Friday, January 30, 2009

Mitchell in the lion's den

David Seaton's News Links
I agree with Jimmy Carter that George Mitchell is the best man America has to send as an envoy to the Middle East. To send him at least shows serious intent to revive the "peace process".

The problem is with the quotation marks around "peace process".

Mitchell was able to achieve peace in the Northern Ireland conflict which is hundreds of years old. It in no way diminishes his achievement to note that for the first time in history the context, with both Belfast and Dublin in the European Union, had created a workable and prosperous horizon in view for all the parties. The context in the Middle East has no such horizon.

Whatever chance there was for some sort of settlement has probably been cremated in the white phosphorus that fell on Gaza. Americans, with their famously short attention span, have probably forgotten about the Gaza horrors already, but rest assured, the people of the region haven't. The probable election of Benyamin Netanyahu as Israel's new prime minister closes any doors that might have been open, if any really were, which I doubt.

In normal times, Obama's best bet would be send Mitchell, send Hillary, stay our of trouble, and kill time like his last two predecessors and focus, laser-like on the economy.

However, the problem in the Middle East, that now faces President Obama, is the most dangerous for America's well being since 1973.

Here are how the pieces are set on the board:
  • Obama will stand or fall on his ability to reinvigorate the economy.
  • To do this he will need the broadest possible domestic support.
  • If he puts serious pressure on Israel, the Israel lobby will try to destabilize him. The last president to put serious pressure on Israel, George H.W. Bush, is said to believe that doing so cost him his reelection. Dubya, whom many in the Middle East thought would follow in his father's footsteps, decided to avoid his father's fate and simply give the Israelis anything they wanted and thus have his hands free to cut taxes for the super rich, which to use the Maoist term was his "primary contradiction".
  • However tempted Obama might be to concentrate on his primary contradiction which is America's self-destructing economy and have his envoys shuttle around having their pictures taken, this would be very dangerous in today's context.
  • The rich Arabs of the Middle East are afraid for their very lives and have in their hands enough American dollars and American debt to destabilize the American economy if they began to sell them. Or if, as a variant of their 1973 oil embargo, they simply insisted on taking payment for oil in Euros instead of dollars, as Saddam Hussein did, they would send the US economy, in its present condition, careening off into the abyss.
It will be interesting to see how he gets out of this bind and if he does, he will have converted me to a fan, for one. DS


RC said...

One cannot now or in the future claim that Obama failed to delegate the task to the proven champion.
And wonders, David, I think you are softening a bit about Obama. I'm completely unconcerned about foreign policy and war decisions, I think the administration will do fine especially getting over that bar that the Bush Bunch knocked down so low, but as to the cascading economic falls just up ahead, the canoe seems close to the edge.

bailey alexander said...

David, I completely concur and have used the same comparisons. I studied and lived in London in the 80's and would visited Ireland.

Many years later my husband traveled there often for Microsoft and I would tag along when I could get away from work.

It was rather poor x amount of years ago, then w/their canny tax breaks, bringing in MS and the others enabled them to then, very adroitly I might add, benefit like no one else ever will upon entering the EU; they became richer quicker than anyone and those prospects inspired their anger and issues to soften and morph into something otherly...indeed.

forensic accountant said...

My perception is that the Irish eventualy agreed to power sharing because both sides were living in their ancestral homeland, both sides were Irish, both sides shared a common culture and language, and sharing power was more beneficial to both sides than not sharing power. There were part of the same tribe, so to speak.

Analagous to the Christians and Moslems of Lebanon - they are all Arab, and share a common history and language. The sectarian fighting of Lebanon has not seen the brutality of the recent bombing campaign in Gaza. In fact, much of the Lebanese violence was driven by outsiders - Syrian, Israeli, American, and yes, Palestinian.

The Israelis and Palestinians have none of that in common. Both wish to occupy the same land, there is no common language or culture, no ethnic identity. It like is asking for "common ground" and a peace treaty between the US and the Seminoles.

Mr. Mitchell has been given an unenviable task. I do not see that can be successful without a drastic change in US policy toward Israel. I don't see that happening.