Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 17, 2007

Elders (Not Betters)

Nelson Mandela will celebrate his 89th birthday tomorrow. To mark the occasion, Mandela, along with Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, and other “elders” of our global village will launch an extraordinary worldwide humanitarian campaign. The Council of Elders, as the Daily Mail calls it, will be a “United Nations of the great, the good and the rich.” (Expect Clinton—Bill, that is—to have a leading role.)

Conceived by entrepreneur Richard Branson and musician Peter Gabriel, this new assemblage will tackle (and presumably attempt to eradicate) armed conflict, AIDS, and global warming. But are these people really capable of saving the world? Many of the big names on this list didn’t exactly distinguish themselves the first time around. Kofi Annan presided over the decline and (further) corruption of the United Nations; Bill Clinton, his successes at home notwithstanding, failed to use American power abroad wisely. Carter was weak as a president, and seems to have gone around the bend since leaving office. It will take people of great vision and courage to guide the world through the strife undoubtedly lying ahead. (As Washington journalist David von Drehle memorably put it, “some very different sort of world is roaring up at us.”) These “elders,” unfortunately, do not possess that vision.

This new multilateralist group may have commendable aims; ironically, its charter members have helped discredit multilateralism as an instrument in global politics. I worry that this irony will be obscured by the pomp and circumstance attending tomorrow’s celebration.

Nelson Mandela will celebrate his 89th birthday tomorrow. To mark the occasion, Mandela, along with Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, and other “elders” of our global village will launch an extraordinary worldwide humanitarian campaign. The Council of Elders, as the Daily Mail calls it, will be a “United Nations of the great, the good and the rich.” (Expect Clinton—Bill, that is—to have a leading role.)

Conceived by entrepreneur Richard Branson and musician Peter Gabriel, this new assemblage will tackle (and presumably attempt to eradicate) armed conflict, AIDS, and global warming. But are these people really capable of saving the world? Many of the big names on this list didn’t exactly distinguish themselves the first time around. Kofi Annan presided over the decline and (further) corruption of the United Nations; Bill Clinton, his successes at home notwithstanding, failed to use American power abroad wisely. Carter was weak as a president, and seems to have gone around the bend since leaving office. It will take people of great vision and courage to guide the world through the strife undoubtedly lying ahead. (As Washington journalist David von Drehle memorably put it, “some very different sort of world is roaring up at us.”) These “elders,” unfortunately, do not possess that vision.

This new multilateralist group may have commendable aims; ironically, its charter members have helped discredit multilateralism as an instrument in global politics. I worry that this irony will be obscured by the pomp and circumstance attending tomorrow’s celebration.

Read Less

Ladies and Gentlemen, The NIE

As usual, there has been considerable fanfare leading up to the release of the new National Intelligence Estimate on “The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland.” (Or, to be more exact, the release of the NIE summary—the full text remains classified.) Early commentary suggested that this NIE—a consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community—had determined that al Qaeda was just as potent today as it had been on 9/11, and that therefore President Bush’s anti-terrorism policies have been a dismal failure. The actual text is more nuanced, providing ammunition for both the President and his critics.

Read More

As usual, there has been considerable fanfare leading up to the release of the new National Intelligence Estimate on “The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland.” (Or, to be more exact, the release of the NIE summary—the full text remains classified.) Early commentary suggested that this NIE—a consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community—had determined that al Qaeda was just as potent today as it had been on 9/11, and that therefore President Bush’s anti-terrorism policies have been a dismal failure. The actual text is more nuanced, providing ammunition for both the President and his critics.

The summary begins with a nod to administration achievements:

We assess that greatly increased worldwide counterterrorism efforts over the past five years have constrained the ability of al-Qa’ida to attack the US Homeland again and have led terrorist groups to perceive the Homeland as a harder target to strike than on 9/11. These measures have helped disrupt known plots against the United States since 9/11.

It goes on to say that al Qaeda remains active in planning to attack the U.S., and that “[a]s a result, we judge that the United States currently is in a heightened threat environment.” It lists several causes for concern:

We assess that the spread of radical—especially Salafi—Internet sites, increasingly aggressive anti-US rhetoric and actions, and the growing number of radical, self-generating cells in Western countries indicate that the radical and violent segment of the West’s Muslim population is expanding, including in the United States.

None of this is particularly new or surprising. And although it could be used by Democrats as evidence that Bush isn’t doing enough to win the war on terrorism, it also helps Republicans who argue, against Democrats like John Edwards, that there really is a war on terrorism.

The NIE’s take on Iraq also cuts both ways:

Of note, we assess that al-Qa’ida will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI), its most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland. In addition, we assess that its association with AQI helps al-Qa’ida to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks.

So much for last Friday’s front-page New York Times story, whose headline claimed “Bush Distorts Qaeda Links.” (The argument being that the President doesn’t acknowledge the differences between al Qaeda in Iraq and the main al Qaeda group.) It turns out, as the NIE notes, that the two are closely linked. To be sure, the fact that Iraq has become a staging ground for such an active al Qaeda franchise is an indictment of U.S. policy to date; if Bush hadn’t muffed the post-invasion phase of operations, this might not have happened. But it has happened, and the NIE finding strengthens the case for remaining in Iraq to fight the terrorists.

In another area the NIE delivers a more scathing (if implicit) indictment of Bush policy:

We assess the group [al Qaeda] has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability, including: a safe-haven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), operational lieutenants, and its top leadership.

This shows the bankruptcy of our policy of supporting unreservedly Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship, aimed at increasing Pakistani efforts against extremists. While there have been such efforts, they have been insufficient to prevent al Qaeda from establishing a “safe haven” in Pakistan. The intelligence community would not admit this lightly, as it is sure to aggravate Islamabad.

Eli Lake reports this morning in the New York Sun that another, classified section of the NIE locates an al Qaeda safe haven in eastern Iran. This shows the need for a revised policy not only toward Pakistan, but also toward Iran. The Bush administration has done poorly on both fronts. But there is scant cause to think that a Democrat would have done any better. We know, in fact, that the Clinton administration didn’t have any more success in dealing with these breeding grounds of terrorism.

While not particularly revelatory, the NIE performs a valuable service by calling attention to the threat we still face from Islamist terrorists—something that many complacent Americans have been losing sight of in recent years.

Read Less

Congestion Pricing, Stalled

Michael Bloomberg’s all-but-declared presidential campaign suffered a serious setback on Monday, when the New York state legislature refused to sign on to plans to impose congestion pricing on New York City. The mayor’s plan would have charged people to drive into midtown Manhattan between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays. Congestion pricing is a good idea—in principle. There were, however, numerous substantive problems with Bloomberg’s plan, which would not have reduced traffic so much as redistributed it to less well-to-do areas bordering the mid-Manhattan congestion zone. But what may have been its real undoing was the mix of arrogance and managerial incompetence that the mayor brought with him to Albany.

Bloomberg’s proposal, from the start, struck skeptical legislators as a ploy designed to burnish the mayor’s green credentials for a run at the presidency. And the mayor (who spent the days before the decision not lobbying in Albany, but attending the Aspen Festival) never did the groundwork necessary to win approval in the State legislature. When concerns were raised that the subways were already heavily overcrowded and increasingly late—problems sure to be worsened by the plan—Bloomberg dismissed them out of hand. “He does not accept criticism and he views advice as criticism,” said one Senate Democrat. “He had no answers for complaints that weren’t flippant.” “If the mayor came in with one vote, he left with none,” said Senator Kevin S. Parker (D-Brooklyn). So angered were Albany Democrats that they voted as a bloc to defeat the measure.

Bloomberg cites his previous successes in working with the state legislature as part of his leadership portfolio. But in New York, collaboration like this is less impressive than it sounds: the New York City charter gives the mayor the upper hand in (almost) any conflict. This makes the congestion-pricing flop (as well as Bloomberg’s first-term failure to rally support for his plan to build a heavily-subsidized stadium on the west side of Manhattan) all the worse. Bloomberg, famously autocratic as a CEO, apparently suffers from the same problem in political life. His insistence that he’s above politics—a conceit cushioned by his ability to buy political support—hasn’t cut any ice in the cozy confines of Albany. One can only imagine how it would be received in Washington.

Michael Bloomberg’s all-but-declared presidential campaign suffered a serious setback on Monday, when the New York state legislature refused to sign on to plans to impose congestion pricing on New York City. The mayor’s plan would have charged people to drive into midtown Manhattan between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays. Congestion pricing is a good idea—in principle. There were, however, numerous substantive problems with Bloomberg’s plan, which would not have reduced traffic so much as redistributed it to less well-to-do areas bordering the mid-Manhattan congestion zone. But what may have been its real undoing was the mix of arrogance and managerial incompetence that the mayor brought with him to Albany.

Bloomberg’s proposal, from the start, struck skeptical legislators as a ploy designed to burnish the mayor’s green credentials for a run at the presidency. And the mayor (who spent the days before the decision not lobbying in Albany, but attending the Aspen Festival) never did the groundwork necessary to win approval in the State legislature. When concerns were raised that the subways were already heavily overcrowded and increasingly late—problems sure to be worsened by the plan—Bloomberg dismissed them out of hand. “He does not accept criticism and he views advice as criticism,” said one Senate Democrat. “He had no answers for complaints that weren’t flippant.” “If the mayor came in with one vote, he left with none,” said Senator Kevin S. Parker (D-Brooklyn). So angered were Albany Democrats that they voted as a bloc to defeat the measure.

Bloomberg cites his previous successes in working with the state legislature as part of his leadership portfolio. But in New York, collaboration like this is less impressive than it sounds: the New York City charter gives the mayor the upper hand in (almost) any conflict. This makes the congestion-pricing flop (as well as Bloomberg’s first-term failure to rally support for his plan to build a heavily-subsidized stadium on the west side of Manhattan) all the worse. Bloomberg, famously autocratic as a CEO, apparently suffers from the same problem in political life. His insistence that he’s above politics—a conceit cushioned by his ability to buy political support—hasn’t cut any ice in the cozy confines of Albany. One can only imagine how it would be received in Washington.

Read Less

The Insider’s Outsider

Writing about the collapse of the McCain campaign in New York, John Heilemann offers up a well-tested cliché: praise for a Republican who has no real chance of winning. Heilemann is writing for an audience of readers who have probably had little personal contact with Republicans; it’s easy for him to tell them how badly off the GOP will be without McCain. Heilemann also believes that McCain’s only chance of survival is to “resuscitate his previous image” as a straight-talking iconoclast who boldly defies Republican Party elders (and, by the way, who also lost in the last presidential race).

Heilemann misses the most interesting point about McCain’s seemingly imminent departure from the presidential primaries: this will be the first Republican primary campaign in memory in which the establishment candidate does not end up the winner. Ford in ’76, Reagan in ‘80, Bush in ’88, Dole in ’96, and G.W. Bush in 2000 were all the choices of the establishment fund-raisers and veteran political advisers. For all his reputation as a maverick, McCain began this campaign as a Washington-insider establishment favorite. (The fact that Warren Rudman is one of his campaign chairmen is all you need to know.) Heilemann blames McCain’s woes on precisely this strategy, but historically, it’s been a primary winner.

The question remains whether any of the remaining viable candidates will try to get themselves anointed as the establishment choice. Giuliani, Romney, and Fred Thompson are all styling themselves, legitimately, as Washington outsiders. And that may be a good thing. History shows that the GOP predilection for choosing the establishment candidate doesn’t always work out so well: Ford in ’76, Dole in ’96…

Writing about the collapse of the McCain campaign in New York, John Heilemann offers up a well-tested cliché: praise for a Republican who has no real chance of winning. Heilemann is writing for an audience of readers who have probably had little personal contact with Republicans; it’s easy for him to tell them how badly off the GOP will be without McCain. Heilemann also believes that McCain’s only chance of survival is to “resuscitate his previous image” as a straight-talking iconoclast who boldly defies Republican Party elders (and, by the way, who also lost in the last presidential race).

Heilemann misses the most interesting point about McCain’s seemingly imminent departure from the presidential primaries: this will be the first Republican primary campaign in memory in which the establishment candidate does not end up the winner. Ford in ’76, Reagan in ‘80, Bush in ’88, Dole in ’96, and G.W. Bush in 2000 were all the choices of the establishment fund-raisers and veteran political advisers. For all his reputation as a maverick, McCain began this campaign as a Washington-insider establishment favorite. (The fact that Warren Rudman is one of his campaign chairmen is all you need to know.) Heilemann blames McCain’s woes on precisely this strategy, but historically, it’s been a primary winner.

The question remains whether any of the remaining viable candidates will try to get themselves anointed as the establishment choice. Giuliani, Romney, and Fred Thompson are all styling themselves, legitimately, as Washington outsiders. And that may be a good thing. History shows that the GOP predilection for choosing the establishment candidate doesn’t always work out so well: Ford in ’76, Dole in ’96…

Read Less

More News from Ramadi

You don’t hear much about Anbar Province anymore. That’s because this area, once the scene of the heaviest fighting in Iraq, has turned remarkably quiet of late. Attacks are down 80 percent since last year. If there is any cause for optimism in Iraq this is it: If an area as troubled as Anbar could be turned around so quickly, then no part of Iraq can truly be said to be hopeless. Yet much hard work remains to be done to consolidate the gains that have recently been made. I asked Colonel John Charlton, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division, whom I visited in April, to provide an update for contentions readers on what is happening in the provincial capital, Ramadi. His emailed response follows:

Read More

You don’t hear much about Anbar Province anymore. That’s because this area, once the scene of the heaviest fighting in Iraq, has turned remarkably quiet of late. Attacks are down 80 percent since last year. If there is any cause for optimism in Iraq this is it: If an area as troubled as Anbar could be turned around so quickly, then no part of Iraq can truly be said to be hopeless. Yet much hard work remains to be done to consolidate the gains that have recently been made. I asked Colonel John Charlton, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division, whom I visited in April, to provide an update for contentions readers on what is happening in the provincial capital, Ramadi. His emailed response follows:

Max,

As requested, progress report from Ramadi:

Security here in Ramadi continues to improve as the Iraqi police and army forces work daily to keep the population safe. When we arrived in February, we were averaging 30 – 35 attacks per day in our area of responsibility. Now our average is one attack per day or less. We had an entire week with no attacks in our area and have a total of over 65 days with no attacks. I attribute this success to our close relationship with the Iraqi security forces and the support those forces receive from the civilian population. The Iraqi police and army forces have uncovered hundreds of munitions caches and get intelligence tips from the local population every day.

Our biggest challenge with the Iraqi police is getting them fully equipped, paid, and consolidated in police stations. The support system that begins with the MOI [Ministry of the Interior], and extends through the provincial police chief, is still a work in progress. As a result, the Iraqi police still rely heavily on coalition logistics and support. We expect the equipment issue to improve soon, and we are working hard to get their logistics and command and control systems in place. One thing that is not lacking is the courage and the dedication of the Iraqi police in al Anbar. For them, this fight is personal. They know that al Qaeda is targeting them, their families and their tribes.

Some of our most recent successes have been in the areas of reconstruction and governance. The city government didn’t exist before April of this year, but has grown steadily over the past few months, and is now providing essential services to the population. In areas that were battlefields only a few months ago, city electrical employees are now repairing transformers and power lines. Sanitation workers are fixing sewer leaks caused by hundreds of buried IED’s [improvised explosive devices]. The Iraqis now have repaired the electrical grid in about 80 percent of the city and about 50 percent of the rubble has been removed. We expect to have all rubble removed in the next 90 – 120 days, which will allow for many parts of the city to start rebuilding.

We now have our Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team (EPRT) and they are working hard to help build the municipal government in Ramadi. The EPRT is composed of personnel from the U.S. State Department, USAID, and other experts in various areas of government. We have partnered the EPRT with officials from the municipal government in much the same way that we partner Soldiers and Marines with Iraqi police. The EPRT works every day with the city government helping them with budgeting, planning, and delivering services to the public. The EPRT is a critical capability that we never had before, and I’m confident that it is going to make a big difference in building stability here in Ramadi.

We have been working closely with the chief judge of the province to rebuild the judicial system in Ramadi and throughout al Anbar province. Four months ago, there were no attorneys, judges, or investigators because of the threat from al Qaeda. Now that we have greatly increased security, these legal professionals are coming forward, and we are helping them reestablish the rule of law. Investigative judges are reviewing case files for prisoners in Iraqi jails. They have released many of these prisoners because of lack of evidence, but have also prepared over 100 files for prosecution. We established a detectives course in our police training center to help the Iraqi police do better investigations and evidence collection. We expect to have criminal courts beginning here in Ramadi in August—pretty good progress considering there was no rule of law here four months ago.

We are also making good progress on economic development by focusing on low-level economic stimulation. Once we had completed our large-scale offensive operations in February and March, we realized we needed to provide a massive and quick economic stimulus in order to stabilize the communities within the city. Because of the fighting in the city, the economy was in ruins, and it was clear that it would take some time to get businesses back in operation. We started day labor programs throughout the city to help clear trash and rubble, as well as provide an economic shot-in-the-arm to these devastated communities. These day-labor programs were all planned and executed by company commanders, and their effect was dramatic. We have funneled over $5 million in aid to these programs and have employed over 15,000 Iraqis. All this happened in about three months. This decentralized economic development program only used about 10 percent of my reconstruction funds, but has accounted for over 70 percent of new employment in Ramadi. These programs have cleaned neighborhoods, uncovered caches of munitions, and have restored hope and pride to the citizens of Ramadi.

We have joined efforts with organizations like the Iraqi/American Chamber of Commerce (IACC) to help revitalize small business in Ramadi. Company commanders went through every neighborhood and conducted assessments on all small businesses so we could help jump-start the small business grant program. We collected over 500 assessments, which helped the IACC begin its grant operations. This is the same technique we use with all non-military organizations—we use our presence in the city and access to the population to facilitate their operations. Revitalizing small businesses in Ramadi will lead to more stable communities, which helps us maintain overall security in the area.

We have a great relationship with another non-governmental organization called International Relief and Development (IRD). IRD focuses on programs for community stabilization just like we do, and it provides help in ways the military can’t. For example, IRD helped us fund a city-wide soccer league, providing equipment and uniforms to hundreds of young Iraqis. The organization has also helped us form women’s outreach groups that focus on adult literacy, health, and education issues. Forming relationships with NGOs like IRD is essential in a counterinsurgency campaign, and complements our efforts to improve security.

I’ve mentioned several times our focus on stabilizing communities, and I believe this is a fundamental aspect of a successful counterinsurgency campaign. Counterinsurgencies are fought neighborhood by neighborhood with the focus on protecting the population and improving conditions in the community. After clearing an area of terrorists (we do this by conducting large-scale offensive operations), our focus shifts to establishing a permanent security presence with coalition forces and ISF. That is the purpose of the Joint Security Station (JSS). The JSS helps secure and stabilize a community by proving an overt security presence, which establishes a perception of security in the minds of the population. Once they feel safe, they begin to provide intelligence to the police, and security improves steadily. This also helps insulate the community from terrorist attempts to move back into the neighborhood. We then shift our focus on non-lethal efforts to stabilize the community. This is done through day-labor programs, small business development, engagement with local sheikhs and Imams and information operations focused on the community.

Despite all the progress we have made with the Iraqis here in Ramadi, the area remains very dangerous. We recently received intelligence reports that terrorists were attempting to stage attacks from an area south of the city. We increased our offensive operations in that area and made contact with a large group of al Qaeda terrorists that were attempting to infiltrate into Ramadi. There were about 50 well-equipped and well-trained terrorists who were moving toward the city in two large trucks. They all had new equipment, weapons, and explosive belts. Their targets were the tribal leaders in Ramadi (we know this from propaganda videos taken off the terrorists). We attacked these terrorists using ground forces and attack helicopters, resulting in 40 enemy killed and three captured. If this force had made it into the city, it would have been a tremendous victory for al Qaeda. We successfully defeated their attack, but we know they will try again in the future. We continue to receive truck bomb attacks, but have been successful in keeping them out of the city and other populated areas. Al Qaeda has not given up on their desire to retake Ramadi and al Anbar, so we can’t let up in our efforts to stop them. The good news is that the people of al Anbar and Ramadi are united in their stand against al Qaeda.

Rock of the Marne!
John W. Charlton
COL, Infantry Commanding Camp
Ar Ramadi, Iraq

Read Less

Time to Short China?

In China in Revolt in the December COMMENTARY, Gordon Chang took note of the turbulent nature of Chinese society. Three decades of reform have transformed a regimented totalitarian society into a dynamic hybrid: free and unfree, assertive and repressed, at once.

As these antimonies suggest, China is not a society in a stable equilibrium. What is more, its social, political, and economic system is under sustained pressure from many directions. One of the least noted but most significant sources of future trouble is the changing composition of the Chinese population.

Read More

In China in Revolt in the December COMMENTARY, Gordon Chang took note of the turbulent nature of Chinese society. Three decades of reform have transformed a regimented totalitarian society into a dynamic hybrid: free and unfree, assertive and repressed, at once.

As these antimonies suggest, China is not a society in a stable equilibrium. What is more, its social, political, and economic system is under sustained pressure from many directions. One of the least noted but most significant sources of future trouble is the changing composition of the Chinese population.

As of this month, China is estimated by the CIA to be inhabited by 1,321,851,888 people. The CIA’s precision here can certainly be questioned—indeed, it is preposterous—but what is not at all in doubt is that these 1,321,851,888 people, like the rest of us, are getting older every day. But unlike the rest of us—or at least those of us here in the United States—they are not being replenished.

