Commentary Magazine


Topic: Kuwait

Here’s a Housing-Freeze Idea

COMMENTARY contributor Ruth Wisse asks a marvelous question: “How about an Arab ‘Settlement Freeze’?” Her point is a cogent one:

Of the children of Abraham, the descendants of Ishmael currently occupy at least 800 times more land than descendants of Isaac. The 21 states of the Arab League routinely announce plans of building expansion. Saudi Arabia estimates that 555,000 housing units were built over the past several years. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced during a meeting in Baghdad last year that “Some 10,000 units will be built in each province [of Iraq] with 100 square meters per unit” to accommodate citizens whose housing needs have not been met for a long time. Egypt has established 10 new cities since 1996. They are Tenth of Ramadan, Sixth of October, Al Sadat, Al Shurouq, Al Obour, New Damietta, New Beni Sueif, New Assiut, New Luxor, and New Cairo.

In 2006 the Syrian Prime Minister, Mohammad Naji Atri, announced a new five-year development plan that aims to supply 687,000 housing units. Kuwait expects to have a demand for approximately 100,000 private housing units by 2010. Last year Jordan’s King Abdullah launched a National Housing Initiative, which aims to build 120,000 properties for low-income Jordanians.

And the litany of housing goes on, as does the history of Arab rejectionism, which seeks to displace the Jewish state — housing units and all — from the region. As Wisse argues, “It is unfortunate that Arabs obsess about building in Israel rather than aiming for the development of their own superabundant lands. But why should America encourage their hegemonic ambitions?”

So why focus on the tiny Jewish state and 5,000 units in the undefined “East Jerusalem”? (By the way, the capitalization of “East” now employed by every journalistic outfit on the planet is misleading. There is east or eastern Jerusalem; there is no legal entity “East Jerusalem.”) We return then to her query:

Why does the White House take issue with the construction of housing for Jewish citizens within the boundaries of their own country? The same White House raised no objection when Jordan recently began systematically stripping citizenship from thousands of its Palestinian citizens rather than providing new housing units for them in a land much larger than Israel.

Perhaps Israel has been at fault for not doggedly insisting on unconditional acceptance of its sovereign existence, and for not demanding that Arab rulers adhere to the U.N. Charter’s guarantee of “equal rights of . . . nations large and small.” Preposterous as they would have thought it, perhaps Israelis ought to have called for a freeze on Arab settlements to correspond to unreasonable Arab demands on them.

It is a measure of how cockeyed our thinking has become that there is only a single country in the region — the one that affords its Arab minority more civil liberties than in the surrounding Arab states — that must play “Mother-may-I?” when it comes to housing its own population. Now there’s an “affront.”

COMMENTARY contributor Ruth Wisse asks a marvelous question: “How about an Arab ‘Settlement Freeze’?” Her point is a cogent one:

Of the children of Abraham, the descendants of Ishmael currently occupy at least 800 times more land than descendants of Isaac. The 21 states of the Arab League routinely announce plans of building expansion. Saudi Arabia estimates that 555,000 housing units were built over the past several years. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced during a meeting in Baghdad last year that “Some 10,000 units will be built in each province [of Iraq] with 100 square meters per unit” to accommodate citizens whose housing needs have not been met for a long time. Egypt has established 10 new cities since 1996. They are Tenth of Ramadan, Sixth of October, Al Sadat, Al Shurouq, Al Obour, New Damietta, New Beni Sueif, New Assiut, New Luxor, and New Cairo.

In 2006 the Syrian Prime Minister, Mohammad Naji Atri, announced a new five-year development plan that aims to supply 687,000 housing units. Kuwait expects to have a demand for approximately 100,000 private housing units by 2010. Last year Jordan’s King Abdullah launched a National Housing Initiative, which aims to build 120,000 properties for low-income Jordanians.

And the litany of housing goes on, as does the history of Arab rejectionism, which seeks to displace the Jewish state — housing units and all — from the region. As Wisse argues, “It is unfortunate that Arabs obsess about building in Israel rather than aiming for the development of their own superabundant lands. But why should America encourage their hegemonic ambitions?”

So why focus on the tiny Jewish state and 5,000 units in the undefined “East Jerusalem”? (By the way, the capitalization of “East” now employed by every journalistic outfit on the planet is misleading. There is east or eastern Jerusalem; there is no legal entity “East Jerusalem.”) We return then to her query:

Why does the White House take issue with the construction of housing for Jewish citizens within the boundaries of their own country? The same White House raised no objection when Jordan recently began systematically stripping citizenship from thousands of its Palestinian citizens rather than providing new housing units for them in a land much larger than Israel.

Perhaps Israel has been at fault for not doggedly insisting on unconditional acceptance of its sovereign existence, and for not demanding that Arab rulers adhere to the U.N. Charter’s guarantee of “equal rights of . . . nations large and small.” Preposterous as they would have thought it, perhaps Israelis ought to have called for a freeze on Arab settlements to correspond to unreasonable Arab demands on them.

It is a measure of how cockeyed our thinking has become that there is only a single country in the region — the one that affords its Arab minority more civil liberties than in the surrounding Arab states — that must play “Mother-may-I?” when it comes to housing its own population. Now there’s an “affront.”

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Andrew Roberts’ History Lesson

Andrew Roberts, Britain’s distinguished historian, has an important front-page article in the Jewish Press, entitled “Israel’s Fair-Weather British Friends” – a survey of the history of British diplomatic betrayals and genteel anti-Semitism that should be read in its entirety.

Here’s a remarkable fact about the Queen’s travels, which are controlled by the British Foreign Office:

Though the queen has made over 250 official overseas visits to 129 different countries during her reign, neither she nor any other member of the British royal family has ever been to Israel on an official visit. …

But the Foreign Office has somehow managed to find the time over the years to send the queen on state visits to Libya, Iran, Sudan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Jordan and Turkey. So it can’t have been that she wasn’t in the area.

Perhaps Her Majesty hasn’t been on the throne long enough, at 57 years, for the Foreign Office to get around to allowing her to visit one of the only democracies in the Middle East.

Barack Obama has been in office for 56 fewer years than the Queen, but he did a remarkable amount of traveling last year – including three trips to Scandinavia alone (to make a pitch, receive a prize, and negotiate a non-binding agreement) — without visiting Israel. He went to Egypt to give a speech and to Saudi Arabia to make a bow, and to Turkey on another trip, so it couldn’t have been that he wasn’t in the area.

The absence of a trip to Israel was one of many signals he gave over the past year that he wanted to put daylight between the U.S. and Israel – something that did not go unnoticed across the political spectrum in Israel. Haaretz’s Yoel Marcus, one of the most liberal columnists in the country, argued that Obama should “come to Israel and declare here courageously, before the entire world, that our connection to this land began long before the Israeli-Arab conflict and the Holocaust; and that 4,000 years ago, Jews already stood on the ground where he is standing.” Aluf Benn, another prominent Haaretz columnist, used the op-ed page of  the New York Times to urge Obama to come to Israel to talk directly to its citizens. Those pleas, made six months ago, produced no response.

Roberts observes that if Israel “decides preemptively to strike against [the Iranian] threat – as Nelson preemptively sank the Danish Fleet at Copenhagen and Churchill preemptively sank the Vichy Fleet at Oran – then it can expect nothing but condemnation from the British Foreign Office.” He advises Israel to ignore it — “because Britain has only ever really been at best a fair weather friend to Israel.”

Britain’s disregard for Israel is an historical embarrassment. The disregard by the American president is a matter of current importance. Israel struck preemptively the incipient nuclear program of Iraq in 1981 and that of Syria in 2007; it found itself required to strike preemptively against Egypt in 1967. If it finds itself in a position of having to strike preemptively again, it will be because of an American failure to deal with a problem that casts its shadow beyond Israel, aggravated by the signals of the president’s uncertain support of one of the very rare democracies in the Middle East.

Andrew Roberts, Britain’s distinguished historian, has an important front-page article in the Jewish Press, entitled “Israel’s Fair-Weather British Friends” – a survey of the history of British diplomatic betrayals and genteel anti-Semitism that should be read in its entirety.

Here’s a remarkable fact about the Queen’s travels, which are controlled by the British Foreign Office:

Though the queen has made over 250 official overseas visits to 129 different countries during her reign, neither she nor any other member of the British royal family has ever been to Israel on an official visit. …

But the Foreign Office has somehow managed to find the time over the years to send the queen on state visits to Libya, Iran, Sudan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Jordan and Turkey. So it can’t have been that she wasn’t in the area.

Perhaps Her Majesty hasn’t been on the throne long enough, at 57 years, for the Foreign Office to get around to allowing her to visit one of the only democracies in the Middle East.

Barack Obama has been in office for 56 fewer years than the Queen, but he did a remarkable amount of traveling last year – including three trips to Scandinavia alone (to make a pitch, receive a prize, and negotiate a non-binding agreement) — without visiting Israel. He went to Egypt to give a speech and to Saudi Arabia to make a bow, and to Turkey on another trip, so it couldn’t have been that he wasn’t in the area.

The absence of a trip to Israel was one of many signals he gave over the past year that he wanted to put daylight between the U.S. and Israel – something that did not go unnoticed across the political spectrum in Israel. Haaretz’s Yoel Marcus, one of the most liberal columnists in the country, argued that Obama should “come to Israel and declare here courageously, before the entire world, that our connection to this land began long before the Israeli-Arab conflict and the Holocaust; and that 4,000 years ago, Jews already stood on the ground where he is standing.” Aluf Benn, another prominent Haaretz columnist, used the op-ed page of  the New York Times to urge Obama to come to Israel to talk directly to its citizens. Those pleas, made six months ago, produced no response.

Roberts observes that if Israel “decides preemptively to strike against [the Iranian] threat – as Nelson preemptively sank the Danish Fleet at Copenhagen and Churchill preemptively sank the Vichy Fleet at Oran – then it can expect nothing but condemnation from the British Foreign Office.” He advises Israel to ignore it — “because Britain has only ever really been at best a fair weather friend to Israel.”

Britain’s disregard for Israel is an historical embarrassment. The disregard by the American president is a matter of current importance. Israel struck preemptively the incipient nuclear program of Iraq in 1981 and that of Syria in 2007; it found itself required to strike preemptively against Egypt in 1967. If it finds itself in a position of having to strike preemptively again, it will be because of an American failure to deal with a problem that casts its shadow beyond Israel, aggravated by the signals of the president’s uncertain support of one of the very rare democracies in the Middle East.

