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How Not to Save Iraq--A Response to Ray Close

wish to share herewith a very significant exchange of messages between
Ray Close and Steven Cook.  The sequence, and the order in which these
documents should be read are as follows:

       A.  first read the second attachment titled:  Ray Close's
commentary on the Steven Cook piece _ How not to Save Iraq
       B.  then read the first attachment  --  Fw_How Not to Save Iraq
(etc) which is Cook's response to Ray
       C.  then finally the message below which is Ray's very telling
rejoinder to Cook

For any who have not been intimately connected with the Middle East,
particularly the Arab Middle East, exposuure to this exchange is a
classic education.

To assist further understanding, I find it suitable to quote from
General Tony Zinni's new book  */_The_/* */_Battle for Peace_/* , page 2:

       QUOTE:  Immediately after 9/11 . . . one Arab friend was more
than just upset by the shocking terrorist attacks;  he seemed intensely
worried about something deeper.  And this caught my attention. . . .

       "I'm worried that this tragedy  could cause America to stop
being America," he said.

       I asked him to explain.

       "You Americans don't know your power, your influence, and your
goodness." he said.  "Your anger and the retaliation you'r e about to
take are justified.   But in doing what you must do to respond to this
evil, I hope, for the sake of the world,  that you never lose sight of
your values and your sense of justice in the actions that you take.  The
world needs you more than you realize."

       My friend was telling me much more than the obvious -- that we
Americans don't know our own power and influence.  He was telling me
that we haven't really learned how to use them to get what we want or
need;  that we don't really know who we are, in the sense that we've had
to struggle to work out our proper role in today's world; and that our
role must include the */moral dimension/*  [emphasis added] that has
been essential to America's actions in the world since the days of the
nation's founders. . . . What he was saying is that America always
sought to do right -- that both our friends and our enemies have seen that.

END QUOTE

Ray Close's account below of the 153 years of intimate involvement by
the Close family  with the Arab Middle East is significantly
illustrative of that basic goodness and moral dimension which the word
American has consisstently brought to mind, at least heretofore.

Regards,  John
-
*From:* Ray Close
*Sent:* Tuesday, April 11, 2006 6:25 AM
*Subject:* Re: How Not to Save Iraq--A Response to Ray Close

Dear Dr. Cook:

Thank you for clarifying the Cook Doctrine. You really _do_ believe,
apparently,  that all present Arab leaders and governments should be
excluded by America from participation in the reordering of their own
region until they have all been replaced by new leaderships brought to
power through American-inspired free and fair elections.  Like Hamas in
Palestine, Hizballah in Lebanon, the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, Jordan
and Egypt, and Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia.   Then America can count on
them all eliminating terrorism, making peace with Israel, and bringing
down the price of gas  (so we old folks don’t have to spend our entire
Social Security checks every month to full our SUV’s.)  Sounds pretty
simple. Please proceed.  Time is of the essence.

Meanwhile, please let me correct a couple of small misimpression's on a
personal level, if I may. You have characterized me as having “fond
memories of sipping tea with Arab potentates, generals, corrupt
revolutionaries and their court intellectuals who, no doubt, told you of
the uneducated, immature masses”.  In fact, my great-grandfather arrived
in the Arab world in Ottoman times, 153 years ago, as an educator, and
members of my family have been serving with and for the people of the
region, of all social communities and religious faiths, without
interruption, ever since then.   A hundred years ago my mother was
teaching (in Arabic) at a school for girls in Sidon, Lebanon, that had
been establishing by her father and grandfather several decades
before.   Later, my father taught at the American University of Beirut
(AUB) and at the Beirut College for Women for more than forty years. In
1945, seventeen graduates of the AUB represented Arab governments at the
historic signing of the United Nations Charter in San Francisco. (Dr.
Adnan Pachachi, much-respected elder statesman in Iraq today, is one of
the last surviving members of that unique fraternity.)  At one point
while  my father was serving as Dean of Arts and Sciences at the AUB,
there were no less than seven Arab heads of government (presidents or
prime ministers) who had been former students of his.  That history does
not quite justify your (really quite pompous) tutorial admonition to me
that: “You seem to forget all those activists and reformers who, for
decades, have been struggling on the margins to forge more open, freer,
political systems in the Arab world.  It is a shame and a grave
violation of our principles as Americans that we did little to help them
during the last 50 years — a time during which, you have reminded me,
you served in the Arab world.”  (I did indeed, Sir, not always with
complete success, but always with pride.)

Now that you have clarified exactly where you are coming from, Dr. Cook,
I can readily understand why you see the Arab world from that
now-familiar special  perspective.  Our personal experiences and family
backgrounds put us at completely  different starting-points, I’m afraid,
and so we are bound to have quite different attitudes toward the people
and the problems of the region.

