On Public Policy and the Middle-East

Yesterday, as I listened to NPR reporting on the Israeli arms build-up on the Lebanon border and the bombing of Beirut, I had a cynical thought.

If there were adults in charge of the United States government, the adults would have already brought the Israelis, the Hezbollah, to the negotiating table. The Secretary of State would already have been in a dozen world capitals, talking to world leaders, trying to bring pressure to bear. If the Secretary of State weren’t enough, the adults would send other respected Americans, even former Presidents, on errands of diplomacy. We would hear Clinton, Bush the Elder, Carter, calling for the Israelis to demobilize, decrying Hezbollah’s use of terrorism. The adults would take a look at the situation, see where things might go, and do everything they could to calm the situation down.

The adults aren’t in charge, though.

Secretary of State Condi Rice is on her way to the Middle-East now? She needed to be there a week ago.

The Middle-East situation has the ability to spiral way out of control. Escalation on the part of any party could easily bring others into the fray. Our own involvement in Iraq means that we’re in no situation to extract ourselves from a growing conflagration. And if the flames of war grow, we will see serious global consequences.

Why?

Because the world needs the Middle-East more than the Middle-East needs the rest of the world. The world needs Middle-East oil. The Middle-East doesn’t need more dollars.

If the adults were in charge, we’d have dealt with the terrorist attacks of 2001 in a different way. “The Arabs want us out? Fine. We’ll get out. We’ll make ourselves independent of Arab oil depedence. We’ll develop alternate energy sources. We went to the moon in ten years. We built the atomic bomb in five. We’ll be rid of our dependence on the Arab oil barons if we put our finest minds to the problem.”

But because we’ve never made the effort to disentangle ourselves from the Arab world, any conflict there will draw us in, will draw the world in. Involvement may not be direct, but the economic ties between the Arab world and the rest of the world mean that a disruption in the flow of Middle-East oil will have severe economic shocks. A global economy on the edge will, under those circumstances, topple over the edge.

We need adults in charge.

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