Bird that Sings

December 31, 2007

Weighing the Field

Filed under: Politics — admin @ 9:51 pm


Dennis Kucinich is a lightweight—at most, maybe not even a featherweight. This does not necessarily reflect his worth as a human being. The best fighter of all time, Sugar Ray Robinson started out as a lightweight and arguably the second best fighter of all time, Benny Leonard, was undefeated as a lightweight before moving up in weight class after a seven year lay off.

But Dennis ain’t them. After watching Kucinich in the Howard University Democratic debate last month, my teenage son and I both concurred that if Kucinich would take some steroids, hit the weights and build himself up to at least a welterweight, he might have a chance.

“You’d fear Kucinich then,”my son said. “He’d be a beast.”

This is not superfluous. Fear is a tool Kucinich would need to run the Huey Long type, dignity of the common man campaign he clearly envisions. Rather than talking, absurdly, about “texting Peace,” Kucinich would need to talk about empowering unions and rebuilding a mixed economy that doesn’t only work for big corporations. He would need to make himself a lightening rod for attacks from the corporate and right wing media, to become a credible attack dog for the working class and draw the class lines in America so indelibly that the rich and the powerful would hate him, and yes, fear him. For the present, the rich and powerful don’t fear Dennis so much as sneer at him.

Ironically the one female candidate and current front runner in the Democratic field, Hillary Clinton, does not have this problem. We fear Hillary.

The great fight trainer, Angelo Dundee, famously said that “anyone over two hundred pounds can hurt you, even a dame,” but of course it’s not Hillary’s size that scares us, though that eight hundred pound gorilla on her back does have to be reckoned with. What scares us about Hillary is that cold blooded look in her eye. As the Scottish singer/songwriter Angus McKie once bitterly said of his girlfriend, “butter wouldn’t melt on her lips.”

Programmatically speaking, it also must be said that it seems a little late in the ontological game for Hillary’s mix of liberal bromides sprinkled over a main course of elite flavored Rubinomics.

It’s a good sound bite when Hillary describes new climate change technologies that not only address climate change, but also create new jobs as “a potential win-win for America.” But with Hillary, there’s always the uncomfortable feeling that her policy proposals are all good sound bites and not much else. We’ll never hear Hillary say, for example, that fighting climate change—and impending ecological disaster—will require major sacrifice from all of us, not to mention a radical shake-up of corporate America.

For Hillary, sacrifice and social transformation are definitely off the table.
What we will get from her is more of the reasonable, Republican lite, neo-liberal formula her husband lucked onto in the 1990’s.

For Hillary, Bill’s always going to be a burden. However Hillary’s biggest problem is that even if she were right on the issues—and she’s not—she’s also not electable. People might fear and even admire Hillary, but fairly or unfairly, they don’t like her. And given a choice, they’re not going to vote for her.

That leaves the rest of the field.
Forget Dodd, a reliable liberal, but “a suit.” He comes across as generic. Biden can be ludicrous while at the same time taking himself too seriously, a fatal combination. Gravel has style—my son especially likes those khaki pants he wore to the Howard debate—but he’s a big old wild swinger, like George Foreman in his last comeback. His stance on the war is winning, he needs to work on his universal sales tax proposal so he doesn’t sound like an idiot.

Bill Richardson is all right but there is the sense that he’s got a little bit of Mitt in him. That is: Richardson might say anything, and in fairness, that’s also as opposed to Mitt Romney, who will absolutely say anything that any audience wants to hear. Like some Mormon Zelig, Mitt’s got a mania. The scary part is I think the Republicans are going to nominate him. As for Richardson, he’s got the resume and—at Howard at least—a helluva tan. Like everyone else, I figure him for the Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee. Whether Richardson wants the job or not, it’s the best deal he’s going to get right now.

That leaves Obama, Edwards¬¬—and the other eight hundred pound gorilla in the room, Al Gore. I don’t think Al is going to run unless it looks like Hillary’s going to sweep the field in the early primaries. Nonetheless, we can be sure he’s paying close attention.

