Crisis = Opportunity

There are only a handful of foreign policy writers and thinkers who I think of as real innovators, people who can surprise and suddenly illuminate a situation, think creatively and outside the boxes of the various isms. Edward Luttwak is one of them; Mark Helprin is another. I have a soft spot for Helprin from his novels. I also disagree with him strongly on some issues. But he's always stimulating and sharp. His op-ed in the NYT today is a home-run. What we desperately need right now is less recrimination - can we all agree that the current crew is simply unhinged? - and more imagination with respect to exploiting the opportunities opened up by the moral and strategic catastrophe of the Iraq occupation. My own hope is protecting Kurdistan and turning the South of Iraq into a major headache for Tehran's mullahs. An oil crisis would be great for the planet too. Helprin argues that, for reasons unforeseen, we now have a rare window of opportunity for an Israel-Palestinian deal. Yes, I know, and Helprin has all the necessary caveats. But read it all. Money quote:

The sudden and intense commonality of interest between the Palestinian Authority and Israel is the equivalent of the Israeli-Egyptian core of 1977. But today, the Arabs, in the second circle, have largely reversed position. Fearful of Iran’s sponsorship of war, chaos and revolution, they will apply their weight against the rejectionists.

Egypt, the Persian Gulf states and Jordan have so much to contend with at home and in the east that they cannot afford an active front in their midst, and are therefore forming ranks against Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, bringing most of the rest of the Arab states with them.

This is extraordinary and it is where we are now: on the verge of a rare alignment of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the leading Arab nations and the major powers. Though it is true that one of Moscow’s chief interests is to keep the Middle East roiled so as to preserve the high oil prices that are now Russia’s lifeblood, when the region moved from Soviet to Western arms Moscow was relegated to the periphery, where it remains. Though Europe is militarily paralyzed, it wields great economic incentives; and though the United States has of late been a graceless lummox drunkenly knocking everything awry, its powers remain pre-eminent and its will constructive.

This is Condi's chance. Take it, madam secretary.