What would you do if your foreign policy agenda had these priorities:
- 1. Get Arab and European support for solving the Iraq crisis.
2. Mobilize Arab and European forces against a threat led by Iran and its allies, Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah.
3. Get Iran to stop its campaign to get nuclear weapons.
4. Reestablish American credibility toward friends and deterrence toward enemies.
5. Reduce the level of Israel-Palestinian conflict.
That pretty much describes the U.S. framework for dealing with the Middle East nowadays. The Annapolis conference is not going to contribute to these goals. The most likely outcome is either failure or a non-event portrayed as a victory because it took place at all. No one is going to say: We are so grateful at the United States becoming more active on Arab-Israeli issues that we are going to back its policy on other issues.
On the contrary, the conference is more likely to show the inability of the United States to produce results, thus undermining belief in U.S. leverage in the region in general. It shines the spotlight on the most divisive issue, the great excuse for not doing more to help U.S. efforts, raising its prominence. What most of Washington simply fails to understand is that any real demand for Palestinian or Arab concessions will be fodder for radical groups and frighten Arab regimes, pushing the latter away from support for America rather than toward it. And any Israeli concessions obtained by this process will not satisfy their demands either.
Despite thousands of claims by lots of famous people, national leaders, and respected journals, solving the Arab-Israeli conflict will not make radical Islamism or terrorism go away. Would you like to know why? Because even if this issue could be solved—which isn’t about to happen for reasons requiring a different article—to do so would necessitate a compromise including an end to the conflict, acceptance of Israel, and compromises by the Arab side. These steps would inflame the extremists and make any Arab rulers who accepted it vulnerable to being called traitors. It would increase instability in the Arab world, also by removing the conflict as splendid excuse and basis for mobilizing support for the current rulers. Arab politicians understand this reality; most people in the West don’t.
Rubin's headline for this article is Drilling a Hole in the Lifeboat. But here's my own bit of painful, yet nevertheless, strategic wishful thinking. The operative question is simple. Is the United States still operating with a few aces short of a full deck in dealing with this foul enemy of basic human dignity and its phoney peacemakers, or is this rather the traditional final opportunity for the five families to look each other in the eye and declare themselves according to their own peculiar lights as rational businessmen just prior to the moment when the real turf war begins?
We know what happens next. Vito Corleone is hammered with bullets as the hapless Fredo fumbles about nearby. But this despicable action sparks the required no holds barred heroic response to take down these unlikeable mobsters who wish to spread its immoral oppression, in our case, around the globe. I'd like to think it is this latter scenario we are facing, in anticipation that Bush and company are determined that we must finally move this sixty year old family feud towards the finishing stage, which is a true peace built of strength of character and not some awkward and deceitful strength by religious police we see implemented across the sand belt from Africa to Indonesia.
But I'm not getting my hopes up. Old fashioned nationalism certainly seems to be taking a back seat to this push toward absolute globalism these days.
Breaking news. Same old Saudi smoke and mirrors. Yesterday we read in the Arab News that the House of Saud has released 1500 Al-Qaeda extremists, who were detained on charges of embracing and spreading takfeer (the ideology that brands other Muslims who disagree with them as infidels) after they repented. Today we hear that the Saudi regime has arrested over 200 extremists who have terrorist ties.
One must wonder how many of the 1500 released were rounded up again the next day in order to create a splash at Annapolis. It is the House of Saud, of course, who finances the madrassas and mosques around the globe including over 1500 here in the States. These schools teach the most virilent form of Wahabbism, including one in the Washington, DC area that several US Senators are trying to have shut down. No word on the traction of this shut down, but we shall certainly follow the story here.