Saturday, April 19, 2014

Gray Hat

I've never understood the insistence on the part of the United States government that we are attempting to be "honest brokers" in the "peace process" between the Israelis and Palestinians. It's always seemed pretty obvious to me that we've chosen a side.

America poses as an honest broker, but everywhere it is perceived as Israel’s lawyer. The American-sponsored “peace process” since 1991 has been a charade: all process and no peace while providing Israel with just the cover it needs to pursue its illegal and aggressive colonial project on the West Bank.
Avi Shlaim, Israel Needs to Learn Some Manners
But, as my father used to tell me, "obvious" is something that's so crystal-clear that you're the only person who sees it. (It is nice, through, that Mister Shlaim, and John Cassidy, over at The New Yorker also see it this way. It reduces the feeling that I'm missing something.) So I understand that there's a reasonable explanation for why people in the United States and Israel take the State Department and the White House at face value when they claim to be an unbiased third party.

What I'm not sure I understand is why it seems to be so difficult for us as a nation to understand why pretty much no-one else sees us that way. The United States has used its Security Council veto 42 times on Israel's behalf since 1978, and appears to take the public stance that Israel can do no wrong, and that international action against the Jewish state is always politically-motivated harassment, no matter how open the apparent violation of international law. The United States rarely considers such open support for an ally to be justified when other nations engage in it.

In its own eyes, the United States of America is self-evidently "the Good Guy." And we see this attitude in American dealings around the globe. Which is fine. But we don't seem to be able to get to the point where we understand that everyone else is the hero of their own story, too. And this allows us to think of our self-image as a reflection of an objective reality, rather than simply the result our perception of the world around us. And therefore, I think, the American mindset sees the world as a more hostile place than it would otherwise be.

One recurring attitude that I've encountered in a number of different facets of life is the idea that when you're doing things correctly, you will draw the unearned ire of people who have been, due to their own flawed characters, seduced into Doing It Wrong. And the common side-effect of this mindset is that the hostility that one engenders in those one doesn't like is proof of one's own correctness. This strikes me as dubious enough in personal relationships. I can't imagine that it's a viable way to conduct international diplomacy. Yet it appears to be the basis of American insistence that we're a neutral umpire, rather than a fan.

1 comment:

Lorri J said...

I see your point in regards to our country's relationship with Israel. Yes, it is rare that the U.S. oppose Isreal's actions against Palestine. However, it has happened and recently too. When Isreal tried to block Palestine from being recognized as it's own sovereign nation last year; the U.S. government openly expressed it's disappointment with Isreal. Also, as far as I know Isreal is the largest arms dealer in the world. That could be another reason why it is good diplomacy to have a positive relationship with Israel. That's just politics. The fascinating thing about politics is that there isn't always a right or wrong decision to choose. On the one hand we can argue that Isreal's occupation of Gaza is unethical. But on the other hand we could argue the importance of good ties to Isreal for our country's defense. It just seems so complicated.