Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 8, 2007

Edwards the Phony

Matt Drudge has posted this headline on his site: “Editor For SC Largest Paper: Edwards Is ‘A Big Phony.’” That claim may qualify as the understatement of the political year. John Edwards has gone from what U.S. News & World Report describes as “the happy-face centrist” to the Candidate from the World of Kos. Has any ’08 candidate traveled so far (to the left), so fast, and in such a transparently false manner?

There are the predictable flip-flops. Today Edwards says the Iraq war was a mistake; in 2002, he insisted that “Saddam Hussein’s regime represents a grave threat to America and our allies. . . . [W]e must be prepared to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, and eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction once and for all.”

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Matt Drudge has posted this headline on his site: “Editor For SC Largest Paper: Edwards Is ‘A Big Phony.’” That claim may qualify as the understatement of the political year. John Edwards has gone from what U.S. News & World Report describes as “the happy-face centrist” to the Candidate from the World of Kos. Has any ’08 candidate traveled so far (to the left), so fast, and in such a transparently false manner?

There are the predictable flip-flops. Today Edwards says the Iraq war was a mistake; in 2002, he insisted that “Saddam Hussein’s regime represents a grave threat to America and our allies. . . . [W]e must be prepared to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, and eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction once and for all.”

Having been an early supporter of the war on terror, he now refers to it as a “bumper sticker.” John Edwards is now a passionate critic of NAFTA—after having had nice words to say about it just a few years ago. Once upon a time he expressed concern about government spending; today, he is a champion of it. He raged against “shameful lending practices” that are “devastating communities”—and then we found out he was employed in a firm that engaged in predatory lending practices. The multi-millionaire owner of a 28,000-square-foot home targets the rich in his speeches. On and on it goes.

Edwards is also leading the campaign against Fox News. He was among the first Democratic candidates to refuse to take part in Fox-sponsored debates, prompting this withering reply from Roger Ailes: “The candidates that can’t face Fox, can’t face al Qaeda.”

And sometimes what reveals the most about a candidate is not his stance on issues, but how he acts. John Edwards’s actions range from the funny (the high-priced haircuts and this widely-mocked video of the candidate’s carefully attending to his hair) to the disturbing. For instance, according to the political consultant Bob Shrum, during the 2004 campaign Edwards told Kerry a highly personal story about his son’s death. Edwards said it was a story about which he had told very few people. In Shrum’s account, Edwards told Kerry “that after his son Wade had been killed, he climbed onto the slab at the funeral home, laid there and hugged his body….” Shrum says Kerry was “queasy” because Senator Edwards had recounted that story before, in almost the same language.

This story, by itself, is unsettling. In the context of the Makeover of John Edwards, it is unnerving. One senses that Edwards is unanchored philosophically, that he is thirsting for political power and willing to remake himself in order to gain it.

He is Bill Clinton without the interns.

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Dispatch from Task Force Justice

I visited Forward Operating Base Justice, located in the northwest Baghdad neighborhood of Khadamiyah, in April. Its commander is Lieutenant Colonel Steven Miska. I recently asked him for an update on developments in his AOR (Area of Responsibility) that I could share with contentions readers. Here is his response:

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I visited Forward Operating Base Justice, located in the northwest Baghdad neighborhood of Khadamiyah, in April. Its commander is Lieutenant Colonel Steven Miska. I recently asked him for an update on developments in his AOR (Area of Responsibility) that I could share with contentions readers. Here is his response:

Max,
Some notes below. I will include a few nonstandard items in the update. Apologize for the delay in response. Have been juggling missions, media, and other tasks over the last few days.

Asian World Cup Football: Did you see the CNN coverage live from FOB Justice of the Iraqi Soccer game? We threw a great party with all of our local nationals. You would have thought we were at an Army-Navy tailgate. We went downtown after the game and spoke to people on the street. Khadamiyah was absolutely nuts. Lots of fun and a cathartic experience for the Iraqis to see their team accomplish something across the sectarian divide. Hopefully, more good can come from the victory.

Immigration: A few days ago we said goodbye to “George” who is our first interpreter to get an invitation to the Embassy in Jordan. He will be a pioneer for many of our Iraqi interpreters who have applied for visas. We hope that he will not run into too much resistance and will get his visa. Stories from Jordan are not hopeful. One report said that Iraqis were getting turned around at the border if they said they were entering Jordan to go to the U.S. Embassy. George has a story about going to work for a Jordanian company that has a branch in Baghdad. He knows someone that made the recommendation for him. I have asked him to stay in touch with us, so we can track his progress and any pitfalls along the way. We gave him numerous gifts and a few certificates. I told him that his feedback could help shape U.S. policy. We also have one more interpreter who has his invitation approved. We have 22 total applications in the works. We have 59 interpreters on our base. Many have either chosen not to apply or have not met their year requirement. Many are spreading the word that we need some more interpreters, and telling about our success of getting interpreters approved for a trip to Jordan. We have also been pushing the refugee issue for families who don’t qualify under other provisions, like Iraqi Army leaders. Between the soccer party and our push to take care of our interpreters, I have seen hope in the eyes of our Iraqi colleagues. This initiative will be one of our proudest accomplishments. We will continue to use our success from TF [Task Force] Justice to sensitize other leaders to the subject.

Reconciliation: The MOI [Ministry of Interior] and other government leaders are very reluctant to endorse any initiative that empowers the local Sunni volunteers who are securing neighborhoods like Ameriyah. Ameriyah is like night and day now. One minute it was full-scale kinetic activity. Then our former enemies, Sunni insurgents from the “honorable resistance,” began asking for our assistance to drive al Qaeda out. They were immediately more effective than Americans in driving al Qaeda in Iraq from their neighborhoods. They only asked for U.S. support and coordination. They make no bones about their belief that we need to leave for our alliance to be successful beyond the defeat of al Qaeda. We recognize we may end up fighting these guys again if the GOI [Government of Iraq] doesn’t seize the window of opportunity that is now open. If the GOI can make reasonable gestures of reconciliation, like deputizing these volunteers as local police to secure their own neighborhoods, then we will have made huge strides. As always, the political line of operation is where we need the most help. We have had a steady stream of VIPs come to visit the volunteers. Everyone is pressuring the GOI. Lots of foot-dragging, mumbling, and playing with prayer beads. That being said, things have dramatically improved since the turning of Anbar province. We anticipate that the Shia government will demand repatriation of Shia families in some of these neighborhoods to demonstrate intent on behalf of the former insurgents. As long as each side continues in good faith, they will not undermine the process.

Militia Influence: On the other side of the fence, we have the militia. They are a tough nut to crack. I believe the economic line of operation will be the key to defeating the militia influence. We need to overcome the corruption and graft through vigorous, pragmatic economic policy that jump-starts latent industry and employment. Many of the State Owned Enterprises (SOE) are producing at minimal levels relative to Saddam days. These industries have the capacity to very quickly create jobs and generate productive capacity that spills across sectarian lines. The profit incentive will help drive Sunnis and Shia to collaborate together. As we create more jobs, militia recruiting pools will dry up. We need to create honorable alternatives that allow young, military-age males to provide for their families. The militia has their hands dug deepest into mob-like crime throughout the Shia communities, and most politicians can’t shed themselves of the militia influence (so a political approach is probably not feasible—just my opinion.) We must defeat the militia through economic means. I do have some hope that we might solve this Gordian knot, but it is far from undone. Paul Brinkley [the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Business Transformation] and his group have the right approach, and are encouraging many in the SOEs to bring production back on line through smart application of grants and incentives. This has great potential, but will move with the lag associated with all fiscal economic policy. All other lines of operation must continue to buy time for economic progress to continue.

The Media: The fight is complex. The challenges are hard to boil down into 9-second sound bites or catchy headlines. However, we do spend a lot of time educating reporters, in addition to VIPs. We have a few die-hard reporters that travel to the fight and get a view from the ground on the challenges and opportunities facing our forces and the Iraqis. Most of the journalists I meet are tremendous professionals who make personal sacrifices to provide transparency in a society that needs media spotlights everywhere. The press is instrumental is helping keep the good people honest and the bad guys from committing even more egregious transgressions. Many of our media colleagues have brought attention to significant challenges like immigration, the need for diplomacy around the periphery of Iraq, detainee abuse, and other challenges. We need to encourage them and help them gain access to the stories that will shape human behavior in positive directions.

I hope this provides a brief glimpse into the complexities we face in western Baghdad. We have been very busy, but understand the need to get the word out.

Warm Regards,
Steve

Steven M. Miska
LTC, Infantry
Task Force Justice Commander

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The Remarkable Mr. Wehner

Fred Barnes, in the upcoming Weekly Standard, writes in “The Day the Emails Died” that Peter Wehner, through his many White House years,

emailed ideas and information to several hundred journalists and writers and intellectuals and policy entrepreneurs. His missives became known as ‘Wehnergrams,’ but there will be no more of them. Friday, August 3, was his last day at the White House. . . . The president will miss Wehner enormously. I suspect he will be missed at least as much by the readers of his emails. Even if they didn’t agree with him or Bush, they knew they were hearing from a remarkable and intellectually honest man.

I agree, of course, with Barnes, but would like to point out that Wehner’s communications need not be missed at all: as of Monday he is a contributor to this blog.

Fred Barnes, in the upcoming Weekly Standard, writes in “The Day the Emails Died” that Peter Wehner, through his many White House years,

emailed ideas and information to several hundred journalists and writers and intellectuals and policy entrepreneurs. His missives became known as ‘Wehnergrams,’ but there will be no more of them. Friday, August 3, was his last day at the White House. . . . The president will miss Wehner enormously. I suspect he will be missed at least as much by the readers of his emails. Even if they didn’t agree with him or Bush, they knew they were hearing from a remarkable and intellectually honest man.

I agree, of course, with Barnes, but would like to point out that Wehner’s communications need not be missed at all: as of Monday he is a contributor to this blog.

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Dirty Olympics

Next year, at eight seconds after 8:08 on the evening of August 8, the most important event in the most populous country in the world will begin. At that moment, the Olympics in Beijing will start—and the People’s Republic of China will announce its arrival in the century it believes it will own.

Today, to mark the one-year countdown to the XXIX Olympiad, Beijing staged a grandiose nighttime ceremony in Tiananmen Square, the symbolic heart of the Chinese nation and the scene of mass murder in 1989. China’s Leninists are good at organizing gargantuan rallies glorifying themselves, and this extravaganza, which included International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, was no exception. The anthem for the event was “We’re Ready.”

Will Beijing’s leaders be ready a year from now? Amnesty International, in a report issued yesterday, urged Communist Party officials to stop repressing the Chinese people. In an accompanying statement, Amnesty said “time is running out for the Chinese government to fulfill its promise of improving human rights in the run-up to the Games.” The report came out on the same day as one from Human Rights Watch and another from the Committee to Protect Journalists. On Monday in the Chinese capital, Reporters Without Borders unfurled a banner showing the Olympic rings as handcuffs. Beijing authorities detained and roughed up journalists who had staged the protest. Yesterday, activists at the Great Wall displayed a large banner reading “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008.” They were detained as well.

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Next year, at eight seconds after 8:08 on the evening of August 8, the most important event in the most populous country in the world will begin. At that moment, the Olympics in Beijing will start—and the People’s Republic of China will announce its arrival in the century it believes it will own.

Today, to mark the one-year countdown to the XXIX Olympiad, Beijing staged a grandiose nighttime ceremony in Tiananmen Square, the symbolic heart of the Chinese nation and the scene of mass murder in 1989. China’s Leninists are good at organizing gargantuan rallies glorifying themselves, and this extravaganza, which included International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, was no exception. The anthem for the event was “We’re Ready.”

Will Beijing’s leaders be ready a year from now? Amnesty International, in a report issued yesterday, urged Communist Party officials to stop repressing the Chinese people. In an accompanying statement, Amnesty said “time is running out for the Chinese government to fulfill its promise of improving human rights in the run-up to the Games.” The report came out on the same day as one from Human Rights Watch and another from the Committee to Protect Journalists. On Monday in the Chinese capital, Reporters Without Borders unfurled a banner showing the Olympic rings as handcuffs. Beijing authorities detained and roughed up journalists who had staged the protest. Yesterday, activists at the Great Wall displayed a large banner reading “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008.” They were detained as well.

