Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

  • Israel/Palestine and the Politics of a Two-State Solution
  • When Peace Fails: Lessons from Belfast for the Middle East

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Not the "Beginning of the End, but the end of the beginning" in Syria

Israeli Arabist/Mizrakhan Barry Rubin only a few short months ago pooh-poohed any talk of Assad being overthrown. Rubin was not a great friend of the Assad regime. In his book The Truth About Syria he claimed that Hafiz al-Assad in addition to being a brutal dictator never wanted peace with Israel. He has now conceded that his overthrow is a distinct possibility.  If it occurs, it will have ramifications for its neighbors and internally as well. Rubin deals with the internal ramifications. Dov Zackheim a former senior defense official in the Bush 43 administration, discusses the effects on Iraq. Mainly he links it to the fortunes of senior Shia politician Nouri al-Maliki, who became one of the most successful Iraqi politicians after the fall of Saddam. Here is an opinion piece by Thomas Friedman comparing Syria to Iraq. I think it is safe to say that it is meant as a warning.

Romney is now behaving like a typical politician and being wise after the fact. He and his acolytes are criticizing Obama for not being more involved in calling for Assad's fall. Expect this to be about as sophisticated as the foreign policy discussion will get over the next few months. Romney has decided to stay on message and his message is the economy and jobs. Everything else for him is a distraction.

I'm not a fan of intervening in internal Arab power struggles for several reasons. First, we usually lack the detailed knowledge of the players to be able to make meaningful predictions about both their chances of success and their policies once they get in power. Second, we have a tendency to see Arab culture, which is a very different culture from Western culture--at best like Western medieval culture overlaid with the non-democratic regimes of Central and Eastern Europe from the mid-20th century, and expect outcomes based on Western values and rules of the game rather than on indigenous ones. Third, we have few real interests tying us to these countries. Our main interest is the flow of oil, which is also in the interest of the rulers in the region. In 2002-03 I supported the war in Iraq because I believed that Saddam Hussein, based on his actions, possessed chemical and possibly biological weapons. I also expected the Bush administration to devote proper resources to the war and not try to win it on the cheap. They learned nothing from Hitler's mistakes nor from Vietnam.

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