Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 10, 2011

Toppled Palestinian ‘Landmark’ Symbolized Hate

It says something about the way much of the world views the rights of Jews to live in Jerusalem that the erection of new homes in parts of that city is considered such a terrible provocation. Thus, the new housing project in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of the city is generally reported as an outrageous provocation, even though the only reason this area is usually described as “predominantly Arab” or, more outrageously, “traditionally Arab” is because from 1949 to 1967, when this location was illegally occupied by Jordan, Jews were prohibited from living there.

As to whether it is wise for Israel to allow Jews to live in all parts of their capital, that is something that Israelis can debate, though redividing Jerusalem and returning those parts handed over to the Palestinian Arabs to a Jew-free condition seems like a curious way to advance the cause of peace and mutual coexistence. But let’s leave aside the question of Jewish rights or even the strategic wisdom of putting more Jews in these neighborhoods. Let us instead examine the Palestinian claim and what it represents.

When the New York Times reported the fact that ground was being broken for the new housing in Sheikh Jarrah in a story published on Sunday, what it did was to focus on the destruction of what it claimed was a Palestinian “landmark.” What landmark, you ask? Was it a medieval structure that in some way represents the longstanding Arab presence in the city or its culture? No. The building that was toppled to make way for some new apartment houses was just a large home that was built in the 1930s as a villa for one of the most notorious figures in 20th-century history: Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem. Husseini may never have spent much time in what eventually was renamed the Shepherd Hotel, but he did make his mark on the region by inspiring bloody pogroms against the Jews then living in the country. After the outbreak of World War II, he joined forces with the Nazis, meeting with Hitler and then spending the war making Arabic propaganda broadcasts for the Axis and successfully recruiting Muslims (mostly Bosnians) to serve in a special SS brigade. He was promised that, in the event of a German victory, he would be made the puppet ruler of what is now Israel, where he would assist the Nazis in the massacre of the several hundred thousand Jews who lived there.

That a home that was in any way connected to Husseini or any other Nazi would be considered a landmark whose demolition inspired statements of sadness from contemporary Palestinian leaders like Saeb Erekat speaks volumes about the nature of Palestinian politics. That the intended home of the man who dreamed of wiping out every last Jew in Jerusalem is coming down to make room for Jewish homes is certainly ironic. One needn’t necessarily agree with the politics of Daniel Luria, a representative of Ateret Cohanim, the group that promotes Jewish building throughout Jerusalem, to appreciate what he termed the “beautiful poetic justice” of this event.

It says something about the way much of the world views the rights of Jews to live in Jerusalem that the erection of new homes in parts of that city is considered such a terrible provocation. Thus, the new housing project in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of the city is generally reported as an outrageous provocation, even though the only reason this area is usually described as “predominantly Arab” or, more outrageously, “traditionally Arab” is because from 1949 to 1967, when this location was illegally occupied by Jordan, Jews were prohibited from living there.

As to whether it is wise for Israel to allow Jews to live in all parts of their capital, that is something that Israelis can debate, though redividing Jerusalem and returning those parts handed over to the Palestinian Arabs to a Jew-free condition seems like a curious way to advance the cause of peace and mutual coexistence. But let’s leave aside the question of Jewish rights or even the strategic wisdom of putting more Jews in these neighborhoods. Let us instead examine the Palestinian claim and what it represents.

When the New York Times reported the fact that ground was being broken for the new housing in Sheikh Jarrah in a story published on Sunday, what it did was to focus on the destruction of what it claimed was a Palestinian “landmark.” What landmark, you ask? Was it a medieval structure that in some way represents the longstanding Arab presence in the city or its culture? No. The building that was toppled to make way for some new apartment houses was just a large home that was built in the 1930s as a villa for one of the most notorious figures in 20th-century history: Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem. Husseini may never have spent much time in what eventually was renamed the Shepherd Hotel, but he did make his mark on the region by inspiring bloody pogroms against the Jews then living in the country. After the outbreak of World War II, he joined forces with the Nazis, meeting with Hitler and then spending the war making Arabic propaganda broadcasts for the Axis and successfully recruiting Muslims (mostly Bosnians) to serve in a special SS brigade. He was promised that, in the event of a German victory, he would be made the puppet ruler of what is now Israel, where he would assist the Nazis in the massacre of the several hundred thousand Jews who lived there.

That a home that was in any way connected to Husseini or any other Nazi would be considered a landmark whose demolition inspired statements of sadness from contemporary Palestinian leaders like Saeb Erekat speaks volumes about the nature of Palestinian politics. That the intended home of the man who dreamed of wiping out every last Jew in Jerusalem is coming down to make room for Jewish homes is certainly ironic. One needn’t necessarily agree with the politics of Daniel Luria, a representative of Ateret Cohanim, the group that promotes Jewish building throughout Jerusalem, to appreciate what he termed the “beautiful poetic justice” of this event.

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Why the Arizona Massacre Is Fodder for Liberal Attacks

Even before most of the country had even learned the facts of the Arizona massacre on Saturday, the headline on the homepage of the New York Times website proclaimed that “In Attack’s Wake, Political Repercussions,” even though the publication of this story preceded most of the accusations of conservative responsibility for the attack that were soon heard on the left. In other words, the Times and other media outlets that immediately adopted this frame of reference for viewing the massacre were shaping the discussion about the event more than they were actually reporting it.

In the days since then, the evidence for any political motivation that could be attached to Loughner has been shown to be completely lacking. His bizarre behavior and beliefs are the stuff that speaks of mental illness, not overheated politics. But that did not stop the avalanche of libelous accusations of ultimate conservative responsibility.

To seize upon just one of the most egregious examples, the Times’s Paul Krugman claimed today that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “Climate of Hate” created by conservatives. Yes, this is the same columnist who wrote in 2009 that progressives should “hang Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of his opposition (albeit temporary) to ObamaCare. But just as those who accuse conservatives of spewing hate that leads to violence ignore the daily provocations of TV talkers like Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, just as they ignored the unprecedented hate directed at President Bush, the Times Nobel Laureate thinks his own direct call for violence against Lieberman also doesn’t count.

Even worse, the facts about Loughner have not deterred the news departments of these media giants — as opposed to the opinion-slingers like Krugman — from reporting the story as one in which the right is guilty until proven innocent. For example, this afternoon the Times published a story that centered on the charge that conservative talk-show hosts were put in the dock as accessories to the crime while they “reject blame.” The same day, Politico led off with a story that claimed that the “Tucson shooting marks turning point for Sarah Palin,” which took it as a given that the former Republican vice-presidential candidate’s future political career would forever be tainted by the Arizona shooting in spite of the fact that she had nothing to do with it. Read More

Even before most of the country had even learned the facts of the Arizona massacre on Saturday, the headline on the homepage of the New York Times website proclaimed that “In Attack’s Wake, Political Repercussions,” even though the publication of this story preceded most of the accusations of conservative responsibility for the attack that were soon heard on the left. In other words, the Times and other media outlets that immediately adopted this frame of reference for viewing the massacre were shaping the discussion about the event more than they were actually reporting it.

In the days since then, the evidence for any political motivation that could be attached to Loughner has been shown to be completely lacking. His bizarre behavior and beliefs are the stuff that speaks of mental illness, not overheated politics. But that did not stop the avalanche of libelous accusations of ultimate conservative responsibility.

To seize upon just one of the most egregious examples, the Times’s Paul Krugman claimed today that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “Climate of Hate” created by conservatives. Yes, this is the same columnist who wrote in 2009 that progressives should “hang Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of his opposition (albeit temporary) to ObamaCare. But just as those who accuse conservatives of spewing hate that leads to violence ignore the daily provocations of TV talkers like Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, just as they ignored the unprecedented hate directed at President Bush, the Times Nobel Laureate thinks his own direct call for violence against Lieberman also doesn’t count.

