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Bush plays peacemaker.
April 4, 2002 3:11 PM   Subscribe

Bush plays peacemaker. Having refused to honor several international treaties since taking office, the Bush administration sees itself as a legitimate peace broker. Opinions solicited, is this likely to improve the situation or cause it to deteriorate further?
posted by jack-o (41 comments total)

 
My guess is that the Israelis will be reluctant to withdraw til lthey feel they have accomplished their mission and that the suicide guys (their organizations) will not cease what they have been doing.
The "milder" Arab states will be happy because they will view this as a way to tampen the outbursts in the streets; the wicked triangle--Syria, Iraq, Iran will urge the Palestinians on.
Will Arafat be allowed to go the movies? Not sure. He is duplicitous and this is clear so that putting him in charge of any negotiations will be a charade.
posted by Postroad at 3:27 PM on April 4, 2002


Which ratified treaties has the Administration refused to honor, please, besides the ancient nuclear arms treaty signed with a nation that no longer exists? And what does this fact, if it is one, have to do with the Administration's peacemaking efforts in the Middle East anyway?

Also, why are you portraying this as some sort of unilateral move when we have been specifically asked to mediate over and over and over?

(Point being, it's very hard to have a legitimate discussion of opinions on this matter when the originating question is so loaded.)
posted by aaron at 3:39 PM on April 4, 2002


"When an 18-year-old Palestinian girl is induced to blow herself up and in the process kills a 17-year-old Israeli girl, the future itself is dying, the future of the Palestinian people and the future of the Israeli people."

I hate it when Shrub says something to which I agree. I only wish he'd said this kinda stuff a week ago, y'know? Or months ago. Why didn't he? Most probably because his advisors told him it wouldn't help. They're probably still telling him that but he's doing it anyway, which does show that though Shrub's not very good at pleasing everybody all the time, he does have a heart hidden underneath all his advisors. I am forced to be colored impressed.

We are so entangled in this vat of snakes that we can't escape. Yet whether we continue to support the Israelis or jumped ship and chose to assist the Palestinians, we can't win.

There will be no winners here. History will see the outcome of this debacle as worse than Vietnam. I only pray that when this is all over, everybody will see that beating up on each other over oil or land or misunderstandings or even over gods, is a waste of time that keeps us from moving forward as a species.

In World War Two the japanese had kamikaze pilots. Today the Palestinians have suicide bombers. It amazes me for all we've learned over the years, how "creeping like snail unwillingly to school" we still are.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:48 PM on April 4, 2002


aaron, quick, spit that hook out before it's too late!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:52 PM on April 4, 2002


as long as he keeps his mouth shut and read what Condoleezza has written for him, I think he'll do fine.
posted by tsarfan at 4:02 PM on April 4, 2002


Opinion-o-matic® can answer your question using a simple truth™ table if the following assumptions are first specified: is Bush a good guy? Is Sharon? Is Arafat?

   Bush good, Sharon good, Arafat good => Yes
   Bush good, Sharon good, Arafat bad => No
   Bush good, Sharon bad, Arafat good => Maybe
   Bush good, Sharon bad, Arafat bad => Yes
   Bush bad, ... => No
posted by Turtle at 4:02 PM on April 4, 2002


I hate it when Shrub says something to which I agree. I only wish he'd said this kinda stuff a week ago, y'know?.

Indeed. Still, if we are to condemn when someone does wrong, we must praise when they do right.

However: "all the children of Abraham?" Doesn't he mean "all the children of Shem?" Because the children of Abraham just denotes Jews, I would have thought.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:19 PM on April 4, 2002




jeez, talk about trolling...
posted by nobody_knose at 4:30 PM on April 4, 2002


The following peace plan should be adopted by the Bush Administration..

Step 1: Make MDMA (ecstasy ) legal. NOTE - Step 1 does not need to be implemented.

Step 2: Introduce MDMA into Middle East water supplies.

Step 3: Stand back and watch the love flow.

