April 05, 2005

Honey or Vinegar in the Middle East?

Posted by Jeremy Brown

Couldn’t we try for something like this?

han-hon-vinaigrette.jpg

Steven A. Cook, writing in Foreign Affairs (I read it in the New York Times), urges the U. S. to use an incentive-based approach to sparking democratic reform in the Middle East, rather than the usual ‘punitive policies’ (by which phrase, in the context of the article, he seems to lump together the current war in Iraq with all previous U. S. military actions and threats of military action in that region).

I don’t know anything much about Cook except that he is a thousand times more qualified to write about the Middle East than I am. And his arguments generally seem extremely reasonable. This, for example, struck me as a pretty good (because it sounds so obvious as to be even a bit banal) way of articulating something that a lot of my Lefty friends have had great difficulty hearing, or that they hear as yet more convoluted nonsense from the far Right wing:

For most of the last five decades, Washington has done little to promote Arab democratization, relying instead on the autocratic leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other countries to help protect vital U.S. interests in the neighborhood.

[...]

On the morning of September 11, 2001, U.S. priorities in the Middle East changed. Suddenly, the Bush administration came to see democratization, which it had previously ranked below security and stability in its list of concerns for the Arab world, as the critical means by which to achieve these other goals. Indeed, the toppling of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon fundamentally shifted the underlying assumption of U.S. Middle East policy. Arab authoritarianism could no longer be viewed as a source of stability; instead, it was the primary threat to it.

That was worthy of a ‘thumbs-up’ post all by itself. But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have something negative to say as well. This gets back to Cook’s reasonableness. Sometimes he’s reasonable to a fault:

The reason that the promotion of civil society, economic development, and sanctions have not led to political reform in the Arab world is that none of them addresses the real obstacles to change in the region: flawed institutions.

It depends, of course, on what countries he’s thinking of when he writes that, but that sounds a tad understated to me. Try these on for size: "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of flawed institutions!" “Give me unflawed institutions or give me death!” “Mr. Gorbachev: reform your flawed institutions!” My point is not ideological, just that sometimes a flaw is more than just a flaw.

Washington should therefore focus on coming up with ways to make it easier for democratic politics to emerge. Although this might be easier said than done, with some creative thinking, Washington can figure out how to use its massive financial, military, and diplomatic resources to drive institutional change. The best way to do so would be to move away from negative pressures and toward more positive, incentive-based policies. In the abstract, such policies involve getting others to do what you want by promising them something valuable in return.

I’m not trying to make Cook sound naive. The following sentence seems to be a tip off that what he is writing is something like fiction:

To be realistic, there are limits to what incentive-based policies can achieve...

The key phrase there is 'to be realistic.' I don't think I'm reading too much into that to conclude that being realistic was not otherwise what he was trying to do in this essay. He's brainstorming policy ideals, which is fine by me. But I think 'realistic' is what we need post 9/11. And we need it to run from paragraph one and never stop.

Wouldn't it seem to you, for instance, that if incentive-based policies are indeed the way forward, that this is because of Bush's willingness to lay the groundwork by first facing ugly military necessity, and that you therefore cannot separate one from the other? If Cook had started with that premise in mind he would not have had to interject a special dose of realism into the third to last paragraph.

...[but] the fact remains that incentives are a critical--and critically underused--tool for effecting reform and spurring democratization in the Arab world... If it is serious about finally spurring progress in the Middle East, the United States needs to focus more explicitly on political targets and embrace a more positive set of means. An incentive-based approach offers a more coherent, less intrusive, and ultimately more promising strategy toward the Arab world. As the attacks of September 11 showed, the old approach is broken. It's time for a fix.

Here’s my problem with all of that reasonable stuff: a nation is not a person. Military coercion and incentive-based approaches are neither mutually exclusive nor necessarily parts of a carrot-and-stick cosmic psych out.
Coercion as it has most recently been used in Afghanistan and Iraq is not a method for winning friends and influencing people; it is the necessary and morally imperative reaction to the horrors and the very real dangers of a poorly contained, worldwide fascist cancer.

And if the United States finds ways to offer incentives to Arab countries that are more successful than oil-for-food (i.e. something better than an orgy of blood-tainted graft) then I think we have to be clear about what this should mean. We would have to be sure that this would help build momentum for a people’s urge toward democratization rather than simply grease the palms of tyrants to get them to sign back on to that bloody pre-9/11 quid pro quo.

The notion of the U. S. deploying honey and vinegar in an effort to shepherd the world forward is, indeed, not realistic. Military action is sometimes the only responsible way for a the U. S. to respond to a crisis. Sometimes it will be morally necessary to pour huge sums of money and resources into a struggling country's economy, as has been needed after the Asian tsunami -- which seems to have helped the view of America in Indonesia, by the way. But using measures like these as conscious tools for manipulating the future of the Middle East -- as if we had that kind of power anyway -- strikes me as the stuff of Nixon and Kissinger. So I see even the most intelligent and well meaning arguments regarding the various permutations of carrot/stick/honey/vinegar as tempting the discourse backward rather than forward.

Posted by Jeremy Brown at April 5, 2005 07:36 AM
Comments

Caveats: I, too, am no Middle East expert and my experience with incentive systems involves their impact mostly on individuals (although I am familiar with the impact of incentives across large numbers of individuals).

In my experience neither the carrot nor the stick is effective in and of itself. It is in the combined usage that maximum effect is achieved. In international affairs these incentives must be backed up by something that escalates as the success or failure to achieve the desired results progresses.

Thus, desired behavoir allows for the reestablishment of diplomatic relations followed by enhanced trade status, maybe even grants, aid, and economic development. Undesired behavoir results in removal of diplomatic status, imposition of political and trade sanctions, followed by military intervention (there's nice euphemism).

I guess more simply put, the base level incentives are worthless unless there is a firmly held belief that answers the "or else what" question.

Isn't that the lesson from post 9/11 United States policy?

