One of the hallmarks of the Arab Spring has been the emergence of a new and more modest American foreign policy. The Obama administration has insisted on not taking the lead in promoting democratic change; it has declined to act unless not just the French and British but the Arab League go first. It still can’t bring itself to say that Bashar al-Assad, a dictator and implacable U.S. enemy who is using tanks and helicopter gunships to slaughter his people, is not qualified to lead Syria to democracy.
Yet there is one big exception: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On a Middle Eastern front that has remained mostly quiet in 2011, the position of the United States is: a) it possesses a detailed solution; b) action must be taken immediately; and c) it doesn’t matter whether the people concerned — Israelis and Palestinians — are agreeable or ready.