Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 23, 2010

Denying Reality Again

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is often an intelligent voice for the Democratic Party. But when asked why key races were lost in his state in the 2010 midterm election, Rendell said, “Well, because people don’t always vote on the logical reasons. Emotion drives voters, particularly when they have reason to be angry and frustrated.”

All that’s missing is the reference to clinging to guns and religion.

Governor Rendell is repeating one of the two or three most common excuses made by Democrats when explaining the titanic losses they incurred a few weeks ago: reason gave way to passion, logic to emotion, common sense to fear. President Obama has tried this explanation out on us, and so have others. It doesn’t get any more persuasive with repetition. Democrats still seem unable to accept the fact that their policies are failing and that voters are holding them accountable. Perhaps one day soon it will dawn on at least a few of them what happened and why. And the wise ones will learn from it rather than deny reality.

In the meantime, they sound silly and out of touch. (h/t therightscoop.com)

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is often an intelligent voice for the Democratic Party. But when asked why key races were lost in his state in the 2010 midterm election, Rendell said, “Well, because people don’t always vote on the logical reasons. Emotion drives voters, particularly when they have reason to be angry and frustrated.”

All that’s missing is the reference to clinging to guns and religion.

Governor Rendell is repeating one of the two or three most common excuses made by Democrats when explaining the titanic losses they incurred a few weeks ago: reason gave way to passion, logic to emotion, common sense to fear. President Obama has tried this explanation out on us, and so have others. It doesn’t get any more persuasive with repetition. Democrats still seem unable to accept the fact that their policies are failing and that voters are holding them accountable. Perhaps one day soon it will dawn on at least a few of them what happened and why. And the wise ones will learn from it rather than deny reality.

In the meantime, they sound silly and out of touch. (h/t therightscoop.com)

Read Less

Staging a Human Rights Atrocity

It has become a familiar pattern: violent provocateurs create a confrontation with lightly armed anti-riot squads. The state officials defend themselves. The instigators claim there has been an atrocity. The flotilla incident? Why, yes. But also a recent confrontation between Morocco and the violent Polisario Front, which refuses to accept a Moroccan autonomy plan for the Western Sahara and keeps refugees warehoused in dismal camps in Algeria.

As the Israeli government did in the flotilla incident, the government of Morocco has put out a video of a recent incident in Laayoune. This video, which is exceptionally graphic but should be reviewed in full to appreciate the extent of the Polisario Front’s propaganda campaign, shows peaceful demonstrators in a tent city (who came to protest overcrowding, totally unrelated to the dispute in the Western Sahara) dispersed without incident by Moroccan police, loaded onto government-provided buses, and exiting the area. Then onto the scene come the Polisario Front, with knives, rock-throwers, incendiary devices, and much brutality. What unfolds — vicious attacks on the police, the ambush of an ambulance, buildings burning in the city center, a near beheading of a policeman, etc. — is evidence that the Polisario Front is the aggressor in this incident.

And yet the Polisario Front, with a willing media, played the incident up as a human rights violation — by the government of Morocco. This report duly regurgitates the Polisario Front’s claim that the Moroccan government was guilty “of carrying out ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Laayoune and warned the international community that if it did not intervene to find a peaceful solution, ‘the Sahrawi people will resort to all measures, including war.’” This AP report tells us: “Moroccan forces raided a protest camp in the disputed territory of Western Sahara on Monday and unrest spread to a nearby city, with buildings ablaze and rioters roaming the streets. Five Moroccan security officials and one demonstrator were killed, reports said.” One would think that the government’s forces instigated the violence with the peaceful protesters there, and it would be hard to glean — as the video shows — that the protest camp had been dismantled before the Polisario Front forces attacked the police.

So what is going on here? Well, it seems that the incident came just as there was to begin the “re-opening of informal U.N.-sponsored talks Monday in Manhasset, New York, between Morocco and the Polisario Front, which long waged a guerrilla war on Morocco in a bid to gain independence for the desert region and its native Saharawi people.” Hmm. Sort of like the killing of Jews that inevitably breaks out when “peace” talks begin between Israel and the PA.

Whether the group is the PA or the Polisario Front, the modus operandi is the same — stage violence, claim victimhood, label the incident as a human rights atrocity, and thereby delay or disrupt peace negotiations that might resolve the conflict and leave the terrorists without a cause. You would think the media would be on to it. Unless, of course, they really don’t care about getting the story straight.

It has become a familiar pattern: violent provocateurs create a confrontation with lightly armed anti-riot squads. The state officials defend themselves. The instigators claim there has been an atrocity. The flotilla incident? Why, yes. But also a recent confrontation between Morocco and the violent Polisario Front, which refuses to accept a Moroccan autonomy plan for the Western Sahara and keeps refugees warehoused in dismal camps in Algeria.

As the Israeli government did in the flotilla incident, the government of Morocco has put out a video of a recent incident in Laayoune. This video, which is exceptionally graphic but should be reviewed in full to appreciate the extent of the Polisario Front’s propaganda campaign, shows peaceful demonstrators in a tent city (who came to protest overcrowding, totally unrelated to the dispute in the Western Sahara) dispersed without incident by Moroccan police, loaded onto government-provided buses, and exiting the area. Then onto the scene come the Polisario Front, with knives, rock-throwers, incendiary devices, and much brutality. What unfolds — vicious attacks on the police, the ambush of an ambulance, buildings burning in the city center, a near beheading of a policeman, etc. — is evidence that the Polisario Front is the aggressor in this incident.

And yet the Polisario Front, with a willing media, played the incident up as a human rights violation — by the government of Morocco. This report duly regurgitates the Polisario Front’s claim that the Moroccan government was guilty “of carrying out ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Laayoune and warned the international community that if it did not intervene to find a peaceful solution, ‘the Sahrawi people will resort to all measures, including war.’” This AP report tells us: “Moroccan forces raided a protest camp in the disputed territory of Western Sahara on Monday and unrest spread to a nearby city, with buildings ablaze and rioters roaming the streets. Five Moroccan security officials and one demonstrator were killed, reports said.” One would think that the government’s forces instigated the violence with the peaceful protesters there, and it would be hard to glean — as the video shows — that the protest camp had been dismantled before the Polisario Front forces attacked the police.

So what is going on here? Well, it seems that the incident came just as there was to begin the “re-opening of informal U.N.-sponsored talks Monday in Manhasset, New York, between Morocco and the Polisario Front, which long waged a guerrilla war on Morocco in a bid to gain independence for the desert region and its native Saharawi people.” Hmm. Sort of like the killing of Jews that inevitably breaks out when “peace” talks begin between Israel and the PA.

Whether the group is the PA or the Polisario Front, the modus operandi is the same — stage violence, claim victimhood, label the incident as a human rights atrocity, and thereby delay or disrupt peace negotiations that might resolve the conflict and leave the terrorists without a cause. You would think the media would be on to it. Unless, of course, they really don’t care about getting the story straight.

Read Less

A Man Like Bush

At the New Yorker, George Packer has a harsh assessment of George Bush’s Decision Points, a book he predicts “will not endure.”  Packer’s 3,300-word piece has only two sentences of praise, stuck in a parenthetical: “(The chapter on AIDS in Africa shows Bush at his best. His desire to display American caring led directly to a generous policy.)”

In the paragraph to which that parenthetical is appended, Packer relates that “one of the voices in the President’s ear [in the run-up to the Iraq war] was Elie Wiesel’s, speaking of ‘a moral obligation to act against evil.’” Packer writes that:

The words were bound to move a man like Bush. “Many of those who demonstrated against military action in Iraq were devoted advocates of human rights,” he says. “I understood why people might disagree on the threat Saddam Hussein posed to the United States. But I didn’t see how anyone could deny that liberating Iraq advanced the cause of human rights.” Some of Bush’s critics found this argument specious and hypocritical; they failed to grasp the President’s profound need to be on the side of the redeeming angels.

Packer treats Bush’s motivation as an idiosyncratic psychological trait (apparently admirable if limited to a “desire to display caring” in Africa). But Bush’s reaction to Iraq tracked that of a knowledgeable observer writing in 2004:

I can’t wish the fall of Saddam’s regime undone. Before going to Iraq I knew abstractly that it was one of the worst in modern history and there’s been plenty of stiff competition. After five weeks there, my appreciation of its terribleness is more concrete and emotional. I know that’s hardly the best or only basis for foreign policy decisions, but in this case it’s decisive for me: The slaughter and misery of Iraqis (and their neighbors) justified the war. …

That was George Packer in a January 2004 Slate symposium of liberal hawks about a war they had supported but began abandoning in less than a year.

In his July 14, 2004, response to the British commission investigating the war, Tony Blair reached a similar conclusion about what Packer had called in 2004 “the moral imperative”:

And though in neither case [in Iraq and Afghanistan] was the nature of the regime the reason for conflict, it was decisive for me in the judgment as to the balance of risk for action or inaction. Both countries now face an uncertain struggle for the future. But both at least now have a future. The one country in which you will find an overwhelming majority in favor of the removal of Saddam is Iraq. I am proud of this country and the part it played and especially our magnificent armed forces, in removing two vile dictatorships and giving people oppressed, almost enslaved, the prospect of democracy and liberty.

Tony Blair was a man like Bush. So were the liberal hawks, for a while, but in contrast with that of Bush, their commitments did not endure.

At the New Yorker, George Packer has a harsh assessment of George Bush’s Decision Points, a book he predicts “will not endure.”  Packer’s 3,300-word piece has only two sentences of praise, stuck in a parenthetical: “(The chapter on AIDS in Africa shows Bush at his best. His desire to display American caring led directly to a generous policy.)”

