Commentary Magazine


Topic: Lee Hamilton

How About Defunding Them?

In the “has everyone gone mad?” department, we’ve been following the story of the decision by the Woodrow Wilson International Center — a taxpayer-supported institution (Why exactly? Heritage and many other think tanks aren’t on the federal dole.) — to give an award to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Well, when you need to give a ridiculous explanation for an anti-Israel, anti-West, anti common-sense move and to avoid any sharp questioning, you go to Laura Rozen (who also transcribes J Street’s missives and is happy to funnel unsourced, anti-Semitic jibes against Dennis Ross), who dutifully reports the excuse:

Earlier this week, House Middle East Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) released a letter to Woodrow Wilson’s President former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.) — his former chairman and colleague on the House Foreign Affairs Committee- – expressing displeasure that the think tank would honor the Turkish diplomat after Ankara has escalated tensions with Israel in the wake of the Gaza flotilla raid and voted against UN Iran sanctions.

But a Woodrow Wilson Center spokeswoman told POLITICO Thursday that as far as she knew, neither the Center nor Hamilton had received Ackerman’s letter.

“Awardees are not chosen for their political views,” Sharon McCarter, the Woodrow Wilson Center’s vice president for outreach and communications, told POLITICO in an e-mail.

“Mr. Davutoglu has had a diverse career as a scholar, a professor, a political scientist, an author, a civil servant, an international diplomat, and currently as Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs — a position he assumed in May 2009,” McCarter continued. “He also fits the Wilsonian mold of being both a scholar and a policymaker. He was invited to accept the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service in August 2009 in recognition of his lifelong service to the Turkish public in these many professional fields, many of which are similar to Woodrow Wilson’s life.

Apparently, she didn’t think to ask whether McCarter was serious. Would an award have been given to the foreign minister of South Africa during the apartheid? To a Soviet defense minister during the Cold War? Nor does she ask McCarter how it is remotely possible that a well-publicized letter excoriating the Center could have eluded Hamilton.

Here’s an idea: the Center sounds like it isn’t interested in furthering Western values or American interests. Fine. They can knock themselves out shoveling the same internationalist tripe that a dozen Washington think tanks do every day. The taxpayers just shouldn’t have to pay for it.( In fact why is government in the think tank business at all?) Any money spent on those with no moral compass is too much. Let ‘em fend for themselves.

In the “has everyone gone mad?” department, we’ve been following the story of the decision by the Woodrow Wilson International Center — a taxpayer-supported institution (Why exactly? Heritage and many other think tanks aren’t on the federal dole.) — to give an award to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Well, when you need to give a ridiculous explanation for an anti-Israel, anti-West, anti common-sense move and to avoid any sharp questioning, you go to Laura Rozen (who also transcribes J Street’s missives and is happy to funnel unsourced, anti-Semitic jibes against Dennis Ross), who dutifully reports the excuse:

Earlier this week, House Middle East Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) released a letter to Woodrow Wilson’s President former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.) — his former chairman and colleague on the House Foreign Affairs Committee- – expressing displeasure that the think tank would honor the Turkish diplomat after Ankara has escalated tensions with Israel in the wake of the Gaza flotilla raid and voted against UN Iran sanctions.

But a Woodrow Wilson Center spokeswoman told POLITICO Thursday that as far as she knew, neither the Center nor Hamilton had received Ackerman’s letter.

“Awardees are not chosen for their political views,” Sharon McCarter, the Woodrow Wilson Center’s vice president for outreach and communications, told POLITICO in an e-mail.

“Mr. Davutoglu has had a diverse career as a scholar, a professor, a political scientist, an author, a civil servant, an international diplomat, and currently as Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs — a position he assumed in May 2009,” McCarter continued. “He also fits the Wilsonian mold of being both a scholar and a policymaker. He was invited to accept the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service in August 2009 in recognition of his lifelong service to the Turkish public in these many professional fields, many of which are similar to Woodrow Wilson’s life.

Apparently, she didn’t think to ask whether McCarter was serious. Would an award have been given to the foreign minister of South Africa during the apartheid? To a Soviet defense minister during the Cold War? Nor does she ask McCarter how it is remotely possible that a well-publicized letter excoriating the Center could have eluded Hamilton.

Here’s an idea: the Center sounds like it isn’t interested in furthering Western values or American interests. Fine. They can knock themselves out shoveling the same internationalist tripe that a dozen Washington think tanks do every day. The taxpayers just shouldn’t have to pay for it.( In fact why is government in the think tank business at all?) Any money spent on those with no moral compass is too much. Let ‘em fend for themselves.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Clueless. Tom Friedman has made a career — a lucrative one — ignoring the less-flattering side of certain regimes. So the obvious is always a revelation (“here he is, sojourning among the Turks again, explaining to us, in case we, too, have shunned the news, that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has joined the radical jihadi camp”).

Exasperated. From the Huffington Post: “I am really not entirely sure what the point to this Oval Office address was! Were you looking for something that resembled a fully-realized action plan, describing a detailed approach to containment and clean up?”

Fretful. From the Daily Beast’s Tina Brown: “His reinforcement of a six-month moratorium on deep-sea drilling for safety checks reprised my conviction, that Obama, for all his brilliance, has no real, felt understanding of management structures or of business.” Reprised? Funny, she hasn’t made a big deal of this before.

Hopeful (Republicans, that is). From Fred Barnes: “Dino Rossi is the 10th man. Republicans need to pick up 10 Democratic seats in the midterm election to take control of the Senate. And they probably can’t do it without Rossi, a top-tier challenger in Washington to three-term Democrat Patty Murray.”

Lunacy. At the UN, of course, and confirmation we have no business being on the Human Rights Council: “Delegates from Islamic countries, including Pakistan and Egypt, told the United Nations Human Rights Council that treatment of Muslims in Western countries amounted to racism and discrimination and must be fought. ‘People of Arab origin face new forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance and experience discrimination and marginalisation,’ an Egyptian delegate said, according to a U.N. summary. And Pakistan, speaking for the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the council’s special investigator into religious freedom should look into such racism ‘especially in Western societies.'” Let’s have an investigation of sexism and racism in Arab countries, shall we?

Disgusting. From Josh Rogin: “The U.S. taxpayer-funded Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, led by former Congressman Lee Hamilton, is giving out its annual award for public service Thursday, and the winner is … Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu! … The Turkish foreign minister has been in the news a lot lately, such as when he said the Israeli incident aboard the Gaza flotilla ‘is like 9/11 for Turkey.’ He was also a key figure in the Brazilian-Turkish drive to head off new U.N. sanctions on Iran by striking an 11th-hour fuel-swap deal, an agreement the Obama administration has dismissed as inadequate and unhelpful.” The runner-up was Ahmadinejad?

Welcomed (but overdue). The AJC calls for the removal of the UN Human Rights Council permanent investigator for his anti-Israel venom. But if that’s the standard, wouldn’t the council have to disband?

Wow. Chris Christie – again — impressive. Note how he can pull off both the “jovial warrior” against the media and liberals and the down-to-earth conversations with voters.

Clueless. Tom Friedman has made a career — a lucrative one — ignoring the less-flattering side of certain regimes. So the obvious is always a revelation (“here he is, sojourning among the Turks again, explaining to us, in case we, too, have shunned the news, that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has joined the radical jihadi camp”).

Exasperated. From the Huffington Post: “I am really not entirely sure what the point to this Oval Office address was! Were you looking for something that resembled a fully-realized action plan, describing a detailed approach to containment and clean up?”

Fretful. From the Daily Beast’s Tina Brown: “His reinforcement of a six-month moratorium on deep-sea drilling for safety checks reprised my conviction, that Obama, for all his brilliance, has no real, felt understanding of management structures or of business.” Reprised? Funny, she hasn’t made a big deal of this before.

Hopeful (Republicans, that is). From Fred Barnes: “Dino Rossi is the 10th man. Republicans need to pick up 10 Democratic seats in the midterm election to take control of the Senate. And they probably can’t do it without Rossi, a top-tier challenger in Washington to three-term Democrat Patty Murray.”

Lunacy. At the UN, of course, and confirmation we have no business being on the Human Rights Council: “Delegates from Islamic countries, including Pakistan and Egypt, told the United Nations Human Rights Council that treatment of Muslims in Western countries amounted to racism and discrimination and must be fought. ‘People of Arab origin face new forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance and experience discrimination and marginalisation,’ an Egyptian delegate said, according to a U.N. summary. And Pakistan, speaking for the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the council’s special investigator into religious freedom should look into such racism ‘especially in Western societies.'” Let’s have an investigation of sexism and racism in Arab countries, shall we?

Disgusting. From Josh Rogin: “The U.S. taxpayer-funded Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, led by former Congressman Lee Hamilton, is giving out its annual award for public service Thursday, and the winner is … Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu! … The Turkish foreign minister has been in the news a lot lately, such as when he said the Israeli incident aboard the Gaza flotilla ‘is like 9/11 for Turkey.’ He was also a key figure in the Brazilian-Turkish drive to head off new U.N. sanctions on Iran by striking an 11th-hour fuel-swap deal, an agreement the Obama administration has dismissed as inadequate and unhelpful.” The runner-up was Ahmadinejad?

