Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 18, 2008

Polling the Palestinians

Any debate about Israel and the Palestinians invariably arrives at a basic question: What do the Palestinians want? A lot gets said in response. Most of it, as far as I can tell, confuses western hopes about the Palestinians with the actual beliefs of the Palestinians.

One can say such things with some confidence: the West Bank and Gaza are two of the more frequently polled places in the world. And the latest poll finds that Hamas’s popularity has increased substantially in recent months, across a range of issues. The report, from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, is available here. Among the highlights:

If new presidential elections were to take place today, [PA President] Mahmud Abbas and [Hamas leader] Ismail Haniyeh would receive almost equal number of votes, 46% for Abbas and 47% for Haniyeh. Abbas’s popularity stood at 56% and Haniyeh’s at 37% last December. . . .

Findings show depreciation in the legitimacy of [PA Prime Minister] Fayyad’s government and a significant rise in public perception of the legitimacy of Haniyeh’s government. 49% say Haniyeh should stay in office as Prime Minister while 45% say he should not. Last September only 40% said Haniyeh should stay as prime minister. By contrast, today only 38% say Fayyad’s government should stay in office and 55% say it should not. Support for Fayyad’s government stood at 49% last September. Similarly, 34% say Haniyeh’s government is the legitimate Palestinian government and only 29% say Fayyad’s government is the legitimate one. [Emphasis mine]

Over the past year, many people (including yours truly) imagined that Hamas’s treatment of Gaza was so brutal, and its rocket war against Israel so misguided, that ordinary Palestinians would discover the limits of their tolerance for thuggery masquerading as “resistance.” I was wrong. The depressing truth remains: as has been demonstrated in so many previous polls, Palestinian public opinion rewards those who most conspicuously demonstrate their dedication to violence against Israel, not those who desire peace.

Any debate about Israel and the Palestinians invariably arrives at a basic question: What do the Palestinians want? A lot gets said in response. Most of it, as far as I can tell, confuses western hopes about the Palestinians with the actual beliefs of the Palestinians.

One can say such things with some confidence: the West Bank and Gaza are two of the more frequently polled places in the world. And the latest poll finds that Hamas’s popularity has increased substantially in recent months, across a range of issues. The report, from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, is available here. Among the highlights:

If new presidential elections were to take place today, [PA President] Mahmud Abbas and [Hamas leader] Ismail Haniyeh would receive almost equal number of votes, 46% for Abbas and 47% for Haniyeh. Abbas’s popularity stood at 56% and Haniyeh’s at 37% last December. . . .

Findings show depreciation in the legitimacy of [PA Prime Minister] Fayyad’s government and a significant rise in public perception of the legitimacy of Haniyeh’s government. 49% say Haniyeh should stay in office as Prime Minister while 45% say he should not. Last September only 40% said Haniyeh should stay as prime minister. By contrast, today only 38% say Fayyad’s government should stay in office and 55% say it should not. Support for Fayyad’s government stood at 49% last September. Similarly, 34% say Haniyeh’s government is the legitimate Palestinian government and only 29% say Fayyad’s government is the legitimate one. [Emphasis mine]

Over the past year, many people (including yours truly) imagined that Hamas’s treatment of Gaza was so brutal, and its rocket war against Israel so misguided, that ordinary Palestinians would discover the limits of their tolerance for thuggery masquerading as “resistance.” I was wrong. The depressing truth remains: as has been demonstrated in so many previous polls, Palestinian public opinion rewards those who most conspicuously demonstrate their dedication to violence against Israel, not those who desire peace.

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The Real Challenge of the Century

“The defining challenge of the 21st century will be to face the reality that humanity shares a common fate on a crowded planet,” writes Jeffrey Sachs in the current issue of Time. “We are, in short, in one another’s faces as never before, crowded into an interconnected society of global trade, migration, ideas and, yes, risk of pandemic diseases, terrorism, refugee movements and conflict.” Sachs’s essay, entitled “Common Wealth,” leads off the magazine’s cover story, “10 Ideas That Are Changing the World.”

Sachs, to his credit, wants the world to change so that humankind is free to realize its potential. Because he thinks everyone should cooperate, he needs the help of virtually every national government on the planet. Therefore, it is not surprising that the exuberant economist ignores the most destructive scourge plaguing humanity at this time: bad governance, especially totalitarianism and authoritarianism. Nowhere in his Time essay does Sachs talk about oppression as a barrier to the critical goals he lists.

That’s an enormous omission, but if I may, I’ll skip all the good words about democratic institutions and get to the point. It is not just Sachs who is naive. Americans and others in the West seem to have lost their will to oppose oppressors. The commonly held view is that, with globalization, we can all get along and work toward the same solutions. This is, after all, the guiding view of Condoleezza Rice, who seems willing to ignore most any uncooperative act committed by China or Russia these days, in the name of diplomatic amity.

So far, her approach has not resulted in making any situation better. Détente did not win the Cold War. We conducted a grim, decades-long struggle with totalitarian societies. Today, confronting authoritarianism is passé and Sachs’s one-world cooperation is fashionable.

Democracies may not always do the right thing at first about pandemic diseases, terrorism, or refugee movements, to name just some of the problems that rightly trouble Sachs, but democracy is the starting point for all enduring solutions. And he is right that we all share a single fate at this moment. That’s why everyone should have some say in what the world does to meet universal challenges. Yet many today cannot express their views while dictators, authoritarians, and rogues are allowed to determine what their subjects say, think, and do.

So, Professor Sachs, if you want to accomplish worthy goals, join us in opposing repression. It is the first order of business for humanity and the defining challenge of this century.

“The defining challenge of the 21st century will be to face the reality that humanity shares a common fate on a crowded planet,” writes Jeffrey Sachs in the current issue of Time. “We are, in short, in one another’s faces as never before, crowded into an interconnected society of global trade, migration, ideas and, yes, risk of pandemic diseases, terrorism, refugee movements and conflict.” Sachs’s essay, entitled “Common Wealth,” leads off the magazine’s cover story, “10 Ideas That Are Changing the World.”

Sachs, to his credit, wants the world to change so that humankind is free to realize its potential. Because he thinks everyone should cooperate, he needs the help of virtually every national government on the planet. Therefore, it is not surprising that the exuberant economist ignores the most destructive scourge plaguing humanity at this time: bad governance, especially totalitarianism and authoritarianism. Nowhere in his Time essay does Sachs talk about oppression as a barrier to the critical goals he lists.

That’s an enormous omission, but if I may, I’ll skip all the good words about democratic institutions and get to the point. It is not just Sachs who is naive. Americans and others in the West seem to have lost their will to oppose oppressors. The commonly held view is that, with globalization, we can all get along and work toward the same solutions. This is, after all, the guiding view of Condoleezza Rice, who seems willing to ignore most any uncooperative act committed by China or Russia these days, in the name of diplomatic amity.

So far, her approach has not resulted in making any situation better. Détente did not win the Cold War. We conducted a grim, decades-long struggle with totalitarian societies. Today, confronting authoritarianism is passé and Sachs’s one-world cooperation is fashionable.

Democracies may not always do the right thing at first about pandemic diseases, terrorism, or refugee movements, to name just some of the problems that rightly trouble Sachs, but democracy is the starting point for all enduring solutions. And he is right that we all share a single fate at this moment. That’s why everyone should have some say in what the world does to meet universal challenges. Yet many today cannot express their views while dictators, authoritarians, and rogues are allowed to determine what their subjects say, think, and do.

So, Professor Sachs, if you want to accomplish worthy goals, join us in opposing repression. It is the first order of business for humanity and the defining challenge of this century.

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Halo Tilted

In retrospect, it seems like the whole roiling Democrat identity saga was building up to Obama’s perfectly timed and exquisitely wrought exegesis. In a sense, Obama is correct. Simply disowning Wright would be shirking his duties as a potential leader. Over the past few months we’ve been witness to an unrelentingly shameful exercise in retrograde tribalism. This fever for historic firsts had poisoned the Democratic race before Wright’s words were even uncovered. Someone in Obama’s camp (maybe Obama) realized that to ignore this any longer would become in itself grounds for questioning his credibility. Plus, as most people noted, Wright’s words were so far over the line that Obama could scarcely hope to end his troubles by merely distancing himself. So he didn’t even try to. He just claimed a “hopeful” spot within the larger mess. I think the one thing clarified by today’s speech is that the Wright affair will not be Obama’s automatic undoing.

There are some new unknowns, though. Will this episode prove to be any kind of hindrance at all, or will the epic speech it prompted launch Obama into new, untouchable reaches? Where on earth does the identity game go from here? Will Hillary’s camp try to play catch-up and claim to salute Obama’s forthrightness? Or will they rail him for not disowning Wright wholesale? And what new lines of heated discussion will open up in the wake of Obama’s admission that race is still a calamitous reality in 2008 America? With that admission, one important aspect of the Obama fairytale has died. After today’s speech, pundits can’t exactly describe Obama as “post-racial.” He’s made it clear that the coinage was always a fantasy.

In retrospect, it seems like the whole roiling Democrat identity saga was building up to Obama’s perfectly timed and exquisitely wrought exegesis. In a sense, Obama is correct. Simply disowning Wright would be shirking his duties as a potential leader. Over the past few months we’ve been witness to an unrelentingly shameful exercise in retrograde tribalism. This fever for historic firsts had poisoned the Democratic race before Wright’s words were even uncovered. Someone in Obama’s camp (maybe Obama) realized that to ignore this any longer would become in itself grounds for questioning his credibility. Plus, as most people noted, Wright’s words were so far over the line that Obama could scarcely hope to end his troubles by merely distancing himself. So he didn’t even try to. He just claimed a “hopeful” spot within the larger mess. I think the one thing clarified by today’s speech is that the Wright affair will not be Obama’s automatic undoing.

There are some new unknowns, though. Will this episode prove to be any kind of hindrance at all, or will the epic speech it prompted launch Obama into new, untouchable reaches? Where on earth does the identity game go from here? Will Hillary’s camp try to play catch-up and claim to salute Obama’s forthrightness? Or will they rail him for not disowning Wright wholesale? And what new lines of heated discussion will open up in the wake of Obama’s admission that race is still a calamitous reality in 2008 America? With that admission, one important aspect of the Obama fairytale has died. After today’s speech, pundits can’t exactly describe Obama as “post-racial.” He’s made it clear that the coinage was always a fantasy.

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Obama’s Singular Speech

Barack Obama’s unusual campaign has just led to one of the most unusual speeches in American political history. The purpose of the speech is to set his own political controversy into the largest possible context — to zoom out, as it were, and make it appear as though the disgusting remarks of his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, are the merest speck, a mere glancing moment in time in the centuries-long history of American race relations. He begins with the drafting of the Constitution, skips forward in time top Wright’s remarks, moves back to the legacy of segregation, and onward into the horrific populist present, with black people and white people suffering horrors untold in what he says is a great country but what he intimates is a giant piece of wreckage.

In Obama’s telling, Wright must be understood not as a standard-issue race provocateur of the Left, an entertaining spouter of vicious nonsense, but rather as a synecdoche — as someone who within himself contains the entirety of the African-American experience. We can judge him, yes, but we cannot judge him too harshly, because what he is, we all are. Within the walls of Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ is black America writ small and large: “the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger…..The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and the successes, the love, and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.”

And Wright, at the head of this flock, may speak in ways “that rightly offend black and white alike,” but that is due not to his own noxious ideas, or to his anti-American Leftism, or even to his sense of what his pulpit audience wants to hear, but is rather the voice of black America singing. “I can no more disown this man,” Obama says, “than I can disown the black community.” Just as he would not disown his white grandmother, “who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.” So a white racist grandmother and a black racist preacher “are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.”

Obama’s remarkable use of rhetoric may lead people to grade on a curve, to imagine that there has been a breakthrough in American history merely because a black politician is willing to acknowledge that things have changed for the better in this country:

The profound mistake in Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was [sic] static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country — a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black, Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know — what we have seen — is that America can change. That is the true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope — the audacity of hope — for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

The eloquence of the speech will almost certainly mask Obama’s sophisticated effort here to condemn and not to condemn, to say something but not say anything, to sound clear while being extremely unclear. A denunciation that does not denounce, a condemnation that is full of love — as a former political speechwriter, I will acknowledge I am lost in admiration of the anti-sophistic sophistry on display in every syllable of his text.

Barack Obama’s unusual campaign has just led to one of the most unusual speeches in American political history. The purpose of the speech is to set his own political controversy into the largest possible context — to zoom out, as it were, and make it appear as though the disgusting remarks of his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, are the merest speck, a mere glancing moment in time in the centuries-long history of American race relations. He begins with the drafting of the Constitution, skips forward in time top Wright’s remarks, moves back to the legacy of segregation, and onward into the horrific populist present, with black people and white people suffering horrors untold in what he says is a great country but what he intimates is a giant piece of wreckage.

In Obama’s telling, Wright must be understood not as a standard-issue race provocateur of the Left, an entertaining spouter of vicious nonsense, but rather as a synecdoche — as someone who within himself contains the entirety of the African-American experience. We can judge him, yes, but we cannot judge him too harshly, because what he is, we all are. Within the walls of Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ is black America writ small and large: “the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger…..The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and the successes, the love, and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.”

And Wright, at the head of this flock, may speak in ways “that rightly offend black and white alike,” but that is due not to his own noxious ideas, or to his anti-American Leftism, or even to his sense of what his pulpit audience wants to hear, but is rather the voice of black America singing. “I can no more disown this man,” Obama says, “than I can disown the black community.” Just as he would not disown his white grandmother, “who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.” So a white racist grandmother and a black racist preacher “are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.”

Obama’s remarkable use of rhetoric may lead people to grade on a curve, to imagine that there has been a breakthrough in American history merely because a black politician is willing to acknowledge that things have changed for the better in this country:

The profound mistake in Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was [sic] static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country — a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black, Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know — what we have seen — is that America can change. That is the true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope — the audacity of hope — for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

The eloquence of the speech will almost certainly mask Obama’s sophisticated effort here to condemn and not to condemn, to say something but not say anything, to sound clear while being extremely unclear. A denunciation that does not denounce, a condemnation that is full of love — as a former political speechwriter, I will acknowledge I am lost in admiration of the anti-sophistic sophistry on display in every syllable of his text.

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The Halo Has Slipped

If you’re looking for some comfort that Barack Obama wasn’t trying to play it both ways–endearing himself to extreme and paranoid fringe members of Chicago’s African-American community while preaching racial unity–his speech today won’t help. He asked the right questions, but dodged the crucial concern:

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

Labeling the remarks he heard as “controversial” is, of course, old-style political hide-the-ball. This attempt to minimize and wrap in euphemism what he probably heard–anti-American, anti-Israel, and anti-white venom–is not going to satisfy those who say “My rabbi/priest/minister never said that stuff.” (By the way, if he’s so concerned about raising children properly, why was he subjecting his kids to this?)

And if you were expecting him to disassociate himself from someone whose words are indistinguishable in key respects from Louis Farrakhan’s, forget it. He dug in with this:

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way. . .

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

Notice how he now limits to “conversations” those instances in which Wright did not deride other racial and ethnic groups? I think the truth, buried in all this rhetoric and gloss, is clear: Obama sat there in church for twenty years, listening with his kids to a preacher vilifying his country, white people in general, and the state of Israel, and lacked the moral gumption to leave. I think the halo has slipped.

If you’re looking for some comfort that Barack Obama wasn’t trying to play it both ways–endearing himself to extreme and paranoid fringe members of Chicago’s African-American community while preaching racial unity–his speech today won’t help. He asked the right questions, but dodged the crucial concern:

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

Labeling the remarks he heard as “controversial” is, of course, old-style political hide-the-ball. This attempt to minimize and wrap in euphemism what he probably heard–anti-American, anti-Israel, and anti-white venom–is not going to satisfy those who say “My rabbi/priest/minister never said that stuff.” (By the way, if he’s so concerned about raising children properly, why was he subjecting his kids to this?)

And if you were expecting him to disassociate himself from someone whose words are indistinguishable in key respects from Louis Farrakhan’s, forget it. He dug in with this:

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way. . .

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

Notice how he now limits to “conversations” those instances in which Wright did not deride other racial and ethnic groups? I think the truth, buried in all this rhetoric and gloss, is clear: Obama sat there in church for twenty years, listening with his kids to a preacher vilifying his country, white people in general, and the state of Israel, and lacked the moral gumption to leave. I think the halo has slipped.

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And If That Weren’t Enough. . .

While Barack Obama is trying to explain his way out of Reverend Wright to the broader Democratic electorate, he’s suffering from a developing problem with American Jews. This description (which would be amusing if it weren’t so sad) of his campaign’s latest attempt to diffuse Jews’ suspicions about his candidacy proves that he still has some work to do.

This isn’t some irrational, misplaced fear fueled by internet hoaxes about Obama’s closet belief in Islam. The concern is real: why does he surround himself with advisers who seem antagonistic toward Israel? Why does he keep company with those who spout anti-Israel venom? Coupled with this is trepidation over his own stated willingness to sit down with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, apparently without pre-condition, who has stated his desire to obliterate the Jewish state.

So if Obama is not himself anti-Israel, the fear is that he is not savvy enough to defend Israel’s interests. Perhaps he needs to give a speech on that. (If it is any consolation, it appears that both the McCain and Clinton camps “get it”–that is, they understand the concern of Jews, as well as others, that Obama’s rhetoric and policies fall way short of a robust, informed defense of Israel’s interests.)

While Barack Obama is trying to explain his way out of Reverend Wright to the broader Democratic electorate, he’s suffering from a developing problem with American Jews. This description (which would be amusing if it weren’t so sad) of his campaign’s latest attempt to diffuse Jews’ suspicions about his candidacy proves that he still has some work to do.

This isn’t some irrational, misplaced fear fueled by internet hoaxes about Obama’s closet belief in Islam. The concern is real: why does he surround himself with advisers who seem antagonistic toward Israel? Why does he keep company with those who spout anti-Israel venom? Coupled with this is trepidation over his own stated willingness to sit down with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, apparently without pre-condition, who has stated his desire to obliterate the Jewish state.

So if Obama is not himself anti-Israel, the fear is that he is not savvy enough to defend Israel’s interests. Perhaps he needs to give a speech on that. (If it is any consolation, it appears that both the McCain and Clinton camps “get it”–that is, they understand the concern of Jews, as well as others, that Obama’s rhetoric and policies fall way short of a robust, informed defense of Israel’s interests.)

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Re: Seven Years Later

Noah Pollak writes that Israel seems finally to be implementing the Bush Doctrine: Jerusalem allegedly has warned Damascus that it will be held accountable for Hezbollah attacks on Israel’s northern border. I hope he’s right, but I remain skeptical.

After all, when Ehud Barak (then prime minister, now defense minister) withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, he issued similar warnings that Syria would be held accountable for any further aggression. Well, Hezbollah’s aggression continued and in 2006 Israel fought an inconclusive war against that terrorist group, ignoring the suggestions of some commentators (including yours truly) that it should expand the conflict to Syria.

Is there any reason to think that the current government-led by the same prime minister (Ehud Olmert) who so conspicuously mishandled the Hezbollah war-will be more far-sighted in the future? I wouldn’t bet on it.

A fundamental problem here is that, while Israel believes in retaliation and deterrence, it doesn’t by and large believe in another aspect of the Bush Doctrine-regime change. Most Israelis are deeply cynical (not without reason) about the prospects of positive political change in the Arab world. Their attitude is: Better the devil you know. In Syria, the devil in question is Bashar Assad and, all things considered, Israelis prefer keeping him in power.

I’m not sure this attitude makes much sense, since Assad is already an avowed enemy of Israel who is actively helping anti-Israeli terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. To the extent that his aggression is restrained-he is not, for example, firing missiles from Syria into Israeli cities-it is not because he is a nice guy but because he is deterred by the threat of Israeli retaliation. Presumably that same threat would function against any future Syrian regime, even if it is led by Islamists.

But Israelis, at least those who run the government, are comfortable dealing with traditional Arab strongmen and can point to the rise of Hamas in Gaza as evidence of the dangers of democracy. In point of fact, Hamas’s rise is actually the price that Israel pays for supporting an autocrat–Yasser Arafat–for so long on the theory that he would do Israel’s dirty work by suppressing Palestinian militants. Instead, Arafat nurtured a climate in which shahids (martyrs) were glorified, the Jewish state was reviled, and moderate political figures were intimidated into silence, jailed, exiled, or killed. The corruption and ineffectiveness of his administration eventually turned most Palestinians to an even more radical alternative.

But just about the only prominent Israeli who believes in supporting Arab democrats is Natan Sharansky, and he is not in government any more. That’s why it is so ironic that American “neoconservatives”–who champion the promotion of democracy–are derided in some quarters as practically Mossad agents. In fact, the Mossad, and other organs of Israeli government, while happy to rub out terrorist kingpins, are not interested in toppling state sponsors of terror.

Noah Pollak writes that Israel seems finally to be implementing the Bush Doctrine: Jerusalem allegedly has warned Damascus that it will be held accountable for Hezbollah attacks on Israel’s northern border. I hope he’s right, but I remain skeptical.

After all, when Ehud Barak (then prime minister, now defense minister) withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, he issued similar warnings that Syria would be held accountable for any further aggression. Well, Hezbollah’s aggression continued and in 2006 Israel fought an inconclusive war against that terrorist group, ignoring the suggestions of some commentators (including yours truly) that it should expand the conflict to Syria.

Is there any reason to think that the current government-led by the same prime minister (Ehud Olmert) who so conspicuously mishandled the Hezbollah war-will be more far-sighted in the future? I wouldn’t bet on it.

A fundamental problem here is that, while Israel believes in retaliation and deterrence, it doesn’t by and large believe in another aspect of the Bush Doctrine-regime change. Most Israelis are deeply cynical (not without reason) about the prospects of positive political change in the Arab world. Their attitude is: Better the devil you know. In Syria, the devil in question is Bashar Assad and, all things considered, Israelis prefer keeping him in power.

I’m not sure this attitude makes much sense, since Assad is already an avowed enemy of Israel who is actively helping anti-Israeli terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. To the extent that his aggression is restrained-he is not, for example, firing missiles from Syria into Israeli cities-it is not because he is a nice guy but because he is deterred by the threat of Israeli retaliation. Presumably that same threat would function against any future Syrian regime, even if it is led by Islamists.

But Israelis, at least those who run the government, are comfortable dealing with traditional Arab strongmen and can point to the rise of Hamas in Gaza as evidence of the dangers of democracy. In point of fact, Hamas’s rise is actually the price that Israel pays for supporting an autocrat–Yasser Arafat–for so long on the theory that he would do Israel’s dirty work by suppressing Palestinian militants. Instead, Arafat nurtured a climate in which shahids (martyrs) were glorified, the Jewish state was reviled, and moderate political figures were intimidated into silence, jailed, exiled, or killed. The corruption and ineffectiveness of his administration eventually turned most Palestinians to an even more radical alternative.

But just about the only prominent Israeli who believes in supporting Arab democrats is Natan Sharansky, and he is not in government any more. That’s why it is so ironic that American “neoconservatives”–who champion the promotion of democracy–are derided in some quarters as practically Mossad agents. In fact, the Mossad, and other organs of Israeli government, while happy to rub out terrorist kingpins, are not interested in toppling state sponsors of terror.

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Tehran’s Big Deal

Swiss energy giant EGL just disclosed what is perhaps the biggest energy contract with Iran in recent history–between 28 and 42 billion dollars, according to its spokesman, who insisted that the exact figure not be revealed. Swiss foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Rey visited Tehran to crown the deal. Calmy-Rey–photographed wearing a veil alongside her male Iranian counterparts–praised Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA and generally speaking scored a great own goal for the international community’s efforts to push Iran into compliance with UN Security Council resolutions 1696, 1737, 1747 and 1803.

Faced with international criticism, Calmy-Rey was adamant that Switzerland was not violating any law. True–but what kind of signal does a Western foreign minister send by going to Iran to bless a business deal two weeks after the UN adopted a sanctions resolution? Switzerland has slapped the world in the face. Europe, apparently, should not shy away from Iranian markets. Business, after all, is business.

The next weeks and months will tell whether European business will follow suit or if this is a lamentable one-off. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana-a nuclear physicist by training and the man officially appointed by the UN Security Council to negotiate with Iran-defined Iran’s nuclear program as a “strategic threat” to Europe on Sunday during a conversation with David Ignatius at the Brussels Forum. Asked by Steve Erlanger of the New York Times whether George W. Bush’s description of a nuclear Iran as “intolerable” was shared in Europe, Solana laconically and bluntly responded “Yes!” Barely a day later, Calmy-Rey was in Tehran, dressed so as not to offend her hosts, to sign a giant deal. Clearly, Switzerland begs to differ. And if the Swiss view were to take hold again in Europe (Europe remains Iran’s biggest trade partner, let’s not forget), it would not be long before that threat either materializes thanks to European technological sales and funds–or before someone acts upon the operational consequences of the world “intolerable.”

Swiss energy giant EGL just disclosed what is perhaps the biggest energy contract with Iran in recent history–between 28 and 42 billion dollars, according to its spokesman, who insisted that the exact figure not be revealed. Swiss foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Rey visited Tehran to crown the deal. Calmy-Rey–photographed wearing a veil alongside her male Iranian counterparts–praised Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA and generally speaking scored a great own goal for the international community’s efforts to push Iran into compliance with UN Security Council resolutions 1696, 1737, 1747 and 1803.

Faced with international criticism, Calmy-Rey was adamant that Switzerland was not violating any law. True–but what kind of signal does a Western foreign minister send by going to Iran to bless a business deal two weeks after the UN adopted a sanctions resolution? Switzerland has slapped the world in the face. Europe, apparently, should not shy away from Iranian markets. Business, after all, is business.

The next weeks and months will tell whether European business will follow suit or if this is a lamentable one-off. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana-a nuclear physicist by training and the man officially appointed by the UN Security Council to negotiate with Iran-defined Iran’s nuclear program as a “strategic threat” to Europe on Sunday during a conversation with David Ignatius at the Brussels Forum. Asked by Steve Erlanger of the New York Times whether George W. Bush’s description of a nuclear Iran as “intolerable” was shared in Europe, Solana laconically and bluntly responded “Yes!” Barely a day later, Calmy-Rey was in Tehran, dressed so as not to offend her hosts, to sign a giant deal. Clearly, Switzerland begs to differ. And if the Swiss view were to take hold again in Europe (Europe remains Iran’s biggest trade partner, let’s not forget), it would not be long before that threat either materializes thanks to European technological sales and funds–or before someone acts upon the operational consequences of the world “intolerable.”

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Iraqi Hope And Democratic Deafness

Iraq data continues to stack up against the Democrats’ mission to draw down troops and leave. A recent Pew poll showed that 53 percent of Americans believe we will win in Iraq. But more compelling still is this new ABC poll which demonstrates the changing attitudes of Iraqis themselves.

The proportion of Iraqis who say the U.S. invasion was right is at an all-time high of 49 percent—up twelve points since August. Unlike other shifting metrics, such as the dropping casualty rate, this number can’t be used to mount a “so, we’re just back at the disastrous levels of two years ago” argument. A new high isn’t a step backwards to anything, and this one finds almost half of Iraq praising U.S. policy. Also, keep in mind what John Burns pointed out in his New York Times piece this Sunday: Iraqis probably under-report when it comes to pro-U.S. opinions.

But how do they feel about their own country? Fifty-five percent of Iraqis now say their own lives are going well. This is a sixteen point gain since August. Sixty-two percent say local security is good—a 19-point jump, and 46 percent say they expect Iraq to be better in a year; that’s a gain of twenty-three points. The big story is that negativity is drying up. The poll report notes that, “the 35-point drop in views that security is worsening is the single largest change in this poll.”

Of course there are ongoing challenges, which speak to the need for America’s commitment. If everything was rosy, we could indeed leave. So: while we’re winning their hearts and changing their minds, what kind of policy would call for abandoning an Iraq on the verge revolutionary improvement?

Why, the Democratic one. Yesterday, Hillary Clinton delivered a speech in which she said, “I have concrete detailed plans to end this war, and I have not wavered in my commitment to follow through on them.” One of the main Democratic criticisms of George Bush is that he’s unable to change or reverse policy better to suit a situation in flux. Has Hillary decided to imitate his much-derided “intransigence”?

Iraq data continues to stack up against the Democrats’ mission to draw down troops and leave. A recent Pew poll showed that 53 percent of Americans believe we will win in Iraq. But more compelling still is this new ABC poll which demonstrates the changing attitudes of Iraqis themselves.

The proportion of Iraqis who say the U.S. invasion was right is at an all-time high of 49 percent—up twelve points since August. Unlike other shifting metrics, such as the dropping casualty rate, this number can’t be used to mount a “so, we’re just back at the disastrous levels of two years ago” argument. A new high isn’t a step backwards to anything, and this one finds almost half of Iraq praising U.S. policy. Also, keep in mind what John Burns pointed out in his New York Times piece this Sunday: Iraqis probably under-report when it comes to pro-U.S. opinions.

But how do they feel about their own country? Fifty-five percent of Iraqis now say their own lives are going well. This is a sixteen point gain since August. Sixty-two percent say local security is good—a 19-point jump, and 46 percent say they expect Iraq to be better in a year; that’s a gain of twenty-three points. The big story is that negativity is drying up. The poll report notes that, “the 35-point drop in views that security is worsening is the single largest change in this poll.”

Of course there are ongoing challenges, which speak to the need for America’s commitment. If everything was rosy, we could indeed leave. So: while we’re winning their hearts and changing their minds, what kind of policy would call for abandoning an Iraq on the verge revolutionary improvement?

Why, the Democratic one. Yesterday, Hillary Clinton delivered a speech in which she said, “I have concrete detailed plans to end this war, and I have not wavered in my commitment to follow through on them.” One of the main Democratic criticisms of George Bush is that he’s unable to change or reverse policy better to suit a situation in flux. Has Hillary decided to imitate his much-derided “intransigence”?

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Leave King out of It

In a statement on Sunday, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago defended the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, saying

nearly three weeks before the 40th commemorative anniversary of the murder of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Reverend Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.’s character is being assassinated in the public sphere because he has preached a social gospel on behalf of oppressed women, children and men in America and around the globe . . . It is an indictment of Dr. Wright’s ministerial legacy to present his global ministry within a 15- or 30-second sound bite.

I’m all in favor of seeing Dr. Wright’s “ministerial legacy” presented in more than a 30-second sound bite. More rather than less scrutiny on what Wright has said and done over the years is certainly welcome. I for one am eager to see Dr. Wright’s oeuvre. Whether that puts Reverend Wright in a better or worse light remains to be seen.

Beyond that, the comparison to Dr. King is not a good one for Reverend Wright. Dr. King, after all, spoke about the “magnificent words” of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, describing them as a “a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.” King spoke about the Emancipation Proclamation as a “momentous decree [that] came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.” And King said, “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”

The thrust of Dr. King’s teaching was that America was falling short of its promise, which it most surely was. But King understood that America, perhaps alone among nations, was the place where the promissory note could be fulfilled.

Reverend Wright is preaching a different message and a different social gospel than did King. Both speak about the liberation of the poor and the dispossessed. But King did not hate America and did not pray for its damnation. He did not celebrate in its wounds. He did not wish it harm. He did not propagate nutty conspiracy theories. And he did not drink from the cup of bitterness and hatred. It appears Reverend Wright does. That is why Barack Obama has a problem with his pastor-and why the comparison to Dr. King can only hurt both men.

In a statement on Sunday, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago defended the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, saying

nearly three weeks before the 40th commemorative anniversary of the murder of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Reverend Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.’s character is being assassinated in the public sphere because he has preached a social gospel on behalf of oppressed women, children and men in America and around the globe . . . It is an indictment of Dr. Wright’s ministerial legacy to present his global ministry within a 15- or 30-second sound bite.

I’m all in favor of seeing Dr. Wright’s “ministerial legacy” presented in more than a 30-second sound bite. More rather than less scrutiny on what Wright has said and done over the years is certainly welcome. I for one am eager to see Dr. Wright’s oeuvre. Whether that puts Reverend Wright in a better or worse light remains to be seen.

Beyond that, the comparison to Dr. King is not a good one for Reverend Wright. Dr. King, after all, spoke about the “magnificent words” of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, describing them as a “a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.” King spoke about the Emancipation Proclamation as a “momentous decree [that] came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.” And King said, “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”

The thrust of Dr. King’s teaching was that America was falling short of its promise, which it most surely was. But King understood that America, perhaps alone among nations, was the place where the promissory note could be fulfilled.

Reverend Wright is preaching a different message and a different social gospel than did King. Both speak about the liberation of the poor and the dispossessed. But King did not hate America and did not pray for its damnation. He did not celebrate in its wounds. He did not wish it harm. He did not propagate nutty conspiracy theories. And he did not drink from the cup of bitterness and hatred. It appears Reverend Wright does. That is why Barack Obama has a problem with his pastor-and why the comparison to Dr. King can only hurt both men.

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The Times They Are Not A Changing

Should the United States build new and more reliable nuclear warheads? In the face of the aging and deterioration of weapons in the existing arsenal, the Bush administration is pushing ahead with a plan to do just that. And the New York Times, among other liberal outlets, has been pushing back.

The paper’s argument is that the nuclear modernization program

is a public-relations disaster in the making overseas. Suspicions that the United States is actually trying to build up its nuclear capabilities are undercutting Washington’s arguments for restraining the nuclear appetites of Iran and North Korea.

In other words, the United States is in danger of provoking an arms race.

But Iran and North Korea are not the only players in this game. What, one might ask, are Russia and China doing in this realm? And there are some other pertinent facts one might consider that the Times, the Washington Post, and other critics of the Bush “build-up” also never mention.

One such fact is that the Bush “build-up” is not a build-up at all but a build-down. Last week, two ranking officials with the National Nuclear Security Administration testified before Congress and reported that

we continue to reduce the stockpile to meet the President’s mandate to have the smallest nuclear stockpile consistent with our national-security objectives. As a result, today the stockpile is half of what it was in 2001, and by 2012, the United States will have the smallest stockpile since the 1950’s. Additional reductions in the stockpile are possible, but these reductions will require changes to the weapons complex and the composition of the stockpile. . . .

In 2004, the President directed a 50 percent reduction in the size of the [nuclear] stockpile, and, in December 2007, he ordered an additional 15 percent cut. The result will be a nuclear stockpile one quarter the size it was at the end of the cold war and the smallest since the Eisenhower Administration.

So much for the alarming Bush build-up. What about China and Russia?

The Pentagon has just issued its annual report, Military Power of the People’s Republic of China. China, it states,

is qualitatively and quantitatively improving its strategic forces. These presently consist of: approximately 20 silo-based, liquid-fueled CSS-4 ICBMs (which constitute its primary nuclear means of holding continental U.S. targets at risk); approximately 20 liquid-fueled, limited range CSS-3 ICBMs; between 15-20 liquid-fueled CSS-2 intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs); upwards of 50 CSS-5 road mobile, solid-fueled MRBMs (for regional deterrence missions); and, JL-1 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) on the XIA-class SSBN (although the operational status of the XIA is questionable).