In the paragraph to which that parenthetical is appended, Packer relates that “one of the voices in the President’s ear [in the run-up to the Iraq war] was Elie Wiesel’s, speaking of ‘a moral obligation to act against evil.’” Packer writes that:

The words were bound to move a man like Bush. “Many of those who demonstrated against military action in Iraq were devoted advocates of human rights,” he says. “I understood why people might disagree on the threat Saddam Hussein posed to the United States. But I didn’t see how anyone could deny that liberating Iraq advanced the cause of human rights.” Some of Bush’s critics found this argument specious and hypocritical; they failed to grasp the President’s profound need to be on the side of the redeeming angels.

Packer treats Bush’s motivation as an idiosyncratic psychological trait (apparently admirable if limited to a “desire to display caring” in Africa). But Bush’s reaction to Iraq tracked that of a knowledgeable observer writing in 2004:

I can’t wish the fall of Saddam’s regime undone. Before going to Iraq I knew abstractly that it was one of the worst in modern history and there’s been plenty of stiff competition. After five weeks there, my appreciation of its terribleness is more concrete and emotional. I know that’s hardly the best or only basis for foreign policy decisions, but in this case it’s decisive for me: The slaughter and misery of Iraqis (and their neighbors) justified the war. …

That was George Packer in a January 2004 Slate symposium of liberal hawks about a war they had supported but began abandoning in less than a year.

In his July 14, 2004, response to the British commission investigating the war, Tony Blair reached a similar conclusion about what Packer had called in 2004 “the moral imperative”:

And though in neither case [in Iraq and Afghanistan] was the nature of the regime the reason for conflict, it was decisive for me in the judgment as to the balance of risk for action or inaction. Both countries now face an uncertain struggle for the future. But both at least now have a future. The one country in which you will find an overwhelming majority in favor of the removal of Saddam is Iraq. I am proud of this country and the part it played and especially our magnificent armed forces, in removing two vile dictatorships and giving people oppressed, almost enslaved, the prospect of democracy and liberty.

Tony Blair was a man like Bush. So were the liberal hawks, for a while, but in contrast with that of Bush, their commitments did not endure.

Read Less

Israel’s Critics Are Afraid of Democracy

Yesterday’s vote by Israel’s Knesset to require a referendum to ratify any peace deal that involved the surrender of Jerusalem or the Golan Heights is being slammed in the Arab world as well as by other foes of the Jewish state. For Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, such a vote would be an “obstacle” to peace. Similarly, Israel Lobby author Stephen Walt believes it means the end of the two-state solution, since it “gives a veto to the hard-line settler faction.”

Such claims are laughable. In fact, assuming that the Palestinians were themselves interested in actually signing a peace deal (something they have repeatedly declined to do even when offered virtually all the West Bank, Gaza, and part of Jerusalem, as they were in 2000 and 2008), the knowledge that any accord would have to be ratified by a referendum in which Israelis could vote it up or down would make it more, not less, likely to be accepted by an Israeli government.

One of the problems that helped undermine Israeli support for the Oslo process was the fact that a narrow parliamentary majority rammed it down the country’s throat. Even worse, the follow-up agreement to the first accord, known as Oslo II, was only secured after two members of the now defunct right-wing Tsomet Party crossed the aisle to Labor in exchange for promises of high office and other perks. This shady process helped fuel public opposition to the deal, though it must be conceded that most of the credit for convincing Israelis that their government was on the wrong path must go to the Palestinians and the campaign of terrorism they waged even though peace was supposed to have broken out. Read More

Yesterday’s vote by Israel’s Knesset to require a referendum to ratify any peace deal that involved the surrender of Jerusalem or the Golan Heights is being slammed in the Arab world as well as by other foes of the Jewish state. For Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, such a vote would be an “obstacle” to peace. Similarly, Israel Lobby author Stephen Walt believes it means the end of the two-state solution, since it “gives a veto to the hard-line settler faction.”

Such claims are laughable. In fact, assuming that the Palestinians were themselves interested in actually signing a peace deal (something they have repeatedly declined to do even when offered virtually all the West Bank, Gaza, and part of Jerusalem, as they were in 2000 and 2008), the knowledge that any accord would have to be ratified by a referendum in which Israelis could vote it up or down would make it more, not less, likely to be accepted by an Israeli government.

One of the problems that helped undermine Israeli support for the Oslo process was the fact that a narrow parliamentary majority rammed it down the country’s throat. Even worse, the follow-up agreement to the first accord, known as Oslo II, was only secured after two members of the now defunct right-wing Tsomet Party crossed the aisle to Labor in exchange for promises of high office and other perks. This shady process helped fuel public opposition to the deal, though it must be conceded that most of the credit for convincing Israelis that their government was on the wrong path must go to the Palestinians and the campaign of terrorism they waged even though peace was supposed to have broken out.

Any Israeli government that chose to sign an agreement that called for the re-division of Jerusalem or handing the strategic Golan back to Syria would be strengthened by the knowledge that their decisions would have to be ratified by the people. They would be free to be more, not less, generous with a Palestinian partner who genuinely wanted peace, simply because such a government would be, in a sense, operating with a net. Without a referendum, acceptance of an agreement would be merely a matter of enforcing party discipline in the governing coalition. That would leave any government — especially one led from the right, as is Israel’s current coalition — vulnerable to accusations of betraying their voters. A referendum would give any peace deal the seal of democratic approval that it must have to succeed.

Moreover, far from ensuring that a deal would be defeated, the odds are that any referendum for a peace treaty would be passed, assuming it actually required the Arabs to accept Israel as a Jewish state within secure and accepted borders and without a “right of return” for the descendants of refugees, which would mean the country’s destruction. Israelis desperately want peace and might be inclined to accept anything that seems like a genuine solution even if they were skeptical about the Palestinians. That Walt thinks a referendum would give the settlers a veto shows that he understands Israel as poorly as he does America (whose foreign policy is, he thinks, directed by a pro-Israel cabal composed of a wall-to-wall coalition of liberals, moderates, and conservatives). Since a referendum would be a simple yes or no vote by the entire electorate, why would a group that makes up only a tiny percentage of the voting public have a veto?

But what most of those who have commented about this measure don’t mention is that so long as the political culture of the Palestinians regards the acceptance of a Jewish state as anathema no matter where its borders might be drawn or who controls Jerusalem, then any discussion of a referendum to ratify a peace deal is more science fiction than political science. After 17 years of fruitless concessions made in the name of peace, most Israelis have understandably grown cynical about a process that has proved to be an exchange of land for terror, not peace. If Abbas wants to change their minds, all he has to do is be willing to make peace and demonstrate to Israel’s people that he means it. Israeli democracy would be the best guarantee of a two-state solution, if only he were prepared to act as if he actually wanted one.

Read Less

Whose America Is It?

Richard Cohen, who occasionally writes sensible things on race, suggests in his Washington Post column today that among the many reasons Sarah Palin is unqualified to be president is:

She could not be the president of black America nor of Hispanic America. She knows more about grizzlies than she does about African Americans — and she clearly has more interest in the former than the latter.

Palin draws Cohen’s fire for a passage in her new book in which she says that President Obama “seems to believe” that “America — at least America as it currently exists — is a fundamentally unjust and unequal country.” Cohen suggests that Palin’s comment is proof that she is ignorant of America’s racial history.

I’m not a Palin fan — she lost the right to be taken seriously in my book when she gave up the governorship of Alaska to embark on her career as celebrity politician — but the idea that there is a “black America” or a “Hispanic America” is offensive. Cohen’s reference is also more than a little ironic given President Obama’s own claim that “There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”

Cohen aside, being familiar with the racial injustices of the past and our fight to overcome them should make us more, not less, proud that we are a fundamentally just nation, where equal opportunity remains a principle more honored in the observance than the breach.

Richard Cohen, who occasionally writes sensible things on race, suggests in his Washington Post column today that among the many reasons Sarah Palin is unqualified to be president is:

She could not be the president of black America nor of Hispanic America. She knows more about grizzlies than she does about African Americans — and she clearly has more interest in the former than the latter.

Palin draws Cohen’s fire for a passage in her new book in which she says that President Obama “seems to believe” that “America — at least America as it currently exists — is a fundamentally unjust and unequal country.” Cohen suggests that Palin’s comment is proof that she is ignorant of America’s racial history.

I’m not a Palin fan — she lost the right to be taken seriously in my book when she gave up the governorship of Alaska to embark on her career as celebrity politician — but the idea that there is a “black America” or a “Hispanic America” is offensive. Cohen’s reference is also more than a little ironic given President Obama’s own claim that “There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”

Cohen aside, being familiar with the racial injustices of the past and our fight to overcome them should make us more, not less, proud that we are a fundamentally just nation, where equal opportunity remains a principle more honored in the observance than the breach.

Read Less

Will Obama Move Beyond MoveOn.org?

As I continue to document the left’s unhappiness with President Obama, here’s another example to add to the list — a widely distributed e-mail letter to MoveOn.org members from MoveOn organizer Nita Chaudhary that says, in part, this:

Remember Barack Obama in 2008? The guy who refused to go along with a “dumb war” and said, “In the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.”

I miss that guy. Imagine if someone told you in 2008 that Barack Obama was actually thinking about signing legislation to extend the Bush tax giveaways for the rich. I wouldn’t have believed it.

Now more than ever, we need the Barack Obama we elected in 2008—the smart, tough, hopeful progressive champion who inspired millions of us—to stand up and say “no” to a millionaire bailout.

Right now, with the change we all fought for hanging in the balance, President Obama needs to hear from those of us who supported him the most.

The e-mail goes on to ask MoveOn members to record a video message “from the heart” to tell President Obama to go to the mat to stop any extension of the “millionaire tax giveaways” and to “bring back the progressive fighter we all knew and supported in 2008.”

