Commentary Magazine


Topic: leader

Flotsam and Jetsam

Peter Berkowitz makes mincemeat of an E.J. Dionne column. “Dionne continues to insist, contrary to the evidence, that the Tea Party is a small and inconsequential movement. He leaves unchallenged my main claim that many highly educated Americans misunderstand the Tea Party’s central commitment to limited government because the political science and history departments at the distinguished colleges and universities that credential them are failing to teach the principles of American constitutional government (I do not dispute Dionne’s assurance that he was well trained by his college teachers). And while insisting on the importance of a thoughtful conservatism, he seems to be unaware of its existence.” Ouch.

NPR makes the case (another one) for its own defunding. You see, “zombies and vampires are malleable metaphors; they’ve symbolized anxieties over wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, environmental holocaust, and technological disaster.” And you, fellow taxpayer, are funding this stuff.

She must make even Democrats shudder. Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “Everything was going great and all of a sudden secret money from God knows where — because they won’t disclose it — is pouring in.”

It sure makes that whole “race is narrowing!” storyline seem silly. “With Election Day eight days away, Republican candidates hold a nine-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, October 24, 2010. It’s the second week in a row the gap between the parties has been that wide. Forty-nine percent (49%) of respondents say they would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate, while 40% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent. Even more worrisome for Democrats, however, is the finding that among the voters who are most closely following the midterm elections Republicans hold a 56% to 38% lead.”

Joe Sestak makes it competitive, but Pat Toomey is once again back in the lead in the Pennsylvania Senate race.

Rep. Shelley Berkley makes for a lively interview (h/t JTA). A sample: “[W]hile she faults President George W. Bush for many things during his presidency, she believes the Republican president was more personally committed to Israel than Obama. It’s this sort of blunt talk that impresses folks like [Gary] Bauer. … ‘I think she’s a leader in this regard,” says Bauer. … ‘There are other people on Capitol Hill that will privately say to their constituents, ‘Of course I’m with Israel and I’m talking to the White House behind the scenes’ to get the policy better. But she’s been willing to say it publicly. This is the way you can tell when a political figure really feels something in their heart.’ Because of her prominence on Israel, Berkley’s own constituents occasionally seem to forget how liberal she is.” Because liberals don’t bother with Israel these days?

Obama’s low standing, along with his unpopular agenda, makes Democratic candidates nervous — and suddenly declare their independence. If only they had voted that way, they might not be in such trouble.

Peter Berkowitz makes mincemeat of an E.J. Dionne column. “Dionne continues to insist, contrary to the evidence, that the Tea Party is a small and inconsequential movement. He leaves unchallenged my main claim that many highly educated Americans misunderstand the Tea Party’s central commitment to limited government because the political science and history departments at the distinguished colleges and universities that credential them are failing to teach the principles of American constitutional government (I do not dispute Dionne’s assurance that he was well trained by his college teachers). And while insisting on the importance of a thoughtful conservatism, he seems to be unaware of its existence.” Ouch.

NPR makes the case (another one) for its own defunding. You see, “zombies and vampires are malleable metaphors; they’ve symbolized anxieties over wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, environmental holocaust, and technological disaster.” And you, fellow taxpayer, are funding this stuff.

She must make even Democrats shudder. Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “Everything was going great and all of a sudden secret money from God knows where — because they won’t disclose it — is pouring in.”

It sure makes that whole “race is narrowing!” storyline seem silly. “With Election Day eight days away, Republican candidates hold a nine-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, October 24, 2010. It’s the second week in a row the gap between the parties has been that wide. Forty-nine percent (49%) of respondents say they would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate, while 40% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent. Even more worrisome for Democrats, however, is the finding that among the voters who are most closely following the midterm elections Republicans hold a 56% to 38% lead.”

Joe Sestak makes it competitive, but Pat Toomey is once again back in the lead in the Pennsylvania Senate race.

Rep. Shelley Berkley makes for a lively interview (h/t JTA). A sample: “[W]hile she faults President George W. Bush for many things during his presidency, she believes the Republican president was more personally committed to Israel than Obama. It’s this sort of blunt talk that impresses folks like [Gary] Bauer. … ‘I think she’s a leader in this regard,” says Bauer. … ‘There are other people on Capitol Hill that will privately say to their constituents, ‘Of course I’m with Israel and I’m talking to the White House behind the scenes’ to get the policy better. But she’s been willing to say it publicly. This is the way you can tell when a political figure really feels something in their heart.’ Because of her prominence on Israel, Berkley’s own constituents occasionally seem to forget how liberal she is.” Because liberals don’t bother with Israel these days?

Obama’s low standing, along with his unpopular agenda, makes Democratic candidates nervous — and suddenly declare their independence. If only they had voted that way, they might not be in such trouble.

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The Muslim Brotherhood Takes Off Its Mask

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood was never a “moderate” organization. I briefly interviewed their spokesman many years ago, and it could not have been more obvious that I was dealing with a dissembler. I know moderate Muslims when I see them, and these guys aren’t even in the same time zone.

Recently, though, for reasons I’m not quite sure about yet, they decided to stop playing the game, and we can thank Barry Rubin for paying particularly close attention to this development.

In calling for jihad against America, the West and Israel in terms virtually identical with Osama bin Laden’s rhetoric, the leader of Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood uttered one sentence that explains the contemporary Middle East.

Here it is: “The improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as its enemies pursue life.”

The Muslim Brotherhood is not a militia. It can’t seize the capital, and it can’t take on the army. It doesn’t control a state within a state, as Hamas and Hezbollah do. It can’t start a war with another country or draw in foreign powers. It can’t win an election, because Hosni Mubarak’s regime rigs the system. It does, however, have an enormous amount of clout on the streets.

I’ve been to more than a dozen Muslim countries and seen for myself how extraordinarily diverse they are. Some are as secular and irreligious as the nations of Western Europe. Egypt, though, is by far the most politically Islamicized place I’ve ever seen. And by that I don’t mean that Egyptians are more likely to pray and go to the mosque than people in other countries. The Kurds of Iraq are by and large conservative Muslims, but political Islamism barely registers there and is held in contempt by the majority.

In Egypt, it’s different, and you can see it and feel it in Cairo. The liberal and moderate Egyptians I spoke to were keenly aware that they’re part of a small minority that has no political future right now.

One reason for this is that Egypt’s current secular government — which is a less-ideological continuation of the Arab Nationalist regime founded by Gamal Abdel Nasser and his Free Officer’s Movement — has failed Egypt spectacularly in almost every possible way. Egypt’s experience with secular modernity has been a miserable one, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s slogan, “Islam is the solution,” sounds plausible to millions of people.

That isn’t the only reason, of course. Albanians fared far worse under the secular Communist regime of Enver Hoxha — which was similar in a lot ways to Kim Il-Sung’s in North Korea — yet Islamism never caught on there. No single explanation will suffice in Egypt or anywhere else.

Still, Mubarak’s ideology and government is rejected by a huge number of Egyptians for many of the same reasons the Shah’s regime in Iran was in the late 1970s. The Muslim Brotherhood will be a likely replacement if Mubarak’s government implodes or is overthrown. Given that the Brotherhood is becoming more extreme rather than less, the West may want to brace itself.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood was never a “moderate” organization. I briefly interviewed their spokesman many years ago, and it could not have been more obvious that I was dealing with a dissembler. I know moderate Muslims when I see them, and these guys aren’t even in the same time zone.

Recently, though, for reasons I’m not quite sure about yet, they decided to stop playing the game, and we can thank Barry Rubin for paying particularly close attention to this development.

In calling for jihad against America, the West and Israel in terms virtually identical with Osama bin Laden’s rhetoric, the leader of Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood uttered one sentence that explains the contemporary Middle East.

Here it is: “The improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as its enemies pursue life.”

The Muslim Brotherhood is not a militia. It can’t seize the capital, and it can’t take on the army. It doesn’t control a state within a state, as Hamas and Hezbollah do. It can’t start a war with another country or draw in foreign powers. It can’t win an election, because Hosni Mubarak’s regime rigs the system. It does, however, have an enormous amount of clout on the streets.

I’ve been to more than a dozen Muslim countries and seen for myself how extraordinarily diverse they are. Some are as secular and irreligious as the nations of Western Europe. Egypt, though, is by far the most politically Islamicized place I’ve ever seen. And by that I don’t mean that Egyptians are more likely to pray and go to the mosque than people in other countries. The Kurds of Iraq are by and large conservative Muslims, but political Islamism barely registers there and is held in contempt by the majority.

In Egypt, it’s different, and you can see it and feel it in Cairo. The liberal and moderate Egyptians I spoke to were keenly aware that they’re part of a small minority that has no political future right now.

One reason for this is that Egypt’s current secular government — which is a less-ideological continuation of the Arab Nationalist regime founded by Gamal Abdel Nasser and his Free Officer’s Movement — has failed Egypt spectacularly in almost every possible way. Egypt’s experience with secular modernity has been a miserable one, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s slogan, “Islam is the solution,” sounds plausible to millions of people.

That isn’t the only reason, of course. Albanians fared far worse under the secular Communist regime of Enver Hoxha — which was similar in a lot ways to Kim Il-Sung’s in North Korea — yet Islamism never caught on there. No single explanation will suffice in Egypt or anywhere else.

Still, Mubarak’s ideology and government is rejected by a huge number of Egyptians for many of the same reasons the Shah’s regime in Iran was in the late 1970s. The Muslim Brotherhood will be a likely replacement if Mubarak’s government implodes or is overthrown. Given that the Brotherhood is becoming more extreme rather than less, the West may want to brace itself.

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The Race to Baghdad

In a sense, it doesn’t matter whether Americans think Iran has too much influence in Iraq. Sunnis, in both Iraq and the larger region, increasingly think Iran has too much influence there — and that’s what matters to developments on the ground. Iraqi Sunnis have friends in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but they are also a natural recruiting ground for al-Qaeda. A Sunni revolt against Iranian influence will not be carried out in the Iraqi editorial pages.

The pace of events has accelerated in the last two weeks. Iraq has been without a governing coalition since March, but on October 1, radical Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr — who has lived in Iran since 2007, studying with the country’s most senior clerics — announced his backing of Nouri al-Maliki, the incumbent prime minister and head of the caretaker government. The U.S. has asked Maliki to distance himself from Sadr as a condition of continued American support. But things aren’t that simple, primarily because President Obama has made it so clear that American support to an Iraqi government doesn’t mean what it meant two years ago. Obama has declared combat “over” in Iraq and is withdrawing troops as he promised. To function independently, however, what Maliki needs is the guarantee of active U.S. force at his back — and that is precisely what Obama is busy removing.

The UK Guardian has a remarkably detailed article from the weekend outlining the collusion of Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah in the Maliki-Sadr hook-up. (See companion piece here.) I’m routinely somewhat skeptical of Guardian stories, but in addition to its extensive detail, this one is bolstered by echoes in the Arabic press of the energetic shuttle diplomacy by the principal actors. The reaction from the region’s loose Sunni coalition certainly seems to validate the Guardian’s facts; as outlined by the Al-Ahram piece linked at the top, Iraqi Sunnis have kicked into overdrive a campaign for support from the Sunni nations (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey).

It’s against this background that the defection to al-Qaeda of the “Anbar Awakening” Sunnis must be understood. Almost every nation in the Middle East is trying to “fix” the outcome in Iraq — a reality that is largely invisible to Americans, but is one of the two main factors in the Sunni defection. The other is the perception that Obama’s America is inert and irrelevant to the power competition in Iraq. Meanwhile, Iran has launched an aggressive, activist phase in its regional policy, a trend amplified by Ahmadinejad’s triumphal visit to Lebanon last week. The U.S. could have averted the visit; that it did not has reinforced our Obama-era image of feckless passivity at the worst possible times.

According to the Guardian, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s condition for supporting the Maliki-Sadr coalition is a guarantee that all U.S. troops will leave Iraq in 2011. In the absence of clear, assertive U.S. policy, we will find ourselves increasingly boxed in by the plans of opponents who want to make our policy for us. In many cases, the opponents will be terrorists.

In a sense, it doesn’t matter whether Americans think Iran has too much influence in Iraq. Sunnis, in both Iraq and the larger region, increasingly think Iran has too much influence there — and that’s what matters to developments on the ground. Iraqi Sunnis have friends in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but they are also a natural recruiting ground for al-Qaeda. A Sunni revolt against Iranian influence will not be carried out in the Iraqi editorial pages.

The pace of events has accelerated in the last two weeks. Iraq has been without a governing coalition since March, but on October 1, radical Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr — who has lived in Iran since 2007, studying with the country’s most senior clerics — announced his backing of Nouri al-Maliki, the incumbent prime minister and head of the caretaker government. The U.S. has asked Maliki to distance himself from Sadr as a condition of continued American support. But things aren’t that simple, primarily because President Obama has made it so clear that American support to an Iraqi government doesn’t mean what it meant two years ago. Obama has declared combat “over” in Iraq and is withdrawing troops as he promised. To function independently, however, what Maliki needs is the guarantee of active U.S. force at his back — and that is precisely what Obama is busy removing.

The UK Guardian has a remarkably detailed article from the weekend outlining the collusion of Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah in the Maliki-Sadr hook-up. (See companion piece here.) I’m routinely somewhat skeptical of Guardian stories, but in addition to its extensive detail, this one is bolstered by echoes in the Arabic press of the energetic shuttle diplomacy by the principal actors. The reaction from the region’s loose Sunni coalition certainly seems to validate the Guardian’s facts; as outlined by the Al-Ahram piece linked at the top, Iraqi Sunnis have kicked into overdrive a campaign for support from the Sunni nations (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey).

It’s against this background that the defection to al-Qaeda of the “Anbar Awakening” Sunnis must be understood. Almost every nation in the Middle East is trying to “fix” the outcome in Iraq — a reality that is largely invisible to Americans, but is one of the two main factors in the Sunni defection. The other is the perception that Obama’s America is inert and irrelevant to the power competition in Iraq. Meanwhile, Iran has launched an aggressive, activist phase in its regional policy, a trend amplified by Ahmadinejad’s triumphal visit to Lebanon last week. The U.S. could have averted the visit; that it did not has reinforced our Obama-era image of feckless passivity at the worst possible times.

According to the Guardian, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s condition for supporting the Maliki-Sadr coalition is a guarantee that all U.S. troops will leave Iraq in 2011. In the absence of clear, assertive U.S. policy, we will find ourselves increasingly boxed in by the plans of opponents who want to make our policy for us. In many cases, the opponents will be terrorists.

Read Less

The Peace Process Lacks Palestinian Peacemakers

Oh no, they tell us Mahmoud Abbas is on the ropes. A new cadre of PA figures is on the rise that is “less supportive of negotiations with Israel’s government.” Less than Abbas? Or more candid? You can’t get much less supportive than Abbas and his current crew, who continue to extol the names of terrorists and flee negotiations at the first opportune moment. But then again, Abbas has been reduced to the status of Arab League messenger boy. The new PA leadership wants to employ Gandhi-like nonviolent resistance? All they need is a tradition of nonviolent resistance, an ideology that shuns violence, and a popular consensus that killing Jews is a bad thing. I think Gandhi’s idea of a “march to the sea” isn’t exactly what the Palestinians have in mind.

But let’s understand the import of this: even within the PA, Abbas lacks a base of support. And he, we are told by the Obami, is the man and this is the unique moment that are going to give birth to a peace deal. Yes, it’s quite absurd.

It seems there is never quite the right Palestinian leader in place. This one is well-meaning, but has no backing. That one is popular, but allergic to peace talks. Another, after all, was imprisoned for terrorism. Perhaps there just isn’t someone who is willing to make a deal and who enjoys support within the Palestinian leadership and population. It might just be that the past 18 months of peace-processing, not to mention the past 60 years, have been a colossal waste of time.

Oh no, they tell us Mahmoud Abbas is on the ropes. A new cadre of PA figures is on the rise that is “less supportive of negotiations with Israel’s government.” Less than Abbas? Or more candid? You can’t get much less supportive than Abbas and his current crew, who continue to extol the names of terrorists and flee negotiations at the first opportune moment. But then again, Abbas has been reduced to the status of Arab League messenger boy. The new PA leadership wants to employ Gandhi-like nonviolent resistance? All they need is a tradition of nonviolent resistance, an ideology that shuns violence, and a popular consensus that killing Jews is a bad thing. I think Gandhi’s idea of a “march to the sea” isn’t exactly what the Palestinians have in mind.

But let’s understand the import of this: even within the PA, Abbas lacks a base of support. And he, we are told by the Obami, is the man and this is the unique moment that are going to give birth to a peace deal. Yes, it’s quite absurd.

It seems there is never quite the right Palestinian leader in place. This one is well-meaning, but has no backing. That one is popular, but allergic to peace talks. Another, after all, was imprisoned for terrorism. Perhaps there just isn’t someone who is willing to make a deal and who enjoys support within the Palestinian leadership and population. It might just be that the past 18 months of peace-processing, not to mention the past 60 years, have been a colossal waste of time.

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Does Schumer Care About CAIR?

Chuck Schumer, the wanna-be majority (minority?) leader for the next Senate, is doing a fundraiser for the hapless Joe Sestak in Philadelphia tonight. The Toomey camp has jumped on this, challenging Sestak to answer questions about his association with CAIR. In a statement, Toomey’s campaign reminds us that in 2003, Schumer declared in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: “We know [CAIR] has ties to terrorism.” So the Toomey camp wants to know if Sestak now agrees with Schumer, and if he thinks it’s appropriate to keynote for CAIR and praise “its good work.” The campaign also tucks in this bombshell: “Will Congressman Sestak return the $2,000 he has received from officers of CAIR?”

Wait. Sestak keynoted for them, praised them, and then got money from them — a group that refuses to condemn Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups and that has had multiple officials indicted for and convicted of terrorist activities? In fact, Sestak received donations from the then-president, treasurer, and chairman of the Pennsylvania chapter of CAIR. He is plainly the group’s choice candidate. (These donations were made between 2006 and 2009.)

So let’s get this straight: Sestak took money from Soros Street (which wrote Richard Goldstone’s defense case and escorted him around Capitol Hill) and from CAIR, which the Democrats’ leader-in-waiting has deemed to have terrorist ties. Sestak may already be a dead duck. But what is Chuck Schumer, the great friend of Israel, doing with this guy? Schumer has had it both ways of late. He’s made heartfelt speeches to AIPAC and grumbled about Obama in the Jewish media, but when it comes to the national Democratic stage, he seems to jettison all those concerns. At some point, Schumer’s pro-Israel supporters may want a more consistent advocate for their cause.

And in the meantime, Sestak should disgorge this money.

Chuck Schumer, the wanna-be majority (minority?) leader for the next Senate, is doing a fundraiser for the hapless Joe Sestak in Philadelphia tonight. The Toomey camp has jumped on this, challenging Sestak to answer questions about his association with CAIR. In a statement, Toomey’s campaign reminds us that in 2003, Schumer declared in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: “We know [CAIR] has ties to terrorism.” So the Toomey camp wants to know if Sestak now agrees with Schumer, and if he thinks it’s appropriate to keynote for CAIR and praise “its good work.” The campaign also tucks in this bombshell: “Will Congressman Sestak return the $2,000 he has received from officers of CAIR?”

Wait. Sestak keynoted for them, praised them, and then got money from them — a group that refuses to condemn Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups and that has had multiple officials indicted for and convicted of terrorist activities? In fact, Sestak received donations from the then-president, treasurer, and chairman of the Pennsylvania chapter of CAIR. He is plainly the group’s choice candidate. (These donations were made between 2006 and 2009.)

So let’s get this straight: Sestak took money from Soros Street (which wrote Richard Goldstone’s defense case and escorted him around Capitol Hill) and from CAIR, which the Democrats’ leader-in-waiting has deemed to have terrorist ties. Sestak may already be a dead duck. But what is Chuck Schumer, the great friend of Israel, doing with this guy? Schumer has had it both ways of late. He’s made heartfelt speeches to AIPAC and grumbled about Obama in the Jewish media, but when it comes to the national Democratic stage, he seems to jettison all those concerns. At some point, Schumer’s pro-Israel supporters may want a more consistent advocate for their cause.

And in the meantime, Sestak should disgorge this money.

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Hezbollah: A Bigger Menace than Ever

The New York Times has a chilling if not surprising report on how strong Hezbollah is getting. It has managed to more than rebuild its capacities since the 2006 war against Israel. As the Times notes: “According to Hassan Nasrallah, the group’s leader, Hezbollah has increased its missile stocks to 40,000, compared with 13,000 during the 2006 war; Israeli defense officials do not dispute the estimate. (In 2006, Hezbollah fired about 4,000 missiles.)”

Meanwhile, across southern Lebanon, new apartment blocks, roads, and bunkers have gone up with Iranian money. Hezbollah’s rearmament shows how predictably toothless the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon is. As the Times notes:

Party supporters have constructed dozens of enormous houses along the strategic hills that face the Israeli border, in areas that used to be mostly farmland. The houses, Hezbollah officials say, will complicate a future Israeli advance and could give Hezbollah fighters cover during ground combat.

United Nations peacekeepers and the Lebanese Army now patrol the hilly, wooded border, and under the terms of the United Nations resolution that ended the war, Hezbollah was supposed to demilitarize the area between the Israeli border and the Litani River, a distance of about 18 miles.

But Hezbollah appears to have done just the opposite. Its operatives roam strategic towns, interrogating foreigners and outsiders. New residents have been recruited to the border, and Hezbollah officials say they have recruited scores of new fighters, by their own estimates either doubling or tripling their ranks.

Oh, and if that weren’t bad enough, there is also this: “Hezbollah’s role in the government has paved the way for tighter cooperation with Lebanese intelligence units, and Lebanese officials have reportedly arrested more than 100 people suspected of being Israeli spies in the past two years.”

There is no doubt that an element of Hezbollah bluster is at play here — the group seeks to deter an Israeli strike on its Iranian sponsors. But there is little doubt that Hezbollah is a bigger menace than ever — not only to Israel but also to any hopes of regional peace. That makes it all the more astonishing that the Obama administration is devoting so much energy to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Even if the probability of a successful outcome to those talks were high (and it’s not), it would do nothing to end the menace posed by Hamas or Hezbollah. Admittedly, there is no easy solution to these terrorist groups, but one would think that defeating them would be a bigger priority for the administration than beating an allied government over the head to get it to extend a moratorium on new housing construction, which should be the endpoint, rather than the beginning, of negotiations.

The New York Times has a chilling if not surprising report on how strong Hezbollah is getting. It has managed to more than rebuild its capacities since the 2006 war against Israel. As the Times notes: “According to Hassan Nasrallah, the group’s leader, Hezbollah has increased its missile stocks to 40,000, compared with 13,000 during the 2006 war; Israeli defense officials do not dispute the estimate. (In 2006, Hezbollah fired about 4,000 missiles.)”

Meanwhile, across southern Lebanon, new apartment blocks, roads, and bunkers have gone up with Iranian money. Hezbollah’s rearmament shows how predictably toothless the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon is. As the Times notes:

Party supporters have constructed dozens of enormous houses along the strategic hills that face the Israeli border, in areas that used to be mostly farmland. The houses, Hezbollah officials say, will complicate a future Israeli advance and could give Hezbollah fighters cover during ground combat.

United Nations peacekeepers and the Lebanese Army now patrol the hilly, wooded border, and under the terms of the United Nations resolution that ended the war, Hezbollah was supposed to demilitarize the area between the Israeli border and the Litani River, a distance of about 18 miles.

But Hezbollah appears to have done just the opposite. Its operatives roam strategic towns, interrogating foreigners and outsiders. New residents have been recruited to the border, and Hezbollah officials say they have recruited scores of new fighters, by their own estimates either doubling or tripling their ranks.

Oh, and if that weren’t bad enough, there is also this: “Hezbollah’s role in the government has paved the way for tighter cooperation with Lebanese intelligence units, and Lebanese officials have reportedly arrested more than 100 people suspected of being Israeli spies in the past two years.”

There is no doubt that an element of Hezbollah bluster is at play here — the group seeks to deter an Israeli strike on its Iranian sponsors. But there is little doubt that Hezbollah is a bigger menace than ever — not only to Israel but also to any hopes of regional peace. That makes it all the more astonishing that the Obama administration is devoting so much energy to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Even if the probability of a successful outcome to those talks were high (and it’s not), it would do nothing to end the menace posed by Hamas or Hezbollah. Admittedly, there is no easy solution to these terrorist groups, but one would think that defeating them would be a bigger priority for the administration than beating an allied government over the head to get it to extend a moratorium on new housing construction, which should be the endpoint, rather than the beginning, of negotiations.

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The Dark Side of Peace Fantasies

Why do so many American liberals prefer to think ill of Israel and accept libelous accusations such as Time magazine’s infamous August cover story that proclaimed “Why Israelis Don’t Care About Peace”? The answer is that, unlike the majority of Israelis, they’ve decided to ignore the results of nearly two decades of failed peace-processing. A prime example of this foolishness is provided today by the New York Times, where online columnist Robert Wright urges Palestinians to give Israelis who are indifferent to peace a good scare. What would scare them? His answer is a Palestinian peace movement based on civil disobedience that would advocate for votes in a binational state where a presumed Arab majority would soon take over the country.

Wright’s determination to divide Israelis between indifferent moderates and bad settlers whose political strength exercises a veto over peace is absurd. Israeli moderates aren’t indifferent to peace; they just understand that concessions that created the Palestinian Authority and a Hamas state in Gaza brought more terror, not peace. That’s why the Israeli left has more or less disintegrated as a political force. But should the Palestinians ever accept one of Israel’s peace offers, the right would be powerless to stop such a deal from being signed.

As for the Palestinians, there’s a good reason why they’ve never taken the advice of foreign well-wishers and gone Gandhi on the Israelis. The Palestinian national movement has always been based on violence. The credibility of Palestinian political parties stems from their involvement in terror, not nation-building, which is why Hamas has a mass following and pragmatic Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad is virtually a man without a party. Palestinians don’t have to be persuaded to embrace a “one-state” solution, because they have never supported one that would envision two states for two peoples, since acceptance of a Jewish state is still anathema to Palestinian nationalism.

Indeed, far from Israelis needing to be convinced of the utility of a two-state solution, it is the Palestinians who must be persuaded to do so. They turned such a deal down in 2000, when Yasir Arafat said no to one at Camp David and again at Taba the next year. Current Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas did the same in 2008. But all this is of no interest to authors such as Wright who still prefer to blame the continued standoff on the Israelis.

But the most compelling passage in Wright’s article is when he claims that a nonviolent Palestinian movement would enable American Israel-haters to create successful campaigns to isolate Israel without fear of being called anti-Semites, as was the fate of Harvard students who advocated for disinvestment in 2002.

The determination of Wright and his fellow left-wingers to ignore the same recent history that has caused so many Israeli leftists to abandon their cause is curious. It is hard to avoid wondering whether Wright’s longing for a more presentable Palestinian movement has more to do with his hope that it would make the work of American anti-Zionists easier than any chances that it would actually lead to peace. Perhaps without intending to do so, what Wright has done in this piece is to give us a look at the dark side of left-wing fantasies about the Middle East in which advocacy for an end to the Jewish state will be granted a legitimacy that it has hitherto lacked.

Why do so many American liberals prefer to think ill of Israel and accept libelous accusations such as Time magazine’s infamous August cover story that proclaimed “Why Israelis Don’t Care About Peace”? The answer is that, unlike the majority of Israelis, they’ve decided to ignore the results of nearly two decades of failed peace-processing. A prime example of this foolishness is provided today by the New York Times, where online columnist Robert Wright urges Palestinians to give Israelis who are indifferent to peace a good scare. What would scare them? His answer is a Palestinian peace movement based on civil disobedience that would advocate for votes in a binational state where a presumed Arab majority would soon take over the country.

Wright’s determination to divide Israelis between indifferent moderates and bad settlers whose political strength exercises a veto over peace is absurd. Israeli moderates aren’t indifferent to peace; they just understand that concessions that created the Palestinian Authority and a Hamas state in Gaza brought more terror, not peace. That’s why the Israeli left has more or less disintegrated as a political force. But should the Palestinians ever accept one of Israel’s peace offers, the right would be powerless to stop such a deal from being signed.

As for the Palestinians, there’s a good reason why they’ve never taken the advice of foreign well-wishers and gone Gandhi on the Israelis. The Palestinian national movement has always been based on violence. The credibility of Palestinian political parties stems from their involvement in terror, not nation-building, which is why Hamas has a mass following and pragmatic Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad is virtually a man without a party. Palestinians don’t have to be persuaded to embrace a “one-state” solution, because they have never supported one that would envision two states for two peoples, since acceptance of a Jewish state is still anathema to Palestinian nationalism.

Indeed, far from Israelis needing to be convinced of the utility of a two-state solution, it is the Palestinians who must be persuaded to do so. They turned such a deal down in 2000, when Yasir Arafat said no to one at Camp David and again at Taba the next year. Current Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas did the same in 2008. But all this is of no interest to authors such as Wright who still prefer to blame the continued standoff on the Israelis.

But the most compelling passage in Wright’s article is when he claims that a nonviolent Palestinian movement would enable American Israel-haters to create successful campaigns to isolate Israel without fear of being called anti-Semites, as was the fate of Harvard students who advocated for disinvestment in 2002.

The determination of Wright and his fellow left-wingers to ignore the same recent history that has caused so many Israeli leftists to abandon their cause is curious. It is hard to avoid wondering whether Wright’s longing for a more presentable Palestinian movement has more to do with his hope that it would make the work of American anti-Zionists easier than any chances that it would actually lead to peace. Perhaps without intending to do so, what Wright has done in this piece is to give us a look at the dark side of left-wing fantasies about the Middle East in which advocacy for an end to the Jewish state will be granted a legitimacy that it has hitherto lacked.

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Blaming Bibi

Peter Beinart seems to have decided to pick up where Soros Street left off. Maybe with Soros Street in rubble, Beinart fancies himself as the leader of the “Israel is responsible for all bad things” movement. Perhaps he is miffed that Time magazine got all the attention for suggesting Jews just care about money. But he was out with another rant, claiming the refusal to extend the moratorium means Israel isn’t serious about peace. Problem: not even the Obami take this position. And, by the way, Abbas has not walked out.

Like most every other garden-variety Israel-basher, Beinart insists “the problem — or at least a crucial problem — is settlements.” But, George Bush managed to encourage negotiations, as Rick pointed out, with a common-sense compromise. (Israel could build “up” and “in” but not “out.”) Could it be that the problem now is the obsessive focus on the issue by Obama and the left? And maybe that the bigger problem is the 60 years of Palestinian rejectionism?

It is getting harder to cast Israel in the role of the villain, given that Abbas has made it clear he will not — or won’t be allowed to by the Arab League, which now has him on a short leash — recognize Israel as the Jewish state. So Beinart just ignores that inconvenient fact. He is quite peeved to find out there is no market in American Jewry for blaming Israel for everything. He concludes: “To be labeled a champion of peace by the American Jewish establishment, it turns out, a prime minister of Israel only really has to do one thing: be prime minister of Israel.” Actually, the only thing an Israeli prime minister has to do to be excoriated by the left is to be the prime minister of Israel.

Peter Beinart seems to have decided to pick up where Soros Street left off. Maybe with Soros Street in rubble, Beinart fancies himself as the leader of the “Israel is responsible for all bad things” movement. Perhaps he is miffed that Time magazine got all the attention for suggesting Jews just care about money. But he was out with another rant, claiming the refusal to extend the moratorium means Israel isn’t serious about peace. Problem: not even the Obami take this position. And, by the way, Abbas has not walked out.

Like most every other garden-variety Israel-basher, Beinart insists “the problem — or at least a crucial problem — is settlements.” But, George Bush managed to encourage negotiations, as Rick pointed out, with a common-sense compromise. (Israel could build “up” and “in” but not “out.”) Could it be that the problem now is the obsessive focus on the issue by Obama and the left? And maybe that the bigger problem is the 60 years of Palestinian rejectionism?

It is getting harder to cast Israel in the role of the villain, given that Abbas has made it clear he will not — or won’t be allowed to by the Arab League, which now has him on a short leash — recognize Israel as the Jewish state. So Beinart just ignores that inconvenient fact. He is quite peeved to find out there is no market in American Jewry for blaming Israel for everything. He concludes: “To be labeled a champion of peace by the American Jewish establishment, it turns out, a prime minister of Israel only really has to do one thing: be prime minister of Israel.” Actually, the only thing an Israeli prime minister has to do to be excoriated by the left is to be the prime minister of Israel.

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Pity the Spinners

We’ve reached the point in the Obama presidency where members of the administration are looking to rescue their own reputations. We saw some of this earlier when Rahm Emanuel or F of RE let it be known that none of the dopey war on terror moves were his idea. With Bob Woodward’s book, Obama’s staff actually has a plausible excuse on foreign policy: their boss wouldn’t listen to the evidence and wanted an exit path more than a victory strategy. On that, they have a point.

The staffers who remain and the few hearty Obama spinners outside the White House will have their work cut out. He was a political messiah — so how did it all go wrong? The Republicans are impossible. Or, he’s too good for us. He hobbled our war effort in Afghanistan by setting a counterproductive deadline that smart conservatives were right to oppose — so what kind of commander in chief is he? He sent the troops, so what the leader of the Free World says is no big deal — everyone has tuned him out anyway. Disregard the military men complaining about it and Secretary Gates and Clinton trying to fuzz it up. ObamaCare is a millstone around the Democrats necks’ — isn’t his “achievement” worthless? Just you wait, any day now the public will begin to like it.

