Commentary Magazine


Topic: Los Angeles Times

The Hypocrisy of the LA Times

In explaining their decision to publish photos of American troops posing with the bodies of alleged Taliban terrorists, despite the fact that the photos are two years old and guaranteed to inflame violence, the editors of the Los Angeles Times explained, “At the end of the day, our job is to publish information that our readers need to make informed decisions.”

Perhaps the editors would then like to explain why they continue to sit on a videotape of Barack Obama reportedly toasting former PLO Beirut spokesman and University of Chicago buddy Rashid Khalidi? Isn’t that necessary for readers to make informed decisions? I’m not sure whether the editors could provide a more glaring example of their own hypocrisy.

In explaining their decision to publish photos of American troops posing with the bodies of alleged Taliban terrorists, despite the fact that the photos are two years old and guaranteed to inflame violence, the editors of the Los Angeles Times explained, “At the end of the day, our job is to publish information that our readers need to make informed decisions.”

Perhaps the editors would then like to explain why they continue to sit on a videotape of Barack Obama reportedly toasting former PLO Beirut spokesman and University of Chicago buddy Rashid Khalidi? Isn’t that necessary for readers to make informed decisions? I’m not sure whether the editors could provide a more glaring example of their own hypocrisy.

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Grisly Pics Will Put U.S. Troops in Jeopardy

If we have learned one thing over the years it is that nothing emboldens our enemies and complicates the job of our troops than the release of grisly images, whether of torture at Abu Ghraib or of Marines urinating on a corpse in Afghanistan. The acts themselves are reprehensible and should be punished. But should the photos of what happened then be published in ways that will undoubtedly enflame passions against our troops and place innocent men and women, who had nothing to do with the acts in question, into greater jeopardy?

The Los Angeles Times apparently believes the answer is “yes”; hence its article this morning printing a series of photos of the grisly remains of Taliban suicide bombers taken in 2010 by a few soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division’s Second Brigade. As the article itself, by distinguished war correspondent David Zucchino, notes:

U.S. military officials asked the Times not to publish any of the pictures.

Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said the conduct depicted “most certainly does not represent the character and the professionalism of the great majority of our troops in Afghanistan…. Nevertheless, this imagery — more than two years old — now has the potential to indict them all in the minds of local Afghans, inciting violence and perhaps causing needless casualties.”

The risk of needless casualties is especially great because the very battalion responsible for the picture taking is now deployed once again in southern Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the Times decided to publish anyway, explaining its decision as follows: “After careful consideration, we decided that publishing a small but representative selection of the photos would fulfill our obligation to readers to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan, including the allegation that the images reflect a breakdown in unit discipline that was endangering U.S. troops.”

I fail to see what public good is served by publishing the pictures. The same news could have been made public by an unillustrated article. Unfortunately, this publication will unfairly sully the conduct of–and quite possibly jeopardize the lives of–U.S. troops who have, on the whole, conformed to the highest standards of conduct, which is more than can be said for their enemies. In this kind of conflict, I might add–pitting  troops of an established democracy defending a nascent democracy against theocratic savages–”impartiality” in news coverage is hardly the highest ideal. American journalists, who routinely embed with American military units, need to give greater concern to protecting those units against needless attacks.

 

If we have learned one thing over the years it is that nothing emboldens our enemies and complicates the job of our troops than the release of grisly images, whether of torture at Abu Ghraib or of Marines urinating on a corpse in Afghanistan. The acts themselves are reprehensible and should be punished. But should the photos of what happened then be published in ways that will undoubtedly enflame passions against our troops and place innocent men and women, who had nothing to do with the acts in question, into greater jeopardy?

The Los Angeles Times apparently believes the answer is “yes”; hence its article this morning printing a series of photos of the grisly remains of Taliban suicide bombers taken in 2010 by a few soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division’s Second Brigade. As the article itself, by distinguished war correspondent David Zucchino, notes:

U.S. military officials asked the Times not to publish any of the pictures.

Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said the conduct depicted “most certainly does not represent the character and the professionalism of the great majority of our troops in Afghanistan…. Nevertheless, this imagery — more than two years old — now has the potential to indict them all in the minds of local Afghans, inciting violence and perhaps causing needless casualties.”

The risk of needless casualties is especially great because the very battalion responsible for the picture taking is now deployed once again in southern Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the Times decided to publish anyway, explaining its decision as follows: “After careful consideration, we decided that publishing a small but representative selection of the photos would fulfill our obligation to readers to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan, including the allegation that the images reflect a breakdown in unit discipline that was endangering U.S. troops.”

I fail to see what public good is served by publishing the pictures. The same news could have been made public by an unillustrated article. Unfortunately, this publication will unfairly sully the conduct of–and quite possibly jeopardize the lives of–U.S. troops who have, on the whole, conformed to the highest standards of conduct, which is more than can be said for their enemies. In this kind of conflict, I might add–pitting  troops of an established democracy defending a nascent democracy against theocratic savages–”impartiality” in news coverage is hardly the highest ideal. American journalists, who routinely embed with American military units, need to give greater concern to protecting those units against needless attacks.

 

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Lebanon: To Encourage the Others

John Bolton has a superb opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times today reminding us that Lebanon is a nearer prospective loss to liberalism than Egypt. Today’s concern for Egypt is about the opportunity for the Muslim Brotherhood to gain power. The nature of the potential stakes remains uncertain; Mubarak and Omar Suleiman have made explicit declarations of intent, but there is no clarity or political coherence from the opposition forces.

In Lebanon, by contrast, Hezbollah has already made its move. It has run the course the Muslim Brotherhood could in Egypt, first securing a role in the coalition government — without renouncing terrorism or political thuggery — and then leveraging that role to install the government of its choice. The choices for foreign governments are clear in Lebanon: either reject Hezbollah’s control of the country or accept it.

Ambassador Bolton is categorical: “We must refuse to recognize any Hezbollah-dominated government as legitimate, at least until Hezbollah fully disarms and becomes a real political party.” The timetable for concrete action will be driven in part by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, whose next public event, on February 7, is a hearing related to the confidential indictments issued in January for the 2005 assassinations. That timetable is a good thing; an independent process with scheduled events is guaranteed to present public decision points for foreign leaders. If a new Hezbollah-backed government terminates Lebanese cooperation with the tribunal, the reaction of the U.S. and other nations, one way or another, will be impossible to spin.

There is grave danger, as Bolton suggests, in failing to counter Hezbollah’s effective coup in Lebanon. Conversely, the payoff from countering it would be particularly high. Hezbollah’s method of government infiltration is a model for the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist movements across the Arab world. It can be allowed to stand or it can be opposed and reversed; either response will encourager les autres — encourage the others.

The number of others who need “encouraging,” one way or the other, is growing with the unrest in Egypt. In their different ways, Jordan, Algeria, and Yemen have all, in the past 48 hours, joined Tunisia in opening doors formerly closed to the Muslim Brotherhood. There is a great deal at stake, but the timing could hardly be better for making an example of Hezbollah. Its takeover of Lebanon, opposed by the Arab world, adds urgency to the theme retailed by the Muslim Brotherhood that the old governments are corrupt and ineffective. If we want the Arab nations to have breathing room in which to take genuine steps toward pluralism and democracy, one of the best things we could do is decisively block Hezbollah’s assault on those elements in Lebanon.

John Bolton has a superb opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times today reminding us that Lebanon is a nearer prospective loss to liberalism than Egypt. Today’s concern for Egypt is about the opportunity for the Muslim Brotherhood to gain power. The nature of the potential stakes remains uncertain; Mubarak and Omar Suleiman have made explicit declarations of intent, but there is no clarity or political coherence from the opposition forces.

In Lebanon, by contrast, Hezbollah has already made its move. It has run the course the Muslim Brotherhood could in Egypt, first securing a role in the coalition government — without renouncing terrorism or political thuggery — and then leveraging that role to install the government of its choice. The choices for foreign governments are clear in Lebanon: either reject Hezbollah’s control of the country or accept it.

Ambassador Bolton is categorical: “We must refuse to recognize any Hezbollah-dominated government as legitimate, at least until Hezbollah fully disarms and becomes a real political party.” The timetable for concrete action will be driven in part by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, whose next public event, on February 7, is a hearing related to the confidential indictments issued in January for the 2005 assassinations. That timetable is a good thing; an independent process with scheduled events is guaranteed to present public decision points for foreign leaders. If a new Hezbollah-backed government terminates Lebanese cooperation with the tribunal, the reaction of the U.S. and other nations, one way or another, will be impossible to spin.

There is grave danger, as Bolton suggests, in failing to counter Hezbollah’s effective coup in Lebanon. Conversely, the payoff from countering it would be particularly high. Hezbollah’s method of government infiltration is a model for the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist movements across the Arab world. It can be allowed to stand or it can be opposed and reversed; either response will encourager les autres — encourage the others.

The number of others who need “encouraging,” one way or the other, is growing with the unrest in Egypt. In their different ways, Jordan, Algeria, and Yemen have all, in the past 48 hours, joined Tunisia in opening doors formerly closed to the Muslim Brotherhood. There is a great deal at stake, but the timing could hardly be better for making an example of Hezbollah. Its takeover of Lebanon, opposed by the Arab world, adds urgency to the theme retailed by the Muslim Brotherhood that the old governments are corrupt and ineffective. If we want the Arab nations to have breathing room in which to take genuine steps toward pluralism and democracy, one of the best things we could do is decisively block Hezbollah’s assault on those elements in Lebanon.

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Chinese Government Blocks Internet Searches for ‘Egypt’

The Chinese government is taking precautions to make sure the people of China don’t get any ideas from the Egyptian protests. News of the revolt is being tightly controlled, and Internet searches for “Egypt” have been blocked on China’s state-run Internet search engines and microblogging sites:

Searches on Sina.com for “Egypt” returned a message saying, “According to relevant laws, statues and policies, the search results cannot be displayed.” A microblogging site operated by Tencent showed no results.

