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Peace Out of Reach

Peace Out of Reach: Middle Eastern Travels and the Search for Reconciliation

Stephen Eric Bronner
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Peace Out of Reach
    Book Description:

    In Peace Out of Reach, Stephen Eric Bronner offers an intriguing analysis and eyewitness account of the political and ideological conflicts plaguing the Middle East. Sharply critical of the United States' policies in Afghanistan and Iraq and concerned about our nation's declining credibility throughout the world, Bronner examines the unexplored possibilities and recurrent roadblocks in the struggle for peace. Whether visiting academics in Iran, refugees in Palestine, or the president of Syria, Bronner seeks to listen and learn. These experiences have shaped Bronner's understanding of how the political crises in the Middle East have dramatically influenced Western politics and culture. Peace Out of Reach also investigates the extraordinary controversies generated by the publication of blasphemous cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, the religious conservatism of Pope Benedict XVI, the character of contemporary anti-Semitism, and the connection between human rights and personal faith. Peace Out of Reach is both a study in foreign policy and a philosophical inquiry that raises profound ethical questions about the world and the United States' role in it. It links experience with erudition and objective analysis with strategic proposals for change. This book will undoubtedly resonate with all people seeking an alternative to the discredited policies of the past. It contributes mightily to the cultivation of a cosmopolitan and democratic politics.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7257-6
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Cosmopolitan Engagements
    (pp. 1-12)

    As I am writing these lines, sitting at my desk, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has already unraveled. Afghanistan is witnessing the resurgence of the Taliban, Iraq is disintegrating, Iran is at loggerheads with the West, Syria has retreated further from democracy, Hezbollah and Hamas have captured the imagination of the Arab world, and conflict in the Sudan is producing a nightmare for Darfur. Anti-Semitism is witnessing a rebirth, chauvinism and provincialism are on the rise, and religious intolerance is again contesting the Enlightenment legacy. U.S. foreign policy in those Islamic states gripped by crisis (or the prospect...

  5. 2 Lessons from Afghanistan
    (pp. 13-24)

    September 11, 2001, marked the beginning of a new millennium.¹ It was a traumatic event for all who lived through it, even those who did not lose family or friends but merely watched the tragedy on television. Not since the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 had the United States been struck by an enemy on its own soil. This particular enemy was not even a nation-state but rather an international terrorist movement, al Qaeda, inspired by a rigidly anachronistic version of Islam and led by Osama bin Laden. Americans’ initial shock and sadness quickly turned to anger. Little time...

  6. 3 The Iraqi Debacle: Democracy, Desperation, and the Ethics of War
    (pp. 25-40)

    As a member of U.S. Academics against War, I visited Baghdad and some other Iraqi cities before the bombing began in 2003.¹ It was clear to our group that the justifications offered in support of the attack were at odds with reality. Iraq was a broken-down country still suffering from the effects of the 1991 Gulf War,² and it posed no threat to the United States or its national interests. I still remember the brightly lit shops of Baghdad, bustling with activity once the sun went down. There were goods in the stores, schools were functioning, and the streets were...

  7. 4 Twilight in Tehran
    (pp. 41-58)

    My last trip to Iran was in September 2005. I had traveled through parts of the country in 2003 after participating in the Second International Human Rights Conference at Mofid University in Qom, but I was thrilled at the thought of again visiting the ruins of Persepolis and the cities of Esfahan, Shiraz, and Yazd. I was part of U.S. Academics for Peace, an independent delegation of twelve academic groups from various universities that was led by the indefatigable Dr. James Jennings and sponsored by Conscience International. Some of us had been in Baghdad with Jennings as part of another...

  8. 5 Syria and Its President: A Meeting with Bashar al-Assad
    (pp. 59-74)

    Syria has a particularly bad reputation in the Middle East. Authoritarian remnants of the grim and gray rule of Hafez al-Assad still hang over the country. Arbitrary incarceration and heavy censorship mark his legacy. Memories still exist of the failed military assaults on Israel and his butchering of the Islamic Brotherhood in the city of Hama in 1982. An uprising and an assassination attempt followed, leading to the deaths of twenty thousand Syrian citizens. Few saw anything other than self-interest in what amounted to Hafez al-Assad’s crude attempts to control Lebanon. His long alliance with the Soviet Union was tactical,...

