The guys at Powerline have asked me to write a few guest posts now that the Middle East is on fire (again).
Here’s the first:
The Middle East is a tragic place. It is a region governed by violence, and it always has been. I was a witness to the non-violent and broadly liberal Cedar Revolution during the Beirut Spring that ousted the occupying Syrian military dictatorship, but Lebanon has been effectively reconquered by proxy. Some Middle Easterners, bless them, have opted to take the gun out of politics, yet they remain pushed around and lorded over by their more ruthless neighbors who have no intention whatever of laying down arms.
For years I asked Arabs and Israelis alike, “what’s the solution?” Finally I had to stop. It is such an American question. I can’t think of a single person I know who lives in the region who thinks there is a solution to the problems that ail it.
The Middle East is impossibly difficult for American presidents, Democrats and Republicans alike. The choices are between terrible options and even more terrible options, and it’s not always obvious which is which. Should Barack Obama support an Egyptian dictatorship that shoots unarmed men and tortures dissidents who share American values? Or should he help shove aside an occasionally useful part-time ally knowing that dangerous Islamists might take his place?