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Pragmatism and Brutality in Middle East Analyses

08/25/2007

As we move, for better or worse, toward the upcoming Middle East Summit, there will be a proliferation of opinions about what should be done there and what might be accomplished. It appeared for a time, that there might be the possibility of a peace dialogue between Israel and Syria. This possibility seems to be dimming, but Professor Marc Gopin wrote an op-ed about it for Common Ground News . It is unfortunately very representative of many policy proposals regarding the middle east.

I can't agree with Marc Gopin's views, partly because it is not entirely clear what he advocates.
Gopin writes:

An American shift to pragmatism will not satisfy those who want an even-handed American approach to the Palestinians, however. But we can expect more pragmatism and a deeper understanding of the consequences of the brutal passivity of the Bush years in the face of the situation in Gaza and the West Bank.

Does Gopin want more pragmatism or more idealism? "Pragmatism" could be used to justify any number of policies. It is not clear which ones he is advocating. For example, it is might be pragmatically in the best interests of the US to encourage Israel to retake the Gaza strip and remove the Hamas. It might also be "pragmatically" in the best interests of the United States on the other hand, to dump Mahmoud Abbas, who is apparently a weak client, in favor of the Hamas, and to pressure Israel into negotiating a deal with them. That might be one interpretation of Kissinger's "Shrink Israel" doctrine, which sums up much of US policy in the Middle East: trade Israeli concessions for Arab support. As for Syria, it might be "pragmatically" in the best interests of the United States to let Syria have Lebanon. Is that what Professor Gopin is recommending? It is doubtful that Bashar Assad really wants peace, for reasons I have discussed elsewhere. It is certainly worthwhile finding out. However, what if the price of Israeli peace with Syria, or of a comprehensive peace that includes Syria, is continuation of the Assad family rule in Syria, legitimized and supported by the United States? Is that either "pragmatically" good for the United States or a moral policy option? Can someone guarantee that Bashar Assad will now be reformed and play by the rules? Or will he, like that famous CIA-installed Baathist Saddam Hussein, stop being one of "our SOBs" and pursue a course inimical to US interests?

Gopin does not seem to understand what "pragmatism" means. He thinks, quite naively, that Bashar Assad is interested in concessions to the Palestinians, because that is what the Syrian people want. Since when did Bashar Assad or his father listen to what the Syrian people want? The Syrian people want what Bashar Assad tells them to want. If they want anything else, they had better be quiet about it. It is unhealthy to want something different from what Bashar Assad wants. Bashar Assad wants concessions to the Palestinian regime of Mahmoud Abbas like he wants a hole in the head. The entire history of Syria-Fatah relations has been adversarial, including a spell spent in a Syrian jail by Fateh leaders, and a couple of massacres in Lebanese refugee camps perpetrated by Syria or inspired by Syrian army intelligence.

There is also a strange contradiction between advocating "pragmatism" and expecting that "pragmatism" would take cognizance of "brutal passivity." Pragmatism doesn't care about brutal passivity. Pragmatism thrives on brutal passivity and brutal activity of every kind, because pragmatism dictates going along with whoever is stronger, rather than whoever is right.

It is frankly scary that such naive ideas are served up as "analsyis" by a supposedly credentialed professor, and it is unfortunate that Common Ground News, which usually has better taste, has chosen to circulate this article.

When it comes to that, when will Professor Gopin achieve a deeper understanding of his own brutal passivity to the injustice done to the Syrian people by the Assad regime, and the injustice being done to the Palestinian people by the Hamas?

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000616.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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