Commentary Magazine


Topic: Khartoum

The Economist vs. Israel (Again)

In an editorial on the Middle East, the Economist writes this:

All of this should give new urgency to Arab-Israeli peacemaking. To start with, at least, peace will be incomplete: Iran, Hizbullah and sometimes Hamas say that they will never accept a Jewish state in the Middle East. But it is the unending Israeli occupation that gives these rejectionists their oxygen. Give the Palestinians a state on the West Bank and it will become very much harder for the rejectionists to justify going to war.

This paragraph is par for the course for the Economist when it comes to Israel and the Middle East: utterly detached from reality and history.

The assertion that “unending Israel occupation” is what gives “rejectionists their oxygen” is utterly false. The oxygen is a fierce, burning, and unquenchable hatred for the Jewish state and for Jews themselves. The oxygen is anti-Semitism.

Consider this: the PLO, which was committed to the destruction of Israel, was founded in 1964, three years before Israel controlled the West Bank or Gaza. The 1948 and 1967 wars against Israel happened before the occupied territories and settlements ever became an issue. In 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered almost all these territories to Yasir Arafat. Arafat rejected the offer and began a second intifada. And in Gaza in 2005, Israel did what no other nation has ever done before: provide the Palestinians with the opportunity for self-rule. In response, Israel was shelled by thousands of rockets and mortar attacks. Hamas used Gaza as its launching point.

As for the “rejectionists” needing to “justify” going to war with Israel: is the Economist familiar with (to take just one example) the mad rants of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Does it really believe Ahmadinejad needs the lack of a Palestinian state to justify his (and militant Islam’s) hostility to Israel? Ahmadinejad’s hated of Israel is existential; granting the Palestinians a state wouldn’t placate his detestation for Israel in the least.

Israel has repeatedly shown its willingness to sacrifice “land for peace.” In 1978, under the leadership of Likud’s Menachem Begin, Israel returned to Egypt the Sinai Desert in exchange for Egypt’s recognition of Israel and normalized relations. Israel also offered to return all the land it captured during the 1967 war in exchange for peace and normal relations; the offer was rejected in August 1967, when Arab leaders met in Khartoum and adopted a formula that became known as the “three no’s”: no peace with Israel, no negotiation with Israel, and no recognition of Israel.

Today most Israelis and their political leaders favor, even long for, a two-state solution; witness the extraordinary concessions Israel offered up in the last decade. Not surprisingly, though, we have (re)learned the lesson that a two-state solution requires two partners who are (a) interested in peace and (b) have the power to enforce it. That has simply not been, and is not now, the case. Those Palestinian figures who desire amicable relations with Israel have not shown the capacity to enforce their will on others. And it is, tragically, innocent Palestinians who continue to suffer, to live in misery, and to be a people without a home. That, among other things, is what corrupt Palestinian leadership and a wider, malignant ideology have wrought.

What the “peace process” has taught us is that authentic peace cannot be achieved based on a deep misreading of the true disposition of the enemies of Israel. One would hope that at some point, even the Economist would absorb that blindingly obvious lesson.

In an editorial on the Middle East, the Economist writes this:

All of this should give new urgency to Arab-Israeli peacemaking. To start with, at least, peace will be incomplete: Iran, Hizbullah and sometimes Hamas say that they will never accept a Jewish state in the Middle East. But it is the unending Israeli occupation that gives these rejectionists their oxygen. Give the Palestinians a state on the West Bank and it will become very much harder for the rejectionists to justify going to war.

This paragraph is par for the course for the Economist when it comes to Israel and the Middle East: utterly detached from reality and history.

The assertion that “unending Israel occupation” is what gives “rejectionists their oxygen” is utterly false. The oxygen is a fierce, burning, and unquenchable hatred for the Jewish state and for Jews themselves. The oxygen is anti-Semitism.

Consider this: the PLO, which was committed to the destruction of Israel, was founded in 1964, three years before Israel controlled the West Bank or Gaza. The 1948 and 1967 wars against Israel happened before the occupied territories and settlements ever became an issue. In 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered almost all these territories to Yasir Arafat. Arafat rejected the offer and began a second intifada. And in Gaza in 2005, Israel did what no other nation has ever done before: provide the Palestinians with the opportunity for self-rule. In response, Israel was shelled by thousands of rockets and mortar attacks. Hamas used Gaza as its launching point.

As for the “rejectionists” needing to “justify” going to war with Israel: is the Economist familiar with (to take just one example) the mad rants of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Does it really believe Ahmadinejad needs the lack of a Palestinian state to justify his (and militant Islam’s) hostility to Israel? Ahmadinejad’s hated of Israel is existential; granting the Palestinians a state wouldn’t placate his detestation for Israel in the least.

Israel has repeatedly shown its willingness to sacrifice “land for peace.” In 1978, under the leadership of Likud’s Menachem Begin, Israel returned to Egypt the Sinai Desert in exchange for Egypt’s recognition of Israel and normalized relations. Israel also offered to return all the land it captured during the 1967 war in exchange for peace and normal relations; the offer was rejected in August 1967, when Arab leaders met in Khartoum and adopted a formula that became known as the “three no’s”: no peace with Israel, no negotiation with Israel, and no recognition of Israel.

Today most Israelis and their political leaders favor, even long for, a two-state solution; witness the extraordinary concessions Israel offered up in the last decade. Not surprisingly, though, we have (re)learned the lesson that a two-state solution requires two partners who are (a) interested in peace and (b) have the power to enforce it. That has simply not been, and is not now, the case. Those Palestinian figures who desire amicable relations with Israel have not shown the capacity to enforce their will on others. And it is, tragically, innocent Palestinians who continue to suffer, to live in misery, and to be a people without a home. That, among other things, is what corrupt Palestinian leadership and a wider, malignant ideology have wrought.

What the “peace process” has taught us is that authentic peace cannot be achieved based on a deep misreading of the true disposition of the enemies of Israel. One would hope that at some point, even the Economist would absorb that blindingly obvious lesson.

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Missing the Big Picture in Sudan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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RE: Vindication On Sudan?

Unlike the Washington Post reporter who assured us that the U.S. had been vindicated on its approach to Sudan, the AP has figured out what’s going on:

The words of the Obama administration were unequivocal: Sudan must do more to fight terror and improve human rights. If it did, it would be rewarded. If not, it would be punished.

Nine months later, problems with Sudan have grown worse. Yet the administration has not clamped down. If anything, it has made small conciliatory gestures.

Activists say the backtracking sends a message that the United States is not serious about confronting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, whom an international court charged with genocide on Monday.

The report highlights that there has never been any real method of measuring whether our “engagement” is working, despite the promise by UN Ambassador Susan Rice that there would be “significant consequences for parties that backslide or simply stand still.” In practice, the Obami have done nothing:

“There will be no rewards for the status quo, no incentives without concrete and tangible progress,” said the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. “There will be significant consequences for parties that backslide or simply stand still. All parties will be held to account.”

Since then, there has been backsliding, as the administration has acknowledged. It issued a statement Friday, together with Norway and the United Kingdom, criticizing Sudan for worsening human rights violations throughout the country and for breaking cease-fires in Darfur, noting its use of aerial bombardment and the deployment of local militias.

Yet the U.S. has not punished Sudan. Instead, it has offered small incentives. The State Department recently expanded visa services for Sudanese citizens in its embassy in Khartoum. It also sent a low-level representative to al-Bashir’s inauguration.

Administration officials say Sudan is regularly discussed at high-level meetings. Officials say they use indicators to measure progress in Sudan, but have declined to say what those indicators are. Even a top lawmaker dealing with Africa issues, Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., said he has difficulty getting information.

“I haven’t heard what the benchmarks are or what specifically will be done if they are not met,” said Payne, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Africa subcommittee.

The White House’s top Africa policy adviser, Michelle Gavin, said the administration never intended to have specific metrics that would automatically prompt a reaction. Instead, the White House would use the indicators to continually reassess its policy.

But there has been no reassessment. I don’t often agree with the Center for American Progress, but the head of its anti-genocide program is spot on when he concludes that giving Sudan a “pass” was a mistake:

“If the parties, particularly the ruling party, do not understand that there will be real consequences for a return to war, and real benefits for peace in the country, then the U.S. has lost its biggest point of influence in the effort to avert the worst-case scenario.”

In other words, whether by design or execution, the Obama policy has been a complete failure. Sounds like the Middle East.

Unlike the Washington Post reporter who assured us that the U.S. had been vindicated on its approach to Sudan, the AP has figured out what’s going on:

The words of the Obama administration were unequivocal: Sudan must do more to fight terror and improve human rights. If it did, it would be rewarded. If not, it would be punished.

Nine months later, problems with Sudan have grown worse. Yet the administration has not clamped down. If anything, it has made small conciliatory gestures.

Activists say the backtracking sends a message that the United States is not serious about confronting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, whom an international court charged with genocide on Monday.

The report highlights that there has never been any real method of measuring whether our “engagement” is working, despite the promise by UN Ambassador Susan Rice that there would be “significant consequences for parties that backslide or simply stand still.” In practice, the Obami have done nothing:

“There will be no rewards for the status quo, no incentives without concrete and tangible progress,” said the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. “There will be significant consequences for parties that backslide or simply stand still. All parties will be held to account.”

Since then, there has been backsliding, as the administration has acknowledged. It issued a statement Friday, together with Norway and the United Kingdom, criticizing Sudan for worsening human rights violations throughout the country and for breaking cease-fires in Darfur, noting its use of aerial bombardment and the deployment of local militias.

Yet the U.S. has not punished Sudan. Instead, it has offered small incentives. The State Department recently expanded visa services for Sudanese citizens in its embassy in Khartoum. It also sent a low-level representative to al-Bashir’s inauguration.

Administration officials say Sudan is regularly discussed at high-level meetings. Officials say they use indicators to measure progress in Sudan, but have declined to say what those indicators are. Even a top lawmaker dealing with Africa issues, Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., said he has difficulty getting information.

“I haven’t heard what the benchmarks are or what specifically will be done if they are not met,” said Payne, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Africa subcommittee.

The White House’s top Africa policy adviser, Michelle Gavin, said the administration never intended to have specific metrics that would automatically prompt a reaction. Instead, the White House would use the indicators to continually reassess its policy.

But there has been no reassessment. I don’t often agree with the Center for American Progress, but the head of its anti-genocide program is spot on when he concludes that giving Sudan a “pass” was a mistake:

“If the parties, particularly the ruling party, do not understand that there will be real consequences for a return to war, and real benefits for peace in the country, then the U.S. has lost its biggest point of influence in the effort to avert the worst-case scenario.”

In other words, whether by design or execution, the Obama policy has been a complete failure. Sounds like the Middle East.

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RE: Obama’s Lousy Record on Religious Freedom

As I noted yesterday, the U.S. Commission on International Freedom released its annual report. Its chairman, Leonard Leo, writes a column highlighting some of its findings. Two in particular stand out, in large part because U.S. policy is so badly out of sync and at odds with those striving to promote religious freedom.

First is Sudan. Critics on the right and left have deplored the administration’s feckless envoy, retired Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, and the administration’s “spectacularly naïve perspective—and accompanying policy of appeasement.” Meanwhile, the religious atrocities continue, as Leo details:

USCIRF has focused since its inception on Sudan because Khartoum’s policies of Islamization and Arabization were a major factor in the Sudanese North-South civil war (1983-2005). During that period, Northern leaders, including Sudan’s current President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, exploited religion to mobilize northern Muslims against non-Muslim Southerners by appealing to Islam and calling for jihad. USCIRF remains concerned about continuing severe human rights violations committed by the Sudanese government against both non-Muslims and Muslims who depart from the government’s interpretation of Islam; the two million Southerners who reside in the North as internally displaced persons (IDPS); and the dramatic need for international support to develop Southern Sudan. … As the USCIRF delegation carried out its work, visiting displaced South Sudanese Christians living in camps outside Khartoum, the ominous sights of barricaded streets, armed military and security personnel around the National Assembly were a sobering reminder of the challenges to peace that lay ahead for Sudan.

Gration and the administration remain mute.

Then there is Egypt. The administration again is apathetic, it seems, to the religious persecution taking place there. Rep. Frank Wolf observed this about the virtual enslavement of Coptic women: “I expect the State Department to do nothing because that’s the way the State Department has been responding.” Leo explains what fails to interest the Obami:

In Egypt, serious problems of discrimination and intolerance against non-Muslim religious minorities and disfavored members of the Muslim majority remain widespread. The Egyptian government’s inadequate prosecution of those responsible and the politically expedient and occasional use of an ineffective reconciliation process, an improper substitute for conviction and punishment, have created a climate of impunity. Although the government has arrested three Muslim men and put them on trial for the Coptic Christmas Eve attack on six Coptic Orthodox Christians and one Muslim, the Coptic community fears reprisals and is skeptical that the government will either follow through with the trial of the three men in question or use its authority to create an environment in which individuals safely exercise their internationally guaranteed rights of religious freedom. However, President Mubarak publicly condemned the violence and acknowledged its sectarian character, and the Egyptian press for the first time called for a national conversation and an investigation on the root causes of this violence. Juxtaposed against these signs are the USCIRF delegation’s visits to the Muslim Koranist, Jehovah Witnesses, and Baha’i communities, each victimized by state-sponsored discrimination and repression. The government also has responded inadequately to combat widespread and virulent anti-Semitism in the government-controlled media.

The administration’s verbiage provides a clue to its disinterest in elevating this issue to a top priority. This report explains:

[C]ommission chairman Leonard Leo says the shrinking importance of religious freedom can be seen in the Obama administration’s evolving rhetoric on the issue. Whereas Mr. Obama came into office speaking of “freedom of religion,” Mr. Leo says, the president more recently has opted for speaking about “freedom of worship,” which the USCIRF chairman says has a more limited connotation. “Freedom of religion” is more broadly understood as a universal right and more specific in its referral to religions than is the more ephemeral phrase “freedom of worship,” some religious experts say. Critics say Obama’s recent preference for “worship” raises doubts about the administration’s determination to aggressively press for the rights of religious minorities in “friendly” countries such as Iraq, Egypt, and Pakistan – all of which receive billions of dollars in US aid. The president referred to “freedom of worship,” for example, during his Asia trip last fall, when he was castigated by rights groups for downplaying the issue of religious freedom in China and the status of the Dalai Lama.

The administration’s slothful indifference to the uptick in religious persecution in the “Muslim World” stands in stark contrast to its obsession with the Palestinian-Israel conflict. Months and months of diplomacy, countless speeches and appearances by the president and high-level officials, condemnations for the Jewish state, and a special envoy are all focused on what is largely a fruitless endeavor — getting to the bargaining table (not even the same table at which the Israelis sit) with recalcitrant Palestinians who lack the will and the ability to make a peace deal. Meanwhile, virtually no time or focus and no ambassador is named to deal with a problem that could, if sufficient resources were devoted, be ameliorated by a forceful American policy. It is a vivid display of the misplaced priorities and wasted opportunities that characterize much of the Obama foreign policy.

As I noted yesterday, the U.S. Commission on International Freedom released its annual report. Its chairman, Leonard Leo, writes a column highlighting some of its findings. Two in particular stand out, in large part because U.S. policy is so badly out of sync and at odds with those striving to promote religious freedom.

