Commentary Magazine


Topic: state media

Realpolitik vs. the Long-Term Good

One of the ironies of the present crisis in Egypt is that it is exposing once again the ridiculousness of one of the nasty slurs flung against neocons by the likes of John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt who accuse them of being — what else? — agents of Israel, Likud, the International Zionist Conspiracy, or whatever. To hear these realpolitikers tell it, when neocons advocate liberal reform in the Middle East, they are secretly doing the bidding of their Zionist puppet-masters to the detriment of American interests (as understood, of course, by the same folks who thought that Mubarak was a rock of stability — and before him, the Shah of Iran). In reality, most Israelis fall firmly in the realpolitik camp and, were it not for their knee-jerk Israel-bashing, would agree with Mearsheimer/Walt about how to define American interests in the Middle East. (Natan Sharansky, a prominent advocate of Arab democratization, is one of the few exceptions, but he is seen as very much an outlier.)

Consider this Reuters dispatch headlined “Israel Shocked by Obama’s ‘Betrayal’ of Mubarak.” It quotes some truly hysterical comments from Israeli commentators bemoaning the apparent end of the Mubarak regime. A sample:

One comment by Aviad Pohoryles in the daily Maariv was entitled “A Bullet in the Back from Uncle Sam.” It accused Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of pursuing a naive, smug, and insular diplomacy heedless of the risks.

Who is advising them, he asked, “to fuel the mob raging in the streets of Egypt and to demand the head of the person who five minutes ago was the bold ally of the president … an almost lone voice of sanity in a Middle East?”

“The politically correct diplomacy of American presidents throughout the generations … is painfully naive.”

This is the authentic voice of the Israeli public facing the loss of “their” man in Cairo. Like many Western realpolitikers, most Israelis I have spoken with assume that Arabs are incapable of practicing democracy and that any attempt to tinker with the stable if oppressive status quo in surrounding states will lead only to the creation of more anti-Israeli regimes. I have heard Israeli officials defend keeping in power the Assad regime in Syria, which is still technically at war with Israel. Needless to say, Israelis are even more devoted to Mubarak and the Hashemites in Jordan, who have actually made peace with them. Read More

One of the ironies of the present crisis in Egypt is that it is exposing once again the ridiculousness of one of the nasty slurs flung against neocons by the likes of John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt who accuse them of being — what else? — agents of Israel, Likud, the International Zionist Conspiracy, or whatever. To hear these realpolitikers tell it, when neocons advocate liberal reform in the Middle East, they are secretly doing the bidding of their Zionist puppet-masters to the detriment of American interests (as understood, of course, by the same folks who thought that Mubarak was a rock of stability — and before him, the Shah of Iran). In reality, most Israelis fall firmly in the realpolitik camp and, were it not for their knee-jerk Israel-bashing, would agree with Mearsheimer/Walt about how to define American interests in the Middle East. (Natan Sharansky, a prominent advocate of Arab democratization, is one of the few exceptions, but he is seen as very much an outlier.)

Consider this Reuters dispatch headlined “Israel Shocked by Obama’s ‘Betrayal’ of Mubarak.” It quotes some truly hysterical comments from Israeli commentators bemoaning the apparent end of the Mubarak regime. A sample:

One comment by Aviad Pohoryles in the daily Maariv was entitled “A Bullet in the Back from Uncle Sam.” It accused Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of pursuing a naive, smug, and insular diplomacy heedless of the risks.

Who is advising them, he asked, “to fuel the mob raging in the streets of Egypt and to demand the head of the person who five minutes ago was the bold ally of the president … an almost lone voice of sanity in a Middle East?”

“The politically correct diplomacy of American presidents throughout the generations … is painfully naive.”

This is the authentic voice of the Israeli public facing the loss of “their” man in Cairo. Like many Western realpolitikers, most Israelis I have spoken with assume that Arabs are incapable of practicing democracy and that any attempt to tinker with the stable if oppressive status quo in surrounding states will lead only to the creation of more anti-Israeli regimes. I have heard Israeli officials defend keeping in power the Assad regime in Syria, which is still technically at war with Israel. Needless to say, Israelis are even more devoted to Mubarak and the Hashemites in Jordan, who have actually made peace with them.

Their outlook is understandable, but, I believe, short-sighted. As I argue in the Wall Street Journal today, Mubarak may have been friendly with Israeli and American leaders, but he also turned a blind eye to the vile anti-Semitic and anti-Western propaganda spread by his state media, schools, and mosques. This, along with the stagnation of his sclerotic regime, has made Egypt a prime breeding ground for Islamist extremism.

The U.S. and Israel have bought ourselves some help from Mubarak over the past 30 years but at a high price. It was always obvious that the bargain couldn’t last forever, because Mubarak was intensely unpopular and would fall sooner or later. Some of us were arguing for years that the U.S. had to do more to pressure Mubarak to reform, even to hold hostage his American aid package (see, for instance, this 2006 op-ed I wrote). Our concerns were dismissed by the realpolitikers, in both the U.S. and Israel, who said it was no business of ours to meddle in Egyptian politics. Now events are spinning out of control and we can do little to affect the outcome.

If there is one lesson that should be drawn from this crisis it is that we can’t back an unpopular and illegitimate status quo indefinitely. Now is the time to push for real reform in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other allied states — not to mention in hostile states such as Syria and Iran. But I bet Israel will prefer to cling to its realpolitik policies.

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Mullahs Outfox Obama — Again

The Iranian regime at every turn has befuddled and outwitted Obama. The mullahs stole an election and brutally suppressed and murdered protesters while convincing Obama to hush up or risk offending them. They made the most of “engagement.” They got the Americans to buy into a silly agreement in which an unverifiable amount of enriched uranium could be shipped out of the country. And then they nixed the deal, prolonged the pre-sanctions phase, made friends with other anti-Israeli and anti-American regimes, and turned the UN session into a forum for their own propaganda. Now they’ve topped themselves:

Iran said on Monday that it had reached an agreement, brokered by Brazil and Turkey, for a nuclear fuel swap that could undermine efforts in the United Nations to impose new sanctions on the Iranians. Iranian state media quoted senior officials as saying the deal provided for Iran to ship 1,200 kilograms — about 2,600 pounds — of low-enriched uranium to neighboring Turkey in return for 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium. …

There was no immediate response from the United States or other nations in the international group dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions. … If the latest agreement meant Iran was now prepared for an exchange outside its own territory, that could represent a potentially significant step, said a diplomat in Vienna who spoke in return for anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters. … It was unclear whether the Obama administration, which has insisted on the need for new sanctions, would take any new iteration of the original United Nations-based deal for a fuel exchange.

This is preposterous given the dispositions of Brazil and Turkey these days, the impossibility of verification, and the likelihood that these nations would return the nuclear material whenever the Iranians wanted it. But it is not significantly less preposterous than the original deal the Obama team gushed over, and the administration may now see this as an escape hatch. (Done! Problem solved!) As the report notes, “the blessing of Turkey and Brazil for such a swap agreement could put the Obama administration in the awkward position of appearing to take an unreasonably hard line.” Because, you see, we wouldn’t want to insist on a “hard line,” namely, that a brutal Islamic fundamentalist state dedicated to the eradication of Israel be forced to forgo a nuclear program or face dire consequences.

The Iranian regime at every turn has befuddled and outwitted Obama. The mullahs stole an election and brutally suppressed and murdered protesters while convincing Obama to hush up or risk offending them. They made the most of “engagement.” They got the Americans to buy into a silly agreement in which an unverifiable amount of enriched uranium could be shipped out of the country. And then they nixed the deal, prolonged the pre-sanctions phase, made friends with other anti-Israeli and anti-American regimes, and turned the UN session into a forum for their own propaganda. Now they’ve topped themselves:

Iran said on Monday that it had reached an agreement, brokered by Brazil and Turkey, for a nuclear fuel swap that could undermine efforts in the United Nations to impose new sanctions on the Iranians. Iranian state media quoted senior officials as saying the deal provided for Iran to ship 1,200 kilograms — about 2,600 pounds — of low-enriched uranium to neighboring Turkey in return for 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium. …

There was no immediate response from the United States or other nations in the international group dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions. … If the latest agreement meant Iran was now prepared for an exchange outside its own territory, that could represent a potentially significant step, said a diplomat in Vienna who spoke in return for anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters. … It was unclear whether the Obama administration, which has insisted on the need for new sanctions, would take any new iteration of the original United Nations-based deal for a fuel exchange.

