The suspension of Secretary of State James A. Baker III's shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East upon the death of his mother allows a look at what he has achieved. His effort has been noble, but the Middle East will not reform itself just because Mr. Baker arrived on the scene. It is the same Middle East that thwarted such peacemakers as Henry Kissinger and Jimmy Carter.
Yes, everyone wants a peace conference, but . . . but Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, our very good friends for whom the United States sacrificed its young, will not attend; but Israel insists that a conference not have United Nations auspices and Syria insists that it must; but the U.S. and Israel boycott the PLO while the Palestinians with whom Mr. Baker talks insist on its role; but Israel starts new settlements which can only provoke Arab negativism; but the U.S. says that Israel should trade land for peace, which senior Israeli leaders refuse.
President Bush pronounced a "reason for optimism," even as the mission was being suspended. Certainly, none of the parties wishes to be stamped as the reason the peace conference will not be held. But their posturing seems designed more for appearance's sake than for substantial results.