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20 December 2006


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It seems to me Col Lang’s “Concert” piece should be considered as:
1. Asserting that far reaching, inclusive negotiations are the only alternative to “chaos and war”.
2. Suggesting an “outline” of one possible opening negotiation stance that a US government might actually take – publicly.
If so, it should be discussed as just that (at least at first) rather than taken up as a proposed ending of negotiations or even as a later stage of what the US might propose or agree to.

One might also speculate about who the client was and what else might not be included in this excerpt from a consultation.


PL, well done.

Babak, agreed that the US cannot, and perhaps should not deliver the Golan to Syria. Returning (parts of) East Jerusalem to the Palestinians is less intractable if you remove the Likud and right-of-Likud. There are religious Jews who think nothing of "east of rechov ha-nevi'im" or whatever you call the road leading out of Damascus Gate. Ditto that, the road a few blocks to the east: Salah al-din. It's not religion, it's Likud's land greed and desire for power that exacerbates the problem.

B, I sympathize with you on the right of return and Israeli nukes. The Golan... not so much. Please review the Syrian's performance in the heights in 48, 56, 67.

In general we need some real politik. I think PL's essay is perfect start.

Lee A. Arnold

This Concert is a good idea. Something like this should succeed eventually. I am surprised that there are not more proposals like it in the US media. Do most Americans have a misconception of this war?

We could start to correct it by pointing-out that the jihadists cannot win in the long term. They have a fatally-flawed strategy. They are an insurgency, fighting with other tribes and sects, across a huge geographic area chopped-up by independent states. Even if everybody spoke the same language, their caliphate appears to be an impossible objective.

The jihadists also have a flaw in their necessary indoctrination system: their revolutionary ideology is not new. It is a (supposed) return to purity in the existing religion. It is not a new brand; and they are marketing an old flavor. This is what you call "bad news" in the marketing business. There are already centuries of tradition in Islam of more mild and mitigating thoughts. As well as modern media bringing cosmopolitan images. The jihadists are likely to stay isolated, because most Muslims will not join.

Under this circumstance it is counterproductive and unwise of the US to make the jihadists' case for them.

What will end this "war" -- i.e. bring the region to peaceful democracies -- is that most of the people there, once they get two minutes of peace, will prefer to modernize and trade instead.

That doesn't mean the US can depose a dictator like Saddam and expect democracy and capitalism to spontaneously arise without an institutional history for it. That was an old Chicago economist's fever-dream. Now it is institutional and intellectual incompetence, US-style.

But it does mean that in the long-term, this region is going to go for economic growth and creative freedom, to thrive best.

All of this does not bode well for total jihad.

The world will be on the lookout for terrorists forever, of course, but that may be a very different field of study and enforcement.

Under this theory, the "war" is almost over. There are sure to be minor skirmishes -- and terrorists can wreak havoc -- but really, the main events may have passed. This region will continue to make a transition to the modern world, because what is going to stop it?

Under this theory, President Bush appears to be pursuing the wrong strategy. The US cannot force this thing to happen. 60% of "Iraqis" think that it is justified to attack US troops, and 70% want the US to leave immediately. Is the US going to kill 60-70% of the Iraqi population to "win" this?

Maybe withdrawing from Iraq will not have the long-term repercussion which some people say. Maybe it will be quite the reverse, the impact quite limited.

The US ought to set-up right away for different foreign policy management. Of course, all the nations may not come to the same table, since different reasons apply to each, but the US certainly has to start thinking in this manner. It has to be based from the beginning on self-management, even if a region falls for a while under "enemy" control.

Time to start thinking realistically about the opponent's position over the long run.

The neocons, the White House, and the U.S. public got into this war for a very bad type of reason: the emotional reason. "We just had to do something, we just had to show them" (self-righteousness) and "we're gonna be nuked by WMD's" (fear.) These are not intellectual reasons, though they are soon intellectually buttressed.

