The world’s turning. Here’s a brilliant piece by Patrick Tyler in the LA Times saying that Israel, trapped in a military approach to its neighbors, is trying to serve as a “detonator” to war in the Middle East. And the U.S. should Be Like Ike (Eisenhower) and avoid it at all costs; and seek to engage Israel with its neighbors productively. Too late for the Jewish state, maybe. (Hannah Arendt said it years ago: warrior states like Sparta is doomed to fail).
Tyler’s new book argues that Israel is incapable of making peace. Note that his Rx for Washington to work against Israel’s militarism is the exact opposite of Jeffrey Goldberg’s ultimatum to the president that his reputation is finished if he seeks to, say, contain Iran. Tyler:
The West can and must continue to oppose a decision by Iran’s leaders to enter the military realm of nuclear development, but the United States and other nations will have little credibility if the net effect of their actions is a “red line” inhibiting the technological development of another state. Young Iranians who risked their lives for reform and who admire Western democracy are also fiercely nationalistic in defending Iran’s right to develop technologically.
President Obama has shown the wisdom of President Eisenhower in resisting war strategies in the Middle East. Eisenhower believed that the modern struggle of the great powers in that region would be for the “hearts and minds” of people seeking a new beginning of freedom, justice and prosperity after a long run of colonialism. The “Arab Spring” movement and Iran’s youth movements reflect this powerful current, which is far more potent than religious extremism.
Yet however the Iran crisis turns out this fall, it is not as important as the profound problem the West, and especially the U.S., faces in dealing with a potential “detonator” strategy emanating from Israel over the long term; a number of states in the region could soon be at the threshold of nuclear development.
Over six decades and through as many wars, the U.S. has escalated its commitment to Israel’s security, but it has neglected a corresponding insistence that Israel develop the institutions of diplomacy, negotiation and compromise necessary to fully engage the Arabs during a crucial period of Arab awakening.
Israel in the modern era has lost sight of peace. A new generation of generals sees war planning and the acquisition of new weaponry as the only effective national strategy.
The West must face the prospect that Israel may not be able to rebuild a strategic consensus for peace like the one that the late Yitzhak Rabin imposed on the military establishment in 1992, an act of courage for which he paid with his life.
As the Jewish state and its military establishment become more hard line, more religious and more prone to propagate a vision of constant threat and peril, America will have to lead the world with an act of courage as great as Rabin’s in rebuilding the strategic consensus for peace — in Israel, in Congress and among the Jewish and fundamentalist Christian communities that so assiduously, and often blindly, advocate Israeli militarism.
That will require presidents, and presidential candidates, to put the security of Israel into a new category of bipartisanship, and to resist the “detonator” theory by building a broad and engaging peace strategy.
The Muslim world and Israel are pulling away from each other. Imagine a region where they were pulling together.