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Sunday, November 14, 2004

"Star-Search Palestine": Do we want to encourage another drama queen to succeed Arafat?

Does anyone know off-hand if NYT op-ed columnist Thomas L. Friedman has kids? Friedman consistently amuses me by the way he turns "moderation" into "mush-headedness." His column today starts off fairly enough by noting that "any honest history of Yasir Arafat will judge him on his voids, not his visions." But he concludes with this bit of cluelessness:

If only President Bush called in Colin Powell and said: "Colin, neither of us have much to show by way of diplomacy for the last four years. I want you to get on an airplane and go out to the Middle East. I want you to sit down with Israelis and Palestinians and forge a framework for a secure Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and progress toward a secure peace in the West Bank, and I don't want you to come back home until you've got that. Only this time I will stand with you.

"As long as you're out there, I will not let Rummy or Cheney fire any more arrows into your back. So get going. It's time for you to stop sulking over at Foggy Bottom and time for me to make a psychological breakthrough with the Arab world that can also help us succeed in Iraq — by making it easier for Arabs and Muslims to stand with us. I don't want to see you back here until you've put our words into deeds."

Any parent who's had any success dealing with his or her kids knows that there's a difference between discipline and drama. Drama — including that generated by family summits ("Tell me how you were feeling, Molly, when you decided to slam your textbook into your brother Adam's left ear?") — can and often does encourage more of the misbehavior you're trying to discourage.

One of the key reasons that Yasser Arafat got away for so long having done so little constructive (and indeed, with having continued to do that which was incredibly destructive) was that American Presidents, European leaders, the Nobel Peace Prize committee, et al. continually put him into the dramatic spotlight. They treated him with a dignity he'd never earned and respect for which he'd consistently proved himself unworthy. They gave him ample incentive to continue misbehaving, and until Dubya's administration, they never included being ignored and isolated and marginalized as among the permissible range of diplomatic options.

I hope that genuine leaders will emerge to represent the Palestinian people. I believe that quiet, behind-the-scenes diplomacy from the United States — emphatically not conducted in summits with Colin Powell in front of CNN's and al-Jazeera's TV cameras — may materially assist in that prospect. Inviting the Palestinians to promote a new drama queen to take Arafat's place, however — defining "success" primarily in terms of what America and Israel do (or whether Cheney and Rumsfeld are being properly supportive of Powell, for pete's sake), and thereby allowing thugs like Arafat to "succeed" by doing nothing more than frustrating everyone's hopes — is exactly the wrong thing to do.

Posted by Beldar at 01:22 PM in Global War on Terror, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink


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(1) FredRum made the following comment | Nov 14, 2004 2:20:45 PM | Permalink

Speaking of Palestinian drama queens, did anyone else catch Arafat toady Hasan Abdel Rahman on Scarborough Country Thursday night?


(2) Boger made the following comment | Nov 14, 2004 3:50:55 PM | Permalink

believe I am remembering this correctly. At one of the Camp David Summits Clinton hosted with Arafat and Barak, the parties were taking a break, walking outside after a negotiation session. A film crew picked up the following remark from Arafat to Clinton, "What, do you want to come to my funeral?" I believe that remark was in reply to a suggestion from Clinton that he viewed as a concession. To me the exact details are not as important as the underlying fact: Arafat was only too aware that if he cut a deal with Israel and made peace, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezzbolah, and Saddam Hussein would have his GD head. That has been the fundamental problem all along, the so called Palestinian Authority as represented by Arafat had no authority, had no power and had no balls.

There is more. To placate the militant groups named above and keep the bull's-eye off his back Arafat had to play the game and render support. Thus we all remember some years back when Israel intercepted a ship loaded with arms and munitions that was shown to be brokered and bought by Arafat's PLA. In essence Arafat was a weak leader and more worried about his own position and health than achieving results for his people. Bush does not waste time on wishful thinking and non-starters. He was absolutely right in not doing business with someone who couldn't and wouldn't deliver. Its a hard rule to learn in life: No deal is better than a bad deal. The Oslo Accords were doomed because Arafat was more concerned about saving his own skin, banking a billion dollars and promoting his image, instead of doing the necessary, exceedingly risky, heavy lifting among his own people.

I respect Tom Friedman and might say that he is right more than he is wrong. But he needs to write a piece that will tell me specifically what he wants the US to do right now that will result in the election of a Palestinian leader that is everything Arafat wasn't. Instead his recent offering is more muddle and mush.

PS. Whatever the prospects for peace, I think the way is easier with the Capo de capo (S. Hussein) removed from the neighborhood.

(3) the UNPOPULIST made the following comment | Nov 14, 2004 6:15:33 PM | Permalink

Spot-on, Beldar. Friedman is simply not man enough to recognize that "non-diplomacy" is very much a form of diplomacy, and one used well and often by this administration.

Querying further, though, who in their right mind would want to succeed Arafat?

Whoever does is going to have lifespan issues.

(4) LazyMF made the following comment | Nov 14, 2004 7:12:51 PM | Permalink

Friedman has a lot of knowledge about Israeli government and politics. He was not an Arafat appeaser. He is opposed to Sharon's allowing settlements in disputed areas.

You are using an excerpt from one of his columns and taking it out of the context of his entire body of work. Not everyone at the NYT is a liberal villan.

And he has two daughters. One in high school, one in college.

