Commentary Magazine


Topic: the New York Post

Deadlines

Obama from last night on Iraq:

Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year.

And on Afghanistan:

But, as was the case in Iraq, we cannot do for Afghans what they must ultimately do for themselves. That’s why we are training Afghan Security Forces and supporting a political resolution to Afghanistan’s problems. And, next July, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility. The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure. But make no mistake: this transition will begin – because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s. [emphasis added]

Obama, as many of us discussed at the time, did great damage to his own Afghanistan war strategy — which properly centered on an infusion of 30,000 troops — by imposing a deadline. His secretaries of state and defense have struggled mightily to blur it and redefine it. But it still stands and is, as the outgoing commandant of the Marines, John McCain, and many others have argued, a hindrance to our mission.

Less widely discussed (and kudos to the New York Post editors for picking this up) was the statement on Iraq. A number of distinguished supporters of the war, including former Ambassador Ryan Crocker, have cautioned that should the Iraqis request an extension of the Strategic Framework Agreement, we should respond positively. Paul Wolfowitz, likewise, advised:

Our commitment must also include continued material support, particularly in the form of military and technical assistance. And though we have agreed to withdraw all our troops by the end of next year — a pledge that we must honor if the Iraqi government so desires — we need to remain open to the possibility of a mutually agreed longer-term security commitment or military presence for deterrence and support.

And earlier this year, Fred and Kim Kagan warned:

The U.S. has steadfastly refused to discuss a long-term military partnership with Iraq beyond 2011, despite the fact that the Iraqi military will not be able to defend Iraq on its own by then. It has refused fully to increase civilian efforts in order to accomplish tasks that had been performed by military forces now withdrawing. It has reduced funding for the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, which allows the military to provide “urgent humanitarian relief and reconstruction” projects, as well as for other forms of humanitarian and security assistance.

But Obama is, at least for now, saying, in effect “We are out of here.” What if the situation deteriorates? What if conditions on the ground worsen? His statement hints at no wiggle room.

Deadlines, especially in wars against ideologically minded foes, are nearly always a bad idea. It is why George W. Bush, who understood well the nature of the war against jihadists, took such a firm stance against them. He was right, as are Crocker, Wolfowitz, and the Kagans: we should, in fact, be leaving the door open to the the extension of our military presence.

Presidential statements carry immense weight and we should be candid about what is said and why it is problematic. Those who root for success in Iraq owe the president the benefit of their counsel on the danger of deadlines.

Obama from last night on Iraq:

Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year.

And on Afghanistan:

But, as was the case in Iraq, we cannot do for Afghans what they must ultimately do for themselves. That’s why we are training Afghan Security Forces and supporting a political resolution to Afghanistan’s problems. And, next July, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility. The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure. But make no mistake: this transition will begin – because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s. [emphasis added]

Obama, as many of us discussed at the time, did great damage to his own Afghanistan war strategy — which properly centered on an infusion of 30,000 troops — by imposing a deadline. His secretaries of state and defense have struggled mightily to blur it and redefine it. But it still stands and is, as the outgoing commandant of the Marines, John McCain, and many others have argued, a hindrance to our mission.

Less widely discussed (and kudos to the New York Post editors for picking this up) was the statement on Iraq. A number of distinguished supporters of the war, including former Ambassador Ryan Crocker, have cautioned that should the Iraqis request an extension of the Strategic Framework Agreement, we should respond positively. Paul Wolfowitz, likewise, advised:

Our commitment must also include continued material support, particularly in the form of military and technical assistance. And though we have agreed to withdraw all our troops by the end of next year — a pledge that we must honor if the Iraqi government so desires — we need to remain open to the possibility of a mutually agreed longer-term security commitment or military presence for deterrence and support.

And earlier this year, Fred and Kim Kagan warned:

The U.S. has steadfastly refused to discuss a long-term military partnership with Iraq beyond 2011, despite the fact that the Iraqi military will not be able to defend Iraq on its own by then. It has refused fully to increase civilian efforts in order to accomplish tasks that had been performed by military forces now withdrawing. It has reduced funding for the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, which allows the military to provide “urgent humanitarian relief and reconstruction” projects, as well as for other forms of humanitarian and security assistance.

But Obama is, at least for now, saying, in effect “We are out of here.” What if the situation deteriorates? What if conditions on the ground worsen? His statement hints at no wiggle room.

Deadlines, especially in wars against ideologically minded foes, are nearly always a bad idea. It is why George W. Bush, who understood well the nature of the war against jihadists, took such a firm stance against them. He was right, as are Crocker, Wolfowitz, and the Kagans: we should, in fact, be leaving the door open to the the extension of our military presence.

Presidential statements carry immense weight and we should be candid about what is said and why it is problematic. Those who root for success in Iraq owe the president the benefit of their counsel on the danger of deadlines.

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Neocon Obama?

Jen, my take on the speech is rather different from yours, as I relate in the New York Post this morning. The first half of the speech featured a dramatic shift in tone and spirit for Obama — one in which he, for the first time, endorsed the notion of an activist American role abroad and said such a role was good both for the United States and the world:

The fact that Obama was willing to use this nation’s involvement in Iraq — which he had opposed so completely and whose extension in the form of the surge in 2007 he argued against flatly — as an example of what America can do when it puts its mind to it is stunning. “This milestone should serve as a reminder to all Americans that the future is ours to shape if we move forward with confidence and commitment,” he said.

I grant you that the speech descended into liberal boilerplate in the second half, but that is to be expected; what’s interesting in presidential speeches is what’s new in them. And this was new. And surprising. Bill Kristol agrees.

Jen, my take on the speech is rather different from yours, as I relate in the New York Post this morning. The first half of the speech featured a dramatic shift in tone and spirit for Obama — one in which he, for the first time, endorsed the notion of an activist American role abroad and said such a role was good both for the United States and the world:

The fact that Obama was willing to use this nation’s involvement in Iraq — which he had opposed so completely and whose extension in the form of the surge in 2007 he argued against flatly — as an example of what America can do when it puts its mind to it is stunning. “This milestone should serve as a reminder to all Americans that the future is ours to shape if we move forward with confidence and commitment,” he said.

I grant you that the speech descended into liberal boilerplate in the second half, but that is to be expected; what’s interesting in presidential speeches is what’s new in them. And this was new. And surprising. Bill Kristol agrees.

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The Left vs. New Yorkers

If you buy into the left punditocracy’s framing of the Ground Zero issue, there are a ton of Islamophobes in New York:

Seven in ten New Yorkers say the proposed mosque/Islamic community center near Ground Zero should be relocated because of opposition from 9/11 families — and an equal number want state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to probe the group’s finances, a new statewide poll released today found.