It’s not easy to defend the indefensible or to pretend that Obama did not have a unique opportunity both politically (to capture the middle of the political spectrum) and substantively (to wholeheartedly fight that “good” war, attack the entitlement programs, etc). He frittered it away — a function of his lack of managerial adeptness and his political extremism. You wonder whether Obama wishes he could leave with Rahm. Things are so much simpler in Chicago where all the pols are Democrats and you get kudos when the trash gets picked up and the buses are on time.

We’ve reached the point in the Obama presidency where members of the administration are looking to rescue their own reputations. We saw some of this earlier when Rahm Emanuel or F of RE let it be known that none of the dopey war on terror moves were his idea. With Bob Woodward’s book, Obama’s staff actually has a plausible excuse on foreign policy: their boss wouldn’t listen to the evidence and wanted an exit path more than a victory strategy. On that, they have a point.

The staffers who remain and the few hearty Obama spinners outside the White House will have their work cut out. He was a political messiah — so how did it all go wrong? The Republicans are impossible. Or, he’s too good for us. He hobbled our war effort in Afghanistan by setting a counterproductive deadline that smart conservatives were right to oppose — so what kind of commander in chief is he? He sent the troops, so what the leader of the Free World says is no big deal — everyone has tuned him out anyway. Disregard the military men complaining about it and Secretary Gates and Clinton trying to fuzz it up. ObamaCare is a millstone around the Democrats necks’ — isn’t his “achievement” worthless? Just you wait, any day now the public will begin to like it.

It’s not easy to defend the indefensible or to pretend that Obama did not have a unique opportunity both politically (to capture the middle of the political spectrum) and substantively (to wholeheartedly fight that “good” war, attack the entitlement programs, etc). He frittered it away — a function of his lack of managerial adeptness and his political extremism. You wonder whether Obama wishes he could leave with Rahm. Things are so much simpler in Chicago where all the pols are Democrats and you get kudos when the trash gets picked up and the buses are on time.

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Why Mahmoud Abbas Cannot Make Peace

Once in a while, I “meet” someone online, on blogs and in comment sections, who thinks the current round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks might end the conflict, but I don’t think I know anyone in person who lives in the Middle East who believes this. Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh summed up the consensus view a few days ago. “The peace process is going nowhere,” he wrote, “and everyone is just pretending.”

Nations make peace with their enemies, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — also known as Abu Mazen — is not really Israel’s enemy. He’s hardly a friend or an ally, but the Israeli army and Abbas’s security forces have a better and more professional working relationship with each other right now than they ever have. Even Israel’s hard-line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, doesn’t think of Abbas as the leader of the enemy camp. “I repeat,” he said a few weeks ago, “Abu Mazen will not fight us.”

Israel’s enemy is the Resistance Bloc consisting of Syria, Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah. No one from that bloc is participating in peace talks. Even if Abbas signed a treaty with Israel — a most unlikely event while Hamas holds a gun to his head and even he refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state — it would only mean the war between Israel and Abbas was over. But that war is effectively, though perhaps just temporarily, over already. Not much would actually change. The Arab-Israeli conflict would rage on, as would the Islamist-Israeli conflict. Not even the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would end if Abbas signed a treaty. He couldn’t enforce it.

“By being forced out of the Gaza Strip,” Toameh wrote, “Abbas lost direct control over some 1.5 million Palestinians, roughly half the Palestinians living in the Palestinian territories. … So if Abbas cannot go to the Gaza Strip and has limited control over the West Bank, where is he supposed to implement a peace agreement? In downtown Ramallah? In Tel Aviv?”

The only reason he retains even limited authority is because he extended his expired term in office and is propped up by Israel. He has no authority whatsoever in Gaza and lacks even influence in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.

If the Iran-led Resistance Bloc was wounded or crumbling, if it was under irresistible pressure from within and without to reform or die, a deal might be possible and would be worth exploring. But that’s not what’s happening. None of the bloc’s leaders will even start peace talks, let alone finish them, while they’re rising in power and have no need to change.

Just a few years ago, Hamas was but one force among several in Gaza, but today it rules with a totalitarian fist. Syria and Hezbollah have seized de facto control over Lebanon, despite Hezbollah’s poor performance in the recent election, while Iran is nearing the threshold of becoming a nuclear-armed regional superpower.

If Abbas had the authority of the Jordanian and Egyptian governments, he might be able to force a cold peace on his people, but he doesn’t. The Resistance Bloc has successfully embedded itself in the Palestinian population and rules roughly half of it. Hamas would simply ignore any treaty Abbas might sign and continue its war against Israel, just as Hezbollah does whatever it wants up north in Lebanon. Abbas can’t put a stop even to his own part of this region-wide conflict any more than Saad Hariri in Beirut can end his.

Once in a while, I “meet” someone online, on blogs and in comment sections, who thinks the current round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks might end the conflict, but I don’t think I know anyone in person who lives in the Middle East who believes this. Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh summed up the consensus view a few days ago. “The peace process is going nowhere,” he wrote, “and everyone is just pretending.”

Nations make peace with their enemies, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — also known as Abu Mazen — is not really Israel’s enemy. He’s hardly a friend or an ally, but the Israeli army and Abbas’s security forces have a better and more professional working relationship with each other right now than they ever have. Even Israel’s hard-line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, doesn’t think of Abbas as the leader of the enemy camp. “I repeat,” he said a few weeks ago, “Abu Mazen will not fight us.”

Israel’s enemy is the Resistance Bloc consisting of Syria, Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah. No one from that bloc is participating in peace talks. Even if Abbas signed a treaty with Israel — a most unlikely event while Hamas holds a gun to his head and even he refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state — it would only mean the war between Israel and Abbas was over. But that war is effectively, though perhaps just temporarily, over already. Not much would actually change. The Arab-Israeli conflict would rage on, as would the Islamist-Israeli conflict. Not even the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would end if Abbas signed a treaty. He couldn’t enforce it.

“By being forced out of the Gaza Strip,” Toameh wrote, “Abbas lost direct control over some 1.5 million Palestinians, roughly half the Palestinians living in the Palestinian territories. … So if Abbas cannot go to the Gaza Strip and has limited control over the West Bank, where is he supposed to implement a peace agreement? In downtown Ramallah? In Tel Aviv?”

The only reason he retains even limited authority is because he extended his expired term in office and is propped up by Israel. He has no authority whatsoever in Gaza and lacks even influence in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.

If the Iran-led Resistance Bloc was wounded or crumbling, if it was under irresistible pressure from within and without to reform or die, a deal might be possible and would be worth exploring. But that’s not what’s happening. None of the bloc’s leaders will even start peace talks, let alone finish them, while they’re rising in power and have no need to change.

Just a few years ago, Hamas was but one force among several in Gaza, but today it rules with a totalitarian fist. Syria and Hezbollah have seized de facto control over Lebanon, despite Hezbollah’s poor performance in the recent election, while Iran is nearing the threshold of becoming a nuclear-armed regional superpower.

If Abbas had the authority of the Jordanian and Egyptian governments, he might be able to force a cold peace on his people, but he doesn’t. The Resistance Bloc has successfully embedded itself in the Palestinian population and rules roughly half of it. Hamas would simply ignore any treaty Abbas might sign and continue its war against Israel, just as Hezbollah does whatever it wants up north in Lebanon. Abbas can’t put a stop even to his own part of this region-wide conflict any more than Saad Hariri in Beirut can end his.

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The Other Haley

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, head of the Republican Governors Association and making his way onto the list of 2012 presidential contenders, touts the Tea Party–GOP big tent:

On the issues foremost in voters’ minds—the economy, jobs, spending, taxes, debt and deficits—the overwhelming majority of tea party voters and Republican voters are in strong agreement.

That is why it was tremendously important for Republican prospects in the 2010 elections that tea partiers did not run as independents or third-party candidates. To do so would have split the votes of those who know the Obama-Pelosi-Reid policies don’t work and are hurting our economy.

Every Republican should be pleased that these tea party candidates chose to run in our primaries. In the vast majority of cases, their participation was welcomed, even cultivated, by GOP leaders—and rightly so.

In other words, there may be differences in tone and style, and not all Tea Party candidates are ready for prime time, but the Republican Party has sidestepped the fissure that the chattering class promised was coming. Barbour is also canny enough to tell Beltway Republicans to butt out of primaries — and Lisa Murkowski not to let the door hit her on the way out of the Senate leadership team. (“We have no right whatsoever to substitute our will or judgment for that of the voters. Sen. Lisa Murkowski lost the GOP primary in Alaska to Joe Miller. Now she’s launched a write-in campaign to get re-elected. There is no excuse for this campaign, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was right to demand her resignation from the GOP leadership.”)

Barbour is not so subtly making the point that it is not in the interests of either establishment GOP figures or the Tea Parties (or members of the former seeking to ingratiate themselves with the latter) to play up the media-created antagonism between the two groups. In fact, the two groups are overlapping — many Tea Partiers are Republicans, the movement’s darling was the VP nominee in 2008, and its greatest salesmen are well-known conservative politicians and media figures.

Barbour has been an uber-competent governor, a successful leader of the RGA, and a savvy analyst of the GOP’s travails and resurgence. Whether he finally decides to run for president and can prove successful remains to be seen. But he’s not doing himself any harm with commonsense calls for unity and a firm restatement of conservatives’ agenda (“creating jobs instead of more massive government, controlling spending and not raising taxes, and delaying and then repealing ObamaCare”).

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, head of the Republican Governors Association and making his way onto the list of 2012 presidential contenders, touts the Tea Party–GOP big tent:

On the issues foremost in voters’ minds—the economy, jobs, spending, taxes, debt and deficits—the overwhelming majority of tea party voters and Republican voters are in strong agreement.

That is why it was tremendously important for Republican prospects in the 2010 elections that tea partiers did not run as independents or third-party candidates. To do so would have split the votes of those who know the Obama-Pelosi-Reid policies don’t work and are hurting our economy.

Every Republican should be pleased that these tea party candidates chose to run in our primaries. In the vast majority of cases, their participation was welcomed, even cultivated, by GOP leaders—and rightly so.

In other words, there may be differences in tone and style, and not all Tea Party candidates are ready for prime time, but the Republican Party has sidestepped the fissure that the chattering class promised was coming. Barbour is also canny enough to tell Beltway Republicans to butt out of primaries — and Lisa Murkowski not to let the door hit her on the way out of the Senate leadership team. (“We have no right whatsoever to substitute our will or judgment for that of the voters. Sen. Lisa Murkowski lost the GOP primary in Alaska to Joe Miller. Now she’s launched a write-in campaign to get re-elected. There is no excuse for this campaign, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was right to demand her resignation from the GOP leadership.”)

Barbour is not so subtly making the point that it is not in the interests of either establishment GOP figures or the Tea Parties (or members of the former seeking to ingratiate themselves with the latter) to play up the media-created antagonism between the two groups. In fact, the two groups are overlapping — many Tea Partiers are Republicans, the movement’s darling was the VP nominee in 2008, and its greatest salesmen are well-known conservative politicians and media figures.

Barbour has been an uber-competent governor, a successful leader of the RGA, and a savvy analyst of the GOP’s travails and resurgence. Whether he finally decides to run for president and can prove successful remains to be seen. But he’s not doing himself any harm with commonsense calls for unity and a firm restatement of conservatives’ agenda (“creating jobs instead of more massive government, controlling spending and not raising taxes, and delaying and then repealing ObamaCare”).

