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COLUMN

Standing Back From Palestine

Guest Column
Presley H. Cannady

If you read The Washington Post, The New York Times, or Time, you’d be hard-pressed not to find some liberal D.C. columnist talking at great length about so-called “nuances” surrounding the current war on Israel that, according to these pundits, Bush is either slow to grasp or not getting at all. Of course, the empty words of self-proclaimed experts like Thomas Friedman are often at odds with reality. The truth is that President Bush’s fundamental vision for American-Middle Eastern affairs and his approach have been consistent since the day he stepped into office.

The President’s outlook on the Middle East is nothing new. It mirrors that of his father and President Ronald Reagan, who aside from President Richard Nixon were the first to frame America’s Mideast strategic interests within an articulate, publicly disseminated grand strategy. What differences there may be are the result of a decade-long dynamism that has been in place since the end of the Gulf War and the unhealthy meddling in which Mr. Clinton -- much like his ideological antecedent Carter -- engaged while train-wrecking the Arab-Israeli negotiations. Our President came into office with all three thrusts of our regional concerns under severe threat: the security of the Suez Canal, the security of Israel, and the security of Middle Eastern oil. Still, he struck back with a style that, while different from his father’s, was far more appropriate for the new landscape.

You would never hear any words of this sort from the likes of Thomas Friedman, whose utter lack of vision leads him and many others to proclaim that Israel is faced with two choices -- deal with Arafat or some alternative they never really spelled out (or thought through) and just assumed was worse than sitting across the table from Head Terrorist in Charge. Armed with this remarkably simple yet intellectually devoid train of thought and convinced that it bears some air of subtlety, the liberal pundits went on to trash the President for not charging in recklessly like Clinton and wasting the Executive’s time, energy and focus.

The truth is that the President rightfully announced his Administration’s approach to the Middle East early on. The U.S. would neither waste time nor energy with negotiations when one or more parties could not refrain from hostilities. Back then, it sounded callous for a Republican President to seemingly morally equate Israel and Palestine and then supposedly wash his hands of the whole affair. In reality the balance of Bush’s criticism was always reserved for Arafat, a man probably no one in his Administration likes. However, the worst mistake of the American Left was to assume that the President “ignored” the Middle East out of hope that both sides would seek U.S. intervention in the future. On the contrary, looking beyond the President’s de facto repudiation of the Palestinian Authority, liberal pundits still seem to always forget one unalterable fact -- the Israelis are a Western military power and the Palestinians are so backwards they can only fight unarmed women and children. When the U.S. turns away from the war, Israel kicks Palestinian ass all across the West Bank. Take away the attention of the Americans-- the hell with Europe -- and the Israelis’ Knesset majority would be more than happy to bring their own War on Terrorism fully in line with the objectives and reach of its American counterpart. President Bush, however, does re-enter the occasion from time to time to see if the idea of a secure Israel to the east of a Palestinian state is anything more than a fairy tale. To do that, the U.S. uses influence to restrain Israel time and time again, each time hoping the Palestinians have gotten knocked around enough to know they’re fighting a losing war. Maybe then, we hope, they’d listen to reason. Hope, but not expect. Clinton hoped eternally, and in the end the rejection of the Barak offer at Camp David brought the al Aqsa intifada and handed Ariel Sharon and the Likud executive power again.

I doubt the Palestinians will learn; they’re not as “thoughtful” as their liberal defenders. And if the American Left can’t understand that in a contest of survival it’s a basic fact that Israel holds a royal flush to the Palestinians’ straight, sooner or later President Bush is going to “mistakenly ignore” the Middle East and Israel will wipe out the Palestinian menace once and for all. It may take decades for another leader of Arafat’s stature to rise to power. Hell, maybe the Palestinians will wake up some day fifty years from now, see how far they’ve driven their society and political institutions into the mud of authoritarianism and corruption, and actually present the Israelis with a faithfully elected set of leaders. Then again, I doubt it. One other thing the President may believe (if the stories about his choices in authors are accurate) but cannot say in the overly politically correct arena of diplomacy, is that Islamic culture is fundamentally destructive, outdated and doomed to extinction. That militant Islam seizes its adherents amongst such a large portion of the Middle Eastern population and penetrates the believer to depths unheard of in modern Christianity and Judaism speaks of a dark future for the Arab world.

Presley H. Cannady is a member of the Class of 2002.