Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 2010

Useful Idiots at Sea

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air has a very good summary of points about the Hamas-backed attempt to break the maritime blockade of Gaza on May 31. The summary includes links on the Turkish “aid” group, Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), and its associations with the Muslim Brotherhood and all the usual suspects of Islamist terror (including the Millennium bombing plot in 1999). There is convincing video footage of the fight mounted by the peace activists – using knives, metal pipe, handguns, stun grenades, and incendiary devices – against the Israeli commandos boarding M/V Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ferry used as the flotilla’s flagship. Probably the best compliment I can give Ed’s post is that it doesn’t adopt the credulous, pro-activist editorial perspective of virtually all the mainstream media outlets.

There is good reason not to. For one thing, the fingerprints of Hamas are all over this blockade-running attempt. IHH, a key organizer of the flotilla, has longstanding ties to Hamas that include establishing an IHH office in Gaza and setting up celebrated meetings between its leader, Bulent Yildirim, and Hamas leaders Khaled Meshal and Ismail Haniyeh. Moreover, British participation in the flotilla was organized by British Hamas leader Mohammed Sawalha, among other Hamas links to the European flotilla participants (laid out here).

Flotilla spokesmen told Islamic media repeatedly in the weeks before the attempt that their purpose was to break the blockade. Israel, of course, regularly allows aid convoys into Gaza; the Israelis offered to accept the humanitarian cargo in Ashdod and have it convoyed into Gaza over land. But IHH leaders stated that they hoped to widen the rift between Israel and Turkey by inciting Israel to take military action against the flotilla.

The Israelis advised Turkish and European envoys beforehand of their intention to use naval forces to prevent the flotilla from reaching Gaza. The outrage now being shown by European politicians certainly isn’t based on surprise at the course of events; the Israelis did exactly what they said they would do. In fact, some reports suggest that European governments joined Israel last week in pressuring Greek Cyprus to prevent the departure of flotilla participants who were using Cyprus as a staging area. In the days since Mavi Marmara’s departure from Istanbul on May 22, Europeans have been watching the flotilla’s dilatory progress much more closely than Americans have. The truth about the dramatic climax off Gaza on Monday is that the whole event has unfolded in slow motion – and with the full cognizance of all the relevant governments.

From a military operational perspective, it seems to have been a tactical error that the Israeli commandos didn’t go in with sufficient force. I doubt they’ll make that mistake again. If they had conducted the boarding on the premise that it would be “non-compliant” (the U.S. military term), they would have been prepared to stabilize the situation at the outset with the threat of deadly force. In conditions like the ones the commandos faced today, that usually means actual force is less likely to be necessary.

But in the end, what matters to Israeli national security is that the flotilla participants were armed and determined to break the blockade. As long as Hamas rules Gaza, the territory’s sea access is a major vulnerability for Israel and has to be controlled. Repeated attempts have been made in the last few years to deliver weapons from Iran to Hamas by sea (see here, here, here, here, and here); Israel can’t permit the coastline of Gaza to become the path of least resistance for weapons deliveries.

It will be up to the U.S. and Europe whether the waters off the Gaza coast, short miles from the Suez Canal, become a source of maritime instability due to incitement by Hamas. The EU leadership, tacitly accepting the Hamas narrative cloaked in Europe’s trademark parlor activism, is behaving with a fecklessness for which it deserves strong rebuke. It is not to the advantage of any respectable nation to carry Hamas’s water. Only Hamas and its fellow jihadists stand to benefit from Israel losing control of its maritime borders. The sooner Europe’s leaders confront that fact and take a responsible view of their own interests, the better.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air has a very good summary of points about the Hamas-backed attempt to break the maritime blockade of Gaza on May 31. The summary includes links on the Turkish “aid” group, Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), and its associations with the Muslim Brotherhood and all the usual suspects of Islamist terror (including the Millennium bombing plot in 1999). There is convincing video footage of the fight mounted by the peace activists – using knives, metal pipe, handguns, stun grenades, and incendiary devices – against the Israeli commandos boarding M/V Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ferry used as the flotilla’s flagship. Probably the best compliment I can give Ed’s post is that it doesn’t adopt the credulous, pro-activist editorial perspective of virtually all the mainstream media outlets.

There is good reason not to. For one thing, the fingerprints of Hamas are all over this blockade-running attempt. IHH, a key organizer of the flotilla, has longstanding ties to Hamas that include establishing an IHH office in Gaza and setting up celebrated meetings between its leader, Bulent Yildirim, and Hamas leaders Khaled Meshal and Ismail Haniyeh. Moreover, British participation in the flotilla was organized by British Hamas leader Mohammed Sawalha, among other Hamas links to the European flotilla participants (laid out here).

Flotilla spokesmen told Islamic media repeatedly in the weeks before the attempt that their purpose was to break the blockade. Israel, of course, regularly allows aid convoys into Gaza; the Israelis offered to accept the humanitarian cargo in Ashdod and have it convoyed into Gaza over land. But IHH leaders stated that they hoped to widen the rift between Israel and Turkey by inciting Israel to take military action against the flotilla.

The Israelis advised Turkish and European envoys beforehand of their intention to use naval forces to prevent the flotilla from reaching Gaza. The outrage now being shown by European politicians certainly isn’t based on surprise at the course of events; the Israelis did exactly what they said they would do. In fact, some reports suggest that European governments joined Israel last week in pressuring Greek Cyprus to prevent the departure of flotilla participants who were using Cyprus as a staging area. In the days since Mavi Marmara’s departure from Istanbul on May 22, Europeans have been watching the flotilla’s dilatory progress much more closely than Americans have. The truth about the dramatic climax off Gaza on Monday is that the whole event has unfolded in slow motion – and with the full cognizance of all the relevant governments.

From a military operational perspective, it seems to have been a tactical error that the Israeli commandos didn’t go in with sufficient force. I doubt they’ll make that mistake again. If they had conducted the boarding on the premise that it would be “non-compliant” (the U.S. military term), they would have been prepared to stabilize the situation at the outset with the threat of deadly force. In conditions like the ones the commandos faced today, that usually means actual force is less likely to be necessary.

But in the end, what matters to Israeli national security is that the flotilla participants were armed and determined to break the blockade. As long as Hamas rules Gaza, the territory’s sea access is a major vulnerability for Israel and has to be controlled. Repeated attempts have been made in the last few years to deliver weapons from Iran to Hamas by sea (see here, here, here, here, and here); Israel can’t permit the coastline of Gaza to become the path of least resistance for weapons deliveries.

It will be up to the U.S. and Europe whether the waters off the Gaza coast, short miles from the Suez Canal, become a source of maritime instability due to incitement by Hamas. The EU leadership, tacitly accepting the Hamas narrative cloaked in Europe’s trademark parlor activism, is behaving with a fecklessness for which it deserves strong rebuke. It is not to the advantage of any respectable nation to carry Hamas’s water. Only Hamas and its fellow jihadists stand to benefit from Israel losing control of its maritime borders. The sooner Europe’s leaders confront that fact and take a responsible view of their own interests, the better.

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J Street Weighs In

You knew this was coming, didn’t you? Jeremy Ben-Ami:

With details still emerging and propaganda spinning furiously on all sides — one simple truth stands clear to us: today’s events are the natural outgrowth of the larger, ongoing failure to resolve this conflict peacefully through a two-state solution. …

J Street is deeply shocked and saddened by reports that at least 10 civilians have been killed and dozens more wounded (including Israeli soldiers) this morning as Israel intercepted a naval convoy bringing humanitarian supplies and construction materials to the Gaza Strip.

We express our condolences to the families of those killed and we wish the injured a full and speedy recovery. …

This shocking outcome of an effort to bring humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza is in part a consequence of the ongoing, counterproductive Israeli blockade of Gaza. [Emphasis added]

I am puzzled — what exactly is Ben-Ami referring to as “propaganda”? There are claims that the Islamist lynch mob aboard one of the ships is actually a group of “peace activists.” Mahmoud Abbas says that the IDF “slaughtered” the “peace activists.” J Street should explain precisely which claims made by the Israeli government are “propaganda.” When the Gaza war started in 2008, J Street said that there was no difference between terrorists trying to murder Israeli civilians and the Israeli military trying to stop those attacks. Here we have another easy slide into moral equivalence.

It is a classically demented J Street product: there is moral equivalence; the refusal to place blame on the guilty party; the eager repetition of Islamist propaganda by classifying terrorists as civilians; outright sympathy with the lynch mob, which J Street incorrectly says was composed of civilians, and the expression of condolences for those who tragically lost their lives as they tried to beat and stab Jews to death; and, ultimately, the laying of blame on Israel, which created this whole situation in the first place with its cruel and pointless Gaza blockade.

This is your pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby.

You knew this was coming, didn’t you? Jeremy Ben-Ami:

With details still emerging and propaganda spinning furiously on all sides — one simple truth stands clear to us: today’s events are the natural outgrowth of the larger, ongoing failure to resolve this conflict peacefully through a two-state solution. …

J Street is deeply shocked and saddened by reports that at least 10 civilians have been killed and dozens more wounded (including Israeli soldiers) this morning as Israel intercepted a naval convoy bringing humanitarian supplies and construction materials to the Gaza Strip.

We express our condolences to the families of those killed and we wish the injured a full and speedy recovery. …

This shocking outcome of an effort to bring humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza is in part a consequence of the ongoing, counterproductive Israeli blockade of Gaza. [Emphasis added]

I am puzzled — what exactly is Ben-Ami referring to as “propaganda”? There are claims that the Islamist lynch mob aboard one of the ships is actually a group of “peace activists.” Mahmoud Abbas says that the IDF “slaughtered” the “peace activists.” J Street should explain precisely which claims made by the Israeli government are “propaganda.” When the Gaza war started in 2008, J Street said that there was no difference between terrorists trying to murder Israeli civilians and the Israeli military trying to stop those attacks. Here we have another easy slide into moral equivalence.

It is a classically demented J Street product: there is moral equivalence; the refusal to place blame on the guilty party; the eager repetition of Islamist propaganda by classifying terrorists as civilians; outright sympathy with the lynch mob, which J Street incorrectly says was composed of civilians, and the expression of condolences for those who tragically lost their lives as they tried to beat and stab Jews to death; and, ultimately, the laying of blame on Israel, which created this whole situation in the first place with its cruel and pointless Gaza blockade.

This is your pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby.

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“Liberal Zionists” Must Choose: Hamas or Israel

The confrontation at sea this morning between pro-Palestinian activists seeking to end the international blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza and Israeli forces seeking to enforce the closure has put the State of Israel in a difficult position. Despite the fact that the aim of the so-called “freedom flotilla” was to bring aid to the terrorist regime running Gaza, the deaths of several persons on board one of the ships that resisted Israeli commandos who boarded the vessel has created a public-relations bonanza for the anti-Zionist groups that organized the effort. The chorus of condemnations raining down on Jerusalem only hours after the incident shows the depth of anti-Israeli passion around the world, as governments, NGOs, and UN officials are all chiming in with the usual refrains about the use of “disproportionate” force, as well as the myth about the ships’ seeking to alleviate a humanitarian crisis in a region where food and medical supplies are not barred by the Israeli and Egyptian blockade, which is aimed at forcing Hamas to either step down from power or recognize Israel.

But while Israeli spokesmen will be scrambling to tell their side of the story in the coming days, the spotlight on “liberal Zionists” will be crucial in determining not only the way American Jewry responds to the crisis but also the reaction from the Obama administration.

As with the case of Israel’s December 2008 counterattack on terrorist strongholds in Gaza after years of ceaseless missile attacks on its southern towns and villages, today’s naval confrontation offers American Jews a stark choice. They can back Israel or Hamas.

Despite the drumbeat of condemnations against Israel that will be heard in the coming days over this event, the fact is the Gaza flotilla was inspired and supported by Hamas as the presence of several Hamas leaders at its launch in Turkey revealed. The convoy’s supposed goal of bringing succor to starving Palestinians in Gaza is a lie. The Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Hamasistan has not halted the flow of food and medicine to the region. The blockade is aimed at preventing “construction” materials from flowing into Gaza, since Hamas uses these materials to strengthen its military defenses as well as its homegrown arms industry. Talk about aid to suffering Palestinians is nothing but a cover for efforts to aid the Islamists of Hamas, whose ruthless hold on the district was achieved by a bloody coup.

