As the apocryphal Chinese curse would have it, we are indeed living in interesting times as far as the Middle East is concerned. Hillary appeared today on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry as part of an extended panel discussion on developments in Palestine and Iraq. The discussion spanned three separately linked segments (two on Palestine and one on Iraq). The above embedded video is actually the third segment and is discussed below.
Regarding Palestine, see here and here, Hillary places the sad events of recent days against an essential strategic backdrop, which America’s political class goes out of its way to ignore—namely, that if there were ever any serious possibility of a “two-state” solution, this option is dead, and has been dead for a long time. But American elites keep talking about a “Middle East peace process.” They do so because that process is—as it always has been—about things other than actually resolving the conflict. As Hillary explains,
“The ‘peace process’ started after the 1967 [Arab-Israeli] war. The state of Israel was declared in 1948. From 1948 to 1967, there was lots of fighting—but there was no peace process. The reason a peace process was initiated, in particular by then national security advisor Henry Kissinger, was to get buy-in by Arab states for what was going to be an increased amount of military aid and financial aid to Israel—to justify that to Arab states.”
Of course, American elites like to tell themselves and their countrymen that the U.S.-Israeli “special relationship” is somehow rooted in “shared democratic values.” Hillary recounts the uncomfortable historical truth:
“It’s so important to understand this. From 1948 to 1967, when the Holocaust was fresh in our minds and Israel was arguably at its most democratic, we barely gave Israel food aid. It’s not about shared values; it’s about…our relationship, our alliance with Israel. But I would say it’s, strategically, to work with or to use Israel to project American dominance.
Now if you want that out of U.S. policy, Israel is useful. And so during the [George W.] Bush administration, Israel was particularly useful. Where it’s less useful is in an administration that’s pulling back from the Middle East, and that’s where you have the friction between Obama and Netanyahu.”
And so, to keep perpetuating the charade with (willfully?) gullible Arab states, Washington has pursued “various iterations of a peace process” over the last four and a half decades. But, in Hillary’s view, we are coming “to the end of the road, with the two-state solution being the putative goal of that kind of peace process. And I think what we’re seeing now—what we’ve seen, probably, for the last couple of years—is the death of the two-state solution as a possible resolution.”
As Hillary notes, this means “we’re left with a one-state solution.” And that ultimately means a big shift in Palestinian strategy:
“I think what you’re going to see over the next few weeks—you may see more or less violence. But what you’re really going to see, if the Palestinians can step up to what I call their ‘Nelson Mandela moment,’ is to proclaim ‘one state, one person, one vote,’ and to push in September, with the opening of the General Assembly here in New York at the UN, for a state to sign up to the International Criminal Court, bring the Israelis there, and have this adjudicated that way, and not rely any longer on the United States and Israel to come to their aid.”
As Hillary lays out, this shift is linked to important “changes in the international system, where you have the United States as a power in relative decline, and other powers relatively increasing. And so with that, this focus that I think you’ll see as a next step with the Palestinians—to unilaterally declare statehood in the General Assembly…[to] bring their case to the International Criminal Court, to use international institutions and international public opinion will be something that the United States has never had to deal with before.”
Regarding Iraq, click on the video above or see here, Hillary takes issue with the conventional Washington wisdom—espoused with particular fervor among Democrats—that the current crisis is all the fault of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki:
“This is an excuse. This is a bipartisan failure of catastrophic proportions for the United States—first with Republicans in invading Iraq, and now with the Democrats essentially blaming it on Maliki. The idea that Maliki can be more ‘inclusive’ and bring in foreign fighters—one of the key leaders in this is Chechen, for Russia—the idea that that can become a more inclusive government is snake oil and should be seen for what it is.
Maliki won the last election, it’s a parliamentary democracy. He is now going to go about the very messy process—like he did last time—of assembling a coalition in a state that is majority Shi’a. So surprise, surprise, the majority government is going to be Shi’a. The Sunnis have never accepted this, they’ve never accepted to live under a Shi’a-dominated political order, and they have very powerful patrons outside the country—like the Saudis, like the Qataris—that have armed, funded, and trained this to the hilt, and now we have a disaster on our hands.”
Hillary also disputed the accumulating collection of overly facile demands from Washington elites that the United States micromanage some new and, at least from an American perspective, “superior” political reality in Iraq: “We shouldn’t be in there manipulating political outcomes to our favor. People don’t want to live in a militarily dominated, U.S. political order in the Middle East. We need to pull back and rethink this policy.”
Yes, but old habits die hard in official Washington.
–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett