Coward Old Universe…

by Jeremy G.

Posts Tagged ‘Middle East’

Stability vs. Democracy

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on July 15, 2008

Realpolitik is to foreign policymaking what healthy food is to a bachelor who is about to get married, in my opinion: You know it’s important for you, though you don’t necessarily want to accept that reality – no pun intended – right away.  This may explain why I’m not a big fan of realism in practice, but also why I found that Sarkozy’s invitation to Syrian president el-Assad was logical and defendable.  I experience greater difficulty, however, when realpolitik leads a power to defend “stability” – and thus the status quo – over any efforts to make progress in terms of democratization.

Condoleezza Rice makes a very good point on this topic in her most recent Foreign Affairs essay, “Rethinking the National Interest: American Realism for a New World“:

…the quest for justice and a new equilibrium on which the nations of the broader Middle East are now embarked is very turbulent. But is it really worse than the situation before? Worse than when Lebanon suffered under the boot of Syrian military occupation? Worse than when the self-appointed rulers of the Palestinians personally pocketed the world’s generosity and squandered their best chance for a two-state peace? Worse than when the international community imposed sanctions on innocent Iraqis in order to punish the man who tyrannized them, threatened Iraq’s neighbors, and bulldozed 300,000 human beings into unmarked mass graves? Or worse than the decades of oppression and denied opportunity that spawned hopelessness, fed hatreds, and led to the sort of radicalization that brought about the ideology behind the September 11 attacks? Far from being the model of stability that some seem to remember, the Middle East from 1945 on was wracked repeatedly by civil conflicts and cross-border wars. Our current course is certainly difficult, but let us not romanticize the old bargains of the Middle East — for they yielded neither justice nor stability.

 A few words of wisdom, when we decide to deal with the Middle East again, updating our knowledge in the aftermath of the Iraqi events.

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The end of Palestine?

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on June 27, 2007

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Who’s fault is it? That’s an issue that has come up repeatedly. Bret Stephens probably provides the best answer in the Wall Street Journal today, but says little about the future. He only points out a fact that scares a whole lot of people: The very notion of Palestine might have died with Hamas’s coup two weeks ago.

If little is said about the future, it is most certainly because the West finds itself in a very unpleasant situation. First, the U.S., and George W. Bush, who advocated a profound change in Palestinian politics back in 2003, actively participated in Arafat’s estrangement, and was the first – and rightfully so – to denounce Hamas’s win in January 2006. So, back to square one and support for the PA? Strange situation, as Robert Satloff points out.

Next in line in this unpleasant situation is the European Union, who accepted the U.S.’s condemnation – and rightfully so – of Hamas, but must now face the monstrous dilemma it created: Choose between corruption and terrorism, knowing that the first nourishes the second. Voices are speaking out, including this one in France – although with a taint of distasteful moral relativism, as Israel, Iran and Hamas are treated on the very same level, but then again, this is the Quai d’Orsay talking… Now, Europe must deal with decades of inaction in the region. Lebanon, under Syrian rule, was the first issue to blow up in our faces. Palestine is second.

So… Where do we go from now? Historical irony let this period coincide with Blair’s departure from Downing Street. My intuition is that Blair‘s legacy will be openness to act on the international stage, and not accept historical fatalism – although some time will need to fly by before he is actually granted such legacy. It’s almost a shame that his departure coincides with Sarkozy’s arrival, as one would have liked to see how the two men’s international willingness – on the issues of Darfur and the European Construction for instance – would have been combined in practice.

But, in all likelihood, Blair will not disappear, and be named the Quartet‘s Ambassador in the Middle East. Perhaps this will be a way for the West to intervene directly in Palestine, and not let “fate” decide what occurs. And perhaps this will avoid today’s dilemma, because it is reasonable to believe that we – Palestinians included – do not need to choose between corruption and terrorism.

Posted in International Willingness, Middle East, World Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

International Reconciliation? Bachar is not laughing…

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on May 31, 2007

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By ten votes to 0, and five abstentions, the UN Security Council voted resolution 1757, instituting an international tribunal to investigate the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafic Hariri.  More than two years after the fact, the International Community has awakened and finally sent out a strong message to Syria, whose intelligence services, in all likelihood, are behind the murder.

Talking to Syria has constituted a very controversial subject since 9 11.  Secretary of State Condi Rice, in spite of her firmly expressed opposition to a dialogue with the country in the fall, has recently flipped-flopped on the issue.  A turn of events that was applauded by the fans of the Iraq Study Group Report that advocated such a move.  On the other side of the Atlantic, until the very end, Jacques Chirac, a personal friend of the Hariri family – who lent the former French President the Parisian residence he currently lives in – never changed his mind and refused to return to the negotiation table with SyriaChirac was in favor of sending a strong message to Syria.

This is not however incompatible with talking to Syria.  What Baker and Hamilton failed to emphasize on in their report is that American difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan give the country an image of weakness that is very harmful to U.S. interests in the long run.  The realists they claim to be could have shed some light on this part of reality.  Thru international consultation and cooperation, just as the one that occurred today at the UN, the U.S. is re-acquiring its ability to intervene – in a different fashion – in the Middle East, especially by tackling an issue that seems to constitute a consensus on both sides of the Atlantic.

But there is another lesson in this turn of events.  Repeated calls among the Western Left in favor of Justice in the Middle East have been a leitmotiv of strategic speeches that claimed to be an alternative to U.S. unbalanced behavior in the region.  The principal culprit, in their eyes, is of course Israel.  As legitimate this may sound to many observers of the region, too many of them seemed to have been blinded by another obvious fact in the region: Justice is universal, and can only be effective if applied to all actors.  Syria just understood today that it won’t be able to hide anymore.

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Posted in Middle East, World Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »