Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 11, 2011

George W. Bush at Shanksville

This is an ennobling, dignified, inspiring, heartbreaking, and gravely beautiful speech.

This is an ennobling, dignified, inspiring, heartbreaking, and gravely beautiful speech.

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The Uneasy Politics of Grief

The moving article that Abe links to by Raina Wallens—who lost her husband on 9/11—is a reminder of just how personal a national tragedy can be. And it puts to special shame the attempts by some pundits today—Paul Krugman and Kathleen Parker foremost among them—to use today’s anniversary to take potshots at the American people in their moment of grief and remembrance. I was especially fond of this paragraph of Wallens’s:

Our culture’s need to wrap everything in a bow and deliver meaning — especially when it comes to grief and loss — ignores the depths of experiences, the intensity and the fullness, and the fact that certain events have no meaning or if they do, they can’t be summed up in a tweet.

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The moving article that Abe links to by Raina Wallens—who lost her husband on 9/11—is a reminder of just how personal a national tragedy can be. And it puts to special shame the attempts by some pundits today—Paul Krugman and Kathleen Parker foremost among them—to use today’s anniversary to take potshots at the American people in their moment of grief and remembrance. I was especially fond of this paragraph of Wallens’s:

Our culture’s need to wrap everything in a bow and deliver meaning — especially when it comes to grief and loss — ignores the depths of experiences, the intensity and the fullness, and the fact that certain events have no meaning or if they do, they can’t be summed up in a tweet.

Imagine, for a moment, how Wallens might have reacted to reading today’s major newspapers. Krugman’s decision to use his space at the New York Times to push the conspiracy theory that President Bush used the attacks to “cash in” should be shocking—but it isn’t, and perhaps that’s the real scandal of what Krugman and the Times have become. And Parker’s bizarre Washington Post column essentially asked Republicans to pass President Obama’s jobs bill to rectify what she sees as our national failure to be nicer to each other after 9/11. It was filled with the following sort of equivalence:

Another terror attack would put things in perspective, all right, but our survival ultimately depends on our willingness to marshal reason and restraint against the emotional terrorism that surely will bring us down.

Proper “restraint,” I think, was shown this morning by President Obama and former President George W. Bush, who each spoke briefly and with solemnity, and displayed proper humility by using their time to quote others—Psalms and Abraham Lincoln, respectively.

This country doesn’t need to be lectured today, and it certainly doesn’t need to be recruited to whatever cultish obsession Krugman is selling today at half price. But a day when pundits like Krugman provide the low point while elected leaders help provide the high point at least tells us that American democracy is doing something right.

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9/11 Didn’t Change Everything

Ten years after the September 11 attacks, Osama bin Laden has been killed, and al- Qaeda has been diminished to a shell of its former self. But the anti-Western hate that drives the terror group is still echoed by some Muslim leaders:

As millions of Americans remembered the nearly 3,000 men, women and children killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeated his claims that the U.S. staged the attacks to justify overseas military aggression and profit from weapon sales.

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Ten years after the September 11 attacks, Osama bin Laden has been killed, and al- Qaeda has been diminished to a shell of its former self. But the anti-Western hate that drives the terror group is still echoed by some Muslim leaders:

As millions of Americans remembered the nearly 3,000 men, women and children killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeated his claims that the U.S. staged the attacks to justify overseas military aggression and profit from weapon sales.

“The Sept. 11 [attacks] were actually a planned game to provoke the human community’s sentiments and find an excuse for launching attack on Muslim regions and occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, which led to the massacre of 1 million innocent people,” Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying on Sunday.

Many are tempted to shrug off Ahmadinejad’s genocidal, anti-Israel and anti-American rants as just bluster, even while his regime is on the brink of building a nuclear weapon. But he represents a lingering problem in the Muslim world that has yet to be resolved a decade after the 9/11 attacks. Bigotry, anti-Semitism, and anti-Americanism still have a prominent place in the political culture. And American intellectuals too often try to dismiss that rhetoric, or even explain it away as a legitimate response to U.S. or Israeli actions. This is the same atmosphere that spawned the hijackers, that protected bin Laden and that bolstered and funded al-Qaeda. Remembering 9/11 also means acknowledging the noxious beliefs that led to it – and taking them seriously.

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“Round Numbers Don’t Mean Anything”

Here is the most beautiful and penetrating piece of writing you’ll come across today:

We like to mark anniversaries, don’t we? We like round numbers, and summaries, and retrospectives. But for many of us who lost someone on September 11, the 10th anniversary is meaningless. Or perhaps not meaningless, but no more meaningful than any other anniversary we’ve endured.

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Here is the most beautiful and penetrating piece of writing you’ll come across today:

We like to mark anniversaries, don’t we? We like round numbers, and summaries, and retrospectives. But for many of us who lost someone on September 11, the 10th anniversary is meaningless. Or perhaps not meaningless, but no more meaningful than any other anniversary we’ve endured.

Come late August or early September, there’s always the sudden drop in weather and clearing of the skies that ignites a horror so visceral all I want to do is close my eyes and wake up in winter.

Read it all.

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Remembrance With a Purpose

Today, Americans are remembering the events of ten years ago and mourning the victims as well as honoring the heroes of that tragic day and its aftermath. It is, as Abraham Lincoln said when he dedicated a memorial to the heroes of another time, “altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.” Though much time has passed, the wounds of the families who lost loved ones are still fresh. And for all of the efforts by some to distance themselves and our country from the memory of that awful tragedy, the nation’s trauma is also still easily relived as the tears many of us shed this morning while watching the services of commemoration prove.

But as much of our thoughts must be with the families of the victims today, as a nation we should understand our remembrance must have a purpose that goes above and beyond mere sympathy. The Islamist attack on America on 9/11 was not a bizarre one-off event. It was part of a war that did not begin that day and has not ended.

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Today, Americans are remembering the events of ten years ago and mourning the victims as well as honoring the heroes of that tragic day and its aftermath. It is, as Abraham Lincoln said when he dedicated a memorial to the heroes of another time, “altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.” Though much time has passed, the wounds of the families who lost loved ones are still fresh. And for all of the efforts by some to distance themselves and our country from the memory of that awful tragedy, the nation’s trauma is also still easily relived as the tears many of us shed this morning while watching the services of commemoration prove.

But as much of our thoughts must be with the families of the victims today, as a nation we should understand our remembrance must have a purpose that goes above and beyond mere sympathy. The Islamist attack on America on 9/11 was not a bizarre one-off event. It was part of a war that did not begin that day and has not ended.

Partisan politics ultimately distorted the unity Americans felt ten years ago, when the nation came together in our determination to avenge the attack.

The truth about the attacks is not easy for some of us to assimilate. For those who prefer to live in a fantasy world, where evil is just a word and all conflicts can be wished away with talk, the need to fight back against the Islamist is dismissed as a primitive urge that reflects our lack of sophistication or America’s own moral flaws. There are those who have sought to delegitimize America’s war on terror. This morning, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman blogged that what followed the atrocity was “years of shame.” With that obscene suggestion, Krugman gave voice to a sentiment that sees the efforts to take out al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein as somehow morally equivalent to those of the terrorists and their allies. He is not alone in believing America was wrong to hold the Islamists and tyrants who aided them accountable. But if there is anything we can be sure of, it is that history will ultimately vindicate our post-9/11 counter-attack against the Islamists.

It would be easier for us if we could remember 9/11 today the way Americans remembered the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1951. Unfortunately, this war can’t be won as definitively as World War II. Americans often lack patience, and many of us have grown tired of a generational war against Islamism that has more in common with the long Cold War than with the war against Germany and Japan.

The forces of evil that carried out the attack have been damaged, and many of the plotters were apprehended or killed. But the ideology of hate that spawned them is still very much alive. It is alive in Afghanistan, where the Taliban and their Islamist allies are waiting for American forces to leave before resuming their tyrannical hold on that country. It is alive in Iran, where the ayatollahs seek nuclear weapons with which to terrorize the world. It is alive in Lebanon with Hezbollah and in Gaza with Hamas. It is alive in mosques around the world, where hatred of the West, of democracy and of Jews is taught.

Those, like Krugman, who want the country to stop fighting back against this evil, will not prevail. We must remember 9/11, but with a purpose. As much as it is right that we should build shrines that will give physical form to our grief, the only proper memorial to 9/11 is the vigilance with which we protect our freedom and our nation. To mourn 9/11 while forgetting what brought it about and the necessity to keep fighting evil would be pointless. On this day, as we recall the victims and the heroes, we must understand the battle is not yet over.

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A Nice Political Moment

This video of Speaker Boehner and Vice President Biden is, as a friend of mine pointed out, kind of charming –two old-fashioned politicians caught on an open microphone unaware, talking about golf and enjoying each other’s company prior to the president’s speech to a joint session of Congress. They showed good humor and what seems to be real affection for one another.

It made me like both Messrs. Boehner and Biden more. And it’s a small but good reminder that incivility and animosity hasn’t infected every Democratic-Republican relationship in Washington.

This video of Speaker Boehner and Vice President Biden is, as a friend of mine pointed out, kind of charming –two old-fashioned politicians caught on an open microphone unaware, talking about golf and enjoying each other’s company prior to the president’s speech to a joint session of Congress. They showed good humor and what seems to be real affection for one another.

It made me like both Messrs. Boehner and Biden more. And it’s a small but good reminder that incivility and animosity hasn’t infected every Democratic-Republican relationship in Washington.

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Turkey Must Stop Embrace of Hamas

Just prior to the 9/11 anniversary, the State Department announced that it would, with Turkey, launch a Global Counterterrorism Forum. Until Turkey and its allies among Arab states recognize that terrorism is a black and white phenomenon, and cannot be justified by Turkey’s political whims, the forum is little more than a sick joke.

Namik Tan, Turkey’s ambassador to Washington, hails Turkey’s participation on one hand, but on the other, refuses to acknowledge from his post in Washington that Hamas bombs in restaurants and buses are terrorism. In the Turkish government and foreign ministry’s view, if the victim is Kurdish, it is terrorism, but if the victim is Jewish, it is deserved. Until the Turkish regime is willing to stop its embrace of Hamas, they should receive no legitimacy in the counterterrorism fight.

Just prior to the 9/11 anniversary, the State Department announced that it would, with Turkey, launch a Global Counterterrorism Forum. Until Turkey and its allies among Arab states recognize that terrorism is a black and white phenomenon, and cannot be justified by Turkey’s political whims, the forum is little more than a sick joke.

Namik Tan, Turkey’s ambassador to Washington, hails Turkey’s participation on one hand, but on the other, refuses to acknowledge from his post in Washington that Hamas bombs in restaurants and buses are terrorism. In the Turkish government and foreign ministry’s view, if the victim is Kurdish, it is terrorism, but if the victim is Jewish, it is deserved. Until the Turkish regime is willing to stop its embrace of Hamas, they should receive no legitimacy in the counterterrorism fight.

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My Pundit Scorecard

I’m sure that, like most commentators who regularly opine on current events, I’ve made my share of mistakes during the years. But leftist freelance writer Jordan Michael Smith hasn’t found any of them. In the Washington Post, he offers a “pundit scorecard” ten years after 9/11. Not surprisingly, he applauds leftist pundits and tries to deride conservative ones–including yours truly. He offers me the “Wishful Thinking Award.” (Thanks! Is my check in the mail?) Here is the case he makes:

Not since the bombing of Pearl Harbor destroyed American isolationism has a school of foreign policy thought been so discredited as neoconservatism was by the insurgency in Iraq. Yet in the first months after the 9/11 attacks, neoconservative plans to redesign the Middle East found a sympathetic hearing in the White House and among the commentariat. Probably the most romantic neocon was military analyst Max Boot, who believed that the world was desperate for American domination.

