Commentary Magazine


Topic: Soviet Union

Unilateral Moves and Countermoves

Interviewed by BBC Arabic this weekend, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas denied reports that he would seek UN Security Council approval for unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state. Rather, he said, “We will turn to the United Nations and the Security Council to strengthen what has been agreed on in the road map and approved by the Security Council, a two-state solution based on the June 4, 1967 borders.”

That may sound innocuous. But in fact, Security Council acquiescence to this proposal would both radically alter the current international position and demolish the already faltering principle that the talks’ outcome should not be prejudiced by unilateral action.

While most of the world already believes the 1967 lines should be the final border, the formal basis for the talks remains Security Council Resolution 242, which says no such thing. This resolution purposefully required an Israeli withdrawal only from “territories” captured in 1967, not “the territories” or “all the territories.” As Lord Caradon, the British UN ambassador who drafted 242, explained, “It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial.” America’s then UN ambassador, Arthur Goldberg, similarly said the two omitted words “were not accidental …. the resolution speaks of withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal.” This was equally clear to the Soviet Union and Arab states, which is why they unsuccessfully pushed to include those extra words.

Formally, therefore, the final border is subject to negotiations: The Palestinians can seek the 1967 lines, but Israel is free to seek to retain parts of the territories. However, should the council endorse “a two-state solution based on the June 4, 1967 borders,” this would no longer be true: Instead, the world would have formally adopted the Palestinian position in a binding resolution — thereby blatantly prejudicing the outcome of the talks.

Ironically, this could force Israel to respond with accelerated unilateral action of its own: settlement construction, and perhaps even formal annexation. A major spur to continued settlement construction in recent years has been the escalating international pressure on Israel to withdraw to the 1967 lines, which led Jerusalem to conclude that its only chance of retaining areas it deems critical for its security was to put so many people there that moving them would be impossible. If this pressure switched from de facto to de jure, more aggressive Israeli countermeasures might become necessary.

In contrast, had the world really treated the border as negotiable rather than openly backed the Palestinian position, Israel could have agreed to freeze settlement construction, because creating “facts on the ground” would not have been necessary to protect its interests.

An escalating war of unilateral moves and countermoves would not be conducive to any agreement. That might not disturb Abbas, who has repeatedly demonstrated a preference for dictated rather than negotiated solutions. But it ought to disturb all those Security Council members who claim to view an Israeli-Palestinian agreement as top priority.

Interviewed by BBC Arabic this weekend, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas denied reports that he would seek UN Security Council approval for unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state. Rather, he said, “We will turn to the United Nations and the Security Council to strengthen what has been agreed on in the road map and approved by the Security Council, a two-state solution based on the June 4, 1967 borders.”

That may sound innocuous. But in fact, Security Council acquiescence to this proposal would both radically alter the current international position and demolish the already faltering principle that the talks’ outcome should not be prejudiced by unilateral action.

While most of the world already believes the 1967 lines should be the final border, the formal basis for the talks remains Security Council Resolution 242, which says no such thing. This resolution purposefully required an Israeli withdrawal only from “territories” captured in 1967, not “the territories” or “all the territories.” As Lord Caradon, the British UN ambassador who drafted 242, explained, “It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial.” America’s then UN ambassador, Arthur Goldberg, similarly said the two omitted words “were not accidental …. the resolution speaks of withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal.” This was equally clear to the Soviet Union and Arab states, which is why they unsuccessfully pushed to include those extra words.

Formally, therefore, the final border is subject to negotiations: The Palestinians can seek the 1967 lines, but Israel is free to seek to retain parts of the territories. However, should the council endorse “a two-state solution based on the June 4, 1967 borders,” this would no longer be true: Instead, the world would have formally adopted the Palestinian position in a binding resolution — thereby blatantly prejudicing the outcome of the talks.

Ironically, this could force Israel to respond with accelerated unilateral action of its own: settlement construction, and perhaps even formal annexation. A major spur to continued settlement construction in recent years has been the escalating international pressure on Israel to withdraw to the 1967 lines, which led Jerusalem to conclude that its only chance of retaining areas it deems critical for its security was to put so many people there that moving them would be impossible. If this pressure switched from de facto to de jure, more aggressive Israeli countermeasures might become necessary.

In contrast, had the world really treated the border as negotiable rather than openly backed the Palestinian position, Israel could have agreed to freeze settlement construction, because creating “facts on the ground” would not have been necessary to protect its interests.

An escalating war of unilateral moves and countermoves would not be conducive to any agreement. That might not disturb Abbas, who has repeatedly demonstrated a preference for dictated rather than negotiated solutions. But it ought to disturb all those Security Council members who claim to view an Israeli-Palestinian agreement as top priority.

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Standing by Their Man

In the New York Times, Robert Wright argues that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq served to radicalize Maj. Nidal Hasan, and that:

The Fort Hood shooting, then, is an example of Islamist terrorism being spread partly by the war on terrorism — or, actually, by two wars on terrorism, in Iraq and Afghanistan. And Fort Hood is the biggest data point we have — the most lethal Islamist terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. It’s only one piece of evidence, but it’s a salient piece, and it supports the liberal, not the conservative, war-on-terrorism paradigm.

By this reckoning, facing down the Soviet Union was a failure because it radicalized Bill Ayers. (Never mind that Hasan was connected to radical imams before the U.S. was involved in either war.)

Wright’s argument shows us the shape of liberal things to come. When the Fort Hood attack first happened, liberals jumped into the breach to declare Hasan a nut job with no religious or political motivation. Within twenty-four hours they were buried with evidence to the contrary. If jihad can’t be painted over with a medical condition, what, then, is a good Lefty to do? Blame the U.S. for jihad, of course.

We’ve come full circle. When 9/11 happened it was our fault because we supported the Mujahadeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Eight years later, Fort Hood is our fault for fighting the operational offspring of the Mujahadeen.

Wright thinks he’s been terribly clever in managing to hoist us hawks by our own petards. “When the argument is framed like this, don’t be surprised if conservatives, having insisted that we not medicalize Major Hasan’s crime by calling him crazy, start underscoring his craziness.”

No sale. Hasan is not crazy. He is an Islamist terrorist who carried out a plan. Fortunately, our efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere have killed thousands just like him.

In the New York Times, Robert Wright argues that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq served to radicalize Maj. Nidal Hasan, and that:

The Fort Hood shooting, then, is an example of Islamist terrorism being spread partly by the war on terrorism — or, actually, by two wars on terrorism, in Iraq and Afghanistan. And Fort Hood is the biggest data point we have — the most lethal Islamist terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. It’s only one piece of evidence, but it’s a salient piece, and it supports the liberal, not the conservative, war-on-terrorism paradigm.

By this reckoning, facing down the Soviet Union was a failure because it radicalized Bill Ayers. (Never mind that Hasan was connected to radical imams before the U.S. was involved in either war.)

Wright’s argument shows us the shape of liberal things to come. When the Fort Hood attack first happened, liberals jumped into the breach to declare Hasan a nut job with no religious or political motivation. Within twenty-four hours they were buried with evidence to the contrary. If jihad can’t be painted over with a medical condition, what, then, is a good Lefty to do? Blame the U.S. for jihad, of course.

We’ve come full circle. When 9/11 happened it was our fault because we supported the Mujahadeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Eight years later, Fort Hood is our fault for fighting the operational offspring of the Mujahadeen.

Wright thinks he’s been terribly clever in managing to hoist us hawks by our own petards. “When the argument is framed like this, don’t be surprised if conservatives, having insisted that we not medicalize Major Hasan’s crime by calling him crazy, start underscoring his craziness.”

No sale. Hasan is not crazy. He is an Islamist terrorist who carried out a plan. Fortunately, our efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere have killed thousands just like him.

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What Few Would Have Foreseen

President Obama’s decision to send a video of himself to Berlin on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, in which he said that “few would have foreseen [on that day in 1989] that . . . their American ally would be led by a man of African descent,” is not the first time he assigned that world-historical event a bit part in his own saga. The Wall also played a walk-on role in his election-night victory speech, included in a long litany of “Yes We Can” paragraphs (“A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination”). He mentioned it in his Berlin citizens-of-the-world speech, attributing the fall to the world standing as one.

Benjamin Kerstein has written an eloquent reminder that the fall of Communism was not the result of the world standing as one, but of the long and often despairing efforts of certain people to fight a future to which much of the world was resigned:

This anniversary, this triumph, this vindication, does not belong to all of us. It belongs to the anti-communists of all countries and all parties who fought for it, sometimes at great cost to reputation, family, friendship, sanity, and often life and limb. …

Some, like Solzhenitsyn, Natan Sharansky, and many, many others, had to face prison, expulsion, harassment, and the constant threat of death in order to make their plight known to the world. …

[The Hungarian and Czech uprisings were] ignored as the march of history supposedly passed them by … until the wall came down, and even the most dedicated apologists had to admit that the Czechs, the Hungarians, and their supporters had been the wave of the future all along.

In America, presidents of both parties pressed policies on their fellow citizens designed to keep the world standing as two. Richard Nixon brought forth “détente.” Jimmy Carter lectured us about our “inordinate fear of communism.” When Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” elite opinion considered it unforgivably rude.

“Tear down this wall” has entered the lexicon of great presidential utterances, but the president who uttered it went unmentioned this week by President Obama. Undoubtedly, as huge numbers of people rushed to freedom 20 years ago, few of them would have foreseen that Obama would become president of the United States. Even fewer would have foreseen that one day an American president would decline to join his fellow heads of state in Berlin to celebrate what happened that day.

President Obama’s decision to send a video of himself to Berlin on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, in which he said that “few would have foreseen [on that day in 1989] that . . . their American ally would be led by a man of African descent,” is not the first time he assigned that world-historical event a bit part in his own saga. The Wall also played a walk-on role in his election-night victory speech, included in a long litany of “Yes We Can” paragraphs (“A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination”). He mentioned it in his Berlin citizens-of-the-world speech, attributing the fall to the world standing as one.