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The Middle East Needs Dubai

There is a large element of Schadenfreude in the media coverage of Dubai’s financial mess. The Gulf emirate has suspended payment on the debt of its flagship holding company, Dubai World, causing financial jitters around the world and raising suspicions that its balance sheet is a lot worse than it has been letting on. For years Dubai has been on a spending binge, which includes building the world’s tallest building, an indoor ski slope, and a series of artificial islands in “an artificial archipelago that would reconfigure the Persian Gulf coast into a thicket of trees, a map of the world, a whirling galaxy, a scythe and a sun that looks like a spider.”

It is easy to look down one’s nose at the excesses of this global parvenu, which is trying to become the Hong Kong or Singapore of the Middle East, thereby usurping Beirut’s traditional position as the place where Arabs unwind. When I visited Dubai a couple of years ago with a group of foreign-policy analysts, we were all amazed by the frenetic pace of construction. A sizable proportion of the world’s building cranes had been arrayed in this city-state and they were putting up too many skyscrapers to count. It was pretty obvious that the good times wouldn’t last forever, and they haven’t. The result of a building boom, we all know, is a glut of new structures, a lack of tenants, and a crash. That’s what has happened in the U.S. with residential homes in the past few years and now it appears to be happening with commercial real estate in Dubai.

So much, so familiar. But still for all of Dubai’s excesses it is a wonder that it has gotten this far. It deserves not ill-disguised glee at its misfortunes but a degree of respect for its willingness to flout traditional Arab taboos. It is, for example, a place where Emiratis in white robes rub shoulders with Russian hookers in mini-skirts — a place where it’s perfectly possible to get a nice cocktail (and not a “mocktail,” as in Kuwait) in a public bar, and to do so in the middle of Ramadan if you’re feeling parched at that point. No doubt some of Dubai’s competitors, the likes of Doha and Kuwait City and its sister emirate Abu Dhabi, are licking their chops at the prospect of benefitting from Dubai’s downturn but they will be hard put to it to match its dynamism because they remain much more in thrall to traditional Arab/Muslim pieties: a combination of religious and tribal traditions that have made the Middle East a laggard in many dimensions of development. Dubai has been a leader in the Arab world with respect to embracing modernity — which has repercussions both good and bad but in general is a force for positive change. We should all hope that it will get on its feet again soon. The Middle East needs Dubai.

There is a large element of Schadenfreude in the media coverage of Dubai’s financial mess. The Gulf emirate has suspended payment on the debt of its flagship holding company, Dubai World, causing financial jitters around the world and raising suspicions that its balance sheet is a lot worse than it has been letting on. For years Dubai has been on a spending binge, which includes building the world’s tallest building, an indoor ski slope, and a series of artificial islands in “an artificial archipelago that would reconfigure the Persian Gulf coast into a thicket of trees, a map of the world, a whirling galaxy, a scythe and a sun that looks like a spider.”

It is easy to look down one’s nose at the excesses of this global parvenu, which is trying to become the Hong Kong or Singapore of the Middle East, thereby usurping Beirut’s traditional position as the place where Arabs unwind. When I visited Dubai a couple of years ago with a group of foreign-policy analysts, we were all amazed by the frenetic pace of construction. A sizable proportion of the world’s building cranes had been arrayed in this city-state and they were putting up too many skyscrapers to count. It was pretty obvious that the good times wouldn’t last forever, and they haven’t. The result of a building boom, we all know, is a glut of new structures, a lack of tenants, and a crash. That’s what has happened in the U.S. with residential homes in the past few years and now it appears to be happening with commercial real estate in Dubai.

So much, so familiar. But still for all of Dubai’s excesses it is a wonder that it has gotten this far. It deserves not ill-disguised glee at its misfortunes but a degree of respect for its willingness to flout traditional Arab taboos. It is, for example, a place where Emiratis in white robes rub shoulders with Russian hookers in mini-skirts — a place where it’s perfectly possible to get a nice cocktail (and not a “mocktail,” as in Kuwait) in a public bar, and to do so in the middle of Ramadan if you’re feeling parched at that point. No doubt some of Dubai’s competitors, the likes of Doha and Kuwait City and its sister emirate Abu Dhabi, are licking their chops at the prospect of benefitting from Dubai’s downturn but they will be hard put to it to match its dynamism because they remain much more in thrall to traditional Arab/Muslim pieties: a combination of religious and tribal traditions that have made the Middle East a laggard in many dimensions of development. Dubai has been a leader in the Arab world with respect to embracing modernity — which has repercussions both good and bad but in general is a force for positive change. We should all hope that it will get on its feet again soon. The Middle East needs Dubai.

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Slavin Gets It Wrong

Barbara Slavin’s op-ed in today’s San Francisco Chronicle tackles the question of Iran in order to rebuke what she considers as growing “war talk” within the Bush Administration–although the White House Press Office today strongly rebuked the Jerusalem Post for publishing an article that attributed such war talk to the President, and denied any of its assertions. After criticizing this newfound militancy, Slavin explains why Iran would not be so much of a problem for the West after all. In her defense of Iran’s motives and intentions, Slavin mentions Tehran’s nuclear nuclear program only once–though Iran’s nuclear program is the principal reason why an outgoing Bush Administration might contemplate at all a military strike.

There are many reasons why a military strike poses significant risks and has potentially very serious consequences. But to ignore the the consequences of the alternative–that Iran succeeds in its nuclear pursuit–is not the most intellectually honest thing to write, though it spares Slavin from the troublesome exercise of having to list the likely consequences of Iranian success. And this is what’s truly missing from the debate about Iran–what would happen if Iran succeeded in its pursuit? Slavin dismisses Iran’s comparison with either Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union–but while at some levels Iran may not be comparable to either, Iran remains wedded to a revolutionary ideology. A revolutionary power, by definition, will seek to change the regional status quo and to remake the world in its own image. In this trajectory, it will eventually find itself embroiled in war, even if that is the result of plain miscalculation. Slavin reassures us that the Iranians will not overstretch:

A country whose boundaries have barely changed since the 16th century, Iran is not able to or interested in recreating the Persian Empire and is not about to become a second Nazi Germany or Soviet Union. As Mohammad Atrianfar, a veteran publisher who is close to former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, told me recently in Tehran: “We are not going to stretch our legs beyond the capacity of our carpets.”

The problem with that statement is that neither Nazi Germany nor the Soviet Union believed they were overstretching until it was too late. Nuclear capability will give Iran the kind of umbrella of impunity that will allow it to double its mischief in the region without fear of retribution. Do you like the way Hezbollah and Hamas behave in their respective domains? You will love it when Iran has nukes! Do you find it hard to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict now? Try when Iran’s nukes enable its proxies to up the ante. Are you worried about Shia unrest in Kuwait and Bahrain? Prepare for more trouble when Iran’s nuclear bomb casts a shadow on those countries. Do you think oil prices are too high? Save for a cold winter, when Iran’s speedboats swarm the Gulf and harass supertankers. Do you really think anyone will risk a nuclear showdown for any of the above?

Consider this as well: Iran might lend its nukes and ballistic missiles to friends like Venezuela, to get San Francisco within range. It would not be overstretching–Hugo Chavez will surely pick up the bill to pay the costs of the exercise. Unbelievable? Why? Fidel Castro did it with the Russians in 1962–so why shouldn’t we expect a not a rerun, given that Iran’s revolutionary vocation, as an anti-Western power aspiring to change the world to its own image, does not need to overstretch. It will suffice to have some allies, friends and supporters to bankroll and supply, under its nuclear umbrella, in order to make this world an infinitely more dangerous place.

War might be premature–but war talk, as a reminder to Iran that it will pay a steep price for staying the course, is a better option than what Slavin has to offer.

Barbara Slavin’s op-ed in today’s San Francisco Chronicle tackles the question of Iran in order to rebuke what she considers as growing “war talk” within the Bush Administration–although the White House Press Office today strongly rebuked the Jerusalem Post for publishing an article that attributed such war talk to the President, and denied any of its assertions. After criticizing this newfound militancy, Slavin explains why Iran would not be so much of a problem for the West after all. In her defense of Iran’s motives and intentions, Slavin mentions Tehran’s nuclear nuclear program only once–though Iran’s nuclear program is the principal reason why an outgoing Bush Administration might contemplate at all a military strike.

There are many reasons why a military strike poses significant risks and has potentially very serious consequences. But to ignore the the consequences of the alternative–that Iran succeeds in its nuclear pursuit–is not the most intellectually honest thing to write, though it spares Slavin from the troublesome exercise of having to list the likely consequences of Iranian success. And this is what’s truly missing from the debate about Iran–what would happen if Iran succeeded in its pursuit? Slavin dismisses Iran’s comparison with either Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union–but while at some levels Iran may not be comparable to either, Iran remains wedded to a revolutionary ideology. A revolutionary power, by definition, will seek to change the regional status quo and to remake the world in its own image. In this trajectory, it will eventually find itself embroiled in war, even if that is the result of plain miscalculation. Slavin reassures us that the Iranians will not overstretch:

A country whose boundaries have barely changed since the 16th century, Iran is not able to or interested in recreating the Persian Empire and is not about to become a second Nazi Germany or Soviet Union. As Mohammad Atrianfar, a veteran publisher who is close to former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, told me recently in Tehran: “We are not going to stretch our legs beyond the capacity of our carpets.”

The problem with that statement is that neither Nazi Germany nor the Soviet Union believed they were overstretching until it was too late. Nuclear capability will give Iran the kind of umbrella of impunity that will allow it to double its mischief in the region without fear of retribution. Do you like the way Hezbollah and Hamas behave in their respective domains? You will love it when Iran has nukes! Do you find it hard to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict now? Try when Iran’s nukes enable its proxies to up the ante. Are you worried about Shia unrest in Kuwait and Bahrain? Prepare for more trouble when Iran’s nuclear bomb casts a shadow on those countries. Do you think oil prices are too high? Save for a cold winter, when Iran’s speedboats swarm the Gulf and harass supertankers. Do you really think anyone will risk a nuclear showdown for any of the above?

