Tuesday, May 20, 2008

May 19, 2008

     Back in 1956, Egypt's then president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, announced he was nationalizing the Suez Canal.  Britain, France and Israel thought that was a very bad idea and sent troops to prevent the Egyptians from seizing the Canal.  The President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower, thought that was a very bad idea and told them, without sending a single soldier, to stop it.  Britain, France, and Israel stopped and withdrew their troops.


     That was then, a time when the U.S. had real clout in the world.  This is now.  President Bush, on his Middle Eastern trip, urged the Arab countries to adopt democracy and women's rights.  "Too often in the Middle East," he said, "politics has consisted of one leader in power and the opposition in jail.  The time has come for nations across the Middle East to abandon these practices and treat their people with the dignity and respect they deserve."   I doubt if anyone paid any attention.


    If the Saudis, for instance, have suddenly started treating women as equals--letting them drive cars, for instance--I missed it.  Countries in the Middle East, as elsewhere, will do what they think it's in their interest to do, without asking advice from Washington.


     Israel lives and is sixty years old.  That's an achievement and the U.S. has helped it to happen.  The Palestinians do not have a country and continue to suffer.  That's a failure, but fixing it will require Israel to give up territory it won in the 1967 war and that's not likely to happen, however much the U.S. urges them to do it.


     Israel has never confirmed nor denied that it has nuclear weapons, but a lot of people, including me, think it does.  And no one can doubt that it's government will use them if the Arabs seem like they are winning a new Middle East war.


     There are just no easy fixes for this.  The U.S. can't tell other countries what to do anymore.  That time is past.      



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