Bill Clinton On Need For Palestinian State genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Video-Philes

In a recent interview with Bill Clinton, Keith Olbermann asked the former president an interesting hypothetical. He asked Clinton what he would say if the current President, George Bush, if Bush were to call him and ask him for advice. The following clip is Clinton's answer to that question and his primary suggestion was that the President should figure out some means to restart talks aimed at establishing a Palestinian state. I recently wrote a post here at Thought Theater titled, Palestinian State: If We Build It, Answers Will Come.

In that posting, I suggested that establishing a Palestinian state should be our primary objective if we want to bring stability to the Middle East. In light of the new intelligence report discussed in this posting here at Thought Theater and reported in The New York Times and The Washington Post, I decided to repost my prior remarks here after the Clinton clip. I did so because I want to be clear that in addition to my criticism and opposition to the Bush administration's efforts in Iraq and the war on terror, I have offered my own suggestion to resolving the escalation of extremism in the region and diminishing the prevalence of terrorism.

Sadly, I hesitate to conclude that this President will take the advice of the former President...let alone mine. Nonetheless, I've also criticized the Democratic Party for failing to offer more than opposition to this administration's mismanagement of the Iraq war and the war on terror. I believe Democrats need to speak up and take the lead in proposing new solutions and alternate directions for resolving these issues. Americans are looking for answers and should they be given reasoned and rational solutions, I am convinced they would overwhelmingly support that candidate and that Party. It is time to set aside partisan goals and begin to act with the courage and conviction this country desperately needs in order to once again assume our role as a stabilizing and steady force in world diplomacy.



Palestinian State: If We Build It, Answers Will Come

The prevailing opinion is that the Middle East is a very complex and complicated region rife with centuries of sectarian, tribal, cultural, and religious differences. I agree with that characterization with regards to attempting to summarize the area historically. As to the current problems that have spiraled into a near full scale regional war, I’m convinced that the solution to the many issues rests solely upon one defining problem…from which all others emanate and from which all others can be resolved. In fact, in what some may call my fanciful Hollywood formulaic prescription, one particular movie quotation seems to capture the essence of my proposed story line…“If you build it, they will come". The “it" is none other than a Palestinian state.

Dissect the situation any way you choose but you will always come back to the need to provide for an autonomous Palestinian state. Should there be any doubt; one need merely follow the underlying sentiment that has led to the formation of the PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah, and numerous other anti-Israeli / pro-Palestinian organizations. Further, if one were to attempt to understand the dynamics at play in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion as well as the failure of the Iraqi people to view the American troops as liberators (that glorious scenario envisioned by Dick Cheney and his band of neoconservatives who metaphorically run around shooting others in the face with reckless abandon), one must only realize that the United States is seen as an obstacle to freedom in the Middle Eastern mindset.

As with those who doubt Israel will ever allow for a Palestinian state, so too do the Iraqi’s doubt that the United States will ever fully implement an autonomous Iraq. They make that conclusion by extrapolation…one that says if the United States is fully supportive of Israel and Israel has yet to provide for a Palestinian state, then why would the U.S. ever provide for an Iraqi state since they, like the Israeli’s, will always be able to identify the potential for an independent Iraq to threaten the security of the region and ultimately the United States.

Believe it or not, the United States has played kingmaker in the region for decades…arranging for those seen as acceptable or malleable to U.S. interests to gain or retain power…and even to remove them from power at such time as the alliance is no longer strategically satisfying. I don’t offer that observation in order to summarily condemn U.S. actions…some were necessary and prudent…however, they are also open to interpretation by those within the region and others as acts of imperialist intervention solely motivated by the prevailing interests of the United States.

The point is that if “A" plus “B" leads to “C", and even if such calculation is necessary though harsh, one can’t expect those who may be observing to simply ignore the math…we must be realistic that our actions have consequences…even if we deemed our actions advisable.

The neoconservative mindset is such that they expect consequences but they intend to deal with them through power or force. They believe that if we remain the biggest kid on the block, we can dictate to the block. The rationale says that because they hold power, they can dictate reality…and when perceptions don’t match reality, they simply and methodically apply force to achieve the reality they desire. Missing from that analysis is the formula that always evolves once a group of individuals coalesce around the perception that they have a bully in their midst…they realize they cannot confront the bully one on one or directly since they acknowledge they cannot defeat the bully in that manner…so they adopt other tactics. The Middle East is a textbook example of this eventuality.

Also missing from the equation is the benevolence / malevolence consideration. I try to keep my assertions simple so let me offer an example that most people can relate to. In virtually every work environment there is some hierarchy whereby some individuals are established as authorities with the power to affect the lives of those they supervise or manage. It doesn’t take long for those who are subject to the authoritarian figure to determine if that individual is a benevolent supervisor or one they feel operates out of malevolence.

Frequently this supervisory dynamic is acted out without any real reasoned analysis since that person may be the owner of the company or may be so well connected to those within the ownership that malevolent actions can be carried out with little consequence to the person in authority. At the same time, those individuals who answer to the person in authority will likely be negatively impacted (perhaps overworked, mistreated or fired). Often absent from the analysis is the impact such situations have on the morale of the employees and ultimately the success of the company…which has to compete with other similar companies.

