The Mideast Peace, Make That, Nonbelligerency Process


Chris Dierkes

Chris Dierkes (aka CJ Smith). 29 years old, happily married, adroit purveyor and voracious student of all kinds of information, theories, methods of inquiry, and forms of practice. Studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church in Canada. Main interests: military theory, diplomacy, foreign affairs, medieval history, religion & politics (esp. Islam and Christianity), and political grand bargains of all shapes and sizes.

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86 Responses

  1. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    New York Review of Books. Don’t make yourself sound middle-high-brow when you are obviously a high-brow type of guy all the way.Report

  2. Avatar Chris Dierkes says:



    I’m high brow?Report

  3. Avatar JosephFM says:

    Thanks for this. It’s a great piece overall, and as this is an issue that I care about deeply for personal reasons (since I’m half Israeli), but I do somewhat feel that some of these options may be just as fanciful (especially in light of the fact that their assessment of Abbas appears to be way off). That said, I’m glad they’re putting these ideas out there, we need more constructive thinking like this, instead of the defensive (and often frankly hateful) ranting that seems to constitute most of the debate about Israel/Palestine, when it isn’t spilling over into outright war. I’m sick of it.

    So I welcome any new conversation, no matter how unlikely.Report

  4. Avatar Art Deco says:

    Jordan granted citizenship to the residents of the West Bank and to refugees from various portions of mandatory Palestine parked on the East Bank or the West Bank, and I believe Jordan was the only Arab government that sought to assimilate the refugee population into an extant political society. That, and decades of a dole administered by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, is the source of your problem, and it would be flabbergasting were it to be ameliorated by diplomatic strategems of any sort. Conor Cruise O’Brien once said that there was no solution to this conflict, merely security (or the deficit of it). What has happened over the last 16 years confirms this view.Report

  5. Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

    I agree that the peace process is dead. The problem is that people have a huge investment in it and will not give it up.

    But this is just twisted history in pursuit of the “even-handed” approach:

    But its roots are far deeper: for Israelis, Palestinian denial of the Jewish state’s legitimacy; for Palestinians, Israel’s responsibility for their large-scale dispossession and dispersal that came with the state’s birth.

    The first part is obviously true; the second part alludes to the so-called Palestinian right of return. This is nothing more than another way to achieve the “one state solution”: an Arab/Islamic state with a minority Jewish population. Therefore, instead of being “even-handed,” Agha and Malley are giving legitimacy to the most explosive Arab/Palestinian demand at the expense of Israel.

    This isn’t to say that Israel is not responsible for the “large-scale dispossession and dispersal of Arabs.” But Israel is not solely responsible. It’s a complicated historical question to disentangle responsibility here (read Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, 640pp. or 1948, 520pp). Aside from the details of the historical situation, the overall picture places responsibility on the Arabs. They rejected the UN partition in 1947 and the “large-scale dispossession and dispersal of Arabs” happened as a result of the war they initiated with the purpose of exterminating the new state of Israel.

    Another twisted reading of history is

    Israel wins (takes/occupies depending on your point of view) territories from various pre-existing nation-states in the 1967 war […]

    From which “pre-existing state” did Israel take the West Bank? The West Bank was assigned as a Palestinian/Arab state by the UN in 1947. It was occupied by Jordan after the 1948 war. Nobody, by the way, was protesting this occupation back then. It has never been part of a “pre-existing nation-state.”

    The “land for peace” formula was agreed upon with UN SCR 242. Israel offered the deal to Arabs right after the ’67 war and before the UNSC resolution and was answered by the Arab League meeting at Khartoum: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.”

    Elliot Abrams expresses the situation in stark terms:

    Demographic trends in the region pose stark choices for both sides. The Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza has more than doubled from 1,728,334 at the time of the 1991 Madrid talks to 4,013,126 today, and is growing half again as fast as the Israeli population. (According to the CIA’s World Factbook, the West Bank’s population is growing at 2.2 percent, Gaza’s at 3.3 percent, and Israel’s at 1.7 percent.)

    Many Israelis have concluded from these developments that for Israel to remain a democratic Jewish state, it must separate from the Palestinians and allow them their own state. But some Palestinians have reached the opposite conclusion. Given that the Palestinians currently living in the West Bank and Gaza (together with the 3 million refugees theoretically eligible to “return” to Israel) would be numerically overwhelming, why accept a Palestinian state that would be divided into two parts, the West Bank and Gaza, contain some Jewish settlements, consist of only 6,000 square kilometers, and lack resources? Why not push for a single unified state?

    He notes that there are other factors which make the two-state solution impossible right now: the weakness of the PA; the militancy of Iran, who proclaims their genocidal intent against Israel, arms, finances, and trains Hezbollah and Hamas, and is acquiring nuclear weapons; the lack of a viable economy in Palestine. These are the points that one needs to address if a two-state solution is ever to come about, not details like borders, the status of Jerusalem, settlement activity, etc etc.

