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"Peace" based on "self interest" is a bad idea

We're currently in the middle of an ice storm here in Oklahoma City, and this morning, while we were watching the weather on local TV, I was forced to endure a Today show interview with Jimmy Carter.

Carter was plugging his new book, We Can Have Peace In The Holy Land, and seemed caught off guard when Meredith Viera asked him a number of uncomfortable questions about his relationship with Hamas. Here's a partial transcript of the interview:

CARTER: ... We've had a chance to meet two times with the leaders of Hamas, both those in Gaza and those that are - top leaders - in Damascus Syria.

VIERA: And you've been criticized for that, sir, because Hamas is considered a terrorist group.

CARTER: (shrugs) By some they are, and they've done some bad things ... But Hamas has pledged to me, and publicly, that they will accept any cease fire that is negotiated between the Fatah leader, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Israelis, provided the cease fire terms are then submitted to the Palestinian people for approval in a referendum. So that's a major step forward.

VIERA: But do you believe that Hamas can be trusted?

CARTER: Yes I do. I think they can, because of their own self-interest, not because they are benevolent or kind or that sort of thing, but yes I do. I think they can. And they've never betrayed any commitment that they've made to me or publicly, as a matter of fact.

A bit later, Viera and President Carter had this exchange:

VIERA: But Hamas has said that its goal is to destroy Israel. How can you involve them in a peace process when they've said their goal is to destroy Israel, and they don't recognize Israel?

CARTER: I'm not here to defend Hamas, but to tell you what they have pledged to me, and publicly; that if any agreement is negotiated between Fatah leaders and Israel, that Hamas will accept the agreement if it's submitted to the Palestinian people in a referendum. And that's a very good step forward, and I think they will do that because of their own self interest. And Hamas complied very thoroughly with the cease-fire agreement that I had worked out for last June the nineteenth. For five months there were no rockets fired until Israel did attack Gaza again on November the fourth.

Very thoroughly? Really?

In November, Israel sent commandos into Gaza in order to destroy a cross-border underground tunnel. Israel believed (rightly, in my opinion) that Hamas was honoring the cease-fire in order to lull Israel into lowering their guard, at which time they would use the secret tunnel to launch a raid into Israel and kidnap another group of Israeli soldiers. The Israeli commando raid and subsequent tactical air strike solely targeted the tunnel and the Hamas gunmen guarding it. Hamas chose to respond with a full-out rocket and mortar assault against civilian targets in Israel. They kept up the rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli civilians until the Israeli military neutralized Hamas by invading Gaza and physically destroying their outposts.

Jimmy Carter is a fool if he believes that peace is in the best "self interest" of Hamas. Here's why -- the Palestinians, and for that matter a significant portion of the people living in the Muslim ummah, are the product of a culture that combines the worst aspects of a shame and honor culture with the ideal of communal salvation.

The post-Reformation "Protestant work ethic" that dominated Western European and American society for over two centuries was based on the notion that a person's lot in life reflected the security of his soul in Heaven; in other words, a hard-working, wealthy, prosperous individual was very likely to be a member of God's elect, while misfits, losers, and criminals were castigated and pronounced eternally lost.

A similar sense of shame has settled over much of the Muslim world in the wake of its technological and economic domination by the West. Fundamentalist Muslim clerics wasted no time declaring that the miserable condition of the Muslim world was a direct result of its people being shunned by Allah due to their disobedience. And when Allah shuns a nation, the eternal fate of its inhabitants is at risk.

The Palestinian community, harassed not only by Israel but also by their supposed "brothers" in other Muslim lands has, I believe, accumulated a dangerously high level of shame -- so high, in fact, that they believe that the only way to restore their honor is to precipitate the destruction of Israel in a manner that is so thorough and miraculous that supernatural powers will be credited for its success. This seems to be the only way that the Palestinians can be sure that Allah has once again blessed them with peace and prosperity.

It will never -- never -- be in the "self interest" of Hamas (or any other Muslim group who feels shamed and humiliated and shunned by Allah) to remain "at peace" with their sworn enemies, because "peace" only perpetuates their state of shame and humiliation. As far as they are concerned, their "self interest" is best served by engaging in jihad against those who have shamed them, either through organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah or al Qaeda, or individually as suicide "martyrs." Such an act will at least, in their view, guarantee that their soul reaches Paradise. It's amazing to me that Jimmy Carter doesn't understand this. And I am dumbfounded by the fact that Carter seems to naively believe that Hamas will not try to violently alter the outcome of any kind of Palestinian referendum. Then again, he thought he could reason with the Ayatollah Khomeini because they both were men of faith.

