November 5, 2012

US must abandon policies that cause terrorism

    Monday, November 05, 2012   No comments

by John B. Quigley

A  reset is in order for our policy in the Middle East.  From what the two candidates for the White House have said, neither seems to grasp the fact that current policy is fostering, not stopping, the violence we continue to face there. Hillary Clinton says we can’t protect our embassies and consulates in the Middle East with armed guards alone. She is right. But she proposes no solution. The only way we can function in the region is on the basis of a relationship that does not produce violence against us. We cannot in good conscience leave well-intentioned officials like Ambassador Christopher Stevens as targets over grievances that relate not to them personally but to our policies. 

Whoever wins the White House should order a fundamental rethink on the Middle East. Here is a modest agenda: get out of Afghanistan; Afghanistan will be no more capable of handling its own affairs a year or two from now. Not another American soldier should die there. Work with the governments that are emerging from the Arab Spring. Take seriously the aspiration of the Kurdish populations of Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran for political solutions. Stop devastating communities in Yemen and in Pakistan by firing missiles from drone aircraft. The killing of civilians and low-level combatants is doing us more harm than good. We are generating new cadres willing to take up arms against us. Promote reconciliation in Syria by proactive diplomacy, before the two parties reduce Syria to something no one would care to govern. Our current approach on Israel and Palestine is the most significant spur to violence against us. General David Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of US partnerships with governments and peoples” in the Middle East. 

A “to-do” list on Israel and Palestine should start with the following. Work through the UN Security Council to force Israel out of the West Bank and Syria’s Golan Heights. Own up that we knew in 1967 that Israel was not acting in self-defence. The State Department’s own declassified 1967 documents that show that Israel’s claim of self-defence is fraudulent. Restate the position we took in the 1970s, but which was abandoned in the Reagan administration, that Israel’s settlements in the Palestinian West Bank are illegal and must be dismantled. 

Restate our longstanding, but recently ignored, position that the Arabs forced out of Palestine in 1948 have a right to be repatriated. This core issue is quite resolvable. Vote in the UN Security Council for Palestine’s admission to the United Nations. Stop telling Palestine to negotiate its own existence with its adversary. Palestine has been functioning as a state for years, despite the occupation of its territory by Israel. 

What will we gain from these initiatives? We will stop generating terrorist violence against us. We should stop shooting ourselves in the foot. A reset by the next administration could go a long way towards protecting our interests and our personnel in the Middle East. 


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