Bending Bush's Ear ; Diplomacy Remains the Best Road to Middle East Peace

Article excerpt

Newt Gingrich's blast at the State Department in a well- publicized speech this week was much more than it seems. It was really a message to President Bush from conservatives like the former House Speaker, asking the president to change his foreign policy.

The basic message: The United States is too timid in the post- Sept. 11 world in protecting America's safety and forcing democracy on terrorist-supporting nations.

The so-called neoconservatives like Mr. Gingrich don't want US business interests, treaties, tepid allies, or the United Nations to get in the way of that purpose.

Many of their criticisms are valid. US and foreign businessmen are sometimes too eager to deal with tyrants and egregious abusers of human rights. International treaties are often vague, unverifiable, and not taken seriously. The European allies gripe when the US leads, complain as much when it doesn't, and often can't agree among themselves. The UN is good at delivering humanitarian aid and development programs, but frequently fails in the face of human rights violations, genocide, and civil wars.

In light of all this, these "neocons" say, the US must stand on its own and take whatever actions it must to prevent another Sept 11- style attack by Islamist terrorists. The rest of the world will carp, but eventually fall into line. To them, the US has the means to get its way; it just needs the will.

As part of that strategy, they see Israel, a democracy in a sea of Arab despotism, under regular attack from similar terrorists. Therefore the US must support Israel's right-wing policies toward the Palestinians at all costs. Gingrich and many others, on Capitol Hill and in the administration, have allied themselves with Israel's hard-line governing coalition, led by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Middle East 'failure?'

Thus Gingrich also attacked the president's yet-to-be-released "road map" that aims to create a Palestinian state within three years. He calls working with the UN, the European Union, and Russia on this peace plan a "failure" of US diplomacy. Such views are held not just by GOP conservatives, but by many Democrats who support Israel's right-wing government as well. …