Posted by: too many steves at April 5, 2005 07:59 AM

“Of course, the ultimate punitive policy instrument is war, and, as its code name suggests, "Operation Iraqi Freedom" was, among other things, intended to bring democracy to Iraq and the greater Middle East. It is far from clear, however, that the war has contributed anything to the drive for democracy in places such as Amman, Cairo, Damascus, or Riyadh. The arrival of U.S. troops in Iraq may alter the behavior of some states on the country's borders, but this does not mean that the new Iraq will somehow act as a catalyst for political liberalization and democracy in the region. In fact, as security in Iraq continues to deteriorate, many Iraqis are starting to think fondly of the benefits--such as stability and order--that a strongman can provide. With Iraq's transformation into an ostensibly liberal pluralist state growing ever bloodier, democracy--imported at the tip of an m-16 rifle--is looking less and less appealing to many Arabs.”

What planet does this guy live on? Is he shooting up illegal drugs? The war in Iraq is already a success. We are merely handling the post-war era similar to that of Germany after WWII. Growing ever bloodier? Iraq’s troubles with terrorists are decreasing by the day. There was no way in hell to reform Iraq outside of a violent invasion. Sweet reason would have never persuaded Saddam Hussein to relinquish power. Afghanistan and Iraq are the first dominoes to fall. More will follow. We are already seeing other Arab countries taking a fresh look at democracy. This would have never occurred without the United States and its allies kicking the crap out of our enemies.

Posted by: David Thomson at April 5, 2005 09:08 AM

1. The federal government seems unable to properly spy on the nations that maintain the greatest threat to our security.

2. The federal government appears unable to figure out if Social Security is gonna break in 10 years or 10 decades, nor can they apparently find a reasonable solution to the problem.

3. The federal government seems unable balance the budget.

4. The federal government seems unable to capture an old man, hiding in a cave.

5. The federal government maintains a War on the use of Marijuana, even though all scientific studies done by the US government seem to have found conclusive evidence that it appears less harmful and addictive than tobacco or alcohol. The policies have increased taxes, increased jail population (again increasing taxes), increased the number of felons who are now unable to find decent employment (meaning they turn to crime or welfare... again with the Taxes) and of course, jacked the price of the drug up to 80x its actual value.

6. The federal government seems to have spent millions of dollars on the Terri Schaivo incident, even though it qould seem out of their jurisdiction and well outside the scope of intended federal involvement.

7. The federal government can't seem to pass a law without 10 riders that give our tax money to J Random Group who caught the ear of a senator.

And this is the group we're supposed to trust with democratizing the Middle East?

I saw a two headed goat once, so I guess its not out of the realm of possibility.

Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord

Posted by: Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord at April 5, 2005 09:17 AM

Suddenly, the Bush administration came to see democratization, which it had previously ranked below security and stability in its list of concerns for the Arab world, as the critical means by which to achieve these other goals.

It continues to amaze me that otherwise intelligent human beings profess belief in this obvious fallacy. The guy who orders systematic detention without trial -- and systematic torture of the detainees -- doesn't believe in democracy, much less democratization.

This puts aside the other naivete of the Cook article, which is so divorced from historical precedent as to constitute a sort of romantic fiction.

Posted by: Kimmitt at April 5, 2005 10:49 AM

It continues to amaze me that otherwise intelligent human beings profess belief in this obvious fallacy. The guy who orders systematic detention without trial -- and systematic torture of the detainees -- doesn't believe in democracy, much less democratization.

FDR ordered Japanese-Americans into internment camps therefore FDR did not believe in democracy. What? Bad logic.

I think the US is using lots of positive incentives in the Middle East - it's the order that's important - first the stick then the carrots. The US could have pulled out right away from Iraq and Afghanistan but didn't. The US is helping to rebuild those countries. As David T. says there was no positive incentive that could have been used to get Saddam out of power - he was right where he wanted to be. What postive incentive could there possibly be to get him to voluntarily give up his power and democratize? Nothing.

Posted by: markytom at April 5, 2005 11:14 AM

So I see even the most intelligent and well meaning arguments regarding the various permutations of carrot/stick/honey/vinegar as tempting the discourse backward rather than forward--- JB

No kidding.At best these 'refutations' of muscular engagement are 'intellectual'amusements ,and at worst merely another attempt to discredit the Bush agendas.
Some things are so fundamentally corrupted and corrupting that nothing less than creative destruction will have much of an impact upon them.The Middle East and Iraq in particular fall into that category.
On a related note,I see that the usual suspects with the usual arguments are still belabouring the usual subjects.And you know who you are --
cough Kimmett cough .I remember the opening scene from that great Peckinpah Western," "The Wild Bunch",where the anti-heroes ride into some decrepit border town past some kids tormenting scorpions they had trapped in a bottle.It was vastly amusing to them to watch the creatures try endlessly to sting themselves to death,for no other reason than because.
As history unfolds,it is IMO anyway becoming clearer that there are indeed two sides to the Iraq conflict and the same two sides on the greater problems of the ME.These are not my side and your side.They are the 'right'side,and the 'wrong' side.Perhaps history will rise up and deliver a good swift boot to neo-con backsides,but the trend lines as of now clearly point to GWB being on the 'right'side,and the oppositionists--- not so much.
And to be honest,I never really liked the scorpion scene all that much,truth be told.

Posted by: dougf at April 5, 2005 01:01 PM

FDR ordered Japanese-Americans into internment camps therefore FDR did not believe in democracy. What? Bad logic
**************************************************
LOL FDR was a Boyscout compared to Lincoln, now if you want to search American History for a Proto-Fascist Dictator, Abe's your man.

Suspended the Writ of Habeous Corpus by Executive Decree UnConstitionally, imprisoned thousands of citizens for WAR PROTESTING.