I am not clever or learned enough to offer a clear solution to the current crisis involving Israel and the Palestinians. But I know that right now each side refuses to believe that peace is possible without the other side being completely broken down and humiliated. Israel wants security, peace through strength; the Palestinians want honor and restoration through the elimination of Israel. But that honor can be obtained in only one of two ways, either as spoils taken from a humiliated and defeated Israel, or as an act of restoration offered by fellow Arabs and Muslims. Israel cannot do this; an enemy cannot "take back" shame by offering restoration. Such offerings (i.e. peace negotiations) would be -- and currently are -- seen as further insults.

One method of restoring Palestinian honor involves much bloodshed; the other involves humility and self-sacrifice on the part of Palestinians and other Muslims, and it goes against the sure-fire prescription (violence) touted by radical Muslim clerics as the cure-all for the Muslim world's problems. Is the Muslim world brave enough to defy its radical religious teachers and redefine "holy warrior" as one who offers his own security as a sacrifice in an effort to end violence, rather than one who secures his spiritual salvation by sacrificing the life of another individual? Unless a Muslim Reformation like this happens, I believe we are in for many more decades of bloody war in the Middle East.


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Comments (36)

It's not like there was one... (Below threshold)
Adrian Browne:

It's not like there was one secret tunnel. There are lots and lots of tunnels -- the tunnels have become a way of life. And the tunnels are already being openly restored with the use of Caterpillar equipment:


Clearly, Jimmy Carter, with... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Clearly, Jimmy Carter, with his 30+ years of experience in the Middle East, does not understand the Muslim mind, but Michael Laprarie does.

Who can argue with the supe... (Below threshold)

Who can argue with the superior intellect of Jimmah?

So if the dumber cater brot... (Below threshold)

So if the dumber cater brother clearly believes Hamas, maybe he should take all of his family, and all of his wealth, and go park it for a year.

On 2/1/10, we can then revisit this topic.

Bruce,Thanks for t... (Below threshold)


Thanks for taking time out of your busy peace negotiating schedule to leave a comment about my post.

Ahhh yes.. Jimmy C. fool an... (Below threshold)

Ahhh yes.. Jimmy C. fool and sock puppet for a bunch of scumbags called HamASS.
When will this guy just go back to the old peanut farm and STFU already!?

Obamalala will find out jus... (Below threshold)

Obamalala will find out just like presidents before him, like Carter and Clinton, the Palestinians think they're chumps. You can't say that Carter and Clinton didn't try it's that the Palestinian leadership always torpedoed efforts on their behalf. Time for some meaningful reciprocation by the Palestinians.

b henry - "Clearly, Jim... (Below threshold)

b henry - "Clearly, Jimmy Carter, with his 30+ years of experience in the Middle East, does not understand the Muslim mind, but Michael Laprarie does."

Yepper, a crak intellect that Jimmy.

So crack[ed up] fourteen members of an advisory board to Carter's human rights organization resigned to protest Carter's book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid."

"You have clearly abandoned your historic role of broker in favor of becoming an advocate for one side," the departing members of the Center's Board of Councilors told Carter in their letter of resignation.

Needless to say that side isn't Israel.

Adrian, DJ was talking abou... (Below threshold)

Adrian, DJ was talking about a tunnel from Gaza to Israel. You're talking about tunnels from Gaza to Egypt.


Marc,That was 14 m... (Below threshold)
Dave Noble:


That was 14 members out of a 200-member board. That means 93% of the board still supports Jimmy Carter. That's hardly a vote of noconfidence

Again,in your desire to bust out a zinger you don't take time to think.


In tarring Muslim culture your brush covers more than I think you would have wished, in this context. Jews, unlike Christians, and like Muslims, also believe in "communal salvation." I think that's probably an imprecise theological term, but to the extent it applies to Islam, it also applies to Judaism. You may have hit on a substantial part of the problem in the Arab-Israeli conflict - it's not how different Jews and Muslims are that's the problem. It's how similar they are.