According to the Los Angeles Times, China’s news coverage of the situation in Egypt “has been mostly downplayed, with little mention of the underlying causes for the revolt.” It has mainly focused on the economic impact of the crisis:

Coverage, both online and in print, focused on the economic repercussions of the situation in Egypt, with the Egyptian pound falling against the dollar on Friday. No mention was made of Egypt’s rising prices or official corruption — problems with which many Chinese are all too familiar.

If there’s one great thing about the events in Egypt and Tunisia, it’s that it’s made totalitarian leaders around the world sweat quite a bit.

The Chinese government is taking precautions to make sure the people of China don’t get any ideas from the Egyptian protests. News of the revolt is being tightly controlled, and Internet searches for “Egypt” have been blocked on China’s state-run Internet search engines and microblogging sites:

Searches on Sina.com for “Egypt” returned a message saying, “According to relevant laws, statues and policies, the search results cannot be displayed.” A microblogging site operated by Tencent showed no results.

According to the Los Angeles Times, China’s news coverage of the situation in Egypt “has been mostly downplayed, with little mention of the underlying causes for the revolt.” It has mainly focused on the economic impact of the crisis:

Coverage, both online and in print, focused on the economic repercussions of the situation in Egypt, with the Egyptian pound falling against the dollar on Friday. No mention was made of Egypt’s rising prices or official corruption — problems with which many Chinese are all too familiar.

If there’s one great thing about the events in Egypt and Tunisia, it’s that it’s made totalitarian leaders around the world sweat quite a bit.

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Other Than That …

Near the end of a long front-page story in the Los Angeles Times regarding the Palestinian “prime minister,” the reporter noted that Salam Fayyad’s political fortunes “face a major test this summer, when his state-readiness campaign is slated to be completed by Aug. 26.” Fayyad insisted that the work can be completed on time and said he has “no Plan B.” On the other hand:

He acknowledged that there is major unfinished business, including weak courts, a nonfunctioning parliament and the absence of elections because of the split between Fatah and Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip. All of that, including the reunification of Fatah and Hamas, needs to be completed before Palestinians will be ready for statehood, he said.

In identifying the problem of “weak courts,” Fayyad knows whereof he speaks. In December, the Palestinian “High Court” ruled that the West Bank local elections had been illegally cancelled. But the court has no power to enforce its ruling, and Fayyad has ignored a letter to him from the Central Elections Commission regarding rescheduling.

So, other than establishing an independent judiciary; a functioning legislature; a unified political system; holding elections on a local, legislative, or presidential level; and dismantling the terrorist group that occupies half the putative state, the state-readiness effort is right on schedule.

Near the end of a long front-page story in the Los Angeles Times regarding the Palestinian “prime minister,” the reporter noted that Salam Fayyad’s political fortunes “face a major test this summer, when his state-readiness campaign is slated to be completed by Aug. 26.” Fayyad insisted that the work can be completed on time and said he has “no Plan B.” On the other hand:

He acknowledged that there is major unfinished business, including weak courts, a nonfunctioning parliament and the absence of elections because of the split between Fatah and Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip. All of that, including the reunification of Fatah and Hamas, needs to be completed before Palestinians will be ready for statehood, he said.

In identifying the problem of “weak courts,” Fayyad knows whereof he speaks. In December, the Palestinian “High Court” ruled that the West Bank local elections had been illegally cancelled. But the court has no power to enforce its ruling, and Fayyad has ignored a letter to him from the Central Elections Commission regarding rescheduling.

So, other than establishing an independent judiciary; a functioning legislature; a unified political system; holding elections on a local, legislative, or presidential level; and dismantling the terrorist group that occupies half the putative state, the state-readiness effort is right on schedule.

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BREAKING: In Gaza, Sometimes People Surf a Lot

This update brought to you courtesy of Agence France-Presse, which yesterday published an article and uploaded to YouTube an accompanying video on the startling phenomenon. It’s a good thing they did too, because you might have missed the staggeringly critical geopolitical importance of Gaza surfing when it was covered in 2007 by the Los Angeles Times or in 2009 by Der Spiegel and ABC News or in 2010 by CNN and the Atlantic and the BBC.

In any case, make sure you revisit those pieces before tackling this one, both for deep background and because you wouldn’t want to miss exemplars of hard-nosed journalism like “the surfer paddled out from the shore. Lying on his battered board, he scanned the horizon. The turquoise water glittered in the midday sun … he caught a wave, effortlessly” and “dirt poor and mainly from refugee camps, they find joy riding waves, often on makeshift boards, in the green waters off Gaza’s beaches.” You can also prepare by watching ABC News’s 2009 YouTube video on the subject.

Gaza surfing, it turns out, is a hopelessly multivalenced topic. Sometimes the upshot is that Israel imposes insurmountable hardships on Palestinians. Sometimes the upshot is that Palestinians surmount Israeli hardships. Sometimes it’s both in the same story, with the Palestinians surmounting insurmountable Israeli hardships in the same way that the industrious and booming Gaza economy is perennially crippled by Israeli self-defense measures. But always, per the 700-plus-word BBC treatise on the subject, there is a fundamental lesson to be learned: “Palestinians are people like in any other country.” We love to surf, they love to surf, they’re just like us.

In Gaza, they also bomb Christian bookstores, turn hospitals into ammo dumps, create armies of suicide-bomber women and children, produce movies about how killing enemy Jews is the height of religious worship, hold summer camps to create child soldiers, stage school plays demonizing Israelis, air children’s TV brimming with vulgar and violent bigotry, and fascistically regulate women’s bodies — all the while overwhelmingly supporting Iranian proxies bent on eradicating millions of Jews — but whatever. Gaza is just like Venice Beach, right?

Anyway — obviously — these stories aren’t so much journalism as they are agitprop. They don’t even cover actual issues about Gaza beaches, such as whether Hamas has loosened its “modest” beach dress code, a proxy for Gaza Islamism, or whether critically endangered sea turtles are still getting hacked up by grinning children and their beaming fathers. But why report on women in Islam or Mediterranean keystone species when there are clumsy and pathos-soaked odes to the indefatigable Palestinian spirit to be penned?

This update brought to you courtesy of Agence France-Presse, which yesterday published an article and uploaded to YouTube an accompanying video on the startling phenomenon. It’s a good thing they did too, because you might have missed the staggeringly critical geopolitical importance of Gaza surfing when it was covered in 2007 by the Los Angeles Times or in 2009 by Der Spiegel and ABC News or in 2010 by CNN and the Atlantic and the BBC.

In any case, make sure you revisit those pieces before tackling this one, both for deep background and because you wouldn’t want to miss exemplars of hard-nosed journalism like “the surfer paddled out from the shore. Lying on his battered board, he scanned the horizon. The turquoise water glittered in the midday sun … he caught a wave, effortlessly” and “dirt poor and mainly from refugee camps, they find joy riding waves, often on makeshift boards, in the green waters off Gaza’s beaches.” You can also prepare by watching ABC News’s 2009 YouTube video on the subject.

Gaza surfing, it turns out, is a hopelessly multivalenced topic. Sometimes the upshot is that Israel imposes insurmountable hardships on Palestinians. Sometimes the upshot is that Palestinians surmount Israeli hardships. Sometimes it’s both in the same story, with the Palestinians surmounting insurmountable Israeli hardships in the same way that the industrious and booming Gaza economy is perennially crippled by Israeli self-defense measures. But always, per the 700-plus-word BBC treatise on the subject, there is a fundamental lesson to be learned: “Palestinians are people like in any other country.” We love to surf, they love to surf, they’re just like us.

In Gaza, they also bomb Christian bookstores, turn hospitals into ammo dumps, create armies of suicide-bomber women and children, produce movies about how killing enemy Jews is the height of religious worship, hold summer camps to create child soldiers, stage school plays demonizing Israelis, air children’s TV brimming with vulgar and violent bigotry, and fascistically regulate women’s bodies — all the while overwhelmingly supporting Iranian proxies bent on eradicating millions of Jews — but whatever. Gaza is just like Venice Beach, right?

Anyway — obviously — these stories aren’t so much journalism as they are agitprop. They don’t even cover actual issues about Gaza beaches, such as whether Hamas has loosened its “modest” beach dress code, a proxy for Gaza Islamism, or whether critically endangered sea turtles are still getting hacked up by grinning children and their beaming fathers. But why report on women in Islam or Mediterranean keystone species when there are clumsy and pathos-soaked odes to the indefatigable Palestinian spirit to be penned?

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RE: The Unraveling of Seymour Hersh

Following up on Pete Wehner’s item about Sy Hersh: it’s hardly news that Hersh has, to put it mildly, a peculiar view of the world. Back in 2005, in this Los Angeles Times column, I wrote that Hersh is

the journalistic equivalent of Oliver Stone: a hard-left zealot who subscribes to the old counterculture conceit that a deep, dark conspiracy is running the U.S. government. In the 1960s the boogeyman was the “military-industrial complex.” Now it’s the “neoconservatives.” “They overran the bureaucracy, they overran the Congress, they overran the press, and they overran the military!” Hersh ranted at UC Berkeley on Oct. 8, 2004.

Hersh doesn’t make any bones about his bias. “Bush scares the hell out of me,” he said. He told a group in Washington, “I’m a better American than 99% of the guys in the White House,” who are “nuts” and “ideologues.” In another speech he called Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft “demented.” Hersh has also compared what happened at Abu Ghraib with Nazi Germany. (Were American MPs gassing inmates?) He has claimed that since 2001 a “secret unit” of the U.S. government “has been disappearing people just like the Brazilians and Argentinians did.” And in his lectures he has spread the legend of how a U.S. Army platoon was supposedly ordered to execute 30 Iraqis guarding a granary.

Similar nuttiness comes pouring out every time Hersh opens his mouth in public. His most recent speech, as Pete noted, was in Doha, where he made the rather imaginative charges that the Knights of Malta and Opus Dei run the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command and that Vice President Cheney had a plan to “change mosques into cathedrals” in Iraq. For wisdom like that, you normally have to turn to the likes of Jared Loughner. Not that Hersh is about to spray anyone with gunfire. What he does instead is spray venomous accusations around.

That, I suppose, is his prerogative. But what on earth is a supposedly reputable magazine like the New Yorker (to which I am, I admit, a subscriber) doing keeping him on its payroll? Shouldn’t Hersh’s rantings be limited to blogs and Twitter, where he would have plenty of company among the conspiracy crowd?

Following up on Pete Wehner’s item about Sy Hersh: it’s hardly news that Hersh has, to put it mildly, a peculiar view of the world. Back in 2005, in this Los Angeles Times column, I wrote that Hersh is

the journalistic equivalent of Oliver Stone: a hard-left zealot who subscribes to the old counterculture conceit that a deep, dark conspiracy is running the U.S. government. In the 1960s the boogeyman was the “military-industrial complex.” Now it’s the “neoconservatives.” “They overran the bureaucracy, they overran the Congress, they overran the press, and they overran the military!” Hersh ranted at UC Berkeley on Oct. 8, 2004.

Hersh doesn’t make any bones about his bias. “Bush scares the hell out of me,” he said. He told a group in Washington, “I’m a better American than 99% of the guys in the White House,” who are “nuts” and “ideologues.” In another speech he called Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft “demented.” Hersh has also compared what happened at Abu Ghraib with Nazi Germany. (Were American MPs gassing inmates?) He has claimed that since 2001 a “secret unit” of the U.S. government “has been disappearing people just like the Brazilians and Argentinians did.” And in his lectures he has spread the legend of how a U.S. Army platoon was supposedly ordered to execute 30 Iraqis guarding a granary.

Similar nuttiness comes pouring out every time Hersh opens his mouth in public. His most recent speech, as Pete noted, was in Doha, where he made the rather imaginative charges that the Knights of Malta and Opus Dei run the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command and that Vice President Cheney had a plan to “change mosques into cathedrals” in Iraq. For wisdom like that, you normally have to turn to the likes of Jared Loughner. Not that Hersh is about to spray anyone with gunfire. What he does instead is spray venomous accusations around.

That, I suppose, is his prerogative. But what on earth is a supposedly reputable magazine like the New Yorker (to which I am, I admit, a subscriber) doing keeping him on its payroll? Shouldn’t Hersh’s rantings be limited to blogs and Twitter, where he would have plenty of company among the conspiracy crowd?

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Are China’s Neocons Taking Power?

It’s often said that some people have such a hysterical obsession with the dreaded “neocons” that they probably search for them under their beds before going to sleep at night. And after reading Jacob Heilbrunn’s ominously titled column “Are China’s Neocons Taking Power?” it sounds like he’s probably the type to keep a flashlight handy on his nightstand:

So China flew its experimental J-20 stealth fighter jet while Defense Secretary Robert Gates was visiting President Hu Jintao? It would be hard to think of a more calculated insult–and one that America should, and will, take in stride. The Los Angeles Times reports that China’s military didn’t even bother to inform the civilian leadership. Gates knew about the test. Hu didn’t.

What does that tell you?

The real snub wasn’t directed at Gates but at Hu and his associates. Could it be that the real China threat is a military going rogue? It’s clear that China’s military is balking at pretty much everything the Obama administration wants. It doesn’t want to rein in North Korea. It doesn’t want strategic talks with America.

Heilbrunn goes on to equate the belligerent segments of China’s military with American neoconservatives:

And for now, it looks as though China’s neocons have the upper hand. Like the neocons who wrecked American foreign policy, they may be poised to follow policies that are actually inimical to China’s true interests, while arguing that they are pursuing its true ones.

First, as Max pointed out, it’s troubling that Hu seemed unaware of the J-20 flight. But there may be a reason to take this story with a grain of salt. With Hu’s planned trip to the U.S. next week, it could be possible that either Chinese or U.S. officials would want to give the impression that the president wasn’t aware of the test. The timing of the demonstration was obviously a snub to Gates, and by claiming ignorance, Chinese officials might be trying to side-step an unpleasant confrontation.

Second, it’s pointless to try to affix to the military of the Chinese authoritarian regime a label that originated out of the complex politics of the United States. Simply being “hawkish” doesn’t make someone a neocon, as Heilbrunn appears to be suggesting. And needless to say, the Chinese military isn’t even interested in promoting democratic values in its own country, much less abroad.

It’s often said that some people have such a hysterical obsession with the dreaded “neocons” that they probably search for them under their beds before going to sleep at night. And after reading Jacob Heilbrunn’s ominously titled column “Are China’s Neocons Taking Power?” it sounds like he’s probably the type to keep a flashlight handy on his nightstand:

So China flew its experimental J-20 stealth fighter jet while Defense Secretary Robert Gates was visiting President Hu Jintao? It would be hard to think of a more calculated insult–and one that America should, and will, take in stride. The Los Angeles Times reports that China’s military didn’t even bother to inform the civilian leadership. Gates knew about the test. Hu didn’t.

What does that tell you?

The real snub wasn’t directed at Gates but at Hu and his associates. Could it be that the real China threat is a military going rogue? It’s clear that China’s military is balking at pretty much everything the Obama administration wants. It doesn’t want to rein in North Korea. It doesn’t want strategic talks with America.

Heilbrunn goes on to equate the belligerent segments of China’s military with American neoconservatives:

And for now, it looks as though China’s neocons have the upper hand. Like the neocons who wrecked American foreign policy, they may be poised to follow policies that are actually inimical to China’s true interests, while arguing that they are pursuing its true ones.

First, as Max pointed out, it’s troubling that Hu seemed unaware of the J-20 flight. But there may be a reason to take this story with a grain of salt. With Hu’s planned trip to the U.S. next week, it could be possible that either Chinese or U.S. officials would want to give the impression that the president wasn’t aware of the test. The timing of the demonstration was obviously a snub to Gates, and by claiming ignorance, Chinese officials might be trying to side-step an unpleasant confrontation.

Second, it’s pointless to try to affix to the military of the Chinese authoritarian regime a label that originated out of the complex politics of the United States. Simply being “hawkish” doesn’t make someone a neocon, as Heilbrunn appears to be suggesting. And needless to say, the Chinese military isn’t even interested in promoting democratic values in its own country, much less abroad.

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In-Country Analysis vs. Mud-Slinging Critics

I have just returned from 10 days traveling around Afghanistan — along with retired Army Colonel Pete Mansoor and former Army Ranger Andrew Exum — at the invitation of General David Petraeus. Upon our return, all of us have published articles laying out our findings. Pete and I, for example, wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times laying out the progress that our troops have made as well as the challenges still posed by bad governance and Pakistan sanctuaries. Rather than engage in a respectful discussion of our analysis, some overly excitable critics of the war effort have chosen to impugn our fact-gathering methods, suggesting that we have somehow been duped by the wily Petraeus into thinking that the war is going better than it actually is.

There is always a danger of drawing incorrect conclusions based on a 10-day visit — but that danger is even greater if, like many who opine on Afghanistan or Iraq, you never visit the country at all. (Or, like so many congressional delegations, spend only 24 or 48 hours in-country.)

The record will show that I have hardly been an unalloyed cheerleader for military efforts in either country — but nor did I ever conclude, as did so many others, that the situation was hopeless. In the case of Iraq, I may have been overly optimistic in my early assessments, as many were; but by 2006, I was writing that we were losing the war, much to the consternation of some conservatives — and I said so face to face with President Bush in the Oval Office in September 2006 (which didn’t make him happy). In 2007, I saw a turnaround and wrote that we were starting to win at a time when the conventional wisdom was that there was no way we could win. I think my trips to Iraq and Afghanistan have been invaluable in helping me to assess the situation, even if (like everyone else) I don’t always get it right.

I approach all such trips with great intellectual humility and do not claim to have greater expertise than I actually have. I just report what I see, and try to put it in the context of my close, ongoing study of the war effort and of previous wars. I would not by any stretch claim that 10 days in-country tells me everything I need to know; I always leave humbled by the limits of my understanding.

But on the other hand, I also get a better overview of conditions than many soldiers/civilians who spend longer periods of time in-country because they tend to stay in one small area, thus developing deep knowledge of that area but remaining aware of what is happening elsewhere. (Some soldiers — known as “Fobbits” — never leave their Forward Operating Bases at all.) Also, those who are actually deployed don’t generally keep personal tabs on what is happening after they leave — unless/until they prepare for another deployment — whereas the advantage that think tankers have is that we can keep traveling fairly regularly to examine progress or lack thereof. Read More

I have just returned from 10 days traveling around Afghanistan — along with retired Army Colonel Pete Mansoor and former Army Ranger Andrew Exum — at the invitation of General David Petraeus. Upon our return, all of us have published articles laying out our findings. Pete and I, for example, wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times laying out the progress that our troops have made as well as the challenges still posed by bad governance and Pakistan sanctuaries. Rather than engage in a respectful discussion of our analysis, some overly excitable critics of the war effort have chosen to impugn our fact-gathering methods, suggesting that we have somehow been duped by the wily Petraeus into thinking that the war is going better than it actually is.

There is always a danger of drawing incorrect conclusions based on a 10-day visit — but that danger is even greater if, like many who opine on Afghanistan or Iraq, you never visit the country at all. (Or, like so many congressional delegations, spend only 24 or 48 hours in-country.)

The record will show that I have hardly been an unalloyed cheerleader for military efforts in either country — but nor did I ever conclude, as did so many others, that the situation was hopeless. In the case of Iraq, I may have been overly optimistic in my early assessments, as many were; but by 2006, I was writing that we were losing the war, much to the consternation of some conservatives — and I said so face to face with President Bush in the Oval Office in September 2006 (which didn’t make him happy). In 2007, I saw a turnaround and wrote that we were starting to win at a time when the conventional wisdom was that there was no way we could win. I think my trips to Iraq and Afghanistan have been invaluable in helping me to assess the situation, even if (like everyone else) I don’t always get it right.

