Hmmm…. just a bit too triumphant in declaring victory in Iraq, aren’t you Mr. Greenwald? There are still all of the characteristics present for many more years of civil war, religous conflict, proxy conflict, you name it. I personally don’t even believe that Iraq can or should remain a unified nation. The Kurdish issue is just one of many unresolved issues that will surely generate problems for this adminstration and those administrations that follow Obama.
To refer to the Obama administration as “pro-war” is also just a bit too much to swallow. While there may be adherence to some of the technicalities of a time table agreement worked out by Bush and Co., this doesn’t qualify BHO as being a pro-war administration. Far from it.
Full disclosure, I voted for Obama in 2008 and Bush in 2004. I like both men. I respect your ideological position in regards to Iraq, but you’ve gone down the rabbit hole with this post. I generally like your writings, so I’m not dissing on you. But man, this type of logic doesn’t do justice to some of your other work.
Posts For: January 13, 2009
I just spotted a headline from the Los Angeles Times’ blog that reads, “IRAQ: More Marines commit suicide.”
I don’t even know how to feel about a lede that debunks its own sensationalism this economically:
More active-duty Marines committed suicide last year than any year since the beginning of the war in Iraq, although the rate of suicide remained virtually unchanged because the corps is increasing its size, according to a report issued Tuesday.
In other words, more active duty Marines probably did a lot of things this year. More fell in love; more watched American Idol; more had indigestion; more learned how to cook with a wok, more joined Facebook, etc. But the kicker comes a few lines later.
The 2008 rate remains below that of the Army (18.1 in 2007) and the civilian population with similar demographics (19.5).
I guess “Marine Suicide Rate Stays Low” isn’t much of a headline.
Anyone can become a billionaire . . . if they move to Zimbabwe. Yesterday, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, the country’s central bank, unveiled a new $50 billion note, worth a little more than one greenback. In August, Harare knocked ten zeros off its currency. After the maneuver, a newspaper cost $10. Now it takes a little more than $15 billion to buy one. Good luck trying to find someone willing to accept Zimbabwe’s money.
The currency is not the only thing disintegrating: Since Robert Mugabe won the election in June-he was the only candidate-the country itself has fallen apart. Famine, disease, government failure, societal collapse-Zimbabwe has got it all. Now citizens, due to various factors, are dying in large numbers. Douglas Gwatidza, chief of Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights says, “The whole country is turning into some kind of giant mortuary.”
Analysts correctly point out that the multi-decade misrule of the above-mentioned Mr. Mugabe is responsible for his country’s plight. Yet this is not just the problem of one bad autocrat. Of course, the country’s form of government is the fundamental problem. It’s not that Zimbabwe needs a better dictator; it needs to have none of them.
Democracy seems to have been stagnating in recent years, as the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2008 Index of Democracy suggests. The EIU survey indicates that the global financial crisis could even threaten the very concept of representative governance in some parts of the world. Yet so far the general downturn is hitting the autocracies especially hard, potentially undermining the stability of hardline societies from Iran to Venezuela. Even the governments of the two largest authoritarian states, Russia and China, are now at risk. “The crisis in the West is purely economic,” says Li Qiang of China Labor Watch. “But in China it’s a huge political problem.” As it is in Putin’s increasingly repressive domain.
General prosperity, in the wake of the fall of Soviet communism, made all dictators appear strong. Now, however, we are seeing the inherent weaknesses of authoritarianism. “Until the tide goes out you don’t know who’s swimming naked,” said Warren Buffett in better times.
The tide is receding, and Mugabe is playing out his last days in power. Whether their problems are of longstanding nature-such as Zimbabwe’s-or of newer vintage, autocracies appear to be in jeopardy. We should be thinking at this time of how to get rid of them all.
Not even the hugely popular President-elect seems capable of quelling lawmakers’ apprehension about releasing the second half of the original $700B bailout monies. It seems they are all too aware of how unpopular the plan is. Moreover, since no one can quite figure out how the first half of the money has been used, the urgent cries for releasing still more billions is running into a buzz-saw of objections and complaints. And those are the Democrats:
Barack Obama’s attempt to grease release of the second portion of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout hit a snag Monday when House leaders signaled they’d prefer more specific strings attached.
The House positioning came just hours after Obama’s top economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, sent a letter to top congressional leaders to quell opposition to the additional funding from the Senate, which was aired during a two-hour meeting Sunday on Capitol Hill.
. . .
Still, House Democrats were not so easily satisfied. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) plan to press forward with legislation he wrote that would specify in great detail how the Obama would have to use the additional funds. The bill is expected to come to the House floor as early as Wednesday.
“We should not allow our disappointment at the Bush administration’s poor handling of the TARP program to prevent the Obama administration from using the funds in more appropriate ways,” Frank said in a statement. His bill, he said, “sets forth the conditions we believe are necessary to assure that the public gets the full benefit of these funds.”
Frank also is convening a hearing Tuesday to discuss how the new Obama administration should use the remaining $350 billion.
“Even though we have a lot more faith in the Obama administration, people have been burned before,” said an aide to a Democrat on Frank’s panel, explaining the desire to move forward with legislation.
And the Republicans? They are grinning, enjoying the prospect that Democrats will now have to justify the bail-a-thon to voters who are increasingly wary of this fiscal game of three-card monte:
Meanwhile, Republican leaders in both chambers sought to put the ownership of the potentially unpopular move squarely on Democrats’ shoulders.
House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) pledged to oppose the request from President George W. Bush to release the funds, saying he needs to see proof from Obama that the economy really needs the additional funds.
And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday evening that he “would be hard-pressed to support additional funding for the TARP without sufficient assurances this money will not be wasted, misspent or simply used for more industry-specific bailouts.”
The Republicans are, albeit belatedly, rediscovering their lost frugality. They are re-establishing themselves as the party most responsive to voters’ concern about the use of billions in taxpayers’ money for dubious and uncertain purposes. Critics might say they have “lost credibility” on the issue. But voters’ memories are short and they want to know how lawmakers are behaving now. Republicans would be wise to stick to their new found sobriety, and force the Democrats to scrounge up enough votes on their own to support release of the bailout funds.
That’s what being in the majority is all about–getting the votes and taking responsibility for one’s own party’s political actions. Republicans no longer need to defend and facilitate the incumbent president’s policies, with which they vehemently disagree, out of partisan loyalty. This is their time for “change”–the time to act with principled objection to silly policies and suggest their own alternatives. It’s not quite the same as winning and governing, but freedom from obligations to actually pass legislation has its perks.
Since the war began, Ehud Olmert has done a masterful job of keeping his mouth shut. We are just a few weeks before the election, an election that happened as the result of Olmert’s multiple police investigations compounded by his grandiose ineptitude in the 2006 war. Somehow, the Kadima government was successful in impressing people — and pretty much making us forget who was in charge.
Until last night.
Unfathomably, inconceivably, Olmert opened his mouth, and said some remarkably stupid things. The entire idea of the U.S. abstaining in the vote in the UN Security Council calling for a cease fire, it turns out, was his. Here‘s YNet’s report on what Olmert says he said to the President of the United States:
“I said: ‘Get me President Bush on the phone,’” Olmert said in a speech in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. “They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn’t care: ‘I need to talk to him now.’ He got off the podium and spoke to me.”
Olmert said he argued that the United States should not vote in favor, and the president then called Rice and told her not to do so. “She was left pretty embarrassed,” Olmert said.
But the quotes don’t do the gaffe justice. I saw it on the news last night. The body language, the cheesy little-boy grin: a truly remarkable display of old-style Israeli machoistic baloney. Predictably, the State Department is beside itself. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that Olmert’s remarks “are wholly inaccurate as to describing the situation, just 100%, totally, completely not true.” It’s not a risky bet to assume McCormack is right. The story is just implausible.
Whatever you say about the State Department, all in all the Bush Administration has remained remarkably consistent in its support of Israel — more so even than the Reagan Administration, which in its last years recognized the PLO. To give Bush and Secretary Rice this kind of last-minute kick in the pants was remarkably inelegant.
Israeli voters are unlikely to take this kindly. The biggest victim is Tzipi Livni, who has done everything she can to bury Olmert in order to maximize her party’s chances of re-election. Just in case we had forgotten why we’re having elections in the first place…
One sure way to get Senator Arlen Specter’s dander up is to deny him his procedural rights and to play fast-and-lose with the facts. But Senate Judiciary Chair Pat Leahy seems bent on doing just that. Specter is already concerned about “serious questions” surrounding Attorney General nominee Eric Holder’s involvement with the Marc Rich and FALN terrorists’ pardons, as well as his appointment of an independent prosecutor to investigate Al Gore’s involvement in illegal campaign contributions. The latter hasn’t been much discussed yet but a source involved in the Holder confirmation explains:
From 1997 to 1999, the House Committee on Government Reform and the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs investigated Democrats fund-raising activities in the 1996 election. Both committees found significant evidence of wrongdoing and recommended that Reno appoint an independent counsel. The House Committee criticized “the failure of the Attorney General to follow the law and appoint an independent counsel .” FBI Director Louis Freeh and the Attorney General’s hand-picked Chief Prosecutor, Charles La Bella, wrote lengthy memos to the Attorney General advising her that she must appoint an Independent Counsel under the mandatory section of the Independent Counsel Statute. Holder was intimately involved in the decision-making process that resulted in Attorney General Reno rejecting the DOJ and FBI task force’s recommendation to appoint an independent counsel to probe the allegations of fundraising abuses by Vice-President Gore during the 1996 presidential campaign. Reno consulted Holder throughout the investigation. The Committee should inquire into whether he followed the facts without a political bias toward Gore.
But now Leahy is trying to cut off Specter’s access to documents and rush through the confirmation hearing. We learn from this report:
Specter has run into a Leahy roadblock in his attempts to get some of the background documents on the nomination. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy has refused to sign off on document requests by Republicans relevant to the hearing from the Department of Justice and the Clinton administration archives at the library in Little Rock.
This is — according to Republican staff sources — enormously frustrating to Specter. He cannot make document requests unilaterally using the power of the Committee. Only if Leahy joins in the request will it likely even be answered. Those staffers said that they cannot recall any instance in which Specter refused a Leahy request when the Republican was chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
. . .
To further complicate matters, reports came to light on Monday evening of a more extensive connection between Holder and Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich which Holder did not fully disclose. Holder claims that he did not perform any “substantive” work for the disgraced Illinois governor in a gaming board licensing matter that was clouded by charges of corruption. Yet in response to a request for documentation from Republican Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the Illinois governor’s office has produced an April 22, 2004 letter from Holder himself on his firm’s letterhead which states that Blagojevich hired him for oversight on the entire investigation. Reports show Holder’s firm was paid $300,000 in legal fees. This latest development may be the first crack in the wall of secrecy erected by Senate Democrats around Holder’s confirmation process.
Leahy is badly mistaken if he thinks hiding the ball is the way to get past Specter. The famously prickly former prosecutor is a stickler for process and, like his Republican colleagues, isn’t going to like the notion that the nominee, assisted by ever-helpful Senate aides, is giving him less than complete information. This is especially troublesome, given Holder’s lack of candor with a prior congressional committee over his involvement with the Marc Rich pardon, references to which might emerge in the hearing. The question looms: Is this guy not a straight shooter?
Perhaps all of this is much to do about nothing. But by playing procedural hardball with Specter, Leahy is only fueling suspicions that there may be troublesome items in Holder’s record which may not stand up to intense scrutiny.
You’ve probably heard about the schools that have been renamed for President-elect Barack Obama, as well as the activists who have changed their middle names to Hussein in his honor. Though all these gestures are incredibly premature expressions of respect for our 44th President–who hasn’t even taken office, let alone been judged by history–they are hardly surprising. After all, presidents’ names are affixed to all kinds of public institutions, and activists are, well, crazy.
Yet the Brooklyn Cyclones have finally found a way to take the practice of instant Obama worship to the next level. For their season opener, the Mets’ Coney Island-based minor-league team will rename itself the Baracklyn Cyclones, and don remarkably hideous “Baracklyn” jerseys. The account of how this gimmick was conceptualized reads like it was ripped straight off of Chris Matthews’ teleprompter:
We were somewhat hesitant, because political figures and issues can be polarizing and are therefore usually considered taboo when using them in a promotion. But not Obama, right? He stands for unity. He is the polar opposite of polarizing. He’s like, bi-polar! Or a polar bear! Or, something like that…you get the picture. He doesn’t tear people apart, he brings them together. And he’s going to be the new President! What red-blooded American wouldn’t support a new President, fighting to change the country for the better?
The first 2,500 fans in attendance will receive Barack Obama bobble-head dolls–or at least that’s what the Cyclones are calling them. As far as I can tell from the tone of the press release, however, they’re actually pagan idols.
International pressure is mounting for the U.S. administration to engage itself more actively in mediating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even as their future Secretary of State pledges to commit herself to this goal, the American people themselves don’t seem so enthusiastic about getting involved. According to a Gallup poll from last week, not even the violence in Gaza bolstered American support for greater action:
Israel’s military action in the Gaza Strip after recent Hamas rocket fire into southern Israel has put international pressure on the United States to advocate an immediate cease-fire; but only 33% of Americans, according to a Jan. 6-7 Gallup Poll, say the Bush administration should be doing more to end the conflict than it already is doing.
Attitudes toward active engagement — and specifically, toward a cease-fire — fall largely along partisan lines, with Democrats demanding more of it on average compared to Republicans — a political divide reflected in several polls. Since liberals are generally less supportive of Israel, Gallup concludes that “it is likely that liberals favor an immediate cessation of the Gaza hostilities, even if that doesn’t serve Israel’s security interests.”
Interestingly, there’s also a new Rasmussen poll on Israel and Gaza offering material for a comparative analysis. Generally speaking, American support for the Gaza operation is still very high — even slightly higher than it was two weeks ago:
Forty-five percent (45%) say Israel should have taken military action against the Palestinians, little changed from 44% two weeks ago. Thirty-eight percent (38%) say that the Jewish nation should have tried harder to find a diplomatic solution, down slightly from 41% in the earlier survey.
In an earlier Rasmussen survey, 52% of Americans said, “it is possible for Israel and the Palestinians to live in peace, but just 35% thought Obama is likely to help end the conflict during his presidency.” According to this new survey, “[f]ifty-three percent (53%) are at least somewhat confident in Barack Obama’s ability to deal with the situation in Gaza, including 25% who are Very Confident in the President-elect.” Perhaps they ought to read Rick before making up their minds.
What might seem puzzling in the Rasmussen poll is this conclusion:
Looking ahead, 50% say Israel should agree to a truce now while 26% disagree.
Why would 50% of Americans — most of whom are supportive of Israel’s military action — want Israel to agree to a cease-fire now? The wording of the question is straightforward:
Should Israel agree to a truce now and seek a diplomatic solution to the fighting in Gaza?
A plausible explanation may be Americans’ inability to reasonably asses the implications of a truce, and their assumption that the “diplomatic solution” mentioned in the survey is viable. I’m not sure whether we would get the same statistical response to a differently framed question, such as:
Should Israel agree to a cease-fire which would be trumped as a victory by Hamas and which would signal internal weakness to the Arab world, or should Israel continue fighting until it achieves a unilateral victory over Hamas?
Perhaps Americans’ elusive wishes are best captured by last week’s Gallup poll:
Public opinion about U.S. involvement in resolving the Gaza conflict is reminiscent of how Americans reacted to the hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006. A Gallup Poll conducted in July 2006 found only a third of Americans saying the United States should press for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah, 20% saying it should wait before calling for a cease-fire, and 43% saying it should not get involved at any point.
Gallup analysts use the example of 2006, and draw conclusions they think apply today:
[In 2006] Given several options for the role the United States should play in bringing about peace between Israel and Hezbollah, only 14% of Americans said the United States should take the leading role. More than half (56%) said the United States should be involved but that the United Nations should take the leading role, and another 29% said the United States should not be involved at all.
That sentiment may very well apply to how Americans perceive the Gaza conflict today. While the public may believe the United States should have a place at the diplomatic table, it may not want to see the United States leading the Palestinian-Israeli peace effort, or expending time and other resources on it that may be needed closer to home.
This might explain the discrepancy between Rasmussen finding 50% wanting a cease-fire now, and Gallup finding only 33% to want more engagement in brokering a cease-fire. While Americans wish for a cease-fire, most of them don’t want it to be a direct result of American intervention, but rather an internal truce among the warring parties which would void the need of any further American involvement. The Gallup poll iterates the finding that liberals statistically favor direct U.S. intervention and a cease-fire more strongly than other political denominations.
What’s most interesting: Gallup asked half the sample about involvement of “the Bush administration” and the other half about involvement “of the United States”; when the “Bush factor” was eliminated from the question’s wording, the partisan differences in attitudes waned significantly:
This difference [between the samples] is largely because Democrats and independents are significantly more likely to favor greater action when the question is framed in terms of the Bush administration rather than the country, generally.
In other words, it’s not even action most liberals truly want; it’s having another, probably last, shot at criticizing the Bush administration.
In his thoughtful analysis of the Bush presidency’s shortcomings Rich Lowry identifies two mistakes regarding Congress:
Not getting congressional buy-in on detention policy immediately after 9/11. Going to Congress would have forced more deliberation when the administration was rushing into the hasty improvisation of Gitmo and made it harder for Democrats to grandstand once it became controversial.
. . .
Too much accommodation of a GOP Congress. Bush got what he wanted out of Congress at the price of looking the other way from burgeoning earmarks and a creeping culture of corruption. More triangulation at the expense of his own party’s leaders would have served Bush — and perhaps the ill-fated GOP majority — well.
At first blush this might seem odd–could the President have accommodated Congress both too little and too much? There is an argument to be made that this was precisely the problem, and perhaps the second error stemmed from the first.
For reasons which might have seemed more understandable as events were unfolding in real time, the White House chose to go at it alone on a range of national-security issues — from detention to surveillance. One could imagine that providing a detailed explanation of highly classified material and undertaking tedious negotiations with the likes of Sen. Jay Rockefeller would not be high on anyone’s list of preferred activities. But by providing minimal information and by unilaterally crafting policy by executive order, the White House created institutional as well as ideological grounds for Congress to oppose its actions.
Would Congress really have impeded the President in the days and weeks after 9-11 (and before the Iraq War went haywire)? It is hard to say. And although both President Bush and Vice President Cheney take pride in leaving the presidency “stronger than when they found it,” one suspects the over-correction envisioned by the Obama team will leave the executive branch the net loser.
And what about the domestic agenda and Congress? Perhaps the President didn’t have the nerve or the energy to tangle with Congress on domestic-spending issues while depending on the fraying support of Republicans and a few stray Democrats to back the war on terror. If domestic spending was the price to be paid for keeping Congress from a full revolt, that might have seemed a reasonable trade-off for the President.
But beyond that, the domestic agenda and Congressional relations suffered, I think, from a failure to reasonably assess what was doable. Social Security reform (at least of the type which the President favored) was not, and the effort needlessly tried the patience of Republicans, unified Democrats, and diminished the President’s political capital. Immigration might have been doable, but not in 2005, and not in such an unwieldy form which would have left even immigration supporters confused and distressed about the bill’s specifics.
As Pete has cautioned, outsiders have the luxury to criticize without the benefit of complete knowledge and with the advantage of hindsight. But the lessons are there to be learned by the incoming administration. If you get Congressional buy-in, Congress will be there to cushion the blow when things go wrong (or at least they may self-censor to a degree). And if you figure out what is doable — as opposed to what will just be one big, messy, unproductive fight — you’ll actually get some of your agenda through. All of this is easier said than done, but the lessons are nevertheless worthy of consideration.
It is a commonplace when writing about security gains in Iraq to use the qualifiers “fragile” and “reversible.” But considering the continued progress there and the shape-shifting of Barack Obama, perhaps those terms are better suited to describing the status of the incoming administration’s Iraq policy.
What did Joe “We Will End This War!” Biden get up to today? He was in Baghdad reassuring Iraqi leaders that “the new administration will stick to the timetable in the [U.S.- Iraq status of forces] agreement,” according to government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh.
So, that’s that. The Obama team is officially on-board with the Bush Iraq plan. That means American troops in Iraq for at least three more years. This comes as no surprise to anyone who’s been watching the progress in Iraq closely. But the unqualified reversal from anti-war ticket to pro-war administration is still something to marvel at. And the justification gymnastics from Obama voters who still can’t admit victory in Iraq should be fun to watch as well.
Caroline Kennedy has dropped the tactic of explaining to the media her credentials and fitness for office. The blizzard of “you know’s” and the general absence of any unique views of her own ended that strategy. She’s meeting with local pols and with Governor Paterson. In public we get a new approach: her allies remind us, “Psst, she is a friend of the President-elect.” This report explains the new gambit:
While [Bronx County Democratic Committee chairman Jeffrey] Dinowitz said he thinks the governor has “lots of good people to choose from” when picking a replacement for Clinton (he specifically mentioned Reps. Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, along with AG Andrew Cuomo), he also agrees with Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey’s argument that Kennedy’s connection to Barack Obama should give her a leg up over the competition.
“I think it’s a very fair thing to say that her very strong relationship with President-elect Obama would be a very significant asset to the people of New York,” the assemblyman said.
“I don’t know that we’d suffer without her,” he continued. “I don’t think President Obama is going to say, ‘Caroline Kennedy isn’t a senator, and therefore I’m not going to do good things for New York.’”
“But having the relationship that she clearly has with Obama is a plus. It’s an asset that would enhance her ability to be a more effective senator and that would work to the advantage of New Yorkers. The importance of that should not be underestimated in my opinion.”
This suggests the pro-Kennedy forces have essentially given up the argument that Princess Caroline deserves the position on the basis of her own record. If Governor Paterson wasn’t moved by her familial relationships, maybe the relationship with the President-elect will have more appeal. Once again it is not about Caroline and what she has done, but whom she knows.
The argument is, at its core, insulting to the President-elect. Indeed the Caroline supporters defensively added that it is not as if the President-elect is going to stiff New York without her. Well if so, then what’s the point of raising the connection? If President Obama is going to treat New York fairly no matter what (i.e. Caroline can’t get more than New York would otherwise reap), there’s no added value to be derived from Caroline’s appointment. It is tricky indeed to tout Caroline’s pull without simultaneously insulting the new president. Perhaps the real point is to threaten Paterson with some subtle form of retribution that will impact his own political fortunes.
Governor Paterson will have to decide whether Caroline’s invocation of the President-elect (as if Paterson didn’t already understand the connection) is the sort of subtle bullying that will carry the day. But he might look at her senatorial abilities a bit more critically. Each senator has only one vote so the trick is to line up majorities for your legislation. I wonder if the other ninety-nine senators will be impressed with the “Don’t you know who I am?” tactic. Paterson might want to keep that in mind — while he’s fretting about the legions of miffed friends and relations of Caroline who will descend on him if she’s not selected.
Will Marshall and Jim Arkedis of the Progressive Policy Institute have published an article on Real Clear Politics titled “America as an Honest Broker.” I know Marshall and consider him to be, in the main, a responsible figure and a force for good in the Democratic Party. But his joint piece on America, Israel, and Hamas is, I think, superficial and sloppy in its arguments.
Marshall and Arkedis urge President-elect Obama to reverse “his predecessor’s decision to stand aloof from the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict.” It is “hard to argue now that presidential disengagement has enhanced Israel’s security goals in the region.” According to Marshall and Arkedis, Obama needs to undo President Bush’s “post-9/11 habit of offering nearly unqualified support for Israel’s policy.” President-elect Obama should “act promptly to restore America’s credibility as an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” President Bush, after all, has “undermined America’s reputation for even-handedness in the region” by “giving Israel a pass on making tough choices necessary for lasting peace.” The United States needs to once again become a “trusted intermediary” rather than “blindly defending [Israel's] policies and military tactics.” And while it is “tragically true” that Hamas is using innocent Gazans as human shields, Israel cannot “afford to take a cavalier attitude toward civilian deaths.” While Israel has a right to respond to the attacks by Hamas, Israel should have “limited goals” based on a “limited incursion.”
Let’s examine these claims with some care.
1. President Bush was not “aloof” or “disengaged” from the conflict. In fact, in his June 24, 2002 speech in the Rose Garden, the President laid out the conditions for a two-state solution: the Palestinians would need to find new leaders uncompromised by terror; willing to engage in a sustained fight against terror and dismantle terrorist infrastructure; and willing to practice democracy based on liberty and tolerance. President Bush had seen the kind of engagement President Clinton practiced in 2000, when Yasser Arafat was offered essentially all of the land Israel won in the 1967 war, in exchange for the Palestinians recognizing Israel’s right to exist and stopping their attacks against Israel. In response, Arafat declared a second, bloody intifada.
President Bush laid out a perfectly sensible policy: Palestinian statehood, which he spoke about in eloquent and moving terms, in exchange for peaceful co-existence with Israel. Marshall and Arkedis appear to believe that a Palestinian state should be granted on the West Bank even if its purpose is to destroy Israel. What we are dealing with is not a matter of engagement v. disengagement; this is a matter of a wise policy v. a foolish one.
2. On the assertion that Israel has been given a “pass” by President Bush from making “tough choices” necessary for “lasting peace”: Perhaps Marshall and Arkedis are unaware of the fact that in 2005 — during President Bush’s watch — Israel did what its critics had been demanding of it: unilaterally return land to the Palestinians, offering them in Gaza what they had never received before from any other nation (including Arab nations): the opportunity for self-rule. This was an act done by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, father of the settlements in the West Bank, in part because of his trust in President Bush.
Here’s an inconvenient fact for Marshall and Arkedis: More land was ceded to the Palestinians in 2005 than in all the years Bill Clinton was President. Sharon, with encouragement from Bush, was willing to test the proposition that the Palestinians would govern responsibility. It turned out they could not or would not. Hamas eventually took control of Gaza and began launching rockets and mortars against Israel, to which Israel finally, in the last few weeks, responded. Israel has consistently made the “tough choices” for peace, from returning the Sinai desert to Egypt to offering Arafat virtually all the land it acquired in the 1967 war to allowing the Palestinians to rule Gaza.
3. On the argument that the U.S. ought to be an “honest broker” and “even-handed” in its policies toward Israel and the Palestinians: if Israel has an interlocutor that is interested in authentic peace, the U.S. is quite willing and capable of being “even-handed.” But in truth, if Israel finds such a nation — like, say, Jordan or Egypt — it’s quite willing to make peace without being forced into it by the United States. Israel actually seeks to live in peace with its Arab neighbors, and has proved this time and time again.
The problem is that so far Palestinian leaders — from those leading the PLO to Hamas — have not made their own inner peace with the existence of Israel. As long as that is the case, the United States is perfectly right in distinguishing between what Churchill called the fire brigade and the fire. The insistence that America treat both sides as moral equals, with equally legitimate claims, is absurd. One nation wants peace and has taken steps to make peace; the other wants war and has taken steps to make war. Why on earth should we be “even-handed” when dealing with defenders of civilization and its enemies? Nor are we “blindly” defending Israel; we are, in fact, defending Israel with our eyes wide open, because we understand that their battle against militant Islam is inextricably tied up with our battle against militant Islam.
4. The claim that Israel is “cavalier” when it comes to civilian deaths is slander. Israel, in fact, has taken heroic steps to prevent civilian deaths. Hamas, on the other hand, has done everything it can to cause the deaths of innocent women and children in order to win a propaganda victory. That doesn’t mean from time to time Israel and Israelis won’t make mistakes; those things are tragically inevitable in war. But it is perverse to scold Israel, which after all is trying to prevent the death of innocent civilians in Gaza and Israel, while letting off lightly Hamas, which is creating the conditions for death among innocent civilians in both Gaza and Israel.
5. Marshall and Arkedis concede the barbarism of Hamas and Israel’s justification in responding to its attacks. They concede the premise, then, yet they don’t seem to draw the obvious conclusion from it. The worst thing for Israel to do is to engage in a military conflict with Hamas but not finish the job. Half-measures allow groups like Hamas to withstand military attacks and claim a “psychological” victory, which in turn will increase those groups’ popular support. Militant Islamic groups gain strength and adherents when they are perceived as the “strong horse” and we and Israel are perceived as the “weak horse.”
The prescription of Marshall and Arkedis is the worst of all possible worlds: a half-hearted response that is limited in its scope and allows Hamas to rearm and fight another day. Marshall and Arkedis are demanding of Israel what they would never demand of America or any other nation.
The course Israel is following is the best way to advance its security goals and, more broadly, the cause of the West. Beyond that, a true “peace process” can only commence when organizations like Hamas are defeated and therefore, to the degree possible, delegitimized.
Defeating Hamas isn’t an easy or welcome undertaking — but it is, now, an absolutely essential one. It’s a shame that Marshall and Arkedis don’t understand the nature and stakes of the struggle. I only hope President-elect Obama does.
Hamas apologist Azzam Tamimi does a great service to truth by speaking his mind quite publicly — in London’s Trafalgar Square — during last Saturday’s anti-Israel rally. Note in the background British MP George Galloway, from the Respect Party. What do we learn from Tamimi’s comments?
• Tamimi hates moderate pro-Western Arab regimes (shocker!)
• Tamimi hates democracy
• Tamimi hates Israel
• Tamimi likes Jews who hate Israel
• Tamimi hates just about everyone — including his European fellow travelers who are not Muslims – but will only say so in Arabic
Tamimi is a regular columnist for London’s Guardian. Not much of a surprise, considering his ideological resume.
