Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 27, 2007

Piano Teachers

The Piano Teacher, by Julia Cho, which opened recently at the Vineyard Theater off-Broadway to mixed reviews, features a haunted keyboard pedagogue with nasty secrets to hide. The Vineyard Theater production benefits from the presence of the veteran actress Elizabeth Franz in the title role of an isolated, shunned teacher who is only marginally more sane than the sado-masochistic piano teacher incarnated by Isabelle Huppert in the 2001 French film of the same title, based on a perverse novel by the Austrian Nobel-Prize winning author Elfriede Jelinek.

The reiterated imagery of peccant piano instructors is so ingrained in our culture that a Google Search of “piano teacher” by anyone actually trying to learn to play the instrument will bring up references to Jelinek’s book and film, first and foremost. The world of music education as represented by such writers belongs to an earlier, less psychologically acute era. It is a relief to escape such querulous and indeed unmusical paradigms and look at today’s real world of superb piano teachers, who represent a vastly more intriguing, mysterious, and gratifying accomplishment.

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The Piano Teacher, by Julia Cho, which opened recently at the Vineyard Theater off-Broadway to mixed reviews, features a haunted keyboard pedagogue with nasty secrets to hide. The Vineyard Theater production benefits from the presence of the veteran actress Elizabeth Franz in the title role of an isolated, shunned teacher who is only marginally more sane than the sado-masochistic piano teacher incarnated by Isabelle Huppert in the 2001 French film of the same title, based on a perverse novel by the Austrian Nobel-Prize winning author Elfriede Jelinek.

The reiterated imagery of peccant piano instructors is so ingrained in our culture that a Google Search of “piano teacher” by anyone actually trying to learn to play the instrument will bring up references to Jelinek’s book and film, first and foremost. The world of music education as represented by such writers belongs to an earlier, less psychologically acute era. It is a relief to escape such querulous and indeed unmusical paradigms and look at today’s real world of superb piano teachers, who represent a vastly more intriguing, mysterious, and gratifying accomplishment.

Juilliard’s Yoheved “Veda” Kaplinsky, the Tel Aviv-born chair of the school’s piano department, also teaches in the Pre-College division, where some of America’s most astonishing prodigies are currently thriving. One such is Conrad Tao, a pianist and composer born in Illinois in 1994, whose live recordings on CD and video convey a sense of musical line (with the entire score evoked in every measure of a given work) as found only in the greatest musicians. Tao is also a characterful, accomplished composer of charm and nuance; his early compositions on CD sound more adult, individualistic, and masterful than those by any preteen composer I have heard, including Mozart.

One of the most admirable aspects of Tao’s musicality is his collaborative acumen, and another outstanding Kaplinsky pupil, the Chinese pianist Peng-Peng Gong, born in 1992, often plays with Tao, in addition to his solo performances. Such brilliant students are allowed to flower into musical maturity in a healthy, non-neurotic way. Encouraging, rather than stifling, prodigies allows them to develop as artists and human beings, instead of condemning them to becoming the stunted, frustrated, unhappy leftovers, some of whom are alas still present on the concert scene today.

Another outstanding Juilliard piano teacher, Oxana Yablonskaya, is helping to guide the destiny of Alice Burla, born in Toronto in 1997. In such challenging works as Chopin’s “Variations brilliants,” Burla displays the suavity and maturity of an adult musician, quite apart from her fabulous technique. Tao, Peng-Peng, and Burla already are more accomplished artists than a number of adult pianists who trudge around the concert circuit; the challenge for their teachers is clearly not to spoil or discourage their inborn talent. This custodial task of wonderful young talent is far more thrilling than any fictional elaboration of a pathological teacher.

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No War on Puberty

Jewcy blogger Abe Greenwald lets us know today just how far reporters from the New York Times to Time to the BBC are willing to go not to admit the obvious about the participants in the riots that began in France this past weekend.

For some reason, I can’t imagine why, these news outlets avoid stating that the rioters are Muslim. In fact, consistently referring to the rioters as “youths,” the news outlets make it sound as though, as Greenwald points out, what France and Nicolas Sarkozy are confronting is “teenage extremism” that “demands nothing less than a fully committed War on Puberty.”

Jewcy blogger Abe Greenwald lets us know today just how far reporters from the New York Times to Time to the BBC are willing to go not to admit the obvious about the participants in the riots that began in France this past weekend.

For some reason, I can’t imagine why, these news outlets avoid stating that the rioters are Muslim. In fact, consistently referring to the rioters as “youths,” the news outlets make it sound as though, as Greenwald points out, what France and Nicolas Sarkozy are confronting is “teenage extremism” that “demands nothing less than a fully committed War on Puberty.”

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ANNAPOLIS: What It All Means

Noah, what Annapolis reveals about the Bush administration may be nothing more than it has 14 months left — and that Condi Rice has gone native, as nearly all Secretaries of State (George Shultz being the only exception I can think of) do. That doesn’t make her a fool or a narcissist, as you charge. It marks her, in the end, as a conventional foreign-policy thinker. And while she may have used her close relationship with Bush to allow her room to get to this point, she apparently did not push the president to move away from the architecture of his 2002 “vision of two states living side by side” — according to which that the United States will only recognize a Palestinian state that gives up terror as a weapon and is a democracy. That, as Bush’s remarks this morning indicate, remains the framework for the administration’s policy. Bush clearly likes his framework, and when Bush likes a policy, he tends not to alter it a whit.

Does this indicate a disastrous turn in American foreign policy, as some of those articles you cite (though not mine) indicate? I discern, in the end, very little change, despite the worries. The open evidence so far indicates that the low-expectations summit has in fact met its low expectations, with the “lots of other nations present” business proving essentially meaningless except as a bragging point for the diplomats who got them there and a shopping opportunity for them and their wives at outlet malls and Tysons Corner. That doesn’t mean the State Department wouldn’t like it otherwise. But that doesn’t seem to be the story of this summit. If we’ve seen the worst of Annapolis — and I grant you we may not have; we won’t know for a few days — I think we can actually breathe a sigh of relief.

Noah, what Annapolis reveals about the Bush administration may be nothing more than it has 14 months left — and that Condi Rice has gone native, as nearly all Secretaries of State (George Shultz being the only exception I can think of) do. That doesn’t make her a fool or a narcissist, as you charge. It marks her, in the end, as a conventional foreign-policy thinker. And while she may have used her close relationship with Bush to allow her room to get to this point, she apparently did not push the president to move away from the architecture of his 2002 “vision of two states living side by side” — according to which that the United States will only recognize a Palestinian state that gives up terror as a weapon and is a democracy. That, as Bush’s remarks this morning indicate, remains the framework for the administration’s policy. Bush clearly likes his framework, and when Bush likes a policy, he tends not to alter it a whit.

Does this indicate a disastrous turn in American foreign policy, as some of those articles you cite (though not mine) indicate? I discern, in the end, very little change, despite the worries. The open evidence so far indicates that the low-expectations summit has in fact met its low expectations, with the “lots of other nations present” business proving essentially meaningless except as a bragging point for the diplomats who got them there and a shopping opportunity for them and their wives at outlet malls and Tysons Corner. That doesn’t mean the State Department wouldn’t like it otherwise. But that doesn’t seem to be the story of this summit. If we’ve seen the worst of Annapolis — and I grant you we may not have; we won’t know for a few days — I think we can actually breathe a sigh of relief.

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Re: the meaning of Annapolis

John, those are good points, and I’m largely in agreement with you on the interplay among Israel, America, and the Palestinians. It’s true—there’s going to be a time when the rubber meets the road, when all of the Annapolis rhetoric is tested against the situation on the ground. The same dynamic has controlled the entirety of the post-Gulf war history of peace processing—the ideas are old, the speeches are hackneyed plagiarisms of themselves, the strategies have always failed, the Arabs still refuse to accept Israel, administration after administration. One of the most common comments I’ve heard journalists make here today is the remark that they’ve all been there, done that when it comes to peace conferences. (Some of these guys are at the half-dozen mark.)

I think that the real significance of the conference, though, has little to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The significance of Annapolis is in what it has revealed about the thinking of the Bush administration, and how it sees itself in the region today. This observation is borne out, I think, in the fact that so much of the criticism of Annapolis, especially from conservatives, has involved an airing of the feeling that the Bush administration has grotesquely betrayed the basic principles to which it committed itself in the war on terror—viz the writings of Andy McCarthy, Bret Stephens, Ralph Peters, David Frum, some guy named John Podhoretz, etc.

Annapolis is really about the Bush administration, not the peace process. It has been Condi’s pet project; she has shuttled to Israel and the Palestinian territories on a monthly basis for almost a year; she has been permitted by President Bush to prioritize a quixotic diplomatic endeavor over and above other crises that by any sensible measure are of far greater concern for the United States—Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Syria and Hizballah, and Pakistan, to name a few. If Condi’s pursuit of the peace process is due to a belief that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is possible and will unlock the forces of moderation and conviviality in the Middle East, then, well, she is simply a fool. If it is because she wishes to add this most elusive accomplishment to her legacy, then she is a narcissist. There is a more legitimate question about the extent to which American leadership in the peace process will earn us favorable treatment from European and Arab states in dealing with Iran, but I am skeptical of that line of thinking—a matter for another post.

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John, those are good points, and I’m largely in agreement with you on the interplay among Israel, America, and the Palestinians. It’s true—there’s going to be a time when the rubber meets the road, when all of the Annapolis rhetoric is tested against the situation on the ground. The same dynamic has controlled the entirety of the post-Gulf war history of peace processing—the ideas are old, the speeches are hackneyed plagiarisms of themselves, the strategies have always failed, the Arabs still refuse to accept Israel, administration after administration. One of the most common comments I’ve heard journalists make here today is the remark that they’ve all been there, done that when it comes to peace conferences. (Some of these guys are at the half-dozen mark.)

I think that the real significance of the conference, though, has little to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The significance of Annapolis is in what it has revealed about the thinking of the Bush administration, and how it sees itself in the region today. This observation is borne out, I think, in the fact that so much of the criticism of Annapolis, especially from conservatives, has involved an airing of the feeling that the Bush administration has grotesquely betrayed the basic principles to which it committed itself in the war on terror—viz the writings of Andy McCarthy, Bret Stephens, Ralph Peters, David Frum, some guy named John Podhoretz, etc.

Annapolis is really about the Bush administration, not the peace process. It has been Condi’s pet project; she has shuttled to Israel and the Palestinian territories on a monthly basis for almost a year; she has been permitted by President Bush to prioritize a quixotic diplomatic endeavor over and above other crises that by any sensible measure are of far greater concern for the United States—Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Syria and Hizballah, and Pakistan, to name a few. If Condi’s pursuit of the peace process is due to a belief that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is possible and will unlock the forces of moderation and conviviality in the Middle East, then, well, she is simply a fool. If it is because she wishes to add this most elusive accomplishment to her legacy, then she is a narcissist. There is a more legitimate question about the extent to which American leadership in the peace process will earn us favorable treatment from European and Arab states in dealing with Iran, but I am skeptical of that line of thinking—a matter for another post.

There is an overall sense that with Annapolis, the administration is conceding the range of false premises on both the region and the conflict, premises that in earlier years the administration itself rejected—the myth of the conflict’s centrality to the Middle East; the myth of linkage, in which peripheral Arab grievances are tethered to Palestinian grievances (hence the invitation to Syria); the push to “engage” with the region’s worst offenders, so long as they are part of the grievance-with-Israel coalition; and overall the assent to the idea that the Arab states are interested in supporting a resolution to the conflict that does not involve Israel’s destruction, or at least its grave enfeeblement. The administration prostrated itself to the Saudis to win their attendance, and the Saudis repaid the favor, in the days before the conference, by releasing 1,500 al Qaeda prisoners and publicly putting the entire onus for resolving the conflict on Israel, and on rigidly Saudi terms. Bush, Rice, and their people have either genuinely bought into all of this rubbish, or they don’t mind appearing as if they have done so, thinking that such a public abnegation will put them in the good graces of Europe and the Arab world.

Either way, I think it’s been a far worse day for America than it has been for Israel.

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“There are differences, of course.”

This week’s Economist, in a long and intelligent piece about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his political fortunes, offers up a rather inflammatory comparison (and an instant retraction):

Yet in both America and Iran, currents of dissent are growing, even inside their administrations. In neither case do the dissenters differ much from their leader’s stated objective: for Iran it is to claim a perceived right to nuclear technology; for America it is to perform an assumed duty to stop Iran making atomic bombs. In both cases, critics lambast their leaders for tactics that may take their countries to war.

In some respects, those leaders are oddly similar. George Bush and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are both deeply religious, referring frequently to God’s guiding hand. Both are idealists rather than pragmatists, and skilled at folksy populism. Both have replaced dozens of competent officials with like-minded conservatives. And both are now considered, by a large slice of their countrymen, to be bungling and dangerous. The difference is that it has taken Mr Ahmadinejad just two years in power to achieve the unpopularity Mr Bush has gained after six.

There are differences, of course. Mr Bush may be accused of curtailing civil liberties in pursuit of his war on terror. But his government does not drag women off the streets for maladjusting hijabs, the obligatory covering of head and shoulders, or jail student activists as dangers to national security or smear political opponents as traitors or muzzle their speech.

The second and third paragraphs quoted are a bit mind-boggling. The wording suggests (at least to me) that dissent in America and Iran is identical in form, nature, and inherent risk; that “like-minded conservative” means the same thing in the context of Iranian politics that it does in American politics; that Bush’s populism is indistinguishable from Ahmadinejad’s. Isn’t it reasonable to say that the essential differences—the fact that George W. Bush, whatever his critics may say, does not preside over a theocratic, totalitarian regime—make the similarities purely superficial? Or even negligible? Puzzling . . .

This week’s Economist, in a long and intelligent piece about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his political fortunes, offers up a rather inflammatory comparison (and an instant retraction):

Yet in both America and Iran, currents of dissent are growing, even inside their administrations. In neither case do the dissenters differ much from their leader’s stated objective: for Iran it is to claim a perceived right to nuclear technology; for America it is to perform an assumed duty to stop Iran making atomic bombs. In both cases, critics lambast their leaders for tactics that may take their countries to war.

In some respects, those leaders are oddly similar. George Bush and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are both deeply religious, referring frequently to God’s guiding hand. Both are idealists rather than pragmatists, and skilled at folksy populism. Both have replaced dozens of competent officials with like-minded conservatives. And both are now considered, by a large slice of their countrymen, to be bungling and dangerous. The difference is that it has taken Mr Ahmadinejad just two years in power to achieve the unpopularity Mr Bush has gained after six.

There are differences, of course. Mr Bush may be accused of curtailing civil liberties in pursuit of his war on terror. But his government does not drag women off the streets for maladjusting hijabs, the obligatory covering of head and shoulders, or jail student activists as dangers to national security or smear political opponents as traitors or muzzle their speech.

The second and third paragraphs quoted are a bit mind-boggling. The wording suggests (at least to me) that dissent in America and Iran is identical in form, nature, and inherent risk; that “like-minded conservative” means the same thing in the context of Iranian politics that it does in American politics; that Bush’s populism is indistinguishable from Ahmadinejad’s. Isn’t it reasonable to say that the essential differences—the fact that George W. Bush, whatever his critics may say, does not preside over a theocratic, totalitarian regime—make the similarities purely superficial? Or even negligible? Puzzling . . .

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Bookshelf

• The last time I had occasion to write about the late, unlamented Edward W. Said in COMMENTARY, I called him “an intellectual thug who poses as a thoughtful, troubled citizen of the world while simultaneously serving as an apologist for Arab terrorism.” Now I find myself confronted with a posthumous collection of his essays on music, most of them originally published in The Nation, and so I suppose you are entitled to take with a stalactite of salt the fact that I didn’t think much of Music at the Limits. Nevertheless, I feel bound by duty to report that Said’s music criticism, next to none of which I had read prior to examining this volume, isn’t very good—though not always for the reasons I’d expected.

Said was, of course, an amateur pianist of what I take to have been considerable seriousness, and when such folk write about music, they not infrequently combine technical understanding with breadth of culture to interesting effect. Thus I was hugely surprised to find that in his capacity as a music critic, he was a merchant of bromides, of which choice specimens can be found by opening Music at the Limits virtually at random. I especially like the clunkingly obvious sentences with which he invariably launches his essays:

Glenn Gould is an exception to almost all the other musical performers in this century.

Pianists retain a remarkable hold on our cultural life.

Reading the brief but intelligent article on festivals in Grove’s Dictionary, you become aware of the deep divergence between premodern music festivals as symbolic rituals connected with religion and agriculture and modern music festivals as commemorations of great composers or as commercial and tourist attractions.

Nearly half a century after his death, Richard Strauss’s role in twentieth-century music remains an unresolved matter.

I have always agreed with Richard Wagner about the Jews.

O.K., I made that last one up. But the first four sentences quoted above really do kick off the first four chapters of Music at the Limits, and there’s plenty more where they came from. How is it possible that the editors of The Nation thought such platitudinous stuff worthy of publication without extensive and ruthless editing? The truth is that Edward Said had next to nothing fresh or individual to say about music, and I can only explain the fact that he was allowed to say what he had to say at such enervating length in so widely admired a publication by the sheer novelty of its having being said by so celebrated a scholar. Alas, that didn’t and doesn’t make it any less boring.

As for the matter of Wagner and the Jews, Said did in fact describe the anti-Semitic views of the composer of Die Meistersinger as “vile” and “despicable,” though he also disapproved of the Israeli ban on public performances of Wagner’s music (no surprise there) and apparently found it impossible to discuss the subject without dragging in the subject of Israeli-Palestinian relations (ditto). He also says pretty much what you’d expect him to say about John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer:

But as you sit there watching this vast work unfold, you need to ask yourself how many times you have seen any substantial work of music or dramatic or literary or pictorial art that actually tries to treat the Palestinians as tragically aggrieved, albeit sometimes criminally intent, people. The answer is never, and you must go on to ask Messrs.-the-nonideological-music-and-culture-critics whether they ever complain about works that are skewed the other way, or whether for instance, in the flood of images and words that assert that Israel is a democracy, any of them note that 2 million Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza have fewer rights than South African blacks had during the worst days of apartheid, and that the paeans and the $77 billion sent to Israel from the United States were keeping the Palestinian people endlessly oppressed?

Whatever else that is or isn’t, it definitely isn’t criticism. Or good writing. Or interesting.

