5 years ago
Andrew McCarthy at NRO takes on both Petraeus and Max Boot in a recent commentary.
In January, after canvassing opinion from Muslim governments in his area of responsibility, Petraeus sent a team of CENTCOM officials to brief the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As reported by Mark Perry of Foreign Policy, the purpose of that briefing was to underline Petraeus’s “growing worries at the lack of progress in resolving” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The general was doing politics, not combat strategy — and we don’t owe him any deference on politics. In a 33-slide, 45-minute PowerPoint presentation, Petraeus’s briefers reported, among other things, “that there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM’s mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, [and] that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region.”
The general repeated this political theme in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 16. Specifically, he averred in a written statement (p. 12) that the “… enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to advance our interest in the AOR (Area of Responsibility). Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile Al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizbollah and Hamas.”
Max Boot briefly responded that Petraeus doesn’t blame Israel for our problems and it’s incorrect for McCarthy to say that he does. McCarthy’s commentary is insightful, and I won’t weigh in on Boot’s specific response concerning whether Pertraeus believes that Israel is the root of America’s problems. General Petraeus could (and should) weigh in himself (although his testimony seemed pretty clear to me).
However, on the issue of being a so-called “honest broker,” some sort of neutral party which can hold both sides accountable and thereby effect change in behavior or attitude, this is worse than wishful thinking. Leaving aside the issue of whether the U.S. should be biased towards Israel and assessing the situation from a purely clinical perspective, the belief that “honest brokering” with Israel will change the calculus is naive to the point of being childish and even dangerous (and here I am not necessarily commenting on the Petraeus testimony).
The radical rulers in Iran will not be mollified, and the covert and overt operations of their surrogates in the Middle East will not be attenuated one iota by playing “honest broker” and pressing Israel to make more concessions. The Palestinians are increasingly rejecting the idea of a two-state solution. Short of regime change, Iran will obtain nuclear weapons within a few years or less, excepting military action by Israel (which has the unlikely affect of being successful in the long term). Not even the most robust sanctions will stop Iran, much less political pressure on Israel.
We must remove the radical Mullahs or support those who would in order to avoid a regional conflagration in the near term. Everyone in the State Department already knows this, or if they don’t, they aren’t qualified to be in the employ of the government. I’m not quite sure which group is larger. One year and four months ago I forecasted that “the State Department will begin the administration with high hopes, excitement and grand ambitions for the role of diplomacy, negotiations and multi-lateral talks. By the end of the administration, a general malaise and confusion will have descended upon the entire State Department, and yet there will still be sparse and shallow understanding of why negotiations have so miserably failed to prevent or ameliorate the various calamities for which they were targeted.”