Monday, October 19, 2009

Rhetoric In The Name Of Realism

Stephen M. Walt identifies himself as "a realist in an ideological age." Any conception of authentic foreign policy realism requires terminological precision. And yet in an article about Turkey's dismay at Israel's actions during the Gaza War last December and January, Walt refers to "Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza," even though Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

Realism also entails the willingness to appreciate several sides of a question simultaneously. Walt falls short of that measure as well. His terminology in a related blog post today is different; he says Israel is "controlling" Gaza. That it is, but only because Gaza is now occupied by a faction of the Palestinian movement which is dedicated to Israel's destruction and which provoked December's Israeli invasion by launching rocket attacks. Israel's response to the attacks was disproportionate. It was wrong and also tactically unwise for the Palestinian National Authority and the U.S. to have briefly colluded in trying to squelch a report about alleged Israeli excesses. But Walt's calling the Gazans "defenseless" begs the question of why they fired rockets at Israel. His own answer is also convoluted:
[B]ecause Israel continues to occupy the West Bank and Gaza and refuses to allow the Palestinians to have a state of their own, it faces continued resistance from groups like Hamas, including the firing of rockets at Israeli towns.
If Hamas ceased its aggression and acknowledged Israel's right to exist, the momentum leading to a Palestinian state would be irresistible. In other words, Walt has it exactly backwards. The purpose of Hamas' resistance and attacks is to perpetuate Israel's occupation of the West Bank and prevent a comprehensive peace. What exactly is the point of pretending otherwise in the name of realism?

Hat tip to Mike Cheever

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