Thursday, January 17, 2013

Obama's Choice of Hagel, Brennan and Kerry: Whitewashing The Islamist Threat (Part I)

Jonathan Rosenblum writes about Obama's appointments of Hagel, Brennan and Kerry that One Appointment Worse than the Next:

Barry Rubin of the Gloria Center, one of the Middle East's shrewdest analysts, was in an unkind mood last week, as he himself admitted. The common element joining President Obama's three appointments last week – Senator John Kerry for Secretary of State, Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, and John Brennan as Director of the CIA – is, in Rubin's view, that "they are all stupid people" of the worst sort – "stupid, arrogant people, with terrible ideas."

Unfortunately, there is little to contradict Rubin's harsh judgment. Each holds views that make it impossible for them to understand Middle East reality, much less do anything about it. Hagel, for instance, is a "realist," which is a doctrine having nothing to do with reality. Among the central planks of realist doctrine is that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is at the center of all the Middle East's problems, and that the United States' interests are significantly damaged by the lack of resolution of that conflict.

Speaking at "J Street's" first annual conference in 2009, Hagel said, "The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is central, not peripheral, to U.S. vital security interests in combating terrorism, preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon, stability in the Middle East and U.S. and global energy security." Each one of these examples is patently absurd. Though Iran might use a nuclear weapon to strike at Israel, that is not the primary purpose for which it seeks nuclear weapons. Ayotallah Khomeini defined the 1979 Iranian revolution from the start as an Islamic revolution. He and his successors identified nuclear weapons as a potentially important tool in spreading that revolution and immunizing Iran to countermeasures from the West.

And Israel has precious little to do with the instability of the Middle East, as the events of the past year have made abundantly clear. Israel has not kept Egypt from being able to grow enough grain so that it does not have to import from the rest of the world (though Israel would certainly be able to help Egypt in this regard). Israel does not keep Saudi men from working, or looking down on those who do. Israel has nothing to do with the second-class status of women in almost every Muslim society, and the lost potential that follows. Israel is not responsible for the high rates of illiteracy and paucity of academic production of the Arab world (though again it could help to alleviate them). The Sunni-Shiite divide that continues to roil Muslim countries pre-existed the State of Israel by more than a millennium.

Israel was not an issue during Arab Spring, or in the Libyan civil war, or in the Syrian civil war. Israel did not cause Iraq to invade Kuwait or have anything to do with the Iraq-Iran war that claimed more than a million lives. Israel had nothing to do with the Algerian civil war, or with the slaughter of 400,000 black Muslims in Darfur by their co-religionists. The blood shed in all the Israel-Arab wars since 1948 is chicken feed in terms of Middle East bloodletting.

It is the perpetual backwardness of Arab and Muslim societies that cause such resentment and hatred of the West, of which the United States is the principal representative – the Big Satan. Al Qaeda's propaganda justifications for the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon centered on the United States, and its defiling presence on holy Saudi soil. Israel was only added later as an afterthought because attacks on Israel have a special status for much of the Western Left. But again, Israel bears no responsibility for the near universal backwardness of Moslem societies.

In short to refute one of "realism's" central premises all one needs is half a brain in their head and eyes in one's head.

One of the central corollaries of the realist emphasis on the centrality of the Arab-Israel conflict is that America should impose a settlement on the conflict. In 2002, when Palestinian terrorism against Israelis was still in full swing – which terrorism Hagel justified as "desperate men do[ing] desperate things" – he opined that the time for negotiations had passed. "An end-game must be brought to the front, now." In short, the United States must impose a solution on the parties, even when the Palestinians have yet to show any willingness to accept Israel's existence.

But if the Palestinians refuse to accept a two-state solution, such an imposed solution would be life-threatening for Israel, since it would put Israel in a less defensible situation than today. It is not just Israelis, but also impartial observers of the Middle East who have finally come to see that there is no Palestinian acceptance of Israel's existence. As Walter Russell Mead wrote last week, "The real problem is what it has been for sixty years, deeply rooted Palestinian opposition to a two-state solution."

Mead even argues that the Palestinian opposition is not wholly irrational, for the truth is that "the West Bank and Gaza together are not enough to support the existent Palestinian population." But rational or not, as long as no Palestinian leader could sell a two-state solution to his people, the Israelis cannot help but doubt that a peace agreement would be honored even if it were signed. They will not trust to the tender mercies of Hagel and President Obama.

(Continued in Part II)

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