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Topic: author

More on Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa

I wrote about the new Nobel Literature laureate here yesterday, and add more today in the New York Post. And with thanks for the archival help provided by the library at the Washington Times, here’s a chunk of a profile I wrote of Mario Vargas Llosa in 1990:

The losing candidate in Peru’s last presidential election – the one who advocated free markets and an end to socialism – found himself on Rockville Pike in Borders Book Shop on a Wednesday evening in October. But he wasn’t out there among the Burger Kings and the K marts and the I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurts to discuss his political career in Latin America. No, Mario Vargas Llosa had come to read aloud from the brand-new English translation of his shocking and highly experimental novel about the sexual liaison between a 40-year-old woman and her pre-adolescent stepson.

One of the world’s most distinguished writers and thinkers, peddling an erotic novel called “In Praise of the Stepmother” in a Rockville bookstore? The same day he appeared on the “Today” show in New York with Bryant Gumbel? It’s all too strange for words: Mario Vargas< Llosa, sandwiched between Willard Scott’s weather and the results of Deborah Norville’s latest sonogram.
“Well, you know, those interviews are so short that you can’t really express yourself,” he says with a touch of impatience when asked about the “Today” show in his suite at the Sheraton-Carlton. But, as if fearful to give offense, he adds, “I suppose it’s important for a book to be mentioned on a much-watched program, no?”

Here’s another irony: Mr. Vargas Llosa probably only got booked on the “Today” show because his publishers have linked “In Praise of the Stepmother” and its disturbing subject matter to Sexy Topic No. 1 in the arts this year: Censorship. “I’ve been asked about this since I arrived,” the startlingly good-looking and surprisingly slight 53- year-old writer says in his lilting, hesitant English. “It has been a surprise for me because, on the one hand, the United States seems so free. . . . On the other hand, I can’t understand that in a country so open and so free, these old and obsolete issues of censorship can still become a national issue. But I suppose it is inevitable.”

It was certainly inevitable that “In Praise of the Stepmother” would discomfit people, because it is a genuinely discomfiting book. This is no funny and playful erotic romp, like the novel that made him famous in the United States, “Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter.” No, the sex in “Stepmother” is powerful, primal and frightening. It is, well, dirty. “I wouldn’t say ‘dirty,’ ” Mr. Vargas Llosa corrects. “I disagree. I don’t think sex is dirty. It may be dirty, but I don’t think it’s dirty in the story I tell. Threatening, yes.” The novel has four characters – an angel-faced boy named Fonchito, his passionate and beautiful stepmother, his blissfully happy father and the inevitable chambermaid. The stepmother is slowly and unwillingly seduced by her seemingly innocent stepson…

Writing the book may have had catastrophic consequences for its author. It was published in the midst of his two-year campaign for the presidency of Peru, which ended in June when Alberto Fujimori defeated Mr. Vargas Llosa in a surprise upset. “It was used against me by my adversary in the campaign,” he recalls. “I don’t know if that had any effect, but, oh, yes, it was read on the national television, as if to say, “Look at the kind of man that is this candidate!’ ” He laughs….

Mr. Vargas Llosa is thrilled that Mexican poet Octavio Paz recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature because, he says, “they are giving the prize to someone who has been fighting for democracy.”

“Things have changed so much in the world that even the Swedish Academy is accepting that there can be a very good Latin American writer who is not a communist, not a socialist.”

He pleases himself with this crack and explodes in machine-gun laughter…

I had forgotten that Vargas Llosa had discussed Octavio Paz and his Nobel; interesting, given that Vargas Llosa is the first Latin American since Paz to win the prize.

I wrote about the new Nobel Literature laureate here yesterday, and add more today in the New York Post. And with thanks for the archival help provided by the library at the Washington Times, here’s a chunk of a profile I wrote of Mario Vargas Llosa in 1990:

The losing candidate in Peru’s last presidential election – the one who advocated free markets and an end to socialism – found himself on Rockville Pike in Borders Book Shop on a Wednesday evening in October. But he wasn’t out there among the Burger Kings and the K marts and the I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurts to discuss his political career in Latin America. No, Mario Vargas Llosa had come to read aloud from the brand-new English translation of his shocking and highly experimental novel about the sexual liaison between a 40-year-old woman and her pre-adolescent stepson.

One of the world’s most distinguished writers and thinkers, peddling an erotic novel called “In Praise of the Stepmother” in a Rockville bookstore? The same day he appeared on the “Today” show in New York with Bryant Gumbel? It’s all too strange for words: Mario Vargas< Llosa, sandwiched between Willard Scott’s weather and the results of Deborah Norville’s latest sonogram.
“Well, you know, those interviews are so short that you can’t really express yourself,” he says with a touch of impatience when asked about the “Today” show in his suite at the Sheraton-Carlton. But, as if fearful to give offense, he adds, “I suppose it’s important for a book to be mentioned on a much-watched program, no?”

Here’s another irony: Mr. Vargas Llosa probably only got booked on the “Today” show because his publishers have linked “In Praise of the Stepmother” and its disturbing subject matter to Sexy Topic No. 1 in the arts this year: Censorship. “I’ve been asked about this since I arrived,” the startlingly good-looking and surprisingly slight 53- year-old writer says in his lilting, hesitant English. “It has been a surprise for me because, on the one hand, the United States seems so free. . . . On the other hand, I can’t understand that in a country so open and so free, these old and obsolete issues of censorship can still become a national issue. But I suppose it is inevitable.”

It was certainly inevitable that “In Praise of the Stepmother” would discomfit people, because it is a genuinely discomfiting book. This is no funny and playful erotic romp, like the novel that made him famous in the United States, “Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter.” No, the sex in “Stepmother” is powerful, primal and frightening. It is, well, dirty. “I wouldn’t say ‘dirty,’ ” Mr. Vargas Llosa corrects. “I disagree. I don’t think sex is dirty. It may be dirty, but I don’t think it’s dirty in the story I tell. Threatening, yes.” The novel has four characters – an angel-faced boy named Fonchito, his passionate and beautiful stepmother, his blissfully happy father and the inevitable chambermaid. The stepmother is slowly and unwillingly seduced by her seemingly innocent stepson…

Writing the book may have had catastrophic consequences for its author. It was published in the midst of his two-year campaign for the presidency of Peru, which ended in June when Alberto Fujimori defeated Mr. Vargas Llosa in a surprise upset. “It was used against me by my adversary in the campaign,” he recalls. “I don’t know if that had any effect, but, oh, yes, it was read on the national television, as if to say, “Look at the kind of man that is this candidate!’ ” He laughs….

Mr. Vargas Llosa is thrilled that Mexican poet Octavio Paz recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature because, he says, “they are giving the prize to someone who has been fighting for democracy.”

“Things have changed so much in the world that even the Swedish Academy is accepting that there can be a very good Latin American writer who is not a communist, not a socialist.”

He pleases himself with this crack and explodes in machine-gun laughter…

I had forgotten that Vargas Llosa had discussed Octavio Paz and his Nobel; interesting, given that Vargas Llosa is the first Latin American since Paz to win the prize.

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Reaction to J Street

It’s interesting to watch the left cope with the realization that not only have the J Streeters copiously lied, but that they are in league with Richard Goldstone — shepherding him around Capitol Hill and writing his defense.

The left-leaning Haaretz sounds mournful, albeit realistic:

These days, J Street, the leftist pro-Israel lobby, is trying to appear business as usual. Following their ad campaign in the newspapers showcasing their support of the peace process and urging leaders to make history, J Street met this week with Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren and with various congressional representatives, in hopes of tightening connections ahead of the November midterm elections.

But ever since the Washington Times exposed the discreet donations made by billionaire George Soros to the organization, the scandal surrounding J Street is only magnifying.

The reporter accurately details the series of lies and concludes:

J Street needs to make a clear decision — if they want to be truly inclusive, as they claim to be — they shouldn’t be afraid to be so, despite the price they may have to pay. By continuing their current modus operandi — trying to dodge controversy — they are actually creating more controversies and might lose credibility even among their left-wing supporters. If they want to become a unique voice, they should say: “We do not agree, but we listen to all voices — and not under the table.”

Not an unreasonable suggestion.

Over at Tikun Olam, Richard Silverstein goes on a rant against Eli Lake, who broke the story. But in the end, he too concedes:

All this goes to my main problem with J Street: they’re being too smart by half in trying to hide their true progressive views under a bushel.  If you want to be a Democratic version of Aipac as J Street has been over the past year, then do so and don’t take money from Soros or aid Goldstone.  Make Colette Avital happy, play in the sandbox with the moribund Labor Party, etc.  But if you want to be a truly independent progressive Jewish group why attempt to hide from anyone what you’ve done in taking Soros’ money or helping Goldstone?  Why make common cause with an unreliable figure like Avital?

The problem, might be, those bushel-hidden views are not palatable to the vast majority of American Jews.

Then there is Ron Kampeas’s column in the JTA. Kampeas has invested much credibility writing about and sourcing from the J Street crowd (and they, in spinning him); so I wasn’t all that surprised that he chose to go after the reporters who uncovered J Street’s lies. But his defense of J Street runs from odd to outrageous.

He’s not moved by the audiotape revealing Colette Avital’s false denial of her admission that Goldstone got the J Street tour around the Capitol. He acknowledges that Ben-Ami now concedes that “J Street had suggested contacts to the organizations that all sides agree did facilitate Goldstone’s Hill meetings, the Open Society Institute and the New America Foundation,” but seems not to grasp that this contradicted other Ben-Ami’s statements. He’s still giving Ben-Ami the benefit of the doubt. (“Now, it is true that Jeremy could be lying — he misled everyone about Soros’s involvement, after all, and his accounts of what was said to the Times and what was not have shifted slightly — but that doesn’t mean anything at this stage.” It doesn’t?) And on he goes, denying that there is anything here to see, nothing at all. (Even Jeffrey Goldberg figured out that this is curtains for the J Street gang.)

An official at a pro-Israel organization is aghast:

I guess it’s not enough for Ron Kampeas to be lied to, and lied to and lied to again. Maybe in that fairy land lies pass for truth, but in Washington and in the real world, lies are lies. And J Street has lied about taking money from George Soros, they lied about being an organization paid for by Americans. In fact, J Street is a sham astroturf collection of email addresses paid for by George Soros and a unknown person in Hong Kong named Connie Esdicul who covered half of their budget in the 2008-2009 year, when they were the “blocking back” for the White House policy beating up on Israel. I wonder what member of Congress will want to take their PAC money or keep signing their letters? Maybe only if Mort Halperin only if writes them, just like he did for Richard Goldstone when J Street called members of Congress to set up meetings for him so he could explain how Israel was guilty of war crimes.

And now they are lying again about their role in promoting the author of the Goldstone report — a anti-Israel document so vile that even the radical left group B’tselem condemned it. But J Street? No, they didn’t condemn it then, and they don’t now.

But here’s the outrageous part: Kampeas agrees with J Street that Goldstone got a raw deal. He’s incensed: “Why the hell shouldn’t Goldstone have met with the Congress members?” (Because he’s a vicious defamer of Israel and has presided over the multiple executions of blacks in South Africa?) He proclaims that “the original anti-Goldstone resolution that circulated was profoundly unfair to him.” Then the show stopper:

Here’s a postscript: I don’t think Goldstone is Uncle Evil any longer in Israel. His reputation morphed from Pompous Traitor to Wounded Grandpa after South African Zionists tried to muscle him out of his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah.

This is ludicrous. There is no significant segment of Israeli society and not a single prominent Israeli politician who thinks Goldstone is anything but evil. Well, at least we know why Kampeas is so sympathetic to J Street — they both have a soft spot for the man who has, through deliberate misrepresentation, done more than any living soul to aid Israel’s delegitimizers.

It’s interesting to watch the left cope with the realization that not only have the J Streeters copiously lied, but that they are in league with Richard Goldstone — shepherding him around Capitol Hill and writing his defense.

The left-leaning Haaretz sounds mournful, albeit realistic:

These days, J Street, the leftist pro-Israel lobby, is trying to appear business as usual. Following their ad campaign in the newspapers showcasing their support of the peace process and urging leaders to make history, J Street met this week with Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren and with various congressional representatives, in hopes of tightening connections ahead of the November midterm elections.

But ever since the Washington Times exposed the discreet donations made by billionaire George Soros to the organization, the scandal surrounding J Street is only magnifying.

The reporter accurately details the series of lies and concludes:

J Street needs to make a clear decision — if they want to be truly inclusive, as they claim to be — they shouldn’t be afraid to be so, despite the price they may have to pay. By continuing their current modus operandi — trying to dodge controversy — they are actually creating more controversies and might lose credibility even among their left-wing supporters. If they want to become a unique voice, they should say: “We do not agree, but we listen to all voices — and not under the table.”

Not an unreasonable suggestion.

Over at Tikun Olam, Richard Silverstein goes on a rant against Eli Lake, who broke the story. But in the end, he too concedes:

All this goes to my main problem with J Street: they’re being too smart by half in trying to hide their true progressive views under a bushel.  If you want to be a Democratic version of Aipac as J Street has been over the past year, then do so and don’t take money from Soros or aid Goldstone.  Make Colette Avital happy, play in the sandbox with the moribund Labor Party, etc.  But if you want to be a truly independent progressive Jewish group why attempt to hide from anyone what you’ve done in taking Soros’ money or helping Goldstone?  Why make common cause with an unreliable figure like Avital?

The problem, might be, those bushel-hidden views are not palatable to the vast majority of American Jews.

Then there is Ron Kampeas’s column in the JTA. Kampeas has invested much credibility writing about and sourcing from the J Street crowd (and they, in spinning him); so I wasn’t all that surprised that he chose to go after the reporters who uncovered J Street’s lies. But his defense of J Street runs from odd to outrageous.

He’s not moved by the audiotape revealing Colette Avital’s false denial of her admission that Goldstone got the J Street tour around the Capitol. He acknowledges that Ben-Ami now concedes that “J Street had suggested contacts to the organizations that all sides agree did facilitate Goldstone’s Hill meetings, the Open Society Institute and the New America Foundation,” but seems not to grasp that this contradicted other Ben-Ami’s statements. He’s still giving Ben-Ami the benefit of the doubt. (“Now, it is true that Jeremy could be lying — he misled everyone about Soros’s involvement, after all, and his accounts of what was said to the Times and what was not have shifted slightly — but that doesn’t mean anything at this stage.” It doesn’t?) And on he goes, denying that there is anything here to see, nothing at all. (Even Jeffrey Goldberg figured out that this is curtains for the J Street gang.)

An official at a pro-Israel organization is aghast:

I guess it’s not enough for Ron Kampeas to be lied to, and lied to and lied to again. Maybe in that fairy land lies pass for truth, but in Washington and in the real world, lies are lies. And J Street has lied about taking money from George Soros, they lied about being an organization paid for by Americans. In fact, J Street is a sham astroturf collection of email addresses paid for by George Soros and a unknown person in Hong Kong named Connie Esdicul who covered half of their budget in the 2008-2009 year, when they were the “blocking back” for the White House policy beating up on Israel. I wonder what member of Congress will want to take their PAC money or keep signing their letters? Maybe only if Mort Halperin only if writes them, just like he did for Richard Goldstone when J Street called members of Congress to set up meetings for him so he could explain how Israel was guilty of war crimes.

And now they are lying again about their role in promoting the author of the Goldstone report — a anti-Israel document so vile that even the radical left group B’tselem condemned it. But J Street? No, they didn’t condemn it then, and they don’t now.

But here’s the outrageous part: Kampeas agrees with J Street that Goldstone got a raw deal. He’s incensed: “Why the hell shouldn’t Goldstone have met with the Congress members?” (Because he’s a vicious defamer of Israel and has presided over the multiple executions of blacks in South Africa?) He proclaims that “the original anti-Goldstone resolution that circulated was profoundly unfair to him.” Then the show stopper:

Here’s a postscript: I don’t think Goldstone is Uncle Evil any longer in Israel. His reputation morphed from Pompous Traitor to Wounded Grandpa after South African Zionists tried to muscle him out of his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah.

This is ludicrous. There is no significant segment of Israeli society and not a single prominent Israeli politician who thinks Goldstone is anything but evil. Well, at least we know why Kampeas is so sympathetic to J Street — they both have a soft spot for the man who has, through deliberate misrepresentation, done more than any living soul to aid Israel’s delegitimizers.

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RE: The Half-Hearted Commander in Chief

In the Charles Krauthammer column that Jen refers to, Krauthammer ends by quoting Bob Woodward, author of Obama’s War, who earlier this week said of the president, “He is out of Afghanistan psychologically.”

Here’s the full Woodward quote:

The president’s committed to 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan but in these secret meetings in the Situation Room in the White House, he repeatedly says, “We need a plan to get out. There can be no wiggle room. I’m not going to do 10 years.” He is out of Afghanistan psychologically and the question is, for a commander-in-chief, don’t you have to be kind of the guy who’s up there, “Yes, we can, we’re going to win.”?

Mr. Woodward’s assertion seems to align with the facts as we now know them. So here is the situation we face: the president escalated a war about which he is profoundly ambivalent. His passion isn’t to succeed in Afghanistan; it is to leave from there. Mr. Obama clearly considers the war an unwelcome distraction from his domestic ambitions; he has devoted almost none of his time convincing the country and his party that the Afghanistan war is something that is worthy of our support. And the president’s statement that “I can’t lose the whole Democratic party” is damning.

How many times in American history have we had a president who was out of a war psychologically, even as he was sending more young men and women to fight and to die? And how many times has it ended well?

I have praised President Obama in the past for his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan. New facts have come to light since then. And, arguably, I should have better understood the true nature of the man in the Oval Office. Either way, the president, rather than distancing himself from the July 2011 draw-down date, has doubled down on it. He has said things in meetings and on the record that underscore his equivocation, his doubt, and his lack of fortitude when it comes to this war. And so it is fair, I think, to render a judgment I much rather would not: What President Obama is now doing – both escalating and undermining a war at the very same time — is not only unwise; it is contemptible. He has a constitutional duty and a moral obligation to choose one path or the other – to prosecute the war with commitment and resolve or to leave.

The president still has time, but not much.

In the Charles Krauthammer column that Jen refers to, Krauthammer ends by quoting Bob Woodward, author of Obama’s War, who earlier this week said of the president, “He is out of Afghanistan psychologically.”

Here’s the full Woodward quote:

The president’s committed to 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan but in these secret meetings in the Situation Room in the White House, he repeatedly says, “We need a plan to get out. There can be no wiggle room. I’m not going to do 10 years.” He is out of Afghanistan psychologically and the question is, for a commander-in-chief, don’t you have to be kind of the guy who’s up there, “Yes, we can, we’re going to win.”?

Mr. Woodward’s assertion seems to align with the facts as we now know them. So here is the situation we face: the president escalated a war about which he is profoundly ambivalent. His passion isn’t to succeed in Afghanistan; it is to leave from there. Mr. Obama clearly considers the war an unwelcome distraction from his domestic ambitions; he has devoted almost none of his time convincing the country and his party that the Afghanistan war is something that is worthy of our support. And the president’s statement that “I can’t lose the whole Democratic party” is damning.

How many times in American history have we had a president who was out of a war psychologically, even as he was sending more young men and women to fight and to die? And how many times has it ended well?

I have praised President Obama in the past for his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan. New facts have come to light since then. And, arguably, I should have better understood the true nature of the man in the Oval Office. Either way, the president, rather than distancing himself from the July 2011 draw-down date, has doubled down on it. He has said things in meetings and on the record that underscore his equivocation, his doubt, and his lack of fortitude when it comes to this war. And so it is fair, I think, to render a judgment I much rather would not: What President Obama is now doing – both escalating and undermining a war at the very same time — is not only unwise; it is contemptible. He has a constitutional duty and a moral obligation to choose one path or the other – to prosecute the war with commitment and resolve or to leave.

The president still has time, but not much.

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“Count the Lies”

That’s how one observer of  J Street’s meltdown put it. Honestly, it’s hard to keep track. Eli Lake reveals a bunch more in his latest bombshell report:

J Street — the self-described pro-Israel, pro-peace lobbying group — facilitated meetings between members of Congress and South African Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the U.N. report that accused the Jewish state of systematic war crimes in its three-week military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

Aside from the inexcusable shillery for the man whose report “is widely viewed as slanderous toward the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) among the American Jewish community and in Israel,” J Street — I know, you’ll be shocked — lied about its assistance to Goldstone. Lots of times.

First, there was Knesset member Colette Avital, who arranged the visit:

“When Judge Goldstone came to Washington, [J Street leaders were] suggesting that they might help him set up his appointments on Capitol Hill,” she said. Ms. Avital later disavowed knowledge of J Street’s dealings with Judge Goldstone during a conference call arranged by J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami.

After inducing Avital to recant, there were Ben-Ami’s own deceptions:

In a statement provided to The Washington Times this week, Mr. Ben-Ami said, “J Street did not host, arrange or facilitate any visit to Washington, D.C., by Judge Richard Goldstone.”

He went on to say, however, that “J Street staff spoke to colleagues at the organizations coordinating the meetings and, at their behest, reached out to a handful of congressional staff to inquire whether members would be interested in seeing Judge Goldstone.”

But it was far more than that, Lake reveals:

A senior officer of J Street, however, played a central role in arranging Judge Goldstone’s visit.

Judge Goldstone told The Times in an interview that he had sought the meetings after a discussion with longtime friend Morton H. Halperin — president of the Open Society Institute (OSI) and one of five senior officers at J Street, according to the group’s federal tax returns. Those forms list Mr. Halperin as a “director,” and say he spends 10 hours a week on J Street business.

“He suggested — and I agreed — that it would be a good idea for me to meet with some of the leading members of Congress,” Judge Goldstone said. “I thought it was important to correct the misimpressions.” He added that Mr. Halperin had hand-delivered a personal letter he had written to members of Congress.

And it turns out it was 10 or 12 meetings.

Another Ben-Ami half-truth: he claims that J Street “criticized the process at the U.N. Human Rights Council that led to his report and urged the U.S. to veto a possible Security Council resolution based on the report.” But, in fact, Halperin drafted Goldstone’s defense on Capitol Hill, and J Street never condemned the report’s contents.

And, of course, Soros and his multipronged operation are at the center of all of this:

All three organizations associated with Judge Goldstone’s visit to Washington — J Street, NAF and OSI — receive substantial funding from Hungarian-born billionaire, George Soros, a fierce critic of AIPAC and Israeli policies.

OSI controls nearly $2 billion in assets provided by Mr. Soros over the years. NAF, in turn, received $855,000 from OSI in 2009, though the money was not set aside for the think tank’s Middle East program. The Times disclosed last week that J Street had received $750,000 from Mr. Soros and his family despite repeated denials from the group that it had received any funding from Mr. Soros in the past.

Take your pick– is it the embrace of Israel’s enemies and slanderers or the lies that should send Soros Street to the ash heap of history? Both, I would suggest. Try as they might, not even the recipients of Soros Street’s cash (nor JTA) can spin this away. If you are on Richard Goldstone’s side, you are not pro-Israel. If you lie repeatedly, you lose your credibility, even with sympathetic media outlets. J Street is guilty on both counts. Perhaps Halperin, the all-purpose fixer for Soros, will turn off the lights at J Street on his way out.

That’s how one observer of  J Street’s meltdown put it. Honestly, it’s hard to keep track. Eli Lake reveals a bunch more in his latest bombshell report:

J Street — the self-described pro-Israel, pro-peace lobbying group — facilitated meetings between members of Congress and South African Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the U.N. report that accused the Jewish state of systematic war crimes in its three-week military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

Aside from the inexcusable shillery for the man whose report “is widely viewed as slanderous toward the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) among the American Jewish community and in Israel,” J Street — I know, you’ll be shocked — lied about its assistance to Goldstone. Lots of times.

First, there was Knesset member Colette Avital, who arranged the visit:

“When Judge Goldstone came to Washington, [J Street leaders were] suggesting that they might help him set up his appointments on Capitol Hill,” she said. Ms. Avital later disavowed knowledge of J Street’s dealings with Judge Goldstone during a conference call arranged by J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami.

After inducing Avital to recant, there were Ben-Ami’s own deceptions:

In a statement provided to The Washington Times this week, Mr. Ben-Ami said, “J Street did not host, arrange or facilitate any visit to Washington, D.C., by Judge Richard Goldstone.”

He went on to say, however, that “J Street staff spoke to colleagues at the organizations coordinating the meetings and, at their behest, reached out to a handful of congressional staff to inquire whether members would be interested in seeing Judge Goldstone.”

But it was far more than that, Lake reveals:

A senior officer of J Street, however, played a central role in arranging Judge Goldstone’s visit.

Judge Goldstone told The Times in an interview that he had sought the meetings after a discussion with longtime friend Morton H. Halperin — president of the Open Society Institute (OSI) and one of five senior officers at J Street, according to the group’s federal tax returns. Those forms list Mr. Halperin as a “director,” and say he spends 10 hours a week on J Street business.

“He suggested — and I agreed — that it would be a good idea for me to meet with some of the leading members of Congress,” Judge Goldstone said. “I thought it was important to correct the misimpressions.” He added that Mr. Halperin had hand-delivered a personal letter he had written to members of Congress.

And it turns out it was 10 or 12 meetings.

Another Ben-Ami half-truth: he claims that J Street “criticized the process at the U.N. Human Rights Council that led to his report and urged the U.S. to veto a possible Security Council resolution based on the report.” But, in fact, Halperin drafted Goldstone’s defense on Capitol Hill, and J Street never condemned the report’s contents.

And, of course, Soros and his multipronged operation are at the center of all of this:

All three organizations associated with Judge Goldstone’s visit to Washington — J Street, NAF and OSI — receive substantial funding from Hungarian-born billionaire, George Soros, a fierce critic of AIPAC and Israeli policies.

OSI controls nearly $2 billion in assets provided by Mr. Soros over the years. NAF, in turn, received $855,000 from OSI in 2009, though the money was not set aside for the think tank’s Middle East program. The Times disclosed last week that J Street had received $750,000 from Mr. Soros and his family despite repeated denials from the group that it had received any funding from Mr. Soros in the past.

Take your pick– is it the embrace of Israel’s enemies and slanderers or the lies that should send Soros Street to the ash heap of history? Both, I would suggest. Try as they might, not even the recipients of Soros Street’s cash (nor JTA) can spin this away. If you are on Richard Goldstone’s side, you are not pro-Israel. If you lie repeatedly, you lose your credibility, even with sympathetic media outlets. J Street is guilty on both counts. Perhaps Halperin, the all-purpose fixer for Soros, will turn off the lights at J Street on his way out.

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A Study in Contrast on Iran

Obama went to the UN and delivered namby-pamby remarks on Iran, eschewing any mention of the potential for military force. The sum total of his remarks:

As part of our effort on non-proliferation, I offered the Islamic Republic of Iran an extended hand last year, and underscored that it has both rights and responsibilities as a member of the international community. I also said — in this hall — that Iran must be held accountable if it failed to meet those responsibilities.  And that is what we have done.

Iran is the only party to the NPT that cannot demonstrate the peaceful intentions of its nuclear program, and those actions have consequences. Through UN Security Council Resolution 1929, we made it clear that international law is not an empty promise.

Now let me be clear once more: The United States and the international community seek a resolution to our differences with Iran, and the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it. But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.

That is it. Bet they are high-fiving in Tehran.

Meanwhile, in the American reality-based community, more serious voices are being heard. Christians United for Israel have produced a remarkable video, featuring Pastor John Hagee, Harvard University Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein, Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), and Nobel Laureate, author, and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel (Got to hand it to those community organizers). They are also circulating a petition that already has at least 118,000 signatures. The message: we should be indicting Ahmadinejad as a war criminal for “incitement to genocide.” Really, what’s the excuse not to?

Meanwhile, a letter signed by 50 Republicans yesterday to the president urged him to “take whatever action is necessary to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. All options must be on the table.” They urged Obama to state “unequivocally” at the UN that we will prevent Iran from going nuclear. No such luck.

Why do private groups, members of Congress and citizens seem so much more serious than the president? Well, we’ve learned and relearned that foreign-policy commitments just aren’t Obama’s thing. Kudos to those who appeared in the CUFI video and signed the letter. Now, how about the largest Jewish organizations themselves going on record? Not only should the president be urged to take all action needed to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear plans but it should be clear that this is not “an Israeli” problem. It is the West’s problem. It would be a sorry state of affairs if tiny Israel had to act in our defense. Nevertheless, that looks like the direction in which we are heading. The public, Congress, and private groups should prepare themselves to insist that if Israel does act alone, the U.S. will stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel.

Obama went to the UN and delivered namby-pamby remarks on Iran, eschewing any mention of the potential for military force. The sum total of his remarks:

As part of our effort on non-proliferation, I offered the Islamic Republic of Iran an extended hand last year, and underscored that it has both rights and responsibilities as a member of the international community. I also said — in this hall — that Iran must be held accountable if it failed to meet those responsibilities.  And that is what we have done.

Iran is the only party to the NPT that cannot demonstrate the peaceful intentions of its nuclear program, and those actions have consequences. Through UN Security Council Resolution 1929, we made it clear that international law is not an empty promise.

Now let me be clear once more: The United States and the international community seek a resolution to our differences with Iran, and the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it. But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.

That is it. Bet they are high-fiving in Tehran.

Meanwhile, in the American reality-based community, more serious voices are being heard. Christians United for Israel have produced a remarkable video, featuring Pastor John Hagee, Harvard University Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein, Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), and Nobel Laureate, author, and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel (Got to hand it to those community organizers). They are also circulating a petition that already has at least 118,000 signatures. The message: we should be indicting Ahmadinejad as a war criminal for “incitement to genocide.” Really, what’s the excuse not to?

Meanwhile, a letter signed by 50 Republicans yesterday to the president urged him to “take whatever action is necessary to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. All options must be on the table.” They urged Obama to state “unequivocally” at the UN that we will prevent Iran from going nuclear. No such luck.