(5) David Foster made the following comment | Nov 14, 2004 9:58:02 PM | Permalink

Well, let's see. The CEO tells the VP of Business Development "go put together a joint venture deal with company X and don't come home until it's done," in a situation where the executives of company X are known jerks and possible mental cases.

The VP of Business Development will indeed come home with a deal, but it's likely to be a very bad one that will cost his company heavily.

If Friedman really is serious about his proposal, he doesn't understand much about negotiating.

(6) lyle made the following comment | Nov 14, 2004 10:23:58 PM | Permalink

I stopped reading Thomas Friedman a long time ago for precisely this reason. He typically offers an insightful, fact-based account of a current Mideast problem, and then finishes off with the lamest, most hackneyed, laughably worthless left-wing conclusion. It's as if he writes the first two-thirds, then hands the final third to Gail Collins or Frank Rich or some other NYT fool.

(7) the UNPOPULIST made the following comment | Nov 15, 2004 1:19:59 AM | Permalink

Yeah, Beldar, how dare you take Friedman's CONCLUSION out of context.

You should have quoted "his entire body of work," starting with the earliest high school Civics paper you could get your hands on.


It would be truly bizarre if anyone were actually this gullible, and I tend not to believe Thomas Friedman is.

He is status-quo AGITPROP.

And, as such, just exactly what we don't need.


Friedman does know alot, he has taken a spectrum of stances, and the more of them you include, the greater the nihilist fool you end up with. (See link.)

(8) Claire made the following comment | Nov 15, 2004 10:06:02 AM | Permalink

I don't think Colin Powell would have been able to broker a Mideast peace deal with Israel and the Palestinians. He's always been a bit of an appeaser, probably because of coming up through the ranks after Vietnam - I've read several detailed analyses of his background, and it seems to have influenced him to be very cautious. In his time at State, he has consistently been drawn toward the internationalists' enclave that is entrenched at State, and has become less and less willing to rock the boat, at least diplomatically. However, his position was extremely valuable to President Bush, for he provided balance and alternatives to Rumsfield and Cheney.

Now, however, it appears Powell is resigning (breaking news on Fox in the last couple of hours). Which brings up the question - what kind of person DO we need in the role of Secretary of State now? SecState is always something of an appeasement role - the carrot, vs. SecDef's big stick. It's a wise division of labor, and effective in the hands of a President who understands and is willing to wield either as appropriate.

But one issue that we need to remember is that we are choosing a SecState for not only how he is perceived and can lead the State Dept internally, but for how he is perceived and can speak for our country externally. And I believe that now is the time for someone who can be both diplomatic and hardnosed, who can speak softly and soothe feelings but also stand firm and kick butt. For as much as it may be alien to much of American culture, much of Arab culture perceives 'niceness' and 'compromise' as weakness, and you can never successfully negotiate from a position of weakness. As much as I might like to have a world where the liberals' view prevails, where you can sit down and talk with your opponent - who's really not your enemy - and work through misunderstandings and have everything come out fine 'cause everyone wants the same thing here... Well, unfortunately, the world doesn't work that way, and for all their 'empathy' and 'multiculturalism' the left doesn't really comprehend the deep and largely irreconcilable differences in world view that exist between Western and Arab cultures. We need somebody as SecState who can live and work in both worlds, as an American and Westerner who can navigate the world of politics with deftness and understanding, and as someone who those in Arab and other similar cultures can see as a strong and possibly deadly opponent that they don't want to mess with. In the Arab/Muslim culture, might makes right - it says so right in the Koran - and refusing to operate with that as a parameter in dealing with that culture means that you start out at a disadvantage.

Much of the Muslim world complains that we Americans want to change their countries and their culture and make them like us. Okay, so let's deal with them the way they deal with each other. Once we earn their respect on their terms, then it can be time to introduce them to ours.

(9) heather made the following comment | Nov 15, 2004 8:35:56 PM | Permalink

The guys funning Palestine are Mafia people, and they will decide upon their new leader in the Mafia way: by murder. It will come down to the 'last man standing'.

Israel's fence is the very best option for the Israelis. As to the USA, its realistic 'path to peace' is to (1) cut off the money going to the Palestinian 'refugees' from the UN; (2) smack around Syria so that it is afraid to continue supporting terrorist organizations; (3) frighten the Iranian Mullahs so much that THEY stop the money, too.

(4) build Iraq up into a successful, reasonably peaceful country, smack dab in the middle of that middle eastern swamp.

(10) RogerA made the following comment | Nov 17, 2004 10:53:24 AM | Permalink

Mr. Friedman is stuck in the "shuttle diplomacy" mindset--fortunately, that is not something that Colin Powell liked to do--moreover, I cannot think off the top of my head of any shuttle diplomacy that created permanent solutions--but I am old and my memory is fading.

Let the Palistinians sort out their leadership and then see who the last man standing is--then we will know what our options are and we can act accordingly--or is that too reasonable a solution?

(11) Stephen M. St. Onge made the following comment | Dec 9, 2004 7:41:48 AM | Permalink

      In Longitudes and Attitudes, Friedman had a moment of sanity, in a column in which he noted that the only thing that mattered was what Arafat was willing to say in Arabic to his own people.

      What he wasn't willing to say, even though he promised to, was "The Jews have a right to their own state in Palestine.  That state is Israel, and we recognize it and wish to live in peace with it"  Until some "Palestinian leader" is willing to say that, there can't be peace, no matter what the U.S. or Israel do.

      "I'm surprised I have to point these things out."


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