I approach all such trips with great intellectual humility and do not claim to have greater expertise than I actually have. I just report what I see, and try to put it in the context of my close, ongoing study of the war effort and of previous wars. I would not by any stretch claim that 10 days in-country tells me everything I need to know; I always leave humbled by the limits of my understanding.

But on the other hand, I also get a better overview of conditions than many soldiers/civilians who spend longer periods of time in-country because they tend to stay in one small area, thus developing deep knowledge of that area but remaining aware of what is happening elsewhere. (Some soldiers — known as “Fobbits” — never leave their Forward Operating Bases at all.) Also, those who are actually deployed don’t generally keep personal tabs on what is happening after they leave — unless/until they prepare for another deployment — whereas the advantage that think tankers have is that we can keep traveling fairly regularly to examine progress or lack thereof.

The notion that these are Potemkin tours designed to highlight only progress is ludicrous; in the past on a similar outing, I have been in a Humvee that was hit by a complex ambush in Mosul when it was the worst remaining area of Iraq. (Note: I am not claiming that the level of risk or discomfort I or others experience on such trips is remotely comparable to that of the average lance corporal; I always return in awe of the soldiers, Marines, and others who can endure such tough conditions and face such great risks for many months at a time — I realize how coddled we visitors are by comparison.)

To the critics of these fact-finding trips, I ask: What are they suggesting? That we would be better analysts if (like so many who write about Iraq and Afghanistan) we never visited at all? Or that there are analysts who are more deeply informed about events than we are?

I would agree that there are certainly people with deeper knowledge of the countries
in question than I possess, and I try to learn from them as much as possible. I would not dare to compare my country knowledge with theirs. But I think I can still make a useful contribution to the public debate by offering a broader view informed by my study of military history. If you want to disregard my analysis because I am not as deeply steeped in these areas as some others, be my guest. But keep in mind that even area experts are hardly infallible.

In general, I would suggest that commentators focus on the merits of the analysis provided by me, or by others, and stop slinging mud about our fact-gathering methods.

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Morning Commentary

Assange arrested in London, but extradition to Sweden “could take months,” reports the BBC. Despite the development, a WikiLeaks spokesman says the site will continue to release cables.

During nuclear talks this week, Iran showed a willingness to further discuss its program with P5+1 officials, reports the Los Angeles Times: “Though Iran’s position was a sign of progress, it was about the minimum the six powers could accept after a 14-month stalemate. Pressed by Washington, the U.N. Security Council tightened economic sanctions against Iran in June. The U.S. and European Union added their own tougher sanctions the following month. The U.S. and its allies have threatened further action if Iran does not commit to serious negotiations.”

Nineteen governments have joined a boycott of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony that will give the award to jailed Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, indicating increased pressure from Beijing. Xiaobo is currently serving an 11-year sentence for “subversion.” China’s foreign minister claimed that Nobel officials “are orchestrating an anti-China farce by themselves. …We are not changing because of interference by a few clowns and we will not change our path.”

In the December issue of COMMENTARY (behind our pay wall), Ron Radosh dissected Walter Schneir’s attempt to backtrack from his bid to exonerate Communist spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. He now does the same (with co-author Steven Usdin) for another Rosenberg apologist: “Now, so many years later, when the intellectual community largely acknowledges the Rosenbergs’ guilt—a 2008 public confession by former Soviet spy Morton Sobell, who was tried along with the Rosenbergs, made continued denial impossible—[Victor] Navasky has written what is possibly the last-ditch attempt to redeem the Rosenbergs.”

The New York Times claims that a letter from lawmakers indicates “bipartisan” support for Obama’s nuclear strategy. Reality seems to disagree.

Looks like President Obama’s counter-attack against the U.S. Chamber of Conference is paying dividends. Dozens of local chapters of the Chamber have distanced themselves from or quit their associations with the national body due to its support of Republican candidates during the 2010 midterms. “Looking ahead to the 2012 elections, if more local chambers publicly declare their independence, it could undermine the power and credibility of attacks launched from the Washington office,” reports Politico.

Obama cut a deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts for two years, but has this move alienated his liberal base? New York Times analyst Peter Baker writes: “For President Obama, this is what bipartisanship looks like in the new era: messy, combustible and painful, brought on under the threat of even more unpalatable consequences and yet still deferring the ultimate resolution for another day.”

Assange arrested in London, but extradition to Sweden “could take months,” reports the BBC. Despite the development, a WikiLeaks spokesman says the site will continue to release cables.

During nuclear talks this week, Iran showed a willingness to further discuss its program with P5+1 officials, reports the Los Angeles Times: “Though Iran’s position was a sign of progress, it was about the minimum the six powers could accept after a 14-month stalemate. Pressed by Washington, the U.N. Security Council tightened economic sanctions against Iran in June. The U.S. and European Union added their own tougher sanctions the following month. The U.S. and its allies have threatened further action if Iran does not commit to serious negotiations.”

Nineteen governments have joined a boycott of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony that will give the award to jailed Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, indicating increased pressure from Beijing. Xiaobo is currently serving an 11-year sentence for “subversion.” China’s foreign minister claimed that Nobel officials “are orchestrating an anti-China farce by themselves. …We are not changing because of interference by a few clowns and we will not change our path.”

In the December issue of COMMENTARY (behind our pay wall), Ron Radosh dissected Walter Schneir’s attempt to backtrack from his bid to exonerate Communist spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. He now does the same (with co-author Steven Usdin) for another Rosenberg apologist: “Now, so many years later, when the intellectual community largely acknowledges the Rosenbergs’ guilt—a 2008 public confession by former Soviet spy Morton Sobell, who was tried along with the Rosenbergs, made continued denial impossible—[Victor] Navasky has written what is possibly the last-ditch attempt to redeem the Rosenbergs.”

The New York Times claims that a letter from lawmakers indicates “bipartisan” support for Obama’s nuclear strategy. Reality seems to disagree.

Looks like President Obama’s counter-attack against the U.S. Chamber of Conference is paying dividends. Dozens of local chapters of the Chamber have distanced themselves from or quit their associations with the national body due to its support of Republican candidates during the 2010 midterms. “Looking ahead to the 2012 elections, if more local chambers publicly declare their independence, it could undermine the power and credibility of attacks launched from the Washington office,” reports Politico.

Obama cut a deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts for two years, but has this move alienated his liberal base? New York Times analyst Peter Baker writes: “For President Obama, this is what bipartisanship looks like in the new era: messy, combustible and painful, brought on under the threat of even more unpalatable consequences and yet still deferring the ultimate resolution for another day.”

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Who’s the Least Self-Reflective of Them All?

It is a delightful coincidence for fans of George W. Bush that his memoirs and accompanying media onslaught should come just as Obama is in full funk mode following his midterm shellacking. What is even more amusing than the return of  the Decider to the public limelight is the reaction of the media, which have greeted the book precisely as one would expect. The press continually “misunderestimated” him, and they do so again.

A case in point is the Los Angeles Times book review, which finds Bush’s tome to be an “unexpectedly engrossing memoir.” Unexpected by those who considered him a simpleton. Like so many on the left, the Times‘s reviewer, Tim Rutten, is bothered that Bush wasn’t more bothered about waterboarding terrorists to save American lives. For liberals, the decision was reprehensible, or at the very least agonizing. For Bush, it was straightforward: waterboard KSM or risk American lives. That the press can’t understand the moral imperative for the president to act as he did tells us as much about mainstream journalists as it does about Bush.

Likewise, because their caricature of Bush so colored their perceptions, the media elites are amazed to find out how respectful Bush was of opponents:

Given the contentious political use Karl Rove and other Bush aides made of abortion, readers also may be interested in the former president’s unfailingly respectful discussion of the abortion-rights advocates with whom he disagrees. …

Actually, one of the impressions that arises repeatedly in “Decision Points” is how much civility and bi-partisan cooperation matter to Bush. “The death spiral of decency during my time in office, exacerbated by the advent of 24-hour cable news and hyper-partisan political blogs, was deeply disappointing,” he writes.

Shocking to the left, I suppose. But let’s be blunt: the Bush=Hitler derangement syndrome never embittered Bush, nor did he ever imagine it was the role of the president to be the partisan in chief.

Yes, the contrast with Obama is great. Bush wasn’t “eloquent,” we were told, yet he managed to communicate with great clarity where he stood and what he stood for. Bush was “divisive,” we were instructed, yet he was respectful and exceptionally kind to aides, foes, and average Americans. Bush was “isolated” and “stubborn,” but he turned around a losing war strategy, kept his composure after the 2006 midterms, and never blamed the voters for his political misfortunes. You would think the media would now consider whether their evaluation of Bush was wrong. But no, they prefer to be “surprised” or even confounded by a book that reveals their take on Bush to be badly out of sync with the real man.

And even worse for the liberal intelligentsia, they have to concede that Obama looks remarkably bad in comparison. Howard Kurtz writes that “it felt like we were watching The Decider vs. The Agonizer.” There is the halfhearted attempt to make agonizing a virtue, but really, is Hamlet the model we want for commander in chief?

The irony is delicious. The press objects that Bush was simple-minded and not reflective. Umm, I think it’s called “projection” when one’s critique of others amounts to a spot-on self-diagnosis. The media would do well to reflect a bit more on whether their own coverage of Bush was accurate or remotely fair. But that’s not their style. They are, as Rutten would put it, “singularly unapologetic.”

It is a delightful coincidence for fans of George W. Bush that his memoirs and accompanying media onslaught should come just as Obama is in full funk mode following his midterm shellacking. What is even more amusing than the return of  the Decider to the public limelight is the reaction of the media, which have greeted the book precisely as one would expect. The press continually “misunderestimated” him, and they do so again.