President Obama cannot win re-election without winning back independents, who fled the Democratic Party in massive numbers in the 2010 election. And Obama cannot win back independents without going crosswise of liberal groups like MoveOn. Unless Obama has a political death wish, then, a divorce with portions of his base eventually has to occur. But boy, is it going to be ugly. And if Obama succeeds in alienating his base without winning back the middle, his presidency will collapse.

These are difficult days for the Obama White House. The road back to political recovery isn’t obvious, and it won’t be easy.

As I continue to document the left’s unhappiness with President Obama, here’s another example to add to the list — a widely distributed e-mail letter to MoveOn.org members from MoveOn organizer Nita Chaudhary that says, in part, this:

Remember Barack Obama in 2008? The guy who refused to go along with a “dumb war” and said, “In the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.”

I miss that guy. Imagine if someone told you in 2008 that Barack Obama was actually thinking about signing legislation to extend the Bush tax giveaways for the rich. I wouldn’t have believed it.

Now more than ever, we need the Barack Obama we elected in 2008—the smart, tough, hopeful progressive champion who inspired millions of us—to stand up and say “no” to a millionaire bailout.

Right now, with the change we all fought for hanging in the balance, President Obama needs to hear from those of us who supported him the most.

The e-mail goes on to ask MoveOn members to record a video message “from the heart” to tell President Obama to go to the mat to stop any extension of the “millionaire tax giveaways” and to “bring back the progressive fighter we all knew and supported in 2008.”

President Obama cannot win re-election without winning back independents, who fled the Democratic Party in massive numbers in the 2010 election. And Obama cannot win back independents without going crosswise of liberal groups like MoveOn. Unless Obama has a political death wish, then, a divorce with portions of his base eventually has to occur. But boy, is it going to be ugly. And if Obama succeeds in alienating his base without winning back the middle, his presidency will collapse.

These are difficult days for the Obama White House. The road back to political recovery isn’t obvious, and it won’t be easy.

Read Less

Business Leaders Aren’t Charmed

Good for them. Business leaders who tried without result to get along with the Obama administration and who only recently piped up about its job-destroying agenda aren’t about to be taken in by a “charm offensive.” This report explains:

After business leaders sunk millions into the midterms to defeat Democrats, a chastened Obama administration is seeking reconciliation with the corporate community.

But after two years of building frustration, the executives say they won’t be won over by another round of private lunches and photo opportunities at the White House. …

“No amount of relationship-building is a substitute for policy,” said Johanna Schneider, executive director for external affairs at the Business Roundtable, which was once one of the administration’s most enduring corporate allies.

“We have to see some concrete policies that will help grow business because everyone’s goal is to grow jobs. This isn’t hocus-pocus. There are concrete steps to take for job growth,” she added.

The mainstream media and Obama spinners (OK, there’s lots of overlap there) exaggerate the importance of grand gestures and underestimate the damage that Obama’s policies have done to the job market. To a degree, it’s all a set-up: Obama is reaching out, so why are those nasty business leaders still ragging on him? It’s because a speech or a lunch has nothing to do with the state of the economy or executives’ hiring plans.

The White House claims to be baffled that employers are so upset. (“Some White House officials, in turn, privately express frustration that the business world seems to give Obama no credit for supporting bailouts of Wall Street and the auto industry as well as an economic stimulus bill that likely spared the country a deeper recession.”) But this is willful blindness. At least I hope it is and there is someone in the White House who understands the cumulative impact of the administration’s tax, spending, and regulatory policies. But they are annoyed that business leaders actually expect policy changes:

Last week, Treasury’s Gene Sperling appeared at a retreat for technology executives. “He expressed a desire to work closely,” said one attendee. “Then, when we brought up the issue of repatriation [the opportunity for corporations to bring overseas earnings back to the U.S. at lower tax rates], he openly showed frustration with us for just bringing the subject up.”

It’s a complaint heard often from the business community. “Access isn’t the issue. The question is: Where is the delivery?” said one corporate representative who, like others, sought anonymity to speak freely.

We’ll see if the business community is less easily spun than American Jewish leaders, who largely fell for the “charm offensive” only to discover that the administration remained just as obsessed over settlements and just as feckless on Iran despite the kind words. For an administration convinced that words matter more than actions, I suspect it is going to get a rude awakening.

Good for them. Business leaders who tried without result to get along with the Obama administration and who only recently piped up about its job-destroying agenda aren’t about to be taken in by a “charm offensive.” This report explains:

After business leaders sunk millions into the midterms to defeat Democrats, a chastened Obama administration is seeking reconciliation with the corporate community.

But after two years of building frustration, the executives say they won’t be won over by another round of private lunches and photo opportunities at the White House. …

“No amount of relationship-building is a substitute for policy,” said Johanna Schneider, executive director for external affairs at the Business Roundtable, which was once one of the administration’s most enduring corporate allies.

“We have to see some concrete policies that will help grow business because everyone’s goal is to grow jobs. This isn’t hocus-pocus. There are concrete steps to take for job growth,” she added.

The mainstream media and Obama spinners (OK, there’s lots of overlap there) exaggerate the importance of grand gestures and underestimate the damage that Obama’s policies have done to the job market. To a degree, it’s all a set-up: Obama is reaching out, so why are those nasty business leaders still ragging on him? It’s because a speech or a lunch has nothing to do with the state of the economy or executives’ hiring plans.

The White House claims to be baffled that employers are so upset. (“Some White House officials, in turn, privately express frustration that the business world seems to give Obama no credit for supporting bailouts of Wall Street and the auto industry as well as an economic stimulus bill that likely spared the country a deeper recession.”) But this is willful blindness. At least I hope it is and there is someone in the White House who understands the cumulative impact of the administration’s tax, spending, and regulatory policies. But they are annoyed that business leaders actually expect policy changes:

Last week, Treasury’s Gene Sperling appeared at a retreat for technology executives. “He expressed a desire to work closely,” said one attendee. “Then, when we brought up the issue of repatriation [the opportunity for corporations to bring overseas earnings back to the U.S. at lower tax rates], he openly showed frustration with us for just bringing the subject up.”

It’s a complaint heard often from the business community. “Access isn’t the issue. The question is: Where is the delivery?” said one corporate representative who, like others, sought anonymity to speak freely.

We’ll see if the business community is less easily spun than American Jewish leaders, who largely fell for the “charm offensive” only to discover that the administration remained just as obsessed over settlements and just as feckless on Iran despite the kind words. For an administration convinced that words matter more than actions, I suspect it is going to get a rude awakening.

Read Less

If Only Sally Quinn Were Around to Make Fun of Sally Quinn

Sally Quinn, who wrote snarky profiles of Washingtonians about a million years ago, now writes for the Washington Post‘s On Faith column. In her latest posting, she describes the success of Bristol Palin, daughter of Sarah, on the TV show Dancing with the Stars as “unholy.” Seriously. She is upset at Bristol’s longevity on the show, and suggests it is harmful to Bristol because it seems so unfair for her to do well when others, like the pop singer Brandy, get voted off:

I never remember all Ten Commandments off the top of my head, but there should be one that says, “Thou shalt not cheat while voting on ‘Dancing with the Stars.’” Polls have shown that the majority of tea party members are conservative Christians. Are these Christians who are voting 300 times and not using valid email addresses? Doesn’t it offend their sense of fairness, if not ethics and morals?

Quinn intends her column to be puckishly funny, but it actually seems very nearly insane. And puts me in mind of something she wrote a few years ago ago that inspired a blog post from me entitled “Sally Quinn: Gee, There’s This Thing Called Religion!” It was, I said, “like Augustine’s Confessions, if Augustine’s Confessions had been written by a combination of Helen Gurley Brown and Britney Spears.” This post on Dancing with the Stars is something else again: it is like Aristotle’s Aesthetics if Aristotle’s last name had been Kardashian.

Sally Quinn, who wrote snarky profiles of Washingtonians about a million years ago, now writes for the Washington Post‘s On Faith column. In her latest posting, she describes the success of Bristol Palin, daughter of Sarah, on the TV show Dancing with the Stars as “unholy.” Seriously. She is upset at Bristol’s longevity on the show, and suggests it is harmful to Bristol because it seems so unfair for her to do well when others, like the pop singer Brandy, get voted off:

I never remember all Ten Commandments off the top of my head, but there should be one that says, “Thou shalt not cheat while voting on ‘Dancing with the Stars.’” Polls have shown that the majority of tea party members are conservative Christians. Are these Christians who are voting 300 times and not using valid email addresses? Doesn’t it offend their sense of fairness, if not ethics and morals?

Quinn intends her column to be puckishly funny, but it actually seems very nearly insane. And puts me in mind of something she wrote a few years ago ago that inspired a blog post from me entitled “Sally Quinn: Gee, There’s This Thing Called Religion!” It was, I said, “like Augustine’s Confessions, if Augustine’s Confessions had been written by a combination of Helen Gurley Brown and Britney Spears.” This post on Dancing with the Stars is something else again: it is like Aristotle’s Aesthetics if Aristotle’s last name had been Kardashian.

Read Less

Step 1 in Negotiating with Taliban: Proof of “Taliban-ness”

How can you not laugh at the news that the Taliban “leader” who was negotiating with Afghan officials in Kabul was an imposter? Foreign Policy’s website runs a list of “Top 10 ways to tell  your new Taliban friend is an imposter” — e.g., “Eyepatch switches sides from meeting to meeting,” and “Runs up a large minibar tab at the Four Seasons Kabul.”

Beyond the yucks, this merely confirms what I (and many others) have been saying all along: the time is not yet ripe for real negotiations. Before they will make a deal, the Taliban will have to be convinced they cannot win a military victory. The process of convincing them has just started. True, U.S. troops are making significant gains in Kandahar and Helmand, but it will not be obvious until next summer whether they can hold the ground they have just won. It is doubtful that many Taliban will decide to defect before then. By all means, the Afghan government and its foreign allies should keep an open door to talk about a political settlement — but we shouldn’t expect any results anytime soon. And in the future, if genuine negotiations do start, it might be wise to demand some proof of “Taliban-ness” from our interlocutors. Maybe we can demand that they behead someone?

How can you not laugh at the news that the Taliban “leader” who was negotiating with Afghan officials in Kabul was an imposter? Foreign Policy’s website runs a list of “Top 10 ways to tell  your new Taliban friend is an imposter” — e.g., “Eyepatch switches sides from meeting to meeting,” and “Runs up a large minibar tab at the Four Seasons Kabul.”

Beyond the yucks, this merely confirms what I (and many others) have been saying all along: the time is not yet ripe for real negotiations. Before they will make a deal, the Taliban will have to be convinced they cannot win a military victory. The process of convincing them has just started. True, U.S. troops are making significant gains in Kandahar and Helmand, but it will not be obvious until next summer whether they can hold the ground they have just won. It is doubtful that many Taliban will decide to defect before then. By all means, the Afghan government and its foreign allies should keep an open door to talk about a political settlement — but we shouldn’t expect any results anytime soon. And in the future, if genuine negotiations do start, it might be wise to demand some proof of “Taliban-ness” from our interlocutors. Maybe we can demand that they behead someone?

Read Less

RE: Russian Impunity, Obama’s Indifference

Eli Lake has more on the attack on Boris Nemtsov:

Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister, said in an interview that those who assaulted him were linked to a pro-Putin youth group known as the Nashi. In a telephone interview, he said the assailants sneaked up on him at the airport after he retrieved his luggage and cleared customs and threw a fishing net onto him and proceeded to take photos. “I guess I am a big fish,” he told The Washington Times.

Two U.S. senators spoke out forcefully:

“I was disturbed to learn that he was attacked today at a Moscow airport upon his return to Russia after suggesting at the event that top Kremlin advisers, including Vladislav Surkov, be blacklisted from the United States,” Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat and chairman of the Helsinki Commission, said this week.

“In the attack on Mr. Nemtsov, occurring at a major international airport, it would seem there would be ample evidence and eyewitnesses to facilitate a thorough investigation,” Mr. Cardin said. …

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said in an interview that the harassment of Mr. Nemtsov was “part of a continuation of the disappearance of democracy and rights of the individual in Russia, particularly if you were part of previous administrations and speak out in opposition to the present repression of the press and people who are in opposition to the Putin administration.”

And what about the administration? It continues to talk “quietly” to Russian authorities, so quietly that its entreaties have apparently been ignored. The message is unmistakable: in order to preserve “reset,” we are willing to downplay concerns about human rights:

The Obama administration has sought to engage Mr. Medvedev while marginalizing the former president and current prime minister, Mr. Putin. But some critics say the White House approach is too soft on democracy and human rights in Russia.

“We all know one of the major reasons why the Berlin Wall came down in the first place is because of the steadfastness of support for those standing up for risks for freedom behind the Iron Curtain,” Mr. McCain said. “Obviously, this administration is far more interested in pushing the quote reset button.”

If we actually were getting something for our appeasement, the approach would be amoral, but understandable. But we are not — Russian help on Afghanistan is minimal, and it has helped construct the Bushehr nuclear facility in Iran. The Nemtsov incident is just the latest example of the Obama administration’s obsequiousness; it has stern words only for our allies.

Eli Lake has more on the attack on Boris Nemtsov:

Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister, said in an interview that those who assaulted him were linked to a pro-Putin youth group known as the Nashi. In a telephone interview, he said the assailants sneaked up on him at the airport after he retrieved his luggage and cleared customs and threw a fishing net onto him and proceeded to take photos. “I guess I am a big fish,” he told The Washington Times.

Two U.S. senators spoke out forcefully:

“I was disturbed to learn that he was attacked today at a Moscow airport upon his return to Russia after suggesting at the event that top Kremlin advisers, including Vladislav Surkov, be blacklisted from the United States,” Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat and chairman of the Helsinki Commission, said this week.

“In the attack on Mr. Nemtsov, occurring at a major international airport, it would seem there would be ample evidence and eyewitnesses to facilitate a thorough investigation,” Mr. Cardin said. …

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said in an interview that the harassment of Mr. Nemtsov was “part of a continuation of the disappearance of democracy and rights of the individual in Russia, particularly if you were part of previous administrations and speak out in opposition to the present repression of the press and people who are in opposition to the Putin administration.”

And what about the administration? It continues to talk “quietly” to Russian authorities, so quietly that its entreaties have apparently been ignored. The message is unmistakable: in order to preserve “reset,” we are willing to downplay concerns about human rights:

The Obama administration has sought to engage Mr. Medvedev while marginalizing the former president and current prime minister, Mr. Putin. But some critics say the White House approach is too soft on democracy and human rights in Russia.

“We all know one of the major reasons why the Berlin Wall came down in the first place is because of the steadfastness of support for those standing up for risks for freedom behind the Iron Curtain,” Mr. McCain said. “Obviously, this administration is far more interested in pushing the quote reset button.”

If we actually were getting something for our appeasement, the approach would be amoral, but understandable. But we are not — Russian help on Afghanistan is minimal, and it has helped construct the Bushehr nuclear facility in Iran. The Nemtsov incident is just the latest example of the Obama administration’s obsequiousness; it has stern words only for our allies.

Read Less

Poll: Most Palestinians View Two States as Step toward Eradicating Israel

Much has justly been written about the Obama administration’s mishandling of Israeli-Palestinian talks. But it’s important to remember that the real barrier to an agreement isn’t flawed American diplomacy but rather the Palestinians’ refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist. Nothing better illustrates this fact than a stunning new poll by The Israel Project.

Like every other poll in recent years, TIP found that a strong majority of Palestinians (60 percent) accept a two-state solution. This unvarying finding is often cited as proof that Palestinians do, in fact, accept Israel’s existence.

But unlike any other poll I’ve ever seen, TIP thought to ask the all-important follow-up question: is the goal a permanent two-state solution, or is the goal “to start with two states but then move to it all being one Palestinian state?”

Only 30 percent chose the first option, while fully 60 percent deemed two states a mere stepping-stone to Israel’s ultimate eradication. In other words, the PLO’s “Phased Plan” of 1974 is alive and kicking.

That plan called for Palestinians to gain control of any territory they could and then use it as a base for further assaults on Israel until the ultimate goal of the Jewish state’s destruction is achieved. Theoretically, the plan was superseded by the 1993 Oslo Accords, in which the PLO ostensibly recognized Israel and accepted the two-state solution. But it turns out that most Palestinians still view two states as a mere way station on the road to Israel’s ultimate destruction — just as the Phased Plan advocated.

This finding also explains another consistent polling anomaly: though all polls show that most Palestinians accept a two-state solution, they also show that most Palestinians oppose any deal that could realistically be signed.

TIP’s poll, for instance, found that only 24 percent support the Clinton parameters, which most Westerners still deem the basis for any agreement. A recent  poll by the Arab World for Research and Development similarly found that while most Palestinians say a two-state solution is acceptable in principle, a whopping 85 percent oppose it if it requires “compromises on key issues (right of return, Jerusalem, borders, settlements, etc.).”

Since any realistic agreement will require compromises on these issues, that means most Palestinians oppose a two-state solution in practice. And at first glance, this seems schizophrenic: why support something in principle if you oppose it in practice?

But in light of TIP’s finding about the Palestinians’ ultimate goal, it makes perfect sense. If the two-state solution is intended solely as a stepping-stone to Israel’s eradication, then the compromises entailed by any realistic agreement are indeed unacceptable, because they undermine the deal’s ability to serve this purpose. A deal that gave Israel defensible borders, for instance, would reduce its vulnerability to attack, and one that nixed the “right of return” would make it harder to convert Israel into a second Palestinian-majority state.

Until most Palestinians give up the goal of Israel’s ultimate destruction, even the smartest diplomacy in the world won’t produce a deal. All it will do is waste a lot of time, money, and diplomatic capital that would be better spent elsewhere.

Much has justly been written about the Obama administration’s mishandling of Israeli-Palestinian talks. But it’s important to remember that the real barrier to an agreement isn’t flawed American diplomacy but rather the Palestinians’ refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist. Nothing better illustrates this fact than a stunning new poll by The Israel Project.

Like every other poll in recent years, TIP found that a strong majority of Palestinians (60 percent) accept a two-state solution. This unvarying finding is often cited as proof that Palestinians do, in fact, accept Israel’s existence.

But unlike any other poll I’ve ever seen, TIP thought to ask the all-important follow-up question: is the goal a permanent two-state solution, or is the goal “to start with two states but then move to it all being one Palestinian state?”

Only 30 percent chose the first option, while fully 60 percent deemed two states a mere stepping-stone to Israel’s ultimate eradication. In other words, the PLO’s “Phased Plan” of 1974 is alive and kicking.

That plan called for Palestinians to gain control of any territory they could and then use it as a base for further assaults on Israel until the ultimate goal of the Jewish state’s destruction is achieved. Theoretically, the plan was superseded by the 1993 Oslo Accords, in which the PLO ostensibly recognized Israel and accepted the two-state solution. But it turns out that most Palestinians still view two states as a mere way station on the road to Israel’s ultimate destruction — just as the Phased Plan advocated.

This finding also explains another consistent polling anomaly: though all polls show that most Palestinians accept a two-state solution, they also show that most Palestinians oppose any deal that could realistically be signed.

TIP’s poll, for instance, found that only 24 percent support the Clinton parameters, which most Westerners still deem the basis for any agreement. A recent  poll by the Arab World for Research and Development similarly found that while most Palestinians say a two-state solution is acceptable in principle, a whopping 85 percent oppose it if it requires “compromises on key issues (right of return, Jerusalem, borders, settlements, etc.).”

Since any realistic agreement will require compromises on these issues, that means most Palestinians oppose a two-state solution in practice. And at first glance, this seems schizophrenic: why support something in principle if you oppose it in practice?

But in light of TIP’s finding about the Palestinians’ ultimate goal, it makes perfect sense. If the two-state solution is intended solely as a stepping-stone to Israel’s eradication, then the compromises entailed by any realistic agreement are indeed unacceptable, because they undermine the deal’s ability to serve this purpose. A deal that gave Israel defensible borders, for instance, would reduce its vulnerability to attack, and one that nixed the “right of return” would make it harder to convert Israel into a second Palestinian-majority state.

Until most Palestinians give up the goal of Israel’s ultimate destruction, even the smartest diplomacy in the world won’t produce a deal. All it will do is waste a lot of time, money, and diplomatic capital that would be better spent elsewhere.

Read Less

To Jennifer Rubin, The Fondest of Farewells

For the past three years, Jennifer Rubin has set this blog and this website afire with her breadth of knowledge, her love of the intricacies of politics, her passion for ideas and policy, and her commitment to principle. The living embodiment of the word “indefatigable,” Jen has labored daily from her home in suburban Virginia, writing early in the morning and late at night, on computer and Blackberry, all the while getting her two boys to school and back, and to Hebrew school and back, never missing a news story, never missing an op-ed column, reading everything and digesting everything and commenting on everything. She is a phenomenon, especially considering that for the first two decades of her working life, she was not a writer or a journalist but a lawyer specializing in labor issues who worked for Hollywood studios primarily.

On December 1, Jen will be leaving COMMENTARY, where she has also served as our contributing editor for the past year, to take up blogger’s residence at the Washington Post. It is a brilliant hire for them and a terrific loss for us. A noteworthy fact about Jen’s versatility is that, even considering the thousands of blog items (literally) she has written for us over the past three years, the best-read of all her COMMENTARY contributions was her recent long article, “California, There It Went,” a unique and powerful combination of memoir and elegy for the state she left to take up residence in her new East Coast home and begin her second career as a writer.

We’ll miss her, but we’ll keep reading her, as I expect you will too.

For the past three years, Jennifer Rubin has set this blog and this website afire with her breadth of knowledge, her love of the intricacies of politics, her passion for ideas and policy, and her commitment to principle. The living embodiment of the word “indefatigable,” Jen has labored daily from her home in suburban Virginia, writing early in the morning and late at night, on computer and Blackberry, all the while getting her two boys to school and back, and to Hebrew school and back, never missing a news story, never missing an op-ed column, reading everything and digesting everything and commenting on everything. She is a phenomenon, especially considering that for the first two decades of her working life, she was not a writer or a journalist but a lawyer specializing in labor issues who worked for Hollywood studios primarily.

On December 1, Jen will be leaving COMMENTARY, where she has also served as our contributing editor for the past year, to take up blogger’s residence at the Washington Post. It is a brilliant hire for them and a terrific loss for us. A noteworthy fact about Jen’s versatility is that, even considering the thousands of blog items (literally) she has written for us over the past three years, the best-read of all her COMMENTARY contributions was her recent long article, “California, There It Went,” a unique and powerful combination of memoir and elegy for the state she left to take up residence in her new East Coast home and begin her second career as a writer.

We’ll miss her, but we’ll keep reading her, as I expect you will too.

Read Less

North Korea & Iran: Containment vs. Regime Change

North Korea doesn’t have a whole lot going for it beyond a large army and a nuclear arsenal. So it should be no surprise that the regime resorts to saber-rattling to remind the world that it needs to be propitiated. Earlier this year, in March, a North Korean submarine torpedoed a South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, killing 46 sailors. Today the North shelled a South Korean island, killing two more soldiers. This comes only days after a Stanford professor reported finding a vast new uranium-enrichment plant in North Korea, suggesting that the North is gearing up to produce a lot more atomic weapons.

North Korea watchers think that this provocative behavior is meant to ease the leadership transition to a third-generation of Marxist dictators. Kim Jong-il, the current ruler, has just elevated his son Kim Jung-un to four-star rank — widely seen as a perquisite for taking over from his old man. But whatever the explanation, attacks on another country are clearly unacceptable. Problem is, it is devilishly difficult to respond to because North Korea is, after all, a nuclear power.

After the Cheonan’s sinking, the U.S. pushed for a UN resolution condemning the attack, but it was so watered down by the time it passed that it did not even mention North Korea’s culpability. It would be nice if this time the UN were to show some fortitude in upbraiding a nation other than Israel. But no matter what resolution the UN passes, its significance will be purely symbolic.

South Korea has already cut most economic times with the North, so there is not much more that can be done on that front either.

The ultimate solution is plain: regime change. But how to achieve it is another matter. China is North Korea’s major remaining lifeline, but unfortunately it is hard to see how to persuade the Chinese to cut off their client state. They may not like Pyongyang’s powerplays, but they are even less wild about the notion of a unified Korea allied with the United States.

So we are where we have essentially been since the end of the Korean War: practicing containment and hoping for the day when North Korea will finally implode. For those who advocate containment as the solution to the Iranian nuclear threat, it is worth noting how destabilizing a nuclear-armed rogue state can be and how hard it is to contain. Even now, North Korea could be planning to export nuclear know-how or uranium to Iran. If so, what are we going to do about it? My guess: not much. That is an argument for stopping Iran by any means necessary before it crosses the nuclear threshold and becomes as dangerous as North Korea.

North Korea doesn’t have a whole lot going for it beyond a large army and a nuclear arsenal. So it should be no surprise that the regime resorts to saber-rattling to remind the world that it needs to be propitiated. Earlier this year, in March, a North Korean submarine torpedoed a South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, killing 46 sailors. Today the North shelled a South Korean island, killing two more soldiers. This comes only days after a Stanford professor reported finding a vast new uranium-enrichment plant in North Korea, suggesting that the North is gearing up to produce a lot more atomic weapons.

North Korea watchers think that this provocative behavior is meant to ease the leadership transition to a third-generation of Marxist dictators. Kim Jong-il, the current ruler, has just elevated his son Kim Jung-un to four-star rank — widely seen as a perquisite for taking over from his old man. But whatever the explanation, attacks on another country are clearly unacceptable. Problem is, it is devilishly difficult to respond to because North Korea is, after all, a nuclear power.

After the Cheonan’s sinking, the U.S. pushed for a UN resolution condemning the attack, but it was so watered down by the time it passed that it did not even mention North Korea’s culpability. It would be nice if this time the UN were to show some fortitude in upbraiding a nation other than Israel. But no matter what resolution the UN passes, its significance will be purely symbolic.

South Korea has already cut most economic times with the North, so there is not much more that can be done on that front either.

The ultimate solution is plain: regime change. But how to achieve it is another matter. China is North Korea’s major remaining lifeline, but unfortunately it is hard to see how to persuade the Chinese to cut off their client state. They may not like Pyongyang’s powerplays, but they are even less wild about the notion of a unified Korea allied with the United States.

So we are where we have essentially been since the end of the Korean War: practicing containment and hoping for the day when North Korea will finally implode. For those who advocate containment as the solution to the Iranian nuclear threat, it is worth noting how destabilizing a nuclear-armed rogue state can be and how hard it is to contain. Even now, North Korea could be planning to export nuclear know-how or uranium to Iran. If so, what are we going to do about it? My guess: not much. That is an argument for stopping Iran by any means necessary before it crosses the nuclear threshold and becomes as dangerous as North Korea.

Read Less

An Exceptional Life

I admit to being a fan of obituaries, not only those of the most famous or infamous but also of those whose lives were not played out in daily headlines. They are tiny history lessons and morality tales. They are vivid reminders that ordinary people are capable of doing remarkable things, and they prod us to ask: what would I have done?

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a gem. We learn:

Shortly after German troops invaded Belgium in 1940, Gaston Vandermeerssche, a Belgian university student, bicycled 800 miles to the south of France and became a spy.

Mr. Vandermeerssche, who died Nov. 1 at age 89 in Milwaukee, joined the resistance and ferried microfilm documents over the Pyrenees to Spain, where intermediaries sent the information on to London.

Later in the war he helped organize the Dutch underground, which came to comprise hundreds of agents and safe houses. After his network was penetrated by the Germans, he tried to escape, but was arrested near the Spanish border. He spent 24 months being interrogated in prison, but by his own account never broke.

The details of his exploits are eye-popping. (“He became a courier, making weekly trips from Brussels to Toulouse to Barcelona. The last leg involved trudging over snowy passes in the Pyrenees by moonlight. The microfilms he carried bore information collected by members of the underground on shipyards, gun emplacements and the like.”) But it is also the details of his very unextraordinary life — the son of a furniture maker who ended life in the U.S. as an executive of Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co. — that remind us of the innate decency and capacity for greatness that ordinary people possess. Indeed, it was Vandermeerssche’s unexceptionalness that confounded his captors:

Mr. Vandermeerssche was arrested in Perpignan, France, in 1943 with a cache of microfilm stuffed into butter tubs. His German interrogators suspected his role in the Dutch underground, but couldn’t prove it.

“I was so young, the Germans did not believe that this kid was the head of that large network,” he said in the oral history. “And I told them, ‘Are you crazy? I couldn’t have done this.’ ”

Months of brutal interrogation and solitary confinement failed to break Mr. Vandermeerssche’s will. He was betrayed by another member of the underground, and was sentenced to death in a military trial. But he was freed by American troops near the end of the war.

Although shattered by his experiences in prison—he said he couldn’t eat or sleep normally for a decade—Mr. Vandermeerssche resumed his studies, earning a Ph.D. in physics.

You can understand my fondness for obits.

