“A Concert of the Middle East”

Europe1815Someone asked if I had any thoughts as to what the content should be of the wide ranging negotiations in the ME that I proposed last night in the "Situation Room."  I do.  A while back I wrote the attached piece for a client and for various reasons it has not been published until now.

This is a statement of what I think SHOULD happen if we are to avoid an accelerating downward spiral of violence and inter-communal warfare throughout the region.  The fires of ancient rivalries and hatred are being "stoked" throughout the region by unremitting efforts for both the Bushian "freedom agenda" and the desire of Iran of the mullahs for what they think is their rightful place in the world.

The list of issues and "bargaining points" that I offer is by no means all inclusive.  This is an OUTLINE.

I have no illusions about whether or not the "plan" I outline will be adopted, but I think the writing, and the contemplation of such a plan, is, in itself, a worthwhile thing.

The president’s repeated statements about the "ideological" nature of the war leave no room for the bargaining and compromise inherent in diplomacy.  Alas.  pl

Download a_concert_of_the_greater_middle_east.doc

Download a_concert_of_the_greater_middle_east.pdf

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92 Responses to “A Concert of the Middle East”

  1. Arnold Evans says:

    1- Grand Bargain with Iran – US offers to see Iran as equal to the Sunnis. What does that mean specifically? There has to be a tangible benefit to Iran that is better than Iran’s status quo to get it to go along with anything. Unfortunately for the US, Iran’s status quo looks good right now.
    2- Bargain with Kurds, Turkey and US. Kurds get homeland with US support but they have to root out the PKK. Most of Kurdistan is in Turkey. No Kurdish government with even a facade of democracy can really fight against the PKK. The US keeps troops in Kurdistan to enforce this. Iran needs to be compensated for US bases in Kurdistan or it will veto it. I guess the oil is compensation for Turkey but is it enough? Kurdistan seriously may be the issue that ends Turkey as a state.
    3- Syria agrees to not interfere at all in Lebanese politics. What if the Shiites want Syria to be involved? If the choice is Syria or the West, today most Lebanese choose Syria. A poll recently asked Lebanese to name the two most threatening states. Israel came in first, among every single ethnic group, even the supposedly pro-Western ones. The US beat Syria 60% to 25% or so. If Lebanese act on their own accord in a pro-Syrian way, how would you know the difference between that and Syrian influence?
    4- Israel must be included in everything, in exchange Israel works for prosperous Palestinian state. Either the refugees will never return and Israel wins, or they will return and the Arabs win. The US likes to make an Israeli victory a precondition for negotation. No negotiation with that precondition can start. The prosperous Palestinian state would be able to afford better weapons to pressure Israel to accept the refugees. At some point, giving up Israel’s Jewish character will come on the table.
    5- The US splits the Sunnis and only fights the bad ones. Very difficult because good Sunnis trust bad Sunnis more than they trust the US. If Israel wasn’t enough to ensure that, which it is, Fallujah I was much more than enough and Fallujah II means there is nothing more to say.
    6- Scale back of US forces outside of Kurdistan. The Shiites tolerate a US presence for the express purpose of fighting Sunnis. If you don’t want to fight Sunnis, you have to go home.
    The United States is not in good shape in teh Middle East. There is no way to make defeat look like victory. The US has to be willing to do things that it would not have been willing to do had it won. The United States would have worked for an independent Kurdistan with US bases if it had won. It would have worked for Israel to be recognized and an active part of the region if it had won. The defeat will not be salvaged at a negotiating table. The negotiating table will discuss terms for the US defeat.

  2. Matthew says:

    I have a few critiques: (1) the tone of the piece presupposes American overlordship indefinitely. Even assuming that is desirable, i.e., America plays a role in the ME like we do in Europe, is that achievable because of Bush ’43; (2) Iranian “meddling” in Iraq is possibly a result of Iraq invading Iran. Why did you piece not include a statement of Iranian grievance, which might build goodwill in light of the Western-supported Iraq invasion; and (3)Why should Israel be a participante of our conferences with Arab states. Doesn’t that imply Israel has a veto on our policy?

  3. b says:

    Very disappointing:
    Golan Heights anyone?
    Right of return for Palestinians?
    Why troops in Iraq if there are substantial US ground troops in Kurdish Iraq to protect the embassy?
    Israeli nukes?
    And those are only the big no-goes.
    I’d expected much better from you Pat.

  4. Freeman says:

    The Congress of Vienna was sponsored by the “great powers” in Europe after they had become tired of fighting each other. I’m far from sure that the leading countries of the Middle East have yet become sufficiently tired of war to be ready to make the compromises necessary for peace.
    It may be that, unfortunately, we need someone like President Bush to stir the pot for a few more years and seriously damage some more nations before people in the Middle East are ready for a lasting negotiated peace.

  5. Margaret Steinfels says:

    Pretty straightforward and pretty simple. There seems little chance that George W. Bush or Condeleeza Rice have the capacity to pull it off. Maybe we need a citizen diplomatic initiative. Thanks for sharing Col. Lang

  6. The Agonist says:

    Col. Lang writes . . .

    . . . and we should read.

  7. walrus says:

    Col. Lang,
    Your suggestions make obvious good sense and are an excellent starting point – were those involved ready for peace and wedded to logic.
    I am afraid however that the parties are not yet exhausted enough, nor have the “winners” appeared, for the peoples of the Middle East to want to make such bargains. There are too many unresolved issues that are going to have to be determined by force of arms.
    To put it another way, would anyone have expected that the Reformation could have been completed and the destruction of the holy roman empire been avoided without bloodshed by a conference between Luther and the Pope? I’m afraid not. The kindest thing someone man say about George W Bush one hundred years from now, is that he unleashed the forces of Muslim reformation.
    Let me make a short list of these issues, starting with the most obvious – the conflict between secular humanism and religion in the Christian, Muslim and Jewish world.
    Technological advances have made it impossible for muslims to be shielded from secular humanist and western values, as they have been for hundreds of years any more. I’ve traveleld in Northern Sulawesi. Every village has fibre, every house TV and frequently the internet. This has meant that the muslim priesthood is now trying to deal with a questioning laity. The result has been absolutism and the creation of governments like Iran’s and organisations like Al Qaeeda and the Taleban who with to “purify” Islam of such heresies, often at the point of a gun.
    Then of course we have the hard line religious right in Israel and the U.S. who also feel the same effects (witness arguments regarding stem cell research, abortion, gay marriage and such like.) These are matters where secular humanism is a direct challenge to what authority the various churches still have left.
    This has led to an unholy and unstated alliance between mullahs, Rabbis and Pastors who have an unholy interest in a bloodthirsty “crusade” of one form or another, and complicate matters accordingly.
    For example, Hezbollah in Lebanon is now having to confront the question of whether it is a religious organisation with national liberation and social overtones, or is it a national liberation and social mobilisation with religious overtones? Hamas has the same problem. the Shia and Sunni militias are going to have to confront this issue as well. Nothing America has done to date has made it any easier for them to make this choice, or to tilt the odds of a decision in our favor. If anything we have driven moderate muslims into the arms of the radical hard liners.
    I guess in a way the invasion of Iraq and Israel’s destruction of Lebanon will help the peoples of the middle east settle these issues, but not necessarily in our favor.
    The other issue that has not been addressed is the kingdom of Saudi Arabia – an absolute monarchy, but with the material trappings of secular humanism pasted over a theocracy.
    Then at home there is the good old military industrial complex, hungry for war and defence spending and fearful of a so called “peace dividend” should common sense and self interest prevail.
    Each of these groups, or their acolytes, take turns in throwing more gasoline on the fire. If its not the Likudniks in Washington think tanks, its Irans’ Prime Minister. If its not Al Qaeeda, its George “Deciderer” Bush. Our leaders believe that they stand to gain by warfare. they are not interested in peace – yet.
    Meanwhile the Chinese sit, as inscrutable as ever, the Russians watch. The western world has tried and failed to influence America, and I suspect most countries are now doing what they can to try and insulate themselves from the coming catastrophe.

