Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 30, 2008

Priorities

The Nation is running an appeal for the “victims” in the Gaza Strip. Writing on the magazine’s “Act Now” blog, a “guide to expressing informed dissent to war, racism, sexism, environmental degradation and market-based solutions to social problems,” associate publisher Peter Rothberg directs readers to the website of CARE International and Doctors Without Borders. “The health system has been hard hit by increased demand and an inability to secure supplies or to repair or replace equipment,” he writes. “No matter your views on Israel and Palestine, it’s absolutely insane, in my view, for anyone to think that Israel can successfully bomb its way to peace and security.”

I may disagree with the last sentiment, but it’s nonetheless nice to see The Nation raising money for third-party sources attempting to alleviate the suffering that’s the inevitable result of any military operation in a densely populated area, even one carried out by the Israeli military, which is the most precise in the world when it comes to these sorts of things. I wondered, however, whether anyone at the magazine had ever bothered to launch a similar campaign for the Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism, particularly the residents of Sderot, who have lived under siege as a result of the 2005 Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, withstanding frequent rocket attacks ever since. A quick search of The Nation’s website, unsurprisingly, finds no such appeal.

Lest you doubt the spirit of generosity over at The Nation, note that it has encouraged its readers to support such worthy causes as a website that publishes the results of chemical tests on children’s toys and a letter writing campaign “to major toy marketers urging them to target parents, not children, with their millions of dollars in advertising lucre.” Apparently the sympathy of The Nation, which loves to wallow in the perceived victimhood of every imaginable “marginalized” group, doesn’t extend to Jews.

The Nation is running an appeal for the “victims” in the Gaza Strip. Writing on the magazine’s “Act Now” blog, a “guide to expressing informed dissent to war, racism, sexism, environmental degradation and market-based solutions to social problems,” associate publisher Peter Rothberg directs readers to the website of CARE International and Doctors Without Borders. “The health system has been hard hit by increased demand and an inability to secure supplies or to repair or replace equipment,” he writes. “No matter your views on Israel and Palestine, it’s absolutely insane, in my view, for anyone to think that Israel can successfully bomb its way to peace and security.”

I may disagree with the last sentiment, but it’s nonetheless nice to see The Nation raising money for third-party sources attempting to alleviate the suffering that’s the inevitable result of any military operation in a densely populated area, even one carried out by the Israeli military, which is the most precise in the world when it comes to these sorts of things. I wondered, however, whether anyone at the magazine had ever bothered to launch a similar campaign for the Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism, particularly the residents of Sderot, who have lived under siege as a result of the 2005 Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, withstanding frequent rocket attacks ever since. A quick search of The Nation’s website, unsurprisingly, finds no such appeal.

Lest you doubt the spirit of generosity over at The Nation, note that it has encouraged its readers to support such worthy causes as a website that publishes the results of chemical tests on children’s toys and a letter writing campaign “to major toy marketers urging them to target parents, not children, with their millions of dollars in advertising lucre.” Apparently the sympathy of The Nation, which loves to wallow in the perceived victimhood of every imaginable “marginalized” group, doesn’t extend to Jews.

Read Less

What Would a Proportionate Response Look Like?

“If someone was sending rockets on my house where my daughters were sleeping at night, I would do everything to stop it, and I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.” – President-elect Barack Obama

Now that Hamas’s long war against Israel is matched with a short war in Gaza, protests are erupting everywhere from the blogosphere and Arab capitals to the United Nations, and they began on the very first day. Salon.com blogger Glenn Greenwald calls the Israeli retaliation to more than a year of rocket attacks a “massively disproportionate response.” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay “strongly condemned Israel’s disproportionate use of force.” The Israeli counterattack is, indeed, disproportionate, but it could hardly be otherwise. “At last count,” J.G. Thayer wrote, “one Israeli and two Palestinians (sisters, ages 13 and 5) died from rocket attacks. So a proportionate response, one presumes, would have required Israel to kill a single Palestinian and two of its own citizens.”

There were, I suppose, other “proportionate” responses available aside from killing one Palestinian and two Israelis. The Israel Defense Forces might have launched thousands of air strikes against targets in Gaza to match the thousands of Qassam rockets fired at the cities of Sderot and Ashkelon. It’s unlikely, however, that this is what Israel’s critics have in mind.

So what do they have in mind? What would a legitimate and “proportionate” response actually look like? Surely they don’t believe Israel should scrap its sophisticated weapons systems, build Qassam rockets, and launch those at Gaza instead.

The “disproportionate response” crowd doesn’t seem to mind that Israel struck back at Hamas per se. They aren’t saying Israel should only be allowed to negotiate with its enemies or that any use of force whatsoever is wrong. They’re clearly saying Israel should use less force, inflict less damage, or both.

One problem here is that it’s not at all clear how they think Israelis should go about doing it. The weapons used by each side can’t be the same. No one has ever said Israel ought to put its superior weapons systems in cold storage until Hamas can develop or purchase something similar. Presumably Israel is allowed to use its superior technology as long as the casualty count on each side is proportionate.

But how would that work in practice? A single Israeli air strike is going to kill at least as many people as Hamas can kill in twelve months. Does that mean Israel should be given a “license” of one air strike per year to use in the war? If IDF commanders want to take out a target where they expect five Hamas leaders or fighters to be killed, do they have to wait until five Israelis are killed first? If the Israelis endure rocket fire until one civilian is killed, do they get a “kill one Palestinian terrorist” coupon?

If strict proportionality isn’t necessary, what are the limits? If the Israelis kill two Palestinians for every Israeli that’s killed, is that okay? Or is doubling the number of casualties on each side too unfair to the Palestinians?

No army in the history of human civilization has ever hamstrung itself with these kind of restrictions in wartime, but let’s leave that aside for the moment and assume the IDF should be the first. Maybe Israeli commanders will be swayed by the legion of bloggers, Arab street radicals, and United Nations apparatchiks. What, precisely, should be the limits and rules of proportionate war? If critics expect to be taken seriously, they will need to advise.

“If someone was sending rockets on my house where my daughters were sleeping at night, I would do everything to stop it, and I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.” – President-elect Barack Obama

Now that Hamas’s long war against Israel is matched with a short war in Gaza, protests are erupting everywhere from the blogosphere and Arab capitals to the United Nations, and they began on the very first day. Salon.com blogger Glenn Greenwald calls the Israeli retaliation to more than a year of rocket attacks a “massively disproportionate response.” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay “strongly condemned Israel’s disproportionate use of force.” The Israeli counterattack is, indeed, disproportionate, but it could hardly be otherwise. “At last count,” J.G. Thayer wrote, “one Israeli and two Palestinians (sisters, ages 13 and 5) died from rocket attacks. So a proportionate response, one presumes, would have required Israel to kill a single Palestinian and two of its own citizens.”

There were, I suppose, other “proportionate” responses available aside from killing one Palestinian and two Israelis. The Israel Defense Forces might have launched thousands of air strikes against targets in Gaza to match the thousands of Qassam rockets fired at the cities of Sderot and Ashkelon. It’s unlikely, however, that this is what Israel’s critics have in mind.

So what do they have in mind? What would a legitimate and “proportionate” response actually look like? Surely they don’t believe Israel should scrap its sophisticated weapons systems, build Qassam rockets, and launch those at Gaza instead.

The “disproportionate response” crowd doesn’t seem to mind that Israel struck back at Hamas per se. They aren’t saying Israel should only be allowed to negotiate with its enemies or that any use of force whatsoever is wrong. They’re clearly saying Israel should use less force, inflict less damage, or both.

One problem here is that it’s not at all clear how they think Israelis should go about doing it. The weapons used by each side can’t be the same. No one has ever said Israel ought to put its superior weapons systems in cold storage until Hamas can develop or purchase something similar. Presumably Israel is allowed to use its superior technology as long as the casualty count on each side is proportionate.

But how would that work in practice? A single Israeli air strike is going to kill at least as many people as Hamas can kill in twelve months. Does that mean Israel should be given a “license” of one air strike per year to use in the war? If IDF commanders want to take out a target where they expect five Hamas leaders or fighters to be killed, do they have to wait until five Israelis are killed first? If the Israelis endure rocket fire until one civilian is killed, do they get a “kill one Palestinian terrorist” coupon?

If strict proportionality isn’t necessary, what are the limits? If the Israelis kill two Palestinians for every Israeli that’s killed, is that okay? Or is doubling the number of casualties on each side too unfair to the Palestinians?

No army in the history of human civilization has ever hamstrung itself with these kind of restrictions in wartime, but let’s leave that aside for the moment and assume the IDF should be the first. Maybe Israeli commanders will be swayed by the legion of bloggers, Arab street radicals, and United Nations apparatchiks. What, precisely, should be the limits and rules of proportionate war? If critics expect to be taken seriously, they will need to advise.

Read Less

Re: Blago’s Revenge

Realizing that passivity has backfired on him, President-elect Obama now objects to Blago’s Senate pick, but clings to the Illinois Democrats’ plan for “a process of succession.” Left unsaid is how the Illinois voters are to be represented in the meantime, while the impeachment proceedings drag along, and why a special election isn’t the immediate solution. (As others point out, there will be an election to fill Rahm Emanuel’s seat anyway. So what’s wrong with a senate election?)

This is what comes from playing footsie with an ethical psychopath and failing to rebuke your own party. Senator Obama supported Blago for a second term as governor. Then he remained mute as ethical issues arose. Next he, through his aides, tried to conduct some type of negotiations for his former senate seat. And when it all came to a head, President-elect Obama let the state Democrats nix a quick deal for a special election. Now it is an unmitigated mess. Can Blago’s designee be denied a seat? Does Bobby Rush’s race gambit gain any traction? A big story just got bigger.

Sooner or later, despite his efforts to distance (but not denounce) the Chicago gang, President-elect Obama has been sucked into the Blago vortex. In the meantime, the President-elect hasn’t done himself any good nor established his moral leadership. Nothing new about these politics. I was hoping for a change.

Realizing that passivity has backfired on him, President-elect Obama now objects to Blago’s Senate pick, but clings to the Illinois Democrats’ plan for “a process of succession.” Left unsaid is how the Illinois voters are to be represented in the meantime, while the impeachment proceedings drag along, and why a special election isn’t the immediate solution. (As others point out, there will be an election to fill Rahm Emanuel’s seat anyway. So what’s wrong with a senate election?)

This is what comes from playing footsie with an ethical psychopath and failing to rebuke your own party. Senator Obama supported Blago for a second term as governor. Then he remained mute as ethical issues arose. Next he, through his aides, tried to conduct some type of negotiations for his former senate seat. And when it all came to a head, President-elect Obama let the state Democrats nix a quick deal for a special election. Now it is an unmitigated mess. Can Blago’s designee be denied a seat? Does Bobby Rush’s race gambit gain any traction? A big story just got bigger.

Sooner or later, despite his efforts to distance (but not denounce) the Chicago gang, President-elect Obama has been sucked into the Blago vortex. In the meantime, the President-elect hasn’t done himself any good nor established his moral leadership. Nothing new about these politics. I was hoping for a change.

Read Less

RNC Race

The contest for the RNC chairmanship stumbles along. The latest landmine is a potential “no bailout” motion that may come up for a vote at the January meeting, when the chairman is also selected. That might be fine for the outside challengers, but it’s a not-so-subtle jab at the Washington GOP leadership, who voted for the original bailout. And, of course, current Chairman Mike Duncan, his opponents are only too anxious to point out, vigorously defended the bailout as well.

Now, it may not be the motion itself which presents the most problems for Duncan. Certainly, there is a sense that, like the 0-16 Detroit Lions, the Republicans shouldn’t rehire the “coach.” So the bailout motion may be symptomatic of a larger sentiment: how can the RNC redefine and reform itself with the same leadership which presided over its 2008 wipeout?

The counterargument for Duncan is nevertheless a powerful one: Got anyone better?

The contest for the RNC chairmanship stumbles along. The latest landmine is a potential “no bailout” motion that may come up for a vote at the January meeting, when the chairman is also selected. That might be fine for the outside challengers, but it’s a not-so-subtle jab at the Washington GOP leadership, who voted for the original bailout. And, of course, current Chairman Mike Duncan, his opponents are only too anxious to point out, vigorously defended the bailout as well.

Now, it may not be the motion itself which presents the most problems for Duncan. Certainly, there is a sense that, like the 0-16 Detroit Lions, the Republicans shouldn’t rehire the “coach.” So the bailout motion may be symptomatic of a larger sentiment: how can the RNC redefine and reform itself with the same leadership which presided over its 2008 wipeout?

The counterargument for Duncan is nevertheless a powerful one: Got anyone better?

Read Less

2008’s Top Thank-You Notes

With the holiday season coming to a close, postal services worldwide are being inundated with two things: returned Brett Favre Jets jerseys and thank-you notes.

How do I know this?  Well, lucky for me, my mailman is an avid reader of CONTENTIONS, and was therefore more than happy to let me into the local post office after hours to open other people’s mail.  And let me tell you – it’s amazing what passes through zip code 19146!  So, now that I’ve hired a staff to sort through the new additions to my jersey collection, I present the top four thank-you notes from 2008.  (You’ll excuse me for not including any of the many letters from financial and automobile industry CEO’s to Congress–that would be super lame.)

Read More

With the holiday season coming to a close, postal services worldwide are being inundated with two things: returned Brett Favre Jets jerseys and thank-you notes.

How do I know this?  Well, lucky for me, my mailman is an avid reader of CONTENTIONS, and was therefore more than happy to let me into the local post office after hours to open other people’s mail.  And let me tell you – it’s amazing what passes through zip code 19146!  So, now that I’ve hired a staff to sort through the new additions to my jersey collection, I present the top four thank-you notes from 2008.  (You’ll excuse me for not including any of the many letters from financial and automobile industry CEO’s to Congress–that would be super lame.)

4. Bashar al-Assad to Nicolas Sarkozy:

Dear Nick,

Thank you very much for not being a hard-ass.  When you terminated relations with me in January on account of my flagrant intervention in Lebanese politics, I briefly wondered whether you were really the light-and-lively, flamboyant showman that the French media always makes you out to be.  Luckily, I stuck with my guns, knew that you weren’t being serious, and continued to interfere in Beirut until I got exactly what I wanted.  Sure enough, you rewarded me for calling your bluff with an invitation to Paris, and then a rare visit to Damascus.  Thanks for not being a crêpe.  Haha.  Best,

Bash.

3. Joe Biden to Sarah Palin

Dear Gov. Palin,

Thank you very much for distracting the media throughout your ten-week adventure as Republican vice-presidential nominee.  Somehow, your interesting mix of winks, miserable interview performances, and general lack of specificity on policy issues allowed the media to overlook my own embarrassing flubs.  This includes flubs on things I was supposed to know, such as whether Hezbollah was kicked out of Lebanon; as well flubs on things that I wasn’t supposed to mention in the first place.  People like you and me … (abridged: this letter continued, single-spaced, for twelve pages) … And I look forward to the day when you run against my son, Senator Beau.  Merry Christmas,

JB.

2. Mikheil Saakashvili to Vladimir Putin

Dear Vlad,

Thank you very much for invading Georgia – it is probably the only thing in the world that could have made me seem likable.  For one week in August, I was able to get more coverage than the Beijing Olympics, and won more shows of sympathy than Hillary Clinton got after losing the Democratic nomination.  I consider myself truly blessed to have as my adversary a blindly aggressive world leader who has done even more to stifle his domestic opposition than I have.  For all of our differences, I hope we can meet again in the near future – you always make me look ridiculously tall. S lyubOv’yu,

The Saakster.

1. Eliot Spitzer to Rod Blagojevich

Dear Rod,

As I write this, I can only imagine what the New York tabloid headlines would have been had my mother given me your first name.  Haha.  Anyway, thanks for diverting everyone’s attention away from my own indiscretion.  I’m no longer America’s most embarrassing governor – and not just because I resigned in disgrace.  Actually, your attempt to sell Illinois’ open U.S. Senate seat might win me some credibility: when you leave Springfield empty-handed (or in cuffs – kinky!), people might salute me for at least enjoying the fruits of my criminal activitywith my socks on!  But don’t sweat it – if you really need to relax, just call the enclosed number and give them my username, NYClient9.  Best to your Missus,

George Fox.

Read Less

Blago’s Revenge

The Washington Post’s Fix explains the latest:

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s apparent decision to appoint former state attorney general Roland Burris to the Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama further complicates an already difficult situation for state and national Democrats.

Blagojevich has been operating under the cloud of scandal for the past month — since he was arrested following a series of wiretaps that seemed to show he was seeking to sell Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder.

Before Christmas, Blagojevich made clear he had no plans to step down and insisted he was innocent of the corruption charges against him. He had not made any public statement regarding the appointment prior to today’s decision to choose Burris.

While Blagojevich is within his powers as governor to appoint Burris, early signs from Senate Democrats, who have control over who gets seated, are that any appointment by Blagojevich is a non-starter.

“He will not be seated,” predicted one well-connected Democratic source.

Regardless of what Senate Democrats do, Blagojevich has forced the ball into their court by naming Burris.

This was perhaps foreseeable, a result of the Illinios Democratic machine’s unwillingness to risk an election. But some of the blame lies with the President-elect as well. He, after all, could have forcefully urged a special election. Now, the legal challenges and the public embarrassment will keep the story–and the Obama administration’s involvement with it–going for weeks and weeks. Good start, guys.

The Washington Post’s Fix explains the latest:

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s apparent decision to appoint former state attorney general Roland Burris to the Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama further complicates an already difficult situation for state and national Democrats.

Blagojevich has been operating under the cloud of scandal for the past month — since he was arrested following a series of wiretaps that seemed to show he was seeking to sell Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder.

Before Christmas, Blagojevich made clear he had no plans to step down and insisted he was innocent of the corruption charges against him. He had not made any public statement regarding the appointment prior to today’s decision to choose Burris.

While Blagojevich is within his powers as governor to appoint Burris, early signs from Senate Democrats, who have control over who gets seated, are that any appointment by Blagojevich is a non-starter.

“He will not be seated,” predicted one well-connected Democratic source.

Regardless of what Senate Democrats do, Blagojevich has forced the ball into their court by naming Burris.

This was perhaps foreseeable, a result of the Illinios Democratic machine’s unwillingness to risk an election. But some of the blame lies with the President-elect as well. He, after all, could have forcefully urged a special election. Now, the legal challenges and the public embarrassment will keep the story–and the Obama administration’s involvement with it–going for weeks and weeks. Good start, guys.

Read Less

The 21st Century Begins . . . Next Year

The 21st century begins next year, E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes this morning.  The September 11 attacks did not define the new era, because the Bush administration “resolutely forced events into the interpretive boxes fashioned in previous decades.”  Besides, terrorists had no coherent ideas.  Instead, after the Washington Post columnist tells us the United States is under the misapprehension that it is the world’s only superpower, he suggests the new century begins in 2009 because the United States will have a new president.

Did you follow that?  Dionne apparently has trouble making coherent arguments, but I nonetheless suspect his ultimate conclusion is correct.  After all, September 11 did not end the prosperity of the post-Cold War period, and the events of that day did not affect, in a meaningful way, that many individuals around the world.  This year and next, however, appear to be watershed years.  The global downturn promises to touch most everyone’s life and substantially change the geopolitical landscape.

Of course, it is exceedingly difficult to make accurate pronouncements about the historical significance of ongoing events.  Perhaps in fifty years we will be able to conclusively mark the beginning of the current century.  Yet events today do have an end-of-era feel to them.

The assumptions most of us made at the beginning of this year–about the continuation of globalization, the resurgence of India, the rise of the authoritarian states, and the general maintenance of geopolitical order, just to name a few of them–all seem so, well, 20th century.  Almost all of us were guilty of extrapolation a half year ago.  Now, many recognize the possibility of–or even predict-discontinuous change.

The world, as it changes, is always in transition.  Yet at some points in history we pass not only from one day to the next but from one period to another.  We could be approaching one of those moments.  In fact, I think we are.

Change has generally meant progress, and today we live in the best time in history.  Never has humankind created and consumed so much, possessed as much knowledge, or had so much power to accomplish its aims.  If we were confident about the future at the beginning of this year, we had good cause for optimism.  As more than six billion people strived to better their lot, the world looked as if it would continue to get better.

Yet further progress, however probable it once appeared, is not foreordained.  Next year, which looks as if it will be marked by economic failure and its inevitable geopolitical consequences, could start a time more consequential than any of us can imagine at this moment.

The 21st century begins next year, E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes this morning.  The September 11 attacks did not define the new era, because the Bush administration “resolutely forced events into the interpretive boxes fashioned in previous decades.”  Besides, terrorists had no coherent ideas.  Instead, after the Washington Post columnist tells us the United States is under the misapprehension that it is the world’s only superpower, he suggests the new century begins in 2009 because the United States will have a new president.

Did you follow that?  Dionne apparently has trouble making coherent arguments, but I nonetheless suspect his ultimate conclusion is correct.  After all, September 11 did not end the prosperity of the post-Cold War period, and the events of that day did not affect, in a meaningful way, that many individuals around the world.  This year and next, however, appear to be watershed years.  The global downturn promises to touch most everyone’s life and substantially change the geopolitical landscape.

Of course, it is exceedingly difficult to make accurate pronouncements about the historical significance of ongoing events.  Perhaps in fifty years we will be able to conclusively mark the beginning of the current century.  Yet events today do have an end-of-era feel to them.

The assumptions most of us made at the beginning of this year–about the continuation of globalization, the resurgence of India, the rise of the authoritarian states, and the general maintenance of geopolitical order, just to name a few of them–all seem so, well, 20th century.  Almost all of us were guilty of extrapolation a half year ago.  Now, many recognize the possibility of–or even predict-discontinuous change.

The world, as it changes, is always in transition.  Yet at some points in history we pass not only from one day to the next but from one period to another.  We could be approaching one of those moments.  In fact, I think we are.

Change has generally meant progress, and today we live in the best time in history.  Never has humankind created and consumed so much, possessed as much knowledge, or had so much power to accomplish its aims.  If we were confident about the future at the beginning of this year, we had good cause for optimism.  As more than six billion people strived to better their lot, the world looked as if it would continue to get better.

Yet further progress, however probable it once appeared, is not foreordained.  Next year, which looks as if it will be marked by economic failure and its inevitable geopolitical consequences, could start a time more consequential than any of us can imagine at this moment.

Read Less

Specter’s Challenge?

Pat Toomey, President of Club for Growth, pens an impassioned op-ed criticizing the Employee Free Choice Act, which reads in part:

The Employee Free Choice Act actually would take away employees’ choices by essentially forcing them to unionize. Despite the claims of this legislation’s advocates, it is a relatively simple matter to form a union under current law. If there is authentic employee support for unionizing, then organizers need only win a majority of votes in a private balloting process.

The legislation at issue would replace the freedoms protected by fair elections with the intimidating, divisive card-check policy. Workers could be directed to sign authorization forms in public – in front of coworkers and union officials. The opportunities for intimidation and coercion are obvious.

As Americans, we know that the right to a secret ballot is a cornerstone of a democratic society. Any proposal to deny voters a secret ballot in presidential, congressional or local elections would be considered ludicrous. So why should workers voting on their fates in the workplace be denied the same fundamental right?

Once this card-check procedure puts a union in place, mandatory dues would be deducted from workers’ paychecks.

Surely, middle-class families can’t afford to lose more of their hard-earned income against their will.

The law also would invite more of the kind of government overreaching we have seen in Detroit. For instance, it calls for government arbitrators to resolve contracts without votes by workers.

But it is not Toomey’s Club for Growth position that makes this op-ed noteworthy; it is his potential candidacy as a primary challenger to Sen. Arlen Specter. Specter beat Toomey in 2002 in a spirited race, but the threat of a re-match looms large and may be a greater threat to Specter than a general election face-off against Chris Matthews or a lesser-known Democrat.

So why is the Employee Free Choice Act key here? Specter, in the past , has supported “card check” — when there plainly weren’t enough votes to break a filibuster. Now his vote may be critical. But it remains to be seen, with Toomey lurking in the wings, whether he will be so enamored of card check legislation, which is now one of the top issues for conservatives — the very people who will turn out in an off-year primary race.

Political observers know that Specter is a survivor. He may irritate the base from time to time, but his masterful conduct of two Supreme court justice hearings during the Bush years earned him some kudos even from conservative critics. And he’s well aware of a potential challenge. That, frankly, may be a factor in his decision to conduct an exhaustive and probing hearing of Attorney General nominee Eric Holder. But a surefire way for him to stave off a primary challenge would be to demonstrate some deserved skepticism about card check. This shot across the bow by Toomey may test whether that’s what the savvy Specter has in mind.

Pat Toomey, President of Club for Growth, pens an impassioned op-ed criticizing the Employee Free Choice Act, which reads in part:

The Employee Free Choice Act actually would take away employees’ choices by essentially forcing them to unionize. Despite the claims of this legislation’s advocates, it is a relatively simple matter to form a union under current law. If there is authentic employee support for unionizing, then organizers need only win a majority of votes in a private balloting process.

The legislation at issue would replace the freedoms protected by fair elections with the intimidating, divisive card-check policy. Workers could be directed to sign authorization forms in public – in front of coworkers and union officials. The opportunities for intimidation and coercion are obvious.

As Americans, we know that the right to a secret ballot is a cornerstone of a democratic society. Any proposal to deny voters a secret ballot in presidential, congressional or local elections would be considered ludicrous. So why should workers voting on their fates in the workplace be denied the same fundamental right?

Once this card-check procedure puts a union in place, mandatory dues would be deducted from workers’ paychecks.

Surely, middle-class families can’t afford to lose more of their hard-earned income against their will.

The law also would invite more of the kind of government overreaching we have seen in Detroit. For instance, it calls for government arbitrators to resolve contracts without votes by workers.

But it is not Toomey’s Club for Growth position that makes this op-ed noteworthy; it is his potential candidacy as a primary challenger to Sen. Arlen Specter. Specter beat Toomey in 2002 in a spirited race, but the threat of a re-match looms large and may be a greater threat to Specter than a general election face-off against Chris Matthews or a lesser-known Democrat.

So why is the Employee Free Choice Act key here? Specter, in the past , has supported “card check” — when there plainly weren’t enough votes to break a filibuster. Now his vote may be critical. But it remains to be seen, with Toomey lurking in the wings, whether he will be so enamored of card check legislation, which is now one of the top issues for conservatives — the very people who will turn out in an off-year primary race.

Political observers know that Specter is a survivor. He may irritate the base from time to time, but his masterful conduct of two Supreme court justice hearings during the Bush years earned him some kudos even from conservative critics. And he’s well aware of a potential challenge. That, frankly, may be a factor in his decision to conduct an exhaustive and probing hearing of Attorney General nominee Eric Holder. But a surefire way for him to stave off a primary challenge would be to demonstrate some deserved skepticism about card check. This shot across the bow by Toomey may test whether that’s what the savvy Specter has in mind.

Read Less

Pursuing the Peace Process By Other Means

Earlier today, America’s Voices in Israel held a briefing for bloggers, in conjunction with the Israeli Foreign Ministry and  New York Consulate.  The conference call featured Jeremy Issacharoff, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. and Brigadier General in Reserve Relik Shafir of the Israeli Air Force, who spoke from Ashkelon.

They made it clear that Israel’s objective is not the reoccupation of Gaza or the elimination of Hamas, but rather the crippling of the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza and its ability to threaten Israeli citizens, and the establishment of new “rules of the game” (including the elimination of arms smuggling from Iran).  There will be no ceasefire without the complete cessation of firing into Israel, and the “status quo ante is not an option.”  Asked about an “exit strategy,” they said it was Hamas that should be thinking of one.

There was no discussion on the conference call of the “peace process,” but I think it might be useful–particularly for those who think that Israel is currently pursuing a fruitless “military solution”–to view what is happening now in Gaza in terms of long-delayed Phase I of the “Performance-Based Road Map”:  the “sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure.”

That step was supposed to be taken by the Palestinian Authority (which committed itself to the Road Map in 2003 and “recommitted” itself at Annapolis in 2007).  It is something that everyone — the U.S., the UN, the EU, Russia, and the Palestinian Authority — all agreed was the necessary first step.  Given the complete failure of the PA to meet its commitment in Gaza, it is now being done by the IDF.

Earlier today, America’s Voices in Israel held a briefing for bloggers, in conjunction with the Israeli Foreign Ministry and  New York Consulate.  The conference call featured Jeremy Issacharoff, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. and Brigadier General in Reserve Relik Shafir of the Israeli Air Force, who spoke from Ashkelon.

They made it clear that Israel’s objective is not the reoccupation of Gaza or the elimination of Hamas, but rather the crippling of the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza and its ability to threaten Israeli citizens, and the establishment of new “rules of the game” (including the elimination of arms smuggling from Iran).  There will be no ceasefire without the complete cessation of firing into Israel, and the “status quo ante is not an option.”  Asked about an “exit strategy,” they said it was Hamas that should be thinking of one.

There was no discussion on the conference call of the “peace process,” but I think it might be useful–particularly for those who think that Israel is currently pursuing a fruitless “military solution”–to view what is happening now in Gaza in terms of long-delayed Phase I of the “Performance-Based Road Map”:  the “sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure.”

That step was supposed to be taken by the Palestinian Authority (which committed itself to the Road Map in 2003 and “recommitted” itself at Annapolis in 2007).  It is something that everyone — the U.S., the UN, the EU, Russia, and the Palestinian Authority — all agreed was the necessary first step.  Given the complete failure of the PA to meet its commitment in Gaza, it is now being done by the IDF.

Read Less

A Quick Victory

A great deal is at stake in Israel’s current confrontation with Hamas in Gaza.  Beyond the immediate goal of crippling Hamas, Israel must reassert its tactical superiority over Iran’s regional allies, which was questioned following the inconclusive 2006 Lebanon war.  Israel’s show of strength is also beneficial to its indirect talks with Syria: the more decisive Israel’s victory over Hamas, the more compelling peace becomes for Damascus.

For this reason, Israel should not gamble on the ambitious–not to mention improbable–goal of “destroying” Hamas, which will require the execution of a ground invasion.  As Israel knows well, guerrilla wars are unpredictable, and a ground war would give Hamas an opening for success: all that Hamas would have to do to “win” is run out the clock and survive.  Remember: Israel is on a strict timetable – it needs to wrap this war up before its own campaign season hits full-force, and before the Bush administration leaves office.  Israel cannot afford the potential quagmire that a ground invasion might become; nor should it hand Hamas – which presently has no clear strategy – the obvious counter-strategy of guerrilla attrition.

Rather, Israel should move towards asserting a quick victory – immediately.  At the moment, Israel has Hamas cornered: through its air strikes on key Hamas targets, Israel has achieved a peak in its military offensive, and the threat of a ground invasion remains highly credible.  Now would be the perfect time for Israel to recruit pro-western Arab states for pushing Hamas towards relinquishing its rockets; or extending the truce well into the future; or releasing IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit; or some other meaningful concession to which Hamas might agree under the circumstances.

In the short-run, a quick Israeli victory would keep Hamas in power, and therefore do little to create an immediate opening for Israeli-Palestinian peace.  However, by using this peak in its military offensive to push for a more conservative diplomatic resolution, Israel would ensure Hamas’ ultimate political failure.  Indeed, having exposed Hamas’ military weakness and retaliated convincingly against its Qassam rockets, Israel would leave Hamas’ fate in Palestinian hands with elections barely a year away.

In turn, asserting a quick victory might give Israel the best opening for most efficiently catalyzing Hamas’ marginalization – a precondition for peace and stability in the Middle East.

A great deal is at stake in Israel’s current confrontation with Hamas in Gaza.  Beyond the immediate goal of crippling Hamas, Israel must reassert its tactical superiority over Iran’s regional allies, which was questioned following the inconclusive 2006 Lebanon war.  Israel’s show of strength is also beneficial to its indirect talks with Syria: the more decisive Israel’s victory over Hamas, the more compelling peace becomes for Damascus.

