New York Times
October 26, 2004
It is striking that in spite of all the electoral fireworks over policy in Iraq, both presidential candidates offer basically similar solutions. Their programs stress intensified Iraqi self-help and more outside help in the quest for domestic stability. Unfortunately, these prescriptions by themselves are not likely to work.
Both candidates have become prisoners of a worldview that fundamentally misdiagnoses the central challenge of our time.
After all, look what's happening in Iraq. For a growing number of Iraqis, their "liberation" from Saddam Hussein is turning into a despised foreign occupation. Nationalism is blending with religious fanaticism into a potent brew of hatred. The rates of desertion from the American-trained new Iraqi security forces are dangerously high, while the likely escalation of United States military operations against insurgent towns will generate a new rash of civilian casualties and new recruits for the rebels.
The situation is not going to get any easier. If President Bush is re-elected, our allies will not be providing more money or troops for the American occupation. Mr. Bush has lost credibility among other nations, which distrust his overall approach. Moreover, the British have been drawing down their troop strength in Iraq, the Poles will do the same, and the Pakistanis recently made it quite plain that they will not support a policy in the Middle East that they view as self-defeating.
In fact, in the Islamic world at large as well as in Europe, Mr. Bush's policy is becoming conflated in the public mind with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's policy in Gaza and the West Bank. Fueled by anti-American resentments, that policy is widely caricatured as a crude reliance on power, semicolonial in its attitude, and driven by prejudice toward the Islamic world. The likely effect is that staying on course under Mr. Bush will remain a largely solitary American adventure.
This global solitude might make a re-elected Bush administration more vulnerable to the temptation to embrace a new anti-Islamic alliance, one reminiscent of the Holy Alliance that emerged after 1815 to prevent revolutionary upheavals in Europe. The notion of a new Holy Alliance is already being promoted by those with a special interest in entangling the United States in a prolonged conflict with Islam. Vladimir Putin's endorsement of Mr. Bush immediately comes to mind; it also attracts some anti-Islamic Indian leaders hoping to prevent Pakistan from dominating Afghanistan; the Likud in Israel is also understandably tempted; even China might play along.
For the United States, however, a new Holy Alliance would mean growing isolation in an increasingly polarized world. That prospect may not faze the extremists in the Bush administration who are committed to an existential struggle against Islam and who would like America to attack Iran, but who otherwise lack any wider strategic conception of what America's role in the world ought to be. It is, however, of concern to moderate Republicans.
Unfortunately, the predicament faced by America in Iraq is also more complex than the solutions offered so far by the Democratic side in the presidential contest.
To get the Europeans to act, any new administration will have to confront them with strategic options. The Europeans need to be convinced that the United States recognizes that the best way to influence the eventual outcome of the civil war within Islam is to shape an expanding Grand Alliance (as opposed to a polarizing Holy Alliance) that embraces the Middle East by taking on the region's three most inflammatory and explosive issues: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the mess in Iraq, and the challenge of a restless and potentially dangerous Iran.
While each issue is distinct and immensely complex, each affects the others. The three must be tackled simultaneously, and they can be tackled effectively only if America and Europe cooperate and engage the more moderate Muslim states.
A grand American-European strategy would have three major prongs. The first would be a joint statement by the United States and the European Union outlining the basic principles of a formula for an Israeli-Palestinian peace, with the details left to negotiations between the parties. Its key elements should include no right of return; no automatic acceptance of the 1967 lines but equivalent territorial compensation for any changes; suburban settlements on the edges of the 1967 lines incorporated into Israel, but those more than a few miles inside the West Bank vacated to make room for the resettlement of some of the Palestinian refugees; a united Jerusalem serving as the capitals of the two states; and a demilitarized Palestinian state with some international peacekeeping presence.
Such a joint statement, by providing the Israeli and Palestinian publics a more concrete vision of the future, would help to generate support for peace, even if the respective leaders and some of the citizens initially objected.
Secondly, the European Union would agree to make a substantial financial contribution to the recovery of Iraq, and to deploy a significant military force (including French and German contingents, as has been the case in Afghanistan) to reduce the American military presence. A serious parallel effort on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process might induce some Muslim states to come in, as was explicitly suggested recently by President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan. The effect would be to transform the occupation of Iraq into a transitional international presence while greatly increasing the legitimacy of the current puppet Iraqi regime. But without progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, any postoccupation regime in Iraq will be both anti-United States and anti-Israel.
In addition, the United States and the European Union would approach Iran for exploratory discussions on regional security issues like Iraq, Afghanistan and nuclear proliferation. The longer-term objective would be a mutually acceptable formula that forecloses the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran but furthers its moderation through an economically beneficial normalization of relations with the West.
A comprehensive initiative along these lines would force the European leaders to take a stand: not to join would run the risk of reinforcing and legitimating American unilateralism while pushing the Middle East into a deeper crisis. America might unilaterally attack Iran or unilaterally withdraw from Iraq. In either case, a sharing of burdens as well as of decisions should provide a better solution for all concerned.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser in the Carter administration, is the author of "The Choice: Global Domination or Global Leadership.''