Looking for the Next “Mr. X”


Some Occidental College students in a “grand strategy course” have just gone through an interesting exercise contemplating and considering solutions to America’s spate of strategic problems, and they have just issued a report on their findings called Rebranding America. (pdf here)
I have found much in the student report with which I agree — and a few things I don’t.
For instance, I’m not in sync with their seeming confidence in the military dimensions of America’s national security portfolio. They state they want to “maintain military supremacy” in one part of the report, and frankly, I don’t think that that means much at this point in America’s palette of strategic choices. It has been America’s seeming over superiority in a given kind of potential warfare that has actually made the U.S. relatively weak given in other spheres — particularly in trying to deter nuclear weapons proliferation and its vulnerability to assymetric warfare tactics.
But these students of close Clinton family friend and former U.S. Ambassador to Finland Derek Shearer have engaged in something that should be telegraphed across the country to other college professors and students. The model of what they did helps build habits of thinking and approach that encourage strategic, proactive policy thinking, rather than the ad hoc, reactive approach that so frequently gets hijacked by special interests, swagger, or emotionalism.
Specifically, the students followed these steps:

1. They engaged in a systematic review of challenges that involved a clear specification of the “problem” or challenge.
2. They then worked to identify America’s “strategic interests” and to put them in context with the challenge.
3. They considered the “means” that could be used for a variety of scenarios over a 6 month period.
5. They then specified a set of policy options and “means” over a one-year and beyond time horizon.
6. And then — without much bias that I could find — they considered a variety of possible outcomes.

The foreign poicy issues areas the students considered were Iraq; Transnational terrorism, al-Qaeda and torture; relations with Europe, NATO, Russia, and CIS; Iran and nuclear proliferation; oil and energy issues; US-UN relations, humanitarian intervention and global health; China, Pakistan & Afghanistan; Israel-Palestine; illegal immigration & NAFTA.
I very much like this report and its methodology and want to provide in full just one section from “Rebranding America” on Israel-Palestine. This section was authored by Occidental students Anna Castagnozzi-Bush and Matthew Mikuni:

A solution to the Israel-Palestine question is one that has eluded the international community for more than half a century. While progress has been made since then, in the past four years advancement towards resolution of the conflict has been mostly stagnant. In addition, the situation has become even more complex, with the takeover of the Gaza Strip by Fatah and the exclusion of Hamas cabinet members from Prime Minister Abbas’ administration. The result is that there no longer is a single person who is viewed as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Also, Prime Minister Olmert’s invasion of Lebanon has depleted much of his political capital that could have been used to offer meaningful concessions to a Palestinian state.
Strategic Interest
It is crucial to the United States’ security, economy, and international political stability that the government undertakes a strong and active role in the peace process with a clear and consistent position on absolute and permanent borders in accordance with a strategy for the economic development and inclusion of Palestine, as well as regional stability. This necessitates a comprehensive approach inclusive of Palestine and Israel’s regional neighbors and partners to secure a forward thinking solution as opposed to previous strategies primarily focused on ideological and societal grievances.
When we are seen as unconditionally supporting Israel and ignoring the plight of the Palestinian people, our credibility and image are hurt in the Middle East. However, if we are also seen as ignoring Israeli concerns and grievances, their willingness to accept a peace proposal will run into significant obstacles. The Israel-Palestine issue has also been used quite effectively to help foster anti-American extremism throughout the Middle East. If the United States can facilitate a peaceful and fair solution between the Israeli and Palestinian people, a major recruiting tool for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups will be effectively neutralized. Being seen as a neutral and effective arbiter in resolving this conflict is an essential part in rebranding America to the rest of the world.
First Month:

~ The President should visit both Israel and the Palestinian territories to show his or her commitment to the resolution of the conflict.
~ Prior to visiting, the President should appoint a special envoy to deal specifically with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to accompany the President during his or her first visit. Tony Blair will be an important person in representing the other Quartet members, so constant contact between the two envoys will be essential.
~ Send the US Ambassador back to Damascus to re-open diplomatic ties, showing our acknowledgement of Syria’s vested interest in the resolution of the conflict.
~ Bring the Quartet back together to put pressure on both the Israelis and Palestinians and monitor the implementation of any agreements reached during negotiations. Saudi Arabia should be included as they have come to be the closest to an ‘Arab spokesman’ in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
~ Consult the RAND Palestinian State Study Team for any updates that they might have for building a Palestinian State in light of any recent changes in the region.

