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Posts For: September 8, 2013

Oslo 20 Years Later: Lessons Learned?

In my previous post, I noted the upcoming 20th anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accords this week. Though the agreement has been a disaster for Israel, I speculated that though these results were eminently predictable—and were by critics of the Labor government that negotiated and signed the accords on the White House Lawn on September 13, 1993—it might have been inevitable that sooner or later Israel would test the intentions of the Palestinians. The question now is whether the Israelis and their American allies are prepared to draw the appropriate conclusions from the experiment.

What happened in the 1990s as the post-Oslo euphoria first receded and was then replaced by the horror of the terror war called the Second Intifada was the gradual realization that Western illusions about Palestinian nationalism were misplaced. Though Arafat signaled at the time that he viewed Oslo as merely a diplomatic ruse intended to help continue the conflict on more advantageous terms rather than a permanent peace, this was something that was largely ignored by those pushing the peace process. Though there is no going back to the pre-Oslo world, as Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempt to revive peace talks continues those who are calling for pressure on Israel to make concessions to Arafat’s successor need to wake up and stop making the same mistakes.

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In my previous post, I noted the upcoming 20th anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accords this week. Though the agreement has been a disaster for Israel, I speculated that though these results were eminently predictable—and were by critics of the Labor government that negotiated and signed the accords on the White House Lawn on September 13, 1993—it might have been inevitable that sooner or later Israel would test the intentions of the Palestinians. The question now is whether the Israelis and their American allies are prepared to draw the appropriate conclusions from the experiment.

What happened in the 1990s as the post-Oslo euphoria first receded and was then replaced by the horror of the terror war called the Second Intifada was the gradual realization that Western illusions about Palestinian nationalism were misplaced. Though Arafat signaled at the time that he viewed Oslo as merely a diplomatic ruse intended to help continue the conflict on more advantageous terms rather than a permanent peace, this was something that was largely ignored by those pushing the peace process. Though there is no going back to the pre-Oslo world, as Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempt to revive peace talks continues those who are calling for pressure on Israel to make concessions to Arafat’s successor need to wake up and stop making the same mistakes.

First among them is to stop pretending that the Palestinian leadership has embraced the cause of peace. The fact remains that Palestinian nationalism was born in the 20th century as a reaction to Zionism and the effort to reverse the verdict of history on 1948 remains their focus today. Until that changes, Israeli leaders and their American allies must understand that a conclusion to the conflict is not in the cards.

Throughout the 1990s as Oslo unraveled, American diplomats and even some Israeli politicians persisted in ignoring not only Palestinian violations of the accords but the campaign of incitement and hate against the Jewish state that was orchestrated by the Palestinian Authority in their media and the educational system they were given control of by the treaty signed on the White House Lawn. Turning a blind eye toward Arafat’s support for terrorism did not enhance the chances of peace. Doing so merely convinced the Palestinians they would pay no price for their intransigence and set the stage for the war of terrorist attrition that put an end to the illusion of Oslo. Repeating that error today as the incitement continues will only replicate those bloody results.

They must also stop buying into the myth that Israeli settlements remain the obstacle to peace. Both Oslo and the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza (not to mention the peace treaty with Egypt) have proved that Israeli governments are prepared to give up territory including the uprooting of longstanding Jewish communities. But doing so merely encouraged the Palestinians to believe that they could oust every settlement, if not the Jewish state itself, if they only hung tough. Rather than negotiate a compromise solution in good faith, they remain trapped in the idea that the Jewish presence on the land is the problem rather than face up to the need to abandon the century-old war on Zionism.

Prior to Oslo, both Americans and some Israeli leaders fundamentally misread Palestinian political culture. The late Yitzhak Rabin thought Arafat would be so eager for a state that he would fight Hamas without the hindrances of concern for human rights and legal niceties that hampered Israeli counter-terrorist strategies. That was a mistake since it not only wrongly attributed a desire for peace to Arafat but also underestimated the hold that a desire for Israel’s destruction had on both the people of the territories and the descendants of the 1948 refugees. Secretary Kerry seems locked in the same misapprehensions about Mahmoud Abbas and the current PA, fueled in no small measures by the same tactic of Palestinians saying one thing about peace to Western diplomats and media and something different to their own people.

So long as American diplomats remain focused on talks with Palestinian leaders who lack the will or the ability to negotiate a permanent end to the conflict rather than on the culture that makes such intransigence inevitable, we are doomed to both a cycle of Palestinian-initiated violence and diplomatic frustration.

If there is a disconnect between the myths about Palestinian intentions on the part of Americans (including many Jews) and the cynicism about the subject on the part of the overwhelming majority of Israelis it is because the latter have been paying attention to events in the last 20 years while the former have clung to their ill-informed illusions. That realistic attitude is a sign of sanity in an Israeli political system that often seems lacking in rationality. But Israelis need to understand something else that has happened since Oslo.

Israel has spent most of the last 20 years continually making concessions to the Palestinians starting with the Oslo empowerment of Arafat and climaxing in the Gaza withdrawal. But it has received scant credit from a world. The irony is that rather than these retreats (as well as a variety of other measures including the release of terrorist murderers such as the one that was extracted from the Netanyahu government in order to give Kerry the negotiations he craved) being rightly interpreted as a sign that Israel wanted peace and was willing to offer generous terms, they were viewed by most of the world as a sign of a guilty conscience. While many Israeli diplomats have believed that arguing for Jewish rights to the West Bank and even Jerusalem was counterproductive, a dispute between a party that only talked of its security rather than its rights is one that is bound to be lost.

This has fed a trend in which Israel’s delegitimization has increased since Oslo rather than diminishing. After Arafat turned down an independent state in almost all of the West Bank, Gaza, and part of Jerusalem, some Israelis thought their negative image would change. They were wrong. Palestinian intransigence, repeated twice more as they rejected even more generous offers in the years that followed, has not harmed their image or strengthened sympathy for Israel.

If that tide is to be stemmed, let alone reversed, it will require Israelis and their friends to stop playing defense about territorial disputes. They must cease merely discussing their desire for peace (genuine though it is) and begin again asserting the justice of their cause.

Should a sea change in Palestinian culture ever occur allowing a new generation of pragmatic leaders to make peace, they will find Israelis willing to deal. But until that happens, both Americans and Israelis would do well to lower their expectations. That is especially true for leaders like Kerry who seemed to have learned nothing from recent history. The euphoria about peace that followed the signing of the Oslo Accords was a trap that led to years of unnecessary bloodshed. In the years that follow this anniversary the test of statecraft in the Middle East will be in avoiding the pattern of self-deception that not only led to Oslo but also worsened its consequences.

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Could the Oslo Fiasco Have Been Averted?

On September 13, 1993 many, if not most, people seemed to think the century-old conflict between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East had been resolved. When Yasir Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo Accords on the White House Lawn as President Bill Clinton looked on beaming, the event engendered a feeling of euphoria in Israel as well as in the United States among supporters of the Jewish state. But when the 20th anniversary of that event is marked later this week, the occasion will be one that will be largely devoted to recriminations rather than celebrations.

To say that those expectations of peace and the creation of–as Shimon Peres, the principle architect of Israel’s policy, articulated it–a “new Middle East” were disappointed is to understate the matter. Israelis clearly thought they were, as the left had long advocated, trading land for peace. But what followed, as the Palestine Liberation Organization was brought in from exile and given autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza, was nothing that resembled peace. Though much effort has been expended in trying to blame the Jewish state for not living up to all of its promises, the main problem with what Oslo’s architects created is the same today as it was then: one side—the Israelis—saw the accord as a formula for a solution for ending the conflict, the other—the Palestinians—viewed it as merely one phase in their long war to extinguish the Jewish state. The Palestinian culture of violence and hatred of Israel has only been strengthened by Oslo, not diminished. There is little reason to believe Arafat’s successor Mahmoud Abbas or his Hamas rivals have any intention of recognizing the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.

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On September 13, 1993 many, if not most, people seemed to think the century-old conflict between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East had been resolved. When Yasir Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo Accords on the White House Lawn as President Bill Clinton looked on beaming, the event engendered a feeling of euphoria in Israel as well as in the United States among supporters of the Jewish state. But when the 20th anniversary of that event is marked later this week, the occasion will be one that will be largely devoted to recriminations rather than celebrations.

To say that those expectations of peace and the creation of–as Shimon Peres, the principle architect of Israel’s policy, articulated it–a “new Middle East” were disappointed is to understate the matter. Israelis clearly thought they were, as the left had long advocated, trading land for peace. But what followed, as the Palestine Liberation Organization was brought in from exile and given autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza, was nothing that resembled peace. Though much effort has been expended in trying to blame the Jewish state for not living up to all of its promises, the main problem with what Oslo’s architects created is the same today as it was then: one side—the Israelis—saw the accord as a formula for a solution for ending the conflict, the other—the Palestinians—viewed it as merely one phase in their long war to extinguish the Jewish state. The Palestinian culture of violence and hatred of Israel has only been strengthened by Oslo, not diminished. There is little reason to believe Arafat’s successor Mahmoud Abbas or his Hamas rivals have any intention of recognizing the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.

