Archive for January 20th, 2011
Avi Shlaim on the Neoconservative Middle East War Agenda
Thursday, January 20, 2011 7:52 PM
From: “Stephen Sniegoski”
The following is my essay “Avi Shlaim on the Neoconservative Middle East War Agenda,” which can be found on the following websites (among others):
Avi Shlaim on the Neoconservative Middle East War Agenda
Passionate Attachment: http://tinyurl.com/passattachshlaim
Pulse Media: http://tinyurl.com/pulseshlaim
Avi Shlaim on the Neoconservative Middle East War Agenda
by Stephen J. Sniegoski
A friend, Phil Collier, an avid student of and sometime writer on Middle East affairs (and a National Master in chess), recently informed me that Avi Shlaim, in his recent book, Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations, had one chapter, “Palestine and Iraq,” that presents a thesis almost identical to what I have written in The Transparent Cabal. This naturally encouraged me to obtain the book, and Collier’s description turns out to be correct.
Now this similarity is quite significant since what I have written on the neocons regarding their strong influence on U.S. Middle East policy and their connection to Israel is taboo in the American mainstream, with even numerous antiwar individuals (especially those with higher status) and publications shying away from my work. But unlike me, Shlaim, a professor of international relations at Oxford, is a recognized scholar, with such notable books on Israel and its neighbors as The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (2001). And he is also Jewish and an Israeli citizen, who served in the Israeli Defense Forces (possessing dual British and Israeli citizenship), which shelters him from charges of anti-Semitism. Undoubtedly because of his credentials, his works cannot be ignored, and this book was honored as a Kirkus Best Book for 2009.
Now, in his ten-page chapter on this subject, Shlaim could only present a much-abbreviated version of the major themes that I elaborate on at length in my 447 page book. The following are some poignant examples from Shlaim’s work, with my commentary drawing comparisons to The Transparent Cabal.
“The basic premise behind George W. Bush’s policy towards the Middle East reflected this strong pro-Israeli bias,” Shlaim opines. “The premise was that the key issue in Middle East politics was not Palestine, but Iraq.” (p. 297) This is the essence of my thesis, but it is something many establishment people, including those who have been antiwar, ardently deny when they claim that the elimination of Saddam not only harmed Israeli interests by empowering Iran, but that this result was clearly foreseen by Israelis and supporters of Israel prior to the attack on Iraq and that the government of Israel thus allegedly opposed the war. The Transparent Cabal, of course, shows that the entire neocon war agenda in the Middle East was directed to advancing Israel’s security by weakening its enemies and that Israeli leaders did, in fact, promote the war on Iraq. Of course, in the United States, any claim that American Jews promote Israeli interests, no matter how well adduced, invariably elicits accusations of anti-Semitism.
“American proponents of the war on Iraq promised that action against Iraq would form part of a broader engagement with the problems of the Middle East,” Shlaim notes. “The road to Jerusalem, they argued, went through Baghdad. Cutting off Saddam Hussein’s support for Palestinian terrorism was, according to them, an essential first step in the quest for a settlement.” (p. 297) Later he observes: “One of the main arguments for regime change in Baghdad was to put an end to Iraqi support for Palestinian militants and for what was seen as Palestinian intransigence in the peace process with Israel.” (p. 300)
As I point out in The Transparent Cabal, the neocons maintained that it was the removal of not only Saddam, but most “non-democratic” regimes in the Middle East, which was necessary to bring about a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian issue. However, the “peace” the neocons had in mind was one dictated by Israel. Elimination of the Middle Eastern “non-democratic” regimes would facilitate this development because it was just these regimes that provided moral and material support to the Palestinian resistance, portrayed by the neocons as “Palestinian intransigence.” Without outside support, the isolated and dispirited Palestinians would ultimately be forced to accede to whatever type of peaceful solution Israel offered, which would create nothing like a viable, Palestinian state, but which would serve to remove Israel’s Palestinian problem and thus help to secure the Jewish nature of the state of Israel.
