Commentary Magazine


Topic: John Bolton

The GOP’s Foreign Policy Candidate?

It’s not clear how seriously Republicans will take Robert Costa’s report in National Review Online today that John Bolton is exploring the idea of a run for president in 2016. While the prospect of a candidacy from the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations set off chortles on both the far left and the paleo-con right, Bolton’s interest in the Republican presidential nomination may leave most GOP power-brokers and grass roots activists in early primary states cold. With a deep bench of potential Republican presidential candidates including genuine political stars like Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Scott Walker and even 2012 retreads like Rick Santorum lining up for the next contest, there doesn’t seem to be much of a market for a Bolton candidacy.

But though the odds are he never makes it to the starting line, let alone the finish line, the idea of a Bolton candidacy is not quite as insane as it may seem at first glance. With many Republicans starting to flock to the neo-isolationist banner put forward by Rand Paul and with many conservative activists now treating the ongoing war on Islamist terror as being not as important as their dislike of Barack Obama, it is arguable that there is no longer a solid Republican consensus in favor of a strong American foreign policy. Though some of the other possible candidates do differ from Paul about the impulse to pull back from a forward posture abroad, none have prioritized that issue. If Bolton is even talking about what would probably be a quixotic run it is only because he knows it is vital for there to be a vigorous debate about foreign and defense policy so as to turn back the Paulite push.

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It’s not clear how seriously Republicans will take Robert Costa’s report in National Review Online today that John Bolton is exploring the idea of a run for president in 2016. While the prospect of a candidacy from the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations set off chortles on both the far left and the paleo-con right, Bolton’s interest in the Republican presidential nomination may leave most GOP power-brokers and grass roots activists in early primary states cold. With a deep bench of potential Republican presidential candidates including genuine political stars like Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Scott Walker and even 2012 retreads like Rick Santorum lining up for the next contest, there doesn’t seem to be much of a market for a Bolton candidacy.

But though the odds are he never makes it to the starting line, let alone the finish line, the idea of a Bolton candidacy is not quite as insane as it may seem at first glance. With many Republicans starting to flock to the neo-isolationist banner put forward by Rand Paul and with many conservative activists now treating the ongoing war on Islamist terror as being not as important as their dislike of Barack Obama, it is arguable that there is no longer a solid Republican consensus in favor of a strong American foreign policy. Though some of the other possible candidates do differ from Paul about the impulse to pull back from a forward posture abroad, none have prioritized that issue. If Bolton is even talking about what would probably be a quixotic run it is only because he knows it is vital for there to be a vigorous debate about foreign and defense policy so as to turn back the Paulite push.

If we had elections for secretary of state, Bolton would be a serious Republican candidate for the job. Though dismissed as a neo-con warmonger by those who prefer appeasement at the UN and apologies to the world rather than a forthright exposition of American values and interests, Bolton’s views on foreign policy are very much in the mainstream of Republican thought. His sensible analyses of foreign policy on Fox News as well as his occasional contributions to COMMENTARY provide eloquent testimony to his expertise on the issues. But not even in wartime are Americans likely to elect someone whose orientation is toward foreign rather than domestic policy. Even in a wide open 2012 GOP presidential field largely populated by easily-dismissed candidates, Bolton’s brief flirtation with a run failed to attract any interest and there’s even less reason to think he’d do any better next time.

But if both Rubio and Ryan decide against running in 2016, there could be no one willing to take on Paul and his increasingly popular inclination to pull back from the world and pretend the Islamist war on the West is none of our concern. Paul is certain to be a first-tier candidate and strong showings by him in primaries and caucuses could encourage other contenders to start to echo him in an attempt to please war-weary and libertarian-inclined voters. That will leave an opening for someone to speak up on foreign affairs, and perhaps Bolton feels it might as well be a candidate who actually understands the issues.

It is to be hoped that Paul will find himself challenged on foreign and defense policy in 2016 by stronger opposition than a former ambassador who isn’t likely to win a delegate. But though it will probably crash before it takes off, the Bolton trial balloon shows us that there is a desperate need for a GOP foreign policy debate that will head off the surge for Paul. 

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Another Nail in the Coffin of the Recess Appointment Power

Last January, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the president can only make recess appointments when the Senate has adjourned sine die, i.e. without setting a date for returning to session. Once it adjourns this way it is out of session until noon on the following January 3, when the 20th Amendment commands that a new session begin. (The president has the power to summon Congress back into session if necessary.)

This was a great restriction on the recess appointment power of the president, which allows the president to make temporary appointments to posts requiring Senate confirmation “during the Recess of the Senate.” Before that ruling, presidents had often made recess appointments while the Senate was in temporary recess, often of only a few weeks. They did this either because the president thought the post needed to be filled immediately (President Eisenhower gave William Brennan a recess appointment to the Supreme Court in 1956 and he was subsequently confirmed by the Senate) or because of obstruction in the Senate that made an up-or-down vote on an appointment impossible (such as George W. Bush’s recess appointment of John Bolton to the U.N. ambassadorship in 2005).

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Last January, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the president can only make recess appointments when the Senate has adjourned sine die, i.e. without setting a date for returning to session. Once it adjourns this way it is out of session until noon on the following January 3, when the 20th Amendment commands that a new session begin. (The president has the power to summon Congress back into session if necessary.)

This was a great restriction on the recess appointment power of the president, which allows the president to make temporary appointments to posts requiring Senate confirmation “during the Recess of the Senate.” Before that ruling, presidents had often made recess appointments while the Senate was in temporary recess, often of only a few weeks. They did this either because the president thought the post needed to be filled immediately (President Eisenhower gave William Brennan a recess appointment to the Supreme Court in 1956 and he was subsequently confirmed by the Senate) or because of obstruction in the Senate that made an up-or-down vote on an appointment impossible (such as George W. Bush’s recess appointment of John Bolton to the U.N. ambassadorship in 2005).

But in 2012, President Obama made recess appointments to the board of the National Labor Relations Board when the Senate was in pro forma sessions, meeting every few days for a few minutes. The purpose of these pro forma sessions was precisely to prevent recess appointments. But this caused the D.C. Circuit to take a close look at the recess appointment power and to put great weight on what is usually the most inconsequential word in the English language, the. It ruled that because the Constitution says  “the Recess” not “a Recess,” the president’s power is limited to periods after the final adjournment of the Senate for the year, usually in mid-December.

In April, the White House petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn this ruling. The Court has not yet agreed to take the case, or as they say in SCOTUS-speak, to “grant cert.”

Now, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, which sits in Philadelphia, has ruled in another case, agreeing with the D.C. Circuit case on the scope of the recess appointment power and closely following its reasoning.

If the Supreme Court takes the D.C. Circuit case it would probably take this one too and rule definitively. Or it might not grant cert, which would mean these decisions would stand and the recess appointment power would be, except for a few weeks around Christmas time, effectively dead. And all because the Obama administration overreached and tried to gut the Senate’s power to “advise and consent.” In trying to aggrandize power, it has diminished its power. In retrospect at least, that wasn’t too smart.

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The Virtues of Susan Rice’s “Undiplomatic” Diplomacy

I’m not quite sure why so many of my fellow conservatives have focused so much ire on Susan Rice’s potential nomination to be secretary of state. She would definitely not be my first choice for the job (that would be Joe Lieberman) but compared to some of the other rumored second-term nominations—e.g, Chuck Hagel at Defense or John Kerry at State—the possibility of Susan Rice doesn’t seem so bad. She actually seems to have a more activist vision of American power than many in the Democratic Party who are eager to cut the American role in the world back as rapidly as possible.

Much of the criticism directed at her for her blunt, undiplomatic personality sounds like a virtual replay of the criticisms once made of Jeane Kirkpatrick and John Bolton, both conservative favorites when they served as UN ambassador. Indeed Rice sounded positively Boltonesque (admittedly not something she would consider to be a compliment) when she recently told off the Chinese ambassador, Li Baodung, in a UN Security Council debate over how to respond to North Korea’s missile launch. According to Colum Lynch in Foreign Policy:

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I’m not quite sure why so many of my fellow conservatives have focused so much ire on Susan Rice’s potential nomination to be secretary of state. She would definitely not be my first choice for the job (that would be Joe Lieberman) but compared to some of the other rumored second-term nominations—e.g, Chuck Hagel at Defense or John Kerry at State—the possibility of Susan Rice doesn’t seem so bad. She actually seems to have a more activist vision of American power than many in the Democratic Party who are eager to cut the American role in the world back as rapidly as possible.

Much of the criticism directed at her for her blunt, undiplomatic personality sounds like a virtual replay of the criticisms once made of Jeane Kirkpatrick and John Bolton, both conservative favorites when they served as UN ambassador. Indeed Rice sounded positively Boltonesque (admittedly not something she would consider to be a compliment) when she recently told off the Chinese ambassador, Li Baodung, in a UN Security Council debate over how to respond to North Korea’s missile launch. According to Colum Lynch in Foreign Policy:

Rice urged the Security Council to swiftly respond to North Korea’s surprise launch of a satellite (via a ballistic missile) with a statement condemning Pyongyang’s action as a violation of U.N. resolutions and characterizing it as a provocative act that “undermines regional stability.”

Li pushed back, saying that there was no need to condemn North Korea, and that its test constituted no threat to regional stability.

“That’s ridiculous,” Rice shot back, according to one of three council diplomats who described the encounter.

“Ridiculous?” a visibly angered Li responded through an interpreter. “You better watch your language.”

“Well, it’s in the Oxford dictionary, and [Russian ambassador Vitaly] Churkin — if he were in the room — he would know how to take it,” retorted Rice.

The reference to Oxford dictionary refers to Churkin’s riposte, in December 2011, to a public broadside by Rice, who charged him with making “bogus claims” about alleged NATO war crimes in Libya to divert attention from charges of war crimes against its Syrian ally.

“This is not an issue that can be drowned out by expletives. You might recall the words one could hear: bombast and bogus claims, cheap stunt, duplicitous, redundant, superfluous, stunt,” said Churkin to Rice. “Oh, you know, you cannot beat a Stanford education, can you?” said Churkin, mocking Rice’s alma mater. Rice, a former Rhodes scholar, later noted that she also went to Oxford.

Frankly any American diplomat who tangles so openly with the Chinese and Russian ambassadors, rather than retreating into the usual mealy-mouthed equivocations, can’t be all bad. Obama can do worse in his choice of secretary of state—and probably will.

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Social Conservative Smacked Down on CNN

A rare kudos to CNN’s Kyra Phillips, who highlights another absurdity in the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer’s recent attack on Mitt Romney’s national security spokesman. Any true conservative must be a fan of Ambassador John Bolton, right? And, as we know, Fischer has claimed no real conservative could possibly hire a gay spokesman, right? Well, as it turns out:

PHILLIPS: Did you think John Bolton did a good job when he was U.S. ambassador to the U.N.? [...]

FISCHER: He did a great job.

PHILLIPS: Okay. Grenell was his spokesperson….Bryan, I just thought that was interesting, you thought Bolton did a great job, and Grenell was his spokesperson.

FISCHER: Well, the point here is that personnel is policy. Everybody in D.C. says that. Personnel is policy. When Governor Romney picks somebody who is an activist homosexual and puts him in a prominent position, he’s sending a shout out, it seems to me, to the homosexual lobby.

Unfortunately Phillips’ logical fallacy didn’t cause Fischer to short-circuit like a robot, but you can watch him attempt to defend his untenable argument here.

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A rare kudos to CNN’s Kyra Phillips, who highlights another absurdity in the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer’s recent attack on Mitt Romney’s national security spokesman. Any true conservative must be a fan of Ambassador John Bolton, right? And, as we know, Fischer has claimed no real conservative could possibly hire a gay spokesman, right? Well, as it turns out:

PHILLIPS: Did you think John Bolton did a good job when he was U.S. ambassador to the U.N.? [...]

FISCHER: He did a great job.

PHILLIPS: Okay. Grenell was his spokesperson….Bryan, I just thought that was interesting, you thought Bolton did a great job, and Grenell was his spokesperson.

FISCHER: Well, the point here is that personnel is policy. Everybody in D.C. says that. Personnel is policy. When Governor Romney picks somebody who is an activist homosexual and puts him in a prominent position, he’s sending a shout out, it seems to me, to the homosexual lobby.

Unfortunately Phillips’ logical fallacy didn’t cause Fischer to short-circuit like a robot, but you can watch him attempt to defend his untenable argument here.

Fischer isn’t the only social conservative who has criticized Romney for hiring Richard Grenell, and it’s worth wondering why this didn’t bother anyone when Grenell was working for Bolton. Is it simply because Romney’s in a more prominent position, and Grenell’s personal life was never really in the news before? If that’s the case, maybe these critics should realize that their concerns aren’t grounded in reality.

It seems more likely that the attacks on Grenell are based on a still-lingering anti-Romney undercurrent in the conservative movement. Fischer has made his disapproval of Romney’s religion clear in the past, which may explain his oddly vocal attack on Romney’s hiring decision.

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Holder: Of Course Bush and Cheney Were Right All Along

At first, you might think Eric Holder’s testimony this morning was hypocritical. After all, he defiantly echoed the Bush administration’s defense of the separation of powers that drove liberals absolutely crazy. (Watch this Jon Stewart interview with John Bolton from 2007 in which Stewart gets so frustrated by the executive privilege argument he tells Bolton to “man up.” I’m sure he’ll be telling Holder to “man up” any day now.)

But in truth, Holder’s defense of executive privilege was perfectly consistent with the Obama administration’s position on this all along. For example, here’s a McClatchy dispatch about a move Obama made immediately upon assuming office:

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At first, you might think Eric Holder’s testimony this morning was hypocritical. After all, he defiantly echoed the Bush administration’s defense of the separation of powers that drove liberals absolutely crazy. (Watch this Jon Stewart interview with John Bolton from 2007 in which Stewart gets so frustrated by the executive privilege argument he tells Bolton to “man up.” I’m sure he’ll be telling Holder to “man up” any day now.)

But in truth, Holder’s defense of executive privilege was perfectly consistent with the Obama administration’s position on this all along. For example, here’s a McClatchy dispatch about a move Obama made immediately upon assuming office:

President Barack Obama, in his first full day in office, revoked a controversial executive order signed by President Bush in 2001 that limited release of former presidents’ records.

The new order could expand public access to records of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in the years to come as well as other past leaders, said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists.

Get it now? Obama fully intended to provide more transparency–about the Bush administration. Open government groups, like the ACLU and the Sunlight Foundation, learned this lesson just a few months ago, when the Obama administration (Holder’s Justice Department specifically) proposed changes to Freedom of Information Act rules the ACLU described as “authorizing agencies to lie.” They were not exaggerating. The only thing this administration has more disdain for than the opinion of the American public is the concept of transparency.

Just for fun, here’s a comparison of what Bolton said to Stewart and what Holder said this morning. Bolton:

I think it’s important that the president have the advantage of confidentiality in his advice–that people are not worried that they spill their guts to the president and the next day they’ve got to up to Congress and say exactly what they said. You’re going to be more candid with your boss if you can give him advice in private and not have it in the public record shortly thereafter. That’s a fact.

And Holder:

Prior administrations have recognized that robust internal communications would be chilled, and the Executive Branch’s ability to respond to oversight requests thereby impeded, if our internal communications concerning our responses to congressional oversight were disclosed to Congress. For both Branches, this would be an undesirable outcome. The appropriate functioning of the separation of powers requires that Executive Branch officials have the ability to communicate confidentially as they discuss how to respond to inquiries from Congress.

Notice the difference? Holder went one step further by telling Congress he’s doing this for their own good as well as that of his boss. That is, Bolton was less condescending and less confrontational in his attitude toward congressional inquiry. That the Obama administration has gone further than the Bush administration in executive power is now, and has been for a while, common knowledge. But they also have added a note of contempt to it, just so Congress and the public know how much this White House resents them.

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Mr. Secretary? Bolton Backs Romney Despite Gingrich Promise

A month ago, Newt Gingrich pleased Jewish conservatives when, during his address to the Republican Jewish Coalition’s presidential forum, he promised to make former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton his secretary of state. But the offer of the State Department wasn’t enough to entice Bolton to return the favor and endorse Gingrich’s presidential ambitions. Last night, Bolton told FOX News he was backing Mitt Romney.

Bolton said he was “following the William F. Buckley test” in backing the most conservative candidate who can get elected, which he believes is Romney. Since, in his view, the re-election of Barack Obama would be a disaster for U.S. foreign as well as domestic policy, Romney presents the best chance for Republicans to avert that possibility.

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A month ago, Newt Gingrich pleased Jewish conservatives when, during his address to the Republican Jewish Coalition’s presidential forum, he promised to make former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton his secretary of state. But the offer of the State Department wasn’t enough to entice Bolton to return the favor and endorse Gingrich’s presidential ambitions. Last night, Bolton told FOX News he was backing Mitt Romney.

Bolton said he was “following the William F. Buckley test” in backing the most conservative candidate who can get elected, which he believes is Romney. Since, in his view, the re-election of Barack Obama would be a disaster for U.S. foreign as well as domestic policy, Romney presents the best chance for Republicans to avert that possibility.

At the time that he spoke of making Bolton his secretary of state, Gingrich admitted he hadn’t made the offer in person. Bolton said he was flattered but declined to back the former speaker’s campaign.

Bolton toyed with a presidential run himself but eventually rightly decided he had little chance. As for Romney’s conservative bona fides, Bolton said he “was conservative enough for me.” Bolton conceded there was little difference between the foreign policy stances enunciated between his choice and that of Gingrich and even Rick Santorum or Rick Perry. But he praised Romney’s belief in American exceptionalism and his support for revitalizing America’s military might. According to the Daily Caller, Romney has praised Bolton’s ideas for reorganizing the State Department.

Asked by Greta van Susteren as to what was Obama’s biggest foreign policy mistake, Bolton answered without hesitation that it was his failure to adequately deal with the threat of a nuclear Iran.

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Should We Feel Encouraged About an Iranian Nuke in Three Years?

Israel’s deputy prime minister, Moshe Ya’alon, caused something of a stir on Wednesday when he told Israel Radio that he believed Iran would be capable of creating a nuclear weapon within three years. But as alarming as that may sound, it seems that Ya’alon, the former IDF chief of staff who currently also serves as strategic affairs minister, was sounding a note of optimism, since he credited the delay to “technological difficulties.”

This is being widely interpreted as meaning the Israelis believe the Stuxnet virus has dealt the Iranian nuclear program a serious setback. On Fox News, John Bolton speculated that this statement may mean “Stuxnet worked better than some of us thought.” While the former UN ambassador admitted that it was “hard to know the truth” about the state of Iran’s progress toward a nuclear capability, he said the one thing we do know about their program is “that they are determined” to achieve it.

Given that we know very little about Stuxnet or any other covert action undertaken by either the United States or Israel, it’s difficult to assess the current level of danger of an Iranian breakthrough. It may be that Israel is trying to dampen speculation about an imminent IDF attack on Iranian targets, but it is not clear whether such an attack would be launched in the face of almost certain American opposition.

While some may take comfort from Ya’alon’s statement, it is not exactly encouraging to know that, in spite of all the difficulties they have encountered, Iran is likely to be in possession of a nuclear weapon by the end of 2013. Even if we believe that Stuxnet has been a success, all it has accomplished is to push off the day of reckoning, and not by all that much. We already know that diplomacy won’t work; that serious sanctions are unlikely to ever gain international support; and, as we learned last week, that even the United States is not enforcing those sanctions against Iran that are already in place.

Bolton noted that “the Iranians have zero fear” of an American attack on their nuclear facilities so long as Barack Obama is president, and he is almost certainly right about that. The Iranians have taken Obama’s measure in the last two years, and their actions speak volumes about their lack of respect for the president and their belief that he is not to be taken seriously as a world leader. They have mocked U.S. efforts at diplomacy and disregarded America’s half-hearted attempts to mobilize world opinion against Tehran. So even if the virus or other clandestine operations have hampered the Iranians, the mullahs and Ahmadinejad have good reason to feel optimistic about their chances of ultimate success. If the best face we can put on this problem is the certain knowledge that in the absence of a U.S. and/or Israeli attack, an Iranian bomb will exist in three years, the Ya’alon announcement is no cause for celebration.

Israel’s deputy prime minister, Moshe Ya’alon, caused something of a stir on Wednesday when he told Israel Radio that he believed Iran would be capable of creating a nuclear weapon within three years. But as alarming as that may sound, it seems that Ya’alon, the former IDF chief of staff who currently also serves as strategic affairs minister, was sounding a note of optimism, since he credited the delay to “technological difficulties.”

This is being widely interpreted as meaning the Israelis believe the Stuxnet virus has dealt the Iranian nuclear program a serious setback. On Fox News, John Bolton speculated that this statement may mean “Stuxnet worked better than some of us thought.” While the former UN ambassador admitted that it was “hard to know the truth” about the state of Iran’s progress toward a nuclear capability, he said the one thing we do know about their program is “that they are determined” to achieve it.

Given that we know very little about Stuxnet or any other covert action undertaken by either the United States or Israel, it’s difficult to assess the current level of danger of an Iranian breakthrough. It may be that Israel is trying to dampen speculation about an imminent IDF attack on Iranian targets, but it is not clear whether such an attack would be launched in the face of almost certain American opposition.

While some may take comfort from Ya’alon’s statement, it is not exactly encouraging to know that, in spite of all the difficulties they have encountered, Iran is likely to be in possession of a nuclear weapon by the end of 2013. Even if we believe that Stuxnet has been a success, all it has accomplished is to push off the day of reckoning, and not by all that much. We already know that diplomacy won’t work; that serious sanctions are unlikely to ever gain international support; and, as we learned last week, that even the United States is not enforcing those sanctions against Iran that are already in place.

Bolton noted that “the Iranians have zero fear” of an American attack on their nuclear facilities so long as Barack Obama is president, and he is almost certainly right about that. The Iranians have taken Obama’s measure in the last two years, and their actions speak volumes about their lack of respect for the president and their belief that he is not to be taken seriously as a world leader. They have mocked U.S. efforts at diplomacy and disregarded America’s half-hearted attempts to mobilize world opinion against Tehran. So even if the virus or other clandestine operations have hampered the Iranians, the mullahs and Ahmadinejad have good reason to feel optimistic about their chances of ultimate success. If the best face we can put on this problem is the certain knowledge that in the absence of a U.S. and/or Israeli attack, an Iranian bomb will exist in three years, the Ya’alon announcement is no cause for celebration.

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The “Palestinian” Campaign

As Alana Goodman writes today, the Palestinian Authority has announced that 10 European Union nations will be accepting fully accredited Palestinian embassies. I agree that skepticism is in order about the particulars of this claim, but there’s more to the relentless barrage of PA announcements than mere theatrical foot-dragging. The American focus on the peace process has tended to blind us to the fact that a separate campaign is underway to corner Israel and present it with a set of diplomatic faits accomplis. For this separate campaign, the peace process is not the principal vehicle for concerted action.

The campaign has been mounting like a drumbeat in the distance. Saeb Erekat’s newest claim about the 10 EU nations follows the recognition of a Palestinian state earlier this month by members of the Latin American Mercosur union (with three new nations signing up on Sunday). Nations across Europe and the Americas have upgraded the status of Palestinian diplomatic missions in the past year, including the U.S. and France in July, along with others like Spain, Norway, and Portugal.

Ongoing efforts at the UN, meanwhile, were outlined by John Bolton in a widely cited article in October. His concern in writing that article was that a UN resolution establishing an arbitrary Palestinian state was imminent and inevitable unless the U.S. could be relied on to veto it. The threat of such action has not subsided: today the Netanyahu government sent its envoys around the globe “urgent” instructions to oppose UN action on a statehood resolution or a resolution demanding a halt to settlement construction.

That urgency is not misplaced given the statements and actions of the PA itself. Bloggers noted the statement by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in early December that the PA “will not be a prisoner to the restrictions of Oslo” — and pointed out the disadvantages of that posture for the PA. But the advantage of abandoning the Oslo framework is greater for the project Fayyad has his name on: unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state in 2011. This is a serious plan of which Fayyad has spoken for more than a year, and its supporters in the West are exemplified by Thomas Friedman, who can’t say enough good things about “Fayyadism” and the 2011 plan. As an economic approach, “Fayyadism” doesn’t get high marks from all observers; but its political significance is that it poses a date and a question — 2011 and statehood — that require official response. Read More

As Alana Goodman writes today, the Palestinian Authority has announced that 10 European Union nations will be accepting fully accredited Palestinian embassies. I agree that skepticism is in order about the particulars of this claim, but there’s more to the relentless barrage of PA announcements than mere theatrical foot-dragging. The American focus on the peace process has tended to blind us to the fact that a separate campaign is underway to corner Israel and present it with a set of diplomatic faits accomplis. For this separate campaign, the peace process is not the principal vehicle for concerted action.

The campaign has been mounting like a drumbeat in the distance. Saeb Erekat’s newest claim about the 10 EU nations follows the recognition of a Palestinian state earlier this month by members of the Latin American Mercosur union (with three new nations signing up on Sunday). Nations across Europe and the Americas have upgraded the status of Palestinian diplomatic missions in the past year, including the U.S. and France in July, along with others like Spain, Norway, and Portugal.

Ongoing efforts at the UN, meanwhile, were outlined by John Bolton in a widely cited article in October. His concern in writing that article was that a UN resolution establishing an arbitrary Palestinian state was imminent and inevitable unless the U.S. could be relied on to veto it. The threat of such action has not subsided: today the Netanyahu government sent its envoys around the globe “urgent” instructions to oppose UN action on a statehood resolution or a resolution demanding a halt to settlement construction.

That urgency is not misplaced given the statements and actions of the PA itself. Bloggers noted the statement by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in early December that the PA “will not be a prisoner to the restrictions of Oslo” — and pointed out the disadvantages of that posture for the PA. But the advantage of abandoning the Oslo framework is greater for the project Fayyad has his name on: unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state in 2011. This is a serious plan of which Fayyad has spoken for more than a year, and its supporters in the West are exemplified by Thomas Friedman, who can’t say enough good things about “Fayyadism” and the 2011 plan. As an economic approach, “Fayyadism” doesn’t get high marks from all observers; but its political significance is that it poses a date and a question — 2011 and statehood — that require official response.

The 2011 plan is the one to keep an eye on. It has momentum and increasing buy-in, as demonstrated by the flurry of statehood recognitions from Latin America this month. U.S. mainstream media have not generally been presenting a coherent picture to American readers, but from a broader perspective, there is a confluence of events separate from the official peace process. It already appears, from the regional jockeying for Lebanon and the trend of Saudi activity, that nations in the Middle East are trying to position themselves for a decisive shift in the Israel-Palestine dynamic. Now, in a significant “informational” move, Russia’s ITAR-TASS is playing up the discussions of 2011 statehood from the meeting this past weekend of a Russian-government delegation with Salam Fayyad in Israel.

It may be too early to call the official peace process irrelevant or pronounce it dead. But the interest in it from the Palestinian Arabs and other parties in the Middle East is increasingly perfunctory (or cynical). It is becoming clear that there is more than recalcitrance on the Palestinian side; there is an alternative plan, which is being actively promoted. A central virtue of this plan for Fayyadists is that it can work by either of two methods: presenting Israel with a UN-backed fait accompli or alarming Israel into cutting a deal from fear that an imposed resolution would be worse.

John Bolton is right. Everything about this depends on what the U.S. does. America can either avert the 2011 plan’s momentum now or face a crisis decision crafted for us by others sometime next year. Being maneuvered into a UN veto that could set off bombings and riots across the Eastern Hemisphere — and very possibly North America as well — should not be our first choice.

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Group Outlines the Conservative Case Against New Start

Earlier this month, Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Jim Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger, and Colin Powell laid out the “Republican case” for ratifying New START in the Washington Post.

But now another group of conservative national-security experts has outlined the case against the arms-reduction treaty. The New Deterrent Working group, which includes John Bolton, Edwin Meese, Frank J. Gaffney Jr., Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney, Bruce S. Gelb, and J. William Middendorf II, has sent a letter to Sen. Harry Reid and Sen. Mitch McConnell urging them to reject New Start.

From the text of the letter:

As you know, President Obama insists that the United States Senate advise and consent during the present lame-duck session to the bilateral U.S.-Russian strategic arms control treaty known as “New START” that he signed earlier this year in Prague. It is our considered professional judgment that this treaty and the larger disarmament agenda which its ratification would endorse are not consistent with the national security interests of the United States, and that both should be rejected by the Senate.

Administration efforts to compel the Senate to vote under circumstances in which an informed and full debate are effectively precluded is inconsistent with your institution’s precedents, its constitutionally mandated quality-control responsibilities with respect to treaties and, in particular, the critical deliberation New START requires in light of that accord’s myriad defects …

The letter summed up the direct risks of reducing our nuclear capabilities, but the more compelling argument touched on the potential unintended consequences of the treaty. The group cautioned that New START could actually increase nuclear proliferation by prompting countries that rely on the U.S. for security to develop their own nuclear capabilities. In addition, reductions by the U.S. could encourage China to expand its own stockpile in pursuit of nuclear parity. Since the entire point of New START is to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, this might be one of the more effective arguments against it.

The letter also argued that Russia’s inventory of strategic launchers would shrink dramatically over the next decade (from 680 to 270) because of aging and regardless of whether New START is ratified.

This vocal opposition from prominent conservatives may help keep Senate Republicans in line against New START. Three Republican senators are currently supporting the treaty, but six additional GOP votes are needed to ratify it.

Earlier this month, Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Jim Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger, and Colin Powell laid out the “Republican case” for ratifying New START in the Washington Post.

But now another group of conservative national-security experts has outlined the case against the arms-reduction treaty. The New Deterrent Working group, which includes John Bolton, Edwin Meese, Frank J. Gaffney Jr., Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney, Bruce S. Gelb, and J. William Middendorf II, has sent a letter to Sen. Harry Reid and Sen. Mitch McConnell urging them to reject New Start.

From the text of the letter:

As you know, President Obama insists that the United States Senate advise and consent during the present lame-duck session to the bilateral U.S.-Russian strategic arms control treaty known as “New START” that he signed earlier this year in Prague. It is our considered professional judgment that this treaty and the larger disarmament agenda which its ratification would endorse are not consistent with the national security interests of the United States, and that both should be rejected by the Senate.

