Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 13, 2010

Bashar Assad Takes the Measure of Barack Obama

There is an important story in today’s Wall Street Journal that says a lot about how the Middle East is changing in the era of smart diplomacy:

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government has transferred long-range Scud missiles to the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah in a move that threatens to alter the Middle East’s military balance, Israeli and U.S. officials alleged. …

Officials briefed on the intelligence said Israeli and American officials believe Lebanon transferred Scud D missiles to Hezbollah that were built with either North Korean or Russian technology.

The Scuds are believed to have a range of over 430 miles, placing Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Israel’s nuclear installations at Dimona all within range of Hezbollah’s military forces. …

Israeli officials said this week that Scud D missiles were “game-changing” armaments that marked a new escalation in the Mideast conflict. They charged Mr. Assad with further fusing Syria’s military command with Hezbollah’s and Iran’s and breaking clearly defined red-lines established by Israel’s defense forces.

The Scud-D has been around for decades; why is it being transferred to Hezbollah at this particular moment? There are two likely reasons: (1) the White House has become the most prominent Western critic of Israel, and Syria is confident that President Obama will not do much to either punish an Israeli enemy or speak clearly in Israel’s defense. (2) Under the Obama Doctrine, many enemies of America are treated with kindness in order to prove that they should not fear us, under the theory that once the fear is gone, there will be very little to obstruct the progression of smooth relations. The engagement policy thus requires the overlooking of all kinds of bad behavior.

Syria, it appears, has made an accurate calculation on both of the above counts.

Remember how critics of the Bush administration always said that the neocon cowboys in the White House clung stubbornly to failed policies out of ideological conviction? Here’s the final paragraph of the WSJ story:

U.S. officials stressed, however, that the White House wasn’t second-guessing its engagement strategy and was pushing forward with Mr. Ford’s nomination. “Sending an Ambassador to Syria who can press the Syrian government in a firm and coordinated fashion … is part of our strategy to achieve comprehensive peace in the region,” the White House said in a statement.

I’m sure Mr. Ford is a talented diplomat, but is there any chance that his presence in Damascus would have stopped the transfer of long-range missiles to Hezbollah?

There is an important story in today’s Wall Street Journal that says a lot about how the Middle East is changing in the era of smart diplomacy:

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government has transferred long-range Scud missiles to the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah in a move that threatens to alter the Middle East’s military balance, Israeli and U.S. officials alleged. …

Officials briefed on the intelligence said Israeli and American officials believe Lebanon transferred Scud D missiles to Hezbollah that were built with either North Korean or Russian technology.

The Scuds are believed to have a range of over 430 miles, placing Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Israel’s nuclear installations at Dimona all within range of Hezbollah’s military forces. …

Israeli officials said this week that Scud D missiles were “game-changing” armaments that marked a new escalation in the Mideast conflict. They charged Mr. Assad with further fusing Syria’s military command with Hezbollah’s and Iran’s and breaking clearly defined red-lines established by Israel’s defense forces.

The Scud-D has been around for decades; why is it being transferred to Hezbollah at this particular moment? There are two likely reasons: (1) the White House has become the most prominent Western critic of Israel, and Syria is confident that President Obama will not do much to either punish an Israeli enemy or speak clearly in Israel’s defense. (2) Under the Obama Doctrine, many enemies of America are treated with kindness in order to prove that they should not fear us, under the theory that once the fear is gone, there will be very little to obstruct the progression of smooth relations. The engagement policy thus requires the overlooking of all kinds of bad behavior.

Syria, it appears, has made an accurate calculation on both of the above counts.

Remember how critics of the Bush administration always said that the neocon cowboys in the White House clung stubbornly to failed policies out of ideological conviction? Here’s the final paragraph of the WSJ story:

U.S. officials stressed, however, that the White House wasn’t second-guessing its engagement strategy and was pushing forward with Mr. Ford’s nomination. “Sending an Ambassador to Syria who can press the Syrian government in a firm and coordinated fashion … is part of our strategy to achieve comprehensive peace in the region,” the White House said in a statement.

I’m sure Mr. Ford is a talented diplomat, but is there any chance that his presence in Damascus would have stopped the transfer of long-range missiles to Hezbollah?

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A Model of Civil Discourse

John is quite right in his post on the unacceptable musings of David Goldman — and his caution that, “The opposition to Barack Obama needs to keep its wits.”

President Obama is, many of us believe, doing significant damage to America. At the same time, and thankfully, there is an extraordinary (peaceful) civic uprising against his agenda. There will be, I think, a fearsome price for Democrats to pay in November for what they are doing to this country. But there is still such a thing as a democratic etiquette, and we need to abide by it.

Apropos all this, in response to a piece I wrote on civility and public discourse last week, I received a note from a very intelligent friend scolding me, saying,

American democracy is not a library, and we don’t need shushing. The left will pull it’s Reichstag Fire maneuvers soon enough, and when they do, I worry that they will hold up columns and admonitions from you … and others as “witnesses” of our putative, foreordained in the narrative, and inexpungible, guilt.

This note was an indication to me that in American politics today, things are hot and getting hotter.

What I have in mind is not shushing people in a library; it is, rather, recognizing certain ground rules of democratic discourse. If you violate them, regardless of what your political philosophy is, you do damage to your country — and to your cause.

Of the young Abraham Lincoln, one friend said, “When thoroughly roused and provoked he was capable of terrible passion and invective.” But by the late 1830s, according to the Lincoln biographer Fred Kaplan, “he had learned to make his satiric barbs less aggressive, to soften them into deflation rather than destruction, emphasizing ideas and persuasion rather than invective.” Lincoln, in the end, helped bind up the wounds of the nation, which was far more divided than it is today, with words that are nearly as familiar as any in American history: “With malice toward none, with charity for all.”

That’s not a bad model for those of us in this age, or any age, to follow.

John is quite right in his post on the unacceptable musings of David Goldman — and his caution that, “The opposition to Barack Obama needs to keep its wits.”

President Obama is, many of us believe, doing significant damage to America. At the same time, and thankfully, there is an extraordinary (peaceful) civic uprising against his agenda. There will be, I think, a fearsome price for Democrats to pay in November for what they are doing to this country. But there is still such a thing as a democratic etiquette, and we need to abide by it.

Apropos all this, in response to a piece I wrote on civility and public discourse last week, I received a note from a very intelligent friend scolding me, saying,

American democracy is not a library, and we don’t need shushing. The left will pull it’s Reichstag Fire maneuvers soon enough, and when they do, I worry that they will hold up columns and admonitions from you … and others as “witnesses” of our putative, foreordained in the narrative, and inexpungible, guilt.

This note was an indication to me that in American politics today, things are hot and getting hotter.

What I have in mind is not shushing people in a library; it is, rather, recognizing certain ground rules of democratic discourse. If you violate them, regardless of what your political philosophy is, you do damage to your country — and to your cause.

Of the young Abraham Lincoln, one friend said, “When thoroughly roused and provoked he was capable of terrible passion and invective.” But by the late 1830s, according to the Lincoln biographer Fred Kaplan, “he had learned to make his satiric barbs less aggressive, to soften them into deflation rather than destruction, emphasizing ideas and persuasion rather than invective.” Lincoln, in the end, helped bind up the wounds of the nation, which was far more divided than it is today, with words that are nearly as familiar as any in American history: “With malice toward none, with charity for all.”

That’s not a bad model for those of us in this age, or any age, to follow.

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Nukes Don’t Kill People

If you’ve seen the 1995 Rob Reiner movie The American President, with Michael Douglas as the title character, you recognize the Obama posture at this week’s nuclear summit. I saw the movie at a theater in Dallas and have told the story many times about its political punch lines falling flat with the Texas audience. There was the line uttered by Annette Bening, the female lead and presidential love interest, about turning any car with an internal combustion engine into a collector’s item. That produced only a restless silence. And there was this passage from the rousing, climactic speech delivered by Douglas in the final minutes of the movie:

You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and handguns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door to door if I have to, but I’m gonna convince Americans that I’m right, and I’m gonna get the guns.

The Hollywood Congress onscreen applauded uproariously, but these lines got no appreciation from the Texas movie crowd. A good three-fourths of it would, I suspect, have informed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin that guns don’t kill people — people kill people.

Barack Obama has believed, since his undergraduate days in the Nuclear Freeze movement, that nukes kill people. He may honestly think you cannot address global security without getting rid of enriched nuclear material; it’s hard to say. But he’s gonna get the nukes.

And so, like a mayor trumpeting a handgun turn-in program, he is getting the nukes out of the hands of the law-abiding. His takers to date include Ukraine, which will reportedly turn its enriched uranium over to Russia; Chile, which had already concluded an agreement to send its high-enriched uranium — used for nuclear reactors — to the U.S.; and Mexico, which will accept help from the U.S. and Canada to convert its reactors from high-enriched uranium to lower-enriched fuel.

Many commentators have pointed out that it makes little sense to hold a nuclear summit in 2010 and give scant attention to Iran, North Korea, and unstable Pakistan. But that perspective assumes a moral and prioritized approach to the problem: one that recognizes the motives of the human actors most likely to have weaponized nuclear components at their disposal in the near future.

Obama’s prophylactic approach, by contrast, is abstract, bureaucratic, and incremental. It weighs the problem by the kiloton of enriched uranium, as the anti-gun left weighs the crime problem by the number of .38 Specials not yet confiscated from the public. From this perspective, any transfer of physical material from one form of custody to another can be seen as a big, important step in the right direction.

But such symbolic physical transfers are important only if our most immediate global security threat really is terrorists, in the generic, getting hold of enriched uranium that could be anywhere. We have good reason to conclude otherwise. Islamic terrorists are much more likely to get nuclear material from Pakistan, Iran, or North Korea than from any other source. In the race to assemble a nuclear device that can be used against Israel, North America, or Europe, Iran holds the lead over any terrorist group. North Korea, meanwhile, can already range South Korea and Japan with a nuclear weapon.

Our greatest nuclear threat is not addressed at all by the uranium transfers commemorated with such fanfare at this week’s summit. The Obama administration would do well to heed the skeptical wisdom of Texas film audiences and remember that nukes don’t kill people; people kill people.

If you’ve seen the 1995 Rob Reiner movie The American President, with Michael Douglas as the title character, you recognize the Obama posture at this week’s nuclear summit. I saw the movie at a theater in Dallas and have told the story many times about its political punch lines falling flat with the Texas audience. There was the line uttered by Annette Bening, the female lead and presidential love interest, about turning any car with an internal combustion engine into a collector’s item. That produced only a restless silence. And there was this passage from the rousing, climactic speech delivered by Douglas in the final minutes of the movie:

You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and handguns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door to door if I have to, but I’m gonna convince Americans that I’m right, and I’m gonna get the guns.

The Hollywood Congress onscreen applauded uproariously, but these lines got no appreciation from the Texas movie crowd. A good three-fourths of it would, I suspect, have informed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin that guns don’t kill people — people kill people.

Barack Obama has believed, since his undergraduate days in the Nuclear Freeze movement, that nukes kill people. He may honestly think you cannot address global security without getting rid of enriched nuclear material; it’s hard to say. But he’s gonna get the nukes.

And so, like a mayor trumpeting a handgun turn-in program, he is getting the nukes out of the hands of the law-abiding. His takers to date include Ukraine, which will reportedly turn its enriched uranium over to Russia; Chile, which had already concluded an agreement to send its high-enriched uranium — used for nuclear reactors — to the U.S.; and Mexico, which will accept help from the U.S. and Canada to convert its reactors from high-enriched uranium to lower-enriched fuel.

Many commentators have pointed out that it makes little sense to hold a nuclear summit in 2010 and give scant attention to Iran, North Korea, and unstable Pakistan. But that perspective assumes a moral and prioritized approach to the problem: one that recognizes the motives of the human actors most likely to have weaponized nuclear components at their disposal in the near future.

Obama’s prophylactic approach, by contrast, is abstract, bureaucratic, and incremental. It weighs the problem by the kiloton of enriched uranium, as the anti-gun left weighs the crime problem by the number of .38 Specials not yet confiscated from the public. From this perspective, any transfer of physical material from one form of custody to another can be seen as a big, important step in the right direction.

But such symbolic physical transfers are important only if our most immediate global security threat really is terrorists, in the generic, getting hold of enriched uranium that could be anywhere. We have good reason to conclude otherwise. Islamic terrorists are much more likely to get nuclear material from Pakistan, Iran, or North Korea than from any other source. In the race to assemble a nuclear device that can be used against Israel, North America, or Europe, Iran holds the lead over any terrorist group. North Korea, meanwhile, can already range South Korea and Japan with a nuclear weapon.

Our greatest nuclear threat is not addressed at all by the uranium transfers commemorated with such fanfare at this week’s summit. The Obama administration would do well to heed the skeptical wisdom of Texas film audiences and remember that nukes don’t kill people; people kill people.

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A Nuclear Iran No Big Deal?

As he has before, Obama made clear today that he is very worried about terrorists’ getting hold of nuclear weapons:

Groups like al Qaeda are working hard to acquire nuclear weapons, and “if they ever succeed, they would surely use it,” President Barack Obama said while speaking to more than 40 world leaders Tuesday.

Obama, addressing the opening plenary session of the nuclear security summit in Washington, asked his foreign counterparts to join together “not simply to talk, but to act.”

Hmm. Isn’t the most likely conduit for terrorists a nuclear-armed Iran? No, no. Obama assures us that the risks from other nuclear-armed states has gone down. No, really:

Obama said that 20 years after the end of the Cold War, the world faces “a cruel irony”: that the risk of “a nuclear confrontation between nations has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up.”

“Nuclear materials that could be sold or stolen and fashioned into a nuclear weapon exist in dozens of nations,” Obama said in excerpts released by the White House. “Just the smallest amount of plutonium — about the size of an apple — could kill and injure hundreds of thousands of innocent people.”

Obama warned that if al Qaeda or other extremist groups were able to successfully use a nuclear device, it “would be a catastrophe for the world — causing extraordinary loss of life and striking a major blow at global peace and stability.”

The cruel irony here is that we have a president pledging devotion to nonproliferation who has disclaimed interest in a military strike against the greatest potential nuclear threat we face and who is trying to pass off watered-down sanctions as an effective response to the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions. Obama called for a “new mindset” and pooh-poohed mere “pledges.” Fair enough. Then why not a firm and unconditional statement that the U.S. will do whatever it takes to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran? Why not encourage Congress to proceed with refined-petroleum sanctions and to make clear to the Russians and Chinese that their support for only gruel-thin sanctions is insufficient? Well, he seems to think Iran’s not really the problem — or that’s the latest gambit to deflect from his failed Iran policy.

Obama is painting himself into a corner with his high-flying rhetoric. Should he permit Iran — the most significant state sponsor of terrorist groups – to attain their nuclear ambitions (a likely outcome unless his policy changes dramatically), he will rightly be identified as the president who most endangered not only Israel’s security but ours as well. Frankly, if Iran goes nuclear, no one is going to buy the notion that it’s no big deal and that the name of the game then is to keep Iran from giving the nukes to their surrogates. Obama’s suggestion that we really need not worry about nation-states is once again confirmation of his unseriousness about thwarting Iran’s nuclear plans.

As he has before, Obama made clear today that he is very worried about terrorists’ getting hold of nuclear weapons:

Groups like al Qaeda are working hard to acquire nuclear weapons, and “if they ever succeed, they would surely use it,” President Barack Obama said while speaking to more than 40 world leaders Tuesday.

Obama, addressing the opening plenary session of the nuclear security summit in Washington, asked his foreign counterparts to join together “not simply to talk, but to act.”

Hmm. Isn’t the most likely conduit for terrorists a nuclear-armed Iran? No, no. Obama assures us that the risks from other nuclear-armed states has gone down. No, really:

Obama said that 20 years after the end of the Cold War, the world faces “a cruel irony”: that the risk of “a nuclear confrontation between nations has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up.”

“Nuclear materials that could be sold or stolen and fashioned into a nuclear weapon exist in dozens of nations,” Obama said in excerpts released by the White House. “Just the smallest amount of plutonium — about the size of an apple — could kill and injure hundreds of thousands of innocent people.”

Obama warned that if al Qaeda or other extremist groups were able to successfully use a nuclear device, it “would be a catastrophe for the world — causing extraordinary loss of life and striking a major blow at global peace and stability.”

The cruel irony here is that we have a president pledging devotion to nonproliferation who has disclaimed interest in a military strike against the greatest potential nuclear threat we face and who is trying to pass off watered-down sanctions as an effective response to the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions. Obama called for a “new mindset” and pooh-poohed mere “pledges.” Fair enough. Then why not a firm and unconditional statement that the U.S. will do whatever it takes to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran? Why not encourage Congress to proceed with refined-petroleum sanctions and to make clear to the Russians and Chinese that their support for only gruel-thin sanctions is insufficient? Well, he seems to think Iran’s not really the problem — or that’s the latest gambit to deflect from his failed Iran policy.

Obama is painting himself into a corner with his high-flying rhetoric. Should he permit Iran — the most significant state sponsor of terrorist groups – to attain their nuclear ambitions (a likely outcome unless his policy changes dramatically), he will rightly be identified as the president who most endangered not only Israel’s security but ours as well. Frankly, if Iran goes nuclear, no one is going to buy the notion that it’s no big deal and that the name of the game then is to keep Iran from giving the nukes to their surrogates. Obama’s suggestion that we really need not worry about nation-states is once again confirmation of his unseriousness about thwarting Iran’s nuclear plans.

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RE: Dems Not So Enthusiastic

Pete, you are right — these are scary numbers for the Democrats. Some perspective:

GOPers lead the generic Congressional ballot by 4 points, according to this week’s Gallup tracking poll as trends begin to suggest the minority party will take back the House. … According to a model developed by Emory Univ. political scientist Alan Abramowitz, the 4-point lead would be more than enough for the GOP to take back the seats they need to hold a majority. According to the model, if the election were held today, Dems would win just 210 seats, giving the GOP a 15-seat majority.

Meanwhile, Pres. Obama’s approval rating stands at 47%, according to the latest Gallup tracking survey (Pollster.com pegs Obama’s approval rating at 47.2%). Past trends show a president’s party loses an average of 40 seats if the incumbent’s approval rating is below 50%.

Historically, Dems hold a generic ballot advantage. Dems led the generic ballot by 23 points in ’06, when they swept back into power. GOPers have held advantages only a handful of times, including a 5-point edge in ’94, when the party won back the majority; and a similar margin in ’02, when they gained seats in  George W. Bush’s first midterm election.

Now, trends can change, but they usually change for a reason. A significant event would have to occur — a major economic comeback, for example — for this picture to change dramatically. That is not to say that poor candidate selection or overreach in its message or an off-putting tone could not retard Republicans’ gains. Goodness knows they have a track record of some of each. But at this point, the wind is at the backs of the Republicans, and the era of Obama is proving disastrous for his party.

Pete, you are right — these are scary numbers for the Democrats. Some perspective:

GOPers lead the generic Congressional ballot by 4 points, according to this week’s Gallup tracking poll as trends begin to suggest the minority party will take back the House. … According to a model developed by Emory Univ. political scientist Alan Abramowitz, the 4-point lead would be more than enough for the GOP to take back the seats they need to hold a majority. According to the model, if the election were held today, Dems would win just 210 seats, giving the GOP a 15-seat majority.

Meanwhile, Pres. Obama’s approval rating stands at 47%, according to the latest Gallup tracking survey (Pollster.com pegs Obama’s approval rating at 47.2%). Past trends show a president’s party loses an average of 40 seats if the incumbent’s approval rating is below 50%.

Historically, Dems hold a generic ballot advantage. Dems led the generic ballot by 23 points in ’06, when they swept back into power. GOPers have held advantages only a handful of times, including a 5-point edge in ’94, when the party won back the majority; and a similar margin in ’02, when they gained seats in  George W. Bush’s first midterm election.

Now, trends can change, but they usually change for a reason. A significant event would have to occur — a major economic comeback, for example — for this picture to change dramatically. That is not to say that poor candidate selection or overreach in its message or an off-putting tone could not retard Republicans’ gains. Goodness knows they have a track record of some of each. But at this point, the wind is at the backs of the Republicans, and the era of Obama is proving disastrous for his party.

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Dems Not So Enthusiastic About Voting in Coming Elections

Here’s the latest from Gallup:

Gallup Daily tracking for the week ending April 11 puts Republicans slightly ahead of Democrats, 48% to 44%, in the congressional voting preferences of registered voters nationally. This marks the third week since the U.S. House passed healthcare reform on March 21 that the Republicans have tied or led the Democrats.

And this:

Gallup will not begin identifying likely voters for the 2010 midterms until later in the year. However, at this early stage, Republicans show much greater enthusiasm than Democrats about voting in the elections. Enthusiasm among members of both parties peaked shortly after passage of the healthcare reform bill on March 21, but has since tapered off slightly.

Forty-eight percent of Republicans are “very enthusiastic” about voting in this year’s congressional elections; the figure for Democrats is 30 percent.

This data isn’t particularly surprising any more, which is why it should be so alarming to Democrats.

Here’s the latest from Gallup:

Gallup Daily tracking for the week ending April 11 puts Republicans slightly ahead of Democrats, 48% to 44%, in the congressional voting preferences of registered voters nationally. This marks the third week since the U.S. House passed healthcare reform on March 21 that the Republicans have tied or led the Democrats.

And this:

Gallup will not begin identifying likely voters for the 2010 midterms until later in the year. However, at this early stage, Republicans show much greater enthusiasm than Democrats about voting in the elections. Enthusiasm among members of both parties peaked shortly after passage of the healthcare reform bill on March 21, but has since tapered off slightly.

Forty-eight percent of Republicans are “very enthusiastic” about voting in this year’s congressional elections; the figure for Democrats is 30 percent.

This data isn’t particularly surprising any more, which is why it should be so alarming to Democrats.

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And Now for Some News from Realityland

One of the more annoying tendencies of Western commentators on the Middle East is their desperate insistence that the Palestinians have long since accepted the “two-state solution,” and the only obstacle to the success of the peace process is smoothing over minor differences on Jerusalem, borders, settlements, and so on.

Of course, in reality, there is no Palestinian consensus on peaceful coexistence with Israel — not even close. But that doesn’t stop, say, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg (to take one of many examples) from saying this:

But decades of harsh occupation have made dispossessed Palestinians, the majority of whom have long favored a two-state solution, the sympathetic victims in the conflict. [emphasis added]

Where does Weisberg get this information? He of course doesn’t say. There’s no need to be coy — lots of opinion polling is done in the Palestinian territories. Indeed, a new survey, conducted by An-Najah University in Nablus, has just been released.

Do you accept the creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with some land exchange as a final solution for the Palestinian problem?

Yes 28.3
No 66.7
No opinion/I do not know 5.0

Do you support or reject making Jerusalem a capital for two states: Palestine and Israel?

I support 20.8
I reject 77.4
No opinion/I do not know 1.8

Et tu, Weisberg?

There is some good news, however, that also punctures an unfounded liberal conviction — that Israeli military action against Hamas only galvanizes Palestinian opinion in favor of the “resistance.” In reality, Hamas is more unpopular than ever:

As you know, there is a government in the West Bank led by Salam Fayyad and another government in the Gaza Strip led by Ismail Haniyeh. In your opinion which government is more capable of managing the internal Palestinian affairs?

The government of Salam Fayyad 63.6
The Government of Ismail Haniyeh 20.1
No opinion/I do not know 16.3

How do you assess the performance of the government of Salam Fayyad?

Good 65.4
Bad 26.3
No opinion/I do not know 8.3

How do you assess the performance of the government of Ismail Haniyeh?

Good 31.2
Bad 45.3
No opinion/I do not know 23.4

The good news is that the Palestinians have seen what Islamist governance entails, and like most Arabs who have had the experience, they don’t particularly like it. The bad news is that the Palestinians, unfortunately, remain utterly divided on the question of the peace process and coexistence with Israel.

One of the more annoying tendencies of Western commentators on the Middle East is their desperate insistence that the Palestinians have long since accepted the “two-state solution,” and the only obstacle to the success of the peace process is smoothing over minor differences on Jerusalem, borders, settlements, and so on.

Of course, in reality, there is no Palestinian consensus on peaceful coexistence with Israel — not even close. But that doesn’t stop, say, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg (to take one of many examples) from saying this:

But decades of harsh occupation have made dispossessed Palestinians, the majority of whom have long favored a two-state solution, the sympathetic victims in the conflict. [emphasis added]

Where does Weisberg get this information? He of course doesn’t say. There’s no need to be coy — lots of opinion polling is done in the Palestinian territories. Indeed, a new survey, conducted by An-Najah University in Nablus, has just been released.

Do you accept the creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with some land exchange as a final solution for the Palestinian problem?

Yes 28.3
No 66.7
No opinion/I do not know 5.0

Do you support or reject making Jerusalem a capital for two states: Palestine and Israel?

I support 20.8
I reject 77.4
No opinion/I do not know 1.8

Et tu, Weisberg?

There is some good news, however, that also punctures an unfounded liberal conviction — that Israeli military action against Hamas only galvanizes Palestinian opinion in favor of the “resistance.” In reality, Hamas is more unpopular than ever:

As you know, there is a government in the West Bank led by Salam Fayyad and another government in the Gaza Strip led by Ismail Haniyeh. In your opinion which government is more capable of managing the internal Palestinian affairs?

The government of Salam Fayyad 63.6
The Government of Ismail Haniyeh 20.1
No opinion/I do not know 16.3

How do you assess the performance of the government of Salam Fayyad?

Good 65.4
Bad 26.3
No opinion/I do not know 8.3

How do you assess the performance of the government of Ismail Haniyeh?

Good 31.2
Bad 45.3
No opinion/I do not know 23.4

The good news is that the Palestinians have seen what Islamist governance entails, and like most Arabs who have had the experience, they don’t particularly like it. The bad news is that the Palestinians, unfortunately, remain utterly divided on the question of the peace process and coexistence with Israel.

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Is the Recession Over?

The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research, which decides such things, said yesterday that it cannot yet be sure that the recession is over. But one member of the committee publicly dissented, saying that the recession actually ended last June.

So much for the idea that economics is an exact science.

Still, signs of recovery are not hard to find. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, a leading indicator, closed over 11,000 yesterday, for the first time since September 2008, at the height of the financial crisis. From its low in March 2009, the Dow has risen 68 percent. On the other hand, as economists love to say, unemployment (now 9.7 percent) remains near its peak of 10.2 percent, and most economists think it will remain high for a long time. Robert Reich, Clinton’s secretary of labor, explained why in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.

It seems clear, though, that we are out of the worst of the woods. Banks have recovered and paid back most of the federal money pumped into them. Manufacturing has been increasing. The trade deficit has been rising, a sign of recovery.

And it is becoming clear that the Great Recession may have been a little less great than advertised, thank heavens. If 10.2 turns out to be the peak of unemployment (and, as firms start hiring again, more people, formerly discouraged, start looking for jobs, which can drive the rate back up), then unemployment this time around will not have been as bad as it was in the 1981-82 recession, when it peaked at 10.8 percent, let alone the Great Depression, when it peaked at over 25 percent. And the Dow has regained 58 percent of what it lost from it’s all-time high in October 2007, when it peaked at 14,164, to its bottom in March 2009, when it hit 6626. And did it in two and half years. By way of comparison, the Dow did not regain 58 percent of its 1929 high until 1950, 21 years later.

To be sure, September and October of 2008 were as scary a time in the American financial world as I have experienced in my lifetime — if a piece of cake compared with the winter of 1932-33. But the ensuing economic hard times were far less severe than seemed possible, even likely, in late 2008.

This country still has severe economic challenges facing it (the state and national deficits and unfunded liabilities being by far the greatest), but we’re much better off than many thought we would be a year ago.

The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research, which decides such things, said yesterday that it cannot yet be sure that the recession is over. But one member of the committee publicly dissented, saying that the recession actually ended last June.

So much for the idea that economics is an exact science.

