Friday, January 09, 2009

Time for an intervention

Your good friend has hit bottom. He is engaging in all kinds of destructive behavior. He's delusional and abusive to family, friends, and neighbors. What to do? If you're really a friend, you have an intervention.

Unless you're the Bush administration. Bush, the Klingon warrior princess Condoleezza Rice, and their neo-con pals, have instead been enablers, refilling Israel's cup of blood wine again and again. [That's just a Star Trek metaphor, so settle down everybody.]

In Salon, Juan Cole says:

The Gaza War of 2009 is a final and eloquent testimony to the complete failure of the neoconservative movement in United States foreign policy. For over a decade, the leading figures in this school of thought saw the violent overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the institution of a parliamentary regime in Iraq as the magic solution to all the problems in the Middle East. They envisioned, in the wake of the fall of Baghdad, the moderation of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the overthrow of the Baath Party in Syria and the Khomeinist regime in Iran, the deepening of the alliance with Turkey, the marginalization of Saudi Arabia, a new era of cheap petroleum, and a final resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on terms favorable to Israel. After eight years in which they strode the globe like colossi, they have left behind a devastated moonscape reminiscent of some post-apocalyptic B movie. As their chief enabler prepares to exit the White House, the only nation they have strengthened is Iran; the only alliance they have deepened is that between Iran and two militant Islamist entities to Israel's north and south, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Who can forget Rice's remarks during Israel's war with Lebanon and Hizbullah just two years ago that we were witnessing the birth pangs of a new Middle East? A pretty rough labor, Spot would say.

Rarely has anything come such a cropper as the Bush administration's foreign policy:

The neoconservatives first laid out their manifesto in a 1996 paper, "A Clean Break," written for an obscure think tank in Jerusalem and intended for the eyes of far right-wing Israeli politician Binyamin Netanyahu of the Likud Party, who had just been elected prime minister. They advised Israel to renounce the Oslo peace process and reject the principle of trading land for peace, instead dealing with the Palestinians with an iron fist. They urged Israel to uphold the right of hot pursuit of Palestinian guerrillas and to find alternatives to Yasser Arafat's Fatah for the Palestinian leadership. They called forth Israeli airstrikes on targets in Syria and rejection of negotiations with Damascus. They foresaw strengthened ties between Israel and its two regional friends, Turkey and Jordan.

They advocated "removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq," in part as a way of "rolling back" Syria. In place of the secular, republican tyrant, they fantasized about the restoration of the Hashemite monarchy in Iraq, and thought that a Sunni king might help moderate the Shiite Hezbollah in south Lebanon. (Yes.) They barely mentioned Iran, though it appears that their program of expelling Syria from Lebanon and weakening its regime was in part aimed at depriving Iran of its main Arab ally. In a 1999 book called "Tyranny's Ally: America's Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein," David Wurmser argued that it was false to fear that installing the Iraqi Shiites in power in Baghdad would strengthen Iran regionally.

The signatories to this fantasy of using brute military power to reshape all of West Asia included some figures who would go on to fill key positions in the Bush administration. Richard Perle, a former assistant secretary of defense under Reagan, became chairman of the influential Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, a civilian oversight body for the Pentagon. Douglas J. Feith became the undersecretary of defense for planning. David Wurmser first served in Feith's propaganda shop, the Office of Special Plans, which manufactured the case for an American war on Iraq, and then went on to serve with "Scooter" Libby in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

Professor Cole continues:

The neoconservatives made almost as big an error in working to destroy the peace process of the 1990s as they did in fostering a war on Iraq. A two-state solution was not far from being concluded in 2000, but negotiations were abruptly discontinued by the government of Ariel Sharon in spring of 2001 with the encouragement of the Bush administration. (It is not true that the Palestinian side had ceased negotiating, or "walked away," from the Clinton plan, nor is it true that the Israelis had as yet formalized a specific offer in writing.) In the past eight years, Israel has greatly expanded its settlements in the West Bank and around Jerusalem, fencing the Palestinians in with checkpoints, superhighways that cut villages off from one another, and a wall that has stolen from them key agricultural land. Ariel Sharon's 2005 withdrawal from Gaza made no provisions for what would happen next, and in any case Israel continued to control Gaza's borders and denied it a harbor, an airport and, more recently, enough food to eat.

Let's face it: the Israelis are brutal, expansionist, occupiers and colonists. It can only be so because the US lets it. We can make it stop, and we must. It's time for that intervention.

Commenter Andy said it very well recently:

Suffering does not confer moral superiority on the sufferer, nor does it give them the right to inflict suffering.

If one makes the smallest criticism of Israel's behavior toward Gaza, he is accused of being an Anti-Semite and a coddler of terrorists. Read the comments to the last couple of posts if you don't believe it. But as Avi Shlaim says in an article that Spot has linked to before:

As so often in the tragic history of Palestine, the victims were blamed for their own misfortunes. Israel's propaganda machine persistently purveyed the notion that the Palestinians are terrorists, that they reject coexistence with the Jewish state, that their nationalism is little more than antisemitism, that Hamas is just a bunch of religious fanatics and that Islam is incompatible with democracy. But the simple truth is that the Palestinian people are a normal people with normal aspirations. They are no better but they are no worse than any other national group. What they aspire to, above all, is a piece of land to call their own on which to live in freedom and dignity.

The entire eight years of the Bush administration have been a counterproductive carte blanche to the worst instincts of the Israeli leadership; it has encouraged extremist elements in Muslim society, and as Professor Cole points out, has strengthened the hand of Iran as, astonishingly, the Arabs look to the Persians for support.

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