This is a pivotal moment in the larger foreign policy debate. During Bush’s second term, realists (i.e. Baker/Hamilton) and leftists (Obama’s crew) joined forces and presented what seemed like a coherent critique of Bush foreign policy and neoconservatism. Cheney’s influence was replaced with Condi’s. The realists/leftists agreed that we needed to negotiate with Iran and Syria, leave Iraq, and focus on creating a Palestinian state. Then Obama was elected and turned this agenda into policy.
On the peace process, Obama made these ideas the basis of his approach. He got tough with Israel and made settlements the centerpiece of the conflict while refusing to ever criticize or pressure the Palestinians.
So the peace process has quickly fallen apart, and now, just as this reality is setting in — that Obama mishandled it from day one, in thrall to bad ideas — we get Wikileaks, which is quickly obliterating the Gulf-side Middle East worldview of the leftist-realists.
They said the Palestinians are the key to pleasing the Arabs — but in private, we now know that the Arabs barely ever mention Palestine. They said that the Israelis manipulate our foreign policy — but we now know that the Arabs were the ones openly calling for the U.S. to start a war with Iran. They said that America’s closeness with Israel alienates the Arabs — but we now know that what’s really alienating the Arabs is America’s reluctance to use its power to confront Iran and enforce a security architecture in which Israel is America’s most capable client.
In both halves of the Middle East — Levant and Gulf — the realist-leftists have gotten their way for the past few years. And the collapse of the peace process plus Wikileaks shows that their way is a fantasy that is scaring the daylights out of our allies and risking catastrophe.
As I see it, the meaning of Wikileaks is that we are at a moment when a bookend is being placed on a brief period of ascendancy for the realist-leftist foreign policy movement. It’s going to be a bruising downhill ride for these guys from here on out. (I hope.)