Dennis Ross, the former Middle East envoy and the chief peace negotiator in the administrations of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, as well as the author of The Missing Peace, the author’s inside account of the events that led to the breakdown in the Camp David summit between Israel and the Palestinians in 2000, has written an important book about how the absence of statecraft in Iraq and in the Middle East has led to the present deterioration in America’s international image throughout most of the world.
Ross defines “statecraft” as the use of the nation’s economic, military, intelligence, media, and statesmanship, to effectively pursue its interests internationally, and affect the behavior of its adversaries. In several well-crafted chapters, Ross details how the Bush 41 administration used statecraft to overcome Soviet resistance to a unified Germany, and to create a coalition that was able to confront Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, without the disastrous results that embody the current debacle in Iraq. Ross specifically credits then-Secretary of State Baker for “working the phones” and relentlessly pursuing every aspect of statesmanship to build the coalition that defeated Iraq without the type of criticism that followed America’s invasion of Iraq under Bush 43.
Ostensibly a brief for the use of greater diplomacy and political realism as the United Sates faces its current problems, such as resolving the deteriorating Israeli-Palestinian conflict, confronting Iran as that nation moves toward building nuclear weapons, and dealing with the potential of conflict as China steadily emerges as a possible rival of the United States for access to the world’s energy resources, Ross’s tome is as much a plea for reasoned statecraft as it is a condemnation of the neo-conservatives who pushed for the invasion of Iraq, without much forethought as to the war’s aftermath, and the Bush administration which, states the author, “wants no limits on the exercise of American power or sovereignty — not from the United Nations, not from the International Court, and, as we have seen, not even from something like the Geneva Convention on the rules governing torture of those we seize as we combat terrorism.” In the case of German unification, the Gulf War, and Bosnia from August 1995, when the Clinton administration decided to take action against Serbia’s policy of “ethnic cleansing,” both the Bush 41 and Clinton administration left nothing to chance. As Ross notes, both administrations pulled together the international community to build a consensus for action. The present Bush administration, however, as displayed in Iraq, opted for a policy of wishful thinking, and the confusion of objectives there leads to a confusion of means. “The divisions within the administration,” states Ross, “are so poisonous that they make reality-based assessments impossible.” Ross observes that because the administration was so blinded by its own arrogance that those who knew the most about the realities on the ground in Iraq were “relegated to irrelevance because of their perceived opposition to the war and its purposes.” The author notes that the planning for postwar reconstruction was not taken seriously by those given the responsibility for implementing it. That, states Ross, “unfortunately, has been a hallmark of the George W. Bush administration. Iraq in foreign policy and Katrina in domestic policy are the poster children of an administration that too often fails when it comes to planning and follow-through.” This timely and instructive book makes it clear that if there is to be a resolution of the many conflicts faced by the United Sates in the near future, statecraft must no longer be a lost art, but as Ross concludes, “it is time to rediscover it.”