Commentary Magazine


Topic: the Christian Science Monitor

Muslim Leaders Warn of ‘Backlash’ from Rep. King Hearings

As Rep. Peter King prepares to hold hearings to investigate homegrown Islamic radicalization next month, opponents of the investigation have fallen back on a familiar defense mechanism: they allege that the hearings will spur a “backlash” of hate crimes against Muslims.

The Washington Post reported that the upcoming hearings “have touched off a wave of panic throughout the U.S. Muslim community, which has spent much of the past year battling what it sees as a rising tide of Islamophobia.”

At the New York Daily News, Douglas Murray noted the recurrent fears of anti-Muslim “backlash”:

Across the media and blogosphere, pundits and certain politicians have been warning of the “fear” that Muslims are said to be feeling about the hearings. Not a witness has been confirmed, but self-appointed Muslim “leaders” have expressed their fears of the mythical “backlash” that is meant to be always about to occur.

Murray makes a good point. Just a few examples of incidents that so-called advocates for the Muslim community claimed would lead to a “backlash” in recent years include the Iraq war; when the FBI uncovered an Islamic terrorist attack in New Jersey; when a professor with terrorist links was put on trial; when Americans were beheaded by Islamic extremists; the sale of “Left Behind” video games; President Bush’s use of the term “Islamic fascism”; and the movie United 93.

Of course, the most recent incident that was supposed to spark a backlash was the public anger at the Islamic center near Ground Zero last summer.  “You saw some anti-Muslim views after 9/11, but they were relegated to the fringes of society where they should be,” Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for CAIR, told the Christian Science Monitor on Sept. 10. “Now anti-Muslim sentiment has really been mainstreamed.”

But, as Jonathan pointed out last November, that doesn’t match up with the facts. Hate crimes against Muslims reached a high after the 9/11 attacks, but they have dropped steadily — and significantly — since then.

The backlash theory has become nothing more than an easy way for some people to shut down uncomfortable conversations they don’t want to have. And this isn’t a debate they’re going to be able to put off any longer.

As Rep. Peter King prepares to hold hearings to investigate homegrown Islamic radicalization next month, opponents of the investigation have fallen back on a familiar defense mechanism: they allege that the hearings will spur a “backlash” of hate crimes against Muslims.

The Washington Post reported that the upcoming hearings “have touched off a wave of panic throughout the U.S. Muslim community, which has spent much of the past year battling what it sees as a rising tide of Islamophobia.”

At the New York Daily News, Douglas Murray noted the recurrent fears of anti-Muslim “backlash”:

Across the media and blogosphere, pundits and certain politicians have been warning of the “fear” that Muslims are said to be feeling about the hearings. Not a witness has been confirmed, but self-appointed Muslim “leaders” have expressed their fears of the mythical “backlash” that is meant to be always about to occur.

Murray makes a good point. Just a few examples of incidents that so-called advocates for the Muslim community claimed would lead to a “backlash” in recent years include the Iraq war; when the FBI uncovered an Islamic terrorist attack in New Jersey; when a professor with terrorist links was put on trial; when Americans were beheaded by Islamic extremists; the sale of “Left Behind” video games; President Bush’s use of the term “Islamic fascism”; and the movie United 93.

Of course, the most recent incident that was supposed to spark a backlash was the public anger at the Islamic center near Ground Zero last summer.  “You saw some anti-Muslim views after 9/11, but they were relegated to the fringes of society where they should be,” Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for CAIR, told the Christian Science Monitor on Sept. 10. “Now anti-Muslim sentiment has really been mainstreamed.”

But, as Jonathan pointed out last November, that doesn’t match up with the facts. Hate crimes against Muslims reached a high after the 9/11 attacks, but they have dropped steadily — and significantly — since then.

The backlash theory has become nothing more than an easy way for some people to shut down uncomfortable conversations they don’t want to have. And this isn’t a debate they’re going to be able to put off any longer.

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Political Malpractice, Say the Clintonistas

You knew this was coming:

Two former advisers to President Bill Clinton accused the Obama administration of minimizing the economic crisis and botching a narrative that could have limited Democratic losses this midterm election cycle.

“The White House had the best and the brightest, but they, what would Bush say, misunderestimated, whatever the word is,” said Democratic consultant James Carville Thursday at a breakfast with reporters held by the Christian Science Monitor.