Obama’s got a problem. He could use the old Barry Goldwater line “in your heart, you know he’s right,” because that’s what he seems to be counting on. Obama can’t, or won’t, tell us what he really thinks about anything, perhaps because if it turns out that he’s actually a dangerous Alinskyite black radical—and frankly what could be better—he’s going to have a hard time winning the nomination. But if, on the other hand, Obama is as ideologically bland as he pretends to be, that’s even worse.

Obama keeps talking about “getting beyond partisanship,” this despite the fact that for the past twenty five years the Republic has been hijacked by a permanent floating right wing coup. If after the past six and half years of creeping fascism, Democrats are not yet willing to fight back, the question is, will they ever?  But we can see already with Obama: there will be no big, dangerous ideas, no fiery rhetoric, nothing straight from the heart, we’re just going to have to trust we know what’s there. It’s business as usual except for the nice wrinkle that Barack is not only black, but “so fresh and so clean.”

It all might work for Obama if he was a Republican, but for a Democrat, it’s a flawed campaign premise. Enigmatic gets old after the first year and a half or so if you’re supposed to be an agent of change.

That leaves Edwards. As opposed to the happy (class) warrior of the last election, John Edwards this time has recast himself as the voice of the voiceless. Poverty, rather than class, is his issue now in an apparent bid for the political authenticity that comes from speaking as an advocate for an unpopular cause.

Personally, I think Edwards is trying too hard. Edwards’ universal health care proposal and his stand on the War were decent first steps. Now he has to go beyond that to challenge some of the corporate redlines that define the boundaries of safe discourse in American political campaigns. One two-part idea he might try would be, first, for the Federal Government to assume the health care and legacy retirement costs of US auto workers. This would help the Big 3 auto companies get back on their feet and stabilize job loss in the upper Mid West. In other words, your basic corporate bailout.

However at the same time the government could also underwrite the creation of a new Public Automobile company based in the Detroit—utilizing closed and abandoned GM and Ford plants—and dedicated to building stripped down, low cost, hybrid vehicles at eight to ten thousand dollars a pop. Sort of like a green version of the original Model-T. Thus while the government was bailing out Detroit, it would also be competing with it—not to mention kicking the collective crap out of Honda and Toyota.

Taken together these two proposals would not only address the collapse of manufacturing in the country, but also climate change and the taboo against public ownership of industry. It would also point the way for Detroit to once again achieve profitability.

The problem with Edwards’s anti-poverty campaign is that it stinks of liberal altruism, which—thankfully—is not coming back into fashion any time soon. When Robert Kennedy made his famous trips to Appalachia and Mississippi forty years ago, Kennedy’s profile in the culture was so much higher than Edwards it gave RFK’s pilgrimage a kind of spiritual patina. Exposing poverty wasn’t about politics for Robert Kennedy, it was about healing the soul of America, and we as Americans felt that.

For John Edwards’ part, he should let Class and the class self-interest of working and poor people be his guide. It’ll work a lot better than his conscience.

The best thing about John Edwards is that one senses he really wants to be a transformational candidate. The worst thing is that being a lawyer and a politician, Edwards is not going to go out on a limb and actually say how he would transform America unless he absolutely has to. If Edwards wants to be President, starting say, by Labor Day, he absolutely has to.

Anyway that’s the view of the Democratic field from here. No sure things, and really, only two serious contenders to take on Hillary. Edwards is in decent shape, but is still a little light in the butt. He needs to put on about ten pounds of muscle to be a real heavyweight. Al Gore needs to take a good look at himself, without his shirt on, in the mirror.

One Way Out—a case for nation building in the Middle East

Filed under: Politics — admin @ 9:46 pm


In the run-up to Gulf War II there was a lot of talk about nation building, especially among the neo-liberal punditry. While the Official Neo-Conservative Party Line called for an invasion of Iraq to “drain the swamp in which terror breeds,” neo-liberals proposed a seemingly more selfless approach.