Moreover, the supposedly peaceful intent of the volunteers on the ships is given the lie by an Al-Jazeera news report from the flotilla yesterday that was publicized today by Palestine Media Watch. In the tape, the so-called humanitarians chant Islamist slogans about killing the Jews as they invoke the example of Khaibar, where the Prophet Mohammed’s forces slaughtered the Jews in the year 628. Another participant speaks of their goal being either “martyrdom” or Gaza. It appears that by shooting at Israelis boarding at least one of the ships, some have achieved the former goal. The question of whether Israel’s forces might have been better prepared to subdue them is one for Israelis to consider, but it is not germane to the question of whether the blockade is justified or the contention that those on board the ships were innocent humanitarian victims considering that the Hamas supporters’ goal was to provoke bloodshed no matter what the Israelis did.

The question now is whether self-proclaimed liberal Zionists — to use the phrase made popular by the controversy over Peter Beinart’s Israel-bashing essay in the New York Review of Books — such as J Street will use this incident to bolster their campaign for American Jews to distance themselves from Israel. In December 2008, J Street stood virtually alone as it condemned Israel’s counterattack on Gaza, exposing its extremist nature. President Obama has belatedly realized that this left-wing lobby is not representative of American Jewry, as his May “charm offensive” toward Jews, which sought to back away from a policy of confrontation with Israel, revealed. But with J Street renewing its call for an end to the blockade of Hamas in a statement that echoes the rhetoric of anti-Zionist groups about Gaza and for America to force Israel into more concessions to Hamas, American Jews, especially those who consider themselves liberals, must decide whether they stand with a group that essentially backs the short-term goals of Hamas and its supporters or an Israeli government that was elected by its people. At a time when Israel needs American support as much as it ever did, liberals must understand that the administration will be looking to them to see whether they can abandon Israel with impunity.

Americans who are looking to excuse themselves from the more difficult task of explaining the truth of Israel’s dilemma to a hostile world may seize upon the convoy deaths as a fresh rationale for quitting the ranks of country’s supporters. But if that is what amounts to liberal Zionism these days, then its adherents must be judged as, at best, fair-weather friends and, at worst, little different from open anti-Zionists who implicitly support the Palestinian terror organization’s goal of eliminating the Jewish state. If liberal Zionism in 2010 amounts to the backing of Hamas’s propaganda campaign and the delegitimization of Israeli self-defense, then it is time to admit that such liberals have left the Zionist camp altogether.

The confrontation at sea this morning between pro-Palestinian activists seeking to end the international blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza and Israeli forces seeking to enforce the closure has put the State of Israel in a difficult position. Despite the fact that the aim of the so-called “freedom flotilla” was to bring aid to the terrorist regime running Gaza, the deaths of several persons on board one of the ships that resisted Israeli commandos who boarded the vessel has created a public-relations bonanza for the anti-Zionist groups that organized the effort. The chorus of condemnations raining down on Jerusalem only hours after the incident shows the depth of anti-Israeli passion around the world, as governments, NGOs, and UN officials are all chiming in with the usual refrains about the use of “disproportionate” force, as well as the myth about the ships’ seeking to alleviate a humanitarian crisis in a region where food and medical supplies are not barred by the Israeli and Egyptian blockade, which is aimed at forcing Hamas to either step down from power or recognize Israel.

But while Israeli spokesmen will be scrambling to tell their side of the story in the coming days, the spotlight on “liberal Zionists” will be crucial in determining not only the way American Jewry responds to the crisis but also the reaction from the Obama administration.

As with the case of Israel’s December 2008 counterattack on terrorist strongholds in Gaza after years of ceaseless missile attacks on its southern towns and villages, today’s naval confrontation offers American Jews a stark choice. They can back Israel or Hamas.

Despite the drumbeat of condemnations against Israel that will be heard in the coming days over this event, the fact is the Gaza flotilla was inspired and supported by Hamas as the presence of several Hamas leaders at its launch in Turkey revealed. The convoy’s supposed goal of bringing succor to starving Palestinians in Gaza is a lie. The Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Hamasistan has not halted the flow of food and medicine to the region. The blockade is aimed at preventing “construction” materials from flowing into Gaza, since Hamas uses these materials to strengthen its military defenses as well as its homegrown arms industry. Talk about aid to suffering Palestinians is nothing but a cover for efforts to aid the Islamists of Hamas, whose ruthless hold on the district was achieved by a bloody coup.

Moreover, the supposedly peaceful intent of the volunteers on the ships is given the lie by an Al-Jazeera news report from the flotilla yesterday that was publicized today by Palestine Media Watch. In the tape, the so-called humanitarians chant Islamist slogans about killing the Jews as they invoke the example of Khaibar, where the Prophet Mohammed’s forces slaughtered the Jews in the year 628. Another participant speaks of their goal being either “martyrdom” or Gaza. It appears that by shooting at Israelis boarding at least one of the ships, some have achieved the former goal. The question of whether Israel’s forces might have been better prepared to subdue them is one for Israelis to consider, but it is not germane to the question of whether the blockade is justified or the contention that those on board the ships were innocent humanitarian victims considering that the Hamas supporters’ goal was to provoke bloodshed no matter what the Israelis did.

The question now is whether self-proclaimed liberal Zionists — to use the phrase made popular by the controversy over Peter Beinart’s Israel-bashing essay in the New York Review of Books — such as J Street will use this incident to bolster their campaign for American Jews to distance themselves from Israel. In December 2008, J Street stood virtually alone as it condemned Israel’s counterattack on Gaza, exposing its extremist nature. President Obama has belatedly realized that this left-wing lobby is not representative of American Jewry, as his May “charm offensive” toward Jews, which sought to back away from a policy of confrontation with Israel, revealed. But with J Street renewing its call for an end to the blockade of Hamas in a statement that echoes the rhetoric of anti-Zionist groups about Gaza and for America to force Israel into more concessions to Hamas, American Jews, especially those who consider themselves liberals, must decide whether they stand with a group that essentially backs the short-term goals of Hamas and its supporters or an Israeli government that was elected by its people. At a time when Israel needs American support as much as it ever did, liberals must understand that the administration will be looking to them to see whether they can abandon Israel with impunity.

Americans who are looking to excuse themselves from the more difficult task of explaining the truth of Israel’s dilemma to a hostile world may seize upon the convoy deaths as a fresh rationale for quitting the ranks of country’s supporters. But if that is what amounts to liberal Zionism these days, then its adherents must be judged as, at best, fair-weather friends and, at worst, little different from open anti-Zionists who implicitly support the Palestinian terror organization’s goal of eliminating the Jewish state. If liberal Zionism in 2010 amounts to the backing of Hamas’s propaganda campaign and the delegitimization of Israeli self-defense, then it is time to admit that such liberals have left the Zionist camp altogether.

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Flotilla Fiasco (UPDATED)

The details of what happened on the boat leading the flotilla trying to enter the Gaza Strip are still coming to light. CNN in the U.S. is speaking about “conflicting accounts,” though the videos it keeps playing seem to vindicate the Israeli side. (You see an Israeli soldier dropping into the deck, and then you seem him getting attacked. There is no indication that the IDF soldier had opened fire. The same video appears on an Israeli website here.) And yet, none of this has prevented worldwide international condemnation, including the hauling in of Israeli ambassadors in Sweden, Spain, and Turkey. And the grim results seem very clear: between nine and 15 people on board killed, and at least two Israeli soldiers in critical condition with stab and gunshot wounds.

Veteran Israel journalist Ron Ben-Yishai at YNet describes IDF soldiers who were ill-prepared for having to disperse a violent response. “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” the soldiers yelled to each other as they were attacked, picked off one by one as they landed on the deck, still believing they were dealing with innocent ideologues rather than orchestrated violence. “Navy commandoes slid down to the vessel one by one,” Ben-Yishai reports, “yet then the unexpected occurred: The passengers that awaited them on the deck pulled out bats, clubs, and slingshots with glass marbles, assaulting each soldier as he disembarked. The fighters were nabbed one by one and were beaten up badly.” Later on, caches were found on board containing more weapons. What’s clear is that these people were prepared for a fight — peace activists, indeed.

But beyond the question of what happened on the boat, and the more serious questions of the evolving nature of pro-Palestinian activism and the IDF’s apparent failure to prepare for a violent response, the event is also an important test case for how Israel is doing at adapting itself to the new rapid-information media world. The answer: so-so. On one hand, it’s clear that the Israelis, and especially the IDF, have made major advances in internalizing the message that the media battle is a crucial and — more often than not — decisive element in modern warfare. They released videos that would have remained classified not too long ago; they cleared a commando who took part in the raid to interview with the Associated Press and CNN; and they have emphatically made the case that the people on board planned to use force in advance. All these facts suggest a sea change in the way the IDF deals with the media, one that we already saw in the last Gaza war with the creation, for example, of a YouTube channel for the IDF. The result has been that, at least here in the United States, television coverage has been somewhat balanced.

At the same time, Israel is still far behind the Palestinians in real-time rapid response and pre-event preparedness.

I spoke this morning with a senior producer for one of the major network news divisions in the United States. “This morning, I received a well-phrased press release from the office of [PA spokesman] Saeb Erekat,” he told me. “I got it at 4:36 a.m. It was obviously prepared in advance. Now it’s 11 a.m., and I still have got nothing from the Israeli government.” Predictably, that news release, which was sent out to key journalists around the Western world, was full of half-truths (like the assertion that the passengers on the ship were “unarmed civilian activists” who were “savagely attacked” by the IDF), but the point is that for all of Israel’s rapid response, it was wildly outmaneuvered by the Palestinian media commandos. As CNN pointed out, the pro-Palestinian activists were live-streaming the event and sending messages via Twitter throughout. “Despite everything they’ve been through,” he continued, “the Israelis seem to have been taken utterly by surprise. It’s always react, react, react — never proactive.”

UPDATE: A good friend of mine is a nurse who was on duty in the emergency room at a Jerusalem hospital when some of the injured “activists” were brought in. She tells me that many of them are wearing camouflage. “Not sure they were official Turkish army clothes,” she says, “but they weren’t civilian dress, that’s for sure.”

The details of what happened on the boat leading the flotilla trying to enter the Gaza Strip are still coming to light. CNN in the U.S. is speaking about “conflicting accounts,” though the videos it keeps playing seem to vindicate the Israeli side. (You see an Israeli soldier dropping into the deck, and then you seem him getting attacked. There is no indication that the IDF soldier had opened fire. The same video appears on an Israeli website here.) And yet, none of this has prevented worldwide international condemnation, including the hauling in of Israeli ambassadors in Sweden, Spain, and Turkey. And the grim results seem very clear: between nine and 15 people on board killed, and at least two Israeli soldiers in critical condition with stab and gunshot wounds.

Veteran Israel journalist Ron Ben-Yishai at YNet describes IDF soldiers who were ill-prepared for having to disperse a violent response. “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” the soldiers yelled to each other as they were attacked, picked off one by one as they landed on the deck, still believing they were dealing with innocent ideologues rather than orchestrated violence. “Navy commandoes slid down to the vessel one by one,” Ben-Yishai reports, “yet then the unexpected occurred: The passengers that awaited them on the deck pulled out bats, clubs, and slingshots with glass marbles, assaulting each soldier as he disembarked. The fighters were nabbed one by one and were beaten up badly.” Later on, caches were found on board containing more weapons. What’s clear is that these people were prepared for a fight — peace activists, indeed.

But beyond the question of what happened on the boat, and the more serious questions of the evolving nature of pro-Palestinian activism and the IDF’s apparent failure to prepare for a violent response, the event is also an important test case for how Israel is doing at adapting itself to the new rapid-information media world. The answer: so-so. On one hand, it’s clear that the Israelis, and especially the IDF, have made major advances in internalizing the message that the media battle is a crucial and — more often than not — decisive element in modern warfare. They released videos that would have remained classified not too long ago; they cleared a commando who took part in the raid to interview with the Associated Press and CNN; and they have emphatically made the case that the people on board planned to use force in advance. All these facts suggest a sea change in the way the IDF deals with the media, one that we already saw in the last Gaza war with the creation, for example, of a YouTube channel for the IDF. The result has been that, at least here in the United States, television coverage has been somewhat balanced.

At the same time, Israel is still far behind the Palestinians in real-time rapid response and pre-event preparedness.