Consider this as well: Iran might lend its nukes and ballistic missiles to friends like Venezuela, to get San Francisco within range. It would not be overstretching–Hugo Chavez will surely pick up the bill to pay the costs of the exercise. Unbelievable? Why? Fidel Castro did it with the Russians in 1962–so why shouldn’t we expect a not a rerun, given that Iran’s revolutionary vocation, as an anti-Western power aspiring to change the world to its own image, does not need to overstretch. It will suffice to have some allies, friends and supporters to bankroll and supply, under its nuclear umbrella, in order to make this world an infinitely more dangerous place.

War might be premature–but war talk, as a reminder to Iran that it will pay a steep price for staying the course, is a better option than what Slavin has to offer.

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Take It Back, Boehner

In a press release on May 12, House Republican Leader John Boehner said this:

Israel is a critical American ally and a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, not a ‘constant sore’ as Barack Obama claims. Obama’s latest remark, and his commitment to ‘opening a dialogue’ with sponsors of terrorism, echoes past statements by Jimmy Carter who once called Israel an ‘apartheid state.’ It’s another sign that Obama is part of the broken Washington Americans are rejecting.

In fact, Obama claimed no such thing, as a check of his interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic demonstrates. Here’s the relevant passage:

JG: What do you make of Jimmy Carter’s suggestion that Israel resembles an apartheid state?
BO: I strongly reject the characterization. Israel is a vibrant democracy, the only one in the Middle East, and there’s no doubt that Israel and the Palestinians have tough issues to work out to get to the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security, but injecting a term like apartheid into the discussion doesn’t advance that goal. It’s emotionally loaded, historically inaccurate, and it’s not what I believe.
JG: If you become President, will you denounce settlements publicly?
BO: What I will say is what I’ve said previously. Settlements at this juncture are not helpful. Look, my interest is in solving this problem not only for Israel but for the United States.
JG: Do you think that Israel is a drag on America’s reputation overseas?
BO: No, no, no. But what I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore, does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of a resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions, and so we have a national-security interest in solving this, and I also believe that Israel has a security interest in solving this because I believe that the status quo is unsustainable.

In the full interview, Obama went out of his way to praise Israel several different times, in several different ways, and often eloquently. In fact, he answers “no, no, no” when asked if Israel is a “drag on America’s reputation overseas.” What Obama seems to be referring to as a “constant wound” and “constant sore” which “infect[s] all of our foreign policy” is, as best as I can tell, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (or, perhaps, Israel’s settlement policies more narrowly).

It’s perfectly acceptable if people want to criticize Obama for his comments. One could, for example, dispute Obama’s assertion that the Israeli-Palestinian issue “infect[s] all of our foreign policy.” There is a widespread view among many foreign policy elites that all the problems of the Middle East can be traced to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I believe that proposition is false and belied by history (see the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, and Syria’s subjugation of Lebanon for starters).

In addition, jihadists don’t need the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an excuse to kill Americans. Osama bin Laden’s fatwas, issued in the late 1990’s, were at least as concerned with our presence in Mecca and Medina and our policies toward Iraq as our policies toward Israel. Jihadists will certainly use our support for Israel as an excuse to attack us, but our mere existence will also do. That said, there are more than enough legitimate grounds on which to criticize Obama. It’s not necessary, and it’s wrong and dishonest, to tether him to claims he simply did not make. John Boehner should correct the record.

In a press release on May 12, House Republican Leader John Boehner said this:

Israel is a critical American ally and a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, not a ‘constant sore’ as Barack Obama claims. Obama’s latest remark, and his commitment to ‘opening a dialogue’ with sponsors of terrorism, echoes past statements by Jimmy Carter who once called Israel an ‘apartheid state.’ It’s another sign that Obama is part of the broken Washington Americans are rejecting.

In fact, Obama claimed no such thing, as a check of his interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic demonstrates. Here’s the relevant passage:

JG: What do you make of Jimmy Carter’s suggestion that Israel resembles an apartheid state?
BO: I strongly reject the characterization. Israel is a vibrant democracy, the only one in the Middle East, and there’s no doubt that Israel and the Palestinians have tough issues to work out to get to the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security, but injecting a term like apartheid into the discussion doesn’t advance that goal. It’s emotionally loaded, historically inaccurate, and it’s not what I believe.
JG: If you become President, will you denounce settlements publicly?
BO: What I will say is what I’ve said previously. Settlements at this juncture are not helpful. Look, my interest is in solving this problem not only for Israel but for the United States.
JG: Do you think that Israel is a drag on America’s reputation overseas?
BO: No, no, no. But what I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore, does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of a resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions, and so we have a national-security interest in solving this, and I also believe that Israel has a security interest in solving this because I believe that the status quo is unsustainable.

In the full interview, Obama went out of his way to praise Israel several different times, in several different ways, and often eloquently. In fact, he answers “no, no, no” when asked if Israel is a “drag on America’s reputation overseas.” What Obama seems to be referring to as a “constant wound” and “constant sore” which “infect[s] all of our foreign policy” is, as best as I can tell, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (or, perhaps, Israel’s settlement policies more narrowly).

It’s perfectly acceptable if people want to criticize Obama for his comments. One could, for example, dispute Obama’s assertion that the Israeli-Palestinian issue “infect[s] all of our foreign policy.” There is a widespread view among many foreign policy elites that all the problems of the Middle East can be traced to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I believe that proposition is false and belied by history (see the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, and Syria’s subjugation of Lebanon for starters).

In addition, jihadists don’t need the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an excuse to kill Americans. Osama bin Laden’s fatwas, issued in the late 1990’s, were at least as concerned with our presence in Mecca and Medina and our policies toward Iraq as our policies toward Israel. Jihadists will certainly use our support for Israel as an excuse to attack us, but our mere existence will also do. That said, there are more than enough legitimate grounds on which to criticize Obama. It’s not necessary, and it’s wrong and dishonest, to tether him to claims he simply did not make. John Boehner should correct the record.

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The Failings of Successful Democracy

How best to acknowledge the precious democratic exercise in civic responsibility we’re witnessing this Tuesday? If you’re the New York Times, you run a disingenuous story about the failings of democracy. Today’s lesson in American hubris comes from Kuwait:

“Kuwait used to be No. 1 in the economy, in politics, in sports, in culture, in everything,” [Parliamentary candidate Ali al-Rashed] said, his voice floating out in the warm evening air to hundreds of potential voters seated on white damask-lined chairs. “What happened?”

It is a question many people are asking as this tiny, oil-rich nation of 2.6 million people approaches its latest round of elections. And the unlikely answer being whispered around, both here and in neighboring countries on the Persian Gulf: too much democracy.

[…]

The collapse of the Bush administration’s efforts to promote democracy in the region and the continuing chaos in Iraq, just to the north–once heralded as the birthplace of a new democratic model–have also contributed to a popular suspicion that democracy itself is one Western import that has not lived up to its advertising.

The article’s writer, Robert F. Worth, has it on good authority that Kuwaitis are now suspicious of democracy. His source? The 24-year-old son of another Parliamentary candidate (who himself rejected that view). But that’s enough for a New York Times primary day headline.

It’s no surprise that Worth doesn’t cite any figures in trying to make the case that Kuwait’s economy and productivity is stalling. If he did, here’s what he’d confront: Kuwait’s human development is the highest in the Arab world. The country has the second-most free economy in the Middle East, and its GDP rate of growth is 5.7%, which makes its economy one of the fastest growing in the region.

The only attributable monarchy-envy comes from Worth himself, who virtually taunts Kuwaitis with their neighbors’ ostentation:

Although parts of Kuwait City were rebuilt after the Iraqi invasion of 1990, much of it looks faded and tatty, a striking contrast with the gleaming hyper-modernity of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Qatar.

Well, you know how dingy free-market, parliamentary democracy can be.

How best to acknowledge the precious democratic exercise in civic responsibility we’re witnessing this Tuesday? If you’re the New York Times, you run a disingenuous story about the failings of democracy. Today’s lesson in American hubris comes from Kuwait:

“Kuwait used to be No. 1 in the economy, in politics, in sports, in culture, in everything,” [Parliamentary candidate Ali al-Rashed] said, his voice floating out in the warm evening air to hundreds of potential voters seated on white damask-lined chairs. “What happened?”

It is a question many people are asking as this tiny, oil-rich nation of 2.6 million people approaches its latest round of elections. And the unlikely answer being whispered around, both here and in neighboring countries on the Persian Gulf: too much democracy.

[…]

The collapse of the Bush administration’s efforts to promote democracy in the region and the continuing chaos in Iraq, just to the north–once heralded as the birthplace of a new democratic model–have also contributed to a popular suspicion that democracy itself is one Western import that has not lived up to its advertising.

The article’s writer, Robert F. Worth, has it on good authority that Kuwaitis are now suspicious of democracy. His source? The 24-year-old son of another Parliamentary candidate (who himself rejected that view). But that’s enough for a New York Times primary day headline.

It’s no surprise that Worth doesn’t cite any figures in trying to make the case that Kuwait’s economy and productivity is stalling. If he did, here’s what he’d confront: Kuwait’s human development is the highest in the Arab world. The country has the second-most free economy in the Middle East, and its GDP rate of growth is 5.7%, which makes its economy one of the fastest growing in the region.

The only attributable monarchy-envy comes from Worth himself, who virtually taunts Kuwaitis with their neighbors’ ostentation:

Although parts of Kuwait City were rebuilt after the Iraqi invasion of 1990, much of it looks faded and tatty, a striking contrast with the gleaming hyper-modernity of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Qatar.

Well, you know how dingy free-market, parliamentary democracy can be.

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I . . . Agree with Michael Scheuer

Gabriel Schoenfeld has done a masterly job of dissecting the bizarre world view of retired CIA officer Michael Scheuer. But today Scheuer has actually written an article that I for the most part agree with. It’s called “Break Out the Shock and Awe,” and in it he cautions against the notion that “the U.S. military should rely more on covert operations and special forces to fight counterinsurgencies and irregular wars.” Only conventional forces, he argues, can deliver a lasting victory.

The reality is a little more complex. When they have skilled allied forces to fight alongside, American special operators can in fact deliver outsize results. That’s what happened in El Salvador in the 1980’s, when 55 Special Forces trainers helped defeat a communist insurgency. But in the absence of large, competent, conventional forces-and they have been notably lacking in Afghanistan and Iraq during most of the time we have fought there-special operators cannot magically defeat our enemies.

