Thursday, 6 May 2010

Love of the Land: Linked In

Linked In

Why do Arab governments—and the U.S.—insist the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the heart of all the Mideast’s problems?

Lee Smith
Tablet Magazine
05 May '10

The one uncontroversial fact about the Middle East is that the Arab-Israeli conflict is inextricably linked to every other problem in the region. Known as “linkage,” this is the one idea that has won the support of a broad consensus of U.S. congressmen, senators, diplomats, former presidents, and their foreign-policy advisers, seconded by journalists, Washington policy analysts, almost every American who has ever watched a Sunday morning news roundtable, and the Obama Administration, from National Security Adviser James Jones to the president himself: “If we can solve the Israeli-Palestinian process,” candidate Obama said on Meet the Press in the spring of 2008, “then that will make it easier for Arab states and the Gulf states to support us when it comes to issues like Iraq and Afghanistan. It will also weaken Iran, which has been using Hamas and Hezbollah as a way to stir up mischief in the region.”

It is hardly surprising, then, that commanders of U.S. armed forces who during the last decade have spent more time on the ground among Arab and Muslim populations than American diplomats also subscribe to the concept of linkage and have even made it into a tenet of U.S. military strategy. For instance, in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in March, CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus explained that, “The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests” in the region.

Petraeus’s comments were used by some to advance the linkage-based argument that Israeli actions were endangering U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Petraeus himself has clarified his remarks, and last week Defense Secretary Robert Gates jumped into the fray to explain that, “Petraeus did not say that the lack of progress in the peace process is costing American lives.” According to Gates, the issue is that:

The lack of progress in the peace process has provided political ammunition to our adversaries in the Middle East and in the region, and that progress in this arena will enable us not only to perhaps get others to support the peace process, but also support us in our efforts to try and impose effective sanctions against Iran.

Gates and Petraeus, then, are adherents of what might be called “soft” linkage.

(Read full article)

Love of the Land: Linked In

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