Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 6, 2009

Yay, Sanjay!

According to reports, Barack Obama will name CNN’s chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta as surgeon general.

There is one important reason to applaud Gupta’s forthcoming appointment: following Larry Summers, Gupta will be the second member of the incoming Obama administration to have forcefully – and very publicly – taken on the far-left.  Back in 2007, Gupta fact-checked Michael Moore’s Sicko, airing a segment on CNN in which he concluded that Moore had “fudged” some of the facts.  Later, Gupta debated Moore on Larry King Live, challenging Moore’s contention that healthcare in Canada is free (“You pay for it through taxes,” Gupta said) and taking Moore to task for idealizing the Cuban healthcare system.

Read the transcript of Gupta’s takedown of Moore, or watch the video on YouTube.  And, most importantly, enjoy the forthcoming backlash on various far-leftist sites.

According to reports, Barack Obama will name CNN’s chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta as surgeon general.

There is one important reason to applaud Gupta’s forthcoming appointment: following Larry Summers, Gupta will be the second member of the incoming Obama administration to have forcefully – and very publicly – taken on the far-left.  Back in 2007, Gupta fact-checked Michael Moore’s Sicko, airing a segment on CNN in which he concluded that Moore had “fudged” some of the facts.  Later, Gupta debated Moore on Larry King Live, challenging Moore’s contention that healthcare in Canada is free (“You pay for it through taxes,” Gupta said) and taking Moore to task for idealizing the Cuban healthcare system.

Read the transcript of Gupta’s takedown of Moore, or watch the video on YouTube.  And, most importantly, enjoy the forthcoming backlash on various far-leftist sites.

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Commentary of the Day

Ahithophel, on Michael J. Totten:

I know it was widely regarded as a disaster when the United States supported the elections from which Hamas emerged victorious, but I wonder whether it wasn’t necessary in the grander scheme of things to try the “Hamas way” before they could abandon it for good. Perhaps I’m being too sanguine here, but I’m hoping that the Palestinians in Gaza–or at least those who are honest enough–are learning that entrusting yourselves to a group like Hamas leads invariably to disaster. Sure, you can elect a ragtag band of murderers and terrorists–but you will suffer the consequences.

As long as Hamas was not in power, its firebrand thugs could claim that they would have defeated Israel *and* made the trains run on time. They could pose on the one hand as expert warriors and on the other as compassionate providers for their people. There must be some Palestinians right now who are witnessing how hopeless Hamas is against the might of Israel, and some who are none too pleased to see the wives and children led up the stairs over the Qassams and Grads on the first floor.

So, yes, it seems presently that the Palestinians are caught in the grip of a collective insanity, and some will never see reason. But perhaps when all is said and done, the great majority will have seen that Hamas could follow through on neither of its two basic promises. Perhaps, in a sense, they had to try Hamas’ way before they could really give it up. The people of Iraq eventually saw through the claims of the jihadists there. Dramatically different circumstances. But perhaps a glimmer of hope that the Palestinians too will learn that deals with the devil lead nowhere but hell.

Ahithophel, on Michael J. Totten:

I know it was widely regarded as a disaster when the United States supported the elections from which Hamas emerged victorious, but I wonder whether it wasn’t necessary in the grander scheme of things to try the “Hamas way” before they could abandon it for good. Perhaps I’m being too sanguine here, but I’m hoping that the Palestinians in Gaza–or at least those who are honest enough–are learning that entrusting yourselves to a group like Hamas leads invariably to disaster. Sure, you can elect a ragtag band of murderers and terrorists–but you will suffer the consequences.

As long as Hamas was not in power, its firebrand thugs could claim that they would have defeated Israel *and* made the trains run on time. They could pose on the one hand as expert warriors and on the other as compassionate providers for their people. There must be some Palestinians right now who are witnessing how hopeless Hamas is against the might of Israel, and some who are none too pleased to see the wives and children led up the stairs over the Qassams and Grads on the first floor.

So, yes, it seems presently that the Palestinians are caught in the grip of a collective insanity, and some will never see reason. But perhaps when all is said and done, the great majority will have seen that Hamas could follow through on neither of its two basic promises. Perhaps, in a sense, they had to try Hamas’ way before they could really give it up. The people of Iraq eventually saw through the claims of the jihadists there. Dramatically different circumstances. But perhaps a glimmer of hope that the Palestinians too will learn that deals with the devil lead nowhere but hell.

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Hamas’ Extracurricular Activities

Allow me to propose a metric for evaluating whether a journalist is behaving responsibly or not: If he reports that Israel bombed a UN school and killed 30 civilians, he is irresponsible. If he reports that Hamas used a UN school as a weapons cache and base of operations for launching mortars at the IDF, and the IDF’s return fire killed the Hamas cell along, tragically, with a yet-unspecified number of civilians, then he is behaving responsibly. If he wishes to be particularly scrupulous, he might additionally note that Hamas had rigged the school with explosives which detonated after the IDF took out the mortar team, killing a large additional number of civilians. And he might add that you can go to the IDF’s Youtube channel to view footage from 2007 of Hamas using the very same school as a mortar-launching base.

Journalists who abjure reporting the vital details of this story should be called what they are — activists masquerading as reporters.

Allow me to propose a metric for evaluating whether a journalist is behaving responsibly or not: If he reports that Israel bombed a UN school and killed 30 civilians, he is irresponsible. If he reports that Hamas used a UN school as a weapons cache and base of operations for launching mortars at the IDF, and the IDF’s return fire killed the Hamas cell along, tragically, with a yet-unspecified number of civilians, then he is behaving responsibly. If he wishes to be particularly scrupulous, he might additionally note that Hamas had rigged the school with explosives which detonated after the IDF took out the mortar team, killing a large additional number of civilians. And he might add that you can go to the IDF’s Youtube channel to view footage from 2007 of Hamas using the very same school as a mortar-launching base.

Journalists who abjure reporting the vital details of this story should be called what they are — activists masquerading as reporters.

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Jeb Nixes Senate Run

After this report  earlier in the day former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has confirmed that we won’t be running for the U.S. Senate. Democrats will rejoice that they will be spared a run against an accomplished and popular Republican who likely would have cleared the field in the primary. Bush is looking for a way to help the party. Hmmm. Let’s see. Is there an important open position, for which no stellar candidate has emerged, and in which a telegenic, articulate leader who has shown electoral success might be valuable? Let’s think about that one.

As for Florida, the Republicans might want to think, now that Bush has bugged out, about looking to one of the dynamic Hispanic state leaders such as state speaker Marco Rubio. While Harry Reid is busy nixing minority candidates for the Senate, the GOP could use some credible and effective conservatives who can do more than talk about minority outreach.

After this report  earlier in the day former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has confirmed that we won’t be running for the U.S. Senate. Democrats will rejoice that they will be spared a run against an accomplished and popular Republican who likely would have cleared the field in the primary. Bush is looking for a way to help the party. Hmmm. Let’s see. Is there an important open position, for which no stellar candidate has emerged, and in which a telegenic, articulate leader who has shown electoral success might be valuable? Let’s think about that one.

As for Florida, the Republicans might want to think, now that Bush has bugged out, about looking to one of the dynamic Hispanic state leaders such as state speaker Marco Rubio. While Harry Reid is busy nixing minority candidates for the Senate, the GOP could use some credible and effective conservatives who can do more than talk about minority outreach.

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CNN’s Prophecy

I have a great deal of sympathy for the producers at 24-hour cable news networks.  To be sure, their jobs can be quite easy at times: when there’s a major election, terrorist attack, celebrity death, or economic shock, the focus of their programming is incredibly obvious.

But then there are days like January 6th, 2009 – today – when everything that counts as “news” is actually old news. Israel is fighting in Gaza, but it has been doing so for the past eleven days.  The Senate Democrats have refused to seat Roland Burris, but we’ve known that this would happen for at least the past week.  And Steve Jobs isn’t addressing the annual MacWorld conference, but this stock-depreciating news came – complete with new MacBooks – months ago.

In turn, a producer responsible for 24 hours-worth of news content is left at a crossroads: should the network follow Roland Burris’s every footstep all morning, anticipating the exact moment when the Senate secretary officially turns Burris away?  Or, should it use the day for highlighting weird news stories, such as Harrison Ford’s bizarre chest-hair-waxing commercial on behalf of Conservation International’s rain forest campaign?

Well, given its television and web dominance, CNN has the luxury of broadcasting both of these things.  But, sadly for CNN’s producers, this balance between mind-numbingly dull and incredibly useless news coverage isn’t enough to fill the 24-hour cycle.  So CNN has embraced a new genre of news analysis – prophecy.  Check out this oracular headline:

Gaza horrors sow seeds for future violence.

Granted, this is a miserably researched piece: CNN correspondent Nic Robertson draws his “future violence” prediction from uncritically watching interviews with children on Hamas’s own television station, in which the grade-schoolers say things like, “When we will grow up, we will bomb them back.”  As Robertson should know, the seeds for future violence were sown in Gaza’s children long before Israel invaded: Hamas regularly inspires kids to take up arms against the “Jews” in its children’s television programming and kindergarten graduation ceremonies, among other venues.

Still, as far as its clairvoyance is concerned, CNN is on the right track: despite mangling the causal mechanisms, its prophecy will almost certainly be fulfilled.  Now if we can only know when and how the Gaza war will end; or whether Caroline Kennedy will be named Duchess of Empire State; or who will win on Sunday, CNN would be doing us a real service.

I have a great deal of sympathy for the producers at 24-hour cable news networks.  To be sure, their jobs can be quite easy at times: when there’s a major election, terrorist attack, celebrity death, or economic shock, the focus of their programming is incredibly obvious.

But then there are days like January 6th, 2009 – today – when everything that counts as “news” is actually old news. Israel is fighting in Gaza, but it has been doing so for the past eleven days.  The Senate Democrats have refused to seat Roland Burris, but we’ve known that this would happen for at least the past week.  And Steve Jobs isn’t addressing the annual MacWorld conference, but this stock-depreciating news came – complete with new MacBooks – months ago.

In turn, a producer responsible for 24 hours-worth of news content is left at a crossroads: should the network follow Roland Burris’s every footstep all morning, anticipating the exact moment when the Senate secretary officially turns Burris away?  Or, should it use the day for highlighting weird news stories, such as Harrison Ford’s bizarre chest-hair-waxing commercial on behalf of Conservation International’s rain forest campaign?

Well, given its television and web dominance, CNN has the luxury of broadcasting both of these things.  But, sadly for CNN’s producers, this balance between mind-numbingly dull and incredibly useless news coverage isn’t enough to fill the 24-hour cycle.  So CNN has embraced a new genre of news analysis – prophecy.  Check out this oracular headline:

Gaza horrors sow seeds for future violence.

Granted, this is a miserably researched piece: CNN correspondent Nic Robertson draws his “future violence” prediction from uncritically watching interviews with children on Hamas’s own television station, in which the grade-schoolers say things like, “When we will grow up, we will bomb them back.”  As Robertson should know, the seeds for future violence were sown in Gaza’s children long before Israel invaded: Hamas regularly inspires kids to take up arms against the “Jews” in its children’s television programming and kindergarten graduation ceremonies, among other venues.

Still, as far as its clairvoyance is concerned, CNN is on the right track: despite mangling the causal mechanisms, its prophecy will almost certainly be fulfilled.  Now if we can only know when and how the Gaza war will end; or whether Caroline Kennedy will be named Duchess of Empire State; or who will win on Sunday, CNN would be doing us a real service.

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Other Than That Mr. Reid, How Was the First Day?

Roland Burris got his spectacle today. He appeared, was rejected and was escorted out of the Capitol. The news account paints quite a scene:

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and a bipartisan group of leaders have rejected Burris’s appointment on the grounds that the criminal charges against Blagojevich, including one that he tried to sell the appointment in exchange for financial gain, make it impossible for him to pick a successor to Obama without tarnishing the decision.

Obama supports Reid’s decision, and in Illinois the secretary of state, Jesse White, has refused to sign the appointment papers from Blagojevich, which has sparked a legal battle there over his inaction. Without that signature, Burris’s appointment is not considered official, according to Senate officials.

Burris was met at the Capitol entrance by Terry Gainer, the Senate sergeant at arms, who escorted him through the regular visitors’ entrance and up to the third floor of the Capitol to Erickson’s office — in a regular elevator bank, not the one reserved for senators only.

When Burris was rejected, he marched out of the Capitol and across the street, with a media army in tow, where he held a press conference next to the Russell Senate Office Building.

But that’s not exactly right. No Republican “blocked” his way, and although they have expressed a preference for a special election I am not aware of any Republican siding with Reid in his effort to toss Burris out. No, this is the Democrats‘ doing.

And then from the “a broken clock is right twice a day file” : Rep. Charlie Rangel, who has problems of his own, questions the basis for excluding Roland Burris from the Senate. And what is the delay with the Rules Committee?

Really, this is an unseemly bit of business with little if any legal justification. Burris appears headed for court ( he’s got some high-powered and bipartisan legal scholars who might offer some assistance), and the Democrats would be wise to figure out how to replace today’s optics with a happier image of reconciliation — and a demonstration that Democrats do indeed respect the law, even when the results are embarrassing.

Roland Burris got his spectacle today. He appeared, was rejected and was escorted out of the Capitol. The news account paints quite a scene:

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and a bipartisan group of leaders have rejected Burris’s appointment on the grounds that the criminal charges against Blagojevich, including one that he tried to sell the appointment in exchange for financial gain, make it impossible for him to pick a successor to Obama without tarnishing the decision.

Obama supports Reid’s decision, and in Illinois the secretary of state, Jesse White, has refused to sign the appointment papers from Blagojevich, which has sparked a legal battle there over his inaction. Without that signature, Burris’s appointment is not considered official, according to Senate officials.

Burris was met at the Capitol entrance by Terry Gainer, the Senate sergeant at arms, who escorted him through the regular visitors’ entrance and up to the third floor of the Capitol to Erickson’s office — in a regular elevator bank, not the one reserved for senators only.

When Burris was rejected, he marched out of the Capitol and across the street, with a media army in tow, where he held a press conference next to the Russell Senate Office Building.

But that’s not exactly right. No Republican “blocked” his way, and although they have expressed a preference for a special election I am not aware of any Republican siding with Reid in his effort to toss Burris out. No, this is the Democrats‘ doing.

And then from the “a broken clock is right twice a day file” : Rep. Charlie Rangel, who has problems of his own, questions the basis for excluding Roland Burris from the Senate. And what is the delay with the Rules Committee?

Really, this is an unseemly bit of business with little if any legal justification. Burris appears headed for court ( he’s got some high-powered and bipartisan legal scholars who might offer some assistance), and the Democrats would be wise to figure out how to replace today’s optics with a happier image of reconciliation — and a demonstration that Democrats do indeed respect the law, even when the results are embarrassing.

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Cohen’s Consistent Inconsistencies

Richard Cohen of the Washington Post has an interesting history with Israel’s recent wars. Today, as Jennifer noted, he has an article blaming the Gaza war on Hamas, while taking to task those who criticize Israel for retaliating against the rocket attacks hitting towns in the southern part of the country:

I get the impression that Israel is expected to put up with this. The implied message from demonstrators and some opinion columnists is that this is the price Israel is supposed to pay for being, I suppose, Israel. I am informed by a Palestinian journalist in a Post op-ed that Israel is trying to stop “amateur rockets from nagging the residents of some of its southern cities.” In Sderot, I saw homes nagged to smithereens.

Cohen’s right, of course, but he has not always been quite so understanding. Some might recall that back in 2006 Cohen caused a stir when he wrote critically about Israel’s war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, suggesting that Israel itself was “a mistake”:

The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel itself is a mistake. It is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable, but the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now. Israel fights Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south, but its most formidable enemy is history itself.

The 2006-Cohen continued:

The smart choice [for Israel] is to pull back to defensible — but hardly impervious — borders. That includes getting out of most of the West Bank — and waiting (and hoping) that history will get distracted and move on to something else. This will take some time, and in the meantime terrorism and rocket attacks will continue.

Now, imagine if Israel had followed the advice Cohen offered back then–that is, imagine  if Israel had withdrawn from the West Bank. Cohen does so in today’s column:

Three years ago, Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip. Good, the world said. Next, pull out of the West Bank, the world said. But then Hamas, which has vowed to destroy Israel, won the election in Gaza. Sderot soon became hell. The West Bank is controlled by Fatah, the moderate Palestinian organization, which once had control of Gaza, too. If Israel withdraws from the West Bank, will rockets come from there? If you lived in Tel Aviv, a spit from the West Bank, would you take the chance?

Of course, Cohen is hardly the only person to have had his mind changed by the current circumstances–and this is not the only reason readers should treat the advice of columnists with caution. Soon after he published the 2006 piece, I asked him to clarify his position. “It was a mistake,” he told me in reference to the piece (not the formation of the State of Israel). He explained that he was trying to say something about the complexity surrounding  Israel’s formation, and that his column had turned out badly.

A week or so after this 2006 “mistake” piece, Cohen wrote another article on the Lebanon war in a more straight forward manner. It was coherent and blunt. Indeed, in that regard, it was similar to what he wrote today, and it is still very relevant to those struggling with the philosophical questions related to proportionality. Here’s what Cohen wrote about the proportionality of Israel’s response in Lebanon:

The dire consequences of proportionality are so clear that it makes you wonder if it is a fig leaf for anti-Israel sentiment in general. Anyone who knows anything about the Middle East knows that proportionality is madness. For Israel, a small country within reach, as we are finding out, of a missile launched from any enemy’s back yard, proportionality is not only inapplicable, it is suicide. The last thing it needs is a war of attrition. It is not good enough to take out this or that missile battery. It is necessary to reestablish deterrence: You slap me, I will punch out your lights.

Makes good sense, don’t you think?

Richard Cohen of the Washington Post has an interesting history with Israel’s recent wars. Today, as Jennifer noted, he has an article blaming the Gaza war on Hamas, while taking to task those who criticize Israel for retaliating against the rocket attacks hitting towns in the southern part of the country:

I get the impression that Israel is expected to put up with this. The implied message from demonstrators and some opinion columnists is that this is the price Israel is supposed to pay for being, I suppose, Israel. I am informed by a Palestinian journalist in a Post op-ed that Israel is trying to stop “amateur rockets from nagging the residents of some of its southern cities.” In Sderot, I saw homes nagged to smithereens.

Cohen’s right, of course, but he has not always been quite so understanding. Some might recall that back in 2006 Cohen caused a stir when he wrote critically about Israel’s war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, suggesting that Israel itself was “a mistake”:

The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel itself is a mistake. It is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable, but the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now. Israel fights Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south, but its most formidable enemy is history itself.

The 2006-Cohen continued:

The smart choice [for Israel] is to pull back to defensible — but hardly impervious — borders. That includes getting out of most of the West Bank — and waiting (and hoping) that history will get distracted and move on to something else. This will take some time, and in the meantime terrorism and rocket attacks will continue.

Now, imagine if Israel had followed the advice Cohen offered back then–that is, imagine  if Israel had withdrawn from the West Bank. Cohen does so in today’s column:

Three years ago, Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip. Good, the world said. Next, pull out of the West Bank, the world said. But then Hamas, which has vowed to destroy Israel, won the election in Gaza. Sderot soon became hell. The West Bank is controlled by Fatah, the moderate Palestinian organization, which once had control of Gaza, too. If Israel withdraws from the West Bank, will rockets come from there? If you lived in Tel Aviv, a spit from the West Bank, would you take the chance?

Of course, Cohen is hardly the only person to have had his mind changed by the current circumstances–and this is not the only reason readers should treat the advice of columnists with caution. Soon after he published the 2006 piece, I asked him to clarify his position. “It was a mistake,” he told me in reference to the piece (not the formation of the State of Israel). He explained that he was trying to say something about the complexity surrounding  Israel’s formation, and that his column had turned out badly.

A week or so after this 2006 “mistake” piece, Cohen wrote another article on the Lebanon war in a more straight forward manner. It was coherent and blunt. Indeed, in that regard, it was similar to what he wrote today, and it is still very relevant to those struggling with the philosophical questions related to proportionality. Here’s what Cohen wrote about the proportionality of Israel’s response in Lebanon:

The dire consequences of proportionality are so clear that it makes you wonder if it is a fig leaf for anti-Israel sentiment in general. Anyone who knows anything about the Middle East knows that proportionality is madness. For Israel, a small country within reach, as we are finding out, of a missile launched from any enemy’s back yard, proportionality is not only inapplicable, it is suicide. The last thing it needs is a war of attrition. It is not good enough to take out this or that missile battery. It is necessary to reestablish deterrence: You slap me, I will punch out your lights.

Makes good sense, don’t you think?

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We’ll Just Keep That One on File

Agree with him or not, Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times is at least a serious writer. Usually. Today, however, he offers one of the more silly proposals for ending the current strife in Gaza: “relax the blockade of Gaza in return for a renewal of the ceasefire that ran out in December.” It is hard to imagine a plan more likely to strengthen Hamas. An end or even a relaxation of Israeli sanctions would be seen (accurately) as sign of the “Zionist entity” bowing before Hamas’s rockets.  And of course far more rockets and other weapons could then be smuggled in through a suddenly porous blockade.

Agree with him or not, Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times is at least a serious writer. Usually. Today, however, he offers one of the more silly proposals for ending the current strife in Gaza: “relax the blockade of Gaza in return for a renewal of the ceasefire that ran out in December.” It is hard to imagine a plan more likely to strengthen Hamas. An end or even a relaxation of Israeli sanctions would be seen (accurately) as sign of the “Zionist entity” bowing before Hamas’s rockets.  And of course far more rockets and other weapons could then be smuggled in through a suddenly porous blockade.

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Option “B”: Win

The whole world is now making suggestions, indeed demands, on Israel — all ostensibly aimed at a “better” resolution of the conflict with Hamas. Richard Cohen writes:

Three years ago, Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip. Good, the world said. Next, pull out of the West Bank, the world said. But then Hamas, which has vowed to destroy Israel, won the election in Gaza. Sderot soon became hell. The West Bank is controlled by Fatah, the moderate Palestinian organization, which once had control of Gaza, too. If Israel withdraws from the West Bank, will rockets come from there? If you lived in Tel Aviv, a spit from the West Bank, would you take the chance?

Anyone could have seen this war coming. The diplomats and demonstrators who are now so engaged in the problem and the process were nowhere to be found when rockets began raining down on southern Israel. The border between Gaza and Egypt is riddled with tunnels — some for food, some for weapons. The international monitors that are so evidently needed now were just as evidently needed then.

Conventional wisdom says that when Israel went into Lebanon in 2006, it lost that war. Hezbollah stood up to the mighty Israeli army; Israel could not muzzle Hezbollah’s rockets. That may not be the way Hezbollah sees things, however. After the war, its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said he had miscalculated. He was not prepared for the fury of the Israeli attack. He apologized. Now, Hezbollah takes no role in the current war. It will be back, but it still has wounds to lick.

Cohen’s point is well taken: the critics of Israel’s military action hearken back to diplomatic myths (“the peace process”) or unilateral moves by Israel that have either repeatedly failed or are not remotely calculated to enhance Israel’s security. But what of his (and others’) concern: how will it end?

This is eerily reminiscent of the Iraq war. There is no “military victory,” we were told. There can only be a “political settlement.” And, of course,”There will be no end to it.” And yet sometimes, a rather definitive military victory has a way of changing the equation on the ground — or at least setting back the opposition, deflating the mystique of it and its sponsor’s invincibility. It doesn’t mean the opposition is permanently destroyed, but that things are improved and in the case of Israel, its sovereignty is reasserted. As Bret Stephens contends:

“Quiet” does not require the destruction of Hamas. But neither does it exclude it.

In other words, instead of being forced publicly to ratchet its aims downward, as it did in Lebanon, Jerusalem can now ratchet them upward, putting Hamas off-balance and perhaps tempting it to cut its losses by accepting a cease-fire on terms acceptable to Israel. Doing so would not quite amount to a defeat for Hamas. But it would be an unambiguous humiliation for a group whose greatest danger lies in its pretension of invincibility. Burst balloons aren’t easily reinflated.

It is precisely for this reason that Hamas will likely fight on, in the hopes that Israel will flinch. Critics of military action point to this damned-if-Israel-does, damned-if-it-doesn’t scenario as evidence of the folly of the war.

Yet by no means is it obvious that the Israeli army needs to walk directly into a Gaza City Götterdämmerung in order to achieve its military aims. Hamas has been able to arm itself with increasingly sophisticated rockets thanks to a vast network of tunnels running below its border with Egypt. Israel found it difficult to destroy that network prior to its withdrawal from Gaza and will not easily do so now. But by bisecting the Strip, as it has now done, it will have no trouble preventing these rockets from moving north to their usual staging ground, thereby achieving a critical war aim without giving Hamas easy opportunities to hit back.

Israel also has much to gain by avoiding a frontal assault on Gaza’s urban areas in favor of the snatch-and-grab operations that have effectively suppressed Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank. A long-term policy aimed squarely at killing or capturing Hamas’s leaders, destroying arms caches and rocket factories, and cutting off supply and escape routes will not by itself destroy the group. But it can drive it out of government and cripple its ability to function as a fighting force. And this, in turn, could mean the return of Fatah, the closest thing Gaza has to a “legitimate” government.

The Israel-condemnation industry’s alternatives (retreat, negotiation, etc.) haven’t any record of success with Hezbollah or, more recently, with Hamas. The military option which Israel has chosen this time isn’t easy, and the stopping point isn’t clear. But it’s the only option with any hope of tipping the balance in Israel’s favor. It is the only option that can, either in the short or long run, render Hamas impotent. And that’s why the critics oppose it so vehemently.

The whole world is now making suggestions, indeed demands, on Israel — all ostensibly aimed at a “better” resolution of the conflict with Hamas. Richard Cohen writes:

Three years ago, Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip. Good, the world said. Next, pull out of the West Bank, the world said. But then Hamas, which has vowed to destroy Israel, won the election in Gaza. Sderot soon became hell. The West Bank is controlled by Fatah, the moderate Palestinian organization, which once had control of Gaza, too. If Israel withdraws from the West Bank, will rockets come from there? If you lived in Tel Aviv, a spit from the West Bank, would you take the chance?

Anyone could have seen this war coming. The diplomats and demonstrators who are now so engaged in the problem and the process were nowhere to be found when rockets began raining down on southern Israel. The border between Gaza and Egypt is riddled with tunnels — some for food, some for weapons. The international monitors that are so evidently needed now were just as evidently needed then.

Conventional wisdom says that when Israel went into Lebanon in 2006, it lost that war. Hezbollah stood up to the mighty Israeli army; Israel could not muzzle Hezbollah’s rockets. That may not be the way Hezbollah sees things, however. After the war, its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said he had miscalculated. He was not prepared for the fury of the Israeli attack. He apologized. Now, Hezbollah takes no role in the current war. It will be back, but it still has wounds to lick.

Cohen’s point is well taken: the critics of Israel’s military action hearken back to diplomatic myths (“the peace process”) or unilateral moves by Israel that have either repeatedly failed or are not remotely calculated to enhance Israel’s security. But what of his (and others’) concern: how will it end?

This is eerily reminiscent of the Iraq war. There is no “military victory,” we were told. There can only be a “political settlement.” And, of course,”There will be no end to it.” And yet sometimes, a rather definitive military victory has a way of changing the equation on the ground — or at least setting back the opposition, deflating the mystique of it and its sponsor’s invincibility. It doesn’t mean the opposition is permanently destroyed, but that things are improved and in the case of Israel, its sovereignty is reasserted. As Bret Stephens contends:

“Quiet” does not require the destruction of Hamas. But neither does it exclude it.

In other words, instead of being forced publicly to ratchet its aims downward, as it did in Lebanon, Jerusalem can now ratchet them upward, putting Hamas off-balance and perhaps tempting it to cut its losses by accepting a cease-fire on terms acceptable to Israel. Doing so would not quite amount to a defeat for Hamas. But it would be an unambiguous humiliation for a group whose greatest danger lies in its pretension of invincibility. Burst balloons aren’t easily reinflated.

It is precisely for this reason that Hamas will likely fight on, in the hopes that Israel will flinch. Critics of military action point to this damned-if-Israel-does, damned-if-it-doesn’t scenario as evidence of the folly of the war.

Yet by no means is it obvious that the Israeli army needs to walk directly into a Gaza City Götterdämmerung in order to achieve its military aims. Hamas has been able to arm itself with increasingly sophisticated rockets thanks to a vast network of tunnels running below its border with Egypt. Israel found it difficult to destroy that network prior to its withdrawal from Gaza and will not easily do so now. But by bisecting the Strip, as it has now done, it will have no trouble preventing these rockets from moving north to their usual staging ground, thereby achieving a critical war aim without giving Hamas easy opportunities to hit back.

Israel also has much to gain by avoiding a frontal assault on Gaza’s urban areas in favor of the snatch-and-grab operations that have effectively suppressed Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank. A long-term policy aimed squarely at killing or capturing Hamas’s leaders, destroying arms caches and rocket factories, and cutting off supply and escape routes will not by itself destroy the group. But it can drive it out of government and cripple its ability to function as a fighting force. And this, in turn, could mean the return of Fatah, the closest thing Gaza has to a “legitimate” government.

The Israel-condemnation industry’s alternatives (retreat, negotiation, etc.) haven’t any record of success with Hezbollah or, more recently, with Hamas. The military option which Israel has chosen this time isn’t easy, and the stopping point isn’t clear. But it’s the only option with any hope of tipping the balance in Israel’s favor. It is the only option that can, either in the short or long run, render Hamas impotent. And that’s why the critics oppose it so vehemently.

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The Shifting Anti-War Argument

It is fascinating to see how little certain pundits who wrote off the Iraq War as lost a few years ago have learned from their mistakes.  In this morning’s New York Times, Bob Herbert calls the war in Afghanistan a “quagmire”: “Sending thousands of additional men and women (some to die, some to be horribly wounded) on a fool’s errand in the rural, mountainous guerrilla paradise of Afghanistan would be madness. The time to go all out in Afghanistan was in the immediate aftermath of the 2001 terror attacks. That time has passed.”

This is of a piece with Herbert’s previous insights into the Iraq War. In 2005, he wrote: “We need to cut our losses in Iraq. … To continue sending people to their deaths under these circumstances is worse than pointless, worse than irresponsible. It’s a crime of the most grievous kind.” In 2006, he had this to say: “There is something agonizingly tragic about soldiers dying in a war that has already been lost.”

My point is not simply to highlight Herbert’s lack of acumen when it comes to geopolitics (or anything else)–something that would have been painfully apparent long ago to all discerning readers of his column. It is to highlight also the shifting rationales employed by those who, like him, were big critics of the Iraq War.

In 2004, he wrote a column headlined “The Wrong War” in which he argued as follows: “The United States had been the victim of a sneak attack worse than the attack at Pearl Harbor. It was an act of war, and the administration had a moral obligation (not to mention the backing of the entire country and most of the world) to hunt down and eradicate the forces responsible…. The U.S. never pursued Al Qaeda with the focus, tenacity and resources it would expend – and continues to expend – on Iraq.”

But now it turns out that Bob Herbert has no real desire to “eradicate the forces responsible” for 9/11. I suppose if pressed he could claim that the perpetrators have already been caught or killed. But of course those who carried out the attack died on 9/11. It was obvious to the entire world–even to the Bob Herberts–that the attacks also required eradicating the network to which the perpetrators belong. That network still exists. It has a safe haven in Pakistan and its Taliban allies are trying their damnedest to bring down the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Now I suppose Herbert could argue that the real problem today is in Pakistan. But he would not of course support any real action to eradicate the terrorists there. Nor does he consider what the impact of an American defeat in Afghanistan would be: It would offer an immeasurable boost for the very “forces responsible” for 9/11 and, more importantly, the forces plotting similar outrages in the future. If we abandon Afghanistan it would become a refuge for terrorists as it was prior to 9/11. But even then, rest assured, Herbert would find some rationale to justify husbanding our resources for the future and ignoring the war of the moment.

It is fascinating to see how little certain pundits who wrote off the Iraq War as lost a few years ago have learned from their mistakes.  In this morning’s New York Times, Bob Herbert calls the war in Afghanistan a “quagmire”: “Sending thousands of additional men and women (some to die, some to be horribly wounded) on a fool’s errand in the rural, mountainous guerrilla paradise of Afghanistan would be madness. The time to go all out in Afghanistan was in the immediate aftermath of the 2001 terror attacks. That time has passed.”

This is of a piece with Herbert’s previous insights into the Iraq War. In 2005, he wrote: “We need to cut our losses in Iraq. … To continue sending people to their deaths under these circumstances is worse than pointless, worse than irresponsible. It’s a crime of the most grievous kind.” In 2006, he had this to say: “There is something agonizingly tragic about soldiers dying in a war that has already been lost.”

My point is not simply to highlight Herbert’s lack of acumen when it comes to geopolitics (or anything else)–something that would have been painfully apparent long ago to all discerning readers of his column. It is to highlight also the shifting rationales employed by those who, like him, were big critics of the Iraq War.

In 2004, he wrote a column headlined “The Wrong War” in which he argued as follows: “The United States had been the victim of a sneak attack worse than the attack at Pearl Harbor. It was an act of war, and the administration had a moral obligation (not to mention the backing of the entire country and most of the world) to hunt down and eradicate the forces responsible…. The U.S. never pursued Al Qaeda with the focus, tenacity and resources it would expend – and continues to expend – on Iraq.”

But now it turns out that Bob Herbert has no real desire to “eradicate the forces responsible” for 9/11. I suppose if pressed he could claim that the perpetrators have already been caught or killed. But of course those who carried out the attack died on 9/11. It was obvious to the entire world–even to the Bob Herberts–that the attacks also required eradicating the network to which the perpetrators belong. That network still exists. It has a safe haven in Pakistan and its Taliban allies are trying their damnedest to bring down the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Now I suppose Herbert could argue that the real problem today is in Pakistan. But he would not of course support any real action to eradicate the terrorists there. Nor does he consider what the impact of an American defeat in Afghanistan would be: It would offer an immeasurable boost for the very “forces responsible” for 9/11 and, more importantly, the forces plotting similar outrages in the future. If we abandon Afghanistan it would become a refuge for terrorists as it was prior to 9/11. But even then, rest assured, Herbert would find some rationale to justify husbanding our resources for the future and ignoring the war of the moment.

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What a Byline

Today’s Guardian has a column by Khaled Mashaal, Hamas’s headmaster in Damascus. Had the same editorial policy been in place at its predecessor, the Manchester Guardian, in 1940, one can assume we would find in its archives a few good columns by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels explaining to the shell-shocked people of London under the Blitz that it was all their fault if Germany was exercising its lawful right “to resist.”

Today’s Guardian has a column by Khaled Mashaal, Hamas’s headmaster in Damascus. Had the same editorial policy been in place at its predecessor, the Manchester Guardian, in 1940, one can assume we would find in its archives a few good columns by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels explaining to the shell-shocked people of London under the Blitz that it was all their fault if Germany was exercising its lawful right “to resist.”

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Chavez Chills Relations with the U.S. Poor

As a result of the global economic downturn, foreign aid has begun to dry up . . . from Venezuela:

Venezuela’s national oil company is suspending a program that provides discounted heating oil to poor communities in the United States, as officials here struggle to find ways of preserving hard currency reserves amid a plunge in oil revenues.

The move, announced on Monday, halts one of President Hugo Chávez’s most ambitious foreign aid projects — and one that allowed him to poke at the Bush administration, which had proposed a cut in funds for heating assistance to the poor.

It looks like this whole international socialism thing might be harder than Chávez expected. And come to think of it, couldn’t North Koreans use that heating oil more than any Americans?

Cutting off its foreign aid to America is not the only international economic change Venezuela has made:

The suspension of the heating oil program follows a decision to tighten currency controls in an attempt to stanch the flow of dollars leaving the country. On New Year’s Eve, officials cut in half the amount that Venezuelans can spend abroad on their credit cards, to $2,500 a year.

Curious as to whether Chávez also put limits on traveler’s checks and other loopholes, I discovered this Bloomberg.com new story:

Along with cutting the travel purchase allowance, Cadivi [the Venezuelan Foreign Exchange Administration Commission] also reduced to $250 a month, from $500, the amount of cash at the fixed exchange rate that Venezuelans can withdraw from foreign banks. The agency cut the amount of travelers checks Venezuelans can buy to 400 euros or $500, from 500 euros or $600.

The new rules also require that travelers have a plane, ship or bus ticket abroad, eliminating the option for them to get currency for trips by car.

Starting tomorrow, new cardholders can’t get Cadivi dollars until they’ve had their cards for six months, the rules say.

The amount of dollars Venezuelans can use for internet purchases remained at $400 after an 87 percent cut last year from $3,000.

One expects that Venezuelan travelers will increasingly accoutre themselves with hidden wads of cash and jewels.

As a result of the global economic downturn, foreign aid has begun to dry up . . . from Venezuela:

Venezuela’s national oil company is suspending a program that provides discounted heating oil to poor communities in the United States, as officials here struggle to find ways of preserving hard currency reserves amid a plunge in oil revenues.

The move, announced on Monday, halts one of President Hugo Chávez’s most ambitious foreign aid projects — and one that allowed him to poke at the Bush administration, which had proposed a cut in funds for heating assistance to the poor.

It looks like this whole international socialism thing might be harder than Chávez expected. And come to think of it, couldn’t North Koreans use that heating oil more than any Americans?

Cutting off its foreign aid to America is not the only international economic change Venezuela has made:

The suspension of the heating oil program follows a decision to tighten currency controls in an attempt to stanch the flow of dollars leaving the country. On New Year’s Eve, officials cut in half the amount that Venezuelans can spend abroad on their credit cards, to $2,500 a year.

Curious as to whether Chávez also put limits on traveler’s checks and other loopholes, I discovered this Bloomberg.com new story:

Along with cutting the travel purchase allowance, Cadivi [the Venezuelan Foreign Exchange Administration Commission] also reduced to $250 a month, from $500, the amount of cash at the fixed exchange rate that Venezuelans can withdraw from foreign banks. The agency cut the amount of travelers checks Venezuelans can buy to 400 euros or $500, from 500 euros or $600.

The new rules also require that travelers have a plane, ship or bus ticket abroad, eliminating the option for them to get currency for trips by car.

Starting tomorrow, new cardholders can’t get Cadivi dollars until they’ve had their cards for six months, the rules say.

The amount of dollars Venezuelans can use for internet purchases remained at $400 after an 87 percent cut last year from $3,000.

One expects that Venezuelan travelers will increasingly accoutre themselves with hidden wads of cash and jewels.

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Getting to “Yes”

President-elect Obama is meeting with Republicans and offering tax cuts, but Republicans remain wary of the stimulus plan. The Washington Post notes that the size of the spending package remains a concern, and even the tax cuts aren’t being welcomed with open arms:

Some prominent Republicans expressed reservations about the tax proposals’ specifics.  Jon Kyl (Ariz.), a member of the Senate Republican leadership team, said he hadn’t studied the list of proposed cuts, but that he favored reducing corporate and capital gains taxes, and providing more generous small-business incentives. And, he said, “These changes should be permanent, rather than just temporary.”

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the senior Republican on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, said he would prefer a tax package that is “inclusive rather than exclusive” and that offers relief to “as many as taxpayers as possible.” One option, according to a senior Grassley aide, would be to include a $75 billion provision to prevent the alternative minimum tax from applying to millions of additional families.

Plenty of conservatives are skeptical or downright suspicious. Is this some sneaky plot to saddle Republicans with responsibility for a stimulus package that won’t work or to set them up for a huge tax increase later?

Perhaps, but Republicans would be wise to keep two things in mind. First, they have won the rhetorical argument. The Obama team isn’t talking about any tax increases and is conceding that massive public sector spending isn’t going to solve our economic woes. That’s something, and it’s plenty to irritate the Left which is already aghast. Paul Krugman is in a frenzy:

Look, Republicans are not going to come on board. Make 40% of the package tax cuts, they’ll demand 100%. Then they’ll start the thing about how you can’t cut taxes on people who don’t pay taxes (with only income taxes counting, of course) and demand that the plan focus on the affluent. Then they’ll demand cuts in corporate taxes. And Mitch McConnell is already saying that state and local governments should get loans, not aid — which would undermine that part of the plan, too. . . $140 billion for Obama’s tax break for workers, which gives most workers $500. But it sounds as if the rest is mainly, perhaps almost entirely, tax cuts for business. Not very New Dealish.

And that brings us to the second point: Krugman is right. The Republicans needn’t accept whatever the Obama team presents. By declaring his intention to get Republican support, President-elect Obama has empowered Republicans to negotiate and suggest alternatives. Larry Kudlow praises some of the Obama business tax cuts while pointing to room for improvement:

However, as yet there is no Obama signal for the most powerful tax incentives that would slash the 35 percent top corporate rate to something around 20 percent. This should apply both to large C-corps and small-business S-corps. It would attract investment, improve future job creation, and relieve consumers who really shoulder the corporate tax costs. Additionally, full cash expensing for business investment write-offs would provide an even greater bang for the buck.

So while the new tax-refund plan and faster depreciation are positives, they are still much weaker than a full-bore supply-side tax-rate reduction that could even morph into full-fledged corporate tax reform. Now we wait for a Republican response, which hopefully will be bold corporate tax reform as well as reduced individual tax rates (at least for the middle class).

Republicans should get cracking. See if Democrats will vote down a corporate tax holiday or a capital gains cut. Try putting some meaningful restrictions on the boondoggle “shovel ready” projects and see if any Blue Dogs bite.

This is what life in the minority is all about: getting what you can and declaring small and partial victories when you can find them. And if the final package is better, say with a consensus behind business and individual tax cuts, and a moratorium on future corporate bailouts, that would be good for the country and a signal to the voters that Republicans are a source of constructive ideas. What’s wrong with that?

President-elect Obama is meeting with Republicans and offering tax cuts, but Republicans remain wary of the stimulus plan. The Washington Post notes that the size of the spending package remains a concern, and even the tax cuts aren’t being welcomed with open arms:

Some prominent Republicans expressed reservations about the tax proposals’ specifics.  Jon Kyl (Ariz.), a member of the Senate Republican leadership team, said he hadn’t studied the list of proposed cuts, but that he favored reducing corporate and capital gains taxes, and providing more generous small-business incentives. And, he said, “These changes should be permanent, rather than just temporary.”

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the senior Republican on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, said he would prefer a tax package that is “inclusive rather than exclusive” and that offers relief to “as many as taxpayers as possible.” One option, according to a senior Grassley aide, would be to include a $75 billion provision to prevent the alternative minimum tax from applying to millions of additional families.

Plenty of conservatives are skeptical or downright suspicious. Is this some sneaky plot to saddle Republicans with responsibility for a stimulus package that won’t work or to set them up for a huge tax increase later?

Perhaps, but Republicans would be wise to keep two things in mind. First, they have won the rhetorical argument. The Obama team isn’t talking about any tax increases and is conceding that massive public sector spending isn’t going to solve our economic woes. That’s something, and it’s plenty to irritate the Left which is already aghast. Paul Krugman is in a frenzy:

Look, Republicans are not going to come on board. Make 40% of the package tax cuts, they’ll demand 100%. Then they’ll start the thing about how you can’t cut taxes on people who don’t pay taxes (with only income taxes counting, of course) and demand that the plan focus on the affluent. Then they’ll demand cuts in corporate taxes. And Mitch McConnell is already saying that state and local governments should get loans, not aid — which would undermine that part of the plan, too. . . $140 billion for Obama’s tax break for workers, which gives most workers $500. But it sounds as if the rest is mainly, perhaps almost entirely, tax cuts for business. Not very New Dealish.

And that brings us to the second point: Krugman is right. The Republicans needn’t accept whatever the Obama team presents. By declaring his intention to get Republican support, President-elect Obama has empowered Republicans to negotiate and suggest alternatives. Larry Kudlow praises some of the Obama business tax cuts while pointing to room for improvement:

However, as yet there is no Obama signal for the most powerful tax incentives that would slash the 35 percent top corporate rate to something around 20 percent. This should apply both to large C-corps and small-business S-corps. It would attract investment, improve future job creation, and relieve consumers who really shoulder the corporate tax costs. Additionally, full cash expensing for business investment write-offs would provide an even greater bang for the buck.

So while the new tax-refund plan and faster depreciation are positives, they are still much weaker than a full-bore supply-side tax-rate reduction that could even morph into full-fledged corporate tax reform. Now we wait for a Republican response, which hopefully will be bold corporate tax reform as well as reduced individual tax rates (at least for the middle class).

Republicans should get cracking. See if Democrats will vote down a corporate tax holiday or a capital gains cut. Try putting some meaningful restrictions on the boondoggle “shovel ready” projects and see if any Blue Dogs bite.

This is what life in the minority is all about: getting what you can and declaring small and partial victories when you can find them. And if the final package is better, say with a consensus behind business and individual tax cuts, and a moratorium on future corporate bailouts, that would be good for the country and a signal to the voters that Republicans are a source of constructive ideas. What’s wrong with that?

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Harry Reid Steps Up

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went on Meet the Press Sunday and strongly supported Israel’s right to defend itself from the terrorist army in Gaza. “For eight years they’ve been firing rockets into Israel,” he said of Hamas, and went on to describe the dynamic as follows:

They’ve become more intense the last few months. Israelis have been killed, maimed and injured. Sometimes more than 200 a day coming into Israel. If this were going on in the United States from Vancouver, Canada, into Seattle, would we react? Course we do. We would have to…Israel, for–since 1967, controlled Gaza. They gave it to the Palestinians as a gesture of peace. And all they got are a bunch of rockets in return.

He is right, of course, that if the Canadian government were launching missiles at Seattle the U.S. would react, and with force. And we all know the U.S. would not wait eight years.

Reid’s comments are an important reminder of something most of us already know. The United States is more supportive of Israel’s existence and right to defend itself than any other country on earth. The conservative and supposedly pro-Israel President of France Nicolas Sarkozy condemned Israel’s response on the very first day, while the hyperpartisan left-wing American senator stridently defended Israel after more than a week of fierce fighting. Hatred of Israel consumes the mainstream political Right as well as the Left in Europe, while hatred of Israel in the United States is relegated only to part of the intellectual class and to the left-wing and right-wing lunatic fringes.

President-elect Barack Obama may want to take note and issue a statement of his own soon. He can agree with the Senate Majority Leader in his own party and need not fear the political consequences, at least not the domestic political consequences, of taking the same position as the outgoing unpopular President George W. Bush. Defending Israel and condemning a terrorist gang is not, never has been, and never should be strictly a Republican job.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went on Meet the Press Sunday and strongly supported Israel’s right to defend itself from the terrorist army in Gaza. “For eight years they’ve been firing rockets into Israel,” he said of Hamas, and went on to describe the dynamic as follows:

They’ve become more intense the last few months. Israelis have been killed, maimed and injured. Sometimes more than 200 a day coming into Israel. If this were going on in the United States from Vancouver, Canada, into Seattle, would we react? Course we do. We would have to…Israel, for–since 1967, controlled Gaza. They gave it to the Palestinians as a gesture of peace. And all they got are a bunch of rockets in return.

He is right, of course, that if the Canadian government were launching missiles at Seattle the U.S. would react, and with force. And we all know the U.S. would not wait eight years.

Reid’s comments are an important reminder of something most of us already know. The United States is more supportive of Israel’s existence and right to defend itself than any other country on earth. The conservative and supposedly pro-Israel President of France Nicolas Sarkozy condemned Israel’s response on the very first day, while the hyperpartisan left-wing American senator stridently defended Israel after more than a week of fierce fighting. Hatred of Israel consumes the mainstream political Right as well as the Left in Europe, while hatred of Israel in the United States is relegated only to part of the intellectual class and to the left-wing and right-wing lunatic fringes.

