John, I’m certainly with you on the question of who is best suited to monitor and judge Roadmap compliance—there’s no question that the U.S. would be better than the EU or UN. The problem that many people foresee is the risk of an ostensibly objective monitoring and judging project being held captive to a set of bureaucratic and political interests that are unrelated to the task of assessing compliance. The Bush administration, and especially Condi Rice and the State Department, have a great deal invested in the appearance of the success of the peace process. In 2003, at the height of the intifada when the Roadmap was inaugurated, the U.S.-approved Palestinian leadership was uninterested in and incapable of even beginning to thwart terror attacks. Today, after years of lavish American funding for the training and equipping of PA security forces, Abbas has yet to show any kind of sustained competence in policing his territory or dealing with radicals. The “elite” Fatah security forces that U.S. General Keith Dayton has been responsible for training were routed in six days by a smaller number of Hamas goons in Gaza. We’ve had better luck training the Iraqi army.
Today, unlike in 2003, Bush has convened a large peace conference and thrown his weight behind a peace process that has rather high pretensions, and as part of all this he has staked an ample amount of his credibility on Abbas being able to get the job done. When Abbas is unable to do so, and when Israel is forced to maintain its security presence in the West Bank, is the American judgment really going to be that, after all of our money, diplomatic attention, speeches, and conferences, after all the political legitimacy we’ve attempted to foist upon Abbas, he got us nowhere? Who knows, maybe that will be the assessment — but it will mean, in stark terms, that the entire peace process has been a sham, a negotiation with a nobody. It would be an assessment that would take a great deal of political and diplomatic courage to make, and would upset a large number of European and Arab governments. If, for example, certain factions of the State Department are put in charge of “monitoring and judging,” I highly doubt that such a judgment would be forthcoming. And that is serious cause for concern.