Bush asks Sharon to sort out Middle East for him
One of Bush's campaign selling points was that he is a big delegator. In putting together his cabinet and advisors, he picked competent people and let them get the job done. Apparently he's taken the same tack on the Middle East crisis. He's tried to avoid dealing with it, as he tries to avoid any difficult responsibility (c.f. "nation building"), preferring easy jobs such as rattling his sabre at countries which are too screwed up to actually do anything.
So since Ariel Sharon seems like a fine fellow - takes a hard line on terrorists, etc. - Bush has apparently decided to just let the Israeli leader decide what to do. If Sharon insists that the Palestinian people will not be given any hope of independence so long as they insist on keeping the leader they've chosen for themselves, then that's good enough for Bush. If Sharon decides that the best way to deter terrorism is to build more homes on Palestinian lands, then that'll be US policy too. It's good to have someone who knows the region well handling things for us.
That's not to say the Palestinians wouldn't be better off without Arafat, or that he and the PA need to have their asses kicked to do something concrete about the terrorists (like shut down Hamas, arrest Fatah terrorist leaders, etc.) They would definitely be better off doing so. The problem is that the Palestinians aren't being given any incentive to do so.
The stick or the stick
The problem with the US/Israeli peace plan is that there is no carrot for the Palestinians. There's a general feeling that since Palestinian terrorists are doing evil stuff, and
the Palestinian people seem to generally support them, then they don't deserve even the possibility of a carrot.
An independent state, free from Israeli settlers and soldiers, is the carrot. But the Palestinians don't see any sincerity on the behalf of Sharon's Israel in offering that carrot. Sharon has been saying for decades the Palestinians shouldn't have the carrot, because he wants it for the Israelis. Now that he's running the show, he doesn't need to give it to them. He can wave it around, to give the impression to the West that he would do the right thing if the Palestinians behaved themselves, but he just isn't credible - nobody on either side really believes Sharon will let the Palestinians have their land, no matter what they do.
President Bush is destroying the American administration's credibility for peacemaking in the Middle East. By adopting Sharon's position, Bush also saddles himself with Sharon's baggage. People in the Middle East don't see Sharon as sincerely interested in peaceful coexistence with an independent Palestine, because Sharon has long said he doesn't want that. Now Bush will be perceived as simply stringing the Palestinians along to allow Sharon to pursue his agenda of occupying and colonizing all of Palestine ("Greater Israel", as Sharon calls it).
I guess I need to restate the obvious, Palestinian terrorism is evil. Killing children, old folks, or any civilians is despicable. Arafat is a pathetic excuse for a leader, his shuck and jive, telling each side (Palestinian people, Western leaders and media) whatever they want to hear, cowardice to even face his own people, and his failure to stop violence and lead his people constructively, are all core reasons why his people are in such terrible shape today.
But, if you want to encourage peace, you've got to give a believable carrot. President Bush is now parroting radical policy from one side of the conflict while ignoring reasonable claims from the other side. Arafat, bad as he is, was democractically elected by his people, and no doubt will be reelected again. To refuses to accept this is anti-democratic. Meanwhile, Bush is saying nothing about Israeli settlements. This isn't supporting peace, it's supporting conquest.
Joshua Marshall is right on
, as usual.
New US foreign policy
Bush told allies he "won't be putting money into a society" dominated by corrupt leaders.
For an American living in a country dominated by corrupt leaders, which receives massive amount of money directly and indirectly from the US government, this sounds pretty scary
. So the question is, should I believe that Bush is a man of his convictions, or that he's a lying politician?