The likes of Tom Friedman, George Packer, Paul Berman, Kenneth Pollack and even mad Christopher Hitchens maintained that to win the War against Terror, the US needed to live up to its own democratic ideals. An American invasion of Iraq that toppled the regime of the tyrant Saddam, they said, would send a message of liberty ringing throughout the Middle East, while simultaneously cutting the anti western ideological ground out from under the Jihadists. Though neo-conservatives also came to adopt this position—indeed as Paul Wolfowitz made clear at the time—any rationale was as good as any other when it came to invading Iraq—there was a sort of earnestness about the neo-liberals as opposed to the mephisto tinged, machiavellianism of the neo-cons.

What the constant neo-liberal references to “nation building in Iraq” always seemed to miss though, was that Iraq already was a nation. It stood to reason that to build a new nation in Iraq, you were going to have to destroy the old one first. As any fool could have told you at the time—and we tried—this was an extraordinarily bad idea.

In point of fact, there is only one country in the entire Middle East—outside the special case of Kurdistan—that was and remains a suitable case for nation building. That country is Palestine.

The case for nation building in Palestine is pretty cut and dried.
One, the Palestinians do not currently have a state of their own. Two, the Palestinians, in the West Bank at least, live in a geographically confined, more or less contiguous territory, which is currently under occupation. Three, for most Arabs—Sunni and Shia, the Palestinian cause has been emblematic of the Arab Cause as a whole through the post WWII era. Indeed the Palestinian cause has become the Islamic cause celebre in non-Arab countries from Iran to Pakistan to Indonesia.

It stands to reason that if one were trying to repair relations with the Arab and Islamic world, not to mention the former colonial world as a whole, a good place to start would be the creation of an independent Palestine.

There’s one thing standing in the way of the creation of a Palestinian State and that’s Israel. This is where the good offices of the US—or what’s left of them—come into play. For the past thirty-five years, it has been Israeli perception at least, that the US alone has had Israel’s back in a world arrayed against her. For this reason the US, and the US alone, is specially situated to assure the Israelis that their interests are also served, and will be protected, by this new US initiative.

However, beyond altruism, there is an even better, though related, reason that the US should go back into the nation building business in the Middle East.

When the Iraq Study Group of James Baker and Lee Hamilton attempted to imply there was a linkage between Palestine and Iraq, they were shouted down by the panicked neo-cons, but the time has to face the geo-political facts.

The best way for the US to get of Iraq is through the creation of a Palestinian State.

To achieve these dual ends, diplomacy, by all means, will be required. A peace conference for Iraq and the Middle East would be a good first step, with most of the countries of the region in attendance, as well as representatives of the various Iraqi communities and political/ethnic groupings. At this conference the US could submit the following proposal.

The US military will withdraw from central and southern Iraq, while twenty five thousand US troops are sent north to Kurdistan as both protection for the Kurds and to serve as an emergency strike force should the rest of Iraq devolve into complete anarchy. Eighty thousand American troops would then come back home. The remaining fifty thousand American troops—augmented by another twenty thousand soldiers representing allied forces—perhaps English, French, Turkish—or even Algerian, contingents, would be redeployed to the formerly occupied territories on the West Bank of the Jordan, and the newly declared State of Palestine.

One can envision a veritable Euphrates of positive outcomes flowing from this process. The Palestinians finally get a state of their own—along with an interim contingent of foreign forces that can effectively referee between Hamas and the PLO. Israel gets it’s ostensible dream scenario, a friendly foreign force embedded in the West Bank—and ultimately Gaza, that can both help stabilize Palestine and shield Israel from terrorist attacks.

The US meanwhile gets to disengage from Iraq, and perhaps even more promisingly, would then be in position to ask that both the Sunni and Shia Arabs of Iraq forbear from Civil War in their new role as Arab guarantors of the new nation of Palestine.

Of course some would claim this a best case scenario and they’d probably be right. There may be some difficulties, to put it diplomatically, in getting the various parties to agree to such a scheme, even if the proposals advanced here are objectively in their own best interests. It is therefore useful to take an empirical look at some of the many possible problems along the road from Baghdad to Jerusalem with an eye toward solving them.

