In the course of one of his magnificently twisted rambling posts, Mencius Moldbug* addresses the Israel/Palestinian conflict, and specifically the claim that U.S. foreign policy is unduly influenced by the “Israel lobby”:
Which side of the Arab-Israeli conflict does the US support? Obviously, both are “special interests,” and an easy way to tell whose pull is stronger is to see whose side USG favors.
There’s a wrong way to answer this question and a right way. The wrong way is to start by asking: what should US foreign policy in the Middle East be?
Having answered this question, we can define the answer as the “center,” and then compare what USG’s policies are to what they should be. Ie, if USG’s policies are more pro-Israeli than the center, the pole is tilted to the right, and the Israel lobby must be stronger. If USG’s policies are more pro-Arab than the center, the pole is tilted to the left, etc, etc.
This procedure is not useful because, to answer the question, we must first judge the dispute . . .But this judgment is not relevant to the problem at hand, namely, ascertaining objectively which lobby is stronger.
It looks like my previous worries on the subject may prove to be groundless:
Israel gave serious thought this spring to launching a military strike on Iran’s nuclear sites but was told by President George W Bush that he would not support it and did not expect to revise that view for the rest of his presidency, senior European diplomatic sources have told the Guardian.
The then prime minister, Ehud Olmert, used the occasion of Bush’s trip to Israel for the 60th anniversary of the state’s founding to raise the issue in a one-on-one meeting on May 14, the sources said. “He took it [the refusal of a US green light] as where they were at the moment, and that the US position was unlikely to change as long as Bush was in office”, they added. Continue reading
This week’s EconTalk Podcast featured Bruce Bueno de Mesquita discussing Iran, and the threat (or lack thereof) it poses to the United States. Some of the stuff in the podcast was old news to me: Ahmadinejad, while he gets a lot of attention, doesn’t have much actual power, and those who really are running things have proven to be fairly pragmatic.
Of course, the obvious question is: if the real leaders of Iran are so pragmatic, why do they let Ahmadinejad run around saying all the crazy things he does? According to Bueno de Mesquita, Iran’s actions can be seen as an example of the so-called “Madman Theory” used by Nixon in Vietnam. The basic idea is that if you act like you’re crazy (or, as the case may be, pick a President who really is crazy, but isn’t really in charge) people won’t want to mess with you. Continue reading
Two human rights groups on Monday decried widespread torture of political opponents by bitter Palestinian rivals Hamas and Fatah, and Associated Press interviews with three victims and a doctor backed the reports of abuse.
The findings emerged as the two sides carried out fresh arrest sweeps in the West Bank and Gaza — highlighting deep tensions in the Palestinian territories after a flare-up in violence over the weekend.
In the West Bank on Monday, the security forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rounded up more than 50 suspected Hamas supporters, including mosque preachers and intellectuals, in retaliation for a similar sweep of Fatah loyalists in Gaza, set off by a bombing that killed five Hamas members Friday.
Hamas violently seized power in Gaza in June 2007, leaving the Islamic militant group in charge of the coastal territory and Abbas’ forces controlling the West Bank.
The Palestinian human rights group Al Haq said Monday that arbitrary arrests of political opponents have been common since Hamas’ takeover of Gaza, with each side trying to defend its turf.
Why does the Israeli/Palestinian conflict garner so much attention and generate so much passion, as compared to other similar sorts of conflicts (e.g. Chechnya or Kashmir). Today at Real Clear Politics, Dennis Prager offers some possible reasons (his choice of comparisons is the situation in Tibet). Of the seven reasons he gives, two seem especially plausible:
China. If Tibet had been crushed by a white European nation, the Tibetans would have elicited far more sympathy. But, alas, their near-genocidal oppressor is not white. And the world does not take mass murder committed by non-whites nearly as seriously as it takes anything done by Westerners against non-Westerners. Furthermore, China is far more powerful and frightening than Israel. Israel has a great army and nuclear weapons, but it is pro-West, it is a free and democratic society, and it has seven million people in a piece of land as small as Belize. China has nuclear weapons, has a trillion U.S. dollars, an increasingly mighty army and navy, is neither free nor democratic, is anti-Western, and has 1.2 billion people in a country that dominates the Asian continent.
[T]elevision news, the primary source of news for much of mankind. Aside from its leftist tilt, television news reports only what it can video. And almost no country is televised as much as Israel, while video reports in Tibet are forbidden, as they are almost anywhere in China except where strictly monitored by the Chinese authorities. No video, no TV news. And no TV, no concern.
In addition to the candidates mentioned by Prager, I would add the following: Continue reading
Conversations about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict tend to be rather like the Israeli/Palestinian conflict itself, quickly descending into a series of escalating attacks and counter-attacks, bitterness and recriminations. I don’t know if the conflict is really capable of being resolved in any satisfactory way, certainly not in the foreseeable future, but unless we want to just throw up our hands and admit defeat (not a bad strategy, actually), we need to be open to new and creative ways of resolving the conflict.
On that note, Jewish World Review has an interesting article up today by Daniel Pipes (yes, yes, I know) suggesting that Israel should try and solve its current difficulties in Gaza by giving the strip back to Egypt.
Washington and other capitals should declare the experiment in Gazan self-rule a failure and press President Husni Mubarak of Egypt to help, perhaps providing Gaza with additional land or even annexing it as a province. This would revert to the situation of 1948-67, except this time Cairo would not keep Gaza at arm’s length but take responsibility for it.
Culturally, this connection is a natural: Gazans speak a colloquial Arabic identical to the Egyptians of Sinai, have more family ties to Egypt than to the West Bank, and are economically more tied to Egypt (recall the many smugglers’ tunnels). Further, Hamas derives from an Egyptian organization, the Muslim Brethren.
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