And they compare Bush to Hitler? ;-)

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at April 5, 2005 08:33 PM

TO quote Bill Wittle, "Not everybody likes carrots. Some people may hate your carrot. Your carrot may offend people who worship the rutabaga. But no one likes being poked in the eye with a stick. That’s universal."

http://www.ejectejecteject.com/archives/000108.html

Posted by: Cybrludite at April 6, 2005 06:35 AM

"getting others to do what you want by promising them something valuable in return.

i.e.: getting Arab states to shut down Madrasses and open up politically, while making it SAFE for those states to do these things by changing policies that feed the popularity of Islamist totalitarianism. That means, make it clear that if the Gaza pullout is a success (no terrorism, half-decent Palestinian governance), that Bush will put real pressure on Sharon to meet him and Abbas at Camp David, and pick up where things left off in July 2000.

Sorry to get back to the old saw, but it's key.

Posted by: markus rose at April 6, 2005 07:08 AM

.e.: getting Arab states to shut down Madrasses and open up politically, while making it SAFE for those states to do these things by changing policies that feed the popularity of Islamist totalitarianism.

Islamist totalitarianism is most active in the Sudan. That’s where they kill and enslave the most people per capita. Islamist totalitarianism is also powerful in Iran, and in Saudi Arabia. A Gaza pullout will have no effect on the strength of totalitarianism in those states. In fact, a Gaza pullout will make the terror-support efforts of those states, which have been waging war on Israel for decades, look successful. It will strengthen them.

Arab states don’t support Madrassas because of Israel’s actions. Arab states support Madrassas because they want to spread their religion and their philosophy around the world. Putting pressure on Sharon will not change that.

Arab/Islamist states are waging war against us, and they’re waging war against Israel, the people of Darfur, the Thais, the Russians, the Lebanese, etc. They’re waging war against us for the standard reasons – to gain power, influence and land.

We can either give them what they want (lose the war) or give them the standard incentive to stop – they’ll be destroyed if they don’t. That’s the way these things are always done, sooner or later.

Posted by: mary at April 6, 2005 10:08 AM

It's always hard for the philosophically entrenched to handle a paradigm change. Therefore, a perfectly intelligent person can see 660 data points (detainees at Gitmo) and ignore 12 million data points (voters in Iraq).

(Yeah, I'm expecting a response about all those imprisoned arbitrarily in Iraq -- a number that may run to the thousands -- to which I'd reply okay, but we're still talking at least 4 orders of magnitude here, dude. And the times in Iraq, they are a'changing, and I am hopeful for real rule of (secular) law there soon, which will be a first, I think, for a Mideast country not named Israel.)

Intelligent and well-meaning people look at all the data. Do I have problems with some of the things we've done? Sure. But I think I've got a good idea what's the baby and what's the bathwater here.

Posted by: Mark Poling at April 6, 2005 10:34 AM

I'm always uncomfortable by the instinctive acceptance of the idea that Israel is the root of all problems within predominantly Islamic cultures.

Whole lot of stereotypes inherent in that framework that need to die whimpering deaths, IMHO.

Posted by: Mark Poling at April 6, 2005 10:37 AM

Mark,

I think that people interpert data based on what they percieve as reality. For some people, a few million deaths at the hands of a psychopath is unsurprising. I am not shcoked or concerned that Saddam was a terrible man. I had been convienced for years that he was probably a terribly bad man. Saying that "we're not as bad as Saddam", seems, to me, like saying "We're not as bad as Hitler... so that makes everything OK."

TFor example, the Army has no intention of trying the 17 soliders implicated in the deaths of three prisoners in Afghanistan and in Iraq's Abu Ghraib. I'm more than willing that agree that Abu Ghraib was no Auschwitz, it wasn't even comparable to the horrific Abu Ghraib of Saddam's regieme. However, the current trend in American politics seems to be fast approaching "America - We're not as bad as the Bad Guys".

I don't think Bush = Hitler, I don't think the Illuminati control the US Government... well, I don't think that on most days. ;-)

However, I am concerned about the direction our government is, and has been headed for some time (even under Clinton). I think that many in the center are concerned about the same thing. In this day and age, however, its not popular to say anything about politics, unless we're waving a flag and naming our firstborn George ;-)

Ten years before the Civil War, no one expected a Civil War. Within 10 years the country had become so divided that war became the only option.

"Naturally, the common people don't want war, but they can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. Tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and endangering the country. It works the same in every country."

Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord

Posted by: Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord at April 6, 2005 11:30 AM

That means, make it clear that if the Gaza pullout is a success (no terrorism, half-decent Palestinian governance), that Bush will put real pressure on Sharon to meet him and Abbas at Camp David, and pick up where things left off in July 2000.

Here's an insteresting 2003 opinion piece from Arab-American Joseph Farah.

Here are some excerpts:

If you believe what you read in most news sources, Palestinians want a homeland and Muslims want control over sites they consider holy. Simple, right?

Wrong. In fact, these two demands are nothing more than strategic deceptions – propaganda ploys. They are nothing more than phony excuses and rationalizations for the terrorism and the murdering of Jews. The real goal of those making these demands is the destruction of the state of Israel.

The proof of the pudding is that prior to the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, there was no serious movement for a Palestinian homeland. Why?

In 1967, during the Six-Day War, the Israelis captured Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem. But they didn't capture these territories from Yasser Arafat. They captured them from Jordan's King Hussein. Why did the so-called Palestinians suddenly discover their national identity after Israel won the war. Why wasn't there a demand for a Palestinian homeland before?

The truth is that Palestine is no more real than Never-Never Land. The first time the name was used was after 70 A.D. when the Romans committed genocide against the Jews, smashed the Temple and declared the land of Israel would be no more. From then on, the Romans promised, it would be known as Palestine. The name was derived, we think, from the Philistines, a people conquered by the Jews centuries earlier.

.....

I could go on and on with this forgotten – or deliberately obscured – history. But you get the point. There was no Jewish conspiracy to chase Arabs out of their homes in 1948. It never happened. There are, instead, plenty of historical records showing the Jews pleading with their Arab neighbors to stay and live in peace and harmony. Yet, despite the clear, unambiguous words of the Arab observers at the time, history has been successfully rewritten to turn the Jews into the bad guys.

Posted by: markytom at April 6, 2005 12:09 PM

Ten years before the Civil War, no one expected a Civil War. Within 10 years the country had become so divided that war became the only option.