Administration efforts to compel the Senate to vote under circumstances in which an informed and full debate are effectively precluded is inconsistent with your institution’s precedents, its constitutionally mandated quality-control responsibilities with respect to treaties and, in particular, the critical deliberation New START requires in light of that accord’s myriad defects …

The letter summed up the direct risks of reducing our nuclear capabilities, but the more compelling argument touched on the potential unintended consequences of the treaty. The group cautioned that New START could actually increase nuclear proliferation by prompting countries that rely on the U.S. for security to develop their own nuclear capabilities. In addition, reductions by the U.S. could encourage China to expand its own stockpile in pursuit of nuclear parity. Since the entire point of New START is to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, this might be one of the more effective arguments against it.

The letter also argued that Russia’s inventory of strategic launchers would shrink dramatically over the next decade (from 680 to 270) because of aging and regardless of whether New START is ratified.

This vocal opposition from prominent conservatives may help keep Senate Republicans in line against New START. Three Republican senators are currently supporting the treaty, but six additional GOP votes are needed to ratify it.

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New START Treaty: Much Ado About Nothing

A lot of foreign-policy experts I respect — including John Bolton, Eric Edelman, John Yoo, and Jim Woolsey — have come out against the ratification of the New START treaty, which would decrease American and Russian nuclear arsenals. For my part, I’m with Bob Kagan in wondering what the fuss is all about.

Arms-control treaties between Moscow and Washington were a big deal during the Cold War when the Soviet Union was bent on global expansionism and the U.S. had to stand on the frontlines of freedom. But the Soviet Union is gone. Today’s Russia may be a local threat to its smaller neighbors, the likes of Georgia or Estonia, but on a global scale it’s more of a nuisance — certainly not an existential threat to the United States. Thus the continuing quest for arms-control treaties seems like a bit of an anachronism.

Yet it is an anachronism that has been pursued by both Republican and Democratic administrations. As this crib sheet from the Arms Control Association reminds us, George H.W. Bush signed START II in 1993, Bill Clinton followed with a START III framework (never completed) in 1997, and George W. Bush reached agreement on SORT (a.k.a. the Moscow Treaty) in 2002. Kagan sums up the results of all these treaties along with New START:

The START I agreement cut deployed strategic nuclear weapons on both sides roughly 50 percent, from between 10,000 and 12,000 down to 6,000. The never-ratified (but generally abided-by) START II Treaty cut forces by another 50 percent, down to between 3,000 and 3,500. The 2002 Moscow Treaty made further deep cuts, bringing each side down to between 1,700 and 2,200. And New START? It would bring the number on both sides down to 1,550.

The final figure of 1,550 warheads is plenty big enough to maintain America’s nuclear deterrence; actually, we will have more than that because for the purposes of the treaty B-2 and B-52, bombers are counted as one “warhead” even though they can carry dozens of nuclear warheads. Opponents of the treaty throw out all sorts of other objections, arguing that it would constrict the development of missile defenses or non-nuclear missiles; but no such prohibition is to be found in the language of the treaty.

Let me be clear. I do not buy the Obama administration’s rationales for the treaty. Administration officials cite the need to “reset” relations with Russian and to take a step toward the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons. I very much doubt that this treaty will do anything substantial to achieve either goal. We are likely to continue clashing with Russia diplomatically as long as it remains an authoritarian state. As for the quixotic goal of eliminating nuclear weapons: Suffice it to say, reductions in the American arsenal are not going to encourage North Korea or Iran to give up their nuclear programs. But nor will relatively modest reductions in our nuclear forces prevent us from vaporizing Iran or North Korea, should they use nuclear weapons against us or our allies.

One of the important benefits of the treaty is that, in the course of negotiations over ratification, Senate Republicans have won assurances from the administration that it will spend $80 billion over 10 years to modernize our nuclear program. Yet this doesn’t seem to be enough. Sen. Jon Kyl, who has been the lead GOP negotiator, now says he doesn’t want to see a vote during the lame-duck session.

As Kagan suggests, this will allow the administration to blame Republican “obstructionism” if and when relations with Russia deteriorate. Therefore, Republican foot-dragging on ratification isn’t smart politics. It’s not necessary for the national defense either. Republicans should keep their powder dry to fight off attempts to slash the defense budget — an issue that really could imperil our security. That will be harder to do, however, because there are a number of Republicans who appear willing to go along with defense cuts, even as they’re taking pot shots at the (largely symbolic) New START treaty.

A lot of foreign-policy experts I respect — including John Bolton, Eric Edelman, John Yoo, and Jim Woolsey — have come out against the ratification of the New START treaty, which would decrease American and Russian nuclear arsenals. For my part, I’m with Bob Kagan in wondering what the fuss is all about.

Arms-control treaties between Moscow and Washington were a big deal during the Cold War when the Soviet Union was bent on global expansionism and the U.S. had to stand on the frontlines of freedom. But the Soviet Union is gone. Today’s Russia may be a local threat to its smaller neighbors, the likes of Georgia or Estonia, but on a global scale it’s more of a nuisance — certainly not an existential threat to the United States. Thus the continuing quest for arms-control treaties seems like a bit of an anachronism.

Yet it is an anachronism that has been pursued by both Republican and Democratic administrations. As this crib sheet from the Arms Control Association reminds us, George H.W. Bush signed START II in 1993, Bill Clinton followed with a START III framework (never completed) in 1997, and George W. Bush reached agreement on SORT (a.k.a. the Moscow Treaty) in 2002. Kagan sums up the results of all these treaties along with New START:

The START I agreement cut deployed strategic nuclear weapons on both sides roughly 50 percent, from between 10,000 and 12,000 down to 6,000. The never-ratified (but generally abided-by) START II Treaty cut forces by another 50 percent, down to between 3,000 and 3,500. The 2002 Moscow Treaty made further deep cuts, bringing each side down to between 1,700 and 2,200. And New START? It would bring the number on both sides down to 1,550.

The final figure of 1,550 warheads is plenty big enough to maintain America’s nuclear deterrence; actually, we will have more than that because for the purposes of the treaty B-2 and B-52, bombers are counted as one “warhead” even though they can carry dozens of nuclear warheads. Opponents of the treaty throw out all sorts of other objections, arguing that it would constrict the development of missile defenses or non-nuclear missiles; but no such prohibition is to be found in the language of the treaty.

Let me be clear. I do not buy the Obama administration’s rationales for the treaty. Administration officials cite the need to “reset” relations with Russian and to take a step toward the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons. I very much doubt that this treaty will do anything substantial to achieve either goal. We are likely to continue clashing with Russia diplomatically as long as it remains an authoritarian state. As for the quixotic goal of eliminating nuclear weapons: Suffice it to say, reductions in the American arsenal are not going to encourage North Korea or Iran to give up their nuclear programs. But nor will relatively modest reductions in our nuclear forces prevent us from vaporizing Iran or North Korea, should they use nuclear weapons against us or our allies.

One of the important benefits of the treaty is that, in the course of negotiations over ratification, Senate Republicans have won assurances from the administration that it will spend $80 billion over 10 years to modernize our nuclear program. Yet this doesn’t seem to be enough. Sen. Jon Kyl, who has been the lead GOP negotiator, now says he doesn’t want to see a vote during the lame-duck session.

As Kagan suggests, this will allow the administration to blame Republican “obstructionism” if and when relations with Russia deteriorate. Therefore, Republican foot-dragging on ratification isn’t smart politics. It’s not necessary for the national defense either. Republicans should keep their powder dry to fight off attempts to slash the defense budget — an issue that really could imperil our security. That will be harder to do, however, because there are a number of Republicans who appear willing to go along with defense cuts, even as they’re taking pot shots at the (largely symbolic) New START treaty.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Rep. Mark Kirk is stretching out his lead in Illinois. The last time his opponent led in a poll was October 11.

Pat Toomey is finishing strong in Pennsylvania.

If Obama is thinking of dumping Joe Biden, he can select Katie Couric as his VP. She sounds just like him: “Couric has spent recent weeks in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and New Brunswick, New Jersey. She is touring what she calls ‘this great unwashed middle of the country’ in an effort to divine the mood of the midterms.” Boston is the middle of the country?

Obama’s human rights policy is baffling. “On Monday, the Obama administration waived sections of a law meant to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers in Africa, paving the way for new military cooperation with four countries with poor human rights records — despite their use of underage troops. … So the Obama administration has determined that deepening military relationships with brutal dictatorships and unsavory regimes is the best way to reform them? That seems like a pretty big shift in policy. It still remains unclear what military assistance the United States actually plans to give to countries like Sudan, Chad, and Yemen, as well as how it will use its engagement to protect child soldiers.”

Rudy Giuliani (after one of the more bizarrely inept campaigns in recent memory) is considering another presidential run? I suppose this time he would compete before the Florida campaign.

Released from the hospital, Carly Fiorina is returning to the campaign. The race is still close, but no poll has shown her ahead.

If Obama is meeting with liberal bloggers less than a week before the election, the Dems are in a heap of trouble.

John Bolton sure is sounding presidential: “Dramatic developments in Europe in the past few weeks have graphically demonstrated the importance of America’s upcoming November 2 elections. Coming midway through President Obama’s term, there is little doubt these elections constitute a referendum on his philosophy, policies and performance. Any U.S. citizens who doubt the significance of their impending votes need only contemplate Europe to see the consequences of further pursuing the Obama agenda.”

Rep. Mark Kirk is stretching out his lead in Illinois. The last time his opponent led in a poll was October 11.

Pat Toomey is finishing strong in Pennsylvania.

If Obama is thinking of dumping Joe Biden, he can select Katie Couric as his VP. She sounds just like him: “Couric has spent recent weeks in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and New Brunswick, New Jersey. She is touring what she calls ‘this great unwashed middle of the country’ in an effort to divine the mood of the midterms.” Boston is the middle of the country?

Obama’s human rights policy is baffling. “On Monday, the Obama administration waived sections of a law meant to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers in Africa, paving the way for new military cooperation with four countries with poor human rights records — despite their use of underage troops. … So the Obama administration has determined that deepening military relationships with brutal dictatorships and unsavory regimes is the best way to reform them? That seems like a pretty big shift in policy. It still remains unclear what military assistance the United States actually plans to give to countries like Sudan, Chad, and Yemen, as well as how it will use its engagement to protect child soldiers.”

Rudy Giuliani (after one of the more bizarrely inept campaigns in recent memory) is considering another presidential run? I suppose this time he would compete before the Florida campaign.

Released from the hospital, Carly Fiorina is returning to the campaign. The race is still close, but no poll has shown her ahead.

If Obama is meeting with liberal bloggers less than a week before the election, the Dems are in a heap of trouble.

John Bolton sure is sounding presidential: “Dramatic developments in Europe in the past few weeks have graphically demonstrated the importance of America’s upcoming November 2 elections. Coming midway through President Obama’s term, there is little doubt these elections constitute a referendum on his philosophy, policies and performance. Any U.S. citizens who doubt the significance of their impending votes need only contemplate Europe to see the consequences of further pursuing the Obama agenda.”

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New Challenges for Pro-Israel Activists

Former UN ambassador John Bolton, as he is wont to do, sounds a warning:

Once past Nov. 2 and faced with the impending and embarrassing collapse of direct talks, President Obama may well be moved to punish Israel or at least fashion a teachable moment out of his diplomatic failure.

The Obama administration has a jaundiced view of Israel, but actual U.S. recognition of “Palestine” seems a remote prospect in the near term. The domestic political firestorm for the president—already likely to be badly wounded in midterm elections and deeply concerned about his own prospects in two years—would simply be too much.

A more indirect but still effective course is to let statehood emerge through a Security Council resolution. Prior U.S. administrations would unquestionably have voted “no,” thus vetoing such a proposal, but Mr. Obama’s penchant for publicly pressuring Israel is a foreshadow that Washington may decide not to play its traditional role. While even Mr. Obama is unlikely to instruct a “yes” vote on a Security Council resolution affirming a Palestinian state and subsequent U.N. membership, one could readily envision the administration abstaining. That would allow a near-certain majority, perhaps 14-0, to adopt the resolution.

In any other administration, this would be inconceivable; however, this administration is like no other. Yes, this would be a major step forward for the delegitimizers. (“By defining ‘Palestine’ to include territory Israel considers its own, such a resolution would delegitimize both Israel’s authority and settlements beyond the 1967 lines, and its goal of an undivided Jerusalem as its capital.”) Yes, it would be politically unpopular, given the country’s pro-Israel orientation. And yes, it would send a dangerous signal to Iran that Israel’s fate is not tied to our own, and that Israel’s existential threat is Israel’s problem alone.

But the possibility is real given Obama’s track record, the leaks about an imposed peace deal, and the president’s own rhetoric. (“In his September 2009 speech at the U.N., for example, he supported a Palestinian state ‘with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967.’”) So what should pro-Israel groups and lawmakers do?

Well, come January, one or both houses of Congress will be in GOP hands. It is time to start using the power of the bully pulpit (in the form of resolutions) and the purse (to defund the UN Human Rights Council, for example) to push back on the Obama assault on Israel.  A shot across the bow of the White House — a resolution condemning any effort to impose a deal or divide territory that does not arise from direct negotiations — would be a good start.

But as frightening a prospect as all this is, it pales in comparison to the threat to which Obama turns a blind eye: a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state. This is quite a bit more difficult. The Congress can’t order a military strike if needed. But here, too, pro-Israel advocates and lawmakers should not dally. A declaration of support for Israel, oversight hearings on the paltry results from sanctions, and a robust effort to inform and rally the American people are all needed. Mainstream Jewish pro-Israel groups have been befuddled by the administration, falling prey to the same non-direct, non-peace-talk obsession that has snared the Obami. They should reorient themselves to dual missions: heading off any scheme to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state and encouraging the administration to stand by its declaration that a nuclear-armed Iran is truly “unacceptable.”

Former UN ambassador John Bolton, as he is wont to do, sounds a warning:

Once past Nov. 2 and faced with the impending and embarrassing collapse of direct talks, President Obama may well be moved to punish Israel or at least fashion a teachable moment out of his diplomatic failure.

The Obama administration has a jaundiced view of Israel, but actual U.S. recognition of “Palestine” seems a remote prospect in the near term. The domestic political firestorm for the president—already likely to be badly wounded in midterm elections and deeply concerned about his own prospects in two years—would simply be too much.

A more indirect but still effective course is to let statehood emerge through a Security Council resolution. Prior U.S. administrations would unquestionably have voted “no,” thus vetoing such a proposal, but Mr. Obama’s penchant for publicly pressuring Israel is a foreshadow that Washington may decide not to play its traditional role. While even Mr. Obama is unlikely to instruct a “yes” vote on a Security Council resolution affirming a Palestinian state and subsequent U.N. membership, one could readily envision the administration abstaining. That would allow a near-certain majority, perhaps 14-0, to adopt the resolution.

In any other administration, this would be inconceivable; however, this administration is like no other. Yes, this would be a major step forward for the delegitimizers. (“By defining ‘Palestine’ to include territory Israel considers its own, such a resolution would delegitimize both Israel’s authority and settlements beyond the 1967 lines, and its goal of an undivided Jerusalem as its capital.”) Yes, it would be politically unpopular, given the country’s pro-Israel orientation. And yes, it would send a dangerous signal to Iran that Israel’s fate is not tied to our own, and that Israel’s existential threat is Israel’s problem alone.

But the possibility is real given Obama’s track record, the leaks about an imposed peace deal, and the president’s own rhetoric. (“In his September 2009 speech at the U.N., for example, he supported a Palestinian state ‘with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967.’”) So what should pro-Israel groups and lawmakers do?

Well, come January, one or both houses of Congress will be in GOP hands. It is time to start using the power of the bully pulpit (in the form of resolutions) and the purse (to defund the UN Human Rights Council, for example) to push back on the Obama assault on Israel.  A shot across the bow of the White House — a resolution condemning any effort to impose a deal or divide territory that does not arise from direct negotiations — would be a good start.

But as frightening a prospect as all this is, it pales in comparison to the threat to which Obama turns a blind eye: a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state. This is quite a bit more difficult. The Congress can’t order a military strike if needed. But here, too, pro-Israel advocates and lawmakers should not dally. A declaration of support for Israel, oversight hearings on the paltry results from sanctions, and a robust effort to inform and rally the American people are all needed. Mainstream Jewish pro-Israel groups have been befuddled by the administration, falling prey to the same non-direct, non-peace-talk obsession that has snared the Obami. They should reorient themselves to dual missions: heading off any scheme to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state and encouraging the administration to stand by its declaration that a nuclear-armed Iran is truly “unacceptable.”

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Christie Momentum?

Earlier this week, I remarked on Chris Christie’s YouTube stardom. I’m not the only one who’s taking him seriously. Matt Continetti thinks Christie may be the candidate the GOP base is looking for:

The New Jersey governor is touring the country in support of Republican candidates. He’s taken on the public sector unions. He’s made some hard calls. He speaks in a blunt, confrontational style. Yet he remains popular. Most striking, he’s a Republican from the Northeast who has national appeal. Last week Christie won a Tea Party presidential straw poll–in Virginia. In September, he came in second in another straw poll–held in Chicago.

Christie denies any interest in the top job. But he’s clearly a born executive. A pro-lifer, he has none of the social-issues baggage that has harmed Northeast Republicans in past primaries. He has a record to be proud of. He’s incredibly well spoken. Other than Paul Ryan, I can’t think of another Republican officeholder who gets conservatives as excited as Christie does.

He doesn’t have explicit foreign policy experience, although he did successfully prosecute a terrorist. (Nor do I see many other foreign policy mavens, other than John Bolton, considering a run. Now there’s a ticket!) And he says he really isn’t interested. But then so did Barak Obama a mere two years before he was elected president.

The Christie buzz will be followed by buzz for and about other potential candidates. But it reminds us that the field has hardly been set and that conservative activists are still shopping around for someone to excite them.

Earlier this week, I remarked on Chris Christie’s YouTube stardom. I’m not the only one who’s taking him seriously. Matt Continetti thinks Christie may be the candidate the GOP base is looking for:

The New Jersey governor is touring the country in support of Republican candidates. He’s taken on the public sector unions. He’s made some hard calls. He speaks in a blunt, confrontational style. Yet he remains popular. Most striking, he’s a Republican from the Northeast who has national appeal. Last week Christie won a Tea Party presidential straw poll–in Virginia. In September, he came in second in another straw poll–held in Chicago.

Christie denies any interest in the top job. But he’s clearly a born executive. A pro-lifer, he has none of the social-issues baggage that has harmed Northeast Republicans in past primaries. He has a record to be proud of. He’s incredibly well spoken. Other than Paul Ryan, I can’t think of another Republican officeholder who gets conservatives as excited as Christie does.

He doesn’t have explicit foreign policy experience, although he did successfully prosecute a terrorist. (Nor do I see many other foreign policy mavens, other than John Bolton, considering a run. Now there’s a ticket!) And he says he really isn’t interested. But then so did Barak Obama a mere two years before he was elected president.

The Christie buzz will be followed by buzz for and about other potential candidates. But it reminds us that the field has hardly been set and that conservative activists are still shopping around for someone to excite them.

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RE: Some Polls You Can Ignore

As I said earlier, the 2012 GOP field is far from set. Watch John Bolton, who seems to be considering a run, dissect Obama’s performance on foreign policy.

Even if he doesn’t win, he’s going to force other Republicans to focus on national security. For those who are planning on “using talking-point platitudes,” that could be a problem. You see, a presidential primary is not simply about who can win over the base; it is about who can convince the base that the other guys and gals aren’t up to speed.

As I said earlier, the 2012 GOP field is far from set. Watch John Bolton, who seems to be considering a run, dissect Obama’s performance on foreign policy.

Even if he doesn’t win, he’s going to force other Republicans to focus on national security. For those who are planning on “using talking-point platitudes,” that could be a problem. You see, a presidential primary is not simply about who can win over the base; it is about who can convince the base that the other guys and gals aren’t up to speed.

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Missing the Big Picture in Sudan

John Bolton has a good opinion piece about the upcoming (January 2011) referendum on independence for Southern Sudan. He points out that a break-up and its aftermath are likely to have repercussions for the internal ethnic disputes in many nations across Africa. The Obama administration, he says, is miscalculating badly in its carrot-and-stick approach to the Bashir government in Khartoum; its policy of “appeasing Khartoum” is only making the situation worse.

There are other considerations as well. Khartoum and the southern insurgency aren’t conducting their messy business in a vacuum. They’ve got plenty of outside help. China has been known for some years as the principal backer of the Bashir regime, but the southern insurgency is gaining patrons of its own from among the globe’s usual suspects in king-making and insurgency-arming. Russian and German international firms are taking out a big stake in Southern Sudan — and the Russians may be arming the South.

As Bolton notes, the majority of Sudan’s proven oil and gas reserves are concentrated in the territory that would go to the South in a break-up. Less visible to most Americans is the fact that the South is landlocked, and, under current conditions, largely inaccessible to modern transport facilities. The region’s aging and inadequate infrastructure has been an insuperable obstacle to independent economic development. This shortfall has made UN-contracted air links — in which Russian peacekeepers and aviation companies have figured prominently — a lifeline for Southern Sudan. It has also meant that any independence achieved by the South would be vulnerable and contingent.

This past weekend, however, African new outlets were full of a story that has been building since 2007. A consortium made up of German giant ThyssenKrupp, Russia’s MosMetrostroy, and the Texas-based firm Ayr Logistics Group will begin work in October on a long-planned modern rail line from Southern Sudan to Uganda — and ultimately, it is hoped, to the Kenyan ports of Mombasa and Lamu. This is somewhat more than just good news for Southern Sudan’s economic prospects. By promising to confer independent economic viability on the South, the rail project increases the stakes for everyone involved. From Khartoum’s perspective, the meaning of political independence for Southern Sudan will expand dramatically, and to Khartoum’s disadvantage, this would happen when the railroad becomes operational.

China has put a great deal into the national government in Khartoum and will view with disfavor the prospect of an economically connected South seceding with most of the oil and gas. Russia is positioned well to bolster the South’s bid for independence, however, with its commercial stake in the region’s development and its military force deployed with the UN peacekeepers. In a sign that Moscow recognizes the freighted significance of a North-South breakup, the Russians have recently sold the South 10 military transport helicopters, which can easily be fitted with weapons.

China also has a peacekeeping force in Darfur, however, and has been implicated this year in direct military support to the Bashir regime. The conditions are aligning for Sudan’s internal arrangements to become a proxy showdown for China and Russia, the world’s most brutal competitors for natural resources. Only one nation has the stature and power to discourage the Sudan question from hardening into such a proxy clash, to the detriment of the Sudanese people and the surrounding region. But as John Bolton observes, the U.S. administration is narrowly focused on incentivizing the Bashir regime with an all-carrot approach — a strategy that could hardly be surpassed for sheer uselessness.

John Bolton has a good opinion piece about the upcoming (January 2011) referendum on independence for Southern Sudan. He points out that a break-up and its aftermath are likely to have repercussions for the internal ethnic disputes in many nations across Africa. The Obama administration, he says, is miscalculating badly in its carrot-and-stick approach to the Bashir government in Khartoum; its policy of “appeasing Khartoum” is only making the situation worse.

There are other considerations as well. Khartoum and the southern insurgency aren’t conducting their messy business in a vacuum. They’ve got plenty of outside help. China has been known for some years as the principal backer of the Bashir regime, but the southern insurgency is gaining patrons of its own from among the globe’s usual suspects in king-making and insurgency-arming. Russian and German international firms are taking out a big stake in Southern Sudan — and the Russians may be arming the South.

As Bolton notes, the majority of Sudan’s proven oil and gas reserves are concentrated in the territory that would go to the South in a break-up. Less visible to most Americans is the fact that the South is landlocked, and, under current conditions, largely inaccessible to modern transport facilities. The region’s aging and inadequate infrastructure has been an insuperable obstacle to independent economic development. This shortfall has made UN-contracted air links — in which Russian peacekeepers and aviation companies have figured prominently — a lifeline for Southern Sudan. It has also meant that any independence achieved by the South would be vulnerable and contingent.

This past weekend, however, African new outlets were full of a story that has been building since 2007. A consortium made up of German giant ThyssenKrupp, Russia’s MosMetrostroy, and the Texas-based firm Ayr Logistics Group will begin work in October on a long-planned modern rail line from Southern Sudan to Uganda — and ultimately, it is hoped, to the Kenyan ports of Mombasa and Lamu. This is somewhat more than just good news for Southern Sudan’s economic prospects. By promising to confer independent economic viability on the South, the rail project increases the stakes for everyone involved. From Khartoum’s perspective, the meaning of political independence for Southern Sudan will expand dramatically, and to Khartoum’s disadvantage, this would happen when the railroad becomes operational.

China has put a great deal into the national government in Khartoum and will view with disfavor the prospect of an economically connected South seceding with most of the oil and gas. Russia is positioned well to bolster the South’s bid for independence, however, with its commercial stake in the region’s development and its military force deployed with the UN peacekeepers. In a sign that Moscow recognizes the freighted significance of a North-South breakup, the Russians have recently sold the South 10 military transport helicopters, which can easily be fitted with weapons.

China also has a peacekeeping force in Darfur, however, and has been implicated this year in direct military support to the Bashir regime. The conditions are aligning for Sudan’s internal arrangements to become a proxy showdown for China and Russia, the world’s most brutal competitors for natural resources. Only one nation has the stature and power to discourage the Sudan question from hardening into such a proxy clash, to the detriment of the Sudanese people and the surrounding region. But as John Bolton observes, the U.S. administration is narrowly focused on incentivizing the Bashir regime with an all-carrot approach — a strategy that could hardly be surpassed for sheer uselessness.

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What’s the Problem?

Ambassador John Bolton comments via e-mail on the Emergency Committee for Israel:

I don’t understand why so many people accept the Obama Administration’s ritualistic recital of the pro-Israel catechism, rather than looking at its specific policies and actions. You can say “unbreakable relationship” as many times as you want, but it has no real-world impact. I don’t see how anybody can object to a new group that simply points out the obvious disjunction between what Obama and his acolytes are saying and what they are actually doing.

Indeed. The reaction on the left will speak volumes about its sensitivity on just this point. Are the leftists pro-Obama’s-Israel-policy, or are they truly pro-Israel? There is a difference, one they’d rather not have highlighted, especially in an election year.

Ambassador John Bolton comments via e-mail on the Emergency Committee for Israel:

I don’t understand why so many people accept the Obama Administration’s ritualistic recital of the pro-Israel catechism, rather than looking at its specific policies and actions. You can say “unbreakable relationship” as many times as you want, but it has no real-world impact. I don’t see how anybody can object to a new group that simply points out the obvious disjunction between what Obama and his acolytes are saying and what they are actually doing.

Indeed. The reaction on the left will speak volumes about its sensitivity on just this point. Are the leftists pro-Obama’s-Israel-policy, or are they truly pro-Israel? There is a difference, one they’d rather not have highlighted, especially in an election year.

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UAE Ambassador: Benefits of Attacking Iran Outweigh Risks

President Obama, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullins, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have all pooh-poohed the use of force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The Obami have relied on “linkage” to justify their fixation on the “peace process” — i.e., the idea that progress there is needed to make progress in stopping the Iranian nuclear program. But Israel’s neighbors have a different idea. The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is “unacceptable” to them — and they really mean it — just as it is to the Jewish state. The latest indication comes in this report from Eli Lake:

The United Arab Emirates ambassador to the United States said Tuesday that the benefits of bombing Iran’s nuclear program outweigh the short-term costs such an attack would impose.

In unusually blunt remarks, Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba publicly endorsed the use of the military option for countering Iran’s nuclear program, if sanctions fail to stop the country’s quest for nuclear weapons.

“I think it’s a cost-benefit analysis,” Mr. al-Otaiba said. “I think despite the large amount of trade we do with Iran, which is close to $12 billion — there will be consequences, there will be a backlash and there will be problems with people protesting and rioting and very unhappy that there is an outside force attacking a Muslim country, that is going to happen no matter what.”

“If you are asking me, ‘Am I willing to live with that versus living with a nuclear Iran?,’ my answer is still the same: ‘We cannot live with a nuclear Iran.’ I am willing to absorb what takes place at the expense of the security of the UAE.”

John Bolton, as well as many other Middle East hands who regularly visit the region, confirms that in private, a number of other Arab leaders have said the same thing. So perhaps we can dispense with the fruitless “peace process,” round up a coalition of the willing (it is a catchy term), and make clear to Iran that if it does not voluntarily give up its nuclear program, it will face an alliance that will “disarm” it.

Indeed, it is the absence of such activity and the fixation on a “peace progress” that is going nowhere that should concern Jewish groups. Instead they cheer loudly that Obama is shaking Bibi’s hand in public and that Bibi is offering something or other in the proximity talks with Palestinians, who lack the will and ability to make peace. Don’t get me wrong — having Obama confirm that the bond between the countries is “unbreakable” is better than nothing. But what real content does it have? Does that bond extend to guaranteeing that Israel does not face an existential threat?

Unfortunately, Jewish groups and pro-Israel lawmakers have been suckered into the peace-process obsession, calling for more negotiations after the flotilla incident, after the Jerusalem housing spat,  and as Iran continues its quest to acquire nuclear weapons. It is more than a nervous tic — it is a wrongheaded attachment to a process that is going nowhere at the expense of focusing on dire issues.

The UAE ambassador has his eye on the ball. Maybe he can have a chat with Mullins and explain what is truly destabilizing, and unimaginable, for the moderate Arab states of the region.

President Obama, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullins, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have all pooh-poohed the use of force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The Obami have relied on “linkage” to justify their fixation on the “peace process” — i.e., the idea that progress there is needed to make progress in stopping the Iranian nuclear program. But Israel’s neighbors have a different idea. The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is “unacceptable” to them — and they really mean it — just as it is to the Jewish state. The latest indication comes in this report from Eli Lake:

The United Arab Emirates ambassador to the United States said Tuesday that the benefits of bombing Iran’s nuclear program outweigh the short-term costs such an attack would impose.

In unusually blunt remarks, Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba publicly endorsed the use of the military option for countering Iran’s nuclear program, if sanctions fail to stop the country’s quest for nuclear weapons.