But even when delivering generally sound analysis, Scheuer goes astray. He writes:

Anyone who reads works on the recommended book lists of the Army chief of staff and the Marines Corps commandant — books by such writers as Stephen Ambrose, Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, and Dwight Eisenhower — will find little indication that wars can won by clandestine and special forces. Only Max Boot and his brethren at the Weekly Standard, Commentary and the National Review preach such nonsense as gospel.

I cannot speak for everyone at The Weekly Standard, COMMENTARY, or National Review, but off the top of my head (and speaking as the author of a book that is on the reading lists of both the Marine commandant and the chief of naval operations) I am hard put to think of any contributors to those publications who in fact “preach such nonsense as gospel.” Quite the reverse. Those publications have been supporting a surge of troops in Iraq precisely on the theory that special operators can’t do it alone.

Along with many of my “brethren” such as Fred Kagan, I have repeatedly warned against the special operations fallacy. For instance, in my Commentary article “How Not to Get Out of Iraq,” I wrote

If Special Operations Forces could not prevent the establishment under their noses of a Taliban-style “Islamic state” in Baquba during the past year, how much luck would they have operating from Kuwait or the Kurdish region, as suggested by proponents of this approach? It would be like trying to police Boston from Washington, D.C.

The major proponents of a commando-centric approach to fighting terrorists are not, in fact, to be found on the Right, especially now that Donald Rumsfeld is no longer at the Pentagon. They are primarily Democrats.  Some advocate this approach out of sheer ignorance; others do so out of political expediency.  All want to convince themselves that we can pull most of our troops out of Iraq and still keep Al Qaeda at bay. Scheuer would be well advised to aim his rhetorical fire a bit more carefully.

Gabriel Schoenfeld has done a masterly job of dissecting the bizarre world view of retired CIA officer Michael Scheuer. But today Scheuer has actually written an article that I for the most part agree with. It’s called “Break Out the Shock and Awe,” and in it he cautions against the notion that “the U.S. military should rely more on covert operations and special forces to fight counterinsurgencies and irregular wars.” Only conventional forces, he argues, can deliver a lasting victory.

The reality is a little more complex. When they have skilled allied forces to fight alongside, American special operators can in fact deliver outsize results. That’s what happened in El Salvador in the 1980’s, when 55 Special Forces trainers helped defeat a communist insurgency. But in the absence of large, competent, conventional forces-and they have been notably lacking in Afghanistan and Iraq during most of the time we have fought there-special operators cannot magically defeat our enemies.

But even when delivering generally sound analysis, Scheuer goes astray. He writes:

Anyone who reads works on the recommended book lists of the Army chief of staff and the Marines Corps commandant — books by such writers as Stephen Ambrose, Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, and Dwight Eisenhower — will find little indication that wars can won by clandestine and special forces. Only Max Boot and his brethren at the Weekly Standard, Commentary and the National Review preach such nonsense as gospel.

I cannot speak for everyone at The Weekly Standard, COMMENTARY, or National Review, but off the top of my head (and speaking as the author of a book that is on the reading lists of both the Marine commandant and the chief of naval operations) I am hard put to think of any contributors to those publications who in fact “preach such nonsense as gospel.” Quite the reverse. Those publications have been supporting a surge of troops in Iraq precisely on the theory that special operators can’t do it alone.

Along with many of my “brethren” such as Fred Kagan, I have repeatedly warned against the special operations fallacy. For instance, in my Commentary article “How Not to Get Out of Iraq,” I wrote

If Special Operations Forces could not prevent the establishment under their noses of a Taliban-style “Islamic state” in Baquba during the past year, how much luck would they have operating from Kuwait or the Kurdish region, as suggested by proponents of this approach? It would be like trying to police Boston from Washington, D.C.

The major proponents of a commando-centric approach to fighting terrorists are not, in fact, to be found on the Right, especially now that Donald Rumsfeld is no longer at the Pentagon. They are primarily Democrats.  Some advocate this approach out of sheer ignorance; others do so out of political expediency.  All want to convince themselves that we can pull most of our troops out of Iraq and still keep Al Qaeda at bay. Scheuer would be well advised to aim his rhetorical fire a bit more carefully.

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Rice’s Misplaced Priorities

Barely three months after the entire Arab world allegedly united around Israeli-Palestinian peace, the Bush administration is struggling to keep its Annapolis “process” relevant. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will embark on yet another trip to Egypt, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority, aiming to calm the crisis in Gaza that has postponed Israeli-Palestinian talks indefinitely.

As usual, the odds are stacked against Rice. In the past five days, over 100 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, while Hamas has added to its Qassam rocket repertoire, firing longer-range Iranian-made Grad rockets at Ashkelon. Meanwhile, pro-western Arab states that supported peace at Annapolis are backing Hamas: Jordan has accused Israel of a “flagrant violation” of international law, while Saudi Arabia has compared Israel’s offensive to Nazi war crimes.

Indeed, a diplomatic breakthrough at this moment is so unlikely as to beg the question: why is Rice even bothering? After all, insofar as the current fighting in Gaza will likely be confined to the strip, relatively few strategic interests are at stake. In this vein, Egypt has reportedly doubled its Rafah border troops and permitted only four injured Palestinians to cross into Sinai amidst the fighting, while Hamas’ call for 50,000 Palestinians to breach the Erez crossing and storm into Israel failed miserably.

Yet the same cannot be said of the ongoing presidential crisis in Beirut, where the implications will likely be felt beyond Lebanon’s borders. For starters, Syria has been widely accused of interfering with Lebanon’s political process. Meanwhile, Hezbollah—which has stalled negotiations and demanded veto power in the next cabinet—has turned its attention abroad in the wake of Imad Mughniyeh’s assassination. In recent weeks, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has declared preparations for another war with Israel, while an al-Manar correspondent was recently arrested in Morocco planning attacks against Jewish targets with an al-Qaeda offshoot.

To its credit, the Bush administration recognizes the potential for Lebanon’s crisis to extend beyond Lebanon. On Thursday, the administration announced that the USS Cole would be stationed off the Lebanese coast to warn Syria against further interferences. The move further pressed Hezbollah, with Hezbollah legislator Hassan Fadlallah acknowledging, “We are facing an American threat against Lebanon.”

Yet if the Bush administration is to translate this military maneuver into a political victory, it must undertake a serious diplomatic campaign to shore up support for the pro-western Lebanese majority while its adversaries feel threatened. Within the region, such support clearly exists: on Monday, Egypt and Saudi Arabia separately blamed the Asad regime for the political crisis, while Kuwait has announced the deportation of foreigners who mourned for Mughniyeh.

Given the urgency of the situation in Lebanon and potential opportunities for advancing U.S. policy in this theater, Rice’s focus on the Israeli-Palestinian arena during her upcoming trip is severely misplaced. While Middle East peace would be the Holy Grail of any diplomat’s legacy, Rice’s failure to meaningfully pursue diplomatic channels regarding Lebanon might give her a very different legacy. Indeed, if Hezbollah follows through on its rhetoric while Israel battles Hamas in Gaza, it will mark the second two-front Arab-Israeli war of Rice’s tenure.

Barely three months after the entire Arab world allegedly united around Israeli-Palestinian peace, the Bush administration is struggling to keep its Annapolis “process” relevant. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will embark on yet another trip to Egypt, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority, aiming to calm the crisis in Gaza that has postponed Israeli-Palestinian talks indefinitely.

As usual, the odds are stacked against Rice. In the past five days, over 100 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, while Hamas has added to its Qassam rocket repertoire, firing longer-range Iranian-made Grad rockets at Ashkelon. Meanwhile, pro-western Arab states that supported peace at Annapolis are backing Hamas: Jordan has accused Israel of a “flagrant violation” of international law, while Saudi Arabia has compared Israel’s offensive to Nazi war crimes.

Indeed, a diplomatic breakthrough at this moment is so unlikely as to beg the question: why is Rice even bothering? After all, insofar as the current fighting in Gaza will likely be confined to the strip, relatively few strategic interests are at stake. In this vein, Egypt has reportedly doubled its Rafah border troops and permitted only four injured Palestinians to cross into Sinai amidst the fighting, while Hamas’ call for 50,000 Palestinians to breach the Erez crossing and storm into Israel failed miserably.

Yet the same cannot be said of the ongoing presidential crisis in Beirut, where the implications will likely be felt beyond Lebanon’s borders. For starters, Syria has been widely accused of interfering with Lebanon’s political process. Meanwhile, Hezbollah—which has stalled negotiations and demanded veto power in the next cabinet—has turned its attention abroad in the wake of Imad Mughniyeh’s assassination. In recent weeks, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has declared preparations for another war with Israel, while an al-Manar correspondent was recently arrested in Morocco planning attacks against Jewish targets with an al-Qaeda offshoot.

To its credit, the Bush administration recognizes the potential for Lebanon’s crisis to extend beyond Lebanon. On Thursday, the administration announced that the USS Cole would be stationed off the Lebanese coast to warn Syria against further interferences. The move further pressed Hezbollah, with Hezbollah legislator Hassan Fadlallah acknowledging, “We are facing an American threat against Lebanon.”

Yet if the Bush administration is to translate this military maneuver into a political victory, it must undertake a serious diplomatic campaign to shore up support for the pro-western Lebanese majority while its adversaries feel threatened. Within the region, such support clearly exists: on Monday, Egypt and Saudi Arabia separately blamed the Asad regime for the political crisis, while Kuwait has announced the deportation of foreigners who mourned for Mughniyeh.

Given the urgency of the situation in Lebanon and potential opportunities for advancing U.S. policy in this theater, Rice’s focus on the Israeli-Palestinian arena during her upcoming trip is severely misplaced. While Middle East peace would be the Holy Grail of any diplomat’s legacy, Rice’s failure to meaningfully pursue diplomatic channels regarding Lebanon might give her a very different legacy. Indeed, if Hezbollah follows through on its rhetoric while Israel battles Hamas in Gaza, it will mark the second two-front Arab-Israeli war of Rice’s tenure.

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“Churchillian” Statesmanship

The Washington, D.C.-based Churchill Centre has just awarded the first Winston Churchill Award for Statesmanship to James A. Baker and Lee Hamilton.

