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ANNAPOLIS: What It All Means

Noah, what Annapolis reveals about the Bush administration may be nothing more than it has 14 months left — and that Condi Rice has gone native, as nearly all Secretaries of State (George Shultz being the only exception I can think of) do. That doesn’t make her a fool or a narcissist, as you charge. It marks her, in the end, as a conventional foreign-policy thinker. And while she may have used her close relationship with Bush to allow her room to get to this point, she apparently did not push the president to move away from the architecture of his 2002 “vision of two states living side by side” — according to which that the United States will only recognize a Palestinian state that gives up terror as a weapon and is a democracy. That, as Bush’s remarks this morning indicate, remains the framework for the administration’s policy. Bush clearly likes his framework, and when Bush likes a policy, he tends not to alter it a whit.

Does this indicate a disastrous turn in American foreign policy, as some of those articles you cite (though not mine) indicate? I discern, in the end, very little change, despite the worries. The open evidence so far indicates that the low-expectations summit has in fact met its low expectations, with the “lots of other nations present” business proving essentially meaningless except as a bragging point for the diplomats who got them there and a shopping opportunity for them and their wives at outlet malls and Tysons Corner. That doesn’t mean the State Department wouldn’t like it otherwise. But that doesn’t seem to be the story of this summit. If we’ve seen the worst of Annapolis — and I grant you we may not have; we won’t know for a few days — I think we can actually breathe a sigh of relief.


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