The first problem could be getting the Israelis to withdraw and disengage from the West Bank, along with the concomitant question, what will be the borders of the new Palestinian State?

The proposed borders of a divided Israel/Palestine have generally been agreed upon for some time, though there have been crucial differences on the specifics. Suffice it to say that the Israelis will have to withdraw their military from the West Bank and take as many settlers with them as they can induce to leave. As for the probable seventy five to a hundred thousand mostly Religious settlers who will not be induced to leave for any amount of money, they can become citizens of a Palestinian State just as the million Palestinians in Israel proper are citizens of Israel. Meanwhile, the Israelis and the Palestinians—in consultation with the US, key Arab and Allied powers, all sitting together at the bargaining table—will have to work out the status of Jerusalem and other outstanding issues.

Israeli politics, of course, are not particularly rational and compounding the problem is the role that American neo-cons, notably Doug Feith, Frank Gaffney, Richard Perle and the ubiquitous Mr Wolfowitz have played in aiding the rejectionist camp in the Likud and the Israeli Right generally. Partly as a result of the American encouragement, the number of settlers in the territories has more than doubled in the years since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. There are now four hundred and fifty thousand settlers in what they call “Judea and Samaria” and it is going to be difficult to entirely dislodge them for a number of reasons.

When the first Israeli settlements began appearing in the early and mid seventies, some were called “defensive” and others, “religious.” At the time there were about three million people in Israel proper, including Arabs. In the thirty odd years since the establishment of the first settlements, the population of Israel has grown to about six million people including the settlers. Aside from the political problems entailed in the resettlement of so many settlers in Israel proper, they may also present a demographic problem as well.

However to accept a permanent Israeli settler presence in the West Bank, is to indulge the same kind of circular logic that continues to fuel the US occupation in Iraq. It is the sort of logic that suggests Israel can’t pull out of the West Bank, because of the danger of Palestinian terror and also because the network of settler towns, roads and services in the territories has grown so extensive that the Israelis would be loathe to abandon it. It is the kind of logic that conveniently ignores the constant encouragement of the American neo-cons, in concert with their allies in AIPAC, that has politically insulated the Israeli colonization movement from outside criticism and sanction.

The protection of the neo-cons has also empowered voices on the extreme, irredentist Israeli Right, who call for the outright expulsion of the Arabs from all of Palestine, since in their words, the Jews only have one little state in the Middle East while the Arabs have many. Meanwhile the three million Palestinians in the West Bank live in a tightening noose of—terror breeding— poverty and desperation, while the situation in Gaza is, if anything, worse.

Taken together the politics of Palestine and the Israeli territories might seem to present an insolvable, Gordian knot of problem, but the “One way out” proposal offers a unique diplomatic tool: the sword of direct American intervention to cut right through it. As opposed to the unasked for American intervention in Iraq, American and friendly foreign intervention to create a Palestinian state is the best deal these people are ever going to get.

Beyond this, if the Palestinians are still resistant to having a state carved out for them, there’s nothing much anyone can do. However, if the Israelis are still recalcitrant, a US State Department, newly purged of discredited neo-con influence, may finally be in position to use a carrot and stick approach with Israel—especially if Israeli neo-con soul brother #1, Binyamin Netanyahu, is elected Prime Minister in the next elections.

There are many other potential difficulties for a Palestinian nation building strategy, but finally, the most conspicuous problem the “One Way Out (of Iraq)” program faces is domestic. That is, despite the obvious elegance and symmetry of the strategy, one cannot imagine the Bush Administration buying into it.

This is a big problem, but as always in politics, it’s also an opportunity. The time for a Bush administration led foreign policy is coming to an end and will expire long before Bush’s term of office is over. In the time we are now entering– all things, even impeachment, could suddenly become possible. And as Republican congressmen and senators jump overboard, swimming as fast as they can away from the unstable wreck of the Bush ship of state, they, along with their sometimes equally feckless Democratic colleagues, will need help and direction. It behooves us all to give it to them—with a carrot, or a stick.