“The influence of the Likud and of its friends in Washington could be detected across the entire spectrum of American policy towards the Middle East,” writes Shlaim. “Particularly striking was the ideological convergence between some of the leading neoconservatives in the Bush Administration – such as Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith—and the hardliners in Ariel Sharon’s inner circle.” (p. 298)
I go to great lengths in The Transparent Cabal to highlight the link between the neocons and the hardline Likudniks. In fact, I show that the neocons’ very plan to reconfigure the Middle East paralleled the Likudnik goal of destabilizing and fragmenting Israel’s enemies, which was best articulated by Oded Yinon in the early 1980s.
In illustrating the neocons’ identification with Israeli interests, Shlaim underscores the significance of the neocons’ “A Clean Break” paper, writing: “In 1996, a group of six Jewish Americans, led by Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, wrote a paper for incoming Israeli prime minister, Benyamin Netanyahu. Entitled ‘A Clean Break’, the paper proposed, in essence, an abrupt reversal of the foreign policies of the Clinton Administration towards the Middle East.” (p. 298) After mentioning the major goals of the plan, including the removal of Saddam’s regime, Shlaim declares: “Thus, five years before the attack on the twin towers, the idea of regime change in Baghdad was already on the agenda of some of Israel’s most fervent Republican supporters in Washington.” (p. 299) Regarding the connection of that policy to actual American interests, Shlaim opines that “While the authors’ devotion to Israel’s interests was crystal-clear, their implicit identification of those interests with American interests was much more open to question.” (p. 299) Shlaim accepts the obvious fact that the neocons were influential in shaping Bush policy: “The Bush Administration’s entire policy towards the Middle East was similarly supportive of Israel’s short-term strategic interests.” (p. 299)
It should be noted here that Shlaim, in accord with what I write in The Transparent Cabal, makes three taboo points that often lead to charges of anti-Semitism when he observes that the neocons are Jewish, that they are devoted to Israel, and that they were influential enough to shape U.S. Middle East policy in the interests of Israel.
Shlaim correctly points out that the neocons’ Middle East war agenda transcended Iraq: “While Iraq was the main target, the neocons also advocated that America exert relentless pressure on Syria and on Iran.” (p. 300) In The Transparent Cabal, I show that the neocons only regarded Iraq as the momentary “main target”—it was to be the first step in their plan to reconfigure the Middle East.
Shlaim refers to Israeli support for the broader neocon Middle East war agenda, which would also primarily benefit that country, not the United States: “Washington’s policy of confrontation and regime change was fervently supported in Tel Aviv. Here too the benefit to Israel is much more evident than the benefit to America. And here too, the US agenda towards the region appears to incorporate a right-wing Likud agenda.” (p. 300)
While fundamentally similar, Shlaim’s analysis does differ with The Transparent Cabal in a few respects. For example, he depicts the noted Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis as a crucial influence on the neocons, maintaining that he provided “the intellectual underpinning for this policy [the neocon plan of democratizing the Middle East by war].” (P. 299) While aware that Lewis expressed this Middle East democratization argument, I am not aware that the neocons actually derived this view from him. To obtain expert opinion on this issue, I contacted Paul Gottfried, probably the foremost historian of neoconservatism, and he also was not aware of any evidence for Shlaim’s claim. Since Lewis is a well-known scholar, some neocons undoubtedly believed that publicizing their connection to him would enhance the credibility of their democratization argument, but whether they actually derived this view from him needs to be proven.