And many of these same people today are still fueled by emotional conceptions of all sorts. This is enormously dangerous, because emotion can be self-deceptive. You do not want to deceive yourself, when you are fighting a war. People had better start to learn the real complexity of what is going on, and stop substituting a monster bogeyman as the enemy.

Of course, the US may have to find new leadership. But perhaps then, the US will gain the added bonus of demonstrating the overwhelming value of democracy to the world: when it votes for a new President and changes course!

Peaceful people in the US and the world can win this war in the long-run -- "defusing" it would probably be the more accurate term -- but if the US conservatives don't "get with the program" soon, we really do run the risk of losing it.

Don Schmeling

Col. Lang,
As a non military non American looking at the middle east situation, I have to agree with most of the people responding to this post. Your "Concert of the Greater Middle East" is at this point wishful thinking, even if the US government was fully committed to it at this time.
Lets face it, most people think the US will be out of Iraq in a few years, just like most people thought the US was going to attack Iraq when it started building up it's forces in the region. So that bargaining chip has limited value.
When the US army starts to try to up size, the world will also see that it's going to be hard to find 20,000 kids stupid enough to join the loosing team at this point of the game. Only 11 percent of Americans favor sending more troops to Iraq, let alone joining the Army to be sent there. The high tech killing machine is starting to need major repairs and the big bills are just starting to come in to pay for this adventure. Britain will be pulling out shortly after Blaire goes. The US will be stuck there alone.
As far as the US making a Bargain with Iran, how can Iran ever trust the US enough to make one? Every one in the world knows that the US plays by it's own rules. How can Iran or the shia of Lebanon make a deal with Israel, when Israel trys to assassinate their leaders, and bombs their countries when it feels it needs to? Who now feels time is on their side?
No, when this much blood has been shed, no plan, no matter how well meaning, or well thought out, is going to give the US a graceful exit.

Le Jackel

The thing is that if you are going to double down, then double down. I wouldn't say this, but it's going to come up: the US military officer corp bears a significant responsibility for the impending defeat in Iraq. Not standing up to Rummy, not adopting proper counter-insurgency tactics, well the list does on. So what now? Break the army or not. At least 100,000 additional troops for Iraq or nothing. Insist on proper vehicles (Nialla's), way more Abrams, and indigenous equipment (heavy artillery for the Iraq's). Seriously, go long or go home.


Did Bill Lind attend the meeting too?

God bless GWB

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you for your response.

I am as much for negotiations & realpolitik as the next fellow - my contention is that Col. Lang's parameters no longer obtain - the situation has moved beyond that; in the Levant, in the Persian Gulf, and even in Afghanistan.

I respectfully disagree with you regarding only Likud being responsible for the "land-grab"; that has been part and parcel of the Zionist enterprise from the get go. To wit, Israel turned down Kissinger's Jericho initiative since they coveted the West Bank. That is also a major reason that Israel would not want to join NATO or EU - it would make their land grab impossible. I personally think that the Israeli leaders and people are hiding behind "Security" - what they want is land, land, and more land - they are plenty secure already.

I also disagree with you on “it is not religion”. I think that religion has a lot to do with it; from both sides. Israel’s national anthem speaks of “the longing in the soul of a Jew”. On the other side, East Jerusalem contains the Al Haram Al Sharif – the third holiest site in Islam. There will be no peace with Israel unless and until the Muslim sovereignty is restored to that site. Palestinians cannot give any grounds on that – it is not theirs to give.

I am in agreement you and with other commentators that Col. Lang’s ideas are good ones and worth pursuing. I just do not see any movement on them in the cards. What I see is escalation to nowhere with no concrete strategic gains.

Babak Makkinejad


I do not think that the generalized cold peace in the Levant will necessarily solve all the ME problems.

Specifically, I do not believe the problem of how to reconcile (Western) Modernity and Islam is going to be resolved soon.

Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, and Lebeanon will have decades ahead of themselves for that resolution (not even then most likely).

