Thursday, July 19, 2007

Views from a parallel universe

By Carol Gee

There is reality, and then there is "Bush reality." Many of us responded with a big yawn to the recent news of a call for peace by OCP.

First, The Decider - A note of explanation for the uninitiated here. In order to keep my sanity I refer to the president as OCP - Our Current President, George W. Bush. My definitions - "Current" means (thank goodness temporarily) in office, Lame Duck, and author of Middle East failures.

Why Peace talks? Today's post explores the current news around OCP's announcement of renewed efforts towards achieving peace in the region. Where is the hope of success given the chaotic track record of the current Bush administration? Why now? It may be the time for a diversionary tactic in the face of an increasingly long list of failures.

How do others decide? Becoming an ally of the West, and particularly the U.S., can be the kiss of death, literally, for any Middle Eastern country's leader. Why would any leader in the Middle East take the risk and choose to join with OCP and the USA in anything? What is in it for them?

  • Money is in it for them - Now that Palestine has been radicalized and "balkanized," is it just now time to talk peace? Where was the U.S. prior to now? BBC News reports on U.S. to aid West Bank leader Mahmoud Abbas. To quote,

    Speaking at the White House, Mr Bush also announced a $190m (£95m) aid package for President Mahmoud Abbas's emergency Palestinian government.

    Our correspondent says Mr Abbas - in many ways the lynchpin of the initiative - is already in a weak position.

    The more he is embraced by Israel and the West, the more vulnerable he becomes to the charge he is acting in their interests rather than those of his own people.

  • Loose reins and few demands - Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has the best of both worlds in his relationship with OCP: U.S. sanction of nuclear weapons, lots and lots of financial aid, and no requirement to clean out al Qaeda from their ungoverned tribal areas. The Financial Times headlined, "US still at risk from al-Qaeda, says report." To quote,

    Al-Qaeda has regrouped in tribal areas of Pakistan and could use contacts and capabilities developed in Iraq to mount fresh attacks on US soil, a US intelligence estimate on Tuesday warned.

    . . . It was reported last week that a classified intelligence assessment had judged al-Qaeda to be stronger than at any time since September 2001. Tuesday’s declassified report confirmed that al-Qaeda had found havens in tribal areas of Pakistan and replaced leaders that had been captured or killed.

Second is Condi, the Concurrant - in short, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. My definitions - Current head of U.S. diplomacy (see State Dept. website), Lame Duck and co-author of Middle East national security and now, diplomatic failures. Why would any leader in the Middle East join with OCP, Condi and the USA? This is the current dismissive view, as presented by the administration. Here, again, is "Bush reality." It borders on being delusional; at the least it is remarkably arrogant.

  • Only the United States can assure the success of the Israeli/Palestinian peace process - Israel's Haaretz reports that Condi implies she will be in charge of the Middle East peace process, and our new Quartet envoy, Tony Blair will be there only to help. To quote,

    The United States will keep leading Middle East peace efforts with former British prime minister Tony Blair playing a complementary role as envoy to the Quartet of mediators, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Thursday.

  • U.S. Middle East view trumps that of the U.N. - Our State Department reports on OCP's "briefing" meeting with U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon, as if he were a beginner needing to learn a thing or two. To quote,

    President Bush (July 17): "...One of the things I briefed the Secretary on was my views about extremism and these radicals that will do anything to disrupt the goals set by the United Nations and/or disrupt the advance of democracy in peaceful societies. Al Qaeda is strong today, but they're not nearly as strong as they were prior to September the 11th, 2001, and the reason why is, is because we've been working with the world to keep the pressure on, to stay on the offense, to bring them to justice so they won't hurt us again; to defeat them where we find them."

So that is the Bush Middle East reality. And then we have the rational reality for which we can only wish - intelligent, non-delusional, realistic about the facts, respectful of other Western leaders, honest and fair, consistent and timely, reasonable. I am not holding my breath for peace to break out in the Middle East any time soon.

cross-posted at South by Southwest

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