Bill Clinton On the New Middle East
It's not often that Bill Clinton gets to agree with the Belmont Club. That's a joke of course. In reality he probably doesn't realize this site exists, so it was slightly unsettling to read this in the San Diego Union-Tribune. " In a speech to the United Jewish Federation of San Diego County's 70th anniversary dinner, Clinton, who tried and failed to broker such an agreement during his presidency, said a new dynamic had emerged in the region since he left office: that Sunni Arab states have come to fear Iran more than they do Israel."
In the Middle Eastern NATO, I wrote:
There are moments when I am tempted to believe that Operation Iraqi Freedom achieved what diplomats have failed to accomplish for nearly 60 years: remove Israel as the prime source of conflict in the Middle East. Sometimes fancy takes me further, and it seems possible that the invasion of Iraq has so absorbed the region by bringing to the surface their latent rivalries that America and the West have receded as targets.
How about that for coincidences. Danged. Now, if only I could get a hundred thousand dollars to say what I already said it would be a sweet deal. Then Clinton goes on to produce another coincidence. "The United States has to be prepared to give a security guarantee like we give our NATO allies both to Israel and to the new Palestinian state because they will both be under attack," he said. Double dang. A Middle Eastern NATO. Now who would have thunk it? That was the name of my very post.
I didn't think a Middle Eastern NATO was a good idea but was intrigued at two things. Why had Iran replaced Israel and regional enemy number one if so whether this was a good thing. President Clinton never explains why Iran has switched places with Israel as the most feared nation in the Middle East but the answer is clearly that OIF has rearranged the balance in the region and set the Arabs against the Persians. In the Middle Eastern NATO Belmont post I wrote:
[These Middle Eastern NATO proposed] solutions are designed to address a new situation that came about after Operation Iraqi Freedom. It would have been absurd to speak of this Middle Eastern NATO before it. On reflection, it's not entirely clear whether the world would be better off going back to the status quo ante, when both the Iranians and the Arabs could safely export their violence on the West while studiously ignoring each other. With the contradictions between them brought into sharp relief by the American invasion of Iraq along the very fault line of Arab and Persian, Sunni and Shi'ite, the governments of the region now have better things to worry about than supporting clerics whose ideas include flying airliners into buildings in New York City. Samuel Johnson once remarked, in the saddest commentary on human folly, that nothing focused the mind as much as the prospect of being hanged the next day. And nothing reminds a person of his friends more than the sight of his enemies.
Does Clinton think as I do that the new situation is better than the old? He doesn't answer directly, but implies that it has certain advantages:
"The Israelis need to keep in mind what they could get in a deal now from the Arab states that they never could have gotten before. We aren't quite there on the formula yet, but I think there's a deal to be had there and I wouldn't want the Israelis to miss it."
So there are opportunities. Well Bill, was that praise or criticism for the actions of the last four years? And should we, as Nancy Pelosi wants, get the hell out of Dodge?