The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Week in Review

As the Yule Blogging wound down this week, our two non-Christmas essays focused on prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace and on the real deficit we’re facing as a nation.

In the former, we argued that if Obama wanted to achieve some sort of breakthrough in the peace process, he would have to focus his energies on the Palestinians first and foremost:

At Via Meadia we don’t think the settlements are helpful and we do think that new ones will make it tougher to get an agreement, but we don’t think that pressuring Israel on settlements is the way to get to peace. But that doesn’t mean being reduced to the status that some have called “Israel’s lawyer” in peace discussions. In our view, the real reason the peace process hasn’t succeeded in producing real peace is not that Israeli settlements keep Palestinians away from the table.

The real problem is exactly what it has been for sixty years: deeply rooted Palestinian opposition to a two-state solution. While many Palestinians are ready to accept that solution, many of those see it as only a temporary step on the road to a single, Palestinian state, and a very large group of Palestinians stands with the Hamas leadership in rejecting the legitimacy of Israel on any terms.

In the latter, we argued that focusing exclusively on the fiscal cliff, as the media had been breathlessly doing for the past few weeks, was missing the forest for the trees:

We think the critical deficits in America are policy deficits rather than fiscal deficits. There are three big policy failures in modern America that are causing most of our pain. They are connected, and they are solvable, but so far the political system hasn’t really engaged with them, in part because America’s intellectuals as a group haven’t done the kind of creative thinking and research that could point the way forward.

We noted several interesting environmental developments this week. Though people persist in being pessimistic about America’s future, there was plenty to be optimistic about if you had the right eyes to see. It turns out fracking isn’t dangerous, according to a study which had been suppressed by New York State. And the Nebraska released a report claiming that the Keystone Pipeline would pose no environmental threats either. GMOs, which are the keys to sustainable population growth, also aren’t dangerous according to the green activist who fomented all the panic around them more than a decade ago. And U.S. electricity use will continue fall, though our use of gadgets will increase, a product of how the latest technologies tend to drive down our resource appetite.

In the blue state struggles dossier, we noted that Illinois seemed to be on the cusp of a public pensions overhaul though we’ll await the cusp to be crossed before we applaud. We saw how California’s neighbors were busy poaching its firms—no surprise given how business-unfriendly California had become recently. And we analyzed how a fight between two influential Cali unions offers a look into the dynamics of the deepening crisis of the American labor movement.

Further afield, as the Egyptian Pound continued its freefall, food prices soared, presenting a formidable challenge for Morsi’s government. Crises like these pose both and opportunity an important challenge to Salafis across the Arab world, who, if trends continue to favor them, will soon emerge into the political mainstream and have to cope with real policy questions. A look at Saudi Arabia’s bloated budget shows how the Saudis have handled these sorts of problems. Fortunately for the Middle East’s liberals, this is not an option in most other countries.

Meanwhile, the Syrian crisis rolled grimly on, with related violence flaring in volatile Iraq and no solution in sight. But could rapprochement between Turkey and the Kurds play some part in a Syria endgame?

Published on January 6, 2013 3:00 pm