Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 30, 2011

Weiner Investigation Would Benefit All Parties Involved

In case you missed this story, Rep. Anthony Weiner is under scrutiny for possibly sending a lewd photo to a female college student over Twitter. Weiner says that the picture was sent by a hacker who broke into his account, but others have alleged that the congressman meant to send the photo to the woman as a private message and accidentally sent it as a public Tweet.

Whatever the explanation, it’s hard to not feel sympathy for the college student at the center of the controversy. In a matter of hours, her life was ransacked – her phone number was allegedly published online, personal information was leaked, and she was bombarded with online messages.

“The last 36 hours have been the most confusing, anxiety-ridden hours of my life,” she wrote in a statement to the New York Daily News. “I’ve watched in sheer disbelief as my name, age, location, links to any social networking site I’ve ever used, my old phone numbers and pictures have been passed along from stranger to stranger.”

This is exactly why the congressman needs to call for an official investigation immediately, not just for his own sake, but for the sake of the woman involved. The longer he avoids this, the longer she’ll have this issue hanging over her.

Liberal bloggers should be the ones leading the campaign for an official investigation. Many of them have claimed that Andrew Breitbart, and other conservative activists, are responsible for hacking into Weiner’s official congressional Twitter account. If that’s the case, then let’s make sure these right-wing hackers are forced to face the legal consequences of their actions.

This is a fairly customary process. After President Obama’s official Twitter account was hacked, the FBI managed to track the hacker all the way to France, where he was tried and convicted. If Weiner’s account was compromised, there’s a good chance that law enforcement will find the person who did it.

But if it turns out that Weiner is unwilling to allow an official, transparent investigation, then he can’t expect journalists to stop digging for the truth on their own. After all, the public has legitimate questions, and the media is only doing its job.

In case you missed this story, Rep. Anthony Weiner is under scrutiny for possibly sending a lewd photo to a female college student over Twitter. Weiner says that the picture was sent by a hacker who broke into his account, but others have alleged that the congressman meant to send the photo to the woman as a private message and accidentally sent it as a public Tweet.

Whatever the explanation, it’s hard to not feel sympathy for the college student at the center of the controversy. In a matter of hours, her life was ransacked – her phone number was allegedly published online, personal information was leaked, and she was bombarded with online messages.

“The last 36 hours have been the most confusing, anxiety-ridden hours of my life,” she wrote in a statement to the New York Daily News. “I’ve watched in sheer disbelief as my name, age, location, links to any social networking site I’ve ever used, my old phone numbers and pictures have been passed along from stranger to stranger.”

This is exactly why the congressman needs to call for an official investigation immediately, not just for his own sake, but for the sake of the woman involved. The longer he avoids this, the longer she’ll have this issue hanging over her.

Liberal bloggers should be the ones leading the campaign for an official investigation. Many of them have claimed that Andrew Breitbart, and other conservative activists, are responsible for hacking into Weiner’s official congressional Twitter account. If that’s the case, then let’s make sure these right-wing hackers are forced to face the legal consequences of their actions.

This is a fairly customary process. After President Obama’s official Twitter account was hacked, the FBI managed to track the hacker all the way to France, where he was tried and convicted. If Weiner’s account was compromised, there’s a good chance that law enforcement will find the person who did it.

But if it turns out that Weiner is unwilling to allow an official, transparent investigation, then he can’t expect journalists to stop digging for the truth on their own. After all, the public has legitimate questions, and the media is only doing its job.

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No Nukes, Except Iranian Ones

You know that global priorities have been hopelessly perverted when responsible, stable democratic countries give up safe nuclear energy due to public pressure while fanatical despots leap toward nuclear-weapons capabilities without a hitch.

A remarkable bit of news out of Germany:

The German government agreed on Monday to phase out all nuclear power by 2022, a sharp reversal by Chancellor Angela Merkel aimed at appeasing the country’s intensified antinuclear movement. . . . Mrs. Merkel has been grappling with the sudden deepening of German distrust of nuclear power since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan set off the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

And an unremarkable bit of news out of Iran:

Iran has conducted work on technology to place nuclear material on a missile and detonate it, the International Atomic Energy Agency wrote in a nine-page report published May 24. Documented evidence suggests that Iran has done “studies involving the removal of the conventional high-explosive payload from the warhead of the Shahab-3 missile and replace it with a spherical nuclear payload,” the report states.

A single accident—a freakishly large geologic event combined with a uniquely situated island nuclear plant—sends policy and technology marching swiftly in reverse. But three decades of doomsday genocide threats, global terrorist facilitation, illicit nuclear programs, and violations of international law can’t bring the oh-so-concerned “antinuclear movement” to block production of an Iranian nuclear bomb.

You know that global priorities have been hopelessly perverted when responsible, stable democratic countries give up safe nuclear energy due to public pressure while fanatical despots leap toward nuclear-weapons capabilities without a hitch.

A remarkable bit of news out of Germany:

The German government agreed on Monday to phase out all nuclear power by 2022, a sharp reversal by Chancellor Angela Merkel aimed at appeasing the country’s intensified antinuclear movement. . . . Mrs. Merkel has been grappling with the sudden deepening of German distrust of nuclear power since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan set off the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

And an unremarkable bit of news out of Iran:

Iran has conducted work on technology to place nuclear material on a missile and detonate it, the International Atomic Energy Agency wrote in a nine-page report published May 24. Documented evidence suggests that Iran has done “studies involving the removal of the conventional high-explosive payload from the warhead of the Shahab-3 missile and replace it with a spherical nuclear payload,” the report states.

A single accident—a freakishly large geologic event combined with a uniquely situated island nuclear plant—sends policy and technology marching swiftly in reverse. But three decades of doomsday genocide threats, global terrorist facilitation, illicit nuclear programs, and violations of international law can’t bring the oh-so-concerned “antinuclear movement” to block production of an Iranian nuclear bomb.

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Gen. Dempsey an Excellent Choice for Chairman of Joint Chiefs

I still think Gen. David Petraeus—the most successful general the U.S. has produced in decades—would have been the logical candidate to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Admiral James Stavridis, currently Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and before that the head of Southern Command, would have been another logical choice because of his diplomatic experience.

But it is hard to argue with the selection of Gen. Martin Dempsey, who was only recently tapped to become army chief of staff. He is a veteran of two combat tours in Iraq and a former acting commander of Central Command who is widely respected for his intellect and his grasp of Middle Eastern complexities. Certainly he is a far better choice than Gen. James Cartwright, the Marine who is the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and was widely seen as the front-runner for the top job until a few weeks ago in spite of his having absolutely no combat experience at a time of war.

Cartwright endeared himself to some in the White House by backing Vice President Biden in his opposition to the counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, which was strongly backed by Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. In the process, Cartwright got a reputation within the Pentagon as a devious and disloyal bureaucratic operator. If he had been appointed as chairman, a crisis in civil-military relations would have ensued. That flare-up has now been avoided.

As a bonus, the selection of Dempsey as chairman opened up the army chief of staff’s job for Gen. Ray Odierno, who did as much as Petraeus to make the surge in Iraq a success. Odierno has been on the frontlines as long as any senior general, and he will bring to his new job a comprehensive knowledge of all the army units that served under his command—which by this point must include most of the army.

Today’s announcements confirm the point I had made earlier about Obama: He has had to undergo a long period of on-the-job training and he has made a number of stumbles along the way but he also has a capacity to learn from experience and correct course before things go too disastrously awry. The decision to drop Cartwright in favor of Dempsey is another indication of that process in action.

I still think Gen. David Petraeus—the most successful general the U.S. has produced in decades—would have been the logical candidate to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Admiral James Stavridis, currently Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and before that the head of Southern Command, would have been another logical choice because of his diplomatic experience.

But it is hard to argue with the selection of Gen. Martin Dempsey, who was only recently tapped to become army chief of staff. He is a veteran of two combat tours in Iraq and a former acting commander of Central Command who is widely respected for his intellect and his grasp of Middle Eastern complexities. Certainly he is a far better choice than Gen. James Cartwright, the Marine who is the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and was widely seen as the front-runner for the top job until a few weeks ago in spite of his having absolutely no combat experience at a time of war.

Cartwright endeared himself to some in the White House by backing Vice President Biden in his opposition to the counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, which was strongly backed by Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. In the process, Cartwright got a reputation within the Pentagon as a devious and disloyal bureaucratic operator. If he had been appointed as chairman, a crisis in civil-military relations would have ensued. That flare-up has now been avoided.

