First Things First

Thomas Friedman has an interesting piece in The New York Times on why Saddam Hussein isn’t all that well liked in the Arab world. As Friedman puts it:

Raymond Stock, a literary researcher here, told me that an Arab friend of his summed up the mood this way: "Iraq is like a plane that has been hijacked. If the American commandos can free the plane without harming the passengers, then most people will be relieved."

So much for the "Arab street" in this case.

However, Friedman then says that the Arab world dislikes the US even more because of its support for Israel. It is true that our support for Israel does not exactly engender good will in the Arab world, but we are not going to stop supporting our free and democratic ally any time soon. As for the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, regime change in Iraq will actually benefit those goals as well. It is well known and documented that Saddam Hussein has been using payments to suicide bombers to take pressure off of his regime. Having that source of terrorist funding and support would only help the cause of peace.

Still, there is scarce little that can be achieved at the negotiating table between Israel and the Palestinians at this point. The Israelis are beginning to question if there can be peaceful coexistence between the two groups, and the Palestinians are too busy killing Israelis to care. The impetus for change is on the Palestinians at this point. Recent history shows that conciliatory efforts by Israel are met with more violence. If the Palestinians could stop the attacks and start accepting their neighbors, the peace process might have a chance. However, that’s an increasingly unlikely scenario as the voices of hate continue their stranglehold on Palestinian discourse.

In the end, we cannot afford to wait for the situation between Israel and the Palestinians to die down before we act in the Gulf. Removing Hussein isn’t a sidetrack from the peace process, it’s a step that will help later down the road.

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