Commentary Magazine


Topic: John Mearsheimer

The Reality of Structural Realism

To add to Ira Stoll’s post criticizing Kenneth Waltz’s op-ed reassuring us that Iranian nukes are not worrisome, it’s important to put Waltz’s remarks in context. Specifically, they must be understood within the neorealist school of international relations which he – a highly respected academic – effectively founded.

Neorealism, or Structural Realism, considers the actions of states to be conditioned by the structure of the international system, which is fundamentally anarchic. The struggle against anarchy determines the policy of states, which all ultimately seek security. That means that when one state rises in power, others will seek to balance that power. Hence Waltz’s view that the Iranian drive for nuclear weapons is motivated by concern about Israel’s alleged nuclear capability, and that, upon achieving parity, there will be balance and stability. Read More

To add to Ira Stoll’s post criticizing Kenneth Waltz’s op-ed reassuring us that Iranian nukes are not worrisome, it’s important to put Waltz’s remarks in context. Specifically, they must be understood within the neorealist school of international relations which he – a highly respected academic – effectively founded.

Neorealism, or Structural Realism, considers the actions of states to be conditioned by the structure of the international system, which is fundamentally anarchic. The struggle against anarchy determines the policy of states, which all ultimately seek security. That means that when one state rises in power, others will seek to balance that power. Hence Waltz’s view that the Iranian drive for nuclear weapons is motivated by concern about Israel’s alleged nuclear capability, and that, upon achieving parity, there will be balance and stability.

The problem with structural realism – its limited analytic value notwithstanding – (as with all structural theories) is that it largely evacuates notions of ideas and agency from world affairs: facts such as Israel’s democratic politics as compared with Iranian theocracy, or the caprices of dictators, or domestic politics, and so forth, do not drastically change a state’s aspirations and behavior. Yet these facts are so critical to any reasonable observer – and, in the case of the Middle East, that includes all the Arab regimes, who have never shown the sort of alarm toward Israel’s supposed nuclear capability that they have toward Iran’s. This reality fatally undermines Waltz’s thesis.

Incidentally, the case of Israel has also undermined the approach of another structural realist, John Mearsheimer. Though his perspective differs slightly from Waltz’s, his obsession with the power of the ‘‘Israel lobby’’ in the United States is inconsistent with his theory that domestic politics are largely irrelevant to the actions of states.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Israel, anomalous in so many ways, has ruptured the theories of both of these leading IR theorists. In Mearsheimer’s case, he has in effect abandoned his entire life’s work by indulging his prejudice; in Waltz’s case, he has illustrated the poverty of his theory by presenting such an outlandish analysis and offering policy prescriptions so disconnected from reality.

This is important to remember when encountering academics who are unsympathetic or hostile to Israel: sometimes the scholar’s view is simply the product of a broader theoretical perspective. That of course doesn’t make the theory correct – after all, these scholars do work in ivory towers – but it does mitigate the nefariousness of their intentions. That said, sometimes they really are just haters.

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Beinart’s Slippery Slope of Delegitimization

Omri ably dismantles the justification for Peter Beinart’s latest back-of-the-classroom arm-waving attempt to get attention by writing in approval of a limited boycott, divestment and sanctions strategy against the Israelis who don’t share his liberal opinions. The most obvious issue is that it is a slippery slope that will never simply remain targeting only settlements. (There are also other very good reasons to oppose the policy, as Omri notes as well.)

But there is another aspect of Beinart’s suggestion that is, like his BDS suggestion, both morally reprehensible and a dangerous slippery slope. That would be Beinart’s suggestion that we divide Israelis between those who live within the 1949 armistice line (good) and those who live beyond it (bad). Here is Beinart:

Instead, we should call the West Bank “nondemocratic Israel.” The phrase suggests that there are today two Israels: a flawed but genuine democracy within the green line and an ethnically-based nondemocracy beyond it. It counters efforts by Israel’s leaders to use the legitimacy of democratic Israel to legitimize the occupation and by Israel’s adversaries to use the illegitimacy of the occupation to delegitimize democratic Israel.

Having made that rhetorical distinction, American Jews should seek every opportunity to reinforce it.

Such list making is an atrocious excuse for reasoned debate, even without the slippery slope that will follow.

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Omri ably dismantles the justification for Peter Beinart’s latest back-of-the-classroom arm-waving attempt to get attention by writing in approval of a limited boycott, divestment and sanctions strategy against the Israelis who don’t share his liberal opinions. The most obvious issue is that it is a slippery slope that will never simply remain targeting only settlements. (There are also other very good reasons to oppose the policy, as Omri notes as well.)

But there is another aspect of Beinart’s suggestion that is, like his BDS suggestion, both morally reprehensible and a dangerous slippery slope. That would be Beinart’s suggestion that we divide Israelis between those who live within the 1949 armistice line (good) and those who live beyond it (bad). Here is Beinart:

Instead, we should call the West Bank “nondemocratic Israel.” The phrase suggests that there are today two Israels: a flawed but genuine democracy within the green line and an ethnically-based nondemocracy beyond it. It counters efforts by Israel’s leaders to use the legitimacy of democratic Israel to legitimize the occupation and by Israel’s adversaries to use the illegitimacy of the occupation to delegitimize democratic Israel.

Having made that rhetorical distinction, American Jews should seek every opportunity to reinforce it.

Such list making is an atrocious excuse for reasoned debate, even without the slippery slope that will follow.

The slippery slope, of course, is that the “legitimate” vs. “illegitimate” argument will immediately be applied to those, anywhere and anytime, who voice any support for the Jews Beinart says to stay away from. When reading Beinart’s proposed division, I immediately remembered hearing this before. It was, in fact, John Mearsheimer who proposed the formulation. (See Michael’s post for some more on Mearsheimer.) In a speech in April 2010, the noted conspiracy theorist offered two categories of Jews: “righteous Jews” and the “new Afrikaners” (there was a third category of the fence-sitters as well). Both Beinart and Mearsheimer want to draw these lines to save Israel from itself. Beinart warns:

If Israel makes the occupation permanent and Zionism ceases to be a democratic project, Israel’s foes will eventually overthrow Zionism itself.

We are closer to that day than many American Jews want to admit. Sticking to the old comfortable ways endangers Israel’s democratic future. If we want to effectively oppose the forces that threaten Israel from without, we must also oppose the forces that threaten it from within.

And here is Mearsheimer:

What is truly remarkable about this situation is that the Israel lobby is effectively helping Israel commit national suicide. Israel, after all, is turning itself into an apartheid state, which, as Ehud Olmert has pointed out, is not sustainable in the modern era…. It is hard to understand why Israel and its American supporters are not working overtime to create a viable Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories and why instead they are moving full-speed ahead to build Greater Israel, which will be an apartheid state. It makes no sense from either a moral or a strategic perspective.

At the time of Mearsheimer’s speech, those who occasionally defend Beinart excoriated Mearsheimer. Jeffrey Goldberg, for example, thought Mearsheimer’s speech sounded an awful lot like the leftwing anti-Semite of the Roosevelt era, Father Coughlin. He reproduced a quote that Meryl Yourish found from one of Coughlin’s speeches:

My purpose is to help eradicate from the world its mania for persecution, to help align all good men. Catholic and Protestant, Jew and Gentile, Christian and non-Christian, in a battle to stamp out the ferocity, the barbarism and the hate of this bloody era. I want the good Jews with me, and I’m called a Jew-baiter, an anti-Semite.

Goldberg added that what he finds most interesting about Mearsheimer “is how his understanding of Jews and their nefarious role in American (sic) and in the world has caused him to abandon the principles of foreign policy realism that he advocated in his previous career, the reputable career he had before the Jews conquered his brain.”

And apparently Mearsheimer’s cautionary tale couldn’t prevent them from conquering Beinart’s as well. No doubt Beinart’s vapid, vainglorious crusade to lead the good Jews against who he characterizes as consisting in part of “poor Sephardic, Russian and ultra-Orthodox Jews” will be treated with the same revulsion. Beinart may, as he says, care deeply about Jewish survival. But echoing Mearsheimer is a funny way to show it.

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Mearsheimer’s Conspiracies Get Wackier

On Sunday, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation aired a feature examining the special relationship between Israel and the United States. The special included three academics and John Mearsheimer, of The Israel Lobby fame. Mearsheimer outdid himself.

Mearsheimer’s misreads why successive U.S. administrations embraced Israel from the Kennedy administration onwards. President Eisenhower, of course, sought to cast his lot with the Arabs—handing Arab nationalist leader Gamal Abdul Nasser his greatest victory—but learned quickly that Arab states made poor allies. Israel may have been only one state among many in the Middle East, but each White House quickly learned that against the context of the Cold War, Israel had America’s back.

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On Sunday, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation aired a feature examining the special relationship between Israel and the United States. The special included three academics and John Mearsheimer, of The Israel Lobby fame. Mearsheimer outdid himself.

Mearsheimer’s misreads why successive U.S. administrations embraced Israel from the Kennedy administration onwards. President Eisenhower, of course, sought to cast his lot with the Arabs—handing Arab nationalist leader Gamal Abdul Nasser his greatest victory—but learned quickly that Arab states made poor allies. Israel may have been only one state among many in the Middle East, but each White House quickly learned that against the context of the Cold War, Israel had America’s back.

As Mearsheimer heads to the present day, he rehashes his usual talking “It’s also important to recognize that supporters of Israel have great influence in the American media,” he claims although, fortunately, he leaves out the lobby’s penchant for making Hamantaschen from the blood of Christian children.

That Mearsheimer claims, “there’s no meaningful Arab lobby” is risible, however. If one accepts Mearsheimer’s definition that “the lobby is a loose coalition of individuals and groups that work actively to push US foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction,” then Mearsheimer might be called part of the “Hamas lobby” in America, as he and his friends seek to push the United States in the opposite direction.

It is when the radio host turns to the end of the Cold War that Mearsheimer takes his conspiracies to a new level:

There is no question that as a result of the 1979 revolution in Iran and the subsequent hostage crisis, that the United States had bad relations with Iran. However, the Iranians were very interested at different points in the 1990s and even in the 2000s in trying to improve relations with the United States, and the United States itself was interested in improving its relations with Iran. But this never happened and the main reason is that Israel was deeply committed, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, to making Iran the bogeyman for the United States and for Israel in the Middle East

Now, there certainly was optimism in certain circles once Ayatollah Khomeini died in 1989 that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Rafsanjani would change Iran’s direction. That was reflected in George H.W. Bush’s inaugural address. But the elder Bush—even with Brent Scowcroft at his side—quickly learned that Iran was not serious. Israel had nothing to do with it.  The same lesson was learned by Austria and Germany, both sites of Iranian assassinations in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Of course, there was also the Khobar Towers attack. Mohammad Khatami, but Khatami’s attempts at may have charmed Mearsheimer even superficial reform foundered against the opposition of hardliners and regime-sponsored vigilante groups. Mearsheimer is ignorant if he does not realize that it was during the 1980s and 1990s that Iran revived its nuclear and ballistic missile program, and built a formidable base almost from scratch.  It was during the period that it solicited the assistance of rogue Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan, as well.

