Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 9, 2011

Hope Springs Eternal For Giuliani

When people speak of possible Republican candidates for president in2012 who have not yet declared, one name that was on everyone’s lips four years ago is now conspicuous by its absence: Rudy Giuliani.

In 2007 the former mayor was a top-tier candidate with a major following and a good case to be made that he was a man with proven administrative success as well as a serious record on foreign policy. When anyone thinks about him and the presidency now, what immediately comes to mind is the one example of genuine wit from Joe Biden, who quipped that a Giuliani sentence consisted of a noun, a verb, and 9/11. The memory of the expensive fiasco that Giuliani’s presidential campaign turned out to be, however, is apparently not enough to squelch interest in his ambitions.

At the end of a Meet the Press session devoted to 9/11 and the death of bin Laden yesterday, David Gregory asked Giuliani whether recent events had affected his “thinking about running for president next year.” The two things are “separate,” Giuliani said, but then he conceded that he was thinking about running.

Although Giuliani has many admirers (I count myself as one), the question has to be why the mayor is even thinking such thoughts. Politics is a strange business, but the scenario for a Giuliani victory in the GOP primaries was shaky enough in 2008 when the prospect of the party’s nominating a man whose liberal record on social issues such as abortion and gays might have theoretically been offset by his appeal on other issues. After the swift collapse of that run, though, it is hard to imagine how he could prevail in 2012 under circumstances that are, if anything, even less inviting for someone with his record on government and social issues. But hope—or the illusion of hope—springs eternal in the minds of most politicians.

When people speak of possible Republican candidates for president in2012 who have not yet declared, one name that was on everyone’s lips four years ago is now conspicuous by its absence: Rudy Giuliani.

In 2007 the former mayor was a top-tier candidate with a major following and a good case to be made that he was a man with proven administrative success as well as a serious record on foreign policy. When anyone thinks about him and the presidency now, what immediately comes to mind is the one example of genuine wit from Joe Biden, who quipped that a Giuliani sentence consisted of a noun, a verb, and 9/11. The memory of the expensive fiasco that Giuliani’s presidential campaign turned out to be, however, is apparently not enough to squelch interest in his ambitions.

At the end of a Meet the Press session devoted to 9/11 and the death of bin Laden yesterday, David Gregory asked Giuliani whether recent events had affected his “thinking about running for president next year.” The two things are “separate,” Giuliani said, but then he conceded that he was thinking about running.

Although Giuliani has many admirers (I count myself as one), the question has to be why the mayor is even thinking such thoughts. Politics is a strange business, but the scenario for a Giuliani victory in the GOP primaries was shaky enough in 2008 when the prospect of the party’s nominating a man whose liberal record on social issues such as abortion and gays might have theoretically been offset by his appeal on other issues. After the swift collapse of that run, though, it is hard to imagine how he could prevail in 2012 under circumstances that are, if anything, even less inviting for someone with his record on government and social issues. But hope—or the illusion of hope—springs eternal in the minds of most politicians.

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Perhaps He Meant a “Two-Phase Plan”

In an editorial yesterday morning on the Fatah-Hamas deal, the New York Times asserts that “In an interview with The Times last week, Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader, declared himself fully committed to working for a two-state solution.”

But the Hamas leader declared no such thing—or if he did, a “two-state solution” does not mean what he thinks it means.

The editorial is referring to a May 5 news report, describing an interview in which Meshal is quoted as saying the Fatah-Hamas deal created a “common national agenda” and “national political program.” The report continued:

[Meshal] defined that as “a Palestinian state in the 1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital, without any settlements or settlers, not an inch of land swaps and respecting the right of return” of Palestinian refugees to Israel itself. Asked if a deal honoring those principles would produce an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mr. Meshal said, “I don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, the “two states” Meshal has in mind are (1) a Palestinian state that does not concede an inch of the disputed territories that are the subject of negotiation, and (2) an Israeli state that is subject to a Palestinian “right of return,” asserted precisely to reject a Jewish state. Asked if that would end the conflict, Meshal declined to answer—although it is obvious what his answer would have been, had the Times sought to press him on that issue.