Still, signs of recovery are not hard to find. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, a leading indicator, closed over 11,000 yesterday, for the first time since September 2008, at the height of the financial crisis. From its low in March 2009, the Dow has risen 68 percent. On the other hand, as economists love to say, unemployment (now 9.7 percent) remains near its peak of 10.2 percent, and most economists think it will remain high for a long time. Robert Reich, Clinton’s secretary of labor, explained why in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.

It seems clear, though, that we are out of the worst of the woods. Banks have recovered and paid back most of the federal money pumped into them. Manufacturing has been increasing. The trade deficit has been rising, a sign of recovery.

And it is becoming clear that the Great Recession may have been a little less great than advertised, thank heavens. If 10.2 turns out to be the peak of unemployment (and, as firms start hiring again, more people, formerly discouraged, start looking for jobs, which can drive the rate back up), then unemployment this time around will not have been as bad as it was in the 1981-82 recession, when it peaked at 10.8 percent, let alone the Great Depression, when it peaked at over 25 percent. And the Dow has regained 58 percent of what it lost from it’s all-time high in October 2007, when it peaked at 14,164, to its bottom in March 2009, when it hit 6626. And did it in two and half years. By way of comparison, the Dow did not regain 58 percent of its 1929 high until 1950, 21 years later.

To be sure, September and October of 2008 were as scary a time in the American financial world as I have experienced in my lifetime — if a piece of cake compared with the winter of 1932-33. But the ensuing economic hard times were far less severe than seemed possible, even likely, in late 2008.

This country still has severe economic challenges facing it (the state and national deficits and unfunded liabilities being by far the greatest), but we’re much better off than many thought we would be a year ago.

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Not Exactly a Breakthrough for White House on China Backing for Iran Sanctions

As Jennifer noted earlier, the Obama administration was trumpeting the equivocal statements coaxed out of the Chinese yesterday about “working with” the United States on Iran sanctions as proof of a major diplomatic victory. At last, we were told, the president’s magic touch had convinced Beijing to come along with the community of nations and stop acting as the Iranian regime’s protector at the United Nations.

Indeed, the front page of Tuesday’s New York Times proclaimed “China Supports Iran Sanctions; Meeting Yields Results for the White House.” However, even the lede of that article undermined the headline:

President Obama secured a promise from President Hu Jintao of China on Monday to join negotiations on a new package of sanctions against Iran, administration officials said, but Mr. Hu made no specific commitment to backing measures that the United States considers severe enough to force a change in direction in Iran’s nuclear program.

But Obama’s cheering section wasn’t even able to enjoy that misleading headline for more than a few hours as an updated report published on the Times website Tuesday morning quickly put the “breakthrough” in perspective:

American officials portrayed the Chinese response as the most encouraging sign yet that Beijing would support an international effort to ratchet up the pressure on Iran and as a sign of “international unity” on stopping Iran’s nuclear program before the country can develop a working nuclear weapon. On Tuesday, though, Chinese officials in Beijing seem to strike a more cautious note. “We believe that the Security Council’s relevant actions should be conducive to easing the situation and conducive to promoting a fitting solution to the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiations,” Jiang Yu, a foreign ministry official, said at a regular news briefing in Beijing. “China supports a dual-track strategy and has always believed that dialogue and negotiations are the optimal channels for resolving the Iranian nuclear issue. Sanctions and pressure cannot fundamentally resolve the issues.”

So far, the only “breakthrough” Obama has gotten from the Chinese is another lesson in foreign-policy jujitsu. They are not committed to serious sanctions on Iran, and despite the president’s charm offensive, there is little hope that another round of protracted negotiations will produce anything that might actually stop the Iranians. The Chinese and the Russians, who are also adamant about opposing serious sanctions, have played the president like a piano and have bought Tehran even more time (after the year Obama has already given them with his feckless “engagement” policy) to make progress toward their nuclear goal.

The administration’s much-touted nuclear conference has been a good photo op for the president, but as far as the most important foreign-policy issue facing Obama, it is proving to be a colossal flop.

As Jennifer noted earlier, the Obama administration was trumpeting the equivocal statements coaxed out of the Chinese yesterday about “working with” the United States on Iran sanctions as proof of a major diplomatic victory. At last, we were told, the president’s magic touch had convinced Beijing to come along with the community of nations and stop acting as the Iranian regime’s protector at the United Nations.

Indeed, the front page of Tuesday’s New York Times proclaimed “China Supports Iran Sanctions; Meeting Yields Results for the White House.” However, even the lede of that article undermined the headline:

President Obama secured a promise from President Hu Jintao of China on Monday to join negotiations on a new package of sanctions against Iran, administration officials said, but Mr. Hu made no specific commitment to backing measures that the United States considers severe enough to force a change in direction in Iran’s nuclear program.

But Obama’s cheering section wasn’t even able to enjoy that misleading headline for more than a few hours as an updated report published on the Times website Tuesday morning quickly put the “breakthrough” in perspective:

American officials portrayed the Chinese response as the most encouraging sign yet that Beijing would support an international effort to ratchet up the pressure on Iran and as a sign of “international unity” on stopping Iran’s nuclear program before the country can develop a working nuclear weapon. On Tuesday, though, Chinese officials in Beijing seem to strike a more cautious note. “We believe that the Security Council’s relevant actions should be conducive to easing the situation and conducive to promoting a fitting solution to the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiations,” Jiang Yu, a foreign ministry official, said at a regular news briefing in Beijing. “China supports a dual-track strategy and has always believed that dialogue and negotiations are the optimal channels for resolving the Iranian nuclear issue. Sanctions and pressure cannot fundamentally resolve the issues.”

So far, the only “breakthrough” Obama has gotten from the Chinese is another lesson in foreign-policy jujitsu. They are not committed to serious sanctions on Iran, and despite the president’s charm offensive, there is little hope that another round of protracted negotiations will produce anything that might actually stop the Iranians. The Chinese and the Russians, who are also adamant about opposing serious sanctions, have played the president like a piano and have bought Tehran even more time (after the year Obama has already given them with his feckless “engagement” policy) to make progress toward their nuclear goal.

The administration’s much-touted nuclear conference has been a good photo op for the president, but as far as the most important foreign-policy issue facing Obama, it is proving to be a colossal flop.

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Lieberman’s Un-Obama Approach

Sen. Joe Lieberman agrees with virtually nothing Obama is doing or saying with regard to Iran, Israel, and the threat of Islamic terrorism. On Iran, Obama is pursuing insignificant sanctions and has effectively ruled out military action. Lieberman sees things differently:

“I don’t think it’s time to use military force against Iran, but I certainly think it’s time for the United States to have plans that will enable us to use force to stop the Iranian nuclear program if the president orders such an attack,” says Sen. Lieberman, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

“And I think it’s deeply important that the fanatical leadership in Iran understands that we are very serious about their nuclear weapons program, and when we say it’s unacceptable for Iran to go nuclear, we mean it — that we can and will do everything to stop Iran from going nuclear.

“The next step is tough sanctions, economic sanctions. Frankly it’s a last chance for Iran to avoid giving the rest of the world, including the United States, a hard choice between allowing Iran to go nuclear and using military power to stop them from doing that.

“I cannot stress enough that this is a turning point in history. If we allow Iran to become a nuclear power, the world becomes terribly more unsafe for everybody. It’s the end of the global nuclear nonproliferation attempts. All the work that President Obama’s doing on the START treaty, trying to keep nukes from terrorists — if Iran goes nuclear, that’s over.”

In other words, Obama is wasting his time on nuclear nonproliferation discussions so long as the Iranian threat goes unaddressed. And likewise, all of the Obami’s efforts on the “peace process” (should we call it the “peace ultimatum”?) will be useless (more than they are now), Lieberman explains, “because the clients of Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, strengthened by an Iranian nuclear umbrella, will turn more ferocious, not just against Israel but first against their enemies among the Palestinians, which is the current leadership of the Palestinian Authority.”

Lieberman’s list of objections to Obama’s policies is long. He thinks the omission of “Islamic extremists” from our National Security Strategy document “fundamentally dishonest.” He doesn’t like the Obami onslaught over Israel’s settlements and over Jerusalem housing. And he thinks it is unhelpful to rule out nuclear retaliation against an NPT signatory that attacks us with biological or chemical weapons. (He wants to maintain “appropriate ambiguity.”)

In short, Obama and Lieberman look at the Middle East in diametrically opposite ways. Obama wants to reorient the U.S. away from Israel and toward the “Muslim World”; Lieberman wants to solidify the U.S.-Israel relationship. Obama is not willing to do “whatever it takes” to prevent Iran from going nuclear: Lieberman does. Obama spends his time and political capital on everything but the Iranian threat; Lieberman says that’s what matters. Obama wants to win brownie points (by ruling out nuclear retaliation against NPT adherents) with … well, it’s not clear with whom; Lieberman thinks that’s dangerous.

It’s no coincidence that the two differ on so many particulars. Lieberman sees intractable enemies who don’t share our values and who will respond, if at all, only to the use or threat of hard American power. Call it “realism.” Obama is practicing some other brand of foreign policy. Whatever you call it, it’s not working and it’s not making us safer.