  8. johnieb says:

    Your proposal reflects that “reason” which is so lacking in the administration; I therefore share your assessment of its likely adoption there, or among their supporters in the punditry.
    Though we cannot anticipate our opportunities, we must be ready for them. Is that in Sun Tzu? 🙂 And, after all, it is Advent.

  9. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I am not negotiating with YOU. I am suggesting a general methodology for cleaning up a lot of the firewood lying around in the ME without lighting any more. If your favorite interest is offended. Tough!

  10. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I do not seek justice. I seek peace and I don’t give a damn about Iranian grievance.
    If you think Iranian “grievance” was caused by Iraqi invasion, your understanding of relations between the two regions for the last millennium needs work. pl

  11. W. Patrick Lang says:

    How constructive! What do you want, an encyclopedia of negotiating points? pl

  12. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Thanks. I am surprised at the childish nature of some of the comments. pl

  13. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    I agree with the observations of Mr. Evans above.
    I think also that your ideas are too late for the current historical moment. Even as late as 2002 their pursuit would have been possible but that no longer obtains.
    There has been substantial strategic improvement in the position of Iran. US cannot deliver positive inducmemts to Iran – she can only take away her negative inducements (a bombing campaign, sanctions, etc.). I do not see US & EU even beginning to acknowledge that fact – let alone deal with it with any imaginative diplomacy.
    In fact the maximalist demand of Iran to “place its nuclear and missile programs under full international controls ” is like asking Israel to get rid of her Air Force.
    In case of the Occupied Territories, the 2-State solution is over and done with. It is no longer practical. We either have to create a bi-national state over there or else be ready for decades of war – like the Crusader Kingdoms.
    I would like further to observe that US cannot deliver the Golan to Syrian and (East) Jerusalem to the Muslims. Israel has a lot of religious Jews – they are fighting a religious war with Islam – without the Al-Quds to the Mislims there will be no peace.
    The Iraqi Kurdistan is not a state, a proto-state, or any such thing. It is a tribal con-federation between Barzani and Talebani tribes (and an uneasy one at that). It can only function in a federated Iraq. But then, we come back to the point that you had raised earlier – that Iraq as a political project is over.
    I do not believe that your general idea is wrong – I believe that it a fine idea but not within the parameters that you have stipulated – the strategic situations has changed.
    I would also strongly advise against the inclusion of UK, France, China, and/or others.
    Only the states of the Levant and the Persian Gulf + US and Russia.

  14. Pat, I think this is an excellent list of agenda items for broader policy and diplomatic efforts.
    I express my own concerns with your agenda in terms of what Machiavelli would call liberty. As you will know, Machiavelli defined liberty as the balance of interdependencies within a social complex. This means that one party should not have more power than another and their interests should accord with the interests of all. One sign of an oppressive system is that where one party has creates one-way dependencies. Being inordinately dependent on one side is the recipe for corruption and loss of liberty.
    With this definition in mind, I recall the Marxist Zizek’s comments relating to the invasion of Iraq. For Zizek, American leftists were akin to those mealy-mouthed accommodaters of Stalin and totalitarian regimes in cold war eastern Europe.
    That is, while the Iraqis suffered torture and terrible persecution, leftists sat comfortably and securely in their western liberal legal systems, looking blandly at the atrocities of the Hussein regime while they cast aspersions on perhaps one of the only chances that these people might have to finally escape that oppression.
    Yet, Zizek notes that while the hypocrisy of western liberals and leftists is rank, the problem with the US invasion is that it serves US capitalist and political self-interests, most notably those of big oil.
    With this in mind, the invasion by the US simply tried to consolidate the hegemonistic imperial designs of those stealth interests that really control the US political system.
    With these comments in mind, I think that the US will have to go a long way in assuring all participants in this grand symphony you propose that it does indeed have more than its own interests at heart.
    Unfortunately, the history of the US in the region does not harbinger any good in this direction. US foreign policy in the Mideast has always been geared to creating client states whose service to the US is implemented in terms of a one-way dependency. As Machiavelli was keen to show, creating such unequal dependencies is a sure sign of servility and corruption.

  15. Mike says:

    PL: “To overcome the instability of the continent and the likelihood that this would lead to further disastrous warfare, the Great Powers of the time met at Vienna after 1815 to create a system of balanced agreements which would bring into equilibrium the interests of all the possible adversaries on the European scene. This system preserved European peace for many years until it came to pieces in August 1914.”
    In fact, the system did not ensure peace in Europe until 1914. In the middle of the nineteenth century, coinciding with the time of the American Civil War, there was a sequence of wars between the Great Powers: in 1853 – 1856 (UK and France against Russia); the war between France and Austria/Hungary for the unity of Italy; the war between Prussia and Austria/Hungary in 1866; and the Franco Prussian war of 1870. The equilibrium established by the Concert of Europe was destroyed by the resurgent Bonapartist adventurism of Napoleon III, the rise of Prussia/Germany to pre-eminence on the continent, and the slow decline of both France and the Habsburg Empire of Austria Hungary. A new precarious equilibrium was established after 1870, especially due to the efforts of Bismark and Disraeli; but the dominance of Germany in the centre of Europe, the rivalry between Germany and Russia on the one hand, and between Germany and UK on the other, along with the decay of the Turkish and Austro-Hungarian empires made war that finally erupted in 1914 an inevitability. I wonder how relevant all of this is to the present situation in the Middle East.

  16. Duncan Kinder says:

    The president’s repeated statements about the “ideological” nature of the war leave no room for the bargaining and compromise inherent in diplomacy.
    Buckets of ink have been spilt attempting to explain why the Congress of Vienna, on the one hand, wha such a success but the Treaty of Versailles, on the other, was a prescription for another war.
    One factor, however, was that France, the defeated party in the Napoleonic era, nevertheless was a party to the Congress of Vienna. In contrast, neither Germany nor Russia participated in the Treaty of Versailles.
    When I was taking his course at Princeton, Bernard Lewis used to say that the only solution to the conflicts in the region would be to turn it back over to the Turks, who alone had been able to govern it effectively. ( Lewis seems to be publicly saying something quite different nowadays. )
    While Lewis was speaking sardonically, the idea of restoring the Middle East to the status the Ottoman Empire might have evolved into – had it not been broken up after WWI, is probably one of the better outcomes we could hope for.
    Something like this has emerged regarding Russia and China. Following the end of the Cold War, not all problems regarding Russia and China disappeared. There obviously are many material issues outstanding. Nevertheless, the problems Russia and China pose today appear to be ones that we can live with.
    That should be our goal regarding the Middle East, not to solve its problems but rather to reduce their scope to ones we can live with.
    Unfortunately, Iraq has so aggravated things that I question whether reducing them so is now even possible.

  17. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Yes. I know that Europe was not completely free of war, but these were relatively small wars, nothing in comparison to the Napoleonic wars or 1914-18.
    How is that relevant? There will always be small wars. Let us try to avoid the big ones. pl

  18. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Have you contemplated the amount of damage the US could do to Iran? Be careful about giving up on a negotiated sttlement.
    “Israel has a lot of religious Jews – they are fighting a religious war with Islam – without the Al-Quds to the Mislims there will be no peace.” I think the secular nationalists are the most dangerous from the Muslim point of view. They have few “brakes” on their behavior. pl

  19. Antifa says:

    Your outline shows real insight into the real values being fought over now, which could just as easily be negotiated over. Very impressive work.
    It is highly unlikely that the neocons atop our government will every stray from their ideological views or their black versus white perspective on things.
    The one thought I would add is that the nations of the Middle East will no longer be valued so highly as petroleum producers in 25 years. They are all aware of this, and wont to do all their jockeying in the coming decades in a winner takes all struggle to be the one with the strongest economy AFTER the oil is only a trickle.