This is the same James A. Baker who, as Secretary of State, when asked what the U.S. would do about aggression, ethnic cleansing, and mass murder in Bosnia-Herzegovina, replied: “We have no dog in that fight.” It is hard to say which was more Churchillian, the sentiment or the eloquence.

By this standard, Hamilton, former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was even more Churchillian. His reaction to the Bosnia debacle was described thus by Congressional Quarterly:

Hamilton was a well-modulated voice for cautious diplomacy…. Early in the Clinton administration, he agreed to a strategy under which Bosnia’s factions would agree to a partition of the republic…. But when Bosnia’s militarily dominant Serbs resisted, putting pressure on Clinton for U.S. military action…Hamilton suggested more time was needed to allow diplomacy and economic sanctions to work. To Hamilton’s many admirers, his caution as a foreign policy-maker is an aid in deterring the nation from rushing into foreign policy mistakes.

Other equally Churchillian moments in Hamilton’s legislative career include leading the opposition to military action against Iraq when it occupied Kuwait in 1990; opposition to aid to the Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980’s as well as to the besieged anti-Communist government in neighboring El Salvador; votes against a raft of weapons systems from the B-1 bomber to missile defense; and championing of the nuclear freeze.

Of course, the Churchill Centre was not honoring this pair for their past records but rather, as it explained, for their leadership of “the Iraq Study group, which resulted in critical policy recommendations.” The essence of those recommendations was to abandon hope of victory, begin to withdraw our soldiers, and cushion our defeat by appealing for help to the government of Iran (whose official slogan is “death to America”).

There’s a solution that would have done Churchill proud.

If you find the Baker-Hamilton legacy incongruent with that of Churchill, the Churchill Centre is out to reshape your memory of him, much as various academics lately have redefined Ronald Reagan as a liberal or moderate in noble contrast to the odious conservative, George W. Bush. The Centre explains: “The political precept that won Churchill respect from all sides was his belief that in difficult times the best results follow when people of differing beliefs and backgrounds come together, the greatest example of which was the ‘Grand Alliance’ of World War II.” In other words, Churchill’s great feat was not his resistance to Hitler but his embrace of Stalin.

Next, perhaps, the Centre will create a Churchill Award for Appeasement.

The Washington, D.C.-based Churchill Centre has just awarded the first Winston Churchill Award for Statesmanship to James A. Baker and Lee Hamilton.

This is the same James A. Baker who, as Secretary of State, when asked what the U.S. would do about aggression, ethnic cleansing, and mass murder in Bosnia-Herzegovina, replied: “We have no dog in that fight.” It is hard to say which was more Churchillian, the sentiment or the eloquence.

By this standard, Hamilton, former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was even more Churchillian. His reaction to the Bosnia debacle was described thus by Congressional Quarterly:

Hamilton was a well-modulated voice for cautious diplomacy…. Early in the Clinton administration, he agreed to a strategy under which Bosnia’s factions would agree to a partition of the republic…. But when Bosnia’s militarily dominant Serbs resisted, putting pressure on Clinton for U.S. military action…Hamilton suggested more time was needed to allow diplomacy and economic sanctions to work. To Hamilton’s many admirers, his caution as a foreign policy-maker is an aid in deterring the nation from rushing into foreign policy mistakes.

Other equally Churchillian moments in Hamilton’s legislative career include leading the opposition to military action against Iraq when it occupied Kuwait in 1990; opposition to aid to the Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980’s as well as to the besieged anti-Communist government in neighboring El Salvador; votes against a raft of weapons systems from the B-1 bomber to missile defense; and championing of the nuclear freeze.

Of course, the Churchill Centre was not honoring this pair for their past records but rather, as it explained, for their leadership of “the Iraq Study group, which resulted in critical policy recommendations.” The essence of those recommendations was to abandon hope of victory, begin to withdraw our soldiers, and cushion our defeat by appealing for help to the government of Iran (whose official slogan is “death to America”).

There’s a solution that would have done Churchill proud.

If you find the Baker-Hamilton legacy incongruent with that of Churchill, the Churchill Centre is out to reshape your memory of him, much as various academics lately have redefined Ronald Reagan as a liberal or moderate in noble contrast to the odious conservative, George W. Bush. The Centre explains: “The political precept that won Churchill respect from all sides was his belief that in difficult times the best results follow when people of differing beliefs and backgrounds come together, the greatest example of which was the ‘Grand Alliance’ of World War II.” In other words, Churchill’s great feat was not his resistance to Hitler but his embrace of Stalin.

Next, perhaps, the Centre will create a Churchill Award for Appeasement.

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More on Moran

In yesterday’s The Hill, we read this:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) went after fellow Democrat Jim Moran of Virginia Tuesday, calling on him to retract his comments about the Israel lobby. “His remarks were factually inaccurate and recall an old canard that is not true, that the Jewish community controls the media and the Congress,” Hoyer said at a news conference in the Capitol. In an interview published in the September-October issue of Tikkun magazine, Moran said the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, “has pushed this war from the beginning. . . . They are so well-organized, and their members are extraordinarily powerful—most of them are quite wealthy—they have been able to exert power.” Asked if he considered Moran’s remarks anti-Semitic and if he should apologize, Hoyer reiterated that he found them “factually inaccurate” and said Moran should “retract” them. In a statement issued by Moran’s office, the congressman admitted that the tone of his remarks was “unnecessarily harsh,” but that he stood by his statements that AIPAC does not represent “mainstream American Jewish opinion.”

In today’s Politico, we learn that

Sixteen of Democratic Rep. Jim Moran’s House colleagues rebuked him in a withering letter Wednesday for saying last week that the pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, “pushed [the Iraq] war from the beginning.” It was the Virginia congressman’s latest dust-up over Israel—and one that brought a demand for a retraction by the House Democratic leader, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland. Moran’s colleagues . . . called the remarks of the Virginia congressman in the progressive Jewish magazine Tikkun inaccurate and “deeply offensive.”

First, all praise to Representative Hoyer and his colleagues for condemning Representative Moran’s comments. As for Moran: this isn’t the first time he’s waded into this cesspool. In 2001, he said then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was coming to Washington “probably seeking a warrant from President Bush to kill at will with weapons we have paid for.” And in 2003, at an antiwar forum in Reston, Virginia, Moran said: “If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should.”

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In yesterday’s The Hill, we read this:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) went after fellow Democrat Jim Moran of Virginia Tuesday, calling on him to retract his comments about the Israel lobby. “His remarks were factually inaccurate and recall an old canard that is not true, that the Jewish community controls the media and the Congress,” Hoyer said at a news conference in the Capitol. In an interview published in the September-October issue of Tikkun magazine, Moran said the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, “has pushed this war from the beginning. . . . They are so well-organized, and their members are extraordinarily powerful—most of them are quite wealthy—they have been able to exert power.” Asked if he considered Moran’s remarks anti-Semitic and if he should apologize, Hoyer reiterated that he found them “factually inaccurate” and said Moran should “retract” them. In a statement issued by Moran’s office, the congressman admitted that the tone of his remarks was “unnecessarily harsh,” but that he stood by his statements that AIPAC does not represent “mainstream American Jewish opinion.”

In today’s Politico, we learn that

Sixteen of Democratic Rep. Jim Moran’s House colleagues rebuked him in a withering letter Wednesday for saying last week that the pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, “pushed [the Iraq] war from the beginning.” It was the Virginia congressman’s latest dust-up over Israel—and one that brought a demand for a retraction by the House Democratic leader, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland. Moran’s colleagues . . . called the remarks of the Virginia congressman in the progressive Jewish magazine Tikkun inaccurate and “deeply offensive.”

First, all praise to Representative Hoyer and his colleagues for condemning Representative Moran’s comments. As for Moran: this isn’t the first time he’s waded into this cesspool. In 2001, he said then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was coming to Washington “probably seeking a warrant from President Bush to kill at will with weapons we have paid for.” And in 2003, at an antiwar forum in Reston, Virginia, Moran said: “If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should.”

AIPAC, Moran said in his Tikkun interview, supports “domination, not healing. They feel that you acquire security through military force, through intimidation, even through occupation, when necessary, and that if you have people who are hostile toward you, it’s OK to kill them, rather than talk with them, negotiate with them, try to understand them, and ultimately try to love them.”

Where to begin? Perhaps with this point: the chief architects of the war to liberate Iraq— President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, and Condoleezza Rice—are not Jewish. They are not neoconservatives. And they are not and never have been under the power and sway of the “Jewish lobby.”

The reasons to go to war with Iraq were made clear publicly and repeatedly by the President and members of his administration. We believed, as did the rest of the world and every leading member of the Democratic Party, that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of WMD (it turns out he retained the capacity to build them once the sanctions regime fell apart). In addition, Saddam was the most destabilizing figure in the Middle East, having invaded two nations (Iran and Kuwait), incursions that were responsible for the deaths of more than a million people. He was among the most malevolent figures in modern times, having committed genocide against his own people. He defied sixteen U.N. resolutions over a dozen years. He was a supporter of terrorism. And he was a sworn enemy of America. Beyond all that, President Bush wanted to begin the difficult process of turning the Arab Middle East away from tyranny and toward liberty. If AIPAC never existed, the Iraq war would have commenced. Yet Mr. Moran insists that the role of a Jewish lobby played a decisive role in the United States’s going to war.

This assertion is not only risible, as anyone who worked in the Bush administration can tell you; it is also malicious. It perpetrates the anti-Semitic canard that “The Jews” and their lackeys are all-powerful, manipulative, and in the process of hijacking American foreign policy. Think dual loyalties and all that. (This calumny is now at a bookstore near you, in the form of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.)

I don’t know what lurks in the heart of James Moran. What I do know is that he seems quite eager to fan smoldering embers, with the purpose of igniting fires of division and hatred. It’s all very ugly stuff, and it ought to be condemned in the strongest terms.

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A New Bomber?

The National Journal has an interesting article in the current issue on “The Air Force’s Next Bomber,” by Sydney Freedberg. Unfortunately, it’s not available for free online. (For the paid version, see here). But the gist is that the Air Force, after years of pressure from Congress and political appointees in the Department of Defense, reluctantly has agreed to begin developing a new bomber by 2018. Yet many analysts doubt whether the Air Force is serious.

To an outsider this might seem like a head-scratcher. Why wouldn’t the Air Force want a new airplane? The need for a new bomber seems clear given that, of the current bomber fleet of 180 aircraft, more than half are B-52’s that were last built in 1962. They still perform admirably, but it’s not clear how much longer we can continue to rely for our defense on aircraft that are older than the pilots. Yet the Air Force hasn’t been planning to get any more bombers for decades—not until 2037, when the B-52 turns 75. (Would you drive a 75-year-old car?) The last addition to its bomber fleet was the B-2 stealth bomber, of which it now has 21, the last having arrived in 1997.

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The National Journal has an interesting article in the current issue on “The Air Force’s Next Bomber,” by Sydney Freedberg. Unfortunately, it’s not available for free online. (For the paid version, see here). But the gist is that the Air Force, after years of pressure from Congress and political appointees in the Department of Defense, reluctantly has agreed to begin developing a new bomber by 2018. Yet many analysts doubt whether the Air Force is serious.

To an outsider this might seem like a head-scratcher. Why wouldn’t the Air Force want a new airplane? The need for a new bomber seems clear given that, of the current bomber fleet of 180 aircraft, more than half are B-52’s that were last built in 1962. They still perform admirably, but it’s not clear how much longer we can continue to rely for our defense on aircraft that are older than the pilots. Yet the Air Force hasn’t been planning to get any more bombers for decades—not until 2037, when the B-52 turns 75. (Would you drive a 75-year-old car?) The last addition to its bomber fleet was the B-2 stealth bomber, of which it now has 21, the last having arrived in 1997.

All of the Air Force’s creative energy has been poured into acquiring super-expensive, short-range fighter-bombers—the F-22 and F-35. Both are sexy and fun to fly, but have small bomb capacities and flight ranges. The National Journal notes their limitations in a prospective war with China:

Even from the nearest U.S. bases, in South Korea, the F-22 and the F-35 may well penetrate the outer layers of enemy defenses only to run out of fuel long before they reach any target. Slow, bulky tankers can refuel the short-range fighters in midair, but would never perform this delicate operation in full view of hostile radars. Thus, strike planes must rely on their internal fuel tanks once they enter enemy airspace. The F-22 has an estimated combat radius—the maximum distance it can fly before it must return to base—of 540 nautical miles; the still-in-development F-35 will be slightly better, at about 633 miles. Either fighter could hit, say, Tehran from bases in Kuwait, or Beijing from South Korea. But if U.S. allies balked, or if the bases came under fire, or if, in China’s case, key targets were hidden deep in Central Asia—like the Xichang space facility from which China test-launched an anti-satellite missile in January—the fighters would simply run out of gas.

By contrast, the article notes, the B-2 has a combat radius of 3,000 miles. During the Kosovo conflict, B-2’s flew all the way to Belgrade from Missouri and back without ever landing (but with multiple in-flight refuelings). So why doesn’t the Air Force want more bombers like the B-2?

The service advances plenty of arguments for its preference, but none is particularly convincing. More germane may be a fact noted by the National Journal: “Nearly half of all Air Force generals are fighter pilots, but less than 5 percent have bomber backgrounds.”

This is one case where it’s imperative that civilian leaders not defer to the preferences of the uniformed services. The Air Force needs more bombers—and more UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles)—even if it’s not what the fighter jocks prefer.

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The Palestinians, Alone

Some 6,000 Palestinians have been stranded for the past month on the Egyptian side of the border with the Gaza Strip because of the closure of the Rafah border crossing. The terminal was closed after the European monitors who had operated there for the past two years left their jobs following Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip in mid-June. At least 20 of these Palestinian travelers have died either of illness or other causes while waiting on the Egyptian side. Most of them are complaining that the Egyptian authorities are not doing anything to alleviate their suffering. Attempts by Israel to find a solution to this humanitarian crisis have been foiled by both Fatah and Hamas, who turned down an Israeli offer to help the Palestinians return home through the Israeli-controlled border crossing at Kerem Shalom.

Meanwhile, not a single Arab country has come forth to help the marooned Palestinians. Egyptian and Palestinian families living along the border have been hosting some of them, but the majority, including women and children, are forced to sleep in mosques and on sidewalks.

“The Arabs don’t care about us,” Muhammed Haj Jamil, a university student who was on his way home from the Gulf, told me in a phone interview. “The Arabs hate the Palestinians. The Egyptians are treating us as if we were terrorists. Even the Jews treat us better than most Arabs.”

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Some 6,000 Palestinians have been stranded for the past month on the Egyptian side of the border with the Gaza Strip because of the closure of the Rafah border crossing. The terminal was closed after the European monitors who had operated there for the past two years left their jobs following Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip in mid-June. At least 20 of these Palestinian travelers have died either of illness or other causes while waiting on the Egyptian side. Most of them are complaining that the Egyptian authorities are not doing anything to alleviate their suffering. Attempts by Israel to find a solution to this humanitarian crisis have been foiled by both Fatah and Hamas, who turned down an Israeli offer to help the Palestinians return home through the Israeli-controlled border crossing at Kerem Shalom.

Meanwhile, not a single Arab country has come forth to help the marooned Palestinians. Egyptian and Palestinian families living along the border have been hosting some of them, but the majority, including women and children, are forced to sleep in mosques and on sidewalks.

“The Arabs don’t care about us,” Muhammed Haj Jamil, a university student who was on his way home from the Gulf, told me in a phone interview. “The Arabs hate the Palestinians. The Egyptians are treating us as if we were terrorists. Even the Jews treat us better than most Arabs.”

And he’s absolutely right. Most of the Arab countries stopped providing the Palestinians with financial aid when Yasser Arafat and the PLO openly supported Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Since then, the Palestinians are almost entirely dependent on handouts from the U.S. and Europe. Many Palestinians who travel to Arab countries complain of maltreatment and harassment at by intelligence officers at the airports and border crossings.

Today, most of the Arab countries don’t want to help the Palestinians because of the Fatah-Hamas fighting and the Palestinian leadership’s failure to establish good governance and end financial corruption and anarchy. The Arabs are simply fed up with the Palestinians’ failure to get their act together. In the absence of Arab support, Israel is the only country that has been sending tons of food and medicine to the Gaza Strip on a daily basis over the past month.

The Egyptians, who have a joint border with the Gaza Strip, don’t allow Palestinians to enter Egypt in search of work. The Jordanians, for their part, “divorced” the West Bank in 1988; since then they haven’t wanted anything to do with the Palestinians living there. The dream of many Palestinian laborers today is to work in Israel—as they used to do in the days before the “peace process” began. Or as one Palestinian in Gaza told me recently: “We wish the [Israeli] occupation would return and improve our conditions.”

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“The Road Home”

I confess that I don’t usually read the editorials in the New York Times. They tend to be full of high-minded imprecations to observe liberal principles. They seldom contain anything new or interesting. Sunday’s editorial, “The Road Home,” was different. It was, depending on your view, either more admirable or more appalling than what the Times and other critics of the Iraq war usually say.

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I confess that I don’t usually read the editorials in the New York Times. They tend to be full of high-minded imprecations to observe liberal principles. They seldom contain anything new or interesting. Sunday’s editorial, “The Road Home,” was different. It was, depending on your view, either more admirable or more appalling than what the Times and other critics of the Iraq war usually say.

The usual line is that we should get out of Iraq ASAP, but don’t worry, everything will be OK; without American interference, the Iraqis will get their act together and live happily ever after. I exaggerate slightly, but not much. The Times editorialists dispose of this fantasy:

It is possible, we suppose, that announcing a firm withdrawal date might finally focus Iraq’s political leaders and neighboring governments on reality. Ideally, it could spur Iraqi politicians to take the steps toward national reconciliation that they have endlessly discussed but refused to act on.

But it is foolish to count on that, as some Democratic proponents of withdrawal have done.

The Times doesn’t try to put lipstick on this pig. It is brutally candid in acknowledging the likely result of an American bug-out:

Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs. Perhaps most important, the invasion has created a new stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate.

Kudos to the Times for its honesty. But what makes this editorial appalling is that, even after acknowledging the worst, the Times still calls for a pell-mell scramble to leave, suggesting that almost all U.S. forces could be out of Iraq in as little as six months. All that would be left would be aircraft and Special Forces positioned around Iraq proper, perhaps in the Kurdish region or in Kuwait or Qatar “to stage effective raids and airstrikes against terrorist forces in Iraq.”

It is hard to know why the editorial board thinks this option would work, given the Times’s own scoop, published the very same day that the editorial appeared, detailing how, in 2005, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pulled the plug on a planned raid to capture senior al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan’s tribal areas. If even Rumsfeld, who was hardly known for observing diplomatic niceties, feared to make such a bold move, what are the odds that in the future, decision makers will approve a steady flow of raids into a hostile Iraq? Not very great. And as I have previously pointed out on Contentions, even if such raids were approved, a few Special Forces operatives could not prevent al Qaeda from consolidating its grip on major portions of the country, as it did recently in Baqubah.

So why does the Times favor a withdrawal in spite of the serious consequences? The editorial argues:

The political leaders Washington has backed are incapable of putting national interests ahead of sectarian score settling. The security forces Washington has trained behave more like partisan militias. Additional military forces poured into the Baghdad region have failed to change anything.

This is the counsel of despair, and it is at odds with the situation on the ground. What we are actually seeing is that the political situation is improving at the grassroots level, with tribal leaders increasingly allying themselves with the coalition and the government of Iraq. Iraqi troops are also fighting much better, and though sectarian infiltration remains a problem (especially in the National Police), an increasing number of Iraqi army units are displaying conspicuous bravery and competence. And it’s simply wrong to say that military forces in Baghdad haven’t changed anything. Sectarian murders in the capital are 50 percent below the pre-surge level. The surge has the potential to change the situation on the ground even more positively if General David Petraeus is given a chance to implement his plans—a chance that the Times would like to deny him. And damn the consequences.