Benjamin Kerstein has written an eloquent reminder that the fall of Communism was not the result of the world standing as one, but of the long and often despairing efforts of certain people to fight a future to which much of the world was resigned:

This anniversary, this triumph, this vindication, does not belong to all of us. It belongs to the anti-communists of all countries and all parties who fought for it, sometimes at great cost to reputation, family, friendship, sanity, and often life and limb. …

Some, like Solzhenitsyn, Natan Sharansky, and many, many others, had to face prison, expulsion, harassment, and the constant threat of death in order to make their plight known to the world. …

[The Hungarian and Czech uprisings were] ignored as the march of history supposedly passed them by … until the wall came down, and even the most dedicated apologists had to admit that the Czechs, the Hungarians, and their supporters had been the wave of the future all along.

In America, presidents of both parties pressed policies on their fellow citizens designed to keep the world standing as two. Richard Nixon brought forth “détente.” Jimmy Carter lectured us about our “inordinate fear of communism.” When Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” elite opinion considered it unforgivably rude.

“Tear down this wall” has entered the lexicon of great presidential utterances, but the president who uttered it went unmentioned this week by President Obama. Undoubtedly, as huge numbers of people rushed to freedom 20 years ago, few of them would have foreseen that Obama would become president of the United States. Even fewer would have foreseen that one day an American president would decline to join his fellow heads of state in Berlin to celebrate what happened that day.

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The World Inverted?

“For a while the world was flat,” writes Roger Cohen in today’s New York Times. “Now it’s upside down.” His thesis is simple: today, the developed world depends on the developing one. Those fortunate enough to live in the latter control the minerals, and now they have cash. They’re buying up American and European companies with theirs, now larger than ours. So sorry, Tom Friedman, your flat-world paradigm, once so popular, is simply out of date.

We should forgive Cohen for taking every trend today and assuming they will continue indefinitely. After all, he’s following in the footsteps of extremely distinguished company, Fareed Zakaria, for instance. The title of Zakaria’s most recent book, The Post-American World, tells you all you need to know about the direction of geopolitical thinking.

With economic might comes power. Therefore, we’ll just have to expand the G-8 to include China, India, Brazil, and others. And the Security Council? As Cohen tells us this morning, “The 21st century can’t be handled with 20th-century institutions.” Therefore, the UN’s power center will, of course, have to be enlarged to reflect our new multipolar international system. Cohen even suggests that the West will need all the charity it can get from the upstarts.

So will the next American President have to view the world while standing on his head, as Cohen suggests? When economic development has evenly spread wealth from nation to nation, it will be impossible for a country with just 4.6 percent of global population–that’s the United States, by the way–to produce 25.5 percent of the world’s economic output, as it did in 2007. Eventually, a China five times more populous than the United States will have a gross domestic product five times larger than ours-and armed forces five times more powerful. Our fate, in short, is to be swamped.

There’s only one minor clarification I wish to make. Cohen’s scenario will not happen in our lifetime. It won’t even happen this century. The homogenization of the world economy, like the Age of Aquarius, is further away than any of us can imagine.

Why? History absolutely refuses to travel in straight lines. For instance, the political conditions that created globalization–the removal of barriers to international commerce after the failure of the Soviet Union–will inevitably go back up again. Check out “progress” on the Doha Round if you want to understand why the days of free trade across the globe could be coming to an end. Moreover, the authoritarian states are banding together around Russia and China, and this is bound to cause extreme difficulties for the American-led international system. Remember that the second most optimistic period in history–a time when many thought trade and globalization would usher in a period of permanent peace–was followed by the First World War, the most destructive conflict up until that time.

Even in the absence of intercontinental warfare, the resource-rich nations of the developing world will probably falter. If there is any common reason why none of Iran, Venezuela, or Saudi Arabia will sit on the Security Council, it is because a country’s form of government is critical to national success. Each of these states is struggling to adjust to a modernizing world where the tone is generally set by the capitalist democracies. In the last few months as China’s one-party state has been rocked by one internal crisis after another, talk of “the Chinese century” has largely disappeared from international discourse.

So Cohen may look brilliant today, but let’s put all this talk about the end of Western dominance into context. Yes, it is unlikely that we will ever be as powerful in relative terms as we were in the days immediately following World War II, but we have to remember that all of the periods of American decline since then were followed by extraordinary recoveries. And if there is anything that sets America apart from the rest of the world, it is the ability to renew itself. Despite all the troubles that lie ahead, we are living in the Second American Century.

“For a while the world was flat,” writes Roger Cohen in today’s New York Times. “Now it’s upside down.” His thesis is simple: today, the developed world depends on the developing one. Those fortunate enough to live in the latter control the minerals, and now they have cash. They’re buying up American and European companies with theirs, now larger than ours. So sorry, Tom Friedman, your flat-world paradigm, once so popular, is simply out of date.

We should forgive Cohen for taking every trend today and assuming they will continue indefinitely. After all, he’s following in the footsteps of extremely distinguished company, Fareed Zakaria, for instance. The title of Zakaria’s most recent book, The Post-American World, tells you all you need to know about the direction of geopolitical thinking.

With economic might comes power. Therefore, we’ll just have to expand the G-8 to include China, India, Brazil, and others. And the Security Council? As Cohen tells us this morning, “The 21st century can’t be handled with 20th-century institutions.” Therefore, the UN’s power center will, of course, have to be enlarged to reflect our new multipolar international system. Cohen even suggests that the West will need all the charity it can get from the upstarts.

So will the next American President have to view the world while standing on his head, as Cohen suggests? When economic development has evenly spread wealth from nation to nation, it will be impossible for a country with just 4.6 percent of global population–that’s the United States, by the way–to produce 25.5 percent of the world’s economic output, as it did in 2007. Eventually, a China five times more populous than the United States will have a gross domestic product five times larger than ours-and armed forces five times more powerful. Our fate, in short, is to be swamped.

There’s only one minor clarification I wish to make. Cohen’s scenario will not happen in our lifetime. It won’t even happen this century. The homogenization of the world economy, like the Age of Aquarius, is further away than any of us can imagine.

Why? History absolutely refuses to travel in straight lines. For instance, the political conditions that created globalization–the removal of barriers to international commerce after the failure of the Soviet Union–will inevitably go back up again. Check out “progress” on the Doha Round if you want to understand why the days of free trade across the globe could be coming to an end. Moreover, the authoritarian states are banding together around Russia and China, and this is bound to cause extreme difficulties for the American-led international system. Remember that the second most optimistic period in history–a time when many thought trade and globalization would usher in a period of permanent peace–was followed by the First World War, the most destructive conflict up until that time.

Even in the absence of intercontinental warfare, the resource-rich nations of the developing world will probably falter. If there is any common reason why none of Iran, Venezuela, or Saudi Arabia will sit on the Security Council, it is because a country’s form of government is critical to national success. Each of these states is struggling to adjust to a modernizing world where the tone is generally set by the capitalist democracies. In the last few months as China’s one-party state has been rocked by one internal crisis after another, talk of “the Chinese century” has largely disappeared from international discourse.

So Cohen may look brilliant today, but let’s put all this talk about the end of Western dominance into context. Yes, it is unlikely that we will ever be as powerful in relative terms as we were in the days immediately following World War II, but we have to remember that all of the periods of American decline since then were followed by extraordinary recoveries. And if there is anything that sets America apart from the rest of the world, it is the ability to renew itself. Despite all the troubles that lie ahead, we are living in the Second American Century.

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RIP William Odom

I was saddened to read of the death of William E. Odom, one of America’s leading soldier-scholars. In recent years he has become known as an outspoken critic of Bush foreign policy and advocate of withdrawal from Iraq. I disagreed with him, and we even debated at least once on the radio. But I never lost my respect or affection for him, formulated initially when, as a graduate student at Yale in 1991-92, I took a class with him on the Russian military. He was a refreshing outpost of pro-military, anti-communist thinking on a campus where neither viewpoint was much encouraged.

Bill Odom spent much of his career as a military intelligence officer specializing in the Soviet Union including serving as a military attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. He went to Columbia to receive an MA and Ph.D. in political science. While there he worked closely with a professor named Zbigniew Brzezinski. When Brzezinski became Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser, Odom became his military assistant. He then went on to become a three-star general and director of the National Security Agency in the Reagan administration. He finally retired in 1988 to pursue a career in the twin worlds of academia and think-tankery, which is how I came to know him.

During the Cold War, Odom had a reputation as a hawk and hardliner. (So, for that matter, did Brzezinski.) In the years since then, both seemed to drift to the left, though, in fairness to Odom, I am sure he would have denied it. He often said that he had opposed the Vietnam War from the start because he thought that containing North Vietnam was in the interests of China, not the United States. He opposed the Iraq War because he thought it was equally ill-advised. Unlike so many leading analysts and politicians, he did not turn into a dove only when it became clear the war was not going well: he was against the war from the beginning, which took some guts considering that he was employed by a conservative think tank, the Hudson Institute.

Where I truly disagreed with him was not in his opposition to the war in the first place-the decision to invade Iraq was a close call and there were good arguments on both sides. I thought he went too far when he said, during the course of the war, that victory was not an option and therefore we should pull out all of our troops, notwithstanding the dire likely consequences. He even puckishly authored an article in 2005 entitled “What’s Wrong with Cutting and Running?”

Notwithstanding his dovish views on Iraq (and related subjects, such as Iran), he remained committed to a fairly expansive view of the American role in the world, as he made clear in his book, co-authored with Robert Dujarric, America’s Inadvertent Empire. He approved of the “empire” in question, even if he never had much patience with those on either the Left or the Right who would place our ideals at the center of our foreign policy.

Agree with him or not, Odom deserves to be remembered for a long and illustrious career of service-a legacy carried on by his son, Mark, an army lieutenant-colonel who was wounded in Iraq. He was particularly notable for managing to combine scholarly achievement with a successful military career-a combination that both academia and the military too often frown upon.

I was saddened to read of the death of William E. Odom, one of America’s leading soldier-scholars. In recent years he has become known as an outspoken critic of Bush foreign policy and advocate of withdrawal from Iraq. I disagreed with him, and we even debated at least once on the radio. But I never lost my respect or affection for him, formulated initially when, as a graduate student at Yale in 1991-92, I took a class with him on the Russian military. He was a refreshing outpost of pro-military, anti-communist thinking on a campus where neither viewpoint was much encouraged.

Bill Odom spent much of his career as a military intelligence officer specializing in the Soviet Union including serving as a military attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. He went to Columbia to receive an MA and Ph.D. in political science. While there he worked closely with a professor named Zbigniew Brzezinski. When Brzezinski became Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser, Odom became his military assistant. He then went on to become a three-star general and director of the National Security Agency in the Reagan administration. He finally retired in 1988 to pursue a career in the twin worlds of academia and think-tankery, which is how I came to know him.

During the Cold War, Odom had a reputation as a hawk and hardliner. (So, for that matter, did Brzezinski.) In the years since then, both seemed to drift to the left, though, in fairness to Odom, I am sure he would have denied it. He often said that he had opposed the Vietnam War from the start because he thought that containing North Vietnam was in the interests of China, not the United States. He opposed the Iraq War because he thought it was equally ill-advised. Unlike so many leading analysts and politicians, he did not turn into a dove only when it became clear the war was not going well: he was against the war from the beginning, which took some guts considering that he was employed by a conservative think tank, the Hudson Institute.

Where I truly disagreed with him was not in his opposition to the war in the first place-the decision to invade Iraq was a close call and there were good arguments on both sides. I thought he went too far when he said, during the course of the war, that victory was not an option and therefore we should pull out all of our troops, notwithstanding the dire likely consequences. He even puckishly authored an article in 2005 entitled “What’s Wrong with Cutting and Running?”

Notwithstanding his dovish views on Iraq (and related subjects, such as Iran), he remained committed to a fairly expansive view of the American role in the world, as he made clear in his book, co-authored with Robert Dujarric, America’s Inadvertent Empire. He approved of the “empire” in question, even if he never had much patience with those on either the Left or the Right who would place our ideals at the center of our foreign policy.

Agree with him or not, Odom deserves to be remembered for a long and illustrious career of service-a legacy carried on by his son, Mark, an army lieutenant-colonel who was wounded in Iraq. He was particularly notable for managing to combine scholarly achievement with a successful military career-a combination that both academia and the military too often frown upon.

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What’s The Difference Between Obama and McCain?

John McCain’s interview with Jeffrey Goldberg is an interesting counterpoint to Barack Obama’s. In McCain’s interview, you will find not a trace of moral equivalence, no infatuation with Philip Roth (whom Obama apparently imagines as the paragon of American Judaism–perhaps needing a more up to date understanding of Roth’s legacy among many American Jews), and no hesitancy to denounce Islamic jihadism.

Reading the two interviews side-by-side provides a telling contrast between two world views and two approaches to foreign affairs. McCain goes out of his way to stress the role of diplomacy at the right level and the right time, but the main differences between the two candidates are stark. These three questions and answers sum it up:

JG: What do you think motivates Iran?

JM: Hatred. I don’t try to divine people’s motives. I look at their actions and what they say. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the state of their emotions. I do know what their nation’s stated purpose is, I do know they continue in the development of nuclear weapons, and I know that they continue to support terrorists who are bent on the destruction of the state of Israel. You’ll have to ask someone who engages in this psycho stuff to talk about their emotions.

. . .

JG: Senator Obama has calibrated his views on unconditional negotiations. Do you see any circumstance in which you could negotiate with Iran, or do you believe that it’s leadership is impervious to rational dialogue?

JM: I’m amused by Senator Obama’s dramatic change since he’s gone from a candidate in the primary to a candidate in the general election. I’ve seen him do that on a number of issues that show his naivete and inexperience on national security issues. I believe that the history of the successful conduct of national security policy is that, one, you don’t sit down face-to-face with people who are behave the way they do, who are state sponsors of terrorism.

Senator Obama likes to refer to President Kennedy going to Vienna. Most historians see that as a serious mistake, which encouraged Khrushchev to build the Berlin Wall and to send missiles to Cuba. Another example is Richard Nixon going to China. I’ve forgotten how many visits Henry Kissinger made to China, and how every single word was dictated beforehand. More importantly, he went to China because China was then a counterweight to a greater threat, the Soviet Union. What is a greater threat in the Middle East than Iran today?

Senator Obama is totally lacking in experience, so therefore he makes judgments such as saying he would sit down with someone like Ahmadinejad without comprehending the impact of such a meeting. I know that his naivete and lack of experience is on display when he talks about sitting down opposite Hugo Chavez or Raul Castro or Ahmadinejad.

. . .

JG: Let’s go back to Iran. Some critics say that America conflates its problem with Iran with Israel’s problem with Iran. Iran is not threatening the extinction of America, it’s threatening the extinction of Israel. Why should America have a military option for dealing with Iran when the threat is mainly directed against Israel?

JM: The United States of America has committed itself to never allowing another Holocaust. That’s a commitment that the United States has made ever since we discovered the horrendous aspects of the Holocaust. In addition to that, I would respond by saying that I think these terrorist organizations that they sponsor, Hamas and the others, are also bent, at least long-term, on the destruction of the United States of America. That’s why I agree with General Petraeus that Iraq is a central battleground. Because these Shiite militias are sending in these special groups, as they call them, sending weapons in, to remove United States influence and to drive us out of Iraq and thereby achieve their ultimate goals. We’ve heard the rhetoric — the Great Satan, etc. It’s a nuance, their being committed to the destruction of the State of Israel, and their long-term intentions toward us.

A better explanation of the differences between the candidates will be hard to come by.

John McCain’s interview with Jeffrey Goldberg is an interesting counterpoint to Barack Obama’s. In McCain’s interview, you will find not a trace of moral equivalence, no infatuation with Philip Roth (whom Obama apparently imagines as the paragon of American Judaism–perhaps needing a more up to date understanding of Roth’s legacy among many American Jews), and no hesitancy to denounce Islamic jihadism.

Reading the two interviews side-by-side provides a telling contrast between two world views and two approaches to foreign affairs. McCain goes out of his way to stress the role of diplomacy at the right level and the right time, but the main differences between the two candidates are stark. These three questions and answers sum it up:

JG: What do you think motivates Iran?

JM: Hatred. I don’t try to divine people’s motives. I look at their actions and what they say. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the state of their emotions. I do know what their nation’s stated purpose is, I do know they continue in the development of nuclear weapons, and I know that they continue to support terrorists who are bent on the destruction of the state of Israel. You’ll have to ask someone who engages in this psycho stuff to talk about their emotions.

. . .

JG: Senator Obama has calibrated his views on unconditional negotiations. Do you see any circumstance in which you could negotiate with Iran, or do you believe that it’s leadership is impervious to rational dialogue?

JM: I’m amused by Senator Obama’s dramatic change since he’s gone from a candidate in the primary to a candidate in the general election. I’ve seen him do that on a number of issues that show his naivete and inexperience on national security issues. I believe that the history of the successful conduct of national security policy is that, one, you don’t sit down face-to-face with people who are behave the way they do, who are state sponsors of terrorism.

Senator Obama likes to refer to President Kennedy going to Vienna. Most historians see that as a serious mistake, which encouraged Khrushchev to build the Berlin Wall and to send missiles to Cuba. Another example is Richard Nixon going to China. I’ve forgotten how many visits Henry Kissinger made to China, and how every single word was dictated beforehand. More importantly, he went to China because China was then a counterweight to a greater threat, the Soviet Union. What is a greater threat in the Middle East than Iran today?

Senator Obama is totally lacking in experience, so therefore he makes judgments such as saying he would sit down with someone like Ahmadinejad without comprehending the impact of such a meeting. I know that his naivete and lack of experience is on display when he talks about sitting down opposite Hugo Chavez or Raul Castro or Ahmadinejad.

. . .

JG: Let’s go back to Iran. Some critics say that America conflates its problem with Iran with Israel’s problem with Iran. Iran is not threatening the extinction of America, it’s threatening the extinction of Israel. Why should America have a military option for dealing with Iran when the threat is mainly directed against Israel?

JM: The United States of America has committed itself to never allowing another Holocaust. That’s a commitment that the United States has made ever since we discovered the horrendous aspects of the Holocaust. In addition to that, I would respond by saying that I think these terrorist organizations that they sponsor, Hamas and the others, are also bent, at least long-term, on the destruction of the United States of America. That’s why I agree with General Petraeus that Iraq is a central battleground. Because these Shiite militias are sending in these special groups, as they call them, sending weapons in, to remove United States influence and to drive us out of Iraq and thereby achieve their ultimate goals. We’ve heard the rhetoric — the Great Satan, etc. It’s a nuance, their being committed to the destruction of the State of Israel, and their long-term intentions toward us.

A better explanation of the differences between the candidates will be hard to come by.

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Carter Supports Global Nukes Race?

Jimmy Carter continues his shameful lurch deep into the land of moral equivalence. Here’s the New York Times:

Asked at a news conference in Wales on Sunday how a future president should deal with the Iranian nuclear threat, he sought to put the risk in context by listing atomic weapons held globally. “The U.S. has more than 12,000 nuclear weapons, the Soviet Union has about the same, Great Britain and France have several hundred, and Israel has 150 or more,” he said, according to a transcript.

This has me deeply concerned. I understood the omnipotent Jewish lobby to have put the U.S. in the position of Israel’s lap dog. Surely we can hand over some of our 12,000 to our master so that that he may better defend himself. I mean, only 150?

Jimmy Carter continues his shameful lurch deep into the land of moral equivalence. Here’s the New York Times:

Asked at a news conference in Wales on Sunday how a future president should deal with the Iranian nuclear threat, he sought to put the risk in context by listing atomic weapons held globally. “The U.S. has more than 12,000 nuclear weapons, the Soviet Union has about the same, Great Britain and France have several hundred, and Israel has 150 or more,” he said, according to a transcript.

This has me deeply concerned. I understood the omnipotent Jewish lobby to have put the U.S. in the position of Israel’s lap dog. Surely we can hand over some of our 12,000 to our master so that that he may better defend himself. I mean, only 150?

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Al Qaeda and America’s Role in the World

Today, Rear Admiral Patrick Driscoll, a spokesman for the Multi-National Force in Iraq, seemed to back away from recent remarks made by Ryan Crocker. Speaking to reporters yesterday in Najaf, the American ambassador summarized the trend of developments in Iraq this way: “You are not going to hear me say that al Qaeda is defeated, but they’ve never been closer to defeat than they are now.” Today, Driscoll stated that the group remains “a very lethal threat.”

Nonetheless, the military spokesman pointed to important signs of progress. Last week, the number of attacks “decreased to the level not seen since March 2004,” Driscoll noted, and violence has fallen 70 percent since the surge began a year ago. Of course, al Qaeda can still mount attacks, and a well-timed surge of its own could determine the outcome of the American presidential campaign. Yet, as Driscoll declared, “We will not allow them to reorganize themselves.”

So if present trends hold and the Iraqi government continues to assert itself, what will be the effect on American opinion? “The national mood is retrenchment,” writes James Traub in today’s New York Times. “We recognize that our heroic designs have come to grief in Iraq. We see how very little we have accomplished in the Middle East, for all our swelling rhetoric.”

Of course, Traub has correctly gauged public sentiment in an anti-Bush, anti-idealism America. Just look at the amazing trajectory of the “change” candidate, Barack Obama. And despite the American military’s continuing success in Iraq, there is pressure on the President to end the war, bring troops home, and disengage from the world as fast as we can. Yet this is nothing new. We do this after every conflict, whether ending in victory (both World Wars), defeat (Vietnam), or stalemate (Korea). Last decade, we turned away from historic responsibilities after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Yet the general sentiment that Traub describes may not be as long-lasting as many assume. For one thing, the desire to turn inward will be undercut by the success in Iraq that Crocker and Driscoll describe. And, of course, the world has a way of drawing Americans back into involvement in its affairs. We can solve some of its problems peacefully, but others are not capable of amicable resolution. As Madeleine Albright once said, “If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation.”

It is now up to President Bush to continue to remind the American people that we, whether we want to assume the role or not, remain the only guarantor of the international system. With his Knesset speech he redirected the national conversation in the presidential campaign. Now he can take this discussion and put it into the broader context.

Today, Rear Admiral Patrick Driscoll, a spokesman for the Multi-National Force in Iraq, seemed to back away from recent remarks made by Ryan Crocker. Speaking to reporters yesterday in Najaf, the American ambassador summarized the trend of developments in Iraq this way: “You are not going to hear me say that al Qaeda is defeated, but they’ve never been closer to defeat than they are now.” Today, Driscoll stated that the group remains “a very lethal threat.”

Nonetheless, the military spokesman pointed to important signs of progress. Last week, the number of attacks “decreased to the level not seen since March 2004,” Driscoll noted, and violence has fallen 70 percent since the surge began a year ago. Of course, al Qaeda can still mount attacks, and a well-timed surge of its own could determine the outcome of the American presidential campaign. Yet, as Driscoll declared, “We will not allow them to reorganize themselves.”

So if present trends hold and the Iraqi government continues to assert itself, what will be the effect on American opinion? “The national mood is retrenchment,” writes James Traub in today’s New York Times. “We recognize that our heroic designs have come to grief in Iraq. We see how very little we have accomplished in the Middle East, for all our swelling rhetoric.”

Of course, Traub has correctly gauged public sentiment in an anti-Bush, anti-idealism America. Just look at the amazing trajectory of the “change” candidate, Barack Obama. And despite the American military’s continuing success in Iraq, there is pressure on the President to end the war, bring troops home, and disengage from the world as fast as we can. Yet this is nothing new. We do this after every conflict, whether ending in victory (both World Wars), defeat (Vietnam), or stalemate (Korea). Last decade, we turned away from historic responsibilities after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Yet the general sentiment that Traub describes may not be as long-lasting as many assume. For one thing, the desire to turn inward will be undercut by the success in Iraq that Crocker and Driscoll describe. And, of course, the world has a way of drawing Americans back into involvement in its affairs. We can solve some of its problems peacefully, but others are not capable of amicable resolution. As Madeleine Albright once said, “If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation.”

It is now up to President Bush to continue to remind the American people that we, whether we want to assume the role or not, remain the only guarantor of the international system. With his Knesset speech he redirected the national conversation in the presidential campaign. Now he can take this discussion and put it into the broader context.

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The Paper Of Record

It may be the McCain camp’s least favorite publication, but they would be hard pressed to come up with pieces that better serve their current message than two which appear in today’s New York Times.

First, this op-ed, which corrects Barack Obama’s take on the Kennedy-Khrushchev summit:

Senior American statesmen like George Kennan advised Kennedy not to rush into a high-level meeting, arguing that Khrushchev had engaged in anti-American propaganda and that the issues at hand could as well be addressed by lower-level diplomats. Kennedy’s own secretary of state, Dean Rusk, had argued much the same in a Foreign Affairs article the previous year: “Is it wise to gamble so heavily? Are not these two men who should be kept apart until others have found a sure meeting ground of accommodation between them?”

But Kennedy went ahead, and for two days he was pummeled by the Soviet leader. . .Kennedy’s aides convinced the press at the time that behind closed doors the president was performing well, but American diplomats in attendance, including the ambassador to the Soviet Union, later said they were shocked that Kennedy had taken so much abuse. Paul Nitze, the assistant secretary of defense, said the meeting was “just a disaster.” Khrushchev’s aide, after the first day, said the American president seemed “very inexperienced, even immature.” Khrushchev agreed, noting that the youthful Kennedy was “too intelligent and too weak.” The Soviet leader left Vienna elated — and with a very low opinion of the leader of the free world. . . .

A little more than two months later, Khrushchev gave the go-ahead to begin erecting what would become the Berlin Wall. Kennedy had resigned himself to it, telling his aides in private that “a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.” The following spring, Khrushchev made plans to “throw a hedgehog at Uncle Sam’s pants”: nuclear missiles in Cuba. And while there were many factors that led to the missile crisis, it is no exaggeration to say that the impression Khrushchev formed at Vienna — of Kennedy as ineffective — was among them.

The second is a front-page story letting on that Jews in Florida actually have real concerns about Obama. And who’d have thought it is not just irrational fear? (The Times dutifully reports “the resistance toward Mr. Obama appears to be rooted in something more than factual misperception; even those with an accurate understanding of Mr. Obama share the hesitations.”) Lots of Florida Jews actually seem troubled by his close association with Palestinian activists, his willingness to hold direct, unconditional negotiations with Iran, and an overall sense he’s likely to “venture too close to questionable characters.” (But there is something for Obama apologists, too–the Times found some other Jews who confess that they think it’s all racism or irrational fear of Obama’s middle name.)

So from the McCain perspective it appears there is a little good news even the Times thinks is fit to print.

It may be the McCain camp’s least favorite publication, but they would be hard pressed to come up with pieces that better serve their current message than two which appear in today’s New York Times.

First, this op-ed, which corrects Barack Obama’s take on the Kennedy-Khrushchev summit:

Senior American statesmen like George Kennan advised Kennedy not to rush into a high-level meeting, arguing that Khrushchev had engaged in anti-American propaganda and that the issues at hand could as well be addressed by lower-level diplomats. Kennedy’s own secretary of state, Dean Rusk, had argued much the same in a Foreign Affairs article the previous year: “Is it wise to gamble so heavily? Are not these two men who should be kept apart until others have found a sure meeting ground of accommodation between them?”

But Kennedy went ahead, and for two days he was pummeled by the Soviet leader. . .Kennedy’s aides convinced the press at the time that behind closed doors the president was performing well, but American diplomats in attendance, including the ambassador to the Soviet Union, later said they were shocked that Kennedy had taken so much abuse. Paul Nitze, the assistant secretary of defense, said the meeting was “just a disaster.” Khrushchev’s aide, after the first day, said the American president seemed “very inexperienced, even immature.” Khrushchev agreed, noting that the youthful Kennedy was “too intelligent and too weak.” The Soviet leader left Vienna elated — and with a very low opinion of the leader of the free world. . . .

A little more than two months later, Khrushchev gave the go-ahead to begin erecting what would become the Berlin Wall. Kennedy had resigned himself to it, telling his aides in private that “a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.” The following spring, Khrushchev made plans to “throw a hedgehog at Uncle Sam’s pants”: nuclear missiles in Cuba. And while there were many factors that led to the missile crisis, it is no exaggeration to say that the impression Khrushchev formed at Vienna — of Kennedy as ineffective — was among them.

The second is a front-page story letting on that Jews in Florida actually have real concerns about Obama. And who’d have thought it is not just irrational fear? (The Times dutifully reports “the resistance toward Mr. Obama appears to be rooted in something more than factual misperception; even those with an accurate understanding of Mr. Obama share the hesitations.”) Lots of Florida Jews actually seem troubled by his close association with Palestinian activists, his willingness to hold direct, unconditional negotiations with Iran, and an overall sense he’s likely to “venture too close to questionable characters.” (But there is something for Obama apologists, too–the Times found some other Jews who confess that they think it’s all racism or irrational fear of Obama’s middle name.)

So from the McCain perspective it appears there is a little good news even the Times thinks is fit to print.

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In 2004 He Sounded Like McCain, Or George Bush

The Best of the Web (h/t Andy McCarthy) points out that in 2004 Barack Obama sounded a far different note on Iran, declaring:

“[H]aving a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse. So I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran. . . . And I hope it doesn’t get to that point. But realistically, as I watch how this thing has evolved, I’d be surprised if Iran blinked at this point.” . . .Obama said that violent Islamic extremists are a vastly different brand of foe than was the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and they must be treated differently. “With the Soviet Union, you did get the sense that they were operating on a model that we could comprehend in terms of, they don’t want to be blown up, we don’t want to be blown up, so you do game theory and calculate ways to contain,” Obama said. “I think there are certain elements within the Islamic world right now that don’t make those same calculations.”

It is stories like this (and the most recent episode of flip-floppery on meeting with rogue state leaders, which the mainstream media has finally recognized) that leave you scratching your head. Is Obama a savvy realist just trying to navigate through a Democratic primary? Is he a Leftist dove trying to reassure conservatives by tossing about tough rhetoric now and then? Or is he an utterly unprincipled Zelig-like character who tries out whatever the market will bear and never acknowledges that Statement A contradicts Statement B.

If the first, I’m reassured. If the second, I’m petrified. If the third, Hillary Clinton got a bum rap. But what do his devoted fans think?

As for McCain, he might be well advised to follow Karl Rove’s advice and press Obama on exactly what he’s up to with all these proposed get-togethers. Rove explains:

If Mr. Obama believes he can change the behavior of these nations by meeting without preconditions, he owes it to the voters to explain, in specific terms, what he can say that will lead these states to abandon their hostility. He also needs to explain why unconditional, unilateral meetings with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or North Korea’s Kim Jong Il will not deeply unsettle our allies.

But this is much like Obama’s vaunted “strike force.” (That’s his favorite deux ex machina; it allows him to evacuate Iraq now but offer the prospect of returning if Al Qaeda ever, you know, really becomes a problem in Iraq.) It’s a meaningless concept, arguably at odds with other positions he takes and designed to stymie the opposition. But if not pressed by McCain and forced to explain what he is really talking about and what he is going to accomplish, the public will simply assume he knows what he talking about. It is increasingly clear on a number of fronts that this is a faulty assumption.

The Best of the Web (h/t Andy McCarthy) points out that in 2004 Barack Obama sounded a far different note on Iran, declaring:

“[H]aving a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse. So I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran. . . . And I hope it doesn’t get to that point. But realistically, as I watch how this thing has evolved, I’d be surprised if Iran blinked at this point.” . . .Obama said that violent Islamic extremists are a vastly different brand of foe than was the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and they must be treated differently. “With the Soviet Union, you did get the sense that they were operating on a model that we could comprehend in terms of, they don’t want to be blown up, we don’t want to be blown up, so you do game theory and calculate ways to contain,” Obama said. “I think there are certain elements within the Islamic world right now that don’t make those same calculations.”

It is stories like this (and the most recent episode of flip-floppery on meeting with rogue state leaders, which the mainstream media has finally recognized) that leave you scratching your head. Is Obama a savvy realist just trying to navigate through a Democratic primary? Is he a Leftist dove trying to reassure conservatives by tossing about tough rhetoric now and then? Or is he an utterly unprincipled Zelig-like character who tries out whatever the market will bear and never acknowledges that Statement A contradicts Statement B.

If the first, I’m reassured. If the second, I’m petrified. If the third, Hillary Clinton got a bum rap. But what do his devoted fans think?

As for McCain, he might be well advised to follow Karl Rove’s advice and press Obama on exactly what he’s up to with all these proposed get-togethers. Rove explains:

If Mr. Obama believes he can change the behavior of these nations by meeting without preconditions, he owes it to the voters to explain, in specific terms, what he can say that will lead these states to abandon their hostility. He also needs to explain why unconditional, unilateral meetings with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or North Korea’s Kim Jong Il will not deeply unsettle our allies.

But this is much like Obama’s vaunted “strike force.” (That’s his favorite deux ex machina; it allows him to evacuate Iraq now but offer the prospect of returning if Al Qaeda ever, you know, really becomes a problem in Iraq.) It’s a meaningless concept, arguably at odds with other positions he takes and designed to stymie the opposition. But if not pressed by McCain and forced to explain what he is really talking about and what he is going to accomplish, the public will simply assume he knows what he talking about. It is increasingly clear on a number of fronts that this is a faulty assumption.

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Slavin Gets It Wrong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Tiny” Iran?

As noted here, Barack Obama seemed to discount any real concern about Iran in remarks in Oregon last night. Today, at the beginning of an economic speech, John McCain responded to Obama’s conclusion that compared to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the threat now posed by Iran is “tiny:”

Obviously, Iran isn’t a superpower and doesn’t possess the military power the Soviet Union had. But that does not mean that the threat posed by Iran is insignificant. On the contrary, right now Iran provides some of the deadliest explosive devices used in Iraq to kill our soldiers. They are the chief sponsor of Shia extremists in Iraq, and terrorist organizations in the Middle East. And their President, who has called Israel a “stinking corpse,” has repeatedly made clear his government’s commitment to Israel’s destruction. Most worrying, Iran is intent on acquiring nuclear weapons. The biggest national security challenge the United States currently faces is keeping nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists. Should Iran acquire nuclear weapons, that danger would become very dire, indeed. They might not be a superpower, but the threat the Government of Iran poses is anything but “tiny.”

McCain went on to argue that Obama’s comparison of a presidential meeting to a Soviet summit “betrays the depth of Senator Obama’s inexperience and reckless judgment” and would only give Iran “massive world media coverage” without hope of any change in the country’s behavior. Could it be that someone over in the McCain camp read Ambassador John Bolton’s column? If so, we can look forward to a much-needed starting point for an informed discussion of why and when we should be talking to our adversaries and who should be doing the talking.

As noted here, Barack Obama seemed to discount any real concern about Iran in remarks in Oregon last night. Today, at the beginning of an economic speech, John McCain responded to Obama’s conclusion that compared to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the threat now posed by Iran is “tiny:”

Obviously, Iran isn’t a superpower and doesn’t possess the military power the Soviet Union had. But that does not mean that the threat posed by Iran is insignificant. On the contrary, right now Iran provides some of the deadliest explosive devices used in Iraq to kill our soldiers. They are the chief sponsor of Shia extremists in Iraq, and terrorist organizations in the Middle East. And their President, who has called Israel a “stinking corpse,” has repeatedly made clear his government’s commitment to Israel’s destruction. Most worrying, Iran is intent on acquiring nuclear weapons. The biggest national security challenge the United States currently faces is keeping nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists. Should Iran acquire nuclear weapons, that danger would become very dire, indeed. They might not be a superpower, but the threat the Government of Iran poses is anything but “tiny.”

McCain went on to argue that Obama’s comparison of a presidential meeting to a Soviet summit “betrays the depth of Senator Obama’s inexperience and reckless judgment” and would only give Iran “massive world media coverage” without hope of any change in the country’s behavior. Could it be that someone over in the McCain camp read Ambassador John Bolton’s column? If so, we can look forward to a much-needed starting point for an informed discussion of why and when we should be talking to our adversaries and who should be doing the talking.

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Not A Serious Threat

This remarkable bit of footage from Barack Obama’s appearance in Oregon last night is now floating around on YouTube. It might be useful as an undergraduate course exam: how many errors can you spot? Obama apparently believes that Iran and other rogues states (he lists Iran, Cuba and Venezuela) “don’t pose a serious threat to the U.S.” Iran, specifically, he tells us spends so little on defense relative to us that if Iran “tried to pose a serious threat to us they wouldn’t . . . they wouldn’t stand a chance.”

So, taken literally, he seems not much concerned about Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, its sponsorship of terrorist organizations, its commitment to eradicate Israel, its current actions in supplying weapons that have killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq, and its role in eroding Lebanon’s sovereignty through its client Hezbollah.

And then there is is unbridled faith in diplomacy, unaffected by the lessons of history. Was it presidential visits with the Soviet Union that brought down the Berlin Wall? Or was it the 40 year history of bipartisan military deterrence, the willingness of Ronald Reagan to walk away from Reykjavik summit, the resulting bankruptcy of the Soviet Empire, the support of dissidents and freedom fighters in the war against tyranny, and the willingness to identify Communism as a center of evil in the late 20th century?

You can understand why every attempt by John McCain to discuss global threats is labeled “fear-mongering” by Obama. In his world this is all a fantasy and we are not at risk. All perfectly logical . . . if you divorce yourself from reality.

This remarkable bit of footage from Barack Obama’s appearance in Oregon last night is now floating around on YouTube. It might be useful as an undergraduate course exam: how many errors can you spot? Obama apparently believes that Iran and other rogues states (he lists Iran, Cuba and Venezuela) “don’t pose a serious threat to the U.S.” Iran, specifically, he tells us spends so little on defense relative to us that if Iran “tried to pose a serious threat to us they wouldn’t . . . they wouldn’t stand a chance.”

So, taken literally, he seems not much concerned about Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, its sponsorship of terrorist organizations, its commitment to eradicate Israel, its current actions in supplying weapons that have killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq, and its role in eroding Lebanon’s sovereignty through its client Hezbollah.

And then there is is unbridled faith in diplomacy, unaffected by the lessons of history. Was it presidential visits with the Soviet Union that brought down the Berlin Wall? Or was it the 40 year history of bipartisan military deterrence, the willingness of Ronald Reagan to walk away from Reykjavik summit, the resulting bankruptcy of the Soviet Empire, the support of dissidents and freedom fighters in the war against tyranny, and the willingness to identify Communism as a center of evil in the late 20th century?

You can understand why every attempt by John McCain to discuss global threats is labeled “fear-mongering” by Obama. In his world this is all a fantasy and we are not at risk. All perfectly logical . . . if you divorce yourself from reality.

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Obama’s Role Model?

David Brooks reports today that, like a lot of other Democrats, Barack Obama has become a born-again believer in the presidency of George H.W. Bush. The Democratic candidate tells Brooks: “I have enormous sympathy for the foreign policy of George H. W. Bush. I don’t have a lot of complaints about their handling of Desert Storm. I don’t have a lot of complaints with their handling of the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

This new-found admiration conveniently overlooks some decisions by the elder President Bush that were roundly and correctly criticized at the time by many liberals as well as conservatives: decisions such as the botched aftermath of the Gulf War, which resulted in Shiites and Kurds getting slaughtered after they heeded the President’s call to rise up; the notorious “Chicken Kiev” speech in which he urged Ukrainians to remain part of a dissolving Soviet Union; and the failure to intervene in Bosnia.

