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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

'Peace processes' winners and losers

Last week, I blogged an article that can best be described as a confessional by long-time peace-processor Aaron David Miller in which he described why he has abandoned the 'religion of peace process.' Bret Stephens argues that Miller missed a 'deeper point' and I would add that Stephens' 'deeper point' goes a long way in explaining the attractiveness of 'peace processes' to policy makers. For those who don't have access to full articles on the Wall Street Journal's website, you can find the full article here.
In the current issue of Foreign Policy, former ├╝ber-peace processor Aaron David Miller offers a refreshingly honest assessment of what he calls "the false religion of Mideast Peace." "Like all religions," he writes, "the peace process has developed a dogmatic creed, with immutable first principles." He then goes on to enumerate all the reasons why the administration's current push to midwife a credible and lasting Arab-Israeli peace deal is doomed to fail.

Mr. Miller's case is mostly unobjectionable; indeed, he could have written the same piece about the administration's failed diplomatic overtures toward Syria and Iran.

But he misses a deeper point. Even as peace processes almost invariably fail between the warring parties, they also almost invariably succeed as political theater for the peace processors themselves. Kim Dae Jung, Arafat and Shimon Peres all burnished their prestige with Nobel Peace Prizes. President Obama won one pre-emptively. And Mr. Clinton still basks in an ill-founded reputation as a peacemaker. Ironically, the only real peace he ever achieved, in the Balkans, was through the strength of American arms.

So the ship will be hoisted again. The peace processors will bask in the glow of their good intentions. And wicked men, convenient partners in this game of self-congratulation, illusion and deceit, will plot their own advantage.
The attractiveness of 'peace processes' is the prospect that one receives credit for 'doing something' even if the 'peace' is not lasting and even if the results mostly benefit thugs and tyrants. They feed upon a human desire that all conflicts be capable of peaceful resolution even though this is manifestly not the case. And they keep hundreds of bureaucrats and academics employed and occupied.

What could go wrong?


At 9:07 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

And as Moshe Yaalon observed last week, although discredited, the Oslo paradigm retains a strong hold on Israel's politicians, military brass, media and academic elites. Changing it is going to be extremely difficult in practice because its a cult religion like those South Pacific "cargo cults." No amount of experience with it is enough to dissuade people to let go of it without reprogramming them. That's why it lives on by sheer inertia.


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