Commentary Magazine


Topic: Tony Blair

Tony Blair’s Education Won’t End Terrorism

Writing this weekend in the British newspaper the Observer, former Prime Minister Tony Blair turned once again to address the ongoing threat from terrorism. Blair identifies religious extremism as being fundamentally at the root cause of terrorism–a far cry from the delusions of Secretary of State John Kerry who recently claimed terrorism is caused by poverty. Blair quite rightly observed that just as extreme political ideologies marred the twentieth century, so the terror that emerges from religious extremism threatens to plague the twenty-first. Yet, troublingly, much of Blair’s article is devoted to a rather superficial discussion about the prospects of confronting extremism through “education.” No doubt much of the war for the West’s values will be waged on the battlefield of the mind, but Blair is straying into territory almost as naïve as that inhabited by the likes of John Kerry if he thinks we can simply abandon the military option and reason the societies that support terrorism out of extremism.

Of course, nowhere does Blair directly advocate dropping the military option; this isn’t some latter day about-turn on the policies of military intervention that he himself once employed. Yet, there can be little doubt from his tone as to where Blair thinks the emphasis now needs to be placed: on promoting education and interfaith outreach. Indeed, to that effect Blair is sure to note that he does not consider this a uniquely Islamic problem. It seems that the former prime minister is genuinely under the impression that education and good intentions are going to essentially win the war on terror for us. Like Kerry’s ideas about poverty being at the root of terrorism, the notion that providing education will win over our enemies is a far more palatable strategy than the military option. And like the thought of defeating terror by defeating poverty, it is not only attractive, but also much too good to be true.

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Writing this weekend in the British newspaper the Observer, former Prime Minister Tony Blair turned once again to address the ongoing threat from terrorism. Blair identifies religious extremism as being fundamentally at the root cause of terrorism–a far cry from the delusions of Secretary of State John Kerry who recently claimed terrorism is caused by poverty. Blair quite rightly observed that just as extreme political ideologies marred the twentieth century, so the terror that emerges from religious extremism threatens to plague the twenty-first. Yet, troublingly, much of Blair’s article is devoted to a rather superficial discussion about the prospects of confronting extremism through “education.” No doubt much of the war for the West’s values will be waged on the battlefield of the mind, but Blair is straying into territory almost as naïve as that inhabited by the likes of John Kerry if he thinks we can simply abandon the military option and reason the societies that support terrorism out of extremism.

Of course, nowhere does Blair directly advocate dropping the military option; this isn’t some latter day about-turn on the policies of military intervention that he himself once employed. Yet, there can be little doubt from his tone as to where Blair thinks the emphasis now needs to be placed: on promoting education and interfaith outreach. Indeed, to that effect Blair is sure to note that he does not consider this a uniquely Islamic problem. It seems that the former prime minister is genuinely under the impression that education and good intentions are going to essentially win the war on terror for us. Like Kerry’s ideas about poverty being at the root of terrorism, the notion that providing education will win over our enemies is a far more palatable strategy than the military option. And like the thought of defeating terror by defeating poverty, it is not only attractive, but also much too good to be true.

That is not to say that there is no common sense to be found in this article. There is plenty, and that is what makes its mistaken conclusions all the more jarring. One of Blair’s most important points is that solving the growing crisis in the Middle East is not simply a matter of establishing new improved constitutional arrangements. As Blair writes, “Democracy is not only a way of voting. It is a way of thinking.” This is an important point, absent from many discussions about democracy and its meaning. Functioning democracy is not simply a question of a procedure for determining who administers government, it is an entire attitude with a whole corresponding system of values upon which that procedure depends.

Tony Blair speaks glowingly in his article of his efforts for interfaith outreach and education thus far. He tells his readers of the work of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, with its soon-to-be launched database on religion and conflict created in collaboration with Harvard Divinity School, interfaith programs and degree courses, first pioneered at Yale, now available in universities from China to Latin America. No doubt this is all good work, but are we really to believe that degree courses in religious toleration, taking place in China and Latin America, are going to heal such intractable conflicts as the fracture between Sunni and Shia that dates to Islam’s founding? Even if Blair’s foundation were to hit upon the magic formula for de-radicalization, they are hardly going to be setting the curriculum in Saudi or Iranian schools any time soon.

While religious toleration may be in short supply throughout many parts of the world, and particularly the Islamic Middle East, we should not forget that in our own countries it was the obsession with tolerance that caused many Western governments to turn a blind eye to this very religious extremism in the first place. It has been the continuing obsession with tolerance that is exploited by those who essentially wish to neuter the West’s capabilities and willingness to defend itself in the face of the threat from hardline Islam.

People in the Islamic world have noticed these weaknesses emerging in our sense of civilizational self-confidence. As Joshua Mitchell has observed from his interactions with young Muslims in the Gulf, one of their greatest fears, found even among highly educated people, is that their own societies might succumb to becoming like the West, which they see as being beset by a valueless individualism.  

We can hope for a change in the Islamic world, hope for an Islamic reformation that is liberalizing rather than radicalizing, although current trends should dissuade excessive optimism. But we need to be realistic about just how limited our ability to bring about drastic changes in that culture really is. In his book The Suicide of Reason Lee Harris puts forward the contention that one of the greatest conceits of Western strategy has been the belief that since our system is the natural and inevitable end point in which all societies are progressing, people from other traditions will only be too ready to adopt our values. The last decade of turmoil in the Middle East suggests they are far from ready.

Blair is quite mistaken if he thinks that the West can simply educate our enemies into abandoning the extremism that drives their terror war against us, and indeed one another. Changing “them” may not be feasible, changing “us” is far more within reach, however. Our efforts should be toward reaffirming our sense of commitment to our own values and way of life and doubling up on our readiness to proactively defend those basic principles that we most value.  

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Free Speech and Islamic Sensibilities

One of the most discouraging trends in international affairs is the way some Western nations have kowtowed to the calls of Muslim nations to treat “blasphemy” against Islam as a human rights offense. As the controversy over the publication of Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, as well as the YouTube video that the White House falsely claimed incited the murder of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya have shown, many in the West are generally more concerned with appeasing terrorists than they are with standing up for freedom of expression.

But however abject the Western stand has been abroad, most Americans probably thought no such concerns were needed about defending our rights at home. Yet a story in Politico brings to our attention the fact that such complacence may be unfounded. Apparently a United States attorney in Tennessee is seeking to use civil rights statutes to criminalize criticism of Islam or inflammatory statements that offend Muslims. According to the Tullahoma News, Bill Killian, the U.S. attorney for Eastern Tennessee, believes “Internet postings that violate civil rights are subject to federal jurisdiction.” Though the newspaper makes clear that Killian’s intent is to promote better community relations and to prevent discrimination against Muslims that is based on the false notion that all are terrorists, his willingness to dump the First Amendment rights of some in order to protect the sensibility of others ought to scare all Americans.

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One of the most discouraging trends in international affairs is the way some Western nations have kowtowed to the calls of Muslim nations to treat “blasphemy” against Islam as a human rights offense. As the controversy over the publication of Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, as well as the YouTube video that the White House falsely claimed incited the murder of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya have shown, many in the West are generally more concerned with appeasing terrorists than they are with standing up for freedom of expression.

But however abject the Western stand has been abroad, most Americans probably thought no such concerns were needed about defending our rights at home. Yet a story in Politico brings to our attention the fact that such complacence may be unfounded. Apparently a United States attorney in Tennessee is seeking to use civil rights statutes to criminalize criticism of Islam or inflammatory statements that offend Muslims. According to the Tullahoma News, Bill Killian, the U.S. attorney for Eastern Tennessee, believes “Internet postings that violate civil rights are subject to federal jurisdiction.” Though the newspaper makes clear that Killian’s intent is to promote better community relations and to prevent discrimination against Muslims that is based on the false notion that all are terrorists, his willingness to dump the First Amendment rights of some in order to protect the sensibility of others ought to scare all Americans.

Killian is, of course, right to point out that the vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists. The vast majority are law abiding citizens whose rights should be protected the same as those of anyone else. It is also true that those who fear that Muslims will impose sharia law on Tennessee or any other American state are largely unfounded, though that issue is not a fringe concern in Africa and Asia where the rights of non-Muslims are threatened by just that threat. If all Killian wants to do is to make sure American Muslims are not targeted for discrimination or violence (though there is, in fact, no evidence that a post-9/11 backlash of bias or attacks has actually taken place) that is also all well and good.

But there is a vast difference between defending the civil rights of a minority and seeking to silence those who hold views that are offensive to that minority.

If hate speech leads directly to violence or is used to create an atmosphere of intimidation or attacks against a minority group, the government does well to look into the manner. But for a person with the vast resources and power of the federal government at his disposal, such as a U.S. attorney, to threaten prosecution of those who say offensive things about Muslims on the Internet is to place free speech in jeopardy. Indeed, rather than silencing those who complain about sharia law, statements such as those of Killian are likely to fuel such fears–and rightly so–since he appears to be setting Muslims up as a protected class who cannot be offended without fear of recourse to the law.

What’s especially frightening about this is that the discussion of what offends Muslims has very little to do with actionable hate speech. As was the case with the YouTube video about Muhammad that the administration initially claimed to have been the cause of the Benghazi attacks, the video was something that was perfectly legal even if it was ill considered and nasty as well as inept. But just as the maker of that video was jailed on a parole violation (a turn of events that would have been inconceivable had he not been subjected to international opprobrium including condemnation by the president and the secretary of state), there now appears to be a double standard by which the government seems to view offenses to Islam. Attacks on Islam or even rude remarks about its prophet may be uncivil, but they are no more illegal than abuse directed at Jews or any other form of hate that the government rightly forebears from prosecuting.

Even more to the point, while the efforts of Killian to protect American Muslims are correct, if they are not also accompanied by calls for this community to do some soul searching about the way it has enabled and even coddled extremists who are fomenting or carrying out terrorism they do the nation a disservice.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke directly to this issue in a courageous piece published in the Daily Mail in which he rightly pointed out that the radicalism that led to the murder of a British soldier last week—as well as to other outrages such as the Boston Marathon bombing and a host of other terrorist attacks in the United States carried out by persons primarily motivated by an interpretation of Islam—requires both Muslims and non-Muslims to face facts:

There is a problem within Islam – from the adherents of an ideology that is a strain within Islam. We have to put it on the table and be honest about it. Of course there are Christian extremists and Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu ones. But I am afraid this strain is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.

But instead of honesty about this threat, what Muslims are hearing from people like Killian is that the government may punish offenses against their faith. That not only trashes freedom of speech, statements such as Killian’s and others that stick to the “Islam is a religion of peace” line while ignoring the very real problem of Islamist extremism that is fomenting terror add to our problems.

Killian must retract his statement or at least clarify it to show that he has no intention of prosecuting those who merely offend Islam, no matter how objectionable their utterances. If not, he should be fired. But even more than that, his foolish attempt to mollify Muslims show just how clueless many government officials—including those, like Killian, who are connected to the security establishment—are about the nature of the threat from Islamist terror.

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Iranian-Funded Press TV’s British Bank Accounts Frozen

Press TV, the international news organization and propaganda arm of the Iranian government, has had its British bank account frozen, the Times of London reported today.

The frozen account is thought to contain more than $140,000 (100,000 euros), and National Westminster Bank is expected to close it shortly.

And while National Westminster Bank said the move was a “private commercial decision over which the Government has no control,” there has been speculation by both critics and supporters of the news station that politics may have played a part in the decision.

Lauren Booth — the Israel-bashing sister-in-law of Tony Blair — has written a barely legible opinion column for Al Jazeera, blaming the freeze on Zionism, the Blair machine, and American imperialism (errors in the original):

“The freezing of Press TV Ltd business account by Nat West Bank, is a politically motivated act,” wrote Booth. “The bank accounts of those companies who bring uncomfortable truths into the public domain, can now be closed as part of a political agenda, eliciting from the USA. Supported by the Nat West and Her Majesty’s Government.”

Booth compared it to a similar incident in 2007, when National Westminster Bank shuttered the account of a Hamas-linked Palestinian “charity” called Interpal. The bank said it closed the account under pressure from the U.S. legal system.

And it’s possible that similar concerns could have prompted the bank to freeze Press TV’s account as well. Legally, the Iranian-government-funded news organization may be subject to Iranian sanctions.

“[I]t is not surprising that an international bank like Nat West has frozen the accounts of a propaganda station, funded entirely by the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is increasingly subject to international financial and trade sanctions in the European Union and the United States,” wrote Alan A. at the conservative blog Harry’s Place.

Whatever the reason for the freeze, hopefully it’ll lead to some more government scrutiny for Press TV. The fake news station not only devotes itself to publishing constant anti-American and anti-Israel propaganda; it’s also issued news reports denying the Holocaust and claiming that the Mossad helped commit the 9/11 attacks. At the very least, the government should require the station to provide a content warning informing viewers that it’s funded entirely by the Iranian government.

Press TV, the international news organization and propaganda arm of the Iranian government, has had its British bank account frozen, the Times of London reported today.

The frozen account is thought to contain more than $140,000 (100,000 euros), and National Westminster Bank is expected to close it shortly.

And while National Westminster Bank said the move was a “private commercial decision over which the Government has no control,” there has been speculation by both critics and supporters of the news station that politics may have played a part in the decision.

Lauren Booth — the Israel-bashing sister-in-law of Tony Blair — has written a barely legible opinion column for Al Jazeera, blaming the freeze on Zionism, the Blair machine, and American imperialism (errors in the original):

“The freezing of Press TV Ltd business account by Nat West Bank, is a politically motivated act,” wrote Booth. “The bank accounts of those companies who bring uncomfortable truths into the public domain, can now be closed as part of a political agenda, eliciting from the USA. Supported by the Nat West and Her Majesty’s Government.”

Booth compared it to a similar incident in 2007, when National Westminster Bank shuttered the account of a Hamas-linked Palestinian “charity” called Interpal. The bank said it closed the account under pressure from the U.S. legal system.

And it’s possible that similar concerns could have prompted the bank to freeze Press TV’s account as well. Legally, the Iranian-government-funded news organization may be subject to Iranian sanctions.

“[I]t is not surprising that an international bank like Nat West has frozen the accounts of a propaganda station, funded entirely by the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is increasingly subject to international financial and trade sanctions in the European Union and the United States,” wrote Alan A. at the conservative blog Harry’s Place.

Whatever the reason for the freeze, hopefully it’ll lead to some more government scrutiny for Press TV. The fake news station not only devotes itself to publishing constant anti-American and anti-Israel propaganda; it’s also issued news reports denying the Holocaust and claiming that the Mossad helped commit the 9/11 attacks. At the very least, the government should require the station to provide a content warning informing viewers that it’s funded entirely by the Iranian government.

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Morning Commentary

The Iraqi parliament finally approves a diverse new unity government, ending nine months of political stalemate and concern for the fledgling democracy: “Although Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds were represented in the previous government, this is the first time that all the major factions have been included, lending hope that Iraq can put behind it the bitter sectarian struggles and divisive politics of the past five years.”

More than nine Senate Republicans are expected to support New START when it’s brought up for ratification today, which is enough to approve the treaty. So what’s the GOP getting in return for its support? According to the Washington Times, Sen. Jon Kyl’s negotiations with President Obama have secured $85 billion to modernize and maintain our nuclear arsenal, as well as a commitment to build robust missile defenses.

In the New York Post, Jonah Goldberg analyzes the field of 2012 Republican presidential candidates.

In USA Today, Sarah Palin discusses the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran: “Some have said the Israelis should undertake military action on their own if they are convinced the Iranian program is approaching the point of no return. But Iran’s nuclear weapons program is not just Israel’s problem; it is the world’s problem. I agree with the former British prime minister Tony Blair, who said recently that the West must be willing to use force ‘if necessary’ if that is the only alternative.”

Is Michele Bachmann considering a presidential run? Her $31,000 in contributions to Iowa candidates over the past year has some bloggers asking that question. Iowa’s campaign-finance report shows that Sarah Palin gave only $15,000 during the same time period.

Has it really come to this? Robert Gibbs is now seeking political help from Jon Stewart.

Ron Radosh sees similarities between Hugo Chavez’s recent power grab and the rise of Nazi power: “By passing the Enabling Act — the same term used by Chavez today — Hitler sought to abolish democracy by formally democratic means. … By banning opposition Communist delegates who had all been arrested, and preventing Social-Democrats from taking seats to which they were elected after the Reichstag fire, the Nazis now had the necessary votes to pass the Act. Clearly, Hugo Chavez must have studied Hitler’s tactics before commencing upon a similar road.”

The Iraqi parliament finally approves a diverse new unity government, ending nine months of political stalemate and concern for the fledgling democracy: “Although Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds were represented in the previous government, this is the first time that all the major factions have been included, lending hope that Iraq can put behind it the bitter sectarian struggles and divisive politics of the past five years.”

More than nine Senate Republicans are expected to support New START when it’s brought up for ratification today, which is enough to approve the treaty. So what’s the GOP getting in return for its support? According to the Washington Times, Sen. Jon Kyl’s negotiations with President Obama have secured $85 billion to modernize and maintain our nuclear arsenal, as well as a commitment to build robust missile defenses.

In the New York Post, Jonah Goldberg analyzes the field of 2012 Republican presidential candidates.

In USA Today, Sarah Palin discusses the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran: “Some have said the Israelis should undertake military action on their own if they are convinced the Iranian program is approaching the point of no return. But Iran’s nuclear weapons program is not just Israel’s problem; it is the world’s problem. I agree with the former British prime minister Tony Blair, who said recently that the West must be willing to use force ‘if necessary’ if that is the only alternative.”

Is Michele Bachmann considering a presidential run? Her $31,000 in contributions to Iowa candidates over the past year has some bloggers asking that question. Iowa’s campaign-finance report shows that Sarah Palin gave only $15,000 during the same time period.

Has it really come to this? Robert Gibbs is now seeking political help from Jon Stewart.

Ron Radosh sees similarities between Hugo Chavez’s recent power grab and the rise of Nazi power: “By passing the Enabling Act — the same term used by Chavez today — Hitler sought to abolish democracy by formally democratic means. … By banning opposition Communist delegates who had all been arrested, and preventing Social-Democrats from taking seats to which they were elected after the Reichstag fire, the Nazis now had the necessary votes to pass the Act. Clearly, Hugo Chavez must have studied Hitler’s tactics before commencing upon a similar road.”

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A Man Like Bush

At the New Yorker, George Packer has a harsh assessment of George Bush’s Decision Points, a book he predicts “will not endure.”  Packer’s 3,300-word piece has only two sentences of praise, stuck in a parenthetical: “(The chapter on AIDS in Africa shows Bush at his best. His desire to display American caring led directly to a generous policy.)”

In the paragraph to which that parenthetical is appended, Packer relates that “one of the voices in the President’s ear [in the run-up to the Iraq war] was Elie Wiesel’s, speaking of ‘a moral obligation to act against evil.’” Packer writes that:

The words were bound to move a man like Bush. “Many of those who demonstrated against military action in Iraq were devoted advocates of human rights,” he says. “I understood why people might disagree on the threat Saddam Hussein posed to the United States. But I didn’t see how anyone could deny that liberating Iraq advanced the cause of human rights.” Some of Bush’s critics found this argument specious and hypocritical; they failed to grasp the President’s profound need to be on the side of the redeeming angels.

Packer treats Bush’s motivation as an idiosyncratic psychological trait (apparently admirable if limited to a “desire to display caring” in Africa). But Bush’s reaction to Iraq tracked that of a knowledgeable observer writing in 2004:

I can’t wish the fall of Saddam’s regime undone. Before going to Iraq I knew abstractly that it was one of the worst in modern history and there’s been plenty of stiff competition. After five weeks there, my appreciation of its terribleness is more concrete and emotional. I know that’s hardly the best or only basis for foreign policy decisions, but in this case it’s decisive for me: The slaughter and misery of Iraqis (and their neighbors) justified the war. …

That was George Packer in a January 2004 Slate symposium of liberal hawks about a war they had supported but began abandoning in less than a year.

In his July 14, 2004, response to the British commission investigating the war, Tony Blair reached a similar conclusion about what Packer had called in 2004 “the moral imperative”:

And though in neither case [in Iraq and Afghanistan] was the nature of the regime the reason for conflict, it was decisive for me in the judgment as to the balance of risk for action or inaction. Both countries now face an uncertain struggle for the future. But both at least now have a future. The one country in which you will find an overwhelming majority in favor of the removal of Saddam is Iraq. I am proud of this country and the part it played and especially our magnificent armed forces, in removing two vile dictatorships and giving people oppressed, almost enslaved, the prospect of democracy and liberty.

Tony Blair was a man like Bush. So were the liberal hawks, for a while, but in contrast with that of Bush, their commitments did not endure.

At the New Yorker, George Packer has a harsh assessment of George Bush’s Decision Points, a book he predicts “will not endure.”  Packer’s 3,300-word piece has only two sentences of praise, stuck in a parenthetical: “(The chapter on AIDS in Africa shows Bush at his best. His desire to display American caring led directly to a generous policy.)”

In the paragraph to which that parenthetical is appended, Packer relates that “one of the voices in the President’s ear [in the run-up to the Iraq war] was Elie Wiesel’s, speaking of ‘a moral obligation to act against evil.’” Packer writes that:

The words were bound to move a man like Bush. “Many of those who demonstrated against military action in Iraq were devoted advocates of human rights,” he says. “I understood why people might disagree on the threat Saddam Hussein posed to the United States. But I didn’t see how anyone could deny that liberating Iraq advanced the cause of human rights.” Some of Bush’s critics found this argument specious and hypocritical; they failed to grasp the President’s profound need to be on the side of the redeeming angels.

Packer treats Bush’s motivation as an idiosyncratic psychological trait (apparently admirable if limited to a “desire to display caring” in Africa). But Bush’s reaction to Iraq tracked that of a knowledgeable observer writing in 2004:

I can’t wish the fall of Saddam’s regime undone. Before going to Iraq I knew abstractly that it was one of the worst in modern history and there’s been plenty of stiff competition. After five weeks there, my appreciation of its terribleness is more concrete and emotional. I know that’s hardly the best or only basis for foreign policy decisions, but in this case it’s decisive for me: The slaughter and misery of Iraqis (and their neighbors) justified the war. …

That was George Packer in a January 2004 Slate symposium of liberal hawks about a war they had supported but began abandoning in less than a year.

In his July 14, 2004, response to the British commission investigating the war, Tony Blair reached a similar conclusion about what Packer had called in 2004 “the moral imperative”:

And though in neither case [in Iraq and Afghanistan] was the nature of the regime the reason for conflict, it was decisive for me in the judgment as to the balance of risk for action or inaction. Both countries now face an uncertain struggle for the future. But both at least now have a future. The one country in which you will find an overwhelming majority in favor of the removal of Saddam is Iraq. I am proud of this country and the part it played and especially our magnificent armed forces, in removing two vile dictatorships and giving people oppressed, almost enslaved, the prospect of democracy and liberty.

Tony Blair was a man like Bush. So were the liberal hawks, for a while, but in contrast with that of Bush, their commitments did not endure.