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Oren to American Jews: Prepare Yourselves

Michael Oren in his Kol Nidre remarks at Adas Israel in Washington D.C. gave a rousing defense of Israeli democracy:

Israeli democracy is rambunctious and intensely personal, placing the premium on individual participation. In our family, I can attest, my wife and I have never voted for the same party. Our son also went his own way politically. Together with his friends, he started a political party in our living room that now holds two seats on the Jerusalem municipality.

At 62 years old, Israel’s democracy is older than more than half of the democratic governments in the world, which, in turn, account for less than half of the world’s existing nations. Israel is one of the handful of democracies that has never succumbed to periods of undemocratic rule. And Israel has achieved this extraordinary record in spite of the fact that it is the only democracy never to know a nanosecond of peace and which has endured pressures that would have crushed most other democracies long ago. In a region inhospitable—even fatal—to government by and of the people, Israel’s democracy thrives.

He had this to say about the peace process:

You know that to create that neighboring state that you’re going to have to give up some land, but not just any land, but land regarded as sacred by the majority of the Jewish people for more than three thousand years. You know that a great many of your countrymen have made their homes in these areas and that numerous Israelis have given their lives in their defense. You know that Israel has in the past withdrawn from territories in an effort to generate peace but that it received no peace but rather war. And, lastly, you know that many Arabs view the two-state solution as a two stage solution in which the ultimate stage is Israel’s dissolution.

What, then, Mr. or Ms. Prime Minister, do you do?

He didn’t actually answer the question, a telling sign that there is no good answer. But he was crystal clear on Iran:

Support us as we grapple with these towering challenges. Back us in our efforts to defend ourselves from terrorist rockets. Uphold us if we have to make painful sacrifices for peace or if we decide that the terms of the proposed treaty fail to justify those sacrifices. Stand with us as we resist Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Respect the decisions we take through our democratic system and respect the risks that we, more than any other nation, take.

Let us—Israelis and the American Jews—united by our faith, our peoplehood, and our common love for democracy. Let us assume responsibility for our decisions, crushingly difficult though they may often be, and appreciative of the quandaries our leaders face. When we call out, let us answer one another with the assurance that no challenge—no paradoxes, no Ninevehs [a reference to the Jonah story read on Yom Kippur]—can defeat us.

The final and closing comments suggest it is time to get real, to put aside the fantasy that Swiss cheese sanctions are going to break the mullahs’ will. Obama is, we are told, preparing to call for more “engagement” with Iran — a ludicrous and dangerous suggestion that indicates he’s not remotely serious about ending the threat of a nuclear Iran. So Oren is telling — perhaps pleading — with American Jews to stand by Israel if in fact Obama shirks his obligations as leader of the Free World. After all, should Israel be forced to act on its own, it will be defending our national security interests as much as its own. Someone’s got to do it, and we should count ourselves fortunate that we need not depend solely on the feckless Obama administration, which still deludes itself that we have some other viable alternative to military force if we are to stand behind two presidents’ pledges that a nuclear-armed Iran is “unacceptable.”

Michael Oren in his Kol Nidre remarks at Adas Israel in Washington D.C. gave a rousing defense of Israeli democracy:

Israeli democracy is rambunctious and intensely personal, placing the premium on individual participation. In our family, I can attest, my wife and I have never voted for the same party. Our son also went his own way politically. Together with his friends, he started a political party in our living room that now holds two seats on the Jerusalem municipality.

At 62 years old, Israel’s democracy is older than more than half of the democratic governments in the world, which, in turn, account for less than half of the world’s existing nations. Israel is one of the handful of democracies that has never succumbed to periods of undemocratic rule. And Israel has achieved this extraordinary record in spite of the fact that it is the only democracy never to know a nanosecond of peace and which has endured pressures that would have crushed most other democracies long ago. In a region inhospitable—even fatal—to government by and of the people, Israel’s democracy thrives.

He had this to say about the peace process:

You know that to create that neighboring state that you’re going to have to give up some land, but not just any land, but land regarded as sacred by the majority of the Jewish people for more than three thousand years. You know that a great many of your countrymen have made their homes in these areas and that numerous Israelis have given their lives in their defense. You know that Israel has in the past withdrawn from territories in an effort to generate peace but that it received no peace but rather war. And, lastly, you know that many Arabs view the two-state solution as a two stage solution in which the ultimate stage is Israel’s dissolution.

What, then, Mr. or Ms. Prime Minister, do you do?

He didn’t actually answer the question, a telling sign that there is no good answer. But he was crystal clear on Iran:

Support us as we grapple with these towering challenges. Back us in our efforts to defend ourselves from terrorist rockets. Uphold us if we have to make painful sacrifices for peace or if we decide that the terms of the proposed treaty fail to justify those sacrifices. Stand with us as we resist Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Respect the decisions we take through our democratic system and respect the risks that we, more than any other nation, take.

Let us—Israelis and the American Jews—united by our faith, our peoplehood, and our common love for democracy. Let us assume responsibility for our decisions, crushingly difficult though they may often be, and appreciative of the quandaries our leaders face. When we call out, let us answer one another with the assurance that no challenge—no paradoxes, no Ninevehs [a reference to the Jonah story read on Yom Kippur]—can defeat us.

The final and closing comments suggest it is time to get real, to put aside the fantasy that Swiss cheese sanctions are going to break the mullahs’ will. Obama is, we are told, preparing to call for more “engagement” with Iran — a ludicrous and dangerous suggestion that indicates he’s not remotely serious about ending the threat of a nuclear Iran. So Oren is telling — perhaps pleading — with American Jews to stand by Israel if in fact Obama shirks his obligations as leader of the Free World. After all, should Israel be forced to act on its own, it will be defending our national security interests as much as its own. Someone’s got to do it, and we should count ourselves fortunate that we need not depend solely on the feckless Obama administration, which still deludes itself that we have some other viable alternative to military force if we are to stand behind two presidents’ pledges that a nuclear-armed Iran is “unacceptable.”

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Debating the DREAM Act (UPDATED)

The Defense Authorization Act, which is soon to come for a vote in the Senate, has a controversial provision added to it repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Whatever one thinks of the hot-button issue of gays in the military (personally, as I’ve written before, I believe that it is inevitable that gay service people will be allowed to serve openly), there should be much more agreement on another provision added to the bill: the DREAM Act. A good summary can be found in this Wall Street Journal article of how this provision would speed citizenship for those who arrived in the U.S. by the age of 15 if they attend college or serve in the armed forces for two years. This would open up a new avenue for service for those like David Cho, “an honor student and leader of the UCLA marching band,” who “plans to join the U.S. Air Force after he graduates in the spring — if Congress lets him.” Why it makes sense to turn away those like Cho who want to wear our nation’s uniform is beyond me. According to the Journal:

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) believes passage of the Dream Act would entice more people to sneak into the U.S. “When you take a policy that says you are going to reward people who have entered our country illegally with a guaranteed pathway to citizenship, and with billions of dollars in financial aid or benefits they would not otherwise be entitled to, what message are we sending?” Sen. Sessions said.

Count me as skeptical that the prospect of attending college or serving in our armed forces will really draw more undocumented immigrants to our shores. (Plenty are coming already simply in the hope of picking lettuce or working in construction.) But if it does, so what? Aren’t these precisely the kind of productive, highly motivated individuals that we want to see in this country?

Our ability to attract and integrate immigrants gives us a key long-term advantage over more homogenous societies such as Japan, China, and Western Europe. Immigrants are already serving proudly in the U.S. armed forces — as they have since the beginning of the Republic. It makes perfect sense to continue to make use of these dedicated volunteers, especially because of the valuable cultural and linguistic knowledge they can bring to our armed forces, which find themselves in need of such skills to wage a global counterinsurgency. In the process, we can use our armed forces and our universities as they have long been used — to integrate newcomers into the mainstream of American society. If we don’t, we risk expanding the underclass of undocumented immigrants who turn to illicit activities because legal work and education are closed to them.

ADDENDUM: One of the leading legal experts on the DREAM Act e-mails me that Senator Sessions’s objection is even less to the point than I realized: “The DREAM Act doesn’t cover anyone who enters the U.S. illegally today. It has a cut-off date, so the objection that it will ‘encourage illegal immigration’ seems just a little bit ‘off.’ ”

The Defense Authorization Act, which is soon to come for a vote in the Senate, has a controversial provision added to it repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Whatever one thinks of the hot-button issue of gays in the military (personally, as I’ve written before, I believe that it is inevitable that gay service people will be allowed to serve openly), there should be much more agreement on another provision added to the bill: the DREAM Act. A good summary can be found in this Wall Street Journal article of how this provision would speed citizenship for those who arrived in the U.S. by the age of 15 if they attend college or serve in the armed forces for two years. This would open up a new avenue for service for those like David Cho, “an honor student and leader of the UCLA marching band,” who “plans to join the U.S. Air Force after he graduates in the spring — if Congress lets him.” Why it makes sense to turn away those like Cho who want to wear our nation’s uniform is beyond me. According to the Journal:

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) believes passage of the Dream Act would entice more people to sneak into the U.S. “When you take a policy that says you are going to reward people who have entered our country illegally with a guaranteed pathway to citizenship, and with billions of dollars in financial aid or benefits they would not otherwise be entitled to, what message are we sending?” Sen. Sessions said.

Count me as skeptical that the prospect of attending college or serving in our armed forces will really draw more undocumented immigrants to our shores. (Plenty are coming already simply in the hope of picking lettuce or working in construction.) But if it does, so what? Aren’t these precisely the kind of productive, highly motivated individuals that we want to see in this country?

Our ability to attract and integrate immigrants gives us a key long-term advantage over more homogenous societies such as Japan, China, and Western Europe. Immigrants are already serving proudly in the U.S. armed forces — as they have since the beginning of the Republic. It makes perfect sense to continue to make use of these dedicated volunteers, especially because of the valuable cultural and linguistic knowledge they can bring to our armed forces, which find themselves in need of such skills to wage a global counterinsurgency. In the process, we can use our armed forces and our universities as they have long been used — to integrate newcomers into the mainstream of American society. If we don’t, we risk expanding the underclass of undocumented immigrants who turn to illicit activities because legal work and education are closed to them.

ADDENDUM: One of the leading legal experts on the DREAM Act e-mails me that Senator Sessions’s objection is even less to the point than I realized: “The DREAM Act doesn’t cover anyone who enters the U.S. illegally today. It has a cut-off date, so the objection that it will ‘encourage illegal immigration’ seems just a little bit ‘off.’ ”

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Saudi Arms Sale: Which War in View?

The sheer size of the proposed $60 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia makes it worth critical reflection. The types of weapon systems in the Saudi shopping list are even more eye-catching. News outlets report that the sale is to be understood as a means of bolstering Saudi defenses and security confidence in the face of the threat from Iran. But the weapon systems in question don’t support that theory.

Other Persian Gulf nations like Bahrain and Kuwait have been loading up on missile-defense systems and air-defense fighters. The proposed Saudi sale, however, is weighted heavily toward strike aircraft (F-15s configured for ground attack) and anti-tank attack helicopters. The proposed sale includes 84 strike-configured F-15s along with the retrofit of the Saudis’ 72 existing F-15s, more than doubling the Royal Saudi Air Force’s (RSAF) inventory of medium-range strikers. Significantly, the purchase extends the range at which the RSAF can conduct ground strikes beyond the shorter, defense-oriented range of its British Tornado force.

The Saudis will also buy 70 Apache Longbow helicopters with laser-guided Hellfire missiles and 72 Black Hawk helicopters for combat transport. It’s not clear if any of these aircraft will supplant some of the 150 attack and multi-purpose helicopters the Saudis negotiated to buy from Russia a year ago. If all are delivered, the Saudis will have increased their heliborne ground combat capability by 500 percent.

The question is what they plan to do with all these aircraft. During the Saddam Hussein years, the threat of land attack against Saudi Arabia was obvious. Today, it’s not. The Saudis are buying for a major armed conflict on land, but nothing indicates that Iran presents a threat of that kind. Iran isn’t prepared militarily to invade the Arabian Peninsula, either by land or sea, nor is it making the effort to be. Iran is building up its navy, missile forces, and nuclear options; its regional “power projection” effort on land is accomplished through sponsoring terrorism. But the counterinsurgency warfare model (e.g., the U.S.’s in Iraq) is inapplicable in this case: population numbers and terrain inhibit the rise on the Arabian Peninsula of insurgencies with the profile of Hezbollah or the Taliban. The number of modern systems the Saudis propose to purchase outstrips such a requirement considerably.

They can’t be contemplating the invasion of Iran, even as a counter to an Iranian attack. Numbers and terrain are decisively arrayed against that as well. Riyadh is buying an unusually large number of weapons with which to project power and fight a land campaign at a greater range than ever before – but the weapons are a mismatch for the likely dimensions of a confrontation with Iran.

Perhaps the Saudis see a potential need to fight Iran on Iraqi or Kuwaiti territory in the future. It would certainly have to be a distant future, given the substantial U.S. military presence in those countries. This expeditionary concept would also be highly uncharacteristic in Saudi strategic thinking.

But Riyadh may be arming as a regional rival to Iran – not for the defense of its own territory but as the leader of an Arab coalition, formed to gain ascendancy over Iran as the power broker in the Levant. Western analysts tend to miss the fact that Iran’s moves against Israel constitute a plan to effectively occupy territory that the Arab nations consider theirs to fight for. The concerns on both sides are more than ethnic and historical: they involve competing eschatological ideas.

The resurgence of Turkey, erstwhile Ottoman ruler, only accelerates the sense of powerful regional rivals polishing up their designs on the Levant. The Saudis’ military shopping list doesn’t match their defensive requirements against Iran, but if the strategic driver is a race to Jerusalem, it contains exactly what they need. Congress should take a critical look at the numbers involved – and the U.S. should take one at our disjointed and increasingly passive approach to the region.

The sheer size of the proposed $60 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia makes it worth critical reflection. The types of weapon systems in the Saudi shopping list are even more eye-catching. News outlets report that the sale is to be understood as a means of bolstering Saudi defenses and security confidence in the face of the threat from Iran. But the weapon systems in question don’t support that theory.

Other Persian Gulf nations like Bahrain and Kuwait have been loading up on missile-defense systems and air-defense fighters. The proposed Saudi sale, however, is weighted heavily toward strike aircraft (F-15s configured for ground attack) and anti-tank attack helicopters. The proposed sale includes 84 strike-configured F-15s along with the retrofit of the Saudis’ 72 existing F-15s, more than doubling the Royal Saudi Air Force’s (RSAF) inventory of medium-range strikers. Significantly, the purchase extends the range at which the RSAF can conduct ground strikes beyond the shorter, defense-oriented range of its British Tornado force.

The Saudis will also buy 70 Apache Longbow helicopters with laser-guided Hellfire missiles and 72 Black Hawk helicopters for combat transport. It’s not clear if any of these aircraft will supplant some of the 150 attack and multi-purpose helicopters the Saudis negotiated to buy from Russia a year ago. If all are delivered, the Saudis will have increased their heliborne ground combat capability by 500 percent.

The question is what they plan to do with all these aircraft. During the Saddam Hussein years, the threat of land attack against Saudi Arabia was obvious. Today, it’s not. The Saudis are buying for a major armed conflict on land, but nothing indicates that Iran presents a threat of that kind. Iran isn’t prepared militarily to invade the Arabian Peninsula, either by land or sea, nor is it making the effort to be. Iran is building up its navy, missile forces, and nuclear options; its regional “power projection” effort on land is accomplished through sponsoring terrorism. But the counterinsurgency warfare model (e.g., the U.S.’s in Iraq) is inapplicable in this case: population numbers and terrain inhibit the rise on the Arabian Peninsula of insurgencies with the profile of Hezbollah or the Taliban. The number of modern systems the Saudis propose to purchase outstrips such a requirement considerably.

They can’t be contemplating the invasion of Iran, even as a counter to an Iranian attack. Numbers and terrain are decisively arrayed against that as well. Riyadh is buying an unusually large number of weapons with which to project power and fight a land campaign at a greater range than ever before – but the weapons are a mismatch for the likely dimensions of a confrontation with Iran.

Perhaps the Saudis see a potential need to fight Iran on Iraqi or Kuwaiti territory in the future. It would certainly have to be a distant future, given the substantial U.S. military presence in those countries. This expeditionary concept would also be highly uncharacteristic in Saudi strategic thinking.

But Riyadh may be arming as a regional rival to Iran – not for the defense of its own territory but as the leader of an Arab coalition, formed to gain ascendancy over Iran as the power broker in the Levant. Western analysts tend to miss the fact that Iran’s moves against Israel constitute a plan to effectively occupy territory that the Arab nations consider theirs to fight for. The concerns on both sides are more than ethnic and historical: they involve competing eschatological ideas.

The resurgence of Turkey, erstwhile Ottoman ruler, only accelerates the sense of powerful regional rivals polishing up their designs on the Levant. The Saudis’ military shopping list doesn’t match their defensive requirements against Iran, but if the strategic driver is a race to Jerusalem, it contains exactly what they need. Congress should take a critical look at the numbers involved – and the U.S. should take one at our disjointed and increasingly passive approach to the region.

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A Thatcherite Moment in America

President Obama, in attempting to gain traction just ahead of the midterm election, has homed in his message on taxes – and most especially, on “tax cut for the wealth.” Here is how Obama is framing his argument:

Ninety-seven percent of Americans make less than $250,000 a year — $250,000 a year or less. And I’m saying we can give those families — 97 percent permanent tax relief. And by the way, for those who make more than $250,000, they’d still get tax relief on the first $250,000; they just wouldn’t get it for income above that. Now, that seems like a common-sense thing to do. And what I’ve got is the Republicans holding middle-class tax relief hostage because they’re insisting we’ve got to give tax relief to millionaires and billionaires to the tune of about $100,000 per millionaire, which would cost over the course of 10 years, $700 billion, and that economists say is probably the worst way to stimulate the economy. That doesn’t make sense, and that’s an example of what this election is all about.

Let’s examine what the president said, starting with this observation: Obama’s sudden interest in the pernicious effects of large deficits is curious. There is no apparent limit to what Obama is willing to spend – yet when it comes to taxes, and almost only taxes, the president professes to be alarmed about the deficit. With that in mind, here’s a useful reference point: the $700 billion over 10 years that Obama is so eager to save is considerably less than Obama’s first (failed) stimulus package, which alone is estimated to have cost more than $860 billion. It would help Mr. Obama’s credibility if, in opposing taxes on fiscal grounds, he was not the most profligate president in American history. Read More

President Obama, in attempting to gain traction just ahead of the midterm election, has homed in his message on taxes – and most especially, on “tax cut for the wealth.” Here is how Obama is framing his argument:

Ninety-seven percent of Americans make less than $250,000 a year — $250,000 a year or less. And I’m saying we can give those families — 97 percent permanent tax relief. And by the way, for those who make more than $250,000, they’d still get tax relief on the first $250,000; they just wouldn’t get it for income above that. Now, that seems like a common-sense thing to do. And what I’ve got is the Republicans holding middle-class tax relief hostage because they’re insisting we’ve got to give tax relief to millionaires and billionaires to the tune of about $100,000 per millionaire, which would cost over the course of 10 years, $700 billion, and that economists say is probably the worst way to stimulate the economy. That doesn’t make sense, and that’s an example of what this election is all about.

Let’s examine what the president said, starting with this observation: Obama’s sudden interest in the pernicious effects of large deficits is curious. There is no apparent limit to what Obama is willing to spend – yet when it comes to taxes, and almost only taxes, the president professes to be alarmed about the deficit. With that in mind, here’s a useful reference point: the $700 billion over 10 years that Obama is so eager to save is considerably less than Obama’s first (failed) stimulus package, which alone is estimated to have cost more than $860 billion. It would help Mr. Obama’s credibility if, in opposing taxes on fiscal grounds, he was not the most profligate president in American history.

Second, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the cost for extending the Bush tax cuts to married taxpayers with income below $250,000 and single taxpayers with income below $200,000 – which Obama supports – would reduce revenues by almost $2 trillion over the 2011–2020 period. If Obama’s argument is that he should oppose tax cuts because of their adverse effect on the deficit, then presumably Obama should oppose extending any of the Bush tax cuts he has demonized for the better part of three years. Instead, Obama favors extending them to individuals making less than $200,000 per year.

Obama cannot have it both ways. He cannot on the one hand castigate Bush’s tax cuts as reckless, irresponsible, and ineffective while at the same time extending them for all but the highest income earners.

Third, Democrats assert that the Obama tax increase will hit only 3 percent of small businesses. “There aren’t 3 percent of small businesses in America that would qualify for that tax cut [one for families making more than $250,000],” Vice President Biden has said. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has chimed in as well, declaring that the tax increase on higher income earners would exempt “97 percent of small businesses.” In fact, it will hit fully half of all small-business income, since 85 percent of small-business owners are taxed on profits at individual tax rates.

Twenty months into his presidency, Barack Obama’s problems extend far beyond this particular tax debate. His problem is, in my estimation, conceptual and philosophical. He is trying to spur growth through extravagant government spending, which he believes will increase demand with its magic “multiplier effect.” If that theory worked, of course, we would not be experiencing economic deceleration with unemployment stuck at nearly 10 percent, the collapse of sales of new homes earlier this year, consumer confidence at an alarmingly low level, a “recovery summer” that saw us lose more than a quarter of a million jobs, and economic growth that is far lower than past post-recession recoveries. Yet Obama continues to double down, as if unchecked government spending, onerous new regulations, and higher tax rates on small businesses and our most productive workers is the road to prosperity.

The president is quite wrong about all of that – and it may be that Obama’s failures, for all their economic and human cost, serve a useful pedagogical function. Obama is reminding people, in fairly vivid ways, what works when it comes to economics – things such as rewarding effort and enterprise, recognizing the importance of incentives, creating certainty and stability that encourages investment and entrepreneurship, and honoring success and achievement.

In that sense, we might be reaching a moment similar to the one Margaret Thatcher faced when she was leader of the Opposition in Great Britain. The failures of the “old” Labour government were obvious to almost everyone – and that created a moment for Thatcher to become prime minister and for Thatcherism to take root.

“Where the state is too powerful,” Mrs. Thatcher told the Zurich Economic Society in 1977, “efficiency suffers and morality is threatened. Britain in the last two or three years provides a case-study of why collectivism will not work. It shows that ‘progressive’ theory was not progressive. On the contrary, it proved retrograde in practice. This is a lesson that democrats all over the world should heed.”

“Yet I face the future with optimism,” Thatcher went on to say. “Our ills are creating their own antibodies. Just as success generates problems, so failure breeds the will to fight back and the body politic strives to restore itself.”

It looks to me like we are seeing something similar taking place in America today. We’ll know more in seven weeks.