First Six Months:

~ Work with Israel (secretly) and Fatah (openly) to end the blockade of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
~ A Palestinian state will never be considered legitimate if it does not include the Gaza Strip along with the West Bank. Hamas can serve as a serious impediment if they are ignored or excluded from the peace process.
~ If Abbas can be seen as the one liberating the Gaza Strip from the Israeli blockade, it will strengthen him and other moderates in the administration and undercut the message of violence coming from Hamas.
~ Return the Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for security agreements from the Quartet, along with a personal security agreement between the US and Israel to defend it if it is invaded by other Arab states.
~ This Security guarantee should be contingent on Israel adhering to any agreements they make during the peace process.
~ By making the first step in giving the Golan Heights back to Syria, Syria will lose its motivation to prolong the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through Hezbollah, Hamas, or any other of the groups it harbors.
~ Negotiations (possibly backchannel) must be opened with Iran. Iran provides Hamas with much of its funding, and negotiations with Iran might be able to convince them to either limit funding to Hamas, or at the very least, make it conditional on their participation in the peace process.
~ Work with the Quartet to appoint a NGO coordinator that will separately fund and synchronize projects within Israel and Palestine. A committee with a representative from each NGO should be formed to give participating NGOs an official forum to express their concerns and questions.

First Year and beyond:

~ Design UN aid packages to assist Arab countries that hold Palestinian refugees.
~ These aid packages would also be administered or monitored by the Quartet to avoid cases of wasteful spending or corruption.
~ Huge numbers of Palestinian refugees, especially in Lebanon, might immigrate in huge numbers to a new Palestinian State, possibly collapsing its economy. Aid packages should also be designed to help those refugees integrate into the economies of the countries they currently live in.
~ Use foreign aid, along with Palestinian workers, to rebuild the infrastructure of the Palestinian territories (e.g., roads, power, water, sanitation, public buildings).
~ This will help the chronic unemployment that currently exists in the Palestinian territories and will provide a solid foundation on which a viable economy could be realized.
~ UN officials, preferably those who have expertise in specific fields, such as managing a power plant, should work side by side with the Palestinian officials in charge of the project to increase efficiency and reduce corruption.

Possible Outcomes
The creation of a new Palestinian state will finally be put back on track with the implementation of the policies listed before. The negotiations will inevitably be very tough, as of right now many people are skeptical of the prospect of peace, and the number of those advocating against compromise on key issues, on both the Israeli and Palestinian side have increased. If everything is successful, the prospects for a peaceful and economically prosperous Palestinian state can finally be realized. No longer will Israelis have to flee to bomb shelters when an air raid horn sounds, nor will Palestinians be forced to live in decrepit conditions or in the fear of an Israeli incursion or surgical strike. By being the country to actively restart the peace process (although we won’t be alone) we can empower moderates all around the Middle East and dampen the appeal of the extremists in the region.
Authored by Anna Castagnozzi-Bush & Matthew Mikuni

We need the kind of exercise these students were engaged in to proliferate through our college system. While this kind of work is probably standard at the graduate level, I’m not familiar with many undergraduate courses that engage in this kind of strategic think work. I imagine that Steve Weber at UC Berkeley and Bruce Jentleson at Duke probably offer similar, challenging work to their undergrads — but my sense is that we need more.
We may not need a single “Mr. X” again to help us sort out our future strategic architecture — we probably need a number of them. And Occidental College may indeed produce one of these needed intellectual architects.
After all, Barack Obama went to Oxy — as did my colleague and friend Steve Coll who won the Pulitzer for Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 and now has The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century out in bookstores.
— Steve Clemons


17 comments on “Looking for the Next “Mr. X”

  1. MattM says:

    To JohnH
    I absolutely do not dismiss the importance of historical context in looking at an issue as important as Israel/Palestine. It is just that 20+ pages of the history of the Israeli/Palistinian conflict would have detracted from a ‘memo’ and would have turned it more into a novel. And honestly, there are hundreds of great books on the history of this conflict, from every different viewpoint.
    The report does not ‘assume’ that Palestinians will be placated, but presents a viable method of improving one of the ‘real issues’ that the Palestinans care about: the economy.
    As for impediments on their normal lives, such as roadblocks and security checks, this will have to be addressed by the Israelis and Palestinians themselves during negotiations. The US, the rest of the Quartet, and other Arab countries will take an active role in making sure that both countries abide by any agreements (such as the dismantling of roadblocks, which will inevitably come up during negotiations).
    Also, if the US does not advance the interest of Israelis during negotiations, they have no motivation to participate, pure and simple.
    To ckrantz
    The report does in fact push for negotiations with Iran, and heavy involvement by both Saudi Arabia and Syria.


