peace anywhere in the ME until we change this.
    Friday September 21, 2007 05:14 EST
    Giuliani’s proposal for endless Middle East wars on behalf of Israel
    In London this week, Rudy Giuliani proposed what is probably the single most extremist policy of any major presidential candidate, certainly this year and perhaps in many years:
    Rudy Giuliani talked tough on Iran yesterday, proposing to expand NATO to include Israel and warning that if Iran’s leaders go ahead with their goal to be a nuclear power “we will prevent it, or we will set them back five or 10 years.” . . . .
    While Giuliani did not explicitly address the implications for Iran of adding Israel to NATO in his speech, his aides later highlighted a 2006 Heritage Foundation paper by Nile Gardiner, a former Thatcher aide who was announced as a new Giuliani adviser yesterday.
    That step would “leave the mullahs with no illusions about the West’s determination to respond to Iran’s strategic threat to the region,” Gardiner wrote. “Any nuclear or conventional attack on Israel, be it direct or through proxies such as Hezbollah or other terrorist groups, would be met by a cataclysmic response from the West.”
    Adding Israel to NATO has been opposed by France and some other European nations in the past, largely because it would entangle the alliance in the Middle East.
    Like most countries, Israel deems all of its wars to be defensive wars in response to threats. So Rudy Giuliani, as President, would in essence deem any war in which Israel is involved to be, by definition, a war on the U.S., and would use American resources and lives to become involved in any such war and fight on behalf of Israel. Shouldn’t the fact that the leading GOP candidate for President believes such a thing be the source of a bit more discussion? Other than John Edwards’ views regarding haircuts, is there any major presidential candidate who has espoused a view anywhere near this radical or controversial?
    Israel has been involved, and will continue to be involved, in an endless series of wars with its neighbors over matters having nothing to do with U.S. interests.
    As Matt Yglesias noted, Guiliani’s policy would, among many other things, “commit[] the United States to the armed defense of the borders of a country that lacks internationally recognized borders.” A Giuliani presidency would mean that we would be almost immediately deemed to be at war with Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. It is hard to imagine a more certain and rapid guarantee of endless American wars in the Middle East than this.
    In a rational world, Giuliani’s proposal would be a major controversy, and the other presidential candidates — Republican and Democrat alike — would be loudly pointing to this extremist view to harm the Giuliani campaign. After all, if Americans are asked: “Do you think the U.S. should fight in any wars that Israel fights?” or “do you believe the U.S. should consider any attack on Israel to be an attack on the U.S.?”, is there really any doubt what the views of most Americans would be? Giuliani’s desire to commit the U.S. military to fighting in any Israeli wars is obviously a fringe position — the type that normally harms presidential candidates greatly.
    During the Israel-Hezbollah war last summer — even with virtually no significant political figures criticizing the Bush administration for involving itself so blatantly in supporting Israel’s war effort — the vast majority of Americans wanted the U.S. to stay out of that war. A Washington Post poll found that a plurality (46%) blamed “both sides equally” (Israel and Hezbollah) for the war; a plurality (48%) believed that Israel’s claimed “bombing [of] rocket launchers and other Hezbollah targets located in civilian areas” was “not justified”; and a solid majority (54-38%) said Israel “should do more to try to avoid civilian casualties in Lebanon.”
    More importantly, while large majorities favored the deployment of U.N. peacekeeping forces to Lebanon, a large majority (59-38%) opposed having U.S. troops involved in that force. More significantly still was this finding from an August, 2006 CBS News/New York Times poll:
    “Do you think the U.S. has a responsibility to try to resolve the conflict between Israel and other countries in the Middle East, or is that not the U.S.’ business?”
    Has responsibility – 39%
    Not the U.S.’ business – 56%
    Not sure – 5%
    That large majority is opposed merely to America’s efforts to broker a resolution, let alone to an American commitment, as Giuliani proposes, to fight in every war that Israel fights with its neighbors. A USA Today/Gallup Poll taken at the same time found:
    In the current conflict, do you think the United States should take Israel’s side, take the side of Hezbollah, or not take either side?
    Israel’s – 31%
    Hezbollah’s – 0%
    Neither – 65%
    As always, it is worth underscoring how lopsided American public opinion is on these questions even though there is virtually no significant American politician who was or is willing to criticize Israel’s actions in Lebanon, and equally few who were willing to argue that U.S. support for Israel is excessive. With Americans now even more overwhelmingly against ongoing U.S. occupation in Iraq than they were back then, these numbers are almost certainly even more imbalanced against increased U.S. involvement in the Middle East.
    Plainly, the last thing most Americans want is for the U.S. to expand its involvement in Middle East wars, particularly when doing so is on behalf of the interests not of the U.S., but of another country. Yet here is Giuliani advocating that we do exactly that — embrace an obviously radical strategy opposed by the overwhelming majority of Americans, likely vehemently opposed — and the silence is deafening.
    Of course, none of Giuliani’s extremism on this issue should be surprising, given that his senior foreign policy advisor is Norman Podhoretz, whose life has been devoted to trying to induce the U.S. to wage war against any country hostile to Israel. Podhoretz was one of the signatories on the 2002 PNAC letter to President Bush which declared that “No one should doubt that the United States and Israel share a common enemy” and — listing Iraq, Iran and Syria, among others — argued that “Israel is fighting the same war.” Podhoretz currently “prays” that the U.S. bomb Iran.