As a bonus, the selection of Dempsey as chairman opened up the army chief of staff’s job for Gen. Ray Odierno, who did as much as Petraeus to make the surge in Iraq a success. Odierno has been on the frontlines as long as any senior general, and he will bring to his new job a comprehensive knowledge of all the army units that served under his command—which by this point must include most of the army.

Today’s announcements confirm the point I had made earlier about Obama: He has had to undergo a long period of on-the-job training and he has made a number of stumbles along the way but he also has a capacity to learn from experience and correct course before things go too disastrously awry. The decision to drop Cartwright in favor of Dempsey is another indication of that process in action.

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Memorial Day: Honoring the Boys in Blue

The discussion of Memorial Day usually (and rightly) focuses on the need for all Americans to take some time to honor those who are fighting right now to defend our freedom or our own parents, grandparents, and relatives who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, or more recent conflicts. We Americans are fortunate to be living in a country where the day set aside to honor veterans and those who fell in defense of our republic is sufficiently remote from the experience of most citizens that, for most, it is a day of barbecues instead of national mourning, which is how, as I wrote a few weeks ago, it is observed in Israel.

However, I think it is also useful to take a moment to remember the origins of this holiday, especially in the year that we commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. As David has already pointed out (here and here), Memorial Day began in the aftermath of that war, a conflict whose cost in American blood would be far greater than even that of the two World Wars of the following century. Decoration Day, as it was called prior to the First World War, was not observed in the former Confederate states where different days where set aside to honor the dead of the rebel cause. That division has been largely forgotten, but as much as we should not show disrespect to the memory of fallen Confederates, it is perhaps more appropriate not to lump together those who died to continue the shame of American slavery with those who sought to end it and to preserve the union.

As Adam Goodheart’s new book 1861: The Awakening admirably illustrates, the catastrophe that disunion would have been for the United States as well as the world (which would rely on a strong and united America to save it three times from catastrophe in the following century) was averted not by a general call to duty by those on both sides but by the courage and determination of a few loyal souls who stood by their country and its Constitution at its moment of greatest peril. The country—nay, the free world that we live in today—would not be possible without the tremendous sacrifices of those who served the union 150 years ago.

To most of us, those who died for the union are an abstraction often forgotten amid the entirely proper hero worship of Abraham Lincoln and the less praiseworthy idolatry devoted to Robert E. Lee and his comrades. But it is the boys in blue, in whose memory this holiday was first dedicated and whose herculean efforts preserved this great republic of ours that we should honor above all today.

The discussion of Memorial Day usually (and rightly) focuses on the need for all Americans to take some time to honor those who are fighting right now to defend our freedom or our own parents, grandparents, and relatives who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, or more recent conflicts. We Americans are fortunate to be living in a country where the day set aside to honor veterans and those who fell in defense of our republic is sufficiently remote from the experience of most citizens that, for most, it is a day of barbecues instead of national mourning, which is how, as I wrote a few weeks ago, it is observed in Israel.

However, I think it is also useful to take a moment to remember the origins of this holiday, especially in the year that we commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. As David has already pointed out (here and here), Memorial Day began in the aftermath of that war, a conflict whose cost in American blood would be far greater than even that of the two World Wars of the following century. Decoration Day, as it was called prior to the First World War, was not observed in the former Confederate states where different days where set aside to honor the dead of the rebel cause. That division has been largely forgotten, but as much as we should not show disrespect to the memory of fallen Confederates, it is perhaps more appropriate not to lump together those who died to continue the shame of American slavery with those who sought to end it and to preserve the union.

As Adam Goodheart’s new book 1861: The Awakening admirably illustrates, the catastrophe that disunion would have been for the United States as well as the world (which would rely on a strong and united America to save it three times from catastrophe in the following century) was averted not by a general call to duty by those on both sides but by the courage and determination of a few loyal souls who stood by their country and its Constitution at its moment of greatest peril. The country—nay, the free world that we live in today—would not be possible without the tremendous sacrifices of those who served the union 150 years ago.

To most of us, those who died for the union are an abstraction often forgotten amid the entirely proper hero worship of Abraham Lincoln and the less praiseworthy idolatry devoted to Robert E. Lee and his comrades. But it is the boys in blue, in whose memory this holiday was first dedicated and whose herculean efforts preserved this great republic of ours that we should honor above all today.