Mearsheimer’s animus blinds him to reality, however, and so he continues:

The Israelis understood that in the absence of the Soviet Union there was no strategic room for a special relationship. So what was needed was to create a threat, a common threat. I think the Israelis concluded in the early ‘90s that Iran was that threat. And since the early 1990s, the Israelis have worked overtime to portray Iran as the second coming of the Third Reich and to make the argument that the United States cannot engage in diplomacy with Iran. And of course there are all sorts of evidence that that’s what’s happening today with regard to the Iranian nuclear program.

That’s right: According to Mearsheimer, the Israelis and the “Israel lobby” manufactured the Iranian nuclear threat so that Israel could entrap the United States. Never mind Iran’s repeated threats to eradicate the Jewish state. Here, Mearsheimer displays an obsession not only with American Jews, but also an almost racist condescension toward Iranians whom he does not credit as independent actors. Nor does Mearsheimer accept—perhaps his ideological blinders prevent him from seeing—Iranian aggression toward American troops or its aid and assistance to Al Qaeda including free passage for the 9/11 hijackers, or its increasing bellicosity in the Persian Gulf.

In every generation brings a new class of useful idiots who allow ideology to blind them to reality. In Mr. Mearsheimer, they have found their chairman.

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Mearsheimer’s Anti-Semitism Scandal

Here is John Mearsheimer, writing last year on the Foreign Policy blog of his Israel Lobby co-author Stephen Walt, defending the positive blurb he provided for a new book by Hitler apologist and Holocaust revisionist Gilad Atzmon:

There is no question that [The Wandering Who?] is provocative, both in terms of its central argument and the overly hot language that Atzmon sometimes uses. But it is also filled with interesting insights that make the reader think long and hard about an important subject. Of course, I do not agree with everything that he says in the book — what blurber does? — but I found it thought provoking and likely to be of considerable interest to Jews and non-Jews, which is what I said in my brief comment.

Mearsheimer’s blurb read:

Gilad Atzmon has written a fascinating and provocative book on Jewish identity in the modern world. He shows how assimilation and liberalism are making it increasingly difficult for Jews in the Diaspora to maintain a powerful sense of their “Jewishness.” Panicked Jewish leaders, he argues, have turned to Zionism (blind loyalty to Israel) and scaremongering (the threat of another Holocaust) to keep the tribe united and distinct from the surrounding goyim. As Atzmon’s own case demonstrates, this strategy is not working and is causing many Jews great anguish. The Wandering Who? should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike.

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Here is John Mearsheimer, writing last year on the Foreign Policy blog of his Israel Lobby co-author Stephen Walt, defending the positive blurb he provided for a new book by Hitler apologist and Holocaust revisionist Gilad Atzmon:

There is no question that [The Wandering Who?] is provocative, both in terms of its central argument and the overly hot language that Atzmon sometimes uses. But it is also filled with interesting insights that make the reader think long and hard about an important subject. Of course, I do not agree with everything that he says in the book — what blurber does? — but I found it thought provoking and likely to be of considerable interest to Jews and non-Jews, which is what I said in my brief comment.

Mearsheimer’s blurb read:

Gilad Atzmon has written a fascinating and provocative book on Jewish identity in the modern world. He shows how assimilation and liberalism are making it increasingly difficult for Jews in the Diaspora to maintain a powerful sense of their “Jewishness.” Panicked Jewish leaders, he argues, have turned to Zionism (blind loyalty to Israel) and scaremongering (the threat of another Holocaust) to keep the tribe united and distinct from the surrounding goyim. As Atzmon’s own case demonstrates, this strategy is not working and is causing many Jews great anguish. The Wandering Who? should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike.

And now here is an open letter about Atzmon posted yesterday to Electronic Intifada by Hamas supporter and one-stater Ali Abunimah. It concludes with an affirmation of Palestinian “return,” which is to say Israel’s destruction as a Jewish State, and is signed by a who’s who of the anti-Israel fringe. You really need to read the whole thing, but just to give you a sense for the content:

We call for the disavowal of Atzmon by fellow Palestinian organizers, as well as Palestine solidarity activists, and allies of the Palestinian people, and note the dangers of supporting Atzmon’s political work and writings and providing any platforms for their dissemination…Atzmon’s politics rest on one main overriding assertion that serves as springboard for vicious attacks on anyone who disagrees with his obsession with “Jewishness.”

The writers go on for another few paragraphs in that vein. At one point, they feel the need to disavow “denying the Holocaust [and allying with]… conspiracy theories, far-right, orientalist, and racist arguments, associations and entities.” That’s difficult to square with Mearsheimer’s blanket assertion that “Atzmon is neither a Holocaust denier nor an apologist for Hitler.” At another point, they reject the “anti-Semitic or racist language” that they’re repudiating along with Atzmon. That in turn sits uncomfortably with Mearsheimer’s statement that he “[doesn’t] believe that Atzmon is an anti-Semite.”

Historically, Mearsheimer was content to sit back and use the same rhetoric and excuses as anti-Israel bigots. Then he ventured into supporting one of them, and then he doubled down on his support. And now not even people who want to see the Jewish State extinguished will travel with Mearsheimer’s chosen fellow traveler.

Late last year, the University of Chicago’s Conservative Quarterly Counterpoint published an article on the Mearsheimer/Atzmon controversy. The piece contained a non-exhaustive list of anti-Semitic passages from Atzmon’s book, but it was particularly notable for its pointed opening sentence: “When, after a long career built on a theory that domestic political relationships had a minimal impact on any state’s foreign policy, John Mearsheimer co-wrote The Israel Lobby, a popular book alleging the maximal impact of a small cabal on American foreign policy, we were perplexed at the incoherence.”

Quite so. Mearsheimer had to give up a lifetime of almost metaphysical theory of international relations work so he could scapegoat American Jews and pro-Israel Christians for the world’s problems. Apparently, he gave up more than a little bit of his dignity as well.

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Realpolitik vs. the Long-Term Good

One of the ironies of the present crisis in Egypt is that it is exposing once again the ridiculousness of one of the nasty slurs flung against neocons by the likes of John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt who accuse them of being — what else? — agents of Israel, Likud, the International Zionist Conspiracy, or whatever. To hear these realpolitikers tell it, when neocons advocate liberal reform in the Middle East, they are secretly doing the bidding of their Zionist puppet-masters to the detriment of American interests (as understood, of course, by the same folks who thought that Mubarak was a rock of stability — and before him, the Shah of Iran). In reality, most Israelis fall firmly in the realpolitik camp and, were it not for their knee-jerk Israel-bashing, would agree with Mearsheimer/Walt about how to define American interests in the Middle East. (Natan Sharansky, a prominent advocate of Arab democratization, is one of the few exceptions, but he is seen as very much an outlier.)

Consider this Reuters dispatch headlined “Israel Shocked by Obama’s ‘Betrayal’ of Mubarak.” It quotes some truly hysterical comments from Israeli commentators bemoaning the apparent end of the Mubarak regime. A sample:

One comment by Aviad Pohoryles in the daily Maariv was entitled “A Bullet in the Back from Uncle Sam.” It accused Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of pursuing a naive, smug, and insular diplomacy heedless of the risks.

Who is advising them, he asked, “to fuel the mob raging in the streets of Egypt and to demand the head of the person who five minutes ago was the bold ally of the president … an almost lone voice of sanity in a Middle East?”

“The politically correct diplomacy of American presidents throughout the generations … is painfully naive.”

This is the authentic voice of the Israeli public facing the loss of “their” man in Cairo. Like many Western realpolitikers, most Israelis I have spoken with assume that Arabs are incapable of practicing democracy and that any attempt to tinker with the stable if oppressive status quo in surrounding states will lead only to the creation of more anti-Israeli regimes. I have heard Israeli officials defend keeping in power the Assad regime in Syria, which is still technically at war with Israel. Needless to say, Israelis are even more devoted to Mubarak and the Hashemites in Jordan, who have actually made peace with them. Read More

One of the ironies of the present crisis in Egypt is that it is exposing once again the ridiculousness of one of the nasty slurs flung against neocons by the likes of John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt who accuse them of being — what else? — agents of Israel, Likud, the International Zionist Conspiracy, or whatever. To hear these realpolitikers tell it, when neocons advocate liberal reform in the Middle East, they are secretly doing the bidding of their Zionist puppet-masters to the detriment of American interests (as understood, of course, by the same folks who thought that Mubarak was a rock of stability — and before him, the Shah of Iran). In reality, most Israelis fall firmly in the realpolitik camp and, were it not for their knee-jerk Israel-bashing, would agree with Mearsheimer/Walt about how to define American interests in the Middle East. (Natan Sharansky, a prominent advocate of Arab democratization, is one of the few exceptions, but he is seen as very much an outlier.)

Consider this Reuters dispatch headlined “Israel Shocked by Obama’s ‘Betrayal’ of Mubarak.” It quotes some truly hysterical comments from Israeli commentators bemoaning the apparent end of the Mubarak regime. A sample:

One comment by Aviad Pohoryles in the daily Maariv was entitled “A Bullet in the Back from Uncle Sam.” It accused Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of pursuing a naive, smug, and insular diplomacy heedless of the risks.

Who is advising them, he asked, “to fuel the mob raging in the streets of Egypt and to demand the head of the person who five minutes ago was the bold ally of the president … an almost lone voice of sanity in a Middle East?”

“The politically correct diplomacy of American presidents throughout the generations … is painfully naive.”

This is the authentic voice of the Israeli public facing the loss of “their” man in Cairo. Like many Western realpolitikers, most Israelis I have spoken with assume that Arabs are incapable of practicing democracy and that any attempt to tinker with the stable if oppressive status quo in surrounding states will lead only to the creation of more anti-Israeli regimes. I have heard Israeli officials defend keeping in power the Assad regime in Syria, which is still technically at war with Israel. Needless to say, Israelis are even more devoted to Mubarak and the Hashemites in Jordan, who have actually made peace with them.

Their outlook is understandable, but, I believe, short-sighted. As I argue in the Wall Street Journal today, Mubarak may have been friendly with Israeli and American leaders, but he also turned a blind eye to the vile anti-Semitic and anti-Western propaganda spread by his state media, schools, and mosques. This, along with the stagnation of his sclerotic regime, has made Egypt a prime breeding ground for Islamist extremism.

The U.S. and Israel have bought ourselves some help from Mubarak over the past 30 years but at a high price. It was always obvious that the bargain couldn’t last forever, because Mubarak was intensely unpopular and would fall sooner or later. Some of us were arguing for years that the U.S. had to do more to pressure Mubarak to reform, even to hold hostage his American aid package (see, for instance, this 2006 op-ed I wrote). Our concerns were dismissed by the realpolitikers, in both the U.S. and Israel, who said it was no business of ours to meddle in Egyptian politics. Now events are spinning out of control and we can do little to affect the outcome.