  20. ikonoklast says:

    It’s unlikely that any of us commenting is going to sitting at the negotiating tables. I think the point is that discussion, negotiation and reason is a preferable course to chaos and bloodshed, that this course has been successful before, and that all parties involved have clear areas of interest with which they may begin to make deals.
    Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, Bush in his press conference today responded to a question about bringing Iran and Syria into talks concerning Iraqi security with his usual, “They know what conditions they have to meet if they want to work with us.”
    So, if they don’t do what we tell them, we won’t ask them for their help. This is not bargaining from a strong position by any means. Our troops, as the colonel mentioned in an earlier post, are about the only chip we have at this point. My fear is that the decider will not accept peace and stability unless it comes after “victory,” whatever today’s definition for that term is in his addled mind.
    As has been pointed out, it’s not going to be easy to put pressure on the administration now that the election season has passed.
    Would it be possible for the other powers (EU, Russia, China, Iran, Israel, Syria, etc.) to achieve a concert without the participation of the US? Present us with a fait accompli?

  21. Mo says:

    Allow me to present the Arab perspective to the Concert solution.
    You state that Iran pursues a dangerous nuclear program which threatens all its neighbors (including Israel) with the possibility of war and hegemonic domination while meddling deeply in the political destruction of Iraq.
    I honestly fail to see how nuclear weapons could be useful to the Iranians as an offensive tool. Forget the fact that the late Ayatollah Kohmeini decreed them to be contrary to Islamic teachings, how and against whom could they be used offensively? Against Israel? Would that not effectively wipe out a good deal of Palestinians not to mention the Shia populations of Southern Lebanon? The gulf nations? To what end? Iran has never had aspirations of conquering neighbouring nations (or at least not for a couple of millenia anyway).
    Logically in my mind if they are after nuclear weapons it is only as a detterent to US and/or Israeli ambitions. And if that is the case it would take a lot more than accepting that they are big boys now to get them to give that detterent up. The US isn’t going to give up any bombing rights on Iran without Iran accepting Israel. And that isn’t going to happen. I think the US will have to accept Iran as a major power in the ME without negotiations because nothing short of a regime change and occupation will change that right now. And any major action by the US would quite possibly be the nudge that sends the region off the precipice.
    And to desist from supporting international jihadi terrorism? I am intrigued as to who that is. The only international jiihadis I know of are Al- Qaida and it isnt them. The only other groups are HA and Hamas but surely they dont fall under the international jihadi umbrella.
    Kurdistan. A bargain between the US and Turkey? Isn’t there the not so small problem of the Iraqis agreeing to this? If the Iraqi secterian problems are resolved and a non-puppet govt. installed, Im guessing they are not going to be overally impressed about the US and Turkey bargaining a large slice of the country and its oil away.
    In Lebanon, it should be added that the US should also undertake to refrain from political activities of any kind. As stated above, given the choice of a Syrian overlord and American overlord most Lebanese would opt for the latter for the simple reason that while both may be equally contemptuous of Lebanese wishes, the Syrians do not re-arm those bombing the country.
    The Syrians today only wish they had the kind of influence on current events in Lebanon ascribed to them by the West.
    In Iraq, yes, start to deal with those opposed to the US presence differently rather than one homogenous group would pay dividends. But if the result is intnded as the stabilisation and rehabilitation of the country and not just a spin excersice to make it look like a victory then this should be done under a UN flag and not an American one. There is too much history now for anyone to want to kiss and make up esp. since the ressistance/insurgents/terrorists, call them what you will, feel like they are winning.
    And finally, but most importantly, Israel. If the only demand on Israel is that they undertake to make Palestine (the state) a vital and thriving economy, then this whole concert will be for nought. In fact, you want Iranian influence to wane? Solve the Palestinian issue. You want Syrian influence to wane? Solve the Palestinian issue. You want angry young Arab men to stop signing up to Al Qaida? Solve the Palestinian issue. But solving the Palestinian problem is not going to happen as long as AIPAC decides what US policy is on Palestine. There can be no vital and thriving Palestinian economy if Palestine isn’t contiguous and unbroken but that would mean a return to ’67 borders. There can be no such state without independent access to resources such as water. And the Israelis will not cede one drop of that water; well not until they finally manage a land invasion of Lebanon and divert the Litani anyway.
    Therefore, if the Arab state and “non-state” players are to be convinced of making any changes, the US attitude towards Israel and the Palestinians would have to become far more even handed;
    The concert of Europe was an agreement of relatively equally powerful nations. If a similar concert for the Middle East is to have any kind of success, it too has to be a series of agreements between the nations and not a list of US-friendly solutions agreed upon by US-friendly leaders. Otherwise its just a case of same old same old.

  22. Arun says:

    Do we have any grounds to believe that any of the leaders of the Middle East is any better (imaginative, competent, knowledgeable, realistic, non-ideological) than G. W. Bush?
    How will a conference of Bushes and worse-than-Bushes settle anything?

  23. Lightflyer says:

    Fair enough. Key to the whole idea of a Concert of Powers is that the US should take the lead – it will not work otherwise.
    The idea is eminently sensible but unlikely to happen until Americans produce a rational administration with the political will to do it.
    The only other comment I have is that I thought you elided and you certainly glided over the issues of Israel and Palestine in your listing of the grand bargains. But then again, you did say it was written from a US perspective.

  24. ckrantz says:

    It’s a realist foreign policy alternative. Take everyone’s interest in consideration and make a deal overseen by the strongest nations who are able to punish deal breakers. In combination with a Marshall plan type of initiative it could work.
    The flaw which i suspect the col. already knows is that there are to many who still think they can win in the Middle East like this weeks news have shown. Why deal when you think you can get what you want anyway?
    And with US policy being run from 1 observatory circle there will be no change. The neocons a very much running the show judging by the pronouncements from people like Meyrav Wurmser and the actions of Eliot Elliott Abrams. With money and weapons pouring in fueling a Palestinian civil war, the disposing of Assad or unrest in Iran, or the intended build up of forces in the Gulf and Iraq, not to mention a major taliban offensive in Afghanistan everything seems to point to major showdown in 07.

  25. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    I have read of the amount of damage that US can inflict on Iran. But, in my opinion, that damage, is not strategic.
    I am against negogiation between US and Iran but I do not think that the parameters that you have stipulated are workable.
    US can inflict severe damage on UK, on France, on Pakistan, on Poland, on Germany, and they cannot do anything to stop it. But I always come to teh same point – what is the point?
    To break the resistance of any state you need to kill 5 to 7 percent of her population. You won’t be able to do that without nuclear weapons. Which you won’t.
    So, my recommendation, as always, is when in hole, first stop digging.
    You are correct about secular nationalists but I believe in Israel-Palestine the secular nationalist war has been transformed with a war between Judaism and Islam with US being a co-belligerent.
    With a lot of work and a lot of money may be it can be brought back into a nationalist war but I do not see that in the cards either.

  26. D.Witt says:

    Col. Lang-
    I appreciate the effort, and offer up some points to ponder:
    Within the ME, perceptions are (kindly) that Israel plays by its own rules, and the US is seen as being in league with Israel. Thus, in order to deal with the region, there needs to be at least a perception of an ‘honest broker.’ Your plan asks only for Israel to approve a vague condition, as opposed to something solid, like Shebaa Farms. How can your plan ameliorate this perception?
    Your plan doesn’t specifically mention Hezbollah, only Shia Lebanese in general (don’t forget Amal), and only then within the context of their general position within Lebanon and current alliance with certain Christian Lebanese factions. While removing Syrian influence is a laudable idea, they are only one factor in the complex situation in Lebanon (don’t forget that the Syrians were there in the first place as part of the resistance against the Israeli invasion–where are the strictures in your plan against Israel interference in Lebanon?)
    In short, my point is that in order to gain any real traction with the Arab states, any solution has to deal with Israel making real concessions–anything less and this is a non-starter. I’m not saying that Israel is the problem, but it needs to be a major part of the solution, or else this exercise risks being perceived as just another colonial band-aid. (I’m not trying to be harsh, just adding my realistic .02)

  27. Jonathan says:

    It seems to me Col Lang’s “Concert” piece should be considered as:
    1. Asserting that far reaching, inclusive negotiations are the only alternative to “chaos and war”.
    2. Suggesting an “outline” of one possible opening negotiation stance that a US government might actually take – publicly.
    If so, it should be discussed as just that (at least at first) rather than taken up as a proposed ending of negotiations or even as a later stage of what the US might propose or agree to.
    One might also speculate about who the client was and what else might not be included in this excerpt from a consultation.

  28. Trent says:

    PL, well done.
    Babak, agreed that the US cannot, and perhaps should not deliver the Golan to Syria. Returning (parts of) East Jerusalem to the Palestinians is less intractable if you remove the Likud and right-of-Likud. There are religious Jews who think nothing of “east of rechov ha-nevi’im” or whatever you call the road leading out of Damascus Gate. Ditto that, the road a few blocks to the east: Salah al-din. It’s not religion, it’s Likud’s land greed and desire for power that exacerbates the problem.
    B, I sympathize with you on the right of return and Israeli nukes. The Golan… not so much. Please review the Syrian’s performance in the heights in 48, 56, 67.
    In general we need some real politik. I think PL’s essay is perfect start.

  29. This Concert is a good idea. Something like this should succeed eventually. I am surprised that there are not more proposals like it in the US media. Do most Americans have a misconception of this war?
    We could start to correct it by pointing-out that the jihadists cannot win in the long term. They have a fatally-flawed strategy. They are an insurgency, fighting with other tribes and sects, across a huge geographic area chopped-up by independent states. Even if everybody spoke the same language, their caliphate appears to be an impossible objective.
    The jihadists also have a flaw in their necessary indoctrination system: their revolutionary ideology is not new. It is a (supposed) return to purity in the existing religion. It is not a new brand; and they are marketing an old flavor. This is what you call “bad news” in the marketing business. There are already centuries of tradition in Islam of more mild and mitigating thoughts. As well as modern media bringing cosmopolitan images. The jihadists are likely to stay isolated, because most Muslims will not join.
    Under this circumstance it is counterproductive and unwise of the US to make the jihadists’ case for them.
    What will end this “war” — i.e. bring the region to peaceful democracies — is that most of the people there, once they get two minutes of peace, will prefer to modernize and trade instead.
    That doesn’t mean the US can depose a dictator like Saddam and expect democracy and capitalism to spontaneously arise without an institutional history for it. That was an old Chicago economist’s fever-dream. Now it is institutional and intellectual incompetence, US-style.
    But it does mean that in the long-term, this region is going to go for economic growth and creative freedom, to thrive best.
    All of this does not bode well for total jihad.
    The world will be on the lookout for terrorists forever, of course, but that may be a very different field of study and enforcement.
    Under this theory, the “war” is almost over. There are sure to be minor skirmishes — and terrorists can wreak havoc — but really, the main events may have passed. This region will continue to make a transition to the modern world, because what is going to stop it?
    Under this theory, President Bush appears to be pursuing the wrong strategy. The US cannot force this thing to happen. 60% of “Iraqis” think that it is justified to attack US troops, and 70% want the US to leave immediately. Is the US going to kill 60-70% of the Iraqi population to “win” this?
    Maybe withdrawing from Iraq will not have the long-term repercussion which some people say. Maybe it will be quite the reverse, the impact quite limited.
    The US ought to set-up right away for different foreign policy management. Of course, all the nations may not come to the same table, since different reasons apply to each, but the US certainly has to start thinking in this manner. It has to be based from the beginning on self-management, even if a region falls for a while under “enemy” control.
    Time to start thinking realistically about the opponent’s position over the long run.
    The neocons, the White House, and the U.S. public got into this war for a very bad type of reason: the emotional reason. “We just had to do something, we just had to show them” (self-righteousness) and “we’re gonna be nuked by WMD’s” (fear.) These are not intellectual reasons, though they are soon intellectually buttressed.
    And many of these same people today are still fueled by emotional conceptions of all sorts. This is enormously dangerous, because emotion can be self-deceptive. You do not want to deceive yourself, when you are fighting a war. People had better start to learn the real complexity of what is going on, and stop substituting a monster bogeyman as the enemy.
    Of course, the US may have to find new leadership. But perhaps then, the US will gain the added bonus of demonstrating the overwhelming value of democracy to the world: when it votes for a new President and changes course!
    Peaceful people in the US and the world can win this war in the long-run — “defusing” it would probably be the more accurate term — but if the US conservatives don’t “get with the program” soon, we really do run the risk of losing it.

  30. Don Schmeling says:

    Col. Lang,
    As a non military non American looking at the middle east situation, I have to agree with most of the people responding to this post. Your “Concert of the Greater Middle East” is at this point wishful thinking, even if the US government was fully committed to it at this time.
    Lets face it, most people think the US will be out of Iraq in a few years, just like most people thought the US was going to attack Iraq when it started building up it’s forces in the region. So that bargaining chip has limited value.
    When the US army starts to try to up size, the world will also see that it’s going to be hard to find 20,000 kids stupid enough to join the loosing team at this point of the game. Only 11 percent of Americans favor sending more troops to Iraq, let alone joining the Army to be sent there. The high tech killing machine is starting to need major repairs and the big bills are just starting to come in to pay for this adventure. Britain will be pulling out shortly after Blaire goes. The US will be stuck there alone.
    As far as the US making a Bargain with Iran, how can Iran ever trust the US enough to make one? Every one in the world knows that the US plays by it’s own rules. How can Iran or the shia of Lebanon make a deal with Israel, when Israel trys to assassinate their leaders, and bombs their countries when it feels it needs to? Who now feels time is on their side?
    No, when this much blood has been shed, no plan, no matter how well meaning, or well thought out, is going to give the US a graceful exit.

  31. Le Jackel says:

    The thing is that if you are going to double down, then double down. I wouldn’t say this, but it’s going to come up: the US military officer corp bears a significant responsibility for the impending defeat in Iraq. Not standing up to Rummy, not adopting proper counter-insurgency tactics, well the list does on. So what now? Break the army or not. At least 100,000 additional troops for Iraq or nothing. Insist on proper vehicles (Nialla’s), way more Abrams, and indigenous equipment (heavy artillery for the Iraq’s). Seriously, go long or go home.

  32. Kevin says:

    Did Bill Lind attend the meeting too?
    God bless GWB

  33. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Thank you for your response.
    I am as much for negotiations & realpolitik as the next fellow – my contention is that Col. Lang’s parameters no longer obtain – the situation has moved beyond that; in the Levant, in the Persian Gulf, and even in Afghanistan.
    I respectfully disagree with you regarding only Likud being responsible for the “land-grab”; that has been part and parcel of the Zionist enterprise from the get go. To wit, Israel turned down Kissinger’s Jericho initiative since they coveted the West Bank. That is also a major reason that Israel would not want to join NATO or EU – it would make their land grab impossible. I personally think that the Israeli leaders and people are hiding behind “Security” – what they want is land, land, and more land – they are plenty secure already.
    I also disagree with you on “it is not religion”. I think that religion has a lot to do with it; from both sides. Israel’s national anthem speaks of “the longing in the soul of a Jew”. On the other side, East Jerusalem contains the Al Haram Al Sharif – the third holiest site in Islam. There will be no peace with Israel unless and until the Muslim sovereignty is restored to that site. Palestinians cannot give any grounds on that – it is not theirs to give.
    I am in agreement you and with other commentators that Col. Lang’s ideas are good ones and worth pursuing. I just do not see any movement on them in the cards. What I see is escalation to nowhere with no concrete strategic gains.

  34. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I do not think that the generalized cold peace in the Levant will necessarily solve all the ME problems.
    Specifically, I do not believe the problem of how to reconcile (Western) Modernity and Islam is going to be resolved soon.
    Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, and Lebeanon will have decades ahead of themselves for that resolution (not even then most likely).
    Additionally, the legacy of the Iran-Iraq War and the US-Iraq War will cast a very very long shaoow on the Middle East. It will be decades before we see the ramifications of that.
    I think peace in Levant will certainly help US image in the Muslim world but again I do not think that US policy makers think that that improvement is worth the price.

  35. Babak Makkinejad says:

    US President sets preconditons that he knows beforehand won’t be met because, in his judgement, the price that Iran and Syria are going to demand is not worth their help/assistance/cooperation. He cannot go against ISG directly, like any good politician, he does his best to put the onus on the other fellow – business as usual.
    I do not believe that there is any chance of a Concert of ME without US. Outisders such as EU, Russia, China, India either do not have the finances or the military ability to project power in he Levant and the Persian Gulf area. They can help their allies indirectly but that is about it.

