“From Cairo to Tunis, from Muscat to Tel Aviv, U. S. policy is unraveling as hundreds of thousands jam city squares, civil wars threaten to erupt, or tyrants totter and fall. Washington is caught largely unawares,” said retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson in a recent interview with the Lake Placid News and The Virginia Gazette.
“What needs to happen is not a cookie-cutter approach to the region, for there is no template that would allow that to work with any success. What is necessary is a package of infinitely complex, even exquisitely designed economic, financial, political and diplomatic measures crafted for each state that responds to and complements the actions of people in each. The one universal ingredient is that left out of this package is any resort to the use of force, in secret or in open.” Wilkerson emphasized.
What makes this assessment especially noteworthy is the fact that Wilkerson spent 31 years in military service, eight of them at the side of Gen. Colin Powell as special assistant when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and later as chief of staff during Powell’s service as Secretary of State.
Wilkerson was the speaker at a public forum that is part of the effort to give an opportunity to local citizens to learn about national security issues from persons who recently served in senior policy making positions.
According to Wilkerson, U. S. policy and every action must be aimed at reinforcing the people’s power, helping them to build the institutions, create the social tools, and craft the cultural contexts necessary to initiate real democracy and increase the people’s freedom.
“This won’t be easy. This will be long, hard, difficult work. But the first prerequisite is to put U.S. military power away. It is time to use our heads and our hearts instead of our brawn.”
He foresees America’s imperial power decreasing as other states’ power increases.
“But this is a grand opportunity to chart a new course,” he said. “To forge new policies, develop new relationships and form new concerts of power in favor of increased freedom and liberty in the world.”
At the very core of this new policy toward the Middle East, Wilkerson envisages a need to change our approach to the handling of the Israeli-Palestinian problem.
“Washington must push on to a final settlement, and swiftly, and brook no opposition from Tel Aviv,” he said. “Borders, the right of return, water rights, settlements, Jerusalem, issues that seem so intractable were within a hair’s breath of resolution at Camp David II and Taba at the end of the second Clinton administration.
“That final solution can and must be achieved now, for the peace of the region, for the security of the state of Israel, and the viability and the sustainability of a state of Palestine. America must cease being Israel’s lawyer and become her savior.”
It was Lord Palmerston, the 19th century British statesman who proclaimed, “Nations have no permanent friend or allies, they have only permanent interests.”
Thus, in Wilkerson’s view, the 21st century will be a time, in which America will be compelled by imperial overstretch to reexamine its role in the world.
“Unlike many empires of the past, from the Assyrian to the Roman to the Ottoman, the American Empire has a chance to be different. We have always claimed we were unique; it is high time we proved it,” he said.
Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from The Virginia Gazette.