• The last time I had occasion to write about the late, unlamented Edward W. Said in COMMENTARY, I called him “an intellectual thug who poses as a thoughtful, troubled citizen of the world while simultaneously serving as an apologist for Arab terrorism.” Now I find myself confronted with a posthumous collection of his essays on music, most of them originally published in The Nation, and so I suppose you are entitled to take with a stalactite of salt the fact that I didn’t think much of Music at the Limits. Nevertheless, I feel bound by duty to report that Said’s music criticism, next to none of which I had read prior to examining this volume, isn’t very good—though not always for the reasons I’d expected.

Said was, of course, an amateur pianist of what I take to have been considerable seriousness, and when such folk write about music, they not infrequently combine technical understanding with breadth of culture to interesting effect. Thus I was hugely surprised to find that in his capacity as a music critic, he was a merchant of bromides, of which choice specimens can be found by opening Music at the Limits virtually at random. I especially like the clunkingly obvious sentences with which he invariably launches his essays:

Glenn Gould is an exception to almost all the other musical performers in this century.

Pianists retain a remarkable hold on our cultural life.

Reading the brief but intelligent article on festivals in Grove’s Dictionary, you become aware of the deep divergence between premodern music festivals as symbolic rituals connected with religion and agriculture and modern music festivals as commemorations of great composers or as commercial and tourist attractions.

Nearly half a century after his death, Richard Strauss’s role in twentieth-century music remains an unresolved matter.

I have always agreed with Richard Wagner about the Jews.

O.K., I made that last one up. But the first four sentences quoted above really do kick off the first four chapters of Music at the Limits, and there’s plenty more where they came from. How is it possible that the editors of The Nation thought such platitudinous stuff worthy of publication without extensive and ruthless editing? The truth is that Edward Said had next to nothing fresh or individual to say about music, and I can only explain the fact that he was allowed to say what he had to say at such enervating length in so widely admired a publication by the sheer novelty of its having being said by so celebrated a scholar. Alas, that didn’t and doesn’t make it any less boring.

As for the matter of Wagner and the Jews, Said did in fact describe the anti-Semitic views of the composer of Die Meistersinger as “vile” and “despicable,” though he also disapproved of the Israeli ban on public performances of Wagner’s music (no surprise there) and apparently found it impossible to discuss the subject without dragging in the subject of Israeli-Palestinian relations (ditto). He also says pretty much what you’d expect him to say about John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer:

But as you sit there watching this vast work unfold, you need to ask yourself how many times you have seen any substantial work of music or dramatic or literary or pictorial art that actually tries to treat the Palestinians as tragically aggrieved, albeit sometimes criminally intent, people. The answer is never, and you must go on to ask Messrs.-the-nonideological-music-and-culture-critics whether they ever complain about works that are skewed the other way, or whether for instance, in the flood of images and words that assert that Israel is a democracy, any of them note that 2 million Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza have fewer rights than South African blacks had during the worst days of apartheid, and that the paeans and the $77 billion sent to Israel from the United States were keeping the Palestinian people endlessly oppressed?

Whatever else that is or isn’t, it definitely isn’t criticism. Or good writing. Or interesting.

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Suing the UN

Today, Reuters reports that a Dutch court has rejected the UN’s claims of immunity and allowed the families of massacre victims to sue the Netherlands and the global body. In 1995, Bosnian Serbs were able to enter Srebrenica and slaughter approximately 8,000 Muslims. The town had been guarded by Dutch soldiers serving as UN peacekeepers, but they failed to stop the Serb forces from taking control of the enclave. The families allege that the Dutch troops could have prevented the massacre if the UN had provided air support. It appears that senior Dutch officers inside the UN wanted to prevent friendly-fire casualties and so blocked the use of aircraft. Srebrenica is considered the worst atrocity in Europe since the end of World War II.

“The UN has the duty to prevent genocide,” said Marco Gerritsen, lawyer for the families, in a statement. “An appeal to immunity in a case of genocide, as in the Srebrenica drama, is irreconcilable with the UN’s own objectives and its international obligations.”

So if the UN has an obligation to prevent genocide, does it have other responsibilities as well? For instance, has it made a binding commitment to the people of the world to enforce its Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Article 3 states that every person has the right to “liberty.” Article 18 guarantees “freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” Article 21 recognizes “the right to take part in the government of his country.” Why can’t a court just outlaw autocracy on the basis of the Declaration? Personally, I have a hard time justifying the presence of either China or Russia on the Security Council. And why do Cuba and Saudi Arabia sit on the new Human Rights Council?

I am sure that readers of contentions can think of other ways to use judicial mechanisms to make the UN live up to its ideals. And if the organization ultimately proves incapable of doing so, perhaps someone might ask a judge to abolish it.

Today, Reuters reports that a Dutch court has rejected the UN’s claims of immunity and allowed the families of massacre victims to sue the Netherlands and the global body. In 1995, Bosnian Serbs were able to enter Srebrenica and slaughter approximately 8,000 Muslims. The town had been guarded by Dutch soldiers serving as UN peacekeepers, but they failed to stop the Serb forces from taking control of the enclave. The families allege that the Dutch troops could have prevented the massacre if the UN had provided air support. It appears that senior Dutch officers inside the UN wanted to prevent friendly-fire casualties and so blocked the use of aircraft. Srebrenica is considered the worst atrocity in Europe since the end of World War II.

“The UN has the duty to prevent genocide,” said Marco Gerritsen, lawyer for the families, in a statement. “An appeal to immunity in a case of genocide, as in the Srebrenica drama, is irreconcilable with the UN’s own objectives and its international obligations.”

So if the UN has an obligation to prevent genocide, does it have other responsibilities as well? For instance, has it made a binding commitment to the people of the world to enforce its Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Article 3 states that every person has the right to “liberty.” Article 18 guarantees “freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” Article 21 recognizes “the right to take part in the government of his country.” Why can’t a court just outlaw autocracy on the basis of the Declaration? Personally, I have a hard time justifying the presence of either China or Russia on the Security Council. And why do Cuba and Saudi Arabia sit on the new Human Rights Council?

I am sure that readers of contentions can think of other ways to use judicial mechanisms to make the UN live up to its ideals. And if the organization ultimately proves incapable of doing so, perhaps someone might ask a judge to abolish it.

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ANNAPOLIS: Well, Knock Me Down With a Feather

From the New York Times, 1:07 pm:

A Palestinian man was killed in the West Bank city of Hebron on Tuesday as Palestinian Authority police officers loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas fired their weapons to disperse protests against the Middle East peace gathering taking place in Annapolis, Md.