Sen. Joe Lieberman agrees with virtually nothing Obama is doing or saying with regard to Iran, Israel, and the threat of Islamic terrorism. On Iran, Obama is pursuing insignificant sanctions and has effectively ruled out military action. Lieberman sees things differently:

“I don’t think it’s time to use military force against Iran, but I certainly think it’s time for the United States to have plans that will enable us to use force to stop the Iranian nuclear program if the president orders such an attack,” says Sen. Lieberman, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

“And I think it’s deeply important that the fanatical leadership in Iran understands that we are very serious about their nuclear weapons program, and when we say it’s unacceptable for Iran to go nuclear, we mean it — that we can and will do everything to stop Iran from going nuclear.

“The next step is tough sanctions, economic sanctions. Frankly it’s a last chance for Iran to avoid giving the rest of the world, including the United States, a hard choice between allowing Iran to go nuclear and using military power to stop them from doing that.

“I cannot stress enough that this is a turning point in history. If we allow Iran to become a nuclear power, the world becomes terribly more unsafe for everybody. It’s the end of the global nuclear nonproliferation attempts. All the work that President Obama’s doing on the START treaty, trying to keep nukes from terrorists — if Iran goes nuclear, that’s over.”

In other words, Obama is wasting his time on nuclear nonproliferation discussions so long as the Iranian threat goes unaddressed. And likewise, all of the Obami’s efforts on the “peace process” (should we call it the “peace ultimatum”?) will be useless (more than they are now), Lieberman explains, “because the clients of Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, strengthened by an Iranian nuclear umbrella, will turn more ferocious, not just against Israel but first against their enemies among the Palestinians, which is the current leadership of the Palestinian Authority.”

Lieberman’s list of objections to Obama’s policies is long. He thinks the omission of “Islamic extremists” from our National Security Strategy document “fundamentally dishonest.” He doesn’t like the Obami onslaught over Israel’s settlements and over Jerusalem housing. And he thinks it is unhelpful to rule out nuclear retaliation against an NPT signatory that attacks us with biological or chemical weapons. (He wants to maintain “appropriate ambiguity.”)

In short, Obama and Lieberman look at the Middle East in diametrically opposite ways. Obama wants to reorient the U.S. away from Israel and toward the “Muslim World”; Lieberman wants to solidify the U.S.-Israel relationship. Obama is not willing to do “whatever it takes” to prevent Iran from going nuclear: Lieberman does. Obama spends his time and political capital on everything but the Iranian threat; Lieberman says that’s what matters. Obama wants to win brownie points (by ruling out nuclear retaliation against NPT adherents) with … well, it’s not clear with whom; Lieberman thinks that’s dangerous.

It’s no coincidence that the two differ on so many particulars. Lieberman sees intractable enemies who don’t share our values and who will respond, if at all, only to the use or threat of hard American power. Call it “realism.” Obama is practicing some other brand of foreign policy. Whatever you call it, it’s not working and it’s not making us safer.

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Obami’s Latest Israel Gambit Flops

Once again, the Obami’s bullying has come to naught. Bibi Netanyahu and his government are not amused nor persuaded by the Obami onslaught over Jerusalem housing permits or the suggestion that an imposed peace deal might be in the offing. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government said it would reject any moves by the Obama administration to set its own timeline and benchmarks for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, potentially establishing a new fault line between the U.S. and Israel. … Senior White House officials, such as National Security Adviser James Jones, have also discussed recently the prospects of Washington proposing its own Mideast plan, though U.S. diplomats stressed this past week that such a move wasn’t imminent or agreed upon.

These developments have rankled Mr. Netanyahu’s government, which is already at odds with Mr. Obama over the issue of Jewish building in disputed East Jerusalem.

“I don’t believe this will be accepted by the administration because it will be a grave mistake. … The solution has to be homegrown,” Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal late Sunday. …

“The longstanding Israeli position, not of this government only, but of successive Israeli governments, is that the Israelis and the Palestinians have to live together in peace and that an agreement has to be negotiated between them directly,” said a senior Netanyahu administration official.

Of course this was entirely foreseeable. So once again one must ask of the Obami Israel policy: what is the point? Rather than absorb the lessons of 2009 — that the Israeli government cannot be strong-armed and that Bibi’s government can’t be toppled by the likes of Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, and Obama — the Obami have repeated and intensified their efforts to squeeze our ally. Yes, maybe this time we can use Jerusalem to pry them loose! Ah, the threat of an imposed peace — that’ll do it! But alas, all we’ve done, apparently is create a wedge between the U.S. and our ally, communicated to the Palestinians that they should just hold firm, and telegraphed to Israel’s neighbors that we are flaky friends.

The Obami now have two options. First, as they did with the settlement gambit, they can simply fold up their tents and go back to endless, fruitless rounds of shuttle diplomacy. Alternatively, they can try out their latest, already rejected brainstorm and see if maybe, just maybe, the Israelis will finally cave. In all of this, the Obami have set themselves apart from every prior administration, both in the degree to which they would willingly damage the U.S.-Israel relationship and in the inanity of their diplomatic efforts. It is proof positive that dramatic, even “historic” change can be a very dangerous thing.

Once again, the Obami’s bullying has come to naught. Bibi Netanyahu and his government are not amused nor persuaded by the Obami onslaught over Jerusalem housing permits or the suggestion that an imposed peace deal might be in the offing. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government said it would reject any moves by the Obama administration to set its own timeline and benchmarks for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, potentially establishing a new fault line between the U.S. and Israel. … Senior White House officials, such as National Security Adviser James Jones, have also discussed recently the prospects of Washington proposing its own Mideast plan, though U.S. diplomats stressed this past week that such a move wasn’t imminent or agreed upon.

These developments have rankled Mr. Netanyahu’s government, which is already at odds with Mr. Obama over the issue of Jewish building in disputed East Jerusalem.

“I don’t believe this will be accepted by the administration because it will be a grave mistake. … The solution has to be homegrown,” Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal late Sunday. …

“The longstanding Israeli position, not of this government only, but of successive Israeli governments, is that the Israelis and the Palestinians have to live together in peace and that an agreement has to be negotiated between them directly,” said a senior Netanyahu administration official.

Of course this was entirely foreseeable. So once again one must ask of the Obami Israel policy: what is the point? Rather than absorb the lessons of 2009 — that the Israeli government cannot be strong-armed and that Bibi’s government can’t be toppled by the likes of Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, and Obama — the Obami have repeated and intensified their efforts to squeeze our ally. Yes, maybe this time we can use Jerusalem to pry them loose! Ah, the threat of an imposed peace — that’ll do it! But alas, all we’ve done, apparently is create a wedge between the U.S. and our ally, communicated to the Palestinians that they should just hold firm, and telegraphed to Israel’s neighbors that we are flaky friends.

The Obami now have two options. First, as they did with the settlement gambit, they can simply fold up their tents and go back to endless, fruitless rounds of shuttle diplomacy. Alternatively, they can try out their latest, already rejected brainstorm and see if maybe, just maybe, the Israelis will finally cave. In all of this, the Obami have set themselves apart from every prior administration, both in the degree to which they would willingly damage the U.S.-Israel relationship and in the inanity of their diplomatic efforts. It is proof positive that dramatic, even “historic” change can be a very dangerous thing.

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A Breakthrough on Iran Sanctions?

The Obami are hailing a “breakhrough” with China. Hold on to your hats: the Chinese “are prepared to work with us” on sanctions against Iran. In other words, we will begin the process of discussing what it is the Chinese will agree to. The administration spokesman hastened to add that the countries “had not agreed to any details of what the sanctions might entail.” And indeed, according to this report, there seems to be considerably less agreement than the Obami’s spin would suggest:

Just weeks before the Obama administration hopes to advance sanctions against Iran at the United Nations, the U.S. said the two presidents had instructed their governments to work together on potential sanctions designed to punish Tehran for its nuclear program. China described the outcome differently, emphasizing diplomacy as usual and avoiding any reference to sanctions.

First, it’s remarkable that we wasted 15 months on fruitless engagement and only now will begin the process of talking about what the Chinese might do. Did the Obami really imagine last year that Iran might say yes and spare us the need to pursue sanctions? Second, we already know that the agreed-upon sanctions will be no stronger than what the Russians have already indicated would be acceptable to them. We are bargaining downward from Medvedev, who has ruled out refined petroleum or other serious sanctions. And finally, the time line for all this — the negotiation, the implementation, the evaluation (is it working?) – threatens once again to run on for months and months. Recall how many deadlines we blew through last year on the journey through engagement. Meanwhile, the Iranians’ program moves ahead and the options for military action narrow, raising the question as to whether this protracted time line isn’t precisely what the mullahs need in order to realize their ambitions.

The Obami are hailing a “breakhrough” with China. Hold on to your hats: the Chinese “are prepared to work with us” on sanctions against Iran. In other words, we will begin the process of discussing what it is the Chinese will agree to. The administration spokesman hastened to add that the countries “had not agreed to any details of what the sanctions might entail.” And indeed, according to this report, there seems to be considerably less agreement than the Obami’s spin would suggest:

Just weeks before the Obama administration hopes to advance sanctions against Iran at the United Nations, the U.S. said the two presidents had instructed their governments to work together on potential sanctions designed to punish Tehran for its nuclear program. China described the outcome differently, emphasizing diplomacy as usual and avoiding any reference to sanctions.

First, it’s remarkable that we wasted 15 months on fruitless engagement and only now will begin the process of talking about what the Chinese might do. Did the Obami really imagine last year that Iran might say yes and spare us the need to pursue sanctions? Second, we already know that the agreed-upon sanctions will be no stronger than what the Russians have already indicated would be acceptable to them. We are bargaining downward from Medvedev, who has ruled out refined petroleum or other serious sanctions. And finally, the time line for all this — the negotiation, the implementation, the evaluation (is it working?) – threatens once again to run on for months and months. Recall how many deadlines we blew through last year on the journey through engagement. Meanwhile, the Iranians’ program moves ahead and the options for military action narrow, raising the question as to whether this protracted time line isn’t precisely what the mullahs need in order to realize their ambitions.

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The Tax Issue Is Back

A year ago, when the Tea Party movement was ignored or sneered at (much more so than now) by the Obami and the chattering class, the White House huffed that the rubes didn’t know that Obama had actually lowered taxes. The hordes were painted as confused — a tax revolt without the taxes. But the Tea Party crowd knew better. The grassroots movement was initially and remains a movement opposed to the massive growth of the federal government, the imposition of ObamaCare, the accumulation of massive debt, and the plethora of bailouts. It knew that after running up the tab, Obama would look for revenue to plug the gaping hole in the budget.

Rich Lowry observes:

The tea-party movement is an act of pre-emption, based on the simple calculation that higher spending eventually means higher taxes. For all the tsk-tsking about its supposed irresponsibility, the movement is attuned to the future in a way that the president — who hopes to evade or hide the consequences of his budgetary choices for as long as possible — is not.

Obama has always been happy to boast that he’ll let the Bush tax cuts on high-end earners expire at the end of this year. This blow for justice will initially generate all of about $40 billion annually, or only about 5 percent of the cost of Obama’s stimulus bill. Over 10 years, it will raise almost $700 billion, or only enough to cover about half of the budget deficit this year alone.

Obama will need more, and he’s not going to get it all from “the rich.”

So we hear whispers now of a VAT. And the bipartisan commission will certainly suggest all sorts of “revenue enhancers.” The Tea Partiers saw this coming, and so will the general electorate. The expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the prospect of many more tax hikes will be up for debate in the midterm elections. And having violated their pledge not to tax those making less than $200,000 to pay for health care, Democrats are poorly situated to defend middle-class taxpayers.

There was talk for some time that the tax issue had faded. Republicans would have nothing to argue about, claimed the mainstream pundits. But alas, like so much else, Obama has done a yeoman’s work for conservatives. The tax issue is back. In a big way.

A year ago, when the Tea Party movement was ignored or sneered at (much more so than now) by the Obami and the chattering class, the White House huffed that the rubes didn’t know that Obama had actually lowered taxes. The hordes were painted as confused — a tax revolt without the taxes. But the Tea Party crowd knew better. The grassroots movement was initially and remains a movement opposed to the massive growth of the federal government, the imposition of ObamaCare, the accumulation of massive debt, and the plethora of bailouts. It knew that after running up the tab, Obama would look for revenue to plug the gaping hole in the budget.

Rich Lowry observes:

The tea-party movement is an act of pre-emption, based on the simple calculation that higher spending eventually means higher taxes. For all the tsk-tsking about its supposed irresponsibility, the movement is attuned to the future in a way that the president — who hopes to evade or hide the consequences of his budgetary choices for as long as possible — is not.

Obama has always been happy to boast that he’ll let the Bush tax cuts on high-end earners expire at the end of this year. This blow for justice will initially generate all of about $40 billion annually, or only about 5 percent of the cost of Obama’s stimulus bill. Over 10 years, it will raise almost $700 billion, or only enough to cover about half of the budget deficit this year alone.

Obama will need more, and he’s not going to get it all from “the rich.”

So we hear whispers now of a VAT. And the bipartisan commission will certainly suggest all sorts of “revenue enhancers.” The Tea Partiers saw this coming, and so will the general electorate. The expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the prospect of many more tax hikes will be up for debate in the midterm elections. And having violated their pledge not to tax those making less than $200,000 to pay for health care, Democrats are poorly situated to defend middle-class taxpayers.

There was talk for some time that the tax issue had faded. Republicans would have nothing to argue about, claimed the mainstream pundits. But alas, like so much else, Obama has done a yeoman’s work for conservatives. The tax issue is back. In a big way.

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Pressuring Israel Will Not Produce Results in Iran

Jen already mentioned it but I want to emphasize this op-ed by my Council on Foreign Relations colleague Ray Takeyh. I often find myself disagreeing with Ray, but he’s on the money in dispelling the spurious linkage between Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and attempts to pressure Iran. He writes:

Although pressuring Israel to restrain its settlements may be a sensible means of gaining constructive Arab participation in the peace talks, it is unlikely to affect the region’s passive approach to Iran. Indeed, should Tehran perceive fissures and divisions in U.S.-Israeli alliance, it is likely to further harden its nuclear stance.

Ray gets it. But I wonder if the Obama administration does? To the extent that there is a strategy behind their get-tough-on-Netanyahu policy, as opposed to pure pique, it would seem to be the notion that the U.S. will reap major dividends in the Arab world by showing that it’s no patsy for Israel. As Ray notes, this is a foolish hope, because Arab rulers base their policies strictly on self-interest — not on a romantic attachment to the Palestinian cause. And until the U.S. shows that it is willing to do more to stand up to Iranian aggression, we will find few regimes in the region willing to step forward and risk Tehran’s wrath. The Israeli-Palestinian dispute is a sideshow, but for some reason President Obama, like too many of his predecessors, has mistaken it for the main show.

Jen already mentioned it but I want to emphasize this op-ed by my Council on Foreign Relations colleague Ray Takeyh. I often find myself disagreeing with Ray, but he’s on the money in dispelling the spurious linkage between Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and attempts to pressure Iran. He writes:

Although pressuring Israel to restrain its settlements may be a sensible means of gaining constructive Arab participation in the peace talks, it is unlikely to affect the region’s passive approach to Iran. Indeed, should Tehran perceive fissures and divisions in U.S.-Israeli alliance, it is likely to further harden its nuclear stance.

Ray gets it. But I wonder if the Obama administration does? To the extent that there is a strategy behind their get-tough-on-Netanyahu policy, as opposed to pure pique, it would seem to be the notion that the U.S. will reap major dividends in the Arab world by showing that it’s no patsy for Israel. As Ray notes, this is a foolish hope, because Arab rulers base their policies strictly on self-interest — not on a romantic attachment to the Palestinian cause. And until the U.S. shows that it is willing to do more to stand up to Iranian aggression, we will find few regimes in the region willing to step forward and risk Tehran’s wrath. The Israeli-Palestinian dispute is a sideshow, but for some reason President Obama, like too many of his predecessors, has mistaken it for the main show.

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What “Unacceptable” Is

David P. Goldman, who wrote for years under the nom de plume “Spengler,” is a brilliant and cultivated man; I asked him last year to review a book for COMMENTARY about Leonard Bernstein, and he obliged with a fascinating and tough piece. He is now an editor at First Things, the monthly magazine of religion and public life edited by my old friend and colleague Jody Bottum. We have genuine disagreements, notably about the value of American politico-military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan that go by the name “nation-building,” but they stem from the same root — a conviction that the West is under ideological assault and needs defending from its Islamofascist enemies.

But Goldman has now, I think, stepped beyond the pale both intellectually, ideologically, and as a simple matter of taste, expressing a sentiment about President Obama that might be explicable in the midst of a beer-and-scotch-addled late-night bull session in a dorm room but not in the precincts of an important publication. At the end of an item on the Iranian nuclear threat and the disastrous condition of American-Israeli relations, Goldman writes:

Obama is the loyal son of a left-wing anthropologist mother who sought to expiate her white guilt by going to bed with Muslim Third World men. He is a Third World anthropologist studying us, learning our culture and our customs the better to neutralize what he considers to be a malignant American influence in world affairs.

This is, not to put too fine a point on it, disgusting. In the first place, Obama is not responsible for his mother or her political views, any more than Ronald Reagan should have been be held accountable for the fact that his father was a drunk. In the second place, Goldman’s speculation about her sexual history is appalling in about a hundred different ways. I’m sure I’d hold no brief for Stanley Ann Dunham, but the idea that the lower-middle-class daughter of a furniture salesman from Mercer Island, Washington, would be awash in “white guilt” — far more a species of upper-middle-class Northeastern opinion — speaks more of Goldman’s inability to achieve imaginative sympathy with someone from circumstances different from his than it does anything about the president or his family.

Finally, there is Goldman’s description of Obama, who lived for less than a year in Indonesia from age 6 to age 10, as a “Third World anthropologist studying us.” Casting Obama as a malign foreign influence is a particular and unforgivable intellectual madness on the Right over the past two years. There is nothing foreign about Obama’s ideas or ideology, alas, which can be understood, in my view, almost entirely from the curricula and extracurricular ideas endemic in the American university in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when he was in college.

Goldman wrote a piece for First Things last year in which he revealed his history as a member of the bizarre and paranoid political cult around the extremist Lyndon LaRouche. Goldman intended the article to be an explanation of and break from his past. But thinking of the sort revealed in this blog item is in the direct line of descent from LaRouche’s vision of the world. It appears you can take the man out of LaRouche, but you can’t take LaRouche out of the man.

The opposition to Barack Obama needs to keep its wits. His domestic-policy proposals and foreign-policy ideas constitute a profound challenge to the good working order of the United States and the world. Spewing repellent nonsense about Obama’s mother and spinning bizarre notions about his innate foreignness — when he is in fact the possessor of one of the great and enduring American stories, and is in his own person a demonstration of precisely the kind of American exceptionalism that Obama so pointedly pooh-poohs — can be used to discredit his opposition. That is why I find it necessary to take such public exception to Goldman’s unacceptable musings.

