Thursday, November 29, 2007

Middle East Linkage

"Linkage" was a favorite concept of Henry Kissinger's during his "shuttle diplomacy" days in the 1970s. It conveyed both the idea that Middle Eastern regional affairs were (are) in fact intricately interconnected, and the idea that if somebody wanted something from the US they needed to make progress on their relations with Israel. True to form, the US has in the years since failed utterly to live by this diplomatic maxim. As long as the Palestinian problem remains an open wound for the Arab world, prospects for progress on other regional problems will remain gloomy. But linkage works both ways. Equally obtuse are the Iranians, who routinely pledge that they are committed to the destruction of Israel and then express outrage that the West opposes their nuclear program, almost as if they were daring anyone to draw the all-too-obvious connection. In fact the parallels between the US and Iran at this point are striking. Both countries claim (with some justification) that their hard-line regimes are products of the other's past meddling. Both countries' hard-line regimes use the other to demagogue their people and stay in power. But it is also true of both the US and Iran that they are big, heterogenous, multifaceted nations, with many more political possibilities than the troglodyte leaderships that they currently have, and that people around the world are quick to say that they despise the governments, not the people, of these nations. Here's to coevolution.

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