Friday, March 24, 2006

Albright Sees the Light

There is a sane and important editorial in the LA Times written by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright that basically expands upon issues I wrote about in my last post. Under the title "Good versus evil isn't a strategy", Albright disputes what she calls the Manichean world view of the Bush administration and sheds some light on the real battles we face in the Middle East.
It is sometimes convenient, for purposes of rhetorical effect, for national leaders to talk of a globe neatly divided into good and bad. It is quite another, however, to base the policies of the world's most powerful nation upon that fiction.... The first [suggestion] is to understand that although we all want to "end tyranny in this world," that is a fantasy unless we begin to solve hard problems. Iraq is increasingly a gang war that can be solved in one of two ways: by one side imposing its will or by all the legitimate players having a piece of the power.
What this means is, we have to scrap the "axis of evil" bullocks and engage with Iran, because there will be no peace in Iraq without support from Iran. I only hope Albright is correct when she opines that Iran's "choleric and anti-Semitic new president...will be swallowed up by internal rivals if he is not unwittingly propped up by external foes." There's already some evidence to support her claim.

Albright goes on to say that she "hopes" the future of the Middle East is determined by those serious about fomenting democracy.
But hope is not a policy. In the short term, we must recognize that the region will be shaped primarily by fairly ruthless power politics in which the clash between good and evil will be swamped by differences between Sunni and Shiite, Arab and Persian, Arab and Kurd, Kurd and Turk, Hashemite and Saudi, secular and religious and, of course, Arab and Jew.
I hope all the xenophobes and Bush acolytes read enough of Albright's editorial to get to this part, because this is the crux. There's not a Western culture and a Muslim culture that are locked in battle. There is a patchwork of Middle Eastern cultures, ethnicities and ideologies, all locked in a bitter battle amongst themselves. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we might actually start helping to solve this problem. Planning an airstrike against Tehran isn't going to help. Even Christopher "This is a Battle for Civilization" Hitchens admitted that much.

Now it just remains to be seen if Albright can get an oil tanker named after her. I guess pursuing peace in the Middle East probably isn't the way to go about that.
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