DAMASCUS (Reuters) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday she gave Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a message from Israel that the Jewish state was ready for peace talks.So in one fell swoop, Pelosi was able to accomplish something that Condoleeza Rice and President Bush have been unable to achieve in six years (really only three years of effort once they realized Iraq was not going to be a beacon of democracy for the Middle East, but who's counting?). She has commitments from two sides in the multipronged Arab-Israel debate over securing Israel's permanent status.
"(Our) meeting with the president enabled us to communicate a message from Prime Minister (Ehud) Olmert that Israel was ready to engage in peace talks as well," Pelosi told reporters in Damascus after talks with Assad.
"Peace in the Middle East is a high priority ... We were very pleased with the reassurances we received from the president that he was ready to resume the peace process. He was ready to engage in negotiations (for) peace with Israel," Pelosi added.
Syria's peace talks with Israel, centered on normal ties in return for the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, collapsed in 2000. An Arab summit last month revived a land-for-peace offer to Israel.
Not bad for being in office for three months.
Naturally, you might imagine this was not viewed with loving and adoring eyes on the part of the White House:
The White House said Pelosi's visit sent the wrong message to the Syrian leader.Right. It says, "We think you have some part to play in helping make this a reality." Whether one agrees with this or not, one cannot deny that Syria is aiding the terrorist movement against Israel, via Lebanon and Hezbollah. To deny them a seat in the discussions would be pointless. Like it or not, they've earned it, and would do anything in their power to derail any such agreement negotiated without them.
It is, of course, a typical Republican corporatist ploy to exclude the very people affected in talks about the future. Just look at how workers in America are treated.
There is an ancillary benefit to these talks Pelosi is holding: they allow America to recapture some credibility with the world, and to show the rest of humanity that we are not all "Bushies", that cooler heads can prevail, and that eventually, we can wrest this country back from the magical children that run it now (and badly) and straighten our course out.
Or, to put it as diplomatically as Pelosi did:
Pelosi has shrugged off the White House's criticism of the trip, saying it was a good opportunity to gather facts and build confidence.Too, Pelosi's visit also puts Syria on notice that, while Bush and his administration have low regard for them, we as a nation recognize that Syria is behind many if not most of the insurgent attacks in Iraq, and we can deal with those using either the carrot or the stick.
I think it was Abraham Maslow who said that when you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, which is a fairly low level of self-actualization for a human, and indicates stunted personal growth.
That works for nations, as well. The United States is oddly schizophrenic in many ways, making great strides forward in one moment, backsliding into childhood and adolescent fantasies the next. Pelosi's visit reminds us that we can do well in this world by doing sublime acts, and staying away from the ridiculous.