Therefore, I don’t really think we can accomplish anything constructive
by further acrimonious exchanges, and I feel I should apologize to you
for having set a tone in this discussion that I’m afraid has done
neither of us any credit.  Nor, I dare say,  has it enlightened those
other poor souls on whom we have inflicted this dispute.  Let’s call it
a draw and retire to our respective corners, shall we?

Ray Close

Sent: Monday, April 10, 2006 10:37 AM
Subject: How Not to Save Iraq--A Response to Ray Close


> April 10, 2006
>
> Dear Mr. Close,
>
> My dear friend Julie Taylor forwarded to me your response to my recent
> article in the TNR (The New Republic, NOT the National Interest) Online.
>
> Although I am quite busy, I feel it is important to respond to your
missive
> lest anyone believe that I agree with your analysis or that you have made
a
> persuasive counter-argument.
>
> First, it seems to me that your critique stems from your hostility to the
> “Bernard Lewis school of Arab studies” to which you suggest I have some
> affinity.  I have never met Professor Lewis, though I have read his
> monumental work, “The Emergence of Modern Turkey” as well as bits and
> pieces of his other writings.
>
> Second, you argue that “our hope” should be that the Arab world will “work
> together to find common ground while tolerating differences among
> themselves.”  I prefer not to predicate my policy analysis on “hope,” but
> rather the historical record and carefully evaluated evidence.  Surely,
Mr.
> Close, after your five decades of experience in the Middle East, it should
> be abundantly clear to you that successive Arab leaders have been
> manifestly unable to work together—save, of course, the blunder of 1967
and
> the partial victory of 1973. The only other episodes of Arab cooperation
on
> major issues include the Ta’if accord, which was never fully implemented
> and left Lebanon under Syrian occupation, and the first Gulf war.  Of
> course, Arab cooperation during Operation Desert Storm was under
“dictation
> and coercion from Washington.”  I venture to suggest that had the United
> States not intervened, Kuwait would be the 19th province of Iraq.
>
> Third, you somehow believe that I do not think that Arabs can “be trusted
> to act rationally.”  In fact, it is precisely because I have a deep
> appreciation for the rationality of Arab leaders that I wrote the article.
> Indeed, from the perspective of Cairo, Damascus Riyadh, Amman, and other
> Arab capitals, why would success—the way the Bush administration and many
> Iraqis define it—be in the interest of Arab states?  Given the fact that
> Arab leaders have a critical interest in maintaining the authoritarian
> status quo, it is abundantly obvious that they are behaving rationally.
>
> Moreover, you indicate that it would be a “tragic mistake to exclude all
> the Arab neighbors from Iraq.”  Yet, Washington doesn’t need to do any
> excluding. It is unclear to me with whom you are speaking—perhaps other
> retired CIA officials—but I have spent quite a bit of time in Arab
capitals
> since the beginning of the invasion.  The Arab governments have made it
> abundantly clear that they will not assist in any serious effort to assist
> the reconstruction of Iraq.  Now that is a real tragedy.
>
> Mr. Close, I find your insinuation that Arabs do not want freedom and
> democracy to be little more than the subtle racism of low expectations.
> While I am sure you have fond memories of sipping tea with Arab
potentates,
> generals, corrupt revolutionaries and their court intellectuals who, no
> doubt, told you of the uneducated, immature masses, my experience has been
> very different.  Democracy in the Arab world was not invented the day
after
> September 11, 2001.  You seem to forget all those activists and reformers
> who, for decades, have been struggling on the margins to forge more open,
> freer, political systems in the Arab world.  It is a shame and a grave
> violation of our principles as Americans that we did little to help them
> during the last 50 years—a time during which, you have reminded me, you
> served in the Arab world.
>
> Finally, your suggestion that the United States “adopt a positive
 attitude”
> toward the Arab states and things will work out for the better in Iraq is
> really a rather silly substitute for serious analysis of Iraq and the
> region.  Washington’s interests in Iraq diverge considerably from those of
> the Arab states.  A positive attitude or not will likely make little
> difference.
>
> Thank you.
>
> Regards,
> Steven Cook
>
> Steven A. Cook, Ph.D.
> Douglas Dillon Fellow
> Council on Foreign Relations
> 58 East 68th Street
> New York, NY 10021
> (office): 212-434-9644
> (mobile): 202-255-3180
> scook@cfr.org
> http://www.cfr.org
>
>
>
>
>



To the three of you, from a background of highly diverse involvements in and with the Middle East since 1947,  I wish to warmly endorse Ray Close's commentary sent on April 8th to the three of you.  We and the world are going to be in increasingly deep trouble if we do not get back to an overall posture which once made us universally respected in the region even by those who in so many ways disagreed.  I particularly endorse Ray's remarks  --  "We do have strong and influential Arab friends.  Most importantly, adopting a positive attitude is far more promising than dismissing all Arab leaders and governments as useless and untrustworthy  --  a posture and a frame of mind that would certainly lead to total failure, and would leave the next generation of American policy makers with an even more dismal legacy that the one Bush has already, tragically, created for them."
 
Sincerely,
 
John E. Marsh


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