First is Sudan. Critics on the right and left have deplored the administration’s feckless envoy, retired Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, and the administration’s “spectacularly naïve perspective—and accompanying policy of appeasement.” Meanwhile, the religious atrocities continue, as Leo details:

USCIRF has focused since its inception on Sudan because Khartoum’s policies of Islamization and Arabization were a major factor in the Sudanese North-South civil war (1983-2005). During that period, Northern leaders, including Sudan’s current President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, exploited religion to mobilize northern Muslims against non-Muslim Southerners by appealing to Islam and calling for jihad. USCIRF remains concerned about continuing severe human rights violations committed by the Sudanese government against both non-Muslims and Muslims who depart from the government’s interpretation of Islam; the two million Southerners who reside in the North as internally displaced persons (IDPS); and the dramatic need for international support to develop Southern Sudan. … As the USCIRF delegation carried out its work, visiting displaced South Sudanese Christians living in camps outside Khartoum, the ominous sights of barricaded streets, armed military and security personnel around the National Assembly were a sobering reminder of the challenges to peace that lay ahead for Sudan.

Gration and the administration remain mute.

Then there is Egypt. The administration again is apathetic, it seems, to the religious persecution taking place there. Rep. Frank Wolf observed this about the virtual enslavement of Coptic women: “I expect the State Department to do nothing because that’s the way the State Department has been responding.” Leo explains what fails to interest the Obami:

In Egypt, serious problems of discrimination and intolerance against non-Muslim religious minorities and disfavored members of the Muslim majority remain widespread. The Egyptian government’s inadequate prosecution of those responsible and the politically expedient and occasional use of an ineffective reconciliation process, an improper substitute for conviction and punishment, have created a climate of impunity. Although the government has arrested three Muslim men and put them on trial for the Coptic Christmas Eve attack on six Coptic Orthodox Christians and one Muslim, the Coptic community fears reprisals and is skeptical that the government will either follow through with the trial of the three men in question or use its authority to create an environment in which individuals safely exercise their internationally guaranteed rights of religious freedom. However, President Mubarak publicly condemned the violence and acknowledged its sectarian character, and the Egyptian press for the first time called for a national conversation and an investigation on the root causes of this violence. Juxtaposed against these signs are the USCIRF delegation’s visits to the Muslim Koranist, Jehovah Witnesses, and Baha’i communities, each victimized by state-sponsored discrimination and repression. The government also has responded inadequately to combat widespread and virulent anti-Semitism in the government-controlled media.

The administration’s verbiage provides a clue to its disinterest in elevating this issue to a top priority. This report explains:

[C]ommission chairman Leonard Leo says the shrinking importance of religious freedom can be seen in the Obama administration’s evolving rhetoric on the issue. Whereas Mr. Obama came into office speaking of “freedom of religion,” Mr. Leo says, the president more recently has opted for speaking about “freedom of worship,” which the USCIRF chairman says has a more limited connotation. “Freedom of religion” is more broadly understood as a universal right and more specific in its referral to religions than is the more ephemeral phrase “freedom of worship,” some religious experts say. Critics say Obama’s recent preference for “worship” raises doubts about the administration’s determination to aggressively press for the rights of religious minorities in “friendly” countries such as Iraq, Egypt, and Pakistan – all of which receive billions of dollars in US aid. The president referred to “freedom of worship,” for example, during his Asia trip last fall, when he was castigated by rights groups for downplaying the issue of religious freedom in China and the status of the Dalai Lama.

The administration’s slothful indifference to the uptick in religious persecution in the “Muslim World” stands in stark contrast to its obsession with the Palestinian-Israel conflict. Months and months of diplomacy, countless speeches and appearances by the president and high-level officials, condemnations for the Jewish state, and a special envoy are all focused on what is largely a fruitless endeavor — getting to the bargaining table (not even the same table at which the Israelis sit) with recalcitrant Palestinians who lack the will and the ability to make a peace deal. Meanwhile, virtually no time or focus and no ambassador is named to deal with a problem that could, if sufficient resources were devoted, be ameliorated by a forceful American policy. It is a vivid display of the misplaced priorities and wasted opportunities that characterize much of the Obama foreign policy.

Read Less

False Moral Equivalence and Its Defenders

Jackson Diehl, in a recent posting, wrote about the fact that in his State of the Union address, President Obama failed to mention Israel, the Palestinians, or the Middle East peace process, which was one of his most high-profile diplomatic initiatives during his first year. “For those reading tea leaves,” Diehl wrote, “and there are many in the Middle East — the president has offered a few signs recently that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have moved down his list of priorities.” Diehl thinks that’s a wise idea.

As I argued in a column earlier this month, the history of Israeli-Arab diplomacy clearly shows that only peace efforts that originate with the parties themselves have succeeded. Or, as former secretary of state James A. Baker III once put it, we “can’t want peace more than the parties” themselves. Baker, a master of Middle East diplomacy, once publicly gave Israelis and Palestinians the White House phone number and invited them to call when they were serious about pursuing negotiations. In a more subtle way, Obama may be doing the same thing.

I agree that having the U.S. try to impose a solution is the wrong way to proceed. But where I disagree with Diehl is in his “pox on both your houses” approach to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. This is an almost reflexive habit among many people in the foreign-policy establishment and the political class. The Israelis and Palestinians are equally to blame for the tension and lack of progress. Both sides have made mistakes. Neither has done all it should. Both are equally culpable. Call us when you’re serious.