Both claim God gave them the land they are fighting over.

Carter doesn't trust Hamas ... (Below threshold)

Carter doesn't trust Hamas to keep their word. He has a big problem with Israel.

"Jimmy Carter is a fool..."... (Below threshold)

"Jimmy Carter is a fool..."

Full stop. No need to continue reading this post--from that point forward, we already know everything we need to know.

"... there were no rockets ... (Below threshold)

"... there were no rockets fired until Israel did attack Gaza again on November the fourth."

What a freakin' TOOL!!!

Michael, sorry for the sarc... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Michael, sorry for the sarcasm.
May I suggest two books: "Holy War; the Crusades and Their Impact on Today's World," by Karen Armstrong, and "Arab and Jew; Wounded Spirits in the Promised Land," by David Shipler, as a start in better understanding "the Middle Eastern mind."
Believe it or not, there are experts on the subject other than Alan Dershowitz and Mark Steyn.

Hamas states that the only ... (Below threshold)

Hamas states that the only end to the conflict ,is the destruction of Israel, and that all peace negations with non -Muslims are a waste of time. You would think with his 30+ years of Middle East failures he would have read Hamas charter.
As for the someone taking Carters word, Carter negotiated with Adid few days before 19 American Soldiers were kill by him.
Dangerous Tool is to kind a word for him.

There is no fool, like an o... (Below threshold)
steve m:

There is no fool, like an old fool.
Hamas remembers well, Jimmah's inept dealings with Iran, and they hope for more of the same.

Bruce,Books? No b... (Below threshold)
Dave Noble:


Books? No blog posts or websites?

My sarcasm is not aimed at you personally, Michael. It's aimed at the general misconception that we can all Google our way to insight.

Hcd,"Hamas states ... (Below threshold)
Dave Noble:


"Hamas states that the only end to the conflict ,is the destruction of Israel, and that all peace negations with non -Muslims are a waste of time."

Krushchev said "We will bury you." Yet we negotiated with the Russians who had the capabiliy to turn the CONUS into a nuclear wasteland. Not so with Hamas vice Israel.

You don't need to negotiate with your friends.
You have to negotiate with your enemies, unless you want endless war.

Krushchev said "We will bur... (Below threshold)

Krushchev said "We will bury you."
True but he was speaking for himself. The Russians had limits into what they would allow their people to endure.
Hamas in it charter tells us that death is what they want. To ignore their deeply held beliefs and negotiate out of what one is projecting onto them t puts one in very precarious position. Until Hamas is willing to publicly change their charter any agreement reach with them are totally bogus.

There are some enemies that you can negotiate with. There are some that require unconditional surrender.

It appears Mr. Carter accep... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

It appears Mr. Carter accepts at face value Hamas' protest that they just want 'lebensraum'.

Dave -Basically, w... (Below threshold)

Dave -

Basically, we out-spent the USSR and it imploded. (Their involvement in Afghanistan didn't hurt our chances either.) But we weren't actively at war with the USSR with them lobbing missles over the pole - it was diplomatic and economic. Plus, the USSR was dedicated to bringing the whole world under Communist control, and thus had a reason to NOT destroy the US, their rhetoric to the contrary.

It became, in essence, something of a symbiotic relationship. We used them as an excuse to increase our tech level far above what we would have been able to do normally. (See the rate of change in rocketry and space science from the end of WW2 to the launch of Sputnik 1 - and how the US really kicked into high gear after that happened...)

We growled at each other - got to the moon, and stalled for about a decade... During that time, we started feeding the USSR. The rhetoric aside, it doesn't make much sense to try to destroy the folks feeding you. (Which Hamas doesn't seem to have a clue on, but that's as may be.)

Then Chernobyl hit, and I think everyone in the area got a good glimpse of what could happen if they got serious about tossing nukes around. Could it have averted a nuclear war? I don't know - but it's an interesting theory, I think.

The difference between the USSR and Hamas is plain - for all the saber-rattling, the USSR KNEW it would lose in any real conflict, because they couldn't match us material-wise. And the attempt to do so bankrupted their country.

Hamas knows they have no chance, that actually destroying Israel would essentially destroy Hamas or the Palestinian movement... but they don't CARE. It isn't about survival or even victory - it's about hatred and a twisted honor system. Hamas has little to nothing to lose from ineffectual attempts to destroy Israel, and everything to lose (IE power and control) from making diplomatic overtures of a non-hunda nature.