This is preposterous given the dispositions of Brazil and Turkey these days, the impossibility of verification, and the likelihood that these nations would return the nuclear material whenever the Iranians wanted it. But it is not significantly less preposterous than the original deal the Obama team gushed over, and the administration may now see this as an escape hatch. (Done! Problem solved!) As the report notes, “the blessing of Turkey and Brazil for such a swap agreement could put the Obama administration in the awkward position of appearing to take an unreasonably hard line.” Because, you see, we wouldn’t want to insist on a “hard line,” namely, that a brutal Islamic fundamentalist state dedicated to the eradication of Israel be forced to forgo a nuclear program or face dire consequences.

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A New Sheriff in the Strait

In the flurry of mildly interesting disclosures from the Iranian military exercise this week, one is likely to be overlooked. Iranian state media report that on Friday, April 23, the Revolutionary Guard’s naval arm stopped two ships for inspection in the Strait of Hormuz. The ships, according to Iran’s Press TV, were French and Italian. The photo accompanying the story depicts a Kaman-class guided-missile patrol boat on which the boxy, Chinese-designed C802 anti-ship-missile launchers can be seen amidships. The stated purpose of the inspections was to verify “environmental compliance.”

The names of the foreign ships were not provided; sketchy details make it difficult to be certain exactly where in the strait they were stopped. But European ships — even private yachts — rarely venture outside the recognized navigation corridors in the Strait of Hormuz. If this news report is valid, it almost certainly means that Iran detained ships that were transiting those corridors.

That, as our vice president might say, is a big effing deal. That’s not because Iran has committed an act of war by intercepting these ships, as some in the blogosphere are speculating. The intercepts were not acts of war. The purpose of verifying environmental compliance is one Iran can theoretically invoke on the basis of its maritime claims lodged with the UN in 1993. Ironically, however, Iran has never signed the Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS), the instrument by which the terms of its claims are defined. Many nations, of course, have yet to either sign or ratify UNCLOS, America being among them. In the meantime, world shipping has operated in the Strait of Hormuz for decades on the basis of UNCLOS’s definition of “transit passage,” which has customarily immunized ships in routine transit through straits against random intercept by the littoral navies (e.g., Iran’s or Oman’s).

Iran would be breaking with that custom by stopping ships for inspection in the recognized transit corridors. But this venue for a newly assertive Iranian profile is chosen well: stopping foreign ships that are conducting transit passage is uncollegial and inconvenient for commerce, but it is not clearly in breach of international law.

What it is, however, is an incipient challenge to the maritime regime enforced by the U.S., which includes the quiescent transit-passage custom on which global commerce relies. Mariners take care to observe the law as it is written, regardless of their nationality or national position on UNCLOS; but the guarantee of their unhindered passage isn’t international law, it’s the U.S. Navy. Demonstrations of force are required only rarely. Reagan put down revolutionary Iran’s only serious challenge to international maritime order back in 1988, in the final months of the Iran-Iraq War. Since then, Iran has refrained from unilateral action against shipping in the recognized transit corridors of the strait.

It’s ingenious to use environmental inspection as a pretext for establishing a new regime of unilateral Iranian prerogative. Iran is probing the U.S. and the West with this move. Fortunately, for the time being, diplomacy is the ideal tool for making it clear to Iran that the U.S. won’t tolerate capricious interference with shipping in the Strait of Hormuz. This initiative of Tehran’s must be nipped in the bud promptly, however. It can only escalate — and without pushback, it will.

In the flurry of mildly interesting disclosures from the Iranian military exercise this week, one is likely to be overlooked. Iranian state media report that on Friday, April 23, the Revolutionary Guard’s naval arm stopped two ships for inspection in the Strait of Hormuz. The ships, according to Iran’s Press TV, were French and Italian. The photo accompanying the story depicts a Kaman-class guided-missile patrol boat on which the boxy, Chinese-designed C802 anti-ship-missile launchers can be seen amidships. The stated purpose of the inspections was to verify “environmental compliance.”

The names of the foreign ships were not provided; sketchy details make it difficult to be certain exactly where in the strait they were stopped. But European ships — even private yachts — rarely venture outside the recognized navigation corridors in the Strait of Hormuz. If this news report is valid, it almost certainly means that Iran detained ships that were transiting those corridors.

