The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Misdemeanors and Felonies

As a follow-up to my last post, I’ve been giving some thought to President Obama’s efforts at Israeli-Palestinian moral equivalence in the Middle East and have come to the conclusion that his approach is common in international diplomacy. “You did this, we did that, we’re equally aggrieved, let’s turn the page and move on.”

The problem with this approach is two fold. First, both parties must want to turn the page and move on. Clearly, the Palestinians (and their keepers in other Arab capitals) have been given dozens of opportunities over multiple decades and have explicitly chosen not to move on. Second, “you did this and we did that” only works if there is factual and historical equality. There is neither in the case of the Israelis and Palestinians, or for that matter, in the broader region.

Victor Davis Hansen comments:
Conflating Western misdemeanors with Middle Eastern felonies is classical conflict-resolution theory, and laudably magnanimous. But privately the world knows that Muslims are treated better in the West than Christians are in Muslim countries. That Muslims migrate to the lands of Westerners, and not vice versa. That disputes over a border between Palestinians and Israelis do not explain the unhappiness of the Arab masses, suffering from state-caused poverty and wretchedness. That American military assistance to Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, and Somalia, direct aid to Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinians, and moral condemnation of Chinese, Russian, and Balkan treatment of Muslims, coupled with a generous U.S. immigration policy, are not really cause for apology or atonement.

In short, few Arab leaders wish to give a “speech to the West.” They would have to take responsibility, directly or indirectly, for either fostering or appeasing radical Islam, while denying their culpability for its decades of mass murdering. They would also have to lament the global economic havoc caused in part by oil cartels and energy price-fixing.

President Obama’s intent is noble, but therapeutic efforts to disguise the truth never really work. We will see how the short-term good created by his therapeutic speechmaking compares to the long-term harm caused by telling the Muslim world, once again, that its problems were largely created by us — and, therefore, that we are largely responsible for providing the remedies.

Neither is true.

Can a foundation of falsehoods be used to build “peace” or “détente” or whatever you want to call it? In the fevered-minds of post-modern thinkers, where truth and history are bent to satisfy ideological needs, the answer is a resounding “yes.” But in the real world, where historical fact intrudes and irreconcilable hatreds exist, the answer may be quite different.


Update (6/6/09):

For those who want to gain additional insight into President Obama’s speech and its intent, I’d recommend commentary by Caroline Glick. Read the whole thing.