David P. Goldman, who wrote for years under the nom de plume “Spengler,” is a brilliant and cultivated man; I asked him last year to review a book for COMMENTARY about Leonard Bernstein, and he obliged with a fascinating and tough piece. He is now an editor at First Things, the monthly magazine of religion and public life edited by my old friend and colleague Jody Bottum. We have genuine disagreements, notably about the value of American politico-military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan that go by the name “nation-building,” but they stem from the same root — a conviction that the West is under ideological assault and needs defending from its Islamofascist enemies.

But Goldman has now, I think, stepped beyond the pale both intellectually, ideologically, and as a simple matter of taste, expressing a sentiment about President Obama that might be explicable in the midst of a beer-and-scotch-addled late-night bull session in a dorm room but not in the precincts of an important publication. At the end of an item on the Iranian nuclear threat and the disastrous condition of American-Israeli relations, Goldman writes:

Obama is the loyal son of a left-wing anthropologist mother who sought to expiate her white guilt by going to bed with Muslim Third World men. He is a Third World anthropologist studying us, learning our culture and our customs the better to neutralize what he considers to be a malignant American influence in world affairs.

This is, not to put too fine a point on it, disgusting. In the first place, Obama is not responsible for his mother or her political views, any more than Ronald Reagan should have been be held accountable for the fact that his father was a drunk. In the second place, Goldman’s speculation about her sexual history is appalling in about a hundred different ways. I’m sure I’d hold no brief for Stanley Ann Dunham, but the idea that the lower-middle-class daughter of a furniture salesman from Mercer Island, Washington, would be awash in “white guilt” — far more a species of upper-middle-class Northeastern opinion — speaks more of Goldman’s inability to achieve imaginative sympathy with someone from circumstances different from his than it does anything about the president or his family.

Finally, there is Goldman’s description of Obama, who lived for less than a year in Indonesia from age 6 to age 10, as a “Third World anthropologist studying us.” Casting Obama as a malign foreign influence is a particular and unforgivable intellectual madness on the Right over the past two years. There is nothing foreign about Obama’s ideas or ideology, alas, which can be understood, in my view, almost entirely from the curricula and extracurricular ideas endemic in the American university in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when he was in college.

Goldman wrote a piece for First Things last year in which he revealed his history as a member of the bizarre and paranoid political cult around the extremist Lyndon LaRouche. Goldman intended the article to be an explanation of and break from his past. But thinking of the sort revealed in this blog item is in the direct line of descent from LaRouche’s vision of the world. It appears you can take the man out of LaRouche, but you can’t take LaRouche out of the man.

The opposition to Barack Obama needs to keep its wits. His domestic-policy proposals and foreign-policy ideas constitute a profound challenge to the good working order of the United States and the world. Spewing repellent nonsense about Obama’s mother and spinning bizarre notions about his innate foreignness — when he is in fact the possessor of one of the great and enduring American stories, and is in his own person a demonstration of precisely the kind of American exceptionalism that Obama so pointedly pooh-poohs — can be used to discredit his opposition. That is why I find it necessary to take such public exception to Goldman’s unacceptable musings.

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Democrats Face the Voters with Lousy Economic Results

This report explains:

Real personal income for Americans — excluding government payouts such as Social Security — has fallen by 3.2 percent since President Obama took office in January 2009, according to the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

For comparison, real personal income during the first 15 months in office for President George W. Bush, who inherited a milder recession from his predecessor, dropped 0.4 percent. Income excluding government payouts increased 12.7 percent during Mr. Bush’s eight years in office.

“This is hardly surprising,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economist and former director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. “Under President Obama, only federal spending is going up; jobs, business startups, and incomes are all down. It is proof that the government can’t spend its way to prosperity.”

It’s also more bad news for Democrats this election year. It was Obama, after all, who went after his predecessor for falling incomes. (“American families, since George Bush has been in office, have seen average family incomes go down $2,000,’ Mr. Obama said in a September 2008 speech on the economy in Green Bay, Wis.”) The “Bush did it” excuse is sure to follow, but plainly Obama’s stimulus plans haven’t made a dent in incomes or unemployment as he promised they would. The report also reminds us that the AP survey of leading economists has more gloomy news: “The unemployment rate will stay high for the next two years and still be at 8.4 percent by the end of 2011. Home prices will remain almost flat for the next two years, even after dropping an average 32 percent nationwide since peaking in 2006. The economy will grow about 3 percent this year, less than usual during the early phase of a recovery, but few jobs will be added.”

It’s not a record of success by any measure, and having spent over a year producing a health-care bill the country dislikes, Democrats are going to be hard-pressed to defend their economic record. The only question remains is how badly the electorate will punish those who controlled every lever of government and failed to deliver on their economic promises.

This report explains:

Real personal income for Americans — excluding government payouts such as Social Security — has fallen by 3.2 percent since President Obama took office in January 2009, according to the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

For comparison, real personal income during the first 15 months in office for President George W. Bush, who inherited a milder recession from his predecessor, dropped 0.4 percent. Income excluding government payouts increased 12.7 percent during Mr. Bush’s eight years in office.

“This is hardly surprising,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economist and former director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. “Under President Obama, only federal spending is going up; jobs, business startups, and incomes are all down. It is proof that the government can’t spend its way to prosperity.”

It’s also more bad news for Democrats this election year. It was Obama, after all, who went after his predecessor for falling incomes. (“American families, since George Bush has been in office, have seen average family incomes go down $2,000,’ Mr. Obama said in a September 2008 speech on the economy in Green Bay, Wis.”) The “Bush did it” excuse is sure to follow, but plainly Obama’s stimulus plans haven’t made a dent in incomes or unemployment as he promised they would. The report also reminds us that the AP survey of leading economists has more gloomy news: “The unemployment rate will stay high for the next two years and still be at 8.4 percent by the end of 2011. Home prices will remain almost flat for the next two years, even after dropping an average 32 percent nationwide since peaking in 2006. The economy will grow about 3 percent this year, less than usual during the early phase of a recovery, but few jobs will be added.”

It’s not a record of success by any measure, and having spent over a year producing a health-care bill the country dislikes, Democrats are going to be hard-pressed to defend their economic record. The only question remains is how badly the electorate will punish those who controlled every lever of government and failed to deliver on their economic promises.

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Will Reality Intrude into the Nuclear Nonproliferation Summit?

It’s not clear whether the Obama administration is practicing misdirection on a grand scale or is genuinely confused about which nuclear threats are real and which are not. But what is clear is that we’re not dealing with the real ones. Paul Wolfowitz explains:

Unfortunately, President Obama’s talk about a world free of nuclear weapons seems to have little connection to the passive U.S. responses to North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear activities.

There is certainly room for additional reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons, but it is unlikely to have any effect on those countries. Indeed, if the new treaty constrains U.S. missile defense efforts, it could be counterproductive. Although President Reagan wanted to eliminate nuclear weapons—believing it dangerous to rely indefinitely on a balance of nuclear terror—when Mikhail Gorbachev offered to eliminate ballistic missiles in exchange for eliminating missile defenses, Reagan refused the deal.

We should be focusing on, as Wolfowitz notes, developing our own missile defense and coming up with a backup plan when sanctions fail to thwart the Iranians’ nuclear ambitions. But there is little sign Obama is interested in either. Does he really imagine that a START deal or Ukraine’s offer to give up its stockpile of enriched uranium will induce the mullahs or the North Koreans to throw in the towel on their own plans? If so, the naiveté is stunning. Or perhaps this simply fills the time while we’re not doing anything about the Iranian menace. That’s a more cynical but equally naive approach, for it imagines there will never be a moment of reckoning when Iran goes nuclear, followed by a Middle East nuclear arms race and a legacy for Obama as “the president who let the mullahs get the bomb.”

We keep waiting for the voice of sanity to be heard — an “emperor has no clothes” moment when the charade of nuclear nonproliferation summitry is disturbed and the West is forced to confront in a serious manner the actual threat not only to Israel and the Middle East but to the entire civilized world. It hasn’t happened yet. And time is running out.

It’s not clear whether the Obama administration is practicing misdirection on a grand scale or is genuinely confused about which nuclear threats are real and which are not. But what is clear is that we’re not dealing with the real ones. Paul Wolfowitz explains:

Unfortunately, President Obama’s talk about a world free of nuclear weapons seems to have little connection to the passive U.S. responses to North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear activities.

There is certainly room for additional reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons, but it is unlikely to have any effect on those countries. Indeed, if the new treaty constrains U.S. missile defense efforts, it could be counterproductive. Although President Reagan wanted to eliminate nuclear weapons—believing it dangerous to rely indefinitely on a balance of nuclear terror—when Mikhail Gorbachev offered to eliminate ballistic missiles in exchange for eliminating missile defenses, Reagan refused the deal.

We should be focusing on, as Wolfowitz notes, developing our own missile defense and coming up with a backup plan when sanctions fail to thwart the Iranians’ nuclear ambitions. But there is little sign Obama is interested in either. Does he really imagine that a START deal or Ukraine’s offer to give up its stockpile of enriched uranium will induce the mullahs or the North Koreans to throw in the towel on their own plans? If so, the naiveté is stunning. Or perhaps this simply fills the time while we’re not doing anything about the Iranian menace. That’s a more cynical but equally naive approach, for it imagines there will never be a moment of reckoning when Iran goes nuclear, followed by a Middle East nuclear arms race and a legacy for Obama as “the president who let the mullahs get the bomb.”

