Commentary Magazine


Topic: Hugo Chavez

FPI Conference (Part 3)

There is an art that the best State Department functionaries master: to take hard questions that present troubling facts or contradictions in policy and to give in response a long, rambling answer that, by the end, dilutes the impact of the question and leaves the audience at a loss to remember what was orginally being asked. There is no one better at this than Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, who wrapped up the FPI conference.

It was evident that the administration came with an olive branch to the right and with many fine sentiments about bipartisanship in foreign policy. Who can blame it? The administration’s biggest successes (e.g., Iraq, appointment of Gen. Petraeus in Afghanistan) have been supported by conservatives. With an assertive Republican House and more conservative voices in the Senate, the administration doesn’t need more headaches, so foreign policy offers a chance to show its bipartisan inclinations. One way to do that is not to talk about the hard stuff. So, in his prepared remarks, Steinberg didn’t bring up Iran, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Europe, human rights, Hugo Chavez, or other topics that are sources of disagreement between the Obama team and conservatives.

He did talk about Southeast Asia. It’s very important. We are making many trips there. We’re going to have “sustained engagement.” And we’re very “clear-eyed” about China.

His next topics were Iraq and Afghanistan, where he echoed many of Sen. Joe Lieberman’s remarks (and Sen. John McCain’s from the previous day). On Iraq, we need bipartisanship and, yes, more “sustained engagement.” On Afghanistan, again, we must maintain funding. In the Q&A, he expressed himself as delighted with the Afghanistan war-strategy process. It was “serious,” he intoned. He’s never seen a president so involved. And that 2011 deadline? With perfect earnestness he explained: “There is no ambiguity. It is the beginning of a transition.” Really, there was “never any intention to see it as a dramatic turning point. … If we need to do a better job of messaging, we’ll do a better job.”

The third topic was START. (During the conference, Sen. Jon Kyl declared it isn’t going to get a vote in the lame-duck session.) This should be a bipartisan issue too, he asserted. He added that “there are no restraints” on our ability to pursue missile defense, and it comes packaged with an unprecedented commitment to force modernization.

Things got a bit dicier in the Q&A conducted by Robert Kagan. What about human rights in Russia? Why aren’t we talking more about democracy in Egypt? Again, Steinberg, in measured tones, with no hint of defensiveness, argued that “it should be clear” that we remain committed to human rights in Russia. On our support for democracy and human rights in Egypt, you see, it is important “to say it when it matters.” (But not at public news conferences, I suppose.) Kagan pressed him on the G-20: how could we go in there with such dissention between the U.S. and Europe? Oh, now, now. We’ve had hard times with allies in the past. Why is China exhibiting such bullying behavior of late? Ah, it’s a transition period, and there are many voice there. Why aren’t we getting these free-trade agreements done? Well, on South Korea, sometimes the “work just is not ready,” so we’ll keep at it. Colombia? He’s very encouraged.

Steinberg is such an articulate and calm figure, the consummate professional, that you’d almost forget listening to him that Obama’s Middle East policy is in shambles, that Iran is on the ascendency and on the road to getting the bomb, that our human-rights policy is under attack by the left and right, that Russia and China are both feeling emboldened to extend their influence, and that our relations with Europe are badly frayed. But what comes across loud and clear is that the Obama team wants to be perceived as operating well within the bipartisan tradition of American foreign policy. If that entails an ongoing presence in Iraq, a sustained effort in Afghanistan, a determination to deny Iran nuclear weapons, a cessation of its foolhardy obsession with Israeli settlements, a competent and forceful free-trade policy, and consistent defense of human rights, then the administration will earn the support of conservatives and, more important, the respect of foes and the confidence of allies.

There is an art that the best State Department functionaries master: to take hard questions that present troubling facts or contradictions in policy and to give in response a long, rambling answer that, by the end, dilutes the impact of the question and leaves the audience at a loss to remember what was orginally being asked. There is no one better at this than Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, who wrapped up the FPI conference.

It was evident that the administration came with an olive branch to the right and with many fine sentiments about bipartisanship in foreign policy. Who can blame it? The administration’s biggest successes (e.g., Iraq, appointment of Gen. Petraeus in Afghanistan) have been supported by conservatives. With an assertive Republican House and more conservative voices in the Senate, the administration doesn’t need more headaches, so foreign policy offers a chance to show its bipartisan inclinations. One way to do that is not to talk about the hard stuff. So, in his prepared remarks, Steinberg didn’t bring up Iran, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Europe, human rights, Hugo Chavez, or other topics that are sources of disagreement between the Obama team and conservatives.

He did talk about Southeast Asia. It’s very important. We are making many trips there. We’re going to have “sustained engagement.” And we’re very “clear-eyed” about China.

His next topics were Iraq and Afghanistan, where he echoed many of Sen. Joe Lieberman’s remarks (and Sen. John McCain’s from the previous day). On Iraq, we need bipartisanship and, yes, more “sustained engagement.” On Afghanistan, again, we must maintain funding. In the Q&A, he expressed himself as delighted with the Afghanistan war-strategy process. It was “serious,” he intoned. He’s never seen a president so involved. And that 2011 deadline? With perfect earnestness he explained: “There is no ambiguity. It is the beginning of a transition.” Really, there was “never any intention to see it as a dramatic turning point. … If we need to do a better job of messaging, we’ll do a better job.”

The third topic was START. (During the conference, Sen. Jon Kyl declared it isn’t going to get a vote in the lame-duck session.) This should be a bipartisan issue too, he asserted. He added that “there are no restraints” on our ability to pursue missile defense, and it comes packaged with an unprecedented commitment to force modernization.

Things got a bit dicier in the Q&A conducted by Robert Kagan. What about human rights in Russia? Why aren’t we talking more about democracy in Egypt? Again, Steinberg, in measured tones, with no hint of defensiveness, argued that “it should be clear” that we remain committed to human rights in Russia. On our support for democracy and human rights in Egypt, you see, it is important “to say it when it matters.” (But not at public news conferences, I suppose.) Kagan pressed him on the G-20: how could we go in there with such dissention between the U.S. and Europe? Oh, now, now. We’ve had hard times with allies in the past. Why is China exhibiting such bullying behavior of late? Ah, it’s a transition period, and there are many voice there. Why aren’t we getting these free-trade agreements done? Well, on South Korea, sometimes the “work just is not ready,” so we’ll keep at it. Colombia? He’s very encouraged.

Steinberg is such an articulate and calm figure, the consummate professional, that you’d almost forget listening to him that Obama’s Middle East policy is in shambles, that Iran is on the ascendency and on the road to getting the bomb, that our human-rights policy is under attack by the left and right, that Russia and China are both feeling emboldened to extend their influence, and that our relations with Europe are badly frayed. But what comes across loud and clear is that the Obama team wants to be perceived as operating well within the bipartisan tradition of American foreign policy. If that entails an ongoing presence in Iraq, a sustained effort in Afghanistan, a determination to deny Iran nuclear weapons, a cessation of its foolhardy obsession with Israeli settlements, a competent and forceful free-trade policy, and consistent defense of human rights, then the administration will earn the support of conservatives and, more important, the respect of foes and the confidence of allies.

Read Less

The Genius of Madeleine Albright

My first reaction upon reading Madeleine Albright’s letter on foreign policy, co-signed by some other foreign ministers, was: this woman was secretary of state? She apparently now specializes in pablum. Her counsel consists of such blazing insights as this:

In almost every part of the globe, there continue to be people who have chosen — whether out of ignorance, fear, or ill will — to sow conflict where reconciliation is needed. It is up to responsible voices on all sides to make the case for constructive action based on shared interests and values. This is a duty that extends beyond governments alone, to include decision makers and other people of influence from all sectors of society. The standard we seek to achieve is not mere tolerance, but a widespread attitude of genuine mutual respect.

Not only is this boring and prosaic, it’s also wrong. The goal of American foreign policy should not be conflict resolution but the promotion of American interests and values. As her own writing aptly demonstrates, the notion that we should seek accommodation with everyone raises the question as to whether others want accommodation with us:

We favor policies and initiatives that will improve the environment for cooperation across the boundaries of nation and creed. We recognize, of course, that the present state of relations between Muslims and the West must be viewed within an historical context and that the terms “Muslim” and “the West” refer to entities that are resistant to easy generalization. We also acknowledge that the prospects for success will be profoundly affected by the future direction of events in such areas of conflict as Afghanistan and Pakistan, and by progress in the Middle East peace process. We believe, however, that certain broad steps can and should be taken to strengthen the foundation for intercultural understanding.

If you actually read all that (c’mon, you skimmed, right?), you’d wonder if there were a sale on empty platitudes. How can we hope to “strengthen the foundation for intercultural understanding,” and more important, what if others want to kill rather than understand us, or to oppress their people rather than to understand them, or to wipe out their neighbors rather than understand them?

Oh, no problem. Albright says that all we have to do is “not duck hard issues” (hmm, like the oppression of women?) and censor ourselves by cutting out terms like “Islam.” (Wait, wouldn’t this be ducking a hard question?) Then we need to “emphasize the firm connection that exists between democratic and Islamic values while also heeding the lesson of Iraq, which is that democracy must find its roots internally.” I couldn’t follow that either. And what lesson does she mean — that America can overthrow tyrants and introduce democracy to the Middle East? We also have to work on immigration (“search for answers that take into account economic and demographic realities, while discouraging reactions based on prejudice or fear”) and step up “business, scientific, academic, cultural and religious contact.”

OK, how is any of that going to keep Iran from getting the bomb? Where in there do we curb Putin’s aggressive tactics? Is there something that would help rebuff Hugo Chavez? I hope Pakistan wants to “understand us,” for if not, there is precious little to help us deal with a corrupt, unstable Islamic state. And, more important, was she this inane when she was in office?

I will say this: Albright reminds us that there could be worse choices than Hillary for secretary of state.

My first reaction upon reading Madeleine Albright’s letter on foreign policy, co-signed by some other foreign ministers, was: this woman was secretary of state? She apparently now specializes in pablum. Her counsel consists of such blazing insights as this:

In almost every part of the globe, there continue to be people who have chosen — whether out of ignorance, fear, or ill will — to sow conflict where reconciliation is needed. It is up to responsible voices on all sides to make the case for constructive action based on shared interests and values. This is a duty that extends beyond governments alone, to include decision makers and other people of influence from all sectors of society. The standard we seek to achieve is not mere tolerance, but a widespread attitude of genuine mutual respect.

Not only is this boring and prosaic, it’s also wrong. The goal of American foreign policy should not be conflict resolution but the promotion of American interests and values. As her own writing aptly demonstrates, the notion that we should seek accommodation with everyone raises the question as to whether others want accommodation with us:

We favor policies and initiatives that will improve the environment for cooperation across the boundaries of nation and creed. We recognize, of course, that the present state of relations between Muslims and the West must be viewed within an historical context and that the terms “Muslim” and “the West” refer to entities that are resistant to easy generalization. We also acknowledge that the prospects for success will be profoundly affected by the future direction of events in such areas of conflict as Afghanistan and Pakistan, and by progress in the Middle East peace process. We believe, however, that certain broad steps can and should be taken to strengthen the foundation for intercultural understanding.

If you actually read all that (c’mon, you skimmed, right?), you’d wonder if there were a sale on empty platitudes. How can we hope to “strengthen the foundation for intercultural understanding,” and more important, what if others want to kill rather than understand us, or to oppress their people rather than to understand them, or to wipe out their neighbors rather than understand them?

Oh, no problem. Albright says that all we have to do is “not duck hard issues” (hmm, like the oppression of women?) and censor ourselves by cutting out terms like “Islam.” (Wait, wouldn’t this be ducking a hard question?) Then we need to “emphasize the firm connection that exists between democratic and Islamic values while also heeding the lesson of Iraq, which is that democracy must find its roots internally.” I couldn’t follow that either. And what lesson does she mean — that America can overthrow tyrants and introduce democracy to the Middle East? We also have to work on immigration (“search for answers that take into account economic and demographic realities, while discouraging reactions based on prejudice or fear”) and step up “business, scientific, academic, cultural and religious contact.”

OK, how is any of that going to keep Iran from getting the bomb? Where in there do we curb Putin’s aggressive tactics? Is there something that would help rebuff Hugo Chavez? I hope Pakistan wants to “understand us,” for if not, there is precious little to help us deal with a corrupt, unstable Islamic state. And, more important, was she this inane when she was in office?

I will say this: Albright reminds us that there could be worse choices than Hillary for secretary of state.

Read Less

Chavez Still Chavez

It seems that a single meeting with Jewish leaders did not herald the dawning of a new age in Hugo Chavez’s relations with Jews or the Jewish state.

We saw Chavez literally wrap his arms around Ahmadinejad:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told reporters after a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran on Tuesday that cooperation with Iran was a “holy task” for Venezuela, Iran’s Fars news agency said.

Ahmadinejad in turn welcomed Venezuela’s support against the Islamic Republic’s western “bullies.” …

The progressive and fraternal stance of Venezuela in condemning sanctions against Iran imposed by the bullying powers is indicative of the deep and firm ties between the two countries,” Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the student news agency ISNA. … It was the ninth visit to Iran by Chavez, who has often described the Islamic country as his “second home.”

The regional “bully,” in case there was any doubt, is Israel.

And now there is this:

On the Mideast leg of an international tour, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Thursday that he and his Syrian counterpart are “on the offensive” against Western imperialism. …

“We’re on the offensive,” Chavez said. “We’re building an alternative.”

The two also discussed a proposed oil project and signed several economic agreements.

Chavez arrived in Syria on Wednesday from Tehran, where he and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said they are united in efforts to establish a “new world order” that will eliminate Western dominance over global affairs.

If the “new world order” sounds vaguely fascistic – and one possibly without Jews in its midst – you have understood their drift.

As the U.S. dallies, Iran gathers friends – in another presidency, it would be called the Axis of Evil. Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and to a large extent the increasingly Islamist Turkey have figured out that the U.S. is in retreat and that the new and potentially nuclear-armed Iran is where the action is.

It would be delightful if the likes of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez turned over a new leaf with regard to Iran’s genocidal ambitions and Israel. But that is the stuff of fantasy and bamboozled liberal pundits.

It seems that a single meeting with Jewish leaders did not herald the dawning of a new age in Hugo Chavez’s relations with Jews or the Jewish state.

We saw Chavez literally wrap his arms around Ahmadinejad:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told reporters after a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran on Tuesday that cooperation with Iran was a “holy task” for Venezuela, Iran’s Fars news agency said.

Ahmadinejad in turn welcomed Venezuela’s support against the Islamic Republic’s western “bullies.” …

The progressive and fraternal stance of Venezuela in condemning sanctions against Iran imposed by the bullying powers is indicative of the deep and firm ties between the two countries,” Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the student news agency ISNA. … It was the ninth visit to Iran by Chavez, who has often described the Islamic country as his “second home.”

The regional “bully,” in case there was any doubt, is Israel.

And now there is this:

On the Mideast leg of an international tour, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Thursday that he and his Syrian counterpart are “on the offensive” against Western imperialism. …

“We’re on the offensive,” Chavez said. “We’re building an alternative.”

The two also discussed a proposed oil project and signed several economic agreements.

Chavez arrived in Syria on Wednesday from Tehran, where he and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said they are united in efforts to establish a “new world order” that will eliminate Western dominance over global affairs.

If the “new world order” sounds vaguely fascistic – and one possibly without Jews in its midst – you have understood their drift.

As the U.S. dallies, Iran gathers friends – in another presidency, it would be called the Axis of Evil. Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and to a large extent the increasingly Islamist Turkey have figured out that the U.S. is in retreat and that the new and potentially nuclear-armed Iran is where the action is.

It would be delightful if the likes of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez turned over a new leaf with regard to Iran’s genocidal ambitions and Israel. But that is the stuff of fantasy and bamboozled liberal pundits.

Read Less

The Human Rights “Charm Offensive”

Fred Hiatt is hopeful — as so many observers have been during the Obama administration — that the president is “turning the corner” on his foreign policy, specifically in the area of human rights and democracy promotion. Hiatt recounts some of the administration’s failings:

The administration criticized the narrowing of freedom in Russia, but cooperation on Iran was a higher priority. It chided Hosni Mubarak for choking civil society in Egypt, but the autocrat’s cooperation on Israel-Palestine mattered more.

Sadly, in fact, it seemed fellow democracies often paid a higher price for real or supposed human-rights failings: Colombia, for example, where human rights was the excuse for not promoting a free-trade agreement.

But it’s worse than that, really. We stiffed the Green movement and cut funding to groups that monitor Iranian human rights abuses. We facilitated the egregious behavior of the UN Human Rights Council. Our Sudan policy has been widely condemned by the left and right. Our record on promotion of religious freedom has been shoddy. We acquiesced as Iran was placed on the UN Commission on the Status of Women. We turned a blind eye toward serial human rights atrocities in the Muslim World. We flattered and cajoled Assad in Syria with nary a concern for human rights. We told China that human rights wouldn’t stand in the way of relations between the countries. We’ve suggested that Fidel Castro might enjoy better relations and an influx of U.S. tourist dollars without any improvement in human rights. And the administration ludicrously sided with a lackey of Hugo Chavez against the democratic institutions of Honduras. The list goes on and on.

As I and other observers have noted, the Obama human rights policy has more often than not focused on America’s ills – supposed Islamophobia, homophobia, racism, and the like: “Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have found some victims of rights-transgression who are of very great interest to them — indeed, since some of them are here at home, and sinned against by America herself!”

But Hiatt thinks Obama is turning over a new leaf: “[A]couple of weeks ago, in his second annual address to the U.N. General Assembly, Obama declared that ‘freedom, justice and peace in the lives of individual human beings’ are, for the United States, ‘a matter of moral and pragmatic necessity.’” Yes, but we’ve heard pretty words before. What makes Hiatt think that this time around Obama honestly means it? He concedes that the proof will be in what Obama actually does:

If Obama’s speech signals a genuine shift, we will see the administration insist on election monitors in Egypt or withhold aid if Mubarak says no. It will wield real tools — visa bans, bank account seizures — to sanction human-rights abusers in Russia and China. It will not only claim to support a U.N. inquiry into Burma’s crimes against humanity but will call in chits from friends in Thailand, Singapore or India to make such an inquiry happen.

And maybe the administration will stop sabotaging Obama’s message on his most active foreign policy front: the war in Afghanistan. There, in its almost aggressive insistence that the war is about protecting the U.S. homeland — and only about protecting the U.S. homeland — the administration undercuts its claim to be a champion of “universal values.”

You’ll excuse me if I’m skeptical, but we’ve been down this road before. And to really be serious about human rights, Obama would need to undo and revise his entire Muslim-outreach scheme. Instead of ingratiating himself with despots, he would need to challenge them. Instead of telling Muslim audiences in Cairo that the most significant women’s rights issue was “for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit — for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear,” he would need to start challenging regimes that countenance and promote violence against women, child marriages, stonings, lashings, honor killings, etc. He would likewise need to revisit systematically our “reset” with Russia and our indifference to Chavez’s shenanigans in this hemisphere. Is this president going to do all that?

It’s lovely that the president is planning a trip “through Asia designed in part to put meat on the bones of his new rhetoric … [where] he will announce grants for nongovernmental organizations that the administration hopes will flower into the kind of domestic lobbies that can push their own governments to promote democracy abroad.” But unless there is a fundamental rethinking and reworking of foreign policy, this will be simply another PR effort that does little for the oppressed souls around the world.

Fred Hiatt is hopeful — as so many observers have been during the Obama administration — that the president is “turning the corner” on his foreign policy, specifically in the area of human rights and democracy promotion. Hiatt recounts some of the administration’s failings:

The administration criticized the narrowing of freedom in Russia, but cooperation on Iran was a higher priority. It chided Hosni Mubarak for choking civil society in Egypt, but the autocrat’s cooperation on Israel-Palestine mattered more.

Sadly, in fact, it seemed fellow democracies often paid a higher price for real or supposed human-rights failings: Colombia, for example, where human rights was the excuse for not promoting a free-trade agreement.

But it’s worse than that, really. We stiffed the Green movement and cut funding to groups that monitor Iranian human rights abuses. We facilitated the egregious behavior of the UN Human Rights Council. Our Sudan policy has been widely condemned by the left and right. Our record on promotion of religious freedom has been shoddy. We acquiesced as Iran was placed on the UN Commission on the Status of Women. We turned a blind eye toward serial human rights atrocities in the Muslim World. We flattered and cajoled Assad in Syria with nary a concern for human rights. We told China that human rights wouldn’t stand in the way of relations between the countries. We’ve suggested that Fidel Castro might enjoy better relations and an influx of U.S. tourist dollars without any improvement in human rights. And the administration ludicrously sided with a lackey of Hugo Chavez against the democratic institutions of Honduras. The list goes on and on.

As I and other observers have noted, the Obama human rights policy has more often than not focused on America’s ills – supposed Islamophobia, homophobia, racism, and the like: “Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have found some victims of rights-transgression who are of very great interest to them — indeed, since some of them are here at home, and sinned against by America herself!”

But Hiatt thinks Obama is turning over a new leaf: “[A]couple of weeks ago, in his second annual address to the U.N. General Assembly, Obama declared that ‘freedom, justice and peace in the lives of individual human beings’ are, for the United States, ‘a matter of moral and pragmatic necessity.’” Yes, but we’ve heard pretty words before. What makes Hiatt think that this time around Obama honestly means it? He concedes that the proof will be in what Obama actually does:

If Obama’s speech signals a genuine shift, we will see the administration insist on election monitors in Egypt or withhold aid if Mubarak says no. It will wield real tools — visa bans, bank account seizures — to sanction human-rights abusers in Russia and China. It will not only claim to support a U.N. inquiry into Burma’s crimes against humanity but will call in chits from friends in Thailand, Singapore or India to make such an inquiry happen.

And maybe the administration will stop sabotaging Obama’s message on his most active foreign policy front: the war in Afghanistan. There, in its almost aggressive insistence that the war is about protecting the U.S. homeland — and only about protecting the U.S. homeland — the administration undercuts its claim to be a champion of “universal values.”

You’ll excuse me if I’m skeptical, but we’ve been down this road before. And to really be serious about human rights, Obama would need to undo and revise his entire Muslim-outreach scheme. Instead of ingratiating himself with despots, he would need to challenge them. Instead of telling Muslim audiences in Cairo that the most significant women’s rights issue was “for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit — for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear,” he would need to start challenging regimes that countenance and promote violence against women, child marriages, stonings, lashings, honor killings, etc. He would likewise need to revisit systematically our “reset” with Russia and our indifference to Chavez’s shenanigans in this hemisphere. Is this president going to do all that?

It’s lovely that the president is planning a trip “through Asia designed in part to put meat on the bones of his new rhetoric … [where] he will announce grants for nongovernmental organizations that the administration hopes will flower into the kind of domestic lobbies that can push their own governments to promote democracy abroad.” But unless there is a fundamental rethinking and reworking of foreign policy, this will be simply another PR effort that does little for the oppressed souls around the world.

Read Less

Scammed Again (Even Without the Dolphin Show)

Jeffrey Goldberg, fresh from flacking for Fidel Castro, moves on to Castro’s sidekick Hugo Chavez:

One day after I posted Fidel Castro’s condemnation of anti-Semitism on this blog, the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, announced that he too, felt great “love and respect” for Jews, and he invited the leaders of his country’s put-upon Jewish community to meet with him. The meeting took place a short while later. Chavez’s statement, and the meeting that followed, were widely interpreted in Latin America as a signal from Chavez his mentor, Fidel, that he understood that Venezuela was developing a reputation as a hostile place for Jews.

And he relates an e-mail saying how thrilled Argentine Jews were to have the meeting.

There was such a meeting. The group presented Chavez with a dossier on anti-Jewish incidents, which Chavez “promised to read,” but it’s absurd to consider this anything more than a PR stunt. Does Goldberg really imagine his dolphin encounter has spurred Chavez to retreat from his state-sponsored anti-Semitism and voracious anti-Israel foreign policy? Read More

Jeffrey Goldberg, fresh from flacking for Fidel Castro, moves on to Castro’s sidekick Hugo Chavez:

One day after I posted Fidel Castro’s condemnation of anti-Semitism on this blog, the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, announced that he too, felt great “love and respect” for Jews, and he invited the leaders of his country’s put-upon Jewish community to meet with him. The meeting took place a short while later. Chavez’s statement, and the meeting that followed, were widely interpreted in Latin America as a signal from Chavez his mentor, Fidel, that he understood that Venezuela was developing a reputation as a hostile place for Jews.

And he relates an e-mail saying how thrilled Argentine Jews were to have the meeting.

There was such a meeting. The group presented Chavez with a dossier on anti-Jewish incidents, which Chavez “promised to read,” but it’s absurd to consider this anything more than a PR stunt. Does Goldberg really imagine his dolphin encounter has spurred Chavez to retreat from his state-sponsored anti-Semitism and voracious anti-Israel foreign policy?

This June report explains:

In the aftermath of the Gaza flotilla affair, President Chavez cursed Israel as a “terrorist state” and an enemy of the Venezuelan revolution and claimed Israel’s Mossad spy agency was trying to assassinate him.

“Extreme criticism and the de-legitimization of Israel continue to be used by the government of Venezuela as a political tool,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.  “The atmosphere of extreme anti-Israel criticism and an unsettling focus on the Venezuelan Jewish community’s attitudes creates an environment for anti-Semitism to grow and flourish.  So far this hasn’t translated into attacks against individual Jews or Jewish institutions.  However, we cannot forget that the Jewish community in Venezuela has already witnessed violent anti-Semitic incidents in the past few years.”

In a new online report, the League documents recent anti-Semitic expressions in Venezuela in the aftermath of the Gaza flotilla incident, including those of government and political leaders, conspiracy theories and accusations in the government-run media, and statements on various anti-Israel websites.

In a June 12 interview with the government-owned national television network, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro . . suggested that should a terrorist attack be carried out on Venezuelan soil, a likely culprit would be the “intelligence assassin apparatus of the State of Israel,” the Mossad.

Vilification of Zionism is particularly present in the government-run media and the so-called “alternative” media run by government sympathizers who are intricately intertwined with the government apparatus, according to the ADL.  Media and political leaders seem to take their cues from Chavez, who has in the past few years made his feelings about Israel all-too clear.

Moreover, Chavez’s overeager Atlantic scribe overlooks an inconvenient truth: Chavez has made common cause with Ahmadinejad. As the Washington Post explained last year:

Mr. Chávez was in Tehran again this week and offered his full support for Mr. Ahmadinejad’s hard-line faction. As usual, the caudillo made clear that he shares Iran’s view of Israel, which he called “a genocidal state.” He endorsed Iran’s nuclear program and declared that Venezuela would seek Iran’s assistance to construct a nuclear complex of its own. He also announced that his government would begin supplying Iran with 20,000 barrels of gasoline a day — a deal that could directly undercut a possible U.S. effort to curtail Iran’s gasoline imports.

Such collaboration is far from new for Venezuela and Iran. In the past several years Iran has opened banks in Caracas and factories in the South American countryside. Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau . . . says he believes Iran is using the Venezuelan banking system to evade U.S. and U.N. sanctions. He also points out that Iranian factories have been located “in remote and undeveloped parts of Venezuela” that lack infrastructure but that could be “ideal . . . for the illicit production of weapons.”

Moreover, Benny Avni writes in the New York Sun that Chavez’s mentor — notwithstanding the lovely visit with Goldberg — is behaving as he always does:

On the eve of hearings that had been set to open in the United States Congress on whether to ease the ban on Americans traveling to Cuba, Havana’s foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, has been taking a hard, even strident line here at the United Nations, very much at odds with the way Fidel Castro is trying to portray Cuba in the American press these days.

It has prompted old hands here at the United Nations to quote another, albeit different kind of, Marxist —  Groucho, who famously asked: Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes? . . .

Mr. Parrilla, however, was, in his address at the annual General Assembly debate, as rigid as ever, blaming America’s aggression for all the isle’s troubles, saying Israel is behind all that’s wrong in the Middle East, and expressing solidarity with Venezuela’s caudillo, Hugo Chavez.

Avni chastises Goldberg for stunning naivete and relaying Cuba’s business-as-usual rhetoric:

And no, for Cuba the holocaust-denying Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is not the aggressor. “As Comrade Fidel has pointed out, powerful and influential forces in the United States and Israel are paving the way to launch a military attack against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Mr. Parrilla warned, adding that the General Assembly must stop such a plot to commit a “crime against the Iranian people” and such “an assault against international law” in order to prevent a nuclear war.

Mr. Parrilla’s entire speech was an old-style Cuban assault on America and Israel, harking back to the glorious days of the Cold War when the Castros drew as much attention at international fora like the U.N. as is now reserved for Mr. Ahmadinejad or Mr. Chavez.

It’s bad enough that Goldberg was taken in by Soros Street (many liberals were), but he really should stay away from Latin American dictators.

Read Less

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Venezuela on the Brink

Venezuela goes to the polls on Sept. 26 in a parliamentary election that opponents of President Hugo Chavez see as “a chance to turn the tide,” as Reuters news service puts it. Chavez may be taking on more authoritarian powers, but he also has to defend what the latest data show is the worst economy in the world. And you thought the Democrats had problems!

The Economist magazine provides statistics weekly on 57 nations, from the United States to Estonia. Its most recent report forecasts that gross domestic product in Venezuela will decline by 5.5 percent in 2010. Next worst is Greece, with a 3.9 percent decline. Greece, of course, came close to defaulting on its debt earlier this year, and analysts at Morgan Stanley worry that Venezuela is moving in the same direction.

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive.

Venezuela goes to the polls on Sept. 26 in a parliamentary election that opponents of President Hugo Chavez see as “a chance to turn the tide,” as Reuters news service puts it. Chavez may be taking on more authoritarian powers, but he also has to defend what the latest data show is the worst economy in the world. And you thought the Democrats had problems!

The Economist magazine provides statistics weekly on 57 nations, from the United States to Estonia. Its most recent report forecasts that gross domestic product in Venezuela will decline by 5.5 percent in 2010. Next worst is Greece, with a 3.9 percent decline. Greece, of course, came close to defaulting on its debt earlier this year, and analysts at Morgan Stanley worry that Venezuela is moving in the same direction.

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive.

Read Less

Stone’s Apologies Don’t Erase Link Between the Left and Anti-Semitism

Oliver Stone added to his reputation as an incorrigible conspiracy monger this past week in an interview in the Times of London in which he claimed that America’s “obsession” with the Holocaust was caused by Jewish control of the media, sought to put Hitler “in context,” and denounced the “Jewish lobby” and Israel for controlling American foreign policy. The leftist director also defended the Jew-hating regime in Iran as well as Venezuelan strong man Hugo Chavez (who is featured in a flattering documentary produced by Stone), whose dictatorial government has terrorized that country’s Jewish community and made common cause with Tehran.

The Anti-Defamation League appropriately denounced this. But while, as Jennifer noted, Stone was not exactly deluged with criticism — the mainstream media generally ignored the controversy — he did issue two apologies within the next three days. The first backed away from his remarks about the Jews controlling the media and Hollywood, but, as the ADL rightly noted in a release, he failed to deal with his charges about Israel and the “Jewish lobby.” In response to this, Stone, obviously listening to his PR people, again apologized, saying: “I do agree that it was wrong of me to say that Israel or the pro-Israel lobby is to blame for America’s flawed foreign policy. Of course that’s not true and I apologize that my inappropriately glib remark has played into that negative stereotype.”

Feeling that this was sufficient, the ADL quickly declared victory in a statement in which its director, Abe Foxman, was quoted as saying, “I believe he now understands the issues and where he was wrong, and this puts an end to the matter.”

But does it?

Stone’s comments were hardly out of character. He had previously talked about putting Hitler “in context,” and his denunciations of Israel and defense of the anti-Semitic regimes in Iran and Venezuela are still a matter of the record. Last fall the ADL went out of its way to try to wrongly connect mainstream conservative and Republican critiques of President Obama with lunatic extremists and anti-Semites in a report. But as Stone’s comments illustrated, the lesson here is the slippery slope between the leftist conspiracy theories that Stone has championed in his films and public utterances and traditional anti-Semitic invective. This was not a mere slip of the tongue. The line between lionizing Jew-haters like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and overt anti-Semitism is razor-thin if it exists at all. While it is appropriate for the ADL director to acknowledge the speed with which Stone has tried to flee from justified accusations of anti-Semitism, he should have used this moment to make it clear that this story is bigger than just one interview. Instead, he has produced a statement that will serve to allow Stone to escape any further opprobrium. The problem with Oliver Stone is not his big mouth but the ideas that he has spent his adult life propagating. What Stone has done is to once again highlight the nexus between far-left conspiracy theories and Jew-hatred. And that is something that can’t be put to rest with a mere blessing from Mr. Foxman.

Oliver Stone added to his reputation as an incorrigible conspiracy monger this past week in an interview in the Times of London in which he claimed that America’s “obsession” with the Holocaust was caused by Jewish control of the media, sought to put Hitler “in context,” and denounced the “Jewish lobby” and Israel for controlling American foreign policy. The leftist director also defended the Jew-hating regime in Iran as well as Venezuelan strong man Hugo Chavez (who is featured in a flattering documentary produced by Stone), whose dictatorial government has terrorized that country’s Jewish community and made common cause with Tehran.

The Anti-Defamation League appropriately denounced this. But while, as Jennifer noted, Stone was not exactly deluged with criticism — the mainstream media generally ignored the controversy — he did issue two apologies within the next three days. The first backed away from his remarks about the Jews controlling the media and Hollywood, but, as the ADL rightly noted in a release, he failed to deal with his charges about Israel and the “Jewish lobby.” In response to this, Stone, obviously listening to his PR people, again apologized, saying: “I do agree that it was wrong of me to say that Israel or the pro-Israel lobby is to blame for America’s flawed foreign policy. Of course that’s not true and I apologize that my inappropriately glib remark has played into that negative stereotype.”

Feeling that this was sufficient, the ADL quickly declared victory in a statement in which its director, Abe Foxman, was quoted as saying, “I believe he now understands the issues and where he was wrong, and this puts an end to the matter.”

But does it?

Stone’s comments were hardly out of character. He had previously talked about putting Hitler “in context,” and his denunciations of Israel and defense of the anti-Semitic regimes in Iran and Venezuela are still a matter of the record. Last fall the ADL went out of its way to try to wrongly connect mainstream conservative and Republican critiques of President Obama with lunatic extremists and anti-Semites in a report. But as Stone’s comments illustrated, the lesson here is the slippery slope between the leftist conspiracy theories that Stone has championed in his films and public utterances and traditional anti-Semitic invective. This was not a mere slip of the tongue. The line between lionizing Jew-haters like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and overt anti-Semitism is razor-thin if it exists at all. While it is appropriate for the ADL director to acknowledge the speed with which Stone has tried to flee from justified accusations of anti-Semitism, he should have used this moment to make it clear that this story is bigger than just one interview. Instead, he has produced a statement that will serve to allow Stone to escape any further opprobrium. The problem with Oliver Stone is not his big mouth but the ideas that he has spent his adult life propagating. What Stone has done is to once again highlight the nexus between far-left conspiracy theories and Jew-hatred. And that is something that can’t be put to rest with a mere blessing from Mr. Foxman.

Read Less

Why No Outrage Over Oliver Stone?

Oliver Stone’s outburst of rank anti-Semitism in an interview last weekend with the Sunday Times of London has barely created a ripple in the mainstream media. Just as the sophisticates in liberal media outlets and the Hollywood elite gave a collective shrug of indifference when Mel Gibson issued his original anti-Semitic rantings, we have heard not much at all from the trend setters (too busy with their Roman Polanski victory celebrations?). The ADL issued a statement that nicely sums up what others prefer to ignore:

Oliver Stone has once again shown his conspiratorial colors with his comments about ‘Jewish domination of the media’ and control over U.S. foreign policy. His words conjure up some of the most stereotypical and conspiratorial notions of undue Jewish power and influence.

The myth of Jewish control is an old stereotype that persists to this day. Stone uses it in a particularly egregious fashion by suggesting that Hitler has gotten an unfair shake because of Jewish influence.

This is the most absurd kind of analysis and shows the extent to which Oliver Stone is willing to propound his anti-Semitic and conspiratorial views.

Israel’s Diaspora Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein blasted Stone:

“Beyond the ignorance he proves with his comments, his demonization of the Jewish people could be a sequel to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the minister said. “When a man of Stone’s stature says such things, it could lead to a new wave of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, and it may even cause real harm to Jewish communities and individuals.”

It’s not like Stone’s interview didn’t have newsworthy remarks:

In the interview, Stone said America’s focus on the Holocaust was a product of the “Jewish domination of the media.” He said his upcoming Showtime documentary series Secret History of America would put Hitler and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin “in context.” “Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people, 25 or 30 [million killed],” Stone said … Stone, who recently met with Ahmadinejad, said American policy toward Iran was “horrible.”

“Iran isn’t necessarily the good guy,” he said. “But we don’t know the full story!”

By contrast, Stone praised Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez as “a brave, blunt, earthy” man, who does not censor the Internet in his country.

Stone also raised an uproar when he defended Hitler at a press conference in January.

“Hitler is an easy scapegoat throughout history and it’s been used cheaply,” he said at the time. “He’s the product of a series of actions. It’s cause and effect.”

Maybe it’s Stone’s long leftist track record — who can forget his glowing biopic of Fidel Castro? — that has earned him a pass from the liberal U.S. media.

But maybe there is something else at work. Stone’s venomous rant against “Jewish domination of the media” and his assertion about the “Israel lobby” (“They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Israel has f***** up United States foreign policy for years”) are not so different from what comes from the lips of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, the writings of the Israel-hating left, and the bile-drenched blogs of those who, for example, claimed John McCain was surrounded by Jewish neocon advisers.

It’s reasonable to conclude that Oliver Stone hasn’t been called out by the liberals — those who advertise themselves as experts on diversity and bigotry — because a great deal of what he said doesn’t sound all that objectionable to far too many of them. And of course, it’s rather embarrassing for those seeking respectability (the “tough love for Israel” gang) to illuminate that anti-Israel venom is, when you scratch the surface, nothing more than old-fashioned Jew-hating.

Oliver Stone’s outburst of rank anti-Semitism in an interview last weekend with the Sunday Times of London has barely created a ripple in the mainstream media. Just as the sophisticates in liberal media outlets and the Hollywood elite gave a collective shrug of indifference when Mel Gibson issued his original anti-Semitic rantings, we have heard not much at all from the trend setters (too busy with their Roman Polanski victory celebrations?). The ADL issued a statement that nicely sums up what others prefer to ignore:

Oliver Stone has once again shown his conspiratorial colors with his comments about ‘Jewish domination of the media’ and control over U.S. foreign policy. His words conjure up some of the most stereotypical and conspiratorial notions of undue Jewish power and influence.

The myth of Jewish control is an old stereotype that persists to this day. Stone uses it in a particularly egregious fashion by suggesting that Hitler has gotten an unfair shake because of Jewish influence.

This is the most absurd kind of analysis and shows the extent to which Oliver Stone is willing to propound his anti-Semitic and conspiratorial views.

Israel’s Diaspora Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein blasted Stone:

“Beyond the ignorance he proves with his comments, his demonization of the Jewish people could be a sequel to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the minister said. “When a man of Stone’s stature says such things, it could lead to a new wave of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, and it may even cause real harm to Jewish communities and individuals.”

It’s not like Stone’s interview didn’t have newsworthy remarks:

In the interview, Stone said America’s focus on the Holocaust was a product of the “Jewish domination of the media.” He said his upcoming Showtime documentary series Secret History of America would put Hitler and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin “in context.” “Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people, 25 or 30 [million killed],” Stone said … Stone, who recently met with Ahmadinejad, said American policy toward Iran was “horrible.”

“Iran isn’t necessarily the good guy,” he said. “But we don’t know the full story!”

By contrast, Stone praised Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez as “a brave, blunt, earthy” man, who does not censor the Internet in his country.

Stone also raised an uproar when he defended Hitler at a press conference in January.

“Hitler is an easy scapegoat throughout history and it’s been used cheaply,” he said at the time. “He’s the product of a series of actions. It’s cause and effect.”

Maybe it’s Stone’s long leftist track record — who can forget his glowing biopic of Fidel Castro? — that has earned him a pass from the liberal U.S. media.

But maybe there is something else at work. Stone’s venomous rant against “Jewish domination of the media” and his assertion about the “Israel lobby” (“They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Israel has f***** up United States foreign policy for years”) are not so different from what comes from the lips of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, the writings of the Israel-hating left, and the bile-drenched blogs of those who, for example, claimed John McCain was surrounded by Jewish neocon advisers.

It’s reasonable to conclude that Oliver Stone hasn’t been called out by the liberals — those who advertise themselves as experts on diversity and bigotry — because a great deal of what he said doesn’t sound all that objectionable to far too many of them. And of course, it’s rather embarrassing for those seeking respectability (the “tough love for Israel” gang) to illuminate that anti-Israel venom is, when you scratch the surface, nothing more than old-fashioned Jew-hating.

Read Less

It’s Not About Climate Change; It’s About National Security

That this particular climate bill is dead may indeed be good news. But it’s definitely not good news that Congress is doing nothing serious about energy at all — not because of global warming (about which I share my colleagues’ skepticism) but because of national security: the global addiction to fossil fuels finances all of America’s worst enemies.

Republicans shouldn’t need reminding that Iran’s natural-gas wealth funds both its drive for nuclear weapons and numerous terrorist organizations; that Saudi Arabia’s oil riches fund madrassas worldwide that indoctrinate young men in radical Islamism and produce people like the 9/11 bombers; that Hugo Chavez uses Venezuela’s oil wealth to undermine American interests in Latin America; that Russia (Obama’s “reset” notwithstanding) uses its oil and gas wealth to thwart American interests worldwide. This is not a minor problem.

Clearly, that doesn’t mean Republicans have to accept Democrats’ ideas on how to solve it; there was indeed much to dislike in the now-defunct bill. But that doesn’t excuse Republicans’ failure to offer any ideas of their own beyond “drill, baby, drill.” More drilling would help the problem in the short term by lowering oil and gas prices and thus reducing our enemies’ revenues (and also helping the economy). But it’s not a long-term solution.

It’s true that no viable alternatives to fossil fuels currently exist. But that’s no reason not to at least put money into R&D aimed at trying to develop one. America has never hesitated to devote large-scale funding to R&D it deems vital to national security; the Manhattan Project and the moon shot are cases in point. Granted, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were Democrats. But do Republicans really want to argue that only Democrats are willing to invest in critical national-security R&D?

Moreover, while Republicans are obviously right that raising the price of a vital production input during a deep recession is a terrible idea, Democrats are right that both a carbon tax and (to a lesser extent) cap-and-trade are at least market-based solutions. Neither forces energy consumers to do anything in particular; they let consumers decide for themselves whether to conserve, invest in alternative technology, or live with the higher price. So if creative Republicans can’t devise a better idea, they might want to seriously consider these once the economy recovers.

Democrats have clearly handled the issue stupidly. Rather than vainly trying to persuade Republicans (and the public) to believe in global warming, they should have been trying to paint Republicans into a corner over national security. Instead, the only Democrat I’ve heard consistently making the security argument is Thomas Friedman (here, for instance), and even he treats it as secondary to the “real” issue of global warming.

But Democratic stupidity is no excuse for Republican stupidity. There’s no way to combat any terrorist movement without going after its funding sources, and fossil-fuel revenues are the lifeblood of radical Islamism — and of many other anti-American autocrats, like Chavez and Vladimir Putin. Ignoring the problem of fossil-fuel dependency won’t make it go away; it will only make America weaker.

That this particular climate bill is dead may indeed be good news. But it’s definitely not good news that Congress is doing nothing serious about energy at all — not because of global warming (about which I share my colleagues’ skepticism) but because of national security: the global addiction to fossil fuels finances all of America’s worst enemies.

Republicans shouldn’t need reminding that Iran’s natural-gas wealth funds both its drive for nuclear weapons and numerous terrorist organizations; that Saudi Arabia’s oil riches fund madrassas worldwide that indoctrinate young men in radical Islamism and produce people like the 9/11 bombers; that Hugo Chavez uses Venezuela’s oil wealth to undermine American interests in Latin America; that Russia (Obama’s “reset” notwithstanding) uses its oil and gas wealth to thwart American interests worldwide. This is not a minor problem.

Clearly, that doesn’t mean Republicans have to accept Democrats’ ideas on how to solve it; there was indeed much to dislike in the now-defunct bill. But that doesn’t excuse Republicans’ failure to offer any ideas of their own beyond “drill, baby, drill.” More drilling would help the problem in the short term by lowering oil and gas prices and thus reducing our enemies’ revenues (and also helping the economy). But it’s not a long-term solution.

It’s true that no viable alternatives to fossil fuels currently exist. But that’s no reason not to at least put money into R&D aimed at trying to develop one. America has never hesitated to devote large-scale funding to R&D it deems vital to national security; the Manhattan Project and the moon shot are cases in point. Granted, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were Democrats. But do Republicans really want to argue that only Democrats are willing to invest in critical national-security R&D?

Moreover, while Republicans are obviously right that raising the price of a vital production input during a deep recession is a terrible idea, Democrats are right that both a carbon tax and (to a lesser extent) cap-and-trade are at least market-based solutions. Neither forces energy consumers to do anything in particular; they let consumers decide for themselves whether to conserve, invest in alternative technology, or live with the higher price. So if creative Republicans can’t devise a better idea, they might want to seriously consider these once the economy recovers.

Democrats have clearly handled the issue stupidly. Rather than vainly trying to persuade Republicans (and the public) to believe in global warming, they should have been trying to paint Republicans into a corner over national security. Instead, the only Democrat I’ve heard consistently making the security argument is Thomas Friedman (here, for instance), and even he treats it as secondary to the “real” issue of global warming.

But Democratic stupidity is no excuse for Republican stupidity. There’s no way to combat any terrorist movement without going after its funding sources, and fossil-fuel revenues are the lifeblood of radical Islamism — and of many other anti-American autocrats, like Chavez and Vladimir Putin. Ignoring the problem of fossil-fuel dependency won’t make it go away; it will only make America weaker.

Read Less

The Worst Mistake

In a Washington Post op-ed, Mitt Romney contends that the new START agreement “could be his worst foreign policy mistake yet.” He makes a powerful case against the treaty, pointing out that its most grievous flaw is that “America must effectively get Russia’s permission for any missile-defense expansion.”

I don’t dispute his conclusion (that “it must not be ratified”), but I’m more intrigued by the debate it raises: what is Obama’s worst foreign-policy mistake? I’d posit it definitely isn’t START, because that will not be ratified. But if not START, then what?

There are the appalling episodes (e.g., condemning Israel for progress on a building permit in its capital). There are the nearly inexplicable goofs (e.g., backing Hugo Chavez’s pawn in Honduras and then having to wriggle out once it became apparent that he was a raving anti-Semite and the whole country was behind the “coup”). There are the etiquette errors – iPod for the Queen, bows for the Saudi king, no cameras for the first Bibi visit, etc. There are the cringe-inducing apologies. (Which was worse: the video valentine to the Iranians in 2009, or remorse for dropping an atomic bomb on Japan that saved over a million lives?) There are the serial assaults on our allies (e.g., Poland and the Czech Republic over missile defense, Israel over everything). There is the shameful abandonment of human rights and democracy promotion. (Some incidents fit multiple categories, like snubbing the Dalai Lama.)

But all of those pale in comparison to the failure to devise a credible plan for thwarting a nuclear-armed Iran. Really, nothing comes close. Yes, he’s appeased Russia, but we’ve recovered from presidents who came up short against the Russian bear. And almost every other gaffe, error, and oversight can be repaired over time. However, a nuclear-armed Iran likely is forever. Not only will it pose an existential threat to Israel, unleash a nuclear-arms race, and embolden all of Iran’s terrorist surrogates, but it will also mark the epic failure of American power. We said “unacceptable,” but we let it happen. How’s that going to come across?

It’s still feasible to correct even this error, provided Obama is willing to use the threat of force and, if need be, force itself. However, if you doubt that Obama is capable and willing to do that, then his Iran policy becomes not only the worst foreign-policy mistake of his presidency, but arguably ever.

In a Washington Post op-ed, Mitt Romney contends that the new START agreement “could be his worst foreign policy mistake yet.” He makes a powerful case against the treaty, pointing out that its most grievous flaw is that “America must effectively get Russia’s permission for any missile-defense expansion.”

I don’t dispute his conclusion (that “it must not be ratified”), but I’m more intrigued by the debate it raises: what is Obama’s worst foreign-policy mistake? I’d posit it definitely isn’t START, because that will not be ratified. But if not START, then what?

There are the appalling episodes (e.g., condemning Israel for progress on a building permit in its capital). There are the nearly inexplicable goofs (e.g., backing Hugo Chavez’s pawn in Honduras and then having to wriggle out once it became apparent that he was a raving anti-Semite and the whole country was behind the “coup”). There are the etiquette errors – iPod for the Queen, bows for the Saudi king, no cameras for the first Bibi visit, etc. There are the cringe-inducing apologies. (Which was worse: the video valentine to the Iranians in 2009, or remorse for dropping an atomic bomb on Japan that saved over a million lives?) There are the serial assaults on our allies (e.g., Poland and the Czech Republic over missile defense, Israel over everything). There is the shameful abandonment of human rights and democracy promotion. (Some incidents fit multiple categories, like snubbing the Dalai Lama.)

But all of those pale in comparison to the failure to devise a credible plan for thwarting a nuclear-armed Iran. Really, nothing comes close. Yes, he’s appeased Russia, but we’ve recovered from presidents who came up short against the Russian bear. And almost every other gaffe, error, and oversight can be repaired over time. However, a nuclear-armed Iran likely is forever. Not only will it pose an existential threat to Israel, unleash a nuclear-arms race, and embolden all of Iran’s terrorist surrogates, but it will also mark the epic failure of American power. We said “unacceptable,” but we let it happen. How’s that going to come across?

It’s still feasible to correct even this error, provided Obama is willing to use the threat of force and, if need be, force itself. However, if you doubt that Obama is capable and willing to do that, then his Iran policy becomes not only the worst foreign-policy mistake of his presidency, but arguably ever.

Read Less

Colombia: Another Obama Victim

Both the Washington Post‘s and the Wall Street Journal‘s editors rightly praise the outcome of the election in Colombia and implore the Obama administration not to treat this president as poorly as it treated the last one. The Post explains:

Juan Manuel Santos has demonstrated that pro-American, pro-free-market politicians still have life in Latin America. Mr. Santos, who romped to victory in Colombia’s presidential runoff on Sunday, has no interest in courting Iran, unlike Brazil’s Luiz Ignácio Lula da Silva. He has rejected the authoritarian socialism of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. A former journalist with degrees from the University of Kansas and Harvard, he values free media and independent courts. His biggest priority may be ratifying and implementing a free-trade agreement between Colombia and the United States. So the question raised by Mr. Santos’s election is whether the Obama administration and Democratic congressional leaders will greet this strong and needed U.S. ally with open arms — or with the arms-length disdain and protectionist stonewalling to which they subjected his predecessor, Álvaro Uribe. … The Obama administration, which has courted Mr. Lula and sought to improve relations with Venezuela and Cuba, has been cool to Colombia, recommending another 11 percent reduction in aid for next year and keeping the trade agreement on ice.

The Journal writes:

On Sunday 13 police and soldiers were killed by guerrillas trying to disrupt the vote. Mr. Santos has also challenged neighboring countries that provide a haven to the FARC. This triumph also ought to echo in Washington, where Democrats in Congress and the White House continue to deny a vote on the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement. One liberal Democratic excuse has been concerns about Mr. Uribe’s security policies, but Colombia’s people have now spoken.

Like Mr. Uribe, Mr. Santos wants the free trade deal to force his country to face the discipline of global competition and turn Colombia into the next Chile or Taiwan. Such progress would further reduce the FARC’s appeal, and it is certainly in the U.S. national interest. This one shouldn’t even be controversial.

Obama’s stance toward Colombia is another in a series of “picking the wrong side” errors he perpetually makes (e.g., the Hugo Chavez–backed Manual Zelaya instead of the broad-based coalition that ousted him, the Russians over our Czech and Polish allies, the Iranian regime over the Green movement). He rather consistently backs those who are hostile to the U.S., even at the expense of ignoring evidence (Zelaya’s power grab) or the long-term strategic interests of the U.S. (empowering the UN to pronounce on Israel’s anti-terror tactics).

Obama’s supporters would say he’s trying to “engage” or reduce conflict with our foes, although this hardly explains the gratuitous swipes at allies. His critics contend he either puts domestic priorities above national security (e.g., siding with Big Labor on free-trade deals) or has a fetish for strongmen. Whatever the rationale, it’s getting easy to spot the “good guys” in regional disputes. They’re the ones Obama is treating the worst.

Both the Washington Post‘s and the Wall Street Journal‘s editors rightly praise the outcome of the election in Colombia and implore the Obama administration not to treat this president as poorly as it treated the last one. The Post explains:

Juan Manuel Santos has demonstrated that pro-American, pro-free-market politicians still have life in Latin America. Mr. Santos, who romped to victory in Colombia’s presidential runoff on Sunday, has no interest in courting Iran, unlike Brazil’s Luiz Ignácio Lula da Silva. He has rejected the authoritarian socialism of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. A former journalist with degrees from the University of Kansas and Harvard, he values free media and independent courts. His biggest priority may be ratifying and implementing a free-trade agreement between Colombia and the United States. So the question raised by Mr. Santos’s election is whether the Obama administration and Democratic congressional leaders will greet this strong and needed U.S. ally with open arms — or with the arms-length disdain and protectionist stonewalling to which they subjected his predecessor, Álvaro Uribe. … The Obama administration, which has courted Mr. Lula and sought to improve relations with Venezuela and Cuba, has been cool to Colombia, recommending another 11 percent reduction in aid for next year and keeping the trade agreement on ice.

The Journal writes:

On Sunday 13 police and soldiers were killed by guerrillas trying to disrupt the vote. Mr. Santos has also challenged neighboring countries that provide a haven to the FARC. This triumph also ought to echo in Washington, where Democrats in Congress and the White House continue to deny a vote on the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement. One liberal Democratic excuse has been concerns about Mr. Uribe’s security policies, but Colombia’s people have now spoken.

Like Mr. Uribe, Mr. Santos wants the free trade deal to force his country to face the discipline of global competition and turn Colombia into the next Chile or Taiwan. Such progress would further reduce the FARC’s appeal, and it is certainly in the U.S. national interest. This one shouldn’t even be controversial.

Obama’s stance toward Colombia is another in a series of “picking the wrong side” errors he perpetually makes (e.g., the Hugo Chavez–backed Manual Zelaya instead of the broad-based coalition that ousted him, the Russians over our Czech and Polish allies, the Iranian regime over the Green movement). He rather consistently backs those who are hostile to the U.S., even at the expense of ignoring evidence (Zelaya’s power grab) or the long-term strategic interests of the U.S. (empowering the UN to pronounce on Israel’s anti-terror tactics).

Obama’s supporters would say he’s trying to “engage” or reduce conflict with our foes, although this hardly explains the gratuitous swipes at allies. His critics contend he either puts domestic priorities above national security (e.g., siding with Big Labor on free-trade deals) or has a fetish for strongmen. Whatever the rationale, it’s getting easy to spot the “good guys” in regional disputes. They’re the ones Obama is treating the worst.

Read Less

Huffington Post Takes Down the Leveretts

I usually don’t tout Huffington Post columns, but a not-to-be missed one by Omid Memarian should be read in full. Bit by bit, Memarian chips away at the facade of intellectual credibility that Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, the mullahs’ favorite mouthpieces, have erected. He begins with this:

The list of foreigners who unconditionally support the Islamic Republic of Iran is short but not unexpected: Omar Albashir of Sudan, Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah, Khalid Mashal of Hamas, and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela might be at the top. Add to this list an unlikely duo: Flynt Leverett and his wife, Hillary Mann Leverett. Notwithstanding over two decades of collective experience working for organizations and entities like the CIA, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the National Security Council, the Leveretts are today America’s most prominent, and abrasive, defenders of the Iranian regime and its president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Though they cloak their analysis in the guise of strategic thinking and anti-war diplomacy, their writings betray a dangerous lack of understanding of Iran’s internal realities as well as an almost bigoted contempt for the Iranian people.

The particulars of the Leveretts’ misinformation campaign on behalf of the Iranian regime are then laid out in great detail. Well, it’s about time. Others have done an ample job debunking the couple, as do the Leveretts’ own words. But with this, Memarian delivers the knockout blow to the mullahs’ shills.

I usually don’t tout Huffington Post columns, but a not-to-be missed one by Omid Memarian should be read in full. Bit by bit, Memarian chips away at the facade of intellectual credibility that Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, the mullahs’ favorite mouthpieces, have erected. He begins with this:

The list of foreigners who unconditionally support the Islamic Republic of Iran is short but not unexpected: Omar Albashir of Sudan, Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah, Khalid Mashal of Hamas, and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela might be at the top. Add to this list an unlikely duo: Flynt Leverett and his wife, Hillary Mann Leverett. Notwithstanding over two decades of collective experience working for organizations and entities like the CIA, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the National Security Council, the Leveretts are today America’s most prominent, and abrasive, defenders of the Iranian regime and its president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Though they cloak their analysis in the guise of strategic thinking and anti-war diplomacy, their writings betray a dangerous lack of understanding of Iran’s internal realities as well as an almost bigoted contempt for the Iranian people.

The particulars of the Leveretts’ misinformation campaign on behalf of the Iranian regime are then laid out in great detail. Well, it’s about time. Others have done an ample job debunking the couple, as do the Leveretts’ own words. But with this, Memarian delivers the knockout blow to the mullahs’ shills.

Read Less

Colombia Going Green?

The Wall Street Journal has a piece from the weekend pointing out the poll surge of the Colombian Green Party’s presidential candidate, Antanas Mockus. Mockus, the son of Lithuanian immigrants and a former university professor, was mayor of Bogota for two non-consecutive terms. He gained fame in that office for walking around Bogota in a caped superhero costume, discouraging traffic violations by stationing mimes on street corners to embarrass drivers, and showering for a TV commercial to encourage water conservation.

Until early April, pundits had addressed the Mockus candidacy with the stock phrase “has trouble gaining voter interest outside of Bogota.” His Green Party run against Alvaro Uribe in 2006 netted him less than 5 percent of the national vote. But his surge with voters this month now has a poll showing that he would narrowly defeat Uribe’s former defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, in a runoff between the two.

As this article indicates, the demographics of Mockus’s support are strikingly similar to Barack Obama’s in 2008. He galvanizes youth voters, independents, and the very wealthy. On the superficial trappings of the Green appeal, he is flawlessly Euro-Green: sunflower symbol, studied informality in attire and grooming, demure fist-pumping. The WSJ analysis that many Colombians are looking for something new is probably quite accurate; as Uribe’s tenure comes to an end, Colombians feel safer and less worried about internal security. Santos, in contrast to Mockus, is the scion of one of Colombia’s oldest and most entrenched political dynasties. For many voters, he reeks of a stuffy, irrelevant past.

How irrelevant that past truly is remains a question, however. The issue on which the Mockus candidacy still founders with many voters is his posture on “democratic security,” the Uribe-era policy expression for a tough stance on internal security and drug-fueled insurgencies like FARC. Mockus enthusiasts frame the dramatic improvement in internal security under Uribe in a somewhat disingenuous fashion, as if the situation simply changed on its own while Uribe was off menacing civil rights. But there is no question that Uribe’s policies and actions are what have wrought the transformation.

In addressing the particulars of democratic security policy, Mockus is alternately categorical and temporizing — in exactly the wrong places. His Green Party platform affirms without caveat, for example, that he would never pursue Colombian insurgents across the border as Uribe’s forces did in 2008. This would naturally be a green light for FARC to consolidate cross-border bases, something Hugo Chavez has been very accommodating about in neighboring Venezuela. On the question of holding a dialogue with FARC, however, Mockus deems it merely “unlikely” unless the guerrillas change their language and cease being “slaves to kidnapping.”

It’s not that Mockus appears to have any connection with Chavez or Castro, like such entrenched or aspiring presidents-for-life as Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, and Manuel Zelaya, lately ousted from Honduras. But policies like those embraced by Mockus quickly become prostrate and ineffective in the face of guerrilla aggression. Meanwhile, Hugo Chavez has ramped up a war of words against Juan Manuel Santos over the past week, calling him a “threat to the region” and predicting war if he wins the election. There’s no doubt whose policies Chavez expects to dislike. When Colombians go to the polls on May 30, we can hope they will remember what it has taken to transform their domestic-security environment — and why they now have the sense of political leisure to take flyers on theatrical boutique candidates.

The Wall Street Journal has a piece from the weekend pointing out the poll surge of the Colombian Green Party’s presidential candidate, Antanas Mockus. Mockus, the son of Lithuanian immigrants and a former university professor, was mayor of Bogota for two non-consecutive terms. He gained fame in that office for walking around Bogota in a caped superhero costume, discouraging traffic violations by stationing mimes on street corners to embarrass drivers, and showering for a TV commercial to encourage water conservation.

Until early April, pundits had addressed the Mockus candidacy with the stock phrase “has trouble gaining voter interest outside of Bogota.” His Green Party run against Alvaro Uribe in 2006 netted him less than 5 percent of the national vote. But his surge with voters this month now has a poll showing that he would narrowly defeat Uribe’s former defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, in a runoff between the two.

As this article indicates, the demographics of Mockus’s support are strikingly similar to Barack Obama’s in 2008. He galvanizes youth voters, independents, and the very wealthy. On the superficial trappings of the Green appeal, he is flawlessly Euro-Green: sunflower symbol, studied informality in attire and grooming, demure fist-pumping. The WSJ analysis that many Colombians are looking for something new is probably quite accurate; as Uribe’s tenure comes to an end, Colombians feel safer and less worried about internal security. Santos, in contrast to Mockus, is the scion of one of Colombia’s oldest and most entrenched political dynasties. For many voters, he reeks of a stuffy, irrelevant past.

How irrelevant that past truly is remains a question, however. The issue on which the Mockus candidacy still founders with many voters is his posture on “democratic security,” the Uribe-era policy expression for a tough stance on internal security and drug-fueled insurgencies like FARC. Mockus enthusiasts frame the dramatic improvement in internal security under Uribe in a somewhat disingenuous fashion, as if the situation simply changed on its own while Uribe was off menacing civil rights. But there is no question that Uribe’s policies and actions are what have wrought the transformation.

In addressing the particulars of democratic security policy, Mockus is alternately categorical and temporizing — in exactly the wrong places. His Green Party platform affirms without caveat, for example, that he would never pursue Colombian insurgents across the border as Uribe’s forces did in 2008. This would naturally be a green light for FARC to consolidate cross-border bases, something Hugo Chavez has been very accommodating about in neighboring Venezuela. On the question of holding a dialogue with FARC, however, Mockus deems it merely “unlikely” unless the guerrillas change their language and cease being “slaves to kidnapping.”

It’s not that Mockus appears to have any connection with Chavez or Castro, like such entrenched or aspiring presidents-for-life as Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, and Manuel Zelaya, lately ousted from Honduras. But policies like those embraced by Mockus quickly become prostrate and ineffective in the face of guerrilla aggression. Meanwhile, Hugo Chavez has ramped up a war of words against Juan Manuel Santos over the past week, calling him a “threat to the region” and predicting war if he wins the election. There’s no doubt whose policies Chavez expects to dislike. When Colombians go to the polls on May 30, we can hope they will remember what it has taken to transform their domestic-security environment — and why they now have the sense of political leisure to take flyers on theatrical boutique candidates.

Read Less

Hopeful Signs on U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Accord — Finally

It’s nice to see Secretary of Defense Bob Gates endorse the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Accord, which remains stalled in Congress primarily owing to labor-union opposition. It’s even nicer to read that President Obama may be having a change of heart on the issue:

President Obama was skeptical about the agreement as a senator and during his presidential campaign, citing Colombia’s record of labor crackdowns. But after meeting last year with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Obama said Bogota had made progress on human rights issues and ordered U.S. trade officials to move ahead on the deal.

I only hope that this translates into active administration support for the accord on Capitol Hill.  Not only is it in our strategic interest — Colombia is our closest ally in Latin America and a key bulwark against drug traffickers, Marxist rebels, and other threats, such as Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela — but it is also in our economic interest, because it would boost American exports.

As this Commerce Department fact sheet points out, “for over 16 years, Colombian businesses have paid virtually nothing to export to the United States. Colombian goods enter our market under various U.S. trade preference programs that give Colombian businesses duty-free access to U.S. consumers. In 2007, over 91 percent of Colombian exports to the U.S. market entered duty-free.” Meanwhile, “every single day, about $2 million dollars in taxes are placed on a variety of U.S. exports sent to the Colombian market, effectively undermining the competitiveness of American products.” For instance, while Colombian coffee arrives in the U.S. duty-free, a bottle of Pepsi is taxed 20 percent in Colombia.

It is hard to see any logical argument for maintaining this disparity. While various fig leaves have been advanced about supposed human-rights violations in Colombia, the reality is that President Alvaro Uribe has dramatically improved the human-rights situation by beating back FARC rebels and their narco-trafficking allies. There is no good reason to oppose the accord. It’s simply raw politics on the part of protectionist American labor unions, and Obama has aided them for too long.

No indication yet of any change in the administration position regarding the U.S.-Panama Trade Accord or the South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, two other agreements with key allies that are very much in our interest but that are being blocked by Democratic politicians. Perhaps if Obama makes a personal commitment to these treaties, which were signed by his predecessor, he might do a little to dispel the common impression of his foreign policy — namely that, as one wag put it, “if you’re our enemy, we’re sorry; if you’re our ally, you’re sorry.”

It’s nice to see Secretary of Defense Bob Gates endorse the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Accord, which remains stalled in Congress primarily owing to labor-union opposition. It’s even nicer to read that President Obama may be having a change of heart on the issue:

President Obama was skeptical about the agreement as a senator and during his presidential campaign, citing Colombia’s record of labor crackdowns. But after meeting last year with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Obama said Bogota had made progress on human rights issues and ordered U.S. trade officials to move ahead on the deal.

I only hope that this translates into active administration support for the accord on Capitol Hill.  Not only is it in our strategic interest — Colombia is our closest ally in Latin America and a key bulwark against drug traffickers, Marxist rebels, and other threats, such as Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela — but it is also in our economic interest, because it would boost American exports.

As this Commerce Department fact sheet points out, “for over 16 years, Colombian businesses have paid virtually nothing to export to the United States. Colombian goods enter our market under various U.S. trade preference programs that give Colombian businesses duty-free access to U.S. consumers. In 2007, over 91 percent of Colombian exports to the U.S. market entered duty-free.” Meanwhile, “every single day, about $2 million dollars in taxes are placed on a variety of U.S. exports sent to the Colombian market, effectively undermining the competitiveness of American products.” For instance, while Colombian coffee arrives in the U.S. duty-free, a bottle of Pepsi is taxed 20 percent in Colombia.

It is hard to see any logical argument for maintaining this disparity. While various fig leaves have been advanced about supposed human-rights violations in Colombia, the reality is that President Alvaro Uribe has dramatically improved the human-rights situation by beating back FARC rebels and their narco-trafficking allies. There is no good reason to oppose the accord. It’s simply raw politics on the part of protectionist American labor unions, and Obama has aided them for too long.

No indication yet of any change in the administration position regarding the U.S.-Panama Trade Accord or the South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, two other agreements with key allies that are very much in our interest but that are being blocked by Democratic politicians. Perhaps if Obama makes a personal commitment to these treaties, which were signed by his predecessor, he might do a little to dispel the common impression of his foreign policy — namely that, as one wag put it, “if you’re our enemy, we’re sorry; if you’re our ally, you’re sorry.”

Read Less

Reversing Course on Karzai

The Obami are not ones to confess to errors in their foreign policy endeavors. When things go awry, then tend to slink away quietly (as in Honduras, when they could no longer back the raving stooge of Hugo Chavez), stall for time (on Iran engagement), or double down (on its Israel bullying). But they have entirely and rather obviously reversed course with regard to Hamid Karzai. The Wall Street Journal editors observe:

What term best describes a policy of subjecting a foreign ally to a long stream of invidious leaks and public rebukes—and then taking it all back?

Answer: “Smart diplomacy.”

We refer, of course, to the treatment meted by the Obama Administration over the past year to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Mr. Obama finally reversed course last week with a letter to Mr. Karzai “expressing support for their shared partnership” and inviting him to the White House, according to the Los Angeles Times.

That really is smart, even if it comes a couple of insults too late.

Well it’s late and comes after denting the essential relationship we must maintain in order to mount a successful counterinsurgency effort in a critical battlefield in the war against Islamic terrorists. And the Obama team has, again, proven the U.S. to be a problematic ally. Moreover, it has — yet again — seemingly allowed personal pique to control a key relationship, with no thought to where the tit-for-tat would lead. So it must now reverse course and try to repair the damage.

It’s startling, on one level, to see how ill-conceived and short-sighted this gang can be in handling key relationships. On the other hand, there is a point at which even they perceive when they have run into a dead end, with no advantage to be gained by aggravating an essential ally. Might this lesson be transferable to other settings — to the Israeli-U.S. relationship, for example? Well, we can hope.

 

The Obami are not ones to confess to errors in their foreign policy endeavors. When things go awry, then tend to slink away quietly (as in Honduras, when they could no longer back the raving stooge of Hugo Chavez), stall for time (on Iran engagement), or double down (on its Israel bullying). But they have entirely and rather obviously reversed course with regard to Hamid Karzai. The Wall Street Journal editors observe:

What term best describes a policy of subjecting a foreign ally to a long stream of invidious leaks and public rebukes—and then taking it all back?

Answer: “Smart diplomacy.”

We refer, of course, to the treatment meted by the Obama Administration over the past year to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Mr. Obama finally reversed course last week with a letter to Mr. Karzai “expressing support for their shared partnership” and inviting him to the White House, according to the Los Angeles Times.

That really is smart, even if it comes a couple of insults too late.

Well it’s late and comes after denting the essential relationship we must maintain in order to mount a successful counterinsurgency effort in a critical battlefield in the war against Islamic terrorists. And the Obama team has, again, proven the U.S. to be a problematic ally. Moreover, it has — yet again — seemingly allowed personal pique to control a key relationship, with no thought to where the tit-for-tat would lead. So it must now reverse course and try to repair the damage.

It’s startling, on one level, to see how ill-conceived and short-sighted this gang can be in handling key relationships. On the other hand, there is a point at which even they perceive when they have run into a dead end, with no advantage to be gained by aggravating an essential ally. Might this lesson be transferable to other settings — to the Israeli-U.S. relationship, for example? Well, we can hope.

 

Read Less

On Obama’s Behavior Toward Israel

By now the efforts of the White House to isolate and humiliate Israel because of the latter’s decision to approve 1,600 new Jewish homes in East Jerusalem (which is, after all, its capital) are well known: from the scolding language to the leaks about Secretary Clinton’s phone call dressing down Prime Minister Netanyahu to the failure to release even one official photograph of the prime minister’s meeting with President Obama to much else. One cannot but conclude that this escalation of tensions with Israel is not the result of a misunderstanding or of things spinning unexpectedly out of control. No, what we are seeing is premeditated, calculated, and indefensible.

Among the practical outcomes, this will lead to further Palestinian intransigence. We have already seen this. Thanks to the approach taken by the Obama administration, Palestinians are for the first time demanding as a precondition for negotiations a freeze on settlements, even as they haven’t offered any concessions of their own.

It will embolden the enemies of Israel and America. Memo to the Obama administration: we share the same ones. As Norman Podhoretz pointedly once wrote, “the hatred of Israel is in large part a surrogate for anti-Americanism.” And the president’s actions will make Israel more reluctant to make concessions of any kind. If Israel’s most important ally is undercutting her, then she will feel doubly threatened and significantly more insecure. (One of the reasons Ariel Sharon felt he could withdraw from Gaza was because in George W. Bush, Israel knew it had a strong and faithful friend in the White House.)

The entire theory on which the Obama administration is operating is false. The problem isn’t with Israel’s unwillingness to negotiate or even any dispute over territory; it is with the Palestinians’ unwillingness to make their own inner peace with the existence of a Jewish state.

Yet in thinking through all this, what is most striking to me is the disfiguring of moral considerations. Barack Obama is treating one of our best allies, and one of the most admirable and impressive nations in the world, worse than he treats the theocratic dictatorship in Iran or the anti-American dictator Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Obama bows before autocrats and shakes the hands of tyrants and speaks with solicitude and undeserved respect to malevolent leaders. Yet with Israel he is petulant and angry, unable to detach himself from a weeks-long tantrum. Or, perhaps, unwilling to detach himself.