This account is not only wrong; it is fanciful. It ignores so many things that bear on this matter, such as the fact that in 2005, Israel did what its critics had been demanding of it: unilaterally return land to the Palestinians. (This is something that no Arab nation has ever done, even when, for example, Jordan occupied and annexed the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was occupied by Egypt.) It came in the form of offering the Palestinians self-rule in Gaza. Israel took this “chance for peace” — and in response it was on the receiving end of thousands of rocket and mortar attacks.

It isn’t the first time. In 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians virtually all the territory they had asked for. He would accept certain districts in East Jerusalem as the capital of a new Palestinian state. And he was willing to grant the so-called “right of return” to 100,000 Palestinians and compensate the rest. In response, Yasir Arafat began a second intifada, one that was bloodier and more violent than the first.

Israel has shown that when it deals with Arab nations that are not committed to its destruction — see Jordan and Egypt — it is prepared to make enormous concessions. In fact, in returning the Sinai Desert to Egypt, Israel returned land three times its size — territory that accounted for more than 90 percent of the land Israel won in the 1967 war of aggression by Arab states. Israel also offered to return all the land it captured during the Six-Day War in exchange for peace and normal relations; that offer was summarily rejected in August 1967, when Arab leaders met in Khartoum and issued their infamous “three no’s” edict: no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, and no recognition of Israel.

I’ve written previously about the false equivalence between the actions of Israel and the Palestinians:

It … ignores what Israel is: democratic and lawful, willing to grant rights to its Arab citizens, willing to hold itself accountable for its mistakes, a country of bustling energy, entrepreneurial spirit, and a thriving civil society. Israel is among the most admirable and impressive nations in the world, and that we have ever seen. And all of this despite living in a region that for the most part despises her and in some instances wants to destroy her.

The truth is that the people of Israel ache for peace; they have done as much as any people on earth to secure it. And for anyone to say that we in America want it more than they do is offensive. They cannot do it alone, and for Israel to offer concessions to nations bent on its destruction would be to sign a death warrant.

The Palestinian people have endured enormous suffering and hardship for more than half a century. But that has to do with the fact that other Arab nations have used the Palestinians as pawns in their own malignant games, and with Palestinians leadership, which has never made its inner peace with the Jewish state. That is at the core of this conflict; and until that burning hatred for Israel is finally extinguished, there is simply no chance for lasting peace.

Why this truth is overlooked so often, by so many, is a curious and troubling thing.

Jackson Diehl, in a recent posting, wrote about the fact that in his State of the Union address, President Obama failed to mention Israel, the Palestinians, or the Middle East peace process, which was one of his most high-profile diplomatic initiatives during his first year. “For those reading tea leaves,” Diehl wrote, “and there are many in the Middle East — the president has offered a few signs recently that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have moved down his list of priorities.” Diehl thinks that’s a wise idea.

As I argued in a column earlier this month, the history of Israeli-Arab diplomacy clearly shows that only peace efforts that originate with the parties themselves have succeeded. Or, as former secretary of state James A. Baker III once put it, we “can’t want peace more than the parties” themselves. Baker, a master of Middle East diplomacy, once publicly gave Israelis and Palestinians the White House phone number and invited them to call when they were serious about pursuing negotiations. In a more subtle way, Obama may be doing the same thing.

I agree that having the U.S. try to impose a solution is the wrong way to proceed. But where I disagree with Diehl is in his “pox on both your houses” approach to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. This is an almost reflexive habit among many people in the foreign-policy establishment and the political class. The Israelis and Palestinians are equally to blame for the tension and lack of progress. Both sides have made mistakes. Neither has done all it should. Both are equally culpable. Call us when you’re serious.

This account is not only wrong; it is fanciful. It ignores so many things that bear on this matter, such as the fact that in 2005, Israel did what its critics had been demanding of it: unilaterally return land to the Palestinians. (This is something that no Arab nation has ever done, even when, for example, Jordan occupied and annexed the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was occupied by Egypt.) It came in the form of offering the Palestinians self-rule in Gaza. Israel took this “chance for peace” — and in response it was on the receiving end of thousands of rocket and mortar attacks.

It isn’t the first time. In 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians virtually all the territory they had asked for. He would accept certain districts in East Jerusalem as the capital of a new Palestinian state. And he was willing to grant the so-called “right of return” to 100,000 Palestinians and compensate the rest. In response, Yasir Arafat began a second intifada, one that was bloodier and more violent than the first.

Israel has shown that when it deals with Arab nations that are not committed to its destruction — see Jordan and Egypt — it is prepared to make enormous concessions. In fact, in returning the Sinai Desert to Egypt, Israel returned land three times its size — territory that accounted for more than 90 percent of the land Israel won in the 1967 war of aggression by Arab states. Israel also offered to return all the land it captured during the Six-Day War in exchange for peace and normal relations; that offer was summarily rejected in August 1967, when Arab leaders met in Khartoum and issued their infamous “three no’s” edict: no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, and no recognition of Israel.