The media’s fixation with confession continues. President Bush, Dana Milbank tells us, shouldn’t just express disappointment with the shortcomings of his time in office, but also admit error. Even though he held a remarkable presidential press conference, filled with the type of candor the media clamors for, the media tut-tutters still were not satisfied. It is not enough to express regret over small errors: a full-blown confession of failure is required, Milbank suggests:
When Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times asked him about pardons, he shot back: “I won’t be discussing pardons here at this press conference. Would you like to ask another question?”
Stolberg then invited him to confess his “single biggest mistake” — and Bush volunteered three little ones.
“Clearly putting a ‘Mission Accomplished’ on an aircraft carrier was a mistake,” he acknowledged. And: “Obviously, some of my rhetoric has been a mistake.”
And finally: “I believe that running the Social Security idea right after the ’04 elections was a mistake,” a reference to his push to allow some Americans to invest a portion of their own Social Security funds in the stock market.
That trio of small errors, of course, only proved Bush’s view that he has gotten the big things right. After a 45-minute tour of his triumphant presidency, he departed.
All of this is a bit strange, to put it mildly. Extracting confession is not the usual treatment the media reserves for acting or former presidents (Richard Nixon being the exception which proves the rule). Nor does that seem to be something that concerns the media about the incoming President (where it might actually have relevance). It actually might be helpful in understanding the President-elect’s thought process to get an answer to:”Mr. Obama, do you regret not supporting the surge?” I’m curious to hear his response to: ”Was it a mistake to promise to depart Iraq immediately?” Somehow those questions are never asked.
But more importantly, it is what it is. President Bush confessing error won’t change the facts of his presidency. Some grave “errors” and “disasters” have turned out fairly well, at least for now (e.g. Iraq); other efforts, albeit failed, may look principled in retrospect (e.g. immigration reform). The things we took for granted (e.g. no attack on American soil or interests abroad) may seem simply remarkable in the future. And the domestic legacy, especially on the economy, will depend in large part on his successor’s ability to prevent a recession from becoming a full-fledged depression — or a return to 1970s stagflation. But none of it depends, as the media’s desperation seems to imply, on a public confession. This is not (at least not yet) a country that conducts show trials or expects past leaders to publicly humiliate themselves.
The real take-away from this encounter is a contrast in personal grace and stature between the media — ever snide and, frankly, mean-spirited — and a president unwilling to seize on self-pity or criticize either the media inquisitors or his political opponents. As this report explains:
But Bush, seemingly freed to speak his mind as his tenure draws to a close, offered a bit more nuance and soul-searching than he usually does in such settings, pounding the lectern for emphasis at certain points and bantering with some of the reporters with whom he has sparred.
. . .
Far from seeming depressed about his coming loss of power, Bush seemed largely in good spirits. He opened the news conference by expressing appreciation for the media, even while he said that he did not like all the stories about him and thought, borrowing one of his famous malapropisms, that the press corps “sometimes misunderestimated me.”
At another point, Bush pursed his lips and mocked the suggestion that the burdens of office are too great. “It’s kind of like, why me? Oh, the burdens, you know. Why did the financial collapse have to happen on my watch? It’s just — it’s pathetic, isn’t it, self-pity?” Bush said.
Opinion is sharply divided on the Bush presidency, and many of us don’t yet have a firm grasp on how large the failures will loom and how significant the accomplishments may seem in hindsight. But if there were ever a more graceful exit by a president — both in the tone of his interviews and the magnanimous and robust cooperation with his successor (who excoriated him during the campaign in the most personal terms) — I can’t recall it. That too will be part of the legacy.
Juan Cole has a typically conspiratorial theory for explaining why congressmen have ignored the pro-Palestinian marches that occurred in a handful of American cities this past weekend:
The US Senate and the US House of Representatives are not afraid of street protests in San Francisco. And why should they be? What sort of threat is it to them, that we say if they don’t change their legislation we will . . . walk in the street? Their response would be, ‘Make sure you have comfortable shoes; now, I have to see this nice lobbyist in my office in a thousand dollar suit and alligator shoes who has an enormous check for my current political campaign.’
Well, I have an alternative to Cole’s thesis: maybe it’s not the slimy pro-Israel lobbyists – who are so rich that they practically wear money – that pro-Palestinian activists should blame for not being heard. Rather, maybe the problem is the pro-Palestinian activists themselves.
Indeed, maybe congressmen ignore pro-Palestinian rallies because the ANSWER Coalition – an offshoot of the communist World Workers Party (WWP) – organizes them. Maybe congressmen know that the WWP – a longtime supporter of Fidel Castro and Kim Jong-Il – actively protested Slobodan Milosevic’s war crimes tribunal, and therefore feel uncomfortable associating with it.