Welcomed (but overdue). The AJC calls for the removal of the UN Human Rights Council permanent investigator for his anti-Israel venom. But if that’s the standard, wouldn’t the council have to disband?

Wow. Chris Christie – again — impressive. Note how he can pull off both the “jovial warrior” against the media and liberals and the down-to-earth conversations with voters.

Read Less

The No-Fly List Didn’t Work, Mr. Holder

Eric Holder tried to assure us that — to borrow a phrase — the system (i.e., the no-fly list) worked. But it didn’t, and the media, increasingly unwilling to cover for the Obama spin machine, is telling a different story:

The no-fly list failed to keep the Times Square suspect off the plane. Faisal Shahzad had boarded a jetliner bound for the United Arab Emirates Monday night before federal authorities pulled him back.

The night’s events, gradually coming to light, underscored the flaws in the nation’s aviation security system, which despite its technologies, lists and information sharing, often comes down to someone making a right call.

As federal agents closed in, Faisal Shahzad was aboard Emirates Flight 202. He reserved a ticket on the way to John F. Kennedy International Airport, paid cash on arrival and walked through security without being stopped. By the time Customs and Border Protection officials spotted Shahzad’s name on the passenger list and recognized him as the bombing suspect they were looking for, he was in his seat and the plane was preparing to leave the gate.

So what really happened?

[I]t seemed clear the airline either never saw or ignored key information that would kept Shahzad off the plane, a fact that dampened what was otherwise hailed as a fast, successful law enforcement operation.

The no-fly list is supposed to mean just that. And Shahzad’s name was added to the list early Monday afternoon as a result of breaking developments in the investigation, according to a law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

But when Emirates sold the ticket, it was working off an outdated list. Airline officials would have had to check a Web forum where updates are sent if it were to flag him. Because they didn’t, law enforcement officials were not aware of his travel plans until they received the passenger list 30 minutes before takeoff, the official said.

By that time, passengers are usually on board.

The administration is now pointing fingers at the airline. But former 9/11 commissioner Lee Hamilton says we should have a better system in place:

Hamilton reminds ABC News that “the 9/11 commission recommended that you had to have biometric evidence, documentarian evidence of people coming in and exiting” the country. “We’ve done a pretty good job on the first part of it people entering the country. But with regard to those exiting the country we simply have not been able to set up a system to deal with that and it showed in this case.”

Hamilton says “we need to have in this country a system of checking people leaving the country so that we can protect against the very sort of thing that happened here — or at least almost happened here.”

But if we believed Holder, there’d be nothing to investigate and no further improvements to be made. Everything worked fine, he said.

This is a regrettable but now familiar habit of the Obama team. The administration’s top officials either speak without a full grasp of the facts or they intentionally mislead us, hoping not to expose the missteps and inadequacies of the system. Because Congress (Sen. Joe Lieberman excepted) refuses to exercise appropriate oversight and the administration refuses to agree to any external reviews (akin to the 9/11 commission), the exact nature of the flaws and the decision-making process surrounding these incidents are never fully explored, and those responsible for errors are not held accountable. Recall that not a single adviser or staffer lost his job over the Christmas Day bomber.

We have benefited from the relative ineptitude of two terrorists — one who could have incinerated a plane-load of people and another who could have killed scores of people and created havoc in Times Square. The administration calls these “failed” incidents and thereby skates from incident to incident, never quite coming clean on its shortcomings. We should be pleased Shahzad was quickly apprehended, but we should demand a full explanation as to how he got on the plane.

Eric Holder tried to assure us that — to borrow a phrase — the system (i.e., the no-fly list) worked. But it didn’t, and the media, increasingly unwilling to cover for the Obama spin machine, is telling a different story:

The no-fly list failed to keep the Times Square suspect off the plane. Faisal Shahzad had boarded a jetliner bound for the United Arab Emirates Monday night before federal authorities pulled him back.

The night’s events, gradually coming to light, underscored the flaws in the nation’s aviation security system, which despite its technologies, lists and information sharing, often comes down to someone making a right call.

As federal agents closed in, Faisal Shahzad was aboard Emirates Flight 202. He reserved a ticket on the way to John F. Kennedy International Airport, paid cash on arrival and walked through security without being stopped. By the time Customs and Border Protection officials spotted Shahzad’s name on the passenger list and recognized him as the bombing suspect they were looking for, he was in his seat and the plane was preparing to leave the gate.

So what really happened?

[I]t seemed clear the airline either never saw or ignored key information that would kept Shahzad off the plane, a fact that dampened what was otherwise hailed as a fast, successful law enforcement operation.

The no-fly list is supposed to mean just that. And Shahzad’s name was added to the list early Monday afternoon as a result of breaking developments in the investigation, according to a law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

But when Emirates sold the ticket, it was working off an outdated list. Airline officials would have had to check a Web forum where updates are sent if it were to flag him. Because they didn’t, law enforcement officials were not aware of his travel plans until they received the passenger list 30 minutes before takeoff, the official said.

By that time, passengers are usually on board.

The administration is now pointing fingers at the airline. But former 9/11 commissioner Lee Hamilton says we should have a better system in place:

Hamilton reminds ABC News that “the 9/11 commission recommended that you had to have biometric evidence, documentarian evidence of people coming in and exiting” the country. “We’ve done a pretty good job on the first part of it people entering the country. But with regard to those exiting the country we simply have not been able to set up a system to deal with that and it showed in this case.”

Hamilton says “we need to have in this country a system of checking people leaving the country so that we can protect against the very sort of thing that happened here — or at least almost happened here.”

But if we believed Holder, there’d be nothing to investigate and no further improvements to be made. Everything worked fine, he said.

This is a regrettable but now familiar habit of the Obama team. The administration’s top officials either speak without a full grasp of the facts or they intentionally mislead us, hoping not to expose the missteps and inadequacies of the system. Because Congress (Sen. Joe Lieberman excepted) refuses to exercise appropriate oversight and the administration refuses to agree to any external reviews (akin to the 9/11 commission), the exact nature of the flaws and the decision-making process surrounding these incidents are never fully explored, and those responsible for errors are not held accountable. Recall that not a single adviser or staffer lost his job over the Christmas Day bomber.

We have benefited from the relative ineptitude of two terrorists — one who could have incinerated a plane-load of people and another who could have killed scores of people and created havoc in Times Square. The administration calls these “failed” incidents and thereby skates from incident to incident, never quite coming clean on its shortcomings. We should be pleased Shahzad was quickly apprehended, but we should demand a full explanation as to how he got on the plane.

Read Less

9/11 Commissioners to Obama: What Were You Thinking?!

Eli Lake reports:

Former Gov. Thomas H. Kean, New Jersey Republican, and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, Indiana Democrat, said U.S. intelligence agencies should have been consulted before the bombing suspect, Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was granted constitutional protections under U.S. law, known as Miranda rights, and initially stopped talking to investigators.

The criticism from two of Washington’s respected former government officials comes as a bipartisan panel on Tuesday gave the Obama administration a failing grade for its efforts to date to prepare for and respond to biological-weapon terrorist attacks.

Echoing  conservative critics and members of Congress, Kean (“I was shocked, and I was upset”) and Hamilton (“There did not seem to be a policy of the government as to how to handle these people”) can’t fathom why the Obami did not properly interrogate the bomber (with the requisite intelligence data in hand) to elicit potentially valuable information. Kean observes that “here is a man who may have trained with other people who are trying to get into this country in one way or another, who may have worked with some of the top leadership in Yemen and al Qaeda generally — and we don’t know the details of that — who may know about other plots that are pending, and we haven’t found out about them.”

The White House is nevertheless wedded to its law enforcement approach and after-the-fact clean-up preparations rather than the ferreting out of information potentially within our grasp. As Lake notes, on the same day the 9/11 commissions raised their complaints, the “Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation and Terrorism said the Obama administration is not addressing urgent threats, including bioterrorism.” The Obami assured us they are coming up with a “new plan for a better and quicker response to bioterrorism threats and attacks.” How about simply questioning a terrorist we’ve apprehended? (That’d be new.) The best “response” is not more emergency vehicles to tend to the sick and dying, but a no-nonsense approach that seeks to gather information to prevent the attacks from occurring. That is precisely the tactic of the Bush team, which was not on some bizarre lark when it determined that it was going to employ enhanced interrogation techniques on those who were seeking to kill Americans (in large numbers). Putting aside the techniques to be employed, the Obami, to the shock of the 9/11 commissioners and most of the country, have essentially thrown in the towel on eliciting information from any terrorist we capture on U.S. soil. We certainly do need a “new plan.”

Obama has insisted that in tossing aside Bush-era anti-terrorism policies, he was defending our “values” or that we somehow “lost our way” in the aftermath of 9/11. It is increasingly clear, as with so much other blather than comes from the White House, that it is this administration that’s lost. There is a bipartisan consensus emerging that the Obami have behaved irresponsibly and that there is no moral or constitutional imperative to Mirandize terrorists and allow them to clam up. It’s become obvious to all but the reality-insulated Left that the moral preening is no more than a smoke screen for an ill-conceived and poorly executed set of policies.

Given the lack of support for the current approach and the urging of figures like Kean and Hamilton to take a second look at the Obami’s assumption, it seems there is plenty for responsible lawmakers to do. Scott Brown seemed to have a handle on this when he said that “our Constitution and laws exist to protect this nation — they do not grant rights and privileges to enemies in wartime. In dealing with terrorists, our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them, not lawyers to defend them.” Perhaps he can reach across the aisle and induce some of his new colleagues, just as we are seeing on health care, to set aside the foolishness of Obama’s first year in favor of some responsible governance.

Eli Lake reports:

Former Gov. Thomas H. Kean, New Jersey Republican, and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, Indiana Democrat, said U.S. intelligence agencies should have been consulted before the bombing suspect, Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was granted constitutional protections under U.S. law, known as Miranda rights, and initially stopped talking to investigators.

The criticism from two of Washington’s respected former government officials comes as a bipartisan panel on Tuesday gave the Obama administration a failing grade for its efforts to date to prepare for and respond to biological-weapon terrorist attacks.

Echoing  conservative critics and members of Congress, Kean (“I was shocked, and I was upset”) and Hamilton (“There did not seem to be a policy of the government as to how to handle these people”) can’t fathom why the Obami did not properly interrogate the bomber (with the requisite intelligence data in hand) to elicit potentially valuable information. Kean observes that “here is a man who may have trained with other people who are trying to get into this country in one way or another, who may have worked with some of the top leadership in Yemen and al Qaeda generally — and we don’t know the details of that — who may know about other plots that are pending, and we haven’t found out about them.”

The White House is nevertheless wedded to its law enforcement approach and after-the-fact clean-up preparations rather than the ferreting out of information potentially within our grasp. As Lake notes, on the same day the 9/11 commissions raised their complaints, the “Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation and Terrorism said the Obama administration is not addressing urgent threats, including bioterrorism.” The Obami assured us they are coming up with a “new plan for a better and quicker response to bioterrorism threats and attacks.” How about simply questioning a terrorist we’ve apprehended? (That’d be new.) The best “response” is not more emergency vehicles to tend to the sick and dying, but a no-nonsense approach that seeks to gather information to prevent the attacks from occurring. That is precisely the tactic of the Bush team, which was not on some bizarre lark when it determined that it was going to employ enhanced interrogation techniques on those who were seeking to kill Americans (in large numbers). Putting aside the techniques to be employed, the Obami, to the shock of the 9/11 commissioners and most of the country, have essentially thrown in the towel on eliciting information from any terrorist we capture on U.S. soil. We certainly do need a “new plan.”

Obama has insisted that in tossing aside Bush-era anti-terrorism policies, he was defending our “values” or that we somehow “lost our way” in the aftermath of 9/11. It is increasingly clear, as with so much other blather than comes from the White House, that it is this administration that’s lost. There is a bipartisan consensus emerging that the Obami have behaved irresponsibly and that there is no moral or constitutional imperative to Mirandize terrorists and allow them to clam up. It’s become obvious to all but the reality-insulated Left that the moral preening is no more than a smoke screen for an ill-conceived and poorly executed set of policies.

Given the lack of support for the current approach and the urging of figures like Kean and Hamilton to take a second look at the Obami’s assumption, it seems there is plenty for responsible lawmakers to do. Scott Brown seemed to have a handle on this when he said that “our Constitution and laws exist to protect this nation — they do not grant rights and privileges to enemies in wartime. In dealing with terrorists, our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them, not lawyers to defend them.” Perhaps he can reach across the aisle and induce some of his new colleagues, just as we are seeing on health care, to set aside the foolishness of Obama’s first year in favor of some responsible governance.

Read Less

Carter’s Historic Relationship with Hamas

In defending his meetings with high-ranking members of Hamas, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has argued that Hamas’s participation is essential to any future Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

For Carter, this is a useful argument. After all, in the aftermath of Hamas’s victory in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections and subsequent coup in Gaza last June, many in the policy world have reached the same conclusion. For example, in the run-up to the Annapolis peace conference in November, prominent foreign policy figures from both Republican and Democratic administrations–including Thomas Pickering, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, and Lee Hamilton–similarly wrote that “a comprehensive cease-fire or prisoner exchange is not possible without Hamas’s cooperation.”

But Carter’s current round of meetings with Hamas officials is not the result of pragmatism. Rather, it represents the most recent–and most public–chapter in Carter’s longtime relationship with the organization. According to the Jerusalem Post‘s archives, Carter has advocated for Hamas’ legitimization since at least 1990, when he called on Yasser Arafat to include Hamas in the PLO. And according to a Voice of Palestine transcript retrieved on Lexis-Nexis, Carter met with top-ranking Hamas officials–including the organization’s co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar–six years later, exacting a promise that the group wouldn’t disrupt the first-ever Palestinian Authority elections.

Interestingly, these early interactions with Hamas left a bad taste in Carter’s mouth. As Carter wrote in a 2004 New York Times op-ed, Hamas ultimately rejected his efforts to have them accept Arafat’s leadership, instead undertaking a campaign of suicide bombings that derailed the Oslo peace process. As a consequence, Carter declined to meet with Hamas officials for nearly a decade, lifting his boycott in the weeks prior to the 2006 elections.

Yet, by this time, Carter was ripe for Hamas’s courtship. In Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Carter gives a typically uncritical account of his meeting with Hamas official Mahmoud Ramahi:

When I questioned him about the necessity for Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel, he responded that they had not committed an act of violence since a ceasefire was declared in August 2004 and were willing and able to extend and enforce their cease-fire (hudna) for “two, ten, or fifty years” if Israel would reciprocate by refraining from attacks on the Palestinians. He added that there had been no allegations of terrorism or corruption among their serving local leaders, and that Israel had so far refused to recognize the Palestinian National Authority (only the PLO) and had rejected the key provisions of the Oslo Agreement. Hamas’s first priorities would be to form a government, to maintain order, and to deal with the financial crisis.

Of course, contrary to Ramahi’s promises to Carter, Hamas’s priorities hardly changed following the elections. Indeed, Hamas has strengthened its relationship with Iran, dedicated substantial resources to building its arsenal and smuggling weapons, and intensified its rocket attacks against Israel.

In short, Carter’s own dealings with Hamas have twice proven that engaging terrorists is detrimental to peace prospects. This should silence the growing chorus that views dialogue with Hamas as a pragmatic necessity. After all, aside from winning elections, how has Hamas–or its openness to peaceful compromise–changed?

In defending his meetings with high-ranking members of Hamas, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has argued that Hamas’s participation is essential to any future Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

For Carter, this is a useful argument. After all, in the aftermath of Hamas’s victory in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections and subsequent coup in Gaza last June, many in the policy world have reached the same conclusion. For example, in the run-up to the Annapolis peace conference in November, prominent foreign policy figures from both Republican and Democratic administrations–including Thomas Pickering, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, and Lee Hamilton–similarly wrote that “a comprehensive cease-fire or prisoner exchange is not possible without Hamas’s cooperation.”

But Carter’s current round of meetings with Hamas officials is not the result of pragmatism. Rather, it represents the most recent–and most public–chapter in Carter’s longtime relationship with the organization. According to the Jerusalem Post‘s archives, Carter has advocated for Hamas’ legitimization since at least 1990, when he called on Yasser Arafat to include Hamas in the PLO. And according to a Voice of Palestine transcript retrieved on Lexis-Nexis, Carter met with top-ranking Hamas officials–including the organization’s co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar–six years later, exacting a promise that the group wouldn’t disrupt the first-ever Palestinian Authority elections.

Interestingly, these early interactions with Hamas left a bad taste in Carter’s mouth. As Carter wrote in a 2004 New York Times op-ed, Hamas ultimately rejected his efforts to have them accept Arafat’s leadership, instead undertaking a campaign of suicide bombings that derailed the Oslo peace process. As a consequence, Carter declined to meet with Hamas officials for nearly a decade, lifting his boycott in the weeks prior to the 2006 elections.

Yet, by this time, Carter was ripe for Hamas’s courtship. In Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Carter gives a typically uncritical account of his meeting with Hamas official Mahmoud Ramahi:

When I questioned him about the necessity for Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel, he responded that they had not committed an act of violence since a ceasefire was declared in August 2004 and were willing and able to extend and enforce their cease-fire (hudna) for “two, ten, or fifty years” if Israel would reciprocate by refraining from attacks on the Palestinians. He added that there had been no allegations of terrorism or corruption among their serving local leaders, and that Israel had so far refused to recognize the Palestinian National Authority (only the PLO) and had rejected the key provisions of the Oslo Agreement. Hamas’s first priorities would be to form a government, to maintain order, and to deal with the financial crisis.

Of course, contrary to Ramahi’s promises to Carter, Hamas’s priorities hardly changed following the elections. Indeed, Hamas has strengthened its relationship with Iran, dedicated substantial resources to building its arsenal and smuggling weapons, and intensified its rocket attacks against Israel.

In short, Carter’s own dealings with Hamas have twice proven that engaging terrorists is detrimental to peace prospects. This should silence the growing chorus that views dialogue with Hamas as a pragmatic necessity. After all, aside from winning elections, how has Hamas–or its openness to peaceful compromise–changed?

Read Less

Annapolis: Engaging With What?