Israel continues to provide food, water, fuel, power, and medical support - Hamas tries to destroy Israel from time to time, and ends up worse off for the effort.

Kind of reminds you of a Roadrunner cartoon, doesn't it?

I believe the Carter Center... (Below threshold)

I believe the Carter Center gets a ton of funding from Arab govenments. So it's no surprise that Jimmy is making the rounds of the talking-head shows shilling for Hamas.

"My sarcasm is not aimed at... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

"My sarcasm is not aimed at you personally, Michael. It's aimed at the general misconception that we can all Google our way to insight."

What Dave, you want people to read MORE than blog posts and websites? Books? Who reads books?

(sarcasm, off)

Jlawson:I may be dis... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

I may be displaying ignorance here, but what are "diplomatic overures of a non-hunda nature?" Non-hunda?

d nobel - "That was 14 ... (Below threshold)

d nobel - "That was 14 members out of a 200-member board. That means 93% of the board still supports Jimmy Carter. That's hardly a vote of noconfidence"

No that means 14 members had the balls to tell Jimmah to pack sand. Do YOU know how many of that 93% had similar feelings but stayed with the organization.

d nobel - "

Darn, Dave - I misspelled. ... (Below threshold)

Darn, Dave - I misspelled. Sorry about that.

That should have been non-hudna. Or in other words, instead of negotiating a temporary cease-fire (by custom up to ten years) with a resumption of hostilities afterwards, they could attempt to forge a lasting peace with Israel.

But that would appear 'weak' and shameful. Here they are, doing Allah's will, and they can't beat the Jews! (Makes you wonder if they really have a hotline to Allah, doesn't it?)

They dare not quit the fight, lest their people use them as lamppost decorations. And to forge peace with Israel would piss off Iran, and who knows WHAT sort of trouble that'd cause for Hamas...

Jay,Interesting cu... (Below threshold)
Dave Noble:


Interesting cursory and academic history of the Cold War. Even as an academic matter, your three-paragraph coverage of over forty years of nuclear terror is a gross oversimplification of a Cold War that was sometimes quite hot. In 1962, many believe we came very close to nuclear war during the October Crisis.

Further, if you had lived through it, you might have perceived it less benignly then you do. I don't want to get melodramatic, but I remember drilling in school in preparation for a nuclear attack. We would practice putting our heads between our legs or getting under the desk.

In the early eighties, I was stationed in Ramstein Air Base in Germany. We knew our families would be evacuated as tensions heated up. When the Russian tanks started roling through the Fulda Gap, we would probably die with the first air attack or if we survived that, we'd be taken out by the Russian Special Ops troops dropped in to take the base.

The Russians were our enemies and we negotiated with them. Full stop.

We should not let the Arab-Israeli conflict simmer until it boils over again. George Mitchell has been assigned as Middle East special envoy. The conflict needs that kind of diplomatic focus from an honest broker, not an "Israeli is always right" advocate. An honest broker who is a friend of Israel and also respects the rights of the Palestinian people.

Who knows what Hamas really wants? So they're thugs. So were the Russians. You don't get to pick your adversary.

"It isn't about survival or even victory - it's about hatred and a twisted honor system."

Two comments -

1)It's a copout to assume your adversary is irrational. Believe me, when Krushchev banged his shoe on the podium he looked like a raving lunatic. But he wasn't. It was an act.

2)No moral equivalency argument here, but don't you think there is an element of hatred and honor on the Israeli side? Why else kill 1300 Palestinians and create a humanitarian disaster over the ineffectual lobbing of low-tech rockets.

Sorry, Jay,The ton... (Below threshold)
Dave Noble:

Sorry, Jay,

The tone of my first paragraph was harsher than called for. Actually, your post was carefully though out and written. Here's to a further respectful exchange of ideas.

Actually that was me, Mr La... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Actually that was me, Mr Lawson, and I was indeed displaying ignorance. I should have realized it was just a typo. "Hudna" seems to be one of those Arab words no one heard of twenty or thirty years ago, like "fatwa" or "intifada."

