I have as much respect for Daniel Pipes as anyone, but it seems to me that his habitual pessimism–so often justified with respect to the Middle East over the years–has led him astray now. I agree with much of what he says about the Palestinians, but don’t understand how Bush’s approach, as outlined in his speech, “rewards terror.” The Palestinians get nothing, including a provisional state, unless they install new leadership, reform their institutions, open up their economy and cease all terror activities. How can this be said to be rewarding terror? And while it is easy to see how far the Palestinians have to go before they have anything like a normal society, what basis for hope in that part of the world can there be, other than the hope of a normalized Palestine? The only alternative I can see to working toward a normal Palestinian government and society is nuking the West Bank, which isn’t going to happen. So we may as well get started. In addition, as George Will pointed out this morning, Bush’s approach has the merit of “kicking the can of this crisis down the road,” so that attention can again be re-focused on Iraq and other theaters of the war. And finally, a reformed Palestine may seem like a pipe-dream now, but for President Bush this is only one (relatively small) aspect of a larger strategy for the Arab world. If new governments are installed in Iraq and Iran, and maybe Syria and Saudi Arabia, and those states no longer support terrorism, reforming Palestine will not seem such a difficult task. President Bush is a big thinker and his intentions are breath-taking in their scope. But we have no viable alternative to boldness. And since we have no direction to go but forward, we may as well be optimistic about the results.
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