By 2010, China’s nuclear forces will likely comprise enhanced CSS-4s; CSS-3s; CSS-5s; solid-fueled, road-mobile DF-31 and DF31A ICBMs, which are being deployed to units of the Second Artillery Corps; and up to five JIN-class SSBNs, each carrying between 10 and 12 JL-2 SLBM. The addition of nuclear-capable forces with greater mobility and survivability, combined with ballistic missile defense countermeasures which China is researching — including maneuvering re-entry vehicles (MaRV), multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles (MIRV), decoys, chaff, jamming, thermal shielding, and ASAT weapons — will strengthen China’s deterrent and enhance its capabilities for strategic strike. New air- and ground-launched cruise missiles that could perform nuclear missions would similarly improve the survivability, flexibility, and effectiveness of China’s nuclear forces.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee late last month about Moscow’s efforts to augment its nuclear forces.

Russia has made a major commitment of almost 5 trillion rubles to its 2007-2015 budget to develop and build new conventional and nuclear weapon systems, with Moscow’s priority on the maintenance and modernization of the latter.

Development and production of advanced strategic weapons such as the SS-27/TOPOL-M ICBM and the Bulava-30 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) continues.  In April, Russia rolled out the first Dolgorukiy-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) designed to carry the Bulava-30 SLBM which continues testing despite several publicized failures. . . .

Russia retains a relatively large stockpile of non-strategic nuclear weapons.

“[W]hen we build, they build; when we cut, they build,” is what Harold Brown once said about the USSR back when he was Secretary of Defense under Jimmy Carter.

The times appear not to have changed all that much since then, and neither, in its consistent effort to blame the ills of the world on the United States, has the New York Times.

Should the United States build new and more reliable nuclear warheads? In the face of the aging and deterioration of weapons in the existing arsenal, the Bush administration is pushing ahead with a plan to do just that. And the New York Times, among other liberal outlets, has been pushing back.

The paper’s argument is that the nuclear modernization program

is a public-relations disaster in the making overseas. Suspicions that the United States is actually trying to build up its nuclear capabilities are undercutting Washington’s arguments for restraining the nuclear appetites of Iran and North Korea.

In other words, the United States is in danger of provoking an arms race.

But Iran and North Korea are not the only players in this game. What, one might ask, are Russia and China doing in this realm? And there are some other pertinent facts one might consider that the Times, the Washington Post, and other critics of the Bush “build-up” also never mention.

One such fact is that the Bush “build-up” is not a build-up at all but a build-down. Last week, two ranking officials with the National Nuclear Security Administration testified before Congress and reported that

we continue to reduce the stockpile to meet the President’s mandate to have the smallest nuclear stockpile consistent with our national-security objectives. As a result, today the stockpile is half of what it was in 2001, and by 2012, the United States will have the smallest stockpile since the 1950’s. Additional reductions in the stockpile are possible, but these reductions will require changes to the weapons complex and the composition of the stockpile. . . .

In 2004, the President directed a 50 percent reduction in the size of the [nuclear] stockpile, and, in December 2007, he ordered an additional 15 percent cut. The result will be a nuclear stockpile one quarter the size it was at the end of the cold war and the smallest since the Eisenhower Administration.

So much for the alarming Bush build-up. What about China and Russia?

The Pentagon has just issued its annual report, Military Power of the People’s Republic of China. China, it states,

is qualitatively and quantitatively improving its strategic forces. These presently consist of: approximately 20 silo-based, liquid-fueled CSS-4 ICBMs (which constitute its primary nuclear means of holding continental U.S. targets at risk); approximately 20 liquid-fueled, limited range CSS-3 ICBMs; between 15-20 liquid-fueled CSS-2 intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs); upwards of 50 CSS-5 road mobile, solid-fueled MRBMs (for regional deterrence missions); and, JL-1 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) on the XIA-class SSBN (although the operational status of the XIA is questionable).

By 2010, China’s nuclear forces will likely comprise enhanced CSS-4s; CSS-3s; CSS-5s; solid-fueled, road-mobile DF-31 and DF31A ICBMs, which are being deployed to units of the Second Artillery Corps; and up to five JIN-class SSBNs, each carrying between 10 and 12 JL-2 SLBM. The addition of nuclear-capable forces with greater mobility and survivability, combined with ballistic missile defense countermeasures which China is researching — including maneuvering re-entry vehicles (MaRV), multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles (MIRV), decoys, chaff, jamming, thermal shielding, and ASAT weapons — will strengthen China’s deterrent and enhance its capabilities for strategic strike. New air- and ground-launched cruise missiles that could perform nuclear missions would similarly improve the survivability, flexibility, and effectiveness of China’s nuclear forces.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee late last month about Moscow’s efforts to augment its nuclear forces.

Russia has made a major commitment of almost 5 trillion rubles to its 2007-2015 budget to develop and build new conventional and nuclear weapon systems, with Moscow’s priority on the maintenance and modernization of the latter.

Development and production of advanced strategic weapons such as the SS-27/TOPOL-M ICBM and the Bulava-30 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) continues.  In April, Russia rolled out the first Dolgorukiy-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) designed to carry the Bulava-30 SLBM which continues testing despite several publicized failures. . . .

Russia retains a relatively large stockpile of non-strategic nuclear weapons.

“[W]hen we build, they build; when we cut, they build,” is what Harold Brown once said about the USSR back when he was Secretary of Defense under Jimmy Carter.

The times appear not to have changed all that much since then, and neither, in its consistent effort to blame the ills of the world on the United States, has the New York Times.

Read Less

Seven Years Later, Israel Gets the Bush Doctrine

Call me naive, and I’m certainly not trying to be flip, but I’ve never quite understood all the fuss about asymmetric warfare. We have a state of affairs today in which two countries, Iran and Syria, wage war against their western enemies not through the legitimate use of uniformed armies, but through the funding, arming, and organizing of proxy militias and terrorist networks. What obviously engendered this strategy was the knowledge in Tehran and Damascus that conventional armies would be incapable of confronting western powers on the battlefield; and the obvious reason why the asymmetric strategy works so effectively is because it strikes at the heart of western ambivalence about the use of military power, especially against enemies who operate in defiance of the tactics that our foreign policy and military doctrines — and our moral sensibilities — have been adapted over centuries to confront.