"Naturally, the common people don't want war, but they can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. Tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and endangering the country. It works the same in every country." [Hermann Goering]

Umm…what does quote from Goering have to do with the Civil War?

Actually, what are you trying to say with that quote, which is repeated ad nauseum on all the conspiracy sites?

Americans believe that they’re under attack because Saudi-sponsored Islamists slaughtered thousands of us in an unprovoked act of war. Israelis believe that they’re under attack because Islamists blow up their babies. Sudanese blacks believe that they’re under attack because the Islamist janjiweed come into their villages and hack their arms and legs off. The Thais believe that they’re under attack because Islamists kill Buddhist monks. The Russians..well, you get the idea.

No one has to tell the ‘common people’ about this, they already know. In fact, if we common people knew about this before Islamists started murdering millions, some deaths could have been prevented.

Posted by: mary at April 6, 2005 12:11 PM

markytom -- Joseph Farah is a psychotic nutball. Perhaps you are too.

http://conwebwatch.tripod.com/outthere/otfarah.html

Farah:

"The proof of the pudding is that prior to the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, there was no serious movement for a Palestinian homeland. Why?"

Probably for the same reason there was not much agitation for a Jordanian homeland in the early part of the twentieth century, or an Iraqi homeland. The entire concept of a nation state was foreign to the Arab world.

Also, because most Arabs didn't live in Gaza and the West Bank. Rather, they lived in the parts of Palestine that became the state of Israel in 1948.

"There was no Jewish conspiracy to chase Arabs out of their homes in 1948. It never happened. There are, instead, plenty of historical records showing the Jews pleading with their Arab neighbors to stay and live in peace and harmony."

If this is the case, then why not grant those same 1948 refugees and their descendents, whom according to you Israel pleaded to stay, the so-called 'right of return'?

Posted by: markus rose at April 6, 2005 12:51 PM

There you go, relying on empirical data again Mary. How dare you?

In all seriousness, 'Tosk, I agree with you; I can imagine a slippery slope, and I don't like it. If anything though, the "Bush=Hitler" crowd make a trip down the slope more likely by desensitizing people to the signs and portents.

To put it another way, good intentions with bad consequences are more likely to get a pass when critics attack the intentions (which reasonable people can perceive as good) instead of the consequences (which reasonable people may not worry about since the critics are clearly full of crap.)

Or, just think Chicken Little.

Posted by: Mark Poling at April 6, 2005 12:52 PM

Also in Mosul, a freelance cameraman for CBS News was accidentally shot in the hip as he stood near a suspected insurgent killed by U.S. soldiers. The journalist was expected to recover, and CBS and the military said the camera was mistaken for a weapon,---AP

I just realised that it had been a long while since I said something kind about my beloved MSM.So once more into the fray.
Stood near -- my goodness how convenient .Almost as convenient as when that scumbag terrorist sympathiser,oops I mean dedicated AP photo stringer,just happened to be at the scene when those Iraqi election workers were dragged from their car and butchered like animals in Baghdad.Do I smell another Pulitzer in progress?
..said the camera was mistaken for a weapon .---- Hmmm,let me see,MSM,camera,bias,agendas.I have to say that considering the MSM contempt for anything except its TRUTH,this is a mistake that any reasonable person might well make.If you don't want to be mistaken for a terrorist butcher,perhaps the best first step is not to hang around them as if they were your new best friends.

Posted by: dougf at April 6, 2005 01:19 PM

The Formula is actually quite simple -

Any aid or trade with a dictator is conditioned on the free access of NGO's armed with a printing press,radio transmitter and internet connection.

The US pledges in no uncertain terms that mass murder/genocide will be dealt with swiftly and violently.

Simmer for 5 or 10 years...Ukraine style revolution.

Posted by: Soldier's Dad at April 6, 2005 02:13 PM

If this is the case, then why not grant those same 1948 refugees and their descendents, whom according to you Israel pleaded to stay, the so-called 'right of return'?

Why didn't any of the Arab states just absorb the refugees? Why did the Arab states force them to remain in refugee camps and in poverty? Maybe it was to use them as a political tool.

There have been much larger movements of refugees in history where countries have absorbed the refugees instead of keeping them in camps.

From http://zionsake.tripod.com/pal-flee.html

In Europe: Millions of Germans moved in various directions following the post-war changes in the map of Europe. According to official West German statistics, by September 1950 three million Germans had been expelled from the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, and of these 2,069,000 were absorbed in West Germany or Austria and 916,000 in East Germany. Between 1949 and the erection of the Berlin Wall in August 1961 an additional 2,739,000 refugees from East Germany were registered in West German absorption centers. In all, over 3.5 million people fled East Germany, and another 6.75 million Germans left their homes in areas annexed by Poland, moved west, and were absorbed there.

In Africa: According to official estimates, the number of French and pro-French Arabs who left North Africa for France and other locations following Algerian independence reached over one million.

Refugee migration in considerable numbers also took place in China - Hong-Kong, Korea, Vietnam - Laos - Cambodia, Nigeria (lbo), Greece - Turkey, and many other countries. In all of these instances - as in the situation of the Jews from Arab countries previously described - solutions were found by absorption of the refugees into their new countries. They virtually ceased, after a time, to be considered refugees. Only the rulers of the Arab countries acted otherwise in relation to their fellow Arabs, despite the fact that most of them were victims of the clear, open, and declared invasion of the Arab armies in May 1948.

After 1967 Israel was given the opportunity to help rehabilitate the Arab refugees living in those territories which came under Israeli rule following the Six Day War. With the initiative, encouragement, and partial financing of the Israeli government, thousands of families in the Gaza Strip and a smaller number in Judea and Samaria were moved from squalid refugee camps to new housing where they received all vital services.

Posted by: markytom at April 6, 2005 02:46 PM

markytom -- Your initial claim was that Israel wanted native Arabs to stay in Israel after independence. When I challenged that assertion by asking, if that was truly the case, why Israel did not welcome those same Arab natives back immediately after the war, YOU DID NOT ANSWER ME, preferring to pose questions of your own.