If this is the “common national agenda” and “national political program” to which Mahmoud Abbas has now committed himself in the “deal,” it is more accurate to say that the former “peace partner” has now rejected a two-state solution, along with Hamas. No wonder he never gave his Bir-Zeit speech.

In an editorial yesterday morning on the Fatah-Hamas deal, the New York Times asserts that “In an interview with The Times last week, Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader, declared himself fully committed to working for a two-state solution.”

But the Hamas leader declared no such thing—or if he did, a “two-state solution” does not mean what he thinks it means.

The editorial is referring to a May 5 news report, describing an interview in which Meshal is quoted as saying the Fatah-Hamas deal created a “common national agenda” and “national political program.” The report continued:

[Meshal] defined that as “a Palestinian state in the 1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital, without any settlements or settlers, not an inch of land swaps and respecting the right of return” of Palestinian refugees to Israel itself. Asked if a deal honoring those principles would produce an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mr. Meshal said, “I don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, the “two states” Meshal has in mind are (1) a Palestinian state that does not concede an inch of the disputed territories that are the subject of negotiation, and (2) an Israeli state that is subject to a Palestinian “right of return,” asserted precisely to reject a Jewish state. Asked if that would end the conflict, Meshal declined to answer—although it is obvious what his answer would have been, had the Times sought to press him on that issue.

If this is the “common national agenda” and “national political program” to which Mahmoud Abbas has now committed himself in the “deal,” it is more accurate to say that the former “peace partner” has now rejected a two-state solution, along with Hamas. No wonder he never gave his Bir-Zeit speech.

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U.S. Should Celebrate Sri Lanka, Not Condemn It

In May 2009, the army of the South Asian island nation of Sri Lanka did what decades of UN diplomatic intervention and State Department pronouncements could not do. It ended its 26-year war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, more commonly known as the Tamil Tigers. The war not only extracted a tremendous economic cost, but had a massive human cost—the UN estimated that the death toll might exceed 100,000. In the end, Sri Lankan action was both merciless and effective. The army reconquered Tamil Tiger-held territory and slaughtered the group’s leadership. The final battle was messy, but with the Tigers gone, both Sri Lankan Sinhalese and Tamils can get on with their lives and, with luck and persistence, build a strong, democratic, and prosperous state.

The Tamil Tigers were an atrocious bunch who kidnapped children and slaughtered civilians in Sri Lanka, and terrorized the Tamil Diaspora with mafia-style extortion with which they funded their terror campaign. They maintained close links with terrorist groups and rogue states. For example, they reportedly helped train the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Congressional Research Service reported ties as well between North Korea and the Tigers.

Enter the Obama administration. Earlier this month, Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake traveled to Sri Lanka. Among the points on his agenda Blake was reportedly instructed to urge the Sri Lankan government open a war crimes investigation into their army’s actions which ended the civil war. War is hell, and the Sri Lankan army was brutal during the war’s climax, but this brutality was well-justified, ended the conflict, and ultimately saved lives. Further, the Tigers seldom if ever abided by the laws of war, and so it is rich to upbraid the Sri Lankan army for showing little restraint.

Rather than sully a victory over terrorism, the Obama administration should celebrate it. And rather than condemn an ally, the White House should congratulate it.

In May 2009, the army of the South Asian island nation of Sri Lanka did what decades of UN diplomatic intervention and State Department pronouncements could not do. It ended its 26-year war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, more commonly known as the Tamil Tigers. The war not only extracted a tremendous economic cost, but had a massive human cost—the UN estimated that the death toll might exceed 100,000. In the end, Sri Lankan action was both merciless and effective. The army reconquered Tamil Tiger-held territory and slaughtered the group’s leadership. The final battle was messy, but with the Tigers gone, both Sri Lankan Sinhalese and Tamils can get on with their lives and, with luck and persistence, build a strong, democratic, and prosperous state.

