Yes, Condi, You're a Student of History:
Three weeks ago, as the Israel-Lebanon war was heating up and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was making the first of her halfhearted diplomatic trips to the region, she said the following to reporters on the plane ride:
I'm a student of history, so perhaps I have a little more patience with enormous change in the international system. It's a big shifting of tectonic plates, and I don't expect it to happen in a few days or even in a year.
I missed this remark when it was first reported. (I saw it reprised in the middle of an excellent article about the pitfalls of President Bush's democracy-spreading policy in this Tuesday's Wall Street Journal.) Still, the statement is worth a close look now, because it reflects with glaring clarity something horrifying about this administration's leaders: the wide-elbowed indifference with which they stomp around the globe, their shrugged inattention to the consequences of their actions.
Rice was explaining why the Bush administration wasn't moving more quickly to stop the fighting that had already begun to kill hundreds of people and to destabilize the region. She had recently commented that the mayhem marked "the birth pangs of a new Middle East," and now she was noting that birth pangs—or, in her new metaphor, tectonic shifts—take a while to play out.
Someone might have asked how long it does take to go through "a big shifting of tectonic plates." If not "in a few days or even in a year," then what—in a year and a half, five years, a decade, a century? And does the United States—the one power that could impose a cease-fire if its president so desired—really have to wait until the earthquake dies down before stepping into the fray?