Arab TV network is bringing into homes two potent sets of images:
one conveying the destructiveness of the American war in Afghanistan,
the other the injustices of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank
and Gaza. As my friend put it:
see miserable Afghans struggling to escape our bombs; and maimed
children without hospitals [are] being shown repeatedly on Al-Jazeera
TV. The Palestinian plight is brought home by shots of Israeli bulldozers
destroying West Bank olive orchards that took generations to grow.
It really is not a pretty picture on their screens and there is
no visible sign of hope."
is it an encouraging indicator for the United States war on terror
either, since success against the Al-Qaeda requires intelligence
sharing and diplomatic cooperation with Arab governments who are
sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and conscious of the mood within
their own populations. No authoritarian ruler can safely ignore
the sentiments of "the crowd" – a lesson from Europe's
history as well as that of the Middle East.
improve the picture, my friend recommends that the United States
re-ignite the Arab-Israeli peace process – and then take firm steps
to follow up on President Bush's comments about the desirability
of a Palestinian state. Simply urging both sides to "restart"
the peace talks isn't enough. Washington must make sure that the
talks actually proceed until a settlement – a "just and lasting
peace" based on UN
Resolution 242 – is finally reached.
ongoing peace process would thus become an element in the daily
story about the Middle East, part of the televised mix on Al-Jazeera.
That would do much to counter the current image of the United States
as an anti-Arab, anti-Muslim bully.
objections came to mind. First: how much does the existence of a
widespread anti-American terror network in the Muslim world really
owe to the Israeli and Palestinian problem? After all, the Saudi
hijackers began enrolling in "flight school" when the
Palestinian-Israeli talks were still a going concern.
might renewed American effort to push Israel towards a settlement
actually become a goad to more anti-American terrorism? Might a
peace initiative be perceived as a sign of American weakness, and
of an impending victory for the most anti-American Arabs?
Israel, or at least that country's right-wingers, wouldn't like
it at all, and some of Israel's friends in the United States would
certainly resist it.
none of these objections is that formidable. To the last, my correspondent
would reply that the war crisis gives President Bush tremendous
scope to make requests and demands – that as a war President he
holds the leverage to insist that a just Mid East peace is crucial
for American security. My guess is that my friend is right about
that, and that fraction of the American Jewish leadership inclined
to oppose Israeli concessions to the Palestinians would be reluctant
to pull out all the stops against President Bush.
for the others: there are people in the Arab world with a genuine
"the worse, the better" attitude – who would fight against
any peace that leaves a secure Israel in place, and would interpret
renewed American commitment to the peace process as a sign that
their future victory over the "crusaders" is right around
are crazies in every country. But political choices must be based
on the fact that most people aren't mad. There are many voices in
the Arab world, but virtual unanimity among all the leadership groups
that a solution must be found to the Palestinian problem. They are
the people in the Arab countries whose cooperation and support the
United States needs now, and we may finally have to listen to them
alternative hardly looks more promising. William Safire floated
a version of it in today's New York Times – using an imaginary
"conversation" with the ghost of Richard Nixon to air
his preferred agenda. We should, wrote Safire, encourage Turkey
to attack Iraq and seize its oil rich northern provinces. Meanwhile
we should give Sharon a green light to annex parts of the West Bank.
useful to have the opposite view right out there. While my correspondent
urges Bush to reshuffle the diplomatic deck, and make the peace
process an integral part of the anti-terror campaign, Safire wants
to use the current crisis to restructure the Middle East by starting
a war against the Arab states, initially through the use of proxies.
He compares this to Nixon's playing the "China card" against
the Soviet Union – as if Nixon had actually prodded China to start
a war over disputed Soviet territory.
ethical grounds, there is no competition between the two views:
one, an effort to reinforce American diplomacy by more energetic
pursuit of a peace process, a process based on United Nations resolutions
drafted and signed by American diplomats; the other, a gambit to
ensure American security by spreading a conflagration throughout
the Mid East.
both writers are probably correct about the one assumption they
each share: the scope of the current conflict will expand, one way
or another, very soon.
printable version of this article
As a committed
cold warrior during the 1980’s, Scott McConnell wrote extensively
for Commentary and other neoconservative publications. Throughout
much of the 1990’s he worked as a columnist, chief editorial writer,
and finally editorial page editor at the New York Post. Most
recently, he served as senior policy advisor to Pat Buchanan’s 2000
campaign , and writes regularly for NY Press/Taki's Top Drawer.
columns on Antiwar.com
Hearts and Minds
Strategic Withdrawal Option
Open Letter to Arab Readers
Push for A Wider War
Bushes and the Palestinians: Act 2
Struggle Over War Aims
They Hate Us
Many Arabs Hate America
is Still Right
Real Plan for the Mideast
Just Mideast Peace
Liberalism on the March