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I’m sure that, like most commentators who regularly opine on current events, I’ve made my share of mistakes during the years. But leftist freelance writer Jordan Michael Smith hasn’t found any of them. In the Washington Post, he offers a “pundit scorecard” ten years after 9/11. Not surprisingly, he applauds leftist pundits and tries to deride conservative ones–including yours truly. He offers me the “Wishful Thinking Award.” (Thanks! Is my check in the mail?) Here is the case he makes:

Not since the bombing of Pearl Harbor destroyed American isolationism has a school of foreign policy thought been so discredited as neoconservatism was by the insurgency in Iraq. Yet in the first months after the 9/11 attacks, neoconservative plans to redesign the Middle East found a sympathetic hearing in the White House and among the commentariat. Probably the most romantic neocon was military analyst Max Boot, who believed that the world was desperate for American domination.

“Afghanistan and other troubled lands today cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets,” Boot wrote in the Weekly Standard on Oct. 15, 2001. Just as the U.S. war in Afghanistan was beginning, Boot was planning other campaigns.

“Once we have deposed Saddam, we can impose an American-led, international regency in Baghdad, to go along with the one in Kabul. With American seriousness and credibility thus restored, we will enjoy fruitful cooperation from the region’s many opportunists, who will show a newfound eagerness to be helpful in our larger task of rolling up the international terror network that threatens us.”

Really? Is that the best Smith could do? The first sentence–about how neoconservatism has supposedly been discredited–looks like it came out of a 2004 time warp. More recent events–the success of the Iraq surge, the dawn of the Arab Spring–have actually vindicated many neocon arguments. Obama’s willingness to undertake a humanitarian intervention in Libya shows that neocon ideas remain a major force even in a Democratic administration. Apparently, Smith hasn’t gotten the memo that he should stop demonizing neocons and move on to the left’s new bete noire–the Tea Party.

Was I wrong to write that places like Afghanistan and Iraq “cry out for …enlightened foreign administration”? In fact, our troubles in Iraq and Afghanistan point out the prescience of the argument I was making: that we needed to think not just about killing a few terrorists but also about toppling the Taliban and Saddam Hussein and building durable institutions to replace them. In “The Case for American Empire,” the Oct. 15, 2001, Weekly Standard essay that Smith selectively quotes from, I made the case for nation-building under international auspices. Here is what I wrote:

[W]hen we oust the Taliban, what comes next? Will we repeat our mistake of a decade ago and leave? What if no responsible government immediately emerges? What if no responsible government immediately emerges? What if millions of Afghans are left starving? Someone would have to step in and help–and don’t bet on the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees getting the job done. The United States, in cooperation with its allies, would be left with the responsibility to feed the hungry, tend the sick, and impose the rule of law. This is what we did for the defeated peoples of Germany, Italy, and Japan, and it is a service that we should extend to the oppressed people of Afghanistan as well. Unlike 19th-century European colonialists, we would not aim to impose our rule permanently. Instead, as in Western Germany, Italy, and Japan, occupation would be a temporary expedient to allow the people to get back on their feet until a responsible, humane, preferably democratic, government takes over….

“With respect to the nature of the regime in Afghanistan, that is not uppermost in our minds right now,” Secretary of State Colin Powell recently said. If not uppermost, though, it certainly should be on our minds. Long before British and American armies had returned to the continent of Europe–even before America had entered the struggle against Germany and Japan–Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt met on a battleship in the North Atlantic to plan the shape of the postwar world. The Atlantic Charter of August 14, 1941, pledged Britain and America to creating a liberal world order based on peace and national self-determination. The leaders of America, and of the West, should be making similar plans today.