  36. plp says:

    All these plans are very, very nice. Except of course, as everyone noted here, none of it has any chance of implementation. So, what was the point of this exercise in futility?
    Many posters here probably realize on some level that the Iraqi war is just a symptom of a malignant condition. Treat the symptom as much as you want, none of it will make you healthy.

  37. zanzibar says:

    Clearly a “grand bargain” is what is needed to bring stability to the ME. If there is even a chance to begin to attempt that is doubtful in the short term as PL notes considering the leadership in all the countries that would be party to the bargain. Others on this thread have noted that a precondition is exhaustion that enables folks to consider compromise. The real danger as PL pointed out in his interview with Wolf Blitzer is that the current internecine strife in Iraq could spiral out of control into a larger regional conflagration. The question is can such a disaster be prevented considering the current actors and how?
    Iraq is fracturing in more ways than imaginable. Shiite Clerics’ Rivalry Deepens in Fragile Iraq
    Hakim and Sadr are also sharply divided over whether Iraq should split into autonomous regions. Hakim is pushing for a separate Shiite region in the south, but Sadr, who views himself as an Iraqi nationalist, wants to keep the country unified.
    Senior Sadr officials have circulated a petition among national lawmakers demanding a timetable for U.S. withdrawal. They have managed to get 131 signatures, nearly half of the parliament, Othman said.
    “Politically, we can make the occupation withdraw,” said Mustafa Yacoubi, Sadr’s top deputy and a cleric who wears a black turban.
    Hakim, meanwhile, has shown his pragmatism, understanding that he needs U.S. troops and support to balance the growing power of Sadr. Last month, he met with Bush, an action that many observers saw as the U.S. hedging its gamble on the weak Maliki government. Bush also met with Iraq’s Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party. Hashemi is perceived by Washington as a moderate, although many Iraqis would disagree.
    “Maliki is very worried about this turnabout,” said Wamid Nadhmi, a political analyst in Baghdad. “This is because of his affiliation with Moqtada Sadr and the promotion that Mr. Bush is giving to Mr. Hakim. Maliki is seeing his political end, that they are trying to form a new government with the approval of the Americans.”
    U.S. pressure on Maliki to isolate Sadr is growing. American officials have declared Shiite militias — particularly the Mahdi Army — the most significant threat to Iraq’s stability. Maliki has not cracked down on the militia of his political benefactor. He and his Shiite Islamic Dawa Party are also resisting U.S. attempts to build a moderate coalition.
    In many circles, Iraqis question whether Hakim and other so-called moderates can curb the growing power of Sadr.
    “I have serious doubts about Mr. Hakim’s influence among the Shiites, and I have serious doubts of Hashemi becoming the leader of Sunnis,” Nadhmi said.
    It’s a sentiment shared in Karrada. “Al-Hakim is not loved by the people,” said Abdul Amir Ali, a burly Shiite shopkeeper. “People love the Islamic Dawa Party and Maliki because they don’t have militias.”
    In the sidewalk restaurant where Sadr’s poster hangs, its owner, Ali Hussein, points at clusters of young men nearby. They are all Mahdi Army, he said. And so is he.
    Hakim, he said, made a fatal mistake by meeting Bush. In today’s Iraq, credibility and power are measured by opposition to the United States.

    As the above story points out the shifting sands of Iraqi politics in a situation of anarchy is difficult to navigate. The Decider still insists on making strategic calculations when his judgement is proven to be wrong time and time again. I am afraid the short term prognosis for stability is very bleak. It may be more prudent to prepare for the next “holocaust”!

  38. Will says:

    I largely concurr but would add some comments at the margins:
    1. Some of the Maronite Leb Xtians, such as Aoun, have long seen the handwriting on the wall, and are touting a way forward. They are joined by the Tripoli Christians, Franjieh tribe. Some of the Sunnis, such as former prime minister Karami, are are also beginning to see the end of confessionalism.
    In reality, because of their superior education, drive, ambition, & intangibles they will continue to dominate even in a true one man/person one vote environment.
    2. Any grand concert would have the centerpiece the Saudi-Beirut initiative for full Peace with Trade between all 22 Arab states with Israel based on return of Golan heights (Jebel Druze &Shebba/Chebba Farms), Palestinian State (forward of the blue line and Gaza).
    3. The European peace was punctuated by French German tension, in particular the Franco-Prussian War. I don’t understand what changed in some 50 years that the Germans couldn’t route the French again- the machine gun killing mobility?
    Some writers think the Germans blew it by not taking a premptive strike during the Morocco crisis of 1905 when France was bereft of allies. Speculation runs wild on that consequence.
    The import of Abizaids resignation has now hit the airwaves. I repeat, about time he showed his mettle. He had always appeared to be a straight shooter. The decider could not bamboozle him.

  39. Chris Stiles says:

    Negotiation of this sort is a laudable idea but – in my opinion – it will fail.
    Most of the parties involved – on all sides – are firmly of the opinion that if they wait for long enough they will win They won’t take a compromise in the near term unless it preserves their ability to reverse things in the mid to long term.

  40. W. Patrick Lang says:

    There seems to be a general misunderstanding about the nature of diplomacy. Diplomacy is based on bargaining, not kissing and making up. To succeed the process must have REAL rewards for all participants and perceived potential penalties for reneging on deals.
    This is not about liking your adversary. It is certainly not about having negotiating “partners” as the Israelis egregiously like to say. pl

  41. Frank Durkee says:

    In 1815,as I recall, perhaps in error, among the imperatives were territorial integrity of the states at the table and the need to balance against any one or group of states seeeking hegemony in the region, as France had sought. Any Grand Bargin in the ME has to deal with oil as part of the global perspective. This has enormous ramifications both within the region and globally. It is a major ‘interest’ for virtually all of the players. How does this get dealt with?

  42. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Don from Saskatchewan
    “Wishful thinking?” Of course. What else would it be? That does not meant that it could not be made to happen. MADE TO HAPPPEN. Don’t be so passive.
    “Most people” are silly if they think they can depend on the idea that us dumb Americans will be out of anywhere “in a few years.” We were in VN ten, twelve years as I remember well.
    To cavalierly dismiss the bargaining weight of an American army in the Middle East sounds just a wee bit unfriendly.
    “High tech killing machine?” The war in Iraq looks remarkably low-tech to me.
    No, Don. We Americans are not going to be humbled and then go away quietly, so if you want to see some resolution of all this mess, then you should think more positively. pl

  43. Trent says:

    Babak, please excuse my simplification of Israeli motives in the West Bank and Jerusalem. It is not only Likud.
    As for religion, I don’t believe the majority of Israelis are motivated by their anthem to keep all of the land they took/won in 67. I think you’re overstating it. Judaism hasn’t been a sacrificial religion for 2,000 years. Although they might like the Temple Mount back they can and are practicing their faith just fine without it. Perhaps I should have written rightist Zionism is at fault, not Likud.
    As for al-Quds – third shrine, first qibla – you are wise to remind us of this.
    “escalation to nowhere” should be printed on a bumper sticker and placed on the tail fin of Air Force One.

  44. taters says:

    Dear Col. Lang,
    Thank you for taking the time to share this well conceived and brilliant piece.

  45. arbogast says:

    Colonel Lang,
    Is this true:
    The Pentagon has lost all its wars against persistent guerillas armed with cheap, light weapons that decentralize and hide.
    Vietnam and Iraq come to mind.
    Aren’t we throwing away whatever bargaining power we have by showing how weak we are in Iraq?
    Look at Israel. They sure showed how “strong” they were south of the Litani. That’s what we’re doing in Iraq. Losing.
    Iran correctly realizes that it holds all the cards. We can’t invade and conquer Iran. We could, conceivably, annihilate all living matter in the country. But I daresay that wouldn’t go down well with the rest of the world. And it would require a draft.
    The American public voted, “No” to the Iraq war. It will vote “No” to conscription.
    The war is lost. Further American military presence is self-defeating.
    And then there’s the economy. I wonder what our creditors in Beijing and Delhi think about nuclear war against Iran?
    The war in Iraq is lost. Time to talk. No threats. While we still have an Army left.