China was not ready to host the Games in 2001, when they were awarded, and it is not ready now. The Beijing Olympics organizing committee is already trying to lower foreign expectations. “We can’t please everybody,” said spokesman Sun Weide. In response, the International Olympic Committee should live up to its principles and think about criticizing the Chinese government. President Rogge, however, has consistently maintained that Beijing’s detestable political system is none of his organization’s business. “Any expectations that the International Olympic Committee should apply pressure on the Chinese government beyond what is necessary for Games preparations are misplaced, especially concerning sovereign matters the IOC is not qualified to judge,” he recently said. Some activists argue the IOC should take away the Olympics from China. I say keep the Games in Beijing to maintain the spotlight on the Communist Party—and a complicit International Olympic Committee.

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Secrecy for the Sake of Secrecy

Ever since the CIA was established in 1947, the annual amount of money spent on intelligence has been treated as a closely guarded secret. In recent years, a small army of liberal advocacy groups has been calling for disclosure. Their cause gained momentum when the 9/11 Commission threw its weight behind it. Just this past week, Congress passed a law, which President Bush has already signed, that would compel such disclosure.

But the House of Representatives is now busy undoing its own work, and the final outcome is far from clear. Bush, for his part, signed the bill under duress. His administration, remaining faithful to its reputation (ill-deserved, as I have argued here) as the “most secretive” in American history, has consistently argued against disclosure.

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Ever since the CIA was established in 1947, the annual amount of money spent on intelligence has been treated as a closely guarded secret. In recent years, a small army of liberal advocacy groups has been calling for disclosure. Their cause gained momentum when the 9/11 Commission threw its weight behind it. Just this past week, Congress passed a law, which President Bush has already signed, that would compel such disclosure.

But the House of Representatives is now busy undoing its own work, and the final outcome is far from clear. Bush, for his part, signed the bill under duress. His administration, remaining faithful to its reputation (ill-deserved, as I have argued here) as the “most secretive” in American history, has consistently argued against disclosure.

The administration’s most recent statement came in February:

Disclosure, including disclosure to the nation’s enemies and adversaries in a time of war, of the amounts requested by the President and provided by the Congress for the conduct of the nation’s intelligence activities would provide no meaningful information to the general American public, but would provide significant intelligence to America’s adversaries and could cause damage to the national-security interests of the United States.

Does this position make sense, and does it constitute the best argument against disclosure? Any honest attempt to answer must come in two parts. What damage might be done to American security by revealing the number; and would that number really provide “no meaningful information” to the American public?

Certainly, during the period of the cold war when we were facing a single rival superpower, the total amount the U.S. spent gathering intelligence could have been of some value to Moscow. If the total budget showed a significant up-tick from year to year, that might have revealed something important—the inauguration, say, of a major new satellite system for listening in on Soviet military communications.

Even if that information would have been of limited value to the Kremlin, there was a plausible case for preventing the USSR from gaining even marginal advantages in the high-stakes competition of the era.

But the Soviet Union is no more. Now we face rising but still second-rate powers like China, a range of much smaller rogue regimes like Iran and North Korea, and terrorist bands worldwide like al Qaeda. Could trends in the total U.S. intelligence budget be of any value to any of them? It is hard to see how.

What about the American public? Would it benefit from knowing whether, in a given year, more or less is being spent? As it happens, during the Clinton era, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Federation of American Scientists, the intelligence budget was disclosed for two successive years. In 1997, the sum was 26.6 billion; a year later, it had increased fractionally to $26.7 billion.

In these two numbers alone, we see a powerful case for revealing the budget. I do not know whether the two numbers were adjusted for inflation, but if they were, what they show is an intelligence budget that was flat. If they were not, they show an intelligence budget in decline. A look at the entire intelligence-budget trend-line for the Clinton presidency might well offer a valuable instrument in assessing just how we fell victim to the worst intelligence failure in American history on September 11, 2001. Surely that would qualify as “meaningful information.”

Still, this does not settle the matter. There is an additional argument for secrecy that the Bush administration did not make but should have.

The fact of the matter is that we have been far too open about intelligence matters in recent years. In World War II and throughout much of the cold war it was rightly taken for granted that “loose lips sink ships.” Today, by way of contrast, highly sensitive secrets, including those regarding ongoing operations against al Qaeda, are leaked to the press with regularity. Our culture seems to have forgotten that too much openness can get us all—or many of us—killed.