A more significant difference between Shlaim’s argument and that of The Transparent Cabal revolves around an assessment of the results of the neocon policy. While Shlaim holds that the neocons were attuned to the views of the hardline Likudniks and sought to advance what they considered to be Israel’s security interests, he seems to drift away from this position in looking at the policy’s results. Instead, he seems to take the neocon rhetoric on democracy at face value and judges the results by both this standard and how the results affected Israel’s security, as he (a left-wing Zionist, not a hardline Likudnik) sees it. “The war on Iraq has not gone according to plan,” Shlaim asserts. “Saddam Hussein and his henchman have been removed from power but the goals of democracy, security and stability have proved persistently elusive. Today the shadow of civil war hangs over Iraq.” (p. 305)
In contrast to Shlaim’s view of Israel’s security, the neocons explicitly sought regional instability to allegedly achieve democracy, as I show in The Transparent Cabal. And the hardline Likudnik position was to destabilize and fragment Israel’s enemies to enhance Israeli security. The neocons similarly advocated such an approach in their “Clean Break” agenda, which did not emphasize democratization. In short, from the perspective of the neocons and the hardline Likudniks, the instability and the “shadow of civil war” resulting from the US invasion of Iraq were neither surprising nor unwelcome. Thus the neocons’ plans failed only to the extent that the US has not, or at least not yet, moved on to attack and destabilize Iran and other enemies of Israel.
It is certainly pleasing to see themes that I present emerging in the mainstream, but I am miffed that my much longer account remains largely ignored. It would be great if books such as Shlaim’s would serve to open the door to wider publicity for The Transparent Cabal, which would not simply be of personal benefit but would also provide mainstream readers with the most complete account currently existing of the neoconservative involvement in the war on Iraq and overall U.S. Middle East policy, and thus serve as a guide to analyzing current U.S. policy. However, since Shlaim’s theme is buried among 29 other short chapters, its impact will likely be negligible. And the overall blackout of these crucial themes will likely continue.
Amazon Link for The Transparent Cabal:
Stephen J. Sniegoski
‘Israel first’ Joe Lieberman all for the Iraq war (which comes as no surprise since it was for Israel!)
‘Israel first’ Joe Lieberman all for the Iraq war (which comes as no surprise since it was for Israel!):
Serving Up Palestine One Slice at a Time
Posted By Philip Giraldi On January 19, 2011 @ 11:00 pm In Uncategorized | 10 Comments
As of last week, 110 countries in the United Nations have extended diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine. All recognize Palestine as including the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, essentially the borders as they existed prior to the June 1967 Six Day War. Nearly every country in Latin America, Asia, and Africa has recognized Palestinian statehood and there are indications that many European nations will soon follow suit. Which leaves the United States, yet again, on the wrong side of history. In fact, Washington has gone in completely the opposite direction, insisting that there cannot be any Palestinian state until negotiations are completed between the two parties involved, meaning that Israel shall have a veto on any such development and will postpone it until some time in the next century.
In fact, the United States is completely in lock step with Israel on the prospects for a Palestinian state. The White House and State Department have condemned every move to obtain independent recognition of statehood. The US position is summed up by House Resolution 1765, drafted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, “Supporting a negotiated solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and condemning unilateral measures to declare or recognize a Palestinian state, and for other purposes,” which had 54 co-sponsors. It declares that “any attempt to establish Palestinian statehood outside the negotiating process will invoke the strongest congressional opposition” and condemns any attempt to “establish or seek recognition of a Palestinian state outside of an agreement negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians.” It urges the Palestinians to “cease all efforts at circumventing the negotiation process” to “resume direct negotiations with Israel immediately,” and to “support the Obama Administration’s opposition to a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.”
And to make sure that the 110 countries who have signed on to the statehood agenda get the message, HR 1765 calls on the White House to “lead a diplomatic effort to persuade other nations to oppose a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state” and “affirm that the United States would deny recognition to any unilaterally declared Palestinian state and veto any resolution by the United Nations Security Council to establish or recognize a Palestinian state…” If it sounds a bit like George Bush’s famous dictum, “you are either with us or against us,” it should.
