The fumbling and waffling in the American and international media on three urgent contemporary issues: North Korea, Iran, and Palestine, reveal the dangers of the vacuum created by the Obama Administration in international relations, and the efficacy with which the Trump Administration is filling the vacuum. Obviously they are distinct crises with different origins. But in each case, the permissive withdrawal of the Obama Administration incited the escalation of these problems to the point where they disturb the peace of the world.
North Korea simply made and broke agreements with consecutive American administrations as it continued to develop nuclear weapons. The Chinese, who had as much to fear from such a development as anyone, cynically enabled North Korean misconduct until they belatedly recognized that they were potentially damaging their own interests by midwifing a nuclear porcupine across the Yalu.
All the agitated discussion leading up to President Trump’s decision Thursday to cancel the the June 12 summit with the North Korean leader, like the redundant controversy about whether Trump was becoming too excited about the Nobel Prize, is unfounded. One of three events is going to occur, regardless: there will be a denuclearization agreement that is verifiable and durable along with the end of sanctions and normalization of relations, or there will be a continued period of intense sanctions until North Korea accepts such an outcome, or North Korea will resume its nuclear development and its program will be utterly destroyed by the U.S. naval air forces with minimal casualties.
The physical meeting between the leaders would be an image-builder if Kim wants it, but it is a sideshow and there is little need for negotiations: Kim has a short menu presenting his options.
Pressuring Tehran the Right Way
Iran is in many respects a similar problem. Though an ancient country and a more distinguished civilization than North Korea, it was not only allowed to swindle the United States as North Korea was, it was directly enabled by the Obama Administration to become a nuclear power, over 10 years, even as it continued its sponsorship of terrorism, and continued to threaten to obliterate Israel.
Here the United States is effectively offering the same formula as it is to North Korea. Iran can agree to denuclearize militarily or it can face what Hillary Clinton in her more purposeful moments used to call “crippling sanctions,” (before she folded like a garden chair in perfect synchronization with President Obama). These sanctions would be backed by the same military force that the United States could deploy to destroy the North Korean (and Iranian) nuclear program.
Ignore the histrionics of the European Union about the impact of American sanctions should it continue to trade with Iran. Europe’s economic relations with the United States are worth 50 times its commerce with Iran, and like the reluctant and fair-weather, self-serving allies most of them are, they will dutifully get into lock step with Washington with a bit of authoritative leadership.
Commercial arithmetic generally prevails over misplaced righteousness. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has usefully reminded the world that all the United States asks of Iran is to desist from deploying nuclear weapons while it is threatening genocide, and for it to behave like all other international law-abiding countries and cease to export terrorism and aggression.
President Trump has the strongest national security team (Pompeo, Mattis, and Bolton) since President Reagan (Shultz, Weinberger, Carlucci), if not Truman (General Marshall and Dean Acheson), as President Nixon and Henry Kissinger were brilliant but there wasn’t a good defense secretary until James Schlesinger.
The United States will tighten its grip on Iran until it produces a solution quite close to what is about to unfold in North Korea. Press unease about disguised “regime change” is rubbish. President Trump will end the intolerable behavior of Iran. If the antediluvian theocracy of the ayatollahs goes down as well, it will be by domestic revolt and will be a bonus for the benighted people of Iran who were cast into bondage when President Jimmy Carter deserted the Shah in 1979.
Elusive Middle East Peace
Israel and Gaza are, of course, more complicated. There has never been any possible solution to the Israeli-Palestine problem except a division of territory between the two peoples, since Great Britain, in the desperate days of World War I, promised that that piece of the Ottoman empire would become a “homeland for the Jews” without compromising the rights of the Arabs. That solution was impossible while the major Arab powers used Israel as a distraction of the Arab masses from the misrule they were inflicting upon them, and while the Soviet Union exercised a mischievous influence in the region.
Once Nixon and Kissinger had effectively expelled the USSR from the region and after Israel accepted the two-state solution, it was possible but not sufficiently enthusiastically embraced by the Arab powers to persuade the Palestinian leadership to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. That would have ended the Arafat-Abbas tour as the self-enriching focal point of the world’s attention that they were as long as the Israel-Palestine conflict continued, and to accept peace and the mere leadership of another small Middle-Eastern country.
The combination of the Islamic revolution in Iran, Europe’s rejection of Turkey and it’s pivot to attempt to exercise influence in the Arab world, and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Syria, and Iraq, have caused the principal Arab powers, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to look upon Israel as a benign associate in repulsing the incursions of their ancient Turkish and Iranian foes and occupiers.
The Palestinians are no longer the favorites and protégés of the Arab powers and are grossly overplaying their hand. They are a few million people at the bottom of the proverbial local pyramid and Saudi Arabia‘s peace proposals for them are less generous than Israel’s.
Now is the time for the United States, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel to agree to a territorial demarcation. Israel cannot go back to being nine miles wide so the West Bank must be narrowed; the Palestinians can be compensated with a thickened Gaza and the two connected by a secure road. That has been presaged in previous discussions. The right of return will be to Palestine and not to Israel. Some such solution as this can be agreed and imposed, and the Palestinians can accept it and with it substantial development assistance and general recognition, or they can face the entire elimination of the physical remnants of the state that awaits them if they continue to inflict violence on Israel.
This problem, as President Trump has hinted that he understands, can now be solved. But there is no point in negotiating with the Palestinians. They have to be given a state, incentivized to accept it, and need to understand that if they do not accept it, they will get no material assistance from outsiders and will suffer continuous torment until they do accept it. Hamas’ recruitment of paid cannon fodder for attacks on the Israeli border should be ignored; only the gullible useful idiots in the Western media and academia still pay the least attention to such stale and futile propaganda gestures.
Finally, after more than a century, this is a terrible problem ripe for resolution, but by the imposition of the consensus, not by another orgy of accusatory polemics billed as a peace process.
Photo credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images