Or, maybe congressmen stay away because these rallies are just as anti-American as they are pro-Palestinian, with banners declaring the U.S. “racist” and “terrorist.” Or maybe it’s because congressmen don’t want to march with protesters who cover their faces, which is something that only truly nefarious groups do in this country. Or maybe it’s because congressmen don’t want to be around people who burn flags; haul mock coffins; splatter clotheslines of baby t-shirts with fake blood; and never – never – advocate for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Of course, these issues are just the tip of the iceberg. But, if pro-Palestinian activists really want to know why their cries fall on deaf ears in Washington, they should start by looking in the mirror. Politicians are, after all, deeply image-conscious: they are unlikely to march alongside people who appear immoderate, and certainly won’t give much weight to rallies that communist-affiliated groups organize. It’s strange that Juan Cole – who claims political expertise with his regular treatises on the remarkable influence of “Likudniks” – doesn’t recognize this most basic political reality.
(By the way, the images of pro-Palestinian activists that I linked to in this post were from the recent demonstration in San Francisco.)
Mickey Kaus offers good advice: “Does the GOP Congressional leadership dare launch a fight over whether Davis-Bacon style wage schedules, beloved by organized labor, apply to various projects that use Obama’s stimulus funds? They’d almost certainly lose (as they did when the issue came up in the context of Katrina relief), but that wouldn’t be the point. The point would be to take a stand that would a) ventilate the arguments against Davis Bacon; b) highlight Obama’s dependence on Big Labor; and c) deter Obama from moving very far in the direction of non-market, bureaucratic determination of wages (through mandatory arbitration under the ‘card check’ bill, direct setting wage scales by the federal government under Davis-Bacon, and eventually, maybe, court-imposed wage-rejiggering to eliminate male/female disparities under the doctrine of ‘comparable worth’).” Besides, as Kaus points out, it is good policy and will add to the number of jobs “created.” But fat chance the Democrats and Obama will agree — it’ll be hard enough to explain to their Big Labor patrons that card check isn’t happening until . . . well, never.
The New York Times writers have it all wrong — limiting the Obama campaign promises are what will make him a successful, two term president. But a very centrist one. So in their book it’s hardly worth it, I suppose.
The Ken Blackwell forces reveal their weak hand and opt for Mike Duncan as the second choice. (Or is this the “anybody but Steele faction”?) “More of the same!” – there’s a slogan for a party on the decline. (Meanwhile a sister website pointedly declines to back Blackwell.)
First Norm Coleman claimed too many votes were being let in and now he’s searching for more. Other than “I messed up in my initial strategy,” it’s hard to find a justification for this turnaround.
If there were further proof needed that the McCain campaign’s economic advisor was the worst possible spokesman for fiscal conservatism this piece provides it. The reason for Republican adherence to tax-cutting, he says, is merely so they won’t “dilute the brand.” No, sir. The reason is that from JFK to Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush, low taxes and tax reductions have proven to be the most reliable method for spurring investment, growth and employment. And you wonder why John McCain lost? (Lots of reasons, but this was a big one.)
If you redefine “earmark,” there won’t be any in the stimulus plan. If you call it wasteful pork there are billions and billions worth.
Would Rob Portman be an improvement over George Voinovich? Most conservatives would say “Yes.” The hitch, of course, is getting a Republican elected in a state where the governorship, a senate seat and the presidential vote swung Blue since 2004. But arguably Voinoivich might have a tougher time than Portman, especially if the economy is still in a ditch and voters are in another “Throw the bums out!” mood.
Much as the Washington Post would like to conceal it, the House of Representatives’ rules changes pushed through by Speaker Nancy Pelosi are meaningful — and they harm both Republicans and Blue Dogs’ ability to offer meaningful legislative amendments. Odd, isn’t it, that the inside-the-Beltway paper doesn’t grasp the importance of denying the minority a key parliamentary tactic?
Marc Ambinder translates the Senate Democratic leadership’s surrender document on Roland Burris (make that Senator-elect [Senator-appoint?] Burris): “Wow, did we mess this up. The guy just did an end-run around all of us. We expected him to be Blago-like, but he wasn’t. He was senatorial. Agreeable. Maybe he can win…uh, downstate. And .. we messed up the racial politics of this big-time. So… in order to save some face, we’ll just create a procedural defense: we always intended to seat the guy, but his paperwork wasn’t in order. . . This has been an enormous distraction. Obama’s annoyed with us. Other senators are annoyed with us. The black caucus is annoyed with us. We need to move on, and quickly. Why didn’t we go with a special election, again?”
The MSM figures out that “continuity” is the new “change”: “In style and substance, Barack Obama is looking like he could be a different president than the candidate voters got to know during the campaign. Barack Obama has taken on a more somber tone as he prepares to take office. His message of changing the country has been replaced by one of repairing the country as he inherits crises that demand immediate action. ‘I want to be realistic here,’ Obama said in an interview that aired Sunday on ABC’s This Week. ‘Not everything that we talked about during the campaign are we going to be able to do on the pace that we had hoped.’”
The Justice Department “phone jamming” case filed against James Tobin, a New Hampshire state GOP official, was thrown out on appeal by the First Circuit. The case had been criticized as an effort by liberal-leaning career attorneys in the Department to criminalize common political activity. (Indeed a number of the attorneys who have been identified as Obama donors brought the case.)
What if Israel’s strategy is paying off? All those “cycle of violence” and “you can’t militarily defeat terrorists” platitudes will bite the dust. (For those paying attention, they also proved incorrect in Iraq,)