Why do private groups, members of Congress and citizens seem so much more serious than the president? Well, we’ve learned and relearned that foreign-policy commitments just aren’t Obama’s thing. Kudos to those who appeared in the CUFI video and signed the letter. Now, how about the largest Jewish organizations themselves going on record? Not only should the president be urged to take all action needed to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear plans but it should be clear that this is not “an Israeli” problem. It is the West’s problem. It would be a sorry state of affairs if tiny Israel had to act in our defense. Nevertheless, that looks like the direction in which we are heading. The public, Congress, and private groups should prepare themselves to insist that if Israel does act alone, the U.S. will stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel.

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The Irresponsible Commander in Chief

The Washington Post is teasing the release of Bob Woodward’s newest book, Obama’s Wars, which focuses on the war in Afghanistan. Usually in Woodward’s offerings, those who cooperate with the author come off the best, and those who don’t — well, don’t. But in this case, Obama did agree to be interviewed, and it is therefore surprising, at least from the Post‘s telling, how poorly Obama comes across. And frankly, those who are forever  searching for some sign of maturity in the commander in chief and pronouncing that he really “gets it” look rather silly themselves.

First off, Obama was obsessed with an Afghanistan exit strategy, determined to get out no matter what the advice of his military advisers:

According to Woodward’s meeting-by-meeting, memo-by-memo account of the 2009 Afghan strategy review, the president avoided talk of victory as he described his objectives.

“This needs to be a plan about how we’re going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan,” Obama is quoted as telling White House aides as he laid out his reasons for adding 30,000 troops in a short-term escalation. “Everything we’re doing has to be focused on how we’re going to get to the point where we can reduce our footprint. It’s in our national security interest. There cannot be any wiggle room.” … Obama rejected the military’s request for 40,000 troops as part of an expansive mission that had no foreseeable end. “I’m not doing 10 years,” he told Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a meeting on Oct. 26, 2009. “I’m not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars.”

The disregard for his responsibilities — the equivalent of putting his fingers in his ears and humming — is stunning. It also stands in sharp contrast with his predecessor, who insisted on a review of flawed policy and ultimately the implementation of a winning one:

The president is quoted as telling Mullen, Petraeus and Gates: “In 2010, we will not be having a conversation about how to do more. I will not want to hear, ‘We’re doing fine, Mr. President, but we’d be better if we just do more.’ We’re not going to be having a conversation about how to change [the mission] … unless we’re talking about how to draw down faster than anticipated in 2011.”

Imagine FDR telling General Eisenhower, “I don’t want to hear things aren’t going well in Italy.” It’s inconceivable that Obama’s supposed role model, Abraham Lincoln, would have said, “No more news about McClellan’s shortcomings.” But then Obama’s not much for “victory”:

Obama told Woodward in the July interview that he didn’t think about the Afghan war in the “classic” terms of the United States winning or losing. “I think about it more in terms of: Do you successfully prosecute a strategy that results in the country being stronger rather than weaker at the end?” he said.

After Obama, it is his political advisers who come off worst:

National security adviser James L. Jones privately referred to Obama’s political aides as “the water bugs,” the “Politburo,” the “Mafia,” or the “campaign set.” Petraeus, who felt shut out by the new administration, told an aide that he considered the president’s senior adviser David Axelrod to be “a complete spin doctor.”

But then it is the president who put political hacks in the thick of war-planning.

Obama’s peevishness and determination to avoid facts that conflict with his ideological disposition are chilling. His apparent disinclination to pursue victory should frighten both allies and foes. Has he matured since the events detailed in the book? We have no evidence of that. I think it’s time to stop pretending that Obama is “growing” in the job and that he understands the responsibilities of a wartime president.

The Washington Post is teasing the release of Bob Woodward’s newest book, Obama’s Wars, which focuses on the war in Afghanistan. Usually in Woodward’s offerings, those who cooperate with the author come off the best, and those who don’t — well, don’t. But in this case, Obama did agree to be interviewed, and it is therefore surprising, at least from the Post‘s telling, how poorly Obama comes across. And frankly, those who are forever  searching for some sign of maturity in the commander in chief and pronouncing that he really “gets it” look rather silly themselves.

First off, Obama was obsessed with an Afghanistan exit strategy, determined to get out no matter what the advice of his military advisers:

According to Woodward’s meeting-by-meeting, memo-by-memo account of the 2009 Afghan strategy review, the president avoided talk of victory as he described his objectives.

“This needs to be a plan about how we’re going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan,” Obama is quoted as telling White House aides as he laid out his reasons for adding 30,000 troops in a short-term escalation. “Everything we’re doing has to be focused on how we’re going to get to the point where we can reduce our footprint. It’s in our national security interest. There cannot be any wiggle room.” … Obama rejected the military’s request for 40,000 troops as part of an expansive mission that had no foreseeable end. “I’m not doing 10 years,” he told Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a meeting on Oct. 26, 2009. “I’m not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars.”

The disregard for his responsibilities — the equivalent of putting his fingers in his ears and humming — is stunning. It also stands in sharp contrast with his predecessor, who insisted on a review of flawed policy and ultimately the implementation of a winning one:

The president is quoted as telling Mullen, Petraeus and Gates: “In 2010, we will not be having a conversation about how to do more. I will not want to hear, ‘We’re doing fine, Mr. President, but we’d be better if we just do more.’ We’re not going to be having a conversation about how to change [the mission] … unless we’re talking about how to draw down faster than anticipated in 2011.”

Imagine FDR telling General Eisenhower, “I don’t want to hear things aren’t going well in Italy.” It’s inconceivable that Obama’s supposed role model, Abraham Lincoln, would have said, “No more news about McClellan’s shortcomings.” But then Obama’s not much for “victory”:

Obama told Woodward in the July interview that he didn’t think about the Afghan war in the “classic” terms of the United States winning or losing. “I think about it more in terms of: Do you successfully prosecute a strategy that results in the country being stronger rather than weaker at the end?” he said.

After Obama, it is his political advisers who come off worst:

National security adviser James L. Jones privately referred to Obama’s political aides as “the water bugs,” the “Politburo,” the “Mafia,” or the “campaign set.” Petraeus, who felt shut out by the new administration, told an aide that he considered the president’s senior adviser David Axelrod to be “a complete spin doctor.”

But then it is the president who put political hacks in the thick of war-planning.

Obama’s peevishness and determination to avoid facts that conflict with his ideological disposition are chilling. His apparent disinclination to pursue victory should frighten both allies and foes. Has he matured since the events detailed in the book? We have no evidence of that. I think it’s time to stop pretending that Obama is “growing” in the job and that he understands the responsibilities of a wartime president.

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Happy Constitution Day

On this day in 1787, delegates to the Federal Convention completed their work (which began in May) and voted to approve a new Constitution, which was submitted to the states for ratification (which occurred on June 21, 1788). Now the oldest written national constitution in the world, the British statesman William Gladstone described it as “the most remarkable work known to me in modern times to have been produced by the human intellect.” It was also on this day that Benjamin Franklin, who by then was in his 80s and seldom participated in the constitutional debates, delivered a wise and moving speech in which he said this:

I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another’s throats. Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die.

It is hard to overstate the importance of, and the sheer brilliance and prescience of, the American Constitution. It established the world’s first stable democratic government and provided the governing framework for the most powerful and benevolent nation in human history. The product above all of 36-year-old James Madison, an unparalleled master of political and constitutional theory, the Constitution also resulted in the Federalist Papers — 85 essays written between October 1787 and May 1788 by Alexander Hamilton (author of 51 of the essays), Madison (author of 29), and John Jay (author of five) — which explain the whole theory of constitutional government and which helped pave the way for ratification.

George W. Carey and James McClellan, in their fine introduction to The Federalist, write that this collection of essays, hastily written by three politicians in the midst of a political struggle, makes the Federalist Papers “a unique document, unparalleled in the literature of the Western political tradition.”

On this day in 1787, delegates to the Federal Convention completed their work (which began in May) and voted to approve a new Constitution, which was submitted to the states for ratification (which occurred on June 21, 1788). Now the oldest written national constitution in the world, the British statesman William Gladstone described it as “the most remarkable work known to me in modern times to have been produced by the human intellect.” It was also on this day that Benjamin Franklin, who by then was in his 80s and seldom participated in the constitutional debates, delivered a wise and moving speech in which he said this:

I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another’s throats. Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die.

It is hard to overstate the importance of, and the sheer brilliance and prescience of, the American Constitution. It established the world’s first stable democratic government and provided the governing framework for the most powerful and benevolent nation in human history. The product above all of 36-year-old James Madison, an unparalleled master of political and constitutional theory, the Constitution also resulted in the Federalist Papers — 85 essays written between October 1787 and May 1788 by Alexander Hamilton (author of 51 of the essays), Madison (author of 29), and John Jay (author of five) — which explain the whole theory of constitutional government and which helped pave the way for ratification.

George W. Carey and James McClellan, in their fine introduction to The Federalist, write that this collection of essays, hastily written by three politicians in the midst of a political struggle, makes the Federalist Papers “a unique document, unparalleled in the literature of the Western political tradition.”

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New START, Old Patterns

Heritage’s Foundry blog urges the Senate to “avoid rubberstamping” the New START treaty, on which the Foreign Relations Committee begins official deliberations today. Author Conn Carroll is right that the treaty’s disadvantages for U.S. missile-defense development are its most problematic features. If we look deeper into the character of the relative situation the Russians hope to solidify, moreover, we must feel ourselves to be back in about 1970.

New START is a bad deal that helps the Russians and hobbles the U.S. The bad deal begins with the constraints on our missile-defense development. In a relative missile stasis — if we and the Russians merely maintained the missiles we have — this would be bad enough. But the Russians aren’t going to merely maintain the missiles they have. Unlike us, they have been developing new classes of ballistic missiles and fielding them in their forces. They will not have more missiles as their modernization program proceeds, but they will have better ones. And a key thing that’s better about the showpiece missile in Russia’s new inventory, the Topol-M ICBM (NATO designation SS-27), is that it’s designed to evade existing U.S. missile defenses.

Russian claims that the Topol-M will penetrate our national missile defense (NMD) 87 percent of the time are not unrealistic. We have focused NMD development for nearly 20 years on the less-challenging third-party threat from nations like North Korea or Iran. With that choice, we made it an easier task for the Russians to design an ICBM that can outperform our current defenses. They are confident they have succeeded in doing so.

But as this 2007 analysis indicates, the Russians have been able to introduce the Topol-M only slowly, due to cash constraints. They have faced a real prospect of seeing their older ICBMs reach the end of their service life without replacement. The greatest advantage they can wangle in treaty negotiations, therefore, is a reduction in U.S. launchers that is not matched by a requirement for Russian reductions, combined with constraints on the U.S. missile-defense program. It gives them financial breathing room to redress their perceived shortfall through U.S. cuts rather than Russian expenditures — as long as they’re confident that we have effectively committed to refrain from defending ourselves against the newer missiles.

New START gives them precisely those advantages. Meanwhile, in the three years since the 2007 report, Russia has deployed its new mobile Topol-M launchers and introduced the upgraded, multi-warhead Topol-M (RS-24) to the operating forces. Punctuating the sense of a reversion to Cold War-era patterns, the Topol-M was paraded through Moscow with great fanfare in this year’s World War II Victory Day parade. Out in the Russian submarine fleet, the Sineva ballistic missile (NATO: upgraded SS-N-23) entered service in 2007, equipped with 10 MIRVed warheads per missile instead of the previous four.

Russia is not a partner in eliminating nuclear weapons. Russia’s basic purpose has not changed in 50 years: to hold the West at risk with nuclear weapons and to use arms negotiations to gain effective U.S. concurrence with that objective. New START — a Russian triumph in principle over Reagan’s SDI concept — is laughably misnamed. It’s nothing new. It merely resurrects the old, pre-START dynamic in which Moscow relied on Americans to hobble themselves.

Heritage’s Foundry blog urges the Senate to “avoid rubberstamping” the New START treaty, on which the Foreign Relations Committee begins official deliberations today. Author Conn Carroll is right that the treaty’s disadvantages for U.S. missile-defense development are its most problematic features. If we look deeper into the character of the relative situation the Russians hope to solidify, moreover, we must feel ourselves to be back in about 1970.

New START is a bad deal that helps the Russians and hobbles the U.S. The bad deal begins with the constraints on our missile-defense development. In a relative missile stasis — if we and the Russians merely maintained the missiles we have — this would be bad enough. But the Russians aren’t going to merely maintain the missiles they have. Unlike us, they have been developing new classes of ballistic missiles and fielding them in their forces. They will not have more missiles as their modernization program proceeds, but they will have better ones. And a key thing that’s better about the showpiece missile in Russia’s new inventory, the Topol-M ICBM (NATO designation SS-27), is that it’s designed to evade existing U.S. missile defenses.

Russian claims that the Topol-M will penetrate our national missile defense (NMD) 87 percent of the time are not unrealistic. We have focused NMD development for nearly 20 years on the less-challenging third-party threat from nations like North Korea or Iran. With that choice, we made it an easier task for the Russians to design an ICBM that can outperform our current defenses. They are confident they have succeeded in doing so.

But as this 2007 analysis indicates, the Russians have been able to introduce the Topol-M only slowly, due to cash constraints. They have faced a real prospect of seeing their older ICBMs reach the end of their service life without replacement. The greatest advantage they can wangle in treaty negotiations, therefore, is a reduction in U.S. launchers that is not matched by a requirement for Russian reductions, combined with constraints on the U.S. missile-defense program. It gives them financial breathing room to redress their perceived shortfall through U.S. cuts rather than Russian expenditures — as long as they’re confident that we have effectively committed to refrain from defending ourselves against the newer missiles.

New START gives them precisely those advantages. Meanwhile, in the three years since the 2007 report, Russia has deployed its new mobile Topol-M launchers and introduced the upgraded, multi-warhead Topol-M (RS-24) to the operating forces. Punctuating the sense of a reversion to Cold War-era patterns, the Topol-M was paraded through Moscow with great fanfare in this year’s World War II Victory Day parade. Out in the Russian submarine fleet, the Sineva ballistic missile (NATO: upgraded SS-N-23) entered service in 2007, equipped with 10 MIRVed warheads per missile instead of the previous four.

Russia is not a partner in eliminating nuclear weapons. Russia’s basic purpose has not changed in 50 years: to hold the West at risk with nuclear weapons and to use arms negotiations to gain effective U.S. concurrence with that objective. New START — a Russian triumph in principle over Reagan’s SDI concept — is laughably misnamed. It’s nothing new. It merely resurrects the old, pre-START dynamic in which Moscow relied on Americans to hobble themselves.

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Time Magazine’s Slander of America

Time magazine has a cover story, “Is America Islamophobic?” Based on an interview the author, Bobby Ghosh, did with MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, the answer is an emphatic yes. Islamophobia is “taking root,” Ghosh insists, in “places all over the country.” It is the new anti-Semitism, we are told. And when Olbermann asked why America was becoming Islamophobic now rather than in the aftermath of the attacks on 9/11, Ghosh quickly corrected him. We were plagued by irrational anti-Muslim fears back then as well. “It was pretty overt in the immediate aftermath of 9/11,” Mr. Ghosh informs us. But “we weren‘t paying attention because this country had gone through this trauma.”