I would say those words have been fully vindicated by the last ten years. I only wish policymakers in the Bush administration had listened. Instead, they succumbed to their reflexive suspicion of nation-building and allowed events to spin out of control in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What about my prediction that “[w]ith American seriousness and credibility thus restored, we will enjoy fruitful cooperation from the region’s many opportunists, who will show a newfound eagerness to be helpful in our larger task of rolling up the international terror network that threatens us”? That, too, turned out to be true. Witness how, after Saddam Hussein was toppled, Muammar Qaddafi suddenly decided to give up his weapons of mass destruction, and even the Iranian government paused its development of nuclear weapons. We did get more cooperation even from our foes when our credibility was at its height in 2003. That cooperation waned, however, as we became bogged down in an insurgency in Iraq, with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stubbornly refusing to send enough troops to gain control of the situation. The success of the surge once again restored American credibility–but it is in danger of eroding again, with President Obama prematurely drawing down in Afghanistan and all but pulling out of Iraq.

 

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The American Jewish Congress Should Revoke its Honor of Erdoğan

The American Jewish Congress has been through a rough patch recently, having weathered the financial crisis particularly poorly. Last year, it laid off most of its staff and temporarily suspended operations. Yet, in the last few months, it has tried to renew its presence. Its president, Richard S. Gordon, visited the White House, and the group also found time to issue a statement on the death of Osama bin Laden.

Yet, if the American Jewish Congress hopes to fully re-emerge onto the stage of Jewish advocacy organizations, it must rectify one of its major wrongs. On January 26, 2004, the group presented Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with its “Profiles of Courage” award for promoting peace between cultures. Even at the time, the award was a mistake, but the American Jewish Congress’s leadership had put wishful thinking above dispassionate analysis about Erdoğan’s actions and the changes he sought to implement.

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The American Jewish Congress has been through a rough patch recently, having weathered the financial crisis particularly poorly. Last year, it laid off most of its staff and temporarily suspended operations. Yet, in the last few months, it has tried to renew its presence. Its president, Richard S. Gordon, visited the White House, and the group also found time to issue a statement on the death of Osama bin Laden.

Yet, if the American Jewish Congress hopes to fully re-emerge onto the stage of Jewish advocacy organizations, it must rectify one of its major wrongs. On January 26, 2004, the group presented Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with its “Profiles of Courage” award for promoting peace between cultures. Even at the time, the award was a mistake, but the American Jewish Congress’s leadership had put wishful thinking above dispassionate analysis about Erdoğan’s actions and the changes he sought to implement.

Regardless, there can be no question now. Erdoğan’s regime embraces anti-Semitic incitement for political gain. The prime minister has embraced the crudest blood libel, and his aides have marketed it for mass release in Turkish cinemas. He unapologetically embraces terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah which seek to annihilate not only Israel, but also the Jewish people. That the American Jewish Congress honored the same man who subsequently accepted the Muammar Qaddafi human rights prize is a stain on the American Jewish Congress, one its leadership should formally rectify. It’s long past time for the American Jewish Congress to revoke Erdoğan’s profiles of courage award and deny Erdoğan a claim to tolerance he does not deserve.

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Europeans Fret U.S. Won’t Defend Them

I have to admit I chuckled while reading Philip Stephens’ oped in the Friday Financial Times on “The dangers of American retreat.” Now they tell us.

After spending years complaining about the overweening arrogance and unilateralism of the “hyperpower,” Europeans are now fretting that we are a crippled giant that will no longer be willing to defend them–something they are unwilling, indeed unable, to do for themselves because of the enormous costs of their welfare states. As Stephens notes, even “the emerging powers”–the likes of India, Brazil, Turkey and China–“have prospered from the security and opportunity afforded by U.S. oversight of a rules-based system. They are not yet ready to shoulder the burden. A Hobbesian world will be uncomfortable for the rising and the risen alike. Some – think of India, Vietnam or Indonesia– already see the U.S. as a balancing force.”

