Middle East: Banging Our Head On, Head On The Wall genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Banging our heads

It's been said by former presidents and high ranking public servants, by numerous scholars, and by leaders of other nations...and yet George Bush and his neocon klatch have chosen to virtually ignore it for the bulk of his presidency. What is it? It's the belief that the key to resolving the festering fury in the Middle East will be found in resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians...and that must include the establishment of a defined and sovereign Palestine.

I've written about the issue before and I'll likely do so again and again. Today's posting results from the latest commentary on the issue contained in an article at United Press International.

WASHINGTON, June 13 (UPI) -- Resolving the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian dispute should be made a priority of U.S. foreign policy, say Middle East experts.
At a conference earlier this week hosted by the Century Foundation and the Center for American Progress, the panelists focused on the need to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli issue -- echoing the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Report on Iraq, which they often mentioned, and citing a recent U.S. State Department brief that a resolution to the issue is a sine qua non for all other U.S. relations in the region.

"Everyone knows what the solution is, but no one knows how to get there," said Daniel Levy, senior fellow at the Century Foundation, referring to a two-state solution with various conditions on Israel's withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories, Palestinians' right of return, access to holy sites and the status of Jerusalem.

"When people know what they have to do, but they don't want to do it, they need an external push," said Levy, and that external influence is the United States.

Speaking after the session concentrating on the Middle East, scholar and former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said that bringing about a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is one of three critical steps America must take if it wants to "continue to be a force for good in the world." Another necessary task is to begin seriously negotiating with Iran.

I realize that both sides of the conflict are entrenched in intransigent rhetoric and that the Palestinians are likely more divided now in their approach to the issue than they have been in recent memory. Some contend the Palestinian chaos is a good reason to remain detached...at least until a viable political structure emerges. I argue just the opposite.

What we're witnessing with regard to the competing Palestinian factions is simply the result of fatigue brought about by perpetual failure in achieving a lasting solution. Simply stated, desperation has led to disagreement and dissention. That, in my opinion, provides the perfect opportunity for a U.S. brokered solution (read that to mean serious arm twisting). Call it an end around designed to win the support of the populace of the combatants while the leadership groups continue to babble their rehashed laments...a groundswell brought about by a concrete plan with rigid timeframes, detailed requirements, and necessary compromises.

Is there a degree of risk with this approach? Of course. Is the potential reward worth the risk? I say it is. Given the worst case suggestion by President Bush (a fully farcical notion) that we may need to look at Iraq as a duplicate model of our Korean presence in order to prevent the full meltdown of the entire Middle East...and the best case that we trudge along in Iraq year by year at a cost of billions holding the region together with a few weary threads...what would be wrong with removing the leading tool for the recruitment of fanatical terrorists...the contention that the U.S., in consort with Israel, has no interest in a Palestinian solution and every interest in a stranglehold on precious oil reserves?

In psychology we talk about behavior and outcome...and we argue that the best way to extinguish bad behavior is to get the person committing the bad behavior to focus on the repeatedly bad outcomes. In other words, you simply challenge someone to keep banging there head on the wall in a rigid ritual of diminishing returns. Actions equal outcome...keep doing the action...keep getting the same or worse outcome. I suspect there are more sore heads in this region that you can shake a head on...head on...head on stick at. Maybe a new approach will bring some much needed relief?

Daniel DiRito | June 13, 2007 | 3:06 PM
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