Even worse, the facts about Loughner have not deterred the news departments of these media giants — as opposed to the opinion-slingers like Krugman — from reporting the story as one in which the right is guilty until proven innocent. For example, this afternoon the Times published a story that centered on the charge that conservative talk-show hosts were put in the dock as accessories to the crime while they “reject blame.” The same day, Politico led off with a story that claimed that the “Tucson shooting marks turning point for Sarah Palin,” which took it as a given that the former Republican vice-presidential candidate’s future political career would forever be tainted by the Arizona shooting in spite of the fact that she had nothing to do with it.

In the face of such deliberate distortions, we are forced to ask ourselves what lies behind these editorial decisions. The answer is fairly simple. The reason the editors of the Times and Politico have chosen to slant the reporting of the massacre in this fashion is that it reflects their own politically biased views about conservatives. They didn’t wait for some proof of Loughner’s political motivations to allege that, in some inchoate way, right-wing views influenced his criminally insane behavior and that conservatives would have to pay a political price simply because that was their immediate assumption. That is, after all, how liberal media elites think of conservatives. Indeed, if you read only the New York Times, the results of the November election would have come as a shock because the Gray Lady and other liberal-establishment forums consistently represented those protesters as a marginal outcropping of crazed extremists, not a genuinely grass-roots popular movement that expressed the anger of a large percentage of Americans about the excesses of both the Obama administration and the liberal Congress that stuffed an unpopular health-care bill down the throat of the country.

For the past two years, many newspapers and broadcast outlets attempted to falsely portray the Tea Party as a hate group that has uniquely debased the tenor of political debate in the country. So it should not surprise us that the same people are today trying to forge a fictitious link between Loughner and Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and the Tea Party.

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Silence Is Preferable to Speculation as to Loughner’s Motives

Megyn Kelly of Fox News skillfully interviews Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik about the motivation of the suspect, Jared Loughner, in the assassination attempt of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the murder of six others.

Mr. Dupnik, a Democrat, puts the massacre in the context of “vitriol” in public discourse. He takes barely concealed shots at conservatives and the GOP. Yet when asked if there’s any evidence that Loughner was influenced or inspired by such “vitriol” coming from television or talk radio, Dupnik is forced to concede he has none. It turns out it’s simply idle speculation on his part. And, I would add, it is wholly inappropriate speculation. A sheriff involved in an investigation should not act as if he’s trying out for a job as a host on MSNBC.

All in all it’s a rather troubling, and slightly buffoonish, performance by the Pima County Sheriff.

Megyn Kelly of Fox News skillfully interviews Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik about the motivation of the suspect, Jared Loughner, in the assassination attempt of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the murder of six others.

Mr. Dupnik, a Democrat, puts the massacre in the context of “vitriol” in public discourse. He takes barely concealed shots at conservatives and the GOP. Yet when asked if there’s any evidence that Loughner was influenced or inspired by such “vitriol” coming from television or talk radio, Dupnik is forced to concede he has none. It turns out it’s simply idle speculation on his part. And, I would add, it is wholly inappropriate speculation. A sheriff involved in an investigation should not act as if he’s trying out for a job as a host on MSNBC.

All in all it’s a rather troubling, and slightly buffoonish, performance by the Pima County Sheriff.

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New Facts Emerge in Abu Rahma Case

The IDF has released more details of its investigation of the bizarre death of Jawaher Abu Rahma, a Palestinian woman killed near an anti-Israel rally near Bil’in. Palestinian activists have blamed her death on tear gas fired at the protest by IDF soldiers, but that claim has seemed increasingly dubious as more information has come to light.

The investigation initially found that additional medical issues were likely involved, and now the IDF has reportedly concluded that the woman died from medical treatment she received at a Ramallah hospital immediately after the rally:

Jawaher Abu Rahma, the woman who Palestinians claimed was killed a week and a half ago by IDF-fired tear gas during a demonstration near Bil’in, died as a result of the medical treatment she received at a Ramallah hospital, the commander of the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division said on Friday.

Brig.-Gen. Nitzan Alon said that the IDF’s conclusion was based on new medical documents it received from the hospital which indicated that the woman received doses of different types of medication completely unrelated to tear gas inhalation.

According to previous information released by the IDF, Abu Rahma was given drugs that are typically used to treat cancer, poison, or a drug overdose. This led some to wonder whether the woman was suffering from cancer long before she was allegedly exposed to tear gas. But based on the new evidence, it doesn’t appear that cancer was what killed her.

Of course, there have been so many contradictory reports on this issue that it’s probably unwise to speculate on the true cause of her death, at least until the IDF releases its final conclusion. But it’s been obvious for a while that tear gas probably wasn’t the culprit — especially considering that Abu Rahma was reportedly about 500 meters away from the rally, and inside a house, when the non-toxic gas was fired.

But despite the growing evidence, anti-Israel activists are continuing to use the incident as a political pawn. Last Friday, activists dedicated an anti-Israel march to Abu Rahma, and others are distributing petitions in her name to ban the supposedly deadly tear gas.

The IDF has released more details of its investigation of the bizarre death of Jawaher Abu Rahma, a Palestinian woman killed near an anti-Israel rally near Bil’in. Palestinian activists have blamed her death on tear gas fired at the protest by IDF soldiers, but that claim has seemed increasingly dubious as more information has come to light.

The investigation initially found that additional medical issues were likely involved, and now the IDF has reportedly concluded that the woman died from medical treatment she received at a Ramallah hospital immediately after the rally:

Jawaher Abu Rahma, the woman who Palestinians claimed was killed a week and a half ago by IDF-fired tear gas during a demonstration near Bil’in, died as a result of the medical treatment she received at a Ramallah hospital, the commander of the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division said on Friday.

Brig.-Gen. Nitzan Alon said that the IDF’s conclusion was based on new medical documents it received from the hospital which indicated that the woman received doses of different types of medication completely unrelated to tear gas inhalation.

According to previous information released by the IDF, Abu Rahma was given drugs that are typically used to treat cancer, poison, or a drug overdose. This led some to wonder whether the woman was suffering from cancer long before she was allegedly exposed to tear gas. But based on the new evidence, it doesn’t appear that cancer was what killed her.

Of course, there have been so many contradictory reports on this issue that it’s probably unwise to speculate on the true cause of her death, at least until the IDF releases its final conclusion. But it’s been obvious for a while that tear gas probably wasn’t the culprit — especially considering that Abu Rahma was reportedly about 500 meters away from the rally, and inside a house, when the non-toxic gas was fired.

But despite the growing evidence, anti-Israel activists are continuing to use the incident as a political pawn. Last Friday, activists dedicated an anti-Israel march to Abu Rahma, and others are distributing petitions in her name to ban the supposedly deadly tear gas.

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Memo to Liberals: Beware the Internet

Someone should tell liberals that the old days are over. Not so long ago, if you wanted to prove that a member of the chattering classes had flatly contradicted himself in order to advance a political agenda, you had to go to the library, get a roll of microfilm, insert it into a machine, and then search for the earlier statement. If your memory was faulty as to where or when the earlier statement had appeared, this process could take hours, even days. Often it wasn’t worth the bother.

Today you need only click the icons for Google and/or YouTube, push a few keys, and bam! — you have proof positive of the chatterers’ shameless hypocrisy. A few more clicks and their intellectual perfidy is all over the Internet.

The recent spate of liberals decrying the hostile rhetoric of the right following the tragedy in Tucson is a case in point. One would think that the incivility had started on January 20, 2009, and that political conversation of the previous eight years had been a modern-day Socratic dialogue. As Michelle Malkin demonstrates – in spades! — that is not exactly the case.

I don’t know how long it took Michelle to come up with her list, but I bet it was less time than she would have needed to take the bus to the library.

Someone should tell liberals that the old days are over. Not so long ago, if you wanted to prove that a member of the chattering classes had flatly contradicted himself in order to advance a political agenda, you had to go to the library, get a roll of microfilm, insert it into a machine, and then search for the earlier statement. If your memory was faulty as to where or when the earlier statement had appeared, this process could take hours, even days. Often it wasn’t worth the bother.

Today you need only click the icons for Google and/or YouTube, push a few keys, and bam! — you have proof positive of the chatterers’ shameless hypocrisy. A few more clicks and their intellectual perfidy is all over the Internet.

The recent spate of liberals decrying the hostile rhetoric of the right following the tragedy in Tucson is a case in point. One would think that the incivility had started on January 20, 2009, and that political conversation of the previous eight years had been a modern-day Socratic dialogue. As Michelle Malkin demonstrates – in spades! — that is not exactly the case.

I don’t know how long it took Michelle to come up with her list, but I bet it was less time than she would have needed to take the bus to the library.

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The Cynicism and Intellectual Corruption of the Left

You would have to be living on another planet not to be aware of the effort by some on the left and in the media to blame conservatives for creating a “climate of hate” that encouraged a suspect, Jared Loughner, of attempting the political assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, which resulted in the death of six people and the wounding of 13 others.

This crusade is being led by the New York Times, whose front-page story on Sunday said this:

While the exact motivations of the suspect in the shootings remained unclear, an Internet site tied to the man, Jared Lee Loughner, contained antigovernment ramblings. And regardless of what led to the episode, it quickly focused attention on the degree to which inflammatory language, threats and implicit instigations to violence have become a steady undercurrent in the nation’s political culture.

Note these seven words: “regardless of what led to the episode.”

These words matter, because there is no evidence that we know of that “inflammatory language” that has “become a steady undercurrent in the nation’s political culture” drove Loughner to pull the trigger. What is becoming increasingly clear is that the man accused of the massacre, Mr. Loughner, has a twisted, disturbed, and violent mind. That is almost certainly why he committed his malevolent act. Listening to WABC in the afternoon had nothing to do with it.

Yet this doesn’t appear to matter much at all to those on the left. They are determined to draw some deeper meaning — and some political advantage — from this tragedy. They want to libel conservatism. As Jonathan noted on Sunday, George Packer of the New Yorker, in a post revealingly titled “It Doesn’t Matter Why He Did It,” described Loughner as “a delusional young man whose inner political landscape is a swamp of dystopian novels, left- and right-wing tracts, conspiracy theories, and contempt for his fellow human beings.” But Packer goes on to write this:

the tragedy wouldn’t change this basic fact: for the past two years, many conservative leaders, activists, and media figures have made a habit of trying to delegitimize their political opponents. Not just arguing against their opponents, but doing everything possible to turn them into enemies of the country and cast them out beyond the pale. Instead of “soft on defense,” one routinely hears the words “treason” and “traitor.” The President isn’t a big-government liberal—he’s a socialist who wants to impose tyranny. He’s also, according to a minority of Republicans, including elected officials, an impostor.

This borders on being a non sequitur because, even if you allow for Packer’s tendentious and one-sided version of events (he willfully ignores liberals who routinely demonize those on the right), what conservatives said in the past two years doesn’t appear to have any bearing on what Loughner is accused of doing. Yet Packer admits this is, for him, beside the point. “The massacre in Tucson is, in a sense, irrelevant to the important point,” according to Packer. “Whatever drove Jared Lee Loughner, America’s political frequencies are full of violent static.” Read More

You would have to be living on another planet not to be aware of the effort by some on the left and in the media to blame conservatives for creating a “climate of hate” that encouraged a suspect, Jared Loughner, of attempting the political assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, which resulted in the death of six people and the wounding of 13 others.

This crusade is being led by the New York Times, whose front-page story on Sunday said this:

While the exact motivations of the suspect in the shootings remained unclear, an Internet site tied to the man, Jared Lee Loughner, contained antigovernment ramblings. And regardless of what led to the episode, it quickly focused attention on the degree to which inflammatory language, threats and implicit instigations to violence have become a steady undercurrent in the nation’s political culture.

Note these seven words: “regardless of what led to the episode.”

These words matter, because there is no evidence that we know of that “inflammatory language” that has “become a steady undercurrent in the nation’s political culture” drove Loughner to pull the trigger. What is becoming increasingly clear is that the man accused of the massacre, Mr. Loughner, has a twisted, disturbed, and violent mind. That is almost certainly why he committed his malevolent act. Listening to WABC in the afternoon had nothing to do with it.

Yet this doesn’t appear to matter much at all to those on the left. They are determined to draw some deeper meaning — and some political advantage — from this tragedy. They want to libel conservatism. As Jonathan noted on Sunday, George Packer of the New Yorker, in a post revealingly titled “It Doesn’t Matter Why He Did It,” described Loughner as “a delusional young man whose inner political landscape is a swamp of dystopian novels, left- and right-wing tracts, conspiracy theories, and contempt for his fellow human beings.” But Packer goes on to write this:

the tragedy wouldn’t change this basic fact: for the past two years, many conservative leaders, activists, and media figures have made a habit of trying to delegitimize their political opponents. Not just arguing against their opponents, but doing everything possible to turn them into enemies of the country and cast them out beyond the pale. Instead of “soft on defense,” one routinely hears the words “treason” and “traitor.” The President isn’t a big-government liberal—he’s a socialist who wants to impose tyranny. He’s also, according to a minority of Republicans, including elected officials, an impostor.

This borders on being a non sequitur because, even if you allow for Packer’s tendentious and one-sided version of events (he willfully ignores liberals who routinely demonize those on the right), what conservatives said in the past two years doesn’t appear to have any bearing on what Loughner is accused of doing. Yet Packer admits this is, for him, beside the point. “The massacre in Tucson is, in a sense, irrelevant to the important point,” according to Packer. “Whatever drove Jared Lee Loughner, America’s political frequencies are full of violent static.”

Think about the formulation for a moment: “The massacre in Tucson is, in a sense, irrelevant to the important point.” The important point isn’t the dead or the wounded; it’s Fox News, Sarah Palin, and conservative talk radio. Blaming conservatives, you see, is the storyline Packer, the New York Times, and scores of other liberal commentators have settled on. They have decided on their narrative; inconvenient facts — also known as reality — cannot get in the way of their crusade.

This is all very postmodern, a simplistic version of deconstructionism. What is on display is a cast of mind in which facts and reality are secondary to storylines and narratives. The aim is not truth; it is to advance The Cause. It is also about cynical exploitation. As one veteran Democratic operative told Politico, the Obama White House needs to “deftly pin this on the tea partiers” just as “the Clinton White House deftly pinned the Oklahoma City bombing on the militia and anti-government people” in 1995.

It is all quite sick, really. Not a few liberals are attempting to use a human tragedy to advance an ideological agenda. They are using dead and broken bodies as political pawns. The blood was still flowing from the gunshot wounds of slain and wounded people in Tucson as liberals began an extraordinary and instantaneous smear campaign. It will end up making our political discourse even more angry and toxic.

I was naïve enough to be surprised at what has unfolded in the last 48 hours. The cynicism and intellectual corruption on the left is deeper than I imagined.

Lesson learned.

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Israel to Consider Law Allowing Deportation of Foreign Activists

Get ready for more hyperventilating over Israel’s alleged slide toward totalitarianism. Likud members are expected to introduce a bill before the Knesset that will allow the Israeli government to deport foreign activists or groups that are actively working against Israeli interests:

The bill would authorize the interior minister “to forbid entrance to Israel or to expel from Israel people defined as enemy agents who harm Israel’s security or image,” the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel said.

It details specific types of activities defined as harming Israel’s security, including denying the existence of the Holocaust, boycotting Israel or Israeli products, and working to hold international court proceedings against Israeli citizens because of activities carried out while serving in Israel’s security organizations.

This bill comes on the heels of another piece of controversial legislation recently passed by the Knesset that will allow lawmakers to investigate whether NGOs involved in the delegitimization campaign are funded by foreign governments. It’s unclear how much support this new proposal will garner, but the NGO bill passed with overwhelming support.

