Monday, December 10, 2007

Don't Get It

William Arkin has put his finger on a very important flaw in U.S. foreign policy in the middle east.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates attended a middle eastern conference and gave a speech that was largely derisive of Iran. At the end of the speech was a Q&A in which Gates got a very pointed question.

Rather, the notable moment came during the subsequent question-and-answer session, when Bahraini Labor Minister Majeed al-Alawi asked him whether he thought "the Zionist [Israeli] nuclear weapon is a threat to the region" the way a potential Iranian nuclear weapon would be.

"No, I do not," Gates said. "I think Israel is not training terrorists to subvert its neighbors. It has not shipped weapons into a place like Iraq to kill thousands of innocent civilians covertly. So I think that there are significant differences in terms of both the history and the behavior of the Iranian and Israeli governments."

His answer was greeted by laughter and derision.
Laughter indeed because his answer is a joke. Like a parent who lies to their children, statements like Gates simply highlight American bias or naivete, weakening any possible authority we may have in the region. Until the U.S., and more generally the so-called "western countries", begin to view Israel in a more even-handed way, the problems of the middle east will persist and our ability to change anything there will dissapate.

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