I’ve written previously about the false equivalence between the actions of Israel and the Palestinians:

It … ignores what Israel is: democratic and lawful, willing to grant rights to its Arab citizens, willing to hold itself accountable for its mistakes, a country of bustling energy, entrepreneurial spirit, and a thriving civil society. Israel is among the most admirable and impressive nations in the world, and that we have ever seen. And all of this despite living in a region that for the most part despises her and in some instances wants to destroy her.

The truth is that the people of Israel ache for peace; they have done as much as any people on earth to secure it. And for anyone to say that we in America want it more than they do is offensive. They cannot do it alone, and for Israel to offer concessions to nations bent on its destruction would be to sign a death warrant.

The Palestinian people have endured enormous suffering and hardship for more than half a century. But that has to do with the fact that other Arab nations have used the Palestinians as pawns in their own malignant games, and with Palestinians leadership, which has never made its inner peace with the Jewish state. That is at the core of this conflict; and until that burning hatred for Israel is finally extinguished, there is simply no chance for lasting peace.

Why this truth is overlooked so often, by so many, is a curious and troubling thing.

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Clinton, McCain, and Obama: “We Stand United”

Today, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama issued a joint statement on Darfur: We wish to make clear to the Sudanese government that on this moral issue of tremendous importance, there is no divide between us,” they write. “We stand united and demand that the genocide and violence in Darfur be brought to an end.

The three candidates deplore the violence and condemn Khartoum. They do not say what they will do to stop the killing, yet by issuing the statement they create a marker by which one of them will be judged. All of them deserve our appreciation for the rare show of unity.

Darfur just may be the perfect place to build a national consensus on national security issues. It has three principal advantages for this purpose. First, if Iran is “tiny”–to borrow a word I have heard used to describe it recently–then the western region of Sudan is virtually nonexistent. It is, of course, easy to agree on something not important to us. Second, all Americans feel revulsion because of the rape, slaughter, and genocide. Third, Darfur, although insignificant on its own, brings the critical issues of our time into play.

“There can be no doubt that the Sudanese government is chiefly responsible for the violence and is able to end it,” Clinton, McCain, and Obama state. Yet, as a practical matter, we cannot persuade, intimidate, or punish the abhorrent rulers in Khartoum until we do something about their sponsors, Russia and China. These two states provide arms, material assistance, and diplomatic support to the Sudanese regime. Without their help, the killing stops within weeks.

The three candidates, of course, are not going to have an honest dialogue about the world’s two largest authoritarian powers. But now they have created pressure on the victor to do something about Sudan. And come January–after all, the genocide is “a Day 1 issue”–it is up to the American people to make sure that the next President deals with Darfur by first dealing with Russia and China.

Today, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama issued a joint statement on Darfur: We wish to make clear to the Sudanese government that on this moral issue of tremendous importance, there is no divide between us,” they write. “We stand united and demand that the genocide and violence in Darfur be brought to an end.

The three candidates deplore the violence and condemn Khartoum. They do not say what they will do to stop the killing, yet by issuing the statement they create a marker by which one of them will be judged. All of them deserve our appreciation for the rare show of unity.

Darfur just may be the perfect place to build a national consensus on national security issues. It has three principal advantages for this purpose. First, if Iran is “tiny”–to borrow a word I have heard used to describe it recently–then the western region of Sudan is virtually nonexistent. It is, of course, easy to agree on something not important to us. Second, all Americans feel revulsion because of the rape, slaughter, and genocide. Third, Darfur, although insignificant on its own, brings the critical issues of our time into play.

“There can be no doubt that the Sudanese government is chiefly responsible for the violence and is able to end it,” Clinton, McCain, and Obama state. Yet, as a practical matter, we cannot persuade, intimidate, or punish the abhorrent rulers in Khartoum until we do something about their sponsors, Russia and China. These two states provide arms, material assistance, and diplomatic support to the Sudanese regime. Without their help, the killing stops within weeks.

The three candidates, of course, are not going to have an honest dialogue about the world’s two largest authoritarian powers. But now they have created pressure on the victor to do something about Sudan. And come January–after all, the genocide is “a Day 1 issue”–it is up to the American people to make sure that the next President deals with Darfur by first dealing with Russia and China.

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Spielberg Withdraws from the Olympics

Yesterday, Steven Spielberg announced that he had severed his role as artistic advisor to this year’s Summer Olympics, which begins in August. “I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue business as usual,” he said in a statement. “At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies, but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur.”

China is committing no such crimes in Darfur. It is, however, providing crucial material support to the government in Khartoum as well as diplomatic help, especially in the U.N Security Council. That government, in turn, is sponsoring the Janjaweed militia, which has rightly been accused of genocide. So far, about 200,000 to 400,000 people have died according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Spielberg, by refusing to continue his work on the opening and closing ceremonies, implicitly says that participation in the Olympics is tantamount to supporting the atrocities, including mass murder and rape, taking place in western Sudan.

In the wake of the famed director’s withdrawal, Human Rights Watch has asked others to think about their personal responsibility. “These influential players should be prepared to show the steps they are taking to address the worsening rights climate in China, or they risk being tarnished by a human rights debacle,” said Minky Worden, the group’s media director, yesterday.

