Friday, April 26, 2002

ONE OTHER THING THE SAUDIS WOULD RATHER WE FORGET: Via Best of the Web, those who are tempted to take the "Saudi peace proposal" seriously can refer to this story after the collapse of the Camp David talks about the role of the Saudis and Egyptians, our supposed friends, in scuttling any chance for a peace agreement that might actually have had a chance of success. (At least it looked that way at the time.) It can reliably be assumed that if the Saudi proposal ever became the focus of serious attention, it would be "clarified" with all sorts of deal-breakers faster than Yasser Arafat gravitates to a CNN camera. When will people understand that the Arab regimes want the conflict to continue, not end?
A ONE-TRACK MIND LEADS TO A CONTEST: In one breath, the NY Times presents the following two items:
First, the news about how the U.S. economy surged at a 5.8% rate in the first quarter.
Second, an article with the following headline:
"Economic Revival Poses a Problem for Bush"
Yes, that headline really exists.
I'm sure that Bush has been dreading the possibility of an economic recovery, thinking to himself: "I can handle any problem, but not that!"
I know the New Republic once ran a contest for the "Most Boring Headline" ever (with the winner being a Flora Lewis NYT headline: "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative").
Blissful Knowledge is hereby beginning a "Stupidest Headline" contest, with this item as the first nominee.
Readers, please send your nominations (with links, if possible.)
The winner will receive a prize.
As the prize hasn't been determined yet, it is by definition of incalculable value.
The judges will be a panel consisting of:
1) A French figure-skating judge;
2) The three judges who voted against Roy Jones, Jr. in the 1988 Olympics, and
3) A random selection of election officials from the state of Florida.
Let's see what we can come up with.
THE CHURCH OF THE TERRORISTS: Steven Den Beste has an outstanding historical overview of sieges, and outlines the likely outcomes of the Bethlehem siege.
WHY ARIEL SHARON IS THE RIGHT LEADER FOR THIS TIME: I had been meaning to link to this Victor Davis Hanson piece for a while, about the utility of single-minded military men during times when war is unavoidable. Hanson makes some excellent points about the necessity for leaders like Sharon, whom he compares to Ajax, the great warrior of the Trojan war. But perhaps his most intriguing point is the following:
Most Israelis will learn that peacemaking will come easier for his absence. The Europeans in time will be wily enough to say, "Sharon did it, not the Israelis." And so in his lifetime, Mr. Sharon will get no credit and much blame.
What the anti-Sharon crowd does not understand is that peace is more likely due to the fact that Sharon was the one who sent the troops into the West Bank, rather than Rabin or Barak. The heirs to the latter, once they gain power in Israel, are more likely to have their peace plans taken seriously for not being Sharon.
THE ADVISER PRESIDENT BUSH SHOULD BE LISTENING TO: Bernard Lewis cautions the President against believing the conventional wisdom that asking the "moderate" Arab regimes for permission to destroy Saddam Hussein, and reducing our support for Israel, will enahnce stability in the region:

The submission to being scolded and slighted, as Secretary of State Colin Powell did in his recent meeting with the king of Morocco, and his failure to meet with the president of Egypt, make the U.S. seem it is reverting to bad habits. That only further contributes to a perceived posture of irresolution and uncertainty on the part of the U.S. administration.
This irresolution on our part has brought a corresponding uncertainty on the part of our nervous and hesitant allies, not without reason. Their fears have deep roots in the memory of what happened after the Gulf War when we called on the people of Iraq to rebel against Saddam Hussein and then abandoned them. Having granted Saddam a cease-fire, we sat and watched as he destroyed the rebels, group by group and region by region, using the helicopters we had thoughtfully allowed him to retain.
The leaders of al Qaeda launched their war against the U.S. in the belief that they were attacking a soft and demoralized enemy. They thought they could proceed with impunity. It would be wise not to let that misapprehension creep back.

Thursday, April 25, 2002

THE GLASS-HOUSE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD: What on earth are the Saudis thinking? Apparently they plan to threaten President Bush with all sorts of horribles if they do not immediately bring Sharon to heel.
"It is a mistake to think that our people will not do what is necessary to survive," the person close to the crown prince said, "and if that means we move to the right of bin Laden, so be it; to the left of Qaddafi, so be it; or fly to Baghdad and embrace Saddam like a brother, so be it. It's damned lonely in our part of the world, and we can no longer defend our relationship to our people."
This, from the nation that spawned 15 of the 19 hijackers on September 11, from the nation that sponsors terrorism all over the world. If Bush gives in to their blackmail, the war on terrorism will be over and we will have lost. Rich Lowry has the right idea: Bush needs to be the one making Abdullah feel scared.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

THE OLIVER STONE OF THE RESPECTABLE MEDIA: Michael Lind takes on the "Israel lobby," using his usual reductionism: the idea that even absent interest-group pressure, the U.S. might be more inclined to gravitate towards the only democracy in the Middle East rather than suicide bombers and their allies is nowhere to be found in Lind's article. For a more nuanced view of the "Israel lobby," see this article from the Economist, of all places.
THE COUNTER-REVISIONISM: Dennis Ross gives his account of what happened at Camp David and Taba.
First, at Camp David:

[A]t Camp David we did not put a comprehensive set of ideas on the table. We put ideas on the table that would have affected the borders and would have affected Jerusalem.
Arafat could not accept any of that. In fact, during the 15 days there, he never himself raised a single idea. His negotiators did, to be fair to them, but he didn't. The only new idea he raised at Camp David was that the temple didn't exist in Jerusalem, it existed in Nablus.

Regarding Taba and the final Clinton proposals:

Arafat came to the White House on January 2. Met with the president, and I was there in the Oval Office. He said yes, and then he added reservations that basically meant he rejected every single one of the things he was supposed to give.
...He [was] supposed to give, on Jerusalem, the idea that there would be for the Israelis sovereignty over the Western Wall, which would cover the areas that are of religious significance to Israel. He rejected that.
...He rejected the idea on the refugees. He said we need a whole new formula, as if what we had presented was non-existent.
He rejected the basic ideas on security. He wouldn't even countenance the idea that the Israelis would be able to operate in Palestinian airspace.

And in conclusion:

[F]undamentally I do not believe he can end the conflict. We had one critical clause in this agreement, and that clause was, this is the end of the conflict.
Arafat's whole life has been governed by struggle and a cause. Everything he has done as leader of the Palestinians is to always leave his options open, never close a door. He was being asked here, you've got to close the door. For him to end the conflict is to end himself.

This from the man who worked on the "peace process" full-time for most of 12 years.