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I know we are in for a lively conversation this morning. In this morning's paper there was a headline that the received wisdom, that the situation is so dire in Iraq that we have to send more troops, is being seriously questioned. There is much more of a conversation going on there than we perhaps realize and this issue of credibility and who to believe is very serious when we come to the issue of conflict resolution. This week we welcome as our guest Richard Rubenstein to the forum. Topic: Conflict resolution, especially in the Middle East. Richie is a professor of conflict resolution in the public affairs at George Mason University in Northern Virginia just outside Washington. George Masons Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution or ICAR, it is the nations oldest and largest graduate program in conflict studies. This morning we will discuss the search for a new global morality. The ongoing turmoil in the Middle East region as well as the principles taught by the biblical prophets, much of it you will find in his book, 'Thus Saith the Lord' which was released last year and it will be available with his other books at the end of the conversation. He concludes his book Thus Saith the Lord with these, this paragraph. One does not have to look for indications of what may happen if the search for a new global morality fails. What some scholars call the clash of civilizations does not begin to describe the danger suggested in the horrifying, but relatively limited way by the attacks on America of September 11, 2001. We have been warned, around the world, huge populations long subjected to domination by powerful neo-imperial elites are dreaming of liberation unification and revenge. The Hebrew prophets and our own experience teach us there is no security in coercive power, that only justice and righteousness, radical empathy and self sacrifice will protect us. We will either abandon effective superiority that alienates us from our brothers and sisters around the globe or pay a terrible price. Bail or (indiscernible) coercion or justice, domination from above or globalization from below, now as ever, the choice is ours. And so that's the kind of context. So I would like to start of by start with your book and ask you Richard to sort of put this in context. You, you got two prophets or two traditions to talk about, if you could give us a terrible question really, you know, a 45 second summary so that it can put put our rest of our conversation in context. I mean why should we bother with these old texts? Yeah, I would be glad to do that. Once upon a time there were prophets named Isaiah, Jeremiah and second Isaiah who lived between the 8th century and the 6th century before the Common Era. And not coincidentally those were the very centuries which saw the rise of the first great world empires to power. The first empire beginning with Syria who which proceeded by absorbing conquered territories into themselves and it - administering them as administrative units rather than just looting them, really this is the beginning of the recognizably modern in some ways empires. These relatively small, not insignificant, but small states of Israel and Judah were threatened by those empires as, we all know, the Syrian Empire extinguished the state of Israel, the northern kingdom only Judah was left. And Isaiah appears at a time when Judah was threatened physically and spiritually by the rise of this great power. But the interesting thing about it and the thing that fascinated me most and I really did not expect to find when I started reading these books again was that rather than defending Jewish values to use the anachronistic term, they weren't known as Jews yet, rather than defending values in a sort of fundamentalist way the prophets were open to cultural currents coming from the centers of West Asian civilization which were Mesopotamia, which were Syria and Babylon and then and later on Persia and actually seem to have played a kind of mediatory role in that they were inspired in some ways by what the empires were doing. Not to imitate them, not to become part of them but to dream of a world without boundaries, to dream of one world. So, I think, it's at their hands, at their inspiration that the idea really becomes clear may have been previously implicit but now it becomes clear that one god means one humanity. And that the Syrian emperor who boasted I have erased the frontiers of people was really in some ways a deformed model, an abettor of a world without boundaries, in which people would relate to each other as brothers and sisters as members of a single human family. So the prophets, I think, the prophets first of all see that this is now a possibility. That historical transformation there is no end to what can happen because of this historical transformation, but they also see you can't get there by the means by a Syrian means, you cant get there by So the empire gets presents a vision but the method is deadly. Exactly. And that God has created its neighbors and that itself is a radical thing that people are beginning to realize. Exactly. And then you said there is one world, there is one human family. Yeah. Now I love that, I mean, I respond to that. It just seems that we haven't progressed very much. We have got either, a chaotic disintegration of states or the imposition of unity by an imperial power. And it's that kind of tension that we seem to be in. So would you say looking at that, jumping right now to the present? If you look at the conflicts now, has the nature of the conflict changed in the past, you know, 100 years? I mean, are we in a very different place now where empires we now know empires don't work. We have people in the past thought they did, but we now known enough, enough about the history of empires that we know that coercive power in the end destroys itself. I mean, is there a different, I mean a different time. Yeah, yeah, I mean, I think so but the this consciousness is growing by fits and starts. I mean, one thing we could say about