Step 4: Repeat process for indefinite time, otherwise bloodshed will re-occure during comedown.
posted by Zool at 4:31 PM on April 4, 2002


I only wish he'd said this kinda stuff a week ago, y'know? Or months ago. Why didn't he?

I'm guessing he was affected by the deaths of the two girls, after all he has daughters of his own about that age. One of the reasons I'm not fond of Bush is that he usually strikes me as being strangely disconected from whatever it is he's talking about. Not so today, it came from the heart and it was well said. Bravo Mr. President.
posted by homunculus at 4:33 PM on April 4, 2002


Which two girls?
posted by donkeyschlong at 4:35 PM on April 4, 2002


I'm guessing that his public image wranglers decided that now was a politically astute time to start speaking out.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:55 PM on April 4, 2002


So something you agree with comes from the heart while everything else is the product of speechwriters and on staff pundits? He may be the man in charge of the administration (ignoring the Cheney is really in charge argument) but he's no 'autuer.'

Oh course there was going to be a change of policy. Have you seen public opinion lately?
posted by skallas at 5:04 PM on April 4, 2002


Which two girls?

The 18-year-old Palestinian girl who blew herself up and the 17-year-old Israeli girl she killed.
posted by homunculus at 6:02 PM on April 4, 2002


I hate it when Shrub says something to which I agree. I only wish he'd said this kinda stuff a week ago, y'know?

Ditto here. I noticed that today was the first time that I agreed with something Bush said. I guess being in over his head is making him listen to someone with smarts, somewhere. However, the October-present response to Sept 11 makes me question his capacity as a peacemaker.

The Israeli incursion is neither disproportionate nor out of step if one follows Bush's lead. Hence I have trouble accepting him as a peacemaker.
posted by holycola at 6:34 PM on April 4, 2002


Oh course there was going to be a change of policy. Have you seen public opinion lately?

The solid, unchanging 80% rating?
posted by aaron at 7:18 PM on April 4, 2002


The solid, unchanging 80% rating?

Slice in time, my good man. Give it a year, and we'll talk.
posted by Wulfgar! at 8:11 PM on April 4, 2002


Slice in time, my good man. Give it a year, and we'll talk.

Whatever, but you're changing the subject unless skallas was referring so some other matter of public opinion. Well, you're changing the subject either way.
posted by aaron at 8:20 PM on April 4, 2002


I hate it when Shrub says something to which I agree. I only wish he'd said this kinda stuff a week ago, y'know?


I think the problem is, what is one to say? Though recent events have proven to be a sincere tragedy, it is the problem of Israelis and Palestinians and to a lesser extent, Muslim/Arab nations. They had to be given the opportunity to resolve the crisis themselves. Arafat had outs. He could of used one of his many press conferences while under siege to demand an end to the suicide bombings and making a plea to Sharon to spare his people. And I think that's what the Bush administration was hoping for. At least for the call, from Arafat himself, for the end of the suicide bombings. That would have given Bush the ammo to demand that Israel withdraw its troops.

Without a clear agenda, like what Powell is walking into right now, we're there like beggars asking each side to give us something so we can show the world that we're doing something. It was perhaps, a miscalculation on the part of the Bush team that at least one side in this conflict had an ounce of compasion, morality or ethics. Unfortunatley, what has been proven is that Israel is prepared to shoot civilians and Arafat is willing to destroy his country and people.

I just feel so frustrated by this whole situation. It's like "America only cares about the Israelis. Death to America. Burn their flag. Hey, wait a minute. What are those Israeli tanks doing? Oh shit! They're coming after us. America, why do you not help us? You must come and resolve this dispute." Where are the Saudis? Where are the Iranians? Where are the Egyptians? Certainly, they are not setting their egos and differences aside and asking for an audience with Sharon to plead their case. I mean, just think of how different this whole situation could be if the Saudis simply issued a statement saying, "We call on Mr. Arafat to issue an immediate end to the suicide bombings and in return Israel to pull back from Palestinian lands. There have already been too many deaths and we reject any and all forms of violence as a means to resolve the conflict between the nation of Israel and Palestine." No, instead they are wringing their hands and calling on evil America to come arbitrate the dispute. And where are our European buddies? Where is that uppity little bitch, France?
posted by billman at 9:35 PM on April 4, 2002


billman: Actually, the EU sent a delegation of its own to Israel yesterday in hopes of starting negotiations, but Israel refused to let the group visit Arafat.
posted by raysmj at 10:03 PM on April 4, 2002


raysmj, actually was catching up on news today and caught that story after I posted. Thanks for posting the link.
posted by billman at 10:15 PM on April 4, 2002