In Gaza, which is controlled by the Islamic group Hamas, huge crowds estimated at over 100,000 came out to protest the Annapolis meeting….A Hamas protester in Gaza, Asma Al-Fayoumi, 17, said: “There is a division among Palestinians. There are those after food, life, those that are materialistic, like Abbas, and there are those like us who are seeking life after death,” she said.

The large turnout in Gaza pleased her. “There are those who still enjoy good conscience,” she said.

From the New York Times, 1:07 pm:

A Palestinian man was killed in the West Bank city of Hebron on Tuesday as Palestinian Authority police officers loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas fired their weapons to disperse protests against the Middle East peace gathering taking place in Annapolis, Md.

In Gaza, which is controlled by the Islamic group Hamas, huge crowds estimated at over 100,000 came out to protest the Annapolis meeting….A Hamas protester in Gaza, Asma Al-Fayoumi, 17, said: “There is a division among Palestinians. There are those after food, life, those that are materialistic, like Abbas, and there are those like us who are seeking life after death,” she said.

The large turnout in Gaza pleased her. “There are those who still enjoy good conscience,” she said.

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ANNAPOLIS Re Re: Monitoring and Judging

Noah, there is one reason to feel relief about the goings-on at Annapolis so far, and that is this: The negotiations in question are between Israel and the PA, with the United States serving as some kind of road-map referee. In his statement, George W. Bush did not change American policy one iota. It is not the responsibility of the United States government if the prime minister of Israel decides to start talking about the 1967 borders, and it would be foolish to expect any American administration to be more hard-line toward Palestinian demands for land and territory and borders than the government of Israel. The issue now is: What kind of pressure will the Israeli public exert on Olmert to temper his peculiar enthusiasm? Or will it be pressure of another kind that slows things down — pressure from Hamas, in the form of rockets hurled at Israel from Gaza and fomenting more strife in the Abbas-controlled lands of the West Bank?

Noah, there is one reason to feel relief about the goings-on at Annapolis so far, and that is this: The negotiations in question are between Israel and the PA, with the United States serving as some kind of road-map referee. In his statement, George W. Bush did not change American policy one iota. It is not the responsibility of the United States government if the prime minister of Israel decides to start talking about the 1967 borders, and it would be foolish to expect any American administration to be more hard-line toward Palestinian demands for land and territory and borders than the government of Israel. The issue now is: What kind of pressure will the Israeli public exert on Olmert to temper his peculiar enthusiasm? Or will it be pressure of another kind that slows things down — pressure from Hamas, in the form of rockets hurled at Israel from Gaza and fomenting more strife in the Abbas-controlled lands of the West Bank?

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ANNAPOLIS Re: monitoring and judging

John, I’m certainly with you on the question of who is best suited to monitor and judge Roadmap compliance—there’s no question that the U.S. would be better than the EU or UN. The problem that many people foresee is the risk of an ostensibly objective monitoring and judging project being held captive to a set of bureaucratic and political interests that are unrelated to the task of assessing compliance. The Bush administration, and especially Condi Rice and the State Department, have a great deal invested in the appearance of the success of the peace process. In 2003, at the height of the intifada when the Roadmap was inaugurated, the U.S.-approved Palestinian leadership was uninterested in and incapable of even beginning to thwart terror attacks. Today, after years of lavish American funding for the training and equipping of PA security forces, Abbas has yet to show any kind of sustained competence in policing his territory or dealing with radicals. The “elite” Fatah security forces that U.S. General Keith Dayton has been responsible for training were routed in six days by a smaller number of Hamas goons in Gaza. We’ve had better luck training the Iraqi army.

Today, unlike in 2003, Bush has convened a large peace conference and thrown his weight behind a peace process that has rather high pretensions, and as part of all this he has staked an ample amount of his credibility on Abbas being able to get the job done. When Abbas is unable to do so, and when Israel is forced to maintain its security presence in the West Bank, is the American judgment really going to be that, after all of our money, diplomatic attention, speeches, and conferences, after all the political legitimacy we’ve attempted to foist upon Abbas, he got us nowhere? Who knows, maybe that will be the assessment — but it will mean, in stark terms, that the entire peace process has been a sham, a negotiation with a nobody. It would be an assessment that would take a great deal of political and diplomatic courage to make, and would upset a large number of European and Arab governments. If, for example, certain factions of the State Department are put in charge of “monitoring and judging,” I highly doubt that such a judgment would be forthcoming. And that is serious cause for concern.

John, I’m certainly with you on the question of who is best suited to monitor and judge Roadmap compliance—there’s no question that the U.S. would be better than the EU or UN. The problem that many people foresee is the risk of an ostensibly objective monitoring and judging project being held captive to a set of bureaucratic and political interests that are unrelated to the task of assessing compliance. The Bush administration, and especially Condi Rice and the State Department, have a great deal invested in the appearance of the success of the peace process. In 2003, at the height of the intifada when the Roadmap was inaugurated, the U.S.-approved Palestinian leadership was uninterested in and incapable of even beginning to thwart terror attacks. Today, after years of lavish American funding for the training and equipping of PA security forces, Abbas has yet to show any kind of sustained competence in policing his territory or dealing with radicals. The “elite” Fatah security forces that U.S. General Keith Dayton has been responsible for training were routed in six days by a smaller number of Hamas goons in Gaza. We’ve had better luck training the Iraqi army.

Today, unlike in 2003, Bush has convened a large peace conference and thrown his weight behind a peace process that has rather high pretensions, and as part of all this he has staked an ample amount of his credibility on Abbas being able to get the job done. When Abbas is unable to do so, and when Israel is forced to maintain its security presence in the West Bank, is the American judgment really going to be that, after all of our money, diplomatic attention, speeches, and conferences, after all the political legitimacy we’ve attempted to foist upon Abbas, he got us nowhere? Who knows, maybe that will be the assessment — but it will mean, in stark terms, that the entire peace process has been a sham, a negotiation with a nobody. It would be an assessment that would take a great deal of political and diplomatic courage to make, and would upset a large number of European and Arab governments. If, for example, certain factions of the State Department are put in charge of “monitoring and judging,” I highly doubt that such a judgment would be forthcoming. And that is serious cause for concern.

