Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 2, 2009

Commentary of the Day

Adam, on Noah Pollak:

The military campaign as a whole to the extent that it is conducted effectively, will greatly reduce the number of people existing right now who wish to and are capable of harming Israel. On its own terms, that’s all it can accomplish, and that’s enough. Whether it makes a few people angry in Pakistan is an incalculable-unless, for reasons of your own, you wish to give those who can rent a mob, buy colorful anti-Israel banners, and get themselves on CNN veto power over Israeli policies. On the more “long term” level, an aggressive, no-holds barred approach to terrorists sets a very important precedent for how we will deal with the next group-if the new terrorist group knows that utter destruction awaits it upon its first acts of violence, I believe it will think twice. And, again, if I’m wrong, if we do destroy it, who cares?

Fatah has been destroyed? That’s news to me-has there been some report of that since this morning? Last i heard they were ruling the West Bank and helping the Israelis target Hamas. Anyway, once Hamas is utterly destroyed physically, or some version of Hamas offers Israel an unconditional surrender, I am open to all kinds of projects for civil reconstruction in Gaza-and I’m sure that so will the vast majority of Israelis. As long as Hamas is in power, such plans will simply strengthen them. Even on your own terms, though, “the illusion that they are strong” must be part of Hamas’ power, so doesn’t that illusion need to be shattered?

Adam, on Noah Pollak:

The military campaign as a whole to the extent that it is conducted effectively, will greatly reduce the number of people existing right now who wish to and are capable of harming Israel. On its own terms, that’s all it can accomplish, and that’s enough. Whether it makes a few people angry in Pakistan is an incalculable-unless, for reasons of your own, you wish to give those who can rent a mob, buy colorful anti-Israel banners, and get themselves on CNN veto power over Israeli policies. On the more “long term” level, an aggressive, no-holds barred approach to terrorists sets a very important precedent for how we will deal with the next group-if the new terrorist group knows that utter destruction awaits it upon its first acts of violence, I believe it will think twice. And, again, if I’m wrong, if we do destroy it, who cares?

Fatah has been destroyed? That’s news to me-has there been some report of that since this morning? Last i heard they were ruling the West Bank and helping the Israelis target Hamas. Anyway, once Hamas is utterly destroyed physically, or some version of Hamas offers Israel an unconditional surrender, I am open to all kinds of projects for civil reconstruction in Gaza-and I’m sure that so will the vast majority of Israelis. As long as Hamas is in power, such plans will simply strengthen them. Even on your own terms, though, “the illusion that they are strong” must be part of Hamas’ power, so doesn’t that illusion need to be shattered?

Read Less

Some Middle

On CNN, Rick Sanchez just read an email from a viewer who called Israel a terrorist state. Sanchez noted that the network receives angry commentary supporting both sides of the Israel-Hamas conflict, but that “We’ll continue to report it right down the middle.”

As if reporting evenhandedly on a war between a democracy and a terrorist group marks the pinnacle of unbiased journalism.

On CNN, Rick Sanchez just read an email from a viewer who called Israel a terrorist state. Sanchez noted that the network receives angry commentary supporting both sides of the Israel-Hamas conflict, but that “We’ll continue to report it right down the middle.”

As if reporting evenhandedly on a war between a democracy and a terrorist group marks the pinnacle of unbiased journalism.

Read Less

Americans Split on Gaza

Rasmussen polled Americans on the Gaza War and found this:

Forty-four percent (44%) say Israel should have taken military action against the Palestinians, but 41% say it should have tried to find a diplomatic solution to the problems there, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifteen percent (15%) are undecided.

This striking split might be explained in terms of two factors. First: for America, this is the era of diplomacy. Obama has successfully convinced Americans that the time for talking has arrived and the age of aggression is over. The poll shows the results of this new American ethos as applied to the realities of the Middle East. This makes even more sense when you look at the division between Democrats and Republicans regarding the war:

Sixty-two percent (62%) of Republicans back Israel’s decision to take military action against the Palestinians, but only half as many Democrats (31%) agree. A majority of Democrats (55%) say Israel should have tried to find a diplomatic solution first, a view shared by just 27% of Republicans.

That Republicans are generally more supportive of Israel is not new. But these numbers reflect exactly what Israel was worried about before the American election: that the new Democratic majority will generally find it hard to sympathize with the use of force. (Barack Obama may be much less naïve about these things than are his supporters.)

The second factor is the failure of Israel’s leaders. Those who follow regional events on a daily basis know quite well that Israel was trying hard to avoid this operation, and was negotiating a “diplomatic” solution for the crisis for a very long time (many believe it was too long). The problem is that Americans are evidently unaware of these efforts. Israeli leadership has not been sufficiently tenacious about making their attempts known to the rest of the world (to be fair: it’s much harder convincing the media to report about diplomatic efforts to avoid war, than it is to get them to report about actual war).

Rasmussen also found this:

Fifty-five percent (55%) of adults, however, believe the Palestinians are to blame for the current situation in Gaza, while 13% point the finger at the Israelis. Nearly one-third (32%) aren’t sure… Seventy-three percent (73%) of Republicans blame the Palestinians, as opposed to 47% of Democrats.

This is no surprise when “75% of Republicans say Israel is an ally of the United States” and “just 55% of Democrats agree”. This is a huge challenge for Israel in the Obama years – but also a challenge for the pro-Israel Democratic camp. If they would like to have the ability to argue persuasively that Democrats are no less supportive of Israel than Republicans – the way they did last year – they need to work on these numbers.

Rasmussen polled Americans on the Gaza War and found this:

Forty-four percent (44%) say Israel should have taken military action against the Palestinians, but 41% say it should have tried to find a diplomatic solution to the problems there, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifteen percent (15%) are undecided.

This striking split might be explained in terms of two factors. First: for America, this is the era of diplomacy. Obama has successfully convinced Americans that the time for talking has arrived and the age of aggression is over. The poll shows the results of this new American ethos as applied to the realities of the Middle East. This makes even more sense when you look at the division between Democrats and Republicans regarding the war:

Sixty-two percent (62%) of Republicans back Israel’s decision to take military action against the Palestinians, but only half as many Democrats (31%) agree. A majority of Democrats (55%) say Israel should have tried to find a diplomatic solution first, a view shared by just 27% of Republicans.

That Republicans are generally more supportive of Israel is not new. But these numbers reflect exactly what Israel was worried about before the American election: that the new Democratic majority will generally find it hard to sympathize with the use of force. (Barack Obama may be much less naïve about these things than are his supporters.)

The second factor is the failure of Israel’s leaders. Those who follow regional events on a daily basis know quite well that Israel was trying hard to avoid this operation, and was negotiating a “diplomatic” solution for the crisis for a very long time (many believe it was too long). The problem is that Americans are evidently unaware of these efforts. Israeli leadership has not been sufficiently tenacious about making their attempts known to the rest of the world (to be fair: it’s much harder convincing the media to report about diplomatic efforts to avoid war, than it is to get them to report about actual war).

Rasmussen also found this:

Fifty-five percent (55%) of adults, however, believe the Palestinians are to blame for the current situation in Gaza, while 13% point the finger at the Israelis. Nearly one-third (32%) aren’t sure… Seventy-three percent (73%) of Republicans blame the Palestinians, as opposed to 47% of Democrats.

This is no surprise when “75% of Republicans say Israel is an ally of the United States” and “just 55% of Democrats agree”. This is a huge challenge for Israel in the Obama years – but also a challenge for the pro-Israel Democratic camp. If they would like to have the ability to argue persuasively that Democrats are no less supportive of Israel than Republicans – the way they did last year – they need to work on these numbers.

Read Less

Falling Out of Favor

Kimberley Strassel sees card check legislation getting pushed aside, primarily because Democrats are getting cold feet. She writes:

Paradoxically, it’s Mr. Reid’s bigger majority that is now hurting him. In 2007, he got every Democrat (save South Dakota’s Tim Johnson, who was out sick) to vote for cloture. But it was an easy vote. Democrats like Mr. Pryor knew the GOP held the filibuster, and that Mr. Bush stood ready with a veto. Now that Mr. Reid has 58 seats, red-state Democrats in particular are worried they might actually have to pass this turkey, infuriating voters and businesses back home.

Mr. Pryor isn’t alone. Fellow Arkansas Democrat Blanche Lincoln voted for cloture in 2007 but is now messaging Mr. Reid that she’s not eager for a repeat. She recently said she doesn’t think “there is a need for this legislation right now,” that the country has bigger problems. What she didn’t mention is that she is also up for re-election next year, and that one potential GOP challenger, Tim Griffin, is already vowing to make card check an issue. South Dakota’s Tim Johnson, Nebraska’s Ben Nelson and others face similar pressure. And it seems unlikely new Senate arrivals such as Colorado’s Mark Udall are eager to make card check an opening vote, especially with visions of United Auto Worker bailouts fresh in voter minds.

Republican “moderates” aren’t eager for card check either. If this were a minimum-wage vote, Maine’s Susan Collins, for example, would be lining up. But polls show more than 80% of Americans disagree with eliminating union ballots. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has bolstered opposition by turning card check into a litmus test of Mr. Obama’s promise to work with the other side. Even Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter, the lone GOP vote for card check in 2007, is backpedaling, worried about a 2010 primary challenge.

It is not just that the prospect of card check legislation’s passage has ignited business groups, alerted conservative media, and given Senators (like Arlen Specter) in unsafe seats second-thoughts about taking away secret ballot union elections. Part of the problem now for proponents of card check is that Democrats are not necessarily thrilled to be closely tied to Big Labor. Big Labor has been in the headlines lately — being intransigent on the car bailout and caught up in multiple scandals. It is understandable that Democrats wouldn’t want to cozy up to their newly notorious allies.

It would be one thing if card check were wildly popular with actual voters. But the reverse is true. So why risk a primary challenge and incur negative publicity when voters aren’t going to like the result anyway?

At first blush, card check’s demise might seem like a tremendous victory for Republicans. It’s not every day a defeated party with declining numbers in Congress beats back the number one agenda item of an interest group that spent hundreds of millions of dollars to elect their opponents. But it would also be a very good development for Democrats.

Democrats this year will be struggling mightily to steady the economy and silence accusations that they are just as beholden to special interest groups as are Republicans. Expanding unionization and instituting a whole new scheme of mandatory arbitration on American businesses isn’t going to make the former any easier. And delivering an unpopular legislative trophy to Big Labor won’t do much for the latter. What better way to make the case for their own stewardship of the economy, and to help forge a broader majority, than  to sidestep this a huge pothole?

Kimberley Strassel sees card check legislation getting pushed aside, primarily because Democrats are getting cold feet. She writes:

Paradoxically, it’s Mr. Reid’s bigger majority that is now hurting him. In 2007, he got every Democrat (save South Dakota’s Tim Johnson, who was out sick) to vote for cloture. But it was an easy vote. Democrats like Mr. Pryor knew the GOP held the filibuster, and that Mr. Bush stood ready with a veto. Now that Mr. Reid has 58 seats, red-state Democrats in particular are worried they might actually have to pass this turkey, infuriating voters and businesses back home.

Mr. Pryor isn’t alone. Fellow Arkansas Democrat Blanche Lincoln voted for cloture in 2007 but is now messaging Mr. Reid that she’s not eager for a repeat. She recently said she doesn’t think “there is a need for this legislation right now,” that the country has bigger problems. What she didn’t mention is that she is also up for re-election next year, and that one potential GOP challenger, Tim Griffin, is already vowing to make card check an issue. South Dakota’s Tim Johnson, Nebraska’s Ben Nelson and others face similar pressure. And it seems unlikely new Senate arrivals such as Colorado’s Mark Udall are eager to make card check an opening vote, especially with visions of United Auto Worker bailouts fresh in voter minds.

Republican “moderates” aren’t eager for card check either. If this were a minimum-wage vote, Maine’s Susan Collins, for example, would be lining up. But polls show more than 80% of Americans disagree with eliminating union ballots. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has bolstered opposition by turning card check into a litmus test of Mr. Obama’s promise to work with the other side. Even Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter, the lone GOP vote for card check in 2007, is backpedaling, worried about a 2010 primary challenge.

It is not just that the prospect of card check legislation’s passage has ignited business groups, alerted conservative media, and given Senators (like Arlen Specter) in unsafe seats second-thoughts about taking away secret ballot union elections. Part of the problem now for proponents of card check is that Democrats are not necessarily thrilled to be closely tied to Big Labor. Big Labor has been in the headlines lately — being intransigent on the car bailout and caught up in multiple scandals. It is understandable that Democrats wouldn’t want to cozy up to their newly notorious allies.

It would be one thing if card check were wildly popular with actual voters. But the reverse is true. So why risk a primary challenge and incur negative publicity when voters aren’t going to like the result anyway?

At first blush, card check’s demise might seem like a tremendous victory for Republicans. It’s not every day a defeated party with declining numbers in Congress beats back the number one agenda item of an interest group that spent hundreds of millions of dollars to elect their opponents. But it would also be a very good development for Democrats.

Democrats this year will be struggling mightily to steady the economy and silence accusations that they are just as beholden to special interest groups as are Republicans. Expanding unionization and instituting a whole new scheme of mandatory arbitration on American businesses isn’t going to make the former any easier. And delivering an unpopular legislative trophy to Big Labor won’t do much for the latter. What better way to make the case for their own stewardship of the economy, and to help forge a broader majority, than  to sidestep this a huge pothole?

Read Less

50 Years of Communism in Cuba

Yesterday, Havana celebrated the 50th anniversary of the communist revolution in subdued fashion.  President Raul Castro, who formally took power last February, spoke from the same balcony where brother Fidel marked victory over Batista on January 1, 1959.  Last year was especially tough on Cuba, which was struck by disasters both natural – three hurricanes – and manmade – its government.

True, Fidel Castro brought a measure of equality to the country and important advances in education and healthcare, yet he imprisoned and oppressed his fellow citizens and then impoverished them.  After a half century, the record of the Cuban regime is one of failure.  The best measure of society is that so many Cubans have left or want to leave.  Leninist politics and Marxist economics are to blame.

Of course, the Castros, first Fidel and now Raul, blame the United States and especially the American embargo, which they say has had a $92 billion impact on the island in the 46 years it has been in place.  The embargo is, in one sense, hard to justify.  After all, we embrace governments posing far greater threats to the international community – China and Russia, for example – or ones that are substantially more repressive – Saudi Arabia immediately comes to mind.  Moreover, the embargo is harsh enough to create real sympathy for the Castro brothers but is too weak to kill off their regime.  When George W. Bush leaves office in a few weeks, the Castros will have outlasted ten American presidents.

The election of Barack Obama has given hope to many that a fresh approach will lead to better relations with the Havana regime.  During the primary campaign he famously promised to talk to Cuba’s government unconditionally, and it appears he will lift some family-travel and cash-remittance restrictions on Cuba.

The problem, however, is that it is unlikely that Raul will take substantive steps to reform either the economy or the politics of the island.  To date, he has only been willing to remove some of the visible prohibitions that have irked Cubans, such as the ban on staying in tourist hotels and owning cell phones, and implement half-hearted land measures.  Whatever Obama does – short of toughening the embargo so that it becomes airtight – will not substantially change the behavior of the regime because its leaders remain unrepentant.