    This idea of Israel joining NATO is even a fringe idea in Israel, where it has been pushed primarily by Israeli super-hawk, Minister of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman, consistent with his own self-described mission: “Our first task is to convince Western countries to adopt a tough approach to the Iranian problem.” And by “tough approach,” he does not mean diplomacy: “The dialogue with Iran will be a 100-percent failure, just like it was with North Korea.”
    In some sense, one can welcome Giuliani’s explicit advocacy that we view all of Israel’s enemies as, by definition, enemies of the U.S. Virtually all of the swirling war dances towards Iran are rooted in this belief, but advocates of war with Iran are too dishonest to acknowledge it openly.
    In his Washington Post column this morning, for instance, Charles Krauthammer — long an advocate of war with Iran — listed the four specific crimes that allegedly demonstrate that Iran is our Enemy (“our” meaning the United States):
    (1) Hamas launching rockets into Israeli towns and villages across the border from the Gaza Strip. Its intention is to invite an Israeli reaction, preferably a bloody and telegenic ground assault.
    (2) Hezbollah heavily rearmed with Iranian rockets transshipped through Syria and preparing for the next round of fighting with Israel. The third Lebanon war, now inevitable, awaits only Tehran’s order.
    (3) Syria, Iran’s only Arab client state, building up forces across the Golan Heights frontier with Israel. And on Wednesday, yet another anti-Syrian member of Lebanon’s parliament was killed in a massive car bombing.
    (4) The al-Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard training and equipping Shiite extremist militias in the use of the deadliest IEDs and rocketry against American and Iraqi troops. Iran is similarly helping the Taliban attack NATO forces in Afghanistan.
    Of the four crimes in the Bill of Particulars against Iran, only one has anything even ostensibly to do with the U.S., and that is composed of highly dubious claims (arming the Taliban) and ones which hardly demonstrate its Evil (they are interfering in a neighboring country of theirs which we invaded and are occupying with 160,000 soldiers). As Krauthammer’s column illuminates, for those salivating for an American war with Iran, the case is grounded overwhelmingly in the Giuliani View — that the U.S. should use its resources and lives to wage war against any country hostile to Israel.
    Why do Giuliani and Krauthammer and friends feel so free to advocate a plainly fringe position of Endless War on behalf of Israel? Usually, political advocates, and particularly presidential candidates, avoid such positions like the plague. Here, it is because no political figure can possibly oppose this view, at least not explicitly. Is it even possible to imagine a presidential candidate objecting to the view that the U.S. should consider Israel’s enemies to be enemies of the U.S., even though vast majorities of Americans share that objection?
    As is true for Iraq, it is so striking how little public opinion matters when it comes to formulating American policy.
    What accounts for the complete unwillingess of any presidential candidate to seize on Giuliani’s extremist and fringe position? The neoconservative New York Sun — not Mearsheimer and Walt in their important, richly documented and now NYT-Best-Selling new book, but The New York Sun — provided an answer recently:
    It [an AIPAC dinner] is also an important illustration of just how much stock all of the presidential candidates, Democrats and Republicans alike, will put in the pro-Israel community, particularly for campaign dollars. . . . .
    A Democratic political consultant who worked on President Clinton’s re-election campaign, Hank Sheinkopf, noted that the Aipac dinner always draws a parade of politicians.
    “New York is the ATM for American politicians. Large amounts of money come from the Jewish community,” he said. “If you’re running for president and you want dollars from that group, you need to show that you’re interested in the issue that matters most to them.”
    And, of course, mentioning any of this subjects one to a cascade of predictable and transparently exploitive though still nasty accusations of anti-semitism, and what presidential candidate would possibly want that? And thus Rudy Giuliani can propose a policy that is incomparably dangerous and intensely unpopular, yet know that his doing so will result in no political price being paid.
    Now that we are occupying two Middle Eastern countries, with a broken military, and are threatening imminent war with at least another one, isn’t it long past time to have the discussion about the extent to which the U.S. is willing to wage war on behalf of Israel’s interests? Do Americans really think that Iranian hostility towards Israel or its support for “terrorists groups” that are hostile to Israel are grounds for declaring Iran to be our Enemy or waging war against them? If so, then let proponents of war with Iran make that case expressly. And for the rest of the presidential campaign, shouldn’t Giuliani’s desire to involve the U.S. military in every war Israel fights be a rather central feature in discussions of his potential presidency?
    — Glenn Greenwald


  18. Bill R. says:

    This is nothing more than a fig leaf to cover the lack of courage and integrity on both Murkowski’s and Casey’s part in ending this occupation. Since when does the Senate ever launch a diplomatic offensive?? The Bushies will do what they will do to continue the endless war. And The Bushies are not going to give up their oil.


  19. JohnH says:

    What’s to negotiate? When the US policy it to take the oil, all the oil, and nothing less than all the oil, what’s to negotiate? Just like the Israelis, who want the land, all the land…
    Oh, I know, the Iraqis and Palestinians can negotiate the surrender of all their rights to anything! And after that they can negotiate draconian measures to enforce their own surrender.


  20. Otto von Bismarck says:

    In light of Bush’s obvious intention to keep Iraq permanently occupied by American troops for decades to come, what would be the purpose of this grand diplomatic initiative? To convince the Arab world that it’s worthwhile for one of their sister countries to be occupied forever by a foreign power? You really need to think about who you’re dealing with here.


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