The second observation is larger: Hagel, like much of Washington’s foreign policy elite, still seems enamored of the idea that reaching a final agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians would help solve many of the Middle East’s other problems. I wasn’t that surprised, in fact, that he listed this item first in his description of America’s strategic challenges. Hagel is partial to a theory, known in shorthand as “linkage,” that is no longer operative in reality. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is irrelevant to the great earthquakes of recent Middle East history: the revolutions of the Arab Spring, and the nascent civil war between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. But it is still an article of faith among very smart people that a peace treaty would lead to broad tranquility.