For this reason, Israel should not gamble on the ambitious–not to mention improbable–goal of “destroying” Hamas, which will require the execution of a ground invasion.  As Israel knows well, guerrilla wars are unpredictable, and a ground war would give Hamas an opening for success: all that Hamas would have to do to “win” is run out the clock and survive.  Remember: Israel is on a strict timetable – it needs to wrap this war up before its own campaign season hits full-force, and before the Bush administration leaves office.  Israel cannot afford the potential quagmire that a ground invasion might become; nor should it hand Hamas – which presently has no clear strategy – the obvious counter-strategy of guerrilla attrition.

Rather, Israel should move towards asserting a quick victory – immediately.  At the moment, Israel has Hamas cornered: through its air strikes on key Hamas targets, Israel has achieved a peak in its military offensive, and the threat of a ground invasion remains highly credible.  Now would be the perfect time for Israel to recruit pro-western Arab states for pushing Hamas towards relinquishing its rockets; or extending the truce well into the future; or releasing IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit; or some other meaningful concession to which Hamas might agree under the circumstances.

In the short-run, a quick Israeli victory would keep Hamas in power, and therefore do little to create an immediate opening for Israeli-Palestinian peace.  However, by using this peak in its military offensive to push for a more conservative diplomatic resolution, Israel would ensure Hamas’ ultimate political failure.  Indeed, having exposed Hamas’ military weakness and retaliated convincingly against its Qassam rockets, Israel would leave Hamas’ fate in Palestinian hands with elections barely a year away.

In turn, asserting a quick victory might give Israel the best opening for most efficiently catalyzing Hamas’ marginalization – a precondition for peace and stability in the Middle East.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Spot-on advice for the UAW: “Consider how a lower-paying job beats no job at all.”

Is it a “sharp move” for Ken Blackwell to ride to the defense of Chip Saltsman or does it simultaneously encourage the worst paranoid tendencies within the GOP base and highlight the perception that the RNC is “out to lunch”? Jim Geraghty tries his level best to explain the matter to those who seem puzzled that anyone could be offended by the “Barack the Magic Negro” CD.

Charlie Crist, hailing from a state where Republicans still win some elections, explains via Jim Greer why Republicans shouldn’t offend minorities.

But Saltsman keeps digging. Yeah, it’s all the liberal media’s fault. Just like McCain’s campaign manager said. Oh, well, I guess that didn’t work out so well either. (Others don’t think much of this tactic.)

This report seems to think Saltsman got a bump from the incident, but then the reporter cannot find more than a handful of people who came to Saltsman’s defense. Then it is incorrectly stated that Michael Steele offered no comment on the incident. In other words, the usual probing coverage one has come to expect of the MSM.

Some people seem to care an awful lot about the number and types of meetings the RNC is having before selecting its chairman. When your party is obsessed with such trivialities, it’s a good sign that things aren’t going well.

Did Hamas misjudge Israel? It is hard to tell — bringing on the slaughter and suffering of their own people is a tried-and-true tactic.

Bret Stephens sums up: “Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert likes to point out that no Hizballah rockets have fallen on Israeli soil since August 2006 — never mind that Hizballah is both politically and militarily more powerful today than it was before the war. A similar outcome in Gaza would be equally disastrous. This is not a counsel of restraint, of which Israel has shown more than enough through years of provocation. It is merely to point out that no ingenious conceit can disguise the fact that war offers no outcome other than victory or defeat.”

I’m not sure the juxaposition of scenes of the President-elect playing golf and the raging war is a good one for him. Granted, he is not yet President, but it does bring back memories of the Russian invasion of Georgia, when he also was on vacation. And also seemed to be hiding from the media to avoid comment on world events.

Grover Norquist nails the problem (or one of them) with the zillion dollar stimulus plan: “There have been demands by some Democrats that Congress pass the $750 Billion Bailout (it grows by the day) ‘right now’–as soon as the new Congress convenes. This sounds suspiciously like aluminum-siding salesmen that want to you buy now–don’t bother to read the fine print–sign now. It’s a good deal. This Democratic Congress was elected in 2006 swearing to stop the earmark racket. Stringing 1100 earmarks together and calling this money chain a ‘Bailout’ changes nothing.”

This update on Coleman-Franken tussling doesn’t sound like we’re headed for a quick, amicable resolution.

You didn’t think the Bush administration could do more damage in fostering bailout mania? Think again. Another $6B for the car companies.

Sen. Mitch McConnell wants to know where all the stimulus money is going. A good starting point: “We should have a simple test: will the yet-unwritten, reportedly trillion-dollar spending bill really create jobs and grow the economy — or will it simply create more government spending, more bureaucrats and deeper deficits?”

The New York Times eggs on President-elect Obama to push for “card check” legislation (the Orwellian-named Employee Free Choice Act). I’m sure the Republican base would be delighted to have a knock-down-drag-out fight that derails any hope of bipartisan cooperation. Somehow I doubt the Obama administration is going to fall for this, but we’ll see just how indebted the Democratic party is to Big Labor.

Indeed, this suggests the Employee Free Choice Act may be on the back burner for now.

Spot-on advice for the UAW: “Consider how a lower-paying job beats no job at all.”

Is it a “sharp move” for Ken Blackwell to ride to the defense of Chip Saltsman or does it simultaneously encourage the worst paranoid tendencies within the GOP base and highlight the perception that the RNC is “out to lunch”? Jim Geraghty tries his level best to explain the matter to those who seem puzzled that anyone could be offended by the “Barack the Magic Negro” CD.

Charlie Crist, hailing from a state where Republicans still win some elections, explains via Jim Greer why Republicans shouldn’t offend minorities.

But Saltsman keeps digging. Yeah, it’s all the liberal media’s fault. Just like McCain’s campaign manager said. Oh, well, I guess that didn’t work out so well either. (Others don’t think much of this tactic.)

This report seems to think Saltsman got a bump from the incident, but then the reporter cannot find more than a handful of people who came to Saltsman’s defense. Then it is incorrectly stated that Michael Steele offered no comment on the incident. In other words, the usual probing coverage one has come to expect of the MSM.

Some people seem to care an awful lot about the number and types of meetings the RNC is having before selecting its chairman. When your party is obsessed with such trivialities, it’s a good sign that things aren’t going well.

Did Hamas misjudge Israel? It is hard to tell — bringing on the slaughter and suffering of their own people is a tried-and-true tactic.

Bret Stephens sums up: “Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert likes to point out that no Hizballah rockets have fallen on Israeli soil since August 2006 — never mind that Hizballah is both politically and militarily more powerful today than it was before the war. A similar outcome in Gaza would be equally disastrous. This is not a counsel of restraint, of which Israel has shown more than enough through years of provocation. It is merely to point out that no ingenious conceit can disguise the fact that war offers no outcome other than victory or defeat.”

I’m not sure the juxaposition of scenes of the President-elect playing golf and the raging war is a good one for him. Granted, he is not yet President, but it does bring back memories of the Russian invasion of Georgia, when he also was on vacation. And also seemed to be hiding from the media to avoid comment on world events.

Grover Norquist nails the problem (or one of them) with the zillion dollar stimulus plan: “There have been demands by some Democrats that Congress pass the $750 Billion Bailout (it grows by the day) ‘right now’–as soon as the new Congress convenes. This sounds suspiciously like aluminum-siding salesmen that want to you buy now–don’t bother to read the fine print–sign now. It’s a good deal. This Democratic Congress was elected in 2006 swearing to stop the earmark racket. Stringing 1100 earmarks together and calling this money chain a ‘Bailout’ changes nothing.”

This update on Coleman-Franken tussling doesn’t sound like we’re headed for a quick, amicable resolution.

You didn’t think the Bush administration could do more damage in fostering bailout mania? Think again. Another $6B for the car companies.

Sen. Mitch McConnell wants to know where all the stimulus money is going. A good starting point: “We should have a simple test: will the yet-unwritten, reportedly trillion-dollar spending bill really create jobs and grow the economy — or will it simply create more government spending, more bureaucrats and deeper deficits?”

The New York Times eggs on President-elect Obama to push for “card check” legislation (the Orwellian-named Employee Free Choice Act). I’m sure the Republican base would be delighted to have a knock-down-drag-out fight that derails any hope of bipartisan cooperation. Somehow I doubt the Obama administration is going to fall for this, but we’ll see just how indebted the Democratic party is to Big Labor.

Indeed, this suggests the Employee Free Choice Act may be on the back burner for now.

Read Less

Arab Street vs. Arab State

The Washington Post‘s editorialists point today to one of the most interesting phenomenons of the Gaza war — the divide within the Arab world:

Israel’s battle with Hamas in Gaza is producing a schism among Muslim states. Iran and its ally Hizballah in Lebanon have joined Hamas’s Damascus-based leadership in calling for a new intifada, or uprising, against Israel — and also against the governments of Egypt and Jordan, which are accused of silently supporting Israel’s air attacks. Those governments, along with the West Bank Palestinian administration of President Mahmoud Abbas, have issued rote condemnations of Israel. But they have also accused Hamas of triggering the conflict by ending a ceasefire — and they have responded harshly to the Iranian camp, which has “practically declared war on Egypt,” as Cairo’s foreign minister angrily put it yesterday.

Don’t be fooled by this narrative of “moderates” against “extremists.” The real divide is less between organizations and countries than between the “leadership” and the “street.” The governments of some countries (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia) may see the dangers of Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas taking over. But their citizens do not.

Public opinion in Egypt is more likely to side with Hizballah than with President Mubarak. Jordanian citizens are more likely to support Hamas than blame it for causing the war. The 2008 Annual Arab Public Opinion Poll, conducted by Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland, shows clearly that most Egyptians and Jordanians blame the more moderate Palestinian Authority for the “situation in Gaza,” and more of them identify with Hamas than with the more moderate Fatah.

In the 2006 survey, Telhami found that Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah was deemed the most popular foreign leader in both Egypt and Jordan. People in both countries identified Israel and the U.S. as those posing “the biggest threat” to them. Seventy-one percent of Egyptians and 74 percent of Jordanians described their attitudes toward Hizballah after the war as “more positive.” Thirty-two percent of Egyptians supported Hamas; only 8 percent supported Fatah (a majority wanted a unity government).

None of this is new. And the dilemmas it presents to all parties involved are well known. For the next American President it means, plainly put, that supporting “moderate” Arab governments likely means less of a chance to boost America’s image in the Arab street. It also means that Arab governments will eventually not be able to go very far in battling the extremist forces in the region. They cannot constantly defy public opinion without risk ing internal unrest.

Those arguing that Israel‘s actions against Hamas in Gaza only serve Hamas’s cause, elevating its profile and earning it more support in the Arab street, should have the same feeling with respect to Egypt’s war of words against Nasrallah. This is a fight Hizballah is only too happy to have, considering that it is more popular with ordinary Egyptians than their own government. Those hoping for a better Middle East should remember that, in the meantime, the choice is between the devil we know and the one we don’t. In short: either “moderation” (and hypocrisy) or “democracy” (and extremism). If you think that’s an easy choice, think again.

The Washington Post‘s editorialists point today to one of the most interesting phenomenons of the Gaza war — the divide within the Arab world:

Israel’s battle with Hamas in Gaza is producing a schism among Muslim states. Iran and its ally Hizballah in Lebanon have joined Hamas’s Damascus-based leadership in calling for a new intifada, or uprising, against Israel — and also against the governments of Egypt and Jordan, which are accused of silently supporting Israel’s air attacks. Those governments, along with the West Bank Palestinian administration of President Mahmoud Abbas, have issued rote condemnations of Israel. But they have also accused Hamas of triggering the conflict by ending a ceasefire — and they have responded harshly to the Iranian camp, which has “practically declared war on Egypt,” as Cairo’s foreign minister angrily put it yesterday.

Don’t be fooled by this narrative of “moderates” against “extremists.” The real divide is less between organizations and countries than between the “leadership” and the “street.” The governments of some countries (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia) may see the dangers of Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas taking over. But their citizens do not.

Public opinion in Egypt is more likely to side with Hizballah than with President Mubarak. Jordanian citizens are more likely to support Hamas than blame it for causing the war. The 2008 Annual Arab Public Opinion Poll, conducted by Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland, shows clearly that most Egyptians and Jordanians blame the more moderate Palestinian Authority for the “situation in Gaza,” and more of them identify with Hamas than with the more moderate Fatah.

In the 2006 survey, Telhami found that Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah was deemed the most popular foreign leader in both Egypt and Jordan. People in both countries identified Israel and the U.S. as those posing “the biggest threat” to them. Seventy-one percent of Egyptians and 74 percent of Jordanians described their attitudes toward Hizballah after the war as “more positive.” Thirty-two percent of Egyptians supported Hamas; only 8 percent supported Fatah (a majority wanted a unity government).

None of this is new. And the dilemmas it presents to all parties involved are well known. For the next American President it means, plainly put, that supporting “moderate” Arab governments likely means less of a chance to boost America’s image in the Arab street. It also means that Arab governments will eventually not be able to go very far in battling the extremist forces in the region. They cannot constantly defy public opinion without risk ing internal unrest.

Those arguing that Israel‘s actions against Hamas in Gaza only serve Hamas’s cause, elevating its profile and earning it more support in the Arab street, should have the same feeling with respect to Egypt’s war of words against Nasrallah. This is a fight Hizballah is only too happy to have, considering that it is more popular with ordinary Egyptians than their own government. Those hoping for a better Middle East should remember that, in the meantime, the choice is between the devil we know and the one we don’t. In short: either “moderation” (and hypocrisy) or “democracy” (and extremism). If you think that’s an easy choice, think again.

Read Less

What YouTube Doesn’t Want You to See

Yesterday, the IDF did something innovative: it opened a channel on YouTube and posted videos to it that help explain why Israel is fighting Hamas. The site hosted about a dozen videos showing things like Israeli humanitarian aid deliveries to Gaza and airstrikes that prevented terrorists from firing rockets at Israeli civilians.

This was apparently too much for YouTube, which moments ago removed several videos from the IDF’s channel, including the most-watched video, which showed a group of Hamas goons being blown up in an air strike as they loaded Katyusha missiles onto a truck. The point of such footage, as if it needed to be said, is not to revel in violence — it is to show the legitimacy of Israeli self-defense.

The rank double-standard that YouTube has applied to Israel is disturbing. YouTube hosts all manner of similar footage — much of it far more gory than the grainy infrared images posted by the IDF — of U.S. air strikes. Why is YouTube capitulating to those who do not wish for Israel to be able to tell its side of the story?

UPDATE: the IDF just uploaded a new video to its channel, this one of Hamas’ headquarters going out of business. Let’s see how long it lasts. Click here to watch.

Yesterday, the IDF did something innovative: it opened a channel on YouTube and posted videos to it that help explain why Israel is fighting Hamas. The site hosted about a dozen videos showing things like Israeli humanitarian aid deliveries to Gaza and airstrikes that prevented terrorists from firing rockets at Israeli civilians.

This was apparently too much for YouTube, which moments ago removed several videos from the IDF’s channel, including the most-watched video, which showed a group of Hamas goons being blown up in an air strike as they loaded Katyusha missiles onto a truck. The point of such footage, as if it needed to be said, is not to revel in violence — it is to show the legitimacy of Israeli self-defense.

The rank double-standard that YouTube has applied to Israel is disturbing. YouTube hosts all manner of similar footage — much of it far more gory than the grainy infrared images posted by the IDF — of U.S. air strikes. Why is YouTube capitulating to those who do not wish for Israel to be able to tell its side of the story?

UPDATE: the IDF just uploaded a new video to its channel, this one of Hamas’ headquarters going out of business. Let’s see how long it lasts. Click here to watch.

Read Less

The New Meme

A consensus about the Gaza war is rapidly coalescing in enlightened quarters, and it runs as follows: The destruction to which Hamas is being subjected is a threat to regional stability because Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and lovers of Islamic terrorism everywhere, disapprove of it.

The Washington Post editorializes:

If the Lebanon war is any indication, the bloodshed in Gaza — which is being endlessly looped on Arab satellite channels across the region — will strengthen the Iranian camp at the expense of the secular Sunni forces.