Make no mistake, Israel does not want a Palestinian state because it would require the resolution of certain “core issues.” These would include the actual sovereignty of a Palestinian nation, access to Jerusalem, fixing the borders, and the sharing of limited water resources, most which now go to feed the illegal Israeli settlements which Washington has officially condemned but done nothing about for forty years. Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is content to let the entire negotiation process drag on until there is nothing to negotiate. Israel has already sliced up the West Bank with its Jewish only roads and settlements and will soon encircle East Jerusalem with housing developments being built on land illegally annexed. The only thing the Palestinians have going for them is their birth rate: they will soon constitute a majority in the pre-1947 mandate Palestine west of the Jordan River.
A settlement in the Middle East is strongly in the US national interest as the Israeli repression of the Palestinians has been a recruiting tool for militants worldwide, most of whom wind up blaming Washington. It is reasonable to assume that the Obama Administration would like to have the whole festering Israel-Palestine mess go away, but, like the review of options on Afghanistan, our man in the White House is only listening to one side of the argument, and that side as always only offers the Israeli perspective. According to Laura Rozen over at Politico, there are currently two task forces working with the White House and National Security Council on “options.” But before anyone gets too excited by the unusual display of activity, it should be noted that the two groups are headed by Steven Hadley working with Sandy Berger and by Martin Indyk. Both groups are reporting to Dennis Ross, who recently went to Israel to “seek more clarity from Israeli leaders on their security requirements.” Indyk and Ross are well known as Israel-firsters and Berger is best remembered for having stuffed classified documents from the National Archive into his trousers. Hadley, who worked for W, is best recalled for nothing in particular but he is along for the ride to show that the effort is bipartisan. Obama would love to have some kind of two state solution and the Ross-Indyk-Hadley-Bergers would sorely love to deliver one, but on Israel’s terms. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren is reportedly part of the negotiating process, possibly the first time that an Ambassador of a foreign country has been allowed to sit in and influence the policy of the US relating to his own country, but why should anyone be surprised by that?
It is interesting to note that George Mitchell, the Administration’s designated rainmaker for Israel-Palestinian rapprochement, is nowhere in sight, leaving the task to those best equipped to appease Israel and its lobby. And what they are trying to do is calculate what the absolute minimum might be that the Palestinians can accept to label a state while leaving the largest part of the pie to the Israelis, together with absolute control over a client nation of helots that they can then abuse at will. That way it will look like there has been a two state solution, Obama will bask in glory long enough to get reelected and everyone that matters in Washington will be happy.
I know there are readers out there who must believe that there is actually a secret, underground State Department, possibly concealed somewhere in the Department of Agriculture, that is actually going around the world and doing what is best for America and its people. Alas, it is not true and what we are seeing is what we are getting. Consider how Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Pakistan last week to threaten its already shaky government into invading Waziristan to kill the militants who have been hiding there. Joe suggested that American soldiers might do the job if the Paks are not up to it. It is difficult to imagine what Biden thought to accomplish by his performance, but a good outcome from all the saber rattling is hard to imagine. Much like Hillary Clinton going around last week and calling on Arab countries to liberalize their political systems. Sure Hillary, just like the Palestinians did when they elected Hamas in a free and fair election and Washington and Tel Aviv decided that the result was not quite acceptable. What happens when the Muslim Brotherhood wins an election in Egypt? What will happen if parties unacceptable to Washington rise to the top in the current unrest in Lebanon and Tunisia? It would all amount to much ado about nothing except that the consequences are deadly serious with American soldiers and local folks dying in their thousands because the Clintons, Obamas, and Bushes find it hard to admit that they have made a mistake. Whether Obama or Palin is elected in 2012 almost seems irrelevant. Six more years of this and we will be finished as a nation, bankrupt and despised everywhere, our only legacy a network of seven hundred-plus military bases falling into ruin worldwide, meant to give us peace and prosperity but delivering on neither.
Read more by Philip Giraldi
Article printed from Antiwar.com Original: http://original.antiwar.com
URL to article: http://original.antiwar.com/giraldi/2011/01/19/serving-up-palestine-one-slice-at-a-time/