President-elect Barack Obama may want to take note and issue a statement of his own soon. He can agree with the Senate Majority Leader in his own party and need not fear the political consequences, at least not the domestic political consequences, of taking the same position as the outgoing unpopular President George W. Bush. Defending Israel and condemning a terrorist gang is not, never has been, and never should be strictly a Republican job.

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You’ll Do a Heckuva Job, ‘Nettie

One of the more frequent criticisms of President Bush held that he often placed loyalty above all other considerations, and put those who had shown him the greatest loyalty into positions for which they were (to put it kindly) not cut out. The most frequently cited example  is probably former FEMA Director Michael “Brownie” Brown, who became a lightning rod for criticism over the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. Bush’s aborted nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court also comes to mind.

This was the sort of thing that many of Bush’s detractors said they Hoped would Change under a new, Democratic president — such as, say, Barack Obama.

Dream on.

While many of Obama’s nominees are certainly of debatable merit (and there will be some very interesting debates in the Senate when those nominees  come up for approval), there is one nomination that is garnering tremendous criticism from both sides of the aisle already: Leon Panetta as Director of Central Intelligence. Panetta is an extremely capable and accomplished individual. He served in both the Nixon and Clinton administrations, as well as Congress. He headed up the federal budget process for both the legislative branch (as chairman of the House Budget Committee) and the executive (as Bill Clinton’s Director of OMB). He holds a law degree, and has had a legal career of some renown. And in the 1960’s, he did a two-year stint as an officer in the U.S. Army, entering as a 2nd Lieutenant and getting promoted twice before leaving as a Captain.

But never in his storied career has he done anything that would even hint at an aptitude for intelligence.

Some of Panetta’s experiences and skills would certainly serve him well at the CIA. He would be good at making sure the Agency stays within its budget and uses its funding most efficiently. He would keep the Agency from getting too close to breaking laws. And his lengthy experiences in government would help him maintain good relations with other agencies and government bodies.

But those are all peripheral to the primary task of the CIA: to collect information, analyze it, and manage it to best uphold our national security.

We’ve seen, far too often, what happens when the CIA fails. The price is often paid in blood — American blood. “Failures of Intelligence” are often cited as the prime factors in the success of the 9/11 attacks. Such failures also lie at the heart of the the Saddam-WMD mistake. And now Barack Obama — for whatever reason — wants to put in charge of the CIA a man with literally zero experience in intelligence, espionage, and covert operations.

We need a Jack Ryan.  Instead, Obama’s offering us “Bob from Accountemps.”

One of the more frequent criticisms of President Bush held that he often placed loyalty above all other considerations, and put those who had shown him the greatest loyalty into positions for which they were (to put it kindly) not cut out. The most frequently cited example  is probably former FEMA Director Michael “Brownie” Brown, who became a lightning rod for criticism over the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. Bush’s aborted nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court also comes to mind.

This was the sort of thing that many of Bush’s detractors said they Hoped would Change under a new, Democratic president — such as, say, Barack Obama.

Dream on.

While many of Obama’s nominees are certainly of debatable merit (and there will be some very interesting debates in the Senate when those nominees  come up for approval), there is one nomination that is garnering tremendous criticism from both sides of the aisle already: Leon Panetta as Director of Central Intelligence. Panetta is an extremely capable and accomplished individual. He served in both the Nixon and Clinton administrations, as well as Congress. He headed up the federal budget process for both the legislative branch (as chairman of the House Budget Committee) and the executive (as Bill Clinton’s Director of OMB). He holds a law degree, and has had a legal career of some renown. And in the 1960’s, he did a two-year stint as an officer in the U.S. Army, entering as a 2nd Lieutenant and getting promoted twice before leaving as a Captain.

But never in his storied career has he done anything that would even hint at an aptitude for intelligence.

Some of Panetta’s experiences and skills would certainly serve him well at the CIA. He would be good at making sure the Agency stays within its budget and uses its funding most efficiently. He would keep the Agency from getting too close to breaking laws. And his lengthy experiences in government would help him maintain good relations with other agencies and government bodies.

But those are all peripheral to the primary task of the CIA: to collect information, analyze it, and manage it to best uphold our national security.

We’ve seen, far too often, what happens when the CIA fails. The price is often paid in blood — American blood. “Failures of Intelligence” are often cited as the prime factors in the success of the 9/11 attacks. Such failures also lie at the heart of the the Saddam-WMD mistake. And now Barack Obama — for whatever reason — wants to put in charge of the CIA a man with literally zero experience in intelligence, espionage, and covert operations.

We need a Jack Ryan.  Instead, Obama’s offering us “Bob from Accountemps.”

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Burris Gaining Ground?

You do sense that the momentum is shifting in the Senate on the issue of seating the Junior Senator from Illinois, as Roland Burris likes to identify himself:

No one in the Democratic leadership suggested Monday that Burris would actually be seated when he arrives at the Capitol on Tuesday — or at any point thereafter — but the rhetoric was clearly softening as a potential showdown at the Capitol loomed, and Democrats were eager to get past the distraction.

Burris, arriving on a Southwest Airlines flight to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, acted as if his future wasn’t in doubt. He declared: “I am the United States senator from the state of Illinois.” And asked whether he’d anticipated the “mess” his appointment would cause, Burris said, “Mess? What mess?”

Burris is expected to arrive at the Capitol on Tuesday just before the swearing-in ceremony for new members. He said his message for Reid is simple: “I’m here to take my seat.”

Considering the pressure from Republicans and African-Americans in the House plus the flimsy legal grounds for excluding Burris ( “There must be fraud in there somewhere“), you wonder how Reid is going to wriggle out of his defiant position.

He could always offer to seat Burris, with the understanding that Burris won’t run again in 2010. But why should Burris agree to that? Reid alternatively could agree to seat Burris pending a special election, but the Illinois Democrats are dead set against that and, again, Burris would have no real reason to agree to such a deal.

Whatever “deal” Reid has in mind looks increasingly like a capitulation. And that, after all, is the “right” result. Burris has done nothing wrong from what we know. It’s Blago, the Illinois Democrats and the Senate Democrats who seem to be playing fast and loose with the law. And Burris knows it.

You do sense that the momentum is shifting in the Senate on the issue of seating the Junior Senator from Illinois, as Roland Burris likes to identify himself:

No one in the Democratic leadership suggested Monday that Burris would actually be seated when he arrives at the Capitol on Tuesday — or at any point thereafter — but the rhetoric was clearly softening as a potential showdown at the Capitol loomed, and Democrats were eager to get past the distraction.

Burris, arriving on a Southwest Airlines flight to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, acted as if his future wasn’t in doubt. He declared: “I am the United States senator from the state of Illinois.” And asked whether he’d anticipated the “mess” his appointment would cause, Burris said, “Mess? What mess?”

Burris is expected to arrive at the Capitol on Tuesday just before the swearing-in ceremony for new members. He said his message for Reid is simple: “I’m here to take my seat.”

Considering the pressure from Republicans and African-Americans in the House plus the flimsy legal grounds for excluding Burris ( “There must be fraud in there somewhere“), you wonder how Reid is going to wriggle out of his defiant position.

He could always offer to seat Burris, with the understanding that Burris won’t run again in 2010. But why should Burris agree to that? Reid alternatively could agree to seat Burris pending a special election, but the Illinois Democrats are dead set against that and, again, Burris would have no real reason to agree to such a deal.

Whatever “deal” Reid has in mind looks increasingly like a capitulation. And that, after all, is the “right” result. Burris has done nothing wrong from what we know. It’s Blago, the Illinois Democrats and the Senate Democrats who seem to be playing fast and loose with the law. And Burris knows it.

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It’s a War on Iran

Robert Kaplan has an excellent essay in the Atlantic on the current Gaza situation. It is the clearest elucidation of Western interests I have come across since Israel launched its air offensive on December 27, and it goes straight to the heart of the matter:

Our own diplomacy with Iran now rests on whether or not Israel succeeds. We need to create leverage before we can negotiate with the clerical regime, and that leverage can only come from an Israeli moral victory-one that leaves Hamas sufficiently reeling to scare even the pro-Iranian Syrians from coming to its aid. In defense of its own territorial integrity, Israel has, in effect, launched the war on the Iranian empire that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, in particular, can only have contemplated.