That, as our vice president might say, is a big effing deal. That’s not because Iran has committed an act of war by intercepting these ships, as some in the blogosphere are speculating. The intercepts were not acts of war. The purpose of verifying environmental compliance is one Iran can theoretically invoke on the basis of its maritime claims lodged with the UN in 1993. Ironically, however, Iran has never signed the Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS), the instrument by which the terms of its claims are defined. Many nations, of course, have yet to either sign or ratify UNCLOS, America being among them. In the meantime, world shipping has operated in the Strait of Hormuz for decades on the basis of UNCLOS’s definition of “transit passage,” which has customarily immunized ships in routine transit through straits against random intercept by the littoral navies (e.g., Iran’s or Oman’s).

Iran would be breaking with that custom by stopping ships for inspection in the recognized transit corridors. But this venue for a newly assertive Iranian profile is chosen well: stopping foreign ships that are conducting transit passage is uncollegial and inconvenient for commerce, but it is not clearly in breach of international law.

What it is, however, is an incipient challenge to the maritime regime enforced by the U.S., which includes the quiescent transit-passage custom on which global commerce relies. Mariners take care to observe the law as it is written, regardless of their nationality or national position on UNCLOS; but the guarantee of their unhindered passage isn’t international law, it’s the U.S. Navy. Demonstrations of force are required only rarely. Reagan put down revolutionary Iran’s only serious challenge to international maritime order back in 1988, in the final months of the Iran-Iraq War. Since then, Iran has refrained from unilateral action against shipping in the recognized transit corridors of the strait.

It’s ingenious to use environmental inspection as a pretext for establishing a new regime of unilateral Iranian prerogative. Iran is probing the U.S. and the West with this move. Fortunately, for the time being, diplomacy is the ideal tool for making it clear to Iran that the U.S. won’t tolerate capricious interference with shipping in the Strait of Hormuz. This initiative of Tehran’s must be nipped in the bud promptly, however. It can only escalate — and without pushback, it will.

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“Patriotic” Chinese Protests

Sunday, thousands of angry Chinese took to the streets in anti-foreigner protests in major cities in China, including Wuhan, Harbin, Jinan, Xian, Qingdao, and Dalian. The demonstrations followed those occurring on Friday and Saturday, which took place around the country, including Beijing, Kunming, and Hefei. They were the largest anti-foreign protests in three years, since anti-Japan riots shook Beijing, Shanghai, and other cities in China.

Young Chinese, upset at foreign media coverage of recent ethnic disturbances and pro-Tibetan protests around the world, gathered in front of foreign stores, declared a boycott of French retailer Carrefour, and carried pictures of Mao Zedong. “Condemn CNN” and “Shut up you French,” seen on banners over the weekend, expressed popular sentiment. “We’re supporting the Olympics and boycotting Tibetan independence,” said the organizer of one of the demonstrations in the Chinese capital. As Zhu Xiaomeng, a student in Beijing who has been organizing a boycott of French companies, noted, “After 5,000 years, we’re not so soft anymore.”

That’s the message Beijing wants you to hear. Chinese state media triggered the protests in China with noxious anti-French stories that began appearing about a week ago, and Beijing has fueled demonstrations in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, London, Birmingham, and Manchester in Europe and San Francisco, Los Angeles, the Twin Cities, and Washington, D.C. by paying “patriotic” Chinese to participate.

The ugly tactic seems to be working. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, for instance, will be sending three envoys to Beijing to try to limit the damage (the first left France yesterday). He also invited Jin Jing, a disabled fencer who protected the Olympic flame in the Paris torch relay from protesters, to be his “personal guest.” There is, however, evidence that Beijing manufactured the incident that made the “wheelchair angel” a national symbol of Chinese defiance.

So the West is being intimidated once again by arrogant Chinese rulers. Eventually, we will learn that Beijing has been manipulating us all along. In the meantime, Western leaders will continue to apologize to the Middle Kingdom whenever it gets into a snit.

Sunday, thousands of angry Chinese took to the streets in anti-foreigner protests in major cities in China, including Wuhan, Harbin, Jinan, Xian, Qingdao, and Dalian. The demonstrations followed those occurring on Friday and Saturday, which took place around the country, including Beijing, Kunming, and Hefei. They were the largest anti-foreign protests in three years, since anti-Japan riots shook Beijing, Shanghai, and other cities in China.

Young Chinese, upset at foreign media coverage of recent ethnic disturbances and pro-Tibetan protests around the world, gathered in front of foreign stores, declared a boycott of French retailer Carrefour, and carried pictures of Mao Zedong. “Condemn CNN” and “Shut up you French,” seen on banners over the weekend, expressed popular sentiment. “We’re supporting the Olympics and boycotting Tibetan independence,” said the organizer of one of the demonstrations in the Chinese capital. As Zhu Xiaomeng, a student in Beijing who has been organizing a boycott of French companies, noted, “After 5,000 years, we’re not so soft anymore.”

