Things to Read: Af-Pak, Israel, Iran

I spent the weekend catching up on some of my reading, and I’ll blog about some other items later today or later in the week. Here are two short pieces that caught my eye. 1. Another warning on our AfPak “strategy.” Graham Fuller — former CIA station chief in Kabul and vice-chair of the National ...

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Stephen M. Walt
By , a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
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585946_090511_waltB2.jpg

I spent the weekend catching up on some of my reading, and I'll blog about some other items later today or later in the week. Here are two short pieces that caught my eye.

1. Another warning on our AfPak "strategy."

I spent the weekend catching up on some of my reading, and I’ll blog about some other items later today or later in the week. Here are two short pieces that caught my eye.

1. Another warning on our AfPak “strategy.”

Graham Fuller — former CIA station chief in Kabul and vice-chair of the National Intelligence Council during the Reagan administration — casts some cold water on our whole approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan. His leap-into-the-obvious: “the situation in Pakistan has gone from bad to worse as a direct consequence of the US war raging on the Afghan border.” His deeper insight: “the deeply entrenched Islamic and tribal character of Pashtun rule in the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan will not be transformed by invasion or war.” His warnings: “occupation everywhere creates hatred,” and “Pakistan is beginning to crack under the relentless pressure directly exerted by the US.” His good news: “The Pashtuns on either side of the [Af-Pak] border will fight on for a major national voice in Afghanistan. But few Pashtuns on either side of the border will long maintain a radical and international jihadi perspective once the incitement of the US presence is gone.” His advice: “let non-military and neutral international organizations, free of geopolitical taint, take over the binding of Aghan wounds and the building of state structures.”

If Fuller is right, then our entire approach to the region—which basically consists of using various heavy-handed instruments to force these societies to accept our political values and institutions—is fundamentally misguided.  I wonder if anyone in the Obama administration has talked to him.

2. Ahmadinejad is Not Nice, but He’s (Fortunately) Not Hitler.  Meanwhile, from Israel, Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom accuses Shimon Peres of trivializing the Holocaust, explains why Iran is not Nazi Germany, and reminds us that the best way to undermine Iranian influence is to move swiftly to a two-state solution. I wonder what would happen if we had someone like Avnery writing a weekly column for a major U.S. media source like the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. Avnery was a member of the Irgun, fought in the 1948 war, and served in the Knesset, so his credentials as an Israeli patriot would seem to be well-established. Yet he has also been a tireless and outspoken advocate for peace for decades, sometimes at great costs. Yet for some reason the WSJ op-ed page thinks Americans will be better informed if they hear only from people like Bret Stephens, Bernard Lewis, Elliot Abrams or Fouad Ajami, despite their appalling track record in recent years, instead of someone like Avnery. 

Americans wonder why the U.S. position in the Middle East keeps deteriorating, and one reason for their confusion is that elite publications like the Journal feed readers only one side of the story, no matter how discredited it’s become. The Journal (and plenty of other U.S. media outlets) could do everyone a public service by promoting a wider range of views on its op-ed page, but its editors seem to think democracy is best served by a diversity of opinion that is about as broad as what one used to see in Pravda.

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Stephen M. Walt is a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.

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