We’ve all seen trigger happy employers who believe termination is the preferred tool to resolve problems. However, with each termination, the remaining employees make a determination as to the legitimacy of the termination. Over time, a belief may be created amongst the employee base that those in authority are malevolent and so begins a process to undermine or sabotage the supervisor or the company. As the belief grows, the ability to root out the dissenters becomes more difficult…as one employee is terminated and another arrives, they are frequently greeted with negative information from coworkers about the propensity of those in authority to be malevolent and they are therefore likely won over before ever having the opportunity to make their own objective evaluations.

Over time, the impressions and beliefs held by present and past employees’ travels beyond the confines of the company. Other companies employees may become aware of the malevolence and refuse to apply for work with the negatively identified company or the entire industry may adopt the same beliefs and seek to isolate the company or facilitate its demise.

The bottom line is that the perceptions of people will have impact at some point regardless of one’s proximity to power. Typically, such entities eventually fail because they are unable to maintain the favor of enough individuals to perpetuate the power they hold…whether that be from losing the support of those within or from the actions of those who are operating in the surrounding environment.

Goodwill is not a commodity that can be turned off and on at one’s discretion like a spigot. It is ultimately driven by perceptions and once perceptions have deteriorated, the benevolence needed to reverse the perceptions unfortunately grows disproportionately. Despite notions to the contrary, the masses are for the most part adept at evaluating core sincerity and integrity. Additionally, they are far quicker to attribute actions negatively than they are to give the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, they are also reticent to reverse their conclusions once they have been adopted. That’s simply human nature.

I think the example does a reasonable job of describing the dilemma in the Middle East. It is further complicated by the amount of time that the situation has been allowed to fester and the fact that terminations in this theater are actually fatalities. Sadly that has made it vulnerable to succumbing to arguments that are predicated on debating the “chicken or the egg" or “who did what to whom and when"…none of which serve to move the situation towards resolution.

Nonetheless, it is time for tangible actions that can change perceptions. At the same time, this will require acknowledging some unpleasant realities as well as demonstrating untold patience and restraint. What I mean to say is that even if Israel moves forward with the establishment of a Palestinian state, there will be individuals on both sides that seek to undermine the effort and that will remain consumed with hatred and ill-intentions. Those individuals will carry out acts of violence regardless…but they can only be defeated by changing the hearts and minds of those who surround them. The power of perception must become the transforming fuel of persuasion thereby reversing the very process that created and now stokes the current conflict.

Over the course of the last few days, I have read and listened to numerous individuals that have argued that now is the time to proceed to extinguish all those who are identified as Islamic extremists or terrorists in addition to Al Qaeda (sometimes specifically defined as Hamas and Hezbollah…sometimes with Iran and Syria included). Much like the actions of the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the insurgency, some are calling for similar efforts by Israel and the United States in the rest of the Middle East. Anyone who witnessed 9/11 surely has some appreciation for this sentiment and may well be inclined to support such suggestions.

As I’ve thought about this possibility, I keep coming back to the same prevailing questions…who are these people and how do we identify them if we in fact want to destroy them all? How do we kill them without impacting their friends and relatives who may not fully support them now but may well decide to take up the cause once those they care about have been eliminated? When will we be able to say the job is done and move forward with a plan to provide for a Palestinian state? How do we extinguish the perceptions that are fomenting these individuals and organizations such that they have no further appeal or ability to recruit others?

I also keep coming back to the same answers. We simply cannot succeed in killing all the individuals and organizations that oppose Israel or the United States. We have to eliminate the perceptions that exist and that are being fueled by our further actions. I recall George Bush stating that we would eventually win the war on terror but that it was going to be a long endeavor. Looking back, I’m not sure I understood what he may have been saying and I’m not convinced he did either.

Frankly, today I see the terminology as part of the problem…we simply cannot achieve the peace we seek by prosecuting the kind of war we have chosen. Perhaps we can lessen the chances of another 9/11 but the eventual reality of this type of “war" may well be an existence akin to that of the people of Israel…where the perpetual reality is such that so long as the impetus for the hatred exists we will live with the inevitability that every once in a while a suicide bomber will walk into a busy restaurant and detonate a bomb.

It is time to jump ahead to the core problem. Every effort should be employed to immediately establish an independent Palestinian state. If we were to invest a portion of the funds we anticipate spending in Iraq over the next few years on building a functional Palestinian state we could demonstrate to those who distrust or despise the United States that we understand the underlying regional dynamics that have led to perpetual instability and conflict in the Middle East. It may also provide the backdrop for the resolution of other festering problems within the region.

The risks of such an endeavor are far outweighed by the potential benefits. Further, as the most powerful nation in the world, we would still retain the ability to use force where required. However, we would be doing so after having done the right thing which would elevate our moral standing in the world and have the likelihood to change the perceptions of the people that inhabit the region. We could then act from a position of justifiable strength and integrity.

If we continue down the current path, we may well not be able to sustain the costs in currency and conflict. As the region and perhaps the world stands on the precipice of an escalating period of instability and expanding wars we have very little to lose. If we build a Palestinian state, answers will come.

Daniel DiRito | September 24, 2006 | 9:51 AM
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