The Lebanon war strengthened the Iranian camp not because bloodshed was televised around the region, but because of the war’s ambiguous conclusion. That ambiguity created a propaganda vacuum which Hezbollah and its patrons easily filled with claims of a divine victory. Obviously, if the Gaza war is decisive it will be difficult (although no doubt they will try) for the Iranian camp to declare a similar victory. The lesson is not that the war should be stopped, but that it becomes vital to support the Israeli operation to the point where no such Lebanon-style ambiguity exists.

The New York Times editorializes:

[A ground offensive], or any prolonged military action, would be disastrous for Israel and lead to wider regional instability.

Instead, the Times counsels Arab pressure on Hamas and American pressure on Israel to stop the fighting. Since Hamas has aligned itself with Iran, how much leverage do the Sunni states — which in fact want to see Hamas destroyed — have in this situation? This is an inconvenient question to which the NYT sages offer no assessment. And what message will such diplomatic pressure deliver to the Iranian camp? The takeaway will be that Iranian terrorist clients can always count on being rescued by America after they start wars with Israel.

The Times editors call this “regional stability.” What would be far more stabilizing is if democracies around the world backed Israel’s military operation until Hamas loses either its ability or its will to continue fighting. The Iranian-led resistance bloc would thus learn a lesson whose stabilizing effects would be felt around the region: the free world will support anyone forced to fight Islamic terrorism. Unfortunately, this is fantasy-talk; the editors of the Times and Post are cosmopolitans who do not see conflict in terms of victory and defeat or allies and enemies, and they certainly seem to have abandoned the idea that war can help resolve otherwise intractable problems. Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah, however, have not subscribed to such illusions.

A consensus about the Gaza war is rapidly coalescing in enlightened quarters, and it runs as follows: The destruction to which Hamas is being subjected is a threat to regional stability because Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and lovers of Islamic terrorism everywhere, disapprove of it.

The Washington Post editorializes:

If the Lebanon war is any indication, the bloodshed in Gaza — which is being endlessly looped on Arab satellite channels across the region — will strengthen the Iranian camp at the expense of the secular Sunni forces.

The Lebanon war strengthened the Iranian camp not because bloodshed was televised around the region, but because of the war’s ambiguous conclusion. That ambiguity created a propaganda vacuum which Hezbollah and its patrons easily filled with claims of a divine victory. Obviously, if the Gaza war is decisive it will be difficult (although no doubt they will try) for the Iranian camp to declare a similar victory. The lesson is not that the war should be stopped, but that it becomes vital to support the Israeli operation to the point where no such Lebanon-style ambiguity exists.

The New York Times editorializes:

[A ground offensive], or any prolonged military action, would be disastrous for Israel and lead to wider regional instability.

Instead, the Times counsels Arab pressure on Hamas and American pressure on Israel to stop the fighting. Since Hamas has aligned itself with Iran, how much leverage do the Sunni states — which in fact want to see Hamas destroyed — have in this situation? This is an inconvenient question to which the NYT sages offer no assessment. And what message will such diplomatic pressure deliver to the Iranian camp? The takeaway will be that Iranian terrorist clients can always count on being rescued by America after they start wars with Israel.

The Times editors call this “regional stability.” What would be far more stabilizing is if democracies around the world backed Israel’s military operation until Hamas loses either its ability or its will to continue fighting. The Iranian-led resistance bloc would thus learn a lesson whose stabilizing effects would be felt around the region: the free world will support anyone forced to fight Islamic terrorism. Unfortunately, this is fantasy-talk; the editors of the Times and Post are cosmopolitans who do not see conflict in terms of victory and defeat or allies and enemies, and they certainly seem to have abandoned the idea that war can help resolve otherwise intractable problems. Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah, however, have not subscribed to such illusions.

Read Less

Doing Them No Favors

Logan Robinson details the shackles imposed by the UAW’s collective bargaining agreement–“a small telephone book”–on the Big Three and argues:

It is a good thing that Congress and the Bush administration wish to save the domestic auto industry, because without help from Washington the industry isn’t capable of saving itself. It isn’t capable of dealing with the legal impediments that have grown up around it, like franchise and CAFE laws, and it’s not capable of dealing effectively with the UAW.

The Bush administration’s bailout listed as “additional targets” that work rules, as well as wages, become competitive with the transplants by Dec. 31, 2009. In reaction, Mr. Gettlefinger said that the UAW has already made “substantial sacrifices” and “will work with the Obama administration and the new Congress to ensure that these unfair conditions are removed.” As an elected official, he cannot say otherwise. If he did, his members would quickly find someone more radical to lead them.

As the Obama administration takes the helm, the key political question is whether the Democratic Party, which has so benefited from union support, will have the courage to push the UAW into a more reasonable relationship with the Detroit Three. Namely, a relationship in which employee relations and entitlements approximate those found in the “financially viable” sector of the U.S. automotive industry — i.e., the foreign transplants. If the Obama administration does not force the UAW to make further concessions, it will not be able to save the Detroit Three, no matter how many green cars they roll off the assembly line.

But this assessment of the Bush administration’s role in “saving” the auto industry seems to ignore reality. The moment at which the Big Three could have dealt effectively with the UAW was when the companies were on the verge of bankruptcy. Then, the companies and the Bush administration could have either insisted on stringent wage and benefit cuts (as Sen. Bob Corker suggested). Or, alternatively, they could have set up a pre-packaged bankruptcy whereby a judge would do the dirty work for them.

It seems inconceivable that the Obama administration, which owes so much to Big Labor, would be tougher on the UAW than the Bush administration, which had nothing to lose (other than some quixotic view of its own legacy) by holding firm. The Bush administration did the car companies and its employees (not to mention the taxpayers) no favors by kicking the can down the road. Indeed, they made it that much harder for a Democratic administration to exact needed reform from its Big Labor sponsors. After all, if George W. Bush helped them, why wouldn’t Barack Obama?

The Bush administration blew its opportunity to get a handle on the labor costs and restrictions that have helped to cripple the domestic car industry. The car companies will now likely sink, under the continued weight of their union obligations. But not before billions more of the taxpayers’ money are wasted.

Logan Robinson details the shackles imposed by the UAW’s collective bargaining agreement–“a small telephone book”–on the Big Three and argues:

It is a good thing that Congress and the Bush administration wish to save the domestic auto industry, because without help from Washington the industry isn’t capable of saving itself. It isn’t capable of dealing with the legal impediments that have grown up around it, like franchise and CAFE laws, and it’s not capable of dealing effectively with the UAW.

The Bush administration’s bailout listed as “additional targets” that work rules, as well as wages, become competitive with the transplants by Dec. 31, 2009. In reaction, Mr. Gettlefinger said that the UAW has already made “substantial sacrifices” and “will work with the Obama administration and the new Congress to ensure that these unfair conditions are removed.” As an elected official, he cannot say otherwise. If he did, his members would quickly find someone more radical to lead them.

As the Obama administration takes the helm, the key political question is whether the Democratic Party, which has so benefited from union support, will have the courage to push the UAW into a more reasonable relationship with the Detroit Three. Namely, a relationship in which employee relations and entitlements approximate those found in the “financially viable” sector of the U.S. automotive industry — i.e., the foreign transplants. If the Obama administration does not force the UAW to make further concessions, it will not be able to save the Detroit Three, no matter how many green cars they roll off the assembly line.

But this assessment of the Bush administration’s role in “saving” the auto industry seems to ignore reality. The moment at which the Big Three could have dealt effectively with the UAW was when the companies were on the verge of bankruptcy. Then, the companies and the Bush administration could have either insisted on stringent wage and benefit cuts (as Sen. Bob Corker suggested). Or, alternatively, they could have set up a pre-packaged bankruptcy whereby a judge would do the dirty work for them.

It seems inconceivable that the Obama administration, which owes so much to Big Labor, would be tougher on the UAW than the Bush administration, which had nothing to lose (other than some quixotic view of its own legacy) by holding firm. The Bush administration did the car companies and its employees (not to mention the taxpayers) no favors by kicking the can down the road. Indeed, they made it that much harder for a Democratic administration to exact needed reform from its Big Labor sponsors. After all, if George W. Bush helped them, why wouldn’t Barack Obama?

