With ‘shuttle diplomacy,’ Henry Kissinger chased the possible in the Mideast

December 3, 2023 | by b1og.net


Henry Kissinger’s legacy in the Middle East is not one of achieving peace, but rather the pursuit of what is possible in one of the most complex conflicts in the world. Through his use of “shuttle diplomacy,” Kissinger took incremental steps to stabilize borders and negotiate agreements between Israel, Egypt, and Syria after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. While his work sidelined the Soviet Union and established the United States as the region’s chief negotiator, it did not resolve the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Kissinger’s approach, rooted in realpolitik, focused on formal entities rather than non-state actors, such as the Palestinians. As the Mideast continues to be a point of contention, the debate surrounding Kissinger’s legacy persists.

With shuttle diplomacy, Henry Kissinger chased the possible in the Mideast

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The Legacy of Henry Kissinger in the Mideast

Henry Kissinger’s legacy in the Mideast is the pursuit of what’s possible, not necessarily peace, in one of the world’s most intractable conflicts. While he did negotiate agreements that stabilized borders in the region after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war and sidelined the Soviet Union, the fate of the Palestinians remains unresolved. Kissinger’s approach to conflict resolution involved incremental progress through shuttle diplomacy, but his legacy is still debated today.


The Agreements and the Soviet Union

After the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, Kissinger negotiated agreements that aimed to stabilize borders between Israel, Egypt, and Syria. These agreements were crucial in preventing further conflict and establishing a process that made the warring states feel protected. Additionally, by sidelining the Soviet Union, Kissinger established the United States as the region’s chief negotiator.

Unresolved Fate of the Palestinians

However, while Kissinger’s efforts were successful in stabilizing borders, they did not address the issue of Palestinian occupation and Palestinian anger. Decades of Israeli occupation and growing rage among Palestinians were not resolved. This became evident when Hamas launched an attack on the Gaza Strip, resulting in the death of many people. The unresolved fate of the Palestinians remains a significant challenge in the Mideast conflict.

Kissinger’s Approach to Conflict Resolution

Kissinger’s approach to conflict resolution was characterized by the paradox of peace. He believed that immediate peace agreements often lead to more war, and instead advocated for incremental progress through shuttle diplomacy. This involved relentless travel between conflicting countries and haggling in person with leaders. The goal was to ameliorate conflict and buy time for the warring parties to come to terms with each other.

Negotiating the 1973 Arab-Israeli War

During the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, Kissinger made the decision to promote a political process instead of allowing an Arab victory, which would have been seen as a Soviet victory. The focus was on preventing any side from achieving complete dominance and aiming for a more balanced outcome. This decision laid the foundation for his subsequent shuttle diplomacy efforts.

The Process of Shuttle Diplomacy

Shuttle diplomacy involved Kissinger traveling between conflicting countries to negotiate and mediate disputes. This process allowed for direct engagement with leaders and helped build trust between the parties involved. Rather than seeking immediate peace, Kissinger aimed for step-by-step progress, incrementally addressing the issues at hand. The personal involvement and persistent effort through shuttle diplomacy were key to his approach.

Results of Kissinger’s Diplomatic Efforts

Kissinger’s diplomatic efforts resulted in two disengagement agreements between Egypt and Israel and a third disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria. These agreements paved the way for peace treaties and normalization agreements between Israel and other Arab states. His negotiations laid the groundwork for future diplomatic efforts and established the United States as a direct negotiator in the region.


Debating Kissinger’s Legacy

Kissinger’s legacy remains a point of debate, especially regarding his impact on other Arab states and the Palestinian people. While his efforts may have stabilized borders and reduced the likelihood of full-scale Arab-Israeli wars, they also sidelined non-state actors, such as the Palestinians. By focusing on conflicts between states, Kissinger’s approach may have neglected the legitimate concerns and aspirations of the Palestinian people.

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Kissinger’s Hypothetical Approach to the Israel-Hamas War

If Kissinger were to approach the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, he would likely pursue incremental progress. His focus would be on looking to neighboring states to help reestablish order and work towards a two-state solution. Incremental progress that grants Palestinians the attributes of statehood could be a potential path to resolving the conflict in the long run.

Continuing Relevance of Kissinger’s Error

One of the errors in Kissinger’s approach to the Mideast conflict that still holds relevance today is his oversight of not including the Palestinian people in the equation. This error was repeated by many of his successors, leading to ongoing challenges in achieving a just and lasting peace. Recognizing the importance of addressing the aspirations and concerns of the Palestinian people is critical for any future resolution of the conflict.

In conclusion, Henry Kissinger’s legacy in the Mideast is complex and multifaceted. While his pursuit of what’s possible through shuttle diplomacy brought about stability and negotiations, it also had its limitations. The unresolved fate of the Palestinians and the oversight of not including them in the equation remain significant challenges. However, Kissinger’s approach to conflict resolution and incremental progress still holds value and can offer insights for future diplomatic efforts in the Mideast.

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