Yesterday I attended two Annapolis-related presentations in Washington, the first at the New America Foundation and the second at the National Press Club, sponsored by The Israel Project. The events offered a useful contrast in the way that two camps view not just the state of the peace process, but the conflict itself. The Israel Project symposium featured Shmuel Rosner of Haaretz, Tamara Cofman Wittes of Brookings, and David Wurmser, the former Middle East adviser to Vice President Cheney. This was by far the more interesting presentation, as the three participants were serious people trafficking in serious ideas.

The New America event, on the other hand, was intended to publicize the “re-release” of a letter first published in the New York Review of Books on October 10th, most notably signed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee Hamilton, and Brent Scowcroft, which has now attracted a couple dozen more signatories. It was ignored the first time it was published, and it’s enjoyable to predict that the addition of the signatures of Joseph Wilson and Gary Hart is going to further cement its irrelevance.

In any event, the New America panelists were Daniel Levy, Robert Malley, Ghaith al-Omari, and Steve Clemons, and they lodged as their major criticism the United States and Israel’s refusal to “engage” Hamas. That refusal is shaping up, for the realist and leftist critics of the peace process, as a primary objection, and in the coming months it will likely be invoked by the same critics as a major reason why Annapolis accomplished nothing. This faction is positioning its argument so that the failure of Annapolis can be leveraged to undermine the isolation of Hamas. As such, it is worth wondering whether people like Malley and Levy actually have a point.

Read More

Yesterday I attended two Annapolis-related presentations in Washington, the first at the New America Foundation and the second at the National Press Club, sponsored by The Israel Project. The events offered a useful contrast in the way that two camps view not just the state of the peace process, but the conflict itself. The Israel Project symposium featured Shmuel Rosner of Haaretz, Tamara Cofman Wittes of Brookings, and David Wurmser, the former Middle East adviser to Vice President Cheney. This was by far the more interesting presentation, as the three participants were serious people trafficking in serious ideas.

The New America event, on the other hand, was intended to publicize the “re-release” of a letter first published in the New York Review of Books on October 10th, most notably signed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee Hamilton, and Brent Scowcroft, which has now attracted a couple dozen more signatories. It was ignored the first time it was published, and it’s enjoyable to predict that the addition of the signatures of Joseph Wilson and Gary Hart is going to further cement its irrelevance.

In any event, the New America panelists were Daniel Levy, Robert Malley, Ghaith al-Omari, and Steve Clemons, and they lodged as their major criticism the United States and Israel’s refusal to “engage” Hamas. That refusal is shaping up, for the realist and leftist critics of the peace process, as a primary objection, and in the coming months it will likely be invoked by the same critics as a major reason why Annapolis accomplished nothing. This faction is positioning its argument so that the failure of Annapolis can be leveraged to undermine the isolation of Hamas. As such, it is worth wondering whether people like Malley and Levy actually have a point.

The engagement camp says that it wishes to bolster the moderates while engaging the extremists, which is presented as a cost-free way to conduct diplomacy—never mind that U.S. diplomatic attention directed at Hamas thoroughly would discredit Mahmoud Abbas, whose only selling point to the Palestinian people at this point is the fact that he is the Palestinians’ only focal point for American and Israeli attention. That is a rather obvious point, of course. But the one I wish to emphasize involves the incompleteness with which the engagement camp makes its case.

What I have always found strange about the engagers is their reluctance to make arguments that move beyond bumper-sticker bromides about the need to talk to your enemies, and to explain precisely what would be up for discussion with Hamas. The Hamas charter seems to preempt diplomacy insofar as it says that “there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.” I say “seems,” because perhaps in practice Hamas does not hew to the strict language of its founding declaration—but alas, there is no historic or contemporary evidence for this conceit. Hamas is famous for denying the right of Israel to exist, but not many people seem to pay much regard to the fact that Hamas also denies the right of Palestine to exist: Hamas has always been abundantly clear that its goal is the violent imposition of an Islamic caliphate throughout the Middle East—not the establishment of a Palestinian state.

So what, pray tell, do people like Daniel Levy and Robert Malley propose is up for negotiation with Hamas? In the face of both Hamas’s plainly stated antipathy to diplomacy, in addition to decades of concrete experience of the same, would it not behoove Levy and Malley to pay special attention to this particular aspect of engaging Hamas? Shouldn’t an explanation about the contours of, and prospects for, a successful pursuit of diplomacy with Hamas indeed be the very first thing to which Levy and Malley set themselves? I know that if I were arguing in good faith for engagement, this is where I would be compelled to start: to provide an answer to the question, What can Israel offer Hamas other than its own suicide?