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ANNAPOLIS: Olmert concedes

Presidents Bush and Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert have just finished giving their speeches here in Annapolis, and while Bush and Abbas said little of importance, Olmert broke new ground—and not, alas, in a good way. The money quote from his speech was:

The negotiations between us will not be here in Annapolis, but rather in our home and in yours. It will be bilateral, direct, ongoing, and continuous, in an effort to complete it during the course of 2008.

It will address all the issues that have thus far been evaded. We will do it directly, openly, and courageously. We will not avoid any subject, we will deal with all the core issues. I have no doubt that the reality created in our region in 1967 will change significantly. [Emphasis added] While this will be an extremely difficult process for many of us, it is nevertheless inevitable. I know it. Many of my people know it. We are ready for it.

Presidents Bush and Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert have just finished giving their speeches here in Annapolis, and while Bush and Abbas said little of importance, Olmert broke new ground—and not, alas, in a good way. The money quote from his speech was:

The negotiations between us will not be here in Annapolis, but rather in our home and in yours. It will be bilateral, direct, ongoing, and continuous, in an effort to complete it during the course of 2008.

It will address all the issues that have thus far been evaded. We will do it directly, openly, and courageously. We will not avoid any subject, we will deal with all the core issues. I have no doubt that the reality created in our region in 1967 will change significantly. [Emphasis added] While this will be an extremely difficult process for many of us, it is nevertheless inevitable. I know it. Many of my people know it. We are ready for it.

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Re: ANNAPOLIS: Bush’s Remarks

Noah, I think your concern about the role of the United States as arbiter of the progress toward peace is a little misplaced. Clearly, it’s far better that the U.S. be the judge rather than the Quartet, or the United Nations, or some working group that might emerge from the nations attending the Annapolis Conference.

Noah, I think your concern about the role of the United States as arbiter of the progress toward peace is a little misplaced. Clearly, it’s far better that the U.S. be the judge rather than the Quartet, or the United Nations, or some working group that might emerge from the nations attending the Annapolis Conference.

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ANNAPOLIS: Rosner’s take

Shmuel Rosner’s post on the opening remarks at Annapolis is worth reading.

Shmuel Rosner’s post on the opening remarks at Annapolis is worth reading.

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ANNAPOLIS: Bush’s opening remarks

President Bush just finished his introductory remarks here at Annapolis, and they were thoroughly platitudinous—except for one thing. Bush, in calling for the implementation of the 2003 Roadmap, said that the United States will “monitor and judge” the two sides’ progress in fulfilling its requirements. It was a passing statement, but a tremendously important one. Who in the U.S. government is going to be charged with this responsibility? What kind of monitoring apparatus is going to be imposed? Is there going to be any transparency? Already there are reports of the politicization of similar monitoring efforts. Knowing that such judgments will have a tremendous impact on the perception, among the international community and in the media, of Israel’s aspirations for peace—Palestinian failure in fulfilling the requirements of various peace deals has never been cause for much international concern—the way that the U.S. sets up its “monitoring and judging” operation will be very much worth watching.

President Bush just finished his introductory remarks here at Annapolis, and they were thoroughly platitudinous—except for one thing. Bush, in calling for the implementation of the 2003 Roadmap, said that the United States will “monitor and judge” the two sides’ progress in fulfilling its requirements. It was a passing statement, but a tremendously important one. Who in the U.S. government is going to be charged with this responsibility? What kind of monitoring apparatus is going to be imposed? Is there going to be any transparency? Already there are reports of the politicization of similar monitoring efforts. Knowing that such judgments will have a tremendous impact on the perception, among the international community and in the media, of Israel’s aspirations for peace—Palestinian failure in fulfilling the requirements of various peace deals has never been cause for much international concern—the way that the U.S. sets up its “monitoring and judging” operation will be very much worth watching.

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ANNAPOLIS: “A fantastic photo-op”

That’s what Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman thinks Annapolis will be. (That and “a terrific cocktail party.”) Judging by the way Olmert, after Bush’s opening remarks, hustled Bush and Abbas out from behind the podium to display their interlocked hands (you can hear Olmert saying “Mr. President, we should move from the podium so they will see us shaking hands” at 4:41 in the video), Lieberman may be right.

Lieberman also expressed relief at reports that Olmert will naysay the creation of a Palestinian state until Abbas has wrested full control of Gaza from Hamas, calling this the “biggest headline” that can emerge from the conference. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

That’s what Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman thinks Annapolis will be. (That and “a terrific cocktail party.”) Judging by the way Olmert, after Bush’s opening remarks, hustled Bush and Abbas out from behind the podium to display their interlocked hands (you can hear Olmert saying “Mr. President, we should move from the podium so they will see us shaking hands” at 4:41 in the video), Lieberman may be right.

Lieberman also expressed relief at reports that Olmert will naysay the creation of a Palestinian state until Abbas has wrested full control of Gaza from Hamas, calling this the “biggest headline” that can emerge from the conference. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

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The Possibility of an Accidental Nuclear Detonation

Back in the early years of the cold war, the risks of an outbreak of nuclear war seemed terrifyingly high. Possible paths toward such a cataclysm were spelled out in a lengthy secret 1958 RAND study written by one of the giant defense intellectuals of the era, Fred Charles Ikle. Ikle went on to become Undersecretary for Policy in the Defense Department in the Reagan years. He now holds the title of distinguished scholar at CSIS in Washington. Long after it was written, a “sanitized” version of his 1958 paper, On the Risk of an Accidental or Unauthorized Nuclear Detonation, was released by the Reagan Library. It began on a pessimistic note:

The unauthorized detonation of a nuclear weapon is possible as a result of technical malfunction, human error, or a more deliberate human act, such as sabotage. It is conceivable that such a detonation will occur with the next decade or so in some weapon system of one of the world’s nuclear powers. It can be shown that this risk is not negligible, but it is impossible to how likely it is.

Five decades have passed since Ikle wrote those words and what he saw as conceivable has not yet come to pass. But what is the likelihood of such a thing occurring now?

Many of the scenarios contained in Ikle’s paper involving potential collisions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union obviously no longer obtain. The cold war came to an end two decades ago with the demise of the USSR. But a great many other possibilities for disaster are now before us.

Back then, the nuclear club was small, consisting of only three countries: the U.S., Great Britain, and the USSR. Today, the nuclear club has tripled in size; nine countries have the bomb. At least two of them, Pakistan and North Korea, are basket cases. Two others, Russia and China, are not exactly models of stability. India and Israel are locked in conflict with neighboring states. Our own country has recently shown remarkable laxity in the management of its own arsenal. Are these other nuclear powers doing a better job than we are? The answer is unclear. 