  46. Matthew says:

    Col. Lang: Your last point is probably the most accurate, and most frightening: “We Americans are not going to be humbled and then go away quietly…” I asked a few times about what is the price of defeat in Iraq. Maybe it’s time to ask a harder, and sadder, question: What price is the ME–and the world–going to pay for delivering a defeat to GWB?

  47. Share says:

    Contact Our Congress! Tell Them What to Do!
    We the People Have a Right and a Duty to Remove Tyrants from Our White House!
    Everyone knows bushs do not keep their word. senior left the Iraqis who helped us in the first Gulf War to die by torture when he deserted them.
    We must remove bush/cheney!

  48. Cernig says:

    Hi Col.
    It looks like the Brussels-based International Crisis Group agrees with your basic concept, at least.
    From there, you start with an agenda that might look a lot like yours and start horsetrading. Any such conference is going to require that every participant emulate the Red Queen and be prepared to consider six things they thought impossible before breakfast each morning, but its worth a try because we’re damned sure out of other options.
    Regards, C

  49. Mo says:

    Yes to succeed the process must have REAL rewards for all participants and perceived potential penalties for reneging on deals. But the problem with the ME is that one sides reward is another side’s penalty and if youre trying to deal with both…well therein lies the problem. Rewarding the Kurds with a homeland is penalising the Iraqis. What possible compensation could they be given for such a loss in land, oil and considering this is the Arab world, pride? How do you give the Palestinians equal or independent access to water without taking it away from the Israelis and have the Israelis agree to this (and therefore their Washington lobbyists)?
    Diplomacy is great but the US is on course for disaster in Iraq and any attempts to convene such a diplomatic initiative will be seen as a sign of desperation and leave the US weak at the negotiating table.
    In todays environment I would actually recoomend the opposite to a concert. I would recommend the best solution to be that the US deals with nations independently but instead of trying to impose pro-US govts., leaders, policies etc., just for a change it could try to be even handed. The results may be startling.

  50. Mo says:

    No, it won’t solve all the problems but what it will do is remove the military aspects of organisations in the Levant, reduce the number of men angry and frustrated enough to want to kill and be killed and remove the no1 rallying cry for the likes of Al Qaida.
    I guess reconciling modernity and Islam is only a problem if you see it as a problem. Where the level of education is good, that problem doesnt exist (if i am correct in assuming that you are reffering to things such as the reaction to the Danish cartoons). Therefore , what is lacking for this is investment in education by local govts.
    The shadows of the wars are long, but again, removing a major issue like the Palestinian issue from the list of grievances will help to make those shadows that much shorter.

  51. Got A Watch says:

    Webster’s defines “Diplomacy” as:
    1. Negotiation between nations.
    2. Subtly skillful handling of a situation.
    3. Wisdom in the management of public affairs.
    4. (Satire)The patriotic art of lying for one’s country
    Your program is wishful thinking because Bush’s America has almost no credibility outside of Likud Party HQ and does not subscribe to definitions 1., 2., or 3. above, only 4. GWB’s idea of negotiations is to tell the other party what they must agree to before they sit down.
    Maybe in another universe with other than Bush as President, other than America as it now is. Maybe in ’09 with a new Democratic President, but I doubt it (Hilary, LOL). Matthew has it right: “What price is the ME–and the world–going to pay for delivering a defeat to GWB?”

  52. John Hammer says:

    Diplomacy as a continuation of war by other means?

  53. arbogast says:

    I would add the following.
    At this season, the holiest of the Christian year, I do not think it is inappropriate to examine the teachings of Christ. How could it be?
    [50] Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.
    [51] And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear.
    [52] Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
    Mathew, Chapter 26

    The United States took the sword in this war. We started it. We started it for no good reason. We were not provoked, like the disciple who attacked the servant of the high priest.
    Shall we, at Christmas 2006, continue our aggression? Shall we make a mockery of the teachings of the very man we pretend to follow?

  54. salsabob says:

    I disagree with the many here that believe your notions come too late; rather, they come far too early. Rather than 1815, one should look back at 1618
    and hope that a ME Westphalia doesn’t take 30 years. But try to see the doubt in that hope; for grievances of either decades (e.g., Israeli / Palestine), 100s of years (e.g., Sunni / Shia), or 1000s of years (e.g., Arab / Persian) will not likely be resolved without at least the bloodshed comparable to that of Europe 400 years ago – that is not the human nature of the beast.
    This will be particularly true with an instigator using new powerful tools and methods
    to rip open even the most ancient of scars
    As everyone focuses on the Decider’s follies, little is said of how successful the neo-Khawarij have been in fulfilling their desires
    and implementing their strategies
    Iraq has not only revived the neo-Khawarij, but has given them the laboratory to hone their skills in anticipation of taking on their next, and two most precious, goals of bringing “the savagery” to the people and lands of the apostolates known as the House of Saud and as the Persian mullahs.
    Recast your many good options in light of this insight of what is truly going on; we will need good thinkers for what is to come over next 20 to 30 years. right now, we don’t have a clue.

  55. VietnamVet says:

    Colonel, thanks for your interview below and the paper; an all too rare realistic discussion of the alternatives in Iraq.
    I am with Walrus. Realists have as just as big blinders on as the neo-conservatives. To keep their pension and future consulting jobs the Generals went along with a self evident crazy scheme of invading and occupying a Muslim country with only Christian soldiers. They and corporate media are guilty of not comprehending that the civilian leadership and goodly portion of the Pentagon had been taken over by radical true believers.
    When the Sunni insurgents have defeated American forces in Al Anbar province and a Sunni Shiite civil war has broken out, it is insanity to marginally increase the boots on the ground and attack the largest Shiite militia; meanwhile refusing to talk to neighboring countries on possible political settlements.
    “This has led to an unholy and unstated alliance between mullahs, Rabbis and Pastors who have an unholy interest in a bloodthirsty “crusade” of one form or another, and complicate matters accordingly”

  56. W. Patrick Lang says:

    John Hammer and Got A Watch
    I am disheartened by your unwillingness to accept that an alternative policy must be proposed to the path that the Bushocons have placed us on. It is irrelevent whether or not he will adopt such a course. We all know that he will not, but if you do not state the alternative, then you will not have a standard by which to judge his folly.
    War-diplomacy-politics. These are all just different tools in the same process.
    Color me Byzantine. pl

  57. Babak Makkinejad says:

    There is a fundamental tension between the challenge of (Western) Modernity – in its post-Christian phase – and Islam and indeed all religions including Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism etc.
    secular vs. non-secular, science vs. revelation, etc. are only skirmishes in a much wider war of ideas both within and without the Western Civilization.
    While more education will certainly help address the educational poverty of many areas of the world at the individual level -by and in itself – such an educational approach only begs the question of what should be taught and what Truth is.
    The Ware of the Prophet, the Crusades, the Religious Wars of Europe were fundamentally wars of ideas and truths.
    Modernity posits its own Truths – it is like Don Juan in the Mozart opera: it knows of God but wants to ignore it and do its own thing. On the other hand, there are several billion people in the world – such as Muslims, Jews, Christians, and even Hindus – for whom God is a central figure and pillar.
    No amount of (largely secular and technical at that) education can resolve this contradiction.
    In 1920s the best Muslim response was Atta Turk – in 1980s the best Muslim response was Ayatullah Khomeini.

  58. JM says:

    pl: “We all know that [Bush] will not [adopt an alternative policy]…”
    So, within the confines of our current political circumstances, what can be done to prepare the way for a more sensible policy, post-Bush?
    It’s clear that there needs to be a regional confab of some sort.
    What can the Dems and authentic conservative Repubs do over the next two years to signal that a new approach will follow once Bush is back clearing brush in Crawford?
    Are there more concrete steps, other than appearing on the Sunday morning shows and “signaling,” that the new Congress can implement?