I spoke this morning with a senior producer for one of the major network news divisions in the United States. “This morning, I received a well-phrased press release from the office of [PA spokesman] Saeb Erekat,” he told me. “I got it at 4:36 a.m. It was obviously prepared in advance. Now it’s 11 a.m., and I still have got nothing from the Israeli government.” Predictably, that news release, which was sent out to key journalists around the Western world, was full of half-truths (like the assertion that the passengers on the ship were “unarmed civilian activists” who were “savagely attacked” by the IDF), but the point is that for all of Israel’s rapid response, it was wildly outmaneuvered by the Palestinian media commandos. As CNN pointed out, the pro-Palestinian activists were live-streaming the event and sending messages via Twitter throughout. “Despite everything they’ve been through,” he continued, “the Israelis seem to have been taken utterly by surprise. It’s always react, react, react — never proactive.”

UPDATE: A good friend of mine is a nurse who was on duty in the emergency room at a Jerusalem hospital when some of the injured “activists” were brought in. She tells me that many of them are wearing camouflage. “Not sure they were official Turkish army clothes,” she says, “but they weren’t civilian dress, that’s for sure.”

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Nice Guys Finish Last

To my mind, the most astonishing thing about the flotilla disaster is that the IDF sent its elite naval commandos into a highly charged potential combat situation that was being closely scrutinized by the world media — armed with paintball guns.

The intent, of course, was to show that Israel wished to avert escalating the confrontation and merely sought to bring the ships to port, transfer their cargo to Gaza, send the “peace activists” home, and bring this mini-drama to a close. But the results were catastrophic.

Instead of proving Israel’s good intentions, the commandos found themselves unable to take control of the terrorist blockade runners, who knew, of course, that any bloodshed and violence that followed the Israeli boarding party would be laid at the feet of the Israelis. Armed with the proper equipment, the naval commandos could have done precisely what they are trained to do — take command of a ship decisively and with great speed. This can only be done when the men boarding the ship are able to immediately neutralize their opponents and establish complete control.

But the Israeli commandos obviously could not establish complete control. They fast-roped into an ambush and were beaten and stabbed. Would this have happened if they had real guns in their hands? Probably not.

Those who sent an elite unit into a hostile confrontation armed with toy weapons made an incredibly stupid decision. And a uniquely Israeli one. In recent memory, Israeli military action has been violent but not decisive, bloody enough to provoke the outrage and condemnation of the world (at this point, a stubbed toe will do), but not enough to actually change facts on the ground (the Hamas and Hezbollah wars being prime examples). These halfhearted wars and battles have earned Israel demerits in world opinion without enough to show in improved strategic position. Exit question: How many new flotillas to Gaza are being planned right now in Europe, Turkey, and the Middle East?

To my mind, the most astonishing thing about the flotilla disaster is that the IDF sent its elite naval commandos into a highly charged potential combat situation that was being closely scrutinized by the world media — armed with paintball guns.

The intent, of course, was to show that Israel wished to avert escalating the confrontation and merely sought to bring the ships to port, transfer their cargo to Gaza, send the “peace activists” home, and bring this mini-drama to a close. But the results were catastrophic.

Instead of proving Israel’s good intentions, the commandos found themselves unable to take control of the terrorist blockade runners, who knew, of course, that any bloodshed and violence that followed the Israeli boarding party would be laid at the feet of the Israelis. Armed with the proper equipment, the naval commandos could have done precisely what they are trained to do — take command of a ship decisively and with great speed. This can only be done when the men boarding the ship are able to immediately neutralize their opponents and establish complete control.

But the Israeli commandos obviously could not establish complete control. They fast-roped into an ambush and were beaten and stabbed. Would this have happened if they had real guns in their hands? Probably not.

Those who sent an elite unit into a hostile confrontation armed with toy weapons made an incredibly stupid decision. And a uniquely Israeli one. In recent memory, Israeli military action has been violent but not decisive, bloody enough to provoke the outrage and condemnation of the world (at this point, a stubbed toe will do), but not enough to actually change facts on the ground (the Hamas and Hezbollah wars being prime examples). These halfhearted wars and battles have earned Israel demerits in world opinion without enough to show in improved strategic position. Exit question: How many new flotillas to Gaza are being planned right now in Europe, Turkey, and the Middle East?

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RE: U.S. Chooses International Consensus over Israel

As Jen mentioned, the United Nations passed a resolution on Friday demanding a nuclear-free Middle East and singling out Israel as the intransigent party instead of Iran. The Obama administration supports the decision, which makes about as much sense as disarming the Iraqi police right now in the name of a violence-free Baghdad. College sophomores might think these are brilliant ideas, but mature adults shouldn’t, especially not mature adults who make policy for a living and must account for the consequences.

The Israelis have had nuclear weapons longer than I’ve been alive. Never once have they even admitted to having them, let alone used them. While several Arab states say they’ll build or buy nuclear weapons to counter a Persian bomb, no Arab state has ever scrambled for nuclear weapons of its own to counter the Zionist bomb. Even they, as hysterical as they sometimes can be, know perfectly well that Israel does not threaten to nuke anybody and never intends to nuke anybody.

Marty Peretz at the New Republic is contemptuous. “Ostensibly,” he wrote, “this would de-nuclearize the Middle East. A pig’s ass, it would. Tehran wants a bomb, no matter what. And, then, the big Arab states will join the race. To be sure, Saudi Arabia will not make it. It will buy it. There’s more money in the country than brains. There will be a big bomb race in the region… and not because of Israel.”

I am just old enough to remember the Cold War during the years before perestroika and glasnost, when the possibility of nuclear war was real, and it kept me up at night during my childhood. I was worried sick about the potential imminent end of the world. It made an impression that still hasn’t left me and might not ever.

Like President Obama — and unlike Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ali Khamenei — I wish nuclear weapons didn’t exist and that nobody had them. I also wish humans weren’t violent, that war could be dispensed with as some day cancer may be, that police officers did not need to carry guns and sometimes shoot people to keep my neighborhood safe, and that even grown-up countries like the U.S. and Israel did not need an arsenal of the world’s worst weapons to keep the world’s worst people in check, but these wishes are no more realistic than terraforming the sun.

The president acts sometimes like he’s running the country from his dorm room, and it looks increasingly likely that he will not stop until something explodes.

As Jen mentioned, the United Nations passed a resolution on Friday demanding a nuclear-free Middle East and singling out Israel as the intransigent party instead of Iran. The Obama administration supports the decision, which makes about as much sense as disarming the Iraqi police right now in the name of a violence-free Baghdad. College sophomores might think these are brilliant ideas, but mature adults shouldn’t, especially not mature adults who make policy for a living and must account for the consequences.

The Israelis have had nuclear weapons longer than I’ve been alive. Never once have they even admitted to having them, let alone used them. While several Arab states say they’ll build or buy nuclear weapons to counter a Persian bomb, no Arab state has ever scrambled for nuclear weapons of its own to counter the Zionist bomb. Even they, as hysterical as they sometimes can be, know perfectly well that Israel does not threaten to nuke anybody and never intends to nuke anybody.

Marty Peretz at the New Republic is contemptuous. “Ostensibly,” he wrote, “this would de-nuclearize the Middle East. A pig’s ass, it would. Tehran wants a bomb, no matter what. And, then, the big Arab states will join the race. To be sure, Saudi Arabia will not make it. It will buy it. There’s more money in the country than brains. There will be a big bomb race in the region… and not because of Israel.”

I am just old enough to remember the Cold War during the years before perestroika and glasnost, when the possibility of nuclear war was real, and it kept me up at night during my childhood. I was worried sick about the potential imminent end of the world. It made an impression that still hasn’t left me and might not ever.

Like President Obama — and unlike Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ali Khamenei — I wish nuclear weapons didn’t exist and that nobody had them. I also wish humans weren’t violent, that war could be dispensed with as some day cancer may be, that police officers did not need to carry guns and sometimes shoot people to keep my neighborhood safe, and that even grown-up countries like the U.S. and Israel did not need an arsenal of the world’s worst weapons to keep the world’s worst people in check, but these wishes are no more realistic than terraforming the sun.

The president acts sometimes like he’s running the country from his dorm room, and it looks increasingly likely that he will not stop until something explodes.

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Will the Media Let Obama off the Hook on Sestak?

The White House lawyer hasn’t even convinced mainstream news reporters that nothing untoward occurred regarding the Joe Sestak job offer. On Fox News Sunday, Ceci Connolly of the Washington Post remarked:

I think there are also some still real unanswered questions here. And the biggest one, of course, is what exactly did President Obama know and when did he know it. I mean, his response in the news conference just saying, “Well, nothing improper occurred,” well, gosh, that almost raises more questions in my mind. So far, from what we’ve seen, we know this was not unprecedented. Governor Rendell actually made sort of a remarkable acknowledgment in your interview, Chris, saying, “Oh, yes, I did a similar thing a few years back.” So it’s certainly politics as usual. But as your clip illustrates, that becomes a political problem for the White House.

There are two more factors that, as Connolly said, add to the “general sense of business as usual.” First, there may be a second job-to-get-out-of-the-race deal. Last September, the Denver Post reported:

Not long after news leaked last month that Andrew Romanoff was determined to make a Democratic primary run against Sen. Michael Bennet, Romanoff received an unexpected communication from one of the most powerful men in Washington. Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s deputy chief of staff and a storied fixer in the White House political shop, suggested a place for Romanoff might be found in the administration and offered specific suggestions, according to several sources who described the communication to The Denver Post.

The White House denied any job was offered to Romanoff, but “several top Colorado Democrats described Messina’s outreach to Romanoff to The Post, including the discussion of specific jobs in the administration.”

Second, in his statement on Friday, Robert Bauer admitted:

Efforts were made in June and July of 2009 to determine whether Congressman Sestak would be interested in service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board, which would avoid a divisive Senate primary, allow him to retain his seat in the House, and provide him with an opportunity for additional service to the public in a high-level advisory capacity for which he was highly qualified.

When everyone returns from the Memorial Day weekend, we’ll see how aggressively the White House media corps pursues this with Robert Gibbs and other administration figures. What went on in those conversations, which Bauer said were also conducted through a cutout, namely Bill Clinton? When Obama gives his next interview or news conference, will he be grilled? The media is no longer so infatuated with the president, so we may actually see some dogged questioning. But don’t get your hopes up. Expect the questions to be brushed off with, “We already answered questions about all of this.” It’s the sort of thing the media, if it wants to get back its collective manhood and reputation from deep storage, shouldn’t let Obama get away with.

The White House lawyer hasn’t even convinced mainstream news reporters that nothing untoward occurred regarding the Joe Sestak job offer. On Fox News Sunday, Ceci Connolly of the Washington Post remarked:

I think there are also some still real unanswered questions here. And the biggest one, of course, is what exactly did President Obama know and when did he know it. I mean, his response in the news conference just saying, “Well, nothing improper occurred,” well, gosh, that almost raises more questions in my mind. So far, from what we’ve seen, we know this was not unprecedented. Governor Rendell actually made sort of a remarkable acknowledgment in your interview, Chris, saying, “Oh, yes, I did a similar thing a few years back.” So it’s certainly politics as usual. But as your clip illustrates, that becomes a political problem for the White House.

There are two more factors that, as Connolly said, add to the “general sense of business as usual.” First, there may be a second job-to-get-out-of-the-race deal. Last September, the Denver Post reported:

Not long after news leaked last month that Andrew Romanoff was determined to make a Democratic primary run against Sen. Michael Bennet, Romanoff received an unexpected communication from one of the most powerful men in Washington. Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s deputy chief of staff and a storied fixer in the White House political shop, suggested a place for Romanoff might be found in the administration and offered specific suggestions, according to several sources who described the communication to The Denver Post.

The White House denied any job was offered to Romanoff, but “several top Colorado Democrats described Messina’s outreach to Romanoff to The Post, including the discussion of specific jobs in the administration.”

Second, in his statement on Friday, Robert Bauer admitted:

Efforts were made in June and July of 2009 to determine whether Congressman Sestak would be interested in service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board, which would avoid a divisive Senate primary, allow him to retain his seat in the House, and provide him with an opportunity for additional service to the public in a high-level advisory capacity for which he was highly qualified.

When everyone returns from the Memorial Day weekend, we’ll see how aggressively the White House media corps pursues this with Robert Gibbs and other administration figures. What went on in those conversations, which Bauer said were also conducted through a cutout, namely Bill Clinton? When Obama gives his next interview or news conference, will he be grilled? The media is no longer so infatuated with the president, so we may actually see some dogged questioning. But don’t get your hopes up. Expect the questions to be brushed off with, “We already answered questions about all of this.” It’s the sort of thing the media, if it wants to get back its collective manhood and reputation from deep storage, shouldn’t let Obama get away with.

