Monday, June 28, 2004
BTW, I followed one of the links in the Parapundit piece linked below, the one for Richard Perle et al's "Clean Break" document prepared for Netanyahu before he won the 1996 Israeli elections. It makes for interesting reading now, after so much water under the bridge.
A reminder of the context: the Oslo War had not yet begun in earnest, but it was already clear that Arafat was a disaster and that Israel needed to find some way out of the mess she'd blundered into. Peres wanted to keep on keeping on: get a deal by hook or by crook and move on to the glorious uplands of Israeli membership in the EU. Netanyahu, meanwhile, was convincing his American admirers that he was going to be the first Reaganite Prime Minister of Israel, someone who could change the terms of debate as they had existed on right and left both in that country and in other countries with respect to the region. And here in the U.S., Republicans had their blood up, having wrested Congress from the Democrats and determined to dethrone Clinton and establish something like a Reagan restoration. So the bottom line is: much of what's in the piece is fantasizing by people who are on the one hand filled with fury at their political enemies who have, as they see it, disgracing the offices they occupied and, on the other, filled with hope and expectation about an imminent restoration of the true and the right.
Well, Bibi won the election, but he didn't change the terms of Israeli politics; he destroyed the Likud, with a record of mendacity, intrigue and betrayal that would outdo the combined efforts of a Nixon and a Clinton. Thankfuly, he didn't try to start a regional war, as apparently some of his American admirers were egging him on to do. And Clinton got reelected. And Clinton and Barak between them brought Oslo to its inevitable conclusion: open war and terror on a scale never before seen in Israel.
So: is Sharon reading from this script? Can anyone seriously believe he is? We're talking about the legendary bulldozer here, and what is he proposing to bulldoze - Jenin? The Bekaa Valley? No - he's proposing to bulldoze Netzarim. Whatever operations Sharon's Mossad is running to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat - and I sure hope he's running something - I cannot believe he thinks the better part of valor is creating more regional unrest. So I take the reports about Kurdistan with several grains of salt.
Other parts of the script I wish he was reading from. I wish he cared more about liberalizing the Israeli economy. I wish he did seek to end American economic aid. I wish, for that matter, that he - and every Israeli government - had taken the domestic Arab problem seriously for the past generation. It may be too late now, frankly. But bottom line: Sharon, for all his faults (and they are legion) is not a fantasist.
So: do I think folks like Perle and Wolfowitz, etc. have been reading from this script for the past 3 years in the Bush Adminsitration? Sadly, I do.
I am a big advocate of peace through strength. I think Sharon has done a huge amount to shore up Israel's deterrent - Operation Defensive Shield, the ongoing campaign against the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza, the building of the security fence, etc. I am nervous about the pullout from Gaza not because I think Israel should keep Gaza - Israel should be desperate to get rid of the place - but because I remember the pullout from South Lebanon and what followed. But Israel has learned - Sharon has learned - that it cannot achieve political objectives by force, only military ones. And its problem with the Palestinians, no less than the American problem with the jihadi ideology and the general political disfunction of the Middle East, is not a military problem solvable with military force. Folks like "Anonymous" who think a scorched earth strategy is the only way to win our war are as wrong as the neo-cons who thought that if someone simply toppled Saddam or Assad or whoever that peaceful, pro-Israel Arab democracies would sprout.
The best reason for war with Saddam was what Tom Friedman called the "real reason" - that we needed to take care of business, take out our avowed enemies in the Arab world, and show that world that we were not to be trifled with. Knowing what we had to do, we should have planned our war with meticulous attention to what would follow and how to minimize the negative consequences - terrorist blowback, Iranian mischief-making, etc. We didn't do that, and we didn't do that because of happy-talk from guys like Perle. That's what I fault them for, primarily.