As an old and respected friend reminded me yesterday in Beirut, during the 1989 Ta'if negotiations that helped end the civil war in Lebanon, the US was represented in Saudi Arabia by a hot-shot team headed by David Satterfield. In contrast, the US had no on-the-scene expertise except the US Qatar embassy and an Arabic-speaking expert based in Lebanon, who kept touch with Doha developments by phone.
In contrast, a very sharp team of French officials packed their bags in Paris and headed to Doha when the talks were convening last week. I know, because I was meeting with them in Paris when they were leaving.
This is all yet another data point on the tragically imcompetent Bush adminstration, which was once again in its black and white fantasy world.