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I have to admit I chuckled while reading Philip Stephens’ oped in the Friday Financial Times on “The dangers of American retreat.” Now they tell us.

After spending years complaining about the overweening arrogance and unilateralism of the “hyperpower,” Europeans are now fretting that we are a crippled giant that will no longer be willing to defend them–something they are unwilling, indeed unable, to do for themselves because of the enormous costs of their welfare states. As Stephens notes, even “the emerging powers”–the likes of India, Brazil, Turkey and China–“have prospered from the security and opportunity afforded by U.S. oversight of a rules-based system. They are not yet ready to shoulder the burden. A Hobbesian world will be uncomfortable for the rising and the risen alike. Some – think of India, Vietnam or Indonesia– already see the U.S. as a balancing force.”

Glad the Europeans are now discovering the benefits of American hegemony–just when it appears to be endangered by a combination of fiscal short-sightedness and lack of political will in Washington. Luckily, the fundamentals of American power–whether demographic or economic–remain sound. There is no reason why we have to retreat and decline–and I see little desire among the American public to accept a secondary role in the world. But that could very well be the consequence if, for example, Congress were to slash willy-nilly another $600 billion from the defense budget this fall on top of the $478 billion already cut this year ($78 billion early in the year by the administration, $400 billion this summer after the budget deal). We can maintain our global leadership–but we have to be willing to allocate enough funds to provide a minimal level of support to our armed forces. Otherwise, the worst fears of Europeans–and many others–will come true, and the world will become, as Stephens frets, considerably more Hobbesian.

 

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The UN’s Palestinian Precedent

Many states will vote for unilateral Palestinian statehood at the United Nations on September 20. Let us hope they consider their votes carefully, because they will create a precedent that can impact more than a dozen other countries.

After all, if the Muslim bloc can use its population and oil leverage to extort votes of smaller countries on this issue, why not replicate the same strategy in Indian-controlled Kashmir? Russia, China, and Indonesia are also vulnerable to regional separatism, especially should regional states decide to support insurgencies or separatist movements.

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Many states will vote for unilateral Palestinian statehood at the United Nations on September 20. Let us hope they consider their votes carefully, because they will create a precedent that can impact more than a dozen other countries.

After all, if the Muslim bloc can use its population and oil leverage to extort votes of smaller countries on this issue, why not replicate the same strategy in Indian-controlled Kashmir? Russia, China, and Indonesia are also vulnerable to regional separatism, especially should regional states decide to support insurgencies or separatist movements.

Every now and again, representatives of the Republika Srbska show up in Washington asking questions such as why does the United States and Europe support federalism in Iraq, but insist on reintegration in Bosnia?  The answer to that, of course, is easy: Countries do not want to reward the terror perpetrated by the Serbs against Muslims and Croats during the Bosnian War. But, the Serbs would be correct to ask why they should be punished when Palestinian terror is rewarded.

A few years ago, I wrote an entry for the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World on Baluchistan. Long story short, the Baluch briefly claimed independence and many have never reconciled to their incorporation in Pakistan. If Pakistan supports Kashmiri separatism from India, why should India and other countries not support Baluchistan independence?

Back in 2005, I attended a conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. During a coffee break, one of the Saudis came up to me and asked whether I didn’t agree that the basic problem in the Middle East was occupation. I responded—to his fury—that I agreed with him that Saudi Arabia should end its occupation of the Hejaz. Now, while I said this with my tongue-in-cheek, Saudi Arabia is a completely artificial state held together by military force as the result of conquest. Mai Yamani has written an interesting book on regional identity in the Hejaz. Could there be a time when, Saudis antagonize enough countries that others will lend their support to the freedom of the long-occupied Hejazis?

The Kurds, for their part, say they are the largest people without a nation. Every argument the Turkish government now makes for Palestinian independence could be as easily applied to the Turkish occupation of Kurds and Kurdistan. Perhaps Europe will allow Turkey into the European Union, but why not remove half of Turkey’s territory to grant the Kurds their independence? It would be difficult for Turkey to argue convincingly against such a move, when its prime minister endorsed the precedent for such action.