the, you know, the prophets, the big prophets made one prophet made a big mistake. Isaiah battled on thought that Persia was and he called Cyrus King Cyrus King Cyrus. - of Persia the anointed one and he thought that Persia was going to actually break the pattern of empire, But Cyrus was a pretty good guy. We are practicing what Joe Nye at Harvard would call soft power. But unfortunately soft power seems to always give rise to hard power when it's challenged sufficiently. So that expectation was dashed. You know one difference that seems to me between then and now was that when the prophets talked about the world they meant West Asia; they meant their world, naturally. And its only now through the process that I have I call in the book real globalization, not just globalization of capital but people are actually coming into contact the multiplication of transactions between people every where. Of transactions of all sorts, so that people get get each others diseases and marry each others children and sing each others songs. Now finally the world is really becoming one human society is becoming one in that way, but it's a terribly painful process so that you see kind of simultaneously developing this multiplication of transactions and closeness's between people and then a kind of enraged responses to this by people whose identities are threatened, by people who don't want to be given orders by the Americans or any body else and people who have historic sense of grievance and all of that. All of which, of course, threatens people who are trying to protect the privileges that they have and, you know. So the, I mean, the returns are I don't think there is anything inevitable as I suggest in the end of the book and that passage you read. There is nothing inevitable that's going to go one way or the other. But I think there is much more cause for hope than one would guess especially in Washington D.C where I live. You know the great hope there is that maybe you know the Democrats might make up a little bit of a difference. But there is no real historical hope because the whole subject of what are the alternatives to empire? And how do we conduct ourselves in a world if it's not in the olden period mode. Its not that - that subject is not taking place, the Democrats aren't having it either. And that's what I am waiting for, because I think once that discussions starts then we discover there really are lots of place to be in the world rather than trying to give everybody orders. Its almost as if, you know, there are two trains going and we hope that they don't crash and that if that, how long will it take, say to get a critical mass of people who have the sense of globalization. Pico Iyer - Yeah. - in his book, 'The Global Soul' where he talks about what it is to have a global soul, but also how threatening that is to local identity and how frightened people could be by -? Well also here is that, you know, as an educator I am not really sure of what to do about this. But there's the empire problem. I mean, it seems to me that if you keep telling yourself that United States can't be an empire we are - we won our independence in a struggle with the British empire and we are not imperialists, we are liberators, then you as a direct result of that kind of thinking you got an Iraq situation where we expect to be greeted by with flowers in the streets. We are imperial liberators? Yeah, exactly, because we knocked off Saddam Hussein, of course, we must be greeted as liberators, an idea which is almost crazy when you - it's so out of touch with reality when you think about it. Still if you do talk about empire, people say, oh, he is one of those - Anti-American? - lefty, you know, anti-American, he is not supporting the troops, etcetera. But if you don't talk about it, then what happens is this. When I was a kid, I used to go always to see the Rome movies. The Robe - Quo Vadis Quo Vadis, Ben-Hur, Spartacus wonderful movie. But you know they were all told from the point of view of the anti-Roman Forces. That you know, the slaves, Spartacus was the slave, you know Ben-Hur was the Jews, most of them were Christians, persecuted Christian perspective. Now go and see Gladiator, you know, or even the HBO - Rome. - Rome. And you see there is no critical distance really anymore. I mean you can, especially Gladiator strikes me, because that movie opens with a scene of the barbarians, the German barbarians coming out of the woods with their face, faces painted black which is a nice touch I thought and the Romans attack them and then you cheer for the Rome, you are expected to cheer for the Romans. So that's a kind of almost subconscious shift in thinking in America I think which we need, really needs to be - people really need to be conscious of. We have this kind of subconscious, semi-conscious acceptance of the imperial, the virtue of the empire; bad news. Bad news. Tell us then the received - what's - really recent history, the Presidents speech sending more troops. You as an expert and great experience in conflict resolution, what - if you were called to the White House and maybe you will be - what would you say to the Cabinet, to the President? Well, I want to say in some what different words, what my old friend William R. Polk says in a new book called 'Out of Iraq' he wrote with Senator McGovern which is you have got the question of security and sovereignty backwards. You are proceeding on the basis that first we have to establish physical security and basically get control of the territory and then you can have a sovereign government that, government that makes its own decisions. But you and that's in a way the understandable mistake for people who have been brought up in the Hobson Tradition where security comes first. And it's an understandable mistake on the part of the people. Now I am not just talking about Bush, but a part of the people who are traumatized and frightened and terribly worried by what happened in 9/11 and subsequently but it's wrong. In fact, it works the other way around. First you create conditions under which people