An article by Jonathan Rauch in the Atlantic dismisses the "Mommy Model" of US intervention in the middle east conflict, and makes the following observation:

Like everyone else, I wish the Mommy Model were right. It would be nice to think that the mayhem could be ended soon if only the "cycle of violence" were broken, and that the issue comes down to a land dispute, and that the United States could resolve the conflict without taking sides. Perhaps the Mommy Model may save the day after all. Every passing week, however, makes that seem less likely. American diplomacy, it is becoming clear, would be more sensibly built on a Rational-Warfare Model.

The Rational-Warfare Model takes as its premise that both sides in the Middle East conflict know exactly what they are doing and have good reasons to do it�reasons that will not go away even if the United States shakes its finger and demands better behavior. The reasons are simple. For the Palestinians, terrorism works. For the Israelis, nothing but fighting terrorism works. The war is rational because it is no longer about territory (if it ever was); it is about terror.

The reason we have a "cycle of violence" is because the US has failed utterly as a broker - let alone an honest one - in mediating the conflict. This point is made in an anguished way by Gideon Samit in Ha'aretz. It's silly to say America "pressures" Israel when in fact the bulk of our policy is focused on trivialities and illusions. The concept of the "cycle of violence" has masked the real issues, and become a goal unto itself. Trying to "stop the violence" by sending Jinni then Powell to make trivial demands, hold meaningless talks, and then come home in failure, is as futile as trying to cure pneumonia by taking Advil. Our current policy is symptom-centric.

While Rauch points out the flaw in the approach that the Bush Administration is taking towards diplomacy in the mideast, he doesn't identify the solution. How then should American diplomacy be modified for the Rational-Warfare model? By recognizing the following principles:

[1] If you want peace, work for justice

[2] The ends do not justify the means

Rauch says that the reason that Palestinian extremists (though he doesn't actually bother to make that distinction) choose terrorism is because they have a "good reason to" - which is, that it "works". Actually, he is conflating two qustions here, A. Why are the Palestinians in conflict at all with the Israeilis? then, having accepted that they are in conflict, B. Why have some chosen terrorism? The answer to question Ais because of principle [1] - the occupation is inherently unjust, and not in a theoretical way, but rather a brutal, daily, humiliating, cruel way. The inverse of [1] is that without justice, there can be no peace, because of the very nature of the human condition - to resist, to strive, for freedom and self-expression. That's what makes America so wonderful, and yet is hardly a new idea or a solely-American one. An oppressed people are also radicalized - that's an axiom which I call the Den Beste doctrine. So the answer to question A. is clear.

The answer to question B is because of the muddying by all parties of principle [2]. It's long been an axiom of US foreign policy that the Ends do justify the means. It's why we meddle with other governments, why we play the role of Imperial power, why we look the other way while some countries develop bio- and nuclear- weapons of mass destruction and attack others. It's also how we justify "collateral damage" to civilian areas even though alternatives exist.

So, we don't uphold principle [2]. Fair enough. Are we surprised that our adversaries (of the hour, as it may be. We used to fund Saddam and train Osama) won't uphold it either? As Rauch notes,

Tactically, too, terror has been a grand success. It has brought the brickbats of Europe and the United Nations down upon the head of Israel. It has given the Arab countries an excuse to oppose American action against Iraq. And it has forced the Americans onto the defensive. Just look. The Bush administration had not wanted to deal with Yasir Arafat, whom it regards as a liar and harborer of terrorism; but now it is dealing with him. The administration had insisted, with the Israelis, that a cease-fire must precede political talks; but now it has accepted the Palestinian view that the two must happen together. The administration had waved aside Palestinians' calls for American monitors to enforce a truce (and restrain the Israelis); now it says monitors could be OK.

And it's our Mommy attitude that has revealed the lie to our claims to be an honest brooker (or any sort of broker at all). Having set the stage for moral equivalence, we now find that we are awash in it:

To a degree that would have seemed impossible a couple of years ago, the Palestinian militants have succeeded in establishing the equivalence of terrorism with military action intended to stop terrorism. Civilized people all around the world are coming to accept that "the moral high ground doesn't exist" in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, as James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute, recently told McGrory. Even Powell has adopted the nonjudgmental language of a teacher in the school yard. "Violence of whatever form, whether one would call it an act of terrorism or an act of resistance, at this point is counterproductive," he said. Polls show that most Americans regard Arafat as a "terrorist," but at this rate, even they may come around.

How can you apply these principles in a pragmatic way? That's a much harder question to answer. But I think there are alternatives to our current approach out there and I have been researching them. I'll have to continue this later, though...

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