The current round of talks going on between Israel and the Palestinian Authority differ from those that led to the 1993 extravaganza principally in that the dispute is now one between two internationally recognized parties rather than between a sovereign nation and a terrorist movement. Even more important, rather than Israel’s international standing having been strengthened by its decision to recognize the national rights of the Palestinians and to empower their foes on the ground, it has been weakened immeasurably by Oslo and the various peace agreements that followed.

However, while we may debate what course both the United States and Israel should follow now and in the future, I think it’s pointless to spend much time pondering whether the Jewish state’s Oslo blunder might have been averted. Though the illusions fostered by those who pursued the accords were exposed by subsequent Palestinian actions as fundamentally mistaken—a fact reflected in the virtual collapse of Israel’s political left—there is no going back. Israel is stuck with the world that Peres and his allies created.

Of course, it is very easy to put forward a historical scenario by which Oslo would not have occurred. Had Israel’s right-wing parties won just one more Knesset seat in the 1992 elections that put Labor and its leader Yitzhak Rabin in control of the country, the result would have been a stalemate. Indeed, had negotiations for the three largest parties to the right of Likud to join forces succeeded, Yitzhak Shamir might have been narrowly reelected since the combined vote of the trio would have given their erstwhile coalition a majority. But since they went to the polls solo, the result (under the rules of Israel’s convoluted proportional electoral system) led to many of those votes being wasted. What would have followed would probably have been another few years of American pressure on Israel to negotiate with the PLO and Arafat but the old terrorist would not have been allowed to place his forces on Israel’s doorstep in the West Bank and Gaza.

Nevertheless, such speculation is futile because sooner or later Israel’s left would have won an election. In retrospect, their arguments that Israel had to take a chance and make concessions to the Palestinians in the hope of achieving peace seem reasonable today. That is especially true when their positions are compared to those who still seek to pressure Israel to accommodate the PA today after 20 years of broken Palestinian promises and terrorism. Though it should be conceded that the right’s dream of the settlement enterprise guaranteeing the extension of the Jewish state’s sovereignty throughout all of the West Bank was equally mistaken, few Israelis now believe the Palestinian goal is peace.

But it is equally true that Israel is powerless to restore the pre-Oslo world in which it had complete control over all of the territories. Nor is there much enthusiasm in Israel about reversing Ariel Sharon’s equally disastrous retreat from Gaza. Just as important, neither the international community nor the United States would tolerate any such action on Israel’s part.

Israel wound up trading land for terror and delegitimization rather than peace. That was eminently predictable, and many on the right did just that. But the march of folly that led to Oslo has about it the air of inevitability. It is cold comfort to Israelis, who now face a heavily-armed terrorist-ruled enclave in Gaza and the possibility that the even more strategically important West Bank could become a safe haven for Fatah and Hamas terrorists should the U.S.-sponsored talks succeed, to say that all this had to be tried in order to prove that more concessions on the part of the Jewish state would be foolish. Everything in history is evitable as what happens is the product of the choices individuals and nations make. But it is difficult to imagine any scenario under which these past 20 years could have passed without some sort of Oslo-style experiment on Israel’s part if only to test the intentions of the Palestinians. The question now is whether both Israelis and their American friends are willing to be honest about the result of that experiment.

Though there is no going back from the world of Oslo, both Israel and the United States can learn from their mistakes. In my next post, I’ll write about how the lessons of Oslo should be applied to future diplomatic endeavors. 

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Doubts About Obama’s Iran Resolve? Plenty

For those Americans who wonder whether Barack Obama’s bumbling response to the crisis in Syria is an indication of what he will do about Iran, Jeffrey Goldberg says not to worry. In an article published in Bloomberg last Wednesday, Goldberg makes the argument that the president’s feckless behavior on Syria that culminated in his shifting of responsibility to a divided Congress shouldn’t inform our expectations of what he will ultimately do about the Iranian nuclear threat. Though a firm supporter of the president, Goldberg has at times been rightly critical of his behavior on Syria, so that, along with his good sources in the White House, gives him some credibility on the issue. While, as he notes, the administration has itself made the argument that America’s willingness to step in on Syria will have an impact on Iran’s behavior, Goldberg argues such an assumption is mistaken. According to the writer, the president always viewed the Iranian issue as a fundamental threat to U.S. security and therefore should be trusted to act accordingly no matter how uninspired his leadership proves to be on Syria.