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Remembering the Veterans of the “Savage Wars of Peace”

Lawrence Kaplan raises a good point in the New Republic: why aren’t we having parades on Memorial Day, or on other occasions for that matter, to honor Iraq War veterans? Our reticence to honor the current crop of heroes stands in stark contrast to the ticker-tape parade held in 1991 in New York’s “canyon of heroes” to honor Gulf War vets.

I agree with Kaplan that the failure to honor our recent vets—and those still fighting in Afghanistan—is shameful. But it is not unexpected. The Gulf War was the kind of neat, tidy, short, decisive conflict—or so it appeared at the time—that makes for easy and pleasurable chest-thumping. The current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are something else: long, messy, untidy counterinsurgencies where it will not be clear for decades after the fact whether our efforts succeeded or not. And unlike the Gulf War (which everyone supported, if only after the fact), the two more recent wars have created deep, uncomfortable divides in our society.

In this respect the current conflicts remind me of the Indian Wars, the long series of frontier clashes that were fought by the U.S. Army from its earliest days until 1890. Those veterans too were denied victory parades; they were more likely to appear in the newspaper when they were massacred (e.g. the Battle of the Little Big Horn) or when they were themselves accused by Eastern humanitarians of perpetrating war crimes against the “noble savages” (as indeed sometimes occurred).

It would be nice if all of our wars fit the tidy model of World War II, starting with an attack against us and ending with the unconditional surrender of the enemy, to be followed by the lionization of those who fought as the “Greatest Generation.” But most of our history has been more messy than that. Americans must come to terms with the nature of “small wars” and realize that even if these conflicts lack a moment of triumph such as the surrender on the USS Missouri, they are nevertheless an important part of our national defense—and that those who fight in the “savage wars of peace” (as Kipling called them) are every bit as worthy of respect as the veterans of our handful of big wars.

Lawrence Kaplan raises a good point in the New Republic: why aren’t we having parades on Memorial Day, or on other occasions for that matter, to honor Iraq War veterans? Our reticence to honor the current crop of heroes stands in stark contrast to the ticker-tape parade held in 1991 in New York’s “canyon of heroes” to honor Gulf War vets.

I agree with Kaplan that the failure to honor our recent vets—and those still fighting in Afghanistan—is shameful. But it is not unexpected. The Gulf War was the kind of neat, tidy, short, decisive conflict—or so it appeared at the time—that makes for easy and pleasurable chest-thumping. The current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are something else: long, messy, untidy counterinsurgencies where it will not be clear for decades after the fact whether our efforts succeeded or not. And unlike the Gulf War (which everyone supported, if only after the fact), the two more recent wars have created deep, uncomfortable divides in our society.

In this respect the current conflicts remind me of the Indian Wars, the long series of frontier clashes that were fought by the U.S. Army from its earliest days until 1890. Those veterans too were denied victory parades; they were more likely to appear in the newspaper when they were massacred (e.g. the Battle of the Little Big Horn) or when they were themselves accused by Eastern humanitarians of perpetrating war crimes against the “noble savages” (as indeed sometimes occurred).

It would be nice if all of our wars fit the tidy model of World War II, starting with an attack against us and ending with the unconditional surrender of the enemy, to be followed by the lionization of those who fought as the “Greatest Generation.” But most of our history has been more messy than that. Americans must come to terms with the nature of “small wars” and realize that even if these conflicts lack a moment of triumph such as the surrender on the USS Missouri, they are nevertheless an important part of our national defense—and that those who fight in the “savage wars of peace” (as Kipling called them) are every bit as worthy of respect as the veterans of our handful of big wars.

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Jihadists Threaten to Seize Yemem

It has become popular to argue that the Arab Spring will be the downfall of Al Qaeda and its ilk. There is no doubt that mass protests have proven a more potent instrument of regime change than suicide bombs—but it is too early to write off the terrorists either. While the longterm impact of the changes sweeping the Arab world may well be to redress some of the grievances which have given rise to terrorism, in the short term this period of upheavals could create an opening for armed Islamists to seize power. While they are far from having majority support in the Muslim world, jihadists are just the kind of small, well-organized, well-armed, and ruthless clique that—like the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917—can seize power in a moment of revolutionary turmoil.

The latest evidence of the danger comes from Yemen, where a decrepit and unpopular strongman, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has been tottering on the brink for weeks. So serious was his situation that he even agreed to give up power—only to renege on his pledge. But Yemen has never been all that strongly governed to begin with, and now there are reports that Islamists are taking advantage of the moment to seize power in the city of Zinjibar. This is a worrisome development because Yemen is home to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Along with Somalia, it is the country where jihadists currently have the best chance of seizing power.

The U.S. has tried to head off this catastrophe by providing aid to the Saleh regime as well as conducting some Special Operations raids within Yemen. But President Obama not long ago called for Saleh to step down, a belated recognition of how how much legitimacy he has lost. The challenge now will be to work behind the scenes in a country where our influence is distinctly limited to try to bolster a transition to a regime capable of exerting some degree of influence over this chaotic country. Or else the radical jihadists, who had appeared irrelevant just a few weeks ago, could stage a worrisome comeback.

It has become popular to argue that the Arab Spring will be the downfall of Al Qaeda and its ilk. There is no doubt that mass protests have proven a more potent instrument of regime change than suicide bombs—but it is too early to write off the terrorists either. While the longterm impact of the changes sweeping the Arab world may well be to redress some of the grievances which have given rise to terrorism, in the short term this period of upheavals could create an opening for armed Islamists to seize power. While they are far from having majority support in the Muslim world, jihadists are just the kind of small, well-organized, well-armed, and ruthless clique that—like the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917—can seize power in a moment of revolutionary turmoil.

The latest evidence of the danger comes from Yemen, where a decrepit and unpopular strongman, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has been tottering on the brink for weeks. So serious was his situation that he even agreed to give up power—only to renege on his pledge. But Yemen has never been all that strongly governed to begin with, and now there are reports that Islamists are taking advantage of the moment to seize power in the city of Zinjibar. This is a worrisome development because Yemen is home to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Along with Somalia, it is the country where jihadists currently have the best chance of seizing power.

The U.S. has tried to head off this catastrophe by providing aid to the Saleh regime as well as conducting some Special Operations raids within Yemen. But President Obama not long ago called for Saleh to step down, a belated recognition of how how much legitimacy he has lost. The challenge now will be to work behind the scenes in a country where our influence is distinctly limited to try to bolster a transition to a regime capable of exerting some degree of influence over this chaotic country. Or else the radical jihadists, who had appeared irrelevant just a few weeks ago, could stage a worrisome comeback.

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Ryan-Rubio Could Be the Ticket to Stop Obama in Florida

As Rep. Paul Ryan continues to brush off speculation that he may enter the presidential race, enthusiasm over his candidacy continues to heat up. The Weekly Standard’s Jeffrey Anderson analyzes the top potentialRepublican candidates, and finds that Ryan might be the best positioned to win in a general election:

Among top-tier prospective nominees, Ryan would have the biggest geographical advantage in a race against Obama. To win the presidency, Ryan would just have to win his home state and hold GOP-leaning Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. That would be it: election over, Obama defeated, Ryan’s pen poised to sign the Obamacare-repeal legislation.

Republicans will likely focus on flipping a Democratic-leaning tossup states like Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, especially with President Obama’s beefing up his Florida operation. According to Politico, Democrats are planning to spend close to $50 million on a state-wide campaign aimed at attacking the GOP on Medicare.

That’s not to say the president would have an easy time picking up Florida. ObamaCare is still wildly unpopular, and his recent comments on Israel’s 1967 borders could be a problem in the state. But even if Obama does manage to succeed there, Anderson writes that Ryan is one of the only candidates who could win the election without Florida:

Ryan’s competitiveness in Wisconsin would open up scenarios in which he could potentially survive even the loss of the most important state on the electoral map: Florida. Without winning Florida, a Republican who doesn’t win Wisconsin would absolutely have to win Pennsylvania. Even then, he or she would face an uphill battle, as Pennsylvania is worth 9 fewer electoral votes than the Sunshine State. Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes, however, would more than make up that difference. Moreover, Ryan could potentially survive the loss of both Florida and Pennsylvania​—​which no other potential GOP nominee could realistically do​—​by sweeping Wisconsin, Nevada, and the three toss-up states of Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire.

Of course, if Republicans end up nominating a certain charismatic Floridian senator as their vice presidential candidate, Obama’s $50 million Florida campaign could all be for nothing.