If there is one lesson that should be drawn from this crisis it is that we can’t back an unpopular and illegitimate status quo indefinitely. Now is the time to push for real reform in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other allied states — not to mention in hostile states such as Syria and Iran. But I bet Israel will prefer to cling to its realpolitik policies.

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RE: Speaking of Pro-Israel

The Emergency Committee for Israel responded to the J Street gang’s inquiries late yesterday. Spokesman Michael Goldfarb went through the questions one by one (my comments in brackets):

“Always happy to guide the perplexed” [Bonus points for Maimonides reference], Goldfarb wrote, before taking on J Street. …

“Question: “ECI refuses to take a position on the two-state solution. But two-thirds of Israelis and American Jews support it. The last four prime ministers of Israel have. Will ECI stop hiding its true colors on the only possible way to achieve real peace and security for Israel as a Jewish, democratic homeland?”

Answer: ECI supports a two-state solution if Israel has defensible borders [not 1967 borders, obviously] and if the Palestinian state is stable, peace-loving [which isn’t remotely in the cards, but we all should have goals] and anti-terrorist [like Sweden]. ECI does not support a “two-state solution” if one of the states is to be a terrorist state. And, yes, ECI believes there can be peace and security for Israel without having yet achieved a two-state solution. [It would help if the U.S. president were less overtly hostile, of course.]

Question: “Does ECI support the new peace talks starting this week, built on the notion that it should be possible to achieve a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?”

Answer: Yes. [“Notion” is a good way of putting it.]

Question: “Do they support the governments of Israel and of the United States in doing what they can to make them successful?”

Answer: Yes, if “success” means real peace and security. No, if “success” means the Obama administration [with J Street’s blessing] pressuring Israel to make concessions that would strengthen anti-Israel extremists, weaken Israel’s security, decrease the chances of real peace, and lead to a terrorist state on Israel’s borders. [In other words, why would Israel trust the Obama administration, which has been indifferent or unhelpful on all these points?]

He then asks two pointed questions: “Does J Street support a two-state solution no matter what the character and borders of both states? Does J Street support peace and security for Israel in the absence of a Palestinian state?” The first is a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose proposition, because the J Street leftists get flummoxed by the notion of a “Jewish” state — no, really, they do. But if they actually said so or hedged to keep their anti-nationalist, anti-Zionist supporters and followers from hollering at them, they’d tip their hand that they are way outside the mainstream. The next is also a gotcha — because J Street has for some time argued that the two-state solution is essential to Israel’s security, sidestepping the current needs of the Jewish state to defend itself.

Now this has the makings of a lively and healthy debate. How about a real one — you know Peter Beinart and Jeremy Ben-Ami vs. a couple of the ECI team? Oh, it’d be lots and lots of fun. The J Streeters can even bring along  Stephen Walt and  John Mearsheimer for intellectual and moral support, of course.

The Emergency Committee for Israel responded to the J Street gang’s inquiries late yesterday. Spokesman Michael Goldfarb went through the questions one by one (my comments in brackets):

“Always happy to guide the perplexed” [Bonus points for Maimonides reference], Goldfarb wrote, before taking on J Street. …

“Question: “ECI refuses to take a position on the two-state solution. But two-thirds of Israelis and American Jews support it. The last four prime ministers of Israel have. Will ECI stop hiding its true colors on the only possible way to achieve real peace and security for Israel as a Jewish, democratic homeland?”

Answer: ECI supports a two-state solution if Israel has defensible borders [not 1967 borders, obviously] and if the Palestinian state is stable, peace-loving [which isn’t remotely in the cards, but we all should have goals] and anti-terrorist [like Sweden]. ECI does not support a “two-state solution” if one of the states is to be a terrorist state. And, yes, ECI believes there can be peace and security for Israel without having yet achieved a two-state solution. [It would help if the U.S. president were less overtly hostile, of course.]

Question: “Does ECI support the new peace talks starting this week, built on the notion that it should be possible to achieve a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?”

Answer: Yes. [“Notion” is a good way of putting it.]

Question: “Do they support the governments of Israel and of the United States in doing what they can to make them successful?”

Answer: Yes, if “success” means real peace and security. No, if “success” means the Obama administration [with J Street’s blessing] pressuring Israel to make concessions that would strengthen anti-Israel extremists, weaken Israel’s security, decrease the chances of real peace, and lead to a terrorist state on Israel’s borders. [In other words, why would Israel trust the Obama administration, which has been indifferent or unhelpful on all these points?]

He then asks two pointed questions: “Does J Street support a two-state solution no matter what the character and borders of both states? Does J Street support peace and security for Israel in the absence of a Palestinian state?” The first is a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose proposition, because the J Street leftists get flummoxed by the notion of a “Jewish” state — no, really, they do. But if they actually said so or hedged to keep their anti-nationalist, anti-Zionist supporters and followers from hollering at them, they’d tip their hand that they are way outside the mainstream. The next is also a gotcha — because J Street has for some time argued that the two-state solution is essential to Israel’s security, sidestepping the current needs of the Jewish state to defend itself.

Now this has the makings of a lively and healthy debate. How about a real one — you know Peter Beinart and Jeremy Ben-Ami vs. a couple of the ECI team? Oh, it’d be lots and lots of fun. The J Streeters can even bring along  Stephen Walt and  John Mearsheimer for intellectual and moral support, of course.

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Why No Outrage Over Oliver Stone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Where Does Goldstone Fit in Mearsheimer’s List?

So here’s a question for John Mearsheimer. As Noah Pollak pointed out not so long ago, John Mearsheimer classified Jews into three categories — new Afrikaner Jews, righteous Jews, and the “great ambivalent in the middle.” In his useful lists, he included one Judge Richard Goldstone among the noble ones. And so, in light of the revelations about Judge Goldstone to which Jennifer Rubin referred earlier on today, one is left to wonder. Where would Mearsheimer now put Goldstone — among the “New Afrikaner” or the “Righteous”? Maybe we should create a separate category — Old Afrikaner but Righteous? Good Ol’ Afrikaner?

Is he a Righteous Afrikaner because he bashes Israel after having hung a few Africans — the bashing makes him righteous, the hanging makes him Afrikaner?

If so, is his righteousness diminished by his little flirt with the white supremacist apartheid? Or is his very practical complicity with it something that his later anti-Zionist righteousness washes away?

Will Mearsheimer continue to be his fan now that he knows what skeletons Mr. Goldstone had in the closet? Won’t he mind? Will anyone mind?

After all, what’s sending a few Africans to the gallows, between us, after you’ve authored a UN-sponsored indictment of Israel and peppered it with a healthy dose of self-righteousness about your Jewish conscience?

So here’s a question for John Mearsheimer. As Noah Pollak pointed out not so long ago, John Mearsheimer classified Jews into three categories — new Afrikaner Jews, righteous Jews, and the “great ambivalent in the middle.” In his useful lists, he included one Judge Richard Goldstone among the noble ones. And so, in light of the revelations about Judge Goldstone to which Jennifer Rubin referred earlier on today, one is left to wonder. Where would Mearsheimer now put Goldstone — among the “New Afrikaner” or the “Righteous”? Maybe we should create a separate category — Old Afrikaner but Righteous? Good Ol’ Afrikaner?

Is he a Righteous Afrikaner because he bashes Israel after having hung a few Africans — the bashing makes him righteous, the hanging makes him Afrikaner?

If so, is his righteousness diminished by his little flirt with the white supremacist apartheid? Or is his very practical complicity with it something that his later anti-Zionist righteousness washes away?

Will Mearsheimer continue to be his fan now that he knows what skeletons Mr. Goldstone had in the closet? Won’t he mind? Will anyone mind?

After all, what’s sending a few Africans to the gallows, between us, after you’ve authored a UN-sponsored indictment of Israel and peppered it with a healthy dose of self-righteousness about your Jewish conscience?

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That Mearsheimer Speech

Meryl Yourish compares passages from John Mearsheimer’s speech to the “Palestine Center” with statements from Charles Lindberg and Father Coughlin. Unsurprisingly, it’s hard to tell the three bigots apart.

Meryl Yourish compares passages from John Mearsheimer’s speech to the “Palestine Center” with statements from Charles Lindberg and Father Coughlin. Unsurprisingly, it’s hard to tell the three bigots apart.

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Mearsheimer Makes a List

John Mearsheimer gave a speech at the Palestine Center in Washington yesterday and called Israel an apartheid state that has practiced ethnic cleansing and will likely practice it in the future. For Mearsheimer, this is standard practice. But he added a new twist: he separated American Jews into three categories: “Righteous Jews,” “New Afrikaners,” and a middle group of Jews who aren’t quite sure whether they’re righteous or ethnic cleansers. These are Mearsheimer’s Righteous Jews:

To give you a better sense of what I mean when I use the term righteous Jews, let me give you some names of people and organizations that I would put in this category. The list would include Noam Chomsky, Roger Cohen, Richard Falk, Norman Finkelstein, Tony Judt, Tony Karon, Naomi Klein, MJ Rosenberg, Sara Roy, and Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss fame, just to name a few. I would also include many of the individuals associated with J Street and everyone associated with Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as distinguished international figures such as Judge Richard Goldstone. Furthermore, I would apply the label to the many American Jews who work for different human rights organizations, such as Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch.

And then there are America’s Afrikaner Jews, who are not just apologists for apartheid and ethnic cleansing, but are actually a fifth column. Note that he goes beyond the normal “dual loyalty” trope and says that these American Jews are “blindly loyal” only to Israel:

These are individuals who will back Israel no matter what it does, because they have blind loyalty to the Jewish state. … I would classify most of the individuals who head the Israel lobby’s major organizations as new Afrikaners. That list would include Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress, and Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America, just to name some of the more prominent ones. I would also include businessmen like Sheldon Adelson, Lester Crown, and Mortimer Zuckerman as well as media personalities like Fred Hiatt and Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, and Martin Peretz of the New Republic. It would be easy to add more names to this list.

I believe Mearsheimer left out a category: “Anti-Semites and Jew-Baiters.” I will leave it to you who to add to that list.

UPDATE: David Bernstein adds his thoughts over at Volokh.

John Mearsheimer gave a speech at the Palestine Center in Washington yesterday and called Israel an apartheid state that has practiced ethnic cleansing and will likely practice it in the future. For Mearsheimer, this is standard practice. But he added a new twist: he separated American Jews into three categories: “Righteous Jews,” “New Afrikaners,” and a middle group of Jews who aren’t quite sure whether they’re righteous or ethnic cleansers. These are Mearsheimer’s Righteous Jews:

To give you a better sense of what I mean when I use the term righteous Jews, let me give you some names of people and organizations that I would put in this category. The list would include Noam Chomsky, Roger Cohen, Richard Falk, Norman Finkelstein, Tony Judt, Tony Karon, Naomi Klein, MJ Rosenberg, Sara Roy, and Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss fame, just to name a few. I would also include many of the individuals associated with J Street and everyone associated with Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as distinguished international figures such as Judge Richard Goldstone. Furthermore, I would apply the label to the many American Jews who work for different human rights organizations, such as Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch.

And then there are America’s Afrikaner Jews, who are not just apologists for apartheid and ethnic cleansing, but are actually a fifth column. Note that he goes beyond the normal “dual loyalty” trope and says that these American Jews are “blindly loyal” only to Israel:

These are individuals who will back Israel no matter what it does, because they have blind loyalty to the Jewish state. … I would classify most of the individuals who head the Israel lobby’s major organizations as new Afrikaners. That list would include Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress, and Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America, just to name some of the more prominent ones. I would also include businessmen like Sheldon Adelson, Lester Crown, and Mortimer Zuckerman as well as media personalities like Fred Hiatt and Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, and Martin Peretz of the New Republic. It would be easy to add more names to this list.

I believe Mearsheimer left out a category: “Anti-Semites and Jew-Baiters.” I will leave it to you who to add to that list.

UPDATE: David Bernstein adds his thoughts over at Volokh.

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Israel Lobby Author Compares Pro-Israel Pastor to Hitler

Over at the Foreign Policy magazine website, Harvard professor and Israel Lobby author Stephen Walt weighs in on Germany’s decision to continue to ban the publication of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf even after the Nazi leader’s 70-year copyright expired in 2015. Walt is right when he says that banning the publication of this evil book is pointless and does nothing either to suppress racism in Germany or to promote a proper understanding of the history it evokes.

But that said, there is also something ironic, if not downright creepy about the author of a book that promoted its own dangerous conspiracy theory about Jewish power and sought to demonize American Jews and others who support Israel, pontificating about Hitler’s work.

Granted, The Israel Lobby is not to be compared to Mein Kampf in its intent, vitriol, or historical impact. The former, written by Harvard’s Walt and the University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer, is far more sophisticated in its language and purpose than Hitler’s screed. But its agenda, while not as avowedly vicious or murderous as the Nazi book, still sought to single out the advocates of a particular political cause and not only to treat them with opprobrium but also to brand them as working against the national interests of the United States. Of course, The Israel Lobby was widely excoriated not just because of its clearly anti-Zionist bent, but because Walt and Mearsheimer’s error-filled book painted a picture of a pro-Israel conspiracy that was so large it included virtually everyone in the mainstream media and just about the entire political system in this country — except, of course, for anti-Semitic elements of the far Right and far Left. The book tars Jews and a vast number of non-Jewish Americans who back the State of Israel as an alien force subverting United States foreign policy. Which is to say that there is a clear path from its pages to those who espouse more overt forms of Jew hatred and Israel-bashing.

Yet just as egregious as Walt posing as the scholarly arbiter of questions about the publication of hate literature is his notion of contemporary analogies to Mein Kampf. Walt writes: “When you actually look at the book, and read about the history of Nazism, it may be hard to believe that serious people in an advanced society could be persuaded by arguments of this sort. But they were. And while Hitler may be the extreme case, we live in an era where plenty of political (and I regret to say, religious) figures offer all sorts of memoirs and tracts of their own, some of them nearly as bizarre and illogical (if not as murderous) as Hitler’s infamous tome.”

So which religious figure is Walt referring to here? His link is not to the many Muslim religious leaders whose works have inspired not only hatred of Jews, Israel, and the West but also actual attempts at mass murder. It is rather to an American pastor whose primary claim to fame is his support for the State of Israel: Pastor John Hagee.

Hagee’s religious beliefs may seem a bit loopy to non-evangelicals. And he is the sort of fellow who is prone to saying foolish things for which he must apologize. But the main impact of Hagee’s life work has been to try building support for the one democratic state in the Middle East and to fight against those — like Walt — who have aided those who seek to delegitimize both Israel’s existence and its right to self-defense. The idea that this cleric is the best analogy to Hitler in our own day is more than ludicrous. This analogy is quite an insight into the mindset of an academic who, while happily condemning the work of a great anti-Semite and mass murderer of the 20th century, is so full of hate against Israel and the Jews of our own day that he views anyone who supports them as somehow comparable to Hitler.

Walt is right when he writes about Mein Kampf that while the marketplace of ideas in a democracy is not perfect, it is generally competent enough to sort out hate speech from legitimate comment. That is why The Israel Lobby has had little impact on American politics or foreign policy. It is also why his anti-Israel policy prescriptions, though given a bully pulpit by Foreign Policy, will continue to be ignored by the overwhelming bi-partisan pro-Israel consensus in this country.

Over at the Foreign Policy magazine website, Harvard professor and Israel Lobby author Stephen Walt weighs in on Germany’s decision to continue to ban the publication of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf even after the Nazi leader’s 70-year copyright expired in 2015. Walt is right when he says that banning the publication of this evil book is pointless and does nothing either to suppress racism in Germany or to promote a proper understanding of the history it evokes.

But that said, there is also something ironic, if not downright creepy about the author of a book that promoted its own dangerous conspiracy theory about Jewish power and sought to demonize American Jews and others who support Israel, pontificating about Hitler’s work.

Granted, The Israel Lobby is not to be compared to Mein Kampf in its intent, vitriol, or historical impact. The former, written by Harvard’s Walt and the University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer, is far more sophisticated in its language and purpose than Hitler’s screed. But its agenda, while not as avowedly vicious or murderous as the Nazi book, still sought to single out the advocates of a particular political cause and not only to treat them with opprobrium but also to brand them as working against the national interests of the United States. Of course, The Israel Lobby was widely excoriated not just because of its clearly anti-Zionist bent, but because Walt and Mearsheimer’s error-filled book painted a picture of a pro-Israel conspiracy that was so large it included virtually everyone in the mainstream media and just about the entire political system in this country — except, of course, for anti-Semitic elements of the far Right and far Left. The book tars Jews and a vast number of non-Jewish Americans who back the State of Israel as an alien force subverting United States foreign policy. Which is to say that there is a clear path from its pages to those who espouse more overt forms of Jew hatred and Israel-bashing.

Yet just as egregious as Walt posing as the scholarly arbiter of questions about the publication of hate literature is his notion of contemporary analogies to Mein Kampf. Walt writes: “When you actually look at the book, and read about the history of Nazism, it may be hard to believe that serious people in an advanced society could be persuaded by arguments of this sort. But they were. And while Hitler may be the extreme case, we live in an era where plenty of political (and I regret to say, religious) figures offer all sorts of memoirs and tracts of their own, some of them nearly as bizarre and illogical (if not as murderous) as Hitler’s infamous tome.”

So which religious figure is Walt referring to here? His link is not to the many Muslim religious leaders whose works have inspired not only hatred of Jews, Israel, and the West but also actual attempts at mass murder. It is rather to an American pastor whose primary claim to fame is his support for the State of Israel: Pastor John Hagee.

Hagee’s religious beliefs may seem a bit loopy to non-evangelicals. And he is the sort of fellow who is prone to saying foolish things for which he must apologize. But the main impact of Hagee’s life work has been to try building support for the one democratic state in the Middle East and to fight against those — like Walt — who have aided those who seek to delegitimize both Israel’s existence and its right to self-defense. The idea that this cleric is the best analogy to Hitler in our own day is more than ludicrous. This analogy is quite an insight into the mindset of an academic who, while happily condemning the work of a great anti-Semite and mass murderer of the 20th century, is so full of hate against Israel and the Jews of our own day that he views anyone who supports them as somehow comparable to Hitler.

Walt is right when he writes about Mein Kampf that while the marketplace of ideas in a democracy is not perfect, it is generally competent enough to sort out hate speech from legitimate comment. That is why The Israel Lobby has had little impact on American politics or foreign policy. It is also why his anti-Israel policy prescriptions, though given a bully pulpit by Foreign Policy, will continue to be ignored by the overwhelming bi-partisan pro-Israel consensus in this country.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sometimes you get the sense that it won’t be the Democrats’ year: “Broadway Bank, the troubled Chicago lender owned by the family of Illinois Treasurer and U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias, has entered into a consent order with banking regulators requiring it to raise tens of millions in capital, stop paying dividends to the family without regulatory approval, and hire an outside party to evaluate the bank’s senior management.”

There’s no one to blame when you control both branches of government: “Twenty-nine percent (29%) of U.S. voters now say the country is heading in the right direction, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This is the lowest level of voter confidence in the nation’s current course so far this year – and ties the findings for two weeks in December.”

I suspect he’ll be the first major adviser to go: “Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner came under fierce bipartisan criticism on Wednesday, with some House Republicans calling on him to resign. Democrats and Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform grilled Geithner about his role in the bailout of American International Group (AIG) and whether he was involved in decisions about the lack of public disclosure about complicated derivatives payments. Geithner faced repeated criticisms about his role in the government paying out $62 billion to AIG’s financial counterparties that represented the full value they were owed.” Remember, we had to have the tax cheat as treasury secretary because he was such a genius.

But in the list of awful appointees, Eric Holder is certainly near the top. “Top Senate Republicans want answers from the man they believe decided the FBI should read the suspected Christmas Day bomber his Miranda rights: Attorney General Eric Holder. ‘It appears that the decision not to thoroughly interrogate Abdulmutallab was made by you or other senior officials in the Department of Justice,’ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) wrote in a letter to Holder Wednesday. ‘We remain deeply troubled that this paramount requirement of national security was ignored — or worse yet, not recognized — due to the administration’s preoccupation with reading the Christmas Day bomber his Miranda rights.'” Sens. Kit Bond of Missouri, the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee; Susan Collins of  Maine, the ranking member on Homeland Security; Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee; and John McCain of Arizona, ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, also signed.

Jeffrey Goldberg rips the Beagle Blogger for praising the “bravery” of Daniel Larison’s Israel-bashing. Says Goldberg: “How brave it is to stand athwart the Jews and yell ‘Stop!’ We are a dangerous group of people. Just look at what has happened to other critics who have gone where angels fear to tread and criticized Israel. Take, for example, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, the authors of ‘The Israel Lobby.’  Walt, as many of you know, is in hiding in Holland, under round-the-clock protection of the Dutch police, after the chief rabbi of Wellesley, Mass., issued a fatwa calling for his assassination. Mearsheimer, of course, lost his job at the University of Chicago and was physically assaulted by a group of Hadassah ladies in what became known as the ‘Grapefruit Spoon Attack of 2009.'” Read the whole thing.

PETA wants an animatronic Punxsutawney Phil for Groundhog’s Day. The response from the Punxsutawney club president: “I mean, come on, this is just crazy. … Phil is probably treated better than the average child in Pennsylvania. … He’s got air conditioning in the summer, his pen is heated in winter. … He has everything but a TV in there. What more do you want?” Maybe the TV.

Mayor Bloomberg wakes up and finally opposes the KSM trial in New York. Robert Gibbs is noncommittal. Is this the beginning of a walk-back potentially more dramatic than not closing Guantanamo? Let’s hope.

Seems they’re now in the business of trying to win elections: “Members of a committee of state party chairmen voted unanimously today to oppose a so-called ‘purity test’ for GOP candidates, according to a source in the closed-press meeting.”

