Baker’s Theory of ‘Stability’ Rears Its Ugly Head Again



Ahead of Ehud Olmert's trip to the White House on June 19, the Bush administration is pressuring Israel to endanger itself on several fronts.

First, the Americans are pressuring the Olmert government to agree to Palestinian Authority and Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas' request to bring millions of bullets, thousands of Kalashnikov assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles and armored personnel carriers into Gaza from Egypt.

The government has yet to respond to the request. Those who oppose it argue that Fatah forces in Gaza are too weak and incompetent to battle Hamas, and so any weaponry transferred to Fatah militias will likely end up in Hamas' hands.

This logic is correct, but incomplete. It is true that Fatah forces are unwilling and presumably unable to defeat Hamas forces. But it is also true that Fatah forces use their arms to attack Israel. So even if there was no chance of Hamas laying its hands on the weapons, allowing Fatah to receive them would still endanger Israel.

The same limited logic informs Israel's strenuous objection to the Pentagon's intention to sell Saudi Arabia satellite-guided "smart bombs." For if the House of Saud falls, then Osama bin Laden would get the bombs.

Yet like Fatah, the Saudis aren't simply vulnerable; they are culpable. In addition to being the creators of Al Qaeda and Hamas' largest fiscal backers, the Saudis themselves directly threaten Israel.

The Bush administration is not just asking Israel to facilitate the arming of its enemies. It is also placing restrictions on Israel's ability to arm itself. The Pentagon recently voiced its objection to Israel's plan to install Israeli technology in the jets that are to be supplied starting in 2014. Israel's installation of its own electronic warfare systems in its F-16s, and F-15s is what has allowed the Israeli Air Force to maintain its qualitative edge over Arab states that have also purchased the aircraft.

This display of hostility is not an aberration. It is the result of a policy shift that occurred immediately after the Republican Party's defeat in the congressional elections in November.

After the defeat, the administration embraced former secretary of state James Baker's foreign-policy paradigm, which is based on the belief that it is possible and desirable to reach a stable balance of power in the Middle East.

As Baker sees it, this balance can be reached by forcing Israel to shrink to its "natural" proportions, and assisting supposedly moderate and stable states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia to grow into their "natural" proportions. Once the states of the region (including Syria and Iran, which Baker wishes to appease) have settled into their proper proportions, stability will be ensured.

Baker fleshed out his view in the Iraq Study Group's recommendations that were published immediately after the elections. Although President Bush rejected the ISG's recommendations, the day after the elections he sacked defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and replaced him with Robert Gates, who served on the ISG. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is a disciple of Baker's ally, former national-security adviser Brent Scowcroft.

The problem with the Baker paradigm is that it has never been borne out by reality. It collapsed during the Cold War, and later again in the 1990s when Baker's stability paradigm failed to foresee the postnationalist movements that swept through Western Europe and the Muslim world. Baker still denies the phenomenon and ignores its policy implications.

Today, the notion that stability is a realistic aim is even more far-fetched. Specifically, the willingness of Muslim secularists to form strategic relations with jihadists and the willingness of Shi'ites to form strategic partnerships with Sunnis was unimaginable 20 years ago. Aside from that, the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran throws a monkey wrench into any thought of regional stability.

Sooner or later, the United States will pay a price for the Bush administration's decision to embrace the delusion of stability as its strategic goal. With jihadist forces growing stronger around the globe, if the Americans leave Iraq without victory, there is no doubt that Iraq (and Iran and Syria) will come to them.

But whatever the consequences of America's behavior for America, the price that Israel will pay for embracing Baker's myths of stability will be unspeakable.

Caroline Glick is a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.



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