by Ray Will
What if Nixon went to China?
What if Anwar Sadat told Walter Cronkite that he was willing to meet with Menachem Begin within the week?
What if Ferdinand Marcos told Ted Coppell he would be more than happy to hold elections in the Philippines?
What if I waved my Magic Wand (TM) and President Bush, the most stubborn US President in modern history invited the major players of the Middle East to a Comprehensive Summit? Stranger things have happened.
The Magic Wand Comprehensive Summit for the Middle East:
The Players: USA, Syria, Turkey, Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Israel, the EU, Russia.
The Broad Agenda:
1. The Kurdish Opportunity
2. The Palestinian Opportunity
3. The Sunni and Shite Opportunity only then...
4. The Future of Iraq
Actually there is a pragmatic method to my madness. Notice the format of the Summit. First we are dealing with the actual religions and ethnicities of the region (Kurdish Shite, Sunni, Palestinian) and not the modern borders. (Iraq, Iran, Israel/Palistinian Authority.) Only then do we deal with the future of Iraq.
Draw the borders any which way, the issues will be less Iraq vs Iran and more Sunni vs Shite or a Palestinian State vs recognition Israel's right to exist. Kurd vs other ethnicities (like the Turks or Russians for example). By formatting a summit in this way we can affect change over many borders. This may broker agreements that make Iraqi stability more attainable for it's stage in the summit. And by having Egypt and Jordan sponsor each summit, these moderate states at general peace with Israel get to showcase the results of that peace.
The Dream Team of US Diplomats: James Baker III, Jesse Jackson, Ambassador George Mitchell, Colin Powell, President James Earl Carter, Senator Richard Lugar (R)IN, Madeline Albright, and of course, Condi Rice.
Considering the roster of the Dream Team there is a balance. If one of our out-of-the-box thinkers (Carter, Jackson) says or does something nuts, the more pragmatic members (Lugar, Albright, Mitchell) will keep them grounded.
First Summit Meeting: February 20th 2007, Sponsored by Egypt and held in Cairo, to take up agenda issues 1-3.
Second Summit Meeting: September 1st 2007, Sponsored by Jordan and held in Amman, to take up agenda issue 4.
Since 2001 the US has been engaged for good or ill in a "war process". Maybe its time to remind the world just who has the diplomatic gravitas to broker a peace deal. If I remember correctly we ARE really good at brokering peace. With only a 230 year history we don't have NEARLY the grudge matches that other countries have with their neighbors. (Sure, our relations with Cuba are shrill, but we aren't lobbing anything at each other but press releases.)
We helped the Palestinians and Israelis.
We helped the Balkans. (In beautiful downtown Dayton Ohio no less.)
We helped the Egyptians and Israelis.
And we tried with a lot of other countries
Now before you say, "but can we trust the players...?" Only pollyannas will believe trust is even an issue. People have been killing each other. NEITHER side will call the other trustworthy after or during armed conflict. The whole point to ANY summit process is there is a need to talk and it must be done in spite of everyone's misgivings-- not born of some foolish hippie notion that your blood enemy just became a Boy Scout so peace talks can take place.
The other side of this school of thought is much worse: believing that because the other side is untrustworthy there can be no talks. I'm no pacifist but at some point even in war you have to at least have talks. If they are unwilling to even talk, well where does the killing end then? This school of thought acts like its a waste of breath to even invite the Players to the table. Well waste it! People are dying, and you can't even TRY?.
So how do I believe we can overcome the aforementioned obstacles? Strangely enough, and don't laugh: George W. Bush himself. I mean only Nixon could go to China. The Summit, the Dream Team, the border-crossing format of the agenda, even the moderate Arab locales all hinge upon one unlikely event: What if the most intractable US President in modern history invited the major players of the Middle East to a Comprehensive Summit? However unlikely all of this, none of it goes anywhere unless GW is on board front and center.
I'm also of the belief that if a peace process in and of itself is going on it injects hope into communities that feel the only response to their lot in life is a death wish. Remember the pictures of Middle Eastern babies with bombs strapped to them?
But how well did recruiting go for the Communists in the Philippines after Macros lost the election to Cori Aquino in 1986?
Remember the relative calm between the Palestinians and Israel after the 1993 signing.
What happened to the Sandanistas and Contras after the Oscar Arias peace plan?
We must give people on all sides in this region a reason to hope. That won't happen with a "Pollyanna Peace Plan". Only Nixon could go to China and I think only President Bush (as unlikely as that is) can initiate this plan.
Besides that, I would pay real money to see Jesse Jackson, Richard Lugar, Jimmy Carter, and President Bush all having a fallafel together in Amman Jordan.
Raymond Will is a Generally Busy Guy. In addition to working full time, he serves on his local Planning Board, is the Secretary of the City-Wide Neighborhood Committee and volunteers weekly with the Salvation Army. He lives in Portsmouth with his wife Jenn and their two cats Mandy and Mystique.