are making their own decisions in which you are encouraging sovereignty to grow and then security follows. First you get rid of the foreign occupier and when you get rid of the foreign occupier the same things happened in guerilla wars all over the world. Once the foreign occupier leaves the country, the civil war or incipient civil war that's been going on in the country generally dies down and not not the next day, but fairly soon it dies down, because you've removed one of the major causes of the conflict. I mean, every group in Iraq is not only are people fighting against the occupiers, but they are fighting against each other based on their stance vis-ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â -vis the occupiers. So you have Muqtada al-Sadr among the Shiites and the forces of Ali Sistani on the other side and other groups in fact among the Shiites who are battling it out amongst themselves barely not at the moment, not terribly violent but there is a great potential for violence there, basically because of the Americans presence and the Brits. So I really think I would write what I would say is get out. Announce a schedule for withdrawal over the next six months to a year. Stick to the schedule and instead of kind of worrying in a way that's almost irrational that your departure is going to trigger a vastly increased civil war and endless bloodbath, bring in people who have had experience and success in resolving civil war type conflicts before, many of whom are Arab or Muslim. Who are people who are - could be, would be accepted by the various groups in Iraq, whereas the Americans and Brits would not be accepted. So that, the Algerians, for example, who negotiated and end to the Lebanese civil war in the 80s are still available to do - to work in Iraq. The Lebanese themselves who have great negotiating skills and some of whom are great students of conflict resolution could put together a Sunni-Shiite Team and send it to Iraq to function as facilitators of the process. But the point is they would only be facilitators of the process that the groups, I mean, the basic principle conflict resolution is that the groups whose relationships are most broken need to be allowed the time, space, facilities, expertise, expert advice and so forth to solve their own problems. Nobody from the outside can do it. For the Americans can't do it. I don't the Iranians and the Syrians can do it for them either. I think that's one point in which the Baker-Hamilton Commission kind of makes a mistake. There is no substitute for allowing people who are at each others throats to analyze what - why are we doing this? You know, Marlon Brando in The Godfather, what's how did we get to this point? You know what's going on here? And people are perfectly competent to do that even when they are killing each other. I mean, the idea that they are all incensed filled with incensed rage and can't even talk to each other really doesn't do justice to either to their traditions of conflict resolution, of the Arab people's traditions of conflict resolution or to the fact that people are aware when they are acting suicidally often and are looking for ways to stop. Yeah. How far then do you think in this country people are consumed either consciously or unconsciously with what's we called now Islamophobia or Islamic Fascism, the fear that you know its just so crazy that the lack of trust of a whole tradition which is -? Well, you know, I think its serious problem. Because in a conflict, especially when the conflict, when one is being mislead, and you know, by one's leaders, I think that there is a tendency to adopt what I wouldn't - I am not trying to be - to call names here, but to adopt that what is essentially a paranoid stance, towards the world which sees all of once enemies as being part of a gigantic conspiracy. And all of the all the enemies become one enemy. And behind the enemies, the enemy is not really. At a certain point, not historical, it's satanic, mean it. I went right after 9/11 too - too close. Actually after 9/11, I went on television and they asked me well you know, what's what's this all about? And how could these terrible people do this? And I said, "Yes, they are terrible people. Yes there is no excuse for what they did." But we really have to see what they did in some sort of historical context and ask ourselves how are our activities in the world - part of the system which is generating this kind of horror. And everybody just would not say in the phone - So you are blaming American The phone when off the hook and they the President of our University call me and said I just want you to know I've decided not to fire you. All of everybody is asking me to oh, a a good guy by the way. So, so this idea that all the enemies are one, I think people in a way misunderstand even Bush. When they say that the idea that Al Qaeda was linked with Saddam Hussein is simply a lie, or you know - or that there are weapons of mass destruction that was simply a lie. I don't think so, I mean, I think I don't think it was a it's deliberate, let's figure out how they getting into war and lets just lie to American people. I think it was a paranoid reality. So they really believed it? I think they really believed that all the enemies are really ultimately one enemy. And if the causes of if if the motives for that enemy's activities are not historical, then they are super historical, it's - they are emanating from evil itself. I mean that, the devils activates are uncaused. All right. And, that's really trouble because we are living in the history and trying to deal with this in the historical context. And if we are dealing with Satan, then there is no way we can, but we can do it other than to destroy everybody we identify as Satanic, you know. The other question, the other sort of question that's always there when we are talking about Iraq is the State of Israel and our relationship to the State of Israel and how far and as this this is where we all get into trouble if you are trying, to be after. We said three sentences if someone wants to sort