Monday, December 11, 2006

A Clean Break

A New Strategy for Securing the Realm

Early Neocon thinkers were closely associated with Israel's right-wing Likud Party; some went on to write a 1996 paper, "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," that urged incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to roll back Syria, work to effect regime change in Iraq, and refuse to return the occupied territories to the Palestinians. I suggest that the old title be reprised with new content.

A second generation of Neocons, including Robert Kagan, William Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz, continued to believe in American exceptionalism and the virtues of force, but they added an idealistic note: America should not just battle evil but also promote democracies around the world. For application of Neocon's uncritical thinking, bromides and policies, readers can visit my Kool-Aid Kafeteria.

In a very real sense, it seems to me, that certain precepts of the recent Irag Study Group report offer an alternative Clean Break from the past five years (post 9-11) of Bush-Cheney's Middle Eastern foreign policy as well as a new, realistic and more promising Strategy for Securing the Realm. As a matter of fact, the ISG's recommendations delineated below represent what many of us - speaking for myself, of course - hoped for, expected, and thought Bush was promising to a joint session of Congress on September 20th 2001.

The ISG Report recommends in its Executive Summary:
Given the ability of Iran and Syria to influence events within Iraq and their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq, the United States should try to engage them constructively. In seeking to influence the behavior of both countries, the United States has disincentives and incentives available. Iran should stem the flow of arms and training to Iraq, respect Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and use its influence over Iraqi Shia groups to encourage national reconciliation. The issue of Iran’s nuclear programs should continue to be dealt with by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. Syria should control its border with Iraq to stem the flow of funding, insurgents, and terrorists in and out of Iraq.

The United States cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional instability. There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon, Syria, and President Bush’s June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. This commitment must include direct talks with, by, and between Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians (those who accept Israel’s right to exist), and Syria.

As the United States develops its approach toward Iraq and the Middle East, the United States should provide additional political, economic, and military support for Afghanistan, including resources that might become available as combat forces are moved out of Iraq.
Of course, the barn door's open now and the fox and the wolf are raiding our chickens in Iraq. With our pants down in Iraquagmire, we will be misleading ourselves if we think we can just make nice and draw a get-out-of-Iraq-gracefully card. Hard decisions will have to be made by an American leadership which is credibility-challenged at the moment, nationally and internationally.

But on the regional level a clean break must be made from the past five years to free us up to do that right thing. I submit that requires two decisive changes:
  1. A public decision to severe any linkage between American policy and Israeli expansion and retention of their settlements on the West Bank. That means guaranteeing Israel's territorial integrity up to the 1967 borders, and nothing else. Aid to Israel should be stopped until its government adopts a credible schedule of withdrawal from those settlements.

  2. Legislation which requires the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires those who receive funds or act on behalf of a foreign government to register. AIPAC has been for too long the most powerful and best known pro-Israel lobby that has distorted American foreign policy away from pursuing our national interests as well as constricting appropriate Congressional oversight.
On these two issues, American long term interests in the Middle East compel a clean break in behalf of securing the realm.