Beware of Engagement

[Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies-Shalem Center] Martin Kramer - There is a large industry out there whose sole purpose is the systematic downplaying of the risks posed by radical Islam. In the best American tradition, these risks are repackaged as opportunities. Engagement sounds low-risk - after all, there's no harm in talking, right? Worried about Ahmadinejad? He doesn't really call the shots in Iran. Pay no attention to the old slogans of "death to America," because that's not the real Iran. Worried about the Palestinian Hamas? They are basically a protest movement against corruption. Troubled by Hizbullah? All their talk about "onwards to Jerusalem" is rhetoric for domestic consumption. We are told that the demands of Hamas, Hizbullah or Iran are finite. If we give them a concession here, or a foothold there, we will somehow diminish their demand for more. But if their purpose is the reversal of history, to restore the vast power exercised in the past when Islam dominated the world, then our gestures of accommodation only persuade them to press on. In the Middle East, the idea that "there's no harm in talking" is entirely incomprehensible. It matters whom you talk to, because you legitimize your interlocutors. Hence the Arab refusal to normalize relations with Israel. An Arab head of state will never directly engage Israel before extracting every concession. Only an American would think of doing this at the outset, and in return for nothing. There is harm in talking, if your talking legitimates your enemies, and persuades them and those on the sidelines that you have done so from weakness.

2008-11-27 01:00:00

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