As Rep. Paul Ryan continues to brush off speculation that he may enter the presidential race, enthusiasm over his candidacy continues to heat up. The Weekly Standard’s Jeffrey Anderson analyzes the top potentialRepublican candidates, and finds that Ryan might be the best positioned to win in a general election:

Among top-tier prospective nominees, Ryan would have the biggest geographical advantage in a race against Obama. To win the presidency, Ryan would just have to win his home state and hold GOP-leaning Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. That would be it: election over, Obama defeated, Ryan’s pen poised to sign the Obamacare-repeal legislation.

Republicans will likely focus on flipping a Democratic-leaning tossup states like Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, especially with President Obama’s beefing up his Florida operation. According to Politico, Democrats are planning to spend close to $50 million on a state-wide campaign aimed at attacking the GOP on Medicare.

That’s not to say the president would have an easy time picking up Florida. ObamaCare is still wildly unpopular, and his recent comments on Israel’s 1967 borders could be a problem in the state. But even if Obama does manage to succeed there, Anderson writes that Ryan is one of the only candidates who could win the election without Florida:

Ryan’s competitiveness in Wisconsin would open up scenarios in which he could potentially survive even the loss of the most important state on the electoral map: Florida. Without winning Florida, a Republican who doesn’t win Wisconsin would absolutely have to win Pennsylvania. Even then, he or she would face an uphill battle, as Pennsylvania is worth 9 fewer electoral votes than the Sunshine State. Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes, however, would more than make up that difference. Moreover, Ryan could potentially survive the loss of both Florida and Pennsylvania​—​which no other potential GOP nominee could realistically do​—​by sweeping Wisconsin, Nevada, and the three toss-up states of Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire.

Of course, if Republicans end up nominating a certain charismatic Floridian senator as their vice presidential candidate, Obama’s $50 million Florida campaign could all be for nothing.

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Palestinians Tear Up Another Agreement, the World Yawns

This weekend, Egypt reopened its Rafah border crossing with Gaza after four years of almost total closure. Amid much talk about the move’s meaning for Gaza’s quality of life, for Israel’s security, and for the character of Egypt’s new government, perhaps its most significant element has been overlooked. A binding international agreement, brokered by the U.S. and signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, has just effectively been torn up.

The 2005 agreement laid down detailed provisions for how Gaza’s border crossings would be run following Israel’s withdrawal from the territory earlier that year. From a security standpoint, Israel won’t mourn its demise, as the European monitors stationed at Rafah quickly proved useless at preventing the passage of terrorists and contraband.

But at a time when the world is demanding that Israel make far more dangerous territorial concessions in the West Bank in exchange for yet another piece of paper containing “robust” security provisions (to quote President Barack Obama), it’s worth noting just how flimsy such pieces of paper are. In a mere six years, Hamas has replaced the PA as Gaza’s landlord and declined to honor the latter’s promises, while Egypt’s new government has scrapped former President Hosni Mubarak’s policy of upholding the agreement even though he wasn’t a formal signatory. And presto! there goes the agreement.

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This weekend, Egypt reopened its Rafah border crossing with Gaza after four years of almost total closure. Amid much talk about the move’s meaning for Gaza’s quality of life, for Israel’s security, and for the character of Egypt’s new government, perhaps its most significant element has been overlooked. A binding international agreement, brokered by the U.S. and signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, has just effectively been torn up.

The 2005 agreement laid down detailed provisions for how Gaza’s border crossings would be run following Israel’s withdrawal from the territory earlier that year. From a security standpoint, Israel won’t mourn its demise, as the European monitors stationed at Rafah quickly proved useless at preventing the passage of terrorists and contraband.

But at a time when the world is demanding that Israel make far more dangerous territorial concessions in the West Bank in exchange for yet another piece of paper containing “robust” security provisions (to quote President Barack Obama), it’s worth noting just how flimsy such pieces of paper are. In a mere six years, Hamas has replaced the PA as Gaza’s landlord and declined to honor the latter’s promises, while Egypt’s new government has scrapped former President Hosni Mubarak’s policy of upholding the agreement even though he wasn’t a formal signatory. And presto! there goes the agreement.

Nor is this the only international agreement Israel has recently seen torn up. The 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, as 60 prominent jurists recently noted in a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, states explicitly that “Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.” The PA has publicly announced its intention to violate that one by asking the UN General Assembly to recognize those territories as a Palestinian state in September.