Instead, Obama focuses on a couple of the high points of the Bush presidency, even though the elder Bush’s realpolitik doctrine was as responsible for his failures as for his successes. But even taking Obama’s compliments at face value, how likely is it that he could or would replicate such achievements?

Although everyone supported Operation Desert Storm after its success became evident, it was a different story when Bush asked Congress to authorize the mission. Even after winning United Nations approval, he had trouble getting a Democrat-dominated Congress to sign off. The vote in favor of the war resolution was 52-47 in the Senate, with 45 Democrats voting nay. Only 10 Democrats voted for the resolution, mostly conservative Southerners. Even such moderates as Sam Nunn opposed the use of force. How likely is it that if Barack Obama-the most liberal member of the Senate last year-had been in the Senate that year that he would have voted for the resolution?

As for the other Bush administration achievement that he cites-“their handling of the fall of the Berlin Wall”-that was made possible by the long personal experience and contacts built up by the President over the course of many years on the international stage as an ambassador to China and the UN, CIA director, and vice president. That allowed Bush to conduct adroit diplomacy with Helmut Kohl, Mikhail Gorbachev, and other world leaders. Obama has almost no experience in international affairs beyond having lived in Indonesia as a child; certainly he has never held a job in any field related to foreign affairs before entering the Senate three years ago. Granted, he is charming and charismatic. But what are the odds that he can replicate the kind of skilled diplomacy pursued by an old hand like George H.W. Bush?

The more likely comparison is not to Bush but to two previous Democratic nominees who had no experience in foreign policy before entering the White House: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. In both cases they learned on the job and gradually improved, but the world paid a high price for their stumbles from Iran (Carter) to Somalia (Clinton).

David Brooks reports today that, like a lot of other Democrats, Barack Obama has become a born-again believer in the presidency of George H.W. Bush. The Democratic candidate tells Brooks: “I have enormous sympathy for the foreign policy of George H. W. Bush. I don’t have a lot of complaints about their handling of Desert Storm. I don’t have a lot of complaints with their handling of the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

This new-found admiration conveniently overlooks some decisions by the elder President Bush that were roundly and correctly criticized at the time by many liberals as well as conservatives: decisions such as the botched aftermath of the Gulf War, which resulted in Shiites and Kurds getting slaughtered after they heeded the President’s call to rise up; the notorious “Chicken Kiev” speech in which he urged Ukrainians to remain part of a dissolving Soviet Union; and the failure to intervene in Bosnia.

Instead, Obama focuses on a couple of the high points of the Bush presidency, even though the elder Bush’s realpolitik doctrine was as responsible for his failures as for his successes. But even taking Obama’s compliments at face value, how likely is it that he could or would replicate such achievements?

Although everyone supported Operation Desert Storm after its success became evident, it was a different story when Bush asked Congress to authorize the mission. Even after winning United Nations approval, he had trouble getting a Democrat-dominated Congress to sign off. The vote in favor of the war resolution was 52-47 in the Senate, with 45 Democrats voting nay. Only 10 Democrats voted for the resolution, mostly conservative Southerners. Even such moderates as Sam Nunn opposed the use of force. How likely is it that if Barack Obama-the most liberal member of the Senate last year-had been in the Senate that year that he would have voted for the resolution?

As for the other Bush administration achievement that he cites-“their handling of the fall of the Berlin Wall”-that was made possible by the long personal experience and contacts built up by the President over the course of many years on the international stage as an ambassador to China and the UN, CIA director, and vice president. That allowed Bush to conduct adroit diplomacy with Helmut Kohl, Mikhail Gorbachev, and other world leaders. Obama has almost no experience in international affairs beyond having lived in Indonesia as a child; certainly he has never held a job in any field related to foreign affairs before entering the Senate three years ago. Granted, he is charming and charismatic. But what are the odds that he can replicate the kind of skilled diplomacy pursued by an old hand like George H.W. Bush?

The more likely comparison is not to Bush but to two previous Democratic nominees who had no experience in foreign policy before entering the White House: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. In both cases they learned on the job and gradually improved, but the world paid a high price for their stumbles from Iran (Carter) to Somalia (Clinton).

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Re: Friedman’s New Cold War

Gordon, I think you’re wrong about Thomas Friedman. Despite my massive disagreements with Friedman on other subjects, I do think it’s productive to focus on Iran as our opponent in a new Cold War. (In fact, I advanced a similar thesis over a year ago.)

The bottom line is that Iran is operating on the very same logic that the Soviets did: Expand your country’s power through (a) a totalizing ideology that rejects freedom; (b) massively upgrading your military; (c) fighting proxy wars against America and its allies; (d) technological advancement; (e) justifying the suffering of your people by pointing to the enemy as the real cause–you get the point.

I’m not saying–and neither is Friedman–that Iran can or will ever be a threat of the magnitude that the Soviet Union was, even if it gets nuclear weapons. That’s just silly. What I am saying is that it’s useless to assume that negotiation or appeasement will ever help, and we shouldn’t just wait for Iran to keep accumulating power until it’s stronger and more belligerent.

Gordon, I think you’re wrong about Thomas Friedman. Despite my massive disagreements with Friedman on other subjects, I do think it’s productive to focus on Iran as our opponent in a new Cold War. (In fact, I advanced a similar thesis over a year ago.)

The bottom line is that Iran is operating on the very same logic that the Soviets did: Expand your country’s power through (a) a totalizing ideology that rejects freedom; (b) massively upgrading your military; (c) fighting proxy wars against America and its allies; (d) technological advancement; (e) justifying the suffering of your people by pointing to the enemy as the real cause–you get the point.

I’m not saying–and neither is Friedman–that Iran can or will ever be a threat of the magnitude that the Soviet Union was, even if it gets nuclear weapons. That’s just silly. What I am saying is that it’s useless to assume that negotiation or appeasement will ever help, and we shouldn’t just wait for Iran to keep accumulating power until it’s stronger and more belligerent.

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Klein’s Mad Again

Joe Klein is upset yet again–this time at Senator Joseph Lieberman. The source of his consternation is an interview Lieberman gave to Wolf Blitzer on CNN. When asked about a Hamas spokesman’s endorsement of Obama, Lieberman said that

John McCain obviously knows and has said that Senator Obama clearly doesn’t support any of the values or goals of Hamas. But the fact that the spokesperson for Hamas would say they would welcome the election of Senator Obama really does raise the question “Why?” and it suggests the difference between these two candidates.

According to Klein, Lieberman is

smearing Barack Obama re Hamas. He is entitled to his views about the Middle East, but for the past five years he has taken those Likudnik views a step beyond propriety–saying that those who disagree with him (i.e.–the Democratic Party, which nominated him for the Vice Presidency in 2000) are counseling “defeat” and “surrender.” And now this.  I wish Blitzer had been a bit more dogged and asked: “What could you possibly mean by that, Senator Lieberman–and please be specific. Why do you think Hamas “favors” Obama over McCain? What are you implying here, Senator?

Now one might believe Lieberman is wrong in what he said, but it is hardly a smear. In fact, Lieberman goes out of his way to stress that Obama does not share the values or goals of Hamas. His argument is a completely legitimate one: Obama would pursue policies that would (unintentionally) advance the aims of Hamas. It’s the flipside of an argument I presume Klein endorses: Bush’s policies–from Iraq to Guantanamo Bay to water-boarding–have helped the jihadists cause rather than hurt it.

It’s not a smear to make the argument that the policies of a President will have real-world consequences–in some instances making life easier for our enemies, and in some instances making life harder for our enemies. Is it unreasonable to conclude that the leaders of the Soviet Union were rooting for Carter in 1980 and Mondale in 1984?

Likewise, it’s perfectly legitimate to argue that the policy Barack Obama embraces would lead to an American surrender and defeat in Iraq–just as it’s perfectly legitimate to argue that McCain’s policies would harm American interests. Political campaigns are supposed to be about such matters.

This is all part of what is becoming an increasingly tiresome reflex within the media and which Klein embodies as well as anyone. When Lanny Davis said that Obama’s relationship to Jeremiah Wright was a legitimate, troubling issue, Klein accused Davis of “spreading the poison.” Now Lieberman’s argument that it’s worth asking why Hamas would rather see Obama than McCain as President is a “smear.” And next week if Lindsey Graham criticizes Obama’s willingness to meet with President Ahmadinejad without preconditions, I suppose we can expect Klein to charge Graham with “character assassination.”

For a fellow who likes to rip the hide off of his critics, Klein has developed some fairly thin skin. Years ago Bob Dole asked, “Where’s the outrage?” The answer, is appears, can be found in the writing of Joe Klein. Outrage seems to be a perennial state for him these days.

Joe Klein is upset yet again–this time at Senator Joseph Lieberman. The source of his consternation is an interview Lieberman gave to Wolf Blitzer on CNN. When asked about a Hamas spokesman’s endorsement of Obama, Lieberman said that

John McCain obviously knows and has said that Senator Obama clearly doesn’t support any of the values or goals of Hamas. But the fact that the spokesperson for Hamas would say they would welcome the election of Senator Obama really does raise the question “Why?” and it suggests the difference between these two candidates.

According to Klein, Lieberman is

smearing Barack Obama re Hamas. He is entitled to his views about the Middle East, but for the past five years he has taken those Likudnik views a step beyond propriety–saying that those who disagree with him (i.e.–the Democratic Party, which nominated him for the Vice Presidency in 2000) are counseling “defeat” and “surrender.” And now this.  I wish Blitzer had been a bit more dogged and asked: “What could you possibly mean by that, Senator Lieberman–and please be specific. Why do you think Hamas “favors” Obama over McCain? What are you implying here, Senator?

Now one might believe Lieberman is wrong in what he said, but it is hardly a smear. In fact, Lieberman goes out of his way to stress that Obama does not share the values or goals of Hamas. His argument is a completely legitimate one: Obama would pursue policies that would (unintentionally) advance the aims of Hamas. It’s the flipside of an argument I presume Klein endorses: Bush’s policies–from Iraq to Guantanamo Bay to water-boarding–have helped the jihadists cause rather than hurt it.

It’s not a smear to make the argument that the policies of a President will have real-world consequences–in some instances making life easier for our enemies, and in some instances making life harder for our enemies. Is it unreasonable to conclude that the leaders of the Soviet Union were rooting for Carter in 1980 and Mondale in 1984?

Likewise, it’s perfectly legitimate to argue that the policy Barack Obama embraces would lead to an American surrender and defeat in Iraq–just as it’s perfectly legitimate to argue that McCain’s policies would harm American interests. Political campaigns are supposed to be about such matters.

This is all part of what is becoming an increasingly tiresome reflex within the media and which Klein embodies as well as anyone. When Lanny Davis said that Obama’s relationship to Jeremiah Wright was a legitimate, troubling issue, Klein accused Davis of “spreading the poison.” Now Lieberman’s argument that it’s worth asking why Hamas would rather see Obama than McCain as President is a “smear.” And next week if Lindsey Graham criticizes Obama’s willingness to meet with President Ahmadinejad without preconditions, I suppose we can expect Klein to charge Graham with “character assassination.”

For a fellow who likes to rip the hide off of his critics, Klein has developed some fairly thin skin. Years ago Bob Dole asked, “Where’s the outrage?” The answer, is appears, can be found in the writing of Joe Klein. Outrage seems to be a perennial state for him these days.

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Friedman’s New Cold War

“The next American president will inherit many foreign policy challenges, but surely one of the biggest will be the cold war,” writes Tom Friedman in this morning’s New York Times.  “Yes, the next president is going to be a cold-war president-but this cold war is with Iran.”

Clearly the Iranians see it as Friedman does.  To support his cold war thesis, he cites a Sunday editorial from Kayhan, an Iranian daily: “In the power struggle in the Middle East, there are only two sides: Iran and the United States.”  Yet just because Tehran sees us as its principal adversary does not mean that we have to view Tehran as ours.  And I believe that we should not.  After all, Friedman has violated Oscar Wilde’s first rule of international relations: “A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.”

Once a nation chooses its enemy, it inevitably selects its friends.  If Iran were the Soviet Union, then we would naturally side with Tehran’s adversaries, the generally autocratic and corrupt Sunni Arab states.  Indeed, Friedman lists them as our allies in his “cold war.”  This makes perfect sense if the United States were, like England once was, just another offshore balancer.

Yet America is more than one of those.  If there is any justification for us to exercise power beyond our borders, it is because we stand for a set of important principles.  Because Iranian leaders oppose all that Americans believe-representative governance and free markets, for instance-they are by definition our foes.

And to defend our principles we should avoid the unsavory bargains that nations tend to make when they see themselves involved in global existential struggles.  Nothing undermines us more than failure to adhere to what we believe.  We can achieve short-term objectives with cynical arrangements-like supporting the Shah, for example-but we usually end up creating more problems than we solve.

Yes, we should oppose Iran today.  But we can do that best when it is in the context of an effort to defend values and international norms.  The goal for “Team America,” as Friedman calls us, is not to prevail over “Iran.”  It is to establish a just and peaceful international system-with a free and democratic Iran as a part of it.

“The next American president will inherit many foreign policy challenges, but surely one of the biggest will be the cold war,” writes Tom Friedman in this morning’s New York Times.  “Yes, the next president is going to be a cold-war president-but this cold war is with Iran.”

Clearly the Iranians see it as Friedman does.  To support his cold war thesis, he cites a Sunday editorial from Kayhan, an Iranian daily: “In the power struggle in the Middle East, there are only two sides: Iran and the United States.”  Yet just because Tehran sees us as its principal adversary does not mean that we have to view Tehran as ours.  And I believe that we should not.  After all, Friedman has violated Oscar Wilde’s first rule of international relations: “A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.”

Once a nation chooses its enemy, it inevitably selects its friends.  If Iran were the Soviet Union, then we would naturally side with Tehran’s adversaries, the generally autocratic and corrupt Sunni Arab states.  Indeed, Friedman lists them as our allies in his “cold war.”  This makes perfect sense if the United States were, like England once was, just another offshore balancer.

Yet America is more than one of those.  If there is any justification for us to exercise power beyond our borders, it is because we stand for a set of important principles.  Because Iranian leaders oppose all that Americans believe-representative governance and free markets, for instance-they are by definition our foes.

And to defend our principles we should avoid the unsavory bargains that nations tend to make when they see themselves involved in global existential struggles.  Nothing undermines us more than failure to adhere to what we believe.  We can achieve short-term objectives with cynical arrangements-like supporting the Shah, for example-but we usually end up creating more problems than we solve.

Yes, we should oppose Iran today.  But we can do that best when it is in the context of an effort to defend values and international norms.  The goal for “Team America,” as Friedman calls us, is not to prevail over “Iran.”  It is to establish a just and peaceful international system-with a free and democratic Iran as a part of it.

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Saint Jimmy, Virulent Realist

Jimmy Carter’s disastrous trip to the Middle East — which was really just what the Democrats needed right now — is an object lesson in American foreign-policy myopia. When Carter, shockingly, said that in speaking to dictators, he was speaking “to all the people” under the dictator’s thumb, he revealed something important about himself. Far from being the idealist of legend, he is actually nothing more than an old-style, unreconstructed “realist.”

Carter is forever attempting to cut deals with dictators — as he did in 1994 when he claimed to have solved the North Korean nuclear problem in a one-on-one with Kim Il Sung. He has no choice, really. If you’re an American eminence who wants to make headlines by cutting deals on a foreign trip, you can only do so with a tyranny, because representative governments don’t move quickly enough.

Here’s the thing about dictators: They are very easy to deal with. If you ask them to do something for you, and they agree, it gets done. They don’t have bothersome parliaments or independent courts or restive populaces to hinder their actions. And it is in part for this reason that realists have long looked suspiciously on democratizing as foreign policy. It isn’t just that they are dubious about the capacity of such societies to liberalize; it is also that for the United States, a tyranny may simply be a more practical partner.

I have no doubt that the reason American presidents have spent decades speaking very softly and in kindly terms about Saudi Arabia is that all they have to do is place a phone call to the right person (who was, for decades, Prince Bandar) and they can get something out of the call — something important and useful and entirely clandestine that they believe is in the American national interest. America’s delicacy in dealing with Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf over the past six or seven years is doubtless due to the same sort of thing — Condi or Colin calls, Pervez responds.

Those who believe this kind of relationship is the most and the best Americans can expect from a difficult world usually think of themselves as hardened by experience — serious, appropriately cynical, tough, and without illusion.

We don’t usually think of Carter as a “realist,” in part because he is given to preening moralizing and in part because he is falsely given credit for putting human rights at the center of his foreign policy during his presidency. (I say “falsely” because his administration’s efforts in this regard with the Soviet Union were intended entirely as window-dressing for some very questionable bilateral negotiations; it was Soviet and Eastern European dissidents themselves who figured out how to use the human-rights language in some of these negotiations as a weapon against those awful regimes, a brilliant twist that neither the Soviets nor the Carterites ever anticipated.)

But a realist he is, of a particularly disagreeable sort. A cynic doesn’t usually expect, demand, and need the world to think of him as a saint.

Jimmy Carter’s disastrous trip to the Middle East — which was really just what the Democrats needed right now — is an object lesson in American foreign-policy myopia. When Carter, shockingly, said that in speaking to dictators, he was speaking “to all the people” under the dictator’s thumb, he revealed something important about himself. Far from being the idealist of legend, he is actually nothing more than an old-style, unreconstructed “realist.”

Carter is forever attempting to cut deals with dictators — as he did in 1994 when he claimed to have solved the North Korean nuclear problem in a one-on-one with Kim Il Sung. He has no choice, really. If you’re an American eminence who wants to make headlines by cutting deals on a foreign trip, you can only do so with a tyranny, because representative governments don’t move quickly enough.

Here’s the thing about dictators: They are very easy to deal with. If you ask them to do something for you, and they agree, it gets done. They don’t have bothersome parliaments or independent courts or restive populaces to hinder their actions. And it is in part for this reason that realists have long looked suspiciously on democratizing as foreign policy. It isn’t just that they are dubious about the capacity of such societies to liberalize; it is also that for the United States, a tyranny may simply be a more practical partner.

I have no doubt that the reason American presidents have spent decades speaking very softly and in kindly terms about Saudi Arabia is that all they have to do is place a phone call to the right person (who was, for decades, Prince Bandar) and they can get something out of the call — something important and useful and entirely clandestine that they believe is in the American national interest. America’s delicacy in dealing with Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf over the past six or seven years is doubtless due to the same sort of thing — Condi or Colin calls, Pervez responds.

Those who believe this kind of relationship is the most and the best Americans can expect from a difficult world usually think of themselves as hardened by experience — serious, appropriately cynical, tough, and without illusion.

We don’t usually think of Carter as a “realist,” in part because he is given to preening moralizing and in part because he is falsely given credit for putting human rights at the center of his foreign policy during his presidency. (I say “falsely” because his administration’s efforts in this regard with the Soviet Union were intended entirely as window-dressing for some very questionable bilateral negotiations; it was Soviet and Eastern European dissidents themselves who figured out how to use the human-rights language in some of these negotiations as a weapon against those awful regimes, a brilliant twist that neither the Soviets nor the Carterites ever anticipated.)

But a realist he is, of a particularly disagreeable sort. A cynic doesn’t usually expect, demand, and need the world to think of him as a saint.