  9. 6 Withdrawal Pains: Gaza, Lebanon, and the Future of Palestine
    (pp. 75-92)

    Before my first trip to the Occupied Territories in 2004 with a delegation organized by the Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, I was a rather conventional left-wing critic of Israeli policy. I knew that the condition of the Palestinian refugees was bad, but until I saw for myself what had transpired in towns such as Jenin and Jayousz, I had no idea just how bad. Of all the places I have visited, only there did I experience such shock and such a palpable feeling of oppression. Having grown up in the Washington Heights section of New York, a neighborhood of German-Jewish...

  10. 7 The Middle East Spills Over: The Sudan and the Crisis in Darfur
    (pp. 93-108)

    The Middle East is not merely a geographical designation but a cauldron of ideological and material conflicts. Its borders are arbitrary. Neither religious intolerance nor ancient tribal and ethnic hatreds respect them. Conflicts of this sort have been rife in the Sudan. It is a huge country roughly the size of western Europe, the largest in Africa, and it borders nine other states. The Islamic-Arab world intersects with Africa in the Sudan. Its oil- and resource-rich provinces in the south, most of whose citizens embrace Christianity or animism,¹ have for decades been resisting the authoritarian government of the north, with...

  11. 8 Conspiracy Then and Now: History, Politics, and the Anti-Semitic Imagination
    (pp. 109-122)

    The year 2005 marked the 100th anniversary of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”¹ Fabricated toward the end of the nineteenth century by Russian secret police agents visiting Paris—just as the first Zionist Congress was taking place in Basel in 1898—it was first published in 1905 as an appendix to a book entitledThe Great in the Smallby Sergi Nihlus. Focusing on the alleged existence of a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world, the Protocols originally had very little impact outside of sparking a few pogroms in Russia. But that changed quickly enough. Between the...

  12. 9 Incendiary Images: Blasphemous Cartoons, Cosmopolitan Responsibility, and Critical Engagement
    (pp. 123-134)

    Symbolic politics cannot be divorced from practical politics. This is true not merely when dealing with clashes between East and West, Muslim and Christian, but also with conflicts between any traditional religious community and the liberal, secular world of modernity. Such themes run through much of my work, and like many others, I was appalled and fascinated when, in February 2006, a right-wing Danish newspaper published twelve cartoons satirizing the prophet Muhammad and insulting the entire Islamic community. As they were reprinted again and again, demonstrations—some violent and some peaceful—spread rapidly throughout Europe and many nations in Africa,...

  13. 10 Of Reason and Faith: On the Former Cardinal Josef Ratzinger
    (pp. 135-146)

    I felt a strange twinge of delight when Cardinal Josef Ratzinger was elected pope on April 24, 2005. That was because I had had the privilege of meeting him at a party in 1973 while I was studying at the University of Tübingen on a Fulbright scholarship. The future Pope Benedict XVI had taught theology there before moving to the University of Regensburg in 1972. Of course, there is no reason why he should remember me, but I certainly remember him. Professor Ratzinger made a distinct impression on me with his penetrating eyes and sober demeanor. He was already known...

  14. 11 False Antinomies: On Religious Conviction and Human Rights
    (pp. 147-160)

    In 2004 I was invited to speak at a conference on human rights in Qom, and this essay—built on that lecture—is a fitting end toPeace Out of Reach.It sharply contests Islamic theocracy no less than the signal importance of prepolitical religious values for contemporary democracy. It is also critical of all those provincial nationalists, communitarians, and religious dogmatists who maintain that invoking universal claims always threatens particular experience. I suggest that this is a mistaken way of framing the issue. Exactly the reverse is the case: the degree to which the universal elements underpinning human rights...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 161-178)
  16. Index
    (pp. 179-197)