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Obama on 9/11: Get Over It

Obama’s remarks on 9/11 were about what you would expect from a president who has ridiculed his countrymen for overreacting to the most lethal terrorist attack on our soil and who can’t manage to utter the worlds “Islamic fundamentalists” or “jihadists.”

Really, let’s not dwell on the bad stuff, he tells us. “On this day, it’s perhaps natural to focus on the images of that awful morning — images that are seared into our souls. It’s tempting to dwell on the final moments of the loved ones whose lives were taken so cruelly.” Yes, it is tempting — because that is what the day is all about, to recall the diabolical work of our enemies and recommit ourselves to the defense of our civilization. But no, in his book, it’s about diversity training: “They were white and black and brown — men and women and some children made up of all races, many faiths. They were Americans and people from far corners of the world.”

As for the Islamist fascists who killed so many and made orphans and widows of many more, he has this to say:

It was not a religion that attacked us that September day — it was al-Qaeda, a sorry band of men which perverts religion. And just as we condemn intolerance and extremism abroad, so will we stay true to our traditions here at home as a diverse and tolerant nation. We champion the rights of every American, including the right to worship as one chooses — as service members and civilians from many faiths do just steps from here, at the very spot where the terrorists struck this building.

Oh, good grief. Yes, it was a religion — fundamentalist Islam that attacked us. Al-Qaeda is one organization but the jihadists attack because of religious beliefs. And they are anything but pathetic or, as he put it, “sorry” — they did slaughter thousands, after all. And one cannot but wretch at the moral equivalence — just as we condemn Islamist zealots, we must rebuff those who don’t appreciate the desecration of “hallowed ground” ? Also, notice the sleight of hand: the Pentagon chapel he refers to is not a mosque, not the exclusive providence of Muslims but an interfaith facility that bears no religious monikers. (Hey, why not the same at Ground Zero?) His tone is one of condescension, revealing that his mission is to talk Americans out of their righteous anger.

It should shock no one that this is what gets Obama’s juices flowing. Reporters complain that Obama can’t muster the same enthusiasm and passion for the economy that he does for his Muslim outreach and his ongoing lectures about tolerance (e.g., the Cambridge cops were “stupid,” we must accommodate the mosque builders, etc.). Unfortunately, Obama has plenty of passion for the wrong things. At a high-school graduation this June, Justice Scalia reminded us:

I am here to tell you that it is much less important how committed you are, than what you are committed to. If I had to choose, I would always take the less dynamic, indeed even the lazy person who knows what’s right, than the zealot in the cause of error. He may move slower, but he’s headed in the right direction. … In short, it is your responsibility, men and women of the class of 2010, not just to be zealous in the pursuit of your ideals, but to be sure that your ideals are the right ones. That is perhaps the hardest part of being a good human being: Good intentions are not enough. Being a good person begins with being a wise person. Then, when you follow your conscience, will you be headed in the right direction.

Unfortunately, we have a president who is not wise and who is terribly out of sync with the ethos of the American people. It is most troubling that the leader of the Free World has a zeal for bad causes. Not even the electoral wipe-out of his party, I fear, will change that.

Obama’s remarks on 9/11 were about what you would expect from a president who has ridiculed his countrymen for overreacting to the most lethal terrorist attack on our soil and who can’t manage to utter the worlds “Islamic fundamentalists” or “jihadists.”

Really, let’s not dwell on the bad stuff, he tells us. “On this day, it’s perhaps natural to focus on the images of that awful morning — images that are seared into our souls. It’s tempting to dwell on the final moments of the loved ones whose lives were taken so cruelly.” Yes, it is tempting — because that is what the day is all about, to recall the diabolical work of our enemies and recommit ourselves to the defense of our civilization. But no, in his book, it’s about diversity training: “They were white and black and brown — men and women and some children made up of all races, many faiths. They were Americans and people from far corners of the world.”

As for the Islamist fascists who killed so many and made orphans and widows of many more, he has this to say:

It was not a religion that attacked us that September day — it was al-Qaeda, a sorry band of men which perverts religion. And just as we condemn intolerance and extremism abroad, so will we stay true to our traditions here at home as a diverse and tolerant nation. We champion the rights of every American, including the right to worship as one chooses — as service members and civilians from many faiths do just steps from here, at the very spot where the terrorists struck this building.

Oh, good grief. Yes, it was a religion — fundamentalist Islam that attacked us. Al-Qaeda is one organization but the jihadists attack because of religious beliefs. And they are anything but pathetic or, as he put it, “sorry” — they did slaughter thousands, after all. And one cannot but wretch at the moral equivalence — just as we condemn Islamist zealots, we must rebuff those who don’t appreciate the desecration of “hallowed ground” ? Also, notice the sleight of hand: the Pentagon chapel he refers to is not a mosque, not the exclusive providence of Muslims but an interfaith facility that bears no religious monikers. (Hey, why not the same at Ground Zero?) His tone is one of condescension, revealing that his mission is to talk Americans out of their righteous anger.

It should shock no one that this is what gets Obama’s juices flowing. Reporters complain that Obama can’t muster the same enthusiasm and passion for the economy that he does for his Muslim outreach and his ongoing lectures about tolerance (e.g., the Cambridge cops were “stupid,” we must accommodate the mosque builders, etc.). Unfortunately, Obama has plenty of passion for the wrong things. At a high-school graduation this June, Justice Scalia reminded us:

I am here to tell you that it is much less important how committed you are, than what you are committed to. If I had to choose, I would always take the less dynamic, indeed even the lazy person who knows what’s right, than the zealot in the cause of error. He may move slower, but he’s headed in the right direction. … In short, it is your responsibility, men and women of the class of 2010, not just to be zealous in the pursuit of your ideals, but to be sure that your ideals are the right ones. That is perhaps the hardest part of being a good human being: Good intentions are not enough. Being a good person begins with being a wise person. Then, when you follow your conscience, will you be headed in the right direction.

Unfortunately, we have a president who is not wise and who is terribly out of sync with the ethos of the American people. It is most troubling that the leader of the Free World has a zeal for bad causes. Not even the electoral wipe-out of his party, I fear, will change that.

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Blind-Squirrel Alert for Beinart

In keeping with his tradition of trying to stay behind the pack on all issues, Peter Beinart has put his finger into the air and decided that Barack Obama is a lousy president. That isn’t news for the majority of Americans, who believe Obama is not doing a good job, but makes sense for a guy who supported the war in Iraq until it became unpopular.

Of course, unlike the rest of America, Beinart has a beef with the president not because he ran as a centrist and has tried to govern from the left. Rather, Beinart’s evaluation of the administration’s foreign policy is that it is too much like that of George W. Bush, since Obama rightly refused to immediately cut and run from Afghanistan.

But, like any blind liberal squirrel, Beinart is bound to find an acorn every now and then. In a column in the Daily Beast, while bashing Obama for being too much like Bush with regard to the Middle East for not appeasing Hamas, Beinart stumbles across a couple of obvious truths about the peace process:

Given his lack of democratic legitimacy, it is delusional to imagine that Abbas can carry out the brutally painful concessions a final peace deal would require. And it is delusional to imagine that Hamas will permit the success of a peace process meant to further marginalize it; indeed, it has already greeted the start of direct talks with terrorist attacks.

Beinart is right about that. Obama’s decision to strong-arm Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas into talks is an invitation to disaster. And he’s right to call Abbas’s government a “Potemkin Palestinian leadership.”

But that’s as much wisdom as Beinart is capable of, since his advice for Obama is to try engagement with Hamas. Beinart’s conviction that the only thing that prevents Obama from further empowering these murderers is “a political debate in Washington that dramatically constrains his ability to respond” — code words for the pro-Israel consensus in the United States that Beinart so deplores. But the only word to describe his belief that Hamas, an Islamist terrorist group closely allied with Iran, will make peace with Israel is the same one Beinart uses to describe Obama’s trust in Abbas: “delusional.”

In keeping with his tradition of trying to stay behind the pack on all issues, Peter Beinart has put his finger into the air and decided that Barack Obama is a lousy president. That isn’t news for the majority of Americans, who believe Obama is not doing a good job, but makes sense for a guy who supported the war in Iraq until it became unpopular.

Of course, unlike the rest of America, Beinart has a beef with the president not because he ran as a centrist and has tried to govern from the left. Rather, Beinart’s evaluation of the administration’s foreign policy is that it is too much like that of George W. Bush, since Obama rightly refused to immediately cut and run from Afghanistan.

But, like any blind liberal squirrel, Beinart is bound to find an acorn every now and then. In a column in the Daily Beast, while bashing Obama for being too much like Bush with regard to the Middle East for not appeasing Hamas, Beinart stumbles across a couple of obvious truths about the peace process:

Given his lack of democratic legitimacy, it is delusional to imagine that Abbas can carry out the brutally painful concessions a final peace deal would require. And it is delusional to imagine that Hamas will permit the success of a peace process meant to further marginalize it; indeed, it has already greeted the start of direct talks with terrorist attacks.

Beinart is right about that. Obama’s decision to strong-arm Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas into talks is an invitation to disaster. And he’s right to call Abbas’s government a “Potemkin Palestinian leadership.”

But that’s as much wisdom as Beinart is capable of, since his advice for Obama is to try engagement with Hamas. Beinart’s conviction that the only thing that prevents Obama from further empowering these murderers is “a political debate in Washington that dramatically constrains his ability to respond” — code words for the pro-Israel consensus in the United States that Beinart so deplores. But the only word to describe his belief that Hamas, an Islamist terrorist group closely allied with Iran, will make peace with Israel is the same one Beinart uses to describe Obama’s trust in Abbas: “delusional.”

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“It Almost Seemed a Chore”

Military historian Victor Davis Hanson observes:

Obama warns against “open-ended wars,” as if they are almost animate things. But wars end, not when they reach a rational, previously agreed-upon expiration date, but usually when tough, specific wartime choices are made that lead to victory or end in defeat. One party must decide – for good or bad reasons – that it doesn’t want to fight to win, or simply doesn’t believe it has the resources for victory. To say that “open-ended wars” are undesirable is a banality that offers no guidance for these real-life choices. A better truism is that America should not fight wars it does not intend to win.

And indeed, it is more dangerous than banal. “War is hell” is a banality, but at least it is true. Obama’s aversion to open-ended wars is the ultimate expression of  his shortcomings as commander in chief. His predecessor refused, despite public clamoring, to put a stopwatch on our troops in Iraq. He understood that as president, he must convey resoluteness and commitment. He understood that the troops want more than the promise of VA benefits — they want to come home victorious. He understood that America’s greatness depends not on how many billions we can throw a statist projects but rather on the fact that we are willing to project and defend our values, give hope to the oppressed, stand by allies, and champion freedom.

Obama’s childlike desire to set arbitrary deadlines is both a sop to the left and indicative of his own annoyance with the money we’ve had to spend on wars. Yes, the latter is the price one pays for being a superpower and the leader of the Free World. Neither Ronald Reagan nor George W. Bush begrudged spending the money — for this was the most essential part of our budget, just as being commander in chief was the most important part of their job.

Hanson also notes: “[T]here was something bizarre about his entire Iraq speech — it was as if it were being delivered by an exhausted Obama factotum, rather than the animate Obama of old. So we got a flat Iraq/flat Afghanistan/flat hope-and-change recession address. It almost seemed a chore.” For Bush, foreign policy was his highest calling, whereas Obama made clear that domestic recovery was “my central responsibility” — an odd declaration in a foreign policy speech to be viewed closely by adversaries.

