Det pågår en uerklært krig mellom James Baker og Conoleezza Rice. Baker snakker belærende om diplomatiets ABC. Men Condi lar seg ikke vippe av pinnen. Hun står fast ved at Midtøsten må demokratiseres.

Aides to the 52-year-old Ms. Rice say she is acutely aware that there is little percentage in getting into a public argument with Mr. Baker, the 76-year-old architect of the first Bush administration’s Middle East policy. But Thursday, as President Bush gently pushed back against some of Mr. Baker’s recommendations, Ms. Rice’s aides and allies were offering a private defense, saying that she already has a coherent, effective strategy for the region.

She has advocated «deepening the isolation of Syria,» because she believes much of the rest of the Arab world condemns its efforts to topple Lebanon’s government, they said; and in seeking to isolate Iran, they said, she hopes to capitalize on the fears of nations like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan that Iran seeks to dominate the region, with the option of wielding a nuclear weapon.

Ms. Rice makes no apology for the premium she has placed on promoting democracy in the Middle East, even though that is an idea that Mr. Baker and his commission conspicuously ignored in spelling out their recommendations. «I don’t think that the road to democracy in Iraq is at all utopian,» she said in April.

Dueling Views Pit Baker Against Rice