On the Risk of an Accidental or Unauthorized Nuclear Detonation remains essential, and fascinating, reading for anyone interested in the nature of dangers we faced in the cold war and continue to face today.

Back in the early years of the cold war, the risks of an outbreak of nuclear war seemed terrifyingly high. Possible paths toward such a cataclysm were spelled out in a lengthy secret 1958 RAND study written by one of the giant defense intellectuals of the era, Fred Charles Ikle. Ikle went on to become Undersecretary for Policy in the Defense Department in the Reagan years. He now holds the title of distinguished scholar at CSIS in Washington. Long after it was written, a “sanitized” version of his 1958 paper, On the Risk of an Accidental or Unauthorized Nuclear Detonation, was released by the Reagan Library. It began on a pessimistic note:

The unauthorized detonation of a nuclear weapon is possible as a result of technical malfunction, human error, or a more deliberate human act, such as sabotage. It is conceivable that such a detonation will occur with the next decade or so in some weapon system of one of the world’s nuclear powers. It can be shown that this risk is not negligible, but it is impossible to how likely it is.

Five decades have passed since Ikle wrote those words and what he saw as conceivable has not yet come to pass. But what is the likelihood of such a thing occurring now?

Many of the scenarios contained in Ikle’s paper involving potential collisions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union obviously no longer obtain. The cold war came to an end two decades ago with the demise of the USSR. But a great many other possibilities for disaster are now before us.

Back then, the nuclear club was small, consisting of only three countries: the U.S., Great Britain, and the USSR. Today, the nuclear club has tripled in size; nine countries have the bomb. At least two of them, Pakistan and North Korea, are basket cases. Two others, Russia and China, are not exactly models of stability. India and Israel are locked in conflict with neighboring states. Our own country has recently shown remarkable laxity in the management of its own arsenal. Are these other nuclear powers doing a better job than we are? The answer is unclear. 

On the Risk of an Accidental or Unauthorized Nuclear Detonation remains essential, and fascinating, reading for anyone interested in the nature of dangers we faced in the cold war and continue to face today.

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Asser Levy

It’s seven months late, but we shouldn’t let 2007 pass without noting that it marks a milestone in American Jewish history. Although the first Jews came to New Amsterdam in 1654, it wasn’t until three years later that one of them, Asser Levy, was accorded the rights and status of a burgher, or citizen, of the colony. This year, then, marks the 350th anniversary, not just of the Jewish arrival in a new land, certainly something that had happened many times in the past, but of a much more meaningful passage: into nascent citizenhood, civil protection, and permanence of the Jewish presence in the New World.

Levy, all but forgotten today, was one of 23 Jews who arrived on September 7, 1654 on the bark St. Charles, carrying refugees fleeing Dutch Brazil, which had just been retaken by the Portuguese. Not wanting to run the risk of the New World’s Inquisition, having already escaped the Old World’s, the Jews were on their way back to Holland, where Levy apparently was from originally (his full surname was Levy van Swellem). Captured by pirates and rescued by a French privateer, the penniless Jews were brought to New Amsterdam, where Peter Stuyvesant immediately tried to have them expelled. The Directors of the Dutch West India Company, so the story goes, refused Stuyvesant’s demand, not out of mercy, but because many wealthy Dutch Jews were stockholders in the Company. (This was a lesson not lost on the new Jewish settlers about the importance of self-interest and property.)

The real test, however, started the following year, when Levy, a trader, petitioned to stand guard in the colony, one of the marks of being a burgher. Stuyvesant had excluded Jews from this privilege, and added injury to insult by fining them monthly for their exemption. Levy’s initial petition was rejected, but records later indicate he was permitted to do guard-duty. Soon after, Levy found his ability to trade goods limited by a decree that a “burgher right” was required. He duly petitioned, and after again being denied, appealed to the Company’s Director General. On April 21, 1657, a decree was issued that Jews in New Amsterdam should be admitted as burghers, equal in rights to the Dutch (though they were not allowed to form a religious congregation until nearly a century later). Seven years later, when the English took over New Amsterdam, the civil rights of Jews were upheld.

Levy was a trailblazer, and it is a shame he has been forgotten by those who owe him much. It appears he was the first licensed Jewish butcher (and a kosher one, at that, being exempted from killing hogs) and tavern owner, not to mention litigant in scores of cases. More importantly, Levy was likely the first Jew to own property in America, first in Albany, in 1661, and the following year in New Amsterdam itself, on what is now South William Street (just a stone’s throw from the headquarters of Goldman Sachs, appropriately). But it was Levy’s fight for citizenship 350 years ago that truly marked the beginnings of Jewish settlement in America, which is a date worth celebrating.

It’s seven months late, but we shouldn’t let 2007 pass without noting that it marks a milestone in American Jewish history. Although the first Jews came to New Amsterdam in 1654, it wasn’t until three years later that one of them, Asser Levy, was accorded the rights and status of a burgher, or citizen, of the colony. This year, then, marks the 350th anniversary, not just of the Jewish arrival in a new land, certainly something that had happened many times in the past, but of a much more meaningful passage: into nascent citizenhood, civil protection, and permanence of the Jewish presence in the New World.

Levy, all but forgotten today, was one of 23 Jews who arrived on September 7, 1654 on the bark St. Charles, carrying refugees fleeing Dutch Brazil, which had just been retaken by the Portuguese. Not wanting to run the risk of the New World’s Inquisition, having already escaped the Old World’s, the Jews were on their way back to Holland, where Levy apparently was from originally (his full surname was Levy van Swellem). Captured by pirates and rescued by a French privateer, the penniless Jews were brought to New Amsterdam, where Peter Stuyvesant immediately tried to have them expelled. The Directors of the Dutch West India Company, so the story goes, refused Stuyvesant’s demand, not out of mercy, but because many wealthy Dutch Jews were stockholders in the Company. (This was a lesson not lost on the new Jewish settlers about the importance of self-interest and property.)