We keep waiting for the voice of sanity to be heard — an “emperor has no clothes” moment when the charade of nuclear nonproliferation summitry is disturbed and the West is forced to confront in a serious manner the actual threat not only to Israel and the Middle East but to the entire civilized world. It hasn’t happened yet. And time is running out.

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RE: In the Shadow of Iran

Jonathan, to emphasize your point that the president’s Holocaust Remembrance Day statement is entirely devoid of any connection to the existential threat facing the Jewish state:

I  join people here at home, in Israel, and around the world in observing Holocaust Remembrance Day. This year, on the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, we must recommit ourselves to honoring the memories of all the victims and ensuring that they remain a part of our collective memory. On my visit to Buchenwald last year — and during my visit to Yad Vashem in 2008 — I bore witness to the horrors of anti-Semitism and the capacity for evil represented by the Nazis’ campaign to annihilate the Jewish people and so many others. But even at places like Buchenwald, the dignity and courage of those who endured the horrors of the Holocaust remind us of humanity’s capacity for decency and compassion.

The memories of the victims serve as a constant reminder to honor their legacy by renewing our commitment to prevent genocide, and to confront anti-Semitism and prejudice in all of its forms. We must never tolerate the hateful stereotypes and prejudice against the Jewish people that tragically continues to this day. We must work, instead, on behalf of a world of justice and peace, in which all nations and peoples value the humanity that we share, and the dignity inherent in every human being.

First of all, it’s typically “me” oriented — Obama’s own visit and his own witness-bearing figure prominently. What doesn’t figure at all is the genocidal intention of the Iranian regime. You’d think that not merely generic “hate” and “prejudice” against Jews would be of concern but also a regime dedicated to the extermination of Israel and its Jewish inhabitants. But nothing. Zip. For Obama, the Holocaust is a historical event and a civil rights talking point. Like his Passover proclamation, it is simply fodder for the civil rights lawyers in the Justice Department.

But then Obama is unwilling to talk too much or focus on the nature of the Iranian regime. If he did, it might become obvious that pinprick sanctions and engagement are ill-suited to weaning a genocidal regime off its nuclear aspirations. It might require that we attempt to isolate and change the regime and consider a military option. And that he certainly has no interest in considering.

Jonathan, to emphasize your point that the president’s Holocaust Remembrance Day statement is entirely devoid of any connection to the existential threat facing the Jewish state:

I  join people here at home, in Israel, and around the world in observing Holocaust Remembrance Day. This year, on the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, we must recommit ourselves to honoring the memories of all the victims and ensuring that they remain a part of our collective memory. On my visit to Buchenwald last year — and during my visit to Yad Vashem in 2008 — I bore witness to the horrors of anti-Semitism and the capacity for evil represented by the Nazis’ campaign to annihilate the Jewish people and so many others. But even at places like Buchenwald, the dignity and courage of those who endured the horrors of the Holocaust remind us of humanity’s capacity for decency and compassion.

The memories of the victims serve as a constant reminder to honor their legacy by renewing our commitment to prevent genocide, and to confront anti-Semitism and prejudice in all of its forms. We must never tolerate the hateful stereotypes and prejudice against the Jewish people that tragically continues to this day. We must work, instead, on behalf of a world of justice and peace, in which all nations and peoples value the humanity that we share, and the dignity inherent in every human being.

First of all, it’s typically “me” oriented — Obama’s own visit and his own witness-bearing figure prominently. What doesn’t figure at all is the genocidal intention of the Iranian regime. You’d think that not merely generic “hate” and “prejudice” against Jews would be of concern but also a regime dedicated to the extermination of Israel and its Jewish inhabitants. But nothing. Zip. For Obama, the Holocaust is a historical event and a civil rights talking point. Like his Passover proclamation, it is simply fodder for the civil rights lawyers in the Justice Department.

But then Obama is unwilling to talk too much or focus on the nature of the Iranian regime. If he did, it might become obvious that pinprick sanctions and engagement are ill-suited to weaning a genocidal regime off its nuclear aspirations. It might require that we attempt to isolate and change the regime and consider a military option. And that he certainly has no interest in considering.

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The Irony of “Never Again”

In his important post on the necessity of doing more than simply saying “Never Again,” Jonathan noted that Iran “ironically denies the Holocaust while plotting a new one.” But it is not ironic — it is rather part of three contradictory propositions that nevertheless reinforce each other.

Iran simultaneously denies the Holocaust, threatens a new one, and accuses Israel of being a Nazi regime. It denies what the Nazis did, announces plans to do it again, and accuses the prospective victims of being Nazis. Those propositions are crazy, but the more important point is they are parts of an integrated plan.

The plan involves, first, denying the historical legitimacy of Israel. In the view of many Muslims, Israel is simply a Holocaust guilt offering imposed by the West on blameless Arabs. It is a view unfortunately given credence by President Obama’s Cairo address, which mentioned the “tragic history” of the Jewish people as the justification for Israel — not the 3,000-year connection to the land, nor its central place in Jewish ritual for millennia, nor the fact that modern Zionism began in the 19th century, long before the Holocaust. But Iran denies the Holocaust to challenge even the “tragic history” as a basis for a Jewish state.

The second part of the plan is to announce that the goal is not a Palestinian state, but the elimination of the Jewish one — and to demonstrate that the announcement produces no penalty. Indeed the goal gains legitimacy from its repeated proclamation and the repeated failure of the West to respond. There is no UN resolution condemning Iran for threatening another member of the UN, no refusal to deal with a regime that is openly advocating a new Holocaust — only an outstretched hand, endlessly outstretched. It confirms Iran’s belief (and its argument to its allies) that the West will ultimately abandon the Jewish state, just as it abandoned the Jews.

The third prong is the denigration of Israel’s moral right to exist, accusing it of being equivalent to the most hated regime in history. It is an effort likewise assisted by the Cairo address, which equated the Nazi genocide with the Arab dislocation in 1948 — and thus lent credence to the Islamist belief that the situation of the Palestinian Arabs was comparable to genocide.

Iran undoubtedly finds it ironic that “Never Again” is everywhere repeated but nowhere acted upon, even in response to Iran’s explicit goal and its historical and moral slander in support of it. The problem with saying “Never Again” is that, as eloquently explained here, “there’s a risk that we might think we’ve actually done something.” It is an irony that may border on tragedy.

In his important post on the necessity of doing more than simply saying “Never Again,” Jonathan noted that Iran “ironically denies the Holocaust while plotting a new one.” But it is not ironic — it is rather part of three contradictory propositions that nevertheless reinforce each other.

Iran simultaneously denies the Holocaust, threatens a new one, and accuses Israel of being a Nazi regime. It denies what the Nazis did, announces plans to do it again, and accuses the prospective victims of being Nazis. Those propositions are crazy, but the more important point is they are parts of an integrated plan.

The plan involves, first, denying the historical legitimacy of Israel. In the view of many Muslims, Israel is simply a Holocaust guilt offering imposed by the West on blameless Arabs. It is a view unfortunately given credence by President Obama’s Cairo address, which mentioned the “tragic history” of the Jewish people as the justification for Israel — not the 3,000-year connection to the land, nor its central place in Jewish ritual for millennia, nor the fact that modern Zionism began in the 19th century, long before the Holocaust. But Iran denies the Holocaust to challenge even the “tragic history” as a basis for a Jewish state.

The second part of the plan is to announce that the goal is not a Palestinian state, but the elimination of the Jewish one — and to demonstrate that the announcement produces no penalty. Indeed the goal gains legitimacy from its repeated proclamation and the repeated failure of the West to respond. There is no UN resolution condemning Iran for threatening another member of the UN, no refusal to deal with a regime that is openly advocating a new Holocaust — only an outstretched hand, endlessly outstretched. It confirms Iran’s belief (and its argument to its allies) that the West will ultimately abandon the Jewish state, just as it abandoned the Jews.

The third prong is the denigration of Israel’s moral right to exist, accusing it of being equivalent to the most hated regime in history. It is an effort likewise assisted by the Cairo address, which equated the Nazi genocide with the Arab dislocation in 1948 — and thus lent credence to the Islamist belief that the situation of the Palestinian Arabs was comparable to genocide.

Iran undoubtedly finds it ironic that “Never Again” is everywhere repeated but nowhere acted upon, even in response to Iran’s explicit goal and its historical and moral slander in support of it. The problem with saying “Never Again” is that, as eloquently explained here, “there’s a risk that we might think we’ve actually done something.” It is an irony that may border on tragedy.

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Hank Williams Wins Pulitzer Prize

That’s all I take away from this. Other than the fact that I lost out on the Music prize once again. I guess my Concerto in B-minor for Tissue Paper and Asthmatic Wheeze failed to wow ‘em. Again.

The New York Times won for National Reporting for its incisive reporting on the dangers of cell phones. What — no prize for the delightful Highlights and its decades’ long crusade against jaywalking?

And Kathleen Parker won for Commentary. You just can’t bash the oogedy-boogedy people enough. Especially when you’re striving for that “unpredictable conclusion.”

That’s all I take away from this. Other than the fact that I lost out on the Music prize once again. I guess my Concerto in B-minor for Tissue Paper and Asthmatic Wheeze failed to wow ‘em. Again.

The New York Times won for National Reporting for its incisive reporting on the dangers of cell phones. What — no prize for the delightful Highlights and its decades’ long crusade against jaywalking?

And Kathleen Parker won for Commentary. You just can’t bash the oogedy-boogedy people enough. Especially when you’re striving for that “unpredictable conclusion.”

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