It sounds like this new legislation would go hand-in-hand with the NGO investigations. If the Knesset finds that some anti-Israel organizations are supported by foreign governments, the new bill could give Israel the power to bar these groups from operating within the country, or even to deport their members.

Israel has been struggling to combat the growing problem of “lawfare” and pro-divestment groups in the past few years, and these attempts to solve the crisis are understandable. But considering the amount of hysteria the recent NGO bill generated, it doesn’t seem like the most opportune time for this proposal. Not to mention, this new piece of legislation goes far beyond the concept of a Foreign Agents Registration Act, which was how Danny Ayalon defended the necessity of the NGO bill.

The idea of deporting foreign agents actively involved in seeking the destruction of Israel isn’t particularly offensive in itself — but the big question is how would these agents be defined? And where is the line between the legitimate defense of national security and a crackdown on speech rights and genuine democratic debate? Unless the Knesset comes up with clear answers to those questions, it’s hard to see this proposal as a step in the right direction.

Get ready for more hyperventilating over Israel’s alleged slide toward totalitarianism. Likud members are expected to introduce a bill before the Knesset that will allow the Israeli government to deport foreign activists or groups that are actively working against Israeli interests:

The bill would authorize the interior minister “to forbid entrance to Israel or to expel from Israel people defined as enemy agents who harm Israel’s security or image,” the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel said.

It details specific types of activities defined as harming Israel’s security, including denying the existence of the Holocaust, boycotting Israel or Israeli products, and working to hold international court proceedings against Israeli citizens because of activities carried out while serving in Israel’s security organizations.

This bill comes on the heels of another piece of controversial legislation recently passed by the Knesset that will allow lawmakers to investigate whether NGOs involved in the delegitimization campaign are funded by foreign governments. It’s unclear how much support this new proposal will garner, but the NGO bill passed with overwhelming support.

It sounds like this new legislation would go hand-in-hand with the NGO investigations. If the Knesset finds that some anti-Israel organizations are supported by foreign governments, the new bill could give Israel the power to bar these groups from operating within the country, or even to deport their members.

Israel has been struggling to combat the growing problem of “lawfare” and pro-divestment groups in the past few years, and these attempts to solve the crisis are understandable. But considering the amount of hysteria the recent NGO bill generated, it doesn’t seem like the most opportune time for this proposal. Not to mention, this new piece of legislation goes far beyond the concept of a Foreign Agents Registration Act, which was how Danny Ayalon defended the necessity of the NGO bill.

The idea of deporting foreign agents actively involved in seeking the destruction of Israel isn’t particularly offensive in itself — but the big question is how would these agents be defined? And where is the line between the legitimate defense of national security and a crackdown on speech rights and genuine democratic debate? Unless the Knesset comes up with clear answers to those questions, it’s hard to see this proposal as a step in the right direction.

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John Gross, 1935-2011

John Gross, one of the most delightful, literate, and civilized men in the English-speaking world, died earlier today in London at the age of 75. A literary journalist and critic of the highest order, John wrote for every publication that mattered, edited the Times Literary Supplement for seven years, and was a book critic at the New York Times for six years in the 1980s.

His writings also appeared in COMMENTARY for decades; last year he wrote a wonderful piece on those who would deny Shakespeare’s authorship — a subject of considerable interest to a man who, in 1993, literally wrote the book on Shylock and the effect of Shakespeare’s anti-Semitic character over the course of the 400 years since The Merchant of Venice was first performed. That piece, “Denying Shakespeare,” can be read in its entirety here. And here you can find his wondrous memoir of growing up as a Jew in Britain.

May his children, Tom and Susanna, be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

John Gross, one of the most delightful, literate, and civilized men in the English-speaking world, died earlier today in London at the age of 75. A literary journalist and critic of the highest order, John wrote for every publication that mattered, edited the Times Literary Supplement for seven years, and was a book critic at the New York Times for six years in the 1980s.

His writings also appeared in COMMENTARY for decades; last year he wrote a wonderful piece on those who would deny Shakespeare’s authorship — a subject of considerable interest to a man who, in 1993, literally wrote the book on Shylock and the effect of Shakespeare’s anti-Semitic character over the course of the 400 years since The Merchant of Venice was first performed. That piece, “Denying Shakespeare,” can be read in its entirety here. And here you can find his wondrous memoir of growing up as a Jew in Britain.

May his children, Tom and Susanna, be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

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Is CPAC Going to Be Hurt by the Recent Calls for Boycott?

A growing number of conservative organizations have been pulling out of the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference, reportedly in protest of conservative gay-rights group GOProud’s involvement in the annual event.

The Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America announced they would be boycotting the conference in December, and now two major conservative groups — the Heritage Foundation and the Media Research Center — have joined the boycott as well:

Two of the heavyweight groups of the broader right, the Heritage Foundation and the Media Research Center, have dropped out of CPAC and are expected, planners said, to add to the Value Voter Summit’s heft.

And with CPAC scheduled for Feb. 10, the presidential hopefuls scheduled to speak there – including Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitt Romney – will take the stage against the backdrop of a puzzlingly heated intramural conflict.

But while there’s no denying that these groups are heavily influential in the movement, how much impact will the boycott have on the actual conference?

At least at the moment, movement activists don’t seem to be too concerned that it will do much damage. “I don’t think it will have an impact at all,” a long-time D.C.-based conservative activist who is not affiliated with CPAC told me. “This thing is marketed so well, I don’t think they’re going to hurt for money. They may lose a little corporate underwriting, but they’ll make it up from other revenue sources, like single-admission fees, table sales at dinners, that sort of thing.”

According to Dave Weigel, who has been at the forefront of covering this story, it sounds like the boycott might actually benefit both the boycotters and GOProud. “This is one of those fights that produces wins for both sides — GOProud and the social conservatives — without any lasting consequences for either of them,” he wrote at Slate.

This certainly seems to be the case — by pulling out of the event, social conservatives can appear to take a principled stance on the gay-rights issue. Meanwhile, the attacks on GOProud will help the group gain sympathy from other conservatives, as well as a ton of positive media coverage.

But this might also be a sign of growing problems for CPAC. Multiple reports have noted problems with the conference that go far beyond the GOProud controversy. David Keene — the director of the American Conservative Union, which organizes the event — has been known for micromanaging it in a way that has apparently turned off some conservative groups. Keene has also been at the center of several recent financial scandals.

As of now, it doesn’t sound like the boycott will cause any long-term damage to the conference. Unless major speakers or large financial backers start to pull out, the event this year should still be a major draw, as it tends to be at the beginning of a presidential election cycle.

A growing number of conservative organizations have been pulling out of the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference, reportedly in protest of conservative gay-rights group GOProud’s involvement in the annual event.

The Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America announced they would be boycotting the conference in December, and now two major conservative groups — the Heritage Foundation and the Media Research Center — have joined the boycott as well:

Two of the heavyweight groups of the broader right, the Heritage Foundation and the Media Research Center, have dropped out of CPAC and are expected, planners said, to add to the Value Voter Summit’s heft.

And with CPAC scheduled for Feb. 10, the presidential hopefuls scheduled to speak there – including Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitt Romney – will take the stage against the backdrop of a puzzlingly heated intramural conflict.

But while there’s no denying that these groups are heavily influential in the movement, how much impact will the boycott have on the actual conference?

At least at the moment, movement activists don’t seem to be too concerned that it will do much damage. “I don’t think it will have an impact at all,” a long-time D.C.-based conservative activist who is not affiliated with CPAC told me. “This thing is marketed so well, I don’t think they’re going to hurt for money. They may lose a little corporate underwriting, but they’ll make it up from other revenue sources, like single-admission fees, table sales at dinners, that sort of thing.”

According to Dave Weigel, who has been at the forefront of covering this story, it sounds like the boycott might actually benefit both the boycotters and GOProud. “This is one of those fights that produces wins for both sides — GOProud and the social conservatives — without any lasting consequences for either of them,” he wrote at Slate.

This certainly seems to be the case — by pulling out of the event, social conservatives can appear to take a principled stance on the gay-rights issue. Meanwhile, the attacks on GOProud will help the group gain sympathy from other conservatives, as well as a ton of positive media coverage.

But this might also be a sign of growing problems for CPAC. Multiple reports have noted problems with the conference that go far beyond the GOProud controversy. David Keene — the director of the American Conservative Union, which organizes the event — has been known for micromanaging it in a way that has apparently turned off some conservative groups. Keene has also been at the center of several recent financial scandals.

As of now, it doesn’t sound like the boycott will cause any long-term damage to the conference. Unless major speakers or large financial backers start to pull out, the event this year should still be a major draw, as it tends to be at the beginning of a presidential election cycle.

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Defense Cuts Invite Someone to Test Our Will — and Power

My editorial in the new Weekly Standard criticizing plans to cut back defense, and especially to cut back ground forces, has sparked a fair amount of Internet chatter. Leaving aside the vast volume of ad hominem attacks (one of which I dealt with in my last post), much of the criticism has focused on two sentences.

Complaining about the 32 percent decline in army strength between 1991 and 2001, I wrote: “That 32 percent decline in active-duty strength severely limited our options for a military response to 9/11, practically dictating that the forces sent to Afghanistan and Iraq would be too small to pacify two countries with a combined population of nearly 60 million.”

Then, suggesting that President Obama cannot be certain that there will not be some contingency in the near future that will require large ground forces, I wrote: “How certain is he that Pakistan, Yemen, or Somalia won’t be the staging ground for another 9/11, thereby requiring another massive commitment of U.S. troops?”

Regarding the first point: critics say that Bush and his civilian and military officials decided to send a small force to Afghanistan and then Iraq not because of force constraints but because they were wedded to the ideology of the “small footprint.” There is a great deal of merit in this assertion, but even if they had been convinced that sending a large force was the way to go, they would have been hard-pressed to do so because of the post–Cold War cuts in army strength. Indeed as the Iraq war went along, it became clear that our force was too small to get the job done, but senior generals such as Casey and Abizaid did not push Rumsfeld to send more troops, in part because they thought there simply were not enough army troops available and they didn’t want to “break” the army. I recognize that they had other reasons for preferring to keep the force too small, but this was certainly a major part of their calculus.

Finally, in late 2006, Bush decided to disregard their (bad) advice and send more troops. He was able to send only five brigades when the architects of the surge had hoped for eight or nine at least. But there were only five available and even that was a stretch. Increasing our troop strength by just 30,000 required placing a huge strain on the force; many units were extended from 12-month deployments to 18 months, a long time to be in combat. Luckily, the five-brigade surge proved sufficient, but what if the situation had been so bad that we really needed eight or nine? In that case, we would have lost the war. That’s a risk we shouldn’t have to run.

Indeed, even as we were winning in Iraq, we were losing in Afghanistan, because we didn’t have enough troops to adequately garrison both countries. In the 1990s, it never occurred to force planners from the Bush and Clinton administrations that we would be making such large ground-force commitments, so they did not create an army big enough to handle such commitments. Today we are hearing the same refrain we heard back then: that there is scant chance we will fight a major ground war in the future, so why bother preparing for one? Unfortunately, history has a tendency to make a mockery of such certainties, in part because our very unreadiness to fight increases the odds that we will have to do so by encouraging potential enemies to test our will.

My editorial in the new Weekly Standard criticizing plans to cut back defense, and especially to cut back ground forces, has sparked a fair amount of Internet chatter. Leaving aside the vast volume of ad hominem attacks (one of which I dealt with in my last post), much of the criticism has focused on two sentences.

Complaining about the 32 percent decline in army strength between 1991 and 2001, I wrote: “That 32 percent decline in active-duty strength severely limited our options for a military response to 9/11, practically dictating that the forces sent to Afghanistan and Iraq would be too small to pacify two countries with a combined population of nearly 60 million.”

Then, suggesting that President Obama cannot be certain that there will not be some contingency in the near future that will require large ground forces, I wrote: “How certain is he that Pakistan, Yemen, or Somalia won’t be the staging ground for another 9/11, thereby requiring another massive commitment of U.S. troops?”

Regarding the first point: critics say that Bush and his civilian and military officials decided to send a small force to Afghanistan and then Iraq not because of force constraints but because they were wedded to the ideology of the “small footprint.” There is a great deal of merit in this assertion, but even if they had been convinced that sending a large force was the way to go, they would have been hard-pressed to do so because of the post–Cold War cuts in army strength. Indeed as the Iraq war went along, it became clear that our force was too small to get the job done, but senior generals such as Casey and Abizaid did not push Rumsfeld to send more troops, in part because they thought there simply were not enough army troops available and they didn’t want to “break” the army. I recognize that they had other reasons for preferring to keep the force too small, but this was certainly a major part of their calculus.

Finally, in late 2006, Bush decided to disregard their (bad) advice and send more troops. He was able to send only five brigades when the architects of the surge had hoped for eight or nine at least. But there were only five available and even that was a stretch. Increasing our troop strength by just 30,000 required placing a huge strain on the force; many units were extended from 12-month deployments to 18 months, a long time to be in combat. Luckily, the five-brigade surge proved sufficient, but what if the situation had been so bad that we really needed eight or nine? In that case, we would have lost the war. That’s a risk we shouldn’t have to run.

Indeed, even as we were winning in Iraq, we were losing in Afghanistan, because we didn’t have enough troops to adequately garrison both countries. In the 1990s, it never occurred to force planners from the Bush and Clinton administrations that we would be making such large ground-force commitments, so they did not create an army big enough to handle such commitments. Today we are hearing the same refrain we heard back then: that there is scant chance we will fight a major ground war in the future, so why bother preparing for one? Unfortunately, history has a tendency to make a mockery of such certainties, in part because our very unreadiness to fight increases the odds that we will have to do so by encouraging potential enemies to test our will.

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Selective Reading Results in Daft Analysis

You can always count on the Center for American Progress — a Democratic Party propaganda shop disguised as a think tank — to come up with a cheap partisan screed on any issue. And with their response to my concerns about cutting the defense budget, they do not disappoint. Their Matt Duss claims that my concern about cutting troop size is evidence of my animus against President Obama and that I was a cheerleader for a smaller force size under President Bush.

This feat he accomplishes through highly selective, indeed misleading, quotation. For instance, he cites a 2003 Foreign Affairs article I wrote in which I hailed the successful invasion of Iraq as a signal military achievement. He utterly ignores the fact that while I did say the U.S. armed forces could do more with less in a conventional conflict, I noted that this was not the case in nation-building and counterinsurgency. Here is what the article said:

It may make sense to transform some heavy armored units into lighter,
more deployable formations. It makes no sense to reduce the size of
the army as whole, an idea that Rumsfeld once toyed with. The army has
already shrunk from 18 active-duty divisions in 1990 to 10 today — a
force that is not adequate for all its responsibilities, which include
deployments in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sinai, South Korea, and
now Iraq. The army is overstretched and having to lean more heavily on
the reserves and the National Guard for vital functions such as
policing and civil affairs. These part-time soldiers are not happy
about becoming full-timers. The marines should pick up some of the
slack by shouldering occupation duties in Iraq and elsewhere. But the
active-duty army still needs to be increased in size. Airpower, no
matter how awesome, cannot police newly liberated countries — or
build democratic governments. Read More

You can always count on the Center for American Progress — a Democratic Party propaganda shop disguised as a think tank — to come up with a cheap partisan screed on any issue. And with their response to my concerns about cutting the defense budget, they do not disappoint. Their Matt Duss claims that my concern about cutting troop size is evidence of my animus against President Obama and that I was a cheerleader for a smaller force size under President Bush.