That’s the message Beijing wants you to hear. Chinese state media triggered the protests in China with noxious anti-French stories that began appearing about a week ago, and Beijing has fueled demonstrations in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, London, Birmingham, and Manchester in Europe and San Francisco, Los Angeles, the Twin Cities, and Washington, D.C. by paying “patriotic” Chinese to participate.

The ugly tactic seems to be working. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, for instance, will be sending three envoys to Beijing to try to limit the damage (the first left France yesterday). He also invited Jin Jing, a disabled fencer who protected the Olympic flame in the Paris torch relay from protesters, to be his “personal guest.” There is, however, evidence that Beijing manufactured the incident that made the “wheelchair angel” a national symbol of Chinese defiance.

So the West is being intimidated once again by arrogant Chinese rulers. Eventually, we will learn that Beijing has been manipulating us all along. In the meantime, Western leaders will continue to apologize to the Middle Kingdom whenever it gets into a snit.

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Iran in Space

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad read the countdown, the audience chanted “God is greatest,” and Iran launched its first rocket into space yesterday.

Or so Iranian state media said. It’s not quite clear just how high the research rocket, Kavoshgar-1, went. A parachute came drifting down to the launch site well before the rocket could have made it into the heavens, suggesting that all did not go according to plan. Iran, after a similar announcement last February, appears to have failed to reach orbital height. In any event, the country now says that the rocket will carry its first research satellite, whose name translates as “Hope,” by next March.

Putting a satellite into orbit is not exactly the same thing as landing a warhead in Washington, but today’s development is nonetheless a matter of concern for “Zionists,” “Great Satans,” and other members of the international community. Even though Iran insists that its rocket program is peaceful, much of the technology has obvious military applications.

Kavoshgar-1’s flight, therefore, underscores the urgency of having a missile defense system in place. On Friday, Poland said that it had agreed in principle to host ten interceptor missiles as a part of the American-sponsored plan. Condoleezza Rice, after meeting with Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, said that the United States would be willing to help Poland with its air defenses, Warsaw’s key requirement for participating in Washington’s missile defense plans. Discussions with the government of the Czech Republic, where radar for the system would be based, are also moving in the right direction.

Although negotiations with the two European nations are on a positive track, we have to remember that missile defense is only a stopgap solution. Throughout history, improved weapons have always defeated defensive systems. And when it comes to shooting down intercontinental ballistic missiles, even 99 percent success rates can result in catastrophic losses.

So our long-term goal should not be defending against Tehran but disarming it. We can offer incentives, impose sanctions, threaten destruction, or promote regime change. We can employ peaceful methods or forceful ones, and we can act on our own or as part of a broad coalition. Yet whatever we do, we have to make sure that mullahs in Tehran never have the ability to launch missiles with nuclear tips.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad read the countdown, the audience chanted “God is greatest,” and Iran launched its first rocket into space yesterday.

Or so Iranian state media said. It’s not quite clear just how high the research rocket, Kavoshgar-1, went. A parachute came drifting down to the launch site well before the rocket could have made it into the heavens, suggesting that all did not go according to plan. Iran, after a similar announcement last February, appears to have failed to reach orbital height. In any event, the country now says that the rocket will carry its first research satellite, whose name translates as “Hope,” by next March.

Putting a satellite into orbit is not exactly the same thing as landing a warhead in Washington, but today’s development is nonetheless a matter of concern for “Zionists,” “Great Satans,” and other members of the international community. Even though Iran insists that its rocket program is peaceful, much of the technology has obvious military applications.

Kavoshgar-1’s flight, therefore, underscores the urgency of having a missile defense system in place. On Friday, Poland said that it had agreed in principle to host ten interceptor missiles as a part of the American-sponsored plan. Condoleezza Rice, after meeting with Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, said that the United States would be willing to help Poland with its air defenses, Warsaw’s key requirement for participating in Washington’s missile defense plans. Discussions with the government of the Czech Republic, where radar for the system would be based, are also moving in the right direction.

Although negotiations with the two European nations are on a positive track, we have to remember that missile defense is only a stopgap solution. Throughout history, improved weapons have always defeated defensive systems. And when it comes to shooting down intercontinental ballistic missiles, even 99 percent success rates can result in catastrophic losses.

