Bird that Sings

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.

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