This feat he accomplishes through highly selective, indeed misleading, quotation. For instance, he cites a 2003 Foreign Affairs article I wrote in which I hailed the successful invasion of Iraq as a signal military achievement. He utterly ignores the fact that while I did say the U.S. armed forces could do more with less in a conventional conflict, I noted that this was not the case in nation-building and counterinsurgency. Here is what the article said:

It may make sense to transform some heavy armored units into lighter,
more deployable formations. It makes no sense to reduce the size of
the army as whole, an idea that Rumsfeld once toyed with. The army has
already shrunk from 18 active-duty divisions in 1990 to 10 today — a
force that is not adequate for all its responsibilities, which include
deployments in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sinai, South Korea, and
now Iraq. The army is overstretched and having to lean more heavily on
the reserves and the National Guard for vital functions such as
policing and civil affairs. These part-time soldiers are not happy
about becoming full-timers. The marines should pick up some of the
slack by shouldering occupation duties in Iraq and elsewhere. But the
active-duty army still needs to be increased in size. Airpower, no
matter how awesome, cannot police newly liberated countries — or
build democratic governments.

The army needs to tackle the task of “imperial” policing — not a
popular duty, but one that is as vital to safeguarding U.S. interests
in the long run as are the more conventional war-fighting skills on
display during the second Gulf War. The Army War College’s decision to
shut down its Peacekeeping Institute is not a good sign; it means that
the army still wants to avoid focusing on noncombat missions. The army
brass should realize that battlefield victories in places like Afghanistan and Iraq can easily be squandered if they do not do enough
to win the peace.

I picked up on this point in a 2005 Foreign Affairs article that Duss somehow ignores. I wrote:

Even if the Defense Department wanted to dramatically increase the size of the force in Iraq — a step that many experts believe is essential — it
would be hard pressed to find the necessary troops. As it is,
active-duty divisions are being worn down by constant rotations
through Afghanistan and Iraq, and the National Guard and reserves are
now feeling the strain as well. Essential equipment, such as Humvees
and helicopters, is getting worn out by constant use in harsh
conditions. So are the soldiers who operate them. Many officers worry
about a looming recruitment and retention crisis.

This points to the need to increase the overall size of the U.S.
military — especially the Army, which was cut more than 30 percent in
the 1990s. Bush and Rumsfeld have adamantly resisted any permanent
personnel increase because they insist, contrary to all evidence, that
the spike in overseas deployments is only temporary. Rumsfeld instead
plans to reassign soldiers from lower-priority billets to military
policing, intelligence, and civil affairs, while temporarily
increasing the Army’s size by 30,000 and moving civilians into jobs
now performed by uniformed personnel. In this way he hopes to increase
the number of active-duty Army combat brigades from 33 to at least 43.

These are welcome moves, but they are only Band-AIDS for a military
that is bleeding from gaping wounds inflicted by a punishing tempo of
operations. The U.S. armed forces should add at least 100,000 extra
soldiers, and probably a good deal more.

I have quoted extensively from my own writing to show what a crock this attack is. I have been consistently arguing for an increase in the size of our ground combat forces. Failure to increase end-strength more was one of the major mistakes that President Bush made — as I said at the time. I only hope that President Obama does not repeat this mistake.

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RE: Hillary Clinton and the Art of Getting It Exactly Wrong

The Muslim world may have rampant beheadings, daily assassinations, and violent mobs every time an offensive political cartoon is printed in a Nordic newspaper. But, according to Hilary Clinton, the recent shooting in Arizona proves that the United States has just as much of a problem with radical extremism as Islamic countries:

During her Gulf tour, Clinton paused to reflect on Saturday’s tragedy, which took the lives of six people and injured another 14, including US Republican Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head at point-blank range.

“Look, we have extremists in my country. A wonderful, incredibly brave young woman congress member, Congresswoman Giffords, was just shot in our country,” she said in comments obtained by Fox News Channel.

“We have the same kinds of problems. So rather than standing off from each other, we should work to try to prevent the extremists anywhere from being able to commit violence.”

Sure, we help them solve their epidemic of Islamic radicalism, and they help us solve our problem with a single 22-year-old mentally ill lone gunman. Sounds like a fair trade.

Clinton’s comparison is obviously absurd, as Abe pointed out. For one, Muslim extremists are motivated by a distorted form of political Islam. At the moment, there is little evidence that Jared Loughner was motivated by anything other than his own extreme mental illness. In fact, most of the information released so far has painted a portrait of a deeply disturbed, unbalanced young man who could potentially have been a risk to anyone. Former classmates and professors told reporters that they feared Loughner would one day come to school with a gun.

And while the U.S. has obviously had problems with non-Islamic terrorism in the past, it seems way too soon to begin comparing Loughner to a Timothy McVeigh or a Ted Kaczynski. The terms “extremist” and “terrorist” have very specific meanings and should be used carefully. Unless authorities discover a political motive for the Arizona shooting — something more than a couple of nonsensical and deranged scribblings about the gold standard or conscious dreams — any comparisons between Loughner and terrorism should be avoided.

The Muslim world may have rampant beheadings, daily assassinations, and violent mobs every time an offensive political cartoon is printed in a Nordic newspaper. But, according to Hilary Clinton, the recent shooting in Arizona proves that the United States has just as much of a problem with radical extremism as Islamic countries:

During her Gulf tour, Clinton paused to reflect on Saturday’s tragedy, which took the lives of six people and injured another 14, including US Republican Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head at point-blank range.

“Look, we have extremists in my country. A wonderful, incredibly brave young woman congress member, Congresswoman Giffords, was just shot in our country,” she said in comments obtained by Fox News Channel.

“We have the same kinds of problems. So rather than standing off from each other, we should work to try to prevent the extremists anywhere from being able to commit violence.”

Sure, we help them solve their epidemic of Islamic radicalism, and they help us solve our problem with a single 22-year-old mentally ill lone gunman. Sounds like a fair trade.

Clinton’s comparison is obviously absurd, as Abe pointed out. For one, Muslim extremists are motivated by a distorted form of political Islam. At the moment, there is little evidence that Jared Loughner was motivated by anything other than his own extreme mental illness. In fact, most of the information released so far has painted a portrait of a deeply disturbed, unbalanced young man who could potentially have been a risk to anyone. Former classmates and professors told reporters that they feared Loughner would one day come to school with a gun.

And while the U.S. has obviously had problems with non-Islamic terrorism in the past, it seems way too soon to begin comparing Loughner to a Timothy McVeigh or a Ted Kaczynski. The terms “extremist” and “terrorist” have very specific meanings and should be used carefully. Unless authorities discover a political motive for the Arizona shooting — something more than a couple of nonsensical and deranged scribblings about the gold standard or conscious dreams — any comparisons between Loughner and terrorism should be avoided.

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War Games Show U.S. Cannot Afford Defense Cutbacks

As if any more evidence were needed of the danger of defense cutbacks, Aviation Week has this sobering article reporting on a RAND simulation involving the possibility of conflict between the U.S. and China over Taiwan. Its finding:

Wargaming, including an extensive simulation by Rand, has shown that the U.S. would generate a 6-1 kill ratio over Chinese aircraft, but the Americans would lose. Even if every U.S. missile destroyed an opponent, there would still be enough surviving attackers to shred U.S. tankers, command and control and intelligence-gathering aircraft, says Andrew Davies, program director for operations and capabilities, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in an interview with Aviation Week.

And the the balance of forces will only continue to get worse as China builds up and we cut back. The article quotes Adm. Robert Willard, chief of U.S. Pacific Command, saying: “I would say that the military balance is undoubtedly shifting as China’s military expands faster than other regional nations.”

This is a worrisome development, to put it mildly — not because China will  launch a war tomorrow but because the risk of conflict goes up when China has less respect for our deterrent capacity. And with the Obama administration and many lawmakers pushing for even steeper defense cuts than those already announced, China’s estimation of our deterrent capacity can only go down.