December 4, 2007

Dear John: a message for Edwards

Filed under: Politics,Uncategorized — admin @ 6:51 pm

Dear John,

I’ve been waiting over the past months for your campaign to take off and I can’t help noticing it’s not.
This is upsetting to those of us who fear a Clinton vs. Obama race for the Democratic nomination. Personally I don’t think this country can take another day of a Clinton presidency, let alone four more years. I’ve held my nose and voted for every Democratic Presidential candidate since I was 18 and a Democratic Ward committeeman in my hometown of Philadelphia, but I cannot vote for Hillary Clinton, even in a general election. I know the stakes are high in this election but Hillary’s candidacy just smells too damn bad.

Meanwhile Obama reminds one of Bill Clinton, with his claims of being beyond partisanship and his winks and nods to the base of the party, implying that once in office he’ll do the right thing. Bill Clinton also campaigned on every side of every issue but got elected anyway because he was obviously the smartest and most capable guy in the field.

In my view at least, Clinton was also a terrible President, picking all the wrong battles, and losing the ones he picked; a man with a big stomach for politics but no heart for the good fight. Clinton talked like a populist but chose not to address the rise of greed as the engine of American prosperity; rather he subtly encouraged it.

Obama handlers are right to cast him as the charismatic conciliator because frankly, that’s the only way a black man’s going to get elected President this side of the Jordan. But in the miraculous event that Obama actually got elected, the malefactors of great wealth and their smooth operators would do such a number on him, Obama would end up making Bill Clinton look like Eugene Debs by comparison.

We live in a time of incipient financial collapse, class stratification unseen since before the rise of the modern labor movement and impending ecological catastrophe. We need change, and a candidate of change. By all rights, you should be that candidate.

Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with your message. I think that many Democrats, especially those that vote in primaries, like your message. There is the sense though of a certain dissonance between the message and the messenger, plus the feeling that you’re just trying too hard to connect.

I don’t think you’re going to be able to ignore this disconnect and still win in Iowa, but like Bob Marley once sang, “when one door is closed, another is open.”

In one of the Democratic debates, a questioner asked if you believed in a personal God that intervenes in human affairs, or something to that effect. You answered that no, with all that’s happened to you and your loved ones in this life, you just couldn’t believe in that.

I think the nature of your belief is the key for you in this campaign. If one doesn’t believe in a personal God who intervenes in human affairs, what does a person have to believe in? The answer quite simply, is hope itself. Hope is the face of God in this world.

You know this of course. You campaigned on it in 2004. In fact let me quote from the end of your Vice Presidential acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention of that year.

You said, “Like all of us, I have learned a lot of lessons in my life. Two of the most important are that first, there will always be heartache and struggle–you can’t make it go away. But the other lesson is that people of good and strong will can make a difference . . .
. . . We choose hope over despair, possibilities over problems, optimism over cynicism. We choose to do what’s right even when those around us say “You can’t do that.” We choose to be inspired because we know that we can do better–because this is America where everything is still possible.”

Every great populist campaign has had as its’ underpinning the implicit religious belief that in serving justice and the cause of the common people, we are doing the work of God in this world.

If I were you, I would take those two paragraphs from late in your 2004 nomination speech and make both a thirty second spot and a sixty second spot out of them. The thirty-second spot would essentially just record that moment in time.

The Sixty-second spot would begin with you on the podium at the convention in front of the cheering delegates. In a voice over, behind the visuals, we would hear a short–compatible– snippet of your current message, that “our society is being undermined by the growing gulf between the elites and the rest of us. Goldman-Sachs and the permanent government have Henry Paulsons and Robert Rubins to fight for them but who will fight for “everyday people” against a corrupt system rigged on behalf of the rich and the powerful?