    These are the points that our Obamoids ignore because they can’t be solved by inspiring speeches and other blather. They require leadership, which isn’t forthcoming on any point, let alone the Middle East.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Elliot’s analysis strikes me as largely correct. Perhaps he touches on this in a later piece but I am personally struck by how it is the right wing settlers and Israel’s policy towards encouraging settlement in those regions that is effectively chaining the Jewish state to the demographic anchor that will ultimatly drown it. I personally am strongly defensive of the Israeli state and I understand the thought process that makes Israeli’s unwilling to withdraw and undergo the painful extraction of their home grown fanatics from the West Bank without getting some form of quid pro quo from the Palestinians specifically or the Arab world in general. That said I don’t see the rationale behind not beginning to lay the groundwork or even unilaterally withdrawing anyways. We’re talking about a demographic time bomb for goodness sakes. Do you have any insight into what the Israeli polity in general or their right wingers and Bibi specifically think about this issue? Do they think that there’s some hidden reserve of untapped Jews who will make Aliya in the future to balance this out? How does the right wing thought process work itself around to entangling Israel more and more thoroughly with the Palestinian populace? I have my own friends in Israel who I’ve asked about this but they’re former Labor or Meretz peaceniks turned Kadima (aka mugged by reality) so they can’t give me any narrative from the right. Heck they can barely give me narrative from the center (but I love them anyhow).Report

      • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

        “I don’t see the rationale behind not beginning to lay the groundwork or even unilaterally withdrawing anyways.”

        Would that rationale be the history of Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon and Gaza? Unilateral withdrawal was met with rocket attacks on civilians in both cases.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Well yes, but they’re rocketting and attacking anyhow so it’s six of one half a dozen of the other. I was just inquiring about the demographic bomb. Does the right in Israel deny that it exists? Do they embrace some kind of expulsion of the Palestinian fantasies? Do they embrace some mass immigration of Jews fantasies? How do they rationalize embedding the state in a demography that could potentially destroy it?Report

      • Avatar JosephFM says:

        Indeed, North. That’s roughly the perspective where I am coming at this from (particularly with regards to the role that the US can actually play effectively – steps toward disentangling Syria from Iran seems more promising than anything else we could do).

        The thing is, contra Roque, Abrams’ assessment is not really incompatible with the original article by Malley and Agha except perhaps in semantic terms. He wants a commitment to a “two state solution”, they acknowledge this as ideal but perhaps impossible except in the very long run (a view that I share, since a “Palestinian state” that is as hostile to Israel as the territories are now resolves almost nothing). He argues the “core issues” that were the basis of the peace process are no longer at the root of the situation, they argue that most of them were not truly core to the conflict at all: “The devil, it turns out, is not in the details. It is in the broader picture.”

        Indeed this is where they are most cogent: that there really is no willingness on the part of the Palestinians to acknowledge that Israel exists. It is, and it has been, a real country, and they have to live with it. But the demographic issue is not one that Israel has been willing to address either. And it is certainly true that, whatever Israel does owe to the Palestinian refugees, their continued suffering and ambiguous status is just as much the fault of the Arab states and the stubbornness and/or weakness of the Palestinian “leadership”. Roque is right only to the extent that, whatever its wartime conduct Israel is less responsible for the current state of affairs than it is often accused of being, but to say that is to say very little. The important thing is to ask “what can be done? how can things change for the better even a little, given the manifest failure of the peace process?” I commend both Malley and Agha and Abrams for being willing to do so in spite of a situation that to me seems frankly hopeless.

        In fact, the strength of both of these articles is that they don’t get derailed into paranoid name-calling, unlike certain others.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Good thoughts there Joseph (do you mind if I drop the FM?)

          Yes yes especially to your second to last paragraph. I wonder if any clot of blood has done more damage to a situation in the last ten maybe twenty years than the one that put Ariel Sharon down with that stroke.

          I don’t know about Bibi, this is the second time he’s gotten to stick his oar in and play spoiler. Things are gummed up but good right now. I have no damn clue what realistic steps one can expect anyone to take. The Palestinians are pretty much the same as ever and if you sniff at the wind you can smell the charred carcasses of all the Israeli peace parties even from America. I’ve got a feeling that we’re probably going to have to wait for a new election and some churn in the Knesset before things change.Report

          • Avatar JosephFM says:

            I don’t mind at all, those are actually my middle and last initials.

            And you’re probably right about that, though I wonder how long that will take given how dysfunctional the Knesset has been these last few years especially.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I’m in favor of a three-state solution.

    Israel, Gaza, and West Bank. Maybe we can call them Israel, West Palestine, and East Palestine. Let them each have independent elections and maybe Hamas will be in charge of W.P., Fatah in E.P. (or the other way around), and both localities will have leaders from neighborhoods near where they are now haggling about trade concessions or the people in that building on Main and Elm that the biased Israeli Media along with the biased Western Media (as well as the biased UN) alleges has rockets fired from it from time to time.

    The two-state solution has always struck me as something that would obviously fail.Report

    • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

      Three state solution? It’s pretty much what they have now. How’s it working out for them?

      You think the 8,000 rockets fired by Hamas at civilian populations in Israel, or the I-don’t-know-how-many fired by Hezbollah at civilian populations in Israel (after complete Israeli withdrawals from Gaza and Lebanon) are alleged by “biased media,” and the “biased” UN to serve Israeli interests? Tell me I’m reading you wrong. Because if I’m not, you’re a member of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion club. Take a look at reality: the UN is definitely biased, but in favor of the Arabs. For the most recent expression of this bias, see the Goldstone report on Gaza, approved by the UN GA on 5 Nov.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        “It’s pretty much what they have now.”

