Slugger O'Toole

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After Haass: US must understand it has absolutely no dog in a sectarian fight…

Wed 15 January 2014, 11:20pm

Interesting that although Richard Haass and Meghan O’Sullivan appeared on Fared Zakaria’s Global Public Square on Sunday (h/t Ruarai) there was absolutely no mention of Belfast or Northern Ireland. There was, however, a fascinating contemporary analogue at play regarding the role of sectarianism in the Middle East.

Richard Haass:

These are societies that have never really dealt successfully with modernity.

You’ve never had a clear divide between the religious and the secular. People confuse democracy and majoritarianism. There’s not a real sense of minority rights or places in these societies.

And, then, in many ways, I agree, American foreign policy has exacerbated things by removing centers of authority, in many cases, unattractive, but still centres of authority and not doing things that were needed to put something better or at least enduring in its place.

So we say Assad must go, put pressure on him, but then virtually nothing happens to see that he goes, much less to replace him with something better.

Gadhafi must go, then what?

Then there was this laconic observation from Rashid Khalidi, professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia University:

The United States has to understand that it has absolutely no dog in a sectarian fight. It helped create this, but it’s a problem that’s beyond us. And we cannot control or determine outcomes in this region.[emphasis added]

Lessons there for his own handling of local matters?

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Comments (36)

  1. tmitch57 (profile) says:

    As an American I can agree with Khalidi and Haass. There are over 20 Arab states none of which are democracies and all are either authoritarian or totalitarian dictatorships. The chances of any of the existing regimes being replaced by a genuine democracy is rather low. So to all of the various partisans inside and outside Syria and inside the beltway in Washington, I say that now is a good time to draw the red line and not intervene. I was opposed to intervening in Libya but could understand the utility of getting rid of the Kaddafi regime as a lesson to those employing state terrorism. The U.S. doesn’t have a score to settle with Bashar al-Assad.

    I do wonder if Haass was thinking about Northern Ireland when he made his remarks about the Middle East. I think it is significant that NI was not mentioned by name–this illustrates what has changed since April 1998 and especially since Sep. 2001.

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  2. tacapall (profile) says:

    Man where have you been tmitch57 the phrase “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” comes to mind. If executive orders is not authoritarian and murdering children in Afghanistan is democracy at work then whats the difference between the “Kaddafi” regime and the Obama regime?

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  3. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    You also wonder if the invitation was extended in the expectation that the two were coming back with a live and successful case study in their back pockets, which they rather conspicuously didn’t.

    Was it something related to ‘trying to control outcomes in the region’ perhaps?

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  4. cynic2 (profile) says:

    tacapall

    Motive and scale?

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  5. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Talking about one region of the world when everyone knows you’re also talking about another region of the world from which you have recently returned?

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  6. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Everyone on Slugger, perhaps. Not sure Zakaria’s audience is up to speed on that. ;-)

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  7. David Crookes (profile) says:

    OK, Mick, everyone on Slugger. But meantime, back at the Crazy OB Ranch…..

    “Peter Robinson took phone calls from both the US vice-president and the UK prime minister in the final days of the Haass talks, it is understood.

    “The talks focussed on the contentious issues of flags, parades and the past.

    “Vice-President Joe Biden rang the first minister on 29 December – Mr Robinson’s 65th birthday – two days before the talks broke without a deal.

    “It is believed Mr Biden wished the DUP leader a ‘happy birthday’ then pressed him to reach an agreement.

    “A government source said Prime Minister David Cameron was also keen that the negotiations should end positively.

    “When Richard Haass was appointed to chair talks in July last year, the vice-president pledged the US administration’s full support for what he described as Dr Haass’s vital effort.

    “The current US administration no longer has a special envoy to Northern Ireland, but Vice-President Biden has been identified as its ‘point person’.

    “During the final days of the Haass talks informed sources told the BBC both President Obama and Vice President Biden had been getting regular briefings on the state of the negotiations.”

    Today’s BBC news story suggests that the R&M talks may not simply have been requested by PR and MMcG.

    Nice to know who was in the loop. Frazer, Bryson, Obama, Biden…..

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  8. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Well, h/t Steven McCaffrey who was suggesting as much months ago and referenced here on Slugger on several occasions since. Liberal interventionists. Ah, what can you do with them.

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  9. David Crookes[1.21] Peter and Mike must be waiting for Haass’s memoirs to see if RH blows their dirty secret about why they wouldn’t allow a code of conduct to pass and risk thousands of votes at forthcoming elections. I don’t expect Robinson will take up a St Patrick’s Day invite to washington this time round as the chill wind will confront him from more than just Biden if he ventures over.

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  10. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Dan,

    It was not too warm and inviting last year either. By all accounts it lasted half an hour and the atmosphere cold.

