Just Another Day's Work For Captain Obvious

Arch realist Brent Scowcroft accurately describes the dire consequences of an American defeat in Iraq:

An American withdrawal before Iraq can, in the words of the president, “govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself” would be a strategic defeat for American interests, with potentially catastrophic consequences both in the region and beyond. Our opponents would be hugely emboldened, our friends deeply demoralized.

Iran, heady with the withdrawal of its principal adversary, would expand its influence through Hezbollah and Hamas more deeply into Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and Jordan. Our Arab friends would rightly feel we had abandoned them to face alone a radicalism that has been greatly inflamed by American actions in the region and which could pose a serious threat to their own governments.

The effects would not be confined to Iraq and the Middle East. Energy resources and transit choke points vital to the global economy would be subjected to greatly increased risk. Terrorists and extremists elsewhere would be emboldened. And the perception, worldwide, would be that the American colossus had stumbled, was losing its resolve and could no longer be considered a reliable ally or friend — or the guarantor of peace and stability in this critical region.

But Scowcroft then reverts to fantasy when it comes to solutions by offering up that hoary chestnut, “solving” the Arab-Israeli conflict. While conceding that the Israelis have already made all the concessions that they could reasonably be asked to make without agreeing to commit suicide, and that everybody already knows what an acceptable solution is, Scowcroft engages in some decidedly unrealistic speculation about the motivation and intentions of the Arabs:

A vigorously renewed effort to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict could fundamentally change both the dynamics in the region and the strategic calculus of key leaders. Real progress would push Iran into a more defensive posture. Hezbollah and Hamas would lose their rallying principle. American allies like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the gulf states would be liberated to assist in stabilizing Iraq. And Iraq would finally be seen by all as a key country that had to be set right in the pursuit of regional security.

Arab leaders are now keen to resolve the 50-year-old dispute. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel may be as well. His nation’s long-term security can only be assured by resolving this issue once and for all. However, only the American president can bring them to the same table.

Resuming the Arab-Israeli peace process is not a matter of forcing concessions from Israel or dragooning the Palestinians into surrender. Most of the elements of a settlement are already agreed as a result of the negotiations of 2000 and the “road map” of 2002. What is required is to summon the will of Arab and Israeli leaders, led by a determined American president, to forge the various elements into a conclusion that all parties have already publicly accepted in principle.

Click on Captain Obvious for the kind of reasoning Scowcroft represents. Yes, it’s obvious what the solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict is, and yes, the Arabs should do what’s necessary and by God, they would do it if only we ask them to do it because it’s obvious they are keen to resolve the conflict. And they call these guys realists?

Undoubtedly, “Arab leaders” have told Brent Scowcroft that they are “keen” to solve the conflict based on the “road map” and the 2000 negotiations. But Scowcroft ought to take some advice from Tom Friedman who recently noted the difference between Western and Arab politicians: Westerners lie in public and tell the truth in private; whereas, Arabs lie in English in private and tell the truth in Arabic in public.

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