Then we would see and hear that same excerpt from the speech in 2004. (Forgive me if I got a little specific here, but I’ve been making documentaries for the past twenty or so years and got carried away)

Beyond the two spots, I would–if I were you– sit down and write another stump speech. It would encompass the transcendental themes of the 2004 excerpt, the more pointed themes of today and make the connection between the two.

The speech would say something like, that when confronted with the almost impossible odds against social justice and social equity, hope is God’s way of getting us up each day to fight for a world worth living in. This fight is not just for the sake of the poor and the oppressed, but for the sake of humanity itself.

The stakes have never been higher. More than ever, here on spaceship earth, we’re all in this together. . . Something like that.

It is a bit late in the primary day, Senator Edwards, but like some prophet or other must have said once, where there’s life, there’s hope.

I would seriously consider using that before David Axelrod steals it for Obama.

As they say down in New Orleans, bon chance, bon courage. Hope is on the way.


December 1, 2007

One Way Out Revisited

Filed under: Politics,Uncategorized — admin @ 11:50 pm


At this writing the Mainstream Media, with some exceptions, seem to have accepted the dubious proposition that “the surge” is working and that the Democrats should stop talking about Iraq for the duration, however long that might be.

This of course is an absurd idea on the face of it, no doubt floated by many of the same people who argued for invading Iraq in the first place.

The War in Iraq is unwinnable as most Americans understand by now, because we’re the reason for the War. If we leave Iraq, the Iraqi resistance to American intervention will end. If we stay the resistance is almost guaranteed to grow. The only question is, when we leave, will the forces we’ve let out of the bottle in Iraq continue to spin out of control?

None of us know the answer to that.

However once one accepts that the War was not only mindboggling stupid to start with, but is by definition, unwinnable, it becomes easier to discuss ways to ameliorate the situation in Iraq, post an American withdrawal.

Since 9/11, Arab Nationalism and Islamic Fundamentalism have been conflated by the Bushites in a transparent attempt to make the Arabs and the Muslim World in general, into the other, a demon beyond our understanding(see Islamo-fascism”). In the run up to the 2004 American Presidential elections, Iraq and Saddam Hussein were cynically identified with Al Qaeda and Osama ben Laden to such an extent that most Americans didn’t know the difference between the two.

This confusion may well have served the axis of evil within ruling Republican Party circles but it screwed Iraq royally. By consciously favoring the Shi’ites and declaring the Ba’athists–the admittedly corrupt party of secular Arab nationalism–the enemy in Iraq, American policy effectively made Iraqi Nationality itself the enemy in Iraq. Now, having broken the Iraqi Nationalism that long transcended the sectarian divide there, we have a Civil War on our hands.

To right this wrong, the first thing we as a nation should do is publicly admit we screwed Iraq and apologize to the Iraqi people. The second thing we should do is become an ally of secular Arab nationalism, Arab self-determination, and yes, democracy in the Middle East.

In the course of this reversal of policy we should proceed on several fronts. The first would be to demonstrate that the US has no designs on Arab oil or natural resources. This would entail the US, in concert with the other G-8 nations, making a declaration of a date certain, say 2038, for the total elimination of oil as an energy resource in the G-8 countries.

This declaration would place the US on the side of the masses in the Arab world as opposed to the oil oligarchs. Further it would put the latter on notice, that if they want to do right by the Arab nation while they still have the means, the clock is now clicking.

Parenthetically the declaration might also help save the world by jump starting–in a big way–the search for alternative fuels and energy sources.

The second and perhaps most important step the US can take to show it is now on the side of secular Arab nationalism is to use its good offices to effect a Peace settlement between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Supposedly that’s what we’ve just done in Annapolis.

Though the Bushites are still in denial over the incredible foreign policy disaster that they initiated and presided over in Iraq, even a pack of morons and jackals can’t help noticing that in the wake of Iraq, the American interest and the Arab interest in containing Iran have miraculously coincided.

The Bush Administration has finally come to intuit what it’s own Iraq Study Group tried to tell them last year; that the road to Baghdad runs through Jerusalem and not the other way around. However the Administration still has not come to grips with what implementing a policy around this truism would entail. Unfortunately, with some few exceptions, neither have the Democrats.