Additionally, the legacy of the Iran-Iraq War and the US-Iraq War will cast a very very long shaoow on the Middle East. It will be decades before we see the ramifications of that.

I think peace in Levant will certainly help US image in the Muslim world but again I do not think that US policy makers think that that improvement is worth the price.

Babak Makkinejad


US President sets preconditons that he knows beforehand won't be met because, in his judgement, the price that Iran and Syria are going to demand is not worth their help/assistance/cooperation. He cannot go against ISG directly, like any good politician, he does his best to put the onus on the other fellow - business as usual.

I do not believe that there is any chance of a Concert of ME without US. Outisders such as EU, Russia, China, India either do not have the finances or the military ability to project power in he Levant and the Persian Gulf area. They can help their allies indirectly but that is about it.


All these plans are very, very nice. Except of course, as everyone noted here, none of it has any chance of implementation. So, what was the point of this exercise in futility?

Many posters here probably realize on some level that the Iraqi war is just a symptom of a malignant condition. Treat the symptom as much as you want, none of it will make you healthy.


Clearly a "grand bargain" is what is needed to bring stability to the ME. If there is even a chance to begin to attempt that is doubtful in the short term as PL notes considering the leadership in all the countries that would be party to the bargain. Others on this thread have noted that a precondition is exhaustion that enables folks to consider compromise. The real danger as PL pointed out in his interview with Wolf Blitzer is that the current internecine strife in Iraq could spiral out of control into a larger regional conflagration. The question is can such a disaster be prevented considering the current actors and how?

Iraq is fracturing in more ways than imaginable. Shiite Clerics' Rivalry Deepens in Fragile Iraq

Hakim and Sadr are also sharply divided over whether Iraq should split into autonomous regions. Hakim is pushing for a separate Shiite region in the south, but Sadr, who views himself as an Iraqi nationalist, wants to keep the country unified.

Senior Sadr officials have circulated a petition among national lawmakers demanding a timetable for U.S. withdrawal. They have managed to get 131 signatures, nearly half of the parliament, Othman said.

"Politically, we can make the occupation withdraw," said Mustafa Yacoubi, Sadr's top deputy and a cleric who wears a black turban.

Hakim, meanwhile, has shown his pragmatism, understanding that he needs U.S. troops and support to balance the growing power of Sadr. Last month, he met with Bush, an action that many observers saw as the U.S. hedging its gamble on the weak Maliki government. Bush also met with Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party. Hashemi is perceived by Washington as a moderate, although many Iraqis would disagree.

"Maliki is very worried about this turnabout," said Wamid Nadhmi, a political analyst in Baghdad. "This is because of his affiliation with Moqtada Sadr and the promotion that Mr. Bush is giving to Mr. Hakim. Maliki is seeing his political end, that they are trying to form a new government with the approval of the Americans."

U.S. pressure on Maliki to isolate Sadr is growing. American officials have declared Shiite militias -- particularly the Mahdi Army -- the most significant threat to Iraq's stability. Maliki has not cracked down on the militia of his political benefactor. He and his Shiite Islamic Dawa Party are also resisting U.S. attempts to build a moderate coalition.

In many circles, Iraqis question whether Hakim and other so-called moderates can curb the growing power of Sadr.

"I have serious doubts about Mr. Hakim's influence among the Shiites, and I have serious doubts of Hashemi becoming the leader of Sunnis," Nadhmi said.

It's a sentiment shared in Karrada. "Al-Hakim is not loved by the people," said Abdul Amir Ali, a burly Shiite shopkeeper. "People love the Islamic Dawa Party and Maliki because they don't have militias."

In the sidewalk restaurant where Sadr's poster hangs, its owner, Ali Hussein, points at clusters of young men nearby. They are all Mahdi Army, he said. And so is he.

Hakim, he said, made a fatal mistake by meeting Bush. In today's Iraq, credibility and power are measured by opposition to the United States.