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U.S. Chooses International Consensus over Israel

Eli Lake reports on the document that the U.S. signed off on last Friday at the Non-Proliferation Treaty conference:

The final document of the monthlong review conference calls on Israel to join the treaty, a move that would require Israel to disclose and then give up its undeclared nuclear arsenal. The document does not, however, make mention of Iran’s failure to comply with the demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency to stop the enrichment of uranium.

Because these diplomatic documents require a consensus of all nations at the conference, the United States, like any other NPT signatory, had an effective veto over the measure.

Understandably, Bibi is not pleased and issued a statement blasting the document. (“It singles out Israel, the Middle East’s only true democracy and the only country threatened with annihilation. … Yet the terrorist regime in Iran, which is racing to develop nuclear weapons and which openly threatens to wipe Israel off the map, is not even mentioned in the resolution.”) So where was the United States, which the administration keeps telling American Jews is there to stand up for Israel in international bodies? Apparently Obama simply caved:

The U.S. delegation, led by Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, initially opposed singling out Israel. A senior State Department official told The Times, “We did fight hard to get that language out of the final document.”

Not all that hard, however.

Now, Obama has apparently told Bibi that the secret understanding that has existed between the U.S. and Israel remains in effect.  (“In exchange for Israel not publicly disclosing its nuclear weapons, the United States does not pressure Israel to join the NPT and shields Israel from pressure to join the treaty.”) But by allowing the document to single out Israel, the U.S. has revealed its priorities — again. A Republican staffer tells Lake that “this is the first time a U.S. administration has placed a greater priority on getting a consensus NPT review conference document than on America’s traditional role as protecting Israel’s nuclear ambiguity.”

Bibi will have his time to raise this in his meeting with Obama. And once again, we wonder, where are the Jewish pro-Israel groups? It seems they have ceased to object to much of anything this administration does. So long as the administration doesn’t insult Bibi in public, mouths some platitudes, and continues the kabuki dance of pursuing sanctions (albeit totally ineffective ones), they remain mum.

Eli Lake reports on the document that the U.S. signed off on last Friday at the Non-Proliferation Treaty conference:

The final document of the monthlong review conference calls on Israel to join the treaty, a move that would require Israel to disclose and then give up its undeclared nuclear arsenal. The document does not, however, make mention of Iran’s failure to comply with the demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency to stop the enrichment of uranium.

Because these diplomatic documents require a consensus of all nations at the conference, the United States, like any other NPT signatory, had an effective veto over the measure.

Understandably, Bibi is not pleased and issued a statement blasting the document. (“It singles out Israel, the Middle East’s only true democracy and the only country threatened with annihilation. … Yet the terrorist regime in Iran, which is racing to develop nuclear weapons and which openly threatens to wipe Israel off the map, is not even mentioned in the resolution.”) So where was the United States, which the administration keeps telling American Jews is there to stand up for Israel in international bodies? Apparently Obama simply caved:

The U.S. delegation, led by Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, initially opposed singling out Israel. A senior State Department official told The Times, “We did fight hard to get that language out of the final document.”

Not all that hard, however.

Now, Obama has apparently told Bibi that the secret understanding that has existed between the U.S. and Israel remains in effect.  (“In exchange for Israel not publicly disclosing its nuclear weapons, the United States does not pressure Israel to join the NPT and shields Israel from pressure to join the treaty.”) But by allowing the document to single out Israel, the U.S. has revealed its priorities — again. A Republican staffer tells Lake that “this is the first time a U.S. administration has placed a greater priority on getting a consensus NPT review conference document than on America’s traditional role as protecting Israel’s nuclear ambiguity.”

Bibi will have his time to raise this in his meeting with Obama. And once again, we wonder, where are the Jewish pro-Israel groups? It seems they have ceased to object to much of anything this administration does. So long as the administration doesn’t insult Bibi in public, mouths some platitudes, and continues the kabuki dance of pursuing sanctions (albeit totally ineffective ones), they remain mum.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Associated Press or National Review? On SestakGate: “Crimping his carefully crafted outsider image and undercutting a centerpiece of his 2008 campaign, President Barack Obama got caught playing the usual politics — dangling a job offer for a political favor in the hunt for power. … Obama has a political problem. Because what did take place was backroom bargaining, political maneuvering and stonewalling, all of which run counter to the higher — perhaps impossibly high — bar Obama has set for himself and his White House to do things differently. The White House’s reluctant acknowledgment of the chain of events shone a light on the unseemly, favor-trading side of politics — and at an inopportune time for Obama and Democrats as they seek to keep control of Congress.”

American Spectator or Politico? “The White House’s failure to designate a single spokesperson — with a corresponding schedule of media updates to show the administration in action — may have been intended to convey an all-hands-on-deck approach to the BP oil spill. Instead, it has created a public relations vacuum, being filled by critics of the president’s approach. And the one man who might have filled that role — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar — already has had a pair of high-profile stumbles, with not one, but two of his comments effectively retracted from the White House podium.”

Maureen Dowd or Michael Gerson? “Once more, he has willfully and inexplicably resisted fulfilling a signal part of his job: being a prism in moments of fear and pride, reflecting what Americans feel so they know he gets it. … Too often it feels as though Barry is watching from a balcony, reluctant to enter the fray until the clamor of the crowd forces him to come down. The pattern is perverse. The man whose presidency is rooted in his ability to inspire withholds that inspiration when it is most needed.”

A Hamas spokesman or a liberal Democrat candidate for the House? “For many Jews the birth of Israel is a celebration, but for the Palestinians it was the nakba, a catastrophe. There’s no safety or security in barring people from their homeland.”

The mayor of the city attacked on September 11 or a CAIR spokesman? On the proposed mosque to be built at Ground Zero: “I think it’s fair to say if somebody was going to try, on that piece of property, to build a church or a synagogue, nobody would be yelling and screaming. … And the fact of the matter is that Muslims have a right to do it, too.”

The Onion or the Associated Press? “The case against four men accused of plotting to bomb New York synagogues and shoot down military planes will not focus on whether they were members of a terrorist group, a federal prosecutor said yesterday. … The trial is ‘going to be about whether these guys were going to blow something up,’ Assistant US Attorney David Raskin.”

“Constitutional conservative” or Constitutional radical? “Rand Paul’s interview with the Russian government propaganda channel Russia Today is getting a lot of attention today for his assertion that he opposes the American tradition of granting citizenship to everyone born in the United States.” And what’s he doing talking to a Russian propaganda outfit?

Bill Clinton or spokesman for the National Right to Work Foundation? On labor unions attacking Blanche Lincoln: “National labor unions [have] decided to make Lincoln ‘the poster child for what happens when a Democrat crosses them. … In other words, this is about using you and manipulating your votes to terrify members of Congress and members of the Senate from other states.'”

The Associated Press or National Review? On SestakGate: “Crimping his carefully crafted outsider image and undercutting a centerpiece of his 2008 campaign, President Barack Obama got caught playing the usual politics — dangling a job offer for a political favor in the hunt for power. … Obama has a political problem. Because what did take place was backroom bargaining, political maneuvering and stonewalling, all of which run counter to the higher — perhaps impossibly high — bar Obama has set for himself and his White House to do things differently. The White House’s reluctant acknowledgment of the chain of events shone a light on the unseemly, favor-trading side of politics — and at an inopportune time for Obama and Democrats as they seek to keep control of Congress.”

American Spectator or Politico? “The White House’s failure to designate a single spokesperson — with a corresponding schedule of media updates to show the administration in action — may have been intended to convey an all-hands-on-deck approach to the BP oil spill. Instead, it has created a public relations vacuum, being filled by critics of the president’s approach. And the one man who might have filled that role — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar — already has had a pair of high-profile stumbles, with not one, but two of his comments effectively retracted from the White House podium.”

Maureen Dowd or Michael Gerson? “Once more, he has willfully and inexplicably resisted fulfilling a signal part of his job: being a prism in moments of fear and pride, reflecting what Americans feel so they know he gets it. … Too often it feels as though Barry is watching from a balcony, reluctant to enter the fray until the clamor of the crowd forces him to come down. The pattern is perverse. The man whose presidency is rooted in his ability to inspire withholds that inspiration when it is most needed.”

A Hamas spokesman or a liberal Democrat candidate for the House? “For many Jews the birth of Israel is a celebration, but for the Palestinians it was the nakba, a catastrophe. There’s no safety or security in barring people from their homeland.”

The mayor of the city attacked on September 11 or a CAIR spokesman? On the proposed mosque to be built at Ground Zero: “I think it’s fair to say if somebody was going to try, on that piece of property, to build a church or a synagogue, nobody would be yelling and screaming. … And the fact of the matter is that Muslims have a right to do it, too.”

The Onion or the Associated Press? “The case against four men accused of plotting to bomb New York synagogues and shoot down military planes will not focus on whether they were members of a terrorist group, a federal prosecutor said yesterday. … The trial is ‘going to be about whether these guys were going to blow something up,’ Assistant US Attorney David Raskin.”

“Constitutional conservative” or Constitutional radical? “Rand Paul’s interview with the Russian government propaganda channel Russia Today is getting a lot of attention today for his assertion that he opposes the American tradition of granting citizenship to everyone born in the United States.” And what’s he doing talking to a Russian propaganda outfit?

Bill Clinton or spokesman for the National Right to Work Foundation? On labor unions attacking Blanche Lincoln: “National labor unions [have] decided to make Lincoln ‘the poster child for what happens when a Democrat crosses them. … In other words, this is about using you and manipulating your votes to terrify members of Congress and members of the Senate from other states.'”

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RE: The National Security Strategy of 2010. Or 2006. Whatever.

If Max is with his former boss in being underwhelmed by the 2010 NSS, then I’m with Max. His comparison to Bush’s 2002 NSS is the first one that came to my mind: like it or loathe it, that NSS took the risk of actually saying something clear, bold, and controversial. Of course, Bush paid the price for that, which is why Obama — as every future administration will do — ensured that he fulfilled the legal requirement to produce an NSS in the most boring, committee-driven, toss-a-bone-to-everyone way.

Of course there is, to put it charitably, something a touch eccentric in the idea that we should publish our actual security strategy for enemy consumption. But the fashion is spreading. Britain, heaven help us, now produces an NSS too. And instead of updating it every four years, it is aiming for annual updates, which will turn an increasingly pointless quadrennial marathon into a continuous plod. The really painful thing is that Britain’s 2009 strategy is even more obviously an omnibus than Obama’s: it weighs in at 112 pages, almost double the size of its 2008 edition. A strategy of 60 pages is no strategy. A strategy of 112 is even less of one.

But I will disagree, just slightly, with Max’s take that this is Bush 2006 redux, said more nicely. There is more to it than that. First, this is the third major strategy document the administration has published in recent months: first there was the Quadrennial Defense Review, then the Nuclear Posture Review, and now the NSS. What stands out for me is that none of these documents did what it promised to do on the front cover. The QDR was crafted to justify policies that had already been selected before the review process concluded. The NPR was designed not as a serious assessment of the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. strategy but rather as an essay in nonproliferation by public diplomacy.

And while the NSS may in substance have a lot in common with Bush 2006, it tries very hard to avoid admitting that, which means the strategy is ultimately at war with itself. Perhaps this is what we have to expect when an engagement- and soft-power-minded administration comes up against the realities of the world and the legal requirement to produce strategic reviews, but that does not make the results any more impressive.

Second, in its more forthright areas, the NSS has almost nothing to do with the administration’s actual policies. There is a promise of “seamless coordination among Federal, state, and local govern­ments to prevent, protect against, and respond to threats and natural disasters.” Seamless coordination, meet the Gulf oil spill. There is the inevitable nod toward creating an international system where “nations have incentives to act responsibly, while facing consequences when they do not.” Consequences, meet Iran, Venezuela, Burma, and Sudan. And there is the “if it wasn’t so serious I’d be laughing” claim that “our commitment to deficit reduction will discipline us to make hard choices, and to avoid overreach.” Deficit reduction, meet President Obama.

And third — and to me most troubling — while the NSS lists a great many problems, it is a good deal less adept at explaining why they exist. Al-Qaeda “are not religious leaders, they are killers.” Fine: but Islamism is an ideology, and simply denying that it has any religious content at all achieves nothing. “For decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran has endangered the security of the region and the United States and failed to live up to its international responsibilities.” True: but this is not because its leaders are dense, or have had no opportunities to change their ways. It’s because they have both an ideology and an interest in preserving their regime. In Russia, “We support efforts … to promote the rule of law, accountable government, and universal values.” Great: but that has nothing at all to do with Vladimir Putin’s vision for Russia.

The fundamental problem with the NSS isn’t that it’s warmed-over Bush. It’s that at its core it has an incoherent model of the world, and especially of the state system and the international order built on it. For the NSS, problems exist, but they are not caused by ideologies. They are caused by governments that for some reason will not cooperate, or movements that mysteriously want to kill people, or global forces that for some reason have sprung into being. Indeed, the NSS’s only mention of ideology is to claim that it is an irrelevant, old-fashioned concept that no longer causes wars. This is ridiculous. Ideology — and the regime interests the hostile ideologies define — is what makes engagement a fallacy and the NSS’s vision of a renewed international order a non-starter: if every state really wanted the existing order to work, it would do so.

The NSS’s approach is, in the end, both solipsistic and contradictory: by claiming that everyone has moved beyond ideology, it ignores reality and presents a vision that is actually deeply ideological. And that makes it a pretty fair summary of the Obama administration’s approach to the world.

If Max is with his former boss in being underwhelmed by the 2010 NSS, then I’m with Max. His comparison to Bush’s 2002 NSS is the first one that came to my mind: like it or loathe it, that NSS took the risk of actually saying something clear, bold, and controversial. Of course, Bush paid the price for that, which is why Obama — as every future administration will do — ensured that he fulfilled the legal requirement to produce an NSS in the most boring, committee-driven, toss-a-bone-to-everyone way.

Of course there is, to put it charitably, something a touch eccentric in the idea that we should publish our actual security strategy for enemy consumption. But the fashion is spreading. Britain, heaven help us, now produces an NSS too. And instead of updating it every four years, it is aiming for annual updates, which will turn an increasingly pointless quadrennial marathon into a continuous plod. The really painful thing is that Britain’s 2009 strategy is even more obviously an omnibus than Obama’s: it weighs in at 112 pages, almost double the size of its 2008 edition. A strategy of 60 pages is no strategy. A strategy of 112 is even less of one.

But I will disagree, just slightly, with Max’s take that this is Bush 2006 redux, said more nicely. There is more to it than that. First, this is the third major strategy document the administration has published in recent months: first there was the Quadrennial Defense Review, then the Nuclear Posture Review, and now the NSS. What stands out for me is that none of these documents did what it promised to do on the front cover. The QDR was crafted to justify policies that had already been selected before the review process concluded. The NPR was designed not as a serious assessment of the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. strategy but rather as an essay in nonproliferation by public diplomacy.

And while the NSS may in substance have a lot in common with Bush 2006, it tries very hard to avoid admitting that, which means the strategy is ultimately at war with itself. Perhaps this is what we have to expect when an engagement- and soft-power-minded administration comes up against the realities of the world and the legal requirement to produce strategic reviews, but that does not make the results any more impressive.

Second, in its more forthright areas, the NSS has almost nothing to do with the administration’s actual policies. There is a promise of “seamless coordination among Federal, state, and local govern­ments to prevent, protect against, and respond to threats and natural disasters.” Seamless coordination, meet the Gulf oil spill. There is the inevitable nod toward creating an international system where “nations have incentives to act responsibly, while facing consequences when they do not.” Consequences, meet Iran, Venezuela, Burma, and Sudan. And there is the “if it wasn’t so serious I’d be laughing” claim that “our commitment to deficit reduction will discipline us to make hard choices, and to avoid overreach.” Deficit reduction, meet President Obama.

And third — and to me most troubling — while the NSS lists a great many problems, it is a good deal less adept at explaining why they exist. Al-Qaeda “are not religious leaders, they are killers.” Fine: but Islamism is an ideology, and simply denying that it has any religious content at all achieves nothing. “For decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran has endangered the security of the region and the United States and failed to live up to its international responsibilities.” True: but this is not because its leaders are dense, or have had no opportunities to change their ways. It’s because they have both an ideology and an interest in preserving their regime. In Russia, “We support efforts … to promote the rule of law, accountable government, and universal values.” Great: but that has nothing at all to do with Vladimir Putin’s vision for Russia.

The fundamental problem with the NSS isn’t that it’s warmed-over Bush. It’s that at its core it has an incoherent model of the world, and especially of the state system and the international order built on it. For the NSS, problems exist, but they are not caused by ideologies. They are caused by governments that for some reason will not cooperate, or movements that mysteriously want to kill people, or global forces that for some reason have sprung into being. Indeed, the NSS’s only mention of ideology is to claim that it is an irrelevant, old-fashioned concept that no longer causes wars. This is ridiculous. Ideology — and the regime interests the hostile ideologies define — is what makes engagement a fallacy and the NSS’s vision of a renewed international order a non-starter: if every state really wanted the existing order to work, it would do so.

The NSS’s approach is, in the end, both solipsistic and contradictory: by claiming that everyone has moved beyond ideology, it ignores reality and presents a vision that is actually deeply ideological. And that makes it a pretty fair summary of the Obama administration’s approach to the world.

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Follow the CUFI Example

The “sick addiction” to the Democratic Party prevents the majority of American Jewry from recognizing who their true pro-Israel allies are. RedState reports:

Congressional candidate Pamela Gorman today signed the “Israel Pledge” sponsored by Christians United for Israel today. Gorman said, “Too many politicians are afraid to offend someone by speaking the truth about what is going on in this country with our Israel relations under this administration. I am unapologetically pro-Israel and am not afraid to publicly say it.”

Two things are noteworthy here. First, a conservative Christian is vocally opposing Obama in Arizona (not exactly the center of American Jewry):

Gorman’s publicly stated position on U.S. relations with Israel is that the Obama administration’s treatment of Israel and possible future policies are unacceptable. Israel has been our closest ally in the Middle East for many years and a key stabilizing nation as well as key partner in the war on terror. But, the U.S. Congress can, and must, do all it can to mitigate his mistakes. Gorman explains, “I feel the relationship with Israel is vital to our national security, but also that we have a moral obligation to provide protection. As an evangelical Christian, my concern for how our nation provides for Israel’s protection also reflects my firmly held belief in the Holy Scriptures where Israel is concerned. As such, my positions is both a strategic and personal.”

Second, CUFI, but no mainstream Jewish organization, has an Israel pledge. It’s not all that controversial, nor does it reference Christianity:

We believe that the Jewish people have a right to live in their ancient land of Israel, and that the modern State of Israel is the fulfillment of this historic right.

We maintain that there is no excuse for acts of terrorism against Israel and that Israel has the same right as every other nation to defend her citizens from such violent attacks.

We pledge to stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel and to speak out on their behalf whenever and wherever necessary until the attacks stop and they are finally living in peace and security with their neighbors.

Perhaps some Jewish group should do the same: issue a pledge that would truly separate the pro-Israel candidates and those who proclaim their devotion to Israel but seek to hobble the Jewish state. How about it? Or would the pledge be too “controversial” and too “divisive” in the Jewish community? If so, it is a powerful and disturbing sign of the state of American Jewry.

The “sick addiction” to the Democratic Party prevents the majority of American Jewry from recognizing who their true pro-Israel allies are. RedState reports:

Congressional candidate Pamela Gorman today signed the “Israel Pledge” sponsored by Christians United for Israel today. Gorman said, “Too many politicians are afraid to offend someone by speaking the truth about what is going on in this country with our Israel relations under this administration. I am unapologetically pro-Israel and am not afraid to publicly say it.”

Two things are noteworthy here. First, a conservative Christian is vocally opposing Obama in Arizona (not exactly the center of American Jewry):

Gorman’s publicly stated position on U.S. relations with Israel is that the Obama administration’s treatment of Israel and possible future policies are unacceptable. Israel has been our closest ally in the Middle East for many years and a key stabilizing nation as well as key partner in the war on terror. But, the U.S. Congress can, and must, do all it can to mitigate his mistakes. Gorman explains, “I feel the relationship with Israel is vital to our national security, but also that we have a moral obligation to provide protection. As an evangelical Christian, my concern for how our nation provides for Israel’s protection also reflects my firmly held belief in the Holy Scriptures where Israel is concerned. As such, my positions is both a strategic and personal.”

Second, CUFI, but no mainstream Jewish organization, has an Israel pledge. It’s not all that controversial, nor does it reference Christianity:

We believe that the Jewish people have a right to live in their ancient land of Israel, and that the modern State of Israel is the fulfillment of this historic right.

We maintain that there is no excuse for acts of terrorism against Israel and that Israel has the same right as every other nation to defend her citizens from such violent attacks.

We pledge to stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel and to speak out on their behalf whenever and wherever necessary until the attacks stop and they are finally living in peace and security with their neighbors.

Perhaps some Jewish group should do the same: issue a pledge that would truly separate the pro-Israel candidates and those who proclaim their devotion to Israel but seek to hobble the Jewish state. How about it? Or would the pledge be too “controversial” and too “divisive” in the Jewish community? If so, it is a powerful and disturbing sign of the state of American Jewry.

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You Can Take the Pol Out of Chicago. . .

As he often does, Obama tried to distance himself from his own administration’s mess. He ducked a personal response and had his lawyer issue a memo on the Joe Sestak job-offer scandal on the Friday before Memorial Day. He thereby succeeded in revealing that Sestak is a fabulist, his own White House is little more than a Blago-like operation, an ex-president has been reduced to the the role of a “cut out,” and the whole lot of them practice the same sleazy-politics-as usual that Obama ran against (which, ironically, was symbolized in the primary by Hillary Clinton).

The White House counsel says it really wasn’t the secretary of the Navy post that was offered. It was an unpaid advisory-board position. A few problems there. You send a former president to offer that to avoid a primary fight? And more important, it doesn’t get over the legal hurdle. As Hans von Spakovsky explains:

[White House Counsel Robert] Bauer admits that Rahm Emanuel asked Bill Clinton to offer Sestak an appointment to a “Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board,” and that the appointment would be attractive, i.e., a benefit. The statute does not absolve you of liability if you are offering someone an uncompensated appointment. It also specifies that you are guilty of a violation if you make such an offer “directly or indirectly.” Moreover, since the executive branch may not spend money that is not appropriated by Congress, any such board would be authorized by or at least paid for by an “Act of Congress.”

And boy, did they pick the wrong election cycle to pull this. The underlying gambit is bad enough, but the roll out of the explanation is potentially worse and will be thrown in Sestak’s face in the election. The stall. The lawyer swooping in with the cover story. The process of getting everyone on the same page. It is precisely what the voters are screaming about: backroom deals, evasive pols, lack of transparency, and dishonesty. Obama has made perfect hash out of the race, first by pulling the weather vane Arlen Specter into the Democratic Party, then trying to unsuccessfully push the opponent out of the way, and finally by sullying everyone involved.

Obama has been compared to Jimmy Carter (in his misguided notions about the world), to Richard Nixon (in his sleazy backroom dealing and lack of transparency) and to LBJ (in his infatuation with government). Unfortunately, it appears that he embodies the worst of three unsuccessful presidents. And like all three, he may manage to drag his party down with him.

As he often does, Obama tried to distance himself from his own administration’s mess. He ducked a personal response and had his lawyer issue a memo on the Joe Sestak job-offer scandal on the Friday before Memorial Day. He thereby succeeded in revealing that Sestak is a fabulist, his own White House is little more than a Blago-like operation, an ex-president has been reduced to the the role of a “cut out,” and the whole lot of them practice the same sleazy-politics-as usual that Obama ran against (which, ironically, was symbolized in the primary by Hillary Clinton).

The White House counsel says it really wasn’t the secretary of the Navy post that was offered. It was an unpaid advisory-board position. A few problems there. You send a former president to offer that to avoid a primary fight? And more important, it doesn’t get over the legal hurdle. As Hans von Spakovsky explains:

[White House Counsel Robert] Bauer admits that Rahm Emanuel asked Bill Clinton to offer Sestak an appointment to a “Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board,” and that the appointment would be attractive, i.e., a benefit. The statute does not absolve you of liability if you are offering someone an uncompensated appointment. It also specifies that you are guilty of a violation if you make such an offer “directly or indirectly.” Moreover, since the executive branch may not spend money that is not appropriated by Congress, any such board would be authorized by or at least paid for by an “Act of Congress.”

And boy, did they pick the wrong election cycle to pull this. The underlying gambit is bad enough, but the roll out of the explanation is potentially worse and will be thrown in Sestak’s face in the election. The stall. The lawyer swooping in with the cover story. The process of getting everyone on the same page. It is precisely what the voters are screaming about: backroom deals, evasive pols, lack of transparency, and dishonesty. Obama has made perfect hash out of the race, first by pulling the weather vane Arlen Specter into the Democratic Party, then trying to unsuccessfully push the opponent out of the way, and finally by sullying everyone involved.

Obama has been compared to Jimmy Carter (in his misguided notions about the world), to Richard Nixon (in his sleazy backroom dealing and lack of transparency) and to LBJ (in his infatuation with government). Unfortunately, it appears that he embodies the worst of three unsuccessful presidents. And like all three, he may manage to drag his party down with him.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It took Barack Obama to turn an ex-president into a sleazy “bag man.”

What will it take for the left to break with the anti-Semites, racists, and Israel-bashers? “Democracy for America, the progressive group that grew out of Howard Dean’s campaign for president, is standing by its support for a House candidate who backs a radical single-state solution in the Middle East and suggested in an interview that Jewish Reps. Jane Harman and Henry Waxman should ‘pledge allegiance to this country as the country they represent.”

Will Obama take this opportunity to dump the witch hunt against CIA interrogators? Stephen Hayes recommends that he should: “The repercussions have been severe. CIA operators, already risk averse, are today far less willing to take risks in the field out of fear that a wrong decision, even a legal one that produced crucial intelligence, could send them to jail. Obama should also insist that the Justice Department aggressively investigate the alleged exposure of CIA officials by lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees. Photographs of officials were discovered in the cell of Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi and were reportedly provided by investigators working for the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. John Rizzo, former CIA general counsel and a 30-year intelligence veteran, said that the breach was far graver than the leak of Valerie Plame’s name.”

It took a few weeks of criticism to reveal Peter Beinart’s vile attitudes toward his fellow Jews: Nathan Diament on Beinart’s latest outburst in the Israel-hating the New York Review of Books: “Peter goes way beyond debating substance and drifts into stereotyping and calumny, saying: ‘the same sort of settler fanatics who burn Palestinian olive groves also assassinated an Israeli prime minister. The same ultra-Orthodox hooligans who burn Christian holy books also attack Jewish women trying to pray at the Western Wall.’ He also slams Rav Ovadia Yosef and, apparently, anyone else in Israel who, we suppose, doesn’t agree with his view — or that of the editorial board of Ha’aretz — as to precisely what ought to happen.”

It took a year and a half of Obama’s presidency to ruin Blanche Lincoln’s career: “[Arkansas’s] larger bloc of conservative Democrats and independents upset over the perception that the incumbent is overly cozy with the unpopular President Obama, the Agriculture Committee chair and Delta farmer’s daughter finds her 18-year congressional career in grave jeopardy.”

It took a determined Jewish mom from Los Angeles to figure out it only took a $15 dollar solar cooker (made of cardboard and aluminum) to help protect “female [Darfur] refugees who were being ruthlessly subjected to physical and sexual brutality when they left the relative safety of their refugee camps.” She’s done more for human rights in Darfur — much more — than Obama and his embarrassingly ineffective special envoy have.

Have you noticed that Democrats aren’t so willing to take unpopular stands for this president on national security? “The Senate Armed Services Committee dealt a big setback to President Obama’s plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay when lawmakers stripped funding for a new prison in Illinois to hold the detainees. Committee Chairman Carl Levin on Friday told reporters the committee, in a voice vote, stripped $245 million that would have gone to buy and retrofit the Thomson prison in Illinois.”

Charles Hurt catches Obama taking responsibility for “zilch” at his BP oil-spill press conference: “It was yet another performance of the ‘full responsibility’ flimflam. … President Obama repeatedly took ‘full responsibility’ for the blundering efforts to clog up the geyser of crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico coating everything in sight. At the same time, Obama repeatedly denied that his administration was complicit in allowing the catastrophe to happen in the first place, slow to realize the devastating nature of it, or ham-handed in the five-week effort to try to stem the toxic tide. In other words, Obama — as he often does — took ‘full responsibility’ for being awesome.”

It took Barack Obama to turn an ex-president into a sleazy “bag man.”

What will it take for the left to break with the anti-Semites, racists, and Israel-bashers? “Democracy for America, the progressive group that grew out of Howard Dean’s campaign for president, is standing by its support for a House candidate who backs a radical single-state solution in the Middle East and suggested in an interview that Jewish Reps. Jane Harman and Henry Waxman should ‘pledge allegiance to this country as the country they represent.”

Will Obama take this opportunity to dump the witch hunt against CIA interrogators? Stephen Hayes recommends that he should: “The repercussions have been severe. CIA operators, already risk averse, are today far less willing to take risks in the field out of fear that a wrong decision, even a legal one that produced crucial intelligence, could send them to jail. Obama should also insist that the Justice Department aggressively investigate the alleged exposure of CIA officials by lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees. Photographs of officials were discovered in the cell of Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi and were reportedly provided by investigators working for the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. John Rizzo, former CIA general counsel and a 30-year intelligence veteran, said that the breach was far graver than the leak of Valerie Plame’s name.”

It took a few weeks of criticism to reveal Peter Beinart’s vile attitudes toward his fellow Jews: Nathan Diament on Beinart’s latest outburst in the Israel-hating the New York Review of Books: “Peter goes way beyond debating substance and drifts into stereotyping and calumny, saying: ‘the same sort of settler fanatics who burn Palestinian olive groves also assassinated an Israeli prime minister. The same ultra-Orthodox hooligans who burn Christian holy books also attack Jewish women trying to pray at the Western Wall.’ He also slams Rav Ovadia Yosef and, apparently, anyone else in Israel who, we suppose, doesn’t agree with his view — or that of the editorial board of Ha’aretz — as to precisely what ought to happen.”

It took a year and a half of Obama’s presidency to ruin Blanche Lincoln’s career: “[Arkansas’s] larger bloc of conservative Democrats and independents upset over the perception that the incumbent is overly cozy with the unpopular President Obama, the Agriculture Committee chair and Delta farmer’s daughter finds her 18-year congressional career in grave jeopardy.”

It took a determined Jewish mom from Los Angeles to figure out it only took a $15 dollar solar cooker (made of cardboard and aluminum) to help protect “female [Darfur] refugees who were being ruthlessly subjected to physical and sexual brutality when they left the relative safety of their refugee camps.” She’s done more for human rights in Darfur — much more — than Obama and his embarrassingly ineffective special envoy have.

Have you noticed that Democrats aren’t so willing to take unpopular stands for this president on national security? “The Senate Armed Services Committee dealt a big setback to President Obama’s plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay when lawmakers stripped funding for a new prison in Illinois to hold the detainees. Committee Chairman Carl Levin on Friday told reporters the committee, in a voice vote, stripped $245 million that would have gone to buy and retrofit the Thomson prison in Illinois.”

Charles Hurt catches Obama taking responsibility for “zilch” at his BP oil-spill press conference: “It was yet another performance of the ‘full responsibility’ flimflam. … President Obama repeatedly took ‘full responsibility’ for the blundering efforts to clog up the geyser of crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico coating everything in sight. At the same time, Obama repeatedly denied that his administration was complicit in allowing the catastrophe to happen in the first place, slow to realize the devastating nature of it, or ham-handed in the five-week effort to try to stem the toxic tide. In other words, Obama — as he often does — took ‘full responsibility’ for being awesome.”

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RE: RE: Peter Beinart and the Destruction of Liberal Zionism

Let me second Ted Bromund’s praise for Noah Pollak’s extraordinary essay on the liberal desertion of Israel — and offer a comment on Ted’s suggestion that the retreat dates from the 1967 war rather than the failure of the 1993 Oslo peace process.

In 1992, Ruth Wisse published a landmark book, entitled If I Am Not for Myself … The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews, in which she argued that the attempt by Jews to prove themselves moral behind the banner of liberalism could not succeed but that liberalism itself would “assuredly be judged by whether it can protect the Jews.” A year later, the peace process began with the famous White House handshake between Israel’s prime minister and the head of a terrorist group.

It was a liberal dream come true – the “peace of the brave,” as future Nobel Peace Prize winner Yasir Arafat would repeatedly call it, requiring only sufficient courage by Israel to take the risks necessary to produce it. To those skeptical about turning over land to an organization devoted to Israel’s destruction, Amos Oz observed that one made peace with one’s enemies, not with one’s friends. It was considered a brilliant response.

Seven years later, Arafat was offered a Palestinian state on substantially all the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in Jerusalem — and turned it down in favor of a new terror war. Reflecting later on the Oslo accords, Professor Wisse observed that they had “made Israel the first sovereign nation in memory to arm its declared enemy with the expectation of gaining security.” Five years later, Israel would do it all over again, turning over Gaza to its enemies after removing every settler and soldier, in the expectation of gaining (in Ehud Olmert’s words) “more security … [and] a new pattern of relations.” The result was a new rocket war.

The fundamental liberal premise — that human beings are essentially all alike, wanting simply to (as the slogan of the peace process continually put it) “live side by side in peace and security” — had produced not peace but successive wars. As Israel became reluctant to take any further disaster-producing risks, or suffer rockets without a response, an increasing number of liberals believed themselves forced to choose between Israel and liberalism, and an increasing number chose the latter. Peter Beinart is only the latest to do so, trying to jump on an already-crowded train.

Liberals tend to stand by Israel as long as it adheres to the Torah of Liberalism, but they are less supportive when Israel takes seriously some of the promises in that other Torah, which is not a book about human beings perfectible by reason. The issues involved in Noah’s essay are part of a story that goes back much further than 1993 or 1967; it would take a book to explain it.

Let me second Ted Bromund’s praise for Noah Pollak’s extraordinary essay on the liberal desertion of Israel — and offer a comment on Ted’s suggestion that the retreat dates from the 1967 war rather than the failure of the 1993 Oslo peace process.

In 1992, Ruth Wisse published a landmark book, entitled If I Am Not for Myself … The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews, in which she argued that the attempt by Jews to prove themselves moral behind the banner of liberalism could not succeed but that liberalism itself would “assuredly be judged by whether it can protect the Jews.” A year later, the peace process began with the famous White House handshake between Israel’s prime minister and the head of a terrorist group.

It was a liberal dream come true – the “peace of the brave,” as future Nobel Peace Prize winner Yasir Arafat would repeatedly call it, requiring only sufficient courage by Israel to take the risks necessary to produce it. To those skeptical about turning over land to an organization devoted to Israel’s destruction, Amos Oz observed that one made peace with one’s enemies, not with one’s friends. It was considered a brilliant response.

Seven years later, Arafat was offered a Palestinian state on substantially all the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in Jerusalem — and turned it down in favor of a new terror war. Reflecting later on the Oslo accords, Professor Wisse observed that they had “made Israel the first sovereign nation in memory to arm its declared enemy with the expectation of gaining security.” Five years later, Israel would do it all over again, turning over Gaza to its enemies after removing every settler and soldier, in the expectation of gaining (in Ehud Olmert’s words) “more security … [and] a new pattern of relations.” The result was a new rocket war.

The fundamental liberal premise — that human beings are essentially all alike, wanting simply to (as the slogan of the peace process continually put it) “live side by side in peace and security” — had produced not peace but successive wars. As Israel became reluctant to take any further disaster-producing risks, or suffer rockets without a response, an increasing number of liberals believed themselves forced to choose between Israel and liberalism, and an increasing number chose the latter. Peter Beinart is only the latest to do so, trying to jump on an already-crowded train.

Liberals tend to stand by Israel as long as it adheres to the Torah of Liberalism, but they are less supportive when Israel takes seriously some of the promises in that other Torah, which is not a book about human beings perfectible by reason. The issues involved in Noah’s essay are part of a story that goes back much further than 1993 or 1967; it would take a book to explain it.

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Did Obama Lose a Vote for Kagan by Stiffing Specter?

For those who doubted that there is life after death — at least after political death — according to the Daily Beast, Arlen Specter may use his last months in office to exact revenge on President Obama for stiffing him during the last days of his ill-fated attempt to win the Democratic nomination to retain his Senate seat.