At yesterday’s event, as he has elsewhere, Levy proposed an Israel-Hamas cease-fire as a starting measure…and then changed the subject. Well, what comes after that, Daniel? How many times has Hamas agreed to cease-fires with Israel (and with Fatah) out of its own need to regroup and rearm, only to attack later at a time of its choosing? At what point in the course of the “engagement” process do the leaders of Hamas renounce the basic premises and tactics for which their movement stands? Does Khaled Mashal march down to his local Al Jazeera office in Damascus to announce to the world that because he got a phone call from a member of the Quartet, he’s realized that all the crazy stuff in the Hamas charter—about how the Jews started the French Revolution, the Communist Revolution, both World Wars, the League of Nations, the United Nations, the Rotary Club and the Freemasons, all in pursuit of Zionist world domination—was perhaps a bit too anti-Semitic? Can you tell us, Robert Malley—you who has argued repeatedly that giving money, diplomatic attention, and concessions to Hamas will change the group—of a single instance in which Hamas permanently has moderated a position or altered its behavior because of diplomatic pressure? As people who continuously are banging on the table about “genuine engagement” with Hamas, is it too much to ask, you know, for some genuine details?

As it stands right now, the intellectual output of the Levy-Malley faction involves bromides about “engagement” that are quickly buried in an avalanche of ambiguous diplomatic jargon designed to avoid the possibility of having to commit themselves to engaging in a serious explanation of how diplomacy is going to transform Hamas from a genocidal Islamic supremacist group to a peaceful Palestinian nationalist movement. This is an act of alchemy that Levy and Malley cannot credibly perform, and it is the reason why all of their voluminous babble about engagement never manages to rise above the level of the vague cliché.

There are dozens of reasons why Annapolis will be unable to achieve anything close to its stated goals, but, contrary to popular opinion, one of them is not the absence, next week, of representatives of Hamas at the Naval Academy. Nevertheless, that absence will emerge, from the Scowcrofts and Malleys, as a major source of the peace process’s failure. I propose a different failure: the refusal of the most prolific advocates for engagement to display a little intellectual courage and put themselves on the record explaining how their concessions are going to transform Hamas. Because if that actually works, and one of the most intransigent Islamist groups in the world can be defeated by diplomacy, then clearly there are two other diplomatic summits that should be convened—between Israel and Hizballah, and the United States and al Qaeda.

Read Less

“Churchillian” Statesmanship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Less

Talking with Tehran

Suddenly, the Bush administration is prepared to sit around a table with Iran and Syria to discuss Iraq. “Better late than never,” crowed Leon Panetta, one of the Democrats who served on the Iraq Study Group chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton. So, were Baker and Hamilton right when they proposed talks with Syria and Iran as a way out of our Iraq imbroglio?

The answer is no. The question is not whether to talk to Iran or Syria, but in what context. What else are we doing while talking? The ISG proposed to couple such talks with beginning to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq. This would make us the petitioner, looking to Tehran and Damascus to cover our back while we flee.

Read More

Suddenly, the Bush administration is prepared to sit around a table with Iran and Syria to discuss Iraq. “Better late than never,” crowed Leon Panetta, one of the Democrats who served on the Iraq Study Group chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton. So, were Baker and Hamilton right when they proposed talks with Syria and Iran as a way out of our Iraq imbroglio?

The answer is no. The question is not whether to talk to Iran or Syria, but in what context. What else are we doing while talking? The ISG proposed to couple such talks with beginning to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq. This would make us the petitioner, looking to Tehran and Damascus to cover our back while we flee.

Given that Iran’s official slogan is “death to America,” and its president speaks of his dream of a “world without America,” why do sophisticated men like Baker and Hamilton need to be told the obvious: Iran does not want to help us. They might reply that they do not expect beneficence but rather a diplomatic deal. What, then, would Iran and Syria want in exchange for their help? The price is obvious: acquiescence in the former’s quest for nuclear weapons and the latter’s renewed domination of Lebanon. Is this a price we can afford?

In contrast to the ISG proposal, the Bush administration is, as the Democrats say, “escalating” the U.S. presence in Iraq (albeit not as much as I would like) in pursuit of victory. Along with that, why not talk to whomever?

The position of refusing to talk to some other party is always awkward and hard to defend. Regarding Iran’s nuclear drive, we have said that we will talk to Tehran if it freezes its enrichment activities lest we get drawn into a long, fruitless negotiation that serves only as a cover for the completion of Iran’s bomb. Sensible though this is, we still are chided, most recently by IAEA chief Mohamed el-Baradei, for refusing to talk.

Here is the solution. We should announce that we will talk to Tehran unconditionally, but not as a substitute for stopping Iran from getting the bomb. For its part, Iran can continue enrichment while we talk. For our part, we will continue to plan a military strike to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, and we will promise to carry it out soon—say, before the 2008 presidential primaries begin—absent some other solution. There is never harm in talking, as long as it doesn’t keep us from acting.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.