I admit to being a fan of obituaries, not only those of the most famous or infamous but also of those whose lives were not played out in daily headlines. They are tiny history lessons and morality tales. They are vivid reminders that ordinary people are capable of doing remarkable things, and they prod us to ask: what would I have done?

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a gem. We learn:

Shortly after German troops invaded Belgium in 1940, Gaston Vandermeerssche, a Belgian university student, bicycled 800 miles to the south of France and became a spy.

Mr. Vandermeerssche, who died Nov. 1 at age 89 in Milwaukee, joined the resistance and ferried microfilm documents over the Pyrenees to Spain, where intermediaries sent the information on to London.

Later in the war he helped organize the Dutch underground, which came to comprise hundreds of agents and safe houses. After his network was penetrated by the Germans, he tried to escape, but was arrested near the Spanish border. He spent 24 months being interrogated in prison, but by his own account never broke.

The details of his exploits are eye-popping. (“He became a courier, making weekly trips from Brussels to Toulouse to Barcelona. The last leg involved trudging over snowy passes in the Pyrenees by moonlight. The microfilms he carried bore information collected by members of the underground on shipyards, gun emplacements and the like.”) But it is also the details of his very unextraordinary life — the son of a furniture maker who ended life in the U.S. as an executive of Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co. — that remind us of the innate decency and capacity for greatness that ordinary people possess. Indeed, it was Vandermeerssche’s unexceptionalness that confounded his captors:

Mr. Vandermeerssche was arrested in Perpignan, France, in 1943 with a cache of microfilm stuffed into butter tubs. His German interrogators suspected his role in the Dutch underground, but couldn’t prove it.

“I was so young, the Germans did not believe that this kid was the head of that large network,” he said in the oral history. “And I told them, ‘Are you crazy? I couldn’t have done this.’ ”

Months of brutal interrogation and solitary confinement failed to break Mr. Vandermeerssche’s will. He was betrayed by another member of the underground, and was sentenced to death in a military trial. But he was freed by American troops near the end of the war.

Although shattered by his experiences in prison—he said he couldn’t eat or sleep normally for a decade—Mr. Vandermeerssche resumed his studies, earning a Ph.D. in physics.

You can understand my fondness for obits.

Read Less

Obama’s Progressives Problem

The split between President Obama and his liberal base continues to widen. Yesterday I wrote about the criticisms directed at the president by the New York Times‘s Paul Krugman. Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of the American Prospect, has leveled his own blast in the Huffington Post.

According to Kuttner, “I cannot recall a president who generated so much excitement as a candidate but who turned out to be such a political dud as chief executive.” Like many of his co-ideologists, Kuttner pins much of the blame on Obama’s failure to communicate just how dreadful the GOP is. The president didn’t sufficiently frighten voters enough. Mr. Obama, who during the 2010 campaign referred to his opponents as “enemies,” wasn’t enough of a “fighter.” The losses among seniors was “sheer political malpractice” and “just stupefying.”

Obama is “fast becoming more albatross than ally,” according to Kuttner, who believes the task of progressives is to “step into the leadership vacuum that Obama has left, and fashion a compelling narrative about who and what are destroying America.” He hopes progressives can “move from disillusion to action and offer the kind of political movement and counter-narrative that the President should have been leading.”

Mr. Kuttner’s counsel is wrong on several different levels. The problem Democrats faced was not (as many of us continue to point out) a communications problem; it was a facts-on-the-ground problem, a governing problem. By a wide margin, the public believes the country is on the wrong track and has lost considerable confidence in Obama’s agenda and ability to lead. The president has compounded his problems by incompetence.

But Kuttner is kidding himself if he thinks progressives can create a “counter-narrative” and fill the “leadership vacuum” that Obama has left. For good or ill, the president is the face of a party and, in the case of Obama, a movement (liberalism). So long as he occupies the Oval Office, no compelling counter-narrative is possible. With one exception: a challenge to Obama from the left.

Kuttner doubts such a challenge makes much sense, and I happen to agree with him. But clearly his head is overruling his heart, at least for now. Here’s the thing to watch for, though: the left’s unhappiness with Obama is likely to accelerate rather than decelerate, in part because Obama’s most liberal days as president are behind him and in part because, in Kuttner’s words, “as President Obama gears up for a re-election battle in 2012, the economy is unlikely to be much different than the one that sank the Democrats in 2010.”

If those two conditions are in place, liberal disenchantment with Obama, which is on the rise, will explode. Their hearts will overrule their heads. Progressives will be desperate to detach themselves from Obama. And out of this could emerge a primary challenger. Right now, that’s not a likelihood; but I suspect we’re closer to that point than many people now assume.

The split between President Obama and his liberal base continues to widen. Yesterday I wrote about the criticisms directed at the president by the New York Times‘s Paul Krugman. Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of the American Prospect, has leveled his own blast in the Huffington Post.

According to Kuttner, “I cannot recall a president who generated so much excitement as a candidate but who turned out to be such a political dud as chief executive.” Like many of his co-ideologists, Kuttner pins much of the blame on Obama’s failure to communicate just how dreadful the GOP is. The president didn’t sufficiently frighten voters enough. Mr. Obama, who during the 2010 campaign referred to his opponents as “enemies,” wasn’t enough of a “fighter.” The losses among seniors was “sheer political malpractice” and “just stupefying.”

Obama is “fast becoming more albatross than ally,” according to Kuttner, who believes the task of progressives is to “step into the leadership vacuum that Obama has left, and fashion a compelling narrative about who and what are destroying America.” He hopes progressives can “move from disillusion to action and offer the kind of political movement and counter-narrative that the President should have been leading.”

Mr. Kuttner’s counsel is wrong on several different levels. The problem Democrats faced was not (as many of us continue to point out) a communications problem; it was a facts-on-the-ground problem, a governing problem. By a wide margin, the public believes the country is on the wrong track and has lost considerable confidence in Obama’s agenda and ability to lead. The president has compounded his problems by incompetence.

But Kuttner is kidding himself if he thinks progressives can create a “counter-narrative” and fill the “leadership vacuum” that Obama has left. For good or ill, the president is the face of a party and, in the case of Obama, a movement (liberalism). So long as he occupies the Oval Office, no compelling counter-narrative is possible. With one exception: a challenge to Obama from the left.

Kuttner doubts such a challenge makes much sense, and I happen to agree with him. But clearly his head is overruling his heart, at least for now. Here’s the thing to watch for, though: the left’s unhappiness with Obama is likely to accelerate rather than decelerate, in part because Obama’s most liberal days as president are behind him and in part because, in Kuttner’s words, “as President Obama gears up for a re-election battle in 2012, the economy is unlikely to be much different than the one that sank the Democrats in 2010.”

If those two conditions are in place, liberal disenchantment with Obama, which is on the rise, will explode. Their hearts will overrule their heads. Progressives will be desperate to detach themselves from Obama. And out of this could emerge a primary challenger. Right now, that’s not a likelihood; but I suspect we’re closer to that point than many people now assume.

Read Less

START Stopped in Its Tracks?

Eli Lake reports:

A second leading Republican is opposing Senate ratification of the New START treaty based on classified intelligence that the arms pact cannot be verified and that Moscow is manipulating the treaty to prevent the U.S. from expanding missile defenses.

“New START suffers from fundamental flaws that no amount of tinkering around the edges can fix. I believe the better course for our nation, and for global stability, is to put this treaty aside and replace it with a better one,” Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, said in a little-noticed floor statement last week.

Bond identifies a number of substantive concerns that the administration has not allayed:

Key intelligence assessments and testimony from analysts on the U.S. ability to monitor compliance with the treaty has left “no doubt in my mind that the United States cannot reliably verify the treaty’s 1,550 limit on deployed warheads,” Mr. Bond said. For example, the 10 annual warhead inspections in Russia will limit checks to 2 percent to 3 percent of the Russian strategic forces, he said.

Additionally, all missiles can be armed with unlimited numbers of warheads. “So even if the Russians fully cooperated in every inspection, these inspections cannot provide conclusive evidence of whether the Russians are complying with the warhead limit,” he said.

Also, the treaty provides no limits on the number of warheads Russia can place on a missile it is testing. “The Russians could deploy a missile with only one warhead, but legally flight-test it with six warheads to gain confidence in the increased capability — a practice they could not employ under the original START,” Mr. Bond said. …

Mr. Bond also dismissed administration assertions that the treaty will not limit U.S. missile defenses. He noted that Russia’s nonbinding statement that any expansion of U.S. missile defenses would lead to Moscow’s withdrawal is “manipulation” of U.S. defense policy designed to prevent building defenses.

Given this, and the certainty that other Republicans share the concern, why is the administration trying to jam a vote now? Perhaps there simply aren’t sufficient answers to the concerns Bond has raised and the administration would just as soon attribute the treaty’s defeat to GOP “intransigence” than to their own negotiating skills.

But what of the argument that without New START, we won’t have a verification system in place? Go get a better treaty, Republicans would respond. That’s no easy order, especially for an administration that contorts itself to avoid stressing its new relationship with the Russians. In sum, Obama negotiated a not-very-good treaty and now can’t get it through the Senate. Sort of a mess, isn’t it? Welcome to the Obama foreign policy brain trust.

Eli Lake reports:

A second leading Republican is opposing Senate ratification of the New START treaty based on classified intelligence that the arms pact cannot be verified and that Moscow is manipulating the treaty to prevent the U.S. from expanding missile defenses.

“New START suffers from fundamental flaws that no amount of tinkering around the edges can fix. I believe the better course for our nation, and for global stability, is to put this treaty aside and replace it with a better one,” Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, said in a little-noticed floor statement last week.