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Blair on Islamic Separatists

Former prime minister Tony Blair’s ability to debunk conventional wisdom and show disdain for political correctness has only grown since his departure from 10 Downing Street. His subject today is the rise of a separatist Islamist population in Europe:

We have to nail down the definition of the problem. There is no general failure to integrate. In the U.K., for example, we are not talking about Chinese or Indians. We are not talking about blacks and Asians. This is a particular problem. It is about the failure of one part of the Muslim community to resolve and create an identity that is both British and Muslim. And I stress part of it. Most Muslims are as much at ease with their citizenship in the U.K. as I am. I dare say that is true in other European nations too.

However, some don’t integrate. But when we talk about this in general terms, without precision, for fear of “stigmatizing” Muslims, we alienate public opinion and isolate the majority of Muslims who are integrating and want to be as much part of our society as any other group. Then, because we won’t identify the problem as it is, a subterranean debate takes the place of an open one, and that debate lumps all Muslims together. So in the interest of “defending” the Muslim community, we actually segregate it by refusing to have an honest debate about what is happening.

Now there’s some honesty, a stark contrast to our own president, who can’t figure out that a mosque at Ground Zero should be moved or how to define “jihad.” What Blair brings to the discussion is moral clarity and an unwillingness to ignore the obvious. We are involved in an ideological struggle. Our enemies are motivated by Islamic radicalism, which seeks not accommodation but subjugation of those who dissent from their extremist views. And what should be the response? Blair recommends:

[T]here has to be a shared acceptance that some things we believe in and we do together: obedience to certain values like democracy, rule of law, equality between men and women; respect for national institutions; and speaking the national language. This common space cannot be left to chance or individual decision. It has to be accepted as mandatory. Doing so establishes a clear barrier between those citizens of the host community who are concerned for understandable reasons and those who are bigoted.

And just as essential is the insistence that criticism and debate not be squelched as Islamophobic. Blair is encouraging the kind of debate that defines the duty of citizens in a pluralistic society and how best to respond to those who seek to destroy pluralism. After two years of pandering and obfuscation by the Obama administration, it is refreshing to hear a reasoned and mature voice on the international stage.

Former prime minister Tony Blair’s ability to debunk conventional wisdom and show disdain for political correctness has only grown since his departure from 10 Downing Street. His subject today is the rise of a separatist Islamist population in Europe:

We have to nail down the definition of the problem. There is no general failure to integrate. In the U.K., for example, we are not talking about Chinese or Indians. We are not talking about blacks and Asians. This is a particular problem. It is about the failure of one part of the Muslim community to resolve and create an identity that is both British and Muslim. And I stress part of it. Most Muslims are as much at ease with their citizenship in the U.K. as I am. I dare say that is true in other European nations too.

However, some don’t integrate. But when we talk about this in general terms, without precision, for fear of “stigmatizing” Muslims, we alienate public opinion and isolate the majority of Muslims who are integrating and want to be as much part of our society as any other group. Then, because we won’t identify the problem as it is, a subterranean debate takes the place of an open one, and that debate lumps all Muslims together. So in the interest of “defending” the Muslim community, we actually segregate it by refusing to have an honest debate about what is happening.

Now there’s some honesty, a stark contrast to our own president, who can’t figure out that a mosque at Ground Zero should be moved or how to define “jihad.” What Blair brings to the discussion is moral clarity and an unwillingness to ignore the obvious. We are involved in an ideological struggle. Our enemies are motivated by Islamic radicalism, which seeks not accommodation but subjugation of those who dissent from their extremist views. And what should be the response? Blair recommends:

[T]here has to be a shared acceptance that some things we believe in and we do together: obedience to certain values like democracy, rule of law, equality between men and women; respect for national institutions; and speaking the national language. This common space cannot be left to chance or individual decision. It has to be accepted as mandatory. Doing so establishes a clear barrier between those citizens of the host community who are concerned for understandable reasons and those who are bigoted.

And just as essential is the insistence that criticism and debate not be squelched as Islamophobic. Blair is encouraging the kind of debate that defines the duty of citizens in a pluralistic society and how best to respond to those who seek to destroy pluralism. After two years of pandering and obfuscation by the Obama administration, it is refreshing to hear a reasoned and mature voice on the international stage.

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Blair vs. Obama

In a world of moral equivalence, political correctness, and intentional obtuseness, Tony Blair stands apart. He has quickly become the most cogent and articulate defender of the West in the war against Islamic terror.

In his new book, he begins with an eloquent tribute, practically a love letter, to America. His first sentence: “America’s burden is that it wants to be loved, but knows it can’t be.” He of course is speaking of other nations and the truism that “powerful nations aren’t loved.” But that doesn’t pertain to Blair himself, and he is candid about his affection for America. He acknowledges that Americans are accused of being “brash, loud, insular, obsessive and heavy-handed,” but that’s not the America Blair is so fond of:

America is great for a reason. It is looked up to, despite all the criticism, for a reason. There is nobility in the American character that has been developed over the centuries, derived in part no doubt from the frontier spirit, from the waves of migration that form the stock, from the circumstances of independence, from the civil war, from a myriad of historical facts and coincidences. But it is there.

The nobility isn’t about being nicer, better or more successful than anyone else. It is a feeling about the country. It is a devotion to the American ideal that at a certain point transcends class, race, religion or upbringing. The ideal is about values: freedom, the rule of law, democracy. It is also about the way you achieve: on merit, by your own efforts and hard work.

It is a remarkable description, Reagan-esque to be sure, of what America is about. And, to be blunt, it is all the more remarkable because our current president is not only averse to such lavish praise (triumphalism annoys him, you see) but also lacks, as a reader pointed out to me, the belief in an American exceptionalism that a former British prime minister grasps so clearly. Read More

In a world of moral equivalence, political correctness, and intentional obtuseness, Tony Blair stands apart. He has quickly become the most cogent and articulate defender of the West in the war against Islamic terror.

In his new book, he begins with an eloquent tribute, practically a love letter, to America. His first sentence: “America’s burden is that it wants to be loved, but knows it can’t be.” He of course is speaking of other nations and the truism that “powerful nations aren’t loved.” But that doesn’t pertain to Blair himself, and he is candid about his affection for America. He acknowledges that Americans are accused of being “brash, loud, insular, obsessive and heavy-handed,” but that’s not the America Blair is so fond of:

America is great for a reason. It is looked up to, despite all the criticism, for a reason. There is nobility in the American character that has been developed over the centuries, derived in part no doubt from the frontier spirit, from the waves of migration that form the stock, from the circumstances of independence, from the civil war, from a myriad of historical facts and coincidences. But it is there.

The nobility isn’t about being nicer, better or more successful than anyone else. It is a feeling about the country. It is a devotion to the American ideal that at a certain point transcends class, race, religion or upbringing. The ideal is about values: freedom, the rule of law, democracy. It is also about the way you achieve: on merit, by your own efforts and hard work.

It is a remarkable description, Reagan-esque to be sure, of what America is about. And, to be blunt, it is all the more remarkable because our current president is not only averse to such lavish praise (triumphalism annoys him, you see) but also lacks, as a reader pointed out to me, the belief in an American exceptionalism that a former British prime minister grasps so clearly.

I would also suggest that it is that moral clarity on Blair’s part and confusion on Obama’s that account for the starkly different visions of the threat of Islamic fundamentalism. For Obama, it simply doesn’t exist, or it’s not polite to point it out. He is determined to avert his eyes — and insist we do as well — in a bizarre effort to deflect potential criticism that we are at war with an entire religion. That George W. Bush managed to explain the nature of our enemy (and articulate the stakes for American civilization) and that Obama’s excising of “radical jihadism” from our official vocabulary actually undermines moderate Muslims are lost on the president. He, in sum, neither appreciates the country he leads nor the seriousness of the enemy we face.

A case in point occurred this week:

In a speech in New York, the former prime minister said that warnings over the past week of terrorist plots against Europe should remind people that they remained under threat.

Mr Blair said a “narrative” that Muslims were under attack from the US and its allies, who acted out of support for Israel, had been allowed to take hold, aided by “websites and blogs.”

A fresh confrontation was needed because it would be impossible to defeat extremism “without defeating the narrative that nurtures it”, he said.

“The practitioners of extremism are small in number. The adherents of the narrative stretch far broader into parts of mainstream thinking,” Mr Blair told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“It is a narrative that now has vast numbers of assembled websites, blogs and organisations.”

Blair was candid in his critique of Obama:

Mr Blair said a tendency to “sympathise” with extremism was not only dangerous but also disempowering for moderate Muslims, because it made people resent them as much as extremists.

He said he was “intrigued” by the fact that Western leaders, including President Barack Obama, felt the need to condemn Terry Jones, a pastor who threatened to burn a Koran.

“Suppose an imam, with 30 followers, in Karachi was to burn a Bible,” he said. “I can barely imagine a murmur of protest. It wouldn’t be necessary for the president of Pakistan to condemn it because no one here would remotely consider he supported it.”

He was also emphatic on the subject of Iran:

Mr Blair also called on the West to make it “crystal clear” to Iran that its acquisition of a nuclear bomb would be unacceptable to the “civilised world.”

“Go and read the speech of Iran’s president to the United Nations just days ago here in New York, and tell me that is someone you want with a nuclear bomb,” he said.

Compare Blair on the European bombings to Obama. You say you don’t recall what Obama said? Don’t worry. You didn’t miss anything — he was silent, as he is wont to be when inconvenient facts disturb the narrative he has created. Blair was not quite bold enough to say it, but it is not simply blogs, websites, and organizations that are distorting the West’s perception of radical Islam; it is the American president, too.

And finally, consider the contrast between Blair and Obama on Iran. Obama has given up using even the platitudinous crutches (“unacceptable” and “all options remain on the table”) that gave some wishful observers hope that he would take military action if needed to stop Iran from going nuclear. But Obama never seems to put the pieces together — the rhetoric of Iran, the conduct of Iran, the prospect of an even more aggressive revolutionary Islamic state. Perhaps if Obama had a better conception of the country he leads and of the enemy we face, his foreign policy would be both more coherent and more effective.

We’re going to begin the 2012 presidential race before long. Conservatives who regard Obama’s vision and foreign policy failings with a mixture of horror and disdain should keep their eye out for an American Tony Blair. Let’s pray there is one, or a least a faint imitation.

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Blair on Iran and Iraq

In a fascinating interview, former prime minister Tony Blair shares his thoughts on the Middle East. First, on Iraq:

You know, the people who caused the difficulty in Iraq were al-Qaida on the one hand linking up with internal insurgents, but Iranian-backed militia on the other.

In other words, there was an external pressure that was trying to create and foment this sectarianism. So, in the end, what is the answer? The answer is to support and empower those people who want a different way forward, which include, of course, the people who are voting in Iraqi and Afghan elections and wanting a different way forward.

The lesson of Iraq — that moderate (actually moderate) Muslims should be supported and can successfully fight back against Islamic terror and repression — is one that, tragically, Obama has declined to absorb and explain. He isn’t comfortable acknowledging the jihadist identity of our enemy, so moderates who died to defeat that enemy get little credit, and the experience is not put to good use. You would think that in “Muslim outreach” we’d be talking up our role in liberating Muslims, right?

Blair on Iran:

TONY BLAIR: Well, you see, I think that, if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons capability, it would destabilize the whole of the Middle East. So, I don’t think it’s acceptable that it does.

And one of the reasons why Iran with nuclear capability is unacceptable is because of the nature of the Iranian regime. So, you know, this is — this is — you know, in that debate, in a way, you have encapsulated both the toughness and difficulty of the decision-making, because what happens if sanctions don’t work, and also the problem that, in the end, you know that they will try to present our confronting them as an attack on Islam, whereas, of course, it isn’t.

It’s an attack on a regime acquiring, unlawfully, nuclear weapons capability in circumstances where they export terrorism and chaos around the region.

MARGARET WARNER: So, when you talk about confronting them, you’re talking about militarily?