    I honestly cannot see how Peter will want to duck the opportunity to explain his position. I also cannot see what leverage the President will use then that’s not already been deployed.

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  11. Kevsterino (profile) says:

    Mick, there is no leverage anymore. The US government cannot entice or threaten the parties in Northern Ireland. That has been true now for many years. I felt sorry for Haass and O’Sullivan in that these recent talks were doomed to be ineffective.

    I’m beginning to think nothing will change in Northern Ireland until an entirely new crop of leaders arrives on the scene. And that appears a long way off.

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  12. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Thanks, Dan. If thousands of voters vote against a code od conduct for marchers, then there is something seriously uncivilized about thousands of voters. Is that the big problem which PR and MN feel unable to confront?

    Irish Night in Washington is a bit like the Twelfth over here. Many people detest it, but they have to go along with it. In any case, PR won’t get any OO votes back here for doing what BO asks him to do.

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  13. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    We are in complete accord then Kev (for once! ;-)).

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  14. GEF (profile) says:

    “Irish Night in Washington is a bit like the Twelfth over here. Many people detest it, but they have to go along with it. ”

    Not so in New Jersey, seems like many are becoming fed up with these outdated parades (whether they be Orange in NI or Green in US ) with their misbehaving followers.

    Mayor bans St. Patrick’s Day Parade again in Hoboken, NJ
    http://www.irishcentral.com/news/mayor-bans-st-patricks-day-parade-again-in-hoboken-nj-240073431-240125201.html

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  15. son of sam (profile) says:

    I’m sure Sinn Fein will want Martin to have his statutory photograph with Obama in advance of the elections.”International statesman” and all that!Maybe Peter will attend with gritted teeth!

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  16. Kevsterino (profile) says:

    C’mon Mick, we’ve agreed before. There was, er, uh, and the time… ;o)

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  17. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Wish we had mayors like that over here, GEF.

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  18. Kevsterino (profile) says:

    I think she did the right thing, David. I enjoy a drink as much as the next man, but find a lot to disagree with in the riot of paddywhackery that passes for St. Patrick’s Day in some cities/towns here. I don’t thing Hoboken has the resources to deal with it, so move it to a Wednesday or take your drunken ass to New York.

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  19. Kevsterino (profile) says:

    *think*

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  20. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Yes, Kevsterino, she was right. No person’s celebrative pleasure should cause discomfort to any other person. You enjoy a drink, and that’s fine. You don’t insist on urinating over my antirrhinums.

    If paddywhackery of any political complexion is tolerated, it will get worse. I sometimes dream about a ten-year ban on all parades over here as a prelude to getting everyone to act in a civilized way.

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  21. David,
    If mayors in N.I. were given the authority to ban a parade, I’m sure some would jump at the chance. It’s best that they don’t have such power, however; can you imagine the reaction were a Lord Mayor of Belfast, for example, to ban the Twelfth parades.

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  22. tacapall (profile) says:

    It wont be too long before they do Joe -

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/councils-to-be-given-powers-to-ban-peaceful-protests-that-might-disturb-local-residents-8940535.html

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  23. David Crookes (profile) says:

    I was only dreaming, Joe. Hoboken has a basically united community, and Belfast has not.

    At one point in his premiership Brian Faulkner announced a ban on all parades including the Twelfth. That was him finished with many unionists (and at the time, I’m ashamed to say, with me).

    An attempt to ban the Twelfth would start up the Troubles again big time. But there’s no need to ban it. In the short term, unionists need to accept a code of conduct for marchers. In the long term, they need to develop a culture than involves art, music, and literature.

    Imagine a Twelfth in which likenesses of Tom Carr, Hamilton Harty, and C S Lewis appeared on banners.

    Everything could be so much better. Imagine even bands of uniformly short flutes playing specially written music in three-part harmony. Prizes for the most musically accomplished bands. Fifty-strong groups of merrily costumed children (both ‘sorts’) marching in the parades. School orchestras playing on enormous slow-moving floats. WIs, PWAs, and other groups of weemen marching in formation. Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Boys Brigade, football clubs, rugby clubs, hockey clubs, GAA clubs, bowling clubs, pigeon clubs, cycling clubs, swimming clubs, boat clubs…..

    Medication time again.

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  24. tacapall (profile) says:

    “An attempt to ban the Twelfth would start up the Troubles again big time. But there’s no need to ban it. In the short term, unionists need to accept a code of conduct for marchers. In the long term, they need to develop a culture than involves art, music, and literature”

    I dont think the rest of Europe is going to wait on them evolving David.

    http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2009_2014/documents/libe/dv/11_revframework_statute/11_revframework_statute_en.pdf

    For the purposes of this Statute
    :
    (a)

    “Group” means: a number of people joined by racial or cultural
    roots, ethnic originor descent,religious affiliation or linguistic
    links,gender identity or sexual orientation, or any other
    characteristics of a similar nature

    .