“I think it’s a cost-benefit analysis,” Mr. al-Otaiba said. “I think despite the large amount of trade we do with Iran, which is close to $12 billion — there will be consequences, there will be a backlash and there will be problems with people protesting and rioting and very unhappy that there is an outside force attacking a Muslim country, that is going to happen no matter what.”

“If you are asking me, ‘Am I willing to live with that versus living with a nuclear Iran?,’ my answer is still the same: ‘We cannot live with a nuclear Iran.’ I am willing to absorb what takes place at the expense of the security of the UAE.”

John Bolton, as well as many other Middle East hands who regularly visit the region, confirms that in private, a number of other Arab leaders have said the same thing. So perhaps we can dispense with the fruitless “peace process,” round up a coalition of the willing (it is a catchy term), and make clear to Iran that if it does not voluntarily give up its nuclear program, it will face an alliance that will “disarm” it.

Indeed, it is the absence of such activity and the fixation on a “peace progress” that is going nowhere that should concern Jewish groups. Instead they cheer loudly that Obama is shaking Bibi’s hand in public and that Bibi is offering something or other in the proximity talks with Palestinians, who lack the will and ability to make peace. Don’t get me wrong — having Obama confirm that the bond between the countries is “unbreakable” is better than nothing. But what real content does it have? Does that bond extend to guaranteeing that Israel does not face an existential threat?

Unfortunately, Jewish groups and pro-Israel lawmakers have been suckered into the peace-process obsession, calling for more negotiations after the flotilla incident, after the Jerusalem housing spat,  and as Iran continues its quest to acquire nuclear weapons. It is more than a nervous tic — it is a wrongheaded attachment to a process that is going nowhere at the expense of focusing on dire issues.

The UAE ambassador has his eye on the ball. Maybe he can have a chat with Mullins and explain what is truly destabilizing, and unimaginable, for the moderate Arab states of the region.

Read Less

Delegitimizing the Delegitimizers

In the Knesset, Bibi went after international efforts to delegitimize Israel:

“They want to strip us of the natural right to defend ourselves. When we defend ourselves against rocket attack, we are accused of war crimes. We cannot board sea vessels when our soldiers are being attacked and fired upon, because that is a war crime.”

“They are essentially saying that the Jewish nation does not have the right to defend itself against the most brutal attacks and it doesn’t have the right to prevent additional weapons from entering territories from which it is attacked,” he said.

Netanyahu stressed that Israel has taken steps to push forward a resolution with the Palestinians though they have not reciprocated the gesture.

“The Palestinian side promoted the Goldstone report, organized boycotts, and tried to prevent our entrance into the OECD. The Palestinian Authority has no intentions of engaging in direct talks with us,” Netanyahu exclaimed.

Israel’s enemies have been at this for some time. But the efforts to use international organizations to delegitimize and constrain Israel have accelerated under Obama for at least three reasons.

First, he’s raised the profile of international organizations, conferred on them new prestige, elevated gangs of thugs like the UN Human Rights Council, and made clear that international consensus is near and dear to him, a priority above many other foreign policy goals. This has emboldened Israel’s foes, who now enjoy more respect and more visibility. Because Obama has put such a high price on consensus in these bodies and on internationalizing decisions, he is handing a veto to the more aggressively anti-Israel members.

Second, the U.S. has done nothing to discourage or rebut the delegitimizing. We’ve sat mutely when the UN Human Rights Council has condemned Israel. We haven’t denounced or even chastised the Israel-bashers. When Jeane Kirkpatrick or John Bolton held their posts, you would at least see the Israel-haters’ arguments demolished and their representatives put in their place. No such defense is offered these days by Susan Rice.

And finally, Obama  outside the confines of these bodies, has signaled that it’s fine to slap Israel around. When the American government condemns Israel, others are sure to follow. He’s announced his intention to put daylight between the U.S. and the Jewish state, which tells the Israel-haters they have a green light to take their own swings.

So if the goal were to delegitimize the delegitimizers, then we should do the opposite of what the Obama team has been doing. We should try to reduce the importance and prestige of these bodies while elevating that of democratic alliances. We should forcefully refute the arguments and resolutions and wield our veto. We should not participate in, fund, nor countenance assaults on Israel’s legitimacy and right to defend and manage its own affairs. And finally, we should in word and deed stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel, making clear that those who take on Israel will pay a price — financial, diplomatic, or otherwise. None of this will end the attempts at delegitimizing, but it may give those on the fence second thoughts about joining in the efforts and discourage those who now believe they can act with impunity. Right now the incentives are all going in the wrong direction.

In the Knesset, Bibi went after international efforts to delegitimize Israel:

“They want to strip us of the natural right to defend ourselves. When we defend ourselves against rocket attack, we are accused of war crimes. We cannot board sea vessels when our soldiers are being attacked and fired upon, because that is a war crime.”

“They are essentially saying that the Jewish nation does not have the right to defend itself against the most brutal attacks and it doesn’t have the right to prevent additional weapons from entering territories from which it is attacked,” he said.

Netanyahu stressed that Israel has taken steps to push forward a resolution with the Palestinians though they have not reciprocated the gesture.

“The Palestinian side promoted the Goldstone report, organized boycotts, and tried to prevent our entrance into the OECD. The Palestinian Authority has no intentions of engaging in direct talks with us,” Netanyahu exclaimed.

Israel’s enemies have been at this for some time. But the efforts to use international organizations to delegitimize and constrain Israel have accelerated under Obama for at least three reasons.

First, he’s raised the profile of international organizations, conferred on them new prestige, elevated gangs of thugs like the UN Human Rights Council, and made clear that international consensus is near and dear to him, a priority above many other foreign policy goals. This has emboldened Israel’s foes, who now enjoy more respect and more visibility. Because Obama has put such a high price on consensus in these bodies and on internationalizing decisions, he is handing a veto to the more aggressively anti-Israel members.

Second, the U.S. has done nothing to discourage or rebut the delegitimizing. We’ve sat mutely when the UN Human Rights Council has condemned Israel. We haven’t denounced or even chastised the Israel-bashers. When Jeane Kirkpatrick or John Bolton held their posts, you would at least see the Israel-haters’ arguments demolished and their representatives put in their place. No such defense is offered these days by Susan Rice.

And finally, Obama  outside the confines of these bodies, has signaled that it’s fine to slap Israel around. When the American government condemns Israel, others are sure to follow. He’s announced his intention to put daylight between the U.S. and the Jewish state, which tells the Israel-haters they have a green light to take their own swings.

So if the goal were to delegitimize the delegitimizers, then we should do the opposite of what the Obama team has been doing. We should try to reduce the importance and prestige of these bodies while elevating that of democratic alliances. We should forcefully refute the arguments and resolutions and wield our veto. We should not participate in, fund, nor countenance assaults on Israel’s legitimacy and right to defend and manage its own affairs. And finally, we should in word and deed stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel, making clear that those who take on Israel will pay a price — financial, diplomatic, or otherwise. None of this will end the attempts at delegitimizing, but it may give those on the fence second thoughts about joining in the efforts and discourage those who now believe they can act with impunity. Right now the incentives are all going in the wrong direction.

Read Less

An Alternative to the Insiders’ Game

There is reason to despair when reviewing the performance of mainstream Jewish groups over the past 18 months. Their leaders and members are troubled and angry over Obama’s assault on Israel, and they are waking to the realization that there is no game plan that will thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions. Nevertheless, they can’t bear to break with the president, whom so many worked so arduously to elect (and to convince others he was truly Israel’s friend). They have been unable to break free of their business-as-usual approach to U.S. policymakers – don’t openly challenge those in power, seek the broadest support for what inevitably becomes mushy affirmations of pro-Israel sentiments, and cling to the notion that by their “behind-the-scenes” dealings and cozy White House meetings they are doing their job and promoting a healthy U.S.-Israel relationship.

What they seem to be missing — or can’t bear to come to terms with — is that the insiders’ game only works when it is essentially unneeded. When the White House is pro-Israel, and when lawmakers are disposed to maintain bipartisan funding and support for Israel, all that is required is to pat the friendly incumbents on the back and call out the few antagonistic voices. But that situation is a distant memory in the Obama era. So it should not be surprising that their strategy has been an abysmal failure and that these groups seem more farcical and less relevant with each new Obama attack on Israel.

Now, there is another approach – one better suited to the urgent times in which we find ourselves and that is appropriate in the face of an administration hostile to the Jewish state. Take a look at the Friends of Israel Initiative and its impressive statement of convictions. (The signatories include José María Aznar, prime minister of Spain from 1996 to 2004; George Weigel; and COMMENTARY contributors John Bolton and Andrew Roberts.) The statement begins:

1. Israel is a Western country. With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.

2. Israel´s right to exist should not be questioned. In the face of a uniquely campaign of deligitimation, we remind all people of goodwill of the true historical context in which the State of Israel was re-established following United Nations Resolution 181 in 1947. We state emphatically that that decision to recognize the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination was not merely a gesture of compassion following the horrors that had befallen the Jewish people during the Holocaust. It was, above all, a recognition of the right of the Jewish people to establish a sovereign state on land in which they have had an enduring presence and to which they have had a historical claim for thousands of years.

The third is particularly noteworthy:

3. Israel, as a sovereign country, has the right to self-defense. Israel is indeed a normal Western country, but it is one which faces unique threats and challenges. Israel is the only state in the world forced to fight one war after another to secure its very existence. Confronting some of the most violent and well equipped terrorist groups in the world it is also the only country whose right to self-defense is consistently and widely questioned. Today, Israel has been forced to fight on two fronts: one to defend its borders and another to defend its legitimacy. We stand with Israel, and demand that it be accorded the same legitimacy and the same right to defend itself as any other Western country. Human rights statutes designed to defend the dignity of people everywhere, laws on universal jurisdiction intended to be used against criminals and tyrants and international bodies established to secure justice, have been subverted, their guiding principles stood on their head, to wage war against Israeli democracy. The campaign against Israel is corroding the international system from within.