A case in point is the Los Angeles Times book review, which finds Bush’s tome to be an “unexpectedly engrossing memoir.” Unexpected by those who considered him a simpleton. Like so many on the left, the Times‘s reviewer, Tim Rutten, is bothered that Bush wasn’t more bothered about waterboarding terrorists to save American lives. For liberals, the decision was reprehensible, or at the very least agonizing. For Bush, it was straightforward: waterboard KSM or risk American lives. That the press can’t understand the moral imperative for the president to act as he did tells us as much about mainstream journalists as it does about Bush.

Likewise, because their caricature of Bush so colored their perceptions, the media elites are amazed to find out how respectful Bush was of opponents:

Given the contentious political use Karl Rove and other Bush aides made of abortion, readers also may be interested in the former president’s unfailingly respectful discussion of the abortion-rights advocates with whom he disagrees. …

Actually, one of the impressions that arises repeatedly in “Decision Points” is how much civility and bi-partisan cooperation matter to Bush. “The death spiral of decency during my time in office, exacerbated by the advent of 24-hour cable news and hyper-partisan political blogs, was deeply disappointing,” he writes.

Shocking to the left, I suppose. But let’s be blunt: the Bush=Hitler derangement syndrome never embittered Bush, nor did he ever imagine it was the role of the president to be the partisan in chief.

Yes, the contrast with Obama is great. Bush wasn’t “eloquent,” we were told, yet he managed to communicate with great clarity where he stood and what he stood for. Bush was “divisive,” we were instructed, yet he was respectful and exceptionally kind to aides, foes, and average Americans. Bush was “isolated” and “stubborn,” but he turned around a losing war strategy, kept his composure after the 2006 midterms, and never blamed the voters for his political misfortunes. You would think the media would now consider whether their evaluation of Bush was wrong. But no, they prefer to be “surprised” or even confounded by a book that reveals their take on Bush to be badly out of sync with the real man.

And even worse for the liberal intelligentsia, they have to concede that Obama looks remarkably bad in comparison. Howard Kurtz writes that “it felt like we were watching The Decider vs. The Agonizer.” There is the halfhearted attempt to make agonizing a virtue, but really, is Hamlet the model we want for commander in chief?

The irony is delicious. The press objects that Bush was simple-minded and not reflective. Umm, I think it’s called “projection” when one’s critique of others amounts to a spot-on self-diagnosis. The media would do well to reflect a bit more on whether their own coverage of Bush was accurate or remotely fair. But that’s not their style. They are, as Rutten would put it, “singularly unapologetic.”

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Leave Us Alone

Andrew Malcolm, one of the few reasons to read the Los Angeles Times, has an amusing photo display of Obama’s decidedly un-Michelle eating habits. Malcolm writes:

First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been unable to convince the Smoker-in-Chief to give up that dreadful habit, now has some health suggestions for other American families and for restaurant menus across the country. The goal is to eat healthier, although that might hurt restaurant sales and cause disappointed children.

Obama, who has made combating childhood obesity and inactivity her favored causes, addressed the National Restaurant Assn. … She, of course, has her own personal chef brought in from Chicago and took full parental responsibility for guiding her daughters’ diets because parents are crucial habit-formers and role models, even in food choices.

I don’t much care if the president smokes or pigs out on fast food. In fact, I think it’s a poor idea to take away emotionally comforting habits from the man with his finger on the button. I don’t care, because these are personal choices, and he is an adult, a well-educated one with superb medical advice. What does grate on the nerves is the incessant nagging — don’t eat those fries, inflate your tires – that suggests that Americans are too dim to figure these things out for themselves. Moreover, it assumes it is the government’s job to screech at us.

And yes, it is a matter of perspective. Laura Bush was concerned with the women of Burma who are raped and murdered by a fascistic state. Michelle is growing — actually having the hired help grow — an organic garden. It’s the sort of thing that bored housewives from the Upper West Side or Beverly Hills would obsess about. It lack gravitas and perspective. But then that’s pretty much what the Obamas are all about.

Andrew Malcolm, one of the few reasons to read the Los Angeles Times, has an amusing photo display of Obama’s decidedly un-Michelle eating habits. Malcolm writes:

First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been unable to convince the Smoker-in-Chief to give up that dreadful habit, now has some health suggestions for other American families and for restaurant menus across the country. The goal is to eat healthier, although that might hurt restaurant sales and cause disappointed children.

Obama, who has made combating childhood obesity and inactivity her favored causes, addressed the National Restaurant Assn. … She, of course, has her own personal chef brought in from Chicago and took full parental responsibility for guiding her daughters’ diets because parents are crucial habit-formers and role models, even in food choices.

I don’t much care if the president smokes or pigs out on fast food. In fact, I think it’s a poor idea to take away emotionally comforting habits from the man with his finger on the button. I don’t care, because these are personal choices, and he is an adult, a well-educated one with superb medical advice. What does grate on the nerves is the incessant nagging — don’t eat those fries, inflate your tires – that suggests that Americans are too dim to figure these things out for themselves. Moreover, it assumes it is the government’s job to screech at us.

And yes, it is a matter of perspective. Laura Bush was concerned with the women of Burma who are raped and murdered by a fascistic state. Michelle is growing — actually having the hired help grow — an organic garden. It’s the sort of thing that bored housewives from the Upper West Side or Beverly Hills would obsess about. It lack gravitas and perspective. But then that’s pretty much what the Obamas are all about.

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George W. Bush Sighting

George W. Bush visited troops in the Dallas airport yesterday, a rare appearance from the former president, who has had a lot in common with Boo Radley lately. Bush’s enthusiastic reception online is fascinating.

USO Dallas/Fort Worth posted photos from the event. Facebook users immediately began commenting, nearly unanimous in their praise for the former president.

You could argue that USO Dallas/Forth Worth Facebook visitors are overwhelmingly pro-military and, therefore, are not representative of the public’s sentiment. But also, look at the comments from the Los Angeles Times article, and you’ll see the same trend emerging.

This is a testament to a fickle public — but also a citizenry willing to amend its mistakes.

George W. Bush visited troops in the Dallas airport yesterday, a rare appearance from the former president, who has had a lot in common with Boo Radley lately. Bush’s enthusiastic reception online is fascinating.

USO Dallas/Fort Worth posted photos from the event. Facebook users immediately began commenting, nearly unanimous in their praise for the former president.

You could argue that USO Dallas/Forth Worth Facebook visitors are overwhelmingly pro-military and, therefore, are not representative of the public’s sentiment. But also, look at the comments from the Los Angeles Times article, and you’ll see the same trend emerging.

This is a testament to a fickle public — but also a citizenry willing to amend its mistakes.

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Embrace of Hamas’s Goal of Breaking the Blockade Dooms Peace Efforts

The hypocritical condemnations raining down on Israel from foreign critics in the wake of the Gaza flotilla incident from those who oppose the very existence of a Jewish state within any borders have a certain logic, even if it is a perverse logic. For Greta Berlin, the founder of the so-called Free Gaza Movement, the effort to break Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled region isn’t really humanitarian; it’s political. As she told the New York Times in its story today about the effort to bring aid to the Islamist regime in the strip, she shares Hamas’s goal of eliminating the Jewish state, which in her mind seems to justify any effort to bring succor to its foes.

Her reasoning is repulsive to anyone who believes her goal of reversing the verdict of Israel’s War of Independence is inadmissible. But her opposition to the blockade of Gaza makes more sense than the caterwauling coming from American and Israeli leftists who are berating the Netanyahu government for its willingness to enforce the sanctions that were imposed on the region after Hamas seized power there in a bloody coup in 2007.

Yet for the J Street crowd and writer Peter Beinart, who has assumed the pose of a “more in sorrow than in anger” liberal Zionist critic of Israel, as well as Israeli leftists such as novelist David Grossman and academic Fania Oz-Salzberger, who have joined in the piling on against Israel in the last three days, their belief that the blockade of Hamas in Gaza must be lifted isn’t merely wrong-headed; it is utterly antithetical to their proclaimed goal of a two-state solution in which Israelis and Arabs will share the land in peace.

For Beinart, who sounded his now familiar if tired rant about American Jews being responsible for Israeli beastliness in a piece in the Daily Beast, the “corrupt” embargo is yet another obstacle to peace that if removed might help bring an era of sunshine and light to the region. His blithe dismissal of the verdict of Israeli democracy in which leftists were soundly defeated because of the Palestinians’ consistent refusal to make peace is matched only by his arrogant ignorance of the nature of Palestinian nationalism and politics, which deems recognition of a Jewish state within any borders as beyond the pale.

His denunciation of Netanyahu was matched by Grossman in the Los Angeles Times, who wrote that Israel’s blockade was a sign of the country’s decline. Oz-Salzberger, who proclaimed herself an “Israeli patriot” — no doubt to pre-empt the criticisms of her compatriots who may consider denouncing your own country’s efforts at self-defense in foreign venues to be in questionable taste — deemed the flotilla incident a “sin” and a source of “shame.”

But the problem with these pieces is that if Israel did as they wished, it would effectively doom any chance for peace with the Palestinians. Lifting the blockade and allowing the free flow of goods into the area — which will open the floodgates for not only food and medicine, which are already in plentiful supply in Gaza, but also for Iranian arms and “construction materials” that will strengthen Hamas’s fortifications — would be the final step toward establishing the sovereignty of the Hamas regime in Gaza. After all, the blockade was established by Israel and Egypt with the support of the West, not as an act of “collective punishment,” as the left claims, but rather in a targeted effort to bring down an illegal and violent radical Islamist terror regime that had seized a foothold on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean.

Granting Hamas such a victory is a blow to Israel, but despite all the crocodile tears being shed for the admittedly miserable lives being led by the Gazans, who suffer under the rule of this terror group, it is a worse blow to the Palestinians. The end of the blockade will strengthen Hamas’s grip on Gaza and make it all the more likely that they will eventually be able to extend it to the West Bank. If international pressure forces Israel to lift the blockade — which never stopped the flow of food or medicine to Gaza despite the false claims that there is a humanitarian crisis there — the biggest loser will be Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, not Benjamin Netanyahu. Actions that lead to Hamas’s winning the struggle for the Palestinian leadership mean that the already dismal chances for peace will be reduced to zero. Such a turn of events will make a two-state solution, even one in which Israel would be forced to surrender every inch of land it won in 1967, utterly impossible.

The temptation to bash Israel’s government and call for an end to the blockade may be irresistible to Jewish leftists, who can always be depended on to see the country’s efforts at self-defense in the worst possible light. Blinded by hatred for Netanyahu, they fail to see that giving Hamas such a victory means an end to the peace process they claim to support.

The hypocritical condemnations raining down on Israel from foreign critics in the wake of the Gaza flotilla incident from those who oppose the very existence of a Jewish state within any borders have a certain logic, even if it is a perverse logic. For Greta Berlin, the founder of the so-called Free Gaza Movement, the effort to break Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled region isn’t really humanitarian; it’s political. As she told the New York Times in its story today about the effort to bring aid to the Islamist regime in the strip, she shares Hamas’s goal of eliminating the Jewish state, which in her mind seems to justify any effort to bring succor to its foes.

Her reasoning is repulsive to anyone who believes her goal of reversing the verdict of Israel’s War of Independence is inadmissible. But her opposition to the blockade of Gaza makes more sense than the caterwauling coming from American and Israeli leftists who are berating the Netanyahu government for its willingness to enforce the sanctions that were imposed on the region after Hamas seized power there in a bloody coup in 2007.

Yet for the J Street crowd and writer Peter Beinart, who has assumed the pose of a “more in sorrow than in anger” liberal Zionist critic of Israel, as well as Israeli leftists such as novelist David Grossman and academic Fania Oz-Salzberger, who have joined in the piling on against Israel in the last three days, their belief that the blockade of Hamas in Gaza must be lifted isn’t merely wrong-headed; it is utterly antithetical to their proclaimed goal of a two-state solution in which Israelis and Arabs will share the land in peace.

For Beinart, who sounded his now familiar if tired rant about American Jews being responsible for Israeli beastliness in a piece in the Daily Beast, the “corrupt” embargo is yet another obstacle to peace that if removed might help bring an era of sunshine and light to the region. His blithe dismissal of the verdict of Israeli democracy in which leftists were soundly defeated because of the Palestinians’ consistent refusal to make peace is matched only by his arrogant ignorance of the nature of Palestinian nationalism and politics, which deems recognition of a Jewish state within any borders as beyond the pale.

His denunciation of Netanyahu was matched by Grossman in the Los Angeles Times, who wrote that Israel’s blockade was a sign of the country’s decline. Oz-Salzberger, who proclaimed herself an “Israeli patriot” — no doubt to pre-empt the criticisms of her compatriots who may consider denouncing your own country’s efforts at self-defense in foreign venues to be in questionable taste — deemed the flotilla incident a “sin” and a source of “shame.”

But the problem with these pieces is that if Israel did as they wished, it would effectively doom any chance for peace with the Palestinians. Lifting the blockade and allowing the free flow of goods into the area — which will open the floodgates for not only food and medicine, which are already in plentiful supply in Gaza, but also for Iranian arms and “construction materials” that will strengthen Hamas’s fortifications — would be the final step toward establishing the sovereignty of the Hamas regime in Gaza. After all, the blockade was established by Israel and Egypt with the support of the West, not as an act of “collective punishment,” as the left claims, but rather in a targeted effort to bring down an illegal and violent radical Islamist terror regime that had seized a foothold on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean.

Granting Hamas such a victory is a blow to Israel, but despite all the crocodile tears being shed for the admittedly miserable lives being led by the Gazans, who suffer under the rule of this terror group, it is a worse blow to the Palestinians. The end of the blockade will strengthen Hamas’s grip on Gaza and make it all the more likely that they will eventually be able to extend it to the West Bank. If international pressure forces Israel to lift the blockade — which never stopped the flow of food or medicine to Gaza despite the false claims that there is a humanitarian crisis there — the biggest loser will be Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, not Benjamin Netanyahu. Actions that lead to Hamas’s winning the struggle for the Palestinian leadership mean that the already dismal chances for peace will be reduced to zero. Such a turn of events will make a two-state solution, even one in which Israel would be forced to surrender every inch of land it won in 1967, utterly impossible.

The temptation to bash Israel’s government and call for an end to the blockade may be irresistible to Jewish leftists, who can always be depended on to see the country’s efforts at self-defense in the worst possible light. Blinded by hatred for Netanyahu, they fail to see that giving Hamas such a victory means an end to the peace process they claim to support.

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RE: Did Chuck DeVore Exaggerate His Military Service?

Both DeVore and his press aide contacted me, quite exercised about my post regarding his military service. I imagine the Los Angeles Times is getting the same treatment. DeVore e-mails:

I actually have the micro-cassette recording of Lebanon. You can hear multiple bursts of automatic weapons fire with the Israeli officer finally saying “OK, we are done” and then ordering the  press off the hill. Zelnick stayed to complete his report, BTW, much to the discomfort of his cameraman.

But the issue of proximity, of course, is what is in question.

His press aide complains: “But it’s a he-said, she-said exercise — not even close to ‘Hillary Clinton’s Bosnian gun fire fantasy.’ It’s a shame you’d participate in tearing down the only pro-Israel candidate in this race or [in] either party.”

First, Clinton chose to confess her erroneous recollection, or that too would have been a she-said, they-said incident. Second, a candidate’s pro- or anti-Israel leanings are irrelevant to an issue of character. I frankly don’t care whether Richard Blumenthal is the next John Bolton; he’s unfit to serve. Third, Carly Fiorina is solidly pro-Israel and has repeatedly criticized Obama’s Israel policy and his approach to Iran. She is warmly received and embraced by California Jewish Republicans. Readers will assess just how credible the DeVore team is.

On the radio appearance, his aide says that he introduced himself as a reservist. Yes, but the statement was about his present status. In the debate, he also says things like: “Well, as I mentioned before, I am the sole candidate on either side of the aisle with military experience. I’m a lieutenant colonel of military intelligence within the U.S. army.” Hmm. Wouldn’t the average person think he meant “regular Army” in that capacity? And in a response to a question on Mirandizing terrorists, DeVore says: “Well, this is a very critical question. I am looking at my U.S. Army Military I.D. card and at the bottom it says Geneva Conventions I.D. Card. On the back it indicates that I am Geneva Conventions Category Four. Which is a field grade officer out of anything that means that if I am captured by Geneva Conventions signatory, I can’t be forced to do physical work and of course Enlisted people will laugh at that. The point though is that I am the only candidate out of both my Republican opponents and Barbara Boxer whose actually studied the law of war and knows the Geneva Convention because we have to study it as someone going though the Command General Staff College in the U.S. Army.” I think the average listener would conclude this is evidence of service in the regular Army.

Well, you have the account of the candidate and of a well-respected (by liberals and conservative alike) press reporter. And there is a transcript of the debate. Voters will have to decide whether DeVore was exaggerating his service. Maybe he should hold a press conference and let the media ask all the questions they like.

Both DeVore and his press aide contacted me, quite exercised about my post regarding his military service. I imagine the Los Angeles Times is getting the same treatment. DeVore e-mails:

I actually have the micro-cassette recording of Lebanon. You can hear multiple bursts of automatic weapons fire with the Israeli officer finally saying “OK, we are done” and then ordering the  press off the hill. Zelnick stayed to complete his report, BTW, much to the discomfort of his cameraman.

But the issue of proximity, of course, is what is in question.

His press aide complains: “But it’s a he-said, she-said exercise — not even close to ‘Hillary Clinton’s Bosnian gun fire fantasy.’ It’s a shame you’d participate in tearing down the only pro-Israel candidate in this race or [in] either party.”

First, Clinton chose to confess her erroneous recollection, or that too would have been a she-said, they-said incident. Second, a candidate’s pro- or anti-Israel leanings are irrelevant to an issue of character. I frankly don’t care whether Richard Blumenthal is the next John Bolton; he’s unfit to serve. Third, Carly Fiorina is solidly pro-Israel and has repeatedly criticized Obama’s Israel policy and his approach to Iran. She is warmly received and embraced by California Jewish Republicans. Readers will assess just how credible the DeVore team is.

On the radio appearance, his aide says that he introduced himself as a reservist. Yes, but the statement was about his present status. In the debate, he also says things like: “Well, as I mentioned before, I am the sole candidate on either side of the aisle with military experience. I’m a lieutenant colonel of military intelligence within the U.S. army.” Hmm. Wouldn’t the average person think he meant “regular Army” in that capacity? And in a response to a question on Mirandizing terrorists, DeVore says: “Well, this is a very critical question. I am looking at my U.S. Army Military I.D. card and at the bottom it says Geneva Conventions I.D. Card. On the back it indicates that I am Geneva Conventions Category Four. Which is a field grade officer out of anything that means that if I am captured by Geneva Conventions signatory, I can’t be forced to do physical work and of course Enlisted people will laugh at that. The point though is that I am the only candidate out of both my Republican opponents and Barbara Boxer whose actually studied the law of war and knows the Geneva Convention because we have to study it as someone going though the Command General Staff College in the U.S. Army.” I think the average listener would conclude this is evidence of service in the regular Army.

Well, you have the account of the candidate and of a well-respected (by liberals and conservative alike) press reporter. And there is a transcript of the debate. Voters will have to decide whether DeVore was exaggerating his service. Maybe he should hold a press conference and let the media ask all the questions they like.