Chris Matthews is hooted down by the Left after putting his foot in his mouth once again. (“I forgot he was black tonight for an hour.”) Well, if the MSNBC gig doesn’t work out, he can write speeches for Harry Reid.

Sometimes you get the sense that it won’t be the Democrats’ year: “Broadway Bank, the troubled Chicago lender owned by the family of Illinois Treasurer and U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias, has entered into a consent order with banking regulators requiring it to raise tens of millions in capital, stop paying dividends to the family without regulatory approval, and hire an outside party to evaluate the bank’s senior management.”

There’s no one to blame when you control both branches of government: “Twenty-nine percent (29%) of U.S. voters now say the country is heading in the right direction, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This is the lowest level of voter confidence in the nation’s current course so far this year – and ties the findings for two weeks in December.”

I suspect he’ll be the first major adviser to go: “Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner came under fierce bipartisan criticism on Wednesday, with some House Republicans calling on him to resign. Democrats and Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform grilled Geithner about his role in the bailout of American International Group (AIG) and whether he was involved in decisions about the lack of public disclosure about complicated derivatives payments. Geithner faced repeated criticisms about his role in the government paying out $62 billion to AIG’s financial counterparties that represented the full value they were owed.” Remember, we had to have the tax cheat as treasury secretary because he was such a genius.

But in the list of awful appointees, Eric Holder is certainly near the top. “Top Senate Republicans want answers from the man they believe decided the FBI should read the suspected Christmas Day bomber his Miranda rights: Attorney General Eric Holder. ‘It appears that the decision not to thoroughly interrogate Abdulmutallab was made by you or other senior officials in the Department of Justice,’ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) wrote in a letter to Holder Wednesday. ‘We remain deeply troubled that this paramount requirement of national security was ignored — or worse yet, not recognized — due to the administration’s preoccupation with reading the Christmas Day bomber his Miranda rights.'” Sens. Kit Bond of Missouri, the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee; Susan Collins of  Maine, the ranking member on Homeland Security; Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee; and John McCain of Arizona, ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, also signed.

Jeffrey Goldberg rips the Beagle Blogger for praising the “bravery” of Daniel Larison’s Israel-bashing. Says Goldberg: “How brave it is to stand athwart the Jews and yell ‘Stop!’ We are a dangerous group of people. Just look at what has happened to other critics who have gone where angels fear to tread and criticized Israel. Take, for example, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, the authors of ‘The Israel Lobby.’  Walt, as many of you know, is in hiding in Holland, under round-the-clock protection of the Dutch police, after the chief rabbi of Wellesley, Mass., issued a fatwa calling for his assassination. Mearsheimer, of course, lost his job at the University of Chicago and was physically assaulted by a group of Hadassah ladies in what became known as the ‘Grapefruit Spoon Attack of 2009.'” Read the whole thing.

PETA wants an animatronic Punxsutawney Phil for Groundhog’s Day. The response from the Punxsutawney club president: “I mean, come on, this is just crazy. … Phil is probably treated better than the average child in Pennsylvania. … He’s got air conditioning in the summer, his pen is heated in winter. … He has everything but a TV in there. What more do you want?” Maybe the TV.

Mayor Bloomberg wakes up and finally opposes the KSM trial in New York. Robert Gibbs is noncommittal. Is this the beginning of a walk-back potentially more dramatic than not closing Guantanamo? Let’s hope.

Seems they’re now in the business of trying to win elections: “Members of a committee of state party chairmen voted unanimously today to oppose a so-called ‘purity test’ for GOP candidates, according to a source in the closed-press meeting.”

Chris Matthews is hooted down by the Left after putting his foot in his mouth once again. (“I forgot he was black tonight for an hour.”) Well, if the MSNBC gig doesn’t work out, he can write speeches for Harry Reid.

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Who Is Afraid of Iran’s Nukes?

Norman Podhoretz has been courageously making the case for a U.S. strike on Iran’s nuclear-weapon’s program for some time now. He also has — or had — been predicting that President Bush would carry out such a strike before the end of his presidency. As time grows short, that seems increasingly unlikely.

But let’s not rule it out entirely.We have already pointed to the fact that as Iran acquires sophisticated Russian air-defenses, which it may deploy as early as this fall, the execution of a U.S. strike will be greatly complicated and the risks associated with it will rise. It would be easier for the U.S. to the job before the SA-20s are pointing toward the skies.

There is another factor as well that pushes in the same direction: growing pressure from an insecure but highly influential ally in the region — and, no, it is not Israel.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has taken a look at Saudi Arabian attitudes toward Iran’s nuclear program:

senior and mid-level Saudi officials express an apparently unambiguous belief among the upper-echelon of the Saudi Government that the Iranian nuclear program does not solely exist for peaceful purposes. One senior Saudi official told staff confidently, “Iran is determined to get a nuclear weapon.”. . . One senior long-serving U.S. diplomat in Riyadh said he had “never met anyone from the King on down who didn’t think it was a nuclear weapons program.”

Saudi officials believe Iran wants a nuclear weapon in order to become a regional superpower, to alleviate a sense of marginalization, to serve as a deterrent, and to be a more dominant force in the Gulf. While senior Saudi officials describe a nuclear-armed Iran as “an existential threat,” most Saudi officials do not believe Iran would actually use nuclear weapons against Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia worries that Iranian nuclear weapons would encourage and enable the Iranians to pursue a more aggressive, hegemonic foreign policy in the region. However, it would be inaccurate to completely characterize SAG [Saudia Arabian government] anxiety regarding Iranian nuclear weapons as a purely “balance of power concern.” Based largely on Iran’s subversive activities directed against the Saudi regime in the 1980’s, some senior Saudi leaders find a nuclear-armed Iran especially disconcerting. Such past Iranian subversion efforts has imbued the senior Saudi leadership with an intense distrust of Tehran.

What do the Saudis think should be done about the mounting danger?

When presented with a hypothetical choice between a nuclear-armed Iran and a U.S. [preventive] attack, a significant number of Saudi officials interviewed explicitly or implicitly preferred a U.S. attack. A correlation seems to exist between the seniority of Saudi officials and views on Iranian nuclear weapons. More senior Saudi officials tended to be more “hawkish” in their viewpoint toward Iran. Some key Saudi officials believe a U.S. attack could set the Iranian nuclear program back over a decade. More cautious members of the senior inner circle express concern that a military attack would affect “everything and will not be easy to pull off,” and doubt whether a U.S. attack could destroy all key components of the Iranian nuclear program. Based on U.S. actions in Iraq, some key Saudi officials feared a “nightmare” scenario in which the U.S. attacks Iran but fails to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

The Saudis have a lot of oil, a lot of money, and a lot of influence in Washington. If the U.S. does take action, and if it is successful, they will surely reap some of the credit. And if it goes badly, we will surely hear from John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt that the “Israel Lobby” is to blame.

Norman Podhoretz has been courageously making the case for a U.S. strike on Iran’s nuclear-weapon’s program for some time now. He also has — or had — been predicting that President Bush would carry out such a strike before the end of his presidency. As time grows short, that seems increasingly unlikely.

But let’s not rule it out entirely.We have already pointed to the fact that as Iran acquires sophisticated Russian air-defenses, which it may deploy as early as this fall, the execution of a U.S. strike will be greatly complicated and the risks associated with it will rise. It would be easier for the U.S. to the job before the SA-20s are pointing toward the skies.

There is another factor as well that pushes in the same direction: growing pressure from an insecure but highly influential ally in the region — and, no, it is not Israel.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has taken a look at Saudi Arabian attitudes toward Iran’s nuclear program:

senior and mid-level Saudi officials express an apparently unambiguous belief among the upper-echelon of the Saudi Government that the Iranian nuclear program does not solely exist for peaceful purposes. One senior Saudi official told staff confidently, “Iran is determined to get a nuclear weapon.”. . . One senior long-serving U.S. diplomat in Riyadh said he had “never met anyone from the King on down who didn’t think it was a nuclear weapons program.”

Saudi officials believe Iran wants a nuclear weapon in order to become a regional superpower, to alleviate a sense of marginalization, to serve as a deterrent, and to be a more dominant force in the Gulf. While senior Saudi officials describe a nuclear-armed Iran as “an existential threat,” most Saudi officials do not believe Iran would actually use nuclear weapons against Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia worries that Iranian nuclear weapons would encourage and enable the Iranians to pursue a more aggressive, hegemonic foreign policy in the region. However, it would be inaccurate to completely characterize SAG [Saudia Arabian government] anxiety regarding Iranian nuclear weapons as a purely “balance of power concern.” Based largely on Iran’s subversive activities directed against the Saudi regime in the 1980’s, some senior Saudi leaders find a nuclear-armed Iran especially disconcerting. Such past Iranian subversion efforts has imbued the senior Saudi leadership with an intense distrust of Tehran.

What do the Saudis think should be done about the mounting danger?

When presented with a hypothetical choice between a nuclear-armed Iran and a U.S. [preventive] attack, a significant number of Saudi officials interviewed explicitly or implicitly preferred a U.S. attack. A correlation seems to exist between the seniority of Saudi officials and views on Iranian nuclear weapons. More senior Saudi officials tended to be more “hawkish” in their viewpoint toward Iran. Some key Saudi officials believe a U.S. attack could set the Iranian nuclear program back over a decade. More cautious members of the senior inner circle express concern that a military attack would affect “everything and will not be easy to pull off,” and doubt whether a U.S. attack could destroy all key components of the Iranian nuclear program. Based on U.S. actions in Iraq, some key Saudi officials feared a “nightmare” scenario in which the U.S. attacks Iran but fails to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

The Saudis have a lot of oil, a lot of money, and a lot of influence in Washington. If the U.S. does take action, and if it is successful, they will surely reap some of the credit. And if it goes badly, we will surely hear from John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt that the “Israel Lobby” is to blame.

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Who is Thomas P. M. Barnett?

In the LA Times today, Max Boot effectively takes down the Esquire profile of Admiral William Fallon, who just resigned as head the U.S. Central Command in a spat with the Bush administration over Iran policy:

Its author, Thomas P.M. Barnett, a former professor at the Naval War College, presents a fawning portrait of the admiral — a service he previously performed for Donald Rumsfeld. But evidence of Fallon’s supposed “strategic brilliance” is notably lacking. For example, Barnett notes Fallon’s attempt to banish the phrase “the Long War” (created by his predecessor) because it “signaled a long haul that Fallon simply finds unacceptable,” without offering any hint of how Fallon intends to defeat our enemies overnight. The ideas Fallon proposes — “He wants troop levels in Iraq down now, and he wants the Afghan National Army running the show throughout most of Afghanistan by the end of this year” — would most likely result in security setbacks that would lengthen, not shorten, the struggle.

Max calls Barnett’s portrait “fawning.” Max is a master of understatement. Here are some excerpts:

The first thing you notice is the face, the second is the voice.