Despite recent polling results, we can’t have Bush back. We have this president instead, and we will have to muddle through as best we can.

Military historian Victor Davis Hanson observes:

Obama warns against “open-ended wars,” as if they are almost animate things. But wars end, not when they reach a rational, previously agreed-upon expiration date, but usually when tough, specific wartime choices are made that lead to victory or end in defeat. One party must decide – for good or bad reasons – that it doesn’t want to fight to win, or simply doesn’t believe it has the resources for victory. To say that “open-ended wars” are undesirable is a banality that offers no guidance for these real-life choices. A better truism is that America should not fight wars it does not intend to win.

And indeed, it is more dangerous than banal. “War is hell” is a banality, but at least it is true. Obama’s aversion to open-ended wars is the ultimate expression of  his shortcomings as commander in chief. His predecessor refused, despite public clamoring, to put a stopwatch on our troops in Iraq. He understood that as president, he must convey resoluteness and commitment. He understood that the troops want more than the promise of VA benefits — they want to come home victorious. He understood that America’s greatness depends not on how many billions we can throw a statist projects but rather on the fact that we are willing to project and defend our values, give hope to the oppressed, stand by allies, and champion freedom.

Obama’s childlike desire to set arbitrary deadlines is both a sop to the left and indicative of his own annoyance with the money we’ve had to spend on wars. Yes, the latter is the price one pays for being a superpower and the leader of the Free World. Neither Ronald Reagan nor George W. Bush begrudged spending the money — for this was the most essential part of our budget, just as being commander in chief was the most important part of their job.

Hanson also notes: “[T]here was something bizarre about his entire Iraq speech — it was as if it were being delivered by an exhausted Obama factotum, rather than the animate Obama of old. So we got a flat Iraq/flat Afghanistan/flat hope-and-change recession address. It almost seemed a chore.” For Bush, foreign policy was his highest calling, whereas Obama made clear that domestic recovery was “my central responsibility” — an odd declaration in a foreign policy speech to be viewed closely by adversaries.

Despite recent polling results, we can’t have Bush back. We have this president instead, and we will have to muddle through as best we can.

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RE: The F-35 and the Israel-Obama Relationship

Evelyn Gordon’s post from Thursday highlights a Team Obama method that increasingly comes across as precious, annoying, and insidious. I’m not sure there’s a single word to describe it, but it involves a sort of inversion by which the administration of policy conveniently supersedes the purpose and substance of policy. In some cases, obstacles are allowed to dictate outcomes as if the U.S. administration has no discretion over them. In other cases, bureaucratic arcana serve as dodges. And in others, like Obama’s approach to Iran, procedural checklists are wielded as surrogates for policy, generating a kind of lottery in which we all watch to see what fate the procedures will eventually confer on us.

The case of the F-35 and Israel appears to fall into the first category. The F-35, or Joint Strike Fighter, has been known for some time to be ill-suited to modifications in its avionics and weapons-control systems. Israel expressed concern about that almost two years ago – and Israel isn’t the only F-35 customer to have reservations, as this Congressional Research Service study from April 2010 outlines. The tightly integrated nature of the F-35’s avionics was intended to be a design feature, not a bug. It is also, however, a 1990s-era design concept that will probably be updated eventually to accommodate more interchangeability of components in future production blocks of the F-35.

A constructive approach to this impasse would certainly be possible. A U.S. administration eager to tend alliances would review the sunk costs of the current design, balance that consideration with the importance of America’s global partnerships, and probably make the commitment now to begin a design migration that would work better for allies. Israel might well find it acceptable to be met halfway and may agree without complaint to buy the first 20 fighters as-is.

But this situation is tailor-made for Team Obama’s unique methods. In negotiations with one of our closest allies, the administration has simply left a known sticking point to fester. From the standpoint of professionalism, there is no good excuse for this: the issue has been recognized in the halls of government and industry for some time. But as Evelyn Gordon observes, it’s something the public knows little about. Obama pays no real price for his administration’s behavior.

An explanation for that behavior has to be deduced by process of elimination. Neither a well-intentioned ally nor a motivated seller behaves this way, so we are left with fecklessness or bad intentions. The Obama image is not enhanced by either possibility. When it comes to his administration’s foreign-policy posture, I’m reminded often of P.J. O’Rourke’s characterization of the French, in a 1986 Rolling Stone article (“Among the Euro-Weenies”), as “masters of the ‘dog ate my homework’ school of diplomatic relations.” It doesn’t quite reach the level of a “Twinkie defense” school of diplomatic relations, but it’s still unbecoming in the leader of the free world.

Evelyn Gordon’s post from Thursday highlights a Team Obama method that increasingly comes across as precious, annoying, and insidious. I’m not sure there’s a single word to describe it, but it involves a sort of inversion by which the administration of policy conveniently supersedes the purpose and substance of policy. In some cases, obstacles are allowed to dictate outcomes as if the U.S. administration has no discretion over them. In other cases, bureaucratic arcana serve as dodges. And in others, like Obama’s approach to Iran, procedural checklists are wielded as surrogates for policy, generating a kind of lottery in which we all watch to see what fate the procedures will eventually confer on us.

The case of the F-35 and Israel appears to fall into the first category. The F-35, or Joint Strike Fighter, has been known for some time to be ill-suited to modifications in its avionics and weapons-control systems. Israel expressed concern about that almost two years ago – and Israel isn’t the only F-35 customer to have reservations, as this Congressional Research Service study from April 2010 outlines. The tightly integrated nature of the F-35’s avionics was intended to be a design feature, not a bug. It is also, however, a 1990s-era design concept that will probably be updated eventually to accommodate more interchangeability of components in future production blocks of the F-35.

A constructive approach to this impasse would certainly be possible. A U.S. administration eager to tend alliances would review the sunk costs of the current design, balance that consideration with the importance of America’s global partnerships, and probably make the commitment now to begin a design migration that would work better for allies. Israel might well find it acceptable to be met halfway and may agree without complaint to buy the first 20 fighters as-is.

But this situation is tailor-made for Team Obama’s unique methods. In negotiations with one of our closest allies, the administration has simply left a known sticking point to fester. From the standpoint of professionalism, there is no good excuse for this: the issue has been recognized in the halls of government and industry for some time. But as Evelyn Gordon observes, it’s something the public knows little about. Obama pays no real price for his administration’s behavior.

An explanation for that behavior has to be deduced by process of elimination. Neither a well-intentioned ally nor a motivated seller behaves this way, so we are left with fecklessness or bad intentions. The Obama image is not enhanced by either possibility. When it comes to his administration’s foreign-policy posture, I’m reminded often of P.J. O’Rourke’s characterization of the French, in a 1986 Rolling Stone article (“Among the Euro-Weenies”), as “masters of the ‘dog ate my homework’ school of diplomatic relations.” It doesn’t quite reach the level of a “Twinkie defense” school of diplomatic relations, but it’s still unbecoming in the leader of the free world.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Emergency Committee for Israel wonders how it is that Joe Sestak can claim to be pro-Israel but accept Chuck Hagel’s endorsement. “Today’s endorsement of Joe Sestak by one of the leading anti-Israel politicians in the United States again exposes the danger a Senator Sestak would pose to the U.S.-Israel alliance. He claims to be pro-Israel, but his actions — whether fundraising for CAIR, or signing a letter that criticizes Israel for defending herself from Hamas, or seeking the endorsement of a former Senator who is notorious for his hostility to Israel — tells voters all they need to know about the kind of Senator Joe Sestak would be.”

You wonder how the left is going to defend Imam Rauf as “moderate” now.

Andy McCarthy wonders how a “one state solution” is a moderate position for Rauf. But your tax dollars are paying to send him overseas!

You wonder if Hillary would even settle for a VP slot on the ticket in 2012: “Forty-eight percent (48%) of U.S. voters now regard President Obama’s political views as extreme. Forty-two percent (42%) place his views in the mainstream, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. By comparison, 51% see the views of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as mainstream. Thirty-five percent (35%) think Clinton’s views are extreme.” Maybe something like: “Clinton-Dean 2012, the electable wing of the Democratic Party”?

You wonder how John Brennan deals with a crisis when he can’t handle moderately probing questions from a newspaper editorial board. Awkward, as they say. (h/t Quin Hillyer)

You wonder what Justice Kagan thinks about this: “A U.S. district court issued a preliminary injunction on Monday stopping federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, in a slap to the Obama administration’s new guidelines on the sensitive issue. The court ruled in favor of a suit filed in June by researchers who said human embryonic stem cell research involved the destruction of human embryos. Judge Royce Lamberth granted the injunction after finding the lawsuit would likely succeed because the guidelines violated law banning the use of federal funds to destroy human embryos.” Let’s hope she’s ethical enough to recuse herself if it gets to the Supreme Court.

You wonder what Dick Durbin is thinking. “The second-ranking Senate Democrat broke ranks with his party’s leader this weekend by announcing his support for the Lower Manhattan Islamic center and mosque. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) said Sunday that those who are opposed to the mosque are trying to divide the country with fear and hate.” That’s a rather harsh thing to say about Harry Reid and Howard Dean.

The Emergency Committee for Israel wonders how it is that Joe Sestak can claim to be pro-Israel but accept Chuck Hagel’s endorsement. “Today’s endorsement of Joe Sestak by one of the leading anti-Israel politicians in the United States again exposes the danger a Senator Sestak would pose to the U.S.-Israel alliance. He claims to be pro-Israel, but his actions — whether fundraising for CAIR, or signing a letter that criticizes Israel for defending herself from Hamas, or seeking the endorsement of a former Senator who is notorious for his hostility to Israel — tells voters all they need to know about the kind of Senator Joe Sestak would be.”

You wonder how the left is going to defend Imam Rauf as “moderate” now.

Andy McCarthy wonders how a “one state solution” is a moderate position for Rauf. But your tax dollars are paying to send him overseas!

You wonder if Hillary would even settle for a VP slot on the ticket in 2012: “Forty-eight percent (48%) of U.S. voters now regard President Obama’s political views as extreme. Forty-two percent (42%) place his views in the mainstream, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. By comparison, 51% see the views of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as mainstream. Thirty-five percent (35%) think Clinton’s views are extreme.” Maybe something like: “Clinton-Dean 2012, the electable wing of the Democratic Party”?

You wonder how John Brennan deals with a crisis when he can’t handle moderately probing questions from a newspaper editorial board. Awkward, as they say. (h/t Quin Hillyer)

You wonder what Justice Kagan thinks about this: “A U.S. district court issued a preliminary injunction on Monday stopping federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, in a slap to the Obama administration’s new guidelines on the sensitive issue. The court ruled in favor of a suit filed in June by researchers who said human embryonic stem cell research involved the destruction of human embryos. Judge Royce Lamberth granted the injunction after finding the lawsuit would likely succeed because the guidelines violated law banning the use of federal funds to destroy human embryos.” Let’s hope she’s ethical enough to recuse herself if it gets to the Supreme Court.

You wonder what Dick Durbin is thinking. “The second-ranking Senate Democrat broke ranks with his party’s leader this weekend by announcing his support for the Lower Manhattan Islamic center and mosque. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) said Sunday that those who are opposed to the mosque are trying to divide the country with fear and hate.” That’s a rather harsh thing to say about Harry Reid and Howard Dean.

Read Less




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