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David Brooks Gets All Straussian About Annapolis

My friend David Brooks attended the University of Chicago with me, so it is meet and proper that he offers today a deeply Straussian interpretation of the upcoming Israeli-Palestinian peace conference in Annapolis.

That conference only appears to be about Israel and the Palestinians, David writes. In fact, he reveals, it has a secret esoteric meaning and purpose: The creation of an anti-Iran alliance in the Middle East.

This is the most interesting interpretation possible of Annapolis, and the most hopeful. For as David notes, Seceretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s decision to dedicate the last two years of her stewardship of American foreign policy to the Mideast peace process — at a time when the Palestinians who will be at the table have no control over half the territory they supposedly govern and the Israeli government is unquestionably the weakest in the nation’s history — has to be one of the more puzzling choices in recent memory.

He therefore adduces that she cannot actually have made that choice, and has instead made a more interesting one:

There is a feeling among Arab and Israeli leaders that an Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas alliance is on the march. The nations that resist that alliance are in retreat. The peace process is an occasion to gather the “moderate” states and to construct what Martin Indyk of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center calls an anti-Iran counter-alliance….Iran has done what decades of peace proposals have not done — brought Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Palestinians and the U.S. together.

But brought them together for what?

If the threat from Iran is considered dire by every one of these nations, then it is a matter of raw national self-interest for them to act in ways to retard Iran’s forward march irrespective of the status of negotations between Israel and the Palestinians.

What, specifically, does the status of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship have to do with that urgent and pressing need? The honest answer is: Very little. Unless, that is, you accept the contention that the “moderate” states need and deserve some face-saving bribery in the form of Israeli concessions to get them to act reasonably in concert against Iran.

But if they are so worried about Iran, why would they need face-saving bribery, especially considering David’s concession that “there is remarkably little substance to [the peace process] so far. Even people inside the Israeli and Palestinian governments are not sure what’s actually going to be negotiated and what can realistically be achieved.”

It might, therefore, be fair to say that the Annapolis peace conference is an even worse idea than it first appeared to be. David credits Secretary Rice with at least “trying something.” But surely, if there is an urgent need for an anti-Iran alliance that can be stymied by a poor result in Annapolis on a matter that is actually tangential to the central concern of the countries involved, then it’s Logic 101 that “trying something” presents a risk that is not worth the dream of a reward.

There’s nothing remotely esoteric about that.



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