A tall, wiry man with thinning white hair, Fallon comes off like a loner even when he’s standing in a crowd.

Despite having an easy smile that he regularly pulls out for his many daily exercises in relationship building, Fallon’s consistent game face is a slightly pissed-off glare. It’s his default expression. Don’t fuck with me, it says. A tough Catholic boy from New Jersey, his favorite compliment is “badass.” Fallon’s got a fearsome reputation, although no one I ever talk to in the business can quite pin down why.

And in truth, Fallon’s not a screamer. Indeed, by my long observation and the accounts of a dozen people, he doesn’t raise his voice whatsoever, except when he laughs. Instead, the more serious he becomes, the quieter he gets, and his whispers sound positively menacing. Other guys can jaw-jaw all they want about the need for war-war with . . . whomever is today’s target among D.C.’s many armchair warriors. Not Fallon. Let the president pop off. Fallon won’t. No bravado here, nor sound-bite-sized threats, but rather a calm, leathery presence. Fallon is comfortable risking peace because he’s comfortable waging war.

Along with such treacle, the Esquire portrait also contains a dose of the same kind of poison pedaled by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. Barnett writes that Fallon’s articulation of a soft line toward Iran amounts to “fighting words to your average neocon — not to mention your average supporter of Israel, a good many of whom in Washington seem never to have served a minute in uniform. But utter those words for print and you can easily find yourself defending your indifference to ‘nuclear holocaust.'” Thanks largely to Mearsheimer and Walt, this kind of Charles Lindbergh-Henry Ford-style discourse has seeped into the discourse of even third-rate hacks.

But perhaps even more notable is Barnett’s account of Fallon’s travel to a Chinese city when he was in charge of American forces in the Pacific:

Early in his tenure at Pacific Command, Fallon let it be known that he was interested in visiting the city of Harbin in the highly controlled and isolated Heilongjiang Military District on China’s northern border with Russia. The Chinese were flabbergasted at the request, but when Fallon’s command plane took off one afternoon from Mongolia, heading for Harbin without permission, Beijing relented.

Did a U.S. military aircraft really enter Chinese airspace without permission? Under what circumstances are U.S. military aircraft ever granted permission to fly over China, let alone over a military district? What really happened here? My first bet is that either Barnett made this stuff up or he was sold a bill of goods by the man with the “calm, leathery presence.” I knew Barnett back in grad school at Harvard, and my second bet is the latter.

Barnett became famous at Harvard for another fawning article he wrote, in this case about the Romanian tyrant Nicolae Ceausescu. Describing Ceausescu as a “shrewd and farsighted politician,” Barnett noted that the Romanian leader had recently been “unanimously reelected at the recent Communist Party congress,” and his “grip on power appears firm.” Barnett’s op-ed appeared in the Christian Science Monitor on December 11, 1989. Fourteen days later, Romania was in full revolt and Ceausescu was dead — not of natural causes.

Let’s put aside Admiral Fallon’s views on Iran. If for nothing else, he deserved to be relieved of his command for collaborating with such a malign goofball in anything, let alone a campaign of insubordination.

In the LA Times today, Max Boot effectively takes down the Esquire profile of Admiral William Fallon, who just resigned as head the U.S. Central Command in a spat with the Bush administration over Iran policy:

Its author, Thomas P.M. Barnett, a former professor at the Naval War College, presents a fawning portrait of the admiral — a service he previously performed for Donald Rumsfeld. But evidence of Fallon’s supposed “strategic brilliance” is notably lacking. For example, Barnett notes Fallon’s attempt to banish the phrase “the Long War” (created by his predecessor) because it “signaled a long haul that Fallon simply finds unacceptable,” without offering any hint of how Fallon intends to defeat our enemies overnight. The ideas Fallon proposes — “He wants troop levels in Iraq down now, and he wants the Afghan National Army running the show throughout most of Afghanistan by the end of this year” — would most likely result in security setbacks that would lengthen, not shorten, the struggle.

Max calls Barnett’s portrait “fawning.” Max is a master of understatement. Here are some excerpts:

The first thing you notice is the face, the second is the voice.

A tall, wiry man with thinning white hair, Fallon comes off like a loner even when he’s standing in a crowd.

Despite having an easy smile that he regularly pulls out for his many daily exercises in relationship building, Fallon’s consistent game face is a slightly pissed-off glare. It’s his default expression. Don’t fuck with me, it says. A tough Catholic boy from New Jersey, his favorite compliment is “badass.” Fallon’s got a fearsome reputation, although no one I ever talk to in the business can quite pin down why.

And in truth, Fallon’s not a screamer. Indeed, by my long observation and the accounts of a dozen people, he doesn’t raise his voice whatsoever, except when he laughs. Instead, the more serious he becomes, the quieter he gets, and his whispers sound positively menacing. Other guys can jaw-jaw all they want about the need for war-war with . . . whomever is today’s target among D.C.’s many armchair warriors. Not Fallon. Let the president pop off. Fallon won’t. No bravado here, nor sound-bite-sized threats, but rather a calm, leathery presence. Fallon is comfortable risking peace because he’s comfortable waging war.

Along with such treacle, the Esquire portrait also contains a dose of the same kind of poison pedaled by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. Barnett writes that Fallon’s articulation of a soft line toward Iran amounts to “fighting words to your average neocon — not to mention your average supporter of Israel, a good many of whom in Washington seem never to have served a minute in uniform. But utter those words for print and you can easily find yourself defending your indifference to ‘nuclear holocaust.'” Thanks largely to Mearsheimer and Walt, this kind of Charles Lindbergh-Henry Ford-style discourse has seeped into the discourse of even third-rate hacks.

But perhaps even more notable is Barnett’s account of Fallon’s travel to a Chinese city when he was in charge of American forces in the Pacific:

Early in his tenure at Pacific Command, Fallon let it be known that he was interested in visiting the city of Harbin in the highly controlled and isolated Heilongjiang Military District on China’s northern border with Russia. The Chinese were flabbergasted at the request, but when Fallon’s command plane took off one afternoon from Mongolia, heading for Harbin without permission, Beijing relented.

Did a U.S. military aircraft really enter Chinese airspace without permission? Under what circumstances are U.S. military aircraft ever granted permission to fly over China, let alone over a military district? What really happened here? My first bet is that either Barnett made this stuff up or he was sold a bill of goods by the man with the “calm, leathery presence.” I knew Barnett back in grad school at Harvard, and my second bet is the latter.

Barnett became famous at Harvard for another fawning article he wrote, in this case about the Romanian tyrant Nicolae Ceausescu. Describing Ceausescu as a “shrewd and farsighted politician,” Barnett noted that the Romanian leader had recently been “unanimously reelected at the recent Communist Party congress,” and his “grip on power appears firm.” Barnett’s op-ed appeared in the Christian Science Monitor on December 11, 1989. Fourteen days later, Romania was in full revolt and Ceausescu was dead — not of natural causes.

Let’s put aside Admiral Fallon’s views on Iran. If for nothing else, he deserved to be relieved of his command for collaborating with such a malign goofball in anything, let alone a campaign of insubordination.

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Defending Samantha Power, Again

I see that neither Noah Pollak at CONTENTIONS nor Paul Mirengoff at Powerline is convinced by my defense of Samantha Power. I don’t want to belabor the point, but I would like to clarify my argument.

I don’t disagree with them on the merits of Power’s views on Israel and the Middle East. As they know, I am hardly a fan of the “peace process” or of détente with Tehran (although I have suggested in the past that it would make sense to offer to normalize relations with Iran in return for a cessation of its nuclear program and support of terrorism).

What I really objected to is the argument made by Pollak and some other critics that Power is part of a “disturbing number of foreign policy advisers to the Obama campaign who harbor hostile views of Israel.” That is a serious charge that needs to be handled with great care and hauled out only in the most dire circumstances because accusing someone of harboring “hostile views of Israel” is only a step or two removed from accusing them of harboring hostile views of Jews.

That conclusion is one that I think can be justifiably drawn about some people, such as John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, and Jimmy Carter. Their vociferous, over-the-top criticism of Israel and the “Israel Lobby” borders on paranoia and displays not just sloppy reasoning and factual mistakes but also active animus toward Israel, and perhaps toward Jews in general. (See Eliot Cohen’s article on Mearsheimer/Walt, and Kenneth Stein’s piece on Carter.)

On the other hand, there are many, many advocates of the “peace process” such as Dennis Ross and Bill Clinton (to say nothing of Shimon Peres and other Israelis) who have never displayed the slightest animus toward Israel. I think we can take it as given that their advocacy is driven by a desire to help, not hurt, the Jewish state. Their policy advice can and should be criticized, but their motives should not be questioned.

Into which category does Samantha Power fall? The first fact to note about her is how little she has had to say on the subject of the Middle East in general and Israel in particular. She is not an expert on the Middle East and does not pretend to be one. The criticisms of her are based on a handful of comments mainly made in response to questions from interviewers. That in itself is significant, because those who are driven by a real animus toward Israel tend to be outspoken and vociferous on the subject.

I don’t find any of the comments made by Power and cited by critics as being anywhere remotely close to anything that Mearsheimer/Walt or Carter have said. To take just one example, the attempts to twist a very ambiguous response to a question in this interview into evidence that, in Powerline’s words, “Power has blamed deference to Israel and the ‘special interests’ that support Israel for the U.S. intervention in Iraq” leaves me unconvinced to say the least. Read the whole answer in context for yourself and see what you think.

Apparently Pollak agrees with me that Power is not “animated by ‘anti-Israel’ sentiment, whatever that might entail.” I’m happy to hear it. That’s really all I was driving at: Let’s debate on the merits without questioning the other side’s motives except in extreme cases, of which this is not one.

I see that neither Noah Pollak at CONTENTIONS nor Paul Mirengoff at Powerline is convinced by my defense of Samantha Power. I don’t want to belabor the point, but I would like to clarify my argument.

I don’t disagree with them on the merits of Power’s views on Israel and the Middle East. As they know, I am hardly a fan of the “peace process” or of détente with Tehran (although I have suggested in the past that it would make sense to offer to normalize relations with Iran in return for a cessation of its nuclear program and support of terrorism).

What I really objected to is the argument made by Pollak and some other critics that Power is part of a “disturbing number of foreign policy advisers to the Obama campaign who harbor hostile views of Israel.” That is a serious charge that needs to be handled with great care and hauled out only in the most dire circumstances because accusing someone of harboring “hostile views of Israel” is only a step or two removed from accusing them of harboring hostile views of Jews.

That conclusion is one that I think can be justifiably drawn about some people, such as John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, and Jimmy Carter. Their vociferous, over-the-top criticism of Israel and the “Israel Lobby” borders on paranoia and displays not just sloppy reasoning and factual mistakes but also active animus toward Israel, and perhaps toward Jews in general. (See Eliot Cohen’s article on Mearsheimer/Walt, and Kenneth Stein’s piece on Carter.)

