Sunday, July 30, 2006

Brent Scowcroft sees a Creative Moment, but Not Quite the Creative Moment that Bush is Thinking About

Scowcroft right notes the centrality of the Arab-Israeli conflict in Middle East politics. This puts him at odds with George Bush, Jr., who is obsessed with the idea that through violence and mayhem the Arab world will be transformed into a democratic wonderland. To be kind, Bush's idée fixe is under-theorized, but the convenient thing about his perspective is that it makes nudging Israel toward serious compromise unnecessary because the main problem is purportedly dictatorship.

I see a clear parallel between Scowcroft's proposal and the stillborn Reagan proposal of September 1982, which also came in the context of a terrible Israeli against Lebanon. At that point, the Israeli government blew off the Reagan plan, which envisaged a solution that would see Israeli settlements expunged and the Palestinians winning autonomy in conjunction with Jordan. After invading Lebanon with a view toward creating an proxy state at peace with Israel, the last thing Israel wanted to do was end its colonization of the West Bank. Indeed, the 1982 was all about keeping the West Bank, and Gaza for that matter.

I suspect there would be a similar reaction to Scowcroft's proposal, were it to be adopted by Bush. In any case, Bush has shown no courage whatsoever in the face of Israeli obduracy. Just remember how he reaction when Ariel Sharon stiff-armed him in 2002, namely he backed off. No American president has subordinated U.S. interests to Israel's more than George Bush, or, more charitably, no president has seen so much overlap in Israeli and U.S. interests.

Beyond Lebanon: "Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has stated that a simple cease-fire in Lebanon is not the solution to the current violence. She says it is necessary to deal with the roots of the problem. She is right on both counts. But Hezbollah is not the source of the problem; it is a derivative of the cause, which is the tragic conflict over Palestine that began in 1948.

The eastern shore of the Mediterranean is in turmoil from end to end, a repetition of continuing conflicts in one part or another since the abortive attempts of the United Nations to create separate Israeli and Palestinian states in 1948. The current conflagration has energized the world. Now, perhaps more than ever, we have an opportunity to harness that concern and energy to achieve a comprehensive resolution of the entire 58-year-old tragedy. Only the United States can lead the effort required to seize this opportunity."

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