        Not exactly. The closest comparison that I might make for the West Bank is that it’s vaguely like an Israeli colony. Gaza would be the unoccupied version of that. They’re not allowed free trade with the (other) countries with whom they share borders… which tends to mean that only war-making stuff gets smuggled in and there’s a lot less upside and a lot more downside to smuggling in stuff like “red lipstick” or “Moonwalker DVDs”.

        They have territory, but no self-determination that means much of anything. They aren’t a state.

        They’re more like a colony.

        Indeed, as you have asked, how’s that workin’ out?Report

        • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

          I hesitate to respond to a member of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion club, but here goes:

          The West Bank is “vaguely like” a colony; Gaza is an “unoccupied, vaguely like colony.” Whatever… Your point seems to be that this situation could be reversed by Israel, if they had the willpower. It can’t be as long as Arabs/Palestinians reject its existence, etc etc.

          They are not allowed free trade with Israel because they are at war with Israel. Their (Hamas) charter proclaims this and their genocidal intent. On the other hand, the “other countries with whom they share borders” is Egypt. Egypt can open its borders whenever it wants to.

          None of this is working out at all, needless to say. But the “three-state solution” is just empty words without Arab/Palestinian acceptance of Israel’s existence.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            The little plastic castle is a surprise every time.

            Anyway, you say “Your point seems to be that this situation could be reversed by Israel, if they had the willpower.”

            That is not my point. My point is that this situation will not be reversed without autonomy on the part of the states that are part of the solution. If the West Bank cannot engage in commerce with Egypt, this will result in only contraband being smuggled into Gaza.

            How’s that workin’ out?

            As for the election of Hamas, the only other real option was Fatah. I imagine that we could complain about Fatah not removing the whole “death to Israel” thing from their charter as well. In the election, the Palestinians threw the bums out for corruption. Would you have prefered they kept Arafat’s old party?

            Why would you prefer they kept Arafat’s old party?

            Do you hate Israel?

            I certainly don’t want to argue with someone that hates Israel, after all.Report

            • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

              What’s this about a “little castle?” Are you talking to me? I have no idea what you’re referring to. “Roque” does not mean “castle” and “Nuevo” does not mean “little.” Grow up.

              I imagine that we could complain about the whole “death to Israel thing.” Would that be bad form, according to you? On the other hand, bad form or not, it’s exactly this that’s holding up the two-state, three-state or whatever state solution.

              The conventional wisdom holds that Hamas won the elections to “throw the bums out for corruption.” But the conventional wisdom is wrong in this case. Hamas won because of rising religiosity amongst Palestinians, along with the corruption angle. In other words, Palestinians accept Hamas’s charter, which calls for genocide against Jews and Israelis based on the Koran, etc etc. This is true until your Cosmo subscriptions get through to them, which they never will.

              I have never given you the least reason to assume that I “hate Israel.” You, on the other hand, have given me reason to assume that you’re a member of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion club.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Really? I thought that the conventional wisdom was that the Palestinians voted for Hamas because Hamas was better at the whole “death to Israel” thing than Hamas which demonstrates that the Palestinians are animals who cannot be trusted with self-determination.

                “I have never given you the least reason to assume that I “hate Israel.”” Does advocating policies that will result in more attacks qualify as secretly hating Israel? How have the policies you’ve been advocating been working out for ya? Maybe they’ll work the next time they get applied! Maybe the right people just haven’t been applying them.

                On top of that, you wanted Arafat’s party to win the election! I find it difficult to discuss Israel’s future with Arafat fans, sorry.

                (The little plastic castle line was a reference to a song, specifically goldfish who have no accumulated memory. I was under the impression that someone with accumulated memory might remember that I am one of the pro-Israel people on the board.)Report

              • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

                I haven’t “advocated” any policies at all here. What on Earth are you talking about? All I’ve done is to critique Deirkes analysis with another one by Abrams. None of this was about advocating any solutions. You, on the other hand, are clearly advocating solutions that will result in more conflict, death, and destruction, on top of being a member of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion club. Or, what effect would opening Gaza’s borders have besides importing subscriptions to Cosmo?

                I never said that I favored Fatah over Hamas in the election.

                I didn’t get the “goldfish” stuff. Sorry, I don’t watch much TV.

                I don’t care if you’re one of the “pro-Israel people on the board” or not. You talk gibberish.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I have no idea why I am still talking to Arafat’s biggest fan on the board, but if you think that maintaining the status quo will result in anything but Israel eventually being overwhelmed you are more deluded than an Episcopalian.Report

              • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

                Did I say I wanted to maintain the status quo? I did not and now that you mention it I do not favor maintaining it. I never even mentioned Arafat. You did. Can’t you debate without using these infantile tactics? or are you just trying to be funny?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “Can’t you debate without using these infantile tactics?”

                Funny you should ask.Report

              • Avatar JosephFM says:

                Yeah, you critiqued his argument with one that reaches fundamentally similar conclusions. Way to go.Report

              • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

                Is it funny? Does it’s being funny imply that you do not answer, and instead just muddy the waters to no purpose whatsoever? What’s wrong with you?

                1. I did not “advocate” any solution for the conflict in Israel/Palestine, much less the status quo or anything that will exacerbate the death and destruction, as you attribute to me. You did.