Thanks in large measure to China’s one-child policy, the Chinese population growth rate has fallen to a low of .606 percent annually. (The U.S. rate, by contrast, is .95 percent). While the total Chinese population will continue to expand, in about fifteen years, unless some unforeseen factor intervenes, it will begin to contract. And as it contracts, it will also begin to age. In fact, according to the CIA, China will come to have ”one of the most rapidly aging populations in the world.”

What are the implications of that? Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on July 11, Thomas Fingar of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, notes that with “a couple of generations of one-child families, no social-security safety net, a shrinking pool to support an ever-larger group without the normal family—[the] one-child family [policy] means there aren’t aunts and uncles and cousins and others that will be part of the support system.” All this will serve to inject “at least the potential for fragility to the social system.”

That may well be an understatement. Writing in Policy Review, the demographer Nicholas Eberstadt calls the problem a “triple bind”:

Without a broad-coverage national pension system, and with only limited filial resources to fall back on, paid work will of necessity loom large as an option for economic security for many older Chinese. But employment in China, today and tomorrow, will be more physically punishing than in OECD countries, and China’s older cohorts are simply less likely to be up to the task. The aggregation of hundreds of millions of individual experiences with this triple bind over the coming generation will be a set of economic, social, and political constraints on Chinese development—and power augmentation—that have not as yet been fully appreciated in Beijing, much less overseas.

Is this good news for the rest of the world, or bad? The composite index of the Shanghai stock exchange was up 130 percent last year and is rising still. One question is: should one sell Chinese stocks short now, or wait until the population implosion begins in about fifteen years?

Read Less

Hamas, Slipping

Yesterday Noah Pollak (at Middle East Journal) cited some encouraging new poll numbers from Gaza:

Hamas got only 23 percent support, down from 29 percent in the previous survey last month, while Fatah climbed from 31 percent to 43 percent.

The poll, the first major survey since the Hamas takeover, also showed that 66 percent of Hamas supporters said they would vote Fatah if it undertook reforms.

Trust in the Gaza-based deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas stood at 37 percent, compared to 63 percent for Abbas. [Fatah] Prime Minister Sallam Fayad got higher trust marks than Haniyeh, 62-38 percent.

A bit more than eighteen months ago, Hamas took a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament (though it won just 44 percent of the popular vote). These new numbers don’t constitute a directly comparable result, but they suggest (as Pollak and others argue) that Hamas may be its own worst enemy. The tumble in Hamas’s standing also means that Fatah has a chance to recapture and retain power—provided that Abbas can remake his party into one capable of governing a functional (or less dysfunctional) state.

This would mean not only establishing a firm monopoly on violence, but addressing the rampant political corruption, internal tribal divisions, and rotten or non-existent infrastructure that have plagued Palestinian life for years. It would also mean, ultimately, ending hostilities—whether government-sanctioned or not—against Israel. (Dennis Ross took this line of argument at TNR.) Abbas may be too weak to accomplish this, but the opportunity is there. One hopes the Palestinian leadership won’t squander it.

Yesterday Noah Pollak (at Middle East Journal) cited some encouraging new poll numbers from Gaza:

Hamas got only 23 percent support, down from 29 percent in the previous survey last month, while Fatah climbed from 31 percent to 43 percent.

The poll, the first major survey since the Hamas takeover, also showed that 66 percent of Hamas supporters said they would vote Fatah if it undertook reforms.

Trust in the Gaza-based deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas stood at 37 percent, compared to 63 percent for Abbas. [Fatah] Prime Minister Sallam Fayad got higher trust marks than Haniyeh, 62-38 percent.

A bit more than eighteen months ago, Hamas took a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament (though it won just 44 percent of the popular vote). These new numbers don’t constitute a directly comparable result, but they suggest (as Pollak and others argue) that Hamas may be its own worst enemy. The tumble in Hamas’s standing also means that Fatah has a chance to recapture and retain power—provided that Abbas can remake his party into one capable of governing a functional (or less dysfunctional) state.

This would mean not only establishing a firm monopoly on violence, but addressing the rampant political corruption, internal tribal divisions, and rotten or non-existent infrastructure that have plagued Palestinian life for years. It would also mean, ultimately, ending hostilities—whether government-sanctioned or not—against Israel. (Dennis Ross took this line of argument at TNR.) Abbas may be too weak to accomplish this, but the opportunity is there. One hopes the Palestinian leadership won’t squander it.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.