The separation of South Sudan from the Sudan, and Eritrea from Ethiopia create other precedents. It’s possible to foresee the Kabyles finally getting their freedom, for example, in regions of Algeria where they constitute 90 percent of the population.  France might want to consider its actions in light of Corsica, and Denmark of resource-rich Greenland.

Diplomats engaged in the peace process have long shared with Israelis a vision of a Jewish state and Palestinian state living side-by-side. The question was how to get there, and the chief impediment was that the Palestinians refused to abandon incitement and terrorism, taking what they could diplomatically, and trying to take whatever they couldn’t win at the table through the extortion of “resistance.” With their votes, many countries will not succeed in creating an actual Palestinian state. Rather, what they will do is justify terrorism and make irrelevant peace processes and diplomacy in countless other multi-ethnic areas and conflict zones.

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Worried Much? Dems Go to School on Jews

For the last year or more, Democrats have been scoffing at the notion they are worried about retaining their hold on the Jewish vote. But the news that the Democratic National Committee spent a portion of its Friday meeting in Chicago trying to school its major donors and fundraisers to “Jewish messaging” makes it clear they know they are in trouble.

The prospect of a Republican victory in the heavily Jewish 9th New York congressional district special election on Tuesday is just the tip of the iceberg. Anger in the Jewish community about President Obama’s less-than-friendly attitude toward Israel has affected vital fundraising for the Democrats as well as raising the prospect the GOP will increase its share of the Jewish vote in 2012. Apparently, after nearly a century of dominance in the Jewish community, Democrats feel they have to start teaching themselves how to craft a message to a group second only to African Americans in terms of loyalty to their party. But any message that attempts to rally support for a president whose economic policies are failing badly as well as having a record of picking fights with Israel is going to be a tough sell.

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For the last year or more, Democrats have been scoffing at the notion they are worried about retaining their hold on the Jewish vote. But the news that the Democratic National Committee spent a portion of its Friday meeting in Chicago trying to school its major donors and fundraisers to “Jewish messaging” makes it clear they know they are in trouble.

The prospect of a Republican victory in the heavily Jewish 9th New York congressional district special election on Tuesday is just the tip of the iceberg. Anger in the Jewish community about President Obama’s less-than-friendly attitude toward Israel has affected vital fundraising for the Democrats as well as raising the prospect the GOP will increase its share of the Jewish vote in 2012. Apparently, after nearly a century of dominance in the Jewish community, Democrats feel they have to start teaching themselves how to craft a message to a group second only to African Americans in terms of loyalty to their party. But any message that attempts to rally support for a president whose economic policies are failing badly as well as having a record of picking fights with Israel is going to be a tough sell.

It’s true most Jews are not single-issue voters who only care about Israel. Many are die-hard liberals who will never vote for a Republican no matter how often Obama offended Jewish sensibilities on Israel. But some Jewish centrists and even some liberals are not indifferent to the fact Israelis consider Obama to be the least friendly American president in recent memory. Add in the fact that, like most Americans, Jewish voters understand Obama is an indecisive leader who inherited a shaky economy and made it worse, and that’s a recipe for potential electoral disaster.

The one factor Democrats still have going for them is that most liberal Jews are still far more fearful of pro-Israel evangelical Christians because of their stand on church-state separation than they are of Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah or even al-Qaeda. That means a candidate like Rick Perry will likely struggle to improve on John McCain’s poor showing among Jewish voters in 2008 despite doubts about Obama on Israel. That will mean the Democrat “message” to Jews will have far more to do with scaremongering about evangelicals as well as the usual liberal Medicare tactics about entitlement cuts than it will about Obama’s virtues. But that doesn’t necessarily solve Democratic fundraising woes or save weak congressional candidates like David Weprin in NY-9.

