Miller on Clinton’s Middle East Options

Who would have thought that Hillary Clinton would have worse prospects for success in bringing peace to the Middle East than Condoleezza Rice?

Much of the talk about Hillary Clinton since she became secretary of state has centered on how ambitious she would be in brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace in the Middle East.

Now, given the post-election gridlock in Israel, Clinton, along with special envoy George Mitchell, would seem to have even fewer options than Rice, whose performance in the region was widely criticized as belated and ineffectual.

"The form follows function," said Aaron David Miller, who has advised several secretaries of state on Middle East issues and who is now a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center. "Baker did diplomacy for a reason, he had an opportunity and he knew how to do it. There’s a real danger for Mitchell, that he gets treated as part of the political furniture because he goes repeatedly once a month and nothing happens and people start to take him for granted and they star to question our competency."

Miller said that two causes fundamentally motivate American involvement in the Middle East.

One is a profound crisis that requires American involvement to protect national interests, or an opportunity so attractive that an American president or secretary of state understands that there are potentially enormous benefits despite risks.

"That’s Sadat going to Jerusalem, which allowed Carter to do his thing, there’s Baker and Bush 41 in the wake of the first Persian Gulf War, there was real opportunity,” he said. “You don’t have a real opportunity right now. And you don’t have a crisis sufficiently painful."