Following the Yellow Brick Road
The Middle East has exposed the real George W. Bush. Bush is the Tin Man, Scarecrow, Lion, and Wizard all rolled up into one president: no heart, no brain, no courage but full of false bravado.
Bush has no vision of peace. For fifteen months he smirked as he waited for a military solution to a political problem. Leaders with hearts do not stand by while innocents are killed. Leaders with brains manage by objective, not conflict. Leaders with courage take action, and don't sit back, afraid of failure. Leaders do not talk tough only when hiding behind the curtain of military strength.
In Bush's world view, the strong impose their will on the weak. To the conqueror go the spoils. The Palestinians declined Israel's offers of peace and have resisted their occupier's control by resorting to acts of terror against civilians. Bush's advisers on the right believed a heavy dose of Ariel Sharon, the architect of the Sabra and Shatila massacres, was justified in response. The administration sees the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a prism of Bush's War on Terrorism. Terrorism is bad. Anything that opposes terrorism is good. This is the logic of "Good versus Evil." It is a logic that leads to more senseless death and destruction.
No peace process is linear, but why did the Bush adminsitration allow the gains in peace talks at Taba after the Camp David summit of July 2000 to be washed away by violence? Corporate negotiators love to talk about win-win solutions. Why did corporate policies and procedures not kick in here? Why did Bush not pull the principals back to the negotiating table? How could Cheney be sent to the Middle East at a time of crisis only to ask for Arab support of a war against Iraq? The Bush administration has shown that its concern is with domestic political considerations. It seeks to ensure that Bill Clinton does not get credit for moving the peace process forward. It blames Clinton for any current violence. It repeats the mantra that there will be no negotiation with terrorists. Was even Richard Nixon that cynical and twisted?
Fifteen months into his presidency, Bush has reversed course in the Middle East and accepted the mantle that Bill Clinton left his administration, a proactive role for the United States in mediating peace. Or is the latest Bush move just more political rhetoric? On Thursday, Bush called on Israel to end its military assaults on Palestinian-controlled areas and on the Palestinians to take a stronger stand against terrorism. American indifference over the last fifteen months was tacit acceptance of the killing and mayhem that has taken place during that time. But how does one mediate a dispute when it calls the leader of one side untrustworthy and irrelevant? How does one promote peace while at the same time promoting the absurd notion that America's dominance in the world should be backed up by unilateral control and first use of nuclear weapons?
Our complicity in no way exonerates the principals from blame. In 2000, Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak moved closer to peace than ever before, but let their disagreements outweigh their agreements. Sharon exhibited his disdain for peace by undermining Barak's negotiations. He fanned the flames of conflict by his trip to the Aqsa compound in Jerusalem's Old City. Arafat allowed historic achievements to be capped off with an intefadeh instead of a quiet period of introspection and non-violent civil disobedience. Instead of helping Barak solidify domestic support, Arafat and the Palestinians helped to elect Sharon. Bush is not the only leader who has been too quick to choose conflict.
Colin Powell has been let out of the closet he has been relegated to by the hawks in the Bush administration. Will the Secretary of State be allowed to act in that capacity or will Powell be hog-tied by team-player instructions aimed at protected Bush's domestic political considerations? The corporate boys in the White House may be in for a surprise. Those of us who have negotiated for corporations understand that the negotiator always has more freedom and independence than the boss wants to give you. Let's hope that Powell's military training hasn't muted his independent streak. Alas, I am afraid that is too much wishful thinking. The administration wants war, not peace, and may get their wish.
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