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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.


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