The Beast’s Benjamin Sarlin speculates that the always-shifty Specter may get even with Obama for failing to show up as promised at rallies in Pennsylvania in the waning days of the primary to boost his candidacy. After disastrous appearances boosting presidential favorites in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia in the past year, Obama wisely chose to avoid a repeat of those fiascos. All this leads some Specter associates quoted by Sarlin to think that the always-cranky senator may turn on Obama and shift to the right on some votes in the seven months left to him in the upper chamber.

The first victim of Snarlin’ Arlen’s payback could be Obama’s Supreme Court pick Elena Kagan, whose nomination helped remind Pennsylvania Democrats of Specter’s GOP past, since he voted against her confirmation to the post of solicitor general only last year. Freed from the need to appease liberal Democratic voters — who wound up flocking to successful challenger Rep. Joe Sestak anyway — former Specter staffers Roger Stone and Dave Urban both say they’d bet the senator will find a reason to vote against her again, if for no other reason than to poke the White House in the eye.

But the problem with this theory is the same as any other prediction of Specter’s behavior. Anyone who tries to figure out how he will come down on an issue using any rationale other than Specter’s self-interest is bound to fail. Moreover, while it makes sense to think that the 80-year-old Specter will now fade quietly into the night after what amounts to a rejection by both parties in the past year (since the only reason he fled to the Democrats was because he knew he would be beaten in the GOP primary by Republican Pat Toomey), it’s hard to imagine how a man so addicted to the prestige and power of public office will adjust to private life. So it is just as likely that Specter may hope that a few more months as a loyal Democrat, including swallowing the bitter pill of campaigning for Sestak in the general election, will earn him something from Obama after January.

While the notion of Obama’s giving him any sort of post may be a fantasy, perhaps a man who loved foreign travel on the government’s tab as much as Specter did harbors hopes of doing so again in some capacity other than that of senator. Given his long love affair with the Assad regime in Syria, Specter may even dream of some involvement in the Middle East on behalf of Obama. Of course, Obama would have to be crazy to trust Specter in such a capacity (or any capacity, for that matter), but as tempting as revenge for his last-minute betrayal by Obama may be, the senator’s ambition to continue his career in some way might be enough to keep him in line. If Specter sticks to his pre-primary pose as a loyal supporter of Obama by voting for Kagan or working hard for Sestak, whose poor record on Israel was trashed by his own backers, then it may be that the senator hopes that we haven’t heard the last of him.

For those who doubted that there is life after death — at least after political death — according to the Daily Beast, Arlen Specter may use his last months in office to exact revenge on President Obama for stiffing him during the last days of his ill-fated attempt to win the Democratic nomination to retain his Senate seat.

The Beast’s Benjamin Sarlin speculates that the always-shifty Specter may get even with Obama for failing to show up as promised at rallies in Pennsylvania in the waning days of the primary to boost his candidacy. After disastrous appearances boosting presidential favorites in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia in the past year, Obama wisely chose to avoid a repeat of those fiascos. All this leads some Specter associates quoted by Sarlin to think that the always-cranky senator may turn on Obama and shift to the right on some votes in the seven months left to him in the upper chamber.

The first victim of Snarlin’ Arlen’s payback could be Obama’s Supreme Court pick Elena Kagan, whose nomination helped remind Pennsylvania Democrats of Specter’s GOP past, since he voted against her confirmation to the post of solicitor general only last year. Freed from the need to appease liberal Democratic voters — who wound up flocking to successful challenger Rep. Joe Sestak anyway — former Specter staffers Roger Stone and Dave Urban both say they’d bet the senator will find a reason to vote against her again, if for no other reason than to poke the White House in the eye.

But the problem with this theory is the same as any other prediction of Specter’s behavior. Anyone who tries to figure out how he will come down on an issue using any rationale other than Specter’s self-interest is bound to fail. Moreover, while it makes sense to think that the 80-year-old Specter will now fade quietly into the night after what amounts to a rejection by both parties in the past year (since the only reason he fled to the Democrats was because he knew he would be beaten in the GOP primary by Republican Pat Toomey), it’s hard to imagine how a man so addicted to the prestige and power of public office will adjust to private life. So it is just as likely that Specter may hope that a few more months as a loyal Democrat, including swallowing the bitter pill of campaigning for Sestak in the general election, will earn him something from Obama after January.

While the notion of Obama’s giving him any sort of post may be a fantasy, perhaps a man who loved foreign travel on the government’s tab as much as Specter did harbors hopes of doing so again in some capacity other than that of senator. Given his long love affair with the Assad regime in Syria, Specter may even dream of some involvement in the Middle East on behalf of Obama. Of course, Obama would have to be crazy to trust Specter in such a capacity (or any capacity, for that matter), but as tempting as revenge for his last-minute betrayal by Obama may be, the senator’s ambition to continue his career in some way might be enough to keep him in line. If Specter sticks to his pre-primary pose as a loyal supporter of Obama by voting for Kagan or working hard for Sestak, whose poor record on Israel was trashed by his own backers, then it may be that the senator hopes that we haven’t heard the last of him.

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The National Security Strategy of 2010. Or 2006. Whatever.

I’m with my former boss, Les Gelb, who complains that President Obama’s new National Security Strategy is essentially a grab bag of concerns that don’t amount to a coherent strategy. This is evident from the opening letter attached to it under the president’s name:

Our strategy starts by recognizing that our strength and influence abroad begins with the steps we take at home. We must grow our economy and reduce our deficit. We must educate our children to compete in an age where knowledge is capital, and the marketplace is global. We must develop the clean energy that can power new industry, unbind us from foreign oil, and preserve our planet. We must pursue science and research that enables discovery, and unlocks wonders as unforeseen to us today as the surface of the moon and the microchip were a century ago. Simply put, we must see American innovation as a foundation of American power.

This isn’t necessarily wrong, but where do you draw the line? Perhaps finding a new judge to replace Simon Cowell on American Idol is vital to the continued strength of American soft power. By Obama’s reasoning, every facet of American society can be said to have some connection with American policy abroad.

There is much more about domestic policy in this document — as there is about every aspect of foreign policy. There are lines that gladden the heart of more hawkish commentators (like me), including a commitment to “maintain the military superiority that has secured our country, and underpinned global security, for decades”; a ringing endorsement of democracy promotion (“our support for universal rights is both fundamental to American leadership and a source of our strength in the world”); and a vow to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida and its affiliates.”

Naturally, there is even more to gladden the hearts of liberals, including a call for “comprehensive engagement,” a commitment “to engage and modernize international institutions and frameworks,” and to “pursue the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.”

This everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach also entails talk of “strengthening international norms against corruption” and “pursuing a comprehensive global health strategy.”

This is, I suppose, what happens when every branch of government gets to weigh in while such a document is being drafted. But it is possible to do something different. Love it or hate it, the Bush National Security Strategy of 2002 was a truly innovative and influential document that will be long remembered for declaring the need for preventative action against aggressors and terrorists. Eight years later, I can still recalls some of its lines: “The gravest danger our Nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology” and “America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed.”

There is no such intellectual groundbreaking in the Obama document, which is, as Peter Feaver notes, more than anything a continuation, with some slight adjustments, of the National Security Strategy produced by the Bush administration in its second term.

You remember that Bush National Security Strategy of 2006, don’t you? No? You don’t? Well I suspect you won’t remember the Obama strategy of 2010 either.

I’m with my former boss, Les Gelb, who complains that President Obama’s new National Security Strategy is essentially a grab bag of concerns that don’t amount to a coherent strategy. This is evident from the opening letter attached to it under the president’s name:

Our strategy starts by recognizing that our strength and influence abroad begins with the steps we take at home. We must grow our economy and reduce our deficit. We must educate our children to compete in an age where knowledge is capital, and the marketplace is global. We must develop the clean energy that can power new industry, unbind us from foreign oil, and preserve our planet. We must pursue science and research that enables discovery, and unlocks wonders as unforeseen to us today as the surface of the moon and the microchip were a century ago. Simply put, we must see American innovation as a foundation of American power.

This isn’t necessarily wrong, but where do you draw the line? Perhaps finding a new judge to replace Simon Cowell on American Idol is vital to the continued strength of American soft power. By Obama’s reasoning, every facet of American society can be said to have some connection with American policy abroad.

There is much more about domestic policy in this document — as there is about every aspect of foreign policy. There are lines that gladden the heart of more hawkish commentators (like me), including a commitment to “maintain the military superiority that has secured our country, and underpinned global security, for decades”; a ringing endorsement of democracy promotion (“our support for universal rights is both fundamental to American leadership and a source of our strength in the world”); and a vow to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida and its affiliates.”

Naturally, there is even more to gladden the hearts of liberals, including a call for “comprehensive engagement,” a commitment “to engage and modernize international institutions and frameworks,” and to “pursue the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.”

This everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach also entails talk of “strengthening international norms against corruption” and “pursuing a comprehensive global health strategy.”

This is, I suppose, what happens when every branch of government gets to weigh in while such a document is being drafted. But it is possible to do something different. Love it or hate it, the Bush National Security Strategy of 2002 was a truly innovative and influential document that will be long remembered for declaring the need for preventative action against aggressors and terrorists. Eight years later, I can still recalls some of its lines: “The gravest danger our Nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology” and “America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed.”

There is no such intellectual groundbreaking in the Obama document, which is, as Peter Feaver notes, more than anything a continuation, with some slight adjustments, of the National Security Strategy produced by the Bush administration in its second term.

You remember that Bush National Security Strategy of 2006, don’t you? No? You don’t? Well I suspect you won’t remember the Obama strategy of 2010 either.

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There He Goes Again

Jim Wallis, the liberal Christian social activist and one of Barack Obama’s spiritual advisers, wrote a piece that included this gem of a paragraph:

I am just going to say it. There is something wrong with a political movement like the Tea Party which is almost all white. Does that mean every member of the Tea Party is racist? Likely not. But is an undercurrent of white resentment part of the Tea Party ethos, and would there even be a Tea Party if the president of the United States weren’t the first black man to occupy that office? It’s time we had some honest answers to that question. And as far as I can tell, Libertarianism has never been much of a multi-cultural movement. Need I say that racism — overt, implied, or even subtle — is not a Christian virtue.

Whatever problems one might have with the Tea Party and libertarian movements — and I have expressed some concerns about them — the charge that what is fueling the Tea Party movement is the color of Obama’s skin rather than the content of his policies is preposterous and slanderous. If Barack Obama were white, the Tea Party movement would certainly exist. And if Barack Obama were a fiscal conservative, it would not.

So I am going to say it. There is something wrong with a self-proclaiming Christian, one who fancies himself as a “prophet,” a man interested in “dialogue,” and a voice for civility and reason in the public square, attempting to recklessly smear an entire political movement. Need I say that libel — overt, implied, or even subtle — is not a Christian virtue.

When it comes to those who hold views different from his own, Jim Wallis is a hater. And I hope that those on the left who express such deep concern about incivility in our public discourse might have a word or two admonishing Mr. Wallis.

Jim Wallis, the liberal Christian social activist and one of Barack Obama’s spiritual advisers, wrote a piece that included this gem of a paragraph:

I am just going to say it. There is something wrong with a political movement like the Tea Party which is almost all white. Does that mean every member of the Tea Party is racist? Likely not. But is an undercurrent of white resentment part of the Tea Party ethos, and would there even be a Tea Party if the president of the United States weren’t the first black man to occupy that office? It’s time we had some honest answers to that question. And as far as I can tell, Libertarianism has never been much of a multi-cultural movement. Need I say that racism — overt, implied, or even subtle — is not a Christian virtue.

Whatever problems one might have with the Tea Party and libertarian movements — and I have expressed some concerns about them — the charge that what is fueling the Tea Party movement is the color of Obama’s skin rather than the content of his policies is preposterous and slanderous. If Barack Obama were white, the Tea Party movement would certainly exist. And if Barack Obama were a fiscal conservative, it would not.

So I am going to say it. There is something wrong with a self-proclaiming Christian, one who fancies himself as a “prophet,” a man interested in “dialogue,” and a voice for civility and reason in the public square, attempting to recklessly smear an entire political movement. Need I say that libel — overt, implied, or even subtle — is not a Christian virtue.

When it comes to those who hold views different from his own, Jim Wallis is a hater. And I hope that those on the left who express such deep concern about incivility in our public discourse might have a word or two admonishing Mr. Wallis.

