"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
“Dennis Ross who, IMO, has always been a person divided in his loyalties.”
That is unfair to Mr.Ross. He has always been, is and will be Israel’s lawyer. There is no confusion where his loyalty lies.
Road to Damascus = Drinking the Kool-Aid
I love the picture illustrating this post, as both these men have been demoted and are now carrying the same torch around, up their proverbial.
They may be dead inside.
Substitute the word “Jewish” for the word “Arab” in paragraph 2.
In the first place, is there culturally much difference? I personally don’t know.
What I do know is that the easiest way to achieve minority rule in the United States is to have troops engaged in combat in the Middle East. Once you have that, all else follows. It is a tail powerful enough to wag any dog. Yes, you have the spectacle of France trying to out-America America, but that too is being achieved at the minority level. The average Frenchman cares not. Until of course Hollande achieves full George W. Bush status by introducing combat troops into the Middle East.
And what is NATO? Simply an effort to make all the nations of Europe vassals of minority rule. Is the average German eager to fight in Afghanistan?
This is a military blog in many, many respects. Yet, the opinions expressed are far, far different from the opinions expressed by Ross. Why is that? You have explained why that is.
And then you have Clinton versus Trump. Elect Clinton and you will have perpetual war. Obama’s Presidency proved that beyond the slightest shadow of a doubt. What has changed from Bush to Obama? Absolutely nothing.
The toll of perpetual war is overwhelming. It cannot go on forever.
The number one thing the US could do is is allow a resolution to pass in the UNSC that would demand Israel stop building settlements and stop seizing Palestinian land and tearing down their homes. That wouldn’t harm any ones security one bit. Give the resolution teeth like the Iran sanctions. That would take a lot of the heat out of the fire. I would classify this as a vital national interest thing to do.
The other thing the the US could do is tie the new $5B+ military aid package to Israel to a settlement freeze, and if you want to get real crazy make them reveal where that money goes just like every other country that the US sends money to has to. The US could also end the tax deductible status of money going to Israel to build settlements.
But of course none of that will happen. The press secretary will go out each day and say unhelpful while the government supports the settlement expansion through the back channels. Even Trump has caved on his stance to Israel so the best we can hope for if he gets in is that the press secretary stops the charade of saying unhelpful.
Say what you want about Abbas but he did follow a strong path of peace, the Palestinians will never elect as accommodating a leader again and Abbas’s day are seriously numbered. All of the signs are that the next Palestinian leader will be Marwan Barghouti who is rotting in an Israeli jail. Don’t believe the story about him following a peaceful path. Even if he truly wants it, which I doubt, forces on both side will make sure things will turn violent.
With the Israeli’s and Palestinians both hardening their positions another war is coming. If the next one includes both Gaza and the West Bank some of the external regional actors may decide it is a good time to get involved as well. The next place the US puts more boots on the ground may well be Israel.
Peace is about to get a lot harder not easier.
Good one, Bernd!
Colonel, did the purge of the experienced Arabist and Russian analysts from the State Dept and foreign service start before the Clinton admin? Or was it solely the brilliant accomplishment of that ex-Arkansas state governor who never bothered to figure out how our federal government works operationally, both in international affairs and domestically how federal accounting works?
[That’s how Greenspan and Robert Rubin were able to bamboozle this hayseed two weeks before he was inaugurated–and saved Greenspan from charges of sedition for lying to a sitting president as opposed to an incoming one–claiming that the country was broke and that Clinton as prez had to let the markets handle the economy. They convinced him that the economy is superior to democracy, and preferable. The two of them should have gone to jail. Worse yet, Clinton didn’t understand the difference; he didn’t know Greenspan and Rubin were lying to him. No understanding of federal accounting. Greenspan knew; he was Fed head. Dont know whether Rubin did. You can watch Rubin discussing it here: https://vimeo.com/90593277 Watch for a few minutes form 11:40 min.]
You wrote a great post about this a year or two ago. I copied it, but can’t find it.
I think Obama Administration continued Bush II Administration’s policies in the Middle East until they hit the proverbial brick walls in Syria, Egypt, Libya, and Iran.
In my opinion, the most important accomplishment of the Obama Administration was its course correction with respect to Iran and the partial cease fire deal called JCOPA.
The United States, by accepting all of Iran’s nuclear activities within NPT, following the recommendation of the late Lt. Gen. William Odom, has removed the major obstacle in negotiations with Iran.