And then there’s UN Security Council Resolution 242, which explicitly required an Israeli withdrawal only from “territories” captured in 1967, not “the territories” or “all the territories.” As Lord Caradon, the British UN ambassador who drafted it, explained, “It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial.” America’s UN ambassador at the time, Arthur Goldberg, similarly said the two omitted words “were not accidental . . . the resolution speaks of withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal.” Yet the entire world has now adopted the 1967 lines as the basis for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement.

That same world has offered no protest at the Rafah agreement’s demise. The European Union, for instance, ”welcomed” the crossing’s agreement-breaking reopening. And most of the world also plans to back the PA’s agreement-breaking quest for statehood in September.

Which leaves only one question. When the world is so patently unwilling to insist that previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements be honored, why does it still think Israel should entrust its security to yet another one?

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What Are You Doing Today at 3 PM?

As Jonathan observed a few weeks ago, Memorial Day in the United States has become for too many simply a day off, uninterrupted by the sparsely attended memorial events of the day. We lack what Israel has on its Remembrance Day—a two-minute national silence, when the country remembers its fallen together, with even cars on the road stopped and drivers standing silent outside them.

Few know that in 2000, Congress enacted Public Law 106-579, establishing a “National Moment of Remembrance” for 3 p.m. local time, a “time for all Americans to observe, in their own way . . . a symbolic act of unity” in order to “reclaim Memorial Day as the sacred and noble event that day is intended to be.”

The Los Angeles National Cemetery, established in 1889 in a largely vacant area of town, is today in the middle of Westwood, with 85,000 gravestones—a reflection of the fact that Americans have served in seven wars since the cemetery was founded. Visitors will see a small flag placed at each grave, a sight both stirring and sobering, and pass stone tablets inscribed with stanzas from “Bivouac of the Dead” by Theodore O’Hara (1820–1867)—a poem filled with what David called “the language of memory and respect.” Here is an excerpt, perhaps worth rereading today at 3 p.m.:

The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat
   The soldier’s last tattoo;
No more on Life’s parade shall meet
   That brave and fallen few.
On Fame’s eternal camping-ground
   Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
   The bivouac of the dead.

No rumor of the foe’s advance
   Now swells upon the wind;
No troubled thought at midnight haunts
   Of loved ones left behind;
No vision of the morrow’s strife
   The warrior’s dream alarms;
No braying horn nor screaming fife
   At dawn shall call to arms.

Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead!
   Dear as the blood ye gave;
No impious footstep here shall tread
   The herbage of your grave;
Nor shall your glory be forgot
   While Fame her record keeps,
Or Honor points the hallowed spot
   Where Valor proudly sleeps.

As Jonathan observed a few weeks ago, Memorial Day in the United States has become for too many simply a day off, uninterrupted by the sparsely attended memorial events of the day. We lack what Israel has on its Remembrance Day—a two-minute national silence, when the country remembers its fallen together, with even cars on the road stopped and drivers standing silent outside them.

Few know that in 2000, Congress enacted Public Law 106-579, establishing a “National Moment of Remembrance” for 3 p.m. local time, a “time for all Americans to observe, in their own way . . . a symbolic act of unity” in order to “reclaim Memorial Day as the sacred and noble event that day is intended to be.”

The Los Angeles National Cemetery, established in 1889 in a largely vacant area of town, is today in the middle of Westwood, with 85,000 gravestones—a reflection of the fact that Americans have served in seven wars since the cemetery was founded. Visitors will see a small flag placed at each grave, a sight both stirring and sobering, and pass stone tablets inscribed with stanzas from “Bivouac of the Dead” by Theodore O’Hara (1820–1867)—a poem filled with what David called “the language of memory and respect.” Here is an excerpt, perhaps worth rereading today at 3 p.m.:

The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat
   The soldier’s last tattoo;
No more on Life’s parade shall meet
   That brave and fallen few.
On Fame’s eternal camping-ground
   Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
   The bivouac of the dead.

No rumor of the foe’s advance
   Now swells upon the wind;
No troubled thought at midnight haunts
   Of loved ones left behind;
No vision of the morrow’s strife
   The warrior’s dream alarms;
No braying horn nor screaming fife
   At dawn shall call to arms.

Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead!
   Dear as the blood ye gave;
No impious footstep here shall tread
   The herbage of your grave;
Nor shall your glory be forgot
   While Fame her record keeps,
Or Honor points the hallowed spot
   Where Valor proudly sleeps.

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