Not To Be Discussed At RNC: How To Tackle Islamic Extremism
Michael Hirsh has a good article over at Newsweek about the many foreign policy dilemmas Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin needs to get smart about, and soon. Among the many conundrums he cites is the derailed Israeli-Palestinian peace process that Hirsh rightly says can only be "brokered by Washington and negotiated by 'two' sides that are increasingly fractured, particularly with the Palestinians split hopelessly between Fatah and Hamas."
That's a point worth unpacking, though not because Palin's own pastor has it on sound religious authority that Palestinian attacks are really just a part of God's judgment against Jews. Rather, it's worth asking Republicans to get explicit about the Palestinian question because they have been mocking Democrats for failing to talk about Islamic extremism during their own convention.
"For four days in Denver and for the past 18 months Democrats have been afraid to use the words "Islamic Terrorism,'" Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday night.
"John McCain hit the nail on the head: radical violent Islam is evil, and he will defeat it!" added Mitt Romney -- the same man who suggested that Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood all shared similar designs on a caliphate, and are thus worth fighting one by one in an endless series of open wars after we get Bin Laden. (This, despite the Sunni-Shiite split between the groups, as well as the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood would be the first party to benefit in Egypt if our allies in President Mubarak's government were to allow one of these free elections we're always pressing for in the Middle East -- the kind that also brought Hezbollah and Hamas into their respective political upswings during the era of Bush 43.)
To underscore the shameful simplicity with which Republicans have been exploiting the "Islamic extremism" issue, take a look at the following (translated) report from Thursday's Hezbollah-sympathizing Al-Akhbar newspaper in Lebanon. It's a little deep into the weeds of Middle Eastern politics, but the bottom line is that two different Palestinian parties deemed terrorist organizations by the United States are having a mutual time-out on the soil of one of Washington's few allies in the region:
Islamic Jihad was the first delegation to arrive to Cairo as an attempt to strengthen the movement in light of the tension between it and Hamas on the one hand, and between Egypt and Hamas on the other hand. The sources explained that Cairo deals with the Islamic Jihad as if it enjoys an influential weight in Gaza, noting that the Egyptian vision focuses on the need to find balance of powers to control the Palestinian arena.
The sources explained that Hamas's monopoly of Gaza negatively influences Egypt, and pushed Cairo to seek rapprochement with Islamic Jihad. The sources added that the head of Egyptian Intelligence, General Omar Suleiman, praised the ability of the Islamic Jihad to resolve field conflicts between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza, and called the movement for a greater role in reconciliation between both movements.
As it turns out, Hirsh may have undersold the complexity of the breakdown on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Not even all the Palestinian groups we call terrorists can cooperate with each other, much less with Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party (which, incidentally, won't even be attending Egypt's mediation sessions). Much less with Israel. How the Republicans plan to "defeat" this state of affairs -- without direct diplomatic engagement or troops for more high-cost occupations -- remains unclear.
Whatever John McCain says about Islamic extremism tonight, you can be sure he won't come within one thousand miles of addressing anything as specific as the problems mentioned above. That's too bad, because Americans deserve more straight talk on the world's most dangerous conflicts. Articulating something beyond a desire to "defeat evil" would truly be a surprising, maverick-y move after last night's aggressively ignorant demagoguery from Giuliani and Romney -- but not even a high-risk gambler like McCain would take those longshot odds.