Monday, January 21, 2008

Nobody Could Have Predicted


WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is beginning its last year in office by quietly scaling back its foreign policy ambitions as it struggles with new obstacles and rapidly dwindling influence.

Only a few months ago, senior officials predicted that before their exit, they could deliver the Middle East peace deal that had eluded so many predecessors. But this month, as President Bush toured Israel and the West Bank, officials made it clear that the deal he's now talking about is not a long-awaited final agreement, but a preliminary pact to set the terms for talks.

In addition, the administration's efforts to get North Korea and Iran to end their nuclear programs have suffered deflating setbacks in recent weeks. And although the administration's greatest foreign policy undertaking, Iraq, has seen encouraging security improvements, the goal of Iraqi political reconciliation remains distant.

The upshot is that the Bush administration is going to be spending the next year managing crises and tidying up messes until the next president takes over, rather than reaching legacy milestones, as officials recently had hoped.