Frankly I find the very idea of making a deal with Syria (or, as the usual unnamed leakers told the New York Times last week, echoing the Times’s own Tom Friedman, “splitting off Syria from Iran”) a triumph of hope over experience. And reason. It’s an idea that could only occur to a specialist who has spent his professional life in the contorted dead alleys of the Islamic world, where logic gives way to feeling strong and honorable, when the facts show you are weak and corrupt.
It does not seem the president has fallen for this nonsense, and it’s good to remind ourselves of Tony Snow’s excellent response to “the Friedman question” last week:
Q Just one final one on this. Why shouldn’t the President be the one to mount an aggressive diplomacy, pick up the phone, call Assad of Syria and say, put an end to this, and start negotiating directly with the Syrians?
MR. SNOW: Because the track record stinks. I don’t know if you remember all the old pictures of diplomats in the Reagan years going — in the Carter, Reagan, and maybe even the early Bush years, the first Bush administration — who knows, Clinton may have done it, too — sitting around there drinking tea with Hafez al-Assad, the father, having to sit there for five, six, ten hours, listening to polite but long discourses on greater Syria, and at the end of that, having gotten nothing.
There is absolutely no reason to assume, based on the track record, that negotiations and conversations with the Syrians would yield any fruit.”