Roger Cohen has a brilliant column in today's Times in which he repeats his epiphany of the last 2 months: his utter shame over Gaza. Then he moves to pure realism: about Israel's threat to its neighbors and the importance of recognizing that Iran is a regional power. And so what that Hamas doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist! We're negotiators not epistemologists. Steve Walt (whom Cohen has obviously read) asked a week or so ago, why isn't this guy in the print edition? Good question. Cohen:
negotiations. But is it essential? No. What is essential is that it
renounces violence, in tandem with Israel, and the inculcation of
hatred that feeds the violence.
Speaking of violence, it’s worth
recalling what Israel did in Gaza in response to sporadic Hamas
rockets. It killed upward of 1,300 people, many of them women and
children; caused damage estimated at $1.9 billion; and destroyed
thousands of Gaza homes. It continues a radicalizing blockade on 1.5
million people squeezed into a narrow strip of land.
At this vast
human, material and moral price, Israel achieved almost nothing beyond
damage to its image throughout the world. Israel has the right to hit
back when attacked, but any response should be proportional and
governed by sober political calculation. The Gaza war was a travesty; I
have never previously felt so shamed by Israel’s actions.
No wonder Hamas and Hezbollah are seen throughout the Arab world as legitimate resistance movements.
time to look at them again and adopt the new British view that contact
can encourage Hezbollah “to move away from violence and play a
constructive, democratic and peaceful role.”
The British step is a breakthrough. By contrast, Clinton’s invitation to Iran is of little significance.
are two schools within the Obama administration on Iran: the
incremental and the bold. The former favors little steps like inviting
Iran to help with Afghanistan; the latter realizes that nothing will
shift until Obama convinces Tehran that he’s changing strategy rather
he does not seek regime change and recognizes the country’s critical
role as a regional power. Carrots and sticks — the current approach —
will lead to the same dead end as Hamas and Hezbollah denial.
Couple comments. Tom Friedman's career was made by Lebanon
'82: he was the Jew who could explain Israel's shocking behavior to
American Jews/the Establishment. Gaza was bound to create the next Tom
Friedman. We all thought it might be Ethan Bronner or Jeffrey Goldberg.
Goldberg failed because he is a tribalist; he made the wrong call at the start (and since) and defended the slaughter. Bronner failed
because he didn't have the chi, or chutzpah necessary, to call a slaughter a slaughter. Roger Cohen has been completely
elevated by Gaza. He didn't take the Jewish talking points. He understood it
was a "travesty," as he repeats; and Gaza has transformed his thinking, has revealed Israel to him. And now even a great scholar, Michael Walzer, is running to try and catch up with Cohen's moral understanding by speaking of the "awfulness" of Gaza!
I think this is a religious issue. Consider: Cohen does not speak as a Jew to Jews, as Friedman, who had grown up cheerleading the Six-Day war did. Cohen speaks as a successful Jewish CFR type in the new establishment. He has breadth and sophistication. He knows the new historians of Israel's history, he listens to Arabs and Iranians. This is the new Jewish presence in the establishment, and it's universalist. Obverse of the neocons.