I was in the Air Force acti... (Below threshold)

I was in the Air Force active duty from '74 to '84, AF Reserve from 89 to 2003 - so I feel your pain, Dave. Spent 8 years at a missile base, hoping against hope that sanity would prevail.

Looking at the time in retrospect, I hope you'll understand why I'm taking a slightly different view, and abbreviating a 40-year conflict means something is going to get left out.

But it's easier to understand the conflict now than it was then, to be sure. The USSR was an enemy, and we fought them economically and through proxies - but we never got to the point where there was such deadly emnity that we couldn't continue without destroying the other, even if it meant we suicided in turn.

And there were times... well - we've both been there, right? Spent a couple of years on a bomber base, and when the alert crew had a scramble at 3 AM the barracks shook from the engines. Was it real this time, or a test?

Thankfully - only tests.

Re your comment #1 - It's a copout to assume your adversary is irrational.

Absent other proof, normally I'd agree with you. But Hamas has been diligent in their pushing the boundary of what I'd call rational behavior. They're 'surviving' - but at what cost to their society, to their people, to their future?

Re comment #2 - Look at which direction the random rockets are coming from. As we've discussed before, Hamas doesn't give a damn what it hits. If they could target schools, playgrounds, hospitals, anyplace where people are concentrated - they would.

Israel attempts to limit civilian casualties. Do they always manage? No. Do they make the attempt? Yes. Do mistakes get made? Yes. It also doesn't help that Hamas likes to surround themselves with human shields, IE noncombatants.

Put it all together, and you end up with misery. However - I'm moderately certain that Israel would MUCH rather not have to deal with Hamas on a war footing, and would be willing to forge a peaceful settlement long-term. It really would be in the interests of both parties to do that.

Hamas - as it stands now - is not and dares not.

Whoops, my bad on that, Bru... (Below threshold)

Whoops, my bad on that, Bruce.

Yeah, it's funny how we've got a lot of new concepts shoved into our consciousness, isn't it?

Makes you wonder what the next 20 years is going to bring...

Who knows what Ham... (Below threshold)
Who knows what Hamas really wants?

Hamas wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. This is what Hamas says in its founding charter, in its written communications, by their official spokesmen on Arab TV, repeatedly, over and over again.

I agree that we should never believe that our enemy is irrational. That is why when I hear them announce their intentions over and over again, I believe it.

Why else kill 1300... (Below threshold)
Why else kill 1300 Palestinians and create a humanitarian disaster over the ineffectual lobbing of low-tech rockets.

"Ineffective", eh? Try try telling that to the residents of Sderot.

Jimmy Carter is a senile ol... (Below threshold)

Jimmy Carter is a senile old fool. He was an incompetent president, a truly ghastly governor and a lying hypocrite. Mr. Carter was bought and paid for a long time ago. His love of Saudi money is readily apparent.
Anyone who believes that you can associates honor with an Arab is stupid. An Arab will look you in the eye while picking your pocket with one hand, stabbing you in the back with the other, and proclaiming his absolute innocence the whole time. He will not feel that this is wrong, immoral, or unethical because to him you are an infidel. An infidel to Arab is lower the pond scum, its purpose on this world is only to die or to entertain him. The Jew has a special place in his black heart because they repeatedly prove to the Arabs that they are not the superior race.
People continue to talk about radical Islam read the Koran and there is no other kind of Muslim. The disgusting thief, criminal, and pedophile has proclaimed this to be true. The Arabs have been in the sun way to long and follow the path of the brain dead willingly because they are not smart enough to say enough (and afraid to lose their heads).

"An Arab will look you in t... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

"An Arab will look you in the eye while picking your pocket with one hand, stabbing you in the back with the other, while proclaiming his absolute innocence the whole time..." "The Jew has a special place in his black heart..."
Wow, Magic. How enlightened you are. No stereotypes here.
I hear Neosporin does wonders for the scabs you get from dragging your knuckles, Sport.

Wow, i was going to offer s... (Below threshold)

Wow, i was going to offer some intelligent recourse, but after reading the "i hate Arab's" sentiment in a good majority of posts i don't think i'll bother.

I fear for our country sometimes when i hear opinions such as these, i used to think it was only far right rednecks but the last 8 years spawned many clones in cities like mine (Boston). Thankfully the next 4 years should give us time to convert these people back into normal decent human beings.






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