Is dreaming of lasting solutions to intractable problems a useless pursuit?
Loved the article, still hate that man...
Wonderful post. Indyk's (and your) Kissinger reminds me of Robert Kagan, who would be quick to engage with Malik's point about the Oresteia and bring it back to the idea of order, so we are not alone.
I don't think that this side of heaven and hell we have any means of distinguishing between peace and the absence of war or knowing whether an embrace between combatants will be more lasting than a tense, mutually hateful standoff.
But on the order side I think there are distinctions to be made. Order can comprehend only so much disorder, can sweep on so much under the rug, as it were. The current world order, which succeeded that of "barbarian" (i.e., nomad) migrations and conquests is generating ever more enormous numbers of refugees and migrants for which it has no answer. One has to ask whether the present system can hold when every border risks becoming a marchland.
Maybe that's where the idea of justice creeps in, to remind us that certain proposed solutions (not least nostalgic ones) are patently inadequate. Israel, out of focus and desperation, may succeed in building a more effective cordon sanitaire around Gaza. That might provide, for a while, a welcome absence of war. But if we broaden the focus to our creaky world order, such measures, even as stopgaps, can only seem bitterly laughable.
I very much share the tragic view you have expressed in this post....so well said. I would add (with regard to the Nixon/Kissinger era) something that I think political commentary has still failed to fully grasp: that the power of elected politicians - even good ones - has, in the 21st c. been greatly reduced. The dream of an informed, 'free', thinking voting-public was always a bit of a democratic liberal fairytale but now that dream is shattered perhaps beyond repair. Most people are political/intellectual sheep....always have been. In recent times though, two new things have happened 1) Leftist intelligentsia ‘shepherds’ have progressively gained an ever-tightening strangehold on our education systems without our ‘pluralist democracy’ even really noticing this fact - at least until recently. 2) an ever-expanding percentage of ambitious young people - the emerging administrative and managerial class in all fields of Western culture - have been going through this academia sheep-dip. The rest is history. https://grahamcunningham.substack.com/p/are-we-making-progress.
Very nicely parsed. After the triumphalism of Karl Rove's permanent Republican majority and Judis and Teixeira's emerging Democratic majority (which, of course, Teixeira has conceded they got wrong), we can get pedantic about what "lasting" means - but 30 years seems to me to be a real achievement. Your sentence "At best, we can hope to find an arrangement where opposing sides are temporarily satisfied, their ultimate claims set aside," is a pretty good description of the old-fashioned retail politics of the 20th century, Tip O'Neill et al meeting in back rooms to make deals. And I appreciate your self-questioning of the last paragraphs. It's easy to criticize the excesses of idealists, but I think we can count Jesus, Martin Luther, Gandhi, and King, among many others, as idealists - and they most certainly gave talented architects such as Kissinger something to work with.
A really interesting piece as always. I tend to come at these kinds of problems from a different lens- I believe creating a just solution presents the opportunity for long term political stability. Indeed, I would venture some of the chaos we have seen in the MENA region over the past 11 years is precisely because there is no justice. I admit, it is perhaps a utopian idea, but what is wrong with shooting for the moon? (I am aware of the potential of 'crashing and burning' in this instance)
With respect, you're missing concrete explanations for the current situation that have little to do with morality or the negotiations of world leaders - Israel had forced the Palestinians in general, and the Gazans in particular, into a situation of increasing isolation and irrelevance. Israeli policy towards the Palestinians' traditional state supporters was paying dividends, and Israel's settlement policy was slowly squeezing Palestinians out of the West Bank while Iron Dome and the separation wall had removed Gaza as a day-to-day concern for most Israelis. If things had kept going as they were, the Gazans would have become a forgotten irrelevance and the West Bank completely absorbed into a 70% Jewish Israel with de facto recognition and cooperation with the major Arab states.
Regardless of how one defines the Palestinian cause, that set of circumstances is disastrous for it - in fact, it represents no more and no less than a semi-permanent defeat of any aspiration for Palestinian Arab control over any significant portion of the lands of Mandatory Palestine, and a corresponding victory for Jewish/Israeli domination. Thus Hamas was left with no alternative but to find some way to break out, and why the protests and public support in favor of Palestine are so fevered this time around - it represents a resurgence of the Palestinian national cause from years of quiet strangulation.
The conflict isn't a new "normal" for violence - it's a last bid for victory from the Palestinian side; October 7 is to them what Operation Michael was for Hindenburg & Ludendorff - a tantalizing glimpse of glory, but too little, too late. All that remains to be seen is if the Israelis have the cold-blooded will to push on to the final victory they were on the way to winning before.
"Indyk gently suggests that Kissinger’s prodigious efforts, though ultimately yielding a breakthrough, fell short of what was possible."
Which would have been what, Egypt taking back Gaza or something? As far as I know the PLO was still hair on fire revolutionary terrorists in 1975, just about to help destabilize Lebanon. Surely he doesn't think there was some permanent solution possible with the Palestinians at that point.
A different view of Kissinger: Noam Chomsky's review of "The White House Years"
Where I live this is the time of year when the leaves are all down and we can see into the woods. It is a scene of destruction. As many dead trees on the ground as standing, it seems. Others gnarled and twisted, leaning on each other for support. There are only a few fine specimens.
Chaos or free will? When I see into a forest I see the human condition. I see free will.
Peace and justice are each person’s responsibility. And until each person believes that, we’ll rely on the Kissingers, Metternichs, Castlereighs, and Bismarcks for not much more than a temporary way through the forest.