                2. I did not express any preference for Arafat over Hamas, as you attribute to me.

                3. I’m not so presumptuous as to “advocate” solutions for such an intractable conflict without any first-hand knowledge. I find your “advocacy” of the “three-state-Cosmo” solution to be fundamentally unserious in that to “advocate” such a thing, you must ignore reality. If I were Israeli or Palestinian, I would take offense at such childish talk because it elides the tremendous suffering both peoples have undergone.Report

    • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

      The point is: two-state or three-state, any solution is a farce until the main points of the conflict are resolved: Arab/Palestinian rejection-ism, which has been at the root of the conflict for 120 years; the demographic situation; the weakness of the PA; the militancy of Iran, who proclaims their genocidal intent against Israel, arms, finances, and trains Hezbollah and Hamas, and is acquiring nuclear weapons; the lack of a viable economy in Palestine.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Our cultural weapons of mass destruction will do more to undermine the militancy of Iran than anything short of genocide.

        Send them some subscriptions to Cosmo and watch what happens.Report

        • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

          “Send them some subscriptions to Cosmo and watch what happens.”

          They will be confiscated and whoever possesses them will be whipped, caned, or whatever. What world are you living in?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Send some more, then. Put up websites. Radio Free Iran (have a Michael Jackson hour around supper time! At 8PM, GET THE LED OUT!). Send them decadence and perpetual adolescence and get a handful of funny Iranians to create sketches mocking the Imams like on Laugh-in.

            Put a video on youtube where an Iranian Mark Metcalf dressed as an Imam gives a spittle flecked rant to an Iranian fat kid who screams “I WANNA ROCK!” before turning into an Iranian Dee Snider.

            Or we can, you know, invade Iraq or something. (How’s that workin’ out?)Report

            • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

              Websites and radio free Iran already exist. The problem is that Iranians don’t have access to them because they live in a totalitarian state. If you think they’ll tolerate anything even approaching what you’re saying, you’re dreaming.

              All this is just avoiding the issue. None of it has any chance of happening. What is happening is that Iran is acquiring nuclear weapons and sending more and more sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah and Hamas.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Personally, I saw the Green Revolution as a reason to be optimistic.

                We need to do more to give the kids more tools they can use to mock the powers that be over there. Give them more twitters, more photobuckets, and more livejournals. Information wants to be free. The internet treats censorship like damage and routes around it. The children are our future.

                Give them more reason to hate the Imams than the Great Satan.

                Send them Cosmo and let them determine who is wearing the boot stomping on their face.

                This will have far, far better results than belligerence that will last far, far longer.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                That’s really quite apt for the long term strat Jay. Something is going to need to be done about the nearer term though.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I don’t see Islamic Whateveryouwanttocallit as even half as competent as Soviet Socialism.

                Containment and blue jeans worked for the Soviets. I don’t know why they won’t work with Iran.

                Hell, find a sport that Iran is likely to get a medal in and engage in some light Nixonian ping-pong diplomacy.Report

              • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

                You’re in denial. Obama already tried some “badminton” diplomacy with Iran. Turned out they don’t want to play with us. We send them Cosmo subscriptions and they confiscate them; we invite them to play badminton and they decline; we set up web sites and they censor them; we beam in radio free Iran and they jam it. Etc. What next? Sit back and wait for them to come around to the joys of Cosmo, etc etc?

                Yes, containment and blue jeans worked for the Soviets. Or was it “the world standing as one,” in Obama’s memorable phrase? That and forty years of proxy wars, arms race, black ops, summit meetings, arms control treaties, human rights activism, etc etc. Your “blue jeans/Cosmo” policy will only work when people are free to choose blue jeans and Cosmo. If not, then … what?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Then keep doing it.

                It’s cheaper by two, if not three, if not four, if not five, orders of magnitude to play Kashmir over and over and over and over again, to send badminton invites, to send copies of Cosmo, to set up websites than to bluster.

                The Green Revolution is one that will, eventually, win. It will, eventually, work. What we need to do is make sure that the kids in Iran know who gave them this issue of Cosmo, this version of “Smooth Criminal” translated into Urdu, this red lipstick and know damn well who took it away. *THAT* seed is one that will flower.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Actually Jay you have me flummoxed. I honestly do not know what the relative freedom of a citizen under the Soviets is vies a vies a citizen living in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Intuitively I’m thinking less since they had no legit markets at all while Iran does (and a thriving black market as well). Anyone else who knows more about Iran and the Soviets wanna weigh in? Who’s freer; an Iranian in 2009 or a Russian in 1989?

                Frankly Jay I’m inclined to agree with you there. I read an article that Iran is the nose job capital of the world for instance and it’s not Mullah noses the Iranians are going under the knife to get. If those damn centrifuges weren’t going I’d be pretty sanguine about Iran. We pump bajillions into the CIA et all every year… you’d think we could smuggle a damn bomb or a sabo into one of those facilities.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I suspect that access to the internet (remember when twitter was good for a week?) allows for dissemination of samizdat to a degree unheard of (even in the US!) in 1989.

                Access to samizdat shouldn’t be the only measurement we use, of course.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Oh yes yes yes Jay of course, I’m sorry I was vague. I meant to ask in terms of setting aside technology. (And yes of course modern tech gives an automatic huge boost to ambient freedom.)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I have never heard of the equivalent of “stasi” for Iran.

                This does not mean that such does not exist, of course… but discussions of Soviet Socialism always talked about snitches. Solzhenitsyn’s Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich put a huge emphasis on snitches even in the gulag.