As the above story points out the shifting sands of Iraqi politics in a situation of anarchy is difficult to navigate. The Decider still insists on making strategic calculations when his judgement is proven to be wrong time and time again. I am afraid the short term prognosis for stability is very bleak. It may be more prudent to prepare for the next "holocaust"!


I largely concurr but would add some comments at the margins:

1. Some of the Maronite Leb Xtians, such as Aoun, have long seen the handwriting on the wall, and are touting a way forward. They are joined by the Tripoli Christians, Franjieh tribe. Some of the Sunnis, such as former prime minister Karami, are are also beginning to see the end of confessionalism.

In reality, because of their superior education, drive, ambition, & intangibles they will continue to dominate even in a true one man/person one vote environment.

2. Any grand concert would have the centerpiece the Saudi-Beirut initiative for full Peace with Trade between all 22 Arab states with Israel based on return of Golan heights (Jebel Druze &Shebba/Chebba Farms), Palestinian State (forward of the blue line and Gaza).

3. The European peace was punctuated by French German tension, in particular the Franco-Prussian War. I don't understand what changed in some 50 years that the Germans couldn't route the French again- the machine gun killing mobility?

Some writers think the Germans blew it by not taking a premptive strike during the Morocco crisis of 1905 when France was bereft of allies. Speculation runs wild on that consequence.

The import of Abizaids resignation has now hit the airwaves. I repeat, about time he showed his mettle. He had always appeared to be a straight shooter. The decider could not bamboozle him.

Chris Stiles

Negotiation of this sort is a laudable idea but - in my opinion - it will fail.

Most of the parties involved - on all sides - are firmly of the opinion that if they wait for long enough they will win They won't take a compromise in the near term unless it preserves their ability to reverse things in the mid to long term.

W. Patrick Lang


There seems to be a general misunderstanding about the nature of diplomacy. Diplomacy is based on bargaining, not kissing and making up. To succeed the process must have REAL rewards for all participants and perceived potential penalties for reneging on deals.

This is not about liking your adversary. It is certainly not about having negotiating "partners" as the Israelis egregiously like to say. pl

Frank Durkee

In 1815,as I recall, perhaps in error, among the imperatives were territorial integrity of the states at the table and the need to balance against any one or group of states seeeking hegemony in the region, as France had sought. Any Grand Bargin in the ME has to deal with oil as part of the global perspective. This has enormous ramifications both within the region and globally. It is a major 'interest' for virtually all of the players. How does this get dealt with?

W. Patrick Lang

Don from Saskatchewan

"Wishful thinking?" Of course. What else would it be? That does not meant that it could not be made to happen. MADE TO HAPPPEN. Don't be so passive.

"Most people" are silly if they think they can depend on the idea that us dumb Americans will be out of anywhere "in a few years." We were in VN ten, twelve years as I remember well.

To cavalierly dismiss the bargaining weight of an American army in the Middle East sounds just a wee bit unfriendly.

"High tech killing machine?" The war in Iraq looks remarkably low-tech to me.

No, Don. We Americans are not going to be humbled and then go away quietly, so if you want to see some resolution of all this mess, then you should think more positively. pl


Babak, please excuse my simplification of Israeli motives in the West Bank and Jerusalem. It is not only Likud.

As for religion, I don't believe the majority of Israelis are motivated by their anthem to keep all of the land they took/won in 67. I think you're overstating it. Judaism hasn't been a sacrificial religion for 2,000 years. Although they might like the Temple Mount back they can and are practicing their faith just fine without it. Perhaps I should have written rightist Zionism is at fault, not Likud.

As for al-Quds - third shrine, first qibla - you are wise to remind us of this.

"escalation to nowhere" should be printed on a bumper sticker and placed on the tail fin of Air Force One.


Dear Col. Lang,
Thank you for taking the time to share this well conceived and brilliant piece.


Colonel Lang,

Is this true:

The Pentagon has lost all its wars against persistent guerillas armed with cheap, light weapons that decentralize and hide.