“Overwhelmingly — across party and regional lines — New Yorkers say the sponsors ought to voluntarily move the proposed mosque to another location,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

And women are the worst “bigots”: “By a 56-34 margin, women said the mosque should not be allowed to build near Ground Zero despite the legal right to do so. Among the men, there was a narrower 50-45 split.”

Moreover, the mosque builders appear to be the sorts of villains the left usually excoriates. The New York Post op-ed page explains that the builders are tax dodgers with a rap sheet:

Indeed, Sharif El-Gamal, who owns the site — as The Post’s Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein reported Sunday — owes nearly a quarter of a million dollars to the city in back payments. His firm, 45 Park Place Partners, simply skipped its property-tax bills in January and July, according to the Finance Department. Gamal’s folks say he delayed payments while seeking a lower tax rate, The New York Times reported.

Gamal, 37, also reportedly pleaded guilty to at least six misdemeanors while in his teens and 20s. Charges included disorderly conduct, drunk driving and attempted shoplifting.

And he was arrested once for punching a man who owed his brother money and another time for soliciting a prostitute.

And what’s more, “tenants in New Jersey buildings owned by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who’s leading the mosque project, describe him as a veritable slumlord.” This is the “moderate” imam and role model who’s been sent overseas at taxpayers’ expense:

“All he likes is money,” one tenant, Vilma Then, says. “Nothing [in her building] ever gets fixed.”

Jamie Barillas, another tenant, agrees, adding that tenants are forced to call their city officials to seek action. Barillas complains, for example, that bedbugs plague her building and that managers claim they don’t have money for an exterminator.

Not only has the left punditocracy managed to get on the opposite side of 70 percent of one of the Bluest States in the country, but it has also championed a tax cheat and exploiter of “the little guy.” I’d be hard pressed to find a better example of the rotten judgment and political extremism of what passes for the liberal intelligentsia.

If you buy into the left punditocracy’s framing of the Ground Zero issue, there are a ton of Islamophobes in New York:

Seven in ten New Yorkers say the proposed mosque/Islamic community center near Ground Zero should be relocated because of opposition from 9/11 families — and an equal number want state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to probe the group’s finances, a new statewide poll released today found.

“Overwhelmingly — across party and regional lines — New Yorkers say the sponsors ought to voluntarily move the proposed mosque to another location,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

And women are the worst “bigots”: “By a 56-34 margin, women said the mosque should not be allowed to build near Ground Zero despite the legal right to do so. Among the men, there was a narrower 50-45 split.”

Moreover, the mosque builders appear to be the sorts of villains the left usually excoriates. The New York Post op-ed page explains that the builders are tax dodgers with a rap sheet:

Indeed, Sharif El-Gamal, who owns the site — as The Post’s Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein reported Sunday — owes nearly a quarter of a million dollars to the city in back payments. His firm, 45 Park Place Partners, simply skipped its property-tax bills in January and July, according to the Finance Department. Gamal’s folks say he delayed payments while seeking a lower tax rate, The New York Times reported.

Gamal, 37, also reportedly pleaded guilty to at least six misdemeanors while in his teens and 20s. Charges included disorderly conduct, drunk driving and attempted shoplifting.

And he was arrested once for punching a man who owed his brother money and another time for soliciting a prostitute.

And what’s more, “tenants in New Jersey buildings owned by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who’s leading the mosque project, describe him as a veritable slumlord.” This is the “moderate” imam and role model who’s been sent overseas at taxpayers’ expense:

“All he likes is money,” one tenant, Vilma Then, says. “Nothing [in her building] ever gets fixed.”

Jamie Barillas, another tenant, agrees, adding that tenants are forced to call their city officials to seek action. Barillas complains, for example, that bedbugs plague her building and that managers claim they don’t have money for an exterminator.

Not only has the left punditocracy managed to get on the opposite side of 70 percent of one of the Bluest States in the country, but it has also championed a tax cheat and exploiter of “the little guy.” I’d be hard pressed to find a better example of the rotten judgment and political extremism of what passes for the liberal intelligentsia.

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Let’s Not Forget the Swamp

In the wake of the primary elections on Tuesday, we are reminded, as John points out, that the rule for this election season is “old rules don’t apply.” Money and name recognition are non-factors, if not liabilities. Incumbency offers no protection. And the “likely voter” models may be inapplicable to an electorate flooded with enraged populists and drained of sad-sack Democrats.

And looming in the background are powerful reminders that the Beltway establishment has, in fact, earned the ire of the voters. He’s only one congressman, but Charlie Rangel is a symbol of just about everything wrong with Congress — the pomposity, the self-dealing, the tone-deafness. In a rapier-like op-ed the New York Post observers:

In Charlie Rangel’s eyes, every minute of his time on earth has been a blessing for the people of New York.

“My dignity is 80 years old,” he said, taking a slap at fellow Democrats Monday during a debate with the five challengers seeking his seat in Congress. …

Now, it’s entirely possible that we missed it, but was there something dignified in the years Rangel was dodging taxes and violating a slew of city, state and federal laws?

We wonder: What on earth would he have to do to be considered undignified?

It is not just that so many have done shameful things, but that they have no shame. They pass the buck, spend our money with abandon, make backroom deals, deflect scrutiny — all while exuding a stomach-turning self-righteousness as defenders of the little guy. The wonder is not that the voters are furious; it is that they took so long to take to the streets. The American people are a forgiving and largely contented lot, but when they are sufficiently provoked, watch out.

Expect Rangel and Maxine Waters, his companion in the ethics dock, to be poster children for “throw the bums out” election ads. Not much dignity in that.

In the wake of the primary elections on Tuesday, we are reminded, as John points out, that the rule for this election season is “old rules don’t apply.” Money and name recognition are non-factors, if not liabilities. Incumbency offers no protection. And the “likely voter” models may be inapplicable to an electorate flooded with enraged populists and drained of sad-sack Democrats.

And looming in the background are powerful reminders that the Beltway establishment has, in fact, earned the ire of the voters. He’s only one congressman, but Charlie Rangel is a symbol of just about everything wrong with Congress — the pomposity, the self-dealing, the tone-deafness. In a rapier-like op-ed the New York Post observers:

In Charlie Rangel’s eyes, every minute of his time on earth has been a blessing for the people of New York.

“My dignity is 80 years old,” he said, taking a slap at fellow Democrats Monday during a debate with the five challengers seeking his seat in Congress. …

Now, it’s entirely possible that we missed it, but was there something dignified in the years Rangel was dodging taxes and violating a slew of city, state and federal laws?

We wonder: What on earth would he have to do to be considered undignified?

It is not just that so many have done shameful things, but that they have no shame. They pass the buck, spend our money with abandon, make backroom deals, deflect scrutiny — all while exuding a stomach-turning self-righteousness as defenders of the little guy. The wonder is not that the voters are furious; it is that they took so long to take to the streets. The American people are a forgiving and largely contented lot, but when they are sufficiently provoked, watch out.

Expect Rangel and Maxine Waters, his companion in the ethics dock, to be poster children for “throw the bums out” election ads. Not much dignity in that.

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RE: Smearing 68% of America

Alongside Douthat’s “first America” — that is, J Street, CAIR, the ACLU, and the Friday and Sunday but not the Saturday Obama, all of whom support the Ground Zero mosque — is that bastion of religious toleration and goodwill toward men, Hamas. The New York Post reports:

A leader of the Hamas terror group yesterday jumped into the emotional debate on the plan to construct a mosque near Ground Zero — insisting Muslims “have to build” it there.

“We have to build everywhere,” said Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas and the organization’s chief on the Gaza Strip.

“In every area we have, [as] Muslim[s], we have to pray, and this mosque is the only site of prayer,” he said on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” on WABC.

“We have to build the mosque, as you are allowed to build the church and Israelis are building their holy places.”

Now wait. The mosque, the left punditocracy keeps telling us, is a warm and fuzzy statement about tolerance and reconciliation. But Hamas didn’t get that memo. In fact, Cordoba House has a rather different meaning for the terrorists:

Zahar said Muslims around the world, including those who live in this country, are united in a common cause. “First of all, we have to address that we are different as people, as a nation, totally different,” he said. “We already are living under the tradition of Islam. “Islam is controlling every source of our life as regard to marriage, divorce, our commercial relationships,” Zahar said. “Even the Islamic people or the Muslims in your country, they are living now in the tradition of Islam. They are fasting; they are praying.”

Sounds like a message about Islamic triumphalism and separatism. Pity the poor slobs in second America, who think we shouldn’t be cheering that sort of thing.

Alongside Douthat’s “first America” — that is, J Street, CAIR, the ACLU, and the Friday and Sunday but not the Saturday Obama, all of whom support the Ground Zero mosque — is that bastion of religious toleration and goodwill toward men, Hamas. The New York Post reports:

A leader of the Hamas terror group yesterday jumped into the emotional debate on the plan to construct a mosque near Ground Zero — insisting Muslims “have to build” it there.

“We have to build everywhere,” said Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas and the organization’s chief on the Gaza Strip.

“In every area we have, [as] Muslim[s], we have to pray, and this mosque is the only site of prayer,” he said on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” on WABC.

“We have to build the mosque, as you are allowed to build the church and Israelis are building their holy places.”

Now wait. The mosque, the left punditocracy keeps telling us, is a warm and fuzzy statement about tolerance and reconciliation. But Hamas didn’t get that memo. In fact, Cordoba House has a rather different meaning for the terrorists:

Zahar said Muslims around the world, including those who live in this country, are united in a common cause. “First of all, we have to address that we are different as people, as a nation, totally different,” he said. “We already are living under the tradition of Islam. “Islam is controlling every source of our life as regard to marriage, divorce, our commercial relationships,” Zahar said. “Even the Islamic people or the Muslims in your country, they are living now in the tradition of Islam. They are fasting; they are praying.”

Sounds like a message about Islamic triumphalism and separatism. Pity the poor slobs in second America, who think we shouldn’t be cheering that sort of thing.

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How the JournoList Influenced Journalists

The mainstream media’s uneasiness with covering the extent of Barack Obama’s relationship to the noxious Jeremiah Wright (and others) can be explained in part as a result of the ideas expressed on the now-disbanded leftist e-mail train JournoList. There’s nothing illegitimate about the efforts of the JournoListers; trying to influence the wider world of writers and opinion leaders is what ideologically driven people do. But the effort by JournoListers to pretend they don’t possess that influence over their mainstream colleagues — and that the right has a greater influence than they have — is both false and astonishingly disingenuous.

My take in the New York Post.

The mainstream media’s uneasiness with covering the extent of Barack Obama’s relationship to the noxious Jeremiah Wright (and others) can be explained in part as a result of the ideas expressed on the now-disbanded leftist e-mail train JournoList. There’s nothing illegitimate about the efforts of the JournoListers; trying to influence the wider world of writers and opinion leaders is what ideologically driven people do. But the effort by JournoListers to pretend they don’t possess that influence over their mainstream colleagues — and that the right has a greater influence than they have — is both false and astonishingly disingenuous.

My take in the New York Post.

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Obama, Beware Phase Two

Today in the New York Post, I argue that the coming political shift in November will bring an end to the “getting things done” phase of the Obama presidency and will begin the “making things work” phase — and that this second phase will prove a nearly insuperable challenge for the president:

Phase Two…is a bear. Phase Two is implementation. Phase Two is “making it all work.” By front-loading so much activity in his first 18 months, Obama has set himself a nearly insuperable managerial and executive task. It’s one thing to praise yourself for passing health-care and financial reform. It’s quite another to stand before the voters in 2012 with a record that shows you’ve followed through on the promises made.

The other 700 words can be found here.

Today in the New York Post, I argue that the coming political shift in November will bring an end to the “getting things done” phase of the Obama presidency and will begin the “making things work” phase — and that this second phase will prove a nearly insuperable challenge for the president:

Phase Two…is a bear. Phase Two is implementation. Phase Two is “making it all work.” By front-loading so much activity in his first 18 months, Obama has set himself a nearly insuperable managerial and executive task. It’s one thing to praise yourself for passing health-care and financial reform. It’s quite another to stand before the voters in 2012 with a record that shows you’ve followed through on the promises made.

The other 700 words can be found here.

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Obama Is Giving Up the Fight on Health Care — Now It’s All Muscle

My take on the recess-appointment controversy in the New York Post.

My take on the recess-appointment controversy in the New York Post.

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How to Think About America This July 4

My take in the New York Post.

My take in the New York Post.

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High Taxes Drive Away Industries … and Boxers

The lesson that high taxes hurt business and, by definition, the communities in which those businesses reside is one that is proved every day by high-tax states like New York. That this applies not just to the financial industry and other victims of confiscatory fiscal policy but to all sorts of citizens as well is an issue rarely explored in the mainstream press. So it was fascinating to note that in the follow-up coverage to the first boxing match held at Yankee Stadium in 34 years this past weekend, the reason why promoters said a follow-up was unlikely was rooted not in technical difficulties or whether the sport (which was once, along with baseball, one of the only two truly national sports in the country) no longer had the sort of following that could routinely fill large outdoor stadiums.

Instead, according to Yankees executive Lonn Trost, the real problem is taxes. As the New York Post reported today, “the tax on a fighter’s purse is significantly higher for non-residents of New York than it is in other states, which would make it difficult to bring a match like the proposed superfight between Floyd Mayweather, Jr., and Manny Pacquiao to Yankee Stadium.”

Trost went on to state that “Cotto-Foreman [the fight that took place this past weekend] could come here because the boxers felt they wouldn’t be overtaxed because they’re residents. We’d love to do [Mayweather-Pacquiao], but I believe both of them are non-residents and the tax could be as much as 13 percent on the purse, where the tax out in Vegas is zero. That’s a big difference.”

Personally, I’m not much of a boxing fan (and my pride in being Jewish was not enhanced by the prospect of Israeli rabbinical student Yuri Foreman punching out Puerto Rico’s Henry Cotto, who won the fight). But while liberal advocates for higher taxes routinely claim they are doing so to help ordinary New Yorkers, they ought to consider that in making it unattractive for fighters to perform here, they are actually robbing the people from the South Bronx and elsewhere in the city who work in the many jobs created every night Yankee Stadium is open. The failure to bring more such exhibitions to the city illustrates the simple truth that, once again, liberal economics has scored a technical knockout on the economic well-being of working-class New Yorkers.

The lesson that high taxes hurt business and, by definition, the communities in which those businesses reside is one that is proved every day by high-tax states like New York. That this applies not just to the financial industry and other victims of confiscatory fiscal policy but to all sorts of citizens as well is an issue rarely explored in the mainstream press. So it was fascinating to note that in the follow-up coverage to the first boxing match held at Yankee Stadium in 34 years this past weekend, the reason why promoters said a follow-up was unlikely was rooted not in technical difficulties or whether the sport (which was once, along with baseball, one of the only two truly national sports in the country) no longer had the sort of following that could routinely fill large outdoor stadiums.

Instead, according to Yankees executive Lonn Trost, the real problem is taxes. As the New York Post reported today, “the tax on a fighter’s purse is significantly higher for non-residents of New York than it is in other states, which would make it difficult to bring a match like the proposed superfight between Floyd Mayweather, Jr., and Manny Pacquiao to Yankee Stadium.”

Trost went on to state that “Cotto-Foreman [the fight that took place this past weekend] could come here because the boxers felt they wouldn’t be overtaxed because they’re residents. We’d love to do [Mayweather-Pacquiao], but I believe both of them are non-residents and the tax could be as much as 13 percent on the purse, where the tax out in Vegas is zero. That’s a big difference.”

Personally, I’m not much of a boxing fan (and my pride in being Jewish was not enhanced by the prospect of Israeli rabbinical student Yuri Foreman punching out Puerto Rico’s Henry Cotto, who won the fight). But while liberal advocates for higher taxes routinely claim they are doing so to help ordinary New Yorkers, they ought to consider that in making it unattractive for fighters to perform here, they are actually robbing the people from the South Bronx and elsewhere in the city who work in the many jobs created every night Yankee Stadium is open. The failure to bring more such exhibitions to the city illustrates the simple truth that, once again, liberal economics has scored a technical knockout on the economic well-being of working-class New Yorkers.

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What Israel Did Not Do Wrong

My take today in the New York Post.

My take today in the New York Post.

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The Solution Is in Damascus and Tehran

Adam Brodsky at the New York Post says that if Israel wants to kneecap Iran, it should take out Hezbollah in Lebanon. That would indeed go a long way toward rolling back Tehran’s imperial ambitions in the Middle East. Hezbollah moonlights as a Syrian proxy militia, but it is first and foremost Iranian “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei’s army in Lebanon, effectively the Mediterranean branch of the Pasdaran.

It’s also the most resilient and capable terrorist army in the world and, for that very reason, difficult to root out conventionally. The Israel Defense Forces fought Hezbollah to a standstill between 1982 and 2000 and failed to destroy it during the Second Lebanon War in July and August of 2006. Hezbollah emerged stronger than ever after the 18-year counterinsurgency in 2000 and emerged stronger still from the 2006 war. After neutralizing the Lebanese government during another short war in the spring of 2008, it is now, like Israel itself, an undefeated heavyweight of the Levant.

Effective counterinsurgency of the type General David Petraeus waged in Iraq is impossible for Israel in Lebanon for three reasons. First, it takes a long time, years when applied correctly, and time is something Israel just doesn’t have. Second, the American counterinsurgency effort in Iraq would have failed if the insurgents hadn’t murdered and terrorized so many Iraqis while fighting Americans — something Hezbollah is most unlikely to do in the Shia regions of Lebanon where it is embedded. Third, anti-Israel sentiment is too broad and too deep in Lebanon for the IDF to recruit sufficient local assistance — especially after the abrupt collapse of its allies in the South Lebanon Army following the withdrawal in 2000.

Prior to getting bogged down in Lebanon in the early 1980s, the Israelis racked up one lightning fast military victory over their enemies after another. That was before hostile Middle Eastern governments learned they stood no chance of prevailing in conventional warfare and before they opted for asymmetric terrorist warfare instead. Hit-and-run guerrilla tactics work for them, sort of, so it’s in the interest of those who haven’t yet made peace with Israel, or at least acceded to some kind of modus vivendi, to keep at it.

It is therefore not in Jerusalem’s interests to let them. Israel has a perfect record against standing state armies in the Middle East foolish enough to pick fights they can’t win. So why agree to fight some of the very same states asymmetrically in wars with ambiguous endings?

The Israelis should consider returning to what they do best, if and when they have to fight again. If they want to beat their enemies rather than fight to bloody and destructive standstills, they’ll wage the kind of war they’re good at and shatter one or both of the governments that field third-party proxies against them.

Adam Brodsky at the New York Post says that if Israel wants to kneecap Iran, it should take out Hezbollah in Lebanon. That would indeed go a long way toward rolling back Tehran’s imperial ambitions in the Middle East. Hezbollah moonlights as a Syrian proxy militia, but it is first and foremost Iranian “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei’s army in Lebanon, effectively the Mediterranean branch of the Pasdaran.

It’s also the most resilient and capable terrorist army in the world and, for that very reason, difficult to root out conventionally. The Israel Defense Forces fought Hezbollah to a standstill between 1982 and 2000 and failed to destroy it during the Second Lebanon War in July and August of 2006. Hezbollah emerged stronger than ever after the 18-year counterinsurgency in 2000 and emerged stronger still from the 2006 war. After neutralizing the Lebanese government during another short war in the spring of 2008, it is now, like Israel itself, an undefeated heavyweight of the Levant.

Effective counterinsurgency of the type General David Petraeus waged in Iraq is impossible for Israel in Lebanon for three reasons. First, it takes a long time, years when applied correctly, and time is something Israel just doesn’t have. Second, the American counterinsurgency effort in Iraq would have failed if the insurgents hadn’t murdered and terrorized so many Iraqis while fighting Americans — something Hezbollah is most unlikely to do in the Shia regions of Lebanon where it is embedded. Third, anti-Israel sentiment is too broad and too deep in Lebanon for the IDF to recruit sufficient local assistance — especially after the abrupt collapse of its allies in the South Lebanon Army following the withdrawal in 2000.

Prior to getting bogged down in Lebanon in the early 1980s, the Israelis racked up one lightning fast military victory over their enemies after another. That was before hostile Middle Eastern governments learned they stood no chance of prevailing in conventional warfare and before they opted for asymmetric terrorist warfare instead. Hit-and-run guerrilla tactics work for them, sort of, so it’s in the interest of those who haven’t yet made peace with Israel, or at least acceded to some kind of modus vivendi, to keep at it.

It is therefore not in Jerusalem’s interests to let them. Israel has a perfect record against standing state armies in the Middle East foolish enough to pick fights they can’t win. So why agree to fight some of the very same states asymmetrically in wars with ambiguous endings?

The Israelis should consider returning to what they do best, if and when they have to fight again. If they want to beat their enemies rather than fight to bloody and destructive standstills, they’ll wage the kind of war they’re good at and shatter one or both of the governments that field third-party proxies against them.

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Re: The Touch of Political Death

Harold Ford Jr. is no dummy. Writing in the New York Post, he tells New Yorkers he’s not going to let the White House chase him out of the race. In fact, he’s going to use its opposition to his advantage:

Some have already questioned whether I should be running. Others are falsifying my record in public life. New Yorkers deserve a free election. New Yorkers expect a politics where politicians do what’s right based on independent judgment, free of political bosses trying to dictate.

Obama is a political boss? Well, yes. He and Rahm Emanuel are, if nothing else, well practiced in Chicago politics, so I think “bosses” is a term chosen well and that aptly conjures up the image of corruption and contempt for democracy that has voters of all parties upset these days. He also takes time to clarify his stance on hot-button issues that have the netroots in a tizzy. He pledged fidelity to three of the touchstones of the Left: abortion rights, gay rights, and support for Big Labor. (This is a Democratic primary, and it is New York, after all.) And he says he’s been living there for three years, about three years longer than Hillary Clinton before her run for office.

What he has going for him is that he’s not in office, didn’t vote for Cash for Cloture, and hasn’t run Right as a representative and then Left as a senator, as Kirsten Gillibrand did. He’s no Daniel Patrick Moynihan, whose name he invokes. But he’s not been there for the last year as voters have become disgusted with the Obama-Pelosi-Reid machine. And that may be all he needs. It looks like New Yorkers are going to have a very interesting primary. If Gillibrand were smart, she’d tell the White House to butt out. She has enough problems without another reminder that she is, for purposes of this race, the Washington Insider: not a good thing to be.

Harold Ford Jr. is no dummy. Writing in the New York Post, he tells New Yorkers he’s not going to let the White House chase him out of the race. In fact, he’s going to use its opposition to his advantage:

Some have already questioned whether I should be running. Others are falsifying my record in public life. New Yorkers deserve a free election. New Yorkers expect a politics where politicians do what’s right based on independent judgment, free of political bosses trying to dictate.

Obama is a political boss? Well, yes. He and Rahm Emanuel are, if nothing else, well practiced in Chicago politics, so I think “bosses” is a term chosen well and that aptly conjures up the image of corruption and contempt for democracy that has voters of all parties upset these days. He also takes time to clarify his stance on hot-button issues that have the netroots in a tizzy. He pledged fidelity to three of the touchstones of the Left: abortion rights, gay rights, and support for Big Labor. (This is a Democratic primary, and it is New York, after all.) And he says he’s been living there for three years, about three years longer than Hillary Clinton before her run for office.

What he has going for him is that he’s not in office, didn’t vote for Cash for Cloture, and hasn’t run Right as a representative and then Left as a senator, as Kirsten Gillibrand did. He’s no Daniel Patrick Moynihan, whose name he invokes. But he’s not been there for the last year as voters have become disgusted with the Obama-Pelosi-Reid machine. And that may be all he needs. It looks like New Yorkers are going to have a very interesting primary. If Gillibrand were smart, she’d tell the White House to butt out. She has enough problems without another reminder that she is, for purposes of this race, the Washington Insider: not a good thing to be.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Harry Reid seems to say, “Never mind”: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is prepared to give in to demands from centrists in order to pass the health-care legislation before Christmas, senators say.Reid indicated at the Democratic Conference meeting on Monday that he would drop a controversial Medicare buy-in provision, which was offered as a replacement to the government-run health insurance option, to win the votes of Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).” All that’s missing is what’s in the deal.

Seems like the public doesn’t want any kind of plan. The RealClearPolitics average shows that 38 percent approve of ObamaCare and 53.3 percent disapprove.

Tevi Troy pulls off a Chanukah miracle — getting the White House to cough up 150 more invites to the White House Chanukah party.

The New York Post (h/t Ben Smith) reports that “Marc Mukasey, the son of Bush administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey, is mulling mounting a challenge to Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.” Bet we’d have some fun debates on the KSM trial.

Another inconvenient poll: “With world leaders debating how to address climate change in Copenhagen and the U.S. Senate poised to take up a climate bill in the coming months, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds that just 37 percent of Americans believe the issue should be a priority for government leaders. That’s a significant drop from April of 2007, when 52 percent of those surveyed said the issue should be a high priority.” Apparently, these people want jobs and economic prosperity: “A clear majority – 61 percent – say stimulating the economy should come first. Only 29 percent say protecting the environment is more important.”

The Marx Brothers hold a climate-control conference.

And the scientific clown show continues: Al Gore’s prediction of an ice-free north polar cap in five years isn’t supported by any facts. “The climatologist whose work Mr Gore was relying upon dropped the former Vice-President in the water with an icy blast. ‘It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at,’ Dr. [Wieslav] Maslowski said. ‘I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.’ ” Gore says it’s close enough for made-up science — er — for scaring the public  — er — for what he’s doing.

“Cramdown” mortgage legislation is also going down for the count. Almost like there isn’t a majority for extreme antibusiness regulation.

Bill McGurn thinks actions count more than words: “In wartime, people soon tire of lofty words that do not seem borne out by events. In September 2001, with the twin towers still smoldering and the Pentagon wounded, President Bush delivered a war address to a joint session of Congress (which I had no part in, so am free to praise) that ranks with the best of FDR. Whether that speech ever receives its full due depends in part on how this war ends. The same goes for President Obama. At West Point and Oslo, he spoke to the challenge of defending our freedom against hard men with no moral limit on what they are willing to do to crush it. The irony is that whether these fine speeches are remembered by history depends on a word he didn’t use in either one: victory.”

Harry Reid seems to say, “Never mind”: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is prepared to give in to demands from centrists in order to pass the health-care legislation before Christmas, senators say.Reid indicated at the Democratic Conference meeting on Monday that he would drop a controversial Medicare buy-in provision, which was offered as a replacement to the government-run health insurance option, to win the votes of Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).” All that’s missing is what’s in the deal.

Seems like the public doesn’t want any kind of plan. The RealClearPolitics average shows that 38 percent approve of ObamaCare and 53.3 percent disapprove.

Tevi Troy pulls off a Chanukah miracle — getting the White House to cough up 150 more invites to the White House Chanukah party.

The New York Post (h/t Ben Smith) reports that “Marc Mukasey, the son of Bush administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey, is mulling mounting a challenge to Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.” Bet we’d have some fun debates on the KSM trial.

Another inconvenient poll: “With world leaders debating how to address climate change in Copenhagen and the U.S. Senate poised to take up a climate bill in the coming months, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds that just 37 percent of Americans believe the issue should be a priority for government leaders. That’s a significant drop from April of 2007, when 52 percent of those surveyed said the issue should be a high priority.” Apparently, these people want jobs and economic prosperity: “A clear majority – 61 percent – say stimulating the economy should come first. Only 29 percent say protecting the environment is more important.”

The Marx Brothers hold a climate-control conference.

And the scientific clown show continues: Al Gore’s prediction of an ice-free north polar cap in five years isn’t supported by any facts. “The climatologist whose work Mr Gore was relying upon dropped the former Vice-President in the water with an icy blast. ‘It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at,’ Dr. [Wieslav] Maslowski said. ‘I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.’ ” Gore says it’s close enough for made-up science — er — for scaring the public  — er — for what he’s doing.

“Cramdown” mortgage legislation is also going down for the count. Almost like there isn’t a majority for extreme antibusiness regulation.

Bill McGurn thinks actions count more than words: “In wartime, people soon tire of lofty words that do not seem borne out by events. In September 2001, with the twin towers still smoldering and the Pentagon wounded, President Bush delivered a war address to a joint session of Congress (which I had no part in, so am free to praise) that ranks with the best of FDR. Whether that speech ever receives its full due depends in part on how this war ends. The same goes for President Obama. At West Point and Oslo, he spoke to the challenge of defending our freedom against hard men with no moral limit on what they are willing to do to crush it. The irony is that whether these fine speeches are remembered by history depends on a word he didn’t use in either one: victory.”

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Bought and Paid

While the media was fixated on a health-care vote with a preordained outcome, the New York Post broke a blockbuster story over the weekend:

Anti-Israel, pro-Iran university professors are being funded by a shadowy multimillion-dollar Islamic charity based in Manhattan that the feds charge is an illegal front for the repressive Iranian regime.

The deep-pocketed Alavi Foundation has aggressively given away hundreds of thousands of dollars to Columbia University and Rutgers University for Middle Eastern and Persian studies programs that employ professors sympathetic to the Iranian dictatorship.

“We found evidence that the government of Iran really controlled everything about the foundation,” said Adam Kaufmann, investigations chief at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

And remember the much criticized visit of Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? It seems it was a good deal for Columbia University: “In one of the biggest handouts, the controversial charity donated $100,000 to Columbia University after the Ivy League school agreed to host Iranian leader and Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to the foundation’s 2007 tax filings obtained by The Post.”

The Iranian regime has gotten its money’s worth. Gary Sick of Columbia chimes in that we can disregard all that “wipe Israel off the map” stuff from Ahmadinejad. The Sick translation of Ahmadinejad’s genocide talk: “What he means is that there should be a free referendum among the peoples of the Palestine that existed to [sic] the partition in 1948 to vote about the kind of a government they should have. He is confident that, in a free vote, Israel and Israelis would lose that vote and it would turn out to be something else: a unitary state, probably run by the Palestinians.” Got that?

Other professors from Columbia and Rutgers (which also received funds) are equally forthcoming with propaganda nonsense, enough to make the mullahs proud. This is a scandal of the first order — a financial conflict of interest and an ethical betrayal of the universities’ supposed role as bastions of academic independence and free inquiry. They have instead among their ranks a number of shills for the mullahs, whose leftist claptrap is subsidized by those with an interest in seeing the mullahs’ party line recirculated through American universities. It seems worth taking a look, especially when these institutions receive taxpayer money and their students earn degrees on taxpayer-supported scholarships.

While the media was fixated on a health-care vote with a preordained outcome, the New York Post broke a blockbuster story over the weekend:

Anti-Israel, pro-Iran university professors are being funded by a shadowy multimillion-dollar Islamic charity based in Manhattan that the feds charge is an illegal front for the repressive Iranian regime.

The deep-pocketed Alavi Foundation has aggressively given away hundreds of thousands of dollars to Columbia University and Rutgers University for Middle Eastern and Persian studies programs that employ professors sympathetic to the Iranian dictatorship.

“We found evidence that the government of Iran really controlled everything about the foundation,” said Adam Kaufmann, investigations chief at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

And remember the much criticized visit of Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? It seems it was a good deal for Columbia University: “In one of the biggest handouts, the controversial charity donated $100,000 to Columbia University after the Ivy League school agreed to host Iranian leader and Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to the foundation’s 2007 tax filings obtained by The Post.”

The Iranian regime has gotten its money’s worth. Gary Sick of Columbia chimes in that we can disregard all that “wipe Israel off the map” stuff from Ahmadinejad. The Sick translation of Ahmadinejad’s genocide talk: “What he means is that there should be a free referendum among the peoples of the Palestine that existed to [sic] the partition in 1948 to vote about the kind of a government they should have. He is confident that, in a free vote, Israel and Israelis would lose that vote and it would turn out to be something else: a unitary state, probably run by the Palestinians.” Got that?

Other professors from Columbia and Rutgers (which also received funds) are equally forthcoming with propaganda nonsense, enough to make the mullahs proud. This is a scandal of the first order — a financial conflict of interest and an ethical betrayal of the universities’ supposed role as bastions of academic independence and free inquiry. They have instead among their ranks a number of shills for the mullahs, whose leftist claptrap is subsidized by those with an interest in seeing the mullahs’ party line recirculated through American universities. It seems worth taking a look, especially when these institutions receive taxpayer money and their students earn degrees on taxpayer-supported scholarships.

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Another Mazel Tov

It is a happy May for commentarymagazine.com. As you may have read, CONTENTIONS blogger Eric Trager got married yesterday. And Kyle Smith, whose blogging also appears on CONTENTIONS and whose most recent piece for the website can be found here, has become a father for the first time. He ruminates on the matter in a delightful letter to his newborn daughter that appears in the New York Post today.

It is a happy May for commentarymagazine.com. As you may have read, CONTENTIONS blogger Eric Trager got married yesterday. And Kyle Smith, whose blogging also appears on CONTENTIONS and whose most recent piece for the website can be found here, has become a father for the first time. He ruminates on the matter in a delightful letter to his newborn daughter that appears in the New York Post today.

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A Tale of Two Elections

Last night, after the New York Post‘s investigative journalism had rendered a stringent gag order on the media ineffective, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert finally spoke out regarding the scandal that has shrouded his office for the past week. In a gloomy tone, Olmert denied taking bribes from an American businessman, and vowed that he would resign from office if indicted. At the moment, it remains unclear what the fallout will be, and two options remain if Olmert is forced from office: either a new government will form under Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, or new elections will be held.

In the event that new elections are held, this would mark the first time in two decades that the U.S. presidential and Israeli Knesset campaigns coincided. But unlike in 1988, when the pro-Israel positions of both major U.S. candidates satisfied the Israeli public, the 2008 presidential elections will most likely feature a Democratic nominee that many American Jews–and, in turn, many Israelis–don’t sufficiently trust on Israel.

Here’s my prediction: Israeli front-runner Benjamin Netanyahu will use this mistrust of Obama to decry negotiations with the Palestinians as forcefully as ever on the campaign trail, thus validating his staunch rejectionism if elected. Expect the argument to sound something like this: Israel not only lacks a negotiating partner in the Palestinians, but will lack a credible mediator in Obama if he’s elected, which appears likely. Indeed, this process is already starting, with Netanyahu’s aides leaking that American Jewish community leaders recently approached the Likud opposition leader to share their concerns regarding Obama–a stunning break from the taboo against Israeli politicos weighing in on American presidential candidates.

Insofar as Israeli-Palestinian peace remains a key U.S. strategic interest in the Middle East, Netanyahu’s election under these terms would be a disaster for U.S.-Israel relations. Granted, Netanyahu was hardly an eager participant in the U.S.-sponsored Oslo process during his first term as prime minister; however, at the time, he was still diplomatically bound to an agreement that his predecessors had signed, and therefore compelled to go through the motions. But with Oslo long dead and Obama the general election front-runner, Netanyahu is no longer constrained, and his very rationale for opposing the Annapolis meeting–“They are giving away everything and getting nothing”–indicates that outright rejection of the land-for-peace principle might soon make its return to Prime Minister’s office.

Last night, after the New York Post‘s investigative journalism had rendered a stringent gag order on the media ineffective, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert finally spoke out regarding the scandal that has shrouded his office for the past week. In a gloomy tone, Olmert denied taking bribes from an American businessman, and vowed that he would resign from office if indicted. At the moment, it remains unclear what the fallout will be, and two options remain if Olmert is forced from office: either a new government will form under Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, or new elections will be held.

In the event that new elections are held, this would mark the first time in two decades that the U.S. presidential and Israeli Knesset campaigns coincided. But unlike in 1988, when the pro-Israel positions of both major U.S. candidates satisfied the Israeli public, the 2008 presidential elections will most likely feature a Democratic nominee that many American Jews–and, in turn, many Israelis–don’t sufficiently trust on Israel.

Here’s my prediction: Israeli front-runner Benjamin Netanyahu will use this mistrust of Obama to decry negotiations with the Palestinians as forcefully as ever on the campaign trail, thus validating his staunch rejectionism if elected. Expect the argument to sound something like this: Israel not only lacks a negotiating partner in the Palestinians, but will lack a credible mediator in Obama if he’s elected, which appears likely. Indeed, this process is already starting, with Netanyahu’s aides leaking that American Jewish community leaders recently approached the Likud opposition leader to share their concerns regarding Obama–a stunning break from the taboo against Israeli politicos weighing in on American presidential candidates.

Insofar as Israeli-Palestinian peace remains a key U.S. strategic interest in the Middle East, Netanyahu’s election under these terms would be a disaster for U.S.-Israel relations. Granted, Netanyahu was hardly an eager participant in the U.S.-sponsored Oslo process during his first term as prime minister; however, at the time, he was still diplomatically bound to an agreement that his predecessors had signed, and therefore compelled to go through the motions. But with Oslo long dead and Obama the general election front-runner, Netanyahu is no longer constrained, and his very rationale for opposing the Annapolis meeting–“They are giving away everything and getting nothing”–indicates that outright rejection of the land-for-peace principle might soon make its return to Prime Minister’s office.

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Israel at 60

Today is Israel’s independence day, and the country has taken two days off from everything–the war, the corruption, the politics–to celebrate six decades of Jewish sovereignty. The unofficial theme this year, I believe, is “warts and all”: Yes, we haven’t yet found a way either to defeat our enemies or make peace with them. Yes, we elected a President who appears to have been a thoroughbred sleazeball, and our Prime Minister is now in the thick of his fifth criminal investigation. But hey, we’re alive, our economy is very strong, our democracy works, and even if we don’t know where we’re going, we’re still standing, and that’s a lot given what’s happening around us.

The unlikely hero of the hour is Shimon Peres. After a career of political opportunism and ideological naivete culminating in the somewhat delusional and not-entirely-uncatastrophic Oslo Accords, Peres has emerged as the elder statesman, the last remaining leader from the founding generation, a dignified President who has served as a much-needed corrective to Moshe Katzav, who is about to be put on trial for rape. Peres has managed to stay out of controversy and represent the nation, both as a Zionist and as a man who understands the weight of his largely-symbolic post. His speech to the nation on Remembrance Day Tuesday night, honoring the fallen soldiers of Israel’s wars, was not merely uniting, it was deeply moving.

No-one could be further from Peres than Ehud Olmert. For a week his political life has been put entirely on hold, as a sudden and intense new criminal investigation has opened up, so serious that the police have slapped a far-reaching gag order on the whole thing. You won’t find details in the Israeli press, though the New York Post broke it open on Tuesday, with the New York Times following yesterday. If the rumors are true, then there is a good chance he’s finished as Prime Minister. Either a new coalition will emerge with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni taking Olmert’s place, or we will head to elections. The choice will be mostly in the hands of Labor party leader Ehud Barak. My bet is that he takes his chances on elections. I can hear Netanyahu’s engines revving.

Today is Israel’s independence day, and the country has taken two days off from everything–the war, the corruption, the politics–to celebrate six decades of Jewish sovereignty. The unofficial theme this year, I believe, is “warts and all”: Yes, we haven’t yet found a way either to defeat our enemies or make peace with them. Yes, we elected a President who appears to have been a thoroughbred sleazeball, and our Prime Minister is now in the thick of his fifth criminal investigation. But hey, we’re alive, our economy is very strong, our democracy works, and even if we don’t know where we’re going, we’re still standing, and that’s a lot given what’s happening around us.

The unlikely hero of the hour is Shimon Peres. After a career of political opportunism and ideological naivete culminating in the somewhat delusional and not-entirely-uncatastrophic Oslo Accords, Peres has emerged as the elder statesman, the last remaining leader from the founding generation, a dignified President who has served as a much-needed corrective to Moshe Katzav, who is about to be put on trial for rape. Peres has managed to stay out of controversy and represent the nation, both as a Zionist and as a man who understands the weight of his largely-symbolic post. His speech to the nation on Remembrance Day Tuesday night, honoring the fallen soldiers of Israel’s wars, was not merely uniting, it was deeply moving.

No-one could be further from Peres than Ehud Olmert. For a week his political life has been put entirely on hold, as a sudden and intense new criminal investigation has opened up, so serious that the police have slapped a far-reaching gag order on the whole thing. You won’t find details in the Israeli press, though the New York Post broke it open on Tuesday, with the New York Times following yesterday. If the rumors are true, then there is a good chance he’s finished as Prime Minister. Either a new coalition will emerge with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni taking Olmert’s place, or we will head to elections. The choice will be mostly in the hands of Labor party leader Ehud Barak. My bet is that he takes his chances on elections. I can hear Netanyahu’s engines revving.

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Israeli Democracy Gags

For nearly a week, the Israeli Prime Minister’s office has been shrouded in scandal–a scandal so major, we’ve been told, that it will probably be the scandal that forces the scandal-ridden Israeli Prime Minister from office. What exactly happened? Nobody really knows and, thus far, only the New York Post has uncovered any substantive details. Yesterday, the Post reported that Olmert had received money from Long Island millionaire Morris Talansky during his term as mayor of Jerusalem. How much money? What was the purpose of this payoff? Again, nobody knows.

This dearth of information is the consequence of a stringent Israeli gag order. Indeed, even while references to the Post‘s fine investigative journalism have abounded, the Israeli media has been completely prevented from mentioning Talansky’s name. (One station, Keshet TV, went as far as blurring the text in a photo it provided of the Post‘s web-based scandal coverage.) Of course, when it comes to protecting national security-relevant information–as in the case of Israel’s bombing of an alleged Syrian nuclear facility last September–these blackouts are par for the course in Israel. But corruption in high government offices is not a national security issue–it is a political one, and withholding vital information from the public disturbingly undermines Israel’s democratic processes.

Yet the gag order exposes far more than the limits of civil liberties in Israel. Rather, it demonstrates the alarming extent to which Israel’s political culture, quite literally, stands on ceremony. Indeed, the police have argued that lifting the gag order on Israel’s day of mourning for its fallen soldiers–today–would “harm the public interest.” Moreover, as the gag order currently extends through May 11th, it appears as though its ultimate goal is to keep Olmert in power at least until Israel’s 60th birthday celebration passes a few days later. After all, the government has long planned this event–which will be attended by President Bush, among other foreign leaders and luminaries–as a showcase of Israel’s political, economic, artistic, and scientific achievements, and it seems determined to not let Olmert’s corruption, no matter how extensive, interfere.

One thus has to wonder: does Israel’s national security establishment believe that the Jewish state’s international standing is so tenuous that protecting an A-list birthday party warrants such profound limitations on free speech?

For nearly a week, the Israeli Prime Minister’s office has been shrouded in scandal–a scandal so major, we’ve been told, that it will probably be the scandal that forces the scandal-ridden Israeli Prime Minister from office. What exactly happened? Nobody really knows and, thus far, only the New York Post has uncovered any substantive details. Yesterday, the Post reported that Olmert had received money from Long Island millionaire Morris Talansky during his term as mayor of Jerusalem. How much money? What was the purpose of this payoff? Again, nobody knows.

This dearth of information is the consequence of a stringent Israeli gag order. Indeed, even while references to the Post‘s fine investigative journalism have abounded, the Israeli media has been completely prevented from mentioning Talansky’s name. (One station, Keshet TV, went as far as blurring the text in a photo it provided of the Post‘s web-based scandal coverage.) Of course, when it comes to protecting national security-relevant information–as in the case of Israel’s bombing of an alleged Syrian nuclear facility last September–these blackouts are par for the course in Israel. But corruption in high government offices is not a national security issue–it is a political one, and withholding vital information from the public disturbingly undermines Israel’s democratic processes.

Yet the gag order exposes far more than the limits of civil liberties in Israel. Rather, it demonstrates the alarming extent to which Israel’s political culture, quite literally, stands on ceremony. Indeed, the police have argued that lifting the gag order on Israel’s day of mourning for its fallen soldiers–today–would “harm the public interest.” Moreover, as the gag order currently extends through May 11th, it appears as though its ultimate goal is to keep Olmert in power at least until Israel’s 60th birthday celebration passes a few days later. After all, the government has long planned this event–which will be attended by President Bush, among other foreign leaders and luminaries–as a showcase of Israel’s political, economic, artistic, and scientific achievements, and it seems determined to not let Olmert’s corruption, no matter how extensive, interfere.

One thus has to wonder: does Israel’s national security establishment believe that the Jewish state’s international standing is so tenuous that protecting an A-list birthday party warrants such profound limitations on free speech?

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Why No Museum to Honor Soldiers?

Ralph Peters raises an excellent point in the New York Post today: Why is there a new museum in Washington to honor journalists (called the Newseum) but not one to honor the armed forces? There is, of course, some focus on military history at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of American History. But there is nothing in Washington like London’s Imperial War Museum or Canberra’s Australian War Memorial—both enthralling institutions that I have been lucky enough to wander through in the past year or so. They provide a perspective that neither documentaries nor history books can offer by allowing visitors to see the actual equipment used by combatants and even to experience reenactments of actual battles.

The closest that Washington has is the new National Museum of the Marine Corps. But it’s located at Quantico, Virginia, and while it is a first-rate piece of work (as good in its own way as the Imperial War Museum), it is devoted to only one of the military services. It is well past time for there to be an American Military Museum—or better still (because less politically correct) an American War Museum—in our nation’s capital.

Ralph Peters raises an excellent point in the New York Post today: Why is there a new museum in Washington to honor journalists (called the Newseum) but not one to honor the armed forces? There is, of course, some focus on military history at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of American History. But there is nothing in Washington like London’s Imperial War Museum or Canberra’s Australian War Memorial—both enthralling institutions that I have been lucky enough to wander through in the past year or so. They provide a perspective that neither documentaries nor history books can offer by allowing visitors to see the actual equipment used by combatants and even to experience reenactments of actual battles.

The closest that Washington has is the new National Museum of the Marine Corps. But it’s located at Quantico, Virginia, and while it is a first-rate piece of work (as good in its own way as the Imperial War Museum), it is devoted to only one of the military services. It is well past time for there to be an American Military Museum—or better still (because less politically correct) an American War Museum—in our nation’s capital.

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