This kind of acquiescence to enemy strategy is not what was supposed to define the post-9/11 era. The idea of holding terror-sponsoring states accountable for the depredations of their proxies was deemed such a fundamental and obvious necessity of waging a “war on terrorism” that it was enunciated as the first and central tenet of the Bush Doctrine — a tenet that to my knowledge has been employed all but once, against the Taliban for harboring Al-Qaeda.

Owing to difficult regional and international dilemmas, we — that is, the western powers directly involved in prosecuting the war on terrorism — have repeatedly acquiesced to fighting our enemies on their preferred battlefields: We confront Tehran and Damascus in Iraq, southern Lebanon, and Gaza, everywhere, alas, but in Iran and Syria, and we insist on describing their armies with self-deluding euphemisms: Hezbollah, foreign policy elites tell us, is a “non-state actor.”

All of this is by way of introducing a very welcome news story — namely that last month, Israel finally got around to explaining the Bush Doctrine to Syria:

A European source familiar with the matter said the message conveyed to Damascus said Syria could be targeted by Israel even if Hezbollah’s attack emanated from Lebanese soil.

An Israeli source with knowledge of government affairs said: “The message was passed around late February, before the last round of fighting in Gaza.”

“It has become clear to us Syria has to understand there is a price for its use of proxy terrorism, especially as Damascus is itself a proxy — the long-arm of Iran,” the source said.

Note that Hezbollah indeed refrained from opening a northern front against Israel during the recent warfare in Gaza, an eventuality that many people (myself included) speculated might be triggered should the IDF make too much progress in degrading Hamas. Perhaps the IDF did not sufficiently damage Hamas to trigger a wider conflict with Hamas’s allies; or perhaps the Bush Doctrine might have something to say for itself after all — if it is only invoked.

Call me naive, and I’m certainly not trying to be flip, but I’ve never quite understood all the fuss about asymmetric warfare. We have a state of affairs today in which two countries, Iran and Syria, wage war against their western enemies not through the legitimate use of uniformed armies, but through the funding, arming, and organizing of proxy militias and terrorist networks. What obviously engendered this strategy was the knowledge in Tehran and Damascus that conventional armies would be incapable of confronting western powers on the battlefield; and the obvious reason why the asymmetric strategy works so effectively is because it strikes at the heart of western ambivalence about the use of military power, especially against enemies who operate in defiance of the tactics that our foreign policy and military doctrines — and our moral sensibilities — have been adapted over centuries to confront.

This kind of acquiescence to enemy strategy is not what was supposed to define the post-9/11 era. The idea of holding terror-sponsoring states accountable for the depredations of their proxies was deemed such a fundamental and obvious necessity of waging a “war on terrorism” that it was enunciated as the first and central tenet of the Bush Doctrine — a tenet that to my knowledge has been employed all but once, against the Taliban for harboring Al-Qaeda.

Owing to difficult regional and international dilemmas, we — that is, the western powers directly involved in prosecuting the war on terrorism — have repeatedly acquiesced to fighting our enemies on their preferred battlefields: We confront Tehran and Damascus in Iraq, southern Lebanon, and Gaza, everywhere, alas, but in Iran and Syria, and we insist on describing their armies with self-deluding euphemisms: Hezbollah, foreign policy elites tell us, is a “non-state actor.”

All of this is by way of introducing a very welcome news story — namely that last month, Israel finally got around to explaining the Bush Doctrine to Syria:

A European source familiar with the matter said the message conveyed to Damascus said Syria could be targeted by Israel even if Hezbollah’s attack emanated from Lebanese soil.

An Israeli source with knowledge of government affairs said: “The message was passed around late February, before the last round of fighting in Gaza.”

“It has become clear to us Syria has to understand there is a price for its use of proxy terrorism, especially as Damascus is itself a proxy — the long-arm of Iran,” the source said.

Note that Hezbollah indeed refrained from opening a northern front against Israel during the recent warfare in Gaza, an eventuality that many people (myself included) speculated might be triggered should the IDF make too much progress in degrading Hamas. Perhaps the IDF did not sufficiently damage Hamas to trigger a wider conflict with Hamas’s allies; or perhaps the Bush Doctrine might have something to say for itself after all — if it is only invoked.

Read Less

How’s It Going To End?

Florida’s Democrats ruled out a re-vote on Monday and seems officially stymied as to how to solve its delegate mess. (Can it really be that hard?) So for now, Hillary Clinton has a procedural issue, but not delegates to carry with her as long as she wants to fight for the nominination. If the votes cast in January were counted, Clinton would have picked up 105 delegates to 67 for Barack Obama.

On one hand, this seems like a blow to her comeback strategy. Without those Florida delegates her task of catching Obama in the delegate count becomes that much harder. But now she has a grievance, a reason to challenge that delegate total.

So we can add this to the list of reasons why Clinton will not give up. Why shouldn’t she trudge on, try to close the current delegate gap (once it is less than 38, the Florida margin, she declares a “tie”), turn up the heat on the DNC, bloody Obama with the argument that the ” Great Unifier” is really “disenfranchising voters” and hope that no one has the stomach to exclude Florida delegates from the convention? After all, there is a rich tradition of Democrats crying foul over Florida.

Florida’s Democrats ruled out a re-vote on Monday and seems officially stymied as to how to solve its delegate mess. (Can it really be that hard?) So for now, Hillary Clinton has a procedural issue, but not delegates to carry with her as long as she wants to fight for the nominination. If the votes cast in January were counted, Clinton would have picked up 105 delegates to 67 for Barack Obama.

On one hand, this seems like a blow to her comeback strategy. Without those Florida delegates her task of catching Obama in the delegate count becomes that much harder. But now she has a grievance, a reason to challenge that delegate total.

So we can add this to the list of reasons why Clinton will not give up. Why shouldn’t she trudge on, try to close the current delegate gap (once it is less than 38, the Florida margin, she declares a “tie”), turn up the heat on the DNC, bloody Obama with the argument that the ” Great Unifier” is really “disenfranchising voters” and hope that no one has the stomach to exclude Florida delegates from the convention? After all, there is a rich tradition of Democrats crying foul over Florida.

Read Less




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