Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 22:12 | SYDNEY
Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 22:12 | SYDNEY

'When the facts change...


Sam Roggeveen


21 April 2010 16:19

...I change my mind. Why, what do you do, sir?'

- John Maynard Keynes

It takes courage to change one's mind. Two recent examples deserve to be noted here. The first is Australian academic John Carroll, who wrote to The Australian earlier this week to say that the book he co-edited in 1992, 'Shutdown: The Failure of Economic Rationalism', was wrong. (H/t Andrew Norton.)

The second example comes from a new essay on the Middle East peace process by veteran American diplomat Aaron David Miller:

I can't tell you how many times in the past 20 years, as an intelligence analyst, policy planner, and negotiator, I wrote memos to Very Important People arguing the centrality of the Arab-Israeli issue and why the United States needed to fix it. Long before I arrived at the State Department in 1978, my predecessors had made all the same arguments. An unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict would trigger ruinous war, increase Soviet influence, weaken Arab moderates, strengthen Arab radicals, jeopardize access to Middle East oil, and generally undermine U.S. influence from Rabat to Karachi.

From the 1940s through the 1980s, the power with which the Palestinian issue resonated in the Arab world did take a toll on American prestige and influence. Still, even back then the hand-wringing and dire predictions in my Cassandra-like memos were overstated. I once warned ominously -- and incorrectly -- that we'd have nonstop Palestinian terrorist attacks in the United States if we didn't move on the issue. During those same years, the United States managed to advance all of its core interests in the Middle East: It contained the Soviets; strengthened ties to Israel and such key Arab states as Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia; maintained access to Arab oil; and yes, even emerged in the years after the October 1973 war as the key broker in Arab-Israeli peacemaking.

Today, I couldn't write those same memos or anything like them with a clear conscience or a straight face.