As if any more evidence were needed of the danger of defense cutbacks, Aviation Week has this sobering article reporting on a RAND simulation involving the possibility of conflict between the U.S. and China over Taiwan. Its finding:

Wargaming, including an extensive simulation by Rand, has shown that the U.S. would generate a 6-1 kill ratio over Chinese aircraft, but the Americans would lose. Even if every U.S. missile destroyed an opponent, there would still be enough surviving attackers to shred U.S. tankers, command and control and intelligence-gathering aircraft, says Andrew Davies, program director for operations and capabilities, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in an interview with Aviation Week.

And the the balance of forces will only continue to get worse as China builds up and we cut back. The article quotes Adm. Robert Willard, chief of U.S. Pacific Command, saying: “I would say that the military balance is undoubtedly shifting as China’s military expands faster than other regional nations.”

This is a worrisome development, to put it mildly — not because China will  launch a war tomorrow but because the risk of conflict goes up when China has less respect for our deterrent capacity. And with the Obama administration and many lawmakers pushing for even steeper defense cuts than those already announced, China’s estimation of our deterrent capacity can only go down.

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Hillary Clinton and the Art of Getting It Exactly Wrong

From CBS News:

In a town hall meeting in Abu Dhabi on Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decried the man who shot Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords as an “extremist” – and urged the audience not to judge his actions as representative of American ideologies.

When asked by a student why many in the United States target the entire Arab world in reference to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Clinton condemned “extremists and their voices,” and said both countries had to work to overcome the strong influence of those voices, according to the Associated Press.

“We have extremists in my country. A wonderful, incredibly brave young woman Congress member, Congresswoman Gifford[s], was just shot by an extremist in our country,” Clinton said. … “We have the same kinds of problems. So rather than standing off from each other, we should work to try to prevent the extremists anywhere from being able to commit violence.”

First, it’s a bit of an outrage to use Saturday’s massacre as a prop in finding diplomatic common ground. Second, Clinton has obliterated the shred of coherence that clung to the term extremist up until now. Extremism is now, presumably, a medical condition. Last, she equates the organized global phenomenon of Islamist terrorism with the violent tipping point of a lone psychotic American. Terrorism redefined as apolitical statistical noise and the U.S. recast as just another country with violent extremists.

From CBS News:

In a town hall meeting in Abu Dhabi on Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decried the man who shot Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords as an “extremist” – and urged the audience not to judge his actions as representative of American ideologies.

When asked by a student why many in the United States target the entire Arab world in reference to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Clinton condemned “extremists and their voices,” and said both countries had to work to overcome the strong influence of those voices, according to the Associated Press.

“We have extremists in my country. A wonderful, incredibly brave young woman Congress member, Congresswoman Gifford[s], was just shot by an extremist in our country,” Clinton said. … “We have the same kinds of problems. So rather than standing off from each other, we should work to try to prevent the extremists anywhere from being able to commit violence.”

First, it’s a bit of an outrage to use Saturday’s massacre as a prop in finding diplomatic common ground. Second, Clinton has obliterated the shred of coherence that clung to the term extremist up until now. Extremism is now, presumably, a medical condition. Last, she equates the organized global phenomenon of Islamist terrorism with the violent tipping point of a lone psychotic American. Terrorism redefined as apolitical statistical noise and the U.S. recast as just another country with violent extremists.

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Loughner

And so the story appears to grow more and more murky and complicated. A high-school friend tells Mother Jones that Loughner’s mother is/was Jewish; he acted in ways that terrified people in his immediate vicinity in the months before the shootings; he had obsessions with grammar and lucid dreaming and the notion that the world around us is an illusion.

He may, in other words, have found his intellectual solace not in political ideology of any sort but rather in the false-reality fantasies of writers like Philip K. Dick, who all but invented a science-fiction genre about how the powerful have the rest of us living in a dream world in which we are manipulated. The most commercially popular version of this worldview is The Matrix, the 1999 film with Keanu Reeves as a computer hacker who discovers that he and all of humanity are actually trapped in a gigantic machine in which they are serving as energy sources for other machines.

The Dick view was, it turns out, quite literally out of the brain of a paranoid schizophrenic, as biographies of the writer himself reveal. But given that tens of millions have read Dick’s work and probably hundreds of millions of people have seen The Matrix and its sequels, not one frame of The Matrix nor one word in Dick’s hand can be blamed for the fact that they may have deepened one singular individual’s madness. As was true Saturday and as is true today, the villain is not “violent rhetoric” but the diseased and evil brain of Jared Loughner.

I offer some more perspective in today’s New York Post:

His apprehension means we will eventually have a definitive explanation for this act — that it won’t be left to ideologically interested parties to stitch together a politically convenient explanation from a diary entry, a MySpace page, a YouTube video…. Alas, that fact is insufficient or unsatisfying for the chattering classes. Our compulsive hunger always to know first, speak first and decide first has only been amplified by the fact that we can now all participate instantly in a virtual version of a national cocktail-party conversation on Twitter, Facebook and blogs. We must say something, even when we know nothing.

And so the story appears to grow more and more murky and complicated. A high-school friend tells Mother Jones that Loughner’s mother is/was Jewish; he acted in ways that terrified people in his immediate vicinity in the months before the shootings; he had obsessions with grammar and lucid dreaming and the notion that the world around us is an illusion.

He may, in other words, have found his intellectual solace not in political ideology of any sort but rather in the false-reality fantasies of writers like Philip K. Dick, who all but invented a science-fiction genre about how the powerful have the rest of us living in a dream world in which we are manipulated. The most commercially popular version of this worldview is The Matrix, the 1999 film with Keanu Reeves as a computer hacker who discovers that he and all of humanity are actually trapped in a gigantic machine in which they are serving as energy sources for other machines.

The Dick view was, it turns out, quite literally out of the brain of a paranoid schizophrenic, as biographies of the writer himself reveal. But given that tens of millions have read Dick’s work and probably hundreds of millions of people have seen The Matrix and its sequels, not one frame of The Matrix nor one word in Dick’s hand can be blamed for the fact that they may have deepened one singular individual’s madness. As was true Saturday and as is true today, the villain is not “violent rhetoric” but the diseased and evil brain of Jared Loughner.

I offer some more perspective in today’s New York Post:

His apprehension means we will eventually have a definitive explanation for this act — that it won’t be left to ideologically interested parties to stitch together a politically convenient explanation from a diary entry, a MySpace page, a YouTube video…. Alas, that fact is insufficient or unsatisfying for the chattering classes. Our compulsive hunger always to know first, speak first and decide first has only been amplified by the fact that we can now all participate instantly in a virtual version of a national cocktail-party conversation on Twitter, Facebook and blogs. We must say something, even when we know nothing.

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Morning Commentary

President Obama’s peace-process failure is actually a political win for both Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, writes Benjamin Kerstein: “The reason for this is a simple one: It is in the interests of both these leaders to preserve the status quo. Therefore the Obama administration’s insistence on renewing negotiations was a threat. That threat, for the moment, has been alleviated. Indeed, over the last several months, the entire negotiating process amounted to little more than pantomime, with both sides making the necessary gestures at progress while supplying the necessary obstacles to ensure that progress would not actually happen.”

Chile became the seventh South American country to recognize Palestine as an official state in the past month. The move is part of a campaign by the Palestinian Authority to take unilateral steps toward statehood and build pressure on the Israeli government.

“It was probably not the best idea to run toward the gunshots,” said 20-year-old Daniel Hernandez. “But people needed help.” In the midst of the nonstop media coverage of the deranged Arizona gunman, take a minute to read the story of the courageous congressional intern who may just have saved Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s life.

As Rep. Giffords fights for her life in Arizona, friends and colleagues discuss her career as a “rising star” in Congress: “She always had that ‘it’ factor, that something extra that drew people to her,” [Michael Frias, former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick aide] said. “Plenty of people succeed in politics, but you only meet a small few that have that extra spark. She’s the real deal. She’s Annie Oakley. Anything you can do, she can do better.”