Pollster Stan Greenberg said Obama downplayed “an almost Depression-like economic crisis,” by inaccurately projecting the magnitude of job losses. “They predicated everything on the jobs coming back from March. They’re still in the middle of this crisis. This is a total misframing of this moment. Some of it’s policy … a lot of it is giving the people in this crisis a sense of what the scale of it is, and what has to be done to get out of it,” he said.

Does this mean that Hillary is running for something? No. Does it mean that either Carville or Greenberg opposed the stimulus or ObamaCare or other parts of the Obama agenda that enraged the electorate? Come to think of it, no. In fact, their message seems to be that Obama wasn’t anti-business enough.

But the Democratic pols can’t resist the temptation to take a poke at the White House, in large part because the central theme of Hillary’s 2008 campaign — that Obama was not ready for prime time — was accurate. It just wasn’t politically timely in a “change” election year.

The challenge for the White House now is to devise not only a policy agenda that makes sense but also to convince the Democrats in Congress and around the country that as a strategic matter, the “best and the brightest” know what they are doing. The Democrats who survived or who will be up for re-election in 2012 will not be inclined to follow the political advice of a White House that has paraded them off the political cliff.

You knew this was coming:

Two former advisers to President Bill Clinton accused the Obama administration of minimizing the economic crisis and botching a narrative that could have limited Democratic losses this midterm election cycle.

“The White House had the best and the brightest, but they, what would Bush say, misunderestimated, whatever the word is,” said Democratic consultant James Carville Thursday at a breakfast with reporters held by the Christian Science Monitor.

Pollster Stan Greenberg said Obama downplayed “an almost Depression-like economic crisis,” by inaccurately projecting the magnitude of job losses. “They predicated everything on the jobs coming back from March. They’re still in the middle of this crisis. This is a total misframing of this moment. Some of it’s policy … a lot of it is giving the people in this crisis a sense of what the scale of it is, and what has to be done to get out of it,” he said.

Does this mean that Hillary is running for something? No. Does it mean that either Carville or Greenberg opposed the stimulus or ObamaCare or other parts of the Obama agenda that enraged the electorate? Come to think of it, no. In fact, their message seems to be that Obama wasn’t anti-business enough.

But the Democratic pols can’t resist the temptation to take a poke at the White House, in large part because the central theme of Hillary’s 2008 campaign — that Obama was not ready for prime time — was accurate. It just wasn’t politically timely in a “change” election year.

The challenge for the White House now is to devise not only a policy agenda that makes sense but also to convince the Democrats in Congress and around the country that as a strategic matter, the “best and the brightest” know what they are doing. The Democrats who survived or who will be up for re-election in 2012 will not be inclined to follow the political advice of a White House that has paraded them off the political cliff.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Carly Fiorina says there has been more condemnation of Israel than there was of North Korea when it sank a South Korean ship. She says bad things are happening in the world because Obama is displaying weakness.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Bill Kristol tells us, “The dispute over this terror-friendly flotilla is about more than policy toward Gaza. It is about more than Israel. It is about whether the West has the will to defend itself against its enemies. It is about showing (to paraphrase William Gladstone) that the resources of civilization against terror are by no means exhausted.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Michael Oren says, “Turkey has embraced the leaders of Iran and Hamas, all of whom called for Israel’s destruction. …  Our policy has not changed but Turkey’s policy has changed, very much, over the last few years. … Under a different government with an Islamic orientation, Turkey has turned away from the West.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the U.S. State Department urges “caution and restraint” — from Israel in intercepting the next terrorist flotilla.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Helen Thomas tells Jews to leave Israel and go back to Germany and Poland. (She later apologized, claiming that she really doesn’t believe what she said.)

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” this blather is written: “But that 2 a.m. boarding of an unarmed ship with an unarmed crew, carrying no munitions or weapons, 65 miles at sea, was an act of piracy. What the Israeli commandos got is what any armed hijacker should expect who tries to steal a car from a driver who keeps a tire iron under the front seat. … But we have a blockade of Gaza, say the Israelis, and this flotilla was a provocation. Indeed, it was. And Selma was a provocation. The marchers at Edmund Pettus Bridge were disobeying orders of the governor of Alabama and state police not to march.” Pat Buchanan or Peter Beinart? It’s hard to tell, isn’t it?