So our long-term goal should not be defending against Tehran but disarming it. We can offer incentives, impose sanctions, threaten destruction, or promote regime change. We can employ peaceful methods or forceful ones, and we can act on our own or as part of a broad coalition. Yet whatever we do, we have to make sure that mullahs in Tehran never have the ability to launch missiles with nuclear tips.

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What Do They Do Now?

John, I agree that even the Clintons may find it hard to spin a 2 to 1 loss, but they will try. They will argue this was racial politics, unlikely to be duplicated since no state has such a high percentage of African American voters. Well, yes, winning over 80 percent of the African American vote in a state with the largest percentage of African American voters will be a salient fact. However, truth be told, Obama got a respectable 24 percent of the white vote and won overwhelmingly among voters below 60 and among young white voters. At the very least, it is a stinging rebuke to the Bill/Hillary team (70 percent of voters thought their attacks were unfair and late deciders went strongly for Obama despite Bill’s blitz and histrionics this week).

Obama will ride a wave of excitement and breathless coverage for a few days but then he does have his work cut out for him. Bluntly put, he must do better among white voters, especially in states like California where African Americans are only 7 percent of the electorate. Perhaps the specter of the Clintons’ rejection will encourage others beyond Caroline Kennedy to join Obama’s cause.

And what of John Edwards, who seems to be regularly below the Mendoza line? He trudges on, apparently with a nine state media buy because. . . because why? Well, that’s what John Edwards likes to do. Also, the savvy might recognize that with a well balanced Obama-Hillary fight and proportionally assigned delegates the possibility for a brokered convention increases. With that, so does Edwards’ bargaining leverage. (Would he be the first person who ran for VP with two different people at the top of the ticket?) Let’s hope the price for his delegates doesn’t include an important spot like Attorney General. ( Would the first order of business be a pardon for Dickie Scruggs?)

John, I agree that even the Clintons may find it hard to spin a 2 to 1 loss, but they will try. They will argue this was racial politics, unlikely to be duplicated since no state has such a high percentage of African American voters. Well, yes, winning over 80 percent of the African American vote in a state with the largest percentage of African American voters will be a salient fact. However, truth be told, Obama got a respectable 24 percent of the white vote and won overwhelmingly among voters below 60 and among young white voters. At the very least, it is a stinging rebuke to the Bill/Hillary team (70 percent of voters thought their attacks were unfair and late deciders went strongly for Obama despite Bill’s blitz and histrionics this week).

Obama will ride a wave of excitement and breathless coverage for a few days but then he does have his work cut out for him. Bluntly put, he must do better among white voters, especially in states like California where African Americans are only 7 percent of the electorate. Perhaps the specter of the Clintons’ rejection will encourage others beyond Caroline Kennedy to join Obama’s cause.

And what of John Edwards, who seems to be regularly below the Mendoza line? He trudges on, apparently with a nine state media buy because. . . because why? Well, that’s what John Edwards likes to do. Also, the savvy might recognize that with a well balanced Obama-Hillary fight and proportionally assigned delegates the possibility for a brokered convention increases. With that, so does Edwards’ bargaining leverage. (Would he be the first person who ran for VP with two different people at the top of the ticket?) Let’s hope the price for his delegates doesn’t include an important spot like Attorney General. ( Would the first order of business be a pardon for Dickie Scruggs?)

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Lessons Unlearned on North Korea

The latest collapse of nuclear negotiations with North Korea provides some clear lessons, but we are not learning them.

The New Year began with the flat refusal by Pyongyang to provide the inventory of her programs that she had promised. For good measure, North Korean state media editorialized on January 4th that “Our republic will continue to harden its war deterrent further in response to the US stepping up its nuclear war moves.”

Today’s Washington Post indicates we still do not grasp the situation. It quotes envoy Christopher Hill: “We understand that this [preparation of an inventory] is always a difficult process, one that is rarely completed on time. So I think we have to have a little sense of patience and perseverance.” Such self-deception is inexcusable: we’ve been through this cycle of negotiation-to-a-dead-end twice now.

When North Korea’s nuclear program became known in 1993, President Bill Clinton talked tough. Speaking to Meet The Press from the Oval Office on November 7, 1993 he declared “North Korea cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. We must be very firm about it,” and spoke of possible “conflict.” Clinton changed course, reportedly after a briefing on military options that terrified him. The first cycle of negotiations ensued, with a never-fulfilled agreement in 1994 to dismantle in return for U.S. aid.

