Send Clinton

    It appears that Iraq's elites may be pulling back from the brink. Zalmay Khalilzad has another mountain to climb - but, this time, the minds of his interlocutors might have been concentrated a little. We may be at the most critical juncture in the future of Iraq. The whole enterprise may now hang in the balance. Khalilzad suffers from a disadvantage, alas, that he can do nothing about. He is a Sunni. However agile and able he is, this identity in part hinders him. Could he in any way be helped broker a deal?

    Clinton So here's a thought: why not send Bill Clinton? For some reason that eludes my own judgment, Clinton has a great deal of cachet in the Middle East, and could defuse the anti-Bush and thereby anti-American obstacles to success. He was, by all accounts, superb at the Doha/Brookings/Saban summit in 2003. He would bring the Democratic party into a much more constructive role in trying to bring about a serious step forward for Iraq, and help unite the country at home. If Bush were to ask him, it would send a very powerful message of seriousness to the Middle East, put more of America's prestige and effort behind the Iraq project, at exactly the time some in the country are doubting our fortitude.

    And what else is the job at hand in Iraq if not some very tricky form of triangulation? And who comes to mind when you think of someone slick and charismatic enough to bring such a triangulation off? Yes, I know, I know. He failed at Taba and in the Oslo process (but that was largely Arafat's fault). He has been a craven wuss on the Danish cartoon controversy. But that paradoxically gives him more cred with some of the forces we need to bring on board. Whatever you think about him - and I am no fan - Clinton is nonetheless an immense talent and national resource; and this is a time of immense danger and opportunity for the country. Moreover, one of President Bush's main failures in this war has been in uniting the country around his Middle East policy. Picking Clinton would be magnanimous and paradigm-changing - at home and in Iraq. It's time for a dramatic gesture - and one that would also bring Europe muchy more fully on board. Why not? Be bold, Mr President.