SECRETARY OF STATE Colin Powell's trip to the Middle East is shaping up to be a disaster. Vice President Cheney's recent trip marked a detour from the Bush Doctrine; the president's recent statements pressuring Israel to stop its campaign against terrorism, a retreat; the secretary's trip so far risks turning a retreat into a rout.
President Bush's goal in sending the secretary to the Middle East was to arrange a cease-fire by insisting that Israel end its military operations on the West Bank, while in exchange insisting that the Arab states pressure Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to give up his campaign of terror against Israel.
Within the first 24 hours of Secretary Powell's trip, however, it became clear that the United States was getting no help from the leaders of Morocco, Saudi Arabia, or Egypt in the war against terrorism. To the contrary, the secretary has been publicly rebuked by those we had counted on to pressure Arafat. Powell's response, however, was not to challenge our Arab "friends" to meet their responsibilities but to abandon the conditions that Vice President Cheney had insisted on just weeks ago for meeting Arafat. As a result, the administration's policy has come down to pressuring Israel, while giving a free ride to Arafat and the terrorists he directs. This is not a case of moral equivalence; it's worse.
The Bush Administration, right or wrong, convinced itself that it was necessary to seek a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians. But Secretary Powell's attempt to achieve one is now putting at risk the Bush Doctrine itself, the essence of which is that there should be no compromise with terrorism or the states that condone it. As such, not only is the secretary's trip endangering the administration's broader strategy, but it risks undermining the president's credibility. It is time to bring Secretary Powell's trip in line with the Bush Doctrine.
Right now, Israel's goal should be to destroy the terrorist infrastructure that has been supported and protected by the Palestinian Authority. In the war on terrorism, that must be America's goal, as well.
--William Kristol & Robert Kagan