But while Goldberg is right when he cites the fact that Obama’s strident rhetoric on Iran has left little wriggle room for him to be able to punt on the issue, asking us to believe the president’s Hamlet-like inability to bridge the gap between his words on Syria (“Assad must go” and the use of chemical weapons constituting a “red line”) isn’t indicative of future problems strains credulity. It’s not just that the spectacle of an administration that spent two years dithering about Syria before deciding on action and then shifting the decision to Congress will reinforce Tehran’s belief that Obama is a paper tiger. It’s that over the course of the past five years the president’s actions on Iran have been as disconnected from his words as they have been on Syria. Even before the president choked when he could have legally ordered a strike on Syria, everything he has done with regard to the nuclear issue has given the world and the ayatollahs good reason to believe he will be equally unable to order action on Iran’s nukes.

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For those Americans who wonder whether Barack Obama’s bumbling response to the crisis in Syria is an indication of what he will do about Iran, Jeffrey Goldberg says not to worry. In an article published in Bloomberg last Wednesday, Goldberg makes the argument that the president’s feckless behavior on Syria that culminated in his shifting of responsibility to a divided Congress shouldn’t inform our expectations of what he will ultimately do about the Iranian nuclear threat. Though a firm supporter of the president, Goldberg has at times been rightly critical of his behavior on Syria, so that, along with his good sources in the White House, gives him some credibility on the issue. While, as he notes, the administration has itself made the argument that America’s willingness to step in on Syria will have an impact on Iran’s behavior, Goldberg argues such an assumption is mistaken. According to the writer, the president always viewed the Iranian issue as a fundamental threat to U.S. security and therefore should be trusted to act accordingly no matter how uninspired his leadership proves to be on Syria.

But while Goldberg is right when he cites the fact that Obama’s strident rhetoric on Iran has left little wriggle room for him to be able to punt on the issue, asking us to believe the president’s Hamlet-like inability to bridge the gap between his words on Syria (“Assad must go” and the use of chemical weapons constituting a “red line”) isn’t indicative of future problems strains credulity. It’s not just that the spectacle of an administration that spent two years dithering about Syria before deciding on action and then shifting the decision to Congress will reinforce Tehran’s belief that Obama is a paper tiger. It’s that over the course of the past five years the president’s actions on Iran have been as disconnected from his words as they have been on Syria. Even before the president choked when he could have legally ordered a strike on Syria, everything he has done with regard to the nuclear issue has given the world and the ayatollahs good reason to believe he will be equally unable to order action on Iran’s nukes.

Let’s stipulate that, as Goldberg argues, the president has always been clear about his view that an Iranian nuke constitutes a direct threat to U.S. interests and the security of its allies. Obama said as much during his first presidential campaign in 2008 and went even farther in 2012 when he explicitly rejected “containment” of a nuclear Iran as an option and even said in one of his debates with Mitt Romney that any deal with Tehran would be predicated on the end of the Islamist regime’s “nuclear program.”

But he has also spent his time in office also making it clear that confrontation with Iran is something that he will go to virtually any lengths to avoid. Ignoring the history of Iran’s diplomatic deceptions he has wasted precious years on equally futile efforts at engagement that did nothing but buy them more time to get closer to their nuclear goal. The administration was slow to move to tough sanctions and only did so at the insistence of Congress. Though the president continues to talk tough, his willingness to ignore the repeated failure of the P5+1 talks and to invest more months, if not years, on outreach to new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and to buy into the spin that this veteran of the Islamist regime is a genuine moderate presages more indecision to come.

But the problem here is not just that there is a pattern of behavior here that cannot be ignored. It’s that, as Goldberg rightly concedes, when the moment of truth on Iran arrives (if such a moment on Iran ever arrives before Tehran is able to announce that it has a viable weapon) the evidence will probably be more inconclusive than the open-and-shut case that currently exists about Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Even though we know that Iran has been amassing large amounts of enriched uranium that could be quickly converted to military use while Obama delayed and talked, the Iranians have moved their massive nuclear program underground into hardened bunkers that shields their contents from scrutiny as well as possible attack from the air.

