The Middle East Schoolyard

For some reason, this paragraph from Hussein Agha and Robert Malley’s NYT oped jumped out at me:

The United States has cut itself off from the region on the dubious assumption that it can somehow maximize pressure on its foes by withholding contact, choosing to flaunt its might in the most primitive and costly of ways. It has pushed its local allies toward civil wars — arming Fatah against Hamas; financing some Lebanese forces against Hezbollah — they could not and did not win. And it has failed to understand that its partners could achieve more in alliance than in conflict with their opposition.

Isn’t that just about the essence of the bully’s handbook? The use of membership in the “in clique” combined with the arrogant display of power as tools of persuasion, followed by circling around some poor slob who’s fallen for the old “Let’s you and him fight” technique. Pathetic.

But worse than pathetic, because it really opens the door to our friends in the region looking for alternatives. It’s a few days old, but this piece by Nouri of The Moor Next Door gives a good idea of what that alternative way of thinking will look like. It’s only natural that we pursue our interests, both in the Middle East and elsewhere. But it’s important to have a clue about how differently things look to someone whose interests diverge from, without necessarily being hostile to, ours.