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RE: Obama’s Immigration Gambit Unmasked

More evidence surfaces each day that the immigration push by Obama is a feint designed for political posturing but not intended to produce actual legislation. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff and longtime party strategist, has argued privately that it’s a bad time for Democrats to push an immigration bill, a potential land mine in the midst of a crucial midterm election year. … He has warned that pressing ahead with an immigration bill could jeopardize the chances of moderate and conservative Democratic candidates in the run-up to the midterms, according to people familiar with the matter.

Immigration activists know all this. They are also aware that as a recruiter for Democratic congressional candidates and while in the Clinton administration, Emanuel was a naysayer on immigration reform. They want him off the issue (but he’s chief of staff, fellas) and grouse that nothing is going to happen on the immigration front so long as he is around. But is it fair to lay the blame solely on Emanuel? Neither the Congress nor the president is moving with alacrity:

With time running out, the chances of an immigration overhaul this year are receding. No bill has yet been introduced in the Senate. Come June, the Senate will be enmeshed in the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.

Certainly, Obama has shown he is in no rush. At a Mexican heritage event earlier this month, Obama said he wanted to “begin work” on the issue this year — not complete a bill in that time frame. Yet, as a candidate in 2008, Obama promised to address immigration in his first year in office.

It seems then that Emanuel is not the stumbling block here — it’s the Democratic congressional leadership and Obama. They never intended to move forward on a bill; the grand speeches and noble-sounding promises were, like so much of what Obama does, entirely disingenuous. They all want an issue, not a solution.

You can see why state officials get fed up and resort to their own immigration legislation. Obama and the Democrats could make a real effort to pass a comprehensive bill that would, among other things, explicitly preempt the Arizona bill they like to rail against. But they won’t, because that would imperil their House and Senate members — well, imperil them more than they already are. It will be interesting to see how Obama explains in 2012 why he did absolutely nothing on an issue he supposedly cares so dearly about.

More evidence surfaces each day that the immigration push by Obama is a feint designed for political posturing but not intended to produce actual legislation. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff and longtime party strategist, has argued privately that it’s a bad time for Democrats to push an immigration bill, a potential land mine in the midst of a crucial midterm election year. … He has warned that pressing ahead with an immigration bill could jeopardize the chances of moderate and conservative Democratic candidates in the run-up to the midterms, according to people familiar with the matter.

Immigration activists know all this. They are also aware that as a recruiter for Democratic congressional candidates and while in the Clinton administration, Emanuel was a naysayer on immigration reform. They want him off the issue (but he’s chief of staff, fellas) and grouse that nothing is going to happen on the immigration front so long as he is around. But is it fair to lay the blame solely on Emanuel? Neither the Congress nor the president is moving with alacrity:

With time running out, the chances of an immigration overhaul this year are receding. No bill has yet been introduced in the Senate. Come June, the Senate will be enmeshed in the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.

Certainly, Obama has shown he is in no rush. At a Mexican heritage event earlier this month, Obama said he wanted to “begin work” on the issue this year — not complete a bill in that time frame. Yet, as a candidate in 2008, Obama promised to address immigration in his first year in office.

It seems then that Emanuel is not the stumbling block here — it’s the Democratic congressional leadership and Obama. They never intended to move forward on a bill; the grand speeches and noble-sounding promises were, like so much of what Obama does, entirely disingenuous. They all want an issue, not a solution.

You can see why state officials get fed up and resort to their own immigration legislation. Obama and the Democrats could make a real effort to pass a comprehensive bill that would, among other things, explicitly preempt the Arizona bill they like to rail against. But they won’t, because that would imperil their House and Senate members — well, imperil them more than they already are. It will be interesting to see how Obama explains in 2012 why he did absolutely nothing on an issue he supposedly cares so dearly about.

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Did Chuck DeVore Exaggerate His Military Service?

I think we’re going to see a flurry of stories on what politicians said about their military service. Howard Dean says the New York Times story on Richard Blumenthal was a “hatchet” job, but if a candidate’s lies about his military service aren’t fair game, I don’t know what is.

The Los Angeles Times has a biographical story on Chuck DeVore, currently running third in the California Senate race. This is not in the league of Richard Blumenthal; it’s more Hillary Clinton–style puffery:

Throughout the campaign, DeVore has emphasized his service as a military officer and a young Reagan White House appointee at the Pentagon as experiences that helped make him the most qualified candidate. But at times he appears to have overstated those accomplishments, particularly his experience under fire and his role in the development of a U.S.-Israeli anti-ballistic-missile defense program.

What does the Times have? In a radio debate, he said he was the only candidate who’d served in the military: “I’m a lieutenant colonel of military intelligence within the U.S. Army,” he said. The Times acknowledges that his campaign literature refers to him as a “lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army retired reserves.” And DeVore argues that it is technically correct to say he is “in the Army” since the reserves are part of the Army. OK, I sort of buy that — but he certainly must have known that the listening audience would have thought he meant the regular Army. This is dicier:

He spoke during the debate of being “shot at in Lebanon” but did not make clear that the shooting occurred in the 1980s while DeVore was a college student studying Arabic and other subjects in the Middle East. Nor did he note that while the shooting was in his vicinity, there was no indication he was a target or was in actual danger.

Now we’re into the territory of Hillary Clinton’s Bosnian gunfire fantasy. The Times tracks down former ABC News correspondent Bob Zelnick (not a partisan liberal by any means) to debunk DeVore’s story.

This is not as damning as Blumenthal’s repeated and direct lies, but it doesn’t help his cause. DeVore is a solid conservative with a firm pro-Israel position who hasn’t gotten much traction in the race. He shouldn’t have puffed up his military background to try to distinguish himself. Conservatives often surge late in Republican primaries, but this may well hold down his level of support among conservatives who have spent the better part of a week pointing out that there are few things lower than misleading voters about your military record.

I think we’re going to see a flurry of stories on what politicians said about their military service. Howard Dean says the New York Times story on Richard Blumenthal was a “hatchet” job, but if a candidate’s lies about his military service aren’t fair game, I don’t know what is.

The Los Angeles Times has a biographical story on Chuck DeVore, currently running third in the California Senate race. This is not in the league of Richard Blumenthal; it’s more Hillary Clinton–style puffery:

Throughout the campaign, DeVore has emphasized his service as a military officer and a young Reagan White House appointee at the Pentagon as experiences that helped make him the most qualified candidate. But at times he appears to have overstated those accomplishments, particularly his experience under fire and his role in the development of a U.S.-Israeli anti-ballistic-missile defense program.

What does the Times have? In a radio debate, he said he was the only candidate who’d served in the military: “I’m a lieutenant colonel of military intelligence within the U.S. Army,” he said. The Times acknowledges that his campaign literature refers to him as a “lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army retired reserves.” And DeVore argues that it is technically correct to say he is “in the Army” since the reserves are part of the Army. OK, I sort of buy that — but he certainly must have known that the listening audience would have thought he meant the regular Army. This is dicier:

He spoke during the debate of being “shot at in Lebanon” but did not make clear that the shooting occurred in the 1980s while DeVore was a college student studying Arabic and other subjects in the Middle East. Nor did he note that while the shooting was in his vicinity, there was no indication he was a target or was in actual danger.

Now we’re into the territory of Hillary Clinton’s Bosnian gunfire fantasy. The Times tracks down former ABC News correspondent Bob Zelnick (not a partisan liberal by any means) to debunk DeVore’s story.

This is not as damning as Blumenthal’s repeated and direct lies, but it doesn’t help his cause. DeVore is a solid conservative with a firm pro-Israel position who hasn’t gotten much traction in the race. He shouldn’t have puffed up his military background to try to distinguish himself. Conservatives often surge late in Republican primaries, but this may well hold down his level of support among conservatives who have spent the better part of a week pointing out that there are few things lower than misleading voters about your military record.

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We’re Not to Blame for Pakistani Terrorists

No doubt we will soon be hearing, if we aren’t already, that CIA drone strikes in Pakistan are responsible for the aborted Times Square bombing, which is linked to the Pakistani Taliban. If only we weren’t targeting the terrorists, some will argue, they wouldn’t target us.

This Los Angeles Times article provides good insight into how the operations have been ramped up under the Obama administration, which has given the CIA authority to eliminate suspected terrorists even if their names were not entered into a vetted list:

The new rules have transformed the program from a narrow effort aimed at killing top Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders into a large-scale campaign of airstrikes in which few militants are off-limits, as long as they are deemed to pose a threat to the U.S., the officials said.

Instead of just a few dozen attacks per year, CIA-operated unmanned aircraft now carry out multiple missile strikes each week against safe houses, training camps and other hiding places used by militants in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. … Of more than 500 people who U.S. officials say have been killed since the pace of strikes intensified, the vast majority have been individuals whose names were unknown, or about whom the agency had only fragmentary information. ‬

Has this enraged the Pakistani Taliban? No doubt. But it has also hurt them — as similar attacks have hurt other extremist groups. It is fanciful to imagine that we could ever do anything to appease such fanatical groups. The very fact that we support moderate governments in Islamabad and Kabul is enough to earn us their undying enmity. Curtailing the drone strikes won’t earn their gratitude; it would simply signal to them that we can be intimidated. The best response to the Times Square attempted attack is to keep sending our robotic aircraft after the bad guys. This is by far the most effective program we have to address the terrorist threat inside Pakistan.

No doubt we will soon be hearing, if we aren’t already, that CIA drone strikes in Pakistan are responsible for the aborted Times Square bombing, which is linked to the Pakistani Taliban. If only we weren’t targeting the terrorists, some will argue, they wouldn’t target us.

This Los Angeles Times article provides good insight into how the operations have been ramped up under the Obama administration, which has given the CIA authority to eliminate suspected terrorists even if their names were not entered into a vetted list:

The new rules have transformed the program from a narrow effort aimed at killing top Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders into a large-scale campaign of airstrikes in which few militants are off-limits, as long as they are deemed to pose a threat to the U.S., the officials said.

