Mitt Romney says Palestinian/Israeli conflict is not possible to solve
Thankfully, Bill Clinton didn’t say the same about Northern Ireland
Although most of the talk about Mitt Romney’s infamous Boca Raton video has focused on what he said about the 47% of Americans he claims won’t take responsibility for their lives, his comments on the Mideast also say a lot about the kind of president he would be.
Romney said straight out that the situation betweenIsraeland the Palestinians, “is going to remain an unsolved problem.” His remarkable confession of defeat on the Mideast, an abject no mas even before getting himself in the ring, sounds eerily like what many said not too long ago about another seemingly insoluble problem: the centuries old warfare in Northern Ireland.
There was in Ireland and Britain an abundance of sage advice that the most that could be hoped for was to maintain the violence at a tolerable level and otherwise muddle through and hope for generational change.
But that most intractable of bloody conflicts—whether measured from the start of the Troubles in the 1960s, or the Battle of Boyne 300 years earlier (when the Catholic James II was defeated in his effort to retake the British throne), or the initial British invasions of Ireland over 800 years ago —did not, in fact, “remain an unsolved problem.”
After years of efforts to get and keep ceasefires and months of painstaking negotiations, permanent peace was made on Good Friday, 1998; it has flourished and withstood all manner of difficult tests. Next spring it will be 15 years and there is no meaningful constituency for going back to the old battles.
Not only did the eternal combatants move from a path of war to a path of politics, but they accomplished a rare sort of peace: not defeat, not humiliation, not ethnic cleansing, but instead the creation of a new civil society that accommodates both of its populations. Overall, it stands as one of the greatest political and diplomatic accomplishments in history.
In light of Romney’s remarks, it is interesting to recall that the United States played a major role in bringing about the peace in Northern Ireland. That history flies in the face of Romney’s defeatism and forces this question: should an American president ever, without even trying, give up on all possibility of the United States helping bring about a solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians?
The question is especially compelling in light of the enormous, and quite possibly decisive, help that Bill Clinton was able to give to the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Although the story of that peace process, or just the American role, or even just the festival of incomprehension and mistaken assumptions underlying Romney’s analysis, are tales far too long for full telling in this space, a short version is worth recalling.
Clinton became involved in the issue of Northern Ireland during the 1992 presidential campaign at the behest of former congressman Bruce Morrison, his Yale Law School classmate, and many Irish American activists.
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