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  25. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Thanks, tacapall. If Europe is determined to impose a code of conduct, it will have to police it.

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  26. tacapall (profile) says:

    “An attempt to ban the Twelfth would start up the Troubles again big time. But there’s no need to ban it. In the short term, unionists need to accept a code of conduct for marchers. In the long term, they need to develop a culture than involves art, music, and literature”

    I dont think the rest of Europe is going to wait on them evolving David.

    http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2009_2014/documents/libe/dv/11_revframework_statute/11_revframework_statute_en.pdf

    For the purposes of this Statute :

    (a) “Group” means: a number of people joined by racial or cultural roots, ethnic origin or descent,religious affiliation or linguistic links,gender identity or sexual orientation, or any other characteristics of a similar nature.

    (b)”Group libel” means: defamatory comments made in public and aimed against a group as defined in paragraph (a) – or members thereof – with a view to inciting to violence, slandering the group, holding it to ridicule or subjecting it to false charges.

    (c)”Hate crimes” means: any criminal act however defined, whether committed against persons or property, where the victims or targets are selected because of their real or perceived connection with – or support or membership of – a group as defined in paragraph (a).

    (d) “Tolerance” means: respect for and acceptance of the expression, preservation and development of the distinct identity of a group as defined in paragraph(a). This definition is without prejudice to the principle of coexistence of diverse groups
    within a single society
    .

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  27. tacapall (profile) says:

    Sorry David with the double post. Yes it does have to police it David but just like Westminister is going to fine the clowns up on the hill £5 million a week for not introducing reforms Europe can do the same regarding the non introduction of its reforms in Westminister.

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  28. BarneyT (profile) says:

    can we really say that in the north sectarianism is equal. It exists in both camps, certainly, but it is more entrenched and institutionalised on one side? Levelling this as a sectarian fight can sometimes mask the degree and scale of hatred and where it really does exist.

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  29. Mick fealty[2.08] I wasn’t really fol,lowing the St Pat’s circus this year so missed any tension reported. Robinson may have some difficulty stretching this process beyond the council and European elections never mind the real meat to follow with Stormont and Westminster. Marty on the view tonight suggests the Americans have St |Pat’s Day as their dealine to get Haass over the line, and the heat might get too much for DUP.

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  30. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Maybe Dan, but I’m not being frivolous when I ask again, what heat? Politics is conditioned by media, just as soccer is. It can even get bent out of shape by exposure to media, but it also has a dynamic of its own.

    I can see Phil Hogans very real difficulty in LH tonight over Irish Water. I cannot see Robbo’s difficulty beyond the usual animosity of his political opponents. Maybe your eyesight is better than mine? ;-)

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  31. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Right, tacapall, pardon me for being slow-minded. Would it be a good idea then for the local parties, whose many advisers must be well ahead of you and me in the prophecy game, to start warning their electors that there will be a price to pay for folly in the future?

    BarneyT, things like the way Belfast’s Lord Mayor was recently treated in a public park lend weight to your question. I don’t know what the answer is. But even if it was possible to assemble an equitable anecdotage of current horror from both sides of the fence, there would be a burden on discerning persons to condemn any such wrongness as might exist on their own side of the fence.

    When one actually does that in real life, a number of of one’s coreligionists become suffused with essentially murderous anger. They won’t kill you themselves, but if someone else kills you late on Saturday night, some of one’s coreligionists will growl approvingly as they get ready to go to church.

    Nonetheless one has a duty to speak intrepidly.

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  32. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Mick

    Ken’s breaking the news again.

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  33. Barney (profile) says:

    Of course Haass has a dog in this, its called the US army with their occupation of one muslim country a string of military bases across the region, the support for dictators and apartheid states plus their no warning bombings of several Arab countries.

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  34. tmitch57 (profile) says:

    ‘Mick, there is no leverage anymore. The US government cannot entice or threaten the parties in Northern Ireland. That has been true now for many years. I felt sorry for Haass and O’Sullivan in that these recent talks were doomed to be ineffective.’

    Yes, NI is right up there with Bosnia where there are no longer any real expectations any more.

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  35. Nevin (profile) says:

    and Eamon Gilmore has decided to stir the sectarian pot.

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  36. Nevin (profile) says:

    “Nonetheless one has a duty to speak intrepidly.”

    David, you’d indeed be very brave, not to say foolhardy, were you to ignore a ‘request’ from a local paramilitary godfather, elected, on a quango, on a charitable trust or otherwise. The media will often refrain from publishing facts should such publication endanger peoples’ property or lives. Sometimes the best we can do is give a flavour of reality, even if certain taste buds lack sufficient sensitivity to discern the spectrum of political ingredients.

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