This evening I went to the Henry Kissinger Lecture, given by former Secretary of State James Baker. Much of the Washington foreign policy glitterati were there, including Kissinger himself. Jack Kemp, John Negroponte (Bush's new Deputy to Condi), Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson heard Baker give a homily on how America should be developing its foreign policy. He called for positive dialogue and engagement with Syria but his call to arms was for a 'pragmatism idealism' in foreign policy - not something which means much to anyone. He's an advocate of 'realpolitik' and was quite open about the need to engage with regimes which America might not approve of. He felt that the Bush administraton was successfully rebuilding fractured relationships with former allies, although he was scathing about France's role in the build up to the war in Iraq.
All in all, this was a speech from a very wise man, but from someone stuck in a timewarp. His solutions were those of the 1990s. We live in a very different world today, a world in which the western nations need to understand the threat to them that Islamacist fanatics present. It's not a war in the conventional sense and it's a war that demands unconventional defence mechanisms. Baker didn't seem to understand that, although he was willing to concede that the US had the right to 'go it alone' when absolutely necessary.
What the audience wanted to hear was a defence of his report on the War in Iraq, but it was barely mentioned. He avoided any discussion of the fact that President Bush has ignored most, if not all, of its recommendations.
This was not a speech with any of what Bush 41 (as some Americans now refer to George Bush senior) called 'the vision thing'. Perhaps it was too much to expect. I left rather disappointed.
Click HERE for a fuller report on the speech.