  59. pbrownlee says:

    Now where can you get a good working Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord when you need one? After the fruitcake idealists, self-interested cynicism seems rather attractive.
    Merry Christmas, Colonel — and fellow Langistas.

  60. John Hammer says:

    I’d like to thank you for bringing your insight down to Ft. Hood a couple of years ago and addressing my St. Mary’s International Relations class. We all found it illuminating.
    “War-diplomacy-politics. These are all just different tools in the same process.”
    No argument here.
    Regards JMH, former SSgt TACP type

  61. zanzibar says:

    Point well made PL. Unless there are alternative policy proposals the American people will not know what the choices are. The great problem we have had over the past 5 years has been that there have not been alternate policy proposals that have been given the time of day by the corporate media. The only proposals we hear drummed up are the fantasy ideas of the Decider and his “Rasputin”.
    Once the American people understand that there are other approaches that could likely result in stability and a more peaceful ME future they will naturally gravitate there. The elections last Nov were fundamentally about Iraq and the electorate repudiated the Decider’s strategy.
    I hope the next Congress will be more receptive to bringing folks like you to the Hill and educating America about the choices . I watched the Deciders last press conference. He is more delusional with every day and completely incoherent. We need to up the ante in terms of public pressure. I am hopeful that the next Congress including several Republicans understand the gravity of the situation and provide the vehicle for alternative policies to be considered. No longer can we be deferential to this President whose judgment is beyond pathetic.

  62. salsabob says:

    The Middle East (if not the world) is a Rubik’s Cube of ancient and not-so-ancient hatreds. We are seeing the last attempts by hands using nation-state paradigms to maintain the Cube in a harmonious pattern. These hands, particularly those so focused on correcting Bush’s follies as the mythical solution, are blinded by their illusion of control.
    The Cube is increasingly in the hands of the neo-Khawarij, who, like diamond cutters, are becoming increasingly adept at cracking the fault lines. They, however, have not the diamond cutter’s goal of near-perfect order, but instead seek, for decades, utter chaotic disfiguration, if not disintegration of the Cube into zones of savagery and barbarism.
    To even begin to contemplate a way forward, one needs to come to understand how much more easy it is for neo-Khawarij’s 5th Generation Warfare to scramble the Cube than it is for all-the-kings-horses-and-all-the-kings-men of the relatively-recent nation-state paradigm to maintain harmonious patterns.

  63. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Tell me about the neo-Khawarij, please. pl

  64. W. Patrick Lang says:

    John Hammer
    I remember the occasion well. A good class. I am always happy to teach my own people.
    The corps commander was offered a meeting with me but declined. pl

  65. Utah Blaine says:

    Dear Col. Lang,
    I think that you have written an intelligent and well reasoned plan of action regarding the Middle East. Many of the comments that have been posted have been illuminating as well. There is, however, one important factor in this discussion that is missing from both your analysis and the other posted comments. How will our friends in Saudi Arabia feel about this international congress (or any other plan going forward)? There are many complex issues related to Iraq, the Middle East, Israel/Palestine, but fundamentally whatever we do in Iraq will be heavily influenced by the opinions of our friends in Riyadh. A seachange change in US/Saudi relations would be an unmitigated disaster for the US, dwarfing by comparison any of the foolishness in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine committed by the Bush administration.

  66. ih says:

    Colonel: I don’t agree with the poster who calls your proposal an “exercise in futility.”
    I think its an excellent idea. How would you envision such a conference to come about?

  67. W. Patrick Lang says:

    The president of the US and several other world leaders would have to embrace it and make t their own. Something like Wilson’s embrace of the post WW1 diplomatic game.
    I think the Saudis would be glad to see such a process if their interests were dealt with like other peoples’. pl

  68. canuck says:

    Colonel Lang,
    What I like most about your ideas was they were drafts…starting points, and nothing was written in stone.
    Successful marriages, arbitration negotiations, and diplomacy are dependent on compromise. Give a little; receive a little, but no-one hogs the points, because they respect the wishes of their spouse, person/country at the table. To have a harmonious relationship and live in peace requires that all parties see the other’s point of view.
    Because I am from a tiny country, Canada, that really has no voice in how the world turns, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the United States as the sole super power does have an enormous stake in how the middle east turns out, and will play a central role in the negotiations.
    The current administration has a philosophy of us and them and you and the diplomatic corps are willing to compromise. The United States should pursue its objectives and goals, but they must relent on some issues that they aren’t in agreement if there is to be peace in the Middle East.
    Patrick, your ideas are a very good start for a base of a meeting in the Middle East. I wish you good luck in getting your proposal accepted.

  69. Will says:

    Secular values cannot exist in an island. They must be allowed to flow back and forth, nourished by the tide of trade and travel of merchants and good. With that interchange and the grubbing of individuals for wealth and the pursuit of happiness comes PEACE.
    The European Coal and Steel Community crafted by le General de Gualle & Adenaeur has grown into the EU. Who could now imagine War b/n France & Germany? Unthinkable?
    “During World War I, then-Captain de Gaulle was severely wounded in March 1916 at the gruesome Battle of Verdun and left for dead on the battlefield. He was, however, found and taken prisoner by the Germans. He made five unsuccessful escape attempts, and was put in solitary confinement at Ingolstadt fortress, a retaliation camp, where he encountered another incorrigible — Russian Lieutenant Mikhail Tukhachevsky.” (WikiP partly my edit)
    Thus was the importance of the Abdullah-Beirut initiative. Upon a dare of the stupid NYT collumnist Thomas Friedman. It was all on the table before, but it was made explicit. Full peace with TRADE for merely obeying UN resolutions !!!!!!!!
    But Alas Ralph Nader (of full blooded Leb descent) in FL and all those Jewish-American ladies in Palm Beach mistakenly voting for Pat Buchanan. And we get the Decider by a handful of votes to cast and nudge the MidEast not, into the path of Peace and Trade, but into War and fanaticism.
    In Chaos Theory, it is known as the Butterfly Effect.

  70. Cloned Poster says:

    Olmert and Blair are just sock puppets, the sooner Bush realises the better.
    Embrace Hakim?
    He just sent Iran POWER.

  71. Tom Milton says:

    Thank you for this enlightening forum. The “ME Grand Concert” IMO passes all the logic tests, but will not occur until America’s power brokers come to their senses and force Bush to end this nightmare. I believe this idea can gain serious traction. I suggest we readers present the concept individually to our Senators and Representatives ASAP.
    Oh, by the way, we need to address our 800 lb gorilla problem as well.
    The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) are implementing long term programs to insure their future energy security. We need to develop our own multiple alternative energy strategies for near-term implementation. I do not believe wars of attrition are cost-beneficial for a high tech society. This is especially the case where alternatives are available.
    If Peak Oil is really upon us and Iraq’s reserves represent only 4 years or so of world consumption, we need to rethink our current goals and strategy.
    The better investment may well be a massive re-engineering of our energy production and consumption systems to minimize our future need for resource wars in distant places.
    Think of all the new products we could export.

  72. ih says:

    Thanks for the response, pl.
    Did you watch Condoleeza Rice on the NewsHour tonight?

  73. taters says:

    Dear Colonel,
    I have read it again, several times. And I know it is the kind of piece I will continue to revisit. I would like to think my fellow posters are well aware of your knowledge of the ME, past and present – and that you could rather easily write a two hundred pager on Israel/Palestine, or on any number of subjects on the ME and others – gleaned firsthand. Sometimes, it is what isn’t said that is important. Miles Davis understood that well, it was a big part of his genius. The following point illustrates that magnificently.
    3. Israel must be a full participant in all conferences and meetings involved in this process. In return, Israel will undertake to make Palestine (the state) a vital and thriving economy.
    This is brilliant. Please add statesman and visionary to your most impressive resume. Maybe one day we can all join up at the eatery in Old Town you recommended and referred to as a “hole in the wall” for a great meal.

  74. Tom Milton says:

    *****NOT A COMMENT******
    Might the US Institute for Peace be an appropriate venue for presenting your concept for a Grand Concert?