In online fan discussions of television shows, there's a move that television writers often make that fans have taken to calling the "retcon," short for "retroactive continuity." It describes an instance where the writers gloss over or slightly change the past events of the show to make present events viable.

"America is committed to ending this conflict and beginning an era of peace."

[Bush] "wants to seize the moment to try to create an environment in which peace can take root."

These are retcons, imprecisely referred to as spin in political parlance. Ari Fleischer, whose ostensibly filtered comments have been as poisonous as Bush's improvised rhetoric has appeared unintelligent, made a strong suggestion that Clinton's efforts at the end of his term were to blame for the current situation. Vilify Clinton however you'd like, but the magic he performed at Camp David at the end of his presidency is undeniable. The leaders had reached 90% agreement over the borders. They were so close. Of course, they ultimately did not succeed, but for America to walk away at that juncture and take a policy of noninvolvement with the installation of President Bush absolutely devastated the situation. In a year, we have fallen from optimism for Israel and Palestine to utter despair for both sides. And now, to talk about America's commitment to ending the conflict is so disingenuous it's ridiculous. The "moment" happened way back in January of 2001, Mr. Fleischer. It's waaaaaaay too late to be seized.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy that something is being done. But good Lord, people need to call this administration more on all the b.s. they pull. The noninvolvement policy was an absurdity, a fact that only becomes apparent now, when our interests in the region are troubled by the deep conflicts in the region. It all tugs us so violently back to Bush Sr. that I expect to hear Lee Greenwood on the radio any time now. The buck should be stopping any second now, and despite the ridiculous retcons performed by this administration, they should be held accountable for their deadlier mistakes.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 11:05 PM on April 4, 2002


grrarrgh00:

They were so close

I think you're making a false assumption. One made too often by gamblers. If I ask you to pick a number between 1 and 10 and you select 6 and the number I was thinking of was 7, you were not 1 away from picking the correct one. The numbers are random, not in sequence. Agreeing on 90% of a proposal is useless if one or both parties insist on 100% agreement. Being 90% is as good as being 0% if the terms are all or nothing. If that were not the case, they could have easily agreed to come to terms on the 90% and leave the 10% to be decided at a later date via further negotiation.

And although I'm unsure of what Mr. Fleischer meant, in a way he is correct. Barak went into Camp David with popular support for bringing peace and via prompting from Clinton, basically bent over and was ready to give away the farm to reach an agreement. When the talks failed, Barak's popularity dropped, which ushered in Sharon as well as the beginning of this current infatada. There are many who argue (and were arguing at the time) that had the peace process been handled in a way as to bring the sides closer over time, rather than as a rush job so Clinton could have his legacy rights, talks may have continued after Clinton left office and the infatada may have been avoided.

Now, you don't have to agree with any of that, and since it's speculation one can neither prove it or disprove it but it is a valid argument and I would guess that was what Mr. Fleisher was referring to. So to say that it is spin or changing matters after the fact does not correctly represent the situation if that is/was Bush's opinion.
posted by billman at 12:24 AM on April 5, 2002


we have been specifically asked to mediate over and over and over?

