Sunday, February 6, 2011

On the Irresponsibility of Peacemakers

No-one foresaw the collapse of the Soviet Block and the Soviet Union. Gazillions of words were written about the Cold War and Detente and Perestroika, and meanwhile the events of 1989 crept up unnoticed, and even then people were still surprised when two years later the Soviet Union itself collapsed. Forecasting the future is hard. Even when half a century of international policy was predicated upon reaching a result more or less as eventually happened, and summed up in a single word, Containment. It's as if generations of policy makers, politicians, pundits, and everyone else spent their lives aiming for a goal, but it never occurred to them it might happen.

Due disclosure: I was as surprised as anyone; but then, I wasn't a policy maker - and, in the late 1980s, not even a blogger.

No-one foresaw the present turmoil in the Arab world, either; and of course, no-one knows how it will end. Yet there comes a moment when you ask yourself if the leaders are really doing their job:
It is hardly the first time the Obama administration has seemed uncertain on its feet during the Egyptian crisis, as it struggles to stay on the right side of history and to avoid accelerating a revolution that could spin out of control.
The mixed messages have been confusing and at times embarrassing — a reflection of a policy that, by necessity, has been made up on the fly. “This is what happens when you get caught by surprise,” said one American official, who would not speak on the record. “We’ve had endless strategy sessions for the past two years on Mideast peace, on containing Iran. And how many of them factored in the possibility that Egypt,” and presumably whatever dominoes follow it, “moves from stability to turmoil? None.” (My Italics)
In all the learned discussions, no-one ever put up a chart with hypothetical but logical possibilities? Islamists come to power in Turkey; Shias revolt in Suadi Arabia; democrats try to re-take a stolen election in Iran; Israel hands over the West Bank to the PA, the rejectionists take over and the Middle East descends into bloody war; Islamists take power in Pakistan and lob a nuclear bomb at Israel; Iraq collapses, Kurdisatn declares independence and Turkey invades, so a NATO member is at war with an American ally; Belarussion democracy succumbs to dictatorship (oops, sorry, make that Ukrainian democracy)...

Armies the world over are supposed to have contingency plans for unlikely but nightmarish scenarios. You would think the people surrounding the president of the United States, who at the moment still is the leader of the world's only real superpower, would have them, too. If they don't, what else haven't they thought of?

Pardon me for being narrow-minded and fixated on my own navel, but is it conceivable they've not thought about the possibility that dividing Jerusalem will cause war?


NormanF said...

The point is territory for peace is not tenable in the current political environment.

Abu Bluff has no real democratic legitimacy. The word of a dictator is good only as long as he is in power. When he is gone, all bets are off.

The PA as presently constituted, is not a true peace partner for Israel.

Saul Lieberman said...

Pardon me for averting my eyes from your navel, but is it conceivable they've not thought about the possibility that Israel handing over the West Bank to the PA will cause war?

Barry Meislin said...

Of course they've thought about it.

But like other obvious aspects of I-P, it is verboten to mention in public (with exceptions; see Note 1).

(Moreover, WikiLeaks and PaliLeaks has everyone suffering from a weak backbone scrambling for cover.)

For the following reasons:

a. It's not part of the narrative.
b. It's not what so desperately wants to be believed, i.e., it does not conform to the fantasy conception/perception/deception of: "If only Israel did [fill in the blank] then peace would be attainable." (See "a" above)
c. It undermines the Palestinian Authority and Abbas/Fayad, at a time where (until determined otherwise---and when might that be?) they must be propped up no matter what the cost. (See "b" above.)
d. It echoes Avigdor Lieberman, "privileges" (don't you hate that word?) Israel policy (or "hesitation") and hence is totally off-limits.
e. Places too much responsibility on the Palestinians, and hence is totally off-limits. (See "c" above.)

All this being said, one thing must be kept in mind: After over ten years of Palestinian, propaganda, disinformation, war, and total deadlock---a deadlock which is for all intents and purposes entirly blamed on Israel (aka "the narrative"; see "a" above)---the powers that be, especially after witnessing what 'appears' to be happening in Egypt, may be even less willing to seem pro-Isreal than before (in the face of Arab "democratic feelings" breaking out all over) and MAY therefore not be averse to having war break out between Israel and Palestine (and Palestine's "allies"), under the excuse that "if that's what Israel wants, so be it; we tried to help but there's a limit to our patience."

File under:"Lavo manus meas"(?)

Note 1:
Aaron David Miller has written recently about his disenchantment with the "peace process" and his change of heart, but 1) his argument strikes me as "a plague on both their houses"; 2) he's totally implicated in the failure of conception and implementation (though he's tried his best, no doubt) so that this about-face is a case of too little too late; 3) who listens to a Aaron David Miller?

Sylvia said...

More importantly has anyone ever predicted that an American President would interfere in such a grossly hysterical, irrational, humiliating, almost insane manner in the eyes of the world? Depose a ruler who hasn't threatened US interests, hasn't invaded an ally, hasn't gassed his minorities, has for decades led a lonely struggle against islamist terrorism, andis a respected mediatorin the region. The US has other ways to deal with the problems of human rights violations discretly and effectively:, witholding the money is one of them.

Actions have consequences. Unpredictable actions have unpredictable consequences. A week ago, could anyone have predicted that America would lose the Arabo-Muslim world? Well, today they can.
I can predict that the Iranian model - total refusal to compromise - will become the rulee. That countries will start turning to the Soviet Union.
And Israel should take good note.

Silke said...

"Lavo manus meas"

The bible lessons of my school days had it as:

"Ich wasche meine Hände in Unschuld" = I wash my hands in non-guilty-ness (said the Roman)

here's the original and I wonder how they explain to kids these days that it was the Romans ... They sure didn't in my day but I was lucky insofar as they told it in a way that made the wish of the Volk understandable/forgiveable - maybe in an effort of being mild on their own very recent behaviour?

„Da … nahm er Wasser und wusch die Hände vor dem Volk und sprach: Ich bin unschuldig an dem Blut dieses Gerechten; sehet ihr zu! Matthäus 27,24

Silke said...

one of the weirdest experiences these days was reading one guy apparently really in love with Israel complain that Netanyahu showed not enough compassion with the Egyptian peace activists and was so callous as to put his own people's well-being ahead or so.

I came across that argument that Netanyahu's warnings about MB had been off several times nobody understood it as a warning to the genuinely wanting good stuff Egyptians as "beware of the foe in your midst" all interpreted as an example of Israel's inappropriate selfishness.

Either the world is crazy or I am going bananas.


As to not knowing:
here is the first event of the newly established (after Fred Halliday's death) Middle East Center of the London School of Economics (main financier currently Dubai). I listened to parts of all 3 nutters of the event. They talk about the kind of scenarios Yaacov listed in brain-mushing detail. The first one by repeatedly throwing in "irrevocably" while he predicted the grandiose future of Turkey and Iran.

As to Turkey its Foreign Minister has written a book about Turkey's destiny translated into quite a number of languages except a western one. It is hailed as close to the bible by some and mumbo-jumbo by others. Hony soit ...

This Davutoglu was hailed as a Lichtgestalt at the LSE-event.

last but not least -

Turkey a NATO-member HAS already ATTACKED an American ally, at least in what I remember of the Mavi Marmara - or at a minimum Erdogan was full of praise that one of theirs had done so. And now they are trying to tell us the good cop/bad cop tale about Davutoglu and Erdogan - believe it who wants to.

If I were Hillary Clinton I'd want a translation of that book NOW and I'd take it seriously.

Also interesting in that NYT-piece that Cast Lead came at the right moment during Davutoglu's twisting arms in matters I/P - the man is a gaga megalomaniac.

Silke said...

Yaacov I saw yesterday that your blog has been linked by and commented on by an "Developing ..."

- the blog is run by a close "acquaintance" of mine

- he is a devotee of Fake Ibrahim's and now trolls on Richard Millett's blog

- as yet he seems to have no traffic

- therefore it's best to leave him alone.

Barry Meislin said...

Either the world is crazy or I am going bananas.

This will be the next meme to go viral. (It has already started.)

To recap: "Israel (for its own egotistic, twisted, dark, malevolent, etc.) purposes is doing its utmost to prop up the Egyptian tyranny and has acted explicitly against the Egyptian people and their inexorable march to democracy."

Or something along those lines.

To be followed by (something like): "The Egyptian people will never, ever (ever, ever) forget this crass Zionist insult", etc., etc.

Along with a timely and apt: "The Zionist State together with its American puppet have been OPPRESSING the Egyptian people for the past 30 years", etc., etc.

Question: What are the chances that if Netanyahu expresses his support for Egyptian democracy, that the Zionist Entity will be "forgiven". (Or, for that matter, that the US will be "forgiven"....?(

Sylvia said...

To be clear, I've always thought that once it appeared that they have renounced terrorism, the MB movement and their branches, the Islamic associationhs should have been legal in Egypt. They are easier to monitor when they're out in the open. In Israel and I believe in Jordan, the Islamist movements are legal. Their agendas are expressed loud and clear and everyone knows exactly where they stand. Other countries, such as Morocco under Mohammed VI, have lifted the ban on the Islamists and there seems to be less problems today than when their leaders were under house arrest.

Yaacov said...

One of the many odd things about the Mideast, Sylvia, is that the Islamist party is legal and operates openly in Israel; in some towns there are Islamic mayors. Sheikh Raed Salach plays with the line of legality and sometime crosses it, but large parts of the movement are perfectly acceptable citizens in a democracy.

Silke said...

Elder of Ziyon has an interesting post up on a new to him Wikileaks find which makes me conclude that if any of the "may Israel fare well" crowd should not laud Netanyahu for every breath he takes he/she helps by necessity the PA's agenda.

which raises the interesting question since democracy is all about being critical about one's leaders, one can either be good at undermining the PA's scheming or a good democrat

- the two have become mutually exclusive.

Catch 22 is the best book on the subject of double-binds I know, better than any psycho-stuff I've come across. Plays from ancient Greece also know a thing or two about dilemmata.

Anonymous said...

Well also if you plan for it then for alot of "journalists" that is like saying it was part of your design. I remember when Olmert said there was a plan for fighting Hizbollah - which one would hope most certainly would be the case - and people jumped up and down and said see Nasrallah was right.


Sérgio said...

And what about Obamamia´s loud silence during the Iranian protests? Yeah, he was (still is) trying to "engage" Ahmadi, while they are engaging in atomic weapons (thanks to the great disinformation work of El Baradei).

Anonymous said...

Jan Ray Carlson's "Cairo to Damascus" is still the best book about the Islamic dangers in the Middle East.

After 60 years. I suspect all you need to know about Egypt is in that book.

Steven Zoraster