Paul Pillar’s Realism on Middle East Democracy


This quote by Georgetown’s Paul Pillar — a leading member of the Afghanistan Study Group — ran as the “quote of the day” in Monday’s New York Times.

“Democracy is bad news for terrorists. The more peaceful channels people have to express grievances and pursue their goals, the less likely they are to turn to violence.”
PAUL R. PILLAR, professor at Georgetown University and a former C.I.A. analyst.

I think that this holds true, or did for a while, in the Palestinian case as well. The problem is that it’s not clear that the US and Israel allowed Palestine’s democratic impulse to evolve in constructive directions.
— Steve Clemons


12 comments on “Paul Pillar’s Realism on Middle East Democracy

  1. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Diplomat: I can no longer represent Israel
    Veteran diplomat Ilan Baruch quits, says he can no longer represent government; Israel’s foreign policy is ‘wrong,’ he says, adds that blaming global anti-occupation views on anti-Semitism is ‘simplistic, artificial’
    Foreign Ministry earthquake: A veteran diplomat says he has resigned from his post because he had a hard time defending the policies of Israel’s current government, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Wednesday.
    Ilan Baruch says he quit because “Israel’s foreign policy is wrong,” pointing to the Palestinian issue.
    Should this trend continue, he warned, Israel will turn into a pariah state and face growing de-legitimization.
    Baruch told Israel TV Wednesday that Israel’s standing was in danger because of its policies, which he said were “difficult to explain.”
    “I can no longer honestly represent this government,” he said earlier. “As (Foreign Minister) Lieberman was elected by a large public in a legitimate manner, I cannot question him


  2. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Fact is, no matter how Wiggie and the hasbarist firsters want to paint this Administration, and “think tankers” like Steve Clemons, Sami Jamil Jadallah, in a piece at the Palestine Note, easily displays a “realism” that goes where Steve will never dare to go, and that the Obama Administration can never stray away from.
    Here are a couple of excerpts….
    “I always took the view that peace will never come while the US Jewish leadership of such organizations as AIPAC, B


  3. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Tuesday, March 1 2011|Roi Maor


  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    A bit of slobber from today’s AIPAC mailer….
    “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday called for the U.N. Human Rights Council to reform itself and stop its longstanding bias against Israel, The Jerusalem Post reported. “The structural bias against Israel-including a standing agenda item for Israel, whereas all other countries are treated under a common item-is wrong,” said Clinton. “And it undermines the important work we are trying to do together.” Almost since its inception in 2006, the council has been criticized for focusing on Israel to the exclusion of other human rights issues around the globe. In Jerusalem last month, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said she believed that the council had dealt properly with Israel.”
    End slobber.
    So, uh, what exactly is it that those such as Wiggie have a problem with?
    Its truly inexplicable seeing Steve being constantly accused of being “anti-Israel” when the fact is that he basically IGNORES the more sordid details of Israel’s criminal abuses. He was mum during cast lead. Mum about the Goldstone report. Mum about American citizens being targeted by the IDF while engaged in peaceful protest. Mum about the attack on the Freedom Flotilla. Mum about the United States recent UN veto of a resolution that actually was a perfect reflection of what these lying conniving sacks of shit in the Obama Administration claim is our position on the settlements. Steve has withheld comment on soooo many policies, incidents, and events through which one can legitimately indict Israel, that this constant barrage of accusation by the firsters here becomes laughable. Steve’s recent lauditory essay about Harman pretty well cinches where Steve stands.
    But even more inexplicable is our resident firsters disastisfaction with the degree of subservience this Administration exhibits towards Israel. Literally, Israel has gotten EVERYTHING it wants from this cowardly piece of shit in the Oval Office. Netanyahu spit in Obama’s face, and is being rewarded handsomely for it, having successfully sent Obama crawling back to the status quo. And what can we say about this whore* Clinton, who just can’t get enough podium time with which to sing praises of Israel, and demean the words and actions against any and all that attempt to go against the Israeli agenda?
    Apparently, if you aren’t seducing** Netanyahu, and every racist despicable thing he stands for, you are “anti-Israel”.
    *Self edited, in the interests of this blog’s newly imposed system of moderated civility. I thought the word “whore” was far more civil than the origial term I used in composing the paragraph.
    **Again, self edited, realizing that “sucking off” would probably not make it by the scanner, depending on what civility level the dial is set at this morning.


  5. JohnH says:

    How the Lobby and its ilk stifle an honest discussion of American foreign policy–they threaten violence! And get away with it!