                I’ve never heard of such with regard to Iran.

                This may be overtowering ignorance on my part, of course (or massive overfamiliarity with Russian history).Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Yeah I’m similarily inclined Jay, I’d think the Soviets were far more repressive than the Iranians.
                Now of course the Soviets were pretty rational when it came to foreign affairs of course, you generally didn’t have to worry about a Commisar deciding to pop a nuke off to induce the second coming. Which is a concern with Iran of course.Report

              • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

                There’s been movement on your Cosmo solution in Congress. But there’s a holdup–see the final paragraph.Check this out:

                Almost without notice, a small initiative to help democratic reformers in Iran is moving through the U.S. Congress. The notion is disarmingly simple: With a small investment of money, the U.S. government can help Iranian citizens get around efforts by the Iranian regime to block their use of the Internet to communicate with each other and the outside world…….the Victims of Iranian Censorship Act — or Voice — a piece of legislation that, at its core, authorizes the U.S. government to develop proxy Web servers and Web addresses beyond the reach of the Iranian government, and to deploy technologies that would allow Iranians to go to those sites anonymously to stay in touch with one another and the outside world via the Internet…So a group of senators from across the spectrum — Democrats Ted Kaufman of Delaware and Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Mr. McCain, and independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut — introduced the legislation jointly. In late July it passed the Senate as part of a bigger defense-authorization bill…The idea is uncomfortable for the Obama administration, largely because some advocates of Internet-freedom legislation have in mind helping Chinese dissidents, not Iranian democracy protesters. Wrangling with China’s leaders, on whom the U.S. is depending for help with, among many other things, putting pressure on Iran, is a much trickier proposition. Still, some simple ideas are hard to resist. My emphasis.

                So: Obama is uncomfortable with a cheap and easy Cosmo solution so as to bombard Iran with our cultural detrious because it interferes his efforts to suck up to China, which he needs so as to put pressure on Iran. I realize that I’m logic-challenged sometimes, but I don’t see any sense in this at all. Do you?Otherwise, what chance does your Cosmo solution have to cause a peaceful solution in the region if Obama won’t use it and instead insists on his bankrupt smartough diplomacy?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Hey, *I* didn’t vote for him.

                I voted for Charles Jay. Let’s get some people who believe in, like, the liberty of the individual in the White House and see what happens when we try to engage in vigorous commerce.

                My part of the world *NEEDS* more Persian restaurants, for example. This problem will not be rectified with smartough diplomacy.Report

              • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

                I’m not accusing you of anything as outlandish as that. I’m only pointing to developments that support your idea but with a practical angle: the president won’t get behind it. If this turns out to be how things work out then, what’s left? It’s a rhetorical question. What’s left is a nuclear armed Iran. No use kidding ourselves.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “So then what?” is a great question.

                Iran is nuclear. So then what?

                Two things, I suspect.

                1) They’ll yell “Allahu Ackbar!” and bomb Israel and, a few minutes after that, discovers that Israel is also a nuclear power. Holy cow, they’re a totally mature nuclear power! When did that happen? Iran is not likely to be the only country in the region that will become painfully aware of the whole “Israel is, in fact, a nuclear power” thing.

                2) Iran says “Yes! We are a nuclear power!” followed closely by “Holy crap, there are a lot of rules we have to follow now and sitting at the big kids’ table sucks, and we now have to discuss certain things at the UN that we never did before and we’ve now got to deal with a huge number of problems that we never had to deal with before and, holy crap, we just got a note from the Israeli embassador that Israel is a nuclear power and has missiles pointed pretty much everywhere there are more than 7 buildings?”

                I suspect the latter is much, much more likely if only because the leaders of any given country tend towards deep cynicism rather than true belief. True believers are easily gamed. Only the most cynical rise to positions of real leadership.Report

  7. Avatar Barry says:

    Roque Nuevo
    “…after complete Israeli withdrawals from Gaza…”

    Gee, that’s an interesting definition of ‘withdrawal’.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Well they did withdraw pretty much completely, though they are maintaining control of travel in and out of the strip.Report

      • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

        “they are maintaining control of travel in and out of the strip.”

        Of course they are. That’s because the entity governing Gaza is dedicated to the destruction of Israel and the extermination of Jews. Can one seriously expect them to open their borders under such circumstances?

        Besides, Israel isn’t alone in “maintaining control of travel in and out of the strip.” Egypt is a full partner in this.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          I’m not clear on Egypt. Is Egypt policing the border or is there like a little strip that Israel is securing down the line between Gaza and Egypt?
          No big surprise of course that Egypt wants nothing to do with Gaza. The Arab states in general don’t want anything to do with the poor Palestinians except for when they’re using them as a stick to whap Israel with.Report

    • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

      What’s your definition, then? I haven’t given mine yet, but how about this one:

      “Laws and Customs of War on Land” (Hague IV); October 18, 1907: “Section III Military Authority over the territory of the hostile State.”[1] The first two articles of that section state:

      Art. 42.
      Territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army.

      In 2005 Israel abandoned all settlements and withdrew its ground forces. I can’t see how one can continue to say that Gaza is “occupied” by the state of Israel under these circumstances.Report

  8. Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

    November 17th, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    I have never heard of the equivalent of “stasi” for Iran.

