Esquire has printed a fine piece by John H. Richardson about former NSC analyst Flynt Leverett battling the neocons inside the White House during the runup to the Iraq war. The best moment is when Saudi Prince Abdullah meets with President Bush in Crawford, TX, in 2002 and demands that he do something about the Palestinian situation.
Abdullah sat down and told Bush he was going to ask a direct
question and wanted a direct answer. Are you going to do anything about
the Palestinian issue? If you tell me no, if it’s too difficult, if
you’re not going to give it that kind of priority, just tell me. I will
understand and I will never say anything critical of you or your
leadership in public, but I’m going to need to make my own judgments
and my own decisions about Saudi interests.
Bush tried to stall, saying he understood his concerns and would see what he could do.
Abdullah stood up. "That’s it. This meeting is over."
No Arab leader had ever spoken to Bush like that before, Leverett
says. But Saudi Arabia was a key ally in the war on terror, vital to
the continued U.S. oil supply, so Bush and Rice and Powell excused
themselves into another room for a quick huddle.
When he came back, Bush gave Abdullah his word that he would deal seriously with the Palestinian issue.
"Okay," Abdullah said. "The president of the United States has given me his word."
That "word" resulted in the road map, now abandoned. Richardson’s piece doesn’t mention the Israel lobby. But it’s implicit throughout–the hardliners in Cheney’s office, along with Elliot Abrams, who see Israel as virtuous and the Palestinians as terrorists, and aren’t interested in the peace process. The demonization of Iran and Syria. The piece is interesting to me because Richardson’s dad was a big spook. And Leverett also would seem to represent the old WASP tradition in foreign policy. Generally dismissed by the lobby as Arabists–they are making a little comeback here. In the press anyway…