Foreign Policy

Reading the Tea Leaves


Something I meant to blog last week: Gary Sick's argument that the neoconservatives are on the outs in Washington, war with Tehran is unlikely, and a general shift in U.S. foreign policy is underway. Here's the basic thesis:

Ever since the congressional elections of 2006, the US has been in the process of a fundamental change in its policy on a number of key issues: the Arab-Israel dispute, the North Korean nuclear issue, and Iran. Since the administration proclaims loudly that its policies have not changed, and since the tough rhetoric of the past dominates the discussion, it is easy to overlook what is actually going on.

Sick's comments were framed as a reaction to a Wall Street Journal article by John Bolton, who as you'd expect is livid at the changes. Now more evidence for Sick's storyline has surfaced: an equally aghast editorial in neocon central, The Weekly Standard, headlined "'Stunningly Shameful'" and subtitled "The Bush administration flip-flops on Iran." Throw in the frustrations of the McCain campaign, which lately seems unable to do anything but flail about powerlessly, and it's hard to avoid that thought that, for the time being at least, Sick is right.

[Standard story via Jim Lobe.]

NEXT: Cheerful Russians and Gloomy Americans: What's the World Coming To?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Gary Sick? The October Surprise guy? Yeah, he’s real credible.

  2. Gary Sick? The October Surprise guy? Yeah, he’s real credible.

    If Sick’s argument rested on nothing but his general “credibility,” I wouldn’t have bothered to link to it. (And if touting the October Surprise theory is enough to bar you from the credibility club, what do you think of Christopher Hitchens?)

  3. We can only hope that the neocons’ influence is on the way out.

  4. Jesse is right about one thing, McCain’s campaign has been pretty pathetic as of late. The oil rig visit was cancelled due to the Hurricane, and he is mostly just whining about how OB is getting all the attention. This is shaping up to be a real whacko Presidential election.

  5. the weekly standard is acting like someone took away all their toys.

  6. A neocon bloodbath (meaning all the conspicuous necons getting voted out) would be a very, very good thing. Unfortunately I doubt it will happen.

  7. From Bolton’s WSJ piece –

    And yet, true to form, State Department comments to Congress last week – even as Iran’s missiles were ascending – downplayed Iran’s nuclear progress, ignoring the cost of failed diplomacy.

    We tried diplomacy in the last seven years? I must have missed that.

    Had we done more in the past five years to support the discontented – the young, the non-Persian minorities and the economically disaffected – things might be different. Regime change, however, cannot be turned on and off like a light switch, although the difficulty of effecting it is no excuse not to do more now.

    [emphasis added]

    Oh, that kind of diplomacy. It’s not hard to believe the Iranians haven’t been responding positively.


  8. Stephen Hayes’s article in the Weekly Standard seems to be a response directed from the point of view of Dick Cheney. There’s been alot written recently about how Bush is relying more on the advice of Condi Rice, at the expense of that provided by Cheney. Of course Cheney can’t come out and rebuke the President directly, so he uses a surrogate in The Weekly Standard and Stephen Hayes (who authored a biography of Cheney that Cheney gave a good deal of access to). The VP has also been fond of Hayes’s writing on the “link” between al-qaeda and Iraq.

  9. I don’t think I’m convinced it was the elections that did it. If anything, Bush probably wants to go out on a peaceful note, since his “legacy” is defined by a war that has significantly calmed down over the past year:

    “Look what I did! Rode us through 9/11! Made peace with Iran and North Korea! Instituted American power in the Middle East to foster this peace!”

    I think this is more about the general “softening” that accompanies end-term Presidencies than the lacking-in-backbone-and-brains Congressional Democrats.

  10. While the big name neo-cons may go what about their influence, they have been poisoning the well for too long.

  11. If John Bolton says that the sky is blue, you can guarantee that it’s not.

  12. “””Bush probably wants to go out on a peaceful note, since his “legacy” is defined by a war that has significantly calmed down over the past year:””””

    He wants to put something in the success catagory.

  13. Is this some kind of conspiracy to rehabilitate Gary Sick’s credibility?

  14. Now that the neocons are on their way out, we can finally have peace with Iran like we did under Jimmy Carter. Oh wait…

  15. I’ve said for a while that we’re making up with Iran. Though it has nothing to do with the last election.

    I also said the “surge” worked, not because it was of any military significance but because it told Iran that the US is not simply going to cut and run from Iraq. And more than anything else, peace and stability in Iraq depends on Iran’s cooperation.

    Flip side of that coin is, Iraq is as much a thorn in the side for Iran, as it is for the US. And besides, when it comes to Afghanistan, the US and Iran are natural (if perhaps unwilling) allies.

    All of which folds into why the US and Iran seem to be getting along better these days. And also why things in Iraq have been settling down.

    But when I said it around here, I got called a “neocon”.

    I am increasingly convinced that the vast majority of people who post around here, are utterly clueless about what’s going on in the international arena. And if anybody thinks I’m a neocon, they are clueless. About a lot more than international politics.

    Anyway Jesse, the gist of the message in your post is right, but I don’t think they’ve got any idea why it’s happening. The Democrats (and maybe those who drink their kool aid) only think they’re all-powerful.

  16. “And if anybody thinks I’m a neocon, they are clueless.”

    Um, do you really think anyone cares?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.