  2. rich says:

    “Rebranding America”?
    It’s a poorly chosen title that doesn’t do justice to the quality of the report. Defaulting to a buzzword short-circuits its impact. It’s not a small quibble.
    Swapping out one fig leaf for another errs, badly, in mis-stating the problem.
    The American Brand isn’t the problem. Sure, it’s been sullied because somebody’s been filling the Coca-cola cans we’ve been exporting as foreign policy with raw sewage, but hey.
    If the American Flag is worth honoring, and it is, then the substance of the American Brand—meaning the American Idea, is still intact. “You can’t kill the Devil with a gun or a sword,” nor with Karl Rove, though you wouldn’t know it by this Admin’s actions.
    Managing perceptions is a loser’s game, and you only need to do it when you’ve got a losing product. And the SOP in Iraq is a loser’s game. You can’t put a Happy Face on handling traffic at checkpoints, nor on cash payments for bombed wedding parties. And when the American military is overseeing ethnic cleansing in Basra and Baghdad, it is the American Product that is the problem. The production process—political, civil service, foreign service, military—has been contaminated.
    That’s not the Marketing Dept’s problem.
    And neither ‘rebranding’ nor the Pentagon’s use of ‘retired’ military generals to pose as objective & independent military ‘analysts’ to lie to the American People will fix the problem.
    The Occidental students are on the right track. They do need to attend to elisions and precision in their writing:
    “It is crucial to the United States’ security, economy, and international political stability that the government undertakes a strong and active role in the peace process . . .”
    No time to analyze the report .. .. but some care in the writing and in the branding of the report will retain & magnify any impact its much-needed analysis has.
    No time to analyze it in detail…


  3. David says:

    No solution that does not include full withdrawal of Israel from the Occupied Territories and elimination of all of the Israeli settlements, which are the most insidious aspect of the occupation, will work, unless the final solution is the subjugation of the Palestinians, in the manner of what European-Americans did to the Native Americans. Statehood for Palestine without elimination of the Israeli settlements will mean state-to-state war, which Israel will win militarily and lose in every other way. In fact, it will be a war which all involved parties will lose.


  4. ckrantz says:

    2 points. I noticed the report never mentioned talking to Hamas, or the need of a regional solution with all the players. Also Abu Mazen is the President, not Prime Minister of the Palestinian authority unless im very much mistaken. Hamas was the legally elected gov that the US sponsored Dahlan tried crush in a coup d’état. Not unlike what happened in Beirut.
    The point being that any strategic planning needs to take in account the drastically change situation in the ME. United states are close to losing many of its client states in the ME. Jordan and Egypt comes to mind. All thanks to the uniquely incompetent Bush administration. A 90’s style peace plan will not work any more. Especially if the only US ally is an Israel armed to the teeth ready to obliterate the region if it feels threatened.


  5. JohnH says:

    MattM does a good job of taking the report’s beneficial outcomes and explicity identifying them as plausible strategic interests for the US in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Such a clear statement makes it obvious why the US should advance the interests of the Palestinians. It also begs the question of why the US advances the interests of the Israelis. Since the US strategic interest in advancing Israel’s interests is in fact dubious, we see why it is that the foreign policy mafia often avoids clearly stating America’s strategic interests, preferring instead to gloss over them. It’s their way of advancing non-strategic goals over strategic ones, Israel vs. Palestinians being a classic case.
    However, MattM dismisses the importance of context. He claims that stating context is not necessary because it is obvious to those in the know. It’s a classic foreign policy mistake, and the report is a good illustration of what happens. By ignoring the context, the report proposes totally inadequate solutions. It assumes that Palestinians will be placated by aid and make work, when in fact the real issue is control over their daily lives and their economy (land, water, airspace, border crossings and infrastructure) and the rectification of historical wrongs (compensation for expropriation and dispossession).
    It’s amazing to me that the foreign policy mafia can totally understand the ire of Cubans who lost everything after they chose to flee from Castro. When it comes to Palestinians, these same folk are totally indifferent as to the effects that 60 years of forced dispossession might have on people.


