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Too Many Enemies and Not Enough Friends

Put simply, the United States has too many enemies, and not enough friends in the Middle East. And many of those countries that are our friends, aren't friendly enough. We find ourselves simultaneously confronting Al Qaeda, ex-Baathists, various Sunni insurgent groups and some Shiite militias on the battleground otherwise known as Iraq. We continue to fight the Taleban in Afghanistan. Through our regional proxy Israel, we waged a war against Lebanon's Hezbollah last year. On the political front, we are battling Iran and Syria. Even our friends in the region like Saudi Arabia and Jordan have begun distancing themselves from us in light of our faltering and failing efforts in Iraq.

This multi-front conflict has strained our resources and capabilities to the breaking point. Strategists inside the administration no doubt realize this and have begun formulating ideas of how to improve the environment for ourselves and our friends through diplomacy. Yes, diplomacy, a concept that has been equated with surrender by our friends on the right is rapidly becoming one of the most important weapons in our arsenal.

Basically, in this world, there are two ways to get what you want: 1) by fighting and 2) by talking. The first approach is favored by neoconservatives and those on the right of our political spectrum who are enthralled with the idea of using our mighty arsenal and superior armed forces to impose our will on foreign countries. Our dismaying experience in Iraq, however, has demonstrated the limits to this power. Toppling a regime is one thing; imposing our will on a reluctant populace is quite another. We've learned that you can lead people to the well of democracy, but you can't make them drink. Consequently, diplomacy, heretofore considered the province of sissies and cowards, has suddenly come back into vogue in the upper echelons of power in Washington DC.

The unthinkable is now not just thinkable, but it can be acted upon as well. As an example, we have the recent agreement with North Korea to readmit nuclear inspectors and to shut down and seal their nuclear facility that produces plutonium. Just last year, the sort of careful diplomacy that led to this agreement would have been impossible. There were those, including our UN ambassador John Bolton, who said we could not possibly negotiate with Hezbollah during the Israeli-Hezbollah war of 2006 because they were terrorists. A few weeks later, we sat down and, through the UN, indirectly negotiated with those very same terrorists to put a cease fire in place.

Now we have another example of the unthinkable: Condoleeza Rice has met with Syria's foreign minister at the regional meeting on Iraq in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. This is the first such high-level contact between the two countries in years. While the countries do have diplomatic relations, the US withdrew its ambassador in Damascus in 2005 after the killing of Rafik Hariri in Lebanon.

We can only dream about where this could lead but it is not too difficult to imagine that, with the proper incentives, Syria could be split from Iran's orbit and brought into the family of moderate, pro-Western regimes in the Middle East. A peace agreement with Israel, ending arms trans-shipments to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and halting the flow of jihadists into Iraq are just some of the tantalizing possibilities. This could give us one less enemy to worry about, in a world where we have far, far too many.


Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!

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Comments (1)

Paul Hamilton:

Your tag says it all: "realists."


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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