George W. Bush took up this refrain again, pledging that “I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons”. But in 2003 the Six Party Talks marked a return to the diplomatic track.

In the fifteen years wasted by these negotiations, North Korea has presumably perfected her nuclear capability. Our close allies the Japanese have, meanwhile, been angered by the American willingness to sacrifice Japanese concerns–about their citizens who have been abducted by Pyongyang—in order not to upset imaginary progress being made in the talks. What are the lessons? First, you cannot negotiate away nuclear capabilities. Second, military options do not really exist. Finally, and most worryingly, the very process of negotiation gives us a stake in the survival of the regime with which we are engaging. We’re becoming ever more committed to the survival of the regime that we originally identified as the problem.

Soon I expect we will be hearing calls for the U.S. to help stabilize North Korea after Kim Jong Il, even in the absence of that country’s abandonment of nuclear weapons.

The latest collapse of nuclear negotiations with North Korea provides some clear lessons, but we are not learning them.

The New Year began with the flat refusal by Pyongyang to provide the inventory of her programs that she had promised. For good measure, North Korean state media editorialized on January 4th that “Our republic will continue to harden its war deterrent further in response to the US stepping up its nuclear war moves.”

Today’s Washington Post indicates we still do not grasp the situation. It quotes envoy Christopher Hill: “We understand that this [preparation of an inventory] is always a difficult process, one that is rarely completed on time. So I think we have to have a little sense of patience and perseverance.” Such self-deception is inexcusable: we’ve been through this cycle of negotiation-to-a-dead-end twice now.

When North Korea’s nuclear program became known in 1993, President Bill Clinton talked tough. Speaking to Meet The Press from the Oval Office on November 7, 1993 he declared “North Korea cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. We must be very firm about it,” and spoke of possible “conflict.” Clinton changed course, reportedly after a briefing on military options that terrified him. The first cycle of negotiations ensued, with a never-fulfilled agreement in 1994 to dismantle in return for U.S. aid.

George W. Bush took up this refrain again, pledging that “I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons”. But in 2003 the Six Party Talks marked a return to the diplomatic track.

In the fifteen years wasted by these negotiations, North Korea has presumably perfected her nuclear capability. Our close allies the Japanese have, meanwhile, been angered by the American willingness to sacrifice Japanese concerns–about their citizens who have been abducted by Pyongyang—in order not to upset imaginary progress being made in the talks. What are the lessons? First, you cannot negotiate away nuclear capabilities. Second, military options do not really exist. Finally, and most worryingly, the very process of negotiation gives us a stake in the survival of the regime with which we are engaging. We’re becoming ever more committed to the survival of the regime that we originally identified as the problem.

Soon I expect we will be hearing calls for the U.S. to help stabilize North Korea after Kim Jong Il, even in the absence of that country’s abandonment of nuclear weapons.

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China’s Global Truce

On Wednesday, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution calling on all member states to observe a truce during next year’s Beijing Olympics and the subsequent Paralympic Games. Ancient Greek states halted warfare for the Olympics, and the General Assembly has adopted Olympic truce resolutions since 1993. This year, China sponsored the UN resolution and crowed about it in state media afterward.

This is one Chinese Communist initiative that I endorse heartily. In fact, I like it so much I think the concept should be extended. For example, during these sporting events Beijing could withdraw its support for the Sudanese government and the murderous Janjaweed militia; refuse to sell small arms to Iran so that it can send them to insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan; stop its diplomatic backing of Tehran’s atomic ayatollahs and pull back its nuclear technicians in Iran; suspend its assistance to North Korea, Zimbabwe, and Burma; discontinue its campaign of cyber-attacks on other governments; and, if all of this is not too much to ask, take a break from conspiring with Moscow to commit mischief around the world.

Even more important, I suggest that, during the Olympic events next year, the Chinese Communist Party suspend its struggle against the legitimate aspirations of the Chinese people. While the truce is in effect the Party would, among other things, lift all censorship of the media, allow people to assemble and protest, free all jailed dissidents, stop all forced sterilizations and abortions, end the practice of destroying places of worship and beating parishioners, and prohibit local officials from engaging in their normally rapacious behavior.

