Nothing seems to be able to displace Fareed Zakaria from his current perch in which he is treated as one of the country’s leading foreign policy experts. In August, he survived a brush with what should have been professional disgrace when both CNN and Time magazine reinstated him following his suspension for blatantly plagiarizing an article in The New Yorker. His employers decided the star’s misdeed was “unintentional” and an “isolated” incident. So Zakaria continues on his merry way, promoting conventional wisdom about the world and calling it insight. But his latest column for the Washington Post undermines what little is left of his credibility. In a piece titled “Israel Dominates the Middle East,” Zakaria demonstrates again that being labeled an “expert” by the mainstream media has little to do with actual expertise.
The conceit of Zakaria’s piece is that recent events demonstrate again that Israel is the superpower of the Middle East. From there he jumps to the conclusion that because Israel has a prosperous economy and is strong enough to defend itself from dangerous foes who wish to destroy it, it therefore follows that all that is necessary for there to be peace in the region is for Israel to wish for it. That such a prominent member of the foreign policy establishment should espouse such magical thinking says a lot about what passes for expertise these days. But more than that, it shows that being an expert doesn’t require one to have even given a passing glance to the events of the last 20 years in the region.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has had quite a week. He helped broker a cease-fire between his Hamas ally and Israel to the acclaim of the international community as well as the United States and his new friend President Obama. He followed that triumph up by issuing new decrees that effectively give him dictatorial powers over Egypt. In less than year in office, Morsi has amassed as much power as Hosni Mubarak had in his time in office as the country’s strongman and he has done it while getting closer to the United States rather than having his Islamist regime being condemned or isolated by Washington.
The full implications of Morsi’s ascendency are not yet apparent. But we can draw a few rather obvious conclusions from these events. The first is this makes the region a much more dangerous place and peace even more unlikely. the second is that the much ballyhooed Arab Spring turned out to be an Islamist triumph, not an opening for democracy. And third, and perhaps most disconcerting for Americans, it looks like the Obama administration has shown itself again to be a band of hopeless amateurs when it comes to the Middle East. While President Obama shouldn’t be blamed for toppling Mubarak, this episode is more proof of the gap between his foreign policy instincts and a rational defense of American interests.
Nicholas Kristof has one of the most prestigious perches in American journalism: a regular, twice-a-week column on the op-ed page of the New York Times. Yet on Wednesday he wrote a piece that, had it been turned in to a freshman expository writing class (if such things exist anymore), it would have deserved to have been flunked cold. It would appear to have been written off the top of his head, without any fact checking that I can discern. He just dipped deeply into his prejudices and hit the keyboard.
The column is about the perceived growing gap between the rich and the rest of us, this time manifested in the fact that an increasing number of the prosperous have stand-by generators installed at their homes in case the power fails. Given the fact that I lost power for four days in August 2011 (Hurricane Irene), six days in October 2011 (the freak 10-inch snow fall), two days in July 2012 (a bad thunderstorm) and for nine days in October-November 2012 (Hurricane Sandy), a stand-by generator sounds like a damn good idea to me. (For Hurricane Sandy, I decamped from my cold, dark, waterless house to stay at the house of friends who were traveling and have a generator).
Jonathan follows Bret Stephens and Max Boot in reviewing the debate over the Gaza disengagement back in 2005, when Israel withdrew civilians and military personnel from the Strip. “But unlike Bret and Max,” Jonathan writes, “I don’t feel obligated to offer any mea culpas about my position on the withdrawal.” After all, to his credit he presciently anticipated that Israel would not receive the benefits from the disengagement that its advocates predicted.
“So why didn’t those reservations compel me to take a stand against Sharon?” he continues. “It was because the decision to withdraw was the decision of the democratically elected government of the state of Israel.” This, Jonathan says, is why the “Diaspora kibitzers who are now saying, ‘I told you so,’ are still missing the key point about that debate,” since “decisions about settlements, borders, Jerusalem and the territories must be made by those elected by the Israeli people, not by American Jewish wiseacres, be they of the left- or the right-wing persuasion.” Read More