by John McCormack
The Weekly Standard
President Obama named Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official and Brooking Institution scholar, to head up a review team for overhauling U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan. Via the Christian Science Monitor, a big part of Riedel’s grand strategy for winning in Afghanistan is, um, securing a peace deal between the Palestinians and Israel:
Ultimately, the solution in Afghanistan may involve solving the age-old conflict between the Arab states and Israel, says administration adviser Riedel in a book published by the Brookings Institution, a foreign-policy think tank, last year. Al Qaeda, and the Taliban to some extent, continue to be motivated by the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, Riedel argues. If that conflict is resolved, Al Qaeda may go away.
“If Palestinians choose to make peace with Israel, the most fundamental point of Al Qaeda’s narrative becomes irrelevant,” Riedel writes. “In other words, making peace between Israelis and Arabs is not only wise policy in its own right, but also an extremely useful strategy for pulling the rug out from under Al Qaeda.”
A few points:
1. The conflict between Palestinians and Israel is not “the most fundamental point of Al Qaeda’s narrative”–see bin Laden’s 1996 declaration of war against the United States. He cites a number of grievances regarding flashpoints throughout the Muslim world. Does the Palestinian issue really motivate jihadists in Afghanistan/Pakistan more than the conflict, much closer to home, with India?
2. The deep theological/ideological underpinnings for jihad aren’t going to go away if the Palestinians agree to a peace deal. Raymond Ibrahim’s recent review of The Mind of Jihad serves as useful reminder of this fact.
3. Is there any indication that Palestinians are going to “choose to make peace with Israel” in the near future? It seems delusional think that Hamas will choose to lay down its arms.
Now, it’s important to reiterate that Riedel wrote this a year ago. He certainly (and hopefully) could have changed mind and identified other more relevant issues to focus on in order to win the war in Afghanistan. As Gary Schmitt and Dan Twining point out in this week’s issue of TWS, the United States faces a number of challenges in Afghanistan. One very troubling notion, they write, is that that we should lower expectations in Afghanistan and launch a half-hearted surge in Afghanistan.
If one of Obama’s top advisers thinks that holding Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at Camp David will lead to victory in Afghanistan, then we may be in bigger trouble than we thought.