Dienstag, Juni 19, 2007

The FT Really Doesn't Get It...

Sigh. In today's FT there is an editorial that, taken in context, explains why the West will never, ever, have a successful foreign policy in the Middle East.

The Ttitle for the online version is "The West should not pick sides in the Palestinian conflict." The dead tree version is "Beware of backing Abbas to the hilt."

Sounds like a proper warning, what? Not get involved in what looks to be a family feud, the West will try to micromanage their involvement, and the West is hypocritical anyway. After all, the West called for elections, but then cut off aid when Hamas was elected; the government, such as it is, in Palestine needs to be inclusive, and the real reason everything is so terribly wrong is that the fundamental Arab-Israeli conflict hasn't been resolved.

What absolute, unmitigated and laughable poppycock. Or, in a more direct vernacular, the editorial board of the FT has no fucking clue what they are talking about.

First of all, the title in the paper version gives it away: it makes it sound like if the West chooses to back Abbas, then it must always back Abbas, as backing him means backing "to the hilt", their words.

If you look at how politics actually works in the Middle East, there is only one constant: alliances, coalitions, etc., are all in flux and your friend of the day may be your enemy tomorrow. I know, in the West that's a hard concept to get your mind around, given the way our politics works. Someone who bolts from a coalition in order to form a new one with his rivals in order to get another party out of power because there is something that they want which the third party is blocking is something that is viewed in the West as something fundamentally dishonest and untrustworthy. Entering into a political coalition is, in the West, more akin to getting married than it is to a business deal. Once you make the commitment, you stick with it until your principles - and indeed generally politicians do have some, people like Reid and Pelosi, Clinton and Gore, notwithstanding - are threatened, and then you go through the usual messiness of a divorce.

Not so in the Middle East: politics there is more like we understand how business works. It is completely, totally and so completely old-school to think that businesses work with other companies over the long-term because they're buddies and pals: in reality, especially in the usual widget business, long-term relationships prosper for one reason and one reason only, which is that it is beneficial for both parties. Change that, disappoint a long-term customer by screwing up quality control, or disappoint a long-term supplier by dicking around with his profit margin, and that long-term relationship is gone, replaced by someone who is going to deliver. Nothing changes a long-term business relationship like dicking around with the profit margin, especially in those industries that produce commodity parts.

That's how Middle Eastern politics works: you have rival factions, all chasing the holy grail of power. Only despots chase power merely for power's sake: you chase power because it will make you and yours rich, while confounding the plans of whoever your competition may be.

Hence you see coalitions in the Middle East that confound the casual observer, with the US first fighting the Sunnis, then cooperating with them to destroy al-Queda in Iraq, and with whom the US still has some unfinished business. That sounds treacherous, deceitful, foreign to Western sensibilities.

Yeah. Welcome to the 21st century.

But my real point is the absurdity, the absolute ignorance of the editorial writer of the FT: the West "should not pick sides", but rather should try and get everyone together.

What, to sign "kumbaya" around a campfire?

The problem with the FT's editorial writer is that he (or she) obviously doesn't realize that in the Middle East, you can't not choose sides, especially - and pay attention here - when the other side has already chosen sides and is killing those who oppose them. Hamas isn't some sort of basis-democratic political group, but is a tool of Iranian foreign policy, bought and paid for, which is also showing results that fit nicely with the Iranian political goals in the Middle East.

Not getting involved means literally throwing away any chance to determine the outcome. While the West sends people to the West to learn how to manage cities and provides them with technocratic skills, Iran and their jihad is taking political power, sometimes one small step at a time, sometimes simply by throwing anyway standing in their way off a tall building. By following what the FT thinks the West should do, in this case, ensures that in 6 months the West Bank would also fall to Hamas, as they will not be afraid of killing anyone who stands in their way, while the West wrings its hands and stupidly asks why it isolated Hamas and made it so radical.

This is what people don't understand: when Hamas takes over Gaza, the game is over. They will ruthlessly kill anyone protesting - they have fired on protesters who don't want them there - and they will pursue their goal, the destruction of Israel.

The resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, thinks the FT, can be done by granting the Palestinian terror groups control over the Palestinians and paying for them to not be so terrible.

That's the reaction of cowards. Give in, pay Danegeld. Of course, once the Danes get the appetite for Danegeld, they come back and want more. Give Hamas millions and it will start killing in order to get tens of millions.

The real solution to the conflict is the massive repression of terror groups, hunting them down and killing them, explicitly and with the clear message that using terror is no solution. But it also means that there needs to be a second solution, one with jobs to end the misery there. But it's sheer lunacy to think that the misery in Gaza and the West Bank is the cause of the terrorism: it's an excuse, nothing more. The West is being hypocritical when it thinks that the entire history of the Palestinians is one of repression and disfranchisement, when it reality they have been pawns in the political struggles amongst the Arab countries after they were so badly mauled by the Israelis.

Following the advice of such ignorant experts that has formed the policies that stand behind this editorial is what got us into the problem in the first case. Listening any further to these folks means that the problem will get worse as the terror merchants learn to milk sentimental fools in the West.


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