The rest of your diatribe sounds like the same old Joan Peters "land without a people" bullshit that has been thorougly discredited, not the least by Israeli historians like Benny Morris.

Israel got its land the old fashioned way: by conquering a weaker people. Not all that unusual or terrible in the great history of man. Just admit it, and don't expect Arabs to be tickled pink with that outcome.

"With the initiative, encouragement, and partial financing of the Israeli government, thousands of families in the Gaza Strip and a smaller number in Judea and Samaria were moved from squalid refugee camps to new housing where they received all vital services."

Oh, how gloriously generous! And what about the MILLIONS of others, living under Israeli occupation in the "disputed" territories.

Posted by: markus rose at April 6, 2005 03:06 PM

Markus - I didn't claim anything, I linked to an opinion piece from Farah. Yeah - he hates Communists and doesn't like the Leftist Hollywood types but I don't know if that makes him a psychotic nutjob. Regardless of his opinions about Communists/Leftists he may have some valid points about Israel and the Palestinians.

If this is the case, then why not grant those same 1948 refugees and their descendents, whom according to you Israel pleaded to stay, the so-called 'right of return'?

The British and UN created Israel, the Arabs fought Israel and lost, which also caused the Palestinian state to never come about. I'm not sure why the Israelis didn't let the Palestinians back after the war - I'm certainly not a Middle East expert. Maybe it was because of the war itself or maybe because all the Arab states voted against UN Resolutions 181 and 194 because they didn't want to recognize Israel, I don't know. Today, from what I understand the Israelis (Israel's pop is only 6 mil) won't allow all 4 million or more Palestinian refugees (for sure, many were forced out in 1948) to return because the governments felt that it would be a demographic nightmare and cause Israel to lose their majority in their Jewish state. Does Israel destroy itself to accomodate all the refugees? No country would do that. So what's the answer? I don't know, but the simplistic "let all the Palestinians return to Israel" is a solution that will NEVER happen, so something else needs to be done. (If the Arabs had figured out how to defeat Israel in a war, and they had several tries at it, then there wouldn't be an issue with Palestinian refugees today.)

I have an issue with treating Israel as the only "bad guy" in this unfortunate issue with the Palestinians. The Arab countries haven't done the Palestinians any favors. If the Arab countries surrounding Israel really gave a shit about the Palestinian refugees, then why don't they try to do something to help them instead of treating them as second-class citizens (at best) and continue oppressing them for political reasons. If the leaders of the Arab countries really cared about the Palestinians as people, then they would go ahead and allow the Palestinians to be absorbed in those countries instead of keeping the Palestinians in refugee camps for decades with no end in site. Also, many Palestinians and their descendents don't want to return, they would rather become citizens of the countries where they live now. Here is an AP article on how Arab countries treat Palestinians. The Palestinians are screwed - Israel won't ever take them all back and apparently Arab countries will never absorb them into their countries for political reasons (Jordan did absorb some to a certain extent). And Iran, Syria, etc. won't be satisfied until Israel ceases to exist. It's sad. I don't know how it will be resolved. Maybe with democratization of the Middle East some of the changed Arab countries will absorb the Palestinians and treat them as equals. Maybe that's the best solution that is viable. What do you think Markus?

Posted by: markytom at April 6, 2005 07:14 PM

Markus:

"Israel got its land the old fashioned way: by conquering a weaker people."

This is simply a lie. As markytom states in more detail, the land was split by the UN in 1948, Israel accepted the split while the Arabs rejected it and invaded Israel but lost the war. The Arabs tried again in 1967 but lost the war again. Note that during the 1967 war Israel secretly begged Jordan's King Hussein not to join the war but he did so anyway, fearing assassination. Only after Jordan's attack did Israel fight back and occupy the West Bank (whence the attack came). In short, all the land occupied by Israel beyond the 1948 boundaries is the result of wars started by Arabs.

Posted by: at April 6, 2005 10:37 PM

Sorry, I forgot to put my name on the last post regarding the Arabs' starting the 1948 and 1967 wars.

- Gary Rosen

Posted by: Gary Rosen at April 6, 2005 10:39 PM

“Markus:

"Israel got its land the old fashioned way: by conquering a weaker people."

This is simply a lie.”

Just remember one important thing: Markus Rose represents the typical attitude of those left wing Democrats who possess the veto power over their party’s presidential nominee. There is nothing unusual about him. They are also the same people trying to prevent John Bolton from becoming our next ambassador to the United Nations. Today’s “mainstream” Democrats are essentially anti-Israel. And yes, that does include many Jewish Americans.

Posted by: David Thomson at April 7, 2005 02:36 AM

To Squirrel: and if not, then who?

Posted by: jward at April 7, 2005 06:14 AM

Gary Rosen -
It is true that the war of Independence was legitimate and defensive. This doesn't diminish my point that Israel got its land by conquering a weaker people. In 1946, Jews owned 8% of the land. In 1947, they accepted a partition plan giving them 55% of the territory. By 1949, they controlled 78% of the land.

My question remains unanswered, if Israel indeed accepted the partition plan, why weren't Arab refugees, promised citizenship under that plan in the new Jewish state, allowed to return to their homes in the new state? Particularly those that owned property or that were forcibly removed during the War of Independence?

If you're not going to answer, I will: because though the partition plan was extremely generous to a people that owned just 8% of the land, it was inherently unviable in the LONG-TERM for the Jewish state, simply because the "land with no people" all of a sudden had a hell of a lot of Arabs in it. The Jews were smart enough to recognize this, and they weren't about to throw away their good fortune, even if it meant poisoned relations with their neighbors for the next century.

I have no problem with the concept of a nation incorporating land and peoples it has conquered in war, as long as it is willing to give full political rights to those that it conquers. And Israel did this for the most part for the Arabs that remained in the nation after the 1948. It did NOT extend these rights to those in the territory it gained after 1967, which is why anything more than a military occupation of these lands is illigitimate.