  6. DonS says:

    Really, this is how decisions are made in today’s Washington. Boy King and Darth just wanna attack because, you know, just because they can.
    They’ve already told the Israelis, who are no doubt on the horn with the AIPAC liason, who are at this moment increasing pressure on the Pelosis and the Harmons to start their engines. McCain of course is way on board. And so it goes.
    Now why would the Palestinians get even the least upset by all this?


  7. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi says:

    it seems very much positive and productive that the Occidental students’ group has taken an initiative of branding/ grooming policy-delibertions regarding America’s new demanded strategey in the field of foreign affairs and on the domestic front.Some academic flaws and gaps in Group’s thinking notwithstanding,it appears that America’s today youth is not isolationist in its approach regarding America’s role in the world affairs.


  8. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “”We owe you a great deal of
    gratitude,” she said, “because in resisting weapons of mass
    destruction, Israel was not only looking after her own security
    interests but those of the rest of the world.”
    Yeah, there ya go. This piece of shit Pelosi just doesn’t really wanna get it, does she? Who in the middle east developed nuclear weapons in underground bunkers, in secret, virtually guaranteeing that it’s neighbors would seek to even the playing field by acquiring their own nuclear arsenal?
    Pelosi is as despicable as Cheney is. And she also represents the same danger to our Democracy. Both Harmon and Pelosi have demonstrated a loyalty to Israel that surpasses their apparent loyalty to the United States. The sooner their asses are booted out of Washington, the better off this nation would be. Unfortunately, it ain’t gonna happen.


  9. Paul Norheim says:

    Nancy Pelosi`s statements illustrate in an exemplary way that
    this mess is likely to continue for many years to come. ” Pelosi
    said Israel was an issue and a value that brought Democrats and
    Republicans together.” Great!
    And then the threat: If “the countries of the world” don`t agree
    with the current White House approach to Iran, they should not
    be considered friends any longer. As if the Bush approach is the
    only possible approach.(This is exactly the same language that
    Bush used in the initial days of the “War on terror”, and that
    shocked the world). And as if Europe and a lot of other
    “countries of the world” are not concerned with the proliferation
    of WMD, if they don`t agree with current US strategies.
    Finally, the maximum of absurdity: “”We owe you a great deal of
    gratitude,” she said, “because in resisting weapons of mass
    destruction, Israel was not only looking after her own security
    interests but those of the rest of the world.” Amen. I couldn`t
    have said it better myself.
    And this insane and aggressive babble is actually coming from
    the speaker of the House, the leader of the “opposition”? God
    help us all, including you Americans!