The Bush administration blew its opportunity to get a handle on the labor costs and restrictions that have helped to cripple the domestic car industry. The car companies will now likely sink, under the continued weight of their union obligations. But not before billions more of the taxpayers’ money are wasted.

Read Less

How Long?

As it does during every war between Israel and her enemies, the media intones soberly that Israel must be “careful.” If Israel carries on too long, we are told,  it will destroy the chance for peace. No, really. The Washington Post explains:

Israel was offering upbeat assessments of its air offensive yesterday even while warning that it could continue for some time and possibly expand to ground operations. Yet, as in Lebanon, no decisive military victory is likely: Israel will not be able to topple Hamas unless it fully reoccupies Gaza, and it will probably not be able even to stop the rocket attacks on its cities without some kind of political settlement. For that, Israel will need the mediation of Egypt, Saudi Arabia or other Sunni states. Israel must be careful not to allow its military campaign to undermine its own diplomatic end game — or to hand another political victory to an Iranian regime that remains a far greater threat to Israel than Hamas is.

The New York Times echoes this refrain:

Israel must defend itself. And Hamas must bear responsibility for ending a six-month cease-fire this month with a barrage of rocket attacks into Israeli territory. Still we fear that Israel’s response — devastating airstrikes that represent the largest military operation in Gaza since 1967 — is unlikely to weaken the militant Palestinian group substantially or move things any closer to what all Israelis and all Palestinians need: a durable peace agreement and a two-state solution.

This Catch-22 is a familiar one. It goes like this: Israel can protect itself. But its opponents only win if the war goes on. So the war must stop. Then peace has a chance.

This is pure sophistry, of course. Peace is not possible so long as Hamas seeks Israel’s destruction and violates its sovereignty on a daily basis. The Post and Times have it exactly backwards. Israel can protect itself. But its opponents only win if Israel stops too soon. So the war must go on. Then peace will have a chance.

This hysteria that Israel might “ruin” the opportunity for a “lasting peace” is nothing new. Martin Kramer reminds us of George H.W. Bush’s intervention in 1992, when Israel expelled 415 Hamas activists from the West Bank and Gaza. Unlike the U.S. liberal media, Kramer is not confused in the least:

Time and again, Hamas has been saved by the West’s (uneven) application of its principles, only to terrorize another day. It happened again during the George W. Bush administration which, in the name of the vaunted ideals of democracy, allowed Hamas to participate in Palestinian legislative elections—without requiring it to dismantle its terrorist apparatus or accept Israel. Hamas then turned its unexpected electoral victory into a coup in Gaza, acquiring a territorial foothold. Its leaders, who once stood in the freezing rain on a hill in Lebanon, have become rulers of an Islamist principality, where firing indiscriminately into Israel is a sacred ritual that affirms the Palestinian so-called “right of resistance.”

A lot has changed since 1992, and this Bush administration, having waged its own “war on terror,” seems to understand the obvious: that this is the last chance to reduce Hamas to its true proportions, lest the “peace process” finally become the lost cause it’s often appeared to be. But will the United States hold the line alone? .   .   .The West is forming a line to throw yet another life preserver to a terrorist gang that has become a terrorist entity, and that needs just a little more indulgence to become a terrorist state.

Twice, presidents named Bush have done Hamas big favors. These favors were inadvertent, but they were game-changers. It’s time for a President Bush to do Israel a favor, and let it shove Hamas up against the wall, or right through the wall, depending on what’s still feasible. No doubt President Bush would have preferred to leave office with a tidy “peace process,” good to go. But who couldn’t hear the Hamas bomb ticking in the corner? Better Israel defuse it now, than have it go off under Barack Obama just when he’s trying to defuse an even bigger bomb-making operation—in Iran.

We’ll see just how long the West supports the “good fight” in Gaza.

As it does during every war between Israel and her enemies, the media intones soberly that Israel must be “careful.” If Israel carries on too long, we are told,  it will destroy the chance for peace. No, really. The Washington Post explains:

Israel was offering upbeat assessments of its air offensive yesterday even while warning that it could continue for some time and possibly expand to ground operations. Yet, as in Lebanon, no decisive military victory is likely: Israel will not be able to topple Hamas unless it fully reoccupies Gaza, and it will probably not be able even to stop the rocket attacks on its cities without some kind of political settlement. For that, Israel will need the mediation of Egypt, Saudi Arabia or other Sunni states. Israel must be careful not to allow its military campaign to undermine its own diplomatic end game — or to hand another political victory to an Iranian regime that remains a far greater threat to Israel than Hamas is.

The New York Times echoes this refrain:

Israel must defend itself. And Hamas must bear responsibility for ending a six-month cease-fire this month with a barrage of rocket attacks into Israeli territory. Still we fear that Israel’s response — devastating airstrikes that represent the largest military operation in Gaza since 1967 — is unlikely to weaken the militant Palestinian group substantially or move things any closer to what all Israelis and all Palestinians need: a durable peace agreement and a two-state solution.

This Catch-22 is a familiar one. It goes like this: Israel can protect itself. But its opponents only win if the war goes on. So the war must stop. Then peace has a chance.

This is pure sophistry, of course. Peace is not possible so long as Hamas seeks Israel’s destruction and violates its sovereignty on a daily basis. The Post and Times have it exactly backwards. Israel can protect itself. But its opponents only win if Israel stops too soon. So the war must go on. Then peace will have a chance.

This hysteria that Israel might “ruin” the opportunity for a “lasting peace” is nothing new. Martin Kramer reminds us of George H.W. Bush’s intervention in 1992, when Israel expelled 415 Hamas activists from the West Bank and Gaza. Unlike the U.S. liberal media, Kramer is not confused in the least:

Time and again, Hamas has been saved by the West’s (uneven) application of its principles, only to terrorize another day. It happened again during the George W. Bush administration which, in the name of the vaunted ideals of democracy, allowed Hamas to participate in Palestinian legislative elections—without requiring it to dismantle its terrorist apparatus or accept Israel. Hamas then turned its unexpected electoral victory into a coup in Gaza, acquiring a territorial foothold. Its leaders, who once stood in the freezing rain on a hill in Lebanon, have become rulers of an Islamist principality, where firing indiscriminately into Israel is a sacred ritual that affirms the Palestinian so-called “right of resistance.”

A lot has changed since 1992, and this Bush administration, having waged its own “war on terror,” seems to understand the obvious: that this is the last chance to reduce Hamas to its true proportions, lest the “peace process” finally become the lost cause it’s often appeared to be. But will the United States hold the line alone? .   .   .The West is forming a line to throw yet another life preserver to a terrorist gang that has become a terrorist entity, and that needs just a little more indulgence to become a terrorist state.

Twice, presidents named Bush have done Hamas big favors. These favors were inadvertent, but they were game-changers. It’s time for a President Bush to do Israel a favor, and let it shove Hamas up against the wall, or right through the wall, depending on what’s still feasible. No doubt President Bush would have preferred to leave office with a tidy “peace process,” good to go. But who couldn’t hear the Hamas bomb ticking in the corner? Better Israel defuse it now, than have it go off under Barack Obama just when he’s trying to defuse an even bigger bomb-making operation—in Iran.

We’ll see just how long the West supports the “good fight” in Gaza.

Read Less

Propaganda from the Washington Post

The long news story is headlined “Israel Rejects Truce, Presses on With Gaza Strikes.” When I saw it, I thought that overnight Hamas had agreed to a cease-fire that Israel turned down.

But nothing of the sort happened; no truce has been offered by anyone involved, least of all Hamas, and there is nothing in the story that even begins to substantiate the claim made in the headline. The headline is simply fabricated from whole cloth, a piece of naked propaganda designed to portray Israel as an unreasonable aggressor.

The long news story is headlined “Israel Rejects Truce, Presses on With Gaza Strikes.” When I saw it, I thought that overnight Hamas had agreed to a cease-fire that Israel turned down.

But nothing of the sort happened; no truce has been offered by anyone involved, least of all Hamas, and there is nothing in the story that even begins to substantiate the claim made in the headline. The headline is simply fabricated from whole cloth, a piece of naked propaganda designed to portray Israel as an unreasonable aggressor.

Read Less




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

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

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

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

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