Sometimes the best short-n-sweet

April 21, 2003 10:01 p.m.

Sometimes the best short-n-sweet bit of information for the day is contained is Chris Nelson’s staccato, rat-tat-tat run-down of the day’s events that introduces each day’s edition of The Nelson Report. Here’s today’s …

Kelly on the way to Beijing for N. Korea meeting, Bush meets again today on Syria. What each has in common is role of Colin Powell in urging diplomacy, and Bush’s willingness to listen. Rumsfeld & DOD hawks were ready to send troops into Syria “in hot pursuit” before Bush said “no”. And Rumsfeld was against holding the Beijing/DPRK talks, until Bush said “yes”, at Powell’s urging. Then the hawks tried to substitute Bolton for Kelly, the approximate equivalent of a MOAB, but Powell prevailed. So, reports of Powell’s demise exaggerated…for now. Question is, are the “adults” really in charge (the optimist’s view) or is Powell the guy who grabs the steering wheel when the bus driver hits 100 mph?

Also, do not miss this article from the Israeli daily Ha’aretz on the apparent breakdown in talks between Arafat and Palestinian PM-designate Abu Mazen. The deal-breaker, it seems, is that Mazen is demanding the authority to dismantle Fatah’s Al Aqsa Brigades and other Palestinian paramilitary groups, and also make Mohammed Dahlan head of security.

It’s not clear that the short-term outcome here is going to be a good one. Arafat is apparently now reaching out to other potential prime ministerial candidates — presumably ones he can reliably control. But the deeper story seems very positive: the emergence of something like conventional politics, the open vetting of the crucial issues and thus the possibility of democratic accountability. More than anything else, it’s the splintering of unitary power within the Palestinian authority and the possibility of having the crucial political questions hashed out with some degree of openness rather than by violence and opaque factional in-fighting. This is important. And, potentially, good news for everyone.

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