  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I apologize for the long post, but the following article really drives home the point that MR.X isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
    Quite frankly, I don’t think there is much that has contributed to my “pissed off” state as much as these God damned cowardly sell-out Democrat pieces of crap Pelosi, Harmon, Reid, Leiberman, etc….
    Pelosi: More must be done to stop Iran
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    Washington must assert to the rest of the world that if they want to be friends with America, they need to do more to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, visiting US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said Sunday in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post.
    Nancy Pelosi holds talks on security in Israel
    Pelosi said the US needed to be more “proactive” in saying to the countries of the world – including Russia, China and the Muslim countries in Asia – that “one of the pillars of US foreign policy is to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to anyone.”
    The US needed to make it clear to everyone, including the Europeans, that their polices on this issue would be a term of friendship with the US, and a measuring stick of benefits they could derive from that friendship, she said.
    The US cannot stop nuclear proliferation alone, Pelosi said, adding that “if these weapons proliferate, they are a threat to everyone, not just to the US, and not just to Israel.”
    The Democratic Pelosi, the No. 3-ranking politician in the US after the president and the vice president, is leading a blue-ribbon panel of 13 congressmen to Israel for the state’s 60th anniversary. The group arrived Friday and is scheduled to leave Monday evening after meeting the gamut of Israel’s leaders, including President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu.
    Pelosi said that to stop Iran’s nuclear march, short of a military strike – something she did not rule out as a last resort – “you have to go all the way. And people have to know you are deadly serious that if you want to be our friend, if you want the benefit of our friendship, a central pillar of our foreign policy is to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”
    US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Shimon Peres at Beit Hanassi, Sunday.
    Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski
    This can’t just be a “conversation,” she said, “it has to be seriously enforced and sanctioned, because the alternative is one that has a tremendous downside – and that would be to use military force.”
    While saying that a military option should not be taken off the table, and adding that an attack by Teheran on Israel certainly “cannot go unanswered,” Pelosi said that a preemptive strike on Iran would have consequences that needed to be considered. Among the consequences she listed were the effect such an attack would have in rallying Iranians around their current leadership, what it would do to the price of oil, and the response of the rest of the Muslim world.
    Pelosi refused to get drawn into a discussion of whether US President George W. Bush was wrong in insinuating during his Knesset speech last week that Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama would appease the Iranians, saying that she would not criticize the president on foreign soil. Before leaving Washington, however, she said that Bush’s characterization was “beneath the dignity of the office of president.”
    Pelosi did say here that she was confident Obama would deal squarely and assertively with the Iranian dossier.
    “I know that Barack Obama would meet the challenge we have in terms of Iran,” she said. “And he may do it in a larger way. I don’t know how you define strength here, but in the US we define it not only in terms of our military might, and our willingness to use it – that’s important – but we define it in terms of our values, where we can attract others to a place where we can keep the peace without making war, but without taking war off the table.”
    Pelosi said Obama was “a real leader, and to be a real leader you have to be prepared to fight in order to make peace, and I think he is prepared to do that.”
    As to whether Obama would be as supportive of Israel as Bush has been, Pelosi said, “I think a Democratic presidency would be very supportive.”
    She said she didn’t know how to measure Bush’s support. “I know people here think he has been very supportive, [but] we don’t have peace yet. I hope under a Democratic president that we would.”
    During a meeting with Peres earlier in the day, Pelosi said Israel was an issue and a value that brought Democrats and Republicans together.
    “We owe you a great deal of gratitude,” she said, “because in resisting weapons of mass destruction, Israel was not only looking after her own security interests but those of the rest of the world.”
    Referring to the Jewish state as a beacon of democracy, she said that Israel and the US shared the same vision of the future.
    On a more personal note, Pelosi – the first female House speaker – told Peres, “We always knew you’d be president, but I didn’t know that you would welcome me as the speaker of the House.”
    The other members of the visiting delegation are House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam of Florida, Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, Democratic Caucus Vice Chair John Larson of Connecticut, Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman of California, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman of California, Rules Committee Ranking Member David Dreier of California, Foreign Affairs Middle East Subcommittee Chairman Gary Ackerman of New York, Appropriations Foreign Operation Subcommittee Chairman Nita Lowey of New York, Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe Chairman Alcee Hastings of Florida, Homeland Security Intelligence Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment Subcommittee Chair Jane Harman of California and Foreign Affairs Committee member Ron Klein of Florida.
    Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.


  11. Carroll says:

    Repeat after me:
    Israel is a FOREIGN COUNTRY.
    Isreal is a FOREIGN COUNTRY.
    Israel is a FOREING COUNTRY.
    It is NOT part of America
    It is NOT part of America.
    It is NOT part of America.
    The US does not now and has never owed Israel or the Jewish people anything.
    And the only country that owed the Jews anything for the holocaust was Germany.
    65 years, over half a century of this problem is long enough.
    Cut Israel loose and put US money to work in the US and in countries that deserve it more.


  12. Carroll says:

    Well college must have changed since my days because this:
    Specifically, the students followed these steps:
    1. They engaged in a systematic review of challenges that involved a clear specification of the “problem” or challenge.
    2. They then worked to identify America’s “strategic interests” and to put them in context with the challenge.
    3. They considered the “means” that could be used for a variety of scenarios over a 6 month period.
    5. They then specified a set of policy options and “means” over a one-year and beyond time horizon.
    6. And then — without much bias that I could find — they considered a variety of possible outcomes
    …was a standard “problem” approach for even non graduate school business students. Is old now new in education? And you know, we have seen much the same outline and suggestions
    for decades concerning Isr/Pal…the problem is IMPLEMENTING IT. You know…TAKING ACTION. A MR. X who would actually tell congress to kiss his/her a** and refuse to sign Isr funding bills until Isr/Pal is resolved.
    So yeah we do need a Mr. X to kick a** on Isr/Pal cuase congress is too corrupt to act in American’s best interest.
    Remember what congress did to Bush Sr. when he was refusing to sing Isr’s aid bill unless they halted settlements?…way back then even.