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Lessons of Lepanto

In his excellent new book about the Battle of Lepanto of 1571, Victory of the West, Niccoló Capponi describes the reaction of the Ottoman Sultan, Selim II, when his courtiers finally dared to tell him the news of the Turkish defeat. Everyone else in Edirne had known about the disaster for two days, and the sultan had repeatedly inquired about the cause of the cries and lamentations to be heard outside the palace. Capponi quotes an account given by Don Cesare Carafa to the Duke of Urbino, based on information from Venetian spies:

The third night, with the whole city wailing and screaming because no one could hide any more the grief for such a loss, the Great Turk, concerned and irked by all the moans and tears, demanded to hear the truth. It was answered that it was impossible now to hide the news that his fleet had been all burnt, sunk and taken by the Christians, with the death of all his great soldiers, captains and his General. Hearing this he gave a deep sigh and said, “So, these treacherous Jews have deceived me!” And having the Lord’s utterance spread through the palace and the streets, everyone started shouting, “Death to the Jews; death to the Jews!” and there was much fear that this would degenerate into a general massacre.

Christians defeat Muslims; Muslims blame the Jews. Haven’t we heard this somewhere before? The creation of Israel by the United Nations was followed by the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Jews from the Muslim world. In the first Gulf war, an American-led coalition expelled Iraqi forces from Kuwait, so Saddam Hussein fired missiles at Israel. The destruction of al Qaeda’s base in Afghanistan was followed by attacks on Jewish targets. In the second Gulf war, Iraq was liberated by an American-led coalition, so Ahmadinejad threatened to wipe Israel off the map.

Read More

In his excellent new book about the Battle of Lepanto of 1571, Victory of the West, Niccoló Capponi describes the reaction of the Ottoman Sultan, Selim II, when his courtiers finally dared to tell him the news of the Turkish defeat. Everyone else in Edirne had known about the disaster for two days, and the sultan had repeatedly inquired about the cause of the cries and lamentations to be heard outside the palace. Capponi quotes an account given by Don Cesare Carafa to the Duke of Urbino, based on information from Venetian spies:

The third night, with the whole city wailing and screaming because no one could hide any more the grief for such a loss, the Great Turk, concerned and irked by all the moans and tears, demanded to hear the truth. It was answered that it was impossible now to hide the news that his fleet had been all burnt, sunk and taken by the Christians, with the death of all his great soldiers, captains and his General. Hearing this he gave a deep sigh and said, “So, these treacherous Jews have deceived me!” And having the Lord’s utterance spread through the palace and the streets, everyone started shouting, “Death to the Jews; death to the Jews!” and there was much fear that this would degenerate into a general massacre.

Christians defeat Muslims; Muslims blame the Jews. Haven’t we heard this somewhere before? The creation of Israel by the United Nations was followed by the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Jews from the Muslim world. In the first Gulf war, an American-led coalition expelled Iraqi forces from Kuwait, so Saddam Hussein fired missiles at Israel. The destruction of al Qaeda’s base in Afghanistan was followed by attacks on Jewish targets. In the second Gulf war, Iraq was liberated by an American-led coalition, so Ahmadinejad threatened to wipe Israel off the map.

Anti-Semites usually react to defeat in this way. Hitler came to power partly because he was able to persuade Germans that their defeat in the Great War was the fault of the Jews. Hitler himself exhibited the same pathology. Though it is difficult to prove a causal connection, the Wannsee conference, at which the orders for the “Final Solution” were given to Nazi officials, came within weeks of Hitler’s defeat at Moscow and his declaration of war on the United States. Realizing that the war was ultimately lost, Hitler blamed the Jews and tried to annihilate them.

What is even more insidious, however, has been the way in which many people who do not consider themselves anti-Semites have adopted this mindset. Every al-Qaeda attack is blamed on Israel, directly or indirectly. The misfortunes of the United States in Iraq are blamed on the “Israel lobby,” while many Europeans blame Israel for everything they resent about America.

The re-emergence of this syndrome in Europe bodes ill for the Jews of that continent, but it also implies that the transatlantic community of values and interests is in danger of breaking down. What else is meant by the unity of “the West” if not a common rejection of the old reflexes that made scapegoats of the Jews on the slightest pretext?

Sultan Selim “the Sallow” had not been systematically anti-Semitic: his chief adviser was a Jew, Joseph Nassi, whom he made Duke of Naxos. Capponi describes Nassi as “something of a proto-Zionist,” for he tried to persuade the King of France to establish a Jewish settlement on Lake Tiberias. This improbable project failed. But Nassi, too, was made a scapegoat: when he died in 1579, Selim’s successor Murad III seized all his possessions. Behind the paranoid accusations against the “treacherous Jews,” greed and avarice lurked, as so often before and since. The Venetians, to whom we owe much of the traditional narrative of Lepanto, depicted Nassi as the “evil genius” who had egged on Selim II to conquer the Mediterranean—another anti-Semitic stereotype commonly encountered today.

Lepanto was indeed a decisive victory for the West—but that does not exhaust its most pertinent lessons for our time. I have reviewed Victory of the West (Da Capo Press, $27.50) at greater length in a forthcoming issue of the New Criterion. Capponi’s book should be required reading for those who lack historical perspective on the present jihad—which means most of us.

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The Holocaust and the Nakba

Is it fair for the West to demand that the Palestinian government recognize Israel’s right to exist? In an op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor of February 2, John V. Whitbeck wrote:

There is an enormous difference between “recognizing Israel’s existence” and “recognizing Israel’s right to exist.” From a Palestinian perspective, the difference is in the same league as the difference between asking a Jew to acknowledge that the Holocaust happened and asking him to concede that the Holocaust was morally justified. For Palestinians to acknowledge the occurrence of the Nakba—the expulsion of the great majority of Palestinians from their homeland between 1947 and 1949—is one thing. For them to publicly concede that it was “right” for the Nakba to have happened would be something else entirely. For the Jewish and Palestinian peoples, the Holocaust and the Nakba, respectively, represent catastrophes and injustices on an unimaginable scale that can neither be forgotten nor forgiven.

Whitbeck’s parallelism is disgusting and morally obtuse to the point where one wonders what the CSM editors could have been thinking when they published it. Here are two small differences between these two “injustices.” First, the Palestinians (and their fellow Arabs) started the Nakba by attacking the Jews. The Jews did not start the Holocaust by attacking the Nazis. Second, the victims of the Holocaust were slaughtered, while the victims of the Nakba lost their homes and land. For their part, the Jews had, over the centuries, lost their homes and land many times—events which paled in comparison to the Holocaust.

This bit of ugliness aside, what should the Arabs recognize? Merely that Israel exists? The Serbs recognized that Bosnia existed. That was precisely what they set out to change. Likewise with Saddam Hussein and Kuwait or the Hutus and the Tutsis or, for that matter, the Nazis and the Jews. The Arabs recognize that Israel exists every time they denounce, defame, boycott, or launch rockets against it. This recognition does not bring peace one millimeter closer.

But can the Arabs be expected to recognize Israel’s right to exist? The answer was supplied to me by a young Egyptian writer I know. “The creation of Israel was an injustice,” he said, “but Israel has earned the right to exist.” It has earned this right, he explained, not by its military victories over the Arabs, but by having built a vibrant society that had sunk deep roots.

This struck me as exactly right. Arabs cannot be expected to acknowledge that Israel’s birth was just. But they can be asked to agree that Israel’s destruction now would be a greater injustice. This—and not acknowledgment of the simple fact of Israel’s existence—is the key to resolving the conflict.

Is it fair for the West to demand that the Palestinian government recognize Israel’s right to exist? In an op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor of February 2, John V. Whitbeck wrote:

There is an enormous difference between “recognizing Israel’s existence” and “recognizing Israel’s right to exist.” From a Palestinian perspective, the difference is in the same league as the difference between asking a Jew to acknowledge that the Holocaust happened and asking him to concede that the Holocaust was morally justified. For Palestinians to acknowledge the occurrence of the Nakba—the expulsion of the great majority of Palestinians from their homeland between 1947 and 1949—is one thing. For them to publicly concede that it was “right” for the Nakba to have happened would be something else entirely. For the Jewish and Palestinian peoples, the Holocaust and the Nakba, respectively, represent catastrophes and injustices on an unimaginable scale that can neither be forgotten nor forgiven.

Whitbeck’s parallelism is disgusting and morally obtuse to the point where one wonders what the CSM editors could have been thinking when they published it. Here are two small differences between these two “injustices.” First, the Palestinians (and their fellow Arabs) started the Nakba by attacking the Jews. The Jews did not start the Holocaust by attacking the Nazis. Second, the victims of the Holocaust were slaughtered, while the victims of the Nakba lost their homes and land. For their part, the Jews had, over the centuries, lost their homes and land many times—events which paled in comparison to the Holocaust.

This bit of ugliness aside, what should the Arabs recognize? Merely that Israel exists? The Serbs recognized that Bosnia existed. That was precisely what they set out to change. Likewise with Saddam Hussein and Kuwait or the Hutus and the Tutsis or, for that matter, the Nazis and the Jews. The Arabs recognize that Israel exists every time they denounce, defame, boycott, or launch rockets against it. This recognition does not bring peace one millimeter closer.

But can the Arabs be expected to recognize Israel’s right to exist? The answer was supplied to me by a young Egyptian writer I know. “The creation of Israel was an injustice,” he said, “but Israel has earned the right to exist.” It has earned this right, he explained, not by its military victories over the Arabs, but by having built a vibrant society that had sunk deep roots.

This struck me as exactly right. Arabs cannot be expected to acknowledge that Israel’s birth was just. But they can be asked to agree that Israel’s destruction now would be a greater injustice. This—and not acknowledgment of the simple fact of Israel’s existence—is the key to resolving the conflict.

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Boot and Hanson, Round Two: Wild Cards

Dear Max,

So I think we agree on what the problems are and the preferred solutions, but we are not sure whether the U.S. can implement them all, given a variety of wild cards that we might discuss: (1) the autonomous Iraqi government, (2) the political consensus back home, and (3) the region as a whole

1. We didn’t just establish rule by plebiscite, as some have alleged, but rather we helped to fashion a constitution that is both transparent and independent of us. So we are in a Catch-22 situation: we deal as equals (of sorts) with a new and weak but legitimate government, but that same government has empowered, or at least been too lax with, our enemies. Our leverage, as supporters of democracy, is to threaten to leave, cut off aid, or both. But that in turn might play to those in the Shiite-dominated government, and the region at large, who would like exactly that to happen.

