In my 25 years of government service, I came up with more than my fair share of bad or just plain dumb ideas (see Arafat, Yasir, invitation to the Holocaust museum). In fact, I consider myself something of an expert on the subject.
But life's about learning, right? And like Justice Potter Stewart's famous 1964 opinion on pornography, these days I've come to know a bad idea when I see one.
The Middle East provides a particularly fertile ground for both the birth and demise of dumb ideas. And they come in varying shapes and sizes. Here are five candidates for some of the most inconsequential, ill-advised, or potentially dangerous dumb ideas proposed during the past year or so.
I'm grandfathering them in as potential nominees for the Dumb Idea Hall of Fame, a new feature to which I intend to devote at least one column a month.
Dumb Idea No. 1: Palestinian statehood at the U.N. The most woolly-headed and inconsequential idea goes to the Palestinians for pretending (they actually may not really believe it themselves) that action at the United Nations might help their cause for statehood. Having tried this idea once last September with predictable results -- a big, fat nothingburger -- the PLO may be gearing up again for another run.
One can only wonder why. The Palestinians are desperate, to be sure, and the U.N. statehood gambit (like faux unity talks with Hamas) plays well on the street. But their lack of strategy and penchant for bad timing are breathtaking. So far, the U.N. initiative has produced implacable American opposition, U.S. congressional constraints on funding for the Palestinians, and America's withdrawal from UNESCO.
The last thing a U.S. president is going to do in an election year is support such an initiative. And it gives the Israeli government, already uninterested in real negotiations, just another reason to blame the impasse on the Palestinians. But hey, the Palestinians are going to do what they're going to do whether it makes sense or not. The best thing that can be said about the U.N. gambit is that it really doesn't matter.