Worden raises a fundamental issue: At what point does personal participation imply guilt? Beijing’s response is predictable: “As the Darfur issue is neither an internal issue of China, nor is it caused by China, it is completely unreasonable, irresponsible and unfair for certain organizations and individuals to link the two as one,” the Chinese embassy in Washington said in a statement yesterday. Beijing’s position, however reasonable it seems on its face, is unconvincing simply because the tragedy in Darfur would not be occurring were it not for China.

Today, there is a growing sentiment that China is too damn close to the Janjaweed militia. On Tuesday, 25 individuals, including Nobel peace laureates, called on Chinese President Hu Jintao to take steps to end the slaughter sponsored by Khartoum. Whether Beijing likes it or not, people are starting to make the connections between death in Darfur and the celebrations in Beijing. It is high time we examine our national—and personal—responsibility for China’s acts because we are enabling the Chinese regime through our policies of engagement.

“Repression in China is on the rise, and Olympic sponsors, governments, or world leaders—especially those planning to attend the Games—can’t pretend otherwise,” said Worden. At least Prince Charles is on the side of the angels. He has said that he will not attend the Games. President Bush, however, is going to Beijing in August for the spectacle. Regrettably, he has tried to lessen his personal responsibility by saying that he is doing so only as a sports fan. As Spielberg has just shown us, however, that is not possible in today’s climate. Let me quote Bush to Bush: you’re either with the Chinese autocrats or against them.

And if you’re with me, you insist that your leaders in Washington not associate themselves with ugly events taking place in Darfur by supporting the extravaganza in Beijing.

Yesterday, Steven Spielberg announced that he had severed his role as artistic advisor to this year’s Summer Olympics, which begins in August. “I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue business as usual,” he said in a statement. “At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies, but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur.”

China is committing no such crimes in Darfur. It is, however, providing crucial material support to the government in Khartoum as well as diplomatic help, especially in the U.N Security Council. That government, in turn, is sponsoring the Janjaweed militia, which has rightly been accused of genocide. So far, about 200,000 to 400,000 people have died according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Spielberg, by refusing to continue his work on the opening and closing ceremonies, implicitly says that participation in the Olympics is tantamount to supporting the atrocities, including mass murder and rape, taking place in western Sudan.

In the wake of the famed director’s withdrawal, Human Rights Watch has asked others to think about their personal responsibility. “These influential players should be prepared to show the steps they are taking to address the worsening rights climate in China, or they risk being tarnished by a human rights debacle,” said Minky Worden, the group’s media director, yesterday.

Worden raises a fundamental issue: At what point does personal participation imply guilt? Beijing’s response is predictable: “As the Darfur issue is neither an internal issue of China, nor is it caused by China, it is completely unreasonable, irresponsible and unfair for certain organizations and individuals to link the two as one,” the Chinese embassy in Washington said in a statement yesterday. Beijing’s position, however reasonable it seems on its face, is unconvincing simply because the tragedy in Darfur would not be occurring were it not for China.

Today, there is a growing sentiment that China is too damn close to the Janjaweed militia. On Tuesday, 25 individuals, including Nobel peace laureates, called on Chinese President Hu Jintao to take steps to end the slaughter sponsored by Khartoum. Whether Beijing likes it or not, people are starting to make the connections between death in Darfur and the celebrations in Beijing. It is high time we examine our national—and personal—responsibility for China’s acts because we are enabling the Chinese regime through our policies of engagement.

“Repression in China is on the rise, and Olympic sponsors, governments, or world leaders—especially those planning to attend the Games—can’t pretend otherwise,” said Worden. At least Prince Charles is on the side of the angels. He has said that he will not attend the Games. President Bush, however, is going to Beijing in August for the spectacle. Regrettably, he has tried to lessen his personal responsibility by saying that he is doing so only as a sports fan. As Spielberg has just shown us, however, that is not possible in today’s climate. Let me quote Bush to Bush: you’re either with the Chinese autocrats or against them.

And if you’re with me, you insist that your leaders in Washington not associate themselves with ugly events taking place in Darfur by supporting the extravaganza in Beijing.

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Reds Wearing Blue in Darfur

Yesterday, 135 Chinese engineers and medical officers entered Nyala, capital of the South Darfur region of Sudan, as United Nations peacekeepers. The Justice and Equality Movement, a rebel group, demanded that the Chinese leave immediately. “China is complicit in the genocide being carried out in Darfur,” said a JEM commander. The Paris-based Darfur Internationally Displaced People also called on Beijing to depart because “genocide and robbery are taking place in Darfur since 2003 thanks to Chinese weapons.”

China is the largest supplier of weapons to the Sudanese government, which has sponsored the murderous Janjaweed militia. Reuters reports that Beijing has increased its arms sales to Khartoum by 25-fold between 2002 and 2005, and the Chinese are still providing the tools of war. More importantly, China has continually protected Khartoum in the United Nations Security Council, where it has threatened to exercise its veto to prevent any action that might stop the killing in Darfur. It’s no wonder that Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir insisted on Chinese participation in the peacekeeping force if non-Africans were included. After all, Beijing is genocide’s best friend.

So the arrival of Chinese peacekeepers in Darfur is a hideous development. Who is responsible? The most visible culprit, of course, is the United Nations. Yet the UN is complicit because its member states make it so. Washington, for example, may not be able to prevent Beijing from using its veto to prolong mass murder in Darfur, yet we also have a veto. And we should have used all our power to prevent the Chinese from going there wearing the blue berets and scarves of the United Nations.