Where's the 'WE' in this affair? Who here that posts to MeFi has anything to do with what *they* decide? Nothing! Congress is absolutely not involved. So I highly doubt what any president's administration speaks for, speaks anything for the ordinary, individual citizen. Don't let that hook embed itself into the bone and pierce the sinuses. That would get awful close to the brain.
posted by crasspastor at 1:23 AM on April 5, 2002


; )

Whooeee. I didn't mean for that to come off so rude. More tongue in cheek like.
posted by crasspastor at 1:26 AM on April 5, 2002


billman:

Your point runs sort of parallel to mine, but doesn't actually touch it. I'm not arguing the success or failure of Clinton's efforts; that's for another thread. And I'm not saying they were 90% successful. Of course, they ultimately failed. It sucked. But I'm saying that they had pushed the process to that remarkably advanced point through much ridiculously tough negotiation. There was even a dim undercurrent of optimism at the time; both nations were waiting to see if it would actually happen. But it didn't, and everything that was forecasted at the time indicated that we should have remained involved with the region. We knew war would be imminent if the talks failed. We knew Sharon would be elected if it happened, and we knew he was a former general that was all about force. But with our new Bush administration noninvolvement policy, we looked the other way at every stupid move he made until the conflict got so bad it began to affect us and our goals. To a young Palestinian suicide-bomber, doesn't this seem a bit like a justification? "Hey, my brother just blew himself up in Jerusalem and now the Americans are coming!"

I'm saying that this isn't about, "Wait! The Bush administration is compassionate! Look, they're going to help everybody out!" It's about them having made a big mistake, and now needing to do some major damage repair, and I hope we see past the retcon rhetoric to recognize that.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 9:18 AM on April 5, 2002


grrarrgh00: And what I'm saying is that without attempting to pick sides, the failure at Camp David was partially the realization that Arafat had no interest in peace. Barak offered him more than had ever been offered by the Israelis and indicated a willingness to give whatever it took (within reason, and obviously "within reason" being subjective, one could debate that). Arafat had two people, Clinton and Barak, who were more committed than any two other people had ever been and Arafat walked. Arafat knew, just as did everyone else -- including Barak -- that a failure at Camp David would bring in a hawkish government in Israel.

So why would be walk? Perhaps it's because Arafat has no intention of ever striking peace with Israel. Perhaps Hamas would have killed him for signing a peace agreement. Perhaps this is all part of a larger scheme for Arafat. Who knows? What we do know is that between the failure of Camp David and Bush taking office, Barak was ousted and Sharon was elected by an unprecidented margin, seemingly giving him the mandate to deal with Arafat with force. There was no way to go back and put that same deal on the table with Sharon. Barak gave more than he should have and paid the price for it when the talks failed. Sharon took office on the promise of not caving in like Barak did.

Now, obviously in retrospect one can argue this or that "could" have changed or this or that "could" have been prevented but if I'm George Bush and I'm looking at a situation that has been going on for 30+ years and is farther apart today than almost anytime in the last 10 years, why would I want to get involved? We already know Sharon is never going to offer the same deal and Arafat has already turned down a much more generous proposal, so what's to negotiate? The only outcome is a political sandtrap in which the US gets bogged down and caught in the middle of the conflict. I don't think that anybody knew back then that these jerkoffs were that insane. Hell, it's pretty obvious Sharon's recent moves surprised the crap out of Arafat and many in the Arab world. Why is Bush supposed to be smart enough, or the US to be smart enough to predict how out of control these two sides would get?
posted by billman at 9:54 AM on April 5, 2002


if I'm George Bush and I'm looking at a situation that has been going on for 30+ years and is farther apart today than almost anytime in the last 10 years, why would I want to get involved?

For the same reason that America is suddenly "committed to ending this conflict": we're already inextricably involved. Our interests, Bush's interests, are all tied up in what happens here. In 2000, the solution became closer than anytime in the last 10 years, but when it evaded us, we walked away. I agree, no one could have predicted it would be this bad this quickly, or that the timing would have interfered so exquisitely with the administration's purposes in the region, and we can't argue with Clinton or Bush about the fact that Arafat is a two-timing hatemonger whose ultimately goal is more than likely the destruction of the Israeli state. But when that realization hit home way back in '00, the answer was not to immediately go "Oh well, he's crazy. And Sharon's crazy. Let's call the whole thing off." If any moment was prime to call for the deposement of Arafat as the head of the Palestinian Authority, it was that one, when the whole world realized that he was a thundering loony. Not this one, when Arafat is clearly the obstacle standing in the way of Bush's designs on Saddam Hussein.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 11:11 AM on April 5, 2002