That means the same pressures and doubts that caused the president to repeatedly stumble on Syria will be even greater if he is ever able to admit that diplomacy has conclusively failed on Iran. Like the administration, Goldberg continues to insist that there is still plenty of time for diplomacy and sanctions to work before the use of force on Iran should be contemplated. That is highly debatable. But even if we were prepared to accept this dubious assertion, everything the president has done on both Syria and Iran would lead a reasonable person to conclude that decisive U.S. action on the nuclear threat is highly unlikely. While Goldberg may still believe in Obama’s promises on Iran, the ayatollahs and their intended victims in Israel cannot be faulted for drawing the opposite conclusion.

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A Shot Across the Bow

“A shot across the bow” has been a much-used metaphor of late, referring to the proposed strike against the Assad regime in Syria for its use of chemical weapons.

But what does that phrase mean, exactly? In the days before radio communications it was a warning that meant, simply, “stop or I’ll sink you.” It gave the other ship an opportunity to stand to before being attacked.

But the warning, necessarily, implied the possibility of further hostile action. After all, if you tell someone to “stop or I’ll sink you,” and they don’t stop, the next move is to hit them directly. If they still don’t stop, then you carry out the threat and sink them. In other words, a shot across the bow is the first step on a clearly determined ladder of escalation. It is not an end in itself.

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“A shot across the bow” has been a much-used metaphor of late, referring to the proposed strike against the Assad regime in Syria for its use of chemical weapons.

But what does that phrase mean, exactly? In the days before radio communications it was a warning that meant, simply, “stop or I’ll sink you.” It gave the other ship an opportunity to stand to before being attacked.

But the warning, necessarily, implied the possibility of further hostile action. After all, if you tell someone to “stop or I’ll sink you,” and they don’t stop, the next move is to hit them directly. If they still don’t stop, then you carry out the threat and sink them. In other words, a shot across the bow is the first step on a clearly determined ladder of escalation. It is not an end in itself.

President Obama has been desperately trying to convince a skeptical Congress, and an even more skeptical public, that this shot across the bow will be a one-off with no further military action afterwards. He has emphasized that this would be a surgical, limited strike with very limited effect on Assad’s military assets (especially as Assad has now had several weeks to get them out of harm’s way). Obama has ignored the possibility that Assad will ignore the warning.

As far as I know, only Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) has asked the question, what happens if, after a U.S. attack, Assad uses chemical weapons again? As she says, if we strike again, that is the very definition of “further involvement.” If we don’t strike again, then the United States is exposed as the maker of empty threats and can be safely ignored. No Great Power can allow itself to be so exposed.

The president will be interviewed tomorrow by no fewer than six TV networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN, and Fox). I hope at least one of the interviewers will ask him—and insist on a clear answer to—the question, what happens if we hit Syria and they go on using chemical weapons?

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Syria and the Perils of Partisanship

President Obama’s path to intervention in Syria has been a compendium of every possible mistake a leader can make in terms of diminishing America’s credibility and influence. His last-minute decision to turn to Congress rather than to act on his own authority as he could have and should have and his signals that U.S. strikes would not alter the military equation in Syria have undermined his authority and emboldened isolationists on both the left and the right to oppose his policy. All this has made it difficult if not impossible for many people to view the question of intervention as one of endorsing or opposing the president. For some (though not all) Democrats, who have generally opposed the use of U.S. power abroad to defend American interests or human rights, that means backing Obama on Syria simply because he is the head of their party. On the other hand, that has encouraged some on the right, who have not previously been knee-jerk isolationists, to oppose intervention in Syria simply because it is Obama who is asking for it.

The notion that politics stops at the water’s edge has been largely observed in the breach for decades, yet the openly partisan matter with which this current debate is being conducted may have struck a new low. It is time for conservatives who are saying they can’t support military action under the leadership of Barack Obama to understand the terrible cost such a stand will have not only for American interests but also for the world. Though the country deserves a better leader, he’s the only one we’ve got for the next three years. If Republicans are going to take the same attitude toward the use of force by Washington during this time period in much the same manner they would like to obstruct the implementation of ObamaCare, then it isn’t just Obama who will suffer. Such a position will be a signal to not just Bashar Assad and his use of his chemical arsenal but to the ayatollahs in Iran and their nuclear ambitions that the U.S. is paralyzed.

