Sunday, October 27, 2013

whatever happened to the interagency process?

There's a strange article in the New York Times today about U.S. policy toward the Middle East that raises more questions than it answers. Susan Rice, the national security adviser since July 1, gave an interview discussing the policy review she recently conducted.

Its purpose was to find of way of containing Middle East policy issues so that they would not overwhelm other foreign policy issues. Its first fruits were announced by the President at the United Nations, where Obama said he would work on negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran, try to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace, and mitigate the problems in Syria. The Times says everything else in the region, including Egypt, would take a "back seat."

All that sounds reasonable. What troubles me, however, is the reporting that this new overarching policy was developed wholly within the White House, excluding participants from the State Department or Pentagon. Not even the Secretaries of State or Defense. They were "briefed" by Ms. Rice.

If the meetings really were only about messaging and crafting the UN speech, I could understand the exclusions. But if it was, or was meant to be, a substantive policy review, there should have been broader participation.

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