Bond identifies a number of substantive concerns that the administration has not allayed:

Key intelligence assessments and testimony from analysts on the U.S. ability to monitor compliance with the treaty has left “no doubt in my mind that the United States cannot reliably verify the treaty’s 1,550 limit on deployed warheads,” Mr. Bond said. For example, the 10 annual warhead inspections in Russia will limit checks to 2 percent to 3 percent of the Russian strategic forces, he said.

Additionally, all missiles can be armed with unlimited numbers of warheads. “So even if the Russians fully cooperated in every inspection, these inspections cannot provide conclusive evidence of whether the Russians are complying with the warhead limit,” he said.

Also, the treaty provides no limits on the number of warheads Russia can place on a missile it is testing. “The Russians could deploy a missile with only one warhead, but legally flight-test it with six warheads to gain confidence in the increased capability — a practice they could not employ under the original START,” Mr. Bond said. …

Mr. Bond also dismissed administration assertions that the treaty will not limit U.S. missile defenses. He noted that Russia’s nonbinding statement that any expansion of U.S. missile defenses would lead to Moscow’s withdrawal is “manipulation” of U.S. defense policy designed to prevent building defenses.

Given this, and the certainty that other Republicans share the concern, why is the administration trying to jam a vote now? Perhaps there simply aren’t sufficient answers to the concerns Bond has raised and the administration would just as soon attribute the treaty’s defeat to GOP “intransigence” than to their own negotiating skills.

But what of the argument that without New START, we won’t have a verification system in place? Go get a better treaty, Republicans would respond. That’s no easy order, especially for an administration that contorts itself to avoid stressing its new relationship with the Russians. In sum, Obama negotiated a not-very-good treaty and now can’t get it through the Senate. Sort of a mess, isn’t it? Welcome to the Obama foreign policy brain trust.

Read Less

Hezbollah Threatens to Take Over Lebanon

Almost everyone thought that the Syrian government assassinated former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in central Beirut in 2005, but most evidence now points to Hezbollah. An investigation just published by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation comes to that conclusion. The United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon is widely expected to soon hand down an indictment against Hezbollah officials, and Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah is saying he may launch a coup d’etat or a putsch against Lebanon’s government if it happens. “Our options,” he said, “are anywhere between doing nothing and causing a major political change.”

Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean that Assad’s regime in Damascus is off the hook. Hezbollah is a Syrian and Iranian proxy militia, after all. Both Damascus and Tehran could be considered at least indirectly responsible, if not directly responsible, if it turns out that Hezbollah is, in fact, guilty. And if Nasrallah makes good on his threat and takes over Lebanon on behalf of his foreign masters, the temperature in the Middle East will rise dramatically. Israelis will no doubt be alarmed, as will the governments of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and the Arab states in the Gulf.

I do not, however, expect Hezbollah will ever conquer and rule the whole country as Hamas does in Gaza. Hezbollah is the most powerful military force in Lebanon by a long shot, but it’s a sectarian Shia militia and is not likely powerful enough to rule hostile Christian, Sunni, and Druze regions.

The Lebanese army is neither powerful nor cohesive enough to disarm Hezbollah by force. It would surely mean war if it tried, and Hezbollah would quickly and decisively win a defensive conflict. That does not, however, mean that Hezbollah can win an offensive war in hostile cities and neighborhoods. Sure, Nasrallah could topple Lebanon’s government easily enough, but then what? He won the short civil war in 2008 when his men took over the western half of the capital, but he did not stick around to govern that area. Hezbollah is a guerrilla and terrorist army, not an occupation force. Counterinsurgency is hardly in its skill set.

If Nasrallah tries to make himself the dictator of Lebanon, he’ll probably learn the hard way what Americans learned in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even when regime change is easy, the aftermath is ferocious.

There’s a reason Lebanon’s Christians, Sunnis, and Druze haven’t fielded their own militias to stand against Hezbollah. The lesson they learned from the 1975-1990 civil war was perhaps best summed up by former president Amin Gemayel: “Everyone is against everyone else, and it all keeps going around and around in circles without anyone ever winning or anything being accomplished.” But who knows, maybe I’m wrong. Hezbollah may well be all but unstoppable. Nasrallah talks as though his men are all but unstoppable, and he might even believe it.

It has been a long time since Israel has fought a war against a foreign government rather than against non-state terrorist organizations, but if my analysis here is wrong, if Hezbollah does in fact take over the country, war between Middle Eastern nation-states will likely resume. The next war between Israel and Hezbollah would be a war between Israel and the Lebanese government by definition, and it could happen even if the majority of Israelis and Lebanese would rather it didn’t.

Almost everyone thought that the Syrian government assassinated former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in central Beirut in 2005, but most evidence now points to Hezbollah. An investigation just published by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation comes to that conclusion. The United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon is widely expected to soon hand down an indictment against Hezbollah officials, and Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah is saying he may launch a coup d’etat or a putsch against Lebanon’s government if it happens. “Our options,” he said, “are anywhere between doing nothing and causing a major political change.”

Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean that Assad’s regime in Damascus is off the hook. Hezbollah is a Syrian and Iranian proxy militia, after all. Both Damascus and Tehran could be considered at least indirectly responsible, if not directly responsible, if it turns out that Hezbollah is, in fact, guilty. And if Nasrallah makes good on his threat and takes over Lebanon on behalf of his foreign masters, the temperature in the Middle East will rise dramatically. Israelis will no doubt be alarmed, as will the governments of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and the Arab states in the Gulf.

I do not, however, expect Hezbollah will ever conquer and rule the whole country as Hamas does in Gaza. Hezbollah is the most powerful military force in Lebanon by a long shot, but it’s a sectarian Shia militia and is not likely powerful enough to rule hostile Christian, Sunni, and Druze regions.

The Lebanese army is neither powerful nor cohesive enough to disarm Hezbollah by force. It would surely mean war if it tried, and Hezbollah would quickly and decisively win a defensive conflict. That does not, however, mean that Hezbollah can win an offensive war in hostile cities and neighborhoods. Sure, Nasrallah could topple Lebanon’s government easily enough, but then what? He won the short civil war in 2008 when his men took over the western half of the capital, but he did not stick around to govern that area. Hezbollah is a guerrilla and terrorist army, not an occupation force. Counterinsurgency is hardly in its skill set.

If Nasrallah tries to make himself the dictator of Lebanon, he’ll probably learn the hard way what Americans learned in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even when regime change is easy, the aftermath is ferocious.

There’s a reason Lebanon’s Christians, Sunnis, and Druze haven’t fielded their own militias to stand against Hezbollah. The lesson they learned from the 1975-1990 civil war was perhaps best summed up by former president Amin Gemayel: “Everyone is against everyone else, and it all keeps going around and around in circles without anyone ever winning or anything being accomplished.” But who knows, maybe I’m wrong. Hezbollah may well be all but unstoppable. Nasrallah talks as though his men are all but unstoppable, and he might even believe it.

It has been a long time since Israel has fought a war against a foreign government rather than against non-state terrorist organizations, but if my analysis here is wrong, if Hezbollah does in fact take over the country, war between Middle Eastern nation-states will likely resume. The next war between Israel and Hezbollah would be a war between Israel and the Lebanese government by definition, and it could happen even if the majority of Israelis and Lebanese would rather it didn’t.

Read Less

Debating the Middle East Debacle

Politico devotes part of its Arena discussion to Ben Smith’s compelling report on Obama’s Middle East blunders. What is interesting is that, aside from the executive director of the notoriously anti-Israel group the Jerusalem Fund, no one from this ideologically diverse bunch differs with the premise of the article (Obama has made things much worse) or cheers the president’s latest desperation move.

From David Aaron Miller: “[I]n the face of this difficult situation, the administration came out loud, hard and fast — focused largely on a settlements freeze it had no chance of producing or sustaining. Twenty months in, the president — a wartime leader with a Nobel Peace Prize (only the second in American history) finds himself with no freeze, no negotiations, no agreement and no process to get there.”

Bob Zelnick adds: “It takes some effort to mess things up as quickly and completely as the Obama team. But if you let settlements — a final status issue — put in a position to queer the whole deal, if it takes 20 fighter planes to make sure Netanyahu shows up for class, and if you have no coherent plan to build on the diplomatic path plowed by George W. Bush’s Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the chances are you will not get the parties to move much beyond their opening positions and that those at the table will begin to view your opinions as having little more than nuisance value.”

James Carafano reminds us: “Figure out the right thing to do, do the opposite … that pretty much defines the Obama Middle East strategy. The White House fell for the most obvious trap — that negotiating peace between Israel and Palestine is the ‘easy button’ and that a settlement will make that whole part of the world blossom into a land of milk and honey. The White House should have started at the other end — standing tall as a firm friend of Israel and focusing like a laser on the key problem Iran. Trumping Iran and backing Israel marginalizes Hamas and makes peace possible, not the other way round.”

The Obami remain impervious, however, to the near-unanimous criticism of their approach. It is among the Obama team’s most curious undertakings. As faulty as many of Obama’s foreign policy gambits may be, there are few (perhaps human rights is another) that have been so universally panned as his Middle East maneuvering. There is no pivot and no recognition that he is sowing additional discord and reducing America’s stature. Why do we suppose he is so immune to advice? I suspect it is because this particular policy is near and dear to the president’s heart and nearly entirely the product of his own ego and mistaken diagnosis of the region’s problems. He is tragically and completely lacking in an appreciation for the political realities, and apparently not an aide in his entire administration is willing or able to dissuade him. At most, the mission now is to try to spare him a personal humiliation.

You wonder what Dennis Ross, peace-processor extraordinaire, is telling himself. Things would be worse without him? Hardly seems possible. If you just keep processing, the peace “momentum” will build? It’s hard to fathom. But history’s judgment will be especially severe, both for him and for others who should know better. A heck of a way to end a career in Middle East diplomacy, no?