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Barack Obama and the Limits of Government

There is certainly a valid point made by those who argue that there are limits to what government can do in the face of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the oil-rig explosion and oil-spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. No government — and indeed no human institution — can respond perfectly to such emergencies. And even if it did, it could not undo much of the damage. All of us, but especially conservatives, should recognize this.

The problem for President Obama, though, is that his comments on the government response to Hurricane Katrina were not terribly understanding of the limits of government to stop bad things from happening during a disaster. For example, then Senator Obama cited what he called the Bush administration’s “unconscionable ineptitude” in the context of Katrina. And during the 2008 campaign, Obama said, “We can talk about a trust that was broken, the promise that our government will be prepared, will protect us, and will respond in a catastrophe.”

It’s reasonable to assume, I think, that if the oil spill had happened on John McCain’s watch instead of his, Obama would be on television and giving speeches, lacerating the McCain administration for its weak and slow response, talking about a trust that was broke, the fact that our government was not prepared, that it focused on spin rather than competence.

The truth is that during situations like Katrina and the blowout in the Gulf, White House aides are working around the clock trying to mitigate the human and ecological damage. But there are enormous practical and logistical problems one faces. They are not nearly as easy to overcome as commentators pretend. We cannot make perfection the price of confidence, as Henry Kissinger — a brilliant and terrifically able public servant who also made mistakes along the way — once said.

We would all be better off if those working outside government were somewhat more understanding of the challenges facing those in government, even as they shouldn’t suspend reasonable judgments. At the same time, Barack Obama — who was hypercritical of administrations when he wasn’t chief executive — shouldn’t be shocked if he is held to the same standard he used for others.

Governing seemed so much easier when Obama was a senator rather than the president, when he could go on Sunday-morning talk shows and highlight failures here, there, and everywhere. Now that he is president and has stumbled so badly on so many different issues, broken so many different commitments, and made so many false claims, one might hope that he has been humbled a bit. But I imagine that hope is a fantastic one, given who it is we are dealing with.

There is certainly a valid point made by those who argue that there are limits to what government can do in the face of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the oil-rig explosion and oil-spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. No government — and indeed no human institution — can respond perfectly to such emergencies. And even if it did, it could not undo much of the damage. All of us, but especially conservatives, should recognize this.

The problem for President Obama, though, is that his comments on the government response to Hurricane Katrina were not terribly understanding of the limits of government to stop bad things from happening during a disaster. For example, then Senator Obama cited what he called the Bush administration’s “unconscionable ineptitude” in the context of Katrina. And during the 2008 campaign, Obama said, “We can talk about a trust that was broken, the promise that our government will be prepared, will protect us, and will respond in a catastrophe.”

It’s reasonable to assume, I think, that if the oil spill had happened on John McCain’s watch instead of his, Obama would be on television and giving speeches, lacerating the McCain administration for its weak and slow response, talking about a trust that was broke, the fact that our government was not prepared, that it focused on spin rather than competence.

The truth is that during situations like Katrina and the blowout in the Gulf, White House aides are working around the clock trying to mitigate the human and ecological damage. But there are enormous practical and logistical problems one faces. They are not nearly as easy to overcome as commentators pretend. We cannot make perfection the price of confidence, as Henry Kissinger — a brilliant and terrifically able public servant who also made mistakes along the way — once said.

We would all be better off if those working outside government were somewhat more understanding of the challenges facing those in government, even as they shouldn’t suspend reasonable judgments. At the same time, Barack Obama — who was hypercritical of administrations when he wasn’t chief executive — shouldn’t be shocked if he is held to the same standard he used for others.

Governing seemed so much easier when Obama was a senator rather than the president, when he could go on Sunday-morning talk shows and highlight failures here, there, and everywhere. Now that he is president and has stumbled so badly on so many different issues, broken so many different commitments, and made so many false claims, one might hope that he has been humbled a bit. But I imagine that hope is a fantastic one, given who it is we are dealing with.

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The Euro and Euro-Legitimacy

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Telegraph and Francis Cianfrocca in the New Ledger have must-read analyses of the Euro crisis. Evans-Pritchard’s essay resists easy summary, but it makes the broad and depressing point that, in Europe, the left has offered a more persuasive analysis of the crisis than the center-right.

Indeed, when the German left praises Britain for staying out of the Euro and argues that the Euro only worked as long as it did because Germany held its labor costs down and recycled the capital from its export surpluses to buy Club Med debt, it is making a dangerous amount of sense. Of course, there are plenty of conservative economists in the U.S. saying much the same thing. But as Evans-Pritchard implies in passing, the failure of the European center to acknowledge the obvious poses a serious danger to its political legitimacy.

Cianfrocca develops the point: the risks here are not simply financial or narrowly politically. They are to the lives and the expectations of millions of Europeans (and, indeed, of Americans). Fundamentally, therefore, as he puts it, the risk is to the “perceived legitimacy of current European governments.” Cianfrocca’s point is that governments have promised something — prosperity for ordinary workers, regardless of whether their productivity merits it — that they cannot deliver, because the “state simply doesn’t control the levers that lead to robust production of economic value.” In other words, they’ve written a naked call option on prosperity.

All too true. But the problem is even deeper than that. It’s not just governments that are at risk. For more than a hundred years, Europe has used social welfare as social protection. But the European center was not buying legitimacy for the governments, narrowly considered. The center was buying it for the state itself, against the extreme left. The extraordinarily inventive Bismarck created the modern welfare system to head off, as he hoped, the threat from the socialists. Of course, like every other government, he also drew on nationalism to build up a viable, non-revolutionary — though in his case not fully democratic — body politic. That wasn’t cynicism (well, maybe for Bismarck it was). It was statecraft of a high order, precisely because it was based on the recognition that modern, participatory politics must be based on a cohesive national identity.

The problem was that after World War II, nationalism lost much of its legitimacy. It survived in the U.S. and Britain, which won the war, and France, which pretended it did, and of course nationalism didn’t disappear elsewhere. But most of the European states were relegitimated not by nationalism, or by religion but rather against the extremes on the right and left by the creation of welfare systems. Instead of promising that you could belong, the European states promised that you would get along. That worked well during the post–World War II boom. But while the boom was temporary, the promise was permanent. Unfortunately, as Cianfrocca points out, the state can’t deliver on it.

Apart from its economic failings, the European solution to the problem of legitimacy was therefore deeply unwise politically. And as Evans-Pritchard points out, too much of Europe is still investing in failure. This was brought home to me last week when a group of young Europeans visited the Heritage Foundation. None of them could grasp why conservatives in the U.S. had any qualms at all about ObamaCare. As one of them put it, “But in Europe, all the conservatives would support it!” Quite so. That is the problem. The state in the U.S. doesn’t need to buy legitimacy: it has 1776. The more the center in Europe invests in the idea that it can buy legitimacy, the deeper the financial and political hole it digs — and ultimately, as Evans-Pritchard argues, the more power it gives to left.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Telegraph and Francis Cianfrocca in the New Ledger have must-read analyses of the Euro crisis. Evans-Pritchard’s essay resists easy summary, but it makes the broad and depressing point that, in Europe, the left has offered a more persuasive analysis of the crisis than the center-right.

Indeed, when the German left praises Britain for staying out of the Euro and argues that the Euro only worked as long as it did because Germany held its labor costs down and recycled the capital from its export surpluses to buy Club Med debt, it is making a dangerous amount of sense. Of course, there are plenty of conservative economists in the U.S. saying much the same thing. But as Evans-Pritchard implies in passing, the failure of the European center to acknowledge the obvious poses a serious danger to its political legitimacy.

Cianfrocca develops the point: the risks here are not simply financial or narrowly politically. They are to the lives and the expectations of millions of Europeans (and, indeed, of Americans). Fundamentally, therefore, as he puts it, the risk is to the “perceived legitimacy of current European governments.” Cianfrocca’s point is that governments have promised something — prosperity for ordinary workers, regardless of whether their productivity merits it — that they cannot deliver, because the “state simply doesn’t control the levers that lead to robust production of economic value.” In other words, they’ve written a naked call option on prosperity.

All too true. But the problem is even deeper than that. It’s not just governments that are at risk. For more than a hundred years, Europe has used social welfare as social protection. But the European center was not buying legitimacy for the governments, narrowly considered. The center was buying it for the state itself, against the extreme left. The extraordinarily inventive Bismarck created the modern welfare system to head off, as he hoped, the threat from the socialists. Of course, like every other government, he also drew on nationalism to build up a viable, non-revolutionary — though in his case not fully democratic — body politic. That wasn’t cynicism (well, maybe for Bismarck it was). It was statecraft of a high order, precisely because it was based on the recognition that modern, participatory politics must be based on a cohesive national identity.

The problem was that after World War II, nationalism lost much of its legitimacy. It survived in the U.S. and Britain, which won the war, and France, which pretended it did, and of course nationalism didn’t disappear elsewhere. But most of the European states were relegitimated not by nationalism, or by religion but rather against the extremes on the right and left by the creation of welfare systems. Instead of promising that you could belong, the European states promised that you would get along. That worked well during the post–World War II boom. But while the boom was temporary, the promise was permanent. Unfortunately, as Cianfrocca points out, the state can’t deliver on it.

Apart from its economic failings, the European solution to the problem of legitimacy was therefore deeply unwise politically. And as Evans-Pritchard points out, too much of Europe is still investing in failure. This was brought home to me last week when a group of young Europeans visited the Heritage Foundation. None of them could grasp why conservatives in the U.S. had any qualms at all about ObamaCare. As one of them put it, “But in Europe, all the conservatives would support it!” Quite so. That is the problem. The state in the U.S. doesn’t need to buy legitimacy: it has 1776. The more the center in Europe invests in the idea that it can buy legitimacy, the deeper the financial and political hole it digs — and ultimately, as Evans-Pritchard argues, the more power it gives to left.

Read Less

Judged by Results

Obama sailed into office on a wave of voter anxiety about the economy and dissatisfaction with the Bush administration. (I haven’t seen a recent poll asking voters if voters would prefer Bush or Obama, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a dead heat.) The latest survey highlights how one-party Democratic rule has intensified this sentiment:

Americans are increasingly optimistic about the economy, but that brightening outlook hasn’t softened their outrage over the country’s direction and its political leadership, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds. Two-thirds of those surveyed this week describe themselves as “angry” about the way things are going in the USA, the highest percentage in the decade the question has been asked. By nearly 2-1, they would rather vote for a candidate who has never served in Congress over one with experience. … The findings are sobering for incumbents who hope an improving economy will ameliorate the throw-the-bums-out sentiment before November.

Moreover, the enthusiasm gap persists: 50 percent of Republicans are extremely motivated to vote, while only 30 percent of Democrats are.

The professional buck-passers attribute this, of course, to events before Obama was elected or to events that they suggest are beyond Obama’s control. David Axelrod says: “There’s been a lot of frustrations and grievance building up for years. For many Americans, it (the recovery) still hasn’t touched their lives.” That would be a year and a half into Obama’s presidency. Did he not say, “I expect to be judged by results”? He is — and that’s a problem for the entire Democratic Party.

Obama sailed into office on a wave of voter anxiety about the economy and dissatisfaction with the Bush administration. (I haven’t seen a recent poll asking voters if voters would prefer Bush or Obama, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a dead heat.) The latest survey highlights how one-party Democratic rule has intensified this sentiment:

Americans are increasingly optimistic about the economy, but that brightening outlook hasn’t softened their outrage over the country’s direction and its political leadership, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds. Two-thirds of those surveyed this week describe themselves as “angry” about the way things are going in the USA, the highest percentage in the decade the question has been asked. By nearly 2-1, they would rather vote for a candidate who has never served in Congress over one with experience. … The findings are sobering for incumbents who hope an improving economy will ameliorate the throw-the-bums-out sentiment before November.

Moreover, the enthusiasm gap persists: 50 percent of Republicans are extremely motivated to vote, while only 30 percent of Democrats are.

The professional buck-passers attribute this, of course, to events before Obama was elected or to events that they suggest are beyond Obama’s control. David Axelrod says: “There’s been a lot of frustrations and grievance building up for years. For many Americans, it (the recovery) still hasn’t touched their lives.” That would be a year and a half into Obama’s presidency. Did he not say, “I expect to be judged by results”? He is — and that’s a problem for the entire Democratic Party.

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