  6. questions says:

    There’s a tangent here worth exploring….
    The NYT has an article up on community colleges’ needing to teach ever more sections of remedial reading, math and writing to ever more students:
    There are huge issues here about who knows what to do, when people are ready for things, and what we should do about a range of mismatches between providers and recipients and institutional requirements.
    First off, if the K-12 system fails to teach students, the real impact is felt by those students, with radiating impacts felt by higher grades because of lower grade issues.
    The buck stops…nowhere except really in the life of a student whose schooling is mismatched with readiness.
    As community colleges in NYC struggle to adapt to a very different student body from what they used to deal with, they seem to be finding ways to teach math skills to the unmathed (who don’t even realize how unmathed they are.)
    Are the students who succeed merely finally ready to learn something, or are college teachers better than h.s. teachers? Is there something about the menu of courses, the daily schedule, the general sensibility of community college campuses that might transfer to high schools? Or is there self-selection going on here such that community colleges are a little like charter schools and magnet schools and private schools where you have to be organized to get in and you can be counseled out?
    There’s much to look at here. It’s clear though that for this group of students, K-12 did not do what it needed to do.
    Another way through this problem is to see why and how K-12 is misaligned with the lives and psyches of some 50% or more of its students. When half your clients come up short, YOU are doing something wrong or expecting the nearly impossible from the totally unready.
    And the broader point is that any and all of our terms of analysis are subject to a host of problems that make it difficult for us ever to know the known knowns or to discern the unknown unknowns.
    We don’t really know if democracy will be good or bad for terrorists. We can certainly hope that what is really happening is that a generation of tech dweebs doesn’t really like anything but Facebook, and we can hope that when they get to reproducing genetically as opposed to mere copy/pasting of statuses regarding tragic or happy moments, they won’t suddenly crave a much sterner public sphere that worries about the lack of religiosity in public life.
    And we can hope that their children won’t grow up craving the lives of their grandparents.
    And we can hope that the sporadic American terrorists who pop up and fly planes into buildings or blow them up or leave bombs scattered around don’t have their counterparts in other democracies where voting is a newer rather than older habit.
    But these are speculative concerns regarding things we simply hand off to the next round of people, and we hope they make the best of a crazy situation.
    Generational shifts in the midst of broad social change are a little more of a wild card than this post would suggest.
    There needs to be a match between institutional expectations and what people can really deliver. When one outstrips the other, the consequences ripple through space and time like so many building parts or failing, debt-laden students.
    Schools, governments, social organizations all need to respond to what is there even as they lead to what will be. It’s a delicate operation, this organizing of bodies and psyches, and it’s easy to screw up and have a whole generation of people simply unready for what’s been set up.


  7. Carroll says:

    “The problem is that it’s not clear that the US and Israel allowed Palestine’s democratic impulse to evolve in constructive directions.”
    And here I thought it was LA that was under the most smog and London town that was the most foggy.


  8. WigWag says:

    I am glad that you enjoyed it, Questions.


  9. questions says:

    WigWag, thanks for that link!
    “More, Thucydides thinks that even if everyone agreed to seek the


  10. Cee says:

    Freedom is spreading.
    Senior Israeli diplomat quits to protest policy
    March 2, 2011
    A senior Israeli diplomat said Wednesday he has resigned because he does not want to represent his government’s policies, particularly those of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
    “I can’t represent the government line when Lieberman stands up at the UN – at the same podium where the solution of two states for two peoples was proclaimed – and says there is no chance that a Palestinian state will emerge in the next decades,” Ilan Baruch told Israel’s army radio.
    Baruch, a former ambassador to South Africa who stepped down from a senior role at the foreign ministry, explained his decision in a letter he sent to all of the ministry’s employees on Tuesday.
    In the letter, which was published in Israeli media, Baruch said Israel’s current leaders had rejected the peace process and that their actions were harming Israel’s standing in the world.
    “In the last two years certain messages were reiterated by the country’s leaders, [messages which] outrage me and which I cannot ignore,” the Haaretz daily quoted him as writing.
    A foreign ministry spokesman confirmed the letter, but declined to comment.
    Israel and the Palestinians renewed peace talks in September, but they came to a halt just three weeks later when Israel refused to extend a 10-month partial freeze on settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.
    Lieberman has frequently said that the peace talks were futile and could not achieve a peace deal.
    However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has on several occasion issued clarifications stating that Lieberman’s comments, including his speech to the UN General Assembly, did not reflect official government policy.
    -AFP/NOW Lebanon
    To read more:
    Only 25% of a given NOW Lebanon article can be republished. For information on republishing rights from NOW Lebanon:


  11. WigWag says:

    “Paul Pillar’s Realism on the Middle East…” (Steve Clemons)
    I’ve got a little bad news for Steve Clemons and Paul Pillar. Apparently “Thucydides hates realists.”
    If you don’t believe me, click here, (its the second post down),


  12. Don Bacon says:

    “The more peaceful channels people have to express grievances and pursue their goals, the less likely they are to turn to violence.”
    And who, pray tell, are the most violent people in the world today? What people are doing the most bombing, rocketing, random killing, detaining, maiming and torturing in other countries?
    And which country finds it necessary to incarcerate more people than any other country in the world, even including much more populous ones?
    And what country has the highest gun ownership and murder rates, as well as a high suicide rate, in the world?
    So much for the quotation of the day.


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