Politico devotes part of its Arena discussion to Ben Smith’s compelling report on Obama’s Middle East blunders. What is interesting is that, aside from the executive director of the notoriously anti-Israel group the Jerusalem Fund, no one from this ideologically diverse bunch differs with the premise of the article (Obama has made things much worse) or cheers the president’s latest desperation move.

From David Aaron Miller: “[I]n the face of this difficult situation, the administration came out loud, hard and fast — focused largely on a settlements freeze it had no chance of producing or sustaining. Twenty months in, the president — a wartime leader with a Nobel Peace Prize (only the second in American history) finds himself with no freeze, no negotiations, no agreement and no process to get there.”

Bob Zelnick adds: “It takes some effort to mess things up as quickly and completely as the Obama team. But if you let settlements — a final status issue — put in a position to queer the whole deal, if it takes 20 fighter planes to make sure Netanyahu shows up for class, and if you have no coherent plan to build on the diplomatic path plowed by George W. Bush’s Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the chances are you will not get the parties to move much beyond their opening positions and that those at the table will begin to view your opinions as having little more than nuisance value.”

James Carafano reminds us: “Figure out the right thing to do, do the opposite … that pretty much defines the Obama Middle East strategy. The White House fell for the most obvious trap — that negotiating peace between Israel and Palestine is the ‘easy button’ and that a settlement will make that whole part of the world blossom into a land of milk and honey. The White House should have started at the other end — standing tall as a firm friend of Israel and focusing like a laser on the key problem Iran. Trumping Iran and backing Israel marginalizes Hamas and makes peace possible, not the other way round.”

The Obami remain impervious, however, to the near-unanimous criticism of their approach. It is among the Obama team’s most curious undertakings. As faulty as many of Obama’s foreign policy gambits may be, there are few (perhaps human rights is another) that have been so universally panned as his Middle East maneuvering. There is no pivot and no recognition that he is sowing additional discord and reducing America’s stature. Why do we suppose he is so immune to advice? I suspect it is because this particular policy is near and dear to the president’s heart and nearly entirely the product of his own ego and mistaken diagnosis of the region’s problems. He is tragically and completely lacking in an appreciation for the political realities, and apparently not an aide in his entire administration is willing or able to dissuade him. At most, the mission now is to try to spare him a personal humiliation.

You wonder what Dennis Ross, peace-processor extraordinaire, is telling himself. Things would be worse without him? Hardly seems possible. If you just keep processing, the peace “momentum” will build? It’s hard to fathom. But history’s judgment will be especially severe, both for him and for others who should know better. A heck of a way to end a career in Middle East diplomacy, no?

Read Less

BBC Report: UK Muslim Schools Teaching Anti-Semitism

An eye-opening report released by the BBC on Monday found that roughly 5,000 students attending 40 Muslim schools and after-school clubs in the UK have been taught the Saudi national curriculum — which includes subjects like chopping off the hands of thieves and the demonization of Jews and gay people.

From the BBC report:

One of the text books asks children to list the “reprehensible” qualities of Jewish people. A text for younger children asks what happens to someone who dies who is not a believer in Islam — the answer given in the text book is “hellfire.”

Another text describes the punishment for gay sex as death and states a difference of opinion about whether it should be carried out by stoning, burning with fire or throwing the person over a cliff.

Considering the growing problem of youth radicalization in the UK, this report is quite disturbing — but it’s certainly no surprise. Three years ago, the BBC revealed that textbooks at the Saudi-funded King Fahad Academy in East London referred to Jewish people as “repugnant” and Christians as “pigs.” The school was initially investigated by British officials, but once the textbooks were removed, no further action was taken.

This new BBC report pretty much confirms that the government has done nothing since that incident to deal with these problems. A 2007 analysis by the Telegraph showed that more than half of the 114 private Muslim schools had not been officially inspected for more than half a decade, and I think it’s fair to assume that this hands-off policy by the government has continued until now.

Even in light of the BBC report, education officials seem pretty blasé about what’s going on in Saudi-backed classrooms. When contacted by the BBC about the problematic curricula, Michael Gove, the education secretary, offered this gem of an understatement:

“To my mind it doesn’t seem to me that this is the sort of material that should be used in English schools,” said Grove.

He said that part-time schools were not required to undergo inspections, but officials were looking into the possibility.

“Ofsted are doing some work in this area, they’ll be reporting to me shortly about how we can ensure that part-time provision is better registered and better inspected in the future.”

Great — but let’s that hope education officials actually start taking this problem seriously.

An eye-opening report released by the BBC on Monday found that roughly 5,000 students attending 40 Muslim schools and after-school clubs in the UK have been taught the Saudi national curriculum — which includes subjects like chopping off the hands of thieves and the demonization of Jews and gay people.

From the BBC report:

One of the text books asks children to list the “reprehensible” qualities of Jewish people. A text for younger children asks what happens to someone who dies who is not a believer in Islam — the answer given in the text book is “hellfire.”

Another text describes the punishment for gay sex as death and states a difference of opinion about whether it should be carried out by stoning, burning with fire or throwing the person over a cliff.

Considering the growing problem of youth radicalization in the UK, this report is quite disturbing — but it’s certainly no surprise. Three years ago, the BBC revealed that textbooks at the Saudi-funded King Fahad Academy in East London referred to Jewish people as “repugnant” and Christians as “pigs.” The school was initially investigated by British officials, but once the textbooks were removed, no further action was taken.

This new BBC report pretty much confirms that the government has done nothing since that incident to deal with these problems. A 2007 analysis by the Telegraph showed that more than half of the 114 private Muslim schools had not been officially inspected for more than half a decade, and I think it’s fair to assume that this hands-off policy by the government has continued until now.

Even in light of the BBC report, education officials seem pretty blasé about what’s going on in Saudi-backed classrooms. When contacted by the BBC about the problematic curricula, Michael Gove, the education secretary, offered this gem of an understatement:

“To my mind it doesn’t seem to me that this is the sort of material that should be used in English schools,” said Grove.

He said that part-time schools were not required to undergo inspections, but officials were looking into the possibility.

“Ofsted are doing some work in this area, they’ll be reporting to me shortly about how we can ensure that part-time provision is better registered and better inspected in the future.”

Great — but let’s that hope education officials actually start taking this problem seriously.

Read Less

Another Thumbs Down on Obama’s Middle East Gambit

We’ve yet to find a Middle East expert — right, left, or centrist — who thinks that the Obami’s bribe-a-thon is a swell idea. The latest to weigh in is Leslie Gelb, who objects on the grounds that the deal is too generous and gives up American leverage (such as it is) over Israel. My complaints are different, but I don’t disagree with his ultimate conclusion:

Based on my reading of this torturous history, I would not try to start negotiating between Israel and Palestine by leaning on or bribing Israel for the umpteenth time. It hasn’t worked. It won’t work. What might succeed is a dramatic step not by the Israelis, but by the Palestinians. Their leaders should be emulating Anwar Sadat, the great Egyptian president who went to Jerusalem in 1977. His nation had been defeated in the 1973 war, and Israel occupied the entire Sinai Peninsula, a historic Egyptian territory. There was no prospect that Israel would return this land after Egypt had attacked Israel in 1973. But President Sadat took his pride and his great dream for peace with Israel and stood before the Israeli Knesset. In effect, he put his life, not to mention his popularity at home, on the line and conferred recognition and legitimacy upon the state of Israel. In return, Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt, every square inch. …

Today, President Abbas of the Palestinians and his Prime Minister Fayyad also can journey to the Knesset. And there, they can pledge acceptance of “a Jewish state of Israel.” Those very words could not help but unleash a positive Israeli response on the West Bank and even East Jerusalem. That act alone would shrink the haystack of hatred so that the two sides might find the needle of peace.

Well, if you reply that this will never happen, then the question becomes: what are we doing spending precious time and attention on the so-called peace process? If it is inconceivable that the PA leaders would transform themselves into Sadat, then it’s time to stop the charade and focus on improving life in the West Bank and wait for a new generation of leaders and Palestinian citizens to agree that they want the grapes more than they desire to kill the vineyard guard.

We’ve yet to find a Middle East expert — right, left, or centrist — who thinks that the Obami’s bribe-a-thon is a swell idea. The latest to weigh in is Leslie Gelb, who objects on the grounds that the deal is too generous and gives up American leverage (such as it is) over Israel. My complaints are different, but I don’t disagree with his ultimate conclusion:

Based on my reading of this torturous history, I would not try to start negotiating between Israel and Palestine by leaning on or bribing Israel for the umpteenth time. It hasn’t worked. It won’t work. What might succeed is a dramatic step not by the Israelis, but by the Palestinians. Their leaders should be emulating Anwar Sadat, the great Egyptian president who went to Jerusalem in 1977. His nation had been defeated in the 1973 war, and Israel occupied the entire Sinai Peninsula, a historic Egyptian territory. There was no prospect that Israel would return this land after Egypt had attacked Israel in 1973. But President Sadat took his pride and his great dream for peace with Israel and stood before the Israeli Knesset. In effect, he put his life, not to mention his popularity at home, on the line and conferred recognition and legitimacy upon the state of Israel. In return, Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt, every square inch. …

Today, President Abbas of the Palestinians and his Prime Minister Fayyad also can journey to the Knesset. And there, they can pledge acceptance of “a Jewish state of Israel.” Those very words could not help but unleash a positive Israeli response on the West Bank and even East Jerusalem. That act alone would shrink the haystack of hatred so that the two sides might find the needle of peace.

Well, if you reply that this will never happen, then the question becomes: what are we doing spending precious time and attention on the so-called peace process? If it is inconceivable that the PA leaders would transform themselves into Sadat, then it’s time to stop the charade and focus on improving life in the West Bank and wait for a new generation of leaders and Palestinian citizens to agree that they want the grapes more than they desire to kill the vineyard guard.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.