    Does this count as a “stasi” in your mind? Wikipedia:

    The Basij (Persian: ????) (literally “Mobilization”; also Basij-e Mostaz’afin, literally “Mobilization of the Oppressed”; officially Nirou-ye Moqavemat-e Basij, literally “Mobilisation Resistance Force”)[1][2] is a paramilitary volunteer militia founded by the order of the Ayatollah Khomeini in November 1979. The Basij are (at least in theory)[3] subordinate to, and receive their orders from, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. However they have also been described as “a loosely allied group of organizations” including “many groups controlled by local clerics.”[3]

    Consisting of young Iranians who volunteer to join this force, often in exchange for official benefits, the Basij are most notable for their loyalty to the supreme leader Khamenei. Currently Basij serve as an auxiliary force engaged in activities such as internal security as well law enforcement auxiliary, the providing of social service, organizing of public religious ceremonies, and more famously morals policing and the suppression of dissident gatherings.[4][5] They have a local organization in almost every city in Iran.[6]


    • Avatar North says:

      I’m guessing then you’re of the opinion that the Iranian state is significantly more repressive than the old Soviets were?Report

      • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

        I really don’t have an opinion on this. I don’t even have an idea as to how one would go about forming one in the first place. Furthermore, I can’t see how this exercise in “comparative totalitarianism” is relevant to this debate.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          “How did we defeat the last totalitarian ideology?”

          That’s how it’s relevant. We can also look at stuff like “was there anything we’ve done recently that seriously didn’t work?” and, if there was, we can say “let’s not do that, then.”Report

          • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

            We did not defeat it with Cosmo and blue jeans, even though those elements may have played some role. We didn’t defeat it by “the world standing as one”, either. We defeated it by decades of low-intensity warfare, espionage, dirty ops, lying, cheating, and stealing, arms race, space race, etc etc.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              What keeps it defeated is the knowledge of the citizenry of what happened the last time they outsourced most of their decision-making to their betters.

              It would be easy to go in there and kill (fearless leader) by hanging and post the video to youtube.

              I suspect that we could tell ourselves that we’d be greeted with flowers and such but I also suspect that we’d be lying to ourselves.

              If we are to topple totalitarianism in such a way that it stays toppled, I think we have to do it in such a way that the oppressed people think that *THEY* did it.Report

              • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

                I never said anything about going in there and killing anyone. Why do you insist on putting words in my mouth? You only advertise your poverty of ideas this way.

                Now you’re on about keeping them defeated instead of just defeating them! I guess by this I can assume that you have nothing more to say in defense of your “Cosmo/Internet” argument for defeating the mullah regime in the first place since you respond by shifting the goal-posts—which, by the way, is just another of your infantile debating tactics.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “It would be easy to go in there and kill (fearless leader) by hanging and post the video to youtube.”

                This is putting words in your mouth, is it?

                I’d instead wonder if you weren’t putting words in my mouth that you claim were put in your mouth so that you might respond with righteous indignation.

                Don’t let me stand in your way.Report

              • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

                I guess what threw me was the fact that you put your “hanging the leader” idiocy in reply to one of my posts. That made me think you were attributing such views to me. Sorry if I got you wrong.

                As for the rest, well… I have yet to see a response that merits the name from you. You just dance around the points raised against you, change the subject, inject non sequitors, etc etc. Case in point: nit-picking over whether the Basij is “secret” enough for you so as to cause “paranoia.”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “Case in point: nit-picking over whether the Basij is “secret” enough for you so as to cause “paranoia.””

                Are you familiar with Solzhenitsyn? I suggest reading the Gulag Archipelago which, you may recall, had to be smuggled to the West.

                There are differences of degree that, if large enough, become differences in kind.

                I see Iran as teetering today (around the time that Azar Nafisi wrote her book) in such a way that Russia absolutely was *NOT* at the time of Khrushchev.

                I very much think that we could easily make things much more difficult for the Imams with a little cultural weaponry at this point in time and bring them down without having to engage in low-intensity warfare, espionage, dirty ops, lying, cheating, and stealing, arms race, space race, etc etc.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Oh, I believe that if the people aren’t into it, the totalitarians will *NOT* be defeated in the first place.

                Recently, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that we not only have to have people who are into it, but they have to do it themselves.

                If they don’t do it themselves, you see, it’s likely that they won’t see the new leadership as step up from the old one… and the people who did put the new leadership there will have a mess on their hands.

                I believe that if there is going to be totalitarianism overthrown, it must be done in such a way that the people think that they did it. If they don’t, they will be in a “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” situation.

                I can go into more detail as to why, historically, belligerence won’t result in a whole lot of flowers being laid at the feet of the people engaging in low-intensity warfare, espionage, dirty ops, lying, cheating, and stealing and etc.

                (Out of curiosity, do people ever die in low-intensity warfare?)Report

              • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

                “Recently, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that we not only have to have people who are into it, but they have to do it themselves.” So you do subscribe to the “world standing as one” explanation. Of course, I may be misinterpreting you since you limit yourself to broad statements and do not engage the details.

                Of course “low intensity warfare” results in death and destruction. There were millions of deaths in the Cold War. These wars had something to do with the fall of Communism, along with, of course, people reading Cosmo.

