The Iraq Study Group today echoed the Democrats' call for a political and diplomatic solution to the Iraq crisis. But can the Bush Administration actually do it? Consider the available team (expand to the full post to see bios):
Secretary of State As Bush's National Security Advisor, Condoleeza Rice was one of the chief agitators for the Iraq war; as Secretary of State she has been one of the chief advocates of the Bush administration's disastrous and discredited "stay the course" approach. Dr. Rice had no diplomatic credentials prior to her current position as America's top diplomat.
Deputy Secretary of State (vacant)
*Undersecretary for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns is the senior career diplomat in the Bush Administration and third-ranking diplomat (after the Secretary and Deputy Secretary listed above). In the 1980s he served as Vice Consul in Cairo and later served in Jerusalem; under Clinton he served as Department of State Spokesman and Asst. Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs; in the 2000s he was our Ambassador to NATO. He speaks Arabic fluently and holds eight honorary doctorates. He is currently in Paris negotiating progress on a resolution to sanction Iran for its nuclear program. Ambassador Burns may be our best hope.
Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes is a Republican operative who was a campaign manager and speechwriter for Bush. She was later rewarded with this post. Ms. Hughes had no diplomatic credentials prior to her current position.
*Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. C. David Welch heads the branch of the State Department that handles all the Middle Eastern nations. In the 1980s he served in Pakistan, Syria, and Jordan; from 2001-05 he was U.S. Ambassador to Egypt. He has been involved in the Arab-Israeli peace process for many years.
Permanent Representative to the U.N. The famously undiplomatic John Bolton has resigned effective early January, leaving the post vacant.
Deputy Representative to the U.N. Alejandro Wolff joined the U.S. mission to the U.N. last year after a stint as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. embassy in Paris. He does not speak Arabic and has no expertise in Middle Eastern affairs. His biography reads as the ultimate in civil service survivors--not an accomplished or respected diplomat.
Alternate Representative in the U.N. for Special Political Affairs Jackie W. Sanders has the primary duty of representing the U.S. on issues in the U.N. security council. Her work has focused on disarmament and non-proliferation. She does not speak Arabic and has no expertise in Middle Eastern affairs.
Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalizad is a defense analyst, not a diplomat. From 1991-92 he was Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning; from 1993-99 he was the Director of Strategy, Doctrine, and Force Structure for the Air Force at the RAND corporation; in 2001 he headed the transition team for the Defense Department and later was a counselor to Rumsfeld. His appointment to be the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq (as well as his previous appointment to Afghanistan) is likely due to his unique status as the Bush administration's only ranking Muslim.
Ambassador to Syria (recalled) Margaret Scobey was recalled on February 15, 2005 to protest the assassination of Hariri; no date for her return has been set. In fact, she is now listed as a diplomat in Baghdad. Since 2001 she has served in Yemen, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Jersualem. Her record is fair.
Ambassador to Iran (none)
The two marked with asterisks (*) are the only two possible players.
It is a shockingly bleak list.