And now the inevitable call to beef up security for members of Congress begins: “In many ways, the unprovoked shooting spree at a ‘Congress on Your Corner’ event at a supermarket just north of Tucson was a terrifying nightmare come to life for elected officials who frequently find themselves face-to-face in uncomfortable conversations with angry and, at times, aggressive constituents. Rank-and-file lawmakers typically do not travel with security, and local police often are unaware of or do not send officers to their events.”

The Israeli government has approved a new law meant to increase the number of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the IDF. While the proposal is meant to double the IDF’s haredim membership by 2015, some Kadima Party politicians who oppose the legislation claim that loopholes in the law will actually make it easier to evade service.

President Obama’s peace-process failure is actually a political win for both Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, writes Benjamin Kerstein: “The reason for this is a simple one: It is in the interests of both these leaders to preserve the status quo. Therefore the Obama administration’s insistence on renewing negotiations was a threat. That threat, for the moment, has been alleviated. Indeed, over the last several months, the entire negotiating process amounted to little more than pantomime, with both sides making the necessary gestures at progress while supplying the necessary obstacles to ensure that progress would not actually happen.”

Chile became the seventh South American country to recognize Palestine as an official state in the past month. The move is part of a campaign by the Palestinian Authority to take unilateral steps toward statehood and build pressure on the Israeli government.

“It was probably not the best idea to run toward the gunshots,” said 20-year-old Daniel Hernandez. “But people needed help.” In the midst of the nonstop media coverage of the deranged Arizona gunman, take a minute to read the story of the courageous congressional intern who may just have saved Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s life.

As Rep. Giffords fights for her life in Arizona, friends and colleagues discuss her career as a “rising star” in Congress: “She always had that ‘it’ factor, that something extra that drew people to her,” [Michael Frias, former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick aide] said. “Plenty of people succeed in politics, but you only meet a small few that have that extra spark. She’s the real deal. She’s Annie Oakley. Anything you can do, she can do better.”

And now the inevitable call to beef up security for members of Congress begins: “In many ways, the unprovoked shooting spree at a ‘Congress on Your Corner’ event at a supermarket just north of Tucson was a terrifying nightmare come to life for elected officials who frequently find themselves face-to-face in uncomfortable conversations with angry and, at times, aggressive constituents. Rank-and-file lawmakers typically do not travel with security, and local police often are unaware of or do not send officers to their events.”

The Israeli government has approved a new law meant to increase the number of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the IDF. While the proposal is meant to double the IDF’s haredim membership by 2015, some Kadima Party politicians who oppose the legislation claim that loopholes in the law will actually make it easier to evade service.

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Discussing Arizona

Yesterday morning, I was on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal. As you might imagine, I discussed (with Bill Press, my liberal counterpart on the program) the Arizona massacre and the political debate it has triggered. You can find the interview here.

Yesterday morning, I was on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal. As you might imagine, I discussed (with Bill Press, my liberal counterpart on the program) the Arizona massacre and the political debate it has triggered. You can find the interview here.

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Don’t Ignore the Politics of Mossad’s Iran Assessment

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is clearly doing her best to defuse the bombshell dropped last week by Israel’s outgoing Mossad chief, Meir Dagan. During a visit to the Gulf states yesterday, she stressed that Dagan’s assertion that Iran will not go nuclear before 2015 is no excuse for not keeping up the pressure on Tehran.

In their posts last week, Jonathan Tobin and J.E. Dyer both offered good reasons not to be reassured by Dagan’s prediction. But Clinton also alluded to a very different reason. “We don’t want anyone to be misled by anyone’s intelligence analysis,” she said.

That’s a diplomatic way of saying what two respected Israeli military analysts said openly that same day: Dagan’s public assessment must be evaluated in the light of its clear political purpose — to thwart any possibility of an Israeli military strike on Iran, which he is known to oppose.

As Haaretz columnist Amir Oren put it, “Dagan didn’t provide a pure intelligence assessment, but rather a political statement designed to influence government policy.” And Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel, noting that Dagan avoided the media like the plague for the previous eight years of his tenure, termed the decision to go public with this assessment “a Bibi-bypass maneuver” — a way of constraining Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu by publicly asserting that military action against Iran is unnecessary.

Nobody is suggesting that Dagan deliberately falsified the evidence to reach this conclusion. But when intelligence is evaluated with a particular desired outcome in mind, it is human nature to magnify the importance of information that supports this outcome and downplay the importance of information that contradicts it.

That is precisely what happened with the now widely discredited 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate. The professionals who prepared it certainly didn’t deliberately falsify information; but they did want a result that would make it impossible, from a public-opinion standpoint, for then-President George W. Bush to go to war against another Muslim country. As a result, the report downplayed all the indications that Iran was continuing its nuclear program in order to reach its now-infamous conclusion: that Iran had halted its drive to obtain a nuclear bomb in 2003 and had yet to restart it.

It’s also important to remember, as Oren noted, that “in a marketplace of opinions based on the same intelligence data, his [Dagan’s] opinion is not superior to a contrary one held by other senior officials.” Some intelligence professionals have already reached different conclusions; others, including military intelligence staffers and the incoming Mossad chief, will certainly be reviewing the data, and may do so as well.

Precisely because Dagan is known to have vehemently opposed military action against Iran, his confident assertion that Iran won’t have the bomb before 2015 should be taken with a large grain of salt. Dagan is both a dedicated patriot and a consummate professional, but even patriotic professionals are still human. And it is only human nature to read the tea leaves in a way that supports what you would most like to believe.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is clearly doing her best to defuse the bombshell dropped last week by Israel’s outgoing Mossad chief, Meir Dagan. During a visit to the Gulf states yesterday, she stressed that Dagan’s assertion that Iran will not go nuclear before 2015 is no excuse for not keeping up the pressure on Tehran.

In their posts last week, Jonathan Tobin and J.E. Dyer both offered good reasons not to be reassured by Dagan’s prediction. But Clinton also alluded to a very different reason. “We don’t want anyone to be misled by anyone’s intelligence analysis,” she said.

That’s a diplomatic way of saying what two respected Israeli military analysts said openly that same day: Dagan’s public assessment must be evaluated in the light of its clear political purpose — to thwart any possibility of an Israeli military strike on Iran, which he is known to oppose.

As Haaretz columnist Amir Oren put it, “Dagan didn’t provide a pure intelligence assessment, but rather a political statement designed to influence government policy.” And Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel, noting that Dagan avoided the media like the plague for the previous eight years of his tenure, termed the decision to go public with this assessment “a Bibi-bypass maneuver” — a way of constraining Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu by publicly asserting that military action against Iran is unnecessary.

Nobody is suggesting that Dagan deliberately falsified the evidence to reach this conclusion. But when intelligence is evaluated with a particular desired outcome in mind, it is human nature to magnify the importance of information that supports this outcome and downplay the importance of information that contradicts it.

That is precisely what happened with the now widely discredited 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate. The professionals who prepared it certainly didn’t deliberately falsify information; but they did want a result that would make it impossible, from a public-opinion standpoint, for then-President George W. Bush to go to war against another Muslim country. As a result, the report downplayed all the indications that Iran was continuing its nuclear program in order to reach its now-infamous conclusion: that Iran had halted its drive to obtain a nuclear bomb in 2003 and had yet to restart it.

It’s also important to remember, as Oren noted, that “in a marketplace of opinions based on the same intelligence data, his [Dagan’s] opinion is not superior to a contrary one held by other senior officials.” Some intelligence professionals have already reached different conclusions; others, including military intelligence staffers and the incoming Mossad chief, will certainly be reviewing the data, and may do so as well.

Precisely because Dagan is known to have vehemently opposed military action against Iran, his confident assertion that Iran won’t have the bomb before 2015 should be taken with a large grain of salt. Dagan is both a dedicated patriot and a consummate professional, but even patriotic professionals are still human. And it is only human nature to read the tea leaves in a way that supports what you would most like to believe.

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