  13. MattM says:

    I think the strategic interest is pretty clearly laid out. It is that the Israeli-Palestinian issue fosters Anti-Americanism abroad, provides a recruiting tool for terrorist groups, and hurts America’s reputation. If America can work to solve this issue, our country’s security will be enhanced, and our reputation abroad will be boosted.
    This report was designed as a memo to the next president. Historical prefaces were not included since any future president would no doubt have numerous policy advisers that would be well versed in the historical context. So would most of the people even interested in reading this type of report.


  14. pauline says:

    “Bush’s True Calling”: An American president in Israel
    “After hailing the history of the fight for Israeli sovereignty minus any mention of the Nakba, and without so much as obliquely referring to the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories, the president hit at his political enemies back home:
    “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: ‘Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.’ We have an obligation to call this what it is – the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”
    “The White House is now saying these comments were directed at Jimmy Carter, but it seems clear that Barack Obama was who the speechwriters had in mind – after all, Carter is about as politically relevant as, say, George W. Bush will be in January. Obama’s answer at the YouTube Democratic debate that, yes, he would meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmahdinejad, among other world leaders considered unfriendly to the U.S., makes him the obvious target of Bush’s remarks.
    “What’s interesting, however, is that the senator Bush referred to was a Republican, William E. Borah of Idaho, whose opposition to U.S. intervention in what was then often referred to as “the European war” (i.e., Word War II) was indicative of mainstream GOP opinion circa 1939. One of the great sorrows of Borah’s political career was that he had voted for U.S. entry into the first World War, and he resolved never to make such a grievous error again. Borah fought against the very injustices that led directly to the reanimation of that global conflict, which we call World War II, such as the Treaty of Versailles and the imposition of draconian war debts on a prostrate Germany. Perhaps this explains his intractability. I will leave it to historians to defend Sen. Borah at greater length, but suffice to say here that “the Lion of Idaho” deserves better than this.
    “Aside from the historical sleight-of-hand, Bush’s blast at Obama over this particular issue from this particular podium is a display of such supreme arrogance – and political calculation – that it takes one’s breath away. The U.S. has every interest in negotiating with the Iranians, if only to ensure the physical safety of our troops in Iraq, not to mention all the other outstanding issues [.pdf] between the two nations that have festered, unattended, for so long. When we destroyed Iraq’s Ba’athist regime, we handed regional hegemony to Iran on a silver platter, tilting the balance of power in a direction that now cannot be reversed – except by negotiation.
    “Yet negotiation, in Bush’s parlance, is “appeasement.” Of course, we have talked to the Iranians, in a series of highly publicized meetings (and probably some not so publicized) over events in Iraq. Was that appeasement? No doubt the Israel lobby considered it so. But are those the interests our president is representing?
    “This nonsense about “negotiating with terrorists” when it comes to Hamas ought to evoke in my readers a sense of déjà vu. After all, isn’t that the same line they trotted out when it came to the Palestine Liberation Organization and its leader, the late Yasser Arafat? Yet didn’t two American presidents bring Arafat to the negotiating table? And aren’t we now supporting President Abbas, Arafat’s heir and successor?
    “One has to wonder why an American president would take to the hustings in a foreign land and champion that nation’s interests over and above our own. What treason is this?