2. The departure of Rumsfeld, Casey, and Abizaid, along with the appointment of General Petraeus, has tempered Democratic opposition. So too, as I suggested in a previous post, has the unspoken fear that there might be a sudden turn-around in Iraq that would embarrass shrill anti-war liberals. Nevertheless, by autumn, the verdict will be in, and if things are not quiet on the ground, the polls will reflect popular frustration, and new resolutions will come fast and furious in the shadow of 2008. Our counter-insurgency efforts might take longer than five years (successful ones usually do), but in this case it will be five years or nothing—and the enemy knows it.

3. If we fail in Iraq, gone is any notion of a comprehensive program for the Middle East based on liberalization and reform, an approach that might break up the wink-and-nod alliance of illegitimate autocracies and jihadists. To salvage things in that event, the U.S. would have to galvanize regional “moderate” dictatorships and corrupt monarchies in Jordan, Egypt, and the Gulf against Iran and Syria, withdraw to Kuwait and perhaps Kurdistan, seek to pressure Israel for concessions, and in general return to the sort of realism and appeasement of the 1980’s and 1990’s, whose ultimate dividend was 9/11. I pass over in silence the effects of such a failure on the reputation of U.S. ground forces, moderate Democrats, reformers in the Middle East, and principled Europeans who supported us.

So? I think the answer is that we must constantly and without interruption go on the offensive in Iraq, militarily, politically, and economically, with the understanding that the country, the region, and the entire framework of U.S. foreign policy and American prestige now hang in the balance.

I hope there is that sense of urgency in both Washington and at Centcom, a sense that the ante has been raised and that our success or failure in the next six months will determine the course of our policy and of the region for years to come.

Best,

Victor

Boot IHanson IBoot IIHanson IIBoot IIIHanson IIIBoot IVHanson IV

Dear Max,

So I think we agree on what the problems are and the preferred solutions, but we are not sure whether the U.S. can implement them all, given a variety of wild cards that we might discuss: (1) the autonomous Iraqi government, (2) the political consensus back home, and (3) the region as a whole

1. We didn’t just establish rule by plebiscite, as some have alleged, but rather we helped to fashion a constitution that is both transparent and independent of us. So we are in a Catch-22 situation: we deal as equals (of sorts) with a new and weak but legitimate government, but that same government has empowered, or at least been too lax with, our enemies. Our leverage, as supporters of democracy, is to threaten to leave, cut off aid, or both. But that in turn might play to those in the Shiite-dominated government, and the region at large, who would like exactly that to happen.

2. The departure of Rumsfeld, Casey, and Abizaid, along with the appointment of General Petraeus, has tempered Democratic opposition. So too, as I suggested in a previous post, has the unspoken fear that there might be a sudden turn-around in Iraq that would embarrass shrill anti-war liberals. Nevertheless, by autumn, the verdict will be in, and if things are not quiet on the ground, the polls will reflect popular frustration, and new resolutions will come fast and furious in the shadow of 2008. Our counter-insurgency efforts might take longer than five years (successful ones usually do), but in this case it will be five years or nothing—and the enemy knows it.

3. If we fail in Iraq, gone is any notion of a comprehensive program for the Middle East based on liberalization and reform, an approach that might break up the wink-and-nod alliance of illegitimate autocracies and jihadists. To salvage things in that event, the U.S. would have to galvanize regional “moderate” dictatorships and corrupt monarchies in Jordan, Egypt, and the Gulf against Iran and Syria, withdraw to Kuwait and perhaps Kurdistan, seek to pressure Israel for concessions, and in general return to the sort of realism and appeasement of the 1980’s and 1990’s, whose ultimate dividend was 9/11. I pass over in silence the effects of such a failure on the reputation of U.S. ground forces, moderate Democrats, reformers in the Middle East, and principled Europeans who supported us.

So? I think the answer is that we must constantly and without interruption go on the offensive in Iraq, militarily, politically, and economically, with the understanding that the country, the region, and the entire framework of U.S. foreign policy and American prestige now hang in the balance.

I hope there is that sense of urgency in both Washington and at Centcom, a sense that the ante has been raised and that our success or failure in the next six months will determine the course of our policy and of the region for years to come.

Best,

Victor

Boot IHanson IBoot IIHanson IIBoot IIIHanson IIIBoot IVHanson IV

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The Jewish Al Sharpton?

After a long absence from respectable circles, Jew-baiting is back.

When Patrick J. Buchanan denounced the 1991 U.S. military action to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein, saying it had been cooked up by “Israel and its amen corner,” he largely sealed the doom of his political career. His remark, blaming the Jews for steering U.S. policy to actions that he alleged were in their own interest but not in America’s, made use of the classic anti-Semitic formula. Anti-Semitism, however, had been taboo in America for a generation or more, partly as a response to the Holocaust and partly due to the wider revulsion against bigotry occasioned by the civil-rights revolution. Commentators unloaded on Buchanan from many directions, led by the New York Times columnist A.M. Rosenthal.

Fifteen years later, however, anti-Semitism is becoming, more and more, an accepted part of national discourse. First, Harvard University published the fulminations of scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (dissected in the pages of COMMENTARY by Gabriel Schoenfeld) accusing the “amen corner,” or in their term “the Israel Lobby,” of distorting U.S. policy to serve Israel rather than America. Then came former President Jimmy Carter’s book, blaming the Arab-Israel conflict entirely on the Jews, and claiming that this information had been kept from the American people by the pervasive and intimidating influence of certain “religious groups,” i.e., the Jews. (See my piece about Carter in the February issue of COMMENTARY.) Next came Democratic presidential aspirant, Wesley Clark, who commented recently that pressure for U.S. action against Iran’s nuclear weapons program was coming primarily from “New York money people.” Can you guess which religious/ethnic group he might be referring to?

Enter the New York Times, a paper famously Jewish-owned and long edited by A.M. Rosenthal, and therefore the target of many anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of the kind once propounded by cranks (and now routinely put forth by the likes of Carter, Walt, and Mearsheimer).

The Times‘s Sunday magazine of January 14 carried James Traub’s astounding hatchet job on Abe Foxman. Foxman is head of the Anti-Defamation League, which in Traub’s view, should long ago “have moved away from its original mission [of combating anti-Semitism] in favor of either promoting tolerance and diversity or leading the nonsectarian fight against extremism.” Instead, Foxman, a “hectoring” man of “spleen” who is “domineering” and “brazen,” “an anachronism” who resembles “a Cadillac-driving ward-heeler” and “stages public rituals of accusation,” insists perversely on “dwell[ing] imaginatively in the Holocaust.”

“It is tempting,” writes Traub, “to compare Abe Foxman with Al Sharpton, another portly, bellicose, melodramatizing defender of ethnic ramparts.” Leave aside that Sharpton is a notorious fraud who gave America the Tawana Brawley farce. More to the point is that for all the publicity that he succeeds in garnering, Sharpton represents no one but himself. Foxman, in contrast, is the chief of one of the leading, if not the leading, organizations through which American Jews defend their civil rights. Traub’s complaint that Foxman is obsessive about anti-Semitism is akin to assailing the head of, say, the NAACP for being overly sensitive to racism. But that’s an exposé you won’t read in the Times any time soon.

Apparently for the likes of Walt and Mearsheimer to bait the Jews is all right: Traub gives them extremely respectful treatment. But for Jews to defend themselves is, it seems, disgusting.

After a long absence from respectable circles, Jew-baiting is back.

When Patrick J. Buchanan denounced the 1991 U.S. military action to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein, saying it had been cooked up by “Israel and its amen corner,” he largely sealed the doom of his political career. His remark, blaming the Jews for steering U.S. policy to actions that he alleged were in their own interest but not in America’s, made use of the classic anti-Semitic formula. Anti-Semitism, however, had been taboo in America for a generation or more, partly as a response to the Holocaust and partly due to the wider revulsion against bigotry occasioned by the civil-rights revolution. Commentators unloaded on Buchanan from many directions, led by the New York Times columnist A.M. Rosenthal.

Fifteen years later, however, anti-Semitism is becoming, more and more, an accepted part of national discourse. First, Harvard University published the fulminations of scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (dissected in the pages of COMMENTARY by Gabriel Schoenfeld) accusing the “amen corner,” or in their term “the Israel Lobby,” of distorting U.S. policy to serve Israel rather than America. Then came former President Jimmy Carter’s book, blaming the Arab-Israel conflict entirely on the Jews, and claiming that this information had been kept from the American people by the pervasive and intimidating influence of certain “religious groups,” i.e., the Jews. (See my piece about Carter in the February issue of COMMENTARY.) Next came Democratic presidential aspirant, Wesley Clark, who commented recently that pressure for U.S. action against Iran’s nuclear weapons program was coming primarily from “New York money people.” Can you guess which religious/ethnic group he might be referring to?

Enter the New York Times, a paper famously Jewish-owned and long edited by A.M. Rosenthal, and therefore the target of many anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of the kind once propounded by cranks (and now routinely put forth by the likes of Carter, Walt, and Mearsheimer).

The Times‘s Sunday magazine of January 14 carried James Traub’s astounding hatchet job on Abe Foxman. Foxman is head of the Anti-Defamation League, which in Traub’s view, should long ago “have moved away from its original mission [of combating anti-Semitism] in favor of either promoting tolerance and diversity or leading the nonsectarian fight against extremism.” Instead, Foxman, a “hectoring” man of “spleen” who is “domineering” and “brazen,” “an anachronism” who resembles “a Cadillac-driving ward-heeler” and “stages public rituals of accusation,” insists perversely on “dwell[ing] imaginatively in the Holocaust.”

“It is tempting,” writes Traub, “to compare Abe Foxman with Al Sharpton, another portly, bellicose, melodramatizing defender of ethnic ramparts.” Leave aside that Sharpton is a notorious fraud who gave America the Tawana Brawley farce. More to the point is that for all the publicity that he succeeds in garnering, Sharpton represents no one but himself. Foxman, in contrast, is the chief of one of the leading, if not the leading, organizations through which American Jews defend their civil rights. Traub’s complaint that Foxman is obsessive about anti-Semitism is akin to assailing the head of, say, the NAACP for being overly sensitive to racism. But that’s an exposé you won’t read in the Times any time soon.

Apparently for the likes of Walt and Mearsheimer to bait the Jews is all right: Traub gives them extremely respectful treatment. But for Jews to defend themselves is, it seems, disgusting.

Read Less




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