As Kaplan goes on to say,

now that Israel has launched a war, we need it to succeed, rather than be compromised by the kind of ceasefire that allows Hamas to regroup. If that happens, our leverage with Iran will be further reduced, with negotiations yielding little. But once Israel does succeed, then we will need to bear down on it hard, in the service of negotiations with both Arabs and Iranians. If he is smart, President-elect Barack Obama will now be quietly rooting for Israel.

Whether President-elect Obama’s silence is a sign that he read (and agreed with) Kaplan’s article remains to be seen. But clearly, the combined interests of Europe, the United States, and the so-called moderate Arab regimes (Egypt, Jordan, and the the Arab states of the Gulf) depend upon Israel bloodying Iran’s nose. Let’s hope this clarity is not missed in the corridors of power, and that Israel will get enough time — from its allies and grudging supporters — to finish the job.

Robert Kaplan has an excellent essay in the Atlantic on the current Gaza situation. It is the clearest elucidation of Western interests I have come across since Israel launched its air offensive on December 27, and it goes straight to the heart of the matter:

Our own diplomacy with Iran now rests on whether or not Israel succeeds. We need to create leverage before we can negotiate with the clerical regime, and that leverage can only come from an Israeli moral victory-one that leaves Hamas sufficiently reeling to scare even the pro-Iranian Syrians from coming to its aid. In defense of its own territorial integrity, Israel has, in effect, launched the war on the Iranian empire that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, in particular, can only have contemplated.

As Kaplan goes on to say,

now that Israel has launched a war, we need it to succeed, rather than be compromised by the kind of ceasefire that allows Hamas to regroup. If that happens, our leverage with Iran will be further reduced, with negotiations yielding little. But once Israel does succeed, then we will need to bear down on it hard, in the service of negotiations with both Arabs and Iranians. If he is smart, President-elect Barack Obama will now be quietly rooting for Israel.

Whether President-elect Obama’s silence is a sign that he read (and agreed with) Kaplan’s article remains to be seen. But clearly, the combined interests of Europe, the United States, and the so-called moderate Arab regimes (Egypt, Jordan, and the the Arab states of the Gulf) depend upon Israel bloodying Iran’s nose. Let’s hope this clarity is not missed in the corridors of power, and that Israel will get enough time — from its allies and grudging supporters — to finish the job.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

It’s not quite the “final” lawsuit, but Norm Coleman’s loss at the Minnesota Supreme Court and Al Franken’s election certification make clear where this is headed.

Still, where does Harry Reid get off saying that Coleman will “never ever serve” in the Senate again? I know Senate Democrats aren’t keen on elections but Coleman can run again, even if he’s finally declared the loser in this one.

Jim Geraghty reminds us that Democrats Republicans aren’t so enamored of secret ballots. And he (along with others) doesn’t give the Ken Blackwell camp’s hit piece on Michael Steele a  good review.

The six RNC contenders who debated yesterday did not overwhelm the assembled with their bold visions and innovative ideas, according to this report. (Although this account singles out Blackwell and Michael Steele for better outings.) You wonder if this is the best the GOP can really do.

But they can all wait around for that Obama backlash to solve their problems. That’s the ticket.

Mickey Kaus warns that card check isn’t dead. The Senate just wants to mull it over — for a really long time, if vulnerable Senators have any say.

Jeffrey Goldberg says kaddish for J Street.

JTA isn’t buying the J Street defense: “This is a recurring line from J Street officials and the organization’s biggests fans, who complain that established pro-Israel organizations, Jewish communal leaders and pundits seek to delegitimize them simply for asking legitimate questions about Israeli policies. The only problem is that in this case it is J Street that has been consistently questioning the legitimacy of those who happen to think that Israel is right to be taking military action right now.”

The House Republican leaders, invoking President-elect Obama, protest Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s rule changes, which will make it more difficult for the minority to offer alternative legislation. Closed rules and corruption– didn’t the Republicans run against all that in 1994?

Charles Hurt would like more change: “Obama ran for president and won handily on the promise that he is a new kind of politician, carrying a voice directly from the people. And he promised an open and honest government. People gave Obama the benefit of the doubt and decided not to hang the words and deeds of others on him. But at some point, it all becomes much more serious. It becomes the grave issue of judgment and knowing whom you can trust. Obama has allowed himself to be surrounded by some seriously flawed people. If you are known by the company that you keep, then Obama needs to find him some new friends.”

Mother Jones thinks the Bill Richardson non-vetting suggests a deeper problem: “It may be premature to say that Obama and his team have too high a tolerance for corruption. But this first self-destruct among his cabinet picks could well prove all the more damaging because it’s something they should have seen coming from miles away.”

Caroline Kennedy tanks in a post-interview poll, you know.

Is the Leon Panetta selection a “cop out,” a smart pick, or the baffling selection of  “a lifelong partisan” with “no relevant experience”? So far the only people who count — Senators — aren’t impressed. The notion that you can be a “good manager” without expertise and go toe-to-toe with those you seek to manage seems like wishful thinking, especially in the CIA (with a tradition of ignoring Directors whom the underlings don’t respect).

It’s a Clinton-palooza at the Justice Department!

It’s not quite the “final” lawsuit, but Norm Coleman’s loss at the Minnesota Supreme Court and Al Franken’s election certification make clear where this is headed.

Still, where does Harry Reid get off saying that Coleman will “never ever serve” in the Senate again? I know Senate Democrats aren’t keen on elections but Coleman can run again, even if he’s finally declared the loser in this one.

Jim Geraghty reminds us that Democrats Republicans aren’t so enamored of secret ballots. And he (along with others) doesn’t give the Ken Blackwell camp’s hit piece on Michael Steele a  good review.

The six RNC contenders who debated yesterday did not overwhelm the assembled with their bold visions and innovative ideas, according to this report. (Although this account singles out Blackwell and Michael Steele for better outings.) You wonder if this is the best the GOP can really do.

But they can all wait around for that Obama backlash to solve their problems. That’s the ticket.

Mickey Kaus warns that card check isn’t dead. The Senate just wants to mull it over — for a really long time, if vulnerable Senators have any say.

Jeffrey Goldberg says kaddish for J Street.

JTA isn’t buying the J Street defense: “This is a recurring line from J Street officials and the organization’s biggests fans, who complain that established pro-Israel organizations, Jewish communal leaders and pundits seek to delegitimize them simply for asking legitimate questions about Israeli policies. The only problem is that in this case it is J Street that has been consistently questioning the legitimacy of those who happen to think that Israel is right to be taking military action right now.”

The House Republican leaders, invoking President-elect Obama, protest Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s rule changes, which will make it more difficult for the minority to offer alternative legislation. Closed rules and corruption– didn’t the Republicans run against all that in 1994?

Charles Hurt would like more change: “Obama ran for president and won handily on the promise that he is a new kind of politician, carrying a voice directly from the people. And he promised an open and honest government. People gave Obama the benefit of the doubt and decided not to hang the words and deeds of others on him. But at some point, it all becomes much more serious. It becomes the grave issue of judgment and knowing whom you can trust. Obama has allowed himself to be surrounded by some seriously flawed people. If you are known by the company that you keep, then Obama needs to find him some new friends.”

Mother Jones thinks the Bill Richardson non-vetting suggests a deeper problem: “It may be premature to say that Obama and his team have too high a tolerance for corruption. But this first self-destruct among his cabinet picks could well prove all the more damaging because it’s something they should have seen coming from miles away.”

Caroline Kennedy tanks in a post-interview poll, you know.

Is the Leon Panetta selection a “cop out,” a smart pick, or the baffling selection of  “a lifelong partisan” with “no relevant experience”? So far the only people who count — Senators — aren’t impressed. The notion that you can be a “good manager” without expertise and go toe-to-toe with those you seek to manage seems like wishful thinking, especially in the CIA (with a tradition of ignoring Directors whom the underlings don’t respect).

It’s a Clinton-palooza at the Justice Department!

Read Less




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