Though the Democrats are still in a relatively strong position vis-à-vis Jews, they know Obama is a weak incumbent who has already lost the trust of this community. Their only hope to extend their winning streak among Jews is to demonize their Republican foes.

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In Praise of the NYPD

I have written a couple of blog items defending the NYPD’s Intelligence Division from the animadversions of the Associated Press which has published two lengthy articles suggesting there is something nefarious about its activities. The case for the NYPD is made even more powerfully yesterday in the Wall Street Journal by Judith Miller.

Based on the comments of Commissioner Ray Kelly and his subordinates, she provides chapter and verse about 13 terrorist plots against New York foiled in whole or in part by the NYPD’s vigilance.

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I have written a couple of blog items defending the NYPD’s Intelligence Division from the animadversions of the Associated Press which has published two lengthy articles suggesting there is something nefarious about its activities. The case for the NYPD is made even more powerfully yesterday in the Wall Street Journal by Judith Miller.

Based on the comments of Commissioner Ray Kelly and his subordinates, she provides chapter and verse about 13 terrorist plots against New York foiled in whole or in part by the NYPD’s vigilance.

And there is no let up–as made clear from recent headlines about the possibility of a car bombing to coincide with the 9/11 anniversary. If such an attack does not come to pass, it may be because the threat was exaggerated–but even if so, there is no doubt the NYPD’s vigilance has, at the very least, served as a powerful deterrent to would-be terrorists. We must, unfortunately, expect that sooner or later a terrorist will get through–no organization, not even one as large and formidable as the NYPD, can erect a perfect defense. But it should not take another successful attack to remind us that the threat from terror remains real, and we cannot end the post-9/11 efforts to disrupt our enemies’ plots.

 

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The Purpose of 9/11

Taken together as a unified whole, 9/11 was the most successful single act of deliberate mass murder in the history of the world—and had things gone a bit differently with Flight 93 and the plane slamming into the Pentagon, it might have been the most startling effort at national decapitation in world history as well. When we talk about the thousands of children who grew up without mothers and fathers, we somehow neglect to understand that these were the orphans of murder, and we know that murders are the most insidous acts on earth, that the scars they leave are often poisonous and continue to threaten the health of the survivors. One of the 9/11 stories I know is about a young father of three whose grief-damaged parents crowded his widow so profoundly that she fled from them and denied them access to the children; they sued her for visitation and lost. None of the adults in this incredibly sad tale was bad or cruel or hostile; it was that finding a normal way to be after the murder was impossible for all of them. When I think about the damage done by 9/11, I think of them and the pain they must be in today. The purpose of 9/11 was to make the entirety of the United States feel as they felt and feel. That didn’t happen, though to be sure, our politics and our culture grew startlingly poisonous in its wake, and the evident desire of many to blame their American antagonists for 9/11 in part or in whole is an odd and sad mark of the enduring effectiveness of the attack.

Taken together as a unified whole, 9/11 was the most successful single act of deliberate mass murder in the history of the world—and had things gone a bit differently with Flight 93 and the plane slamming into the Pentagon, it might have been the most startling effort at national decapitation in world history as well. When we talk about the thousands of children who grew up without mothers and fathers, we somehow neglect to understand that these were the orphans of murder, and we know that murders are the most insidous acts on earth, that the scars they leave are often poisonous and continue to threaten the health of the survivors. One of the 9/11 stories I know is about a young father of three whose grief-damaged parents crowded his widow so profoundly that she fled from them and denied them access to the children; they sued her for visitation and lost. None of the adults in this incredibly sad tale was bad or cruel or hostile; it was that finding a normal way to be after the murder was impossible for all of them. When I think about the damage done by 9/11, I think of them and the pain they must be in today. The purpose of 9/11 was to make the entirety of the United States feel as they felt and feel. That didn’t happen, though to be sure, our politics and our culture grew startlingly poisonous in its wake, and the evident desire of many to blame their American antagonists for 9/11 in part or in whole is an odd and sad mark of the enduring effectiveness of the attack.

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