Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Donald of Arabia

Given that the Abraham Accords have been largely ignored by the mainstream media and largely dismissed by whiny Democrats, you can conclude, if only on those grounds, that they were extremely important and extremely successful.

You may also conclude that they were a Trump administration success, led, as it happened by a rank amateur, one Jared Kushner. The foreign policy intelligentsia has been assuring us that it could not be done. When Trump and Kushner did what could not be done, these mavens have happily pretended that it did not happen.

If they had been able to find something wrong, a fly in the ointment, they would be screeching it off of every rooftop. For now they are keeping their powder dry and are praying, to whatever god they fancy, for it all to blow up. What matters to them is feeling that they were right. They will never forgive Trump for making them look like fools.

Michael Doran offers a solid assessment of the Trump administration’s success. Happily, for me at least, he remarks a point that I have made on this blog-- namely that none of it would have happened without the tacit approval of Saudi Arabia. It is a point worth noting.

Doran opens:

The Abraham Accords are the most significant development in the Arab-Israeli conflict in the last 25 years. Not only have the Palestinians lost their veto over normalization between Israel and other Arab states, but the entire “Resistance Alliance,” led by Iran, has revealed itself as incapable of placing obstacles in the way of Israel’s integration into the Arab state system. True, the UAE and Bahrain are small powers, but behind them looms Saudi Arabia, which is by far the most influential Arab state. Without Riyadh’s tacit support, the celebration on the White House lawn would never have materialized. If Trump wins the election in November, there is a good chance that Riyadh will normalize relations with Israel—to say nothing of Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Morocco, and Sudan, who are also waiting in the wings.

Recent reports suggest that the Crown Prince and the King of Saudi Arabia are not in full agreement about recognizing Israel. Other reports suggest that the King is gravely ill. One suspects that the issue is not going to be decided in a debating club.

Most importantly, Doran adds, the Trump success repudiates everything that the Washington foreign policy establishment believed about the Middle East. For that they will surely never forgive Donald Trump.

It is equally notable that Trump’s masterstroke came by breaking the hold of the Washington foreign policy establishment on the Middle East peacemaking business. In denigrating his accomplishment, the leading lights of American foreign policy have also conveniently erased from memory their unblemished record of outrageously bad predictions.

To be accurate, conceptually, they are not saving face as much as they are masking their shame, the shame that attends failure.

Who failed the most bigly? None other than former Secretary of State John Kerry. If ever there was a more narcissistic blowhard, I do not know who that might be. With a level of confidence befitting a fanatic, Kerry declared the Trump policy of moving the United States Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem to be calamitously bad. It would cause an explosion. In a better world the explosion would have been limited to Kerry’s head.

What will happen, former Secretary of State John Kerry was asked in a television interview in 2016, if President Trump would make good on his campaign promise to move the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem? “You’d have an explosion,” Kerry answered, “an absolute explosion in the region, not just in the West Bank, and perhaps even in Israel itself, but throughout the region.”

In both tone and content, Kerry’s hysterical prediction was representative of views of a sizable chunk of the foreign policy establishment, which has responded to every major step that Trump has taken in the Middle East with the claim that he was simultaneously destroying America’s regional alliances and driving the United States toward war. The idea that he might actually have been engaged in the revitalization of the Arab-Israeli peace process was so absurd in their eyes that it never warranted serious consideration—both because they despised Trump, and because they were beholden to a set of wrongheaded in-group premises that they believed and insisted for decades were written in stone.

Total self-confidence bespeaks an appalling arrogance:

Like the president he served, John Kerry, who was still the secretary of state, knew better. “Let me tell you a few things that I’ve learned for sure in the last few years,” Kerry said at a public event. “There will be no separate peace between Israel and the Arab world. I want to make that very clear to all of you.” Kerry, it’s worth remembering, had made an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement his top priority during the first two years of his tenure. After many intensive rounds of diplomacy, he failed entirely; yet he remained convinced that the strategic priority of the United States was to continue failing, in the service of what he saw as immutable diplomatic principles.

The Abraham Accords were a complete repudiation of the Obama foreign policy, not to mention the Obama vision for the Middle East. 

Doran continues:

Like Trump, Obama openly criticized allies as “free riders” who expected the United States to provide security but don’t pull their own weight—but he also went a step further, by abandoning the traditional conception of the United States as the leader of a regional security coalition whose purpose is to contain Russia and Iran. Instead, America’s allies must learn, as Obama publicly counseled Saudi Arabia, to “share the neighborhood” with Iran. Similarly, the Israelis must reconcile with the Palestinians; the Turks must get over their problems with the Kurds; and the Saudis and other Gulf Arabs must open up their political systems.

Doran calls this a meliorist policy. In truth, it is hopelessly naive, the product of someone who has a very limited experience in the real world. How did it work out in Syria, the place where Obama laid down a red line, only to walk away from it, hat in hand.

The greatest symbol of Obama’s new Middle East for them was Syria, where 500,000 died and over 10 million were driven from their homes and a new alliance between Russia and Iran ruled over the rubble. To them, it was obvious that the American emperor was naked; he was heading for the exits in the region, and shipping pallets of cash to Iran on his way out.


David Foster said...

Military analogy: the pre-Trump policy has been to launch repeated frontal attacks on a strongly fortified position, in the tradition of the worst WWI generals.

The Palestinians, that should have been obvious that their leadership *benefitted* from conflict and violence, and was not interested in serious political settlements.

Whereas, the Trump approach was more of a flank attack.

Sam L. said...

OHHHHHHHHHHHHH, that TRUMP!!!!!! YOWZA. He done good, he does good, and the Devil takes the Democrats and nay-sayers to the woodshed for lessons they refuse to learn.