                Although is was a “high intensity war,” the Pacific War resulted in a new and more democratic regime for Japan. How does this fit your theory of the “historical inevitability” of people-power? What about the Meji Revo, some hundred years previous? That was set off by the black ships of Commodore Perry as they bombarded Japan’s coastal cities. And so forth. I don’t think many people these days expect flowers to be laid at the feet of anyone anymore. But I would like to see some detail as to why, historically, belligerence is not ultimately positive if the results are to overthrow a totalitarian regime. For example, I doubt that the Japanese have much gratitude towards us, but they are enjoying liberty in a way they weren’t and would never have done if it hadn’t been for their defeat.

                This is relevant here because for the Japanese to change—and to embrace more liberty—they first had to be defeated. This was the cornerstone of Roosevelt’s wartime strategy. Likewise, for the Palestinians to change and to enjoy more liberty, they must be defeated.

                I must add that defeat does not have to be equivalent to a bloodbath like WWII, nor does it even have to include any death and destruction at all. It could happen simply by the “world standing as one” and insisting that Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state in the Middle East. If the world “stood as one” and refused to tolerate Arab/Palestinian rejectionism any more, then their sources of hate and especially finance would dry up. Well… that and subscriptions to Cosmo for all. Then the situation outlined by Hazony could happen. Maybe.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                My solution is to make people in Iran, Libya, etc, selfish enough to want, you know, *STUFF* instead of wanting something as ephemeral as “Justice”.

                When they care more about Nirya Syria and the sing-along microphone stand than they do about their Palestinian brethren’s plight, we’ll have something akin to peace.

                The foot in the door for that is: western decadence.

                That will work a lot better than putting them in situations where the main source of comfort they have is the ideas of paradise.Report

              • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

                OK. What about the details you promised as to “why, historically”, belligerence won’t result in a better life for those under a totalitarian regime, if the belligerence results in that regime’s overthrow and more liberty for its people?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                How often has “belligerence” resulted in that?

                Oooh, let me guess. Japan? Germany?

                For the record, if we drop an atom bomb or two on Iran, get a full surrender, occupy it for 40 years, I suspect we may be able to turn it into a trading parter/rival.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      That sounds more like an official police than a secret one.

      Are their identities/affiliation kept secret?Report

      • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

        “Are their identities/affiliation kept secret?”

        I really don’t know. Probably not as “religiously” as the stasi, though. I’ll give you that point. But it’s a distinction without a difference as long as people are being oppressed for wearing the wrong clothes, makeup, owning Cosmo subscriptions, listening to radio free Iran, or watching stupid TV shows, etc etc.

        From the same Wikipedia article I cited earlier:

        According to the UNHCR “tens of thousands of Basijis had been ordered to prowl about every factory, office and school to ensure that everyone adhered to the Islamic code. […] After the summer 1999 riots Basij units were revived, rearmed and sent out into the streets to help enforce Islamic law. The Basijis are reportedly under the control of local mosques. It was further said that the Basijis set up checkpoints around the cities and stopped cars to sniff their occupant’s breath for alcohol and check for women wearing make-up or travelling with a man not their close relative or husband. It was reported that the Law of Judicial Support for the Basijis, published in the Official Gazette No. 13946 of 8.10.1371 (December 1992), provided no redress against arbitrary detention by the Basijis.” Iran’s permanent representative to the U.N. denied these charges.[29]

        That is repressive enough to undermine your whole argument about Cosmo/Internet/stupid TV shows being the “weapon” that will bring the regime down, even if they’re not all that “secret.”Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          The paranoia generated by a stasi is one of their secret weapons. You never know who is going to be a secret policeman. Your tailor? Your neighbor? Your uncle?

          When the wall fell (Shaka, when the walls fell) there was discussion as to whether the archives would be opened to make public who was and who was not a secret policeman.

          There was a HUGE hue and cry on both sides, of course. The argument against releasing the archive was something to the effect of “if people knew that their neighbor snitched on them having a Michael Jackson tape, they might beat their neighbor up… best to keep this information hidden away and let bygones be bygones.”

          I see the fall of the Mullahs as about as inevitable as the fall of the Berlin wall… My question is whether these people preventing vice and preserving virtue will be able to make a similar plea. I’m guessing that they won’t… which tells me that they aren’t using paranoia as a weapon to the same degree that the Soviets (and affiliateds) were able to.Report

          • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

            The fall of any regime is “inevitable.” In the long run, we’re all dead, as some wise man said. What’s the point of your fine distinctions here? People are as paranoid as they can be in Iran, I’m sure. Read Reading Lolita in Teheran for a first-hand account of this paranoia and its destructive effects (as well as for insight into Lolita and several other works of Western lit, insight into teaching methodology, personality sketches of Iranian women, and inspiring literary style.Report

            • Avatar JosephFM says:

              I have to agree with this, honestly. Jay, you that sounds way too much like an endorsement of Fukuyaman dialectical historicism, which seems out of character for you. But maybe that’s just because I think international politics usually works out worse than people expect.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Was the Green Revolution nothing but a flash in the pan, then?

                I saw a large bunch of college-age (and a bit older) students in the streets agitating for, to use a cliche’, “change”.

                The liberals taking over in Iran strikes me as about as inevitable as gay marriage in the US.

                The only question is “sooner or later?”Report

              • Avatar JosephFM says:

                Would you say the same about China, then? Because I don’t necessarily see the economic liberalization there leading to actual freedom.

                I’m just cautious. People have a tendency to put the cart before the horse when it comes to big changes. If there’s one lesson the last 20 years should have taught us, it’s that tyranny is always resilient even in the face of growing freedom.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “Because I don’t necessarily see the economic liberalization there leading to actual freedom.”

                Compare to 10, 20, and 50 years ago.

                What (ahem) vector are they on?Report

              • Avatar JosephFM says:

                Oh right, the vector thing…yeah that argument never convinced me. Mostly because I am an incorrigible pessimist.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                The vector doesn’t go in only one direction, mind. (See, for example, Universal Health Care.)

                But China’s (and Iran’s, for that matter) vector is headed in the right direction.Report

              • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

                The only question is whether it’s before they acquire the nuclear weaponry they need to advance their hegemony. We just don’t have the time it would take to wait for the “inevitable.”

                For the ultimate takedown of your “historical inevitability” line, read Isaiah Berlin, “On Historical Inevitability.” Of course, Berlin doesn’t lend himself to easy sound-bite quotes, but the following may pique your interest:

                To those who use this figure [i.e., “inevitablility”] history is a piece—or a succession of pieces—comical or tragical, a libretto whose heroes and villains, winners and losers speak their lines and suffer their fate in accordance with the text conceived in terms of them but not by them; for otherwise nothing could be rightly conceived as tragical or comical; no pattern—no rules—no explanation. Yet to take such metaphors and turns of phrase literally; to believe that such patterns are not invented but intuitively discovered or discerned, that they are not only some among many possible tunes which the same sound can be made to yield to the musical ear, but are in some sense unique; to think that there exists the pattern, the basic rhythm of history—something which both creates and justifies all that there is—that is to take the game too seriously, to see in it a key to reality. Certainly it is to commit oneself to the view that the notion of individual responsibility is, “in the end,” an illusion.


              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I don’t see how a bomb will protect them against their (increasingly bold) student population.

                Protect them against invasion? Sure. Protect them against students saying “we want to read Lolita in Tehran”? No… I don’t think that that is going to happen.Report

              • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

                Do you see how a nuclear weapon would change the balance of power in the region, radically, in Iran’s favor? Do you see how this is dangerous for US strategic interests? Do you see that whether or not students are rioting and being executed by the regime, or whatever they’re reading would suddenly become irrelevant if this happens before the “inevitable” overthrow of the mullahs? That’s what I’m talking about when I say we don’t have the luxury of waiting for “historical inevitability” to work its magic.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Sure it could.

                Do we want the people in charge of the government with a nuclear weapon in, say, a decade to have good feelings about how awesome the US is or do we want them to feel about us the way, say, Iraqis do?Report

              • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

                Glad you agree on that point anyway.

                “Do we want the people in charge of the government with a nuclear weapon in, say, a decade to have good feelings about how awesome the US is or do we want them to feel about us the way, say, Iraqis do?”

                I’m not sure about the feelings of Iraqis. Do they hate our guts to a man, like everyone else does, because of Bush?

                Anyhow, I don’t really care if Iranians feel that we’re “awesome” in ten years or not. I’ll settle for their hegemonic designs being neutralized. I’ll settle for their not being able to do us—or anyone else—any harm. Then they can feel however they want to. They will never be neutralized and they will always have the potential to do us harm if they have nuclear weapons. That’s the whole problem, not if and when “historical inevitability” will kick in and make things OK again.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “Do they hate our guts to a man, like everyone else does, because of Bush?”

                I’m sure they love us and give soldiers flowers and/or candy whenever one happens to walk by.

                “I’ll settle for their not being able to do us—or anyone else—any harm.”

                With aspirations as high as that, have you ever considered libertarianism?

                We’ll be able to keep them from getting a bomb about as well as we kept Pakistan from getting one.

                Or do you have faith in Obama?Report

              • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

                “Or do you have faith in Obama?”

                Don’t remind me! And I do think you have a good point.

                Are you bowing to the “inevitable” [a nuclear Iran] and then just hoping against hope that the regime will “inevitably” fall into the hands of some peaceful Green Revo Kids? Therefor, all we have to do is bombard them with our cultural detritus and other “tools” and they’ll be hooked and think we’re awesome. Problem solved.Report

  9. Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

    This is the point. This expresses the root cause of the problem. The Solution, if there is one, is to make this happen, somehow, whether it’s by Cosmo/Internet or by any means necessary: David Hazony

    One wonders what would happen if the Palestinians really were to replicate the Zionist movement’s means of establishing a homeland: to build systems of government aimed at improving the Palestinians’ lives rather than channeling them toward endless conflict; to build an economy that emphasizes good business rather than corruption; to craft an educational system and public culture that fosters a positive, life-affirming vision of Palestinian identity and coexistence with Israelis rather than one built entirely on “resistance” to the “occupation.” If that were to happen, wouldn’t Israeli and world leaders have a much harder time denying Palestinian statehood? On the other hand, would they even want to? Should they?


    • Avatar Art Deco says:

      In other words, if the rank-and-file and the elites of the Arab popultion in question had goals and reactions to social stimuli completely different from what they are today, we would not have this problem. We just need a deus ex machina to make it happen.

      No need to emulate the Jews; just emulating the Greek Cypriot or Sudeten German populations would leave the inhabitants of the West Bank, Gaza, and the camps (and those living proximate to them) a great deal better off than they are today.Report