February 6, 2007
Israel Isn't The Problem In The Middle EastTopics: Middle East News and Perspectives
Yesterday, Richard posted about Muslim on Muslim violence in the Middle East and discussed the Thomas Friedman article, Martin Luther Al-King?, in which Friedman offered, "If Arab Muslims can summon the will to protest only against the insults of "the foreigner" but never the injuries inflicted by their own on their own, how can they ever generate a modern society or democracy -- which is all about respecting and protecting minority voices and unorthodox views?
Both Richard and The Big Pharoah jokingly blamed it all on the evil Joooooozzz.
Unfortunately, far too many Muslims are all too quick to blame Israel and the Jews for their own failures and the failures of their culture. These failures are addressed in Amil Taheri's, Is Israel the Problem?, where he suggests that the analytical assumptions that led to the Madrid conference that was little more than an impressive show of heads of state but, as the decade's subsequent events would prove, a wholly counterproductive exercise in peacemaking. Interestingly, Taheri links the regional peace-making failures to two key analytical assumptions that are false; that the the Arab-Israeli conflict was the issue of Middle Eastern politics and, second, that all the other issues in the region were inextricably linked to it. Simply put, James Baker got it wrong in 1991 and again in 2006 in the ISG report:
... In fact, far from being the root cause of instability and war in the wider Middle East, one could argue that the Arab-Israeli conflict is rather peripheral, and that the region's deeper and much more intractable problems lie elsewhere. And one would be right. In the last years we have all become acquainted with televised images of the brutal carnage that Shiites and Sunni are capable of inflicting on each other in Iraq, the ghastly work of Baathist death squads, the steady rhythm of political assassinations, and the laying waste of civilian life. And that is just within one country.More...
... as Baker declared in September 1991, the administration would go for "the big thing": that is, finding a solution to the century-old conflict between the Jews and the Arabs. The result was the Madrid conference, an impressive show of heads of state but, as the decade's subsequent events would prove, a wholly counterproductive exercise in peacemaking.
... Despite everything that has happened in the interim to disprove these two assumptions, they still underlie the thinking of diplomats today. Most recently, they were repeated almost word for word in the long-awaited report of the Iraq Study Group (ISG) headed by the very same James Baker.
... For our purposes here, ... it may be more instructive to look at the Middle East at the regional level, and to examine in particular the huge number of inter-state conflicts that have bedeviled this area in the modern era--conflicts that have nothing whatsoever to do with the struggle between Israel and the Palestinians.
... All told, in the past six decades, this region has witnessed no fewer than 22 full-scale wars over territory and resources, not one of them having anything to do with Israel and the Palestinians. And these international disputes, as I mentioned at the outset, are quite apart from the uninterrupted string of domestic clashes, military coups, acts of sectarian and ethnic vengeance, factional terrorism, and other internal conflicts that have characterized the greater Middle East, not infrequently attaining impressive heights of cruelty and despoliation. Nor is that the end of it. Underlying all of this are the unmoving facts, documented at length in the annual volumes of the Arab Human Development Report, of chronic instability, severe economic underachievement, social atrophy, and cultural backwardness. The greater Middle East is the only part of the world still largely untouched by the wave of positive change that followed the end of the cold war.
... The notion that all of these problems can be waved away by "solving" the Arab-Israeli conflict is thus at best a delusion, at worst a recipe for maintaining today's wider political, diplomatic, and social paralysis. For what is the reason behind the failure of the 1991 Madrid conference, the slow but steady death of the 1993 Oslo accords, the collapse of President Bill Clinton's final effort to negotiate a peace deal at Camp David in 2000, and the faltering history of President George W. Bush's "road map"? The reason is hardly the want of diplomatic efforts, especially on the part of the United States. No, the reason lies elsewhere, and is plain to see in the sorry tale we have rehearsed.
It is this: with the exception of Israel and with the partial exception of Turkey, the entire Middle East lacks a culture of conflict resolution, let alone the necessary mechanisms of meaningful compromise. Such a culture can only be shaped through a process of democratization. Only democracies habitually resolve their conflicts through diplomacy rather than war, and only popular-based regimes possess the political strength and the moral will to build peace. This is why, unless we mean to consign the Middle East back to the "swamps" from which the United States, its allies, and the region's reformers have been seeking to extricate it, democratization remains the only credible strategy in and for the "arc of crisis," and the only hope for its suffering inhabitants.
Posted by Abdul at February 6, 2007 5:48 AM
And what is the basis of their economic growth and political influence? Think alternate fuel - a solution to the Mideast Crisis.
Posted by: nate at February 6, 2007 9:29 AM
Absolutely - no money from oil = no money for terrorism and global jihad.
Posted by: abdul at February 6, 2007 9:35 AM
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- Israel Isn't The Problem In The Middle East - Feb 06, 2007