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the IDF releases a tape showing that the flotilla was warned to back away and the “peace activists” shouted, “Go back to Auschwitz.” Sounds as though their ideal PR flack would be (is?) Helen Thomas.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Jerusalem Post reports: “Hamas’s security forces on Monday and Tuesday raided the offices of several non-governmental organizations in the Gaza Strip and confiscated equipment and furniture, drawing sharp condemnations from human rights groups.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Christian Science Monitor calls on Turkey to tone it down.”The Middle East does not need another country of fist-shakers, and that’s why the tone in Turkey is of such concern. Not just this incident, but others have increased anti-Semitism in this mostly Muslim country of about 80 million people – a democracy anchored in NATO and working on membership in the European Union.The rhetoric, if unchecked, runs the risk of further undermining Turkey’s credibility and goal of being a regional problem solver, and of the West’s interest in Turkey as a bridge between the Muslim and Christian worlds.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” David Brog, executive director of Christians United For Israel (CUFI), declares, “Israel will face challenges in the days ahead, and it is vital that her allies in the United States stand beside her. A true ally stands with their partners in both easy and difficult times -no democracy under attack, no American ally, deserves any less.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Zionist Organization of America “renewed its call for an investigation of Turkey for permitting a flotilla of armed and violent extremists to sail in an attempt to breach the lawful Israeli blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Obama says nothing.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Carly Fiorina says there has been more condemnation of Israel than there was of North Korea when it sank a South Korean ship. She says bad things are happening in the world because Obama is displaying weakness.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Bill Kristol tells us, “The dispute over this terror-friendly flotilla is about more than policy toward Gaza. It is about more than Israel. It is about whether the West has the will to defend itself against its enemies. It is about showing (to paraphrase William Gladstone) that the resources of civilization against terror are by no means exhausted.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Michael Oren says, “Turkey has embraced the leaders of Iran and Hamas, all of whom called for Israel’s destruction. …  Our policy has not changed but Turkey’s policy has changed, very much, over the last few years. … Under a different government with an Islamic orientation, Turkey has turned away from the West.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the U.S. State Department urges “caution and restraint” — from Israel in intercepting the next terrorist flotilla.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Helen Thomas tells Jews to leave Israel and go back to Germany and Poland. (She later apologized, claiming that she really doesn’t believe what she said.)

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” this blather is written: “But that 2 a.m. boarding of an unarmed ship with an unarmed crew, carrying no munitions or weapons, 65 miles at sea, was an act of piracy. What the Israeli commandos got is what any armed hijacker should expect who tries to steal a car from a driver who keeps a tire iron under the front seat. … But we have a blockade of Gaza, say the Israelis, and this flotilla was a provocation. Indeed, it was. And Selma was a provocation. The marchers at Edmund Pettus Bridge were disobeying orders of the governor of Alabama and state police not to march.” Pat Buchanan or Peter Beinart? It’s hard to tell, isn’t it?

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the IDF releases a tape showing that the flotilla was warned to back away and the “peace activists” shouted, “Go back to Auschwitz.” Sounds as though their ideal PR flack would be (is?) Helen Thomas.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Jerusalem Post reports: “Hamas’s security forces on Monday and Tuesday raided the offices of several non-governmental organizations in the Gaza Strip and confiscated equipment and furniture, drawing sharp condemnations from human rights groups.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Christian Science Monitor calls on Turkey to tone it down.”The Middle East does not need another country of fist-shakers, and that’s why the tone in Turkey is of such concern. Not just this incident, but others have increased anti-Semitism in this mostly Muslim country of about 80 million people – a democracy anchored in NATO and working on membership in the European Union.The rhetoric, if unchecked, runs the risk of further undermining Turkey’s credibility and goal of being a regional problem solver, and of the West’s interest in Turkey as a bridge between the Muslim and Christian worlds.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” David Brog, executive director of Christians United For Israel (CUFI), declares, “Israel will face challenges in the days ahead, and it is vital that her allies in the United States stand beside her. A true ally stands with their partners in both easy and difficult times -no democracy under attack, no American ally, deserves any less.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Zionist Organization of America “renewed its call for an investigation of Turkey for permitting a flotilla of armed and violent extremists to sail in an attempt to breach the lawful Israeli blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Obama says nothing.

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Obama’s Bad Bet

It seems ObamaCare was not the panacea it was cracked up to be. Sam Stein reports:

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday morning, Stan Greenberg — alongside his fellow strategist and party adviser James Carville — said that the signs of electoral bloodbath exist today, though not quite as strongly as they did 16 years ago.

“We are on the edge of it, but we are not there,” Greenberg said, at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “If the election were now, we would have a change election; we would have a 1994.”