of attack us. Is is how far our policy towards Israel, should it change, how far does it exacerbate the other conflicts in the Middle East? That it exacerbates them a lot and it has to change. I mean, if I think if one actually looks at the situation in Israel, in both in Palestine and in Israel, and in other neighboring nations, one is mislead very often by talking to people in the United States who are advocating one position or in other in that conflict. Because there is there is no fanatic, more fanatical than the diaspora. I mean it proved true, it's proved true in conflict after conflict. It's proving true even in the horn of Africa, it proved true in Ireland in the case of the Northern Irish conflict and that was proving true in the Middle East. So, if if one gets a much more hopeful view, it seems to me, if one looks at the attitudes of the people in the area and then it seems to me the problem is not so much that the Palestinians and the Israelis are destined to - are determined to destroy each other. Rather the problem is that the each side has such severe internal conflicts that need resolving. That - that resolution to some extent, resolution of the internal conflict is a prerequisite to resolution of the major conflict. Many of their, the majority of the Israelis are in favor of a Two state solution and peace with the Palestinians. They are involved in a system in which it's really hard for them to make their will prevail. So the question is then, what what can be done about that? Now same thing is with the Palestinians, there is a kind of mini civil war, you know that's that's probably an exaggeration but there is bad conflict developing between the participants of Hamas and participants of Fatah conflicts that some people think is being stirred up by United States and Israel. But, and I don't know if it is or not. But it's it needs to stop. And it was terrible error I think on the but understandable. But terrible error on the part of the Israelis not to deal with Hamas when Hamas won that election because that the theory was, since they want to destroy us, we can't deal with them without having them use that transaction to destroy us. But the real question was, if we deal with them on the assumption that many of them, at least don't want to destroy us, are we willing to help to transform that movement that's already in some ways in the process of transformation. So I think it was a a mistake. Major. A major mistake but you know, I mean as you you can't condemn everybody's mistakes, I think, all the time in the Middle East, because there is so much historical trauma on both sides that is natural for people to kind of see the present in terms of the past. But we have to help them get over it. And I think one way we can is just in the United States by taking advantage of a sentiment very widespread in America. Now let's get peace process going again and if APAC doesn't like it, too bad and if some Palestinians don't like it, too bad. Get the peace process going again, we've I just joined a we've just organized a group in Washington called Jewish and Arab Americans for an Israeli, Palestinian Peace which we are trying to work with Congress people who are on the verge of speaking up for the first time about the need to have a peace process which moves towards a two state solution with two viable states, not a not a Palestinian back to stay on, but two viable states now living in peace with one another. The notion that this is impossible is it seems to me basically wrong. I get suspicious every time I hear people talk about thousand year old conflicts. Yes as you say. You know as if the origins of this conflict aren't basically 20 years ago, 10 or 20 or 30 years ago or at most in the 30's and the 40s. It's not we are not talking about the the Israelites and the Canaanites. What it what what about Same thing in Iraq by the way. The Sunni and the Shia in Iraq are not historic enemies, not in Iraq. What what was your reaction to Jimmy Carter's book? You see he got he really go it in the nick of that. Yeah. Well, then he knew what he was doing. You know, he wanted to get debate going like, like interpretation as he wanted to get debate going again. And there are times when, as my old mentor John Bergman in Conflict Resolution said there are times when you need to escalate the conflict in order to resolve it and to get the issues out the table, to get people to declare themselves to really begin a dialog. I I don't think I heard myself, I don't think Carter made a such terrible mistake in using the word apartheid because I think it was designed to provoke discussion and it has. It's that tremendous shadow of anti-Semitism that dogs any debate, isn't it? Absolutely, absolutely. And there is something that I must say. You know, I think sometimes there is something, the bit one sided about the debate. About the position, that focuses always on the there you talked about Islamophobia before. The position that focuses always on the the Islamophobia of the West and of the, you know, oppressive activities by the Israelis and so forth which is no doubt that they are oppressive. But which doesn't also at the same time talk about the quite systematic cultivation of anti Semitic images and attitudes in in some Muslim communities and some - Right. That's true. Some Madrasas. It's a deluge of anti-Semitic activates. The protocols of the elders who (indiscernible) being mass produced vulnerable populations and that's got to stop too. It's like that you know. Islamaphobia is per is perhaps a more immediate problem for us in the United States where people like this fellow in my part of the world in Northern Virginia, Ali Timimi who was Muslim preacher in Falls Church is doing life in prison for suggesting to his congregants that they might think about going to Afghanistan to fight against the Americans. Without any evidence that any of them ever went to Afghanistan or lifted a finger against the Americans. This guy is doing life for have said that. So it's this kind of panicky anti-Islamic the Anti-Islamic - attitude is causing all