"There was no longer any way for me to rationalize the importance of process without direction, negotiations without substance or even the use of the word “peace.” Our overinflated optimism at Camp David had had real costs. After raising expectations we couldn’t deliver on, we blamed Arafat for the summit’s failure, and that made it easier for him, in the wake of Sharon’s provocative visit to the sacred Temple Mount, to acquiesce to and encourage the violence that would become the second intifada.
U.S. diplomacy can be effective when we have partners willing to make decisions, when all parties feel an urgency to make those decisions and when gaps separating the parties can actually be bridged. The Iran nuclear agreement, while greatly flawed, is a case in point. It succeeded because it was not a transformational but a transactional arrangement, a highly detailed arms-control accord of arguably limited duration and scope that both the United States and Iran wanted for their own reasons. Aaron Miller in the Washington Post
Yes. That was written of Saul on the road to Damascus, but Aaron seems to have had a similar experience.
I have always liked Miller. I met him in passing several times and listened to him speak portentously on a number of occasions and was always struck by his lack of any sense of limits in the possibility of "managing" history. There was none of this embittered "humility" in him then. He bestrode the world as a diplomatic colossus.
But … He has always seemed to me to be an honest man, a kind of diplomatic Bernie Sanders, and he has also seemed to me to solely serve the interests of the United States. This is unlike his former boss, Dennis Ross who, IMO, has always been a person divided in his loyalties. Let us remember that Ross has publicly stated that the Israelis are "my people." If that is so, how could he negotiate in good faith for the interests of the United States?
Miller admits in this crie de coeur that he was overly confident in thinking that the basic identities and Jungian collective dreaming of whole peoples could be dealt with by diplomatic trickery and BS. He has the courage to admit that one of the worst of such "adventures" was the Camp David II negotiation in which he, Ross, Bill Clinton and "the lads" from State and the NSC attempted to bully Arafat and his people into accepting Israel's agenda of recognition by the Palestinians in return for nothing much at all. The Borgist crew thought that; forced isolation, Clintonian seduction and a threatening manner would do the job for "peace."
At lunch some days after this ploy failed I told Ross that there had never been a chance of success at Camp David II; 1- Arafat was not authorized before the meeting by any body of Arab political consensus to grant concessions to Israel. He had been told by a meeting of states in Morocco that he could attend the meeting but was not authorized to make concessions. Once at the meeting the American side systematically prevented him from consulting with the Arab states to seek authority. 2- It is a feature of Arab culture that there is little belief in "win-win" solutions and a great belief that all of life is a "zero sum game." In general it is thought that there are winners and there are losers. Full stop the Brits would say. In general Arabs believe that parties to a conflict negotiate to achieve as painless and as graceful a surrender by the weaker party as possible. The normal Arab assumption is that a request to talk is simply a signal of acceptance of defeat. In the context of CD II, it is clear that Arafat and many other Arabs thought Palestinian persistence had finally achieved its goal and that the Americans and Israelis were about to surrender to Palestinian demands regarding East Jerusalem, etc.
Ross stared at me when I told him this and said he had never thought of the situation in terms of Arab psychology. Yes, they bestrode the world. pl