David Thomsen -- My views on Israel/Palestine are an extreme minority within the Democratic Party.

Posted by: markus rose at April 7, 2005 08:46 AM

markytom --
"Maybe with democratization of the Middle East some of the changed Arab countries will absorb the Palestinians and treat them as equals. Maybe that's the best solution that is viable. What do you think Markus?"

I agree that this is an important part of the solution. Because whatever tiny Palestinian state is finally created is going to have one of the highest population densities in the world. The other Arab nations need to help out. Although the ones that have no oil are quite impoverished. They live in the desert for God sake. Hard to grow stuff there.

The real long-term hope is a diminution of the importance of national identity by all semitic peoples -- arab, kurd and jew.

Posted by: markus rose at April 7, 2005 09:38 AM

Markus: "The other Arab nations need to help out. Although the ones that have no oil are quite impoverished. They live in the desert for God sake."

Hmmm...I didn't realize that Israel had oil. So that explains its prosperity relative to other countries in the region.

Markus- the Arab countries failure to help the Palestinians has nothing to do with lack of economic prosperity. The Palestinians are simply a useful tool in fighting the jihad against Israel. And the lack of Arab prosperity has little to do with the desert - otherwise how do you explain Israel's success? No - Arab poverty stems from the same source that causes the Arabs to sacrifice the Palestinians for the cause of jihad - namely Islam. I've posted this link before but since its relevant...

Islamic economics 101

Posted by: Caroline at April 7, 2005 02:57 PM

caroline --
israel's success has to do with the intelligence and resourcefulness of its people, particularly the Ashkanazi elite (Ashkanazi Jews have the highest average IQ of any ethnic group worldwide), its open political and economic system (for Jews, and, as second class citizens, Israeli Arabs), its favorable location on the Mediteranean coast, and the large amount of aid it receives from the United States and individual Jews worldwide.

Jordan and Syria, in contrast, are landlocked, oil-less, and burdened by huge birth rates and vast numbers of undereducated people, spread over barren lands.

Your hatred of Islam and Islamic people blinds you to the fact that quite a few of those Palestinians and other arabs engaging in "jihad" against Israel were actually Christian. And today, you should find it odd that Palestinian Christians like Mitri Raheb choose to reserve their animus for Israel, not the Muslims.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/search-handle-url/index=books&field-author=Mitri%20Raheb/002-6318544-8589664

Posted by: markus rose at April 7, 2005 03:45 PM

You refer to Israel's "open political and economic system" in contrast to "huge birth rates and vast numbers of undereducated people" in Jordan and Syria. Maybe the lack of "open political and economic systems" in the latter has something to do with their "vast numbers of uneducated people". But you would apparently rather attribute the difference in prosperity to the genetic superiority of Ashkanazi Jews than to the possibly deleterious effects of an ideology that has no genetic basis but that grinds cultures that embrace it into the dirt. So who is the racist here? And with regards to outside contributions to Israel - I would guess that oil revenues in Arab countries (Israel doesn't have oil does it?) easily outweigh those donations. So what advantage does Israel have left? - that favorable position on the coast?

"Your hatred of Islam and Islamic people"

Hatred of Islam - yes. Hatred of Islamic people - no. Too bad you can't see the difference.

Posted by: Caroline at April 7, 2005 06:08 PM

Caroline - But you would apparently rather attribute the difference in prosperity to the genetic superiority of Ashkanazi Jews than to the possibly deleterious effects of an ideology that has no genetic basis but that grinds cultures that embrace it into the dirt.

This is what concerns me most about Iraq. A democracy is great, but its an effective, open, free, capitalistic market that is the needed engine to keep the democracy healthy. Oil in the Middle East will last only so long. And if you believe in the peak oil theory (www.peakoil.net) the world has or will very soon reach the peak of oil production and then it's bad news for oil countries in the Middle East. The Saudi's have a saying, "My grandfather rode a camel, my father rode a car, I fly a plane, and my son will ride a camel." Without a capitalistic system to grow wealth everything will stagnate, degrade and fall apart - democracy or not. I don't know if Iraq can implement a strong capitalistic economy that can survive the end of their oil reserves. Is capitalism and Islam really compatible? It will be interesting to see if and how the new Iraqi government protects property rights and implements a strong capitalistic economy.

Posted by: markytom at April 7, 2005 09:07 PM

caroline -- that was a laundry list I made -- genetics was one component. open political and economic systems was another. (Actually, Israel has had quite a bit of socialism in the mix for its entire history. This, too, should be added to the list. Strange that this is seldom acknowledged by its conservative suppporters.)

Re: Islam. are you saying there is something about islam that prevents it from being a dynamic religion, or prevents its practitioners from evolving?

Or of it playing a smaller part in the lives of its adherents?

I'd urge you to look at NO GOD BUT GOD, the Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, by Reza Aslan, who has a much more optimistic view of Islam and the ability to its followers to adapt to the modern world than you do. Then maybe split the difference between that author's perspective, and your current one. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A32729-2005Apr6.html

Posted by: markus rose at April 8, 2005 09:17 AM

and ignore 12 million data points (voters in Iraq)

Many people (like me) believe that the voting in Iraq was fairly cynically managed; we believe that the US has enough power in the area that it doesn't matter who gets elected -- he or she will toe the US line. Don't get me wrong; I'd rather live in an authoritarian client state of the US than under Saddam. But leopards, spots, etc.

Posted by: Kimmitt at April 8, 2005 12:50 PM

Markytom - believe me - I share your concerns. But clearly every other form of tyranny has been tried so "democracy" is perhaps the last hope. And I literally mean - the last hope! It's an odd thought but I kind of get the feeling that the Iraqis understand on some level what may be coming down the road in terms of a "clash of civilizations" and that if they don't make a genuine go at this - the game's up. Really - what else is left to try? We could pull all our troops out tomorrow in disgust and leave them to the madmen. Our resources aren't endless and I'm sure they've seen quite clearly that neither is our patience to see this "experiment" through to the end. Hell - look at the struggle in the face of world opinion/media it's taken to get this far! Obviously this is the LAST CHANCE. Good name for a saloon in Baghdad! Maybe they grasp this on some level and that accounts for the extremely hard work they are doing politically to bring all factions to the table.