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Krauthammer’s “Holocaust Declaration”

Put me down, first and foremost, as a Charles Krauthammer fan. But his latest column in my opinion is lacking in the unsparing analytic rigor that typically characterizes his work, and it is for this reason that I take a harsher view of the piece than does Gordon. Krauthammer writes that when Iran goes nuclear,

we shall have to rely on deterrence to prevent the mullahs, some of whom are apocalyptic and messianic, from using nuclear weapons. …

How to create deterrence? The way John Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis. President Bush should issue the following declaration, adopting Kennedy’s language while changing the names of the miscreants:

It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear attack upon Israel by Iran, or originating in Iran, as an attack by Iran on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon Iran.

This should be followed with a simple explanation: “As a beacon of tolerance and as leader of the free world, the United States will not permit a second Holocaust to be perpetrated upon the Jewish people.”

But the italicized declaration above would do very little to guarantee the promise that follows it — that the U.S. “will not permit a second Holocaust.” To state the obvious, a U.S. second strike would not prevent an Iranian first strike — only react to it once it has happened. What are the chances that Iran would attempt to nuke Israel? Well, who knows: the Soviet Union, however rapacious and barbaric, at least tended to act in favor of national self-preservation, whereas the mullahs — it is something they brag about — have no such conception of self-preservation. As Bernard Lewis has said about the regime, “mutually assured destruction is not a deterrent factor, but rather an inducement.” Krauthammer hints at the messianic and apocalyptic nature of the prevailing Iranian ideology, but gives the unpredictable — or suicidally predictable — nature of Iranian behavior very little weight in his analysis.

Two other major objections: it is very well for the United States to place Israel under its nuclear umbrella, but it will also be true that Iran will place its allies under its nuclear umbrella. During the Cold War, mutually-assured destruction did not prevent Soviet adventurism in many corners of the world, and likewise during a U.S.-Iran Cold War, an American second-strike pledge would not prevent a similar adventurism on the part of Iran’s many allies.

In other words, the recent wars we have witnessed would continue, except that Hezbollah and Hamas would be backed by a nuclear patron. What if Iran instructs Hezbollah to send rockets raining down on northern Israel and then threatens nuclear retaliation should Israel respond with a ground war in Lebanon? Will the Holocaust Declaration have any relevance to such a scenario? Of course not. It only becomes relevant after Tel Aviv is in smoldering ruins. Some comfort.

Which leads to the final point. This is the question of whether Iran, upon acquiring a nuclear weapon, would need to actually launch an ICBM at Israel to destroy the country, or whether it could attempt to pick it apart through a relentless campaign of terror wars launched by its “non-state actor” proxies. Please pardon me for quoting something on this subject that I wrote previously:

The Jewish state already has a problem in the number of its citizens who tire of the warfare, terrorism, and Arab hatred that are regular features of life in Israel. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis live abroad, many permanently, because they seek a “normal life,” and many Jews will never immigrate to Israel exactly because of the absence of such a life. All of this is only in the face of Palestinian and Hezbollah terrorists who kill with crude weapons. Now imagine those groups with the support of a nuclear patron. Imagine daily life in Israel conducted under the constant threat — the Iranians would surely take every opportunity to remind Israelis — of nuclear annihilation.

The Iranians are probably smart enough to know that if they’re patient, nothing so dramatic as nuclear war will be necessary. Simply by possessing a nuclear capability and regularly threatening to use it or supply it to its proxies, Iran will accomplish the psychological and economic attrition of Israel. This goal will be achieved without firing a shot — or at least without full-scale war.

Krauthammer’s column is intended as an attempt at envisioning a U.S. security strategy that would protect Israel in an Iranian nuclear era. Its failure to present a plausible scenario for doing so should underscore the importance of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons in the first place.

Put me down, first and foremost, as a Charles Krauthammer fan. But his latest column in my opinion is lacking in the unsparing analytic rigor that typically characterizes his work, and it is for this reason that I take a harsher view of the piece than does Gordon. Krauthammer writes that when Iran goes nuclear,

we shall have to rely on deterrence to prevent the mullahs, some of whom are apocalyptic and messianic, from using nuclear weapons. …

How to create deterrence? The way John Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis. President Bush should issue the following declaration, adopting Kennedy’s language while changing the names of the miscreants:

It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear attack upon Israel by Iran, or originating in Iran, as an attack by Iran on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon Iran.

This should be followed with a simple explanation: “As a beacon of tolerance and as leader of the free world, the United States will not permit a second Holocaust to be perpetrated upon the Jewish people.”

But the italicized declaration above would do very little to guarantee the promise that follows it — that the U.S. “will not permit a second Holocaust.” To state the obvious, a U.S. second strike would not prevent an Iranian first strike — only react to it once it has happened. What are the chances that Iran would attempt to nuke Israel? Well, who knows: the Soviet Union, however rapacious and barbaric, at least tended to act in favor of national self-preservation, whereas the mullahs — it is something they brag about — have no such conception of self-preservation. As Bernard Lewis has said about the regime, “mutually assured destruction is not a deterrent factor, but rather an inducement.” Krauthammer hints at the messianic and apocalyptic nature of the prevailing Iranian ideology, but gives the unpredictable — or suicidally predictable — nature of Iranian behavior very little weight in his analysis.

Two other major objections: it is very well for the United States to place Israel under its nuclear umbrella, but it will also be true that Iran will place its allies under its nuclear umbrella. During the Cold War, mutually-assured destruction did not prevent Soviet adventurism in many corners of the world, and likewise during a U.S.-Iran Cold War, an American second-strike pledge would not prevent a similar adventurism on the part of Iran’s many allies.

In other words, the recent wars we have witnessed would continue, except that Hezbollah and Hamas would be backed by a nuclear patron. What if Iran instructs Hezbollah to send rockets raining down on northern Israel and then threatens nuclear retaliation should Israel respond with a ground war in Lebanon? Will the Holocaust Declaration have any relevance to such a scenario? Of course not. It only becomes relevant after Tel Aviv is in smoldering ruins. Some comfort.

Which leads to the final point. This is the question of whether Iran, upon acquiring a nuclear weapon, would need to actually launch an ICBM at Israel to destroy the country, or whether it could attempt to pick it apart through a relentless campaign of terror wars launched by its “non-state actor” proxies. Please pardon me for quoting something on this subject that I wrote previously:

The Jewish state already has a problem in the number of its citizens who tire of the warfare, terrorism, and Arab hatred that are regular features of life in Israel. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis live abroad, many permanently, because they seek a “normal life,” and many Jews will never immigrate to Israel exactly because of the absence of such a life. All of this is only in the face of Palestinian and Hezbollah terrorists who kill with crude weapons. Now imagine those groups with the support of a nuclear patron. Imagine daily life in Israel conducted under the constant threat — the Iranians would surely take every opportunity to remind Israelis — of nuclear annihilation.

The Iranians are probably smart enough to know that if they’re patient, nothing so dramatic as nuclear war will be necessary. Simply by possessing a nuclear capability and regularly threatening to use it or supply it to its proxies, Iran will accomplish the psychological and economic attrition of Israel. This goal will be achieved without firing a shot — or at least without full-scale war.

Krauthammer’s column is intended as an attempt at envisioning a U.S. security strategy that would protect Israel in an Iranian nuclear era. Its failure to present a plausible scenario for doing so should underscore the importance of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons in the first place.

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Competing Chamberlains and a Churchill

“[C]ompeting Chamberlains and the hope of a Churchill.” That’s how Middle East expert Bernard Lewis described the choices on offer in America’s upcoming presidential elections. Not much need to spell out who’s who, is there?

Bernard Lewis should be able to spot Churchills and Chamberlains easily enough. At 91, he boasts a 60-plus-year-career as a political observer. (Furthermore, he was a Jewish Brit who lived through World War II.)

He made the observation last week while speaking at the University of Pennsylvania. He was, of course, comparing Britain’s confrontation with the evil of Nazi Germany to the U.S.’s current conflict with evil in the form of radical Islam. Among other choice observations, he spoke about the “pre-emptive cringe” that prohibits good Westerners from speaking candidly about the Islamist nature of the enemy. Lewis also said that, from the extremists’ standpoint, the defeat of the Soviet Union represents a Muslim victory and “There now remains the task of dealing with the pampered Americans.”

Our Chamberlains are pretty vicious towards each other, considering their inclination towards appeasement. But Lewis’ point is an invaluable one. We’re so pampered we can’t bear to choose a leader without our entertainment being the top priority. With identity, dishonesty, and nastiness as the main concerns this election season, any discussion of issues makes voters change the channel. And a long-view reminder such as Lewis’ seems, sadly, out of place (or even histrionic) to many Americans. Here’s to Churchill rising.

“[C]ompeting Chamberlains and the hope of a Churchill.” That’s how Middle East expert Bernard Lewis described the choices on offer in America’s upcoming presidential elections. Not much need to spell out who’s who, is there?

Bernard Lewis should be able to spot Churchills and Chamberlains easily enough. At 91, he boasts a 60-plus-year-career as a political observer. (Furthermore, he was a Jewish Brit who lived through World War II.)

He made the observation last week while speaking at the University of Pennsylvania. He was, of course, comparing Britain’s confrontation with the evil of Nazi Germany to the U.S.’s current conflict with evil in the form of radical Islam. Among other choice observations, he spoke about the “pre-emptive cringe” that prohibits good Westerners from speaking candidly about the Islamist nature of the enemy. Lewis also said that, from the extremists’ standpoint, the defeat of the Soviet Union represents a Muslim victory and “There now remains the task of dealing with the pampered Americans.”

Our Chamberlains are pretty vicious towards each other, considering their inclination towards appeasement. But Lewis’ point is an invaluable one. We’re so pampered we can’t bear to choose a leader without our entertainment being the top priority. With identity, dishonesty, and nastiness as the main concerns this election season, any discussion of issues makes voters change the channel. And a long-view reminder such as Lewis’ seems, sadly, out of place (or even histrionic) to many Americans. Here’s to Churchill rising.

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