    “Well, it isn’t exactly treason. It’s loyalty to party, as opposed to the nation – a Republican Party that has been whittled down to its hard core of Christian fundamentalists whose first loyalty is not to their own country, but to their peculiar theology, which just happens to be based on a fierce allegiance to the government of Israel. For these are no ordinary Christian fundamentalists, say, of the snake-handling type: these are dispensationalists who believe that after the elect are Raptured up into the heavens, the church on earth (the “new dispensation”) will consist of the children of Israel, whose in-gathering will have foretold Christ’s second coming. In the dispensationalist theology – really, a future history of the world – the final battle, Armageddon, will take place between the Israelis and the Forces of Evil. They firmly believe that God and all His angels will stand should-to-shoulder with the IDF.
    “This is where Bush’s political calculation comes into the picture. For the dispensationalists, there is no issue in the foreign policy realm more important than unconditional support for the state of Israel. They are more fanatically pro-Israel than the Lobby itself, more Likudnik than the Likudniks. Their importance in the rapidly shrinking GOP electoral coalition was made manifest by John McCain’s active pursuit of the Rev. John Hagee, a principal exponent of the “born again” Israel-first line and founder of Christians United for Israel. This is a pastor who drapes an Israeli flag on the altar as he preaches in his 5,000-seat Cornerstone Church.
    “These are the foot-soldiers of the neocons, the flying monkeys who do the Lobby’s dirty work – an army of religious fanatics whose idiosyncratic theological delusions are a major driving force behind American foreign policy in the Middle East. They are not, however, the only such force. Aside from the organizational muscle of the Lobby itself, mostly confined to such groups as AIPAC and the neoconservative network, there is a Democratic Party component that finds the prospect of dealing with Hamas, Iran, and Hezbollah utterly horrifying. Many of these people are big contributors to the party, as Wesley Clark pointed out, and one risks a lot by crossing them. By lashing out at Obama in the way he did, Bush seeks to not only unite and energize his Republican base, but to also disrupt and split the Democrats as they struggle with a very difficult primary process.
    “What is striking about all this is that it gives us a very troubling perspective on how American foreign policy is made – much like sausage, in that you don’t really want to know. In response to the endless problems and subtleties that our Middle East dealings confront us with, our president gives us a textbook example of political pandering couched in the crudest sort of rhetoric.
    “We are living in dangerous times. We have a president who formulates policy prescriptions in terms meant to please a cult of religiously motivated ideologues and foreign lobbyists, both of whom are working in tandem to undermine American interests in the Middle East. Ever since Sept. 11, 2001, we have faced an implacable enemy more than ready to take advantage of our one-sided policies when it comes to that region of the world. Yet we continue on the same course – on what is essentially a suicide mission – solely because of domestic political considerations and without regard for our actual interests.
    “For years, I’ve been saying and writing that, when it comes to the Middle East, Washington’s policies are ridiculously skewed in Israel’s favor, much to our own detriment. What’s more, it appears that our policy-making apparatus has been hijacked by agents of a foreign power, who are determined to pursue their alien agenda no matter what the consequences for the U.S. Nothing could have underscored this point more emphatically than George W. Bush’s Knesset speech – a peroration that surely indicates Bush missed his true calling and somehow wound up as the president of the wrong country.”
    more at —


