Monday, August 14, 2006

Scowcroft and the Myth of Israeli Responsibility for Mideast Unrest

The Best of the Web notes that on October 25 last year, the following appeared in The Washington Post about Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor to Presidents Gerald Ford and H. W. Bush:
Scowcroft, in his interview, discussed an argument over Iraq he had two years ago with Condoleezza Rice, then-national security adviser and current secretary of state. "She says we're going to democratize Iraq, and I said, 'Condi, you're not going to democratize Iraq,' and she said, 'You know, you're just stuck in the old days,' and she comes back to this thing that we've tolerated an autocratic Middle East for fifty years and so on and so forth," he said. The article stated that with a "barely perceptible note of satisfaction," Scowcroft added: "But we've had fifty years of peace." [emphasis added]
In response to Scowcroft's satisfaction that there have been 50 years of peace among the autocratic rulers in the Mideast, James Taranto points out:
Now let's see. Between 1953 and 2003, here are the Mideast wars we can think of off the top of our head: the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War, the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War, the two Palestinian intifadas against Israel, the Algerian Civil War, the Yemen Civil War and two Sudanese civil wars. That doesn't even count acts of terror against non-Mideastern countries, from the Iranian invasion of the U.S. Embassy to the attacks of 9/11.
Now you can argue that Scowcroft was speaking only in terms of Arab conflicts and not those based on wars with Israel, which brings the number of conflicts down, but Raphael Patai, has his own list--which does not include Israel--counting just from 1970 to 1983, which he lists in a chapter he added to an updated version of his The Arab Mind in 1983:
1. Intermittent disputes involving border warfare and assassinations between South Yemen on the one hand, and North Yemen and Saudi Arabia, on the other since the early 1970's. A brief but fierce border war between the two Yemens took place as recently as March, 1979.

2. A major and bloody, albeit brief, conflict between Jordan and Palestinian guerillas in 1970, complicated by Syrian intevention.

3. Fighting between the Kurds and the Iraqis, which lasted several yesrs.

4. A bloody conflict between Northern and Southern Sudan, 1956-1972.

5. Clashes between South Yemen and Oman, linked to the Dhofar rebellion, 1972-1976.

6. A tripartite confict between Algeria on the one hand and Morocco and Mauritania, on the other, over the control of the former Spanish Sahara, beginning in 1976 and subsequently transformed into guerrilla warfare against Morocco by the Polisario, the freedom fighters of the Western Sahara, supported by Algeria and Libya, which was still in progrss in 1982.

7. Intermittent hostility, and actual border fighting, including air attacks, between Egypt and Libya in 1977.

8. The Lebanese civil war, which began in 1975, involving two outside parties, Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organization, still unresolved in early 1982.

9. The invasion of Chad by Libya in 1980.

10. The war between Iraq and Iran, wich began in the fall of 1980, in which Iraq is supported by Jordan and Iran by Syria, making it in effect, an inter-Arab conflict. It was still in progress in early 1982.

11. In February, 1982, a conflict flared up between the Syrian government and Muslim fundamentalists in the Syrian city of Hama, in which several thousands were killed and major parts of Hama were destroyed. [p.357-358]

Now on July 30, Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor to Presidents Gerald Ford and H. W. Bush, wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post about the potential opportunity for resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs based on the current war in Lebanon.

Besides some debatable assumptions about what Israel and the Palestinian Arabs can come to agreement on--unless Scowcroft is relying on international pressure on Israel to paper over their differences--Scowcroft still thinks Israel is the initial domino that will set everything else aright:

The benefits of reaching a comprehensive settlement of the root cause of
today's turmoil
would likely ripple well beyond the Israelis and the
Palestinians. [emphasis added]
History clearly shows the capability of the Arab world to generate massacres and enormous bloodshed among themselves without recourse to Israel as a spark. Currently, the source of instability in the Mideast is Iran's drive towards Muslim leadership, now manifesting itself through its Hezbollah proxy attacking Israel, with whom Iran has no border and no real issue. This, as part of the growing Islamist threat, should direct the world's attention away from attempts at simplistic solutions focused purely on the Palestinian Arabs and instead towards the genuine threat to world peace.

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