Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hillary's "Reasonable Request": Abandon Islamism, Be Moderate, Make Peace

By Barry Rubin

Really, it’s baffling. The Obama administration sounds like King Canute, the legendary British king who ordered the sea to stop making waves.

Here’s the United States promising everyone a “two-state” solution, by now the words have become so pseudo-magical I’m going to call it the TSS—with no serious consideration of the impediments.

At the same time, it’s so American. They simply believe that all difficulties must fall before their application of willpower, creativity, and resources. It’s the same spirit that led George W. Bush to invade Iraq and inspired the Vietnam War. They're also going to throw money into Afghanistan and Pakistan supposedly to make them modern, moderate, and stable, precisely the kind of "nation-building" exercise for which they ridiculed Bush. Nothing can stop them because they’re ready for a solution even if the problem isn’t.

Yet, excepting the large-scale consumption of manic-inducing drugs, there is no sensible motive for the administration’s over-bidding on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Why make huge claims today when in a few months you are going to look like a complete fool as a result.

Do they think the Arabs are going to be dazzled by some words and trinkets? They’ve been dealing with these issues for decades, seen presidents come and go. American claims of instant solutions makes them more bemused than impressed.

There is, too, a basic principle of diplomacy that you don’t make yourself look ridiculous.

This administration is heading toward a big zero, a non-payoff, zero-yield policy. Ask yourself: Do you think the conflict is going to be resolved one year from today? Or, how about this one, do you think the conflict is going to be considerably more resolved one year from today than now?

And if not, then why should the administration pour so much prestige and promise that it will be?

President Bill Clinton, to his credit, worked very hard on the issue for eight years and yet never behaved like this. When, however, one listens to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—note the similarity of last names here--giving an interview to al-Jazira television it inspires derisive laughter.

Asked about how she’s going to have a TSS with Hamas running the Gaza Strip, she sounds like King Canute:

“I believe that Hamas has to comply with not only the Quartet principles but the underlying principles of the Arab Peace Initiative.”

No, not at all. It never accepted those principles or made any such commitment and has no interest in doing so. This kind of commandism by those who supposedly have abandoned arrogance and are ready to “listen” to everyone is laughable.

These people are serious, get it? They really believe that they are guided by Allah to destroy Israel and transform the Middle East. They aren’t joking or using tough rhetoric just to negotiate a better deal. Like al-Qaida, the Taliban, Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Fatah or if you wish like Lenin, Stalin or Hitler, Idi Amin or Pol Pot or Fidel Castro they mean it.

Is this really so hard to understand? Or to paraphrase a famous slogan from her husband’s campaign, well I can’t decide. Either: It’s the ideology, stupid, or, It’s the world view, stupid.

“You cannot expect either Fatah or the Israelis or Arabs who wish to see this matter resolved, with a two-state solution,” she says, “to work with a group that does not believe in the outcome of these efforts.”

Actually, Fatah is quite willing to work with them. It’s not concerned about the TSS. The Fatah people just want to make sure that they’re the ones in command.

Yet, ok, if these parties don’t work with Hamas how are they going to reach a comprehensive solution without Gaza? I know! They have to overthrow Hamas’s rule and destroy the group, along with its Iranian and Syrian sponsors. I don’t think that is on the Obama administration agenda.

But this statement—coming from Bill Clinton’s wife of all people—is equivalent to believing the world is flat:

“And in any peace negotiation that I’m aware of anywhere in the world, groups that are resistance groups, insurgent groups, guerrilla groups, when they come to the peace table have to commit to peace. And we would expect Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist, to renounce violence as the way to the achievement of a homeland for the Palestinian people, and to recognize the prior agreements that have been entered into by the Palestinians either through the PLO or the PA.”

But who says Hamas wants to engage in peace negotiations? Remember Yasir Arafat and how he was going to inevitably incline toward peace? He renounced violence yet just kept doing it any way. Bill spent eight years on that one. As for expectations, plenty of people expect to live forever, become incredibly wealthy, and win American Idol.

(By the way, notice how she gropes for a word that won’t offend her audience, trying out three different definitions for Hamas. Presumably, genocidal terrorist and radical Islamist didn't come to mind.)

At any rate, diplomacy isn’t built on expectations that an opponent who views you as satanic and wants to wipe you out is going to meet your expectations.

It really comes down to saying: They just have to! Or else?

Or else, what? Since you have no credible threat why should they do anything you want? What are you going to do, apologize them to death?

But it’s this last line of Hillary Clinton that really gets to me:

“I think that’s an incredibly reasonable request.”

Who says Hamas is reasonable? Is it an incredibly reasonable request for people who think suicide bombing is a great strategy and that Jews are a cancerous growth which must be eradicated? Is it incredibly reasonable for people who think the caliphate should be restored and all non-Muslims accept subordinate status and pay a special tax. Is it reasonable for people who think all women should be heavily veiled and shouldn’t do things like be secretary of state.

In short, they don’t share your vision. They think doing what you want would destroy their whole reason for existence, betray their supreme being, and dishonor their people. Besides, they think they’re winning.

What makes all this really bizarre is that it isn’t necessary. The Obama administration could take precisely the same line by saying that it wants to work with all the “good guys”—most Arab states and the Palestinian Authority—to get TSS by defeating the “bad guy” extremists who are blocking it. Yet they are so afraid of leaving anyone out that they leave out any chance for progress, slim as it may be.

By this point al-Jazira’s listeners can only reach only two conclusions: Either America’s leaders are the dumbest they’ve ever encountered on these issues or they’re extremely devious people engaged in a complex conspiracy to seize control of the whole region.

Because how could anyone possibly believe this stuff?

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