Good and completely rational arguments exist for disclosing the intelligence budget. But the larger fact is that an unfortunate and damaging climate of openness has come to surround things that should be wrapped in darkness. For that reason alone, if for no other, disclosing the total intelligence budget would be a step in the wrong direction.

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Bookshelf

• A large-scale retrospective of the paintings and works on paper of Edward Hopper is currently making the rounds of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (where it is up through August 19), Washington’s National Gallery of Art (Sept. 16-Jan. 21, 2008), and the Art Institute of Chicago (Feb. 16-May 11, 2008). Like all Hopper shows, it will be very, very popular. Hopper has long been one of America’s best-loved artists, a painter whose appeal is so broad-based that PBS is actually airing a documentary about his life and work narrated by the comedian-filmmaker Steve Martin—who is, sure enough, a Hopper collector. This popularity has always fascinated me, since Hopper is “accessible” only in the sense that his paintings are unambiguously representational. They are also bleak, private, and unsettling, all to a degree one would scarcely expect in so well-liked an artist.

Walter Wells’s Silent Theater: The Art of Edward Hopper (Phaidon, 264 pp., $69.95) is a coffee-table monograph that has been published just in time to coincide with the new Hopper show. Lavishly illustrated and handsomely printed, it would be pleasing to behold even if Wells had nothing of interest to say about his subject. In fact, he writes observantly and well, which makes Silent Theater a useful pendant to Gail Levin’s detailed but hectoring 1995 biography of Hopper and his long-suffering wife-model. Among other things, Wells goes out of his way to point out that Hopper’s paintings aren’t always quite so grim as advertised: “While it is hard to miss the persistent silence, or the tensions, or the lonely melancholy in Hopper’s pictures, what remains underappreciated, it seems to me, is their occasional drollness.”

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• A large-scale retrospective of the paintings and works on paper of Edward Hopper is currently making the rounds of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (where it is up through August 19), Washington’s National Gallery of Art (Sept. 16-Jan. 21, 2008), and the Art Institute of Chicago (Feb. 16-May 11, 2008). Like all Hopper shows, it will be very, very popular. Hopper has long been one of America’s best-loved artists, a painter whose appeal is so broad-based that PBS is actually airing a documentary about his life and work narrated by the comedian-filmmaker Steve Martin—who is, sure enough, a Hopper collector. This popularity has always fascinated me, since Hopper is “accessible” only in the sense that his paintings are unambiguously representational. They are also bleak, private, and unsettling, all to a degree one would scarcely expect in so well-liked an artist.

Walter Wells’s Silent Theater: The Art of Edward Hopper (Phaidon, 264 pp., $69.95) is a coffee-table monograph that has been published just in time to coincide with the new Hopper show. Lavishly illustrated and handsomely printed, it would be pleasing to behold even if Wells had nothing of interest to say about his subject. In fact, he writes observantly and well, which makes Silent Theater a useful pendant to Gail Levin’s detailed but hectoring 1995 biography of Hopper and his long-suffering wife-model. Among other things, Wells goes out of his way to point out that Hopper’s paintings aren’t always quite so grim as advertised: “While it is hard to miss the persistent silence, or the tensions, or the lonely melancholy in Hopper’s pictures, what remains underappreciated, it seems to me, is their occasional drollness.”

No less convincing is his final verdict on Hopper’s place in the history of American art:

His universals have outlasted his perceived provincialism. Surrealism, abstraction, pop, op—each ism that once seemed to displace “realistic” painting, and hence his own, can, the more closely we look at his images, be found in them as well.

Nicely said.

• Daniel Tammet, the author of Born on a Blue Day: A Memoir (Free Press, 226 pp., $24), suffers—if that is the right word—from savant syndrome, the mental condition that was the subject of the 1988 movie Rain Man. Unlike Raymond Babbitt, the autistic savant played by Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, Tammet has a “high-functioning” form of autism known as Asperger’s syndrome, meaning that he is capable of living on his own, functioning more or less normally, and writing introspectively about his life. Hence this book, one of the most readable first-hand accounts of mental illness to have come my way.

