Trip Notes on a Return to Israel and the West Bank: Reflections on U.S. Peacemaking, the Security Mission, and What Should be Done
The following document, previously unpublished, was written in March 2010 by a recentlyretired (June 2009) U.S. Army colonel with thirty years experience in the Middle East, including tours of duty and advisory roles (in both military/security and civilian domains) from North Africa to the Persian Gulf. The subject of the informal report is the author's first two trips as a "civilian" to Israel and the West Bank, where he had served two tours of duty, most recently as U.S. military attaché in Tel Aviv during Israel's 2005 unilateral disengagement from Gaza and the formation of the U.S. Security Coordinator's (USSC) mission to reform Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces.
Written as an internal document for military colleagues and government circles, the report has been circulating widely-as did the author's earlier briefings on travel or missions in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and especially Iraq-among White House senior staff, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Defense Intelligence Agency, CENTCOM (U.S. Central Command), EUCOM (U.S. European Command), and the USSC team.
The document's focus is the state of the "peace process" and the current situation in the West Bank, with particular attention to the PA security forces and the changes on the ground since the author's last tour there ended in mid-2007. But the real interest of the paper lies in the message directed at its intended audience of military and government policy officials-that is, its frank assessment of the deficiencies of the U.S. peace effort and the wider U.S. policy-making system in the Israel-Palestine arena, with particular emphasis on the disconnect between the situation on the ground and the process led by Washington. The critique has special resonance in light of the emerging new thinking in the administration fueled by the military high command's unhappiness (expressed by CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Michael Mullen) with the State Department's handling of Middle East diplomacy, especially with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, on the grounds that diplomatic failures are having a negative impact on U.S. operations elsewhere in the region.
For most JPS readers, the report has additional interest as an insider's view of the U.S. security presence in the Israel-Palestine arena. It also reflects a military approach that is often referenced but largely absent in public discourse and academic writings.
The author, in addition to his tours of duty and peacekeeping missions in various Middle Eastern countries, has served as advisor to two U.S. special Middle East envoys, the U.S. negotiating team with Syria, General Petraeus, Lieutenant General Keith Dayton, Vice President Dick Cheney, and, more generally, to CENTCOM, the Department of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, among others. In retirement, he has worked with CENTCOM as a key primary subject matter expert in the development of analyses and solutions for its area of responsibility, leads predeployment briefings for army units heading to Iraq, and travels frequently to Iraq and elsewhere in the region as an independent consultant. He is currently in Afghanistan with the CENTCOM commander's Afghanistan-Pakistan Center of Excellence.
The report, made available to JPS, is being published with the author's permission.