Fixture in Peace Process for 25 Years No Longer Religious Believer in Power of American Messiah
Aaron David Miller at the Hudson Institute in October 2009 warning the Obama Administration against the folly of endagering the Special American Israel relationship (see below)
Miller, a center left State Department fixture who has advised 6 different Secretaries of State is a public policy fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, prolific author and columnist.
He is considered for better or worse amongst the top US experts on the region & Middle East Peace. He has just penned an article in Foreign Policy that has shaken the American Status Quo to its very foundations.
He describes in the lengthy worthy piece how US policy & Peace Processing has become a religion for American bureaucrats & political leaders, a religion he formerly practiced but now no longer believes in..
Like all religions, the peace process has developed a dogmatic creed, with immutable first principles. Over the last two decades, I wrote them hundreds of times to my bosses in the upper echelons of the State Department and the White House; they were a catechism we all could recite by heart. First, pursuit of a comprehensive peace was a core, if not the core, U.S. interest in the region, and achieving it offered the only sure way to protect U.S. interests; second, peace could be achieved, but only through a serious negotiating process based on trading land for peace; and third, only America could help the Arabs and Israelis bring that peace to fruition.
He describes how these concepts have become immovable dogmas of the religion, and how Obama has thrown himself full force into becoming a believer, pursuing them with zeal. The problem is, Miller no longer carries the faith..
Today, I couldn’t write those same memos or anything like them with a clear conscience or a straight face. Although many experts’ beliefs haven’t changed, the region has, and dramatically, becoming nastier and more complex. U.S. priorities and interests, too, have changed. The notion that there’s a single or simple fix to protecting those interests, let alone that Arab-Israeli peace would, like some magic potion, bullet, or elixir, make it all better, is just flat wrong. In a broken, angry region with so many problems — from stagnant, inequitable economies to extractive and authoritarian governments that abuse human rights and deny rule of law, to a popular culture mired in conspiracy and denial – it stretches the bounds of credulity to the breaking point to argue that settling the Arab-Israeli conflict is the most critical issue, or that its resolution would somehow guarantee Middle East stability.
Uh oh.. This is contrary to the very pillars Obama & his administration have laid forth in their endless Israel Assault of pressure. Leak after leak, statement after statement, all highlighting how solving the Arab Israeli Palestinian conflict is the most critical puzzle piece, and a top American national priority interest. The statements have been piling up in fact.
The American left wing has gone so far as to frame the life & death of American soldiers themselves as requiring immediate resolution of the problem.. Of course, that is patently absurd. But the left, seizing on the anti-Israel attitude is making ever rising claims of absurdity and the false memes are spreading fanned by a loving it media. All this despite individuals like Petraeus himself stating clearly this is simply not the case, that these memes are false.
We have seen so far the results.. Absurd efforts to define local zoning laws in Israel all the way from Washington D.C.; A pressure campaign to topple Netanyahu; Frigid Israeli American relations; Threats, public dressing downs of foreign leaders; A total fantasy like American eyeball aversion to the Palestinians or their actions, while Israel is routinely blamed for everything under the sun.. No matter, the Obami soldier on as if on Crusade to borrow from Miller’s religious metaphor.
Miller doesn’t see the factors for Peace
He writes that Obama & advisers are trying to manufacture artificially the necessary components for peace and a deal using sheer American will. But that this is an illusion as there are no partners currently, or willingness in the region in order to conclude such a deal irrespective of America’s will, and that in the end this will result in a stunning American failure.
Bottom line: Negotiations can work, but both Arabs and Israelis (and American leaders) need to be willing and able to pay the price. And they are not.
Under these circumstances, the refrain from many quarters is that America must save the day. If the Arabs and Israelis are too weak or recalcitrant, then the United States must support and/or push them to make the deal.
Miller chides the administration for making huge errors in the focus on settlements, and questions the logic behind the Obama strategies themselves as they do not lead in any way to a deal or peace, only to expending more & more American political capital without benefit, concluding..
The believers need to re-examine their faith, especially at a moment when America is so stretched and overextended. The United States needs to do what it can, including working with Israelis and Palestinians on negotiating core final-status issues (particularly on borders, where the gaps are narrowest), helping Palestinians develop their institutions, getting the Israelis to assist by allowing Palestinians to breathe economically and expand their authority, and keeping Gaza calm, even as it tries to relieve the desperation and sense of siege through economic assistance. But America should also be aware of what it cannot do, as much as what it can. [...]
In many ways there are subtle & not so subtle jabs at the Obama admin here, the entire religious framework and Yes We Can attitude gets a thorough lashing in Miller’s piece. Time for believers to re-examine the faith, the statement is directed at the Department of State, the NSC & Obama himself and the message is clear enough, cut it out because No We Can’t.
Miller was on to something..
In October 2009 Miller appeared at the Hudson Institute on a powerful panel examining the US Israel relationship.
He posited that the Obama administration on the Arab Israeli conflict was not transformational, but transactional – Trying to focus on the dozens of details and seeking endless concessions to iron them out to produce a deal. But, he felt that as tough as the Obama admin may get to wring concessions, they would have to be respectful of Israel & the relationship to succeed.
He stated that listening to Israel would be more important than lecturing Israel in order to notch gains. That American will & opinion matched that of Israeli will & opinion, that the countries identified with each other on a powerful plane, and that Obama would need to proceed cautiously lest he upset that balance..
Off a cliff
We have since seen the admin push this transactional concept to the very edge right along with the US Israel relationship itself, thoroughly disregarding Miller’s warnings. Precisely because they do not listen, they do not respect, and many suspect they do not care about Israel in the least. I would add to Miller’s provocative & interesting piece that not only he, but a great many are now no longer believers..
If you want to know why you need only look at President Obama and his ugly relationship with the State of Israel.