So far as I know, this is the first time that anyone suffering from autism has taken the layman inside the heretofore unimaginably strange world of the autistic savant:

I was born on January 31, 1979—a Wednesday. I know it was a Wednesday, because the date is blue in my mind and Wednesdays are always blue, like the number 9 or the sound of loud voices arguing. I like my birth date, because of the way I’m able to visualize most of the numbers in it as smooth and round shapes, similar to pebbles on a beach.

This synesthetic perception of numbers allows Tammet to “handle and calculate huge numbers in [his] head without any conscious effort.” It also places a barrier between him and his fellow men, for his computational gifts go hand-in-hand with a severe impairment of his capacity to experience ordinary emotions:

Numbers are my first language, one I often think and feel in. Emotions can be hard for me to understand or know how to react to, so I often use numbers to help me. If a friend says they feel sad or depressed, I picture myself sitting in the dark hollowness of number 6 to help me experience the same sort of feeling and understand it.

It is fascinating to read of how Tammet converted to Christianity after reading the essays of G.K. Chesterton. Tammet recounts his religious awakening in the same flat, childlike tone with which he describes his virtuosic mathematical skills:

I do not often attend church, because I can become uncomfortable with having lots of people sitting and standing around me. However, on the few occasions when I have been inside a church I have found the experience very interesting and affecting.

Far more vivid, not to mention affecting, is the chapter in which Tammet tells how he memorized and recited the first 22,514 digits of pi (the irrational number that expresses the relationship between the circumference and diameter of a circle) without making a single mistake:

Why learn a number like pi to so many decimal places? The answer I gave then as I do now is that pi is for me an extremely beautiful and utterly unique thing. Like the Mona Lisa or a Mozart symphony, pi is its own reason for loving it.

That last sentence made me catch my breath. Like most aesthetes, I’m largely innocent of the niceties of higher mathematics, but Daniel Tammet has given me a fleeting glimpse of what I think Edna St. Vincent Millay must have meant when she claimed that “Euclid alone has looked on beauty bare.”

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A Failing UNIFIL

Noah Pollak of Azure has an informative summary of the problems with UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, whose ostensible mission is the disarmament of Hizballah and the pacification of southern Lebanon. UNIFIL was expanded to 14,000 troops last summer, but, as Pollak writes:

The new UNIFIL has of course done nothing. Actually, worse than nothing: In the year since the end of the war, Iran and Syria have been rearming Hizballah at a torrid pace, this time with better weaponry than before, and UNIFIL has barely even pretended to be interested in disrupting the arms flow. UNIFIL’s rules of engagement prevent the border with Syria from being patrolled, and UNIFIL blue-helmets have neither the desire nor the means to confront Hizballah.

UNIFIL is but one of many of the United Nations’ failed efforts around the world—which do not need to be elaborated upon for readers of COMMENTARY. But the gravest failure among the U.N.’s initiatives in the Middle East has to be UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which for over five decades has kept the Palestinians in perpetual refugeehood when the vast majority of those Palestinians deemed “refugees” (the children and grandchildren of those who were displaced by the 1948 war) would not actually classify as such by the United Nations’ very own definition. I explored the problem of UNRWA—and suggested another source for its hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid money—several months ago here.

Noah Pollak of Azure has an informative summary of the problems with UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, whose ostensible mission is the disarmament of Hizballah and the pacification of southern Lebanon. UNIFIL was expanded to 14,000 troops last summer, but, as Pollak writes:

The new UNIFIL has of course done nothing. Actually, worse than nothing: In the year since the end of the war, Iran and Syria have been rearming Hizballah at a torrid pace, this time with better weaponry than before, and UNIFIL has barely even pretended to be interested in disrupting the arms flow. UNIFIL’s rules of engagement prevent the border with Syria from being patrolled, and UNIFIL blue-helmets have neither the desire nor the means to confront Hizballah.

UNIFIL is but one of many of the United Nations’ failed efforts around the world—which do not need to be elaborated upon for readers of COMMENTARY. But the gravest failure among the U.N.’s initiatives in the Middle East has to be UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which for over five decades has kept the Palestinians in perpetual refugeehood when the vast majority of those Palestinians deemed “refugees” (the children and grandchildren of those who were displaced by the 1948 war) would not actually classify as such by the United Nations’ very own definition. I explored the problem of UNRWA—and suggested another source for its hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid money—several months ago here.

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