It is essential, given the Obama administration’s false pledges of devotion and the “tough” love (minus the love) emanating from “liberal Zionists,” to restate what it means to be “pro-Israel” and what essential task that entails: those in power have to be held accountable for their actions, not their self-described feelings toward Israel. To the extent that mainstream Jewish groups are failing to do so, they are camouflaging the problem (namely, the shift in U.S. policy away from Israel) and providing cover for those whose policies are antithetical to the survival of the Jewish state and a robust U.S.-Israel relationship.  For fear of annoying Obama and losing their precious access to the inner sanctums of policymakers, they do damage to their own credibility and the goals of their own organizations. That creates an opening for groups like the Friends of Israel Initiative.

There is reason to despair when reviewing the performance of mainstream Jewish groups over the past 18 months. Their leaders and members are troubled and angry over Obama’s assault on Israel, and they are waking to the realization that there is no game plan that will thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions. Nevertheless, they can’t bear to break with the president, whom so many worked so arduously to elect (and to convince others he was truly Israel’s friend). They have been unable to break free of their business-as-usual approach to U.S. policymakers – don’t openly challenge those in power, seek the broadest support for what inevitably becomes mushy affirmations of pro-Israel sentiments, and cling to the notion that by their “behind-the-scenes” dealings and cozy White House meetings they are doing their job and promoting a healthy U.S.-Israel relationship.

What they seem to be missing — or can’t bear to come to terms with — is that the insiders’ game only works when it is essentially unneeded. When the White House is pro-Israel, and when lawmakers are disposed to maintain bipartisan funding and support for Israel, all that is required is to pat the friendly incumbents on the back and call out the few antagonistic voices. But that situation is a distant memory in the Obama era. So it should not be surprising that their strategy has been an abysmal failure and that these groups seem more farcical and less relevant with each new Obama attack on Israel.

Now, there is another approach – one better suited to the urgent times in which we find ourselves and that is appropriate in the face of an administration hostile to the Jewish state. Take a look at the Friends of Israel Initiative and its impressive statement of convictions. (The signatories include José María Aznar, prime minister of Spain from 1996 to 2004; George Weigel; and COMMENTARY contributors John Bolton and Andrew Roberts.) The statement begins:

1. Israel is a Western country. With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.

2. Israel´s right to exist should not be questioned. In the face of a uniquely campaign of deligitimation, we remind all people of goodwill of the true historical context in which the State of Israel was re-established following United Nations Resolution 181 in 1947. We state emphatically that that decision to recognize the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination was not merely a gesture of compassion following the horrors that had befallen the Jewish people during the Holocaust. It was, above all, a recognition of the right of the Jewish people to establish a sovereign state on land in which they have had an enduring presence and to which they have had a historical claim for thousands of years.

The third is particularly noteworthy:

3. Israel, as a sovereign country, has the right to self-defense. Israel is indeed a normal Western country, but it is one which faces unique threats and challenges. Israel is the only state in the world forced to fight one war after another to secure its very existence. Confronting some of the most violent and well equipped terrorist groups in the world it is also the only country whose right to self-defense is consistently and widely questioned. Today, Israel has been forced to fight on two fronts: one to defend its borders and another to defend its legitimacy. We stand with Israel, and demand that it be accorded the same legitimacy and the same right to defend itself as any other Western country. Human rights statutes designed to defend the dignity of people everywhere, laws on universal jurisdiction intended to be used against criminals and tyrants and international bodies established to secure justice, have been subverted, their guiding principles stood on their head, to wage war against Israeli democracy. The campaign against Israel is corroding the international system from within.

It is essential, given the Obama administration’s false pledges of devotion and the “tough” love (minus the love) emanating from “liberal Zionists,” to restate what it means to be “pro-Israel” and what essential task that entails: those in power have to be held accountable for their actions, not their self-described feelings toward Israel. To the extent that mainstream Jewish groups are failing to do so, they are camouflaging the problem (namely, the shift in U.S. policy away from Israel) and providing cover for those whose policies are antithetical to the survival of the Jewish state and a robust U.S.-Israel relationship.  For fear of annoying Obama and losing their precious access to the inner sanctums of policymakers, they do damage to their own credibility and the goals of their own organizations. That creates an opening for groups like the Friends of Israel Initiative.

Read Less

The Irish and the Flotilla Inquiry

The addition of Lord David Trimble, the former Northern Irish Unionist leader who won a Nobel Peace Prize for helping end the conflict in that province, to the Israeli commission investigating the Gaza flotilla controversy appears to illustrate the fault lines that have developed in Europe, and especially in Ireland, about the Middle East. As Robert Mackey writes in the New York Times blog, the Lede, Trimble’s inclusion in the inquiry has been greeted with dismay in Ireland because the country appears to be a stronghold for anti-Israel sentiment.

Part of the problem is that Trimble recently joined with other major figures including former American UN ambassador John Bolton and British historian Andrew Roberts (both COMMENTARY contributors) and former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in a group that seeks to defend Israel’s right to exist within defensible borders. That articulating such a stand is considered controversial speaks volumes about just how virulent the spirit of anti-Zionism is in Europe. Regarding Ireland, Mackey quotes some commentators who allude to a tradition of support for Israel on the part of Ulster Protestants while Catholics in the North as well as in the Irish Republic in the South appear to favor the Palestinians. Ireland, the place where the term boycott was coined during the struggle against the British, has seen a number of attempts to stigmatize Israel and even, in a bit of historical irony, the boycotting of Israeli potatoes.

Why is this so? Last week Senator Feargal Quinn, an Independent and the lone supporter of Israel in the Irish Senate, told the BBC that Irish anti-Semitism was a major factor behind the anti-Israel incitement that has become standard fare in his country.

But the explanation also has to do with the fact that in the postwar era, Irish insurgents came to see themselves as part of a global Marxist revolutionary camp rather than as part of a Western revolutionary tradition that looked to America as its model. Indeed, a representative of Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army, the terrorist group that laid down its arms as a result of the peace that Trimble helped forge, denounced Trimble’s participation in what they assumed would be a whitewash of international piracy.

Ironically, there was a time when Jews who were fighting the British to create a Jewish state in Palestine looked to Ireland for examples of how to fight for freedom. Menachem Begin, who led the pre-state Irgun underground for decades before becoming Israel’s prime minister, specifically took the IRA (the version that fought the British on behalf of a democratically-elected Irish Parliament, not the Marxist version) as his role model. Indeed, another Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, took the name “Michael” as his code name during his time in the anti-British underground in honor of Michael Collins.

And therein hangs the difference between Ireland’s struggle and that of the Palestinians.

Michael Collins, who led the IRA against the Brits during the 1918-1922 “Black and Tan War,” accepted partition of the country as the price of peace and Irish independence in the South. He paid for this with his life when IRA extremists assassinated him. But the peace he made stood the test of time. By contrast, the Palestinians, who are cheered in the Irish Republic, whose independence was bought with Collins’s blood, have consistently refused to accept a partition of the country or to make peace with Israel under any circumstances. Unlike Irish nationalists, who didn’t want to destroy Britain but just wanted to make it leave Ireland, the Palestinians are not fighting so much for their own independence (which they could have had at any time in the last 63 years, had they wanted it) but to eradicate Israel. It’s sad that the Irish identification with the Palestinian “underdog” has left the Irish indifferent to the rights of another people — the Jews — who, like the Irish, sought to revive their ancient culture, language, and identity, while living in freedom in their homeland.

The addition of Lord David Trimble, the former Northern Irish Unionist leader who won a Nobel Peace Prize for helping end the conflict in that province, to the Israeli commission investigating the Gaza flotilla controversy appears to illustrate the fault lines that have developed in Europe, and especially in Ireland, about the Middle East. As Robert Mackey writes in the New York Times blog, the Lede, Trimble’s inclusion in the inquiry has been greeted with dismay in Ireland because the country appears to be a stronghold for anti-Israel sentiment.

Part of the problem is that Trimble recently joined with other major figures including former American UN ambassador John Bolton and British historian Andrew Roberts (both COMMENTARY contributors) and former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in a group that seeks to defend Israel’s right to exist within defensible borders. That articulating such a stand is considered controversial speaks volumes about just how virulent the spirit of anti-Zionism is in Europe. Regarding Ireland, Mackey quotes some commentators who allude to a tradition of support for Israel on the part of Ulster Protestants while Catholics in the North as well as in the Irish Republic in the South appear to favor the Palestinians. Ireland, the place where the term boycott was coined during the struggle against the British, has seen a number of attempts to stigmatize Israel and even, in a bit of historical irony, the boycotting of Israeli potatoes.

Why is this so? Last week Senator Feargal Quinn, an Independent and the lone supporter of Israel in the Irish Senate, told the BBC that Irish anti-Semitism was a major factor behind the anti-Israel incitement that has become standard fare in his country.

But the explanation also has to do with the fact that in the postwar era, Irish insurgents came to see themselves as part of a global Marxist revolutionary camp rather than as part of a Western revolutionary tradition that looked to America as its model. Indeed, a representative of Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army, the terrorist group that laid down its arms as a result of the peace that Trimble helped forge, denounced Trimble’s participation in what they assumed would be a whitewash of international piracy.

Ironically, there was a time when Jews who were fighting the British to create a Jewish state in Palestine looked to Ireland for examples of how to fight for freedom. Menachem Begin, who led the pre-state Irgun underground for decades before becoming Israel’s prime minister, specifically took the IRA (the version that fought the British on behalf of a democratically-elected Irish Parliament, not the Marxist version) as his role model. Indeed, another Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, took the name “Michael” as his code name during his time in the anti-British underground in honor of Michael Collins.

And therein hangs the difference between Ireland’s struggle and that of the Palestinians.

Michael Collins, who led the IRA against the Brits during the 1918-1922 “Black and Tan War,” accepted partition of the country as the price of peace and Irish independence in the South. He paid for this with his life when IRA extremists assassinated him. But the peace he made stood the test of time. By contrast, the Palestinians, who are cheered in the Irish Republic, whose independence was bought with Collins’s blood, have consistently refused to accept a partition of the country or to make peace with Israel under any circumstances. Unlike Irish nationalists, who didn’t want to destroy Britain but just wanted to make it leave Ireland, the Palestinians are not fighting so much for their own independence (which they could have had at any time in the last 63 years, had they wanted it) but to eradicate Israel. It’s sad that the Irish identification with the Palestinian “underdog” has left the Irish indifferent to the rights of another people — the Jews — who, like the Irish, sought to revive their ancient culture, language, and identity, while living in freedom in their homeland.

Read Less




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