Under my temporary truce proposal, the Party could resume its malignant practices, both at home and abroad, once the Games are over. Of course, the risk is that the world enjoys the breather so much that the General Assembly decides to ban Beijing’s despotism forever. That is a lot to ask from the UN, but we don’t have to worry. I’m sure the Chinese people would not let the Communists go back to their old way of doing things.

On Wednesday, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution calling on all member states to observe a truce during next year’s Beijing Olympics and the subsequent Paralympic Games. Ancient Greek states halted warfare for the Olympics, and the General Assembly has adopted Olympic truce resolutions since 1993. This year, China sponsored the UN resolution and crowed about it in state media afterward.

This is one Chinese Communist initiative that I endorse heartily. In fact, I like it so much I think the concept should be extended. For example, during these sporting events Beijing could withdraw its support for the Sudanese government and the murderous Janjaweed militia; refuse to sell small arms to Iran so that it can send them to insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan; stop its diplomatic backing of Tehran’s atomic ayatollahs and pull back its nuclear technicians in Iran; suspend its assistance to North Korea, Zimbabwe, and Burma; discontinue its campaign of cyber-attacks on other governments; and, if all of this is not too much to ask, take a break from conspiring with Moscow to commit mischief around the world.

Even more important, I suggest that, during the Olympic events next year, the Chinese Communist Party suspend its struggle against the legitimate aspirations of the Chinese people. While the truce is in effect the Party would, among other things, lift all censorship of the media, allow people to assemble and protest, free all jailed dissidents, stop all forced sterilizations and abortions, end the practice of destroying places of worship and beating parishioners, and prohibit local officials from engaging in their normally rapacious behavior.

Under my temporary truce proposal, the Party could resume its malignant practices, both at home and abroad, once the Games are over. Of course, the risk is that the world enjoys the breather so much that the General Assembly decides to ban Beijing’s despotism forever. That is a lot to ask from the UN, but we don’t have to worry. I’m sure the Chinese people would not let the Communists go back to their old way of doing things.

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The Disloyalty of James Fallows Revisited

James Fallows is “amazed” by my post of yesterday, in which I pointed out that he himself is a member of a faction even as he attempts to delegitimize the workings of another faction, composed “mainly of one religion (Jewish).”

Fallows now charges me, along with a number of vociferous critics, with neglecting to note that, in addition to writing about the lobbying efforts of Jews, he referred to the lobbying efforts of two other ethnic groups, Armenian-Americans and Cuban-Americans. My sin of omission, he says, makes him “nostalgic for the comparative ‘honesty’ of the
Chinese state media I’ve been dealing with recently.”

Read More

James Fallows is “amazed” by my post of yesterday, in which I pointed out that he himself is a member of a faction even as he attempts to delegitimize the workings of another faction, composed “mainly of one religion (Jewish).”

Fallows now charges me, along with a number of vociferous critics, with neglecting to note that, in addition to writing about the lobbying efforts of Jews, he referred to the lobbying efforts of two other ethnic groups, Armenian-Americans and Cuban-Americans. My sin of omission, he says, makes him “nostalgic for the comparative ‘honesty’ of the
Chinese state media I’ve been dealing with recently.”

Fallows’s original post began with the words: “A way to think about the Walt-Mearsheimer book and related controversies.” This led me to conclude that the lobbying efforts of American Jews were its “primary target.” In the interests of honesty in media, I will cheerfully acknowledge that my conclusion was hasty and that American Jews were not the primary target, just the one that happened to interest me the most and also the group that, thanks to Mearsheimer and Walt, is most in the crosshairs these days. In any case, I did give a link to Fallows’s original piece for all to read, so my omission was not exactly a Nixonian or Clintonian or Chinese Communist cover-up.

I will also cheerfully accept Fallows’s partially gracious conclusion about my post:

Obviously there is a point in here, about the inevitability that a big, plural democracy will–and should–involve a contest among many partial, “factional” views. But it’s not a point I care to address when set up this way!

But I am still wondering: why does he arrogate to himself and to his faction the right to determine what American interests are? And why does he cast aspersions of disloyalty on those with whom he disagrees about what constitutes those interests, saying of an American Jewish organization, for instance, that in pressing for a “military showdown” with Iran, “it is advancing its own causes at the expense of larger American interests”?

Such words make me nostalgic for a famous speech by Charles Lindbergh in Des Moines, Iowa, on September 11, 1941 in which he said that the “the three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish, and the Roosevelt administration.”

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