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Colin Powell's biggest test
Secretary of State Colin Powell is widely admired, not only in the United States, but abroad. His lustrous reputation as a warrior-statesman, magnified by the orchestrated buildup preceding his arrival in Jerusalem tonight, has created a modest optimism that his peacemaking mission might even produce a dramatic and satisfying conclusion, something like the crescendo in a Beethoven symphony. The expectation, though, is disconnected from the reality: Brutal facts on the ground support little beyond an appreciation of the harsh challenges faced by Powell and other would-be peacemakers.

Attitudes in the region have hardened. Wednesday's terrorist attack on an Israeli bus has generated even more public support in Israel for its military operations in the West Bank. Those operations, in turn, will generate even more of the Palestinian rage that has resulted in suicidal terrorism. Israel has begun to pull back from some West Bank towns, in deference to U.S. demands, but Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has vowed to continue "Operation Defensive Shield" until its objectives have been met.

This explosive environment almost certainly will doom conventional diplomacy. If Powell is to have any chance of success, a U.S. presence in the region will have to be far more aggressive and sustained than in the past. Source.

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Thursday April 11, 2002