The Tamil Tigers were an atrocious bunch who kidnapped children and slaughtered civilians in Sri Lanka, and terrorized the Tamil Diaspora with mafia-style extortion with which they funded their terror campaign. They maintained close links with terrorist groups and rogue states. For example, they reportedly helped train the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Congressional Research Service reported ties as well between North Korea and the Tigers.

Enter the Obama administration. Earlier this month, Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake traveled to Sri Lanka. Among the points on his agenda Blake was reportedly instructed to urge the Sri Lankan government open a war crimes investigation into their army’s actions which ended the civil war. War is hell, and the Sri Lankan army was brutal during the war’s climax, but this brutality was well-justified, ended the conflict, and ultimately saved lives. Further, the Tigers seldom if ever abided by the laws of war, and so it is rich to upbraid the Sri Lankan army for showing little restraint.

Rather than sully a victory over terrorism, the Obama administration should celebrate it. And rather than condemn an ally, the White House should congratulate it.

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Should Pakistan Be on the Terrorism List?

Tom Donilon’s comments yesterday notwithstanding, Pakistan has a lot of explaining to do. It sheltered Osama bin Laden for years in that nation’s equivalent of West Point, and its Inter-Services Intelligence agency has, apparently, facilitated Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorism for years.

Ahmad Majidyar, my colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, points out that senior Pakistani officials openly support, protect, and even campaign with members of groups which the United States already defines as terrorist entities.

It is well past time for the White House and State Department to explain why Pakistan is not on the State Sponsor of Terrorism list. Objectively, Pakistan belongs on the list. Of course, the White House will argue that Pakistan is too important and State Department designation will undercut Pakistani cooperation with American forces in Afghanistan. This certainly is a real concern and perhaps an overriding one. The question for American policymakers then becomes whether the state terrorism designation should be so subjective and subject to diplomatic whim (as it was when the State Department removed North Korea despite its assistance to Hezbollah and the Tamil Tigers), or whether it should be above the considerations of day-to-day diplomacy. American diplomats will often find an excuse to absolve terror sponsors of responsibility in the hope of achieving better relations or cooperation. Still, it’s not a good idea for the Secretary of State to base American national security more on fiction than reality.

Here Congress could assert itself. Just as Congress passed the Palestine Liberation Organization Commitments Compliance Act (PLOCCA) requiring the State Department to report on PLO’s adherence to its commitment to cease conducting terrorism, perhaps it’s time to pass a similar measure requiring similar certification as a preliminary qualification for any aid or technical assistance to flow to Pakistan.

Tom Donilon’s comments yesterday notwithstanding, Pakistan has a lot of explaining to do. It sheltered Osama bin Laden for years in that nation’s equivalent of West Point, and its Inter-Services Intelligence agency has, apparently, facilitated Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorism for years.

Ahmad Majidyar, my colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, points out that senior Pakistani officials openly support, protect, and even campaign with members of groups which the United States already defines as terrorist entities.

It is well past time for the White House and State Department to explain why Pakistan is not on the State Sponsor of Terrorism list. Objectively, Pakistan belongs on the list. Of course, the White House will argue that Pakistan is too important and State Department designation will undercut Pakistani cooperation with American forces in Afghanistan. This certainly is a real concern and perhaps an overriding one. The question for American policymakers then becomes whether the state terrorism designation should be so subjective and subject to diplomatic whim (as it was when the State Department removed North Korea despite its assistance to Hezbollah and the Tamil Tigers), or whether it should be above the considerations of day-to-day diplomacy. American diplomats will often find an excuse to absolve terror sponsors of responsibility in the hope of achieving better relations or cooperation. Still, it’s not a good idea for the Secretary of State to base American national security more on fiction than reality.

Here Congress could assert itself. Just as Congress passed the Palestine Liberation Organization Commitments Compliance Act (PLOCCA) requiring the State Department to report on PLO’s adherence to its commitment to cease conducting terrorism, perhaps it’s time to pass a similar measure requiring similar certification as a preliminary qualification for any aid or technical assistance to flow to Pakistan.

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