The great Charles Krauthammer—and I’m not being ironic: I really do think he’s a great columnist and thinker—has an article today claiming that “Iraq is being partitioned” as a result of General David Petraeus’s strategy of raising a grass-roots rebellion of Sunnis against al Qaeda in Iraq. He thinks this is a great step.
I agree that the Sunni revolt is good news, but is it actually leading to a partition of the country? Depends on your definition of “partition.”
Question: Is America “partitioned” into 50 states? By the loose definition of “soft partition” that some (like Krauthammer) use, you could say yes. After all, the federal government doesn’t provide most basic services, from welfare to policing to education; at most it supplements locally provided services (e.g., the FBI backs up or supplants local law enforcement in a few instances) and provides funding (e.g., “block grants”) to pay for locally provided services. While you could describe this arrangement as a “soft partition,” the more commonly accepted term is “federalism,” and it is a good description of what is happening in Iraq.
James Abourezk is a co-founder of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and a former United States Senator: he represented South Dakota for one term, from 1973 until 1979. Last month, Abourezk was interviewed on al-Manar, the Hizballah television station. Sitting in a lushly-appointed Damascus plaza, he gushed to his interviewer that he watches al-Manar regularly in the United States, claims that “the Arabs who were involved in 9/11 cooperated with the Zionists,” and says that Hizballah’s war against Israel last year was “a marvel of organization, of courage and bravery.”
John Edwards’s vision of American economic suffering is neatly summed up in this quote, from 2004 campaign:
Today, under George W. Bush, there are two Americas, not one: One America that does the work, another America that reaps the reward. One America that pays the taxes, another America that gets the tax breaks. One America that will do anything to leave its children a better life, another America that never has to do a thing because its children are already set for life.
That second America refers to the middle- and working-classes, and particularly the poor. The government’s annual statistical report on household income and poverty—which this year indicated a drop in poverty from 12.6 percent in 2005 to 12.3 percent in 2006 but a net rise of 11.3 percent since 2000—seem on its surface to support Edward’s point of view.
In his column in the most recent issue of National Journal, Jonathan Rauch admonishes Congressional Democrats:
Here is something that Democrats might want to think about before rushing to shut down the surge: If they managed to ram through a withdrawal or timetable on party lines this fall, when most Republicans think the surge is working, they would be flayed for a generation as the party that seized certain defeat from the jaws of possible victory. For years to come, Republicans would insist that Democratic pusillanimity emboldened jihadism, an ugly narrative that some are already rehearsing. (Last month Peter Wehner, who recently left the White House for a post at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, sent out an e-mail pointing to jihadists’ claim that America is a “weak horse” that runs when bloodied. He continued, “If the critics have their way and deny General Petraeus the time he needs to help bring about a decent outcome in Iraq, the jihadists will be right.”)
Mr. Rauch doesn’t explain (perhaps because he can’t) why he considers this narrative “ugly”—a word clearly meant to suggest partisan political strategy—rather than accurate. The reality is that we know, from their own past words, that weakness emboldens jihadists. Here are the words of Osama bin Laden (from his 1998 interview with ABC’s John Miller):
We have seen in the last decade the decline of the American government and the weaknesses of the American solider, who is ready to wage cold wars and unprepared to fight long wars. This was proven in Beirut when the Marines fled after two explosions. It also proves they can run in less than twenty-four hours, and this was also repeated in Somalia. . . . [Our] youth were surprised at the low morale of the American soldiers. . . . After a few blows, they ran in defeat. . . . They forgot about being the world leader and the leader of the new world order. [They] left, dragging their corpses and their shameful defeat.
Let’s lay out the logic for Mr. Rauch in an easy-to-follow manner: If jihadists have declared Iraq to be the central front in the larger war we are engaged in—as they have—and if we retreat because we have been bloodied in Iraq—as leading Democrats want—then it’s reasonable to assume that a precipitous American withdrawal, led by Democrats, will embolden the jihadists.
Does David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, tell us anything more about the “peculiar fantasies” entertained by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in their new book, The Israel Lobby?
In a column in his own magazine, Remnick strenuously insists that the two men “are not anti-Semites or racists.” Rather, they are “serious scholars.” What is more, the strategic questions they raise are very much “worth debating.” And the pity is that, for their pains in raising them, they have been hit with “ugly attacks,” such as an op-ed by Johns Hopkins professor Eliot Cohen under the headline “Yes, It’s Anti-Semitic.”
All the same, concludes Remnick, after defending the duo from these charges coming from the likes of Cohen, Mearsheimer and Walt’s argument has been “badly undermined” by their depiction of Israel as a “singularly pernicious force in world affairs.” Although they “have not entirely forgotten their professional duties,” they come close to such dereliction, especially when they assert that “Israel and its lobbyists bear a great deal of blame for the loss of American direction, treasure, and even blood.”
Fred Kagan, of the American Enterprise Institute, has become one of the most prolific and influential voices when it comes to Iraq policy. Just keeping up with his writings can be a full-time job—but a rewarding one. What he has to say is always worth paying attention to. He has a number of new articles that are “must reads” for those following the debate over the war and the surge.
• This cover article in the Weekly Standard explaining what al Qaeda in Iraq is all about, focusing on its relationship to “al Qaeda central” and why U.S. troops have been having so much success fighting it lately.
• This essay explaining the shortcomings of the GAO report on Iraq.
• This article explaining why the Jones commission report on the state of the Iraqi security forces has been widely misinterpreted by the news media.
• This long, compelling report outlining why the most detailed troop drawdown proposal put forward by critics of the administration—a study from the Center for a New American Security proposing a rapid reduction to 60,000 troops—won’t work.
Read ‘em all.
Yesterday, President Bush announced that he had accepted an invitation from Hu Jintao to attend the 2008 Olympics, which will be held next August in Beijing. The two of them met in a private session in Sydney before the start of a regional summit of Pacific Rim leaders. “I was anxious to accept,” Bush told reporters.
“For the Chinese, that’s a public vote of confidence,” said Michael Green, who worked in the National Security Council until late 2005. But it’s more than just a vote, Mr. Green: it’s legitimization. Activists have announced multiple boycotts of the Games for various reasons, from China’s tacit support of the murderous Janjaweed militia in Darfur to its repression of Tibetans and the liquidation of their culture. Beijing has become increasingly worried in recent months about the controversy swirling around the upcoming sporting extravaganza, its coming-out party.
It seems that everyone knows the significance of President Bush’s acceptance except for the White House. Jim Jeffrey, Deputy National Security Adviser, said the President “was going to the Olympics for the sports and not for any political statement.”
This trip will be more than just a vacation, and Jeffrey’s stated reason for the acceptance is disingenuous. We can only hope that the Fan-in-Chief (who didn’t, by the way, go to the Athens Games in 2004), will somehow find the inner strength either to snub the world’s leading autocrat next August or to admit that he intends to support the Chinese regime.
Madeleine Albright writes in the Washington Post that she can’t figure out what our troops are fighting for in Iraq.
“A cynic might suggest that the military’s real mission is to enable President Bush to continue denying that his invasion has evolved into disaster,” she writes. She then goes on to suggest that the way out of this morass would be for President Bush to admit “what the world knows—that many prewar criticisms of the invasion were on target” and essentially throw himself on the mercy of the international community in the hopes that someone (France? India? The United Nations?) will come to our rescue.
Leave aside the issue of whether “a coordinated international effort” offers any real prospect of improving the on-the-ground situation in Iraq. (I address that question more fully in my COMMENTARY article, “How Not to Get Out of Iraq.”) What impresses me the most about Albright’s contribution is her selective memory loss—similar to that suffered by other liberals who were onetime hawks when it came to Iraq but have since changed their plumage.
Last week, the European Parliament hosted a conference sponsored by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (or CEI), a group with a long name and a short agenda: demonizing Israel. But it was the first time that the European Parliament played host to such shrill vulgarity—a further sign of Europe’s lack of credibility as Israel’s viable partner for peace.
The outcome of the conference was predictable. The most common accusation against Israel was that it is an apartheid state, a claim shared by most attendees. Still, there was innovation in the repertoire, as Daniel Schwammenthal notes in today’s Wall Street Journal Europe. Clare Short, a British MP and former minister who resigned over the Iraq war, blamed Israel for global warming. Her reasoning was that, since Israel distracts the world with its unruly behavior, the world does not spend enough time, attention, and resources on the real issue: man-made climate change. Meanwhile, Belgian Pierre Galand was concerned that Israel’s attempts to shield itself from missile threats would be harmful to peace. (A missile shield might be harmful to Iran’s desire to destroy Israel, on the other hand, which makes Galand’s conception of peace seem a bit strange.)
In the midst of this spectacle, one could see an old man—Aharon Cohen, a member of the radically anti-Zionist Hasidic sect Neturei Karta, who recently attended a Tehran Holocaust denial gathering—walking about with a small laminated Palestinian flag pinned on his chest. Cohen was not among the speakers, but his presence was telling enough. Rubbing shoulders with him in the crowded hall meant that participants were two degrees of separation away from Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and white supremacist David Duke. Could it be that this closeness inspired University of Wisconsin professor Jennifer Loewenstein to accuse Israel of genocide—further proof of the distance, in the world of pro-Palestinian advocacy, between facts and rhetoric?
The jailing yesterday for three weeks of Dr. Chee Soon Juan, leader of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), which international media have reported and their American counterparts have largely ignored, is in fact very bad news for the future of freedom and democracy.
We regularly hear (in particular with respect to China) that only affluent and well-educated populations are capable of handling free expression responsibly, or are to be trusted with the power of the ballot. Poorer and less well-lettered people must be led toward stability and a modicum of prosperity by a benign and well-informed, if autocratic, leadership. Singapore’s roughly 4.5 million people already rank as among the best educated (literacy is nearly 93 percent and universal among those over age 15) and wealthiest (per capita GDP at $31,400) in the world. Yet Singapore, while possessing the forms of democracy, is in fact a tightly-held family autocracy.