There is in the Obama administration an animus toward Israel that is troubling and may be unmatched in modern times (though Jimmy Carter, as ex-president, probably rivals it). Because of what is unfolding, there will be significant injury to our relationship with Israel. But it is also doing considerable damage to America’s moral standing. At its best, America stands for the right things and stands beside the right friends. In distancing us from Israel, Obama is distancing America from a nation that has sacrificed more for peace, and suffered more for their sacrifices, than any other. It is a deeply discouraging thing to see. And it is dangerous, too. Hatred for Israel is a deep and burning fire throughout the world. We should not be adding kindling wood to that fire.

Barack Obama is an ambitious man. He’s undertaking a project to remake America in deep and important ways. Health care is one arena. This, sadly, is another.

By now the efforts of the White House to isolate and humiliate Israel because of the latter’s decision to approve 1,600 new Jewish homes in East Jerusalem (which is, after all, its capital) are well known: from the scolding language to the leaks about Secretary Clinton’s phone call dressing down Prime Minister Netanyahu to the failure to release even one official photograph of the prime minister’s meeting with President Obama to much else. One cannot but conclude that this escalation of tensions with Israel is not the result of a misunderstanding or of things spinning unexpectedly out of control. No, what we are seeing is premeditated, calculated, and indefensible.

Among the practical outcomes, this will lead to further Palestinian intransigence. We have already seen this. Thanks to the approach taken by the Obama administration, Palestinians are for the first time demanding as a precondition for negotiations a freeze on settlements, even as they haven’t offered any concessions of their own.

It will embolden the enemies of Israel and America. Memo to the Obama administration: we share the same ones. As Norman Podhoretz pointedly once wrote, “the hatred of Israel is in large part a surrogate for anti-Americanism.” And the president’s actions will make Israel more reluctant to make concessions of any kind. If Israel’s most important ally is undercutting her, then she will feel doubly threatened and significantly more insecure. (One of the reasons Ariel Sharon felt he could withdraw from Gaza was because in George W. Bush, Israel knew it had a strong and faithful friend in the White House.)

The entire theory on which the Obama administration is operating is false. The problem isn’t with Israel’s unwillingness to negotiate or even any dispute over territory; it is with the Palestinians’ unwillingness to make their own inner peace with the existence of a Jewish state.

Yet in thinking through all this, what is most striking to me is the disfiguring of moral considerations. Barack Obama is treating one of our best allies, and one of the most admirable and impressive nations in the world, worse than he treats the theocratic dictatorship in Iran or the anti-American dictator Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Obama bows before autocrats and shakes the hands of tyrants and speaks with solicitude and undeserved respect to malevolent leaders. Yet with Israel he is petulant and angry, unable to detach himself from a weeks-long tantrum. Or, perhaps, unwilling to detach himself.

There is in the Obama administration an animus toward Israel that is troubling and may be unmatched in modern times (though Jimmy Carter, as ex-president, probably rivals it). Because of what is unfolding, there will be significant injury to our relationship with Israel. But it is also doing considerable damage to America’s moral standing. At its best, America stands for the right things and stands beside the right friends. In distancing us from Israel, Obama is distancing America from a nation that has sacrificed more for peace, and suffered more for their sacrifices, than any other. It is a deeply discouraging thing to see. And it is dangerous, too. Hatred for Israel is a deep and burning fire throughout the world. We should not be adding kindling wood to that fire.

Barack Obama is an ambitious man. He’s undertaking a project to remake America in deep and important ways. Health care is one arena. This, sadly, is another.

Read Less

More Criticism

As Noah and I have pointed out, the administration’s peevishness is unprecedented. It is also proving to be alarming to those on both sides of the aisle. A spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner had this reaction: “The tone and substance we are seeing emerge as a pattern for this Administration are both disappointing and of great concern. Israel has been and remains a close friend and ally, and we need to focus our efforts and energy on the issues of mutual concern for both countries, most especially Iran.” Democratic Congresswoman Shelley Berkley has weighed in as well with a written statement, declaring:

I am deeply concerned over the comments of the last two days by the Vice President and the Secretary of State. They assert that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the special 60-year bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Israel have been jeopardized by this week’s announcement that Israel plans to build housing units in East Jerusalem.

The Administration’s strong implication that the enduring alliance between the U.S. and Israel has been weakened, and that America’s ability to broker talks between Israel and Palestinian authorities has been undermined, is an irresponsible overreaction. No doubt the administration’s overwrought rhetoric is designed to try to appease Palestinian politicians and convince them the U.S. is an honest broker in the peace process by seizing every available opportunity to criticize the actions of our ally Israel.

That strategy also includes ignoring the myriad provocations by Palestinian leaders that make pursuing peace such a long and arduous process. Where, I ask, was the Administration’s outrage over the arrest and month-long incarceration by Hamas of a British journalist who was investigating arms-smuggling into Gaza? Where was the outrage when the Palestinian Authority this week named a town square after a woman who helped carry out a massive terror attack against Israel? It has been the PA who has refused to participate in talks for over a year, not the government of Israel.  Yet once again, no concern was lodged by the Administration. And, all the while, Hamas restocks its terror arsenal and fires rockets into Israel.

I advocate an even-handed, not a one-sided, U.S. policy as we do the difficult work of establishing peace, and eventually, a Palestinian state. These are critical goals for our nation and for the future of the Middle East. We owe the process nothing less than fairness, candor, and intellectual honesty, not a policy of constant appeasement and reinforcement of the Palestinians’ failings as legitimate partners in the peace process.

I strongly believe that despite this week’s flap over Israel’s announcement regarding housing construction, the U.S.-Israel relationship is strong and our partnership in pursuit of peace remains undiminished. I call on the White House to rethink its counterproductive rhetoric and to affirm that the U.S. and Israel remain united in pursuing a fair, equitable, and honest peace process with the Palestinian powers that be.

The administration is not only fraying the relationship between the U.S. and Israel but also isolating itself from the broad bipartisan coalition in favor of a warm and respectful U.S.-Israeli relationship. It is, as Berkley explains, breathtaking that an administration that can rarely muster condemnation for the most brutal regimes has lashed out — repeatedly now — against its sole democratic ally in the region. That simply isn’t going to sit well with a Congress and American public that is broadly pro-Israel.

Whether Noah is correct — that this is a convoluted gambit to paralyze an Israeli strike on Iran — or this is simply the administration revealing its true predilections (antagonistic toward Israel, sycophantic toward the “Muslim World”) is nearly unfathomable. But as with so much else, the results rather than the motives matter most.

And let’s not kid ourselves: the rest of the world is watching, just as other nations looked on as we shoved the Hondurans under the bus when confronted with a lackey of Hugo Chavez, and just as we did to the Czech Republic and Poland in an effort to ingratiate ourselves with the Russian bear. This administration has an unseemly habit of trashing our allies so as to prevent conflicts with our foes. In the end, we will be low on allies and our foes will be emboldened. As for our standing in the world, I suggest it’s about to reach Jimmy Carter–like depths. That’s what happens when friends come to regard the American president as untrustworthy and motivated by personal pique. (So much for the president with the “superior temperament.”) Let’s see if the administration can undo the mess it has made. It won’t be easy.

As Noah and I have pointed out, the administration’s peevishness is unprecedented. It is also proving to be alarming to those on both sides of the aisle. A spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner had this reaction: “The tone and substance we are seeing emerge as a pattern for this Administration are both disappointing and of great concern. Israel has been and remains a close friend and ally, and we need to focus our efforts and energy on the issues of mutual concern for both countries, most especially Iran.” Democratic Congresswoman Shelley Berkley has weighed in as well with a written statement, declaring:

I am deeply concerned over the comments of the last two days by the Vice President and the Secretary of State. They assert that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the special 60-year bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Israel have been jeopardized by this week’s announcement that Israel plans to build housing units in East Jerusalem.

The Administration’s strong implication that the enduring alliance between the U.S. and Israel has been weakened, and that America’s ability to broker talks between Israel and Palestinian authorities has been undermined, is an irresponsible overreaction. No doubt the administration’s overwrought rhetoric is designed to try to appease Palestinian politicians and convince them the U.S. is an honest broker in the peace process by seizing every available opportunity to criticize the actions of our ally Israel.

That strategy also includes ignoring the myriad provocations by Palestinian leaders that make pursuing peace such a long and arduous process. Where, I ask, was the Administration’s outrage over the arrest and month-long incarceration by Hamas of a British journalist who was investigating arms-smuggling into Gaza? Where was the outrage when the Palestinian Authority this week named a town square after a woman who helped carry out a massive terror attack against Israel? It has been the PA who has refused to participate in talks for over a year, not the government of Israel.  Yet once again, no concern was lodged by the Administration. And, all the while, Hamas restocks its terror arsenal and fires rockets into Israel.

I advocate an even-handed, not a one-sided, U.S. policy as we do the difficult work of establishing peace, and eventually, a Palestinian state. These are critical goals for our nation and for the future of the Middle East. We owe the process nothing less than fairness, candor, and intellectual honesty, not a policy of constant appeasement and reinforcement of the Palestinians’ failings as legitimate partners in the peace process.

I strongly believe that despite this week’s flap over Israel’s announcement regarding housing construction, the U.S.-Israel relationship is strong and our partnership in pursuit of peace remains undiminished. I call on the White House to rethink its counterproductive rhetoric and to affirm that the U.S. and Israel remain united in pursuing a fair, equitable, and honest peace process with the Palestinian powers that be.

The administration is not only fraying the relationship between the U.S. and Israel but also isolating itself from the broad bipartisan coalition in favor of a warm and respectful U.S.-Israeli relationship. It is, as Berkley explains, breathtaking that an administration that can rarely muster condemnation for the most brutal regimes has lashed out — repeatedly now — against its sole democratic ally in the region. That simply isn’t going to sit well with a Congress and American public that is broadly pro-Israel.

Whether Noah is correct — that this is a convoluted gambit to paralyze an Israeli strike on Iran — or this is simply the administration revealing its true predilections (antagonistic toward Israel, sycophantic toward the “Muslim World”) is nearly unfathomable. But as with so much else, the results rather than the motives matter most.

And let’s not kid ourselves: the rest of the world is watching, just as other nations looked on as we shoved the Hondurans under the bus when confronted with a lackey of Hugo Chavez, and just as we did to the Czech Republic and Poland in an effort to ingratiate ourselves with the Russian bear. This administration has an unseemly habit of trashing our allies so as to prevent conflicts with our foes. In the end, we will be low on allies and our foes will be emboldened. As for our standing in the world, I suggest it’s about to reach Jimmy Carter–like depths. That’s what happens when friends come to regard the American president as untrustworthy and motivated by personal pique. (So much for the president with the “superior temperament.”) Let’s see if the administration can undo the mess it has made. It won’t be easy.

Read Less

The Man Behind Colombia’s Miracle

Alvaro Uribe is one of the most consequential world leaders of the past decade. He is the man primarily responsible for what I have called the “Colombia Miracle” — the amazing turnaround that has taken his country from being a dysfunctional narco-state to a flourishing democracy where drug dealers and Marxist rebels are on the run, and most of the people live in secure conditions.

But it’s probably just as well that the Colombia Supreme Court barred him from seeking a third term, which would have required amending the constitution. His flirtation with another term could have damaged his reputation and led to comparisons with the odious Hugo Chavez, who was freely elected in next-door Venezuela but has remained in office via extra-constitutional means. It is to Uribe’s credit, though hardly surprising given his impressive character and track record, that he has embraced the Supreme Court decision and promised to abide by it.

Now it appears likely that his legacy will be carried on by his former defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, who is as committed as Uribe to his policy of “democratic security.” It remains to be seen whether Santos will be as effective as Uribe; but even if he isn’t, it probably won’t be a disaster because conditions have improved so much since Uribe took office in 2002 from the inept appeaser Andres Pastrana Arango.

It would be nice if an important job could be found for Uribe on the international stage. Imagine him, for example, as United Nations secretary-general. But that is a pipe dream because he is far too pro-American to ever win favor in that sector. Regardless of what he does next, he deserves recognition for his inspiring achievements. He deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, because he has actually brought peace to much of his country.

Alvaro Uribe is one of the most consequential world leaders of the past decade. He is the man primarily responsible for what I have called the “Colombia Miracle” — the amazing turnaround that has taken his country from being a dysfunctional narco-state to a flourishing democracy where drug dealers and Marxist rebels are on the run, and most of the people live in secure conditions.