The real test, however, started the following year, when Levy, a trader, petitioned to stand guard in the colony, one of the marks of being a burgher. Stuyvesant had excluded Jews from this privilege, and added injury to insult by fining them monthly for their exemption. Levy’s initial petition was rejected, but records later indicate he was permitted to do guard-duty. Soon after, Levy found his ability to trade goods limited by a decree that a “burgher right” was required. He duly petitioned, and after again being denied, appealed to the Company’s Director General. On April 21, 1657, a decree was issued that Jews in New Amsterdam should be admitted as burghers, equal in rights to the Dutch (though they were not allowed to form a religious congregation until nearly a century later). Seven years later, when the English took over New Amsterdam, the civil rights of Jews were upheld.

Levy was a trailblazer, and it is a shame he has been forgotten by those who owe him much. It appears he was the first licensed Jewish butcher (and a kosher one, at that, being exempted from killing hogs) and tavern owner, not to mention litigant in scores of cases. More importantly, Levy was likely the first Jew to own property in America, first in Albany, in 1661, and the following year in New Amsterdam itself, on what is now South William Street (just a stone’s throw from the headquarters of Goldman Sachs, appropriately). But it was Levy’s fight for citizenship 350 years ago that truly marked the beginnings of Jewish settlement in America, which is a date worth celebrating.

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The New CW

The security progress in Iraq this year is so overwhelming and obvious that even critics of the war cannot gainsay it. And now, belatedly, we are seeing the inevitable political ramifications in this country of that progress. On the front page of Sunday’s New York Times, for example, we read:

As violence declines in Baghdad, the leading Democratic presidential candidates are undertaking a new and challenging balancing act on Iraq: acknowledging that success, trying to shift the focus to the lack of political progress there, and highlighting more domestic concerns like health care and the economy. Advisers to Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama say that the candidates have watched security conditions improve after the troop escalation in Iraq and concluded that it would be folly not to acknowledge those gains…. While the Democratic candidates are continuing to assail the war—a popular position with many of the party’s primary voters—they run the risk that Republicans will use those critiques to attack the party’s nominee in the election as defeatist and lacking faith in the American military…. “The politics of Iraq are going to change dramatically in the general election, assuming Iraq continues to show some hopefulness,” said Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who is a supporter of Mrs. Clinton’s and a proponent of the military buildup. “If Iraq looks at least partly salvageable, it will be important to explain as a candidate how you would salvage it—how you would get our troops out and not lose the war. The Democrats need to be very careful with what they say and not hem themselves in.”

In the Financial Times, Clive Crook writes

Up to now, Democrats have been stinting in their recognition that the situation in Iraq has improved: “Yes, violence is down a bit, but….” That is the wrong posture. They need to celebrate the success, as long as it lasts, as enthusiastically as the Republicans. They also need to stop harrying the administration with symbolic war-funding measures demanding a timetable for rapid withdrawal, as though nothing has changed. This would take little away from their larger valid criticisms of the war and of its conduct until very recently. And it is not as though Iraq is all the Democrats have going for them in this election – they are on to a winner with healthcare. Any suspicion that they are rooting for defeat in Iraq could sink them.

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The security progress in Iraq this year is so overwhelming and obvious that even critics of the war cannot gainsay it. And now, belatedly, we are seeing the inevitable political ramifications in this country of that progress. On the front page of Sunday’s New York Times, for example, we read:

As violence declines in Baghdad, the leading Democratic presidential candidates are undertaking a new and challenging balancing act on Iraq: acknowledging that success, trying to shift the focus to the lack of political progress there, and highlighting more domestic concerns like health care and the economy. Advisers to Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama say that the candidates have watched security conditions improve after the troop escalation in Iraq and concluded that it would be folly not to acknowledge those gains…. While the Democratic candidates are continuing to assail the war—a popular position with many of the party’s primary voters—they run the risk that Republicans will use those critiques to attack the party’s nominee in the election as defeatist and lacking faith in the American military…. “The politics of Iraq are going to change dramatically in the general election, assuming Iraq continues to show some hopefulness,” said Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who is a supporter of Mrs. Clinton’s and a proponent of the military buildup. “If Iraq looks at least partly salvageable, it will be important to explain as a candidate how you would salvage it—how you would get our troops out and not lose the war. The Democrats need to be very careful with what they say and not hem themselves in.”

In the Financial Times, Clive Crook writes

Up to now, Democrats have been stinting in their recognition that the situation in Iraq has improved: “Yes, violence is down a bit, but….” That is the wrong posture. They need to celebrate the success, as long as it lasts, as enthusiastically as the Republicans. They also need to stop harrying the administration with symbolic war-funding measures demanding a timetable for rapid withdrawal, as though nothing has changed. This would take little away from their larger valid criticisms of the war and of its conduct until very recently. And it is not as though Iraq is all the Democrats have going for them in this election – they are on to a winner with healthcare. Any suspicion that they are rooting for defeat in Iraq could sink them.

And in Newsweek Charles Peters, founder of the Washington Monthly, writes

I have been troubled by the reluctance of my fellow liberals to acknowledge the progress made in Iraq in the last six months, a reluctance I am embarrassed to admit that I have shared. Giving Gen. David Petraeus his due does not mean we have to start saying it was a great idea to invade Iraq. It remains the terrible idea it always was. And the occupation that followed has been until recently a continuing disaster, causing the death or maiming of far too many American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. Still, the fact is that the situation in Iraq, though some violence persists, is much improved since the summer. Why do liberals not want to face this fact, let alone ponder its implications?

These accounts reinforce what some observers have been saying for months now: the Democratic Party crossed into treacherous political territory when its leadership declared the “surge” to be lost even before it was in place. This mistake was compounded when scores of Democrats denied, and even seemed to get agitated at, the progress the United States military was making in Iraq; when Democrats went out of their way to attack the credibility of General David Petraeus, the architect of our success there; and when they persisted, and continue to persist, in their attempts to subvert a military strategy that is showing extraordinary gains.

The better things got in Iraq, the more frantic the Democratic leadership seemed to get. While it is entirely legitimate for Democrats to criticize the Bush administration’s mistakes in Iraq, and while it was also understandable for them to be skeptical about the progress in the early part of this year, given the false summits we have experienced, what was unpardonable, according to Christopher Hitchens, was “the dank and sinister impression [liberals and Democrats] give that the worse the tidings, the better they would be pleased.”

That this happened at all ranks among the most disheartening and disturbing political developments we have seen. That there will be an accounting for it is only just—and, perhaps, only now a matter of time.

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