by Jonathan Singer, Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 05:33:57 PM EST
Tomorrow's Wall Street Journal has an interesting article on the relationship between Barack Obama and Brent Scowcroft, the foreign policy realist who served as National Security Advisor under both Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush. Of particular note, at least from this vantage, are Scowcroft's views on the role of a Middle East peace process in helping foster stability throughout the region.
Many of the Republicans emerging as potential members of the Obama administration have professional and ideological ties to Brent Scowcroft, a former national-security adviser turned public critic of the Bush White House.
Mr. Scowcroft spoke by phone with President-elect Barack Obama last week, the latest in a months-long series of conversations between the two men about defense and foreign-policy issues, according to people familiar with the discussions.
The relationship between the president-elect and the Republican heavyweight suggests that Mr. Scowcroft's views, which place a premium on an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, might hold sway in the Obama White House.
Mr. Scowcroft said his biggest piece of advice for the new administration was that it should make a renewed push to help broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. He also endorsed Mr. Obama's call for diplomatic engagement with Iran.
Renewed attention towards a possible Israeli-Palestinian peace deal from the administration would come as a welcome development following eight years of disengagement from the Bush White House. A professor of mine once likened America's role in the peace process to a bicycle rider -- if the rider gets off, the bike doesn't continue to ride itself. So while there may be some potentially positive omens out of Israel, particularly the suggestion that Israeli leadership might consider the peace proposal forwarded by Saudi Arabia, without America on board helping to move the process forward, it's difficult to see much of any headway being made.
It's in light of this that the selection of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State is so enticing. While there is a sense that Clinton is more hawkish than Barack Obama, that she is to the right of him on some foreign policy issues, I agree with Jerome that the differences during the primaries were overstated by both sides to make electoral cases. More to the point, though, the Israel-Palestine situation is one in which Clinton, like her husband, could try to stake her legacy. Indeed, if she were able to move the process significantly forward, thus improving not only the situation in the immediate area but also throughout the region, not only would she be able to cement her own place in history she would also be able to fulfill the effort upon which her husband hoped to stake his term in office.
To be clear, I'm not blind to the difficulty going forward, and the very real prospect that Bibi Netanyahu, rather than Tzipi Livni (or Ehud Barak, for that matter), becomes the next Prime Minister of Israel in the spring makes the path to peace that much more arduous. That said, there remains a glimmer of hope that cannot be overlooked, and the role an active U.S. administration could play in making peace a reality should not be underestimated.