Instead of just a few dozen attacks per year, CIA-operated unmanned aircraft now carry out multiple missile strikes each week against safe houses, training camps and other hiding places used by militants in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. … Of more than 500 people who U.S. officials say have been killed since the pace of strikes intensified, the vast majority have been individuals whose names were unknown, or about whom the agency had only fragmentary information. ‬

Has this enraged the Pakistani Taliban? No doubt. But it has also hurt them — as similar attacks have hurt other extremist groups. It is fanciful to imagine that we could ever do anything to appease such fanatical groups. The very fact that we support moderate governments in Islamabad and Kabul is enough to earn us their undying enmity. Curtailing the drone strikes won’t earn their gratitude; it would simply signal to them that we can be intimidated. The best response to the Times Square attempted attack is to keep sending our robotic aircraft after the bad guys. This is by far the most effective program we have to address the terrorist threat inside Pakistan.

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Reversing Course on Karzai

The Obami are not ones to confess to errors in their foreign policy endeavors. When things go awry, then tend to slink away quietly (as in Honduras, when they could no longer back the raving stooge of Hugo Chavez), stall for time (on Iran engagement), or double down (on its Israel bullying). But they have entirely and rather obviously reversed course with regard to Hamid Karzai. The Wall Street Journal editors observe:

What term best describes a policy of subjecting a foreign ally to a long stream of invidious leaks and public rebukes—and then taking it all back?

Answer: “Smart diplomacy.”

We refer, of course, to the treatment meted by the Obama Administration over the past year to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Mr. Obama finally reversed course last week with a letter to Mr. Karzai “expressing support for their shared partnership” and inviting him to the White House, according to the Los Angeles Times.

That really is smart, even if it comes a couple of insults too late.

Well it’s late and comes after denting the essential relationship we must maintain in order to mount a successful counterinsurgency effort in a critical battlefield in the war against Islamic terrorists. And the Obama team has, again, proven the U.S. to be a problematic ally. Moreover, it has — yet again — seemingly allowed personal pique to control a key relationship, with no thought to where the tit-for-tat would lead. So it must now reverse course and try to repair the damage.

It’s startling, on one level, to see how ill-conceived and short-sighted this gang can be in handling key relationships. On the other hand, there is a point at which even they perceive when they have run into a dead end, with no advantage to be gained by aggravating an essential ally. Might this lesson be transferable to other settings — to the Israeli-U.S. relationship, for example? Well, we can hope.

 

The Obami are not ones to confess to errors in their foreign policy endeavors. When things go awry, then tend to slink away quietly (as in Honduras, when they could no longer back the raving stooge of Hugo Chavez), stall for time (on Iran engagement), or double down (on its Israel bullying). But they have entirely and rather obviously reversed course with regard to Hamid Karzai. The Wall Street Journal editors observe:

What term best describes a policy of subjecting a foreign ally to a long stream of invidious leaks and public rebukes—and then taking it all back?

Answer: “Smart diplomacy.”

We refer, of course, to the treatment meted by the Obama Administration over the past year to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Mr. Obama finally reversed course last week with a letter to Mr. Karzai “expressing support for their shared partnership” and inviting him to the White House, according to the Los Angeles Times.

That really is smart, even if it comes a couple of insults too late.

Well it’s late and comes after denting the essential relationship we must maintain in order to mount a successful counterinsurgency effort in a critical battlefield in the war against Islamic terrorists. And the Obama team has, again, proven the U.S. to be a problematic ally. Moreover, it has — yet again — seemingly allowed personal pique to control a key relationship, with no thought to where the tit-for-tat would lead. So it must now reverse course and try to repair the damage.

It’s startling, on one level, to see how ill-conceived and short-sighted this gang can be in handling key relationships. On the other hand, there is a point at which even they perceive when they have run into a dead end, with no advantage to be gained by aggravating an essential ally. Might this lesson be transferable to other settings — to the Israeli-U.S. relationship, for example? Well, we can hope.

 

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Obama’s Hopes for Israeli ‘Regime Change’ Will Backfire

Veteran peace processor Aaron David Miller gets it half right in today’s Los Angeles Times when he dissects the apparent desire of the Obama administration to drive Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from office.

Miller, a functionary who helped carry out the State Department’s failed Middle East policy during the administrations of both the first president Bush and Clinton, is correct when he points out that American attempts to treat Israel as a banana republic don’t always work out as Washington intends. While the elder George Bush may have successfully undermined Yitzhak Shamir’s re-election in 1992, Bill Clinton’s all-out effort to help Shimon Peres beat Netanyahu in 1996 was a failure that helped sour relations between the two countries. For all of the fact that the United States is Israel’s only ally, not surprisingly Israelis don’t enjoy being dictated to, especially when the issues at stake are their own rights and security. Obama’s transparent attempt to overturn the outcome of an election that was held only a few weeks after his own inauguration doesn’t sit well with the Israeli public and has increased Netanyahu’s popularity. That Jerusalem is the issue over which Obama has sought to ditch Netanyahu is as wrongheaded as it is foolish. No Israeli prime minister is likely to accept Obama’s demand that Jews not be allowed to build in existing Jewish neighborhoods in their own capital.

Miller is also correct when he points out that if Obama were really interested in making progress toward Middle East peace, he’d be far better off cozying up to Netanyahu than attempting to somehow impose a left-wing government on Israel. Only right-wingers or former military leaders have the standing to persuade Israelis to take risks for peace. Obama’s notion that Israel’s opposition leader Tzipi Livni would be more susceptible to American pressure might be true. But there’s little chance that she could rally the country behind the disastrous peace plan that the administration is reportedly planning to try to impose on Israel at some point. Miller’s also right when he points out, albeit reluctantly, that Bibi has in fact been far from intransigent. He has signed several peace accords, including the Hebron agreement and the Wye Plantation deal during his first term in office, and in the last year he has formally agreed to a two-state solution and a building freeze in Jewish communities in the West Bank.

But what Miller leaves out of his piece is a basic fact about Middle East peacemaking: not even the most accommodating Israeli government can make peace if the Palestinians won’t take yes for an answer. Left-wing Israeli governments in the 1990s that gave all that Bill Clinton asked them to give to the Palestinians were still unable to persuade the Arabs to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state within any borders. Nor was the Left-leaning government in which Livni served as foreign minister just two years ago able to persuade the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority leadership to accept a Palestinian state in Gaza, virtually all of the West Bank and half of Jerusalem.

Miller wisely counsels that where Obama is headed in the Middle East will lead only to more failure: “A no-win fight over settlements, the threat of pushing its own peace plan — or worse: too-clever-by-half meddling in Israeli politics. Such an approach will only waste time and energy the United States doesn’t have, and risk failure at a time when America is trying to protect its own interests in an angry, complex and turbulent region.” But what Miller leaves out of this sage lecture is that the basic premise of Obama’s policies — that Israeli intransigence is the primary obstacle to peace — is itself the great myth of current American foreign policy that needs to be debunked.

Veteran peace processor Aaron David Miller gets it half right in today’s Los Angeles Times when he dissects the apparent desire of the Obama administration to drive Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from office.

Miller, a functionary who helped carry out the State Department’s failed Middle East policy during the administrations of both the first president Bush and Clinton, is correct when he points out that American attempts to treat Israel as a banana republic don’t always work out as Washington intends. While the elder George Bush may have successfully undermined Yitzhak Shamir’s re-election in 1992, Bill Clinton’s all-out effort to help Shimon Peres beat Netanyahu in 1996 was a failure that helped sour relations between the two countries. For all of the fact that the United States is Israel’s only ally, not surprisingly Israelis don’t enjoy being dictated to, especially when the issues at stake are their own rights and security. Obama’s transparent attempt to overturn the outcome of an election that was held only a few weeks after his own inauguration doesn’t sit well with the Israeli public and has increased Netanyahu’s popularity. That Jerusalem is the issue over which Obama has sought to ditch Netanyahu is as wrongheaded as it is foolish. No Israeli prime minister is likely to accept Obama’s demand that Jews not be allowed to build in existing Jewish neighborhoods in their own capital.

Miller is also correct when he points out that if Obama were really interested in making progress toward Middle East peace, he’d be far better off cozying up to Netanyahu than attempting to somehow impose a left-wing government on Israel. Only right-wingers or former military leaders have the standing to persuade Israelis to take risks for peace. Obama’s notion that Israel’s opposition leader Tzipi Livni would be more susceptible to American pressure might be true. But there’s little chance that she could rally the country behind the disastrous peace plan that the administration is reportedly planning to try to impose on Israel at some point. Miller’s also right when he points out, albeit reluctantly, that Bibi has in fact been far from intransigent. He has signed several peace accords, including the Hebron agreement and the Wye Plantation deal during his first term in office, and in the last year he has formally agreed to a two-state solution and a building freeze in Jewish communities in the West Bank.

But what Miller leaves out of his piece is a basic fact about Middle East peacemaking: not even the most accommodating Israeli government can make peace if the Palestinians won’t take yes for an answer. Left-wing Israeli governments in the 1990s that gave all that Bill Clinton asked them to give to the Palestinians were still unable to persuade the Arabs to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state within any borders. Nor was the Left-leaning government in which Livni served as foreign minister just two years ago able to persuade the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority leadership to accept a Palestinian state in Gaza, virtually all of the West Bank and half of Jerusalem.

Miller wisely counsels that where Obama is headed in the Middle East will lead only to more failure: “A no-win fight over settlements, the threat of pushing its own peace plan — or worse: too-clever-by-half meddling in Israeli politics. Such an approach will only waste time and energy the United States doesn’t have, and risk failure at a time when America is trying to protect its own interests in an angry, complex and turbulent region.” But what Miller leaves out of this sage lecture is that the basic premise of Obama’s policies — that Israeli intransigence is the primary obstacle to peace — is itself the great myth of current American foreign policy that needs to be debunked.

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