Kimmitt: "I'd rather live in an authoritarian client state of the US than under Saddam."

Me too. But life is brutal and I really do think Americans are pretty decent people compared to most of the alternatives. So I think it's fair from a relative POV to say - well - OK - we're quite flawed but I'd wish us on anyone.

Posted by: Caroline at April 8, 2005 02:24 PM

But life is brutal and I really do think Americans are pretty decent people compared to most of the alternatives.

Hey, as long as you're honest that we're taking up the White Man's Burden, we're having a useful conversation, in my opinion.

Posted by: Kimmitt at April 8, 2005 02:29 PM

Markus: "Re: Islam. are you saying there is something about islam that prevents it from being a dynamic religion, or prevents its practitioners from evolving? Or of it playing a smaller part in the lives of its adherents?"

Markus, yes that is what I am surmising but obviously all I can really say is that the jury is still out. I am skeptical (and isn't skepticism something that has stood the West in good stand for many centuries?). Actually I am beyond skepticism. I am prudently wary. VERY prudently wary even.

Posted by: Caroline at April 8, 2005 02:38 PM

Oh Jeez Kimmitt - you've hit on my weakest spot - poetry! I speak plain English so please put it in plain English for me so I can see if we're speaking a common language. What is the "white man's burden"? (hey - I never made any claims to be educated in the finer human arts. Call me a simple American redneck if you will :-)).

Posted by: Caroline at April 8, 2005 02:54 PM

Caroline - Here is a link that helps describe what Kipling was talking about. He wrote the poem in 1899 and was a big proponent of imperialism - he thought that the British empire was a good thing for the civilizations that the Brits took over.

I think what Bush did in Afghanistan and Iraq can't be considered imperialism though - it's more in line with the Marshall Plan after WWII. Intervene militarily, establish democracy, rebuild, and get out (but it did take years). Sistani seems quite sharp and politically astute to me, and has several times stood up against the US (e.g., forcing national elections) - he doesn't seem to kowtow to Bush's Administration today, why would he in the future? Voluntary cooperation isn't the same thing as "toeing the line" out of fear. He's certainly a strong leader which is absolutely needed in the beginning of Iraq's democracy for it to be a success. I agree with Friedman (link here to his column) that the US couldn't have lucked out better than to have Sistani in charge in Iraq.

Posted by: markytom at April 8, 2005 06:40 PM

establish democracy, rebuild, and get out

And that's my point. We aren't engaged in a Marshall Plan, and Caroline's admission of such makes this conversation much more . . . reality-based.

Of course, if Sistani says "go," and we do, then I'm completely wrong. So we have a test of my theory. What's your test? What would have to happen for you to decide, "You know, maybe those lefties have a point, and this was more of a cynical geopolitical ploy and less of a Great Blow for Freedom"?

Posted by: Kimmitt at April 8, 2005 11:39 PM

Of course, if Sistani says "go," and we do, then I'm completely wrong.--Kimmett

And then what? Will you simply go on to another facet of your 'world-view' and be completely wrong about that as well ? Or might you just 'pack it in' in a fit of pique and existential angst ?
Truly,I feel that 'better living through chemistry'might be a better solution to the contradictions and delusions of your 'world-view' than further discourse,but Caroline is a glutton for punishment. :-)

Posted by: dougf at April 9, 2005 07:57 AM

Markytom - thanks for the links! If I were putting a kid through college these days there's no way in hell I would pay for a liberal arts education - I'd send the kid to the internet!

Kimmitt: "We aren't engaged in a Marshall Plan, and Caroline's admission of such makes this conversation much more . . . reality-based."

All I did was respond to your comment :"I'd rather live in an authoritarian client state of the US than under Saddam" by saying "Me too. But life is brutal and I really do think Americans are pretty decent people compared to most of the alternatives".

I'm sorry you took that as endorsement of the notion that Iraq today IS an authoritarian client state of the U.S. when what I meant to convey is that IF it were I'd still rather live there than under Saddam. (so much for casual blogging, especially on a Friday night after a couple of beers).

I may be a "glutton for punishment" as Dougf puts it but on what basis do you call Iraq a client state of the US and on what grounds do you think the elections were cynically manipulated?

And all that aside - what I find so amusing about your concerns for the poor Iraqis (even after admitting that even the nasty US is better than Saddam) and your reference to the "white man's burden" is the simple fact that the entire west has been infiltrated by (how many is it?) millions of Muslims, many of whom openly acknowledge their intention to conquer us demographically (if not through terror that breaks our economies) in order to convert the west to Islam. Islam is arguably the greatest imperialistic force in history. Call it the "Brown Man's Burden". And there's a good chance that given western guilt over the White Man's burden and an apparent corresponding absence of guilt on the part of those assuming the Brown Man's Burden, that the latter shall triumph in the end. And white men are dying off anyway (demographically). So take heart Kimmitt and enjoy your guilt while you can because it sort of stands to reason that guilt is not conducive to survival from a sociobiological POV.

Posted by: Caroline at April 9, 2005 10:13 AM

But life is brutal and I really do think Americans are pretty decent people compared to most of the alternatives.

Kimmit, my guess is she was talking about the French.

Posted by: Mark Poling at April 9, 2005 12:02 PM

Kimmit:

Of course, if Sistani says "go," and we do, then I'm completely wrong. So we have a test of my theory. What's your test?

Oddly enough, there is an extremely simple test: what is the net flow of refugees or otherwise displaced persons? If more people leave Iraq than come back, I'd say we've screwed up. If more people end up without homes than get homes in Iraq, we've screwed up. If the opposite things occur, we've been successful.

My test can be refined by compensating for restrictions on movement. (For instance, back in the bad old days of the Iron Curtain, there wasn't a lot of flow out of the Soviet Block, but that was because people who tried it were often shot.) And of course trends can be noted, so success or failure doesn't have to be treated as binary qalities.