This is both silly and slanderous; in fact, America showed enormous, impressive, and proper tolerance and respect toward Muslims after 9/11.

What’s worth noting, I think, is that this is part and parcel of the growing alienation from America that is occurring among some elite liberals. As the president continues to fail and to fall, as his agenda becomes more and more unpopular, some of those on the left are now training their fire on America and its citizens. There is, in their view, something deeply, morally wrong with the nation.

This judgment is unwarranted and unwise; if it continues, it will further discredit modern liberalism.

What’s regrettable is that this most unhealthy debate we’re now engaged in, which is causing polarization based on ethnicity and religion, could have been so easily avoided if Iman Rauf had decided, on careful reflection, to build his mosque and community center elsewhere. He could have made the point that he has every right to build the mosque near Ground Zero but that, as a gesture of sympathy and solidarity with the families of the victims of 9/11, he decided not to.

That would have been an act of patriotic grace and it would have deepened the respect and affection the country has for those of the Muslim faith. Instead, we are where we are, which is not a good place to be.

It was so easily avoidable; and it makes one wonder why it wasn’t avoided in the first place.

Time magazine has a cover story, “Is America Islamophobic?” Based on an interview the author, Bobby Ghosh, did with MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, the answer is an emphatic yes. Islamophobia is “taking root,” Ghosh insists, in “places all over the country.” It is the new anti-Semitism, we are told. And when Olbermann asked why America was becoming Islamophobic now rather than in the aftermath of the attacks on 9/11, Ghosh quickly corrected him. We were plagued by irrational anti-Muslim fears back then as well. “It was pretty overt in the immediate aftermath of 9/11,” Mr. Ghosh informs us. But “we weren‘t paying attention because this country had gone through this trauma.”

This is both silly and slanderous; in fact, America showed enormous, impressive, and proper tolerance and respect toward Muslims after 9/11.

What’s worth noting, I think, is that this is part and parcel of the growing alienation from America that is occurring among some elite liberals. As the president continues to fail and to fall, as his agenda becomes more and more unpopular, some of those on the left are now training their fire on America and its citizens. There is, in their view, something deeply, morally wrong with the nation.

This judgment is unwarranted and unwise; if it continues, it will further discredit modern liberalism.

What’s regrettable is that this most unhealthy debate we’re now engaged in, which is causing polarization based on ethnicity and religion, could have been so easily avoided if Iman Rauf had decided, on careful reflection, to build his mosque and community center elsewhere. He could have made the point that he has every right to build the mosque near Ground Zero but that, as a gesture of sympathy and solidarity with the families of the victims of 9/11, he decided not to.

That would have been an act of patriotic grace and it would have deepened the respect and affection the country has for those of the Muslim faith. Instead, we are where we are, which is not a good place to be.

It was so easily avoidable; and it makes one wonder why it wasn’t avoided in the first place.

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What’s in a Name?

Michael Lame of the decidedly non-partisan Re-Think The Middle East provides some useful background on the history of Cordoba for which the Ground Zero mosque is to be named. He writes:

Many writers have waxed rhapsodic about a golden age of peace and prosperity in Muslim Spain. But is that really what it was like? “Nostalgia is the enemy of historical understanding,” warns historian Richard Fletcher, author of Moorish Spain. “The simple and verifiable historical truth is that Moorish Spain was more often a land of turmoil than it was a land of tranquility.”

The 800 years referred to by the Cordoba Initiative constitutes the entire era of Muslim rule in Spain, stretching from 711 to 1492. Yet Cordoba itself, the cultural and for long periods of time the political capital of al-Andalus, succumbed to Christian conquest (or reconquest) in 1236.

Imam Rauf’s book, What’s Right with Islam: a New Vision for Muslims and the West, narrows the pertinent time frame, explaining that the Cordoba Initiative is “named after the period between roughly 800 and 1200 CE, when the Cordoba Caliphate ruled much of today’s Spain.”

But Rauf’s nostalgia should concern us, and give pause to his defenders. As Lame notes:

The idea of an Andalusian golden age, when Christians and Jews lived contentedly under Muslim rule, has become a fixture of Western historical thinking over the last hundred years. But is it true?

Professor [Richard] Fletcher weighs in on the question: “Early medieval Spain was multicultural in the sense of being culturally diverse, a land within which different cultures coexisted; but not in the sense of experiencing cultural integration. Toleration for Christians and Jews as ‘Peoples of the Book’ is enjoined by the Koran. But in practice it was limited – Christians under Islamic rule were forbidden to build new churches, to ring church bells, to hold public processions – and sometimes it broke down altogether. In 1066 there was a pogrom in Granada in which its Jewish community was slaughtered. Thousands of Christians were deported to slavery in Morocco in 1126. Thoroughly dismissive attitudes to Christians and Jews may be found in the Arabic literature of al-Andalus. It is a myth of the modern liberal imagination that medieval Islamic Spain was, in any sense that we should recognize today, a tolerant society.”

Lame advises that we should be aware of what Rauf’s “tolerance” entails:

One should not forget that Cordovan tolerance was predicated on Islamic rule. Jews and Christians, once they accepted their status as dhimmi, protected albeit subservient peoples, could participate in the intellectual, artistic, and economic life of the broader community. But one fact was clear throughout medieval Spain, that a single faith was dominant – Islam in the south and Christianity in the north – and the other religious communities were allowed to remain at the pleasure, or rather the sufferance, of the dominant religious-political power.

Sufferance as the basis for a multi-religious society is not a model that will appeal to 21st century Christians, Muslims, or Jews. For that reason alone, Cordoba is a questionable symbol of inter-faith co-existence. A better model might be … New York City!

In fact, New York has so many mosques that the question of tolerance of Muslims in America is not in doubt, except in the minds of the mosque’s defenders, who equate the placement of the mosque with religious “freedom.” Now, Rauf can hardly be ignorant of the history of Cordoba, as many of his defenders seem to be. He has, in the selection of his mosque’s name and placement, chosen to carry a message to his fellow Muslims and the world at large. It’s not a message the any of us, especially the left, which is supposedly opposed to religious domination of societies (or is that only a rule for Christians?), should embrace.

Michael Lame of the decidedly non-partisan Re-Think The Middle East provides some useful background on the history of Cordoba for which the Ground Zero mosque is to be named. He writes:

Many writers have waxed rhapsodic about a golden age of peace and prosperity in Muslim Spain. But is that really what it was like? “Nostalgia is the enemy of historical understanding,” warns historian Richard Fletcher, author of Moorish Spain. “The simple and verifiable historical truth is that Moorish Spain was more often a land of turmoil than it was a land of tranquility.”

The 800 years referred to by the Cordoba Initiative constitutes the entire era of Muslim rule in Spain, stretching from 711 to 1492. Yet Cordoba itself, the cultural and for long periods of time the political capital of al-Andalus, succumbed to Christian conquest (or reconquest) in 1236.

Imam Rauf’s book, What’s Right with Islam: a New Vision for Muslims and the West, narrows the pertinent time frame, explaining that the Cordoba Initiative is “named after the period between roughly 800 and 1200 CE, when the Cordoba Caliphate ruled much of today’s Spain.”

But Rauf’s nostalgia should concern us, and give pause to his defenders. As Lame notes:

The idea of an Andalusian golden age, when Christians and Jews lived contentedly under Muslim rule, has become a fixture of Western historical thinking over the last hundred years. But is it true?

Professor [Richard] Fletcher weighs in on the question: “Early medieval Spain was multicultural in the sense of being culturally diverse, a land within which different cultures coexisted; but not in the sense of experiencing cultural integration. Toleration for Christians and Jews as ‘Peoples of the Book’ is enjoined by the Koran. But in practice it was limited – Christians under Islamic rule were forbidden to build new churches, to ring church bells, to hold public processions – and sometimes it broke down altogether. In 1066 there was a pogrom in Granada in which its Jewish community was slaughtered. Thousands of Christians were deported to slavery in Morocco in 1126. Thoroughly dismissive attitudes to Christians and Jews may be found in the Arabic literature of al-Andalus. It is a myth of the modern liberal imagination that medieval Islamic Spain was, in any sense that we should recognize today, a tolerant society.”

Lame advises that we should be aware of what Rauf’s “tolerance” entails:

One should not forget that Cordovan tolerance was predicated on Islamic rule. Jews and Christians, once they accepted their status as dhimmi, protected albeit subservient peoples, could participate in the intellectual, artistic, and economic life of the broader community. But one fact was clear throughout medieval Spain, that a single faith was dominant – Islam in the south and Christianity in the north – and the other religious communities were allowed to remain at the pleasure, or rather the sufferance, of the dominant religious-political power.

Sufferance as the basis for a multi-religious society is not a model that will appeal to 21st century Christians, Muslims, or Jews. For that reason alone, Cordoba is a questionable symbol of inter-faith co-existence. A better model might be … New York City!

In fact, New York has so many mosques that the question of tolerance of Muslims in America is not in doubt, except in the minds of the mosque’s defenders, who equate the placement of the mosque with religious “freedom.” Now, Rauf can hardly be ignorant of the history of Cordoba, as many of his defenders seem to be. He has, in the selection of his mosque’s name and placement, chosen to carry a message to his fellow Muslims and the world at large. It’s not a message the any of us, especially the left, which is supposedly opposed to religious domination of societies (or is that only a rule for Christians?), should embrace.

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The Left vs. America at Ground Zero

The left — the J Street crowd, the media arbitrators of morality and tolerance, the blogospheric finger-waggers who disdain ordinary voters — has once again managed to find itself on the other side of a gulf from the American people. No matter how you slice it, Americans have figured out that an imam with shadowy connections shouldn’t build his Cordoba mosque on the virtual cemetery of 3,000 Americans. CNN’s poll shows that 68 percent of voters oppose the mosque, only 29 percent favor it. More women than men (70 percent to 65 percent) oppose it. Every income and educational group overwhelmingly opposes it. Democrats (54 percent), Independents (70 percent), and Republicans (82 percent) all oppose it.

The White House advertises Michael Bloomberg’s sneer at the vast majority of his fellow citizens, who have decided not to be bullied into submitting to an ideological assault on America. But the president is mum because, while the practices of the Cambridge police department and every other problem are within the federal government’s purview, this is not a subject on which Obama the Explainer of Islam wants to opine.

He either agrees with the finger-wagging left (certainly, it’s precisely the sort of thing the Cairo-speech author would cheer), which would cement the public’s sense that he is not on the same wave length (planet?) as the rest of us, or he agrees with those whom the left vilifies (everyone else), in which case, down-in-dumps liberals would be depressed to an even greater degree than they already are. So Obama takes the courageous route and votes “present” — that is, “no comment.”

It’s no surprise that a president soaked in the juices of the left should find himself sidelined when the issue is squarely presented: is American civilization worth defending? The question seems too hard or too politically inconvenient for the commander in chief and current leader of the Free World to answer.

The American people have figured out who we are fighting and what they are up to. They have no patience with the notion that we should afford our foes a platform (the KSM trial) or symbol (the Ground Zero mosque) with which to attack us. They assumed their president shared that entirely unextraordinary position. They should have more closely examined the intellectual underpinnings, the associations, and the life experience of the man they elected president. If they had, they’d have seen this coming.

The left — the J Street crowd, the media arbitrators of morality and tolerance, the blogospheric finger-waggers who disdain ordinary voters — has once again managed to find itself on the other side of a gulf from the American people. No matter how you slice it, Americans have figured out that an imam with shadowy connections shouldn’t build his Cordoba mosque on the virtual cemetery of 3,000 Americans. CNN’s poll shows that 68 percent of voters oppose the mosque, only 29 percent favor it. More women than men (70 percent to 65 percent) oppose it. Every income and educational group overwhelmingly opposes it. Democrats (54 percent), Independents (70 percent), and Republicans (82 percent) all oppose it.

The White House advertises Michael Bloomberg’s sneer at the vast majority of his fellow citizens, who have decided not to be bullied into submitting to an ideological assault on America. But the president is mum because, while the practices of the Cambridge police department and every other problem are within the federal government’s purview, this is not a subject on which Obama the Explainer of Islam wants to opine.

He either agrees with the finger-wagging left (certainly, it’s precisely the sort of thing the Cairo-speech author would cheer), which would cement the public’s sense that he is not on the same wave length (planet?) as the rest of us, or he agrees with those whom the left vilifies (everyone else), in which case, down-in-dumps liberals would be depressed to an even greater degree than they already are. So Obama takes the courageous route and votes “present” — that is, “no comment.”

It’s no surprise that a president soaked in the juices of the left should find himself sidelined when the issue is squarely presented: is American civilization worth defending? The question seems too hard or too politically inconvenient for the commander in chief and current leader of the Free World to answer.

The American people have figured out who we are fighting and what they are up to. They have no patience with the notion that we should afford our foes a platform (the KSM trial) or symbol (the Ground Zero mosque) with which to attack us. They assumed their president shared that entirely unextraordinary position. They should have more closely examined the intellectual underpinnings, the associations, and the life experience of the man they elected president. If they had, they’d have seen this coming.

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Still Ignoring the Obvious About Abbas

It’s got to be a tough job writing New York Times editorials about the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. Because according to the party line at the Gray Lady, peace between Israel and the Palestinians is merely a matter of American pressure on the Jewish state to force it to make the concessions that will magically end the conflict, any discussion of Abbas’s intentions and actions is bound to undermine its thesis. But, undaunted by the challenge, the author of today’s editorial in the Times forges ahead, trying to ignore the obvious.

But the interesting thing about this latest Times peace-process encyclical is that even the geniuses there have noticed that it is no longer enough to merely blame everything on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom they nevertheless abuse by calling a “master manipulator.” So long as Abbas refuses to engage in direct peace negotiations with Israel, those who think the solution to everything that’s wrong with the Middle East is putting the screws to the Israelis find their arguments fatally undermined.

In response, the Times tries to cajole “President Abbas” (that this president’s term expired long ago without even a hint of another election, in which his extremist electorate might vote him out, goes unmentioned in the piece) into direct talks by showing how much they sympathize with his fears of being bested by the wily Netanyahu. The Times agrees that it is too bad that the Israelis won’t concede every point to be negotiated in advance of the talks and that the White House has come to understand that efforts to hammer Israel in the past year and a half have been both diplomatically unproductive and politically disastrous. But the editorial warns Abbas that no matter how justified his fears may be, he’s wrong if the thinks time is on his side. It points out that even a president as unfriendly to Israel and Netanyahu as Obama is “losing patience” with Abbas because he won’t negotiate.

But the obvious fact that the Times and much of the Obama administration still don’t seem willing to acknowledge is that it is not Netanyahu who would be “put to the test” in direct talks. As anyone who has paid any attention to the Palestinian leadership in the last decade knows, Abbas’s greatest fear is getting into real peace negotiations, on which there would be an actual chance of agreement. Because if that happens, he would be forced to do as Yasir Arafat did at Camp David in July 2000 and in Taba in January 2001: say no to peace. Abbas knows he can’t make peace with Israel, no matter what the terms of the agreement or where the final borders might be drawn. Ehud Olmert offered him an even sweeter deal in 2008 than the ones offered to Arafat, and he wouldn’t even talk about it.

The Times still thinks that Abbas can deliver a two-state solution while his Hamas rivals cannot. What the Times fails to understand is that it is precisely because of the power of Hamas and the weakness of Abbas, who passes for a moderate among Palestinians and rightly understands that the dynamics of Palestinian politics forbid any agreement that would recognize the legitimacy of Israel, there is no chance that the PA leader will ever accede to their wishes.

It’s got to be a tough job writing New York Times editorials about the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. Because according to the party line at the Gray Lady, peace between Israel and the Palestinians is merely a matter of American pressure on the Jewish state to force it to make the concessions that will magically end the conflict, any discussion of Abbas’s intentions and actions is bound to undermine its thesis. But, undaunted by the challenge, the author of today’s editorial in the Times forges ahead, trying to ignore the obvious.

But the interesting thing about this latest Times peace-process encyclical is that even the geniuses there have noticed that it is no longer enough to merely blame everything on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom they nevertheless abuse by calling a “master manipulator.” So long as Abbas refuses to engage in direct peace negotiations with Israel, those who think the solution to everything that’s wrong with the Middle East is putting the screws to the Israelis find their arguments fatally undermined.

In response, the Times tries to cajole “President Abbas” (that this president’s term expired long ago without even a hint of another election, in which his extremist electorate might vote him out, goes unmentioned in the piece) into direct talks by showing how much they sympathize with his fears of being bested by the wily Netanyahu. The Times agrees that it is too bad that the Israelis won’t concede every point to be negotiated in advance of the talks and that the White House has come to understand that efforts to hammer Israel in the past year and a half have been both diplomatically unproductive and politically disastrous. But the editorial warns Abbas that no matter how justified his fears may be, he’s wrong if the thinks time is on his side. It points out that even a president as unfriendly to Israel and Netanyahu as Obama is “losing patience” with Abbas because he won’t negotiate.

But the obvious fact that the Times and much of the Obama administration still don’t seem willing to acknowledge is that it is not Netanyahu who would be “put to the test” in direct talks. As anyone who has paid any attention to the Palestinian leadership in the last decade knows, Abbas’s greatest fear is getting into real peace negotiations, on which there would be an actual chance of agreement. Because if that happens, he would be forced to do as Yasir Arafat did at Camp David in July 2000 and in Taba in January 2001: say no to peace. Abbas knows he can’t make peace with Israel, no matter what the terms of the agreement or where the final borders might be drawn. Ehud Olmert offered him an even sweeter deal in 2008 than the ones offered to Arafat, and he wouldn’t even talk about it.

The Times still thinks that Abbas can deliver a two-state solution while his Hamas rivals cannot. What the Times fails to understand is that it is precisely because of the power of Hamas and the weakness of Abbas, who passes for a moderate among Palestinians and rightly understands that the dynamics of Palestinian politics forbid any agreement that would recognize the legitimacy of Israel, there is no chance that the PA leader will ever accede to their wishes.

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The Increasingly Self-Pitying Obama White House

According to the preview offered by Vanity Fair:

[Todd] Purdum spends a day inside the West Wing and talks to Obama’s top aides, who tell him about the challenges of playing the Beltway game, ugly as it has become, even as their boss insists they find a way to transcend it.

“There’s a relentlessness to this that’s unlike anything else, especially when you come into office in a time of crisis,” says Obama senior adviser David Axelrod. “We did not exactly ease into the tub. The world is so much smaller, and events reverberate much more quickly, and one person can create an event so quickly from one computer terminal.”

Larry Summers, who served as Clinton’s Treasury secretary for the last 18 months of his term, says, “It used to be there was a kind of rhythm to the day” with the tempo picking up after the markets closed and as newspaper deadlines approached, between four and seven P.M. “That’s gone.” And, according to Rahm Emanuel, C.I.A. director Leon Panetta thinks “it’s a huge problem” that Washington runs at such “a highly caffeinated speed.”

Emanuel calls it “F***nutsville,” and Valerie Jarrett says she looks back wistfully to a time when credible people could put a stamp of reliability on information and opinion: “Walter Cronkite would get on and say the truth, and people believed the media,” she says.

It got so bad last December that President Obama and Emanuel would joke that, when it was all over, they were going to open a T-shirt stand on a beach in Hawaii. It would face the ocean and sell only one color and one size. “We didn’t want to make another decision, or choice, or judgment,” Emanuel tells Purdum. They took to beginning staff meetings with Obama smiling at Emanuel and simply saying “White,” and Emanuel nodding back and replying “Medium.”

I’ll reserve final judgment until I read the entire piece. But based on these excerpts — which presumably reflect the thrust of the 10,000-word article — what is striking is the degree of self-pity we find in Obama’s advisers, which is reflected in the president’s words and attitude as well. Team Obama sounds nothing so much as overmatched and overwhelmed, unable to understand what has gone wrong, and increasingly bitter toward the nation’s capital and the pace and nature of politics.

What we are seeing, I think, is a group of supremely arrogant people humbled by events. They are turning out to be a good deal more incompetent than they (and many Americans) ever imagined. They see impending political doom in the form of the midterm elections. Yet this is not leading them toward any apparent serious self-reflection; rather, they are engaging in an extraordinary degree of whining, finger-pointing, and self-indulgence.

It was said of President Kennedy that he was a happy president. “Happiness, [Kennedy] often said, paraphrasing Aristotle, is the full use of one’s faculties along lines of excellence, and to him the Presidency offered the ideal opportunity to pursue excellence,” Theodore Sorenson wrote in Kennedy. “He liked the job, he thrived on its pressures.”

One doesn’t get that sense with Obama or his key advisers. In 18 months they appear to have developed deep grievances and an increasing unhappiness and frustration with the duties of governing.

Life in the White House is challenging; anyone who has worked there can testify to that. And Washington, D.C., is certainly an imperfect city, as all are. But the impression Team Obama is trying to create — that no group has ever faced more challenges, more difficulties, or more hardships — is silly and somewhat pathetic. Politics is the worthiest ambition, wrote John Buchan (the author of JFK’s favorite book, Pilgrim’s Way); it is the greatest and most honorable adventure.

If Obama and his aides don’t see that or anything like that — if they view politics and governing only through a lens tinted by bitterness, frustration, and resentment — then it is time for them to step aside. If not, then they should man up. Self-pity is a terribly unattractive quality.

According to the preview offered by Vanity Fair:

[Todd] Purdum spends a day inside the West Wing and talks to Obama’s top aides, who tell him about the challenges of playing the Beltway game, ugly as it has become, even as their boss insists they find a way to transcend it.

“There’s a relentlessness to this that’s unlike anything else, especially when you come into office in a time of crisis,” says Obama senior adviser David Axelrod. “We did not exactly ease into the tub. The world is so much smaller, and events reverberate much more quickly, and one person can create an event so quickly from one computer terminal.”

Larry Summers, who served as Clinton’s Treasury secretary for the last 18 months of his term, says, “It used to be there was a kind of rhythm to the day” with the tempo picking up after the markets closed and as newspaper deadlines approached, between four and seven P.M. “That’s gone.” And, according to Rahm Emanuel, C.I.A. director Leon Panetta thinks “it’s a huge problem” that Washington runs at such “a highly caffeinated speed.”

Emanuel calls it “F***nutsville,” and Valerie Jarrett says she looks back wistfully to a time when credible people could put a stamp of reliability on information and opinion: “Walter Cronkite would get on and say the truth, and people believed the media,” she says.

It got so bad last December that President Obama and Emanuel would joke that, when it was all over, they were going to open a T-shirt stand on a beach in Hawaii. It would face the ocean and sell only one color and one size. “We didn’t want to make another decision, or choice, or judgment,” Emanuel tells Purdum. They took to beginning staff meetings with Obama smiling at Emanuel and simply saying “White,” and Emanuel nodding back and replying “Medium.”

I’ll reserve final judgment until I read the entire piece. But based on these excerpts — which presumably reflect the thrust of the 10,000-word article — what is striking is the degree of self-pity we find in Obama’s advisers, which is reflected in the president’s words and attitude as well. Team Obama sounds nothing so much as overmatched and overwhelmed, unable to understand what has gone wrong, and increasingly bitter toward the nation’s capital and the pace and nature of politics.

What we are seeing, I think, is a group of supremely arrogant people humbled by events. They are turning out to be a good deal more incompetent than they (and many Americans) ever imagined. They see impending political doom in the form of the midterm elections. Yet this is not leading them toward any apparent serious self-reflection; rather, they are engaging in an extraordinary degree of whining, finger-pointing, and self-indulgence.

It was said of President Kennedy that he was a happy president. “Happiness, [Kennedy] often said, paraphrasing Aristotle, is the full use of one’s faculties along lines of excellence, and to him the Presidency offered the ideal opportunity to pursue excellence,” Theodore Sorenson wrote in Kennedy. “He liked the job, he thrived on its pressures.”

One doesn’t get that sense with Obama or his key advisers. In 18 months they appear to have developed deep grievances and an increasing unhappiness and frustration with the duties of governing.

Life in the White House is challenging; anyone who has worked there can testify to that. And Washington, D.C., is certainly an imperfect city, as all are. But the impression Team Obama is trying to create — that no group has ever faced more challenges, more difficulties, or more hardships — is silly and somewhat pathetic. Politics is the worthiest ambition, wrote John Buchan (the author of JFK’s favorite book, Pilgrim’s Way); it is the greatest and most honorable adventure.

If Obama and his aides don’t see that or anything like that — if they view politics and governing only through a lens tinted by bitterness, frustration, and resentment — then it is time for them to step aside. If not, then they should man up. Self-pity is a terribly unattractive quality.

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Dismantling Joe Klein

Correcting the errors in logic and fact by Joe Klein is more than a full-time job, and I usually have better things to do. But once in a while, he writes a piece that deserves to be examined and dismantled. The posting Klein did on Time magazine’s blog Swampland earlier this week, “Obama on Iraq,” qualifies as one of those instances. Let’s have a look.

1. On Monday Klein wrote this:

It is the way of the world that Barack Obama ‘ s announcement today of the end of the combat phase in Iraq … will not be remembered as vividly as George Bush’s juvenile march across the deck of an aircraft carrier, costumed as a combat aviator in a golden sunset, to announce — six years and tens of thousands of lives prematurely — the “end of combat operations.”

Now let’s see what Klein said about Bush’s landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln on CBS’s Face the Nation, on May 4, 2003:

Well, that was probably the coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day. That was the first thing that came to mind for me. And it just shows you how high a mountain these Democrats are going to have to climb. You compare that image, which everybody across the world saw, with this debate last night where you have nine people on a stage and it doesn’t air until 11:30 at night, up against Saturday Night Live, and you see what a major, major struggle the Democrats are going to have to try and beat a popular incumbent president.

Bush’s moment went from being Hollywood cool then to a puerile act now. Such bipolar shifts of opinion in a high-ranking public official would be alarming and dangerous; in a columnist and blogger, they are comical and discrediting.

2. Klein asserts this:

Certainly, even if something resembling democracy prevails, the U.S. invasion and occupation — the carnage and tragedy it wrought — will not be remembered fondly by Iraqis anytime soon. We will own the destruction in perpetuity; if the Iraqis manage to cobble themselves a decent society, they will see it, correctly, as an achievement of their own. [emphasis added]

Here, Klein moves from the merely ludicrous to the offensive. What Klein is arguing is that even if things turn out well in Iraq, America deserves none of the credit. We were responsible only for carnage and tragedy, not liberation. The heroic sacrifices of America’s military men and women are dismissed as inconsequential. Those who have died have done so in vain, according to Klein’s line of reasoning; if the Iraqis manage to cobble for themselves a decent society, he insists, it will be an achievement of their own making alone.

This claim is flatly untrue. Without the intervention of the United States, Saddam Hussein would not have been deposed. And without the sacrifice of treasure and blood made by America, Iraq would have been convulsed by civil war and possibly genocide. It is certainly true that if Iraq continues on its path to self-government, its people will deserve a large share of the credit. But so will America — and so will those who wore America’s uniform into combat. For Klein to dismiss what our country and its warriors have done to advance liberty and humane ends is disturbing and revelatory.

3. Klein writes this: Read More

Correcting the errors in logic and fact by Joe Klein is more than a full-time job, and I usually have better things to do. But once in a while, he writes a piece that deserves to be examined and dismantled. The posting Klein did on Time magazine’s blog Swampland earlier this week, “Obama on Iraq,” qualifies as one of those instances. Let’s have a look.

1. On Monday Klein wrote this:

It is the way of the world that Barack Obama ‘ s announcement today of the end of the combat phase in Iraq … will not be remembered as vividly as George Bush’s juvenile march across the deck of an aircraft carrier, costumed as a combat aviator in a golden sunset, to announce — six years and tens of thousands of lives prematurely — the “end of combat operations.”

Now let’s see what Klein said about Bush’s landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln on CBS’s Face the Nation, on May 4, 2003:

Well, that was probably the coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day. That was the first thing that came to mind for me. And it just shows you how high a mountain these Democrats are going to have to climb. You compare that image, which everybody across the world saw, with this debate last night where you have nine people on a stage and it doesn’t air until 11:30 at night, up against Saturday Night Live, and you see what a major, major struggle the Democrats are going to have to try and beat a popular incumbent president.

Bush’s moment went from being Hollywood cool then to a puerile act now. Such bipolar shifts of opinion in a high-ranking public official would be alarming and dangerous; in a columnist and blogger, they are comical and discrediting.

2. Klein asserts this:

Certainly, even if something resembling democracy prevails, the U.S. invasion and occupation — the carnage and tragedy it wrought — will not be remembered fondly by Iraqis anytime soon. We will own the destruction in perpetuity; if the Iraqis manage to cobble themselves a decent society, they will see it, correctly, as an achievement of their own. [emphasis added]

Here, Klein moves from the merely ludicrous to the offensive. What Klein is arguing is that even if things turn out well in Iraq, America deserves none of the credit. We were responsible only for carnage and tragedy, not liberation. The heroic sacrifices of America’s military men and women are dismissed as inconsequential. Those who have died have done so in vain, according to Klein’s line of reasoning; if the Iraqis manage to cobble for themselves a decent society, he insists, it will be an achievement of their own making alone.

This claim is flatly untrue. Without the intervention of the United States, Saddam Hussein would not have been deposed. And without the sacrifice of treasure and blood made by America, Iraq would have been convulsed by civil war and possibly genocide. It is certainly true that if Iraq continues on its path to self-government, its people will deserve a large share of the credit. But so will America — and so will those who wore America’s uniform into combat. For Klein to dismiss what our country and its warriors have done to advance liberty and humane ends is disturbing and revelatory.

