In today’s Washington Post former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson joined the song of praise being raised by neocons and faux-conservatives alike lauding Barack Obama’s cabinet for its “moderation” and “centrism.” What that really means, of course, is that they are all recognizing that Obama will preserve the Bush status quo when it comes to foreign policy, a heady mix of American exceptionalism combined with muscular democracy promotion and interventionism.
The Israeli media is reporting that Daniel Kurtzer is in line to become Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East. Kurtzer worked for Dennis Ross under Bill Clinton and was ambassador to Israel from 2001 through 2005 for George W. Bush. He has close ties to AIPAC and reportedly helped Obama draft his speech to that organization in June 2008 in which the candidate performed his walk to Canossa to neutralize the Israel lobby’s concerns about his views on the Middle East. Kurtzer would join Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, and Joseph Biden, all of whom have frequently expressed their passion for Israel. Other uncritical supporters of Israel are also in the wings, awaiting the presidential nod. Jane Harman is still being spoken of as CIA Director and Dennis Ross is reportedly also waiting for a senior appointment, possibly at the NSC, enabling him to again become a focal point for Middle Eastern policy.
This massive tilt towards Israel among the administration’s top officials, exceeding even that of George W. Bush, could mean one of two things. It could mean that Obama is covering his back by employing prominent Israel firsters in his foreign policy team because he intends to force Israel to make the necessary concessions that would lead to a viable Palestinian state. Or it could mean that Obama has recognized that he is outgunned on the issue by AIPAC and its friends in congress and he will basically take the path of least resistance by pursuing the pro-Israel policies that have characterized both the Clinton and Bush White Houses. If it is the latter, it would also mean that war with Iran is a virtual certainty.
I think it is the latter, that Obama will continue Washington’s unquestioning support for Israel, but I hope I will be proven wrong. Obama does not exactly have a lot of room to maneuver for breakthroughs in foreign policy. He will spend much his political capital over the next two years dealing with the economy. Foreign policy will be a side issue with the status quo essentially continuing, which is why the neocons in particular are so happy with what they are seeing.