The next US President may or may not choose to walk through this door that Obama Administration has opened; in my opinion.
Israelis are primarily East European in culture and IMO largely motivated by fear and dislike of gentiles. They don’t have much in common with the Arabs culturally except in their Oriental Jewish minority. pl
I seem to remember that the AIPAC crowd were out to get these guys before that but the move to get rid of them really intensified in the Bill Clinton period when most of such people could be characterized as establishment white men who were not representative of “America.” pl
“Dennis is the closest thing you’ll find to a melitz yosher, as far as Israel is concerned,” dixit former ADL national director Abe Foxman back in 2011
The distinction between “transactional” and “transformative” is critical, I think.
In the transactional, everyone knows the scope and limits of the game. They know what the bargaining chips are and what are (and are not) open for negotiations. Finally, both sides are secure enough that they are not bargaining for their lives, literally or figuratively–or, in other words, they can walk away if they so choose.
In the transformative, either the scope and limits of the negotiations are unknown or are fundamentally unacceptable to one side or both. The whole point of negotiations is to define them. This is made riskier when one side or the other (or both, in rare cases) really have no option to walk away. In many ways, the transformative politics comes before the transactional politics, but the former is far more dangerous by nature.
I think the distinction goes far beyond just Middle East diplomacy, but pervades all aspects of politics. Somewhat oddly, Miller’s article kept making me think about the 2016 presidential election: both Sanders and Trump are trying to “transform” the electoral arena, while HRC and the Republican mainstream are (or were) playing transactional politics. Of course, the neocons/neoliberals get their own country (or in case of people like Ross, the country that they pretend to be theirs) no better than they do Ukraine or the Middle East. There are big troubles ahead.
“could be characterized as establishment white men who were not representative of “America.”
By descendants of uneducated shtetl denizens only released from their religious chains starting around 1800 AD. Bring back the WASPs. At least they put America first, and aren’t trying to start WWIII.
In re the WASP thing. I represent that remark and thank you for the thought. I remember a WASP FSO telling me after lunch at my club (self conscious irony there)that he had applied to be ambassador in a real s–t hole because if you were a white male and not gay you would not get anything otherwise under Clinton. At about the same time, Clapper at DIA pronounced a diktat that white men who were not somehow disadvantaged would not be hired or promoted. Yes, GCP, this pissed me off since I had long advocated senior positions for women and Blacks. pl
What does GCP mean?
Gulf Coast Pirate. pl
That the toll of perpetual war can’t go on forever may in fact be the point. Bringing America to its knees seems to be the end goal.
The seemngly incomprehensible policies pursued in Libya, Syria and Ukraine begin to make sense. As do the BLM and LGBT movements….
I saw African-American graduate students having standing assistant professorship offers from very good universities while their Euro-American colleagues faced years of additional low-level postings as post-doctoral fellows in this or that place. This was in 1980s.
Subsidies given to females – of all races – in the United States was just astonishing.
A very, very good Jewish friend of mine, a man who saved my life, told me that Shiksa was an extremely insulting term in Yiddish. In Wikipedia they offer at one point, “The etymology of the word shiksa is partly derived from the Hebrew term שקץ shekets, meaning “abomination”, “impure,” or “object of loathing”, depending on the translator.”
Fear dislike and feelings of intense superiority. But thank you very much for enlightening me about the difference from Arabs. You might consider memoirs. But that is not for me to say.
Off topic, but yes for me somewhat related, at least if I do not descend into Norman Finkelstein’s brilliant take down of Aaron Miller. The more then outsider challenging the insider after all, or to use khc’s way to put it: the lamb challenging the lion.
But this is interesting. Making news in Germany:
German MP’s with a Turkish background that is.
“German eager to fight in Afghanistan”
After Germany abandoned draft, there is no such thing or maybe to put it better an easy equation between German soldiers serving in Afghanistan and “average Germans”, whatever that my be.
Concerning Clinton versus Trump (vs Obama) Trump may well take his own take at offering “change”. That’s no guarantee for anything other than hope.
Or to descend quite arbitrarily, I admit, into psychology (no expert!), could for whatever reason the opposite of psychological projection matter? I cannot think of the appropriate antonym, but it must exist. In other words if there is someone “that says it how it is” to what extend do you somehow reflexively assume he shares your opinon, values, whatever you like, on everything else?
“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious.
But it cannot survive treason from within.
An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly.
But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.
For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men.
He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist.
A murderer is less to fear.”