A cynical view of the Camp David Accords
February 03, 2011, 11:00 PM
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A friend writes:
In my opinion, Jimmy Carter decided to buy a foreign policy success. One with zero content. But I guess noticing that Sadat has kicked out the Soviets years earlier, that the Suez canal was already open, that even before Camp David the Mossad had already tipped off Sadat about an assassination plot hatched by Qaddafi - Palestinians backed by Libya - that'd be cynical. Begin thought that Sadat was satisfied, someone he could live with. And Sadat was satisfied. The purpose of the '73 war had been regaining the canal and self-respect among the Egyptian military, who had been totally humiliated in 67. That had been achieved.

Real peace happens when the players have decided that they have compatible strategic goals. That had already happened before Camp David. I guess someone people think that signing treaties is what really defines peace, but of course that is nonsense. Peace was already a fact well before we paid anyone off.

In much the same way, people seem to think that some clever diplomat caused the rapprochement between China and the US in the early 1970s. Some silver-tongued devil. But the real cause was the Soviet threat: they came real close to a nuclear strike [on China's nascent nuclear weapons capability.] In those circumstances, even _I_ could have been an effective diplomat, even if I had continually addressed the Chinese as the "Yellow Peril" in the negotiations.

That reminds me that my son had one of those excruciatingly meta assignments in high school history that have become fashionable: how has the "historiography" of events has changed over time? E.g., how did Northern views of abolitionist terrorist John Brown change from 1859 to 1862 to 1885 to 1975? (The history of history is a great topic for grad school, but just absurdlyhard for high school students who need to learn history first.)

This one was about how have views of the Camp David Accords changed over the last three decades?

The answer, he found, was that nobody's views had changed at all. The kind of people who had liked it in 1978 — Washington, Israel, American Jews, and a few at the top of the Egyptian government — still liked it 30 years later. The kind of people who didn't like it in 1978 — Palestinians, other Arabs, Russians, and American Arabists — still didn't like it.