Vietnam and Iraq come to mind.

Aren't we throwing away whatever bargaining power we have by showing how weak we are in Iraq?

Look at Israel. They sure showed how "strong" they were south of the Litani. That's what we're doing in Iraq. Losing.

Iran correctly realizes that it holds all the cards. We can't invade and conquer Iran. We could, conceivably, annihilate all living matter in the country. But I daresay that wouldn't go down well with the rest of the world. And it would require a draft.

The American public voted, "No" to the Iraq war. It will vote "No" to conscription.

The war is lost. Further American military presence is self-defeating.

And then there's the economy. I wonder what our creditors in Beijing and Delhi think about nuclear war against Iran?

The war in Iraq is lost. Time to talk. No threats. While we still have an Army left.


Col. Lang: Your last point is probably the most accurate, and most frightening: "We Americans are not going to be humbled and then go away quietly..." I asked a few times about what is the price of defeat in Iraq. Maybe it's time to ask a harder, and sadder, question: What price is the ME--and the world--going to pay for delivering a defeat to GWB?


Contact Our Congress! Tell Them What to Do!


We the People Have a Right and a Duty to Remove Tyrants from Our White House!

Everyone knows bushs do not keep their word. senior left the Iraqis who helped us in the first Gulf War to die by torture when he deserted them.

We must remove bush/cheney!


Hi Col.

It looks like the Brussels-based International Crisis Group agrees with your basic concept, at least.

From there, you start with an agenda that might look a lot like yours and start horsetrading. Any such conference is going to require that every participant emulate the Red Queen and be prepared to consider six things they thought impossible before breakfast each morning, but its worth a try because we're damned sure out of other options.

Regards, C



Yes to succeed the process must have REAL rewards for all participants and perceived potential penalties for reneging on deals. But the problem with the ME is that one sides reward is another side's penalty and if youre trying to deal with both...well therein lies the problem. Rewarding the Kurds with a homeland is penalising the Iraqis. What possible compensation could they be given for such a loss in land, oil and considering this is the Arab world, pride? How do you give the Palestinians equal or independent access to water without taking it away from the Israelis and have the Israelis agree to this (and therefore their Washington lobbyists)?

Diplomacy is great but the US is on course for disaster in Iraq and any attempts to convene such a diplomatic initiative will be seen as a sign of desperation and leave the US weak at the negotiating table.

In todays environment I would actually recoomend the opposite to a concert. I would recommend the best solution to be that the US deals with nations independently but instead of trying to impose pro-US govts., leaders, policies etc., just for a change it could try to be even handed. The results may be startling.



No, it won't solve all the problems but what it will do is remove the military aspects of organisations in the Levant, reduce the number of men angry and frustrated enough to want to kill and be killed and remove the no1 rallying cry for the likes of Al Qaida.

I guess reconciling modernity and Islam is only a problem if you see it as a problem. Where the level of education is good, that problem doesnt exist (if i am correct in assuming that you are reffering to things such as the reaction to the Danish cartoons). Therefore , what is lacking for this is investment in education by local govts.

The shadows of the wars are long, but again, removing a major issue like the Palestinian issue from the list of grievances will help to make those shadows that much shorter.

Got A Watch

Webster's defines "Diplomacy" as:
1. Negotiation between nations.
2. Subtly skillful handling of a situation.
3. Wisdom in the management of public affairs.
4. (Satire)The patriotic art of lying for one's country

Your program is wishful thinking because Bush's America has almost no credibility outside of Likud Party HQ and does not subscribe to definitions 1., 2., or 3. above, only 4. GWB's idea of negotiations is to tell the other party what they must agree to before they sit down.

Maybe in another universe with other than Bush as President, other than America as it now is. Maybe in '09 with a new Democratic President, but I doubt it (Hilary, LOL). Matthew has it right: "What price is the ME--and the world--going to pay for delivering a defeat to GWB?"

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