3. Klein writes this:

As for myself, I deeply regret that once, on television in the days before the war, I reluctantly but foolishly said that going ahead with the invasion might be the right thing to do. I was far more skeptical, and equivocal, in print–I never wrote in favor of the war and repeatedly raised the problems that would accompany it–but skepticism and equivocation were an insufficient reaction, too.

Well, this admission marks progress of a sort, I suppose.

For the longest time, Klein denied ever having supported the war. He even complained about being criticized by liberals for his support of the Iraq war. “The fact that I’ve been opposed to the Iraq war ever since this 2002 article in Slate just makes it all the more aggravating,” Klein said.

But what proved to be even more aggravating to Joe is when people like Arianna Huffington and me pointed out that Klein supported the war immediately before it began, thus contradicting his revisionist claim.

For the record: On Feb. 22, 2003, Klein told the late Tim Russert that the war was a “really tough decision” but that he, Klein, thought it was probably “the right decision at this point.” Klein then offered several reasons for his judgment: Saddam’s defiance of 17 UN resolutions over a dozen years; Klein’s firm conviction that Saddam was hiding WMD; and the need to send the message that if we didn’t enforce the latest UN resolution, it “empowers every would-be Saddam out there and every would-be terrorist out there.”

It’s worth pointing out that to make a false claim and revise it in light of emerging evidence is something of a pattern with Joe. After all, he repeatedly and forcefully denied being the author of the novel Primary Colors until he was forced to admit that he, in fact, had written it. It takes him a while to grudgingly bow before incontrovertible evidence. But he does get there. Eventually. When he has no other choice.

4.  According to Klein:

In retrospect, the issue then was as clear cut as it is now. It demanded a clarity that I failed to summon. The essential principle is immutable: We should never go to war unless we have been attacked or are under direct, immediate threat of attack. Never. And never again.

Presumably, then, Klein believes that Great Britain declaring war on Germany two days after Hitler’s invasion of Poland (Great Britain and Poland were allies and shared a security pact) was a violation of an “essential” and “immutable” principle. So was the first Gulf War, when the United States repelled Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. So was Tony Blair’s intervention in Kosovo and Sierra Leone (the latter widely viewed as successful in helping save that West African country from barbarism and dictatorship). So, arguably, was the American Civil War; after all, Lincoln could have avoided war, had he given in on the matters of secession and slavery.

According to Klein, no war is justified unless a nation has been attacked or is under the direct, immediate threat of attack — which means interventions for the sake of aiding allies, meeting treaty obligations, averting massive humanitarian disasters, or advancing national interests and national security are always and forever off the table.

Klein’s arguments are those of a simpleton. He has drawn up a doctrine that isn’t based on careful reasoning, subtle analysis, or a sophisticated understanding of history; it is, in fact, a childish overreaction to the events of the moment. What Klein states with emphatic certainty one day is something he will probably jettison the next.

Iraq is a subject on which Joe Klein has been — let’s be gentle here — highly erratic. He both opposed and supported the war before it began. After the war started, he spoke hopefully about the movement toward democracy there. (“This is not a moment for caveats,” he wrote in 2005, after the Iraqi elections. “It is a moment for solemn appreciation of the Iraqi achievement — however it may turn out — and for hope.”) Now he refers to it as a “neo-colonialist obscenity.” President Bush’s “Freedom Agenda” went from being something that “seem[s] to be paying off” and that might even secure Bush the Nobel Peace Prize to a “delusional farce.” Klein ridiculed the idea of the surge, referring to it as “Bush’s futile pipe dream,” before conceding that the surge was wise, necessary, and successful.

This is all of a piece with Klein. And there is a kind of poignancy that surrounds his descent. Once upon a time, Joe was a fairly decent political reporter — but somewhere along the line, he went badly off track. He has become startlingly embittered, consumed by his hatreds, regarding as malevolent enemies all people who hold views different from his. In the past, his writings could be insightful, somewhat balanced, and at times elegant. These days, he’s not good for much more than a rant — and even his rants have become predictable, pedestrian, banal. Witless, even.

This cannot be what Henry Luce envisioned for his magazine.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The local Pennsylvania media find Joe Sestak’s answers on earmarks to be all wet (“a vague, disingenuous attempt to polish his own credentials”): “The Democratic congressman and Senate candidate should work a little harder to reconcile taking campaign contributions from those benefiting from federal ‘earmarks’ (which direct money to be spent on specific projects) while claiming ‘a personal policy’ against doing so.”

As hopes for direct peace talks slip away, Hillary frantically “burns up the phone lines” to the players in the Middle East.

Obama’s approval ratings in Gallup continue to nosedive (45% approval, 49% disapproval).

A federal-court judge torpedoes the Arizona immigration law (a ruling certain to be appealed): “Judge [Susan] Bolton took aim at the parts of the law that have generated the most controversy, issuing a preliminary injunction against sections that called for police officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws and that required immigrants to carry their papers at all times. Judge [Susan] Bolton put those sections on hold while she continued to hear the larger issues in the challenges to the law. ‘Preserving the status quo through a preliminary injunction is less harmful than allowing state laws that are likely pre-empted by federal law to be enforced,’ she said. ‘There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens.'”

Democrats are awaiting the November wave – so what’s the message for avoiding a wipeout? The other guys are wackos. This is the argument: “The Republicans want to be mayors of crazy-town. They’ve embraced a fringe and proto-racist isolationist and ignorant conservative populism that has no solutions for fixing anything and the collective intelligence of a wine flask.” How can the voters resist?

Al Gore is in hot water: “Before all the unpleasantness, the former vice president was mainly known as the planet’s premiere environmentalist and anti-global-warming crusader. He has been a bestselling author, Oscar-winning filmmaker, successful businessman and, lest we forget, the man millions still believe should have been sworn in as president in January 2001. But now the 62-year-old Gore is tabloid fodder—notorious as a ‘crazed sex poodle.'”

Obama’s plea that he really isn’t anti-business is being drowned out: “Republicans and business groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have driven home the message that the Obama administration is curtailing private-sector growth. They point to tax increases proposed by the White House as well as an uncertain regulatory environment brought about by massive reforms to the healthcare sector and Wall Street. Businesses are said to be sitting on $2 trillion in income but are not hiring, partly because of the administration’s policies, according to Republicans.”

The local Pennsylvania media find Joe Sestak’s answers on earmarks to be all wet (“a vague, disingenuous attempt to polish his own credentials”): “The Democratic congressman and Senate candidate should work a little harder to reconcile taking campaign contributions from those benefiting from federal ‘earmarks’ (which direct money to be spent on specific projects) while claiming ‘a personal policy’ against doing so.”

As hopes for direct peace talks slip away, Hillary frantically “burns up the phone lines” to the players in the Middle East.

Obama’s approval ratings in Gallup continue to nosedive (45% approval, 49% disapproval).

A federal-court judge torpedoes the Arizona immigration law (a ruling certain to be appealed): “Judge [Susan] Bolton took aim at the parts of the law that have generated the most controversy, issuing a preliminary injunction against sections that called for police officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws and that required immigrants to carry their papers at all times. Judge [Susan] Bolton put those sections on hold while she continued to hear the larger issues in the challenges to the law. ‘Preserving the status quo through a preliminary injunction is less harmful than allowing state laws that are likely pre-empted by federal law to be enforced,’ she said. ‘There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens.'”

Democrats are awaiting the November wave – so what’s the message for avoiding a wipeout? The other guys are wackos. This is the argument: “The Republicans want to be mayors of crazy-town. They’ve embraced a fringe and proto-racist isolationist and ignorant conservative populism that has no solutions for fixing anything and the collective intelligence of a wine flask.” How can the voters resist?

Al Gore is in hot water: “Before all the unpleasantness, the former vice president was mainly known as the planet’s premiere environmentalist and anti-global-warming crusader. He has been a bestselling author, Oscar-winning filmmaker, successful businessman and, lest we forget, the man millions still believe should have been sworn in as president in January 2001. But now the 62-year-old Gore is tabloid fodder—notorious as a ‘crazed sex poodle.'”

Obama’s plea that he really isn’t anti-business is being drowned out: “Republicans and business groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have driven home the message that the Obama administration is curtailing private-sector growth. They point to tax increases proposed by the White House as well as an uncertain regulatory environment brought about by massive reforms to the healthcare sector and Wall Street. Businesses are said to be sitting on $2 trillion in income but are not hiring, partly because of the administration’s policies, according to Republicans.”

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Journolisters Risked Their Integrity

When you read those who were part of the now infamous Journolist group — hundreds of mostly liberal journalists and academics who joined an online listserv — they present their discussions as inoffensive, unexceptional, and even high-minded. Here’s how Time‘s Joe Klein describes Journolist:

[Ezra Klein and I] became friends and he asked me to join his list-serve–which, he said, would be the kind of place to have the sort of creative discussion we’d had over breakfast. It turned out to be exactly that…and more, a place to chat about music and sports, a place to meet some spectacularly smart academics I’d not met before–and, not least, a chance to interact with the latest generation of opinion journalists, most of whom didn’t have a very high opinion of me…. These conversations were private, as most good ones are. We were taking risks, testing our ideas against others…

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When you read those who were part of the now infamous Journolist group — hundreds of mostly liberal journalists and academics who joined an online listserv — they present their discussions as inoffensive, unexceptional, and even high-minded. Here’s how Time‘s Joe Klein describes Journolist:

[Ezra Klein and I] became friends and he asked me to join his list-serve–which, he said, would be the kind of place to have the sort of creative discussion we’d had over breakfast. It turned out to be exactly that…and more, a place to chat about music and sports, a place to meet some spectacularly smart academics I’d not met before–and, not least, a chance to interact with the latest generation of opinion journalists, most of whom didn’t have a very high opinion of me…. These conversations were private, as most good ones are. We were taking risks, testing our ideas against others…

It sounds positively Platonic: great minds gathering to discuss great issues of the day. Iron sharpening iron. Who could object? And then, thanks to the groundbreaking work of the Daily Caller, we have the chance to read what Journolisters actually wrote. Creative and spectacularly smart things like this:

LAURA ROZEN: People we no longer have to listen to: would it be unwise to start a thread of people we are grateful we no longer have to listen to? If not, I’ll start off: Michael Rubin.

MICHAEL COHEN, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Mark Penn and Bob Shrum. Anyone who uses the expression “Real America.” We should send there a** to Gitmo!

JESSE TAYLOR, PANDAGON.NET: Michael Barone?  Please?

LAURA ROZEN: Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich (afraid it’s not true), Drill Here Drill Now, And David Addington, John Yoo, we’ll see you in court?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, THE NEW YORKER: As a side note, does anyone know what prompted Michael Barone to go insane?

MATT DUSS: LEDEEN.

SPENCER ACKERMAN: Let’s just throw Ledeen against a wall. Or, pace Dr. Alterman, throw him through a plate glass window. I’ll bet a little spot of violence would shut him right the f*** up, as with most bullies.

JOE KLEIN, TIME: Pete Wehner…these sort of things always end badly.

ERIC ALTERMAN, AUTHOR, WHAT LIBERAL MEDIA: F****** Nascar retards…

Ah, but there’s more.

NPR producer Sarah Spitz wrote that that if Rush Limbaugh went into cardiac arrest, she would “laugh loudly like a maniac and watch his eyes bug out” as Limbaugh writhed in torment.

Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Jeremiah Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote — “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”

Bloomberg’s Ryan Donmoyer adds this: “You know, at the risk of violating Godwin’s law, is anyone starting to see parallels here between the teabaggers and their tactics and the rise of the Brownshirts? Esp. Now that it’s getting violent? Reminds me of the Beer Hall fracases of the 1920s.”

And, of course, there is Fox News. “I am genuinely scared” of Fox, wrote Guardian columnist Daniel Davies, because it “shows you that a genuinely shameless and unethical media organisation *cannot* be controlled by any form of peer pressure or self-regulation, and nor can it be successfully cold-shouldered or ostracised. In order to have even a semblance of control, you need a tought legal framework.”

“I agree,” said Michael Scherer of Time. “[Roger] Ailes understands that his job is to build a tribal identity, not a news organizations. You can’t hurt Fox by saying it gets it wrong, if Ailes just uses the criticism to deepen the tribal identity.”

I understand people speaking candidly in e-mail exchanges and wanting to create a group of like-minded people to exchange ideas. And I accept that Journolist was started with good intentions. But somewhere along the line, it slipped off track.

What we had were journalists creating a “community” in which we see expressions of hatred that are both comically adolescent and almost psychopathic. We have them endorsing slander of innocent people simply because they hold a different point of view, comparing the Tea Party movement to Nazism, and participating in a post thread with the subject, “The line on Palin.” And we have journalists endorsing a “tough legal framework” to control what a news organization says.

What we have, in short, is intellectual corruption of a fairly high order. From what we have seen and from what those like Tucker Carlson and his colleagues (who have read the exchanges in detail) say, Journolist was — at least in good measure — a hotbed of hatred, political hackery, banality, and juvenile thuggery. It is the kind of thing you’d expect to hear from troubled, towel-snapping junior high boys. (It’s worth pointing out that if a principal got a hold of e-mails like the ones produced by Journolist, he would punish and probably suspend the offending eighth graders.)

Journolist provides a window into the mindset of the journalistic and academic left in this country. It is not a pretty sight. The demonization and dehumanization of critics is arresting. Those who hold contrary views to the Journolist crowd aren’t individuals who have honest disagreements; they are evil, malignant, and their voices need to be eliminated from the public square. It is illiberal in the extreme.

Some Journolist defenders argue that what has been published doesn’t capture the true nature of what went on at Journolist and that the published exchanges were taken out of context. The Daily Caller’s Tucker Carlson has a reasonable response:

So why don’t we publish whatever portions of the Journolist archive we have and end the debate? Because a lot of them have no obvious news value, for one thing. Gather 400 lefty reporters and academics on one listserv and it turns out you wind up with a strikingly high concentration of bitchiness. Shocking amounts, actually. So while it might be amusing to air threads theorizing about the personal and sexual shortcomings of various NewRepublic staffers, we’ve decided to pull back…. Anyone on Journolist who claims we quoted him “out of context” can reveal the context himself.

That is a fair challenge. If Journolist turns out to differ substantially from its portrayal, Journolisters should release the full exchanges. Ezra Klein, David Corn, Jonathan Chait, and Joe Klein have all offered defenses, though their efforts range from feeble to pathetic. (It was really and merely “an argument between moderate and left-wing journalists,” Chait assures us.) Assuming that Journolisters cannot provide a stronger defense, other members of the fourth estate should be troubled by what has been uncovered. After all, it is the probity of their profession that is being stripped away.

Those who participated in Journolist undoubtedly hope this story will fade away and be forgotten. I rather doubt it will. It is another episode in the long, downward slide of modern journalism. “We were taking risks,” Joe Klein writes in his own defense. And the Journolist participants surely were — not intellectual risks but risks with their integrity — and several of them have been caught dead-to-rights. “Broken eggs cannot be mended,” Lincoln said. Neither can some broken reputations.

In many respects, the whole thing is dispiriting. On the other hand, it has had a clarifying effect. It turns out that the worst caricatures of liberal journalists were not, at least in the case of some, a caricature at all.