kinds of problems for us here. Before we open it up, I want to get back to God, as seen through the eyes of these three prophets. What's the what is the sort of character of god in terms of these particular prophets? In what are they really saying that god operates through history that history matters? What is it that they are -? Yeah, that's it. - we need to hear right now that -? That's exactly what they are saying. That god operates through history that you don't have to look for miracles, if god punishes the people. He doesn't punish people in the way, you know, that he made the sun stand still for Joshua. He punishes people through the logic, the moral logic of history. Sin is own punishment in other words. Well, say if you have, you know, the prophets are particularly critical of corrupt, callous, elitist government and and maybe one reason why we don't hear them quoted very much in high places these days. But the hurricane Katrina is exactly the sort of thing that they predict is going to happen. That is to say not that god sends the hurricane, but that the hurricane is a thousand times worst than it needs to be because there is a connection between local corruption and global disaster. And there is a connection between spiritual deadness and global disaster. When people don't realize that the system that they have involved themselves and is death dealing and they cut their own they reduce their own empathetic capacity or they deny their own empathetic instincts, so that we won't think about what we are doing to people in Iraq, for example, what's actually happening to that country. How many centuries of development we have deprived the country of it we force it back? And of all, it's too hard to even to think about the sufferings so we don't. But the prophets tell us, okay so try not to think about it, it won't do you any good. In fact you are going to pay for this. Not because God is mad at you because you were naughty. But because god, since God does operate through history there is a there are consequences. Most people these days like to say there are consequences. But at the same time God I think their god is, you know, interestedly reading the books again that they are not so much concerned, that seems not so much to be concerned about the number of gods, because I always thought, always taught the monotheist and the enemy or polytheist, you know, the pagans are polytheist, they are not they seem to be not so much concerned about the number of gods, its about their quality or their What they stand for? What they stand for. Yeah, the God of Israel is a God of Justice, righteousness and mercy. The Gods of Marduk and you know all the rests. The gods of the Babylonians, and the Assyrians, are Gods of war, power and privilege and pleasure too. I want you to have pleasure associated with power, money, privilege and so It sounds familiar. And that the issue for us as much idolatry as anything else, yeah I wanted to ask one more question that back to the politics of it and then we are going to open it up. Yeah, that you in our private conversation as well yesterday that you weren't exactly thrilled with the Democrats being any better than the Republicans in this debate and so what do you think could happen in terms of you are suggesting that we should get out of Iraq in an orderly way, six months to a year, just leave and not send not more troops or take it? Right. Do you think there is a chance for that to be heard in Washington? Well we Without being accused of not supporting the troops? Yeah, we, you know we are getting resolutions now, for we have a Senate, an unbinding Senate resolution. Whether I have been asking people, friends of mine on the Hill and so forth, whether they think there was any possibility of cutting off funds. And so far the answer I have been getting about that is no, is that there are not much possibility of cutting more funds. That politics may come back into this again, there are always these universes and I am not sure how you will solve this problem. There is a political universe which people play for temporary advantage. In this case in Washington 2008 advantage. Then there is the universe which I would like to think about is the real moral universe in which unjustified suffering is happening every minute and it needs to stop. It needs to be stopped immediately. So when one thinks in those along those lines one starts to think like we were talking William work before so, various modern prophets who say this has to stop right now. And yet if you if that's all you do, you go out on the street corner and you know and scream, climb on a wagon to scream, then you are sort of you may have no influence at all. So, you know, we are sort of caught between these two worlds and honestly I don't know exactly what to do about it myself. And when I when you say I don't trust the Democrats which I don't. Its partly because they are still so much in the world of in the political world and still so vulnerable to an appeal that made to them on the basis that where we we do have to preserve American supremacy, don't we? No, we don't, but they think we do. We do have to make sure that every property owners owning system in the world is private property owning system. You know, we do have to make sure that whoever takes over in Iraq is going to give us the lion share of the oil, etcetera. Etcetera. And if we didn't do that we won't be in we won't gain power anyway and therefore we couldn't have any influence. So it's a kind of what the first the first thing in the mind is how to stay in power? Exactly. And how And its sort of a panic article issue, I mean, I have an answer, which is how do you how can the people be opened up at all levels of, you know, not high, but also just the ordinary folks like us. How can people be opened up to kind of reconsidering some very basic assumptions that they have been may - making and they do it with the kind of confidence that if we change the way we do business we won't necessarily or even probably lose everything. We may in fact gain. Gain. Gain, right, and that's up