Simply put, Mahmoud Abbas is unable to make peace in the name of the Palestinians because he is too weak. Ehud Olmert is unwilling to make the territorial sacrifices necessary to make Peace in name of the Israelis, because like most right wing Israeli politicians (even if they now call themselves moderates) he doesn’t have to. Olmert knows the bottom line, that he really doesn’t have to give up the settlements or the West Bank because the US and American Jewry implicitly stand behind him.

Because of this fundamental impasse, it is only the active agency of the United States in partnership with the Arab countries of the region–including Iraq–and also Europe, that can make and keep the peace in Israel/Palestine.

In an article earlier this year(archives, Huff Post 6/11) I argued that, after making the Iraqis–Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurds–a partner to the Middle East talks, and in fact a guarantor of the new Palestinian State, the US should withdraw from Iraq.

The US would then move some thirty to fifty thousand troops, augmented by some smaller contingents of allied forces–English, French, Turkish–or even Algerian contingents to the West Bank, where they would take up a role as peacekeeping force for the new independent nation of Palestine.

These peacekeepers would not only serve as referee between Fatah and Hamas, but also as an effective guarantor of security for Israel. Money to create the infrastructure of the new Palestinian State–and pay for the Peacekeeping force–would be provided by the Saudis and the Gulf States. The monies would be funnelled not to the Palestinian Authority but to a new independent Palestinian Civil Authority, which would be jointly created by independent Palestinian civic organizations, the frontline Arab States and the US. The timeline for keeping the International security force in the West Bank, and eventually Gaza, would be five years.

The advantages of such an arrangement are obvious, to me at least, but unfortunately appear to be so far outside mainstream discourse, that it seems almost spurious to discuss at this point.

What should be on the table though, are incremental steps that can be taken to move Mid East peace closer. One step that maybe even Condi Rice could wrap her mind around, is pushing the Israelis to release Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah militant and a founder of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, currently serving a life sentence for the killing of Israeli settlers on the West Bank.

Barghouti is also of the few men allied to Fatah who still has enough credibility to stand up to Hamas. Barghouti recognizes the legitimacy of Israel and the necessity of a two state solution, though he refuses to recognize the legitimacy of Israeli settlement activity on the West Bank. As such he has the potential at least, to be a “Palestinian Mandela.”

The problem with the Palestinian Authority since it was created has been cronyism and corruption. Hamas is not just an anti-Israel Islamic militant group(though it is that too) but a homegrown Palestinian response to corruption. The intelligent thing for American and International diplomacy to do with Hamas is bring them into the discussion, even while balancing their power on the ground. However we have not brought Hamas into the discussion. Further, instead strengthening Mahmoud Abbas’s hand against Hamas on the ground, we have, no doubt at Israel’s instigation, actually pushed Abbas to crack down–indeed to fire on–his own militants in the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, leaving him more isolated than ever.

If the Administration still hasn’t faced up to what’s going to be necessary to make Peace in Iraq, and Israel/Palestine, it should at least refrain from trying to make things worse.

Beyond that the Democrats have to step up. The complete failure of the Democrats in Congress to make a dent in US foreign Policy since their mid term election win in 2006 is instructive. Instead of confronting the Constitutional illegitimacy of Bush’s Crime reign, the Democratic leadership attempted to pick their fights where they thought they could gain a political advantage. Now all they’ve succeeded in doing is dragging themselves down to Bush’s level.

If a Democrat wants to gets elected President in 2008, one requirement will be a policy that eschews politics and actually attempts solutions to the twin crises in Iraq and Israel/Palestine. This means a concise strategy for withdrawal from Iraq, and a bold strategy for the creation of a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza.

It’s easy to be a Republican, if you don’t mind being in league with the minions of Satan. The Republicans are, and probably will always be, the party of the status quo. However if the Democrats fail to present a fundamental strategy for change, both foreign and domestic, there will no reason for people to vote them in next November.

Powered by WordPress