An America that seeks to reshape the region through an unsophisticated mixture of bombs and ballots, devoid of local contextual understanding, alliance-building or redressing of grievances, ultimately undermines both itself and Israel. The sight this week of Secretary of State Rice homeward bound, unable to touch down in any Arab capital, should have a sobering effect in Washington and Jerusalem.It should, but will it?
In the end Levy struggles with the same thing I struggle with, and that a post-Lieberman Democratic party is struggling with: how do you create an alternative narrative where peace and security are achieved with negotiations and painstaking diplomacy rather than bombs and missiles? As Levy notes, the neocon vision glosses over the complexities of local politics, the weighty and difficult to deal with matters of context. The neocon narrative is simple, pristine, and, above all, masculine. Like a good Bruckheimer protaganist, the neocon philosophy brooks no bullshit. It kicks ass and takes names. This, as Ron Suskind expertly points out in his talks and writing, is how the Bush political machine sells. The constituency of people tired of the overwhelming complexity of the modern world is vast, and furiously angry. Ultimately, however, policies born of oversimplification are doomed to disaster. Time enough has passed on the neocon experiment for that to begin to show, although the public has not yet begun to grasp the immensity of this disaster. The resulting dissatisfaction may be enough to turn the tide to a small degree, as the Connecticut primary showed. By a very slim margin.
As many Republican partisans have argued (and I think they're right), rejectionism is not enough to build a political movement. There must be an alternative narrative. But how do you sell complexity in a political system built around 10-second soundbites? How do you get a time-starved public with quick-hit media and short attention spans to engage in the labyrinthine terrain of Lebanese politics? I think a lot about this lately, and as yet I am unconvinced that it is possible. Hopefully there is someone out there in the wide world of politics who can prove me wrong.