A strange week of war. Israeli historian Benny Morris placed a bloodcurdling and bizarre op-ed in the New York Times, insisting that only an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities (with a U.S. green light) by next January could prevent a future radioactively scorched Middle East. Meanwhile, the President seemed to reverse course (and himself), sending his third-ranking State Department official William J. Burns unexpectedly Geneva-wards — not, supposedly, to "negotiate" with Iran (along with European partners), but just to sit and "listen." In the same week, he suddenly agreed, in a video conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to a "general time horizon" for the withdrawal of American "combat troops." ("Support troops," we were assured, would be there "for years" to come.) But let’s be clear: This was no "timetable" for withdrawal, which the President had long sworn he’d never countenance. (What’s that on the horizon? Not quite as much time as we thought?) And just to add a sad note: There are less than seven months left for Bush administration officials to reach for their dictionaries and continue to creatively pretzel the language.
In the meantime, at home, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates launched a fierce verbal assault on… go ahead, take a guess: the "creeping militarization" of U.S. foreign policy. It seems that too many unappetizing "peacekeeping" tasks, once handled by other departments of the government, are now in the military’s lap, which turns out not to be quite as capacious as once imagined. "The Foreign Service is not the Foreign Legion, and the US military should never be mistaken for a Peace Corps with guns" were among his exact words. Of course, this is what happens when your leaders love military power to death, can’t imagine dealing with anyone here or abroad unarmed, and expand the Pentagon’s job description in every imaginable direction.