*In the debate of the Democratic candidates on Tuesday evening here in the US, there were some sparkling moments. I thought Howard Dean acquitted himself well, but I was sorry to see him buy into Saudi-bashing. He accused the Saudis of systematically schooling their children to hate Americans. That such schooling exists in the kingdom is not in question, but it just isn’t universal. And, it isn’t exactly as if Westerners are schooled to love Muslims, either. The other Middle East related bits of Dean’s campaign were his calls for the US to be more even-handed in brokering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and his call to bring home half the US troops in Iraq (this he said before the debate). Halleluja! It was said to see Joe Lieberman attack Dean and suggest he is anti-Israel because he is for getting the Israeli settlers out of the Occupied territories. Lieberman said that that should be left to the two sides to negotiate. So Lieberman thinks that the settlers should be allowed to steal Palestinian land with impunity, to usurp their water, and to kill or starve their children, and the response should be negotiations? Leaving the settlements to the “negotiations” of an extremely wealthy and powerful Israel and a weak, poverty-stricken Palestine means leaving the settlements to go on expanding and stealing land. Lieberman’s performance puts him on the side of theft. Wasn’t there something about that in the Ten Commandments? Joe Klein had challenged Dean on the other issue, on Paula Zahn’s show, saying it was unrealistic to bring half the US troops home from Iraq. Klein was being deliberately obtuse it seems to me. What Dean is saying is that with proper multilateral negotiations with allies, you could get 4 divisions from them to relieve the US troops. Of course, you’d have to give the countries supplying the troops a chance to bid on Iraqi contracts, and share the oil wealth when it returns. But Dean’s idea is not impractical given the right attitude in Washington towards allies. Of course, Bush is unlikely to be able to pull it off. But Dean might be able to.
About the Author
Juan Cole is the founder and chief editor of Informed Comment and Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He is author of, among many other books, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace amid the Clash of Empires. Follow him at @jricole.