Simon, Pundita has not forgotten your essay on China and I'm still working on The West's view of China: the enemy is ourselves.
But right now I entreat my readers to keep one eye on the Middle East and one eye on the runup to Gleneagles.
Tom Friedman's report today for The New York Times jibes with observations about the Palestinians that John Loftus made in his reply yesterday to Pundita's question. Friedman notes in part:
The simultaneous boomlets in the Israeli and Palestinian stock markets highlight one of the most important political facts I encountered traveling in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank: a groundswell of relief that both sides have found a way, even temporarily, to stop the insane cycle of Palestinian suicide bombing and Israeli retaliations that totally distorted daily life here.The Israeli military is deploying 45,000 troops to insure an orderly withdrawal and has strongly warned that if shooting starts, they will finish it.
Quite simply, Israelis and Palestinians are really enjoying this calm after four years of mutually assured destruction. Palestinian restaurants in Ramallah are full again. Hotel owners in Gaza are repainting their lobbies. Israel is again awash in tourists.
No leader or party can ignore how much people want this calm to hold - even Hamas. As Ghazi Hamad, editor of the Hamas newspaper Al Risalat, said to me, "One reason Hamas agreed to the cease-fire was to give people a chance to breathe and rest."
The other hugely important fact is that Israel is going to begin withdrawing from the Gaza Strip in mid-August.
Friedman criticizes Condoleezza Rice for "breezing in and out of the region" at this critical juncture. I don't know what Mr Friedman wants the United States government to do there. Continue treating both sides as if they're children?
In any case, it's Tehran that is the bad actor in the situation. They're seeing common sense blooming in the region wherever they look. That's the worst news for them.
But the pressure from the US side has to be at the G8 meeting in Gleneagles -- and it has to be directed toward the EU Three -- Britain, France and Germany. If the G7 nations cannot agree to put up a united front with Tehran, Russia won't go along with a hard line toward Tehran. If Russia won't go along, you can be sure China will continue sucking up to Tehran.
As with so many situations today, the United States needs to be focusing on our allies in West Europee. It's not about "over there in the Middle East." It's about our Western allies getting their heads together and acknowleding that it helps nothing to attempt to appease a terror-sponsoring regime that deals in bad faith.
And it's time for those allies to acknowledge that government-sponsored terror armies are not freedom fighters. It ain't the Battle of Algiers going on over there. It's Tehran feeling like an island in a sea of Arab nations and playing the divide-and-conquer card.
If our oldest allies in Europe do not confront that truth, Secretary Rice could take up residence in Gaza and it wouldn't make a bit of difference.
Everybody in the Middle East knows what Tehran is up to, so it's a matter of both sides continuing to resist Tehran-sponsored provacations. And everybody in the Middle East knows what the Israeli extremists are up to. Yet they also know that Ariel Sharon is practically dead man walking for standing up to the extremists in his government.
So if there was ever a time for sane adults in Palestine and Israel to maintain the upper hand, now is that time. The biggest help the United States could give at this juncture would occur at Gleneagles.
As if to underscore my sense of foreboding, this weekend I received a letter from Marc Schulman at American Future that made reference to parallels between today and 1930s Europe. I promised Marc a reply but the question is whether his points can be readily perceived in many regions outside America.
The more I learn about present-day Europe's news media, the more obvious that much news is suppressed by Europe's governments. So while many informed Americans could easily grasp the parallels, I'm not sure they would be seen in Europe. In any case, I'll publish the letter with Marc's permission:
I'm curious about something. Ever since I was a teen-ager, I've been absolutely fascinated by the 1930s. While I've read numerous books on the subject, I still can't understand how the western democracies could allow Hitler to have his way in Europe. After all, he made no secret of his ambitions and intentions -- they were all in Mein Kampf.
Yes, there are plenty of explanations, such as perceiving Nazi Germany as the bulwark against communism. Be that as it may, the blindness of Europe's statesmen (with the notable exception of Churchill) remains incomprehensible to me.
My knowledge of the 1930s is the prism through which I view our current situation. Like Hitler, bin Laden and his ilk have made it crystal clear, in their spoken words and writings, that they seek the destruction of Western civilization.
And, as in the 1930s, numerous statesmen (again in Europe!) and millions of ordinary citizens have chosen to bury their heads in the sand, notwithstanding 9/11. Further, the United Nations is as ineffective and toothless now as the League of Nations was then.
The parallels between now and that sorry decade seem so obvious to me that I am again finding it to be impossible to truly understand those who do not see what I see and instead are irate because [America's] behavior is less than perfect.
So here's my question: is your prism the same as mine and, if not, what is it?"
Interested readers might want to send their answer, if they can find one, to Marc for publication. I hope that European readers will consider responding. And readers outside Europe -- please remember to check American Future (see the blogroll) for the latest news on EU doings in the runup to Gleneagles.