But it’s probably just as well that the Colombia Supreme Court barred him from seeking a third term, which would have required amending the constitution. His flirtation with another term could have damaged his reputation and led to comparisons with the odious Hugo Chavez, who was freely elected in next-door Venezuela but has remained in office via extra-constitutional means. It is to Uribe’s credit, though hardly surprising given his impressive character and track record, that he has embraced the Supreme Court decision and promised to abide by it.

Now it appears likely that his legacy will be carried on by his former defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, who is as committed as Uribe to his policy of “democratic security.” It remains to be seen whether Santos will be as effective as Uribe; but even if he isn’t, it probably won’t be a disaster because conditions have improved so much since Uribe took office in 2002 from the inept appeaser Andres Pastrana Arango.

It would be nice if an important job could be found for Uribe on the international stage. Imagine him, for example, as United Nations secretary-general. But that is a pipe dream because he is far too pro-American to ever win favor in that sector. Regardless of what he does next, he deserves recognition for his inspiring achievements. He deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, because he has actually brought peace to much of his country.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Seen the latest ad for Hugo Chavez’s oil company? Lots of happy old people given free oil by the dictator, and then: “In swoops Joe Kennedy II with Citizens Energy and the kind people of Venezuela to lend a hand (or two?) and heating oil enough for everyone. Kennedy’s all smiles but they forgot the part where Hugo Chavez shuts down the media and arrests his political opponents. I guess that would have made the ad too long.” Good thing he didn’t talk about how great families and babies are.

Oh, puhleez. Michael Steele plays the race card: “I don’t see stories about the internal operations of the DNC that I see about this operation. Why? Is it because Michael Steele is the chairman, or is it because a black man is chairman?”

Just a year ago Republicans were declared dead in New England. Now New Hampshire looks awfully Red. Actually, it looks Red all over. Rasmussen shows the GOP with an eight-point lead in the generic congressional poll. And John Kasich has a solid lead in the Ohio gubernatorial race.

The boys sure are obsessed with her: “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs poked fun at Sarah Palin today, pretending to look to notes on his hand for a reminder during his daily briefing. The gesture was a not-so-subtle shot at Palin, whom reporters spotted using a crib sheet on her hand during a speech this weekend at the National Tea Party convention.” At least Gibbs didn’t talk about her breasts.

Rep. Peter King blasts away at “egomaniac” John Brennan for claiming that Obama’s critics are serving the “goals of al-Qaeda”: “It is ‘the most mindless, self-serving, and irresponsible statement that a homeland-security adviser can make,’ King says. … ‘Brennan is trying to be cute by saying that on Christmas Day he briefed Republicans and Democrats. Leave aside the fact that he didn’t brief me, but he didn’t tell anybody anything that day other than the bare facts that were pretty much known to the public. He said that [Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab] was in FBI custody. Now he’s claiming that that means he told people that [Abdulmutallab] was receiving Miranda rights and no one objected. If that’s what Brennan considers being honest and forthright, then we know that John Brennan is not being honest and forthright.’”

The billboard says “Miss Me Yet?” Why, yes, Mr. President.

Paul Begala or Karl Rove? “Incrementalists, stunned by what they see as overly broad and rapid change, are looking for the brakes. Radicals, depressed about the snail’s pace of progress, are looking for the exits.”

Jeffrey Goldberg spots the Muslim Student Union of the University of California at Irvine condemning the appearance of Israel Ambassador Michael Oren because — but of course! — Israel has been condemned by the UN Human Rights Council. “To the Muslim Student Union, the fact that the UN Human Rights Council has condemned Israel more than all the other countries of the world combined means that Israel is worse than all the other countries of the world combined. To more rational, less prejudiced people, this fact means that the UN Human Rights Council is not a serious organization, but one under the control of dictators and despots.” Remind me why the Obami thought it necessary to rejoin that body?

Oren was heckled, which is no surprise. But it is nice to find a college political-science professor willing to call out the thuggery: “Prof. Mark P. Petracca, chairman of the university’s Political Science department, chastised the protesters, telling them, ‘This is beyond embarrassing. … This is no way for our undergraduate students to behave. We have an opportunity to hear from a policy-maker relevant to one of the most important issues facing this planet and you are preventing not only yourself from hearing him but hundreds of other people in this room and hundreds of other people in an overflow room. Shame on you! This is not an example of free speech.’”

Seen the latest ad for Hugo Chavez’s oil company? Lots of happy old people given free oil by the dictator, and then: “In swoops Joe Kennedy II with Citizens Energy and the kind people of Venezuela to lend a hand (or two?) and heating oil enough for everyone. Kennedy’s all smiles but they forgot the part where Hugo Chavez shuts down the media and arrests his political opponents. I guess that would have made the ad too long.” Good thing he didn’t talk about how great families and babies are.

Oh, puhleez. Michael Steele plays the race card: “I don’t see stories about the internal operations of the DNC that I see about this operation. Why? Is it because Michael Steele is the chairman, or is it because a black man is chairman?”

Just a year ago Republicans were declared dead in New England. Now New Hampshire looks awfully Red. Actually, it looks Red all over. Rasmussen shows the GOP with an eight-point lead in the generic congressional poll. And John Kasich has a solid lead in the Ohio gubernatorial race.

The boys sure are obsessed with her: “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs poked fun at Sarah Palin today, pretending to look to notes on his hand for a reminder during his daily briefing. The gesture was a not-so-subtle shot at Palin, whom reporters spotted using a crib sheet on her hand during a speech this weekend at the National Tea Party convention.” At least Gibbs didn’t talk about her breasts.

Rep. Peter King blasts away at “egomaniac” John Brennan for claiming that Obama’s critics are serving the “goals of al-Qaeda”: “It is ‘the most mindless, self-serving, and irresponsible statement that a homeland-security adviser can make,’ King says. … ‘Brennan is trying to be cute by saying that on Christmas Day he briefed Republicans and Democrats. Leave aside the fact that he didn’t brief me, but he didn’t tell anybody anything that day other than the bare facts that were pretty much known to the public. He said that [Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab] was in FBI custody. Now he’s claiming that that means he told people that [Abdulmutallab] was receiving Miranda rights and no one objected. If that’s what Brennan considers being honest and forthright, then we know that John Brennan is not being honest and forthright.’”

The billboard says “Miss Me Yet?” Why, yes, Mr. President.

Paul Begala or Karl Rove? “Incrementalists, stunned by what they see as overly broad and rapid change, are looking for the brakes. Radicals, depressed about the snail’s pace of progress, are looking for the exits.”

Jeffrey Goldberg spots the Muslim Student Union of the University of California at Irvine condemning the appearance of Israel Ambassador Michael Oren because — but of course! — Israel has been condemned by the UN Human Rights Council. “To the Muslim Student Union, the fact that the UN Human Rights Council has condemned Israel more than all the other countries of the world combined means that Israel is worse than all the other countries of the world combined. To more rational, less prejudiced people, this fact means that the UN Human Rights Council is not a serious organization, but one under the control of dictators and despots.” Remind me why the Obami thought it necessary to rejoin that body?

Oren was heckled, which is no surprise. But it is nice to find a college political-science professor willing to call out the thuggery: “Prof. Mark P. Petracca, chairman of the university’s Political Science department, chastised the protesters, telling them, ‘This is beyond embarrassing. … This is no way for our undergraduate students to behave. We have an opportunity to hear from a policy-maker relevant to one of the most important issues facing this planet and you are preventing not only yourself from hearing him but hundreds of other people in this room and hundreds of other people in an overflow room. Shame on you! This is not an example of free speech.’”

Read Less

Al-Qaeda Attempts to Woo Useful Idiots

Last year in Lebanon, a left-wing American journalist tried to convince me that I’ve been too hard on Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, that I might like what I heard if I’d just listen more open-mindedly. “He’s trying to raise awareness of global warming,” he said to me earnestly over lunch. “Don’t you think that’s interesting?” I told him, no, I did not find it interesting, but the truth is I think it’s fascinating that anyone in the world would believe a terrorist and a fascist is concerned about the environment.

Osama bin Laden must be paying attention because now even he hopes to broaden his appeal by passing himself off as a green activist. “Osama bin Laden enters global warming debate,” reads the straight-faced headline in London’s Daily Telegraph, as if the Copenhagen Climate Conference organizers now have some rhetorical backup for their arguments against Republicans, Chinese industrialists, and Montana residents who set their thermostats to 70 degrees during the winter. Al-Qaeda’s founder and chief executive — assuming he’s actually still alive and recorded the most recent broadcast — even cites the latest anti-American diatribe in the Guardian by campus favorite Noam Chomsky. Read More

Last year in Lebanon, a left-wing American journalist tried to convince me that I’ve been too hard on Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, that I might like what I heard if I’d just listen more open-mindedly. “He’s trying to raise awareness of global warming,” he said to me earnestly over lunch. “Don’t you think that’s interesting?” I told him, no, I did not find it interesting, but the truth is I think it’s fascinating that anyone in the world would believe a terrorist and a fascist is concerned about the environment.

Osama bin Laden must be paying attention because now even he hopes to broaden his appeal by passing himself off as a green activist. “Osama bin Laden enters global warming debate,” reads the straight-faced headline in London’s Daily Telegraph, as if the Copenhagen Climate Conference organizers now have some rhetorical backup for their arguments against Republicans, Chinese industrialists, and Montana residents who set their thermostats to 70 degrees during the winter. Al-Qaeda’s founder and chief executive — assuming he’s actually still alive and recorded the most recent broadcast — even cites the latest anti-American diatribe in the Guardian by campus favorite Noam Chomsky.

Communists used to pull stunts like this all the time to get support in the West from what Vladimir Lenin called “useful idiots.” Even 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez manage to attract Western fans like Oliver Stone, Medea Benjamin, and writers at the Nation.

I’m slightly surprised it has taken al-Qaeda so long to figure this out. Hamas and Hezbollah are way ahead. They have far more sophisticated public relations departments. A few weeks ago, Hezbollah, Hamas, and leaders from what’s left of the Iraqi “resistance” hosted a terrorist conference in Beirut, which some of the usual subjects from the fringe Left attended — former Democratic party Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, and British member of Parliament George Galloway.

Less prominent American and European leftists also attended, including a Jewish blogger from Sweden who said his first trip to Lebanon was an “overwhelming experience” and described his slide into the political abyss in two sentences. “As a Jew I felt guilt about the treatment of the Palestinians because it is carried out in the name of all Jews,” he said to a Syrian journalist who asked what he was doing there. “I converted guilt into responsibility by taking up the political cause for the dissolution of the Jewish state.”

In a way, it’s rather astonishing that terrorists can scrape up support from even marginal people who imagine themselves upholders of the liberal tradition, but look at the propaganda. This crowd isn’t just championing the environment and quoting Chomsky. A statement at the Arab International Forum for the Support of the Resistance said “the right of people to resist via all forms, particularly armed struggle, stems from a fundamental principle of self-defense and the right to liberty, dignity, sovereignty and equality among the peoples of the world, and emphasized that resistance is in fact a necessary condition for the establishment of a just international order, to prevent aggression and occupation, and to end colonialism and racism.”

Sounds great. Liberty, dignity, sovereignty, and equality? Post-racism? A just international order? Who could argue with any of that?

The problem, of course, is that Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Iraqi “resistance” aren’t fighting for liberty, any more than Communist guerrillas fought for liberty. Hamas fires rockets at schools and throws its political opponents off skyscrapers. Hezbollah fires even bigger rockets at schools, torches Lebanese television stations, shoots political opponents dead in the streets, and self-identifies as the “vanguard” of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s murdering, raping, head-cracking government in Iran. Iraqi “resistance” fighters not only kill American soldiers with improvised explosive devices, they blow up mosques, massacre civilians with car bombs, decapitate children with kitchen knives, and assassinate officials and employees of the elected representative government.

None of the useful Western idiots attending the recent terrorist conference belong to the mainstream Left, nor does the American journalist who swooned over Hezbollah’s supposed global-warming “awareness.” There isn’t a chance that the likes of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or even Jimmy Carter will ever fall for this kind of nonsense or throw their support behind Hamas, Hezbollah, or active leaders of the Iraqi “resistance.” Still, having a gallery of rogues and naifs as your cheering section in the West beats having no one.

It’s too late for Osama bin Laden to polish his image, but I can’t really blame him for thinking he could.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.