So until both Castros are gone, the best thing we can do is take our cue from Carlos Gutierrez.  “To suggest unconditional dialogue with the Castro brothers would only signal that the conditions in Cuba are acceptable,” the Commerce Secretary, a Cuban-American, wrote this week in the Washington Times.  “If the United States does not continue to stand for the ideals of freedom and human rights and against the many guises of tyranny and oppression, who will?”

Yesterday, Havana celebrated the 50th anniversary of the communist revolution in subdued fashion.  President Raul Castro, who formally took power last February, spoke from the same balcony where brother Fidel marked victory over Batista on January 1, 1959.  Last year was especially tough on Cuba, which was struck by disasters both natural – three hurricanes – and manmade – its government.

True, Fidel Castro brought a measure of equality to the country and important advances in education and healthcare, yet he imprisoned and oppressed his fellow citizens and then impoverished them.  After a half century, the record of the Cuban regime is one of failure.  The best measure of society is that so many Cubans have left or want to leave.  Leninist politics and Marxist economics are to blame.

Of course, the Castros, first Fidel and now Raul, blame the United States and especially the American embargo, which they say has had a $92 billion impact on the island in the 46 years it has been in place.  The embargo is, in one sense, hard to justify.  After all, we embrace governments posing far greater threats to the international community – China and Russia, for example – or ones that are substantially more repressive – Saudi Arabia immediately comes to mind.  Moreover, the embargo is harsh enough to create real sympathy for the Castro brothers but is too weak to kill off their regime.  When George W. Bush leaves office in a few weeks, the Castros will have outlasted ten American presidents.

The election of Barack Obama has given hope to many that a fresh approach will lead to better relations with the Havana regime.  During the primary campaign he famously promised to talk to Cuba’s government unconditionally, and it appears he will lift some family-travel and cash-remittance restrictions on Cuba.

The problem, however, is that it is unlikely that Raul will take substantive steps to reform either the economy or the politics of the island.  To date, he has only been willing to remove some of the visible prohibitions that have irked Cubans, such as the ban on staying in tourist hotels and owning cell phones, and implement half-hearted land measures.  Whatever Obama does – short of toughening the embargo so that it becomes airtight – will not substantially change the behavior of the regime because its leaders remain unrepentant.

So until both Castros are gone, the best thing we can do is take our cue from Carlos Gutierrez.  “To suggest unconditional dialogue with the Castro brothers would only signal that the conditions in Cuba are acceptable,” the Commerce Secretary, a Cuban-American, wrote this week in the Washington Times.  “If the United States does not continue to stand for the ideals of freedom and human rights and against the many guises of tyranny and oppression, who will?”

Read Less

Re: What is a “Sustainable and Durable” Ceasefire?

Rick, it’s not a good sign when the State Department adopts environmentalist jargon to address military conflicts. And today Condoleezza Rice virtually repeated the 2006 comments to which you referred. After meeting with the President, she told reporters, “It is obvious that that cease-fire should take place as soon as possible, but we need a cease-fire that is durable and sustainable.”

The one she’s talking about now seems recycled to me. The cease-fire ploy comes up every time Israel displays the audacity to fight the terrorists ranged along its borders. The problem is that aspiring peacemakers are stretching diplomatic language beyond its limits. Cease-fires are not durable and sustainable; treaties are. Cease-fires are stopgap measures. It’s not hard to see the same mixture of grandiosity and silliness in the Secretary of State’s plan to secure Israel through the use of a diplomatic band-aid that we see in Al Gore’s plan to save the future of mankind through the use of “eco-friendly” light bulbs. There is a way of talking about solutions to a problem that keeps you from having to find solutions to that problem. As you pointed out, a hasty cease-fire would be bad for Israel. But it would be great for Condoleezza Rice.

There’s a beautiful bit of hypocrisy in this AP story. Underneath the headline reading, “Rice vows hard work on arranging Gaza cease-fire,” we read:

Questioned by a reporter, Rice said she had no plans to visit the Middle East to broker peace in the waning days of the Bush administration.

“It’s just as easy for her to keep on working the phones from here in Washington rather than being in the region right now,” [White House spokesman Gordon] Johndroe said later.

We can forget about looking to Washington for answers over the next few weeks. The administration is currently engaged in a durable and sustainable vacation.

Rick, it’s not a good sign when the State Department adopts environmentalist jargon to address military conflicts. And today Condoleezza Rice virtually repeated the 2006 comments to which you referred. After meeting with the President, she told reporters, “It is obvious that that cease-fire should take place as soon as possible, but we need a cease-fire that is durable and sustainable.”

The one she’s talking about now seems recycled to me. The cease-fire ploy comes up every time Israel displays the audacity to fight the terrorists ranged along its borders. The problem is that aspiring peacemakers are stretching diplomatic language beyond its limits. Cease-fires are not durable and sustainable; treaties are. Cease-fires are stopgap measures. It’s not hard to see the same mixture of grandiosity and silliness in the Secretary of State’s plan to secure Israel through the use of a diplomatic band-aid that we see in Al Gore’s plan to save the future of mankind through the use of “eco-friendly” light bulbs. There is a way of talking about solutions to a problem that keeps you from having to find solutions to that problem. As you pointed out, a hasty cease-fire would be bad for Israel. But it would be great for Condoleezza Rice.

There’s a beautiful bit of hypocrisy in this AP story. Underneath the headline reading, “Rice vows hard work on arranging Gaza cease-fire,” we read:

Questioned by a reporter, Rice said she had no plans to visit the Middle East to broker peace in the waning days of the Bush administration.

“It’s just as easy for her to keep on working the phones from here in Washington rather than being in the region right now,” [White House spokesman Gordon] Johndroe said later.

We can forget about looking to Washington for answers over the next few weeks. The administration is currently engaged in a durable and sustainable vacation.

Read Less

Republicans Should Listen to Napoleon

If there’s one thing that’s indisputably true about the whole unfolding Rod Blagojevich scandal, it’s that it’s rife with entertainment value. And latest developments should inspire political junkies to break out the popcorn.

Blagojevich’s new handpicked Senator, Roland Burris has already headed for DC. But the Illinois Attorney General has said he will not certify Burris’s appointment, and Democratic leaders in the Senate say they will not seat him — and will have him turned away by armed guards.

Now, there are good arguments to be made on both sides regarding the Attorney General’s authority to refuse certifying the appointment, and even better arguments about whether or not the Senate can refuse to seat Burris. But it’s fairly likely that the issue will result in a Senate vote on accepting or rejecting Burris.

And Republicans with both a sense of irony and strategy should simply vote “Present.”

Right now, this is an entirely Democratic political mess. Blagojevich is a Democrat, Burris is a Democrat, the Attorney General is a Democrat, Obama (the former seat holder) is a Democrat, and the Senate is controlled by Democrats.  There is an argument to be made that the Republicans should be able to get involved (after all, the Senate seat is not Democratic property, and Senate membership is not a partisan affair). But they should, in this case, leave the entire sorry mess in the hands of the Democrats.

Napoleon once said “never interrupt your opponent when he is making a mistake.” Right now, the Democrats aren’t precisely making a mistake, but they are on the horns of at least two no-win dilemmas, and Republican involvement would give the Democrats a chance to apportion some misery across the aisle.

Right now, the whole Blagojevich/Obama/Burris Senate mess is providing tremendous fodder for the talking heads and a terrific “fix” for political junkies in the slow period leading up to the new Congress taking office and Obama’s inauguration. There’s no need for Republicans to put a damper on the entertainment.

If there’s one thing that’s indisputably true about the whole unfolding Rod Blagojevich scandal, it’s that it’s rife with entertainment value. And latest developments should inspire political junkies to break out the popcorn.

Blagojevich’s new handpicked Senator, Roland Burris has already headed for DC. But the Illinois Attorney General has said he will not certify Burris’s appointment, and Democratic leaders in the Senate say they will not seat him — and will have him turned away by armed guards.

Now, there are good arguments to be made on both sides regarding the Attorney General’s authority to refuse certifying the appointment, and even better arguments about whether or not the Senate can refuse to seat Burris. But it’s fairly likely that the issue will result in a Senate vote on accepting or rejecting Burris.

And Republicans with both a sense of irony and strategy should simply vote “Present.”

Right now, this is an entirely Democratic political mess. Blagojevich is a Democrat, Burris is a Democrat, the Attorney General is a Democrat, Obama (the former seat holder) is a Democrat, and the Senate is controlled by Democrats.  There is an argument to be made that the Republicans should be able to get involved (after all, the Senate seat is not Democratic property, and Senate membership is not a partisan affair). But they should, in this case, leave the entire sorry mess in the hands of the Democrats.

Napoleon once said “never interrupt your opponent when he is making a mistake.” Right now, the Democrats aren’t precisely making a mistake, but they are on the horns of at least two no-win dilemmas, and Republican involvement would give the Democrats a chance to apportion some misery across the aisle.

Right now, the whole Blagojevich/Obama/Burris Senate mess is providing tremendous fodder for the talking heads and a terrific “fix” for political junkies in the slow period leading up to the new Congress taking office and Obama’s inauguration. There’s no need for Republicans to put a damper on the entertainment.

Read Less

The Goldwater Girl Outshines the Princess

The New York Daily News kvells that Hillary Clinton is the New Yorker of the year, dubbing her “a woman of resolve and class.” At the very least she has become, albeit belatedly, the comeback kid of 2008. We have followed her from inevitability (pre-Iowa) to vilification (South Carolina primary) to grudging admiration (Ohio and Texas victories) to respect (the DNC speech and summer campaigning) to a triumph of sorts (Secretary of State nominee). Hers has been a more dramatic roller-coaster ride (all in a single year) than any other political figure in recent memory.

She is, an a sense, the anti-Caroline Kennedy. Sure, Clinton benefited from her last name, but any similarities with the dullest (if most demure) of the Kennedys ends there. Clinton engages; Kennedy recedes. Clinton has never feared the political arena; Kennedy hardly knows what to do there. Clinton has courted controversy; Kennedy has bathed in sympathy her entire life. Clinton will go fifteen rounds with any reporter; Kennedy can’t manage the  liberal  toadies at the New York Times.

In part, this is a difference in class — social and economic that is. Clinton was never given anything. She was, as she reminded us frequently, a Midwestern middle-class gal who overcame a hyper-critical father. Neither he nor an unfaithful husband could block her ambitions. She progressed by force of her own personality and efforts — and even after fumbled opportunities, repeatedly constructed the next act in her life. She ran for office, never dreaming she’d be elevated without proving her mettle. By contrast, Caroline’s entire persona has been bequeathed to her. She is an heiress of extraordinary wealth and the recipient of popular goodwill wholly unrelated to any accomplishment of her own.

These two New Yorkers are a study in contrasts. Despite her atrociously managed campaign and a host of missteps, Clinton has emerged in some sense more popular (certainly among non-liberals) and more powerful than ever. And Caroline? The princess-waiting-for-the-coronation routine isn’t going so well. Perhaps she should try fighting for her place on the national scene rather than waiting for an appointment to be gift-wrapped and delivered to the Martha’s Vineyard compound. And if she is looking for a role model, she needn’t look beyond Chappaqua.

The New York Daily News kvells that Hillary Clinton is the New Yorker of the year, dubbing her “a woman of resolve and class.” At the very least she has become, albeit belatedly, the comeback kid of 2008. We have followed her from inevitability (pre-Iowa) to vilification (South Carolina primary) to grudging admiration (Ohio and Texas victories) to respect (the DNC speech and summer campaigning) to a triumph of sorts (Secretary of State nominee). Hers has been a more dramatic roller-coaster ride (all in a single year) than any other political figure in recent memory.

She is, an a sense, the anti-Caroline Kennedy. Sure, Clinton benefited from her last name, but any similarities with the dullest (if most demure) of the Kennedys ends there. Clinton engages; Kennedy recedes. Clinton has never feared the political arena; Kennedy hardly knows what to do there. Clinton has courted controversy; Kennedy has bathed in sympathy her entire life. Clinton will go fifteen rounds with any reporter; Kennedy can’t manage the  liberal  toadies at the New York Times.

In part, this is a difference in class — social and economic that is. Clinton was never given anything. She was, as she reminded us frequently, a Midwestern middle-class gal who overcame a hyper-critical father. Neither he nor an unfaithful husband could block her ambitions. She progressed by force of her own personality and efforts — and even after fumbled opportunities, repeatedly constructed the next act in her life. She ran for office, never dreaming she’d be elevated without proving her mettle. By contrast, Caroline’s entire persona has been bequeathed to her. She is an heiress of extraordinary wealth and the recipient of popular goodwill wholly unrelated to any accomplishment of her own.

These two New Yorkers are a study in contrasts. Despite her atrociously managed campaign and a host of missteps, Clinton has emerged in some sense more popular (certainly among non-liberals) and more powerful than ever. And Caroline? The princess-waiting-for-the-coronation routine isn’t going so well. Perhaps she should try fighting for her place on the national scene rather than waiting for an appointment to be gift-wrapped and delivered to the Martha’s Vineyard compound. And if she is looking for a role model, she needn’t look beyond Chappaqua.

Read Less

J Street: An Anti-Israel Group

Rabbi Eric Yoffie is president of the Union for Reform Judaism, and is a very liberal fellow. Yet even for him, J Street’s campaign to undermine and discredit Israeli self-defense has gone too far. Taking J Street out to the woodshed over its statements on Gaza, Yoffie says that the group

could find no moral difference between the actions of Hamas and other Palestinian militants, who have launched more than 5,000 rockets and mortar shells at Israeli civilians in the past three years, and the long-delayed response of Israel, which finally lost patience and responded to the pleas of its battered citizens in the south. “Neither Israelis nor Palestinians have a monopoly on right or wrong,” it said, and it suggested that there was no reason and no way to judge between them: “While there is nothing ‘right’ in raining rockets on Israeli families or dispatching suicide bombers, there is nothing ‘right’ in punishing a million and a half already-suffering Gazans for the actions of the extremists among them.”

These words are deeply distressing because they are morally deficient, profoundly out of touch with Jewish sentiment and also appallingly naïve. A cease-fire instituted by Hamas would be welcome, and Israel would be quick to respond. A cease-fire imposed on Israel would allow Hamas to escape the consequences of its actions yet again and would lead in short order to the renewal of its campaign of terror. Hamas, it should be noted, is not a government; it is a terrorist gang. And as long as the thugs of Hamas can act with impunity, no Israeli government of the right or the left will agree to a two-state solution or any other kind of peace. Doves take note: To be a dove of influence, you must be a realist, firm in your principles but shorn of all illusions.

J Street’s appalling missive concludes: “This is our moment to show that there is real political support for shedding a narrow us-versus-them approach to the Middle East.” What if you shed an us-versus-them approach to Hamas, but Hamas doesn’t shed its us-versus-them approach to you?

J Street in the past has been unrealistic, silly, and dishonest. But its treatment of the Gaza crisis is simply contemptible. Are there any limits to the group’s capacity for self-delusion about the nature of Hamas? May we now conclude that J Street is incapable of recognizing when it is staring genocidal fanatics in the face?

It is time that thinking people started calling J Street what it actually is — an anti-Israel group.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie is president of the Union for Reform Judaism, and is a very liberal fellow. Yet even for him, J Street’s campaign to undermine and discredit Israeli self-defense has gone too far. Taking J Street out to the woodshed over its statements on Gaza, Yoffie says that the group

could find no moral difference between the actions of Hamas and other Palestinian militants, who have launched more than 5,000 rockets and mortar shells at Israeli civilians in the past three years, and the long-delayed response of Israel, which finally lost patience and responded to the pleas of its battered citizens in the south. “Neither Israelis nor Palestinians have a monopoly on right or wrong,” it said, and it suggested that there was no reason and no way to judge between them: “While there is nothing ‘right’ in raining rockets on Israeli families or dispatching suicide bombers, there is nothing ‘right’ in punishing a million and a half already-suffering Gazans for the actions of the extremists among them.”

These words are deeply distressing because they are morally deficient, profoundly out of touch with Jewish sentiment and also appallingly naïve. A cease-fire instituted by Hamas would be welcome, and Israel would be quick to respond. A cease-fire imposed on Israel would allow Hamas to escape the consequences of its actions yet again and would lead in short order to the renewal of its campaign of terror. Hamas, it should be noted, is not a government; it is a terrorist gang. And as long as the thugs of Hamas can act with impunity, no Israeli government of the right or the left will agree to a two-state solution or any other kind of peace. Doves take note: To be a dove of influence, you must be a realist, firm in your principles but shorn of all illusions.

J Street’s appalling missive concludes: “This is our moment to show that there is real political support for shedding a narrow us-versus-them approach to the Middle East.” What if you shed an us-versus-them approach to Hamas, but Hamas doesn’t shed its us-versus-them approach to you?

J Street in the past has been unrealistic, silly, and dishonest. But its treatment of the Gaza crisis is simply contemptible. Are there any limits to the group’s capacity for self-delusion about the nature of Hamas? May we now conclude that J Street is incapable of recognizing when it is staring genocidal fanatics in the face?

It is time that thinking people started calling J Street what it actually is — an anti-Israel group.

Read Less

Israeli Politics in War and Peace

I’m really not sure where Rosa Brooks of the Los Angeles Times gets her information, but her assertion that “the Israeli military offensive has more to do with politics than anything else” is not only wrong, but also probably an attempt to discredit the operation.

However, the politics of the day and the military aspects of war have gotten tangled up in an unhealthy way in the last 72 hours. Note the debate within the government concerning the proposal for a 48-hour cease-fire and the strange way in which Defense Minister Ehud Barak handled this matter. We’ve also seen the first signs of weakening public support for the war, and the first organized campaign against it.

Barak’s rivals, mainly Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her Kadima buddies, are trying to use his sloppiness for political gains. As the operation in Gaza has helped to boost Barak’s (and Labor’s) fortunes in the polls, Livni and company need all the help they can get. The party that was recently considered a political corpse is now alive and starting to kick. Kadima can’t let this happen without kicking back.

In the 2006 Lebanon War, Livni called for diplomacy and an early cease-fire. Now, Livni is a hawks’ hawk. When Barak, in the weeks before the war, was trying to renew the Hudna (cease-fire agreement), Livni called for action. She also opposed the French cease-fire initiative, and keeps hinting that toppling Hamas is what’s really needed. Barak is careful not to aim for the sky. Suspecting that both of these leaders’ positions have something to do with politics is far from scandalous: Livni needs to be the hawk in order to convince voters that she’s no less tough than her male rivals, Barak needs to don the traditional tribal costume of the Labor leader and remind voters that he is from the peace camp.

But many Israelis are understandably upset about the mere mention of political considerations in a time of war. Unity and resolve can give way to shock and dismay, and the punditry is always there to fan the flames by redefining the word “politician” as one who sends our sons and daughters into the line of fire for the sake of election results.

The public outrage is both expected and overblown. In a democracy like Israel, politicians make war – and peace. And expecting politicians not to think about politics, a month or so before Election Day, is preposterous moralistic purism. Hopefully, Barak and Livni will make the most important decisions for the benefit of country — not party.
Barak and Livni are not uniquely opportunistic. Many of Israel’s past leaders fought wars on the eve of elections, and all have thought of political consequences as they went to war.

Think about Menachem Begin and his decision to bomb the Iraqi nuclear reactor on the eve of the very tight 1981 election. Did he do it just to win the election? No, he didn’t. Did he use it smartly for political benefit? Indeed he did.

Or take Shimon Peres’s decision to launch the Grapes of Wrath operation in Lebanon on the eve of the 1996 election. Was this a justified military operation? Probably. Was Peres thinking about Election Day and the need to boost his image as a capable military leader? Probably. (The operation eventually backfired: many Arab Israelis, angry at Peres, refrained from voting and thus helped Binyamin Netanyahu win.)

Such opportunism has also been employed in matters of peace. When Ehud Barak went to negotiate with Yassir Arafat in Camp David, he was already planning ahead, asking some political advisors to prepare for election “in case the summit is successful.” He was not necessarily going to Camp David in order to win elections, but he was definitely hoping to use success politically. When you ask a politician not to behave like a politician, be prepared for disappointed.

I’m really not sure where Rosa Brooks of the Los Angeles Times gets her information, but her assertion that “the Israeli military offensive has more to do with politics than anything else” is not only wrong, but also probably an attempt to discredit the operation.

However, the politics of the day and the military aspects of war have gotten tangled up in an unhealthy way in the last 72 hours. Note the debate within the government concerning the proposal for a 48-hour cease-fire and the strange way in which Defense Minister Ehud Barak handled this matter. We’ve also seen the first signs of weakening public support for the war, and the first organized campaign against it.

Barak’s rivals, mainly Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her Kadima buddies, are trying to use his sloppiness for political gains. As the operation in Gaza has helped to boost Barak’s (and Labor’s) fortunes in the polls, Livni and company need all the help they can get. The party that was recently considered a political corpse is now alive and starting to kick. Kadima can’t let this happen without kicking back.

In the 2006 Lebanon War, Livni called for diplomacy and an early cease-fire. Now, Livni is a hawks’ hawk. When Barak, in the weeks before the war, was trying to renew the Hudna (cease-fire agreement), Livni called for action. She also opposed the French cease-fire initiative, and keeps hinting that toppling Hamas is what’s really needed. Barak is careful not to aim for the sky. Suspecting that both of these leaders’ positions have something to do with politics is far from scandalous: Livni needs to be the hawk in order to convince voters that she’s no less tough than her male rivals, Barak needs to don the traditional tribal costume of the Labor leader and remind voters that he is from the peace camp.

But many Israelis are understandably upset about the mere mention of political considerations in a time of war. Unity and resolve can give way to shock and dismay, and the punditry is always there to fan the flames by redefining the word “politician” as one who sends our sons and daughters into the line of fire for the sake of election results.

The public outrage is both expected and overblown. In a democracy like Israel, politicians make war – and peace. And expecting politicians not to think about politics, a month or so before Election Day, is preposterous moralistic purism. Hopefully, Barak and Livni will make the most important decisions for the benefit of country — not party.
Barak and Livni are not uniquely opportunistic. Many of Israel’s past leaders fought wars on the eve of elections, and all have thought of political consequences as they went to war.

Think about Menachem Begin and his decision to bomb the Iraqi nuclear reactor on the eve of the very tight 1981 election. Did he do it just to win the election? No, he didn’t. Did he use it smartly for political benefit? Indeed he did.

Or take Shimon Peres’s decision to launch the Grapes of Wrath operation in Lebanon on the eve of the 1996 election. Was this a justified military operation? Probably. Was Peres thinking about Election Day and the need to boost his image as a capable military leader? Probably. (The operation eventually backfired: many Arab Israelis, angry at Peres, refrained from voting and thus helped Binyamin Netanyahu win.)

Such opportunism has also been employed in matters of peace. When Ehud Barak went to negotiate with Yassir Arafat in Camp David, he was already planning ahead, asking some political advisors to prepare for election “in case the summit is successful.” He was not necessarily going to Camp David in order to win elections, but he was definitely hoping to use success politically. When you ask a politician not to behave like a politician, be prepared for disappointed.

Read Less

The Blago Vortex

Roland Burris isn’t going away quietly. In fact, he’s not going away at all. He’s figured out he may have a fairly good legal argument to keep his senate seat — and he’s liking his new perch just fine. This report suggests he’s not going to be bullied or cajoled by the likes of Harry Reid:

The man appointed by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama suggested he would challenge any effort to block the move, but said he is confident Senate Democrats will relent and let him take the job.

“We think they will come around and recognize that the appointment is legal and valid and I am the junior senator from Illinois,” Roland Burris said during an interview at his office.

Mr. Burris, a former Illinois attorney general, spoke Wednesday as it became clear that Mr. Blagojevich had offered the post to at least one other African-American politician, and as U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald sought more time to seek an indictment against the governor — and perhaps widen a five-year-old case that already has resulted in felony convictions.

Mr. Blagojevich, facing federal corruption charges, on Tuesday named Mr. Burris to the seat the governor is accused of trying to sell. Senate Democrats said they would block the appointment, citing the allegations. Mr. Blagojevich has denied wrongdoing.

Mr. Burris, 71 years old, brushed off the opposition in a 25-minute interview during which aides called him “senator” and he argued that he would represent his state well. “From South Beloit to Cairo, from Galena to Zion, East St. Louis to Lawrenceville, I know this state. I know its people,” he said.

He also questioned — as have several legal scholars — the Senate’s right to keep him from taking the seat, asking, “By what authority can [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid] deny a governor carrying out his constitutional duty?”

“I am the senator, and it sounds good,” said Mr. Burris, now a lobbyist and lawyer. “I’m giving up a lot of money to go to the Senate, OK? I’m taking a pay cut,” he said, referring to a U.S. senator’s salary of about $169,000 a year.

The Senate Democrats seem to be banking on a scheme to “investigate” the matter, wait for Blago to be impeached and then seat the new appointee selected by the Lt. Governor. But wait. Under Burris’s reasoning he is already the junior Senator from Illinois. No matter what happens to Blago in a few weeks or months, the seat won’t be open again until 2010.

E.J. Dionne has it right:

The problem for Democrats is that by leaving the Senate appointment in Blagojevich’s hands, the Illinois legislature gave the governor an explosive device that he was prepared to use without regard to collateral damage. Even if Democrats in the Senate want to keep Burris out, a past Supreme Court decision suggests that Burris would have a fighting chance of holding his seat. And even if Blagojevich is impeached or convicted, the appointment still stands.

We may go from no Illinois junior senator to two contenders for the spot. Really, it’s fascinating how one crooked state pol can ensnare both the new presidential administration and Congress. The Obama team is lawyering up, the Senate will be sued, and the grand jury in Illinois will spend months reeling in more witnesses who, in turn, may implicate still more politicians. It’s hard to recall a single figure who has caused as much consternation and litigation.

The lesson here? Don’t associate with corrupt pols, don’t take their calls or make deals with them (even without an explicit quid pro quo). Instead: eliminate their influence, even at the expense of “risking” an open election.

Dionne is wrong to praise “Obama’s patented approach to problems — wait and think to see what develops before acting.” It is precisely the benign toleration of Blago and the unwillingness to move swiftly to cut off his power of appointment that created this mess. It is a warning for the President-elect and his party: cut off corruption before it devours you.

Roland Burris isn’t going away quietly. In fact, he’s not going away at all. He’s figured out he may have a fairly good legal argument to keep his senate seat — and he’s liking his new perch just fine. This report suggests he’s not going to be bullied or cajoled by the likes of Harry Reid:

The man appointed by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama suggested he would challenge any effort to block the move, but said he is confident Senate Democrats will relent and let him take the job.

“We think they will come around and recognize that the appointment is legal and valid and I am the junior senator from Illinois,” Roland Burris said during an interview at his office.

Mr. Burris, a former Illinois attorney general, spoke Wednesday as it became clear that Mr. Blagojevich had offered the post to at least one other African-American politician, and as U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald sought more time to seek an indictment against the governor — and perhaps widen a five-year-old case that already has resulted in felony convictions.

Mr. Blagojevich, facing federal corruption charges, on Tuesday named Mr. Burris to the seat the governor is accused of trying to sell. Senate Democrats said they would block the appointment, citing the allegations. Mr. Blagojevich has denied wrongdoing.

Mr. Burris, 71 years old, brushed off the opposition in a 25-minute interview during which aides called him “senator” and he argued that he would represent his state well. “From South Beloit to Cairo, from Galena to Zion, East St. Louis to Lawrenceville, I know this state. I know its people,” he said.

He also questioned — as have several legal scholars — the Senate’s right to keep him from taking the seat, asking, “By what authority can [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid] deny a governor carrying out his constitutional duty?”

“I am the senator, and it sounds good,” said Mr. Burris, now a lobbyist and lawyer. “I’m giving up a lot of money to go to the Senate, OK? I’m taking a pay cut,” he said, referring to a U.S. senator’s salary of about $169,000 a year.

The Senate Democrats seem to be banking on a scheme to “investigate” the matter, wait for Blago to be impeached and then seat the new appointee selected by the Lt. Governor. But wait. Under Burris’s reasoning he is already the junior Senator from Illinois. No matter what happens to Blago in a few weeks or months, the seat won’t be open again until 2010.

E.J. Dionne has it right:

The problem for Democrats is that by leaving the Senate appointment in Blagojevich’s hands, the Illinois legislature gave the governor an explosive device that he was prepared to use without regard to collateral damage. Even if Democrats in the Senate want to keep Burris out, a past Supreme Court decision suggests that Burris would have a fighting chance of holding his seat. And even if Blagojevich is impeached or convicted, the appointment still stands.

We may go from no Illinois junior senator to two contenders for the spot. Really, it’s fascinating how one crooked state pol can ensnare both the new presidential administration and Congress. The Obama team is lawyering up, the Senate will be sued, and the grand jury in Illinois will spend months reeling in more witnesses who, in turn, may implicate still more politicians. It’s hard to recall a single figure who has caused as much consternation and litigation.

The lesson here? Don’t associate with corrupt pols, don’t take their calls or make deals with them (even without an explicit quid pro quo). Instead: eliminate their influence, even at the expense of “risking” an open election.

Dionne is wrong to praise “Obama’s patented approach to problems — wait and think to see what develops before acting.” It is precisely the benign toleration of Blago and the unwillingness to move swiftly to cut off his power of appointment that created this mess. It is a warning for the President-elect and his party: cut off corruption before it devours you.

Read Less

A Messianic Media Moment

Did you ever think you’d see the day when the Jerusalem Post would run the following headline: “[IDF] Spokesman’s Unit Hails ‘Fair’ Coverage”? According to the IDF, Western media have been remarkably understanding of Israel’s need to defend itself against Hamas rocket attacks.

We can leave aside the question of whether the IDF spokesman’s office is right or wrong about the coverage. What’s more interesting is the article’s description of how the IDF has, at long last, recognized the need for investing in the media, rather than leaving it to the Foreign Ministry.

