Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Obama on al Qaeda and Palestine

A question and answer session with European students. Obama was asked what the US expects from European countries with respect to the war on terror. In short, his answer is that Europe should support US actions against organizations like al Qaeda, specifically its military and political actions in Afganistan.
This part has gotten some attention:
It is going to be a very difficult challenge. Al Qaeda is still bent on carrying out terrorist activity. It is-- al Qaeda is still bent on carrying out terrorist activity. It is, you know, don't fool yourselves because some people say, well, you know, if we changed our policies with respect to Israeli/Palestinian conflict or if we were more respectful towards the Muslim world, suddenly, these organizations would stop threatening us.

That's just not the case. It is true that we have to change our behavior in showing the Muslim world greater respect and changing our language and changing our tone. It is true that we have to work very hard for Israeli/Palestinian peace.

But what is also true is that these organizations are willing to kill innocent people because of a twisted distorted ideology and we, as democracies and as people who value human life, can't allow those organizations to operate.

To the degree these assertions have any meaning at all, they are false. Bin Laden said that the al Qaeda targeted the US instead of Sweden because the US pursues negative policies in the region, that Sweden does not. These policies - the US intervention in Lebanon; US support and military presense in Saudi Arabia; US support for brutal dictatorships in Egypt and Jordan; the US sanctions, invasion and later occupation of Iraq and US direct support in all its forms for Israel are all reasonably tied to the US' goal of ensuring Israel's viability in the face of widely held regional opposition.

A public US commitment to a one state solution would turn the Middle East to a different, vastly less difficult, and better place by the standards of US interests and values tomorrow.

The same could be said for the US adopting Sweden's policy of relativly inactivity and/or neutrality, but that would not be necessary as the US could instead use far fewer resources than it is expending now to ensure and guarantee protection of individual Jewish rights and property in Israel while still ending its state of conflict with the region.

The idea that al Qaeda's views and activities have nothing at all to do with US policy is clearly and wildly false though. Al Qaeda would still be terrorist, but it wouldn't be targeting the US, which would make a big difference from a US point of view. The US is not spending hundreds of billions of dollars confronting Tamil terrorists, the PKK/Pejak or the MEK (I'm leaving the IDF aside for now, but it is far from unanimous in the region that the IDF is not a terrorist organization) not because those organizations do not have twisted ideologies, but because those organizations do not have direct disputes with US policies.

If Obama gave it a second's worth of thought, he'd abandon that claim.


Steve said...

Of course, it is no where near that simple. Have you ever considered that the PR value of attacking the US is superior to that of attacking Sweden? When you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail and to sit back and to assume you can figure out exactly what motivates Al Queada's actions is a joke. Have you forgotten the Algiers, Danish Embassy and the bombings in Spain (not sure that was Al Queada)?

Arnold Evans said...

The PR value of attacking the US is superior to that of attacking Sweden only for groups that oppose the policies of the US at least as much as they do the policies of Sweden.

If Sweden had been doing the things Bin Laden - himself in his own words - accused the US of doing, and the US was not, then of course attacking the US would have had no PR value, while attacking Sweden would have had superior PR value.

Maybe Bin Laden is lying about his own motivations, but I have no reason to figure anything out. I'll go by what he says in his periodic tapes.

Obama's argument that al Qaeda's opposition to the US is independent of US policy is ridiculous, and far more simple than my criticism of that argument.

My point is that the US identification with the Zionist project is astonishingly expensive. Far more expensive than I've ever seen calculated by US decision-makers.

As an illustration, I'll assert that if in 2002, the US publicly advocated a South Africa-style one state solution to the Palestine conflict - with guarantees for the liberties, lives and properties of Jewish individuals - that would have immediately radically reoriented the region in ways favorable to the US.

The US goals that the US was trying to accomplish through the Iraq sanctions and later the invasion - maintaining a balance of power in the region in which none of the powers threatened Israel and maintaining US access to regional resources - would have either been unnecessary or easier to accomplish.

An invasion and occupation of Iraq would likely have been unnecessary, but even if the US did overturn Hussein's government by force, replacing it with a relatively pro-US democratic government would have been far easier and less expensive to achieve if the US wasn't accurately seen as the enabler of what most people in the region perceive as the single biggest foreign policy injustice in the region.

The costs (estimated at nearly $1 trillion) of the Iraq invasion and occupation, in addition to the costs of fighting al Qaeda, are largely, maybe not entirely but largely, the opportunity cost of the US failure to publicly support a one state solution to the Israel conflict earlier.