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Thursday, April 04, 2002
The shinbone's connected to the kneebone...
William Saletan in Slate explains why the Middle East peace process is a joke:
The Middle East is going to hell. Palestinians are blowing up Israelis. Israelis are shooting Palestinians. What is the United States doing about it? Not much. But don't worry, says U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Eventually, the Israelis will pull out of the West Bank, "and Tenet and Mitchell will be waiting for them."

If you don't know what Tenet and Mitchell are, you need a lesson in the three languages of the peace process: Hebrew, Arabic, and bureaucratic bullshit. Officially, Mitchell refers to an April 2001 list of recommendations for conducting peace talks, and Tenet refers to a June 2001 list of security measures each side must take to halt violence so that talks can proceed. Unofficially, Mitchell and Tenet, like Zinni, Oslo, and Madrid, are buzzwords designed to create an impression of progress where none exists.

The theory put forward by Powell, President Bush, the U.N. Security Council, and other peace process exponents is that Zinni will lead to Tenet, which will lead to Mitchell, which will lead to Oslo, which will lead to peace. But the history of the invention of these steps suggests the opposite. Mitchell was created because Oslo failed. Tenet was created because Mitchell failed. Zinni was created because Tenet failed. The peace process is growing ever more complicated not because each stage leads to the next but because it doesn't.
What Mr. Saletan could have added is that the entire concept of a "peace process" is doublespeak. Peace is not a "process." Negotiations are a process. Peace is the result of the process. To speak of the current situation as a "peace process" is to put the cart before the horse. It's a way to pretend that people who are shooting at each other aren't really shooting at each other.

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