On the other hand, there are many, many advocates of the “peace process” such as Dennis Ross and Bill Clinton (to say nothing of Shimon Peres and other Israelis) who have never displayed the slightest animus toward Israel. I think we can take it as given that their advocacy is driven by a desire to help, not hurt, the Jewish state. Their policy advice can and should be criticized, but their motives should not be questioned.

Into which category does Samantha Power fall? The first fact to note about her is how little she has had to say on the subject of the Middle East in general and Israel in particular. She is not an expert on the Middle East and does not pretend to be one. The criticisms of her are based on a handful of comments mainly made in response to questions from interviewers. That in itself is significant, because those who are driven by a real animus toward Israel tend to be outspoken and vociferous on the subject.

I don’t find any of the comments made by Power and cited by critics as being anywhere remotely close to anything that Mearsheimer/Walt or Carter have said. To take just one example, the attempts to twist a very ambiguous response to a question in this interview into evidence that, in Powerline’s words, “Power has blamed deference to Israel and the ‘special interests’ that support Israel for the U.S. intervention in Iraq” leaves me unconvinced to say the least. Read the whole answer in context for yourself and see what you think.

Apparently Pollak agrees with me that Power is not “animated by ‘anti-Israel’ sentiment, whatever that might entail.” I’m happy to hear it. That’s really all I was driving at: Let’s debate on the merits without questioning the other side’s motives except in extreme cases, of which this is not one.

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A Jewish “Prince of Darkness”

Prince of Darkness is the title of a new book about Richard Perle by a journalist named Alan Weisman. It has a chapter entitled “Perle and the Jews,” which begins with a discussion of how two scholars, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, have raised a topic, the influence of American Jews on American politics, that has “long been out of bounds in American political discussion.” For their pains, writes Weisman, the two academics have been branded as “anti-Semites” and their work labeled as “a modern equivalent of Mein Kampf.”

Despite being tarred in this way by their critics, the debate Walt and Mearsheimer have opened up helps to explain the fact that while “Jews make up only 2 percent of the American electorate, . . . Israel takes in by far more U.S. aid than any other country in the world.” Given that the Israel lobby focuses so heavily on the Middle East, its conduct inevitably raises “questions about true allegiances and loyalties, . . . [and] suspicions of darker activity such as espionage.”

All this is relevant for a discussion of Perle, writes Weisman, “because he is a Jew, albeit nominally, and because he is clearly a man of influence.” Indeed, Perle’s background has made him a symbol to many “of unchecked and unwarranted Jewish meddling in U.S. foreign policy.”

Among other things, Perle signed his name to a report about Israeli strategy, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for the Realm, which “was a blueprint for Israeli dominance in the [Middle East], a paean to Zionist aspirations, and biblical claims of divinely ordained destiny.” The appearance of this document in 1996 was “a Jew-hater’s delight, a gift that kept on giving, and lit up like a menorah on the radar screen of the millions who believe Israelis and American Jews run the world, economically, politically, and militarily.”

Connecting the Dots has some questions about Weisman’s take on these issues:

1. Who has compared Walt and Mearsheimer’s work to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, as Weisman asserts?

A search of Nexis and Google draws a blank.

2. Is Richard Perle really “a symbol of unchecked and unwarranted Jewish meddling in U.S. foreign policy”?

Undoubtedly there are some people who believe this about Perle. Weisman does not say whether he is among them. But he puts forward “evidence” that it is true. Perle’s signature on the 1996 report is his smoking gun.

3. Does anything in this report support Weisman’s characterization of it as “a blueprint for Israeli dominance in the region, a paean to Zionist aspirations, and biblical claims of divinely ordained destiny”?

4. Is there anything in this report that makes it “a Jew-hater’s delight, a gift that kept on giving . . . [one that] lit up like a menorah on the radar screen of the millions who believe Israelis and American Jews run the world, economically, politically, and militarily”?

Connecting the Dots has provided links to the report; readers can draw their own conclusions.

5. Is Richard Perle truly a Jewish “prince of darkness” and a “hidden hand guiding D.C. power players”? Or is Alan Weisman, the author of all these characterizations, trading in time-honored anti-Semitic tropes?

6. Weisman’s book was reviewed by James Traub in the New York Times. Traub’s judgment of the book and its author is: “Weisman, no ideologue himself, gives Perle his due.” What does it say about Traub and the Sunday Times Book Review that Weisman’s take on Perle as a Jewish “Prince of Darkness” goes completely undiscussed?

Prince of Darkness is the title of a new book about Richard Perle by a journalist named Alan Weisman. It has a chapter entitled “Perle and the Jews,” which begins with a discussion of how two scholars, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, have raised a topic, the influence of American Jews on American politics, that has “long been out of bounds in American political discussion.” For their pains, writes Weisman, the two academics have been branded as “anti-Semites” and their work labeled as “a modern equivalent of Mein Kampf.”

Despite being tarred in this way by their critics, the debate Walt and Mearsheimer have opened up helps to explain the fact that while “Jews make up only 2 percent of the American electorate, . . . Israel takes in by far more U.S. aid than any other country in the world.” Given that the Israel lobby focuses so heavily on the Middle East, its conduct inevitably raises “questions about true allegiances and loyalties, . . . [and] suspicions of darker activity such as espionage.”

All this is relevant for a discussion of Perle, writes Weisman, “because he is a Jew, albeit nominally, and because he is clearly a man of influence.” Indeed, Perle’s background has made him a symbol to many “of unchecked and unwarranted Jewish meddling in U.S. foreign policy.”

Among other things, Perle signed his name to a report about Israeli strategy, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for the Realm, which “was a blueprint for Israeli dominance in the [Middle East], a paean to Zionist aspirations, and biblical claims of divinely ordained destiny.” The appearance of this document in 1996 was “a Jew-hater’s delight, a gift that kept on giving, and lit up like a menorah on the radar screen of the millions who believe Israelis and American Jews run the world, economically, politically, and militarily.”

Connecting the Dots has some questions about Weisman’s take on these issues:

1. Who has compared Walt and Mearsheimer’s work to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, as Weisman asserts?

A search of Nexis and Google draws a blank.

2. Is Richard Perle really “a symbol of unchecked and unwarranted Jewish meddling in U.S. foreign policy”?

Undoubtedly there are some people who believe this about Perle. Weisman does not say whether he is among them. But he puts forward “evidence” that it is true. Perle’s signature on the 1996 report is his smoking gun.

3. Does anything in this report support Weisman’s characterization of it as “a blueprint for Israeli dominance in the region, a paean to Zionist aspirations, and biblical claims of divinely ordained destiny”?

4. Is there anything in this report that makes it “a Jew-hater’s delight, a gift that kept on giving . . . [one that] lit up like a menorah on the radar screen of the millions who believe Israelis and American Jews run the world, economically, politically, and militarily”?

Connecting the Dots has provided links to the report; readers can draw their own conclusions.

5. Is Richard Perle truly a Jewish “prince of darkness” and a “hidden hand guiding D.C. power players”? Or is Alan Weisman, the author of all these characterizations, trading in time-honored anti-Semitic tropes?

6. Weisman’s book was reviewed by James Traub in the New York Times. Traub’s judgment of the book and its author is: “Weisman, no ideologue himself, gives Perle his due.” What does it say about Traub and the Sunday Times Book Review that Weisman’s take on Perle as a Jewish “Prince of Darkness” goes completely undiscussed?

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The NIE and Neorealism

Norman Podhoretz has already pointed out that the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran “represents a 180-degree turn from the conclusions of the last NIE on Iran’s nuclear program,” which were asserted with equal certitude. But the NIE has another, much more serious, problem.

The NIE asserts that “some combination of threats of intensified scrutiny and pressure”—no problem there—”along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways, might . . . prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program.” My first reaction to this was to wonder why, if the U.S. has succeeded in stopping Iran’s program without any bribes, we now need to include them to prevent Tehran from starting it up again, but no matter: the NIE generously admits that it is “difficult” to specify what such a “combination” of threats and opportunities might be. The more fundamental question is whether it is in the interest of the United States—and the world—to purchase (if obtainable) a continued halt at such a price. Since Tehran’s declared goals include eradicating Israel from the face of the earth and spreading the Iranian Revolution across the entire Middle East, the answer must be that it is not.

Deciding that, of course, is not the job of the intelligence community. But the NIE’s description of its rationale for reaching its conclusion about Iran’s malleability is revealing: Tehran, it argues, halted the program in 2003 in response to unspecified “international pressure”—apparently the same kind that bore so heavily on Qaddafi—which indicates that the regime’s decisions are guided by “a cost-benefit approach.”

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Norman Podhoretz has already pointed out that the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran “represents a 180-degree turn from the conclusions of the last NIE on Iran’s nuclear program,” which were asserted with equal certitude. But the NIE has another, much more serious, problem.

The NIE asserts that “some combination of threats of intensified scrutiny and pressure”—no problem there—”along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways, might . . . prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program.” My first reaction to this was to wonder why, if the U.S. has succeeded in stopping Iran’s program without any bribes, we now need to include them to prevent Tehran from starting it up again, but no matter: the NIE generously admits that it is “difficult” to specify what such a “combination” of threats and opportunities might be. The more fundamental question is whether it is in the interest of the United States—and the world—to purchase (if obtainable) a continued halt at such a price. Since Tehran’s declared goals include eradicating Israel from the face of the earth and spreading the Iranian Revolution across the entire Middle East, the answer must be that it is not.

Deciding that, of course, is not the job of the intelligence community. But the NIE’s description of its rationale for reaching its conclusion about Iran’s malleability is revealing: Tehran, it argues, halted the program in 2003 in response to unspecified “international pressure”—apparently the same kind that bore so heavily on Qaddafi—which indicates that the regime’s decisions are guided by “a cost-benefit approach.”

I winced when I read that phrase. Does anyone make decisions on that basis? States certainly do not. The phrase belongs to neorealism, to the unitary rational actor approach to the study of decision-making. The broad realist tradition—and a respectable one it is—extends back to Thucydides. Its modern and more limited variant, neorealism, exemplified today by Kenneth Waltz, Stephen Walt, and John Mearsheimer, refuses to try to understand policy-making in all its complexity. Instead, it treats states as billiard balls, ignores their leaders, politics, beliefs, and cultures, and considers only their size, their place on the table, and the position of the other billiard balls.

Neorealism has the advantage of parsimony: because it is based on simple but powerful assumptions, including the belief that nations act rationally, it generates testable predictions. But the simplifying assumptions that make it useful for scholars make it useless as a guide to how and why states actually make decisions. The only practical contribution the discipline of international relations has made in the last forty years is democratic peace theory, commonly summarized as “democracies do not fight each other.” Even if that is only mostly true, it is inexplicable to neorealists, who cannot understand why two democracies—the United States and Israel, for instance—might be allies even though the larger power has nothing much to gain from it materially.

