Tooth Fairy Diplomacy
Pat Lang isn’t happy with the signals coming from the nascent Obama Administration about the new administration’s prospective policies with respect to the Middle East:
Words can not express my disappointment if this is the foreign policy that the Obama Administration will follow in the Middle East.
The “Abdullah Plan” is not a plan. It was a public relations stunt in its beginnings when it was exaggerated in meaning by the American media, and it remains that. Crown Prince Abdullah used to have the habit of telling visitors that if the Israelis would do this or that, and withdraw from this or that, then he would appeal to the Arab League for recognition of the State of Israel. In the atmosphere that prevailed following the failure at Camp David II, this was taken as good news by Tom Friedman who visited Abdullah then and who made this Rotary Club “pitch” into a column. Rejoicing took place in the media and at a previously scheduled meeting of the Arab League in Beirut a cornered Prince Abdullah proclaimed his “plan.” The League produced a document. Problem: The text says that when the Israelis and ALL the disputants to various issues with the Israelis resolve their differences, then the members of the League will CONSIDER recognition of Israel.
And then there is what is reported in the Times on Line piece of the supposed Dennis Ross plan for dealing with the Iranian missile and nuclear programs. He is reported to think that Russia can be persuaded to “muscle” the Iranians into giving up these programs. What would be the Russian motivation? An American cancellation of anti-Iranian missile emplacements in eastern Europe? Do we want to “outsource” our diplomacy to Russia? One must ask why the Iranians would yield to Russian pressure. They have not yielded to any other pressure.
Realism in international relations means the belief that nations have economic and security interests and act to further them. Consequently, a realistic foreign policy must recognize nations’ economic and security interests, at least as the principals see them, and negotiate agreements in which those interests are furthered.
What are the Israelis’ interests? The Saudis’? The Iranians’?
If resolving the problems in the Middle East were easy it would have been accomplished decades ago. My own opinion is that the situation in the Middle East is a wicked problem. No mutually agreeable solution is possible at all. The most that can be hoped for is arriving at a mechanism by which the principals can discuss their differences without coming to blows.
Politicians tend not to like wicked problems. They rarely prompt good campaign slogans.