The Extremists Unbound

The pattern of policymaking in the Middle East, as it was defined since President Bush’s “axis if evil” speech of January 2002, is undergoing a momentous change of direction. With the extremists firmly entrenched in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran, Bush has finally decided not to remain blind to the benefits of engagement.

JERUSALEM – The pattern of policymaking in the Middle East, as it was defined since President Bush’s “axis if evil” speech of January 2002, is undergoing a momentous change of direction. Bush’s foreign-policy paradigm of an alliance of “moderates” to defeat the “extremists” – a model too enthusiastically seconded by an unimaginative Israeli leadership and by those Arabs (led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia) who dread the forces of radical change – has collapsed. The “extremists,” whom Bush expected to be defeated through economic sanctions, diplomatic isolation, and military action, have prevailed. It is the “moderates” who must now adapt their policies.

Israel and the United States failed resoundingly in their attempt to dislodge Hamas from Gaza, or in forcing it to accept conditions for an end to the international boycott. Fearing the costs of an invasion of Gaza’s urban alleys, Israel handed a strategic victory to Hamas. It accepted a truce, brokered by an Egyptian government fearful of Iran’s influence in neighboring Gaza, that not only gave Hamas political legitimacy and undermined the international community’s policy of not negotiating with this fundamentalist group, but that also allowed it to continue rearming. Indeed, Hamas now poses a strategic threat to Israel’s urban centers and military facilities.

Israel’s war in 2006 in Lebanon against Hezbollah, supported by the US and the entire Arab “moderate” camp, was no more successful. In fact, Hezbollah is now not only militarily stronger than ever – Security Council Resolution 1701, which called for its disarmament, has proven to be an utter failure – but also more politically robust than before the war. Admirably adept at weaving together all of Lebanon’s political, religious, and nationalists threads, Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nazrallah, is today the undisputed master of Lebanon.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.


Log in;
  1. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

    Angela Merkel’s Endgame?

    The collapse of coalition negotiations has left German Chancellor Angela Merkel facing a stark choice between forming a minority government or calling for a new election. But would a minority government necessarily be as bad as Germans have traditionally thought?

  2. Trump Trade speech Bill Pugliano/Getty Images .

    Preparing for the Trump Trade Wars

    In the first 11 months of his presidency, Donald Trump has failed to back up his words – or tweets – with action on a variety of fronts. But the rest of the world's governments, and particularly those in Asia and Europe, would be mistaken to assume that he won't follow through on his promised "America First" trade agenda.

  3. A GrabBike rider uses his mobile phone Bay Ismoyo/Getty Images

    The Platform Economy

    While developed countries in Europe, North America, and Asia are rapidly aging, emerging economies are predominantly youthful. Nigerian, Indonesian, and Vietnamese young people will shape global work trends at an increasingly rapid pace, bringing to bear their experience in dynamic informal markets on a tech-enabled gig economy.

  4. Trump Mario Tama/Getty Images

    Profiles in Discouragement

    One day, the United States will turn the page on Donald Trump. But, as Americans prepare to observe their Thanksgiving holiday, they should reflect that their country's culture and global standing will never recover fully from the wounds that his presidency is inflicting on them.

  5. Mugabe kisses Grace JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images

    How Women Shape Coups

    In Zimbabwe, as in all coups, much behind-the-scenes plotting continues to take place in the aftermath of the military's overthrow of President Robert Mugabe. But who the eventual winners and losers are may depend, among other things, on the gender of the plotters.

  6. Oil barrels Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Getty Images

    The Abnormality of Oil

    At the 2017 Abu Dhabi Petroleum Exhibition and Conference, the consensus among industry executives was that oil prices will still be around $60 per barrel in November 2018. But there is evidence to suggest that the uptick in global growth and developments in Saudi Arabia will push the price as high as $80 in the meantime.

  7. Israeli soldier Menahem Kahana/Getty Images

    The Saudi Prince’s Dangerous War Games

    Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is working hard to consolidate power and establish his country as the Middle East’s only hegemon. But his efforts – which include an attempt to trigger a war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon – increasingly look like the work of an immature gambler.