  15. pauline says:

    “A newly-revealed speech delivered by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld before an audience of Pentagon-sponsored military analysts in December 2006 is providing ample grist for 9/11 conspiracy theorists.
    “An audio recording of the speech was one of a large number of items released by the Pentagon on May 8 as a result of Freedom of Information requests. The New York Times had filed the requests in the course of preparing its expose of the Pentagon’s use of supposedly independent retired military officers to present its message on network news shows.
    “Speaking a month after the Democratic Party had recaptured majorities in both houses of Congress, and just following his own resignation as Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld suggested that a new 9/11 could be the corrective for American complacency:
    “This President’s pretty much a victim of success. We haven’t had an attack in five years. The perception of the threat is so low in this society that it’s not surprising that the behavior pattern reflects a low threat assessment. The same thing’s in Europe, there’s a low threat perception. The correction for that, I suppose, is an attack. And when that happens, then everyone gets energized for another [inaudible] and it’s a shame we don’t have the maturity to recognize the seriousness of the threats…the lethality, the carnage, that can be imposed on our society is so real and so present and so serious that you’d think we’d be able to understand it.”
    “The audio received no notice for several days, until blogger Jack Gillis discovered it in the course of a thread at Talking Points Memo devoted to combing through the documents. Gillis then made the full audio available at his blog, along with brief quotes from some of the more “chilling” moments. Jason Linkins at the Huffington Post carried the story along by providing a complete transcription of Rumsfeld’s “extraordinary” remark.
    “At that point, awareness of the speech exploded. However, while moderate bloggers saw it merely as Rumsfeld “blurt[ing] out the secret wet-dream fantasy of every warmongering neocon Republican,” others found it far more sinister.
    “Rob Kall, the executive editor of OpEd News, was one of the first to suggest the obvious conclusion. “Call me a conspiracy theorist,” he wrote on May 14. “Because this slips too easily off Rumsfeld’s reptilian tongue. Too easily because perhaps it’s not at all a new idea. Perhaps it is an idea that, for him, for all the propagandist sell-out generals, this is not new, that is actually, already tried and true. One of the oft cited premises of the 9/11 Truth movement is that the attack on the towers was the pearl harbor-like event that the neocons anticipated would be necessary to move the US to embrace the aggressive militaristic tactics manifested in Iraq. Here, we have Rumsfeld casually joking about it—not a smoking gun, but, perhaps, a clear ‘tell’ in poker parlance, indicating ready ability to think in these terms.”
    “A few days later, PrisonPlanet.com, a website devoted to conspiracy theories, was featuring the Rumsfeld remarks as something far more than “casually joking.” Editor Paul Joseph Watson described the tape as revealing “former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld talking with top military analysts about how a flagging Neo-Con political agenda could be successfully restored with the aid of another terrorist attack on America.”
    “Rumsfeld’s admission that the correction for dwindling support of the Neo-Con imperial crusade is another terror attack is perhaps the most startling and blatant indication that 9/11 was an inside job,” Watson continued. “How much more evidence do we need to confirm that the Neo-Con hierarchy in control of the U.S. government are instigating and exploiting terror in the pursuit of their own domestic and geopolitical agenda?”
    “Larry Chin at GlobalResearch.ca was equally emphatic, writing, “Placing the new evidence against previously revealed 9/11-related acts on the part of Rumsfeld, his guilt is overt and obvious. Recall that it was Rumsfeld who enthusiastically penned the ‘Go Massive’ memo, gleefully declaring the Bush administration finally had the green light to kill: ‘Not only UBL (Usama bin Laden). Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.’ As the Bush administration’s war ensued in earnest, Rumsfeld gloated to the New York Times that 9/11 provided ‘the kind of opportunities that World War II offered, to refashion the world.'”
    “In an interview with conservative commentator Rusty Humphries for a Pentagon radio talk show in September 2006, three months before his speech to the military analysts, Rumsfeld was asked about “this new wave of conspiracy theories on September 11th.”
    “He replied, “I suppose there have always been people in the world who subscribe to conspiracy theories and are — you just almost have to suspend the idea of disbelief. I can’t imagine people saying — writing books the way they’re writing them, articles of what they’re writing, believing what they believe — people contending that the — September 11th was not an attack by al Qaeda, even though when the al Qaeda take credit for it.”
    “Humphries went on to say, “I talk to terrorists personally, and they tell me every single time, it was the Jews that sent the planes in to start a war between us and Islam. They also told me one time that it was the Jews that sent Monica Lewinsky in to have sex with Bill Clinton so they could run America. You like that one?”
    “My goodness,” Rumsfeld replied.
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  16. questions says:

    I’d add to the assignment a detailed reading of the structures of all of the domestic governments involved and have the students show why so many seemingly common sense steps are not taken. How do Congress, the Knesset, and the Palestinian system (I’m ignorant here) interact? They could also look at tradition, national myth, foundation myths, attempts and failures past, the whole set of incentives that each party is subject to.
    I think that a historical take would strengthen the proposal. On the other hand, if the parties involved were a little less attached to myth/history/identity and position jockeying, maybe common sense would rule.
    All in all, this would be a fabulous class to teach!


  17. JohnH says:

    Well, it may be a good exercise, but it fails at a basic, logical level: in the section labeled “strategic interest,” the report does not define the US strategic interest!
    Sounds to me like the students have learned the wrong lessons in analyzing problems. Instead of the traditional US approach of “ready, fire, aim” they need to start the analysis by clearly stating why the problem is a problem for the United States and the world community.
    Something like the following: the Isreali government continues to expropriate Arab line, understandably inciting violence by those whose land has been taken, and arousing sympathy of other Arabs. The United States, by funding the Israeli government and siding with it against those whose land has been taken, suffers a loss of influence throughout the Arab world as a result.
    I can understand the political pressures that cause the foreign policy mafia to avoid calling a apade a spade. But why laud a student effort that does the same and cannot recognize root causes?


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