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President Obama’s path to intervention in Syria has been a compendium of every possible mistake a leader can make in terms of diminishing America’s credibility and influence. His last-minute decision to turn to Congress rather than to act on his own authority as he could have and should have and his signals that U.S. strikes would not alter the military equation in Syria have undermined his authority and emboldened isolationists on both the left and the right to oppose his policy. All this has made it difficult if not impossible for many people to view the question of intervention as one of endorsing or opposing the president. For some (though not all) Democrats, who have generally opposed the use of U.S. power abroad to defend American interests or human rights, that means backing Obama on Syria simply because he is the head of their party. On the other hand, that has encouraged some on the right, who have not previously been knee-jerk isolationists, to oppose intervention in Syria simply because it is Obama who is asking for it.

The notion that politics stops at the water’s edge has been largely observed in the breach for decades, yet the openly partisan matter with which this current debate is being conducted may have struck a new low. It is time for conservatives who are saying they can’t support military action under the leadership of Barack Obama to understand the terrible cost such a stand will have not only for American interests but also for the world. Though the country deserves a better leader, he’s the only one we’ve got for the next three years. If Republicans are going to take the same attitude toward the use of force by Washington during this time period in much the same manner they would like to obstruct the implementation of ObamaCare, then it isn’t just Obama who will suffer. Such a position will be a signal to not just Bashar Assad and his use of his chemical arsenal but to the ayatollahs in Iran and their nuclear ambitions that the U.S. is paralyzed.

There are good reasons to worry about whether the president’s proposed intervention in Syria will be effective. The president’s desire to placate his left-wing base has led him to promise that any action will be limited and that he isn’t interested in regime change. Yet at the same time, he continues to say that Assad must go and winks at foreign-policy hawks like Senator John McCain to lead them to think that the plan will have a significant impact on the Syrian regime’s ability to continue slaughtering its people, whether with chemical or conventional weapons. The clear lack of enthusiasm for the mission that has been demonstrated by Joint Chiefs Chair General Martin Dempsey further reinforces the impression that this is a halfhearted effort that will not accomplish much.

Throw in an isolationist movement on the right that has already flexed its muscles on the question of the National Security Agency’s counter-terror activities and the use of drones and its hard to see how the president can find the votes in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives for his resolution. But as our Abe Greenwald wrote on Wednesday, just because the president has, at least so far, failed to make an argument for intervention, doesn’t mean there isn’t one to be made. We must, as Abe wrote, decide what kind of world we want to live in and what kind of America we want to be. If we are now so war-weary or too timid to act against mass murderers then those conservatives who are saying they won’t back force ordered by Obama are consigning the country and the globe to a period in which insanity will be sovereign.

To listen to conservatives now echoing the cynicism of the left during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan is disheartening. The issue in Syria really isn’t Barack Obama’s credibility since we already know he hasn’t much to start with. What is at stake in the vote on Syria is whether the United States is prepared to restrain out-of-control regional actors who transgress the norms of international behavior. If we aren’t, then while the GOP is waiting for a president they can respect, the world will become a lot more dangerous than it might otherwise be. 

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The Jobs Numbers

The Obama “recovery” continues in the latest jobs report. The economy added 169,000 jobs last month, but jobs for June and July were revised downwards by 72,000. The unemployment rate fell by a notch to 7.3 percent. But that was only because 310,000 people left the labor force. The participation rate (the percentage of working-age people in the labor force) dropped to 63.2 percent, the lowest since August of 1978.

Underemployment, people with part-time jobs who want full-time ones, continues to be a major problem, with 40 percent of part-time workers unable to find full-time employment.

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The Obama “recovery” continues in the latest jobs report. The economy added 169,000 jobs last month, but jobs for June and July were revised downwards by 72,000. The unemployment rate fell by a notch to 7.3 percent. But that was only because 310,000 people left the labor force. The participation rate (the percentage of working-age people in the labor force) dropped to 63.2 percent, the lowest since August of 1978.

Underemployment, people with part-time jobs who want full-time ones, continues to be a major problem, with 40 percent of part-time workers unable to find full-time employment.

And most of the jobs created so far this year (848,000—a dismal number in itself) have been part-time jobs. The percentage of those jobs that were part-time was either 96 percent, 63 percent, or 59 percent, depending on how you interpret the Bureau of Labor Statistics data. If you would like to induce a headache, you can follow the arguments among professional economists for which number is correct here. But, regardless, even the lowest number, 59 percent, is dreadful. Prosperity is not built on part-time jobs.

How many of these part-time jobs are due to current economic conditions and how many are due to the impending implementation of Obamacare is anyone’s guess.

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