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.
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?