TONY BLAIR: You can’t take that option off the table, in my view. You know, I don’t want that option. I think we should strive as hard as we can to avoid it. But they have got to know that the will is there to stop them getting that capacity, because I think — look, you know, it’s difficult — these are difficult judgments. But my judgment, being out in that region a lot of the time, is, if you get a nuclear-armed Iran, two things will happen.

One, you will completely change the balance of power within the region, probably have other countries trying to acquire that capability, too. And, secondly, I see what Iran does in that region. You know, it’s not just about nuclear weapons capability. They are pushing and fomenting this extremism everywhere.

Now, if you give them the technology for nuclear weapons, can you be sure that they wouldn’t leak that technology? Well, I wouldn’t take that risk, personally.

We haven’t had anything approaching this level of thoughtful discussion from the Obami. For them there is a two-part mantra: 1) Sanctions are working (oh, really, how can they tell?), and 2) military action would be destabilizing. The first proposition is meant to forestall discussion of the second.

We are going to have a more conservative Congress come November and a president who no longer commands the loyalty of his own party. In that mix, will an American Tony Blair emerge to sound the alarm and demand our serious consideration of the greatest national security issue of our time? We should hope so. Right now, we are sleepwalking toward a nuclear-armed Iran while the Obami busy themselves with the fantasy that there is a Middle East peace deal in the offing.

Blair’s point is telling — there is no “peace” with a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state. It’s not clear anyone in the administration, most critically the president, has grasped this.

In a fascinating interview, former prime minister Tony Blair shares his thoughts on the Middle East. First, on Iraq:

You know, the people who caused the difficulty in Iraq were al-Qaida on the one hand linking up with internal insurgents, but Iranian-backed militia on the other.

In other words, there was an external pressure that was trying to create and foment this sectarianism. So, in the end, what is the answer? The answer is to support and empower those people who want a different way forward, which include, of course, the people who are voting in Iraqi and Afghan elections and wanting a different way forward.

The lesson of Iraq — that moderate (actually moderate) Muslims should be supported and can successfully fight back against Islamic terror and repression — is one that, tragically, Obama has declined to absorb and explain. He isn’t comfortable acknowledging the jihadist identity of our enemy, so moderates who died to defeat that enemy get little credit, and the experience is not put to good use. You would think that in “Muslim outreach” we’d be talking up our role in liberating Muslims, right?

Blair on Iran:

TONY BLAIR: Well, you see, I think that, if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons capability, it would destabilize the whole of the Middle East. So, I don’t think it’s acceptable that it does.

And one of the reasons why Iran with nuclear capability is unacceptable is because of the nature of the Iranian regime. So, you know, this is — this is — you know, in that debate, in a way, you have encapsulated both the toughness and difficulty of the decision-making, because what happens if sanctions don’t work, and also the problem that, in the end, you know that they will try to present our confronting them as an attack on Islam, whereas, of course, it isn’t.

It’s an attack on a regime acquiring, unlawfully, nuclear weapons capability in circumstances where they export terrorism and chaos around the region.

MARGARET WARNER: So, when you talk about confronting them, you’re talking about militarily?

TONY BLAIR: You can’t take that option off the table, in my view. You know, I don’t want that option. I think we should strive as hard as we can to avoid it. But they have got to know that the will is there to stop them getting that capacity, because I think — look, you know, it’s difficult — these are difficult judgments. But my judgment, being out in that region a lot of the time, is, if you get a nuclear-armed Iran, two things will happen.

One, you will completely change the balance of power within the region, probably have other countries trying to acquire that capability, too. And, secondly, I see what Iran does in that region. You know, it’s not just about nuclear weapons capability. They are pushing and fomenting this extremism everywhere.

Now, if you give them the technology for nuclear weapons, can you be sure that they wouldn’t leak that technology? Well, I wouldn’t take that risk, personally.

We haven’t had anything approaching this level of thoughtful discussion from the Obami. For them there is a two-part mantra: 1) Sanctions are working (oh, really, how can they tell?), and 2) military action would be destabilizing. The first proposition is meant to forestall discussion of the second.

We are going to have a more conservative Congress come November and a president who no longer commands the loyalty of his own party. In that mix, will an American Tony Blair emerge to sound the alarm and demand our serious consideration of the greatest national security issue of our time? We should hope so. Right now, we are sleepwalking toward a nuclear-armed Iran while the Obami busy themselves with the fantasy that there is a Middle East peace deal in the offing.

Blair’s point is telling — there is no “peace” with a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state. It’s not clear anyone in the administration, most critically the president, has grasped this.

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Interviews with Tony Blair

If you’re a fan of Tony Blair, as I certainly am, then you’ll be interested in watching two interviews with him. The first, with PBS’s Charlie Rose, can be found here. The second, a conversation with former president Bill Clinton that took place yesterday, can be found here.

A great deal of the interview with Rose is devoted to Iraq and Iran, topics on which Blair is simply exceptional. The conversation with Clinton was somewhat wider ranging, more personal, and equally fascinating. Their comments about the “third way” are apposite to the broader debate we’re having in this country about the role and purpose of government. Both interviews are worth watching in their entirety. But judge for yourself.

If you’re a fan of Tony Blair, as I certainly am, then you’ll be interested in watching two interviews with him. The first, with PBS’s Charlie Rose, can be found here. The second, a conversation with former president Bill Clinton that took place yesterday, can be found here.

A great deal of the interview with Rose is devoted to Iraq and Iran, topics on which Blair is simply exceptional. The conversation with Clinton was somewhat wider ranging, more personal, and equally fascinating. Their comments about the “third way” are apposite to the broader debate we’re having in this country about the role and purpose of government. Both interviews are worth watching in their entirety. But judge for yourself.

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Lessons from Tony Blair’s Memoir

In his excellent memoir, A Journey: My Political Life, Tony Blair writes about his electoral victory in 1997:

We were very quickly appreciating the daunting revelation of the gap between saying and doing. In Opposition, the gap is nothing because “saying” is all you can do; in government, where “doing” is what it’s all about, the gap is suddenly revealed as a chasm of bureaucracy, frustration and disappointment … I was afraid because, at that instant, suddenly I thought of myself no longer as the up-and-coming, the challenger, the prophet, but the owner of the responsibility, the person not explaining why things were wrong but taking the decisions to put them right.

Blair’s words touch on a truth which those of us who have served in government, and especially in different administrations and in the White House, can attest:

A president’s capacity to control and influence events is often more limited than it’s imagined. It’s not unusual for presidential directives to be ignored or undermined by the bureaucracy. Thousands of personnel decisions, some seemingly insignificant, can come back to bite you. An administration is held responsible for what happens on its watch, whether or not that’s justified. Urgent, complex problems demand a response even if the information needed to act on them is incomplete. The political culture is unforgiving. And all presidents and their aides, like all people, are flawed and fallible.

When you’re out of power and in the opposition, these truths are quickly tossed aside or simply forgotten. Governing seems much easier when all one is doing is critiquing others in columns and blogs, in speeches and on television. Position papers are simpler to write than policies are to enact. This tendency is particularly pronounced among political commentators, many of whom have no first-hand experience at what it means to govern.

The appropriate role of the opposition party, as well as of the commentariat, is to hold those in power accountable. Some presidential decisions deserve criticism – at times scathing. So to argue that there should be a moratorium on expressing disapprobation would be unwise as well as unrealistic.

What is required, however, is perspective — the realization that being chief executive is more challenging than being a commentator on Hardball with Chris Matthews. And from time to time, it’s worth showing understanding and even some sympathy toward those who have, in Blair’s words, gone from “scaling the walls of the citadel, to sitting in the ruler’s palace in charge of all we surveyed.”

The Obama administration, which came to office after having set expectations at stratospheric levels, is now learning the wisdom of Blair’s words. There is some rough justice in seeing brought low by events a president bestowed with an unusual degree of vanity and who has been so unfair and unforgiving in his critique of others. Still, the truth is that Republicans, once they begin to take the reins of power again in November, will experience something similar. What Henry Kissinger called the “moment of charmed innocence” and the “exhilaration of imminent authority” is soon buffeted by events. And so all us, myself included, need to temper our judgments with the realization that explaining why things are wrong will always be a far easier task than putting them right.

In his excellent memoir, A Journey: My Political Life, Tony Blair writes about his electoral victory in 1997:

We were very quickly appreciating the daunting revelation of the gap between saying and doing. In Opposition, the gap is nothing because “saying” is all you can do; in government, where “doing” is what it’s all about, the gap is suddenly revealed as a chasm of bureaucracy, frustration and disappointment … I was afraid because, at that instant, suddenly I thought of myself no longer as the up-and-coming, the challenger, the prophet, but the owner of the responsibility, the person not explaining why things were wrong but taking the decisions to put them right.

Blair’s words touch on a truth which those of us who have served in government, and especially in different administrations and in the White House, can attest:

A president’s capacity to control and influence events is often more limited than it’s imagined. It’s not unusual for presidential directives to be ignored or undermined by the bureaucracy. Thousands of personnel decisions, some seemingly insignificant, can come back to bite you. An administration is held responsible for what happens on its watch, whether or not that’s justified. Urgent, complex problems demand a response even if the information needed to act on them is incomplete. The political culture is unforgiving. And all presidents and their aides, like all people, are flawed and fallible.

When you’re out of power and in the opposition, these truths are quickly tossed aside or simply forgotten. Governing seems much easier when all one is doing is critiquing others in columns and blogs, in speeches and on television. Position papers are simpler to write than policies are to enact. This tendency is particularly pronounced among political commentators, many of whom have no first-hand experience at what it means to govern.

The appropriate role of the opposition party, as well as of the commentariat, is to hold those in power accountable. Some presidential decisions deserve criticism – at times scathing. So to argue that there should be a moratorium on expressing disapprobation would be unwise as well as unrealistic.

What is required, however, is perspective — the realization that being chief executive is more challenging than being a commentator on Hardball with Chris Matthews. And from time to time, it’s worth showing understanding and even some sympathy toward those who have, in Blair’s words, gone from “scaling the walls of the citadel, to sitting in the ruler’s palace in charge of all we surveyed.”

The Obama administration, which came to office after having set expectations at stratospheric levels, is now learning the wisdom of Blair’s words. There is some rough justice in seeing brought low by events a president bestowed with an unusual degree of vanity and who has been so unfair and unforgiving in his critique of others. Still, the truth is that Republicans, once they begin to take the reins of power again in November, will experience something similar. What Henry Kissinger called the “moment of charmed innocence” and the “exhilaration of imminent authority” is soon buffeted by events. And so all us, myself included, need to temper our judgments with the realization that explaining why things are wrong will always be a far easier task than putting them right.

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Obama’s Middle East Policy: Incompetence Continues

The Obami have, on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at virtually every turn, made the wrong decision and then botched the execution of that decision. Beginning with the decision to focus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict rather than the Iranian nuclear threat and continuing through to the public bullying of Israel and the NPT declaration (and its walk-back), all followed by the charm campaign (when all that preceded it proved a bust and domestically harmful to boot), the Obami have made matters worse not better.

Now that they have struggled to pick up where the Bush team left off two years ago — direct talks – they are making new errors. Elliott Abrams, the deputy national security adviser who helped devise and maintain productive and warm U.S.-Israeli relations for eight years, tries to help the Obami avoid more missteps. (He is too polite to mention his own handiwork, but the administration might start with recognizing and confirming the agreement that Bush and Sharon reached in 2004 on settlements.)

Abrams warns the Obami team that in direct talks between the parties, it is best not to “intrude too deeply and too often.” This is good advice even for an administration that is respected and trusted by the parties. (“The Israelis and Palestinians do not negotiate seriously when U.S. officials are in the room; instead, they take positions designed to elicit American approval.”) George Mitchell has not yet figured this out, however.

Abrams also warns (as Tony Blair did at the March AIPAC conference, in very similar language) that what really matters is what is going on in the West Bank. He explains, “A Palestinian state will be built not at Camp David or Sharm el-Sheikh but in the West Bank, which is where our greatest efforts should be focused.” Again, Mitchell has not yet grasped this essential truth.

But Abrams’s most important piece of advice is this: the decision to work on a framework agreement is wrong. He quotes Mitchell’s explanation of such an agreement: “It’s more detailed than a declaration of principles, but is less than a full-fledged treaty. Its purpose is to establish the fundamental compromises necessary to enable the parties to then flesh out and complete a comprehensive agreement that will end the conflict and establish a lasting peace.” Abrams writes:

The difficult compromises necessary for a final-status agreement that resolves all the core issues will be made at the very end. The only way Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas can defend such compromises is by delivering to Palestinians their own state; the only way Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu can do so is by saying Israel will now get peace, not only with Palestinians but with all Arab states.

All this cannot possibly happen until a final-status agreement is signed and implemented. Asking the parties to announce their “fundamental compromises” on the core issues when a final-status agreement is years away is asking them to commit political suicide.

In other words, whatever slim chance there might be for a peace deal (I personally think it’s close to zero) is reduced, once again, by an incompetent (is there any other adjective to describe him?) envoy and a flawed negotiating strategy. The most, I think, we can hope for is that the end of the talks don’t trigger another intifada, that the progress on the ground in the West Bank continues, and that sooner rather than later, a U.S. negotiating team will emerge that knows what it is doing.

The Obami have, on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at virtually every turn, made the wrong decision and then botched the execution of that decision. Beginning with the decision to focus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict rather than the Iranian nuclear threat and continuing through to the public bullying of Israel and the NPT declaration (and its walk-back), all followed by the charm campaign (when all that preceded it proved a bust and domestically harmful to boot), the Obami have made matters worse not better.

Now that they have struggled to pick up where the Bush team left off two years ago — direct talks – they are making new errors. Elliott Abrams, the deputy national security adviser who helped devise and maintain productive and warm U.S.-Israeli relations for eight years, tries to help the Obami avoid more missteps. (He is too polite to mention his own handiwork, but the administration might start with recognizing and confirming the agreement that Bush and Sharon reached in 2004 on settlements.)

Abrams warns the Obami team that in direct talks between the parties, it is best not to “intrude too deeply and too often.” This is good advice even for an administration that is respected and trusted by the parties. (“The Israelis and Palestinians do not negotiate seriously when U.S. officials are in the room; instead, they take positions designed to elicit American approval.”) George Mitchell has not yet figured this out, however.

Abrams also warns (as Tony Blair did at the March AIPAC conference, in very similar language) that what really matters is what is going on in the West Bank. He explains, “A Palestinian state will be built not at Camp David or Sharm el-Sheikh but in the West Bank, which is where our greatest efforts should be focused.” Again, Mitchell has not yet grasped this essential truth.

But Abrams’s most important piece of advice is this: the decision to work on a framework agreement is wrong. He quotes Mitchell’s explanation of such an agreement: “It’s more detailed than a declaration of principles, but is less than a full-fledged treaty. Its purpose is to establish the fundamental compromises necessary to enable the parties to then flesh out and complete a comprehensive agreement that will end the conflict and establish a lasting peace.” Abrams writes:

The difficult compromises necessary for a final-status agreement that resolves all the core issues will be made at the very end. The only way Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas can defend such compromises is by delivering to Palestinians their own state; the only way Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu can do so is by saying Israel will now get peace, not only with Palestinians but with all Arab states.

All this cannot possibly happen until a final-status agreement is signed and implemented. Asking the parties to announce their “fundamental compromises” on the core issues when a final-status agreement is years away is asking them to commit political suicide.

In other words, whatever slim chance there might be for a peace deal (I personally think it’s close to zero) is reduced, once again, by an incompetent (is there any other adjective to describe him?) envoy and a flawed negotiating strategy. The most, I think, we can hope for is that the end of the talks don’t trigger another intifada, that the progress on the ground in the West Bank continues, and that sooner rather than later, a U.S. negotiating team will emerge that knows what it is doing.

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Blair: Use Military Force on Iran If Neccessary

An experienced Middle East hand directs me to Tony Blair’s comments yesterday:

“I am saying that I think it is wholly unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapons capability and I think we have got to be prepared to confront them, if necessary militarily. I think there is no alternative to that if they continue to develop nuclear weapons. They need to get that message loud and clear.” . . .

“Now other people may say: ‘Come on, the consequences of taking them on are too great, you’ve got to be so very careful, you’ll simply upset everybody, you’ll destabilise it.’ I understand all of those arguments. But I wouldn’t take the risk of Iran with a nuclear weapon.”

In the postscript to his book, Blair writes: “Iran with a nuclear bomb would mean others in the region acquiring the same capability; it would dramatically alter the balance of power in the region, but also within Islam.”

Those “other people” concerned about destabilization, of course, include some in the Obama administration. Blair’s comments are significant and could potentially be persuasive with the Iran doves in the administration, including the president. Blair is, after all, the Quartet’s envoy in the Middle East, and has at times enjoyed the “lavish praise” of Obama.

As military operations in Iraq wind down and the obviously limp-wristed Iran sanctions prove to be exactly as critics predicted — wholly ineffective — Blair’s and others’ voices, both here and abroad, will certainly make the effort to focus the U.S. administration on the Iranian threat. And, with a more Republican House and Senate (majorities quite possible in both), U.S. lawmakers may turn up the heat as well. A new leadership team and crop of committee chairmen will be in a position to press Obama and his advisers, pass resolutions, and conduct debate. That all this is necessary to direct Obama to the most urgent national-security matter we face is regrettable. But if Blair is any indication, and we fervently hope he is, lawmakers, foreign leaders, and domestic hawks will make every effort to ensure that Obama does not go down in history as the president who allowed Iran to get the bomb.

An experienced Middle East hand directs me to Tony Blair’s comments yesterday:

“I am saying that I think it is wholly unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapons capability and I think we have got to be prepared to confront them, if necessary militarily. I think there is no alternative to that if they continue to develop nuclear weapons. They need to get that message loud and clear.” . . .

“Now other people may say: ‘Come on, the consequences of taking them on are too great, you’ve got to be so very careful, you’ll simply upset everybody, you’ll destabilise it.’ I understand all of those arguments. But I wouldn’t take the risk of Iran with a nuclear weapon.”

In the postscript to his book, Blair writes: “Iran with a nuclear bomb would mean others in the region acquiring the same capability; it would dramatically alter the balance of power in the region, but also within Islam.”

Those “other people” concerned about destabilization, of course, include some in the Obama administration. Blair’s comments are significant and could potentially be persuasive with the Iran doves in the administration, including the president. Blair is, after all, the Quartet’s envoy in the Middle East, and has at times enjoyed the “lavish praise” of Obama.

As military operations in Iraq wind down and the obviously limp-wristed Iran sanctions prove to be exactly as critics predicted — wholly ineffective — Blair’s and others’ voices, both here and abroad, will certainly make the effort to focus the U.S. administration on the Iranian threat. And, with a more Republican House and Senate (majorities quite possible in both), U.S. lawmakers may turn up the heat as well. A new leadership team and crop of committee chairmen will be in a position to press Obama and his advisers, pass resolutions, and conduct debate. That all this is necessary to direct Obama to the most urgent national-security matter we face is regrettable. But if Blair is any indication, and we fervently hope he is, lawmakers, foreign leaders, and domestic hawks will make every effort to ensure that Obama does not go down in history as the president who allowed Iran to get the bomb.

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Christopher Hitchens Talks to Charlie Rose

Christopher Hitchens gave a fascinating, wide-ranging, and at times affecting interview to Charlie Rose. He spoke about his new memoir (Hitch-22), his struggle with cancer, and religious faith; Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair; the Iraq war and Iran; Orwell and Hemingway; his lifelong friendships; and his life as a writer.

It can be found here.

Christopher Hitchens gave a fascinating, wide-ranging, and at times affecting interview to Charlie Rose. He spoke about his new memoir (Hitch-22), his struggle with cancer, and religious faith; Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair; the Iraq war and Iran; Orwell and Hemingway; his lifelong friendships; and his life as a writer.

It can be found here.

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Dismantling Joe Klein

Correcting the errors in logic and fact by Joe Klein is more than a full-time job, and I usually have better things to do. But once in a while, he writes a piece that deserves to be examined and dismantled. The posting Klein did on Time magazine’s blog Swampland earlier this week, “Obama on Iraq,” qualifies as one of those instances. Let’s have a look.

1. On Monday Klein wrote this:

It is the way of the world that Barack Obama ‘ s announcement today of the end of the combat phase in Iraq … will not be remembered as vividly as George Bush’s juvenile march across the deck of an aircraft carrier, costumed as a combat aviator in a golden sunset, to announce — six years and tens of thousands of lives prematurely — the “end of combat operations.”

Now let’s see what Klein said about Bush’s landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln on CBS’s Face the Nation, on May 4, 2003:

Well, that was probably the coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day. That was the first thing that came to mind for me. And it just shows you how high a mountain these Democrats are going to have to climb. You compare that image, which everybody across the world saw, with this debate last night where you have nine people on a stage and it doesn’t air until 11:30 at night, up against Saturday Night Live, and you see what a major, major struggle the Democrats are going to have to try and beat a popular incumbent president.

Bush’s moment went from being Hollywood cool then to a puerile act now. Such bipolar shifts of opinion in a high-ranking public official would be alarming and dangerous; in a columnist and blogger, they are comical and discrediting.

2. Klein asserts this:

Certainly, even if something resembling democracy prevails, the U.S. invasion and occupation — the carnage and tragedy it wrought — will not be remembered fondly by Iraqis anytime soon. We will own the destruction in perpetuity; if the Iraqis manage to cobble themselves a decent society, they will see it, correctly, as an achievement of their own. [emphasis added]

Here, Klein moves from the merely ludicrous to the offensive. What Klein is arguing is that even if things turn out well in Iraq, America deserves none of the credit. We were responsible only for carnage and tragedy, not liberation. The heroic sacrifices of America’s military men and women are dismissed as inconsequential. Those who have died have done so in vain, according to Klein’s line of reasoning; if the Iraqis manage to cobble for themselves a decent society, he insists, it will be an achievement of their own making alone.

This claim is flatly untrue. Without the intervention of the United States, Saddam Hussein would not have been deposed. And without the sacrifice of treasure and blood made by America, Iraq would have been convulsed by civil war and possibly genocide. It is certainly true that if Iraq continues on its path to self-government, its people will deserve a large share of the credit. But so will America — and so will those who wore America’s uniform into combat. For Klein to dismiss what our country and its warriors have done to advance liberty and humane ends is disturbing and revelatory.

3. Klein writes this: Read More

Correcting the errors in logic and fact by Joe Klein is more than a full-time job, and I usually have better things to do. But once in a while, he writes a piece that deserves to be examined and dismantled. The posting Klein did on Time magazine’s blog Swampland earlier this week, “Obama on Iraq,” qualifies as one of those instances. Let’s have a look.

1. On Monday Klein wrote this:

It is the way of the world that Barack Obama ‘ s announcement today of the end of the combat phase in Iraq … will not be remembered as vividly as George Bush’s juvenile march across the deck of an aircraft carrier, costumed as a combat aviator in a golden sunset, to announce — six years and tens of thousands of lives prematurely — the “end of combat operations.”

Now let’s see what Klein said about Bush’s landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln on CBS’s Face the Nation, on May 4, 2003:

Well, that was probably the coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day. That was the first thing that came to mind for me. And it just shows you how high a mountain these Democrats are going to have to climb. You compare that image, which everybody across the world saw, with this debate last night where you have nine people on a stage and it doesn’t air until 11:30 at night, up against Saturday Night Live, and you see what a major, major struggle the Democrats are going to have to try and beat a popular incumbent president.

Bush’s moment went from being Hollywood cool then to a puerile act now. Such bipolar shifts of opinion in a high-ranking public official would be alarming and dangerous; in a columnist and blogger, they are comical and discrediting.

2. Klein asserts this:

Certainly, even if something resembling democracy prevails, the U.S. invasion and occupation — the carnage and tragedy it wrought — will not be remembered fondly by Iraqis anytime soon. We will own the destruction in perpetuity; if the Iraqis manage to cobble themselves a decent society, they will see it, correctly, as an achievement of their own. [emphasis added]

Here, Klein moves from the merely ludicrous to the offensive. What Klein is arguing is that even if things turn out well in Iraq, America deserves none of the credit. We were responsible only for carnage and tragedy, not liberation. The heroic sacrifices of America’s military men and women are dismissed as inconsequential. Those who have died have done so in vain, according to Klein’s line of reasoning; if the Iraqis manage to cobble for themselves a decent society, he insists, it will be an achievement of their own making alone.

This claim is flatly untrue. Without the intervention of the United States, Saddam Hussein would not have been deposed. And without the sacrifice of treasure and blood made by America, Iraq would have been convulsed by civil war and possibly genocide. It is certainly true that if Iraq continues on its path to self-government, its people will deserve a large share of the credit. But so will America — and so will those who wore America’s uniform into combat. For Klein to dismiss what our country and its warriors have done to advance liberty and humane ends is disturbing and revelatory.

3. Klein writes this:

As for myself, I deeply regret that once, on television in the days before the war, I reluctantly but foolishly said that going ahead with the invasion might be the right thing to do. I was far more skeptical, and equivocal, in print–I never wrote in favor of the war and repeatedly raised the problems that would accompany it–but skepticism and equivocation were an insufficient reaction, too.

Well, this admission marks progress of a sort, I suppose.

For the longest time, Klein denied ever having supported the war. He even complained about being criticized by liberals for his support of the Iraq war. “The fact that I’ve been opposed to the Iraq war ever since this 2002 article in Slate just makes it all the more aggravating,” Klein said.

But what proved to be even more aggravating to Joe is when people like Arianna Huffington and me pointed out that Klein supported the war immediately before it began, thus contradicting his revisionist claim.

For the record: On Feb. 22, 2003, Klein told the late Tim Russert that the war was a “really tough decision” but that he, Klein, thought it was probably “the right decision at this point.” Klein then offered several reasons for his judgment: Saddam’s defiance of 17 UN resolutions over a dozen years; Klein’s firm conviction that Saddam was hiding WMD; and the need to send the message that if we didn’t enforce the latest UN resolution, it “empowers every would-be Saddam out there and every would-be terrorist out there.”

It’s worth pointing out that to make a false claim and revise it in light of emerging evidence is something of a pattern with Joe. After all, he repeatedly and forcefully denied being the author of the novel Primary Colors until he was forced to admit that he, in fact, had written it. It takes him a while to grudgingly bow before incontrovertible evidence. But he does get there. Eventually. When he has no other choice.

4.  According to Klein:

In retrospect, the issue then was as clear cut as it is now. It demanded a clarity that I failed to summon. The essential principle is immutable: We should never go to war unless we have been attacked or are under direct, immediate threat of attack. Never. And never again.

Presumably, then, Klein believes that Great Britain declaring war on Germany two days after Hitler’s invasion of Poland (Great Britain and Poland were allies and shared a security pact) was a violation of an “essential” and “immutable” principle. So was the first Gulf War, when the United States repelled Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. So was Tony Blair’s intervention in Kosovo and Sierra Leone (the latter widely viewed as successful in helping save that West African country from barbarism and dictatorship). So, arguably, was the American Civil War; after all, Lincoln could have avoided war, had he given in on the matters of secession and slavery.

According to Klein, no war is justified unless a nation has been attacked or is under the direct, immediate threat of attack — which means interventions for the sake of aiding allies, meeting treaty obligations, averting massive humanitarian disasters, or advancing national interests and national security are always and forever off the table.

Klein’s arguments are those of a simpleton. He has drawn up a doctrine that isn’t based on careful reasoning, subtle analysis, or a sophisticated understanding of history; it is, in fact, a childish overreaction to the events of the moment. What Klein states with emphatic certainty one day is something he will probably jettison the next.

Iraq is a subject on which Joe Klein has been — let’s be gentle here — highly erratic. He both opposed and supported the war before it began. After the war started, he spoke hopefully about the movement toward democracy there. (“This is not a moment for caveats,” he wrote in 2005, after the Iraqi elections. “It is a moment for solemn appreciation of the Iraqi achievement — however it may turn out — and for hope.”) Now he refers to it as a “neo-colonialist obscenity.” President Bush’s “Freedom Agenda” went from being something that “seem[s] to be paying off” and that might even secure Bush the Nobel Peace Prize to a “delusional farce.” Klein ridiculed the idea of the surge, referring to it as “Bush’s futile pipe dream,” before conceding that the surge was wise, necessary, and successful.

This is all of a piece with Klein. And there is a kind of poignancy that surrounds his descent. Once upon a time, Joe was a fairly decent political reporter — but somewhere along the line, he went badly off track. He has become startlingly embittered, consumed by his hatreds, regarding as malevolent enemies all people who hold views different from his. In the past, his writings could be insightful, somewhat balanced, and at times elegant. These days, he’s not good for much more than a rant — and even his rants have become predictable, pedestrian, banal. Witless, even.

This cannot be what Henry Luce envisioned for his magazine.

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It’s the Security Arrangements, Stupid

If U.S. envoy George Mitchell is truly “frustrated” by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to give “clear answers on the borders of the future Palestinian state,” as Haaretz reported this week, then Washington needs a new envoy — because this one clearly doesn’t understand the most basic requirements of an Israeli-Palestinian deal.

Mitchell apparently views Netanyahu’s behavior as sheer obstructionism; Jennifer cited it as an encouraging sign of Netanyahu’s unwillingness to “knuckle under to Obama.” But the truth is that Netanyahu genuinely doesn’t know how much territory he might be willing to cede — and cannot know until he receives the answer to another critical question: what security arrangements will be put in place in the vacated territory? The more robust these arrangements are, the more territory Israel could concede without endangering itself.

That is precisely why Netanyahu urged that security arrangements be one of the first two items discussed in the indirect talks Mitchell is mediating (he proposed water as the other). Mitchell, however, wanted borders to come first, in the bizarre belief that borders should have nothing to do with security arrangements. In his view, the latter is a secondary issue that can be dealt with later.

But having seen what happened when his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, did exactly that, Netanyahu is rightly wary of falling into this trap. Olmert, trusting in his strong relationship with former president George W. Bush, made generous territorial concessions up front, offering the Palestinians some 93 percent of the territories with 1:1 swaps to compensate for the rest. But when he then presented the extensive security arrangements that he deemed necessary to mitigate the risks of these concessions, he discovered that not only did the Palestinians reject them but so did Washington. And the Obama administration is not likely to be more supportive of Israel’s security concerns than Bush was.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair, currently the Quartet’s special envoy to the Middle East, hit the nail on the head in an interview with the Jerusalem Post last week, in which he explained his response to people who ask whether Netanyahu is “prepared for a Palestinian state.”

“I say, ‘yes, in the right circumstances.’ And they say, ‘Well, you’re qualifying it.’ And I say, ‘You’ve got to qualify it.’

The truth is that if the circumstances are right – and those circumstances, from the point of view of Israel, are about their long-term security – then yes, I think people are prepared to recognize that a Palestinian state is the right solution.

But if you can’t deal with the security issue, the circumstances aren’t right.”

Mitchell, however, has evidently not grasped this salient fact. It’s not clear whether he actually thinks there’s no need to take Israel’s security concerns into account or whether, despite the rampant terror that every previous Israeli withdrawal has spawned, he still hasn’t realized that withdrawals entail real risks and that therefore Israel must know what security arrangements will be put in place before it can decide how much additional territory to vacate. Either way, he is clearly unfit for his job.

If U.S. envoy George Mitchell is truly “frustrated” by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to give “clear answers on the borders of the future Palestinian state,” as Haaretz reported this week, then Washington needs a new envoy — because this one clearly doesn’t understand the most basic requirements of an Israeli-Palestinian deal.

Mitchell apparently views Netanyahu’s behavior as sheer obstructionism; Jennifer cited it as an encouraging sign of Netanyahu’s unwillingness to “knuckle under to Obama.” But the truth is that Netanyahu genuinely doesn’t know how much territory he might be willing to cede — and cannot know until he receives the answer to another critical question: what security arrangements will be put in place in the vacated territory? The more robust these arrangements are, the more territory Israel could concede without endangering itself.

That is precisely why Netanyahu urged that security arrangements be one of the first two items discussed in the indirect talks Mitchell is mediating (he proposed water as the other). Mitchell, however, wanted borders to come first, in the bizarre belief that borders should have nothing to do with security arrangements. In his view, the latter is a secondary issue that can be dealt with later.

But having seen what happened when his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, did exactly that, Netanyahu is rightly wary of falling into this trap. Olmert, trusting in his strong relationship with former president George W. Bush, made generous territorial concessions up front, offering the Palestinians some 93 percent of the territories with 1:1 swaps to compensate for the rest. But when he then presented the extensive security arrangements that he deemed necessary to mitigate the risks of these concessions, he discovered that not only did the Palestinians reject them but so did Washington. And the Obama administration is not likely to be more supportive of Israel’s security concerns than Bush was.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair, currently the Quartet’s special envoy to the Middle East, hit the nail on the head in an interview with the Jerusalem Post last week, in which he explained his response to people who ask whether Netanyahu is “prepared for a Palestinian state.”

“I say, ‘yes, in the right circumstances.’ And they say, ‘Well, you’re qualifying it.’ And I say, ‘You’ve got to qualify it.’

The truth is that if the circumstances are right – and those circumstances, from the point of view of Israel, are about their long-term security – then yes, I think people are prepared to recognize that a Palestinian state is the right solution.

But if you can’t deal with the security issue, the circumstances aren’t right.”

Mitchell, however, has evidently not grasped this salient fact. It’s not clear whether he actually thinks there’s no need to take Israel’s security concerns into account or whether, despite the rampant terror that every previous Israeli withdrawal has spawned, he still hasn’t realized that withdrawals entail real risks and that therefore Israel must know what security arrangements will be put in place before it can decide how much additional territory to vacate. Either way, he is clearly unfit for his job.

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Can Americans Count on the New Brit Coalition?

While one of the hallmarks of Barack Obama’s foreign policy has been the trashing of the formerly “special” relationship between the United States and Britain, it is interesting to speculate what would happen in the event that Washington really needed London’s help. While Gordon Brown’s Labour government could be relied upon as America’s pal in a pinch even if Obama treated the dour Scot like a dog, what would be the reaction from the coalition duo of David Cameron and Nick Clegg to a call for assistance from Obama, especially in the not-altogether-unlikely event of a crisis in the Middle East, involving Iran’s nuclear ambitions?

That’s the question Daniella Peled asks in today’s Guardian. Her answer is that it is far from certain how the new British coalition will respond. The problem lies in the competing agendas of the two parties as well as in their differing attitudes toward the United States.

On the one hand, Prime Minister Cameron has already demonstrated how desperate he is to buddy up with Obama, and the president, who clearly didn’t think much of Brown, isn’t averse to a warmer friendship with the new UK leader. But that doesn’t mean that Cameron is eager to become the junior partner on foreign-policy initiatives to the Americans that Tony Blair was, even if the current resident of the White House is Barack Obama rather than George W. Bush. As for the Conservative Party itself, Peled quotes one party leader as saying “we’re just not that interested” in the Middle East one way or another.

Their Liberal Democrat coalition partners, however, have a very different attitude toward foreign policy in general and the Middle East in particular. The Lib-Dems want to distance the United Kingdom from America even more than Obama wants to distance the United States from Israel. Not only are they unhappy about continuing to fight the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan; they are also virulently anti-Israel. All of which means that the Lib-Dems are unlikely to support any measures intended to seriously pressure Iran on the nuclear issue. As Peled states, this means there is a huge potential for conflict within the new government on key foreign-policy issues.

However, the notion that the new UK coalition will crack up over a 3 a.m. request from Obama to assist a strike on Iran is more fantasy than anything else. The Obama administration is more likely to learn to live with a nuclear Iran than to fight to remove the existential threat against Israel and the destabilization of the region. And for all of his desire to cozy up to Obama, Cameron’s desire to hold on to his place at No. 10 Downing Street probably outweighs anything else.

But even if we take such an apocalyptic scenario out of the discussion, there is no question that even a White House as devoted to multilateralism and engagement as that of Obama must understand that the new British government cannot be considered as reliable an ally as its predecessor. Neither the Tories nor the Lib-Dems aren’t interested in being portrayed as Obama’s poodles. Nor do they care much about Iran, Hezbollah, or Hamas. For all of his disdain for Gordon Brown, there may come a day when Barack Obama will wish the special relationship he helped destroy could be brought back to life.

While one of the hallmarks of Barack Obama’s foreign policy has been the trashing of the formerly “special” relationship between the United States and Britain, it is interesting to speculate what would happen in the event that Washington really needed London’s help. While Gordon Brown’s Labour government could be relied upon as America’s pal in a pinch even if Obama treated the dour Scot like a dog, what would be the reaction from the coalition duo of David Cameron and Nick Clegg to a call for assistance from Obama, especially in the not-altogether-unlikely event of a crisis in the Middle East, involving Iran’s nuclear ambitions?

That’s the question Daniella Peled asks in today’s Guardian. Her answer is that it is far from certain how the new British coalition will respond. The problem lies in the competing agendas of the two parties as well as in their differing attitudes toward the United States.

On the one hand, Prime Minister Cameron has already demonstrated how desperate he is to buddy up with Obama, and the president, who clearly didn’t think much of Brown, isn’t averse to a warmer friendship with the new UK leader. But that doesn’t mean that Cameron is eager to become the junior partner on foreign-policy initiatives to the Americans that Tony Blair was, even if the current resident of the White House is Barack Obama rather than George W. Bush. As for the Conservative Party itself, Peled quotes one party leader as saying “we’re just not that interested” in the Middle East one way or another.

Their Liberal Democrat coalition partners, however, have a very different attitude toward foreign policy in general and the Middle East in particular. The Lib-Dems want to distance the United Kingdom from America even more than Obama wants to distance the United States from Israel. Not only are they unhappy about continuing to fight the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan; they are also virulently anti-Israel. All of which means that the Lib-Dems are unlikely to support any measures intended to seriously pressure Iran on the nuclear issue. As Peled states, this means there is a huge potential for conflict within the new government on key foreign-policy issues.

However, the notion that the new UK coalition will crack up over a 3 a.m. request from Obama to assist a strike on Iran is more fantasy than anything else. The Obama administration is more likely to learn to live with a nuclear Iran than to fight to remove the existential threat against Israel and the destabilization of the region. And for all of his desire to cozy up to Obama, Cameron’s desire to hold on to his place at No. 10 Downing Street probably outweighs anything else.

But even if we take such an apocalyptic scenario out of the discussion, there is no question that even a White House as devoted to multilateralism and engagement as that of Obama must understand that the new British government cannot be considered as reliable an ally as its predecessor. Neither the Tories nor the Lib-Dems aren’t interested in being portrayed as Obama’s poodles. Nor do they care much about Iran, Hezbollah, or Hamas. For all of his disdain for Gordon Brown, there may come a day when Barack Obama will wish the special relationship he helped destroy could be brought back to life.

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The Worst Brit PM: Loser of the Colonies or Appeaser of Hitler?

As we await the results of today’s British elections, it’s hard to work up much enthusiasm about the outcome, given the dismal choices facing the voters there. David Cameron, the not-very-conservative Conservative leader who doesn’t appear to be much of a friend to the United States, might be the best of the lot compared with Gordon Brown and Labour, and especially with the hard-left anti-Israel venom emanating from the Liberal Democrats led by Nick Clegg, but that is to damn Cameron with faint praise.

But whoever the next resident of No. 10 Downing Street may be, the Times of London has provided readers with an interesting feature about his predecessors, ranking the top 50 British prime ministers. A panel of political writers and journalists — not historians — composed the list, but it still is enough to spark a lively conversation about the subject.

At the top of the list (no surprise here) is Winston Churchill, though it should be noted that the panel wasn’t unanimous about the choice, with one of the members voting for the overall No. 2 choice: David Lloyd George, who led Britain to victory during World War One. The rest of the top 10 were: William Gladstone, William Pitt the Younger, Margaret Thatcher, Sir Robert Peel, Clement Atlee, Earl Grey (it pays to have a tea named after you), Robert Walpole, and Benjamin Disraeli. (In case his buddy George W. Bush is interested, Tony Blair was ranked number 16, tied with the elder William Pitt.)

More curious than the leaders in the poll, most of whom are obvious choices, were the ones at the bottom. For those of us whose view of 20th century British history was primarily formed by our interest in the battle between Churchill and the “guilty men” who appeased Hitler, it is fascinating to note that while Neville Chamberlain’s name is synonymous with infamy, the Times panel thinks that he wasn’t really all that bad, ranking him at 34th, which is not so good but far from the bottom. Interestingly, fellow appeaser Stanley Baldwin, who preceded Chamberlain, was ranked fairly high at 14th, apparently because of the slick way he handled the abdication of Queen Elizabeth’s uncle the Duke of Windsor.

So who did the panel think were the worst prime ministers? Interestingly, the bottom three of this list of 49 men and one woman were the three Brits who lost the American colonies: Lord George Granville, the Duke of Grafton, and Lord North (1770-1782), who was the last and the least. There’s no question that these three were terrible British leaders, but I’m not exactly sure what it says about the Times of London — or Britain for that matter — that their panel thinks the creation of the United States was a greater disaster for their country than a policy of appeasement that led to a global war and to Auschwitz. I’d have thought that our friends across the pond had gotten over the results of the Battle of Yorktown a long while ago, but perhaps now that President Obama has put an end to the “special relationship” with Britain, the chasm between our two nations — divided, as G.B. Shaw said, by “a common language,” is even greater than we could have imagined.

As we await the results of today’s British elections, it’s hard to work up much enthusiasm about the outcome, given the dismal choices facing the voters there. David Cameron, the not-very-conservative Conservative leader who doesn’t appear to be much of a friend to the United States, might be the best of the lot compared with Gordon Brown and Labour, and especially with the hard-left anti-Israel venom emanating from the Liberal Democrats led by Nick Clegg, but that is to damn Cameron with faint praise.

But whoever the next resident of No. 10 Downing Street may be, the Times of London has provided readers with an interesting feature about his predecessors, ranking the top 50 British prime ministers. A panel of political writers and journalists — not historians — composed the list, but it still is enough to spark a lively conversation about the subject.

At the top of the list (no surprise here) is Winston Churchill, though it should be noted that the panel wasn’t unanimous about the choice, with one of the members voting for the overall No. 2 choice: David Lloyd George, who led Britain to victory during World War One. The rest of the top 10 were: William Gladstone, William Pitt the Younger, Margaret Thatcher, Sir Robert Peel, Clement Atlee, Earl Grey (it pays to have a tea named after you), Robert Walpole, and Benjamin Disraeli. (In case his buddy George W. Bush is interested, Tony Blair was ranked number 16, tied with the elder William Pitt.)

More curious than the leaders in the poll, most of whom are obvious choices, were the ones at the bottom. For those of us whose view of 20th century British history was primarily formed by our interest in the battle between Churchill and the “guilty men” who appeased Hitler, it is fascinating to note that while Neville Chamberlain’s name is synonymous with infamy, the Times panel thinks that he wasn’t really all that bad, ranking him at 34th, which is not so good but far from the bottom. Interestingly, fellow appeaser Stanley Baldwin, who preceded Chamberlain, was ranked fairly high at 14th, apparently because of the slick way he handled the abdication of Queen Elizabeth’s uncle the Duke of Windsor.

So who did the panel think were the worst prime ministers? Interestingly, the bottom three of this list of 49 men and one woman were the three Brits who lost the American colonies: Lord George Granville, the Duke of Grafton, and Lord North (1770-1782), who was the last and the least. There’s no question that these three were terrible British leaders, but I’m not exactly sure what it says about the Times of London — or Britain for that matter — that their panel thinks the creation of the United States was a greater disaster for their country than a policy of appeasement that led to a global war and to Auschwitz. I’d have thought that our friends across the pond had gotten over the results of the Battle of Yorktown a long while ago, but perhaps now that President Obama has put an end to the “special relationship” with Britain, the chasm between our two nations — divided, as G.B. Shaw said, by “a common language,” is even greater than we could have imagined.

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How Do You Impose Peace?

This report explains the latest Palestinian celebration of terrorism:

The future Palestinian Authority presidential compound will be built along a street named for an infamous Hamas arch-terrorist, Channel 10 reported on Wednesday.

The Ramallah street was named for notorious Hamas suicide bomb mastermind Yihyeh Ayyash, also known as the “engineer,” who was the architect of multiple attacks, including a 1994 bombing of a Tel Aviv bus, which killed 20 people, and injured dozens.

Ayyash was killed in 1996 in what was most likely an Israeli assassination, after his cell phone exploded in his Beit Lahia home, in the Gaza Strip.

Last time, the Palestinians pulled this – naming a square in Ramallah for terrorist Dalal al-Mughrabi, who killed 38 Israelis — Hillary Clinton tried to pass it off as the doing of Hamas, despite ample evidence that the PA joined in the festivities. It’s going to be even harder for the Obami to make excuses for the PA this time:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement in response to the naming, saying it was an “outrageous glorification of terrorism by the Palestinian Authority.”

“Right next to a Presidential compound in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority has named a street after a terrorist who murdered hundreds of innocent Israeli men, women and children,” the statement said, adding that “the world must forcefully condemn this official Palestinian incitement for terrorism and against peace.”

So does the Obama team manage to get out a simple declaratory sentence this time — “We condemn this behavior,” for example? But more important, given this is the behavior and mentality of the PA — the supposedly reasonable Palestinian party to negotiations — how do the Obami intend to impose a peace deal? If one party is still caught in the grip of the cult of death, what reason is there to suppose that it is prepared to sign and then live up to an agreement by which they disarm and renounce terrorism?

At the AIPAC conference, Tony Blair laid out the challenge:

Until the year 2000, and with the heroic attempts of President Clinton, we attempted to achieve an agreement first and then shape reality around it. But it was not to be. After that came the Intifada. Thousands died. Then came the withdrawal from Gaza. Israel got out. It took 7000 settlers with it. In Israeli eyes, it received violence and terror in return.

The occupation deepened. Gaza was isolated. Faith in peace collapsed.

Ten years on, that faith has to be restored.

It can’t be done in a summit.

It has to be done patiently, and over time on the ground.

It can’t only be negotiated top-down.

It has also to be built bottom up.

Peace now will not come simply through an agreement negotiated; it must come through a reality created and sustained.

It means building institutions of Palestinian Government: not just well equipped, loyal security forces, but civil police, courts, prisons, prosecutors, the whole infrastructure of the rule of law.

It means treating those who commit acts of terror not only as enemies of Israel but enemies of Palestine.

Obviously, we are not remotely at that juncture – a point utterly lost or ignored by the Obami. So they imagine a pristine paper agreement will create peace — a  notion so divorced from experience and so blind to the realities occurring daily that one is tempted to conclude, “They can’t be serious!”  Blair got it when he declared: “The mentality has to move from resistance to governance. There can be no ambiguity, no wavering, no half heart towards terrorism. It is totally and completely without justification and we will never compromise in our opposition to it or those that practice it.” The Obami don’t.

It therefore follows that the Obami’s indifference to that fundamental requirement for peace disqualifies them as competent interlocutors. They are neither “honest” nor “brokering” — they have become henchmen for the Palestinians who await deliverance of the Jewish state — or what remains of it — without need to root out and renounce violence, without cultivation of the Palestinian institutions that can sustain peace. Israel and its supporters should be clear: there is no role for this administration in any peace process — they are, in fact merely, establishing incentives for violence and Palestinian rejectionism.

This report explains the latest Palestinian celebration of terrorism:

The future Palestinian Authority presidential compound will be built along a street named for an infamous Hamas arch-terrorist, Channel 10 reported on Wednesday.

The Ramallah street was named for notorious Hamas suicide bomb mastermind Yihyeh Ayyash, also known as the “engineer,” who was the architect of multiple attacks, including a 1994 bombing of a Tel Aviv bus, which killed 20 people, and injured dozens.

Ayyash was killed in 1996 in what was most likely an Israeli assassination, after his cell phone exploded in his Beit Lahia home, in the Gaza Strip.

Last time, the Palestinians pulled this – naming a square in Ramallah for terrorist Dalal al-Mughrabi, who killed 38 Israelis — Hillary Clinton tried to pass it off as the doing of Hamas, despite ample evidence that the PA joined in the festivities. It’s going to be even harder for the Obami to make excuses for the PA this time:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement in response to the naming, saying it was an “outrageous glorification of terrorism by the Palestinian Authority.”

“Right next to a Presidential compound in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority has named a street after a terrorist who murdered hundreds of innocent Israeli men, women and children,” the statement said, adding that “the world must forcefully condemn this official Palestinian incitement for terrorism and against peace.”

So does the Obama team manage to get out a simple declaratory sentence this time — “We condemn this behavior,” for example? But more important, given this is the behavior and mentality of the PA — the supposedly reasonable Palestinian party to negotiations — how do the Obami intend to impose a peace deal? If one party is still caught in the grip of the cult of death, what reason is there to suppose that it is prepared to sign and then live up to an agreement by which they disarm and renounce terrorism?

At the AIPAC conference, Tony Blair laid out the challenge:

Until the year 2000, and with the heroic attempts of President Clinton, we attempted to achieve an agreement first and then shape reality around it. But it was not to be. After that came the Intifada. Thousands died. Then came the withdrawal from Gaza. Israel got out. It took 7000 settlers with it. In Israeli eyes, it received violence and terror in return.

The occupation deepened. Gaza was isolated. Faith in peace collapsed.

Ten years on, that faith has to be restored.

It can’t be done in a summit.

It has to be done patiently, and over time on the ground.

It can’t only be negotiated top-down.

It has also to be built bottom up.

Peace now will not come simply through an agreement negotiated; it must come through a reality created and sustained.

It means building institutions of Palestinian Government: not just well equipped, loyal security forces, but civil police, courts, prisons, prosecutors, the whole infrastructure of the rule of law.

It means treating those who commit acts of terror not only as enemies of Israel but enemies of Palestine.

Obviously, we are not remotely at that juncture – a point utterly lost or ignored by the Obami. So they imagine a pristine paper agreement will create peace — a  notion so divorced from experience and so blind to the realities occurring daily that one is tempted to conclude, “They can’t be serious!”  Blair got it when he declared: “The mentality has to move from resistance to governance. There can be no ambiguity, no wavering, no half heart towards terrorism. It is totally and completely without justification and we will never compromise in our opposition to it or those that practice it.” The Obami don’t.

It therefore follows that the Obami’s indifference to that fundamental requirement for peace disqualifies them as competent interlocutors. They are neither “honest” nor “brokering” — they have become henchmen for the Palestinians who await deliverance of the Jewish state — or what remains of it — without need to root out and renounce violence, without cultivation of the Palestinian institutions that can sustain peace. Israel and its supporters should be clear: there is no role for this administration in any peace process — they are, in fact merely, establishing incentives for violence and Palestinian rejectionism.

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RE: RE: Imposed Arrogance

Bibi’s response to the Obami’s imposed peace-deal trial balloon? No way. This should come as no surprise:

Israel will not accept a Middle East peace agreement that is forced on it by external forces, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly said in private meetings in recent days, sources said Wednesday.

Netanyahu reportedly told close aides that “it won’t work and it won’t be acceptable if a settlement is forced on us,” stressing the need to ensure proper security arrangements as part of any future peace deal.

For that end, the PM reportedly said, Israel would have to retain a military presence along its eastern border with Jordan, adding that any agreement that doesn’t allow for those measure will not be accepted.

And on the Jerusalem building issue, Bibi isn’t caving either. “Also Wednesday, in a press conference in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said differences with Washington over a disputed construction project in East Jerusalem were yet to be resolved, signaling a continued deadlock in the U.S. push to restart Mideast peace talks.” He says the U.S. and Israel are working to close the gap. (Perhaps they can have proximity talks with Tony Blair as the interlocutor?)

So where does this leave the Obami? To stamp their feet and send George Mitchell shuttling back and forth between fruitless meetings with the two sides? If one ever needed proof that the peace process can be not only a waste of time but also counterproductive, this is it.

Meanwhile, with all those former national-security advisers in the building, do we think the Obami asked them for advice on getting out of their dead-end Iran policy? It doesn’t appear so from the news reports, and that speaks volumes about the misplaced priorities of a foreign-policy team that is increasing divorced from reality.

Bibi’s response to the Obami’s imposed peace-deal trial balloon? No way. This should come as no surprise:

Israel will not accept a Middle East peace agreement that is forced on it by external forces, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly said in private meetings in recent days, sources said Wednesday.

Netanyahu reportedly told close aides that “it won’t work and it won’t be acceptable if a settlement is forced on us,” stressing the need to ensure proper security arrangements as part of any future peace deal.

For that end, the PM reportedly said, Israel would have to retain a military presence along its eastern border with Jordan, adding that any agreement that doesn’t allow for those measure will not be accepted.

And on the Jerusalem building issue, Bibi isn’t caving either. “Also Wednesday, in a press conference in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said differences with Washington over a disputed construction project in East Jerusalem were yet to be resolved, signaling a continued deadlock in the U.S. push to restart Mideast peace talks.” He says the U.S. and Israel are working to close the gap. (Perhaps they can have proximity talks with Tony Blair as the interlocutor?)

So where does this leave the Obami? To stamp their feet and send George Mitchell shuttling back and forth between fruitless meetings with the two sides? If one ever needed proof that the peace process can be not only a waste of time but also counterproductive, this is it.

Meanwhile, with all those former national-security advisers in the building, do we think the Obami asked them for advice on getting out of their dead-end Iran policy? It doesn’t appear so from the news reports, and that speaks volumes about the misplaced priorities of a foreign-policy team that is increasing divorced from reality.

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Obami Pushing Israel to Act Unilaterally?

The Obami are promising another round of sanctions aimed at Iran. This will be the fourth round, and we should not, judging from press reports, expect them to be “crippling.” As Bill Kristol noted on Fox News Sunday:

The only things that can stop the Iranian nuclear program are — would be the success of the green movement in Iran, which the Obama administration has done nothing to help and remains incredibly indifferent to and standoffish to on the one hand, or military action on the other, which the Obama administration seems uninterested in doing and I’m afraid is setting up a situation where Israel will feel it has to act.

The abject lack of seriousness from the Obama administration — its disinclination to even suggest the use of force or to aid the Green Movement in any meaningful way — has not gone unnoticed either here or in Israel. At the AIPAC conference, the contrast between Hillary Clinton’s platitudinous “unacceptable” formulation and Tony Blair’s “whatever it takes” phraseology was hard to ignore. And, as Kristol points out, even doves in Israel like Ephraim Sneh, a former deputy defense minister, are talking about the need for an Israeli strike on Iran this year, absent the implementation of “crippling sanctions.” (“An Israeli military campaign against Iran’s nuclear installations is likely to cripple that country’s nuclear project for a number of years. The retaliation against Israel would be painful, but bearable.”)

We can speculate as to whether the Obami’s assault on Netanyahu over the Jerusalem housing permit was meant to stymie Israel’s plans for such action. If so, this is yet another gross error in judgment by the Obami, who have an exaggerated sense of their own ability to bully those who interfere with their plans. As fraught with peril as an Israeli military operation might be and as unseemly as it might be for the U.S. to stand idly by – ignoring its role as leader of the West and shrinking from its international responsibilities – Israel, if faced with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran and a recalcitrant U.S. administration, will have no choice but to act in its own defense. Netanyahu said it clearly last month, no doubt to put the administration as well as the mullahs on notice. (“The future of the Jewish state can never depend on the goodwill of even the greatest of men. Israel must always reserve the right to defend itself.”)

By publicly savaging the Israeli government and making apparent just how not solid is the current relationship between the U.S. and Israel, the Obami are encouraging, not dissuading, the Israeli government to take matters into its own hands. Given the treatment by the Obama administration, what Israeli government could place its trust and the fate of the Jewish state in the Obami’s hands? It would be foolish and irresponsible — and the Israelis are neither. And once again we see that the folly-ridden Obama Middle East policy — engagement with Iran, renunciation of force, clubbing its closest ally — is creating a more dangerous and volatile world for the U.S. and its allies.

The Obami are promising another round of sanctions aimed at Iran. This will be the fourth round, and we should not, judging from press reports, expect them to be “crippling.” As Bill Kristol noted on Fox News Sunday:

The only things that can stop the Iranian nuclear program are — would be the success of the green movement in Iran, which the Obama administration has done nothing to help and remains incredibly indifferent to and standoffish to on the one hand, or military action on the other, which the Obama administration seems uninterested in doing and I’m afraid is setting up a situation where Israel will feel it has to act.

The abject lack of seriousness from the Obama administration — its disinclination to even suggest the use of force or to aid the Green Movement in any meaningful way — has not gone unnoticed either here or in Israel. At the AIPAC conference, the contrast between Hillary Clinton’s platitudinous “unacceptable” formulation and Tony Blair’s “whatever it takes” phraseology was hard to ignore. And, as Kristol points out, even doves in Israel like Ephraim Sneh, a former deputy defense minister, are talking about the need for an Israeli strike on Iran this year, absent the implementation of “crippling sanctions.” (“An Israeli military campaign against Iran’s nuclear installations is likely to cripple that country’s nuclear project for a number of years. The retaliation against Israel would be painful, but bearable.”)

We can speculate as to whether the Obami’s assault on Netanyahu over the Jerusalem housing permit was meant to stymie Israel’s plans for such action. If so, this is yet another gross error in judgment by the Obami, who have an exaggerated sense of their own ability to bully those who interfere with their plans. As fraught with peril as an Israeli military operation might be and as unseemly as it might be for the U.S. to stand idly by – ignoring its role as leader of the West and shrinking from its international responsibilities – Israel, if faced with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran and a recalcitrant U.S. administration, will have no choice but to act in its own defense. Netanyahu said it clearly last month, no doubt to put the administration as well as the mullahs on notice. (“The future of the Jewish state can never depend on the goodwill of even the greatest of men. Israel must always reserve the right to defend itself.”)

By publicly savaging the Israeli government and making apparent just how not solid is the current relationship between the U.S. and Israel, the Obami are encouraging, not dissuading, the Israeli government to take matters into its own hands. Given the treatment by the Obama administration, what Israeli government could place its trust and the fate of the Jewish state in the Obami’s hands? It would be foolish and irresponsible — and the Israelis are neither. And once again we see that the folly-ridden Obama Middle East policy — engagement with Iran, renunciation of force, clubbing its closest ally — is creating a more dangerous and volatile world for the U.S. and its allies.

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