If any moment was prime to call for the deposement of Arafat as the head of the Palestinian Authority, it was that one

And had we done so at that time, we would have been:

a) Alone. Our European allies would have sided with Palestine and found a billion different reasons to label our position as one-sided and self-serving.

b) Hated by every Arab and Muslim nation on earth. I don't think I even need to explain this one.

c) Removed from any future peace mediations. Funny how when you say that some guy should be ousted he has a hard time accepting you as a mediator.

d) Ineffective. For reasons a - c above, our call to depose Arafat would not only not have accomplished removing him from power but would have likely insured that he would never be removed from power.

Again, the point I'm making is that obviously had someone had a crystal ball and been able to tell what the future was going to look like, our response would have different. But since we don't have that magic crystal ball we have to consider hundreds of possible scenarios and weigh the likelyhood of various outcomes. All I'm saying is that given the information available at the time, doing nothing and letting Sharon and Arafat continue their pissing match was as valid an option as any other reasonable option on the table, including doing nothing. It's not that the White House is trying to spin a lack of conern into concern, it was simply that under the circumstances it probably seemed like a good idea to let the two leaders blow off some steam before attempting to engage in peace negotiations again. Just like you can't make an alcoholic quit drinking until s/he is ready to, you can't make two countries come to peace until they are ready to -- unless you are suggesting that we should have used a military response to keep both leaders in check.
posted by billman at 11:34 AM on April 5, 2002


Regarding the notion of Clinton legacy-building: I'm going to take off my cynicism cap for a moment and suggest that Clinton's last-ditch effort to negotiate a peace was a sincere effort. One can't be 100% sure, naturally, but I'm inclined to believe that Clinton knew that the incoming Bush administration would do nothing to calm things down, so he made an attempt to do something while he still could. Given the complete clusterfuck that is Bush Foreign Policy (anyone else remember the two-left-feet dance with China?), it's a valid assumption.

What gets me is the absolute cynicism of the Bush administration's involvement. It's painfully obvious to anyone with eyes that the only reason they're getting involved is to pacify Arab nations so they can get Saddam. It's so very realpolitik.

Can anyone answer for me how Yasser Arafat, who if I'm not mistaken started out as a terrorist (and may still be one, depending on who you talk to), got to be someone world leaders talked to?
posted by solistrato at 3:56 PM on April 5, 2002


The terrorist to leader (or guerilla to leader, or any non-conventional force to world leader) is not uncommon. Israel provides some of the most striking examples in Begin, Sharon, and others.
posted by cell divide at 4:08 PM on April 5, 2002


Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness...
posted by Summer at 4:21 AM on April 6, 2002


billman: And had we done so at that time, [many awful things would have happened]

Very probably all true. But it's a move that the administration seemed tempted to make earlier this year, if not for the efforts of Powell. My point was that we should have placed these pressures on Arafat before the entire situation had become a pressure-cooker and Arafat wanted to become a martyr. Your point, in my estimation, is that we never could have known it would become a pressure-cooker. But why not? We can't boil this down that simply when we knew this situation was a good possibility. When Bush took office, Arafat had just revealed himself to be pretty much disdainful of the idea of keeping the peace, Sharon had just put in place, and with two leaders as hard-headed as these two, with penchants for militarism as demonstrably strong, with grudges against each other as entrenched and powerful as these two, the situation was not going to gradually resolve itself. We knew that the failure of the talks would mean the election of Sharon, and we had a good idea of the carnage that would portend. Our inability to tell the future shouldn't buffer us from criticism when our ability to make a well-informed projection about it is unhampered.