The failure of neorealism stems directly from its assumptions. For states are not unitary. States have bureaucracies with their own agendas, factions and internal politics, and the most radical of them—like Iran—have a party machine that runs parallel to, and acts as a minder for, the official government. And states are not rational, at least not in a “cost-benefit” kind of way. Nor are they simply irrational. Rather, they have a hierarchy of preferences and seek to order them with some consistency. This kind of bounded rationality says nothing about what these preferences are, or whether they are moral, amoral, or immoral. Hitler, for instance, had two preferences: killing Jews and winning the war. And, in a bounded way, he was rational: he wanted to kill Jews more than he wanted to win, so he ran trains to Auschwitz, not the front.

The neorealist approach does have its uses. If you do not know anything about what is going on inside a country—for example, because it is a totalitarian dictatorship—a useful first cut is to ask what you would do if you were in charge. But to elevate neorealism, as the NIE has done, into a basis for offering high confidence assessments about such a state is an error. Walt and Mearsheimer’s embarrassingly amateur fantasies about the Israel Lobby demonstrate this all too clearly. For them, it is axiomatic that the United States has much more to gain from allying with the Arab oil dictators than with resource-poor Israel: the fact that the U.S. has failed to act in this way, has refused to carry out the proper “cost-benefit analysis,” can only be explained by a Jewish conspiracy. That is what passes for sophisticated thinking if you are a neorealist.

No, I do not believe that the U.S. intelligence community has stumbled into the Walt and Mearsheimer fever swamp. But the NIE’s resort to neorealist analysis is characteristic of ignorance: there is no reason to use this approach if you know what is going on. And that is the real problem. The U.S.—amazingly—publishes its National Intelligence Estimates. We make our policy in view of the entire world, and thereby impose serious constraints on our own government. We will not be able to be comfortable with Iran until we know as much about them as they know about us, and until they are as constrained by public debate as we are. And when we get that kind of Iran, we will not need high-profile but analytically shallow NIE’s.

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Olmert’s Bizarre Reading List

Thanks to their highly controversial recent publications, former President Jimmy Carter and the academic tag-team of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer have become persona non grata in much of the American Jewish community. Carter’s Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid argued that Israeli settlement in the West Bank—not terrorism, nor the ascendancy of Hamas—is the primary obstacle to peace in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Walt and Mearsheimer’s The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy argued that U.S. policy in the Middle East is primarily driven by “American Jews who make a significant effort in their daily lives to bend U.S. foreign policy so that it advances Israel’s interests.”

Yet while the American Jewish community was busy debating whether these authors were anti-Semitic, conspiratorial, or simply misguided, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was apparently leafing through the two bestselling tomes for sound-bite material. Consider Olmert’s bizarre press statements following last week’s Annapolis Conference, in which he framed his pursuit of negotiations with terms perfectly agreeable to Cater, Walt, and Mearsheimer.

First, Olmert conceded to Carter’s claim that Israel faces a choice between peace or apartheid, saying:

If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.

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Thanks to their highly controversial recent publications, former President Jimmy Carter and the academic tag-team of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer have become persona non grata in much of the American Jewish community. Carter’s Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid argued that Israeli settlement in the West Bank—not terrorism, nor the ascendancy of Hamas—is the primary obstacle to peace in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Walt and Mearsheimer’s The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy argued that U.S. policy in the Middle East is primarily driven by “American Jews who make a significant effort in their daily lives to bend U.S. foreign policy so that it advances Israel’s interests.”

Yet while the American Jewish community was busy debating whether these authors were anti-Semitic, conspiratorial, or simply misguided, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was apparently leafing through the two bestselling tomes for sound-bite material. Consider Olmert’s bizarre press statements following last week’s Annapolis Conference, in which he framed his pursuit of negotiations with terms perfectly agreeable to Cater, Walt, and Mearsheimer.

First, Olmert conceded to Carter’s claim that Israel faces a choice between peace or apartheid, saying:

If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.

Then, borrowing a page from the Walt-Mearsheimer playbook, Olmert argued that Israel must choose peace over apartheid to satisfy its supporters in the United States, who are essential to the Jewish state’s survival; as he told Haaretz:

The Jewish organizations, which were our power base in America, will be the first to come out against us because they will say they cannot support a state that does not support democracy and equal voting rights for all its residents.

Olmert should be taken to task for his carelessness. For starters, perhaps he needs to be reminded of his primary constituency. Olmert represents Israelis, and will need Israelis’ broad support to make the painful concessions that peace will require. It is truly hard to imagine Israelis being swayed by the prospective loss of American Jewish moral support for their government’s decisions, particularly when peace carries substantial risks for their personal security, first and foremost.

Furthermore, Olmert should be reminded of his secondary constituency: Palestinians, who will hardly be motivated to support peace with an Israeli prime minister who frames negotiations as a means of avoiding institutionalized racism. At least one Egyptian newspaper was aglow with headlines noting that the Israeli Prime Minister compared his state to apartheid South Africa. This is public diplomacy at its worst.

Olmert is going to have to learn to better represent Israelis and more effectively address Palestinians if forthcoming negotiations are to have any chance. On the other hand, in case negotiations fail, Olmert has done a good job of opening up a future position as a Middle East Fellow at the Carter Center.

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Michael Scheuer Watch #13: Guilt by Association

Why has the National Alliance endorsed the work of former CIA officer Michael Scheuer? NatAllNews.com, the best “single source for worldwide pro-White news,” presents some choice quotations from our hero here.

Why has David Duke endorsed the work of Michael Scheuer? The former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard explains why in “More Americans Becoming Immune to Zionist Propaganda.”

Why has the National Alliance endorsed John Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt’s paper on The Israel Lobby? The Alliance explains why in “Jews Run American Foreign Policy, says University Researchers.” 

Why has David Duke endorsed Mearsheimer and Walt’s work? Duke explains why in “Stop Cowering to the Jewish Supremacists!

There are many dots here.

1. The National Alliance has endorsed Scheuer.

2. Duke has endorsed Scheuer.

3. The National Alliance has endorsed Mearsheimer and Walt.

4. Duke has endorsed Mearsheimer and Walt.

To these four dots, we can connect two more:

1. Scheuer has endorsed the work of Mearsheimer and Walt.

2. Mearsheimer and Walt have endorsed the work of Michael Scheuer.

Connecting the Dots has two questions for readers:

What do these figures all have in common? How many separate lines are required to connect each of these dots with one another?

The author of the first correct answer will win a free copy of Michael Scheuer’s forthcoming book, Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq. To enter the contest, simply send the correct answer along with a stamped self-addressed envelope to Connecting the Dots at this address.

A complete guide to other items in this Michael Scheuer Watch series can be found here.

Why has the National Alliance endorsed the work of former CIA officer Michael Scheuer? NatAllNews.com, the best “single source for worldwide pro-White news,” presents some choice quotations from our hero here.

Why has David Duke endorsed the work of Michael Scheuer? The former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard explains why in “More Americans Becoming Immune to Zionist Propaganda.”

Why has the National Alliance endorsed John Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt’s paper on The Israel Lobby? The Alliance explains why in “Jews Run American Foreign Policy, says University Researchers.” 

Why has David Duke endorsed Mearsheimer and Walt’s work? Duke explains why in “Stop Cowering to the Jewish Supremacists!

There are many dots here.

1. The National Alliance has endorsed Scheuer.

2. Duke has endorsed Scheuer.

3. The National Alliance has endorsed Mearsheimer and Walt.

4. Duke has endorsed Mearsheimer and Walt.

To these four dots, we can connect two more:

1. Scheuer has endorsed the work of Mearsheimer and Walt.

2. Mearsheimer and Walt have endorsed the work of Michael Scheuer.

Connecting the Dots has two questions for readers:

What do these figures all have in common? How many separate lines are required to connect each of these dots with one another?

The author of the first correct answer will win a free copy of Michael Scheuer’s forthcoming book, Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq. To enter the contest, simply send the correct answer along with a stamped self-addressed envelope to Connecting the Dots at this address.

A complete guide to other items in this Michael Scheuer Watch series can be found here.

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Commentary’s “Sister Publication”?

Should we mix it up among ourselves here at COMMENTARY’s various blogs? Sometimes we have to.

Jamie Kirchick blew a little valentine over the weekend to the British publication, the Spectator. It read in full:

There are some great doings at the website of what I like to think of as a sister publication to COMMENTARY across the pond: the Spectator. The oldest magazine in the English-speaking world, the Spectator—or “Speccie” as it is lovingly called—represents the best opinion journalism regarding all things British, particularly politics and culture.

In addition to the Coffee House, the magazine’s staff blog, London Times contributors Stephen Pollard and Clive Davis contribute must-read daily musings. Plus, there’s the excellent Melanie Phillips, author of Londonistan (reviewed in the pages of COMMENTARY by Daniel Johnson), whose blog has just joined the Spectator website.

Is Kirchick’s praise for the “Speccie” justified?

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Should we mix it up among ourselves here at COMMENTARY’s various blogs? Sometimes we have to.

Jamie Kirchick blew a little valentine over the weekend to the British publication, the Spectator. It read in full:

There are some great doings at the website of what I like to think of as a sister publication to COMMENTARY across the pond: the Spectator. The oldest magazine in the English-speaking world, the Spectator—or “Speccie” as it is lovingly called—represents the best opinion journalism regarding all things British, particularly politics and culture.

In addition to the Coffee House, the magazine’s staff blog, London Times contributors Stephen Pollard and Clive Davis contribute must-read daily musings. Plus, there’s the excellent Melanie Phillips, author of Londonistan (reviewed in the pages of COMMENTARY by Daniel Johnson), whose blog has just joined the Spectator website.

Is Kirchick’s praise for the “Speccie” justified?

Yes, the Spectator has the courageous Melanie Phillips writing for it, and that is mightily to its credit. But Phillips apart, the magazine has a pronounced anti-Zionist slant, not exactly a courageous position these days in the British isles or in Europe.

Consider the magazine’s treatment of The Israel Lobby by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. The Spectator found a reviewer, Jonathan Mirsky, who wrote that “this densely footnoted and courageous book deserves praise rather than abuse.” COMMENTARY has a rather different view of this disreputable book.

Thumbing through back issues of the Spectator one can find material that is far worse than Mirsky’s apologia for anti-Semitism. Read, for example, its regular columnist Taki endorsing Ilan Pappé’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.

Money quote:

Pappé’s figures don’t lie. Over 90 per cent of the land was Palestinian in the early 20th century, and by 1948 the Jewish minority owned only 5.8 per cent of the land. The ethnic cleansing came under the name of Plan Dalet, and it included files on every Arab village and its inhabitants that would allow Jewish militias to attack them and drive them off their lands. . . .

The result was that 800,000 Palestinians became refugees. We in the West pride ourselves on fairness and compassion. As do the Jewish people everywhere. Where’s the fairness there after all these years?

In publishing Taki, a columnist who has long dabbled in anti-Semitic provocations, does the Spectator represent the “best opinion journalism” in Britain, especially about politics and culture? Perhaps Kirchick is right, but only if one considers what else is on offer in British publications these days.

And is the Spectator is some sense a “sister publication to COMMENTARY”?  Perhaps Kirchick is right once again. To find out why, see this movie.

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