Yesterday, 135 Chinese engineers and medical officers entered Nyala, capital of the South Darfur region of Sudan, as United Nations peacekeepers. The Justice and Equality Movement, a rebel group, demanded that the Chinese leave immediately. “China is complicit in the genocide being carried out in Darfur,” said a JEM commander. The Paris-based Darfur Internationally Displaced People also called on Beijing to depart because “genocide and robbery are taking place in Darfur since 2003 thanks to Chinese weapons.”

China is the largest supplier of weapons to the Sudanese government, which has sponsored the murderous Janjaweed militia. Reuters reports that Beijing has increased its arms sales to Khartoum by 25-fold between 2002 and 2005, and the Chinese are still providing the tools of war. More importantly, China has continually protected Khartoum in the United Nations Security Council, where it has threatened to exercise its veto to prevent any action that might stop the killing in Darfur. It’s no wonder that Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir insisted on Chinese participation in the peacekeeping force if non-Africans were included. After all, Beijing is genocide’s best friend.

So the arrival of Chinese peacekeepers in Darfur is a hideous development. Who is responsible? The most visible culprit, of course, is the United Nations. Yet the UN is complicit because its member states make it so. Washington, for example, may not be able to prevent Beijing from using its veto to prolong mass murder in Darfur, yet we also have a veto. And we should have used all our power to prevent the Chinese from going there wearing the blue berets and scarves of the United Nations.

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Send in the Mercenaries

Michael Abramowitz of the Washington Post has an interesting and instructive article on the U.S. failure to do something meaningful about the genocide in Darfur. The gist of the piece is that, while President Bush personally is committed to action, he has not been able or willing to mobilize the government to get tough with the murderous Janjaweed militia and their sponsors in Khartoum who have been responsible for an estimated 200,000 deaths since 2003.

The article is full of damning quotes such as this one:

“Bush probably does want something done, but the lack of hands-on follow-up from this White House allowed this to drift,” said one former State Department official involved in Darfur who did not want to be quoted by name criticizing the president. “If he says, ‘There is not going to be genocide on my watch,’ and then two and a half years later we are just getting tough action, what gives? He has made statements, but his administration has not given meaning to those statements.”

This is symptomatic of a larger problem with this administration, which too often has coupled stirring rhetoric about defeating terrorists, promoting democracy, and curbing human rights abuses with sadly inadequate or incoherent action. In the case of Darfur, Abramowitz aptly sums up the failure:

While almost everyone involved in Darfur policy agrees that an African Union peacekeeping force of just 7,000 troops is not up to the task, the United States has refused to send troops and, despite promises of reinforcements, has yet to secure many additional troops from other countries. At the same time, it has been unable to broker a diplomatic resolution that might ease the violence.

As I’ve been arguing for some time, there is a simple solution that is hiding in plain sight: send in the mercenaries. If we’re not willing to put our own troops into Darfur—and there are good reasons why we’re not—why not hire private security companies like Blackwater to aid the African Union peacekeepers in their assigned mission? Executive Outcomes, a now-defunct South African firm, worked wonders in stopping a civil war in Sierra Leone in the 1990’s. Similar firms could be equally effective in Darfur today.

But this solution is too politically incorrect to contemplate. Much better, it seems, simply to let the killing continue unabated.

Michael Abramowitz of the Washington Post has an interesting and instructive article on the U.S. failure to do something meaningful about the genocide in Darfur. The gist of the piece is that, while President Bush personally is committed to action, he has not been able or willing to mobilize the government to get tough with the murderous Janjaweed militia and their sponsors in Khartoum who have been responsible for an estimated 200,000 deaths since 2003.

The article is full of damning quotes such as this one:

“Bush probably does want something done, but the lack of hands-on follow-up from this White House allowed this to drift,” said one former State Department official involved in Darfur who did not want to be quoted by name criticizing the president. “If he says, ‘There is not going to be genocide on my watch,’ and then two and a half years later we are just getting tough action, what gives? He has made statements, but his administration has not given meaning to those statements.”

This is symptomatic of a larger problem with this administration, which too often has coupled stirring rhetoric about defeating terrorists, promoting democracy, and curbing human rights abuses with sadly inadequate or incoherent action. In the case of Darfur, Abramowitz aptly sums up the failure:

While almost everyone involved in Darfur policy agrees that an African Union peacekeeping force of just 7,000 troops is not up to the task, the United States has refused to send troops and, despite promises of reinforcements, has yet to secure many additional troops from other countries. At the same time, it has been unable to broker a diplomatic resolution that might ease the violence.

As I’ve been arguing for some time, there is a simple solution that is hiding in plain sight: send in the mercenaries. If we’re not willing to put our own troops into Darfur—and there are good reasons why we’re not—why not hire private security companies like Blackwater to aid the African Union peacekeepers in their assigned mission? Executive Outcomes, a now-defunct South African firm, worked wonders in stopping a civil war in Sierra Leone in the 1990’s. Similar firms could be equally effective in Darfur today.

But this solution is too politically incorrect to contemplate. Much better, it seems, simply to let the killing continue unabated.

Read Less




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