Part of my ire about all this is that I think the Bush administration was (gasp) smart enough to foresee this conflict progress in this manner (it takes a lot out of me to say that), and that they kept their policy anyway. I find it completely plausible that in early 2001, the administration was fine letting the situation escalate until it would become clear that a US military intervention would be the only plausible solution. Then they'd have an excuse to put some soldiers on active duty and trump up our military efforts, increasing our defense spending and throwing our power around in a purely coincidentally oil-heavy region, which is something that I think Bush was itching to do anyway. But now that we have a legitimate excuse to go to war, the I-P conflict is a serious obstacle. So Bush has reluctantly reinvolved us in the dispute.

Just like you can't make an alcoholic quit drinking until s/he is ready to, you can't make two countries come to peace until they are ready to.

Which is exactly what Bush is going to try to do right now. We have two deadlocked leaders and one country whose citizens are blowing themselves up in increasingly alarming numbers to take down citizens of the other country. The sole proposition on the table for ending the conflict, which Bush seems to be eyeing greedily as a potential diplomatic bone, involves Israel withdrawing to the 1967 completely indefensible borders that would be at some points a mere eight miles wide. Not good when your country is right next to a growing collection of pissed-off suicidal nationalists whose actions have suggested that the elimination of your state, not its withdrawal from their territories, is their ultimate bent. In terms of diplomatic flexibility, this is definitely the worst point at which to enter the fray, if we use the last year as a timeline.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that we are finally doing something about this, even if the thinly-veiled motivations for our action do not directly involve the well-being of Israel or Palestine. But I think enough time has transpired between September 11th and now that we should feel a little freer to call spades spades again when it comes to the Bush administration. Their policy towards Israel and Palestine was an unfortunate mistake, and they had the audacity to point the finger at Clinton for the resultant harms. Even though Fleischer later apologized for the comment, it really, really bugs me how much he's been able to get away with saying as a representative of our nation's highest authority. And I think it's reflective of how much wrong this administration is able to get away with doing, with everyone too hesitant or distracted to point it out.

Sorry this is so long. And billman, I appreciate your civil tone of discussion. It makes it all more fun.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 5:14 AM on April 6, 2002


this just in :)

Bush Derides Clinton's Mideast Work "President Bush says the Mideast summit sponsored by former President Clinton resulted in a "significant intefadeh," or uprising, repeating an accusation his press secretary got in trouble for uttering."
posted by kliuless at 7:31 AM on April 6, 2002


Grrr. Arrrgh.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 7:48 AM on April 6, 2002


augh!
posted by kliuless at 8:15 AM on April 6, 2002


I take back my compliment of Bush from several posts up. Bush either didn't mean what he said or he just doesn't have the balls to reign in Sharon who is making it painfully obvious to the world how hollow Bush's words really were. And now he's trying to blame Clinton, like a little kid would do. Pathetic.
posted by homunculus at 10:39 AM on April 6, 2002


No matter what we do in any situation the outcome will always be:
a) Alone. Our European allies would have sided with Palestine and found a billion different reasons to label our position as one-sided and self-serving.

b) Hated by every Arab and Muslim nation on earth. I don't think I even need to explain this one.
I think we're past the point of pleasing everyone anymore.
posted by owillis at 10:51 AM on April 6, 2002


But when that realization hit home way back in '00, the answer was not to immediately go "Oh well, he's crazy. And Sharon's crazy. Let's call the whole thing off." If any moment was prime to call for the deposement of Arafat as the head of the Palestinian Authority, it was that one, when the whole world realized that he was a thundering loony.

Then why is it George W. Bush's fault that Bill Clinton didn't do so, back in 2000? What am I missing here?
posted by aaron at 2:31 PM on April 7, 2002


It really has to be Clinton's fault somehow, doesn't it? That would have been a pretty ridiculous move for Clinton to make, considering his time had run out. He would have been crucified for leaving Bush with the political fallout from such a maneuver. And he would have been strongly criticized for not attempting to deal with the situation when he did. Damned if he did, damned if he didn't, basically.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 5:16 AM on April 8, 2002


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