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Stopping Iran’s Nuclear Program: The Think Tanks Speak Out

Two high-profile think-tanks, the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Oxford Research Group of London, have put out updates this summer to their earlier assessments (from 2008 and 2006, respectively) of the options for preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Both of them conclude that, given the limitations of Israel’s military capabilities, the backlash from Iran in the event of an Israeli attack would outweigh the significance of the damage done to Iran’s nuclear program. Both assessments effectively assume there is no possibility of a U.S. attack. They ultimately draw different conclusions about what policies are suggested by their analyses. But it’s of equal importance, in July 2010, that their treatments of the factors in an Israeli strike are almost certainly outdated.

The Oxford Research Group (ORG) assessment builds up to the well-worn punch line that the world’s leaders need to redouble their efforts to secure an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, which could inaugurate “the beginning of a prospect of a regional nuclear-free zone.” This is the paper’s principal policy recommendation; its alternative is accepting Iran’s development of nuclear weapons and using that “as the start of a process of balanced regional denuclearization.” No serious justification is presented for either idea.

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC’s) approach is more realistic, recognizing the exceptional threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. BPC urges on national leaders a three-track policy of unified diplomacy, sanctions, and a military build-up to show force and determination. The discussion of Iran’s imperviousness to nuclear deterrence (pp. 30-33) is particularly good; in general, I recommend the more analytically detailed BPC paper as a thinking aid over the terser ORG product. (The latter does have a useful section on the possibility of unexpected incidents provoked by Hezbollah, which could incite an exchange between Israel and Iran.)

I urge skepticism, however, in evaluating the main conclusion of each paper about Israel’s likely effectiveness in a military attack. Both assessments are pessimistic, but they appear to be based on outdated assumptions – two, in particular, that involve very basic perspectives. One is the idea that in attacking Iran, Israel’s sole objective would be to destroy as much of the nuclear program as possible. Although the ORG paper cautions against seeing a prospective attack on Iran in the same narrow light as the previous strikes on single sites in Iraq and Syria, the author tacitly adopts a view of the objective that is precisely that narrow. He assumes, for example, that Israel would prioritize attacking the offices and living quarters of scientists and technicians, on the theory that reconstituting that expertise would be especially time-consuming for Iran.

I disagree with that assumption. The BPC analysis seems to share it in the abstract, but I suspect that Israeli planners, knowing their force limitations, have moved beyond such linear thinking at this point. It would be a much higher-payoff approach to concentrate on taking out the senior ranks of the Revolutionary Guard, including the Pasdaran leadership and the paramilitary Qods Force. The most important nuclear sites – Natanz, Esfahan, Arak, key facilities in Tehran – would have to be struck, but given the IDF’s limits, it would pay off better to use scarce assets against the regime’s power base (and its ability to organize and command its military) than against its scientific experts.

The other assumption that may well be outdated is that, given the operational constraints on an Israeli air strike, the IDF could achieve only an unsatisfactory level of damage to the Iranian nuclear program. Israel now wields the same airborne-attack weapons the U.S. brought to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and would be far more effective with each attacking aircraft than the Coalition was against Iraq in 1991 (or the U.S. against Serbia in 1999). Meanwhile, Israel’s other options – extremely capable Special Forces, an advanced armed-drone program, and the ability to attack with ballistic missiles and submarine-launched cruise missiles – are treated too dismissively in both the U.S. and European analyses. The truth is that we don’t have any state-of-the-art examples to go by in judging the probable effectiveness of this weapons combination. We are more likely to learn from a coordinated Israeli attack featuring these weapons than to see all our worst-case predictions borne out.

Writing off an Israeli attack as quixotic and operationally valueless is a political posture more than an expert conclusion. There is a cost-benefit boundary for the IDF, but it’s not the hardening of Iranian targets or the proliferation of uranium-enrichment sites: it’s whether Iran can implement a modern air-defense system, like the (for now) cancelled S-300. An effective air defense for Iran would inevitably increase the cost of an Israeli attack and reduce its success.

But for Israel’s security situation, every delay imposed on Iran’s nuclear-weapons program has value. The U.S. should act on its own initiative rather than waiting to be driven to action by a fait accompli from Jerusalem; the BPC document’s perspective is realistic and helpful in that regard. No one, however, should entertain the theme that it’s too late now for an Israeli attack to achieve useful effects. For Israel – and for the U.S., with our much greater military capabilities – there are still options other than acceptance of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Two high-profile think-tanks, the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Oxford Research Group of London, have put out updates this summer to their earlier assessments (from 2008 and 2006, respectively) of the options for preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Both of them conclude that, given the limitations of Israel’s military capabilities, the backlash from Iran in the event of an Israeli attack would outweigh the significance of the damage done to Iran’s nuclear program. Both assessments effectively assume there is no possibility of a U.S. attack. They ultimately draw different conclusions about what policies are suggested by their analyses. But it’s of equal importance, in July 2010, that their treatments of the factors in an Israeli strike are almost certainly outdated.

The Oxford Research Group (ORG) assessment builds up to the well-worn punch line that the world’s leaders need to redouble their efforts to secure an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, which could inaugurate “the beginning of a prospect of a regional nuclear-free zone.” This is the paper’s principal policy recommendation; its alternative is accepting Iran’s development of nuclear weapons and using that “as the start of a process of balanced regional denuclearization.” No serious justification is presented for either idea.

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC’s) approach is more realistic, recognizing the exceptional threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. BPC urges on national leaders a three-track policy of unified diplomacy, sanctions, and a military build-up to show force and determination. The discussion of Iran’s imperviousness to nuclear deterrence (pp. 30-33) is particularly good; in general, I recommend the more analytically detailed BPC paper as a thinking aid over the terser ORG product. (The latter does have a useful section on the possibility of unexpected incidents provoked by Hezbollah, which could incite an exchange between Israel and Iran.)

I urge skepticism, however, in evaluating the main conclusion of each paper about Israel’s likely effectiveness in a military attack. Both assessments are pessimistic, but they appear to be based on outdated assumptions – two, in particular, that involve very basic perspectives. One is the idea that in attacking Iran, Israel’s sole objective would be to destroy as much of the nuclear program as possible. Although the ORG paper cautions against seeing a prospective attack on Iran in the same narrow light as the previous strikes on single sites in Iraq and Syria, the author tacitly adopts a view of the objective that is precisely that narrow. He assumes, for example, that Israel would prioritize attacking the offices and living quarters of scientists and technicians, on the theory that reconstituting that expertise would be especially time-consuming for Iran.

I disagree with that assumption. The BPC analysis seems to share it in the abstract, but I suspect that Israeli planners, knowing their force limitations, have moved beyond such linear thinking at this point. It would be a much higher-payoff approach to concentrate on taking out the senior ranks of the Revolutionary Guard, including the Pasdaran leadership and the paramilitary Qods Force. The most important nuclear sites – Natanz, Esfahan, Arak, key facilities in Tehran – would have to be struck, but given the IDF’s limits, it would pay off better to use scarce assets against the regime’s power base (and its ability to organize and command its military) than against its scientific experts.

The other assumption that may well be outdated is that, given the operational constraints on an Israeli air strike, the IDF could achieve only an unsatisfactory level of damage to the Iranian nuclear program. Israel now wields the same airborne-attack weapons the U.S. brought to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and would be far more effective with each attacking aircraft than the Coalition was against Iraq in 1991 (or the U.S. against Serbia in 1999). Meanwhile, Israel’s other options – extremely capable Special Forces, an advanced armed-drone program, and the ability to attack with ballistic missiles and submarine-launched cruise missiles – are treated too dismissively in both the U.S. and European analyses. The truth is that we don’t have any state-of-the-art examples to go by in judging the probable effectiveness of this weapons combination. We are more likely to learn from a coordinated Israeli attack featuring these weapons than to see all our worst-case predictions borne out.

Writing off an Israeli attack as quixotic and operationally valueless is a political posture more than an expert conclusion. There is a cost-benefit boundary for the IDF, but it’s not the hardening of Iranian targets or the proliferation of uranium-enrichment sites: it’s whether Iran can implement a modern air-defense system, like the (for now) cancelled S-300. An effective air defense for Iran would inevitably increase the cost of an Israeli attack and reduce its success.

But for Israel’s security situation, every delay imposed on Iran’s nuclear-weapons program has value. The U.S. should act on its own initiative rather than waiting to be driven to action by a fait accompli from Jerusalem; the BPC document’s perspective is realistic and helpful in that regard. No one, however, should entertain the theme that it’s too late now for an Israeli attack to achieve useful effects. For Israel – and for the U.S., with our much greater military capabilities – there are still options other than acceptance of a nuclear-armed Iran.

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The Beinart Critique, Dismantled

In his new book, The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, Peter Beinart, formerly editor of the New Republic and now a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, takes aim at the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

“There are no normal times.” With those words, written in 1991 and aimed straight at Jeane Kirkpatrick, the younger conservative generation fired its first shot.

The marksman was columnist Charles Krauthammer, an acid-tongued ex-psychiatrist from Montreal, and a man young enough to be Kirkpatrick’s son.

Beinart spends several pages summarizing and quoting from Foreign Affairs magazine, in which Krauthammer’s essay, “The Unipolar Moment,” appeared. Krauthammer argued: “We are in for abnormal times. Our best hope for safety in such times, as in difficult times past, is in American strength and will — the strength and will to lead a unipolar world, unashamedly laying down the rules of world order and being prepared to enforce them.” Krauthammer wrote that we must “confront” and, “if necessary, disarm” nations he called “Weapon States” like Iraq under Saddam Hussein and North Korea.

Beinart didn’t like “The Unipolar Moment” and wrote this:

It was no coincidence that Krauthammer published his attack on Kirkpatrick soon after the Gulf War. As usual in the development of hubris bubbles, it was only once things that formerly looked hard — like liberating Kuwait — had been made to look easy that people set their sights higher. Had America proved militarily unable to keep Saddam from gobbling his neighbors, Krauthammer could not have seriously proposed launching a new war, inside Iraq itself, to rid him of his unconventional weapons.

That all sounds very intriguing, except for one thing. On the first page of the Krauthammer essay, in the by-line, we read this:

Charles Krauthammer is a syndicated columnist. This article is adapted from the author’s Henry M. Jackson Memorial Lecture delivered in Washington, D.C., Sept. 18, 1990.

Why does that matter? Because Krauthammer’s essay was adopted from a lecture he gave months before there could possibly have been a “hubris bubble.” Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait occurred on August 2, 1990. Krauthammer delivered his lecture on September 18. Operation Desert Storm didn’t begin until January 17, 1991. And hostilities ceased on February 28. The timeline of events, then, demolishes the Beinart critique.

The Krauthammer lecture itself, it’s worth adding, was no state secret. It was public, it was published, and it has been available as a monograph, in addition to the reference in the Foreign Affairs essay. In reading “The Unipolar Moment” — which was published months after the lecture on which it was based and which is not substantively different from the September 18 lecture — it is clear that the outcome of the war was unknown at the time it was written.

So Krauthammer didn’t set his sights higher because the liberation of Kuwait had been “made to look easy.” When he articulated his views on the “unipolar moment,” Kuwait had been invaded but it hadn’t been liberated. The U.S. was still months away from war. And, in fact, many predicted that if America went to war, it would be a difficult and bloody undertaking. (“Amid talk of body bags, honor and patriotism, the U.S. Congress yesterday began a formal debate on whether to go to war in the Persian Gulf,” the Toronto Star reported on January 11, 1991. “‘The 45,000 body bags that the Pentagon has sent to the gulf are all the evidence we need of the high cost in blood,’ said Senator Edward Kennedy. He added some military experts have estimated American casualties at the rate of 3,000 a week.”) That explains, in part, why the Senate vote on the Gulf War resolution was so close (52-47).

All of this is noteworthy not simply because of Beinart’s sloppiness (which is noteworthy enough), but because Beinart concocts an interpretative theory that is utter nonsense. It is based on a completely wrong premise. He builds a false explanation based on a false fact.

Beinart is not the first to have done so. On November 29, 2009 Andrew Sullivan, in a posting titled “The Positioning of Charles Krauthammer,” charged that while he had advocated a gasoline tax in December 2008, in Krauthammer’s “latest column” on climate change, “the gas tax idea is missing.” The reason, Sullivan informed us, was that “In the end, the conservative intelligentsia is much more invested in obstructing and thereby neutering Obama and the Democrats than in solving any actual problems in front of us. It’s a game for them, and they play it with impunity.”

There was one problem with Sullivan’s analysis: the column he refers to was published not in November 2009 but in May 2008 — when George W. Bush was still president and Barack Obama hadn’t yet won the Democratic nomination. Krauthammer proceeded to eviscerate Sullivan, who had the decency to issue an abject apology and correction. I wonder if Beinart will show the same decency, having made the same error.

I have some advice for liberals in general, but most especially for those who formerly edited the New Republic. First, learn to read dates on essays and columns before you attack them. Second, don’t impugn a person’s motives when your charges can so easily be shown to be false. And third, if you decide to target an individual and engage in a public debate, you might think about choosing someone other than Charles Krauthammer. Otherwise you will be made to look like fools.

In his new book, The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, Peter Beinart, formerly editor of the New Republic and now a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, takes aim at the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

“There are no normal times.” With those words, written in 1991 and aimed straight at Jeane Kirkpatrick, the younger conservative generation fired its first shot.

The marksman was columnist Charles Krauthammer, an acid-tongued ex-psychiatrist from Montreal, and a man young enough to be Kirkpatrick’s son.

Beinart spends several pages summarizing and quoting from Foreign Affairs magazine, in which Krauthammer’s essay, “The Unipolar Moment,” appeared. Krauthammer argued: “We are in for abnormal times. Our best hope for safety in such times, as in difficult times past, is in American strength and will — the strength and will to lead a unipolar world, unashamedly laying down the rules of world order and being prepared to enforce them.” Krauthammer wrote that we must “confront” and, “if necessary, disarm” nations he called “Weapon States” like Iraq under Saddam Hussein and North Korea.

Beinart didn’t like “The Unipolar Moment” and wrote this:

It was no coincidence that Krauthammer published his attack on Kirkpatrick soon after the Gulf War. As usual in the development of hubris bubbles, it was only once things that formerly looked hard — like liberating Kuwait — had been made to look easy that people set their sights higher. Had America proved militarily unable to keep Saddam from gobbling his neighbors, Krauthammer could not have seriously proposed launching a new war, inside Iraq itself, to rid him of his unconventional weapons.

That all sounds very intriguing, except for one thing. On the first page of the Krauthammer essay, in the by-line, we read this:

Charles Krauthammer is a syndicated columnist. This article is adapted from the author’s Henry M. Jackson Memorial Lecture delivered in Washington, D.C., Sept. 18, 1990.

Why does that matter? Because Krauthammer’s essay was adopted from a lecture he gave months before there could possibly have been a “hubris bubble.” Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait occurred on August 2, 1990. Krauthammer delivered his lecture on September 18. Operation Desert Storm didn’t begin until January 17, 1991. And hostilities ceased on February 28. The timeline of events, then, demolishes the Beinart critique.

