Thursday, March 8, 2007

Why Diplomacy is Stronger Than War

We're going to return to Jimmy Carter's book tonight, but first I thought I'd have a quick look at how the righties are taking the Scooter verdict. Over at FOX, it was hard to find a thing: plenty of stuff about Rosie bashing FOX; various murders; and a cat surviving a 75 foot fall. Finally, I found that Gibson is calling for a do-over based on the fact that one of the jurors is a reporter.

Now I've been through a jury trial (take me out for a few drinks some night and I'll tell you to whole sorry tale), and I seem to recall both the prosecution and the defense being allowed what are called "peremptory excusals". That's when you kick a juror out just because you have a feeling about him, or have heard something. And even before that, there's a prolonged period of questioning from both attorneys and the judge. If the legal power of the White House couldn't tease out what Gibson calls a "smelly" coincidence in a juror's professional background, then maybe that's simply yet another instance of the Bushies' total incompetence. Thanks, John, for pointing that out for us.

I want to stay with Jimmy Carter's book this week, first because of the unfounded attacks it has received, but also because it's so topical. Today, the King of Jordan appeared before Congress, asking them to focus on Palestine, and reminding them that "a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was more urgent than the conflict in Iraq." (watch video of this speech, here).

What he is recommending to Congress as a solution is basically what Carter proposes in his book: support for a 2002 Saudi plan that calls for universal recognition of Israel as an independent nation by all her Arab neighbors, in exchange for the formation of a viable Palestinian state in the region that would be freed up by a rollback to 1967 borders. Until this is done, said King Abdullah, the situation in Iraq would not improve, and "we are all at risk."

This moderate message seemed to accord with what Carter's impression is of the Jordanians:

...many Jordanians feel that a failure to resolve the Palestinian issue may lead to the destruction of their own nation, and they listen with anger and concern to some extreme Israeli spokesmen who say "Jordan is Palestine." The threat is real and vital to Jordan's leaders...Abdullah II...has seemed to continue his father's [King Hussein] attitude of cautious idealism. Despite limits to his influence, his personal integrity and commitment to Middle East peace are acknowledged.

In his description of his own talks with the likes of Arafat, Assad of Syria, and Begin, Carter reveals the strength of a statesman. This is what we need now, particularly with Iran. It is only a sign of mewlish weakness to threaten an adversary with bunker-buster nukes and aircraft carriers; it takes strength and intelligence to actually talk with some of these hombres. As we have seen time and again, Bush refuses to do it, because he can't; he simply lacks the ability and the experience to do so. Thus, we see more flag-draped boxes being returned to devastated families, with no end in sight.

Yet Bush is not unique in this incapacity for statesmanship. Sharon and Olmert have been (to be charitable about it) inconsistent on this front, and obviously the leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah have been unequal to the challenge of diplomacy. War is easy: you either kill or you die. Statesmanship takes a deeper, less brutish, and more enduring strength.

What everyone in power needs to remember, and what I think Abdullah was implying yesterday, is that these thugs don't represent the people. But killing them only makes more of them: the lesson of Iraq in a nutshell.

You see, people, when you wish death upon a tyrant, you distract urgently needed attention and energy from the work of weakening him. I'm sure most of you have seen the foolish comedian, Bill Maher, have to defend himself before Bill O'Reilly and the court of public opinion. Does this help weaken or stop Dick Cheney? No: it only gives him more power.

So while no one will pretend that what Jimmy Carter did in his presidency was faultless, his approach was and remains the only one that makes sense. You have to talk to the bad guys if you really want to stop them. There is no time when sanity is more essential than when you are surrounded by madmen.

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