  75. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Tom Milton
    I would like to publish the concert piece. I never have any luck with the WAPO editorial staff. Anyone have any thoughts about this? pl

  76. cj says:

    Pat –
    Before real negotiations can happen, interested parties have to see what they potentially giveup/gain in negotiations as worth more than they can get on their own. Aside from the impediments of current leadership, the complexity of all the interest groups and age old grievance, it seems that most of these groups still seem to think they can “win” more on the field than at the conference table. Your ideas certainly are a sane and intelligent path to as much peace as one can expect, but I think there will have to be a lot more bloodletting before all the groups are exhausted enough to negotiate. This is why the Decider says that we’ll all be long dead before history judges his project in the Middle East. Sadly, history is often made by those who can fixate on a distant and unlikely vision, ignoring the heaped bodies in the foreground.
    Lately I’ve been wondering – would we have gotten here even without the stupendous incompetance of the current crop of leaders? Saddam couldn’t have lived forever and the schisms across the ME have been there, kindling for the boy king’s pyromania, for a long time – could this violent evolution have been tamed? Clearly, not with our current leaders.
    Happy Holidays all..

  77. jang says:

    Where else but at SST, Col. Lang, could you encounter such diversity of opinion, freely expressed, and yes, some sniping as well. A microcosym, perhaps, of the very concerns that might be encountered in just such a conference as you envisage. It is novel to read outside the Green Zone box thinking that contemplates further than the next “surge” down the road. Whereas you sense upcoming ominous disaster that could envelop the ME the WH has placed its collective hands over its eyes and ears going “la, la, la, la,la, la”….Don’t want to know….Can we bomb it better?…. Where’s more firepower? This remains convincing logic to some. GWB appears frozen; afraid to contemplate change, desperate to avoid further ridicule and willing to ignore any advice where someone might say that the war cannot be won. Perhaps what’s needed first is expert advice regarding a roadmap of the GWB mind, so that any approach allows him sufficient cover to consider that advocating dialogue with other nations of the ME, rather than a Shock and Awe approach, though appearing risky, may have the greatest chance of producing a positive GWB legacy. After all, he changed course completely on alcohol once and gained the Presidency. Is there any hoping for a miracle wherein Neo Con group-think develops laryngitis, just for a year or so?

  78. John Hammer says:

    The NY Times has called for a peace conference on its editorial page. I don’t recall seeing anything on the op-ed side.

  79. Babak Makkinejad says:

    There are many places you could try:
    “Current History”, “Foreign Affairs”, “National Interest”, “Middle East Journal”, Army War College’s “The Strategic Studies Institute”

  80. John Shreffler says:

    Try the Boston Globe or the New York Times. The latter might welcome the Stalingrad on the Tigris one. Happy holidays to all the community here.

  81. zanzibar says:

    In addition to Babak’s suggestion I would also try Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and the New Yorker.
    But an important aspect is to also to send it to our new Congress. I have already sent it to my senators and representative in the House as well as Sen. Jim Webb. I sincerely hope that the next Congress convenes hearings on the way forward in the ME and will call you to provide your insight and educate the American public. I believe there is a coalition of Republicans and Democrats that want to prevent any further escalation in Iraq and the ME even if it is couched in euphemisms like “surge” and instead are very interested in trying a diplomatic approach to bring stability. I think this political coalition is larger than we think and will find a voice in 2007. My own sense is that the Decider will not get a free pass as he has had over the past 6 years. When folks like Pat Buchanan say that attacking Iran without any direct provocation is an impeachable offense and that the next Congress should show courage and pass a resolution stating there cannot be any attack on Iran without an authorization by Congress, IMO, means that there are now conservative Republicans that want to put some brakes on the Decider’s ill-advised actions.

  82. Got A Watch says:

    Col., sorry for being so negative, years of watching the Bushies in action have made me an angry and cynical sort. My apologies.
    Your proposal is indeed probably the best way to bring an end to this sorry chapter in world history – except outside of this blog and some others (who would be dismissed as leftists/peaceniks by MSM/rightists) no one in the wider world is listening.
    A case in point is Madame SuperTanker whose recent remarks (“Iraq Sacrifice Worth the Cost” http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1977712,00.html) prove just how steep a mountain you are seeking to climb. I do not mean to demean your effort in trying, at least it has stimulated discussion here and pointed the way to a better future.
    Stating the alternative is a good benchmark, but since the folly is still ongoing, I should have used the word “premature” instead of “futility”. One day when all parties have battled to exhaustion this may come to pass. Sadly, that day may not come this decade or even the next, with the current and future crop of “leaders” on all sides at the helm.
    Thanks for this Blog, it is one of the very best on the web. Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happier New Year! Non-Christians please insert Preferred Holiday Greetings here. Cheers!
    I resolve to try to be less negative and cynical.

  83. ikonoklast says:

    Colonel –
    From the WashPo ‘How to Submit an Opinion Editorial Piece’ webpage:
    “Non-exclusive submissions, including anything previously or simultaneously submitted to other publications or websites, are not reviewed.”
    Perhaps your reputation for open speech is working against you. The overall stance of their publication seems to be that they own exclusive rights to the truth and its presentation.

  84. K Young says:

    Would chances for acceptance of your “Concert” be improved if, early in the process,it was given a Middle Eastern face? A group of signatories, as representative of the area and factions as possible, lined up with you.

  85. Arnold Evans says:

    I would predict a concert could be called, but for the reasons listed earlier, none of the participants would be willing to behave as the US wants.
    Either at that point, the US would change its demands or the concert would be over with no result.
    For that reason, the points as listed in the essay are not relevant except as something for the Syrians, Turks, Iranians, Arabs, Israelis and Lebanese to say “no” to.
    About the damage the US could do to Iran, this is already nearly a MAD situation. The US could damage Iran, but Iran would damage US interests and the world economy enough that overall the US couldn’t possibly think it was worth it.
    Europe and China would be more vehement that it was not worth it.
    The invasion was a defeat. Not a tie. The US is in a weaker position than in early 2003, not the same position. Terms the US could have hoped to see accepted in early 2003 are now non-starters.
    That is something that is apparently hard for Americans to get their heads around.

  86. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Arnold Evans
    Most people in Washington overestimate the strength of the United States. I think you underestimate it. pl

  87. tons15 says:

    Very good blog and comments.
    I agree with Arnold Evans, b and ikonoklast; especially – ikonoklast’s last posting makes me think about the ideas of late Edward Said – how eurocentric this whole discussion has become – the truth is controlled by the exclusive club with ‘exclusive rights to the truth’ – and these are the facts ‘on the ground’ and ‘at the end of the day’ (I hate these phrases with passion) – and these facts will change not by discussion in a ‘quartet’ nor by the wider gremium including China, nor by the UN – but by the forces of dissatisfied masses of people. We will have little influence, the bombings and military strikes here or there will have little effect, we have to see that there are ‘glacial shifts’ in the history we are witnessing now. It will take some genius of a philospher or sociologist to sort it out. In the meantime, people will suffer and die. I see no rosy end to the current events. Can someone persuade me that I am wrong?

  88. Tom Milton says:

    Col. Lang,
    Suggest you go for the NYT op-ed since they did an editorial. I think they might buy in to a retired senior officer seconding their editorial and providing an outline for action along with a short history lesson. You certainly have sufficient credentials in this arena.
    Fareed Zakaria at Newsweek might a good contact for advice and counsel and an entre into the WaPo/Newsweek empire. Don Graham was in the USN as a JO during Nam as I remember.
    The Council on Foreign Relations in DC has a think tank and media specialists and some involvement with SecDef Gates recently. They might be worth a call or visit.
    Best of luck. I still plan to fax my Senators and Representative over the weekend.

  89. salsabob says:

    Col. –
    “Khawarij” – This is not a bad description here –
    Spend a little time on their websites and chat rooms, and see how “neo-Khawarij” is a label the jihadist dispises — that’s why I use it, to piss them off.

  90. GokTurk says:

    “Kurdistan seriously may be the issue that ends Turkey as a state.”
    NEVER, we will mobilize if the kurds or anyone else tries to partition the southeast. Annihilation to you before us.

  91. Charlotte says:

    tc3M67 Kudos to you! I hadn’t thought of that!

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