The great thing about this test is that it doesn't require an anti-US outcome to be considered valid, as does yours. (Your test has the same flaw as the old witch test, where the witch was submerged for an hour. If she survived, she was a witch and was subsequently burned. If she didn't, well, at least everyone was sure she wasn't a witch. In your case, the United States is the witch, and is screwed regardless.)

Posted by: Mark Poling at April 9, 2005 12:18 PM

Mark Poling: "Kimmit, my guess is she was talking about the French"

Actually the Spanish come to mind and I've seen some accounts that attribute the brutality of the conquistadors to lessons learned from their own Muslim conquerors. How ironic.

Posted by: Caroline at April 9, 2005 12:56 PM

I've seen some accounts that attribute the brutality of the conquistadors to lessons learned from their own Muslim conquerors.

Yeah, well, I heard tell El Cid was a giant chicken!

If more people leave Iraq than come back, I'd say we've screwed up.

That's a fun idea*, but where would they go? Is there any bordering country which will accept Iraqi immigrants and/or refugees? I'm thinking Turkey, maybe. And even if so, who wants to live in, say, Syria? Is our metric now, "If Iraq ends up marginally better than Syria, the whole thing was a good idea"?

*No, seriously, it's an interesting idea. I just don't think it works well in this particular case.

Posted by: Kimmitt at April 9, 2005 01:02 PM

"And even if so, who wants to live in, say, Syria?"

Well Kimmitt - I reckon it's the same folks who wanted to live in Saddam's Iraq. They're probably running towards the Syrian border as we speak.

Anyway Kimmitt - What's your "metric" of success?

Posted by: Caroline at April 9, 2005 01:20 PM

Of course, if Sistani says "go," and we do, then I'm completely wrong. So we have a test of my theory. What's your test? What would have to happen for you to decide, "You know, maybe those lefties have a point, and this was more of a cynical geopolitical ploy and less of a Great Blow for Freedom"?

Firstly, Iraq and Afghanistan are already both a "Great Blow for Freedom" - the Iraqis are no longer under the tyranical regime of Saddam, the Afghani's no longer under Taliban rule - and both countries elected their leaders in a democracy. And because of it the entire region is moving towards more democratization and freedom (read Totten's posts at Spirit of America for details). That in itself is a tremendous success. Why is it that you feel that if something is good for Iraq then it must be bad for America, or if something is good for America then it must be bad for Iraq? Why do you think they are mutually exclusive? It was a win-win. Afghanistan, Iraq, and the US are all better off. Is the US interested in stability in the region, reducing threats, protecting the oil supply, etc.? Of course. Your thinking is that the US could only have one goal - either bringing freedom or securing her interests. It turns out that Bush and the US had multiple goals - both freedom for the people there AND securing other interests, and all those goals were achieved.

Secondly, Sistani isn't a dummy - he isn't going to tell the US to leave anytime soon. He is gaining security, aid in starting a democracy, hundreds of billions of dollars in aid to rebuild, and connections with western companies and investment sources. It is in his, and the Iraqi's interest to keep the Americans there for quite a while. Your test (Sistani telling the US to go and they do) will not happen, at least not for many years. As I've posted before democracy is only half the equation for success - Iraq needs a capitalistic, free market and growing economy as well (one that isn't based solely on oil). Who better to help them create that then the US? Sistani isn't going to pass up this opportunity. And last I checked the US still had the biggest economy in the world. I guess that's my test - if the Iraqis can build a long-lasting, growing economy, free market, and keep their democracy going then they will have succeeded. And since the Leftists hate capitalism I guess that my test will be viewed with much cynicism from them.

Posted by: markytom at April 9, 2005 03:49 PM

if the Iraqis can build a long-lasting, growing economy, free market, and keep their democracy going then they will have succeeded

What's the timeline?

since the Leftists hate capitalism I guess that my test will be viewed with much cynicism from them.

Nah, it's the fact that you can always claim that your test hasn't been met yet but will someday that causes the cynicism.

Anyway Kimmitt - What's your "metric" of success?

When an American can walk down the streets of Baghdad in broad daylight alone, unafraid of being kidnapped and murdered by insurgents or government forces, and pick up a locally produced newspaper in which the Iraqi government is being vociferously criticized -- again -- for its failure to provide some obscure government services, the Iraq War will have been a success, possibly worth the enormous cost (and missed opportunities elsewhere) and possibly not.

Posted by: Kimmitt at April 10, 2005 05:16 PM

if the Iraqis can build a long-lasting, growing economy, free market, and keep their democracy going then they will have succeeded

What's the timeline?

10 years - creating a free market from scratch is very difficult and takes a long, long time.

When an American can walk down the streets of Baghdad in broad daylight alone, unafraid of being kidnapped and murdered by insurgents or government forces

Wow, that's a tough test. I don't know of any large city where there aren't parts that are dangerous to walk alone without one being in fear of being murdered by thugs. And if just one American is afraid (or murdered) walking alone in Badgad then your test fails and you are "right." Silly.

since the Leftists hate capitalism I guess that my test will be viewed with much cynicism from them.

Nah, it's the fact that you can always claim that your test hasn't been met yet but will someday that causes the cynicism.

Goes both ways I guess. Since your test has no way of ever succeeding it is meaningless.

Posted by: markytom at April 10, 2005 08:09 PM

10 years - creating a free market from scratch is very difficult and takes a long, long time.

April of 2012 it is.

I don't know of any large city where there aren't parts that are dangerous to walk alone without one being in fear of being murdered by thugs.

Fine -- replace "streets" with "a street not in the Green Zone." Any street. I'm not picky. And, again, broad daylight.

Since your test has no way of ever succeeding

Yeah, that's kind of my point.

Posted by: Kimmitt at April 11, 2005 06:38 PM

Since your test has no way of ever succeeding

"Yeah, that's kind of my point." -- kimmit

In another thread I railed against labels, but I have to say that several apply to people who can't be wrong, and none of them are flattering. Think about it.

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