In particular, both strategists noted that the sense of economic stagnation which is depressing voters today very much resembles the political hurdle that nearly derailed Clinton (and cost Greenberg his job) during his first term in office. …

“The good news for Democrats is that, after health care passed, the Democratic intensity number went up. It still doesn’t match the Republican intensity number,” said Carville. “Now if the intensity numbers were the same in November as they are now, it does not bode well for Democrats. But if they continue to improve for Democrats, it would be better news. They are not going to pick up seats. That’s a given. But how many they lose is quite open.”

At least for now, Republicans are leading in generic polling — a rarity by historic standards. It seems that rather than endear voters to the House majority, the passage of the “historic” bill by a narrow partisan vote has only solidified opposition and alienated independents. The unpleasant task of soothing Obama’s congressional allies now falls to House leaders, who just recently were telling their colleagues what a boon ObamaCare would be to their electoral prospects:

Rep. Chris Van Hollen is seeking both to calm and unify his party as it enters what he calls “dangerous waters ahead.” With healthcare reform now  law, Democratic leaders are shifting into a new phase, reassuring and advising nervous members who have huge targets on their backs. …

With his two leadership roles, Van Hollen found himself in an unusual position on the healthcare bill. Noting Democrats had to show they can govern, Van Hollen worked hard to pass the bill, but also understood more than most Democrats why some of his colleagues opposed it.

“I’ve made it clear many times that I’m not the whip,” he said with a laugh.

But Obama’s bet — sacrifice handfuls of congressional Democrats to achieve his aim — may not be a wise one. His calculation rests on his ability to hold down the losses, maintain some semblance of support for his agenda, and defuse the opposition to his signature accomplishment and his party, which threatens to repeal and replace his legislation. Without a remarkable shift in opinion and a significant improvement in the economic picture (especially in the jobs outlook), that gamble may very well not pay off.

It seems ObamaCare was not the panacea it was cracked up to be. Sam Stein reports:

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday morning, Stan Greenberg — alongside his fellow strategist and party adviser James Carville — said that the signs of electoral bloodbath exist today, though not quite as strongly as they did 16 years ago.

“We are on the edge of it, but we are not there,” Greenberg said, at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “If the election were now, we would have a change election; we would have a 1994.”

In particular, both strategists noted that the sense of economic stagnation which is depressing voters today very much resembles the political hurdle that nearly derailed Clinton (and cost Greenberg his job) during his first term in office. …

“The good news for Democrats is that, after health care passed, the Democratic intensity number went up. It still doesn’t match the Republican intensity number,” said Carville. “Now if the intensity numbers were the same in November as they are now, it does not bode well for Democrats. But if they continue to improve for Democrats, it would be better news. They are not going to pick up seats. That’s a given. But how many they lose is quite open.”

At least for now, Republicans are leading in generic polling — a rarity by historic standards. It seems that rather than endear voters to the House majority, the passage of the “historic” bill by a narrow partisan vote has only solidified opposition and alienated independents. The unpleasant task of soothing Obama’s congressional allies now falls to House leaders, who just recently were telling their colleagues what a boon ObamaCare would be to their electoral prospects:

Rep. Chris Van Hollen is seeking both to calm and unify his party as it enters what he calls “dangerous waters ahead.” With healthcare reform now  law, Democratic leaders are shifting into a new phase, reassuring and advising nervous members who have huge targets on their backs. …

With his two leadership roles, Van Hollen found himself in an unusual position on the healthcare bill. Noting Democrats had to show they can govern, Van Hollen worked hard to pass the bill, but also understood more than most Democrats why some of his colleagues opposed it.

“I’ve made it clear many times that I’m not the whip,” he said with a laugh.

But Obama’s bet — sacrifice handfuls of congressional Democrats to achieve his aim — may not be a wise one. His calculation rests on his ability to hold down the losses, maintain some semblance of support for his agenda, and defuse the opposition to his signature accomplishment and his party, which threatens to repeal and replace his legislation. Without a remarkable shift in opinion and a significant improvement in the economic picture (especially in the jobs outlook), that gamble may very well not pay off.

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Map Check

The central problem in foreign press coverage of Israel is the tendency of journalists to rewrite and sensationalize current events or, more commonly, to mischaracterize them into agreement with a preferred narrative. Take the brouhaha over Gilo. Many journalists would like to incorporate the Israeli decision to add housing to this neighborhood into the larger narrative about West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements encroaching on land slated for a future Palestinian state. It would be complicated if it was acknowledged, as Jeffrey Goldberg pointed out, that

The building of apartments in Gilo is irrelevant to [the] eventual disposition of Jerusalem because everyone — the Americans, the Palestinians and the Israelis — knows that Gilo … will undoubtedly end up in Israel as part of a negotiated solution. … It doesn’t matter, then, if the Israelis build 900 housing units in Gilo or 900 skyscrapers: Gilo will be kept by Israel in exchange for a one-to-one land swap with Palestine.

The narrative of dispossession would be even more profoundly challenged if it was acknowledged that Gilo isn’t even in the West Bank or East Jerusalem. It’s actually in Southwest Jerusalem. Type “Gilo Jerusalem” into Google Maps if you want to see for yourself. Yet almost every single story on the Gilo controversy locates the neighborhood in a completely different region — specifically, an Arab region — of Jerusalem. What’s even more remarkable is that most of these stories are written by reporters who are stationed in Jerusalem. These sloppy characters either don’t know the geography of their own backyard or are willfully misleading their readers.

So, here’s to you, Ben Hubbard of the AP, Katya Adler of the BBC, Fox News, the BBC (again), Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian, Ben Lynfield of the UK Independent, Ilene Prusher of the Christian Science Monitor, and many more.

You have all flunked Journalism 101.

The central problem in foreign press coverage of Israel is the tendency of journalists to rewrite and sensationalize current events or, more commonly, to mischaracterize them into agreement with a preferred narrative. Take the brouhaha over Gilo. Many journalists would like to incorporate the Israeli decision to add housing to this neighborhood into the larger narrative about West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements encroaching on land slated for a future Palestinian state. It would be complicated if it was acknowledged, as Jeffrey Goldberg pointed out, that

The building of apartments in Gilo is irrelevant to [the] eventual disposition of Jerusalem because everyone — the Americans, the Palestinians and the Israelis — knows that Gilo … will undoubtedly end up in Israel as part of a negotiated solution. … It doesn’t matter, then, if the Israelis build 900 housing units in Gilo or 900 skyscrapers: Gilo will be kept by Israel in exchange for a one-to-one land swap with Palestine.

The narrative of dispossession would be even more profoundly challenged if it was acknowledged that Gilo isn’t even in the West Bank or East Jerusalem. It’s actually in Southwest Jerusalem. Type “Gilo Jerusalem” into Google Maps if you want to see for yourself. Yet almost every single story on the Gilo controversy locates the neighborhood in a completely different region — specifically, an Arab region — of Jerusalem. What’s even more remarkable is that most of these stories are written by reporters who are stationed in Jerusalem. These sloppy characters either don’t know the geography of their own backyard or are willfully misleading their readers.

So, here’s to you, Ben Hubbard of the AP, Katya Adler of the BBC, Fox News, the BBC (again), Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian, Ben Lynfield of the UK Independent, Ilene Prusher of the Christian Science Monitor, and many more.

You have all flunked Journalism 101.

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Who is Thomas P. M. Barnett?

In the LA Times today, Max Boot effectively takes down the Esquire profile of Admiral William Fallon, who just resigned as head the U.S. Central Command in a spat with the Bush administration over Iran policy:

Its author, Thomas P.M. Barnett, a former professor at the Naval War College, presents a fawning portrait of the admiral — a service he previously performed for Donald Rumsfeld. But evidence of Fallon’s supposed “strategic brilliance” is notably lacking. For example, Barnett notes Fallon’s attempt to banish the phrase “the Long War” (created by his predecessor) because it “signaled a long haul that Fallon simply finds unacceptable,” without offering any hint of how Fallon intends to defeat our enemies overnight. The ideas Fallon proposes — “He wants troop levels in Iraq down now, and he wants the Afghan National Army running the show throughout most of Afghanistan by the end of this year” — would most likely result in security setbacks that would lengthen, not shorten, the struggle.

Max calls Barnett’s portrait “fawning.” Max is a master of understatement. Here are some excerpts:

The first thing you notice is the face, the second is the voice.

A tall, wiry man with thinning white hair, Fallon comes off like a loner even when he’s standing in a crowd.

Despite having an easy smile that he regularly pulls out for his many daily exercises in relationship building, Fallon’s consistent game face is a slightly pissed-off glare. It’s his default expression. Don’t fuck with me, it says. A tough Catholic boy from New Jersey, his favorite compliment is “badass.” Fallon’s got a fearsome reputation, although no one I ever talk to in the business can quite pin down why.

And in truth, Fallon’s not a screamer. Indeed, by my long observation and the accounts of a dozen people, he doesn’t raise his voice whatsoever, except when he laughs. Instead, the more serious he becomes, the quieter he gets, and his whispers sound positively menacing. Other guys can jaw-jaw all they want about the need for war-war with . . . whomever is today’s target among D.C.’s many armchair warriors. Not Fallon. Let the president pop off. Fallon won’t. No bravado here, nor sound-bite-sized threats, but rather a calm, leathery presence. Fallon is comfortable risking peace because he’s comfortable waging war.

Along with such treacle, the Esquire portrait also contains a dose of the same kind of poison pedaled by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. Barnett writes that Fallon’s articulation of a soft line toward Iran amounts to “fighting words to your average neocon — not to mention your average supporter of Israel, a good many of whom in Washington seem never to have served a minute in uniform. But utter those words for print and you can easily find yourself defending your indifference to ‘nuclear holocaust.'” Thanks largely to Mearsheimer and Walt, this kind of Charles Lindbergh-Henry Ford-style discourse has seeped into the discourse of even third-rate hacks.

But perhaps even more notable is Barnett’s account of Fallon’s travel to a Chinese city when he was in charge of American forces in the Pacific:

Early in his tenure at Pacific Command, Fallon let it be known that he was interested in visiting the city of Harbin in the highly controlled and isolated Heilongjiang Military District on China’s northern border with Russia. The Chinese were flabbergasted at the request, but when Fallon’s command plane took off one afternoon from Mongolia, heading for Harbin without permission, Beijing relented.

Did a U.S. military aircraft really enter Chinese airspace without permission? Under what circumstances are U.S. military aircraft ever granted permission to fly over China, let alone over a military district? What really happened here? My first bet is that either Barnett made this stuff up or he was sold a bill of goods by the man with the “calm, leathery presence.” I knew Barnett back in grad school at Harvard, and my second bet is the latter.

Barnett became famous at Harvard for another fawning article he wrote, in this case about the Romanian tyrant Nicolae Ceausescu. Describing Ceausescu as a “shrewd and farsighted politician,” Barnett noted that the Romanian leader had recently been “unanimously reelected at the recent Communist Party congress,” and his “grip on power appears firm.” Barnett’s op-ed appeared in the Christian Science Monitor on December 11, 1989. Fourteen days later, Romania was in full revolt and Ceausescu was dead — not of natural causes.

Let’s put aside Admiral Fallon’s views on Iran. If for nothing else, he deserved to be relieved of his command for collaborating with such a malign goofball in anything, let alone a campaign of insubordination.

In the LA Times today, Max Boot effectively takes down the Esquire profile of Admiral William Fallon, who just resigned as head the U.S. Central Command in a spat with the Bush administration over Iran policy:

Its author, Thomas P.M. Barnett, a former professor at the Naval War College, presents a fawning portrait of the admiral — a service he previously performed for Donald Rumsfeld. But evidence of Fallon’s supposed “strategic brilliance” is notably lacking. For example, Barnett notes Fallon’s attempt to banish the phrase “the Long War” (created by his predecessor) because it “signaled a long haul that Fallon simply finds unacceptable,” without offering any hint of how Fallon intends to defeat our enemies overnight. The ideas Fallon proposes — “He wants troop levels in Iraq down now, and he wants the Afghan National Army running the show throughout most of Afghanistan by the end of this year” — would most likely result in security setbacks that would lengthen, not shorten, the struggle.

Max calls Barnett’s portrait “fawning.” Max is a master of understatement. Here are some excerpts:

The first thing you notice is the face, the second is the voice.

A tall, wiry man with thinning white hair, Fallon comes off like a loner even when he’s standing in a crowd.

Despite having an easy smile that he regularly pulls out for his many daily exercises in relationship building, Fallon’s consistent game face is a slightly pissed-off glare. It’s his default expression. Don’t fuck with me, it says. A tough Catholic boy from New Jersey, his favorite compliment is “badass.” Fallon’s got a fearsome reputation, although no one I ever talk to in the business can quite pin down why.

And in truth, Fallon’s not a screamer. Indeed, by my long observation and the accounts of a dozen people, he doesn’t raise his voice whatsoever, except when he laughs. Instead, the more serious he becomes, the quieter he gets, and his whispers sound positively menacing. Other guys can jaw-jaw all they want about the need for war-war with . . . whomever is today’s target among D.C.’s many armchair warriors. Not Fallon. Let the president pop off. Fallon won’t. No bravado here, nor sound-bite-sized threats, but rather a calm, leathery presence. Fallon is comfortable risking peace because he’s comfortable waging war.

Along with such treacle, the Esquire portrait also contains a dose of the same kind of poison pedaled by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. Barnett writes that Fallon’s articulation of a soft line toward Iran amounts to “fighting words to your average neocon — not to mention your average supporter of Israel, a good many of whom in Washington seem never to have served a minute in uniform. But utter those words for print and you can easily find yourself defending your indifference to ‘nuclear holocaust.'” Thanks largely to Mearsheimer and Walt, this kind of Charles Lindbergh-Henry Ford-style discourse has seeped into the discourse of even third-rate hacks.

But perhaps even more notable is Barnett’s account of Fallon’s travel to a Chinese city when he was in charge of American forces in the Pacific:

Early in his tenure at Pacific Command, Fallon let it be known that he was interested in visiting the city of Harbin in the highly controlled and isolated Heilongjiang Military District on China’s northern border with Russia. The Chinese were flabbergasted at the request, but when Fallon’s command plane took off one afternoon from Mongolia, heading for Harbin without permission, Beijing relented.

Did a U.S. military aircraft really enter Chinese airspace without permission? Under what circumstances are U.S. military aircraft ever granted permission to fly over China, let alone over a military district? What really happened here? My first bet is that either Barnett made this stuff up or he was sold a bill of goods by the man with the “calm, leathery presence.” I knew Barnett back in grad school at Harvard, and my second bet is the latter.

Barnett became famous at Harvard for another fawning article he wrote, in this case about the Romanian tyrant Nicolae Ceausescu. Describing Ceausescu as a “shrewd and farsighted politician,” Barnett noted that the Romanian leader had recently been “unanimously reelected at the recent Communist Party congress,” and his “grip on power appears firm.” Barnett’s op-ed appeared in the Christian Science Monitor on December 11, 1989. Fourteen days later, Romania was in full revolt and Ceausescu was dead — not of natural causes.

Let’s put aside Admiral Fallon’s views on Iran. If for nothing else, he deserved to be relieved of his command for collaborating with such a malign goofball in anything, let alone a campaign of insubordination.

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Palestinians in East Jerusalem Say: Please Don’t ‘Liberate’ Us

An extraordinary admission from Palestinians living in East Jerusalem in advance of the Annapolis summit, as recounted by Ilene R. Prusher in the Christian Science Monitor:

Those feeling skittish about the city’s potential partition aren’t just Israelis – who traditionally take the position that Jerusalem should be Israel’s united capital – but also Palestinian Jerusalemites, who fear that their standard of living will fall if they come under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

“I don’t want to have any part in the PA. I want the health insurance, the schools, all the things we get by living here,” says Ranya Mohammed as she does her afternoon shopping in Shuafat.

“I’ll go and live in Israel before I’ll stay here and live under the PA, even if it means taking an Israeli passport,” says Mrs. Mohammed, whose husband earns a good living from doing business here. “I have seen their suffering in the PA. We have a lot of privileges I’m not ready to give up.”

Nabil Gheet, a neighborhood leader who runs a gift and kitchenware outfit in the adjacent town of Ras Khamis, also resists coming under the PA’s control.

“We have no faith in the Palestinian Authority. It has no credibility,” he says, as his afternoon customers trickle in and out. “I do not want to be ruled by Abbas’s gang,” he says, referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

An extraordinary admission from Palestinians living in East Jerusalem in advance of the Annapolis summit, as recounted by Ilene R. Prusher in the Christian Science Monitor:

Those feeling skittish about the city’s potential partition aren’t just Israelis – who traditionally take the position that Jerusalem should be Israel’s united capital – but also Palestinian Jerusalemites, who fear that their standard of living will fall if they come under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

“I don’t want to have any part in the PA. I want the health insurance, the schools, all the things we get by living here,” says Ranya Mohammed as she does her afternoon shopping in Shuafat.

“I’ll go and live in Israel before I’ll stay here and live under the PA, even if it means taking an Israeli passport,” says Mrs. Mohammed, whose husband earns a good living from doing business here. “I have seen their suffering in the PA. We have a lot of privileges I’m not ready to give up.”

Nabil Gheet, a neighborhood leader who runs a gift and kitchenware outfit in the adjacent town of Ras Khamis, also resists coming under the PA’s control.

“We have no faith in the Palestinian Authority. It has no credibility,” he says, as his afternoon customers trickle in and out. “I do not want to be ruled by Abbas’s gang,” he says, referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

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The Holocaust and the Nakba

Is it fair for the West to demand that the Palestinian government recognize Israel’s right to exist? In an op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor of February 2, John V. Whitbeck wrote:

There is an enormous difference between “recognizing Israel’s existence” and “recognizing Israel’s right to exist.” From a Palestinian perspective, the difference is in the same league as the difference between asking a Jew to acknowledge that the Holocaust happened and asking him to concede that the Holocaust was morally justified. For Palestinians to acknowledge the occurrence of the Nakba—the expulsion of the great majority of Palestinians from their homeland between 1947 and 1949—is one thing. For them to publicly concede that it was “right” for the Nakba to have happened would be something else entirely. For the Jewish and Palestinian peoples, the Holocaust and the Nakba, respectively, represent catastrophes and injustices on an unimaginable scale that can neither be forgotten nor forgiven.

Whitbeck’s parallelism is disgusting and morally obtuse to the point where one wonders what the CSM editors could have been thinking when they published it. Here are two small differences between these two “injustices.” First, the Palestinians (and their fellow Arabs) started the Nakba by attacking the Jews. The Jews did not start the Holocaust by attacking the Nazis. Second, the victims of the Holocaust were slaughtered, while the victims of the Nakba lost their homes and land. For their part, the Jews had, over the centuries, lost their homes and land many times—events which paled in comparison to the Holocaust.

This bit of ugliness aside, what should the Arabs recognize? Merely that Israel exists? The Serbs recognized that Bosnia existed. That was precisely what they set out to change. Likewise with Saddam Hussein and Kuwait or the Hutus and the Tutsis or, for that matter, the Nazis and the Jews. The Arabs recognize that Israel exists every time they denounce, defame, boycott, or launch rockets against it. This recognition does not bring peace one millimeter closer.

But can the Arabs be expected to recognize Israel’s right to exist? The answer was supplied to me by a young Egyptian writer I know. “The creation of Israel was an injustice,” he said, “but Israel has earned the right to exist.” It has earned this right, he explained, not by its military victories over the Arabs, but by having built a vibrant society that had sunk deep roots.

This struck me as exactly right. Arabs cannot be expected to acknowledge that Israel’s birth was just. But they can be asked to agree that Israel’s destruction now would be a greater injustice. This—and not acknowledgment of the simple fact of Israel’s existence—is the key to resolving the conflict.

Is it fair for the West to demand that the Palestinian government recognize Israel’s right to exist? In an op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor of February 2, John V. Whitbeck wrote:

There is an enormous difference between “recognizing Israel’s existence” and “recognizing Israel’s right to exist.” From a Palestinian perspective, the difference is in the same league as the difference between asking a Jew to acknowledge that the Holocaust happened and asking him to concede that the Holocaust was morally justified. For Palestinians to acknowledge the occurrence of the Nakba—the expulsion of the great majority of Palestinians from their homeland between 1947 and 1949—is one thing. For them to publicly concede that it was “right” for the Nakba to have happened would be something else entirely. For the Jewish and Palestinian peoples, the Holocaust and the Nakba, respectively, represent catastrophes and injustices on an unimaginable scale that can neither be forgotten nor forgiven.

Whitbeck’s parallelism is disgusting and morally obtuse to the point where one wonders what the CSM editors could have been thinking when they published it. Here are two small differences between these two “injustices.” First, the Palestinians (and their fellow Arabs) started the Nakba by attacking the Jews. The Jews did not start the Holocaust by attacking the Nazis. Second, the victims of the Holocaust were slaughtered, while the victims of the Nakba lost their homes and land. For their part, the Jews had, over the centuries, lost their homes and land many times—events which paled in comparison to the Holocaust.

This bit of ugliness aside, what should the Arabs recognize? Merely that Israel exists? The Serbs recognized that Bosnia existed. That was precisely what they set out to change. Likewise with Saddam Hussein and Kuwait or the Hutus and the Tutsis or, for that matter, the Nazis and the Jews. The Arabs recognize that Israel exists every time they denounce, defame, boycott, or launch rockets against it. This recognition does not bring peace one millimeter closer.

But can the Arabs be expected to recognize Israel’s right to exist? The answer was supplied to me by a young Egyptian writer I know. “The creation of Israel was an injustice,” he said, “but Israel has earned the right to exist.” It has earned this right, he explained, not by its military victories over the Arabs, but by having built a vibrant society that had sunk deep roots.

This struck me as exactly right. Arabs cannot be expected to acknowledge that Israel’s birth was just. But they can be asked to agree that Israel’s destruction now would be a greater injustice. This—and not acknowledgment of the simple fact of Israel’s existence—is the key to resolving the conflict.

Read Less




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