We saw the origins of this in the 2006 Lebanon war, when journalists were embedded with IDF troops, and effective, English-speaking spokesmen were deployed to interface with Western reporters.

This time around, though, the IDF is finally getting its act together. To the credit of the new IDF spokesman, Brig.-Gen. Avi Benayahu, the IDF sent his unit’s top officers to an intensive six-month course in understanding the internet — viral videos, social networking, blogging, and more — and the results have been impressive. Most notable has been the IDF’s YouTube channel showing videos of operations taking out terrorist cells and weapons stores. This is material that, until recently, would never have been released to the press. The channel has been among the most widely viewed on YouTube.

This is a big change for as hierarchical and regimented a structure as the military. It requires a very different approach to how information is collected, catalogued, cleared for release, and disseminated for public consumption. We can assume there’s a lot more to come.

Did you ever think you’d see the day when the Jerusalem Post would run the following headline: “[IDF] Spokesman’s Unit Hails ‘Fair’ Coverage”? According to the IDF, Western media have been remarkably understanding of Israel’s need to defend itself against Hamas rocket attacks.

We can leave aside the question of whether the IDF spokesman’s office is right or wrong about the coverage. What’s more interesting is the article’s description of how the IDF has, at long last, recognized the need for investing in the media, rather than leaving it to the Foreign Ministry.

We saw the origins of this in the 2006 Lebanon war, when journalists were embedded with IDF troops, and effective, English-speaking spokesmen were deployed to interface with Western reporters.

This time around, though, the IDF is finally getting its act together. To the credit of the new IDF spokesman, Brig.-Gen. Avi Benayahu, the IDF sent his unit’s top officers to an intensive six-month course in understanding the internet — viral videos, social networking, blogging, and more — and the results have been impressive. Most notable has been the IDF’s YouTube channel showing videos of operations taking out terrorist cells and weapons stores. This is material that, until recently, would never have been released to the press. The channel has been among the most widely viewed on YouTube.

This is a big change for as hierarchical and regimented a structure as the military. It requires a very different approach to how information is collected, catalogued, cleared for release, and disseminated for public consumption. We can assume there’s a lot more to come.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

David Frum on the hard choices in Afghanistan and elsewhere: “The key to Barack Obama’s success to date has been the deft deployment of verbal formula to reconcile contradictions. It will be interesting to see whether that trick works quite so well in real life.”

In a cliché-ridden piece claiming that Israel can’t improve its security by bombing Hamas (but by passively accepting daily bombardment of its population?) is this germ of unintended truth: “There’s just no clear route from bombardment to a sustainable peace.” That is so: as long as Israel’s destruction is the goal of one party there is no peace. There is only more or less security, depending on the success of the operation.

Republicans, some suggest, shouldn’t help block Roland Burris from being seated in the U.S. Senate. I think now might be an ideal time for some strict interpretation: what exactly is the Constitutional basis for denying him the seat? Perhaps there is a crass political trade to be made: the Republicans don’t interfere with the Democrats’ attempt to stall and the Democrats don’t seat Al Franken until the last Norm Coleman appeal is exhausted.

Considering which party is in the majority, this is a very troubling poll for Israel’s supporters: “Sixty-two percent (62%) of Republicans back Israel’s decision to take military action against the Palestinians, but only half as many Democrats (31%) agree. A majority of Democrats (55%) say Israel should have tried to find a diplomatic solution first, a view shared by just 27% of Republicans.”

Marty Peretz shares some stats on the efforts expended by Israel to provide medical and food assistance to the Palestinians in Gaza. If we want to talk “proportionality” perhaps we should focus on Israel’s extraordinary and utterly unreciprocated humanitarian efforts.

And if people are still confused on proportionality they can read Alan Dershowitz: “First, there is no legal equivalence between the deliberate killing of innocent civilians and the deliberate killings of Hamas combatants. Under the laws of war, any number of combatants can be killed to prevent the killing of even one innocent civilian. Second, proportionality is not measured by the number of civilians actually killed, but rather by the risk posed. This is illustrated by what happened on Tuesday, when a Hamas rocket hit a kindergarten in Beer Sheva, though no students were there at the time. Under international law, Israel is not required to allow Hamas to play Russian roulette with its children’s lives.” Read the entire piece. Twice.

Charles Krauthammer spells out precisely what Hamas is up to: “Provoke conflict. Wait for the inevitable civilian casualties. Bring down the world’s opprobrium on Israel. Force it into an untenable cease-fire — exactly as happened in Lebanon. Then, as in Lebanon, rearm, rebuild and mobilize for the next round. Perpetual war. Since its raison d’etre is the eradication of Israel, there are only two possible outcomes: the defeat of Hamas or the extinction of Israel.”

A magnificent way to start 2009: “Iraq’s prime minister described the U.S. handover Thursday to Iraqi authority of the heavily fortified Green Zone and Saddam Hussein’s presidential palace as the most visible sign that his country has regained its sovereignty.”

Governor Paterson doesn’t like getting pushed around on his Senate seat selection. So: does he demonstrate independence by pushing back against the avalanche of bad press and selecting Caroline Kennedy? Or by pushing back against the phalanx of Kennedy support and choosing someone else more capable? Either way he’s headed for some criticism.

Orin Kerr doesn’t think much of Alberto Gonzales’ conceit that he is one of the victims in the war on terror: “Yup, when I think of casualties of the war on terror, I think of 3,000 people killed on 9/11, troops killed since then, civilian casualties in war zones, and the reputation of Alberto Gonzales, pretty much all together.” I do, however, think that Gonzales is the one Bush administration figure whose performance both the Left and the Right would rate similarly. And it’s not high.

John Bolton predicts continuity in the Obama administration with regard to the Bush administration’s approach to North Korea and Iran. This is not a good thing.

David Frum on the hard choices in Afghanistan and elsewhere: “The key to Barack Obama’s success to date has been the deft deployment of verbal formula to reconcile contradictions. It will be interesting to see whether that trick works quite so well in real life.”

In a cliché-ridden piece claiming that Israel can’t improve its security by bombing Hamas (but by passively accepting daily bombardment of its population?) is this germ of unintended truth: “There’s just no clear route from bombardment to a sustainable peace.” That is so: as long as Israel’s destruction is the goal of one party there is no peace. There is only more or less security, depending on the success of the operation.

Republicans, some suggest, shouldn’t help block Roland Burris from being seated in the U.S. Senate. I think now might be an ideal time for some strict interpretation: what exactly is the Constitutional basis for denying him the seat? Perhaps there is a crass political trade to be made: the Republicans don’t interfere with the Democrats’ attempt to stall and the Democrats don’t seat Al Franken until the last Norm Coleman appeal is exhausted.

Considering which party is in the majority, this is a very troubling poll for Israel’s supporters: “Sixty-two percent (62%) of Republicans back Israel’s decision to take military action against the Palestinians, but only half as many Democrats (31%) agree. A majority of Democrats (55%) say Israel should have tried to find a diplomatic solution first, a view shared by just 27% of Republicans.”

Marty Peretz shares some stats on the efforts expended by Israel to provide medical and food assistance to the Palestinians in Gaza. If we want to talk “proportionality” perhaps we should focus on Israel’s extraordinary and utterly unreciprocated humanitarian efforts.

And if people are still confused on proportionality they can read Alan Dershowitz: “First, there is no legal equivalence between the deliberate killing of innocent civilians and the deliberate killings of Hamas combatants. Under the laws of war, any number of combatants can be killed to prevent the killing of even one innocent civilian. Second, proportionality is not measured by the number of civilians actually killed, but rather by the risk posed. This is illustrated by what happened on Tuesday, when a Hamas rocket hit a kindergarten in Beer Sheva, though no students were there at the time. Under international law, Israel is not required to allow Hamas to play Russian roulette with its children’s lives.” Read the entire piece. Twice.

Charles Krauthammer spells out precisely what Hamas is up to: “Provoke conflict. Wait for the inevitable civilian casualties. Bring down the world’s opprobrium on Israel. Force it into an untenable cease-fire — exactly as happened in Lebanon. Then, as in Lebanon, rearm, rebuild and mobilize for the next round. Perpetual war. Since its raison d’etre is the eradication of Israel, there are only two possible outcomes: the defeat of Hamas or the extinction of Israel.”

A magnificent way to start 2009: “Iraq’s prime minister described the U.S. handover Thursday to Iraqi authority of the heavily fortified Green Zone and Saddam Hussein’s presidential palace as the most visible sign that his country has regained its sovereignty.”

Governor Paterson doesn’t like getting pushed around on his Senate seat selection. So: does he demonstrate independence by pushing back against the avalanche of bad press and selecting Caroline Kennedy? Or by pushing back against the phalanx of Kennedy support and choosing someone else more capable? Either way he’s headed for some criticism.

Orin Kerr doesn’t think much of Alberto Gonzales’ conceit that he is one of the victims in the war on terror: “Yup, when I think of casualties of the war on terror, I think of 3,000 people killed on 9/11, troops killed since then, civilian casualties in war zones, and the reputation of Alberto Gonzales, pretty much all together.” I do, however, think that Gonzales is the one Bush administration figure whose performance both the Left and the Right would rate similarly. And it’s not high.

John Bolton predicts continuity in the Obama administration with regard to the Bush administration’s approach to North Korea and Iran. This is not a good thing.

Read Less

What is a “Sustainable and Durable” Ceasefire?

In his December 29 press conference, describing U.S. goals with respect to Gaza, Deputy Press Secretary Gordon Johndroe used the term “sustainable ceasefire” or “sustainable and durable ceasefire” no less than ten times.  Reporters did not ask him to define the term, but they did the next day during his December 30 press conference:

Q How exactly is the United States trying to recreate the ceasefire to make it sustainable and durable? What’s the difference between an immediate ceasefire and one that is sustainable and durable? It sounds like, kind of, semantics.

MR. JOHNDROE: No, I think a ceasefire that is sustainable and durable, what we’ve been calling for, is one that is exactly that — it’s lasting. We don’t just want a ceasefire for the sake of a ceasefire, only for violence to start up immediately, or within the next few weeks. That serves no one’s interest, as President Bush discussed with Prime Minister Fayyad, and —

Q But how do you know that it would be lasting?

MR. JOHNDROE: We have got to get a commitment from Hamas that they would respect any ceasefire and make it lasting and durable. And so until we can get that assurance — not the United States, but until Israel can get that assurance from Hamas — then we’re not going to have a ceasefire that is worth the paper it’s written on.

A “commitment” from Hamas, however, is not going to be worth the paper it’s written on, particularly if Hamas receives, in exchange for the “commitment,” concessions that would effectively strengthen its position as it prepares for the next fight.

A better guide to the meaning of a “sustainable and durable ceasefire” can be found in the answer Condoleezza Rice gave at a July 16, 2006 press briefing at the start of the Second Lebanon War, when she was asked why the United States did not simply call for an immediate ceasefire.  She explained “the real goal here is . . . to bring an end to the violence in a way that is going to be sustainable”:

SECRETARY RICE: . . . I can tell you right now if violence ends on the basis of somehow Hezbollah or Hamas continuing to hold in their hands the capabilities anytime they wish to start launching rockets again into Israel . . . if violence ends on the basis of Syria and Iran being able to turn on the key again anytime, we will have achieved very, very little, indeed, and we will be right back here, perhaps in a worse circumstance because the terrorists will assume that nobody is willing to take on what has been a very clear assault. . . .

Two and a half years later, Hezbollah has more than doubled the amount of rockets it had prior to the war.  The UN force inserted to police the ceasefire did not prevent the re-arming of Hezbollah, nor will it prevent the re-launching of rockets if and when Hezbollah decides.

In fact, the conclusion of that war — complete with a “binding” UN resolution and a UN force – led to the creation on Israel’s southern border of exactly the “worse circumstance” Rice described.  Hamas assumed (correctly) that nobody would take on an even clearer assault:  year after year of rockets on Israeli civilians.

To use the standard Rice set forth in 2006, a sustainable and durable ceasefire is one during which Hamas does not continue “to hold in their hands the capabilities anytime they wish to start launching rockets again into Israel.”  It requires the practical disarmament of Hamas and the permanent elimination of tunnels or other means of smuggling or rearmament.

Anything less will be a ceasefire, but not a sustainable and durable one.

In his December 29 press conference, describing U.S. goals with respect to Gaza, Deputy Press Secretary Gordon Johndroe used the term “sustainable ceasefire” or “sustainable and durable ceasefire” no less than ten times.  Reporters did not ask him to define the term, but they did the next day during his December 30 press conference:

Q How exactly is the United States trying to recreate the ceasefire to make it sustainable and durable? What’s the difference between an immediate ceasefire and one that is sustainable and durable? It sounds like, kind of, semantics.

MR. JOHNDROE: No, I think a ceasefire that is sustainable and durable, what we’ve been calling for, is one that is exactly that — it’s lasting. We don’t just want a ceasefire for the sake of a ceasefire, only for violence to start up immediately, or within the next few weeks. That serves no one’s interest, as President Bush discussed with Prime Minister Fayyad, and —

Q But how do you know that it would be lasting?

MR. JOHNDROE: We have got to get a commitment from Hamas that they would respect any ceasefire and make it lasting and durable. And so until we can get that assurance — not the United States, but until Israel can get that assurance from Hamas — then we’re not going to have a ceasefire that is worth the paper it’s written on.

A “commitment” from Hamas, however, is not going to be worth the paper it’s written on, particularly if Hamas receives, in exchange for the “commitment,” concessions that would effectively strengthen its position as it prepares for the next fight.

A better guide to the meaning of a “sustainable and durable ceasefire” can be found in the answer Condoleezza Rice gave at a July 16, 2006 press briefing at the start of the Second Lebanon War, when she was asked why the United States did not simply call for an immediate ceasefire.  She explained “the real goal here is . . . to bring an end to the violence in a way that is going to be sustainable”:

SECRETARY RICE: . . . I can tell you right now if violence ends on the basis of somehow Hezbollah or Hamas continuing to hold in their hands the capabilities anytime they wish to start launching rockets again into Israel . . . if violence ends on the basis of Syria and Iran being able to turn on the key again anytime, we will have achieved very, very little, indeed, and we will be right back here, perhaps in a worse circumstance because the terrorists will assume that nobody is willing to take on what has been a very clear assault. . . .

Two and a half years later, Hezbollah has more than doubled the amount of rockets it had prior to the war.  The UN force inserted to police the ceasefire did not prevent the re-arming of Hezbollah, nor will it prevent the re-launching of rockets if and when Hezbollah decides.

In fact, the conclusion of that war — complete with a “binding” UN resolution and a UN force – led to the creation on Israel’s southern border of exactly the “worse circumstance” Rice described.  Hamas assumed (correctly) that nobody would take on an even clearer assault:  year after year of rockets on Israeli civilians.

To use the standard Rice set forth in 2006, a sustainable and durable ceasefire is one during which Hamas does not continue “to hold in their hands the capabilities anytime they wish to start launching rockets again into Israel.”  It requires the practical disarmament of Hamas and the permanent elimination of tunnels or other means of smuggling or rearmament.

Anything less will be a ceasefire, but not a sustainable and durable one.

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.