Deja Vu All Over Again

The news out of Israel and the Gaza Strip has not been good recently. After six months of relative clam, the tensions have been ratcheting up recently. In the past 4 or 5 days, some 60 or more missiles have been launched from Gaza into Israel. And Israel has retaliated with air strikes against the launchers. As Yogi Berra might have said, it’s deja vu all over again.

With the change in administrations, there is the usual hope that some new approach, some new policies, will break the impasse so that a lasting peace between Israel and Palestinians might be enjoyed. In an op-ed piece in today’s Washington Post, David Ignatius explains Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s three-part “hope” for the Obama administration’s Middle East policy

  1. First, he hopes Obama won’t start “another war anywhere in the world, especially not in the Middle East.” And he trusts that the doctrine of “preemptive war” will end when George W. Bush leaves office.
  2. Second, Assad said, “We would like to see this new administration sincerely involved in the peace process.”
  3. Third, he says he wants Syria and the United States to work together to stabilize Iraq as American troops begin to leave.

I don’t know how to break it to President Assad, but Obama was quite clear about his approach to hunting down Osama bin Laden, vis-a-vis the lawless tribal regions of Pakistan. And, Obama made his position on a nuclear Iran quite clear. According to the Wikipedia article on preemptive war

The intention with a preemptive strike is to gain the advantage of initiative and to harm the enemy at a moment of minimal protection.

I sincerely hope that no American president categorically rules out preemptive war.

Regarding Assad’s second hope, clearly the Bush administration has not been as engaged in that part of the Middle East as much as preceding administrations. I think the Bush administration wanted to try something radically different. What is the popular definition of insanity (provided by Albert Einstein)? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome? Assad seems to be advocating a return to insanity. For decades, the one constant during the Palestinian-Israeli conflict had been Yassir Arafat. More recently, we have the election of Hamas as a majority in the Palestinian parliament.  Even the Washington Post refers to Hamas as a “radical Islamic movement”. So, yes, I suppose that the Obama administration will be more engaged than the Bush administration, and nothing would please me more than to see a lasting peace. But, rapprochement seems unlikely.

Regarding Assad’s third hope, well, this seems a little late, now that a stable Iraq seems to be slowly emerging. According to this 2007 United States Institute of Peace report, Syria’s idea of a stable Iraq is not necessarily aligned with our ideas. “We’re from Syria and we’re here to help.” Right. As a major supplier of insurgents during the most trying times in Iraq, Assad was not so interested in stabilizing Iraq.

I say tell Assad to get bent. Only tell him nice, like a diplomat would.

Merry Christmas – Happy Hanukah – Joyous Kwanzaa – Happy Festivus

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