CAP’s Brian Katulis was on MSNBC this morning to talk about U.S.- Middle East policy in the aftermath of Israel’s three week-long Gaza operation. Katulis helpfully reminded everyone that we didn’t come to this sorry pass by accident:
KATULIS: I think the new [Obama] team is surveying the wreckage in the Middle East. There’s one point to be made about the Israeli-Palestinian situation and the region as a whole, it’s this: The Bush administration destroyed this myth that Republicans and conservatives have some sort of edge on Democrats on national security. The region’s in a mess, and this most recent war in Gaza is emblematic of that. We have a terrorist organization, Hamas, that came to power, and it’s by no accident.
So I think the team is surveying the wreckage, they’re in conflict management mode. This is why I think President Obama made these quick calls. They’re trying to send a signal that, unlike President Bush, he and his team will be on top of it. And beyond that, they’re appointing a pretty high level team, which I think will be announced shortly, to get really engaged, and deal with this pragmatically, as opposed to rhetorically. We heard from the Bush administration mostly a lot of high rhetoric, but what the challenges in the Middle East require are presidential attention — high level focused attention — and I suspect you’re going to have a completely different approach to the region that’s based in pragmatism.
Cliff May of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies responded by objecting to Katulis’s “partisanship,” which is just what you might expect from someone whose ideas about fighting terrorism have only managed to generate more terrorism. It is, of course, not really “partisan” to point out that the Bush administration’s policy on Israel-Palestine, as with the Middle East in general, has created huge challenges for the incoming administration. Indeed, at this point I think it qualifies as stating the obvious.
Responding to Katulis’s suggestion that the Gaza war may have resulted in greater support for Hamas among Palestinians, May took the familiar neocon tack of drastically lowering the bar for success, and then substituting hope for a plan:
MAY: I think we’re going to find out — we don’t know yet — that Hamas is weakened, because they didn’t fight very well, they didn’t manage to resist the Israelis, the training provided by Iran and by Hezbollah did not pay off. I’d be surprised if people in Gaza didn’t say ‘what is the point of supporting Hamas if this is the result, our buildings are now rubble, our lifestyle is now more impoverished than ever, is this really the way to go?‘ But we don’t know that yet, we’re still speculating.
If by “resist the Israelis” May means that Hamas did not prevent Israel from entering and destroying Gaza, there’s really no one who believed that Hamas could do this, and it certainly didn’t require three weeks of sustained bombing to demonstrate it. But if “resist” means “survive,” then clearly Hamas has resisted. May’s “surprise” at the idea that Israel’s killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians might actually result in anger toward Israel — rather than toward Hamas, as he would prefer — is typical of the sort of blindly ideological approach that the Bush administration has pursued in the region, which seemed to be based in the belief that if a policy should have a certain result, then it will have that result. And if it doesn’t, it’s only because the terrorists are evil.
Like the Bush administration that he faithfully defended, May — whose organization was actually founded as a right wing “pro”-Israel propaganda operation — seems to think that simply reciting talking points about Iranian-supported Hamas constitutes an argument on how to deal with them. It’s also worth noting that May has now become the latest to admit that Israel’s goal in the Gaza offensive was explicitly political.