Monday, October 18, 2010

Linkage: Israel And--Vietnam

Evelyn Gordon addresses the perpetual issue of linkage--the idea that resolving the Israel-Arab conflict will provide a level of not only peace but also stability to the Middle East.

As I have pointed out before, the history of Islam provides a long, long list of Muslim vs. Muslim conflict--starting from the death of Mohammed and extending to modern times, as detailed by scholars such as Bernard Lewis and Rafael Patai.

Gordon gives a recent example:

That version of linkage is clearly delusional. Just consider last month’s deadly bombing by Sunni extremists of a Shiite march in Pakistan. The march was one of several nationwide to “observe Al Quds Day, an annual protest to express solidarity with Palestinians and condemn Israel.” Yet solidarity with the Palestinians evidently ranks so low on the Muslim agenda that Sunnis and Shiites couldn’t suspend their mutual bloodletting for one day to unite around this issue. So how would a Palestinian state ease this Sunni-Shiite divide?
But if that linkage is spurious, there is another linkage that is more worthy of attention--one that reflected in the linkage that once existed between Israel and Vietnam. Gordon explains:
When the 1973 Yom Kippur War erupted, forcing then-secretary of state Henry Kissinger to spend months brokering cease-fire agreements between Israel, Syria, and Egypt, the Vietnam War still raged. So after one of Kissinger’s trips to the region, then-ambassador to Saigon Graham Martin asked him “about the connection between what was happening in the Middle East and Vietnam.” Kissinger replied:
It hurt us with the Arabs. [Syrian President Hafez] Assad said in his talks with me, “You look what you’ve done to Taiwan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Portugal, etc.” … Assad said, “Therefore if you look at this, you will give up Israel, and so [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat should simply not give in.”
In short, it wasn’t American support for Israel that hurt America with the Arabs, but the Arabs’ conviction that this support would prove ephemeral, as it had with other American allies. The more convinced the Arabs were that America would ultimately abandon its allies, the less reason they saw to compromise, the more inflexible their positions became, and the more they preferred alliances with America’s enemies instead (in this case, the Soviet Union).
The fact that we see Arab countries investigating the building of nuclear plants is an indication that they are not ready to rely on the US to protect them from the growing power and influence of Iran. Likewise, if the Arab countries see that the US is distancing itself from Israel without at the same time throwing more support to the Arab countries--that is a sign not that Obama is switching sides, but that he is altogether not a reliable ally.

That of course brings up the other linkage that we've seen over the last 2 years: Obama's failed international policy and the growing lack of respect dictators have for the US.

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