The Krauthammer lecture itself, it’s worth adding, was no state secret. It was public, it was published, and it has been available as a monograph, in addition to the reference in the Foreign Affairs essay. In reading “The Unipolar Moment” — which was published months after the lecture on which it was based and which is not substantively different from the September 18 lecture — it is clear that the outcome of the war was unknown at the time it was written.

So Krauthammer didn’t set his sights higher because the liberation of Kuwait had been “made to look easy.” When he articulated his views on the “unipolar moment,” Kuwait had been invaded but it hadn’t been liberated. The U.S. was still months away from war. And, in fact, many predicted that if America went to war, it would be a difficult and bloody undertaking. (“Amid talk of body bags, honor and patriotism, the U.S. Congress yesterday began a formal debate on whether to go to war in the Persian Gulf,” the Toronto Star reported on January 11, 1991. “‘The 45,000 body bags that the Pentagon has sent to the gulf are all the evidence we need of the high cost in blood,’ said Senator Edward Kennedy. He added some military experts have estimated American casualties at the rate of 3,000 a week.”) That explains, in part, why the Senate vote on the Gulf War resolution was so close (52-47).

All of this is noteworthy not simply because of Beinart’s sloppiness (which is noteworthy enough), but because Beinart concocts an interpretative theory that is utter nonsense. It is based on a completely wrong premise. He builds a false explanation based on a false fact.

Beinart is not the first to have done so. On November 29, 2009 Andrew Sullivan, in a posting titled “The Positioning of Charles Krauthammer,” charged that while he had advocated a gasoline tax in December 2008, in Krauthammer’s “latest column” on climate change, “the gas tax idea is missing.” The reason, Sullivan informed us, was that “In the end, the conservative intelligentsia is much more invested in obstructing and thereby neutering Obama and the Democrats than in solving any actual problems in front of us. It’s a game for them, and they play it with impunity.”

There was one problem with Sullivan’s analysis: the column he refers to was published not in November 2009 but in May 2008 — when George W. Bush was still president and Barack Obama hadn’t yet won the Democratic nomination. Krauthammer proceeded to eviscerate Sullivan, who had the decency to issue an abject apology and correction. I wonder if Beinart will show the same decency, having made the same error.

I have some advice for liberals in general, but most especially for those who formerly edited the New Republic. First, learn to read dates on essays and columns before you attack them. Second, don’t impugn a person’s motives when your charges can so easily be shown to be false. And third, if you decide to target an individual and engage in a public debate, you might think about choosing someone other than Charles Krauthammer. Otherwise you will be made to look like fools.

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Tony Judt’s Specious Clichés About Israel

Once again today the New York Times devoted the largest share of its op-ed page to an attack on Israel, as author and academic Tony Judt attempted to set the paper’s readers straight on what he considers the tired clichés of the Middle East. But as was the case with previous occupiers of this space, such as Michael Chabon, Judt flies under false colors. He affects a pose of Olympian detachment while treating both anti-Israel and pro-Israel arguments with equal disdain. This “plague on both your houses” approach seems reasonable on its face but it is utterly disingenuous.

That’s because of Judt’s own views on Israel and Zionism, about which he is less than candid in this article. Judt has written at length in the New York Review of Books, his usual literary home, about his opposition to Zionism. He is entitled to this belief, however hateful it might be, but such a stance ought to disqualify him from writing pieces in a mainstream newspaper that purport to take an objective stance on the subject.

As for his six clichés, they are all specious points of discussion and contain numerous false arguments. Here are a few:

* The anti-Israel arguments that he dismisses as merely absurd and worthy of being ignored are, while specious, widely disseminated around the world by a rising tide of anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic incitement. But Judt, as do other critics of Israel, asserts that friends of Israel treat all criticisms of the state as being intended to delegitimize it. True. But it is a fact that all too many of these critics actually do intend to do just that. To point this out is not “self-defeating” on Israel’s part. To ignore the widespread attacks on Zionism that are now commonplace in Europe and on American college campuses would be to abandon the field to Israel’s foes.

* He acknowledges that Israel is a working democracy but then claims “the expression of strong dissent from official policy is increasingly discouraged,” as if those who oppose the Netanyahu government must only do so in private. This is absurd as not only is there an open season on Netanyahu in the Israeli media but also Arabs openly disparage Zionism on the floor of the Knesset. Even worse, Judt goes on to claim that Hamas’s regime in Gaza is a democracy too. It is true that Hamas won an election in 2006 — but it seized total power there in a bloody coup. Not only is there no hope of another election in which Gazans might hold Hamas accountable for its misrule — a typical example of Third World Democracy, which means “one man, one vote, one time” — but the result of that coup has been the imposition of Islamist practices on secular Palestinians and a tyrannical suppression of all opposing views. If that is Judt’s idea of democracy, it is no wonder he doesn’t value the concept very highly.

* He disparages the idea that not Israel and the Palestinians are to blame. He simply dismisses “the failure of negotiations in 2000” as having reinforced the Israeli belief that “there is no one to talk to.” But Camp David in 2000 didn’t prove that Israelis couldn’t talk to Palestinians. They can, even to Hamas. But it did prove — as did Mahmoud Abbas’s similar refusal in 2008 of an offer of a state in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem — that the Palestinians aren’t interested in or capable of making peace under any circumstances. The Palestinians may be weak but they could be living in their own state with a signed peace treaty guaranteeing their independence if their political culture didn’t prohibit them from acknowledging the legitimacy of a Jewish state within any borders.

* His inclusion of a cliché about an “Israel lobby,” which is “disproportionately influential,” is a tip-off of his bias. The “Israel lobby” has influence in this country not because the people at AIPAC are geniuses but because the vast majority of Americans support Israel.

* Last, and perhaps most important, he claims that the debate about the link between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism is a cliché. But his attempt to dismiss anti-Semitic attacks on Israel depends on the reader being ignorant of the nature of most such attacks in international forums these days. The fact that for anti-Zionists the only alleged injustices in the world worth protesting are those committed by the one Jewish state in the world — the only country the legitimacy of whose existence is a matter of debate — betrays the prejudice behind such sentiments. Judt’s claim that one can “acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and still be an anti-Zionist” is a contradiction in terms but I suppose that’s how he rationalizes his own beliefs. The idea that you can be a foe of a besieged country’s founding ideology and basis of legitimacy yet avoid being branded as someone who would like to see it destroyed is mere sophistry. But when you are an American Jewish academic who despises Israel but doesn’t wish to be associated with the vulgar Jew-haters who act on their beliefs, I suppose that’s the only stance you can take when you write in the New York Times.

Once again today the New York Times devoted the largest share of its op-ed page to an attack on Israel, as author and academic Tony Judt attempted to set the paper’s readers straight on what he considers the tired clichés of the Middle East. But as was the case with previous occupiers of this space, such as Michael Chabon, Judt flies under false colors. He affects a pose of Olympian detachment while treating both anti-Israel and pro-Israel arguments with equal disdain. This “plague on both your houses” approach seems reasonable on its face but it is utterly disingenuous.

That’s because of Judt’s own views on Israel and Zionism, about which he is less than candid in this article. Judt has written at length in the New York Review of Books, his usual literary home, about his opposition to Zionism. He is entitled to this belief, however hateful it might be, but such a stance ought to disqualify him from writing pieces in a mainstream newspaper that purport to take an objective stance on the subject.

As for his six clichés, they are all specious points of discussion and contain numerous false arguments. Here are a few:

* The anti-Israel arguments that he dismisses as merely absurd and worthy of being ignored are, while specious, widely disseminated around the world by a rising tide of anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic incitement. But Judt, as do other critics of Israel, asserts that friends of Israel treat all criticisms of the state as being intended to delegitimize it. True. But it is a fact that all too many of these critics actually do intend to do just that. To point this out is not “self-defeating” on Israel’s part. To ignore the widespread attacks on Zionism that are now commonplace in Europe and on American college campuses would be to abandon the field to Israel’s foes.

* He acknowledges that Israel is a working democracy but then claims “the expression of strong dissent from official policy is increasingly discouraged,” as if those who oppose the Netanyahu government must only do so in private. This is absurd as not only is there an open season on Netanyahu in the Israeli media but also Arabs openly disparage Zionism on the floor of the Knesset. Even worse, Judt goes on to claim that Hamas’s regime in Gaza is a democracy too. It is true that Hamas won an election in 2006 — but it seized total power there in a bloody coup. Not only is there no hope of another election in which Gazans might hold Hamas accountable for its misrule — a typical example of Third World Democracy, which means “one man, one vote, one time” — but the result of that coup has been the imposition of Islamist practices on secular Palestinians and a tyrannical suppression of all opposing views. If that is Judt’s idea of democracy, it is no wonder he doesn’t value the concept very highly.

* He disparages the idea that not Israel and the Palestinians are to blame. He simply dismisses “the failure of negotiations in 2000” as having reinforced the Israeli belief that “there is no one to talk to.” But Camp David in 2000 didn’t prove that Israelis couldn’t talk to Palestinians. They can, even to Hamas. But it did prove — as did Mahmoud Abbas’s similar refusal in 2008 of an offer of a state in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem — that the Palestinians aren’t interested in or capable of making peace under any circumstances. The Palestinians may be weak but they could be living in their own state with a signed peace treaty guaranteeing their independence if their political culture didn’t prohibit them from acknowledging the legitimacy of a Jewish state within any borders.

* His inclusion of a cliché about an “Israel lobby,” which is “disproportionately influential,” is a tip-off of his bias. The “Israel lobby” has influence in this country not because the people at AIPAC are geniuses but because the vast majority of Americans support Israel.

* Last, and perhaps most important, he claims that the debate about the link between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism is a cliché. But his attempt to dismiss anti-Semitic attacks on Israel depends on the reader being ignorant of the nature of most such attacks in international forums these days. The fact that for anti-Zionists the only alleged injustices in the world worth protesting are those committed by the one Jewish state in the world — the only country the legitimacy of whose existence is a matter of debate — betrays the prejudice behind such sentiments. Judt’s claim that one can “acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and still be an anti-Zionist” is a contradiction in terms but I suppose that’s how he rationalizes his own beliefs. The idea that you can be a foe of a besieged country’s founding ideology and basis of legitimacy yet avoid being branded as someone who would like to see it destroyed is mere sophistry. But when you are an American Jewish academic who despises Israel but doesn’t wish to be associated with the vulgar Jew-haters who act on their beliefs, I suppose that’s the only stance you can take when you write in the New York Times.

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Annals of Useful Idiocy, Circa 2010

As a service to future historians (if they can just find this post) seeking to understand how the moral outrage of the world focused in 2010 on Israel rather than Iran, I offer this excerpt from a Spiegel interview with the well-known Swedish author Henning Mankell, a passenger on one of the smaller boats in the Gaza flotilla:

SPIEGEL: This [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict is complicated enough, but it probably doesn’t even constitute the biggest threat to peace in the region at the moment. That is posed by Iran, with its controversial nuclear program and its prediction that Israel will disappear from the map.

Mankell: I am very concerned, because I don’t trust this president (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) and the mullahs. They want to have any weapon that can be used to destroy Israel. Naturally we cannot accept that.

SPIEGEL: But what do you want to do? Campaigns like this one can be directed against a democratic country like Israel. The Iranian government wouldn’t even let things get that far.

Mankell: I had an invitation to a literature festival in Tehran, which I turned down.

SPIEGEL: Why?

Mankell: Because Iran puts writers and intellectuals in prison and makes some of them disappear. I can’t go to a country like that.

SPIEGEL: Why don’t you go there and make the repression public?

Mankell: I wouldn’t be able to do what I would like to do. They would misuse me for propaganda purposes.

SPIEGEL: And you didn’t have this concern with the Gaza campaign?

Mankell: I saw what I saw. I felt what I felt. I thought what I thought. I saw what happened to people, and that’s what I want to report on.

Earlier in the interview, Spiegel asked Mankell whether he had ever been to Gaza (“no”), whether he knows the IHH and the Free Gaza movement that organized the flotilla (“not well enough to be able to form an opinion”), whether Hamas was a source of hope for him (“I don’t know enough about the issue”), and why he ignored multiple Israeli warnings that the ship could not proceed to Gaza (“At least they should have let us continue for another two hours, until we were just off the coast”).

In other words, he declined the invitation to go to Iran and speak truth to power, but a safe boat trip to just-off-the-coast of Gaza, in the service of organizations he failed to investigate, to assist an Iranian proxy about whom he is agnostic, appealed to his moral sense. No one, of course, will ever surpass the concision of Woody Allen’s statement of moral idiocy on being asked to explain his affair with Mia Farrow’s daughter: “The heart wants what it wants.” But Henning Mankell’s “I felt what I felt, I thought what I thought” deserves the same place of honor in the literature of useful idiocy. Historians take note.

As a service to future historians (if they can just find this post) seeking to understand how the moral outrage of the world focused in 2010 on Israel rather than Iran, I offer this excerpt from a Spiegel interview with the well-known Swedish author Henning Mankell, a passenger on one of the smaller boats in the Gaza flotilla:

SPIEGEL: This [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict is complicated enough, but it probably doesn’t even constitute the biggest threat to peace in the region at the moment. That is posed by Iran, with its controversial nuclear program and its prediction that Israel will disappear from the map.

Mankell: I am very concerned, because I don’t trust this president (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) and the mullahs. They want to have any weapon that can be used to destroy Israel. Naturally we cannot accept that.

SPIEGEL: But what do you want to do? Campaigns like this one can be directed against a democratic country like Israel. The Iranian government wouldn’t even let things get that far.

Mankell: I had an invitation to a literature festival in Tehran, which I turned down.

SPIEGEL: Why?

Mankell: Because Iran puts writers and intellectuals in prison and makes some of them disappear. I can’t go to a country like that.

SPIEGEL: Why don’t you go there and make the repression public?

Mankell: I wouldn’t be able to do what I would like to do. They would misuse me for propaganda purposes.

SPIEGEL: And you didn’t have this concern with the Gaza campaign?

Mankell: I saw what I saw. I felt what I felt. I thought what I thought. I saw what happened to people, and that’s what I want to report on.

Earlier in the interview, Spiegel asked Mankell whether he had ever been to Gaza (“no”), whether he knows the IHH and the Free Gaza movement that organized the flotilla (“not well enough to be able to form an opinion”), whether Hamas was a source of hope for him (“I don’t know enough about the issue”), and why he ignored multiple Israeli warnings that the ship could not proceed to Gaza (“At least they should have let us continue for another two hours, until we were just off the coast”).

In other words, he declined the invitation to go to Iran and speak truth to power, but a safe boat trip to just-off-the-coast of Gaza, in the service of organizations he failed to investigate, to assist an Iranian proxy about whom he is agnostic, appealed to his moral sense. No one, of course, will ever surpass the concision of Woody Allen’s statement of moral idiocy on being asked to explain his affair with Mia Farrow’s daughter: “The heart wants what it wants.” But Henning Mankell’s “I felt what I felt, I thought what I thought” deserves the same place of honor in the literature of useful idiocy. Historians take note.

Read Less




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