Shultz Misreads the Future – Don’t We All?

Wandering through A&L’s journals, I ran across the August/September Policy Review. The world moves on; articles tell us about thinking at a moment, now altered: George P. Shultz’s “Sustaining Our Resolve” is at once timely & dated, events changing on the ground as the words move across the net. Nonetheless, some old truths (e.g., that the olive branch & the arrows our great eagle bears are both important) are demonstrated, even if Lebanon no longer travels the road he describes but rather has been hijacked by Hezbollah.

He begins with a bland & open optimism: “We live at a time of unprecedented promise. Freer and more open economic and political systems of governance are gaining ground, and the evidence is clear that these developments lead to more prosperous and more hopeful lives. ”

But the sad speeches of Lebanese leaders, now under threat from the Hezbelloh and beneath the rockets from Israel, reinforce his “first” point:

In my own thinking about this [WOT] war, I find it useful to keep three ideas in mind. The first is symbolized in the Great Seal of our republic: The eagle holds in one talon an olive branch and in the other arrows, showing that the United States understands that if you are to be successful in seeking peace, you must have strength. Strength and diplomacy are complements rather than alternatives

Our hearts may sympathize with the Lebanese, with their leaders, with the Cedar Revolution – but without the power and will to disarm the Hezbollah they are as doomed as was any peace with Israel. And we are more likely to sympathize with the Israelis beset by dangers Lebanon has proved unwilling to face, perhaps unable to resist, fearful of declaring its weakness or asking for help, unwilling to take stands. Some Lebanese have complained that Israel didn’t reach out to them – but why, as they saw Hezbollah take over sections of their country, did they not reach out to Israel. Fear is a good reason, but such fear leaves them with fewer friends there. Those who argue that Israel’s strength & Lebanon’s weakness define differing responsibilities have taken the therapeutic culture to an international level (where it belongs even less than on the talk show circuit). Purpose & motive are far more important; given the stated motives of the Hezbollah, assembling the appropriate arms to pull off the purpose is only a matter of time. Israel should be admired for its restraint rather than criticized for its strength; most of us believe in the quite appropriate force of making damn sure that burglar doesn’t come into our house again.

Shultz’s summary of the reality we had begun to glimpse in the nineties requires the kind of Kuhn paradigm change that we seldom see in the press or even in most politicians. Anyway, here’s his summary:

Looking back at all those terrorist attacks of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, we could see that our enemy targeted every aspect of the international system: tourism, commerce, air travel, world finance, the United Nations, embassies, the commitment to the principle of diplomatic immunity, and the sovereign and territorial integrity of states. This was Islamism — a radical, aberrational deviation from Islam — with an ideology that set itself violently against every element of the international state system, the centuries-old basis for a cooperative world order.

He isn’t breaking any news here, but our resistance to change is strong. It will take many, many press conferences before reporters start asking questions of politicians that are derived from this reality and not the mindset of our lifetimes. Let’s hope our leaders are flexible, are taking that imaginative leap to understand the new paradigm.

Most of us – including the msm – have trouble getting our minds around that change. The terrorists’ ends sometimes seem abetted by the “international state system” but that is probably in part because the terrorists (like so many marginal observers) understand how to manipulate it. That is because they are outside it. We, too, need to be able to see with new eyes.

Shultz would argue we are learning; we have to be. It took a passive phase then a “reactive” one. Then he projects the “next phase.” Seldom are projections so quickly shown wrong, for the journal has hardly been out. The sadness of these paragraphs reach out to us:Indeed, all across the Middle East there are signs that the U.S. conviction that the region — beset by dysfunction and the pathology of terrorism — has to be transformed is having an effect. The Syrian regime has been unmasked as the oppressor of Lebanon; its troops have been pulled out of Lebanese territory. And its ruler, Bashar Assad, is feeling increasing international pressure over his regime’s role in Mafia-style murders and intimidation in Lebanon.

Lebanon has been set on the road — no doubt a road endangered by the armed and war-oriented presence of Hezbollah as a part of Lebanon’s government — to regaining its sovereign statehood. This has been a goal of the United States ever since Syrian troops occupied Lebanon in the late 1970s. Now, with the U.S. and France cooperating on a remarkable un Security Council Resolution (1559) in September 2004, Lebanon has hope again, despite Syrian efforts to disrupt progress. Lebanese leaders have said openly that this chance to restore Lebanon’s sovereignty could not have happened if the United States had not gone into Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein and laid the foundation for Iraq itself to regain legitimacy in the international state system. The urgent task now is to insist that Hezbollah disarm in accordance with UN Resolution 1559.

The poignancy of his last line hits us, reverberating as we read his programs for improving communications with the Islamic world and “gradening” – “developing relationships around the world by working hard with people in ordinary times.”