Just came back home after attending the lecture given by former congressman Lee Hamilton at the National Press Club as part of the annual Lynch Lecture Series sponsored by George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, perhaps the world leading institution in the field of conflict resolution.
The former congressman distinguished himself in US Congress as chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and chaired the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East.
George Bush appointed Lee Hamilton as co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, the bi-partisan assessment of the big mess in Iraq. Lee Hamilton is the president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
The first part of the lecture was dedicated to diplomacy and the role diplomacy plays in defusing hot situation and the need for competent, well qualified and supported diplomat. Lee Hamilton mentioned the fact that very few US diplomats are well versed and qualified in the Arabic language. However he should be reminded that it was Henry Kissinger as secretary of state who purged “Arabist” from the US State Department with the pretext that State Department “Arabists” tend to be sympathetic to the Arab cause.
More interesting in the presentation was the mentioning of the radicalization of Islam as a top priority for the US and the world and the need to reach out to Muslims around the world, and the need for incremental approach to the issues and conflicts in the Middle East and in Muslim nations. I have no idea how we can solve the Arab-Israeli conflict with incremental approach. By the time we are done, there is nothing left to solve.
Moreover it seems that the former congressman is inclined to support George Bush abandonment of promoting democracy in the Arab and Muslim world since the people are not ready for democracy and as he puts it “Jeffersonian democracy”.
While recognizing there has been dangerous transformation and radicalization of Islam over the last 30 years, Mr. Hamilton missed the mark by wide margin in his analyses of the causes and origin of this radicalization which was in great part promoted by the US policy and mission to turn the Madrasas in Pakistan to a factory of “Jihadist” in the Mujahideen war against the Soviet Union. Most if not all radical Muslims who are now enemies of the US were students of the CIA in religious and training camps in Afghanistan way before September 11th.
One thing that I and the honorable congressman forgot to mention is that Islam is not the only religion that is going through radicalization. Christianity has been going through such radicalization for the last 50 years with former president Reagan election as president and it culminated not only in creating a solid base for the Republican Party but resulting in boot and arms training camps for young Christians in what is called Jesus Camps.
Not to be outdone, the State of Israel and quietly and for some times have also initiated a similar programs of radicalization of Jews by establishing training and armed camps for young Jews from around the world who enroll in 6 weeks of army training camps sponsored by the Israeli Army. I am sure that both the Christian and Jewish camps like those of Islamic training camps do not train and instill in their recruits” love thy neighbor” or for that matter obeying the Ten Commandments.
While admitting the failure of US diplomacy and its abandonment of bringing about democracy to a radical and alienated Arab and Muslim world, Mr. Hamilton suggested that the US shifts its policies from promoting democracy to promoting open societies such a free will to marry, empowering women in society, sponsoring and funding public schools rather than the Madras in Muslim countries. This statement was not only condensing remarks but belittle the people needs for an open, transparent and accountable governments, It is so ironic that here in the US we are abandoning public education for a more sectarian and religious private education.
With all due respect to Mr. Hamilton, the Arab and Muslim world need a transformation to an open society where citizens have guaranteed rights to freedom of speech and assembly, rights to education and job opportunities and of course to accountable and transparent governments. George Bush easily abandoned his goal of democracy for the Arab and Muslim world because he and his team are so incompetent to manage any thing right. The most powerful country in the world with the most powerful army made such a mess in Iraq not because we have a bad or incompetent military but because we have poor, incompetent and irresponsible and reckless political leadership in the White House and on Capital Hill.
George Bush and his administration did not succeed in prompting democracy in the Middle East not because the Arabs and Muslims are not yet ready for prime time American style democracy, but because the US never had this goal in the first place. I am not aware of single country where the US promoted and worked hard to develop democracy. We promoted freedoms in East Europe as a way to fight the Soviets but not really promote democracy. However our only success was immediately after the war when we did transform Germany and Japan to thriving democracy and economic power house. Indonesia, Vietnam, Panama, Argentina, Chile, Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Iran are but few examples of our failures.
It is so easy to send in cruise missiles and fighter jets to transform a country rather than send in diplomats and educators and business people. When Saddam was our boy in Baghdad the US gave him all of the military, political and financial support in his war on Iran while overlooking his killing fields and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who died while we supported the butcher of Baghdad.
It is true and as stated by Lee Hamilton, the US does not now and for sometimes had the great statesmen and diplomats we had in the days after WWII, leaders and statesmen like Dean Acheson, George Marshal or great diplomats like George F. Kennan. Too bad we have the likes of John Bolton representing us at the UN and someone like Elliot Abrams rather than have someone like Adlai Stevenson or Henry Cabot Lodge. America like “radical” Islam is lead by ideologue like Bauer, Podhoretz, Limbaugh, Wills, Krauthammer,Robertson, Kristol, Perl, Wolfowitz, Feith and of course Dick Cheney who sees the world in black and white, and us and them rather than well reasoned and pragmatists. These ideologue are not different from the Bin Ladens of the Muslim world. When all said and done, the US should take ownership of radical Islam and the rise of terrorism in the Arab and Muslim world…. More to come on Mr. Hamilton lecture.