Saturday, January 19, 2008

Rashid Khalidi on the Charlie Rose Show

On 16 January, Columbia's Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies Rashid Khalidi appeared with Martin Indyk on the Charlie Rose Show, in a segment about President Bush's recent trip to the Middle East.

Martin Indyk was the ambassador to Israel under the former Clinton administration, and currently the Director of the Brookings Institute Saban Center for Middle East Policy; should Hillary Clinton win the 2008 election, Indyk will more likely than not return to the White House as an important Middle East policy maker.

The discussion focused primarily on Bush's recent attempts to secure a peace treaty between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Indyk, although repeatedly reminding viewers that he is a harsh critic of President Bush, had nothing but praise for this last minute, end-of-term effort to further the "peace process." Professor Khalidi was more critical. He argued that, going as far back as the first Bush administration, US policy has only "exacerbated the problem," and called for a fundamental shift in US Middle East policy. Unless the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories end "very quickly," Khalidi argued, a two-state solution will be impossible.

Later on, the discussion moved towards Iran. Professor Khalidi, in a few sentences, demonstrated the utter illogicality of the US policy towards Iran:
"Talking to people is not a reward. We talked to the Soviets from the beginning of the Cold War to the end of the Cold War. They had the capacity to destroy this society, they had an ideology that was completely contrary to capitalist democracy, and the United States managed to talk to them, day in, day out. Why can't we talk to the Iranians? I don't understand it."

Indyk's comments, meanwhile, further illustrated the remarkable similarity between the Middle East policy of the Bush administration and the past and (potentially) future Clinton administrations. Like Bush, Indyk hears a dangerous "message" being broadcast from Tehran, a message of "violence, terrorism, defiance of the international community"; Indyk's only complaint is that Bush would be more tactful and strategic in his response to this very real threat.

No comments: