Commentary Magazine


Topic: The Post

What Happened to “Defensible Borders”?

The Jerusalem Post reports that George Mitchell will return to the Middle East in early January and quotes an Arab diplomat saying that Mitchell will present “two draft letters of guarantee, one for Israel and one to the Palestinian Authority” as a basis for renewing negotiations. The Post reports that a senior Israeli diplomatic source said “the terms of reference Mitchell is reportedly bringing would probably closely resemble [Hillary Clinton’s] statement” last month, which read as follows:

We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.

Letters of assurance have previously played an important part in the peace process. In 1997, Secretary of State Christopher wrote to Israel to assure it that the U.S. supported “defensible borders” for Israel as the conclusion of the peace process. In 2004, President Bush reassured Israel of the “steadfast commitment” of the U.S. to defensible borders. In his “Let Me Be Clear” address to AIPAC in 2008, Barack Obama stated that “any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders,” reflecting the longstanding U.S. commitment.

The absence of any reference to “defensible borders” in Secretary Clinton’s statement is thus both conspicuous and troubling, particularly because the administration has repeatedly refused this year to answer whether it considers itself bound by the Bush letter. Even the reference to “secure and recognized” borders is expressed in Clinton’s statement simply as an Israeli “goal” rather than as a U.S. commitment.

There is a significant difference between the prior letters given to Israel and the new “letter of guarantees” that may be given to the Palestinians. The letters to Israel were provided in exchange for tangible concessions: withdrawals from significant territories in Hebron and Gaza. They were parts of negotiated deals; they were not mere statements of policy subject to change. The possible “letter of guarantee” for the Palestinians, on the other hand, is simply for an agreement to resume negotiations, with no Palestinian concession on any issue – and on a basis that omits any reference to defensible borders.

Some have argued that (a) borders are secure only if they are recognized; (b) the Palestinians will recognize only the 1967 lines with minor adjustments; and (c) Israel can thus only have secure and recognized borders if it acquiesces in the Palestinian demand for indefensible ones — and relies for peace on the resulting peace agreement (perhaps with a “binding” UN resolution and blue helmets on the borders). The Palestinians have already rejected offers of a state (after land swaps) on 92 percent of the West Bank (at Camp David), 97 percent (in the Clinton Parameters), and 100 percent (in Olmert’s Annapolis Process offer). The borders they have in mind are not defensible ones, and the Obama administration appears to have deleted “defensible borders” as one of the guarantees of the process — unless there is some other explanation for the obvious reluctance of the administration to use the term, much less commit itself to the concept.

The Jerusalem Post reports that George Mitchell will return to the Middle East in early January and quotes an Arab diplomat saying that Mitchell will present “two draft letters of guarantee, one for Israel and one to the Palestinian Authority” as a basis for renewing negotiations. The Post reports that a senior Israeli diplomatic source said “the terms of reference Mitchell is reportedly bringing would probably closely resemble [Hillary Clinton’s] statement” last month, which read as follows:

We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.

Letters of assurance have previously played an important part in the peace process. In 1997, Secretary of State Christopher wrote to Israel to assure it that the U.S. supported “defensible borders” for Israel as the conclusion of the peace process. In 2004, President Bush reassured Israel of the “steadfast commitment” of the U.S. to defensible borders. In his “Let Me Be Clear” address to AIPAC in 2008, Barack Obama stated that “any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders,” reflecting the longstanding U.S. commitment.

The absence of any reference to “defensible borders” in Secretary Clinton’s statement is thus both conspicuous and troubling, particularly because the administration has repeatedly refused this year to answer whether it considers itself bound by the Bush letter. Even the reference to “secure and recognized” borders is expressed in Clinton’s statement simply as an Israeli “goal” rather than as a U.S. commitment.

There is a significant difference between the prior letters given to Israel and the new “letter of guarantees” that may be given to the Palestinians. The letters to Israel were provided in exchange for tangible concessions: withdrawals from significant territories in Hebron and Gaza. They were parts of negotiated deals; they were not mere statements of policy subject to change. The possible “letter of guarantee” for the Palestinians, on the other hand, is simply for an agreement to resume negotiations, with no Palestinian concession on any issue – and on a basis that omits any reference to defensible borders.

Some have argued that (a) borders are secure only if they are recognized; (b) the Palestinians will recognize only the 1967 lines with minor adjustments; and (c) Israel can thus only have secure and recognized borders if it acquiesces in the Palestinian demand for indefensible ones — and relies for peace on the resulting peace agreement (perhaps with a “binding” UN resolution and blue helmets on the borders). The Palestinians have already rejected offers of a state (after land swaps) on 92 percent of the West Bank (at Camp David), 97 percent (in the Clinton Parameters), and 100 percent (in Olmert’s Annapolis Process offer). The borders they have in mind are not defensible ones, and the Obama administration appears to have deleted “defensible borders” as one of the guarantees of the process — unless there is some other explanation for the obvious reluctance of the administration to use the term, much less commit itself to the concept.

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Less Cowbell

The Washington Post article Jennifer cited in “Flotsam and Jetsam” today appears to indicate that a dangerous rift is opening between the White House and the Pentagon regarding their expectations for Afghanistan. In a way, the echoes of Vietnam are actually amplified in this piece’s survey of strategic thinking. During the Kennedy-Johnson years, we tried an unworkably “calibrated” approach to Vietnam, but at least the direction from Robert McNamara and the president’s senior advisers was specific and largely executable. The White House direction for Afghanistan, as captured by the Post’s writer, appears to deserve neither epithet.

The article adopts the perspective that our military leaders are failing to conform to the president’s view of what our objectives should be in Afghanistan. But to an experienced planner, the most obvious thing in the whole piece is that President Obama has not expressed an identifiable objective to conform with. He has decided to send General McChrystal 30,000 more troops instead of 40,000, and has decided to authorize the training of 230,000 Afghan security personnel instead of the 400,000 McChrystal had proposed. He has moreover decided to begin a drawdown by July 2011. But he has done these things without outlining a new objective.

McChrystal’s original August 2009 proposal was based on the objectives of securing specified regions of Afghanistan – not the whole country – against the Taliban, and improving the Afghans’ confidence in their government. Obama has not redefined this job; he has only changed the toolset. The best his administration can seem to communicate is “not really the McChrystal plan, and definitely not the Iraqi surge.” The Post puts it this way:

The White House’s desired end state in Afghanistan, officials said, envisions more informal local security arrangements than in Iraq, a less-capable national government and a greater tolerance of insurgent violence.

The “greater tolerance of insurgent violence” is, of course, disquieting. Equally so is this passage from an administration official:

The guidance they [the military] have is that we’re not doing everything, and we’re not doing it forever. . . The hardest intellectual exercise will be settling on how much is enough.

Apparently the military is supposed to decide how much is enough, using the entirely negative guidance that “we’re not doing everything, and we’re not doing it forever.” And that’s a problem. This is not executable guidance. It’s also not guidance designed to achieve a positive, deliberate outcome.

We learned in Vietnam that if you’re not actively trying to achieve a positive outcome with force, you won’t. But the military doesn’t even need to have that lesson in mind to automatically translate Obama’s recent decisions into objectives more specific than the president may have intended. Requiring specific objectives is simply the nature of military force.

Obama comes off here as Christopher Walken demanding “less cowbell” – a formula that works in jokes and music but is inadequate to directing military operations. It’s Obama himself who needs to tell the troops exactly how much insurgent violence is the right amount to tolerate, and what level of competence we aim to cultivate in the Afghan central government. He should explain that to the American people too.

The Washington Post article Jennifer cited in “Flotsam and Jetsam” today appears to indicate that a dangerous rift is opening between the White House and the Pentagon regarding their expectations for Afghanistan. In a way, the echoes of Vietnam are actually amplified in this piece’s survey of strategic thinking. During the Kennedy-Johnson years, we tried an unworkably “calibrated” approach to Vietnam, but at least the direction from Robert McNamara and the president’s senior advisers was specific and largely executable. The White House direction for Afghanistan, as captured by the Post’s writer, appears to deserve neither epithet.

The article adopts the perspective that our military leaders are failing to conform to the president’s view of what our objectives should be in Afghanistan. But to an experienced planner, the most obvious thing in the whole piece is that President Obama has not expressed an identifiable objective to conform with. He has decided to send General McChrystal 30,000 more troops instead of 40,000, and has decided to authorize the training of 230,000 Afghan security personnel instead of the 400,000 McChrystal had proposed. He has moreover decided to begin a drawdown by July 2011. But he has done these things without outlining a new objective.

McChrystal’s original August 2009 proposal was based on the objectives of securing specified regions of Afghanistan – not the whole country – against the Taliban, and improving the Afghans’ confidence in their government. Obama has not redefined this job; he has only changed the toolset. The best his administration can seem to communicate is “not really the McChrystal plan, and definitely not the Iraqi surge.” The Post puts it this way:

The White House’s desired end state in Afghanistan, officials said, envisions more informal local security arrangements than in Iraq, a less-capable national government and a greater tolerance of insurgent violence.

The “greater tolerance of insurgent violence” is, of course, disquieting. Equally so is this passage from an administration official:

The guidance they [the military] have is that we’re not doing everything, and we’re not doing it forever. . . The hardest intellectual exercise will be settling on how much is enough.

Apparently the military is supposed to decide how much is enough, using the entirely negative guidance that “we’re not doing everything, and we’re not doing it forever.” And that’s a problem. This is not executable guidance. It’s also not guidance designed to achieve a positive, deliberate outcome.

We learned in Vietnam that if you’re not actively trying to achieve a positive outcome with force, you won’t. But the military doesn’t even need to have that lesson in mind to automatically translate Obama’s recent decisions into objectives more specific than the president may have intended. Requiring specific objectives is simply the nature of military force.

Obama comes off here as Christopher Walken demanding “less cowbell” – a formula that works in jokes and music but is inadequate to directing military operations. It’s Obama himself who needs to tell the troops exactly how much insurgent violence is the right amount to tolerate, and what level of competence we aim to cultivate in the Afghan central government. He should explain that to the American people too.

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And Where Is the White House?

Give credit to the Washington Post‘s opinion editors: they extracted the story of the death of the D.C. school-voucher program from the inside pages of the Metro section. They write:

It is distressingly clear that congressional leaders never really meant it when they said there would be a fair hearing to determine the future of the District’s federally funded school voucher program. How else to explain language tucked away in the mammoth omnibus spending bill that would effectively kill the Washington Opportunity Scholarship Program?

They note that “deep in the folds of the thousand-page 2010 spending bill, which wraps together six bills” is language that will keep funding for current students but shut the door behind them to new ones and add on “onerous requirements about testing and site visits.” And the Post names names, singling out Sen. Richard J. Durbin and Rep. Jose E. Serrano, who “have been, at best, disingenuous about their intentions, thus placing the program’s advocates in their current no-win situation.” But who’s missing from the list? Why the president, of course. He talked a good game about school reform but hasn’t lifted a finger to keep the school-voucher program in operation.

The Post‘s editors slam Congress: “If Congress, no doubt egged on by its allies in the teachers unions, is so intent on killing this program, it should be upfront in accepting the responsibility.” But the paper’s well-founded complaint is equally applicable to the White House, which has done virtually nothing on this or any other education issue that would challenge the educational establishment. It seems that there are some more kids in D.C. who will now suffer the consequences as a result.

Give credit to the Washington Post‘s opinion editors: they extracted the story of the death of the D.C. school-voucher program from the inside pages of the Metro section. They write:

It is distressingly clear that congressional leaders never really meant it when they said there would be a fair hearing to determine the future of the District’s federally funded school voucher program. How else to explain language tucked away in the mammoth omnibus spending bill that would effectively kill the Washington Opportunity Scholarship Program?

They note that “deep in the folds of the thousand-page 2010 spending bill, which wraps together six bills” is language that will keep funding for current students but shut the door behind them to new ones and add on “onerous requirements about testing and site visits.” And the Post names names, singling out Sen. Richard J. Durbin and Rep. Jose E. Serrano, who “have been, at best, disingenuous about their intentions, thus placing the program’s advocates in their current no-win situation.” But who’s missing from the list? Why the president, of course. He talked a good game about school reform but hasn’t lifted a finger to keep the school-voucher program in operation.

The Post‘s editors slam Congress: “If Congress, no doubt egged on by its allies in the teachers unions, is so intent on killing this program, it should be upfront in accepting the responsibility.” But the paper’s well-founded complaint is equally applicable to the White House, which has done virtually nothing on this or any other education issue that would challenge the educational establishment. It seems that there are some more kids in D.C. who will now suffer the consequences as a result.

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The Business of Copenhagen

The Washington Post gave away the game regarding Copenhagen. Sure, the science underlying the climate-change hysteria is facing new skepticism. And sure, Obama can’t really bind the U.S. to much of anything, given that cap-and-trade legislation is stalled at home. But there’s real work to do nevertheless: a massive transfer of wealth from rich to poor countries. The Post‘s editors explain:

Now, however, negotiations center on how to transfer hundreds of billions in cash and technology from rich countries to developing ones. Developing nations insist that they need the aid to adapt to the worst effects of climate change, to curb deforestation and to get off carbon-intensive development paths. Though the amounts that developing countries demand are impossibly high, the International Energy Agency estimates that non-OECD countries will, in fact, require $197 billion of additional investment annually for carbon reduction by 2020.

One marvels at the use of the word require. Yes, they’re making demands on wealthy nations and won’t be denied, it seems. The president loves this sort of thing. At the UN in September, Obama gave voice to the “doubters are heretics” mentality and fanned the climate-crisis flames:

The danger posed by climate change cannot be denied. Our responsibility to meet it must not be deferred. If we continue down our current course, every member of this Assembly will see irreversible changes within their borders. Our efforts to end conflicts will be eclipsed by wars over refugees and resources. Development will be devastated by drought and famine. Land that human beings have lived on for millennia will disappear. Future generations will look back and wonder why we refused to act; why we failed to pass on — why we failed to pass on an environment that was worthy of our inheritance. [emphasis added]

And when it comes to transferring the wealth, Obama has the patter down. Not only must we set an example by hobbling our own economies (“those wealthy nations that did so much damage to the environment in the 20th century must accept our obligation to lead”) but we also need “to extend a hand to those with less, while reforming international institutions to give more nations a greater voice.” (Because, I suppose, those multilateral institutions like the UN do such a bang-up job we need to give the nondemocratic, non-capitalist, anti-American and anti-Israel nations even more leverage.)

So let’s not delude ourselves. The Obami’s share-the-wealth vision and indulgence of the “international community” (and the latter’s sense of entitlement) are far too important to let a little scientific fraud and some constitutional niceties get in the way. There’s real business to be done at Copenhagen.

The Washington Post gave away the game regarding Copenhagen. Sure, the science underlying the climate-change hysteria is facing new skepticism. And sure, Obama can’t really bind the U.S. to much of anything, given that cap-and-trade legislation is stalled at home. But there’s real work to do nevertheless: a massive transfer of wealth from rich to poor countries. The Post‘s editors explain:

Now, however, negotiations center on how to transfer hundreds of billions in cash and technology from rich countries to developing ones. Developing nations insist that they need the aid to adapt to the worst effects of climate change, to curb deforestation and to get off carbon-intensive development paths. Though the amounts that developing countries demand are impossibly high, the International Energy Agency estimates that non-OECD countries will, in fact, require $197 billion of additional investment annually for carbon reduction by 2020.

One marvels at the use of the word require. Yes, they’re making demands on wealthy nations and won’t be denied, it seems. The president loves this sort of thing. At the UN in September, Obama gave voice to the “doubters are heretics” mentality and fanned the climate-crisis flames:

The danger posed by climate change cannot be denied. Our responsibility to meet it must not be deferred. If we continue down our current course, every member of this Assembly will see irreversible changes within their borders. Our efforts to end conflicts will be eclipsed by wars over refugees and resources. Development will be devastated by drought and famine. Land that human beings have lived on for millennia will disappear. Future generations will look back and wonder why we refused to act; why we failed to pass on — why we failed to pass on an environment that was worthy of our inheritance. [emphasis added]

And when it comes to transferring the wealth, Obama has the patter down. Not only must we set an example by hobbling our own economies (“those wealthy nations that did so much damage to the environment in the 20th century must accept our obligation to lead”) but we also need “to extend a hand to those with less, while reforming international institutions to give more nations a greater voice.” (Because, I suppose, those multilateral institutions like the UN do such a bang-up job we need to give the nondemocratic, non-capitalist, anti-American and anti-Israel nations even more leverage.)

So let’s not delude ourselves. The Obami’s share-the-wealth vision and indulgence of the “international community” (and the latter’s sense of entitlement) are far too important to let a little scientific fraud and some constitutional niceties get in the way. There’s real business to be done at Copenhagen.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Washington Post discovers Climategate: “In an effort to control what the public hears, did prominent scientists who link climate change to human behavior try to squelch a back-and-forth that is central to the scientific method? Is the science of global warming messier than they have admitted?. . . Phil Jones, the unit’s director, wrote a colleague that he would ‘hide’ a problem with data from Siberian tree rings with more accurate local air temperature measurements. In another message, Jones talks about keeping research he disagrees with out of a U.N. report, ‘even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!’” Next, perhaps we can find out why it took the Post weeks to report on the story.

Make it twenty Iranian enrichment sites!

The most disturbing item in this Rasmussen poll on Afghanistan: “53% of voters believe the president places higher importance on ending the war. Just 28% say Obama thinks winning the war is more important. Another 19% are not sure.” It seems imperative for the president to explain himself if he is to convince allies and foes that he is determined to win.

Even Marc Ambinder can’t quite spin Max Baucus out of his trouble over recommending his mistress for a position of U.S. Attorney. Although Ambinder tries awfully hard to distinguish Baucus from conservative scandal-makers (“Mr. Baucus does not hold himself up to be a paragon of rectitude; he is not known for insisting that others follow a code of sexual morality or be damned or otherwise treated as second-class citizens by the government”), he concludes that “Baucus would ignore the conflict of the interest or so easily dismiss it calls into question his judgment and his ethics. That’s a scandal.”

The unmatched Iowahawk is at it again, with a faux Obama West Point address: “Anyhoo, after receiving General McChrystal’s request, I carefully reviewed and focus tested it with some of the top military strategist of DailyKos and Huffington Post. As an alternative, they suggested sending a special force of 200 diversity-trained surrender consultants. After several months of careful deliberation, polling, and strategic golfing, I told the General I would provide him a force of 30,000, which is fully 75% of a 110% commitment.”

The parents of Daniel Pearl on the civilian trial of KSM: “We are not concerned about the safety issues that this trial poses to New York City — we trust our law enforcement officers. Nor are we concerned about the anguish of our children who will be seeing the memories and values of their loved ones mocked and ridiculed in the court room — they have known greater pains before. We are concerned about the millions of angry youngsters, among them potential terrorists, who will be watching this trial unfold on Al Jazeera TV and come to the realization that America has caved in to Al Qaeda’s demands for publicity. The atrocity of 9/11 and the brutal murder of Daniel Pearl are vivid reminders of terrorists’ craving to dramatize their perceived grievances against the West.” Read the whole thing.

As much as liberal pundits are whining about it, Dick Cheney really is closer than Obama to most Americans when it comes to terrorist interrogations. And a plurality of Americans think Obama is not “tough enough.” Again, Cheney thinks so too.

The Washington Post discovers Climategate: “In an effort to control what the public hears, did prominent scientists who link climate change to human behavior try to squelch a back-and-forth that is central to the scientific method? Is the science of global warming messier than they have admitted?. . . Phil Jones, the unit’s director, wrote a colleague that he would ‘hide’ a problem with data from Siberian tree rings with more accurate local air temperature measurements. In another message, Jones talks about keeping research he disagrees with out of a U.N. report, ‘even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!’” Next, perhaps we can find out why it took the Post weeks to report on the story.

Make it twenty Iranian enrichment sites!

The most disturbing item in this Rasmussen poll on Afghanistan: “53% of voters believe the president places higher importance on ending the war. Just 28% say Obama thinks winning the war is more important. Another 19% are not sure.” It seems imperative for the president to explain himself if he is to convince allies and foes that he is determined to win.

Even Marc Ambinder can’t quite spin Max Baucus out of his trouble over recommending his mistress for a position of U.S. Attorney. Although Ambinder tries awfully hard to distinguish Baucus from conservative scandal-makers (“Mr. Baucus does not hold himself up to be a paragon of rectitude; he is not known for insisting that others follow a code of sexual morality or be damned or otherwise treated as second-class citizens by the government”), he concludes that “Baucus would ignore the conflict of the interest or so easily dismiss it calls into question his judgment and his ethics. That’s a scandal.”

The unmatched Iowahawk is at it again, with a faux Obama West Point address: “Anyhoo, after receiving General McChrystal’s request, I carefully reviewed and focus tested it with some of the top military strategist of DailyKos and Huffington Post. As an alternative, they suggested sending a special force of 200 diversity-trained surrender consultants. After several months of careful deliberation, polling, and strategic golfing, I told the General I would provide him a force of 30,000, which is fully 75% of a 110% commitment.”

The parents of Daniel Pearl on the civilian trial of KSM: “We are not concerned about the safety issues that this trial poses to New York City — we trust our law enforcement officers. Nor are we concerned about the anguish of our children who will be seeing the memories and values of their loved ones mocked and ridiculed in the court room — they have known greater pains before. We are concerned about the millions of angry youngsters, among them potential terrorists, who will be watching this trial unfold on Al Jazeera TV and come to the realization that America has caved in to Al Qaeda’s demands for publicity. The atrocity of 9/11 and the brutal murder of Daniel Pearl are vivid reminders of terrorists’ craving to dramatize their perceived grievances against the West.” Read the whole thing.

As much as liberal pundits are whining about it, Dick Cheney really is closer than Obama to most Americans when it comes to terrorist interrogations. And a plurality of Americans think Obama is not “tough enough.” Again, Cheney thinks so too.

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Never Learn, Never Look Back

The Washington Post’s ombudsman Andrew Alexander devotes his weekly column to explaining how the Post‘s food critic is above reproach. Fine. Over the last few weeks we’ve been treated to columns on reporters’ conflicts of interest (no, nothing to see there, move along), another on anonymous sources, and one more on a biased book review. So where’s the heartfelt examination of the Post’s coverage of the Virginia gubernatorial race? Hmmm.

No self-examination was forthcoming, no discussion as to why dozens and dozens of stories were devoted to Bob McDonnell’s twenty-year-old college paper — an “issue” the voters cared not a wit about. Odd, isn’t it, that on the most obvious example of bias and excess the Post wouldn’t want to clear the air and take a look.

Instead, this week the Post doubled down, screaming for the governor-elect to denounce comments made by Pat Robertson about Muslims. No, Robertson isn’t in McDonnell’s transition team and isn’t going to be in his administration. The Post breathlessly observes: “In addition to attending law school in the 1980s at what was then called CBN University, the Virginia Beach school founded by Mr. Robertson and named for his Christian Broadcasting Network, Mr. McDonnell served eight years as a trustee of the same institution after it was renamed Regent University.” The Post editors proceed to holler: “Doesn’t Mr. McDonnell owe them and other Virginians some reassurance that he doesn’t share Pat Robertson’s despicable view?” Actually, no. McDonnell is under no obligation to denounce every comment by a supporter with which he disagrees; no more than Obama is expected to denounce every controversial comment a supporter of his makes.

But what is clear here is that the Post is not chastened, has not given up its habit of fomenting hot-button controversies where none exist, and holding Republicans to a standard that would never be employed against Democratic politicians. The Post hasn’t looked back and isn’t about to change its tune. But one thing we do know: the voters don’t much care what the Post prints. Those darn voters have a mind of their own and seemed to have figured out the Post’s gambit.

The Washington Post’s ombudsman Andrew Alexander devotes his weekly column to explaining how the Post‘s food critic is above reproach. Fine. Over the last few weeks we’ve been treated to columns on reporters’ conflicts of interest (no, nothing to see there, move along), another on anonymous sources, and one more on a biased book review. So where’s the heartfelt examination of the Post’s coverage of the Virginia gubernatorial race? Hmmm.

No self-examination was forthcoming, no discussion as to why dozens and dozens of stories were devoted to Bob McDonnell’s twenty-year-old college paper — an “issue” the voters cared not a wit about. Odd, isn’t it, that on the most obvious example of bias and excess the Post wouldn’t want to clear the air and take a look.

Instead, this week the Post doubled down, screaming for the governor-elect to denounce comments made by Pat Robertson about Muslims. No, Robertson isn’t in McDonnell’s transition team and isn’t going to be in his administration. The Post breathlessly observes: “In addition to attending law school in the 1980s at what was then called CBN University, the Virginia Beach school founded by Mr. Robertson and named for his Christian Broadcasting Network, Mr. McDonnell served eight years as a trustee of the same institution after it was renamed Regent University.” The Post editors proceed to holler: “Doesn’t Mr. McDonnell owe them and other Virginians some reassurance that he doesn’t share Pat Robertson’s despicable view?” Actually, no. McDonnell is under no obligation to denounce every comment by a supporter with which he disagrees; no more than Obama is expected to denounce every controversial comment a supporter of his makes.

But what is clear here is that the Post is not chastened, has not given up its habit of fomenting hot-button controversies where none exist, and holding Republicans to a standard that would never be employed against Democratic politicians. The Post hasn’t looked back and isn’t about to change its tune. But one thing we do know: the voters don’t much care what the Post prints. Those darn voters have a mind of their own and seemed to have figured out the Post’s gambit.

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Legal Reporting 101

Sometimes you wish that employees of a newspaper would talk to one another, or read what others write before submitting their own copy. In today’s Washington Post, the front page news section has a ludicrous article on how Supreme Court Justices have moved to the “middle,” using as examples the recent cases involving interpretation of a post-civil war anti-discrimination statute and the federal age discrimination statute.

Why ludicrous? There is nothing “middle” about interpreting a statute. It says one thing, or it says another. This, of course, is the cardinal error of much of what passes for legal reporting. It misses the distinction between a policy objective (Let’s give citizens an avenue for pursuing retaliation claims, other than Title VII or state statues) and the legal analysis (What does this particular statute mean?). And as for the reporting, it tells us nothing of the arguments and the actual basis for the decision, nor the reason for the dissenters’ viewpoint.

For that you can skip to the opinion section of the Post, where the editors seem to understand all of this quite well. They actually explain the two cases and the distinction between the majority and dissent, noting that neither of these statutes mention anything about retaliation. (Gosh, it would have been nice if the news reporters mentioned that. So the Justices made up a retaliation provision because Congress left it out?) The editors conclude:

Protecting employees from retaliation makes sense, but it is not the province of judges to create such protections on the basis of their own beliefs of what is right or wrong, or even on the basis of their intuitive sense of what Congress meant to do or should have done. And those who today praise the outcome shouldn’t be upset if in the future justices read into the law new principles that lead to results they may find less acceptable.

So the lesson to be learned: if you want accurate and insightful reporting on the Supreme Court from the Post, look at the op-ed page. You won’t find it in the news section.

Sometimes you wish that employees of a newspaper would talk to one another, or read what others write before submitting their own copy. In today’s Washington Post, the front page news section has a ludicrous article on how Supreme Court Justices have moved to the “middle,” using as examples the recent cases involving interpretation of a post-civil war anti-discrimination statute and the federal age discrimination statute.

Why ludicrous? There is nothing “middle” about interpreting a statute. It says one thing, or it says another. This, of course, is the cardinal error of much of what passes for legal reporting. It misses the distinction between a policy objective (Let’s give citizens an avenue for pursuing retaliation claims, other than Title VII or state statues) and the legal analysis (What does this particular statute mean?). And as for the reporting, it tells us nothing of the arguments and the actual basis for the decision, nor the reason for the dissenters’ viewpoint.

For that you can skip to the opinion section of the Post, where the editors seem to understand all of this quite well. They actually explain the two cases and the distinction between the majority and dissent, noting that neither of these statutes mention anything about retaliation. (Gosh, it would have been nice if the news reporters mentioned that. So the Justices made up a retaliation provision because Congress left it out?) The editors conclude:

Protecting employees from retaliation makes sense, but it is not the province of judges to create such protections on the basis of their own beliefs of what is right or wrong, or even on the basis of their intuitive sense of what Congress meant to do or should have done. And those who today praise the outcome shouldn’t be upset if in the future justices read into the law new principles that lead to results they may find less acceptable.

So the lesson to be learned: if you want accurate and insightful reporting on the Supreme Court from the Post, look at the op-ed page. You won’t find it in the news section.

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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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Brzezinski and Me

CONTENTIONS readers might be interested in my exchange in the Washington Post with Zbigniew Brzezinski over the merits of a pullout from Iraq. His article is here and my reply is here. And, no, it’s not my fault that this article carries the same headline as a much longer article I did for COMMENTARY last August. Blame it on the Post editors, who may not read COMMENTARY quite as religiously as they should. Of course, even at roughly 950 words, my riposte does not begin to exhaust all the problems with Brzezinski’s reasoning. I’m sure this site’s readers will have plenty of other thoughts to offer.

CONTENTIONS readers might be interested in my exchange in the Washington Post with Zbigniew Brzezinski over the merits of a pullout from Iraq. His article is here and my reply is here. And, no, it’s not my fault that this article carries the same headline as a much longer article I did for COMMENTARY last August. Blame it on the Post editors, who may not read COMMENTARY quite as religiously as they should. Of course, even at roughly 950 words, my riposte does not begin to exhaust all the problems with Brzezinski’s reasoning. I’m sure this site’s readers will have plenty of other thoughts to offer.

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More Than a Rag on a Stick

What does a nation’s flag really stand for? That’s the question posed by researchers at Hebrew University, who studied the effect of flashing subliminal images of the Israeli flag at subjects of a study aimed at measuring the images’ effect on political behavior and beliefs among Israelis. The results are surprising: Rather than making Israelis more nationalistic (i.e., shifting them to the right), the effect of the images was to shift their opinions away from extremes and towards the political center. As the Jerusalem Post reports:

In the first experiment, the Israeli participants—divided into two groups chosen at random—were asked about their attitudes toward core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They were then asked again to share their opinions on the subject, but this time, prior to answering the researchers’ questions, half of the participants were exposed to subliminal images of the Israeli flag projected on a monitor and the rest were not. The results showed that the former group tended to shift to the political center.

Another experiment, which was conducted in the weeks leading up the the disengagement from Gaza, replicated these results whereby participants subliminally exposed to the Israeli flag expressed centrist views in relation to the withdrawal and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza.

The third experiment was held just prior to Israel’s last general election. Here too, the subliminal presentation of Israel’s flag drew right-wing, as well as left-wing, Israelis toward the political center.

Participants who were subliminally exposed to the flag said they intended to vote for more central parties than those who had not been exposed to the subliminal message. The researchers then called the participants after the elections and discovered that people who were exposed to the flag indeed voted for more moderate candidates.

Neither the report nor the article ventures a guess as to why Israelis moderate their views in light of their own flag. One answer might be that citizens are reminded of the high responsibility that a national conscience represents, and of the nuance of belief that such responsibility may sometimes entail.

Yet there is another possibility. As the Post reports, “The team did not study the effect of subliminal images of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas flag on Palestinian political leanings.” Perhaps Palestinians would moderate their views in light of their own flag, just as Israelis do—but perhaps not. One wonders whether some flags (such as those flown over free, democratic countries) trigger a different set of unconscious associations than do others. To find this out, we’ll have to wait for the comparative study.

What does a nation’s flag really stand for? That’s the question posed by researchers at Hebrew University, who studied the effect of flashing subliminal images of the Israeli flag at subjects of a study aimed at measuring the images’ effect on political behavior and beliefs among Israelis. The results are surprising: Rather than making Israelis more nationalistic (i.e., shifting them to the right), the effect of the images was to shift their opinions away from extremes and towards the political center. As the Jerusalem Post reports:

In the first experiment, the Israeli participants—divided into two groups chosen at random—were asked about their attitudes toward core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They were then asked again to share their opinions on the subject, but this time, prior to answering the researchers’ questions, half of the participants were exposed to subliminal images of the Israeli flag projected on a monitor and the rest were not. The results showed that the former group tended to shift to the political center.

Another experiment, which was conducted in the weeks leading up the the disengagement from Gaza, replicated these results whereby participants subliminally exposed to the Israeli flag expressed centrist views in relation to the withdrawal and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza.

The third experiment was held just prior to Israel’s last general election. Here too, the subliminal presentation of Israel’s flag drew right-wing, as well as left-wing, Israelis toward the political center.

Participants who were subliminally exposed to the flag said they intended to vote for more central parties than those who had not been exposed to the subliminal message. The researchers then called the participants after the elections and discovered that people who were exposed to the flag indeed voted for more moderate candidates.

Neither the report nor the article ventures a guess as to why Israelis moderate their views in light of their own flag. One answer might be that citizens are reminded of the high responsibility that a national conscience represents, and of the nuance of belief that such responsibility may sometimes entail.

Yet there is another possibility. As the Post reports, “The team did not study the effect of subliminal images of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas flag on Palestinian political leanings.” Perhaps Palestinians would moderate their views in light of their own flag, just as Israelis do—but perhaps not. One wonders whether some flags (such as those flown over free, democratic countries) trigger a different set of unconscious associations than do others. To find this out, we’ll have to wait for the comparative study.

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Page 29?

News from South Africa:

Amazingly, at the same time those four men entered Pelindaba from its eastern perimeter, a separate group of intruders failed in an attempt to break in from the west. The timing suggests a coordinated attack against a facility that contains an estimated 25 bombs’ worth of weapons-grade nuclear material.

Also amazingly, this story appears on page 29 in today’s Washington Post. It should have been a banner headline on the front page. The attackers were sophisticated enough to deactivate a 10,000 volt electric fence, make their way into the emergency control center in the heart of the facility, and breach a sealed control room, where they shot an emergency-service worker.

The story continues:

had the armed attackers succeeded in penetrating the site’s highly enriched uranium storage vault, where the weapons-grade nuclear material is believed to be held, they could have carried away the ingredients for the world’s first terrorist nuclear bomb.

Three suspects have been arrested, the Post reports.

This is major news, even if it is buried by the Post. Who and what was behind this attack? Connecting the Dots very much wants to know. �

News from South Africa:

Amazingly, at the same time those four men entered Pelindaba from its eastern perimeter, a separate group of intruders failed in an attempt to break in from the west. The timing suggests a coordinated attack against a facility that contains an estimated 25 bombs’ worth of weapons-grade nuclear material.

Also amazingly, this story appears on page 29 in today’s Washington Post. It should have been a banner headline on the front page. The attackers were sophisticated enough to deactivate a 10,000 volt electric fence, make their way into the emergency control center in the heart of the facility, and breach a sealed control room, where they shot an emergency-service worker.

The story continues:

had the armed attackers succeeded in penetrating the site’s highly enriched uranium storage vault, where the weapons-grade nuclear material is believed to be held, they could have carried away the ingredients for the world’s first terrorist nuclear bomb.

Three suspects have been arrested, the Post reports.

This is major news, even if it is buried by the Post. Who and what was behind this attack? Connecting the Dots very much wants to know. �

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Am I Missing Something?

The Washington Post offers a lengthy recounting this morning of how the intelligence community went about gathering the intelligence behind its new estimate that Iran shut down its nuclear-weapons program in 2003. The story is particularly notable for three details.

First, it confirms what Dick Cheney has already said about the decision to make a summary of the NIE public. Initially, reports the Post, “Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, [had] decided to keep the new findings secret, but reluctantly reversed course in a flurry of discussions last weekend out of fear of leaks and charges of a cover-up.”

Second, with the decision to make the NIE public taken only last weekend, the story makes plain that the summary of the document, as opposed to the NIE itself, was produced in a mad rush: “analysts scrambled over the weekend,” the Post reports, “to draft a declassified version.”

This is crucial, because it leaves unclear whether the White House was ever shown or ever had a chance to sign off on the unclassified summary as opposed to the NIE itself. Perhaps the full NIE is a well-drafted and well-qualified document that makes it clear that, because of the “civilian” uranium-enrichment project at Natanz, the time-line on which Iran might obtain enough fuel to build a bomb is virtually unchanged from the supposedly discredited 2005 NIE.

But the declassified summary itself is anything but well-drafted and well-qualified. It leaves the misleading impression that all Iranian efforts to build nuclear weapons came to a halt in 2003. The differences between the summary and the full document on this score might explain why the White House was so blindsided by its own decision to make the NIE public.

Third, the Washington Post story takes note of the controversy within the government about whether the intelligence underpinning the new NIE is accurate. But it nowhere mentions the more crucial fact that Iran has an ongoing “civilian” nuclear program that was downplayed in the NIE summary, relegated to a footnote. Failing to mention this is deeply disingenuous, even mendacious. The Post is complicit with the drafters of the NIE summary in promoting the false impression that Iran has completely changed course and there is nothing to worry about.

What is behind this striking omission? The Post story was written by Peter Baker and Dafna Linzer. Walter Pincus, Joby Warrick, and Robin Wright contributed to it. A team of editors undoubtedly also read it and made changes and suggestions as editors do. What are we dealing with here? Laziness, deliberate deception, a desire to please sources within the intelligence world, a blinding world-view? Connecting the Dots would like to know.

The Washington Post offers a lengthy recounting this morning of how the intelligence community went about gathering the intelligence behind its new estimate that Iran shut down its nuclear-weapons program in 2003. The story is particularly notable for three details.

First, it confirms what Dick Cheney has already said about the decision to make a summary of the NIE public. Initially, reports the Post, “Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, [had] decided to keep the new findings secret, but reluctantly reversed course in a flurry of discussions last weekend out of fear of leaks and charges of a cover-up.”

Second, with the decision to make the NIE public taken only last weekend, the story makes plain that the summary of the document, as opposed to the NIE itself, was produced in a mad rush: “analysts scrambled over the weekend,” the Post reports, “to draft a declassified version.”

This is crucial, because it leaves unclear whether the White House was ever shown or ever had a chance to sign off on the unclassified summary as opposed to the NIE itself. Perhaps the full NIE is a well-drafted and well-qualified document that makes it clear that, because of the “civilian” uranium-enrichment project at Natanz, the time-line on which Iran might obtain enough fuel to build a bomb is virtually unchanged from the supposedly discredited 2005 NIE.

But the declassified summary itself is anything but well-drafted and well-qualified. It leaves the misleading impression that all Iranian efforts to build nuclear weapons came to a halt in 2003. The differences between the summary and the full document on this score might explain why the White House was so blindsided by its own decision to make the NIE public.

Third, the Washington Post story takes note of the controversy within the government about whether the intelligence underpinning the new NIE is accurate. But it nowhere mentions the more crucial fact that Iran has an ongoing “civilian” nuclear program that was downplayed in the NIE summary, relegated to a footnote. Failing to mention this is deeply disingenuous, even mendacious. The Post is complicit with the drafters of the NIE summary in promoting the false impression that Iran has completely changed course and there is nothing to worry about.

What is behind this striking omission? The Post story was written by Peter Baker and Dafna Linzer. Walter Pincus, Joby Warrick, and Robin Wright contributed to it. A team of editors undoubtedly also read it and made changes and suggestions as editors do. What are we dealing with here? Laziness, deliberate deception, a desire to please sources within the intelligence world, a blinding world-view? Connecting the Dots would like to know.

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Was Kurt Waldheim Human?

Kurt Waldheim, the former Secretary General of the United Nations and president of Austria, has died at the age of eighty-eight. What will be history’s verdict?

The Washington Post’s obituary offers a good summary of the facts leading to his being placed on a watch list of “prohibited persons” that barred him from entry into the United States. Although his participation in Nazi war crimes was never proved in a court of law, it was enough that he had repeatedly lied about his military service during World War II, striving especially to conceal his role as a lieutenant in the Wehrmacht from 1942 through 1945 in a unit that had butchered Yugoslav partisans. Later disclosures in the mid-1980’s, reports the Post, “included a secret 1948 finding by the UN War Crimes Commission that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute Waldheim for ‘murder’ and ‘putting hostages to death.’”

Despite his sinister past, Waldheim did have his admirers. One of them, remarkably enough, was the writer Gitta Sereny, whose anti-Nazi credentials, as a member of the French resistance and as a historian, are not in doubt. When she interviewed Waldheim in the late 1980’s about his activities in the Balkans, he explained to her that it was “a ‘savage war,’ like ‘Vietnam, and now the West Bank,’ where the Israelis ‘are breaking people’s bones.’”

Read More

Kurt Waldheim, the former Secretary General of the United Nations and president of Austria, has died at the age of eighty-eight. What will be history’s verdict?

The Washington Post’s obituary offers a good summary of the facts leading to his being placed on a watch list of “prohibited persons” that barred him from entry into the United States. Although his participation in Nazi war crimes was never proved in a court of law, it was enough that he had repeatedly lied about his military service during World War II, striving especially to conceal his role as a lieutenant in the Wehrmacht from 1942 through 1945 in a unit that had butchered Yugoslav partisans. Later disclosures in the mid-1980’s, reports the Post, “included a secret 1948 finding by the UN War Crimes Commission that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute Waldheim for ‘murder’ and ‘putting hostages to death.’”

Despite his sinister past, Waldheim did have his admirers. One of them, remarkably enough, was the writer Gitta Sereny, whose anti-Nazi credentials, as a member of the French resistance and as a historian, are not in doubt. When she interviewed Waldheim in the late 1980’s about his activities in the Balkans, he explained to her that it was “a ‘savage war,’ like ‘Vietnam, and now the West Bank,’ where the Israelis ‘are breaking people’s bones.’”

Sereny, despite all her talents as a writer and as investigator into the history of Nazi evil, raised only the barest challenge to her interlocutor’s likening of the Nazis to the Americans and the Israelis. She then went on to judge Waldheim a “fundamentally decent man.”

It was this, among other things, that led me to conclude in a review of her book, The Healing Wound, in the New York Times, that she was “incapable of. . . grasping, after a lifetime of studying it, the radical nature of Nazi evil.”

My appraisal of her then drew a letter to the editor defending Sereny. I still remember it today for its timeless encapsulation of a certain extreme but all-too-popular moral inversion: “It is precisely by rejecting the atavistic, thought-foreclosing notion of evil, and instead insisting on the complex humanity of her subjects,” wrote an indignant reader, “that Sereny has made fascism at all comprehensible to us. The enemy is human: that is a lesson today’s policymakers would do well to learn.”

Yes, Waldheim, was human. But he was also evil, and it is evil not to judge him so.

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A Giant Rabbit in Every Pot?

Suddenly there is a ray of hope that North Koreans—even those who are not employed by the armed forces or the secret police—will have something more nutritious than grass and bark in their cooking pots. According to a report in the Washington Post of February 2, the North Korean embassy in Berlin recently sent a delegation to a German agricultural fair at which a retired chauffeur named Karl Szmolinsky showed off hugely oversized rabbits that he had bred—some reaching “the size of a full-grown beagle.” “Eureka!,” thought an embassy official, presumably the economic attaché. Your average rabbit might make a meal for two or three people. But according to Szmolinsky, a single one of his “gray giants” can, if properly butchered, yield fifteen pounds of meet, enough to feed, say, thirty. It is easy for even a Communist economist to see, therefore, that if you raise these monsters instead of regular rabbits you can increase one component of the food supply by a factor of ten.

And, of course, they breed like, well, rabbits. So Pyongyang ordered half a dozen of the critters as seed stock.

There is, however, a catch. “It takes wheelbarrow-loads of hay, vegetables, and rabbit chow to bring them to maturity,” reports the Post. In other words, your average “gray giant” eats more and better than your average North Korean. Ergo, still more North Koreans will have to starve in order to feed the rabbits.

Although the rabbit venture may not quiet the North Koreans’ hunger, it may have one beneficial side effect. Those old enough to recall his presidency will remember that Jimmy Carter is deathly afraid of killer rabbits. Word of these “gray giants” should keep him away from Pyongyang—and we will all be safer for it.

Suddenly there is a ray of hope that North Koreans—even those who are not employed by the armed forces or the secret police—will have something more nutritious than grass and bark in their cooking pots. According to a report in the Washington Post of February 2, the North Korean embassy in Berlin recently sent a delegation to a German agricultural fair at which a retired chauffeur named Karl Szmolinsky showed off hugely oversized rabbits that he had bred—some reaching “the size of a full-grown beagle.” “Eureka!,” thought an embassy official, presumably the economic attaché. Your average rabbit might make a meal for two or three people. But according to Szmolinsky, a single one of his “gray giants” can, if properly butchered, yield fifteen pounds of meet, enough to feed, say, thirty. It is easy for even a Communist economist to see, therefore, that if you raise these monsters instead of regular rabbits you can increase one component of the food supply by a factor of ten.

And, of course, they breed like, well, rabbits. So Pyongyang ordered half a dozen of the critters as seed stock.

There is, however, a catch. “It takes wheelbarrow-loads of hay, vegetables, and rabbit chow to bring them to maturity,” reports the Post. In other words, your average “gray giant” eats more and better than your average North Korean. Ergo, still more North Koreans will have to starve in order to feed the rabbits.

Although the rabbit venture may not quiet the North Koreans’ hunger, it may have one beneficial side effect. Those old enough to recall his presidency will remember that Jimmy Carter is deathly afraid of killer rabbits. Word of these “gray giants” should keep him away from Pyongyang—and we will all be safer for it.

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