Commentary Magazine


Topic: U.S. president

Partial Freezes, Complete Freezes, and Eskimos

One of the most interesting “Palestine Papers” is the Minutes of a September 17, 2009, meeting between Saeb Erekat (SE), the chief Palestinian negotiator, and Dan Shapiro (DS) of the White House National Security Council, along with several high level State Department people and George Mitchell’s chief of staff.

The Americans urged the Palestinians to commence negotiations even though the U.S. had been able to obtain only a partial building freeze. The discussion in the Minutes represents, in my view, a microcosm of the 17-year peace process.

Erekat expressed his unwillingness to negotiate with Benjamin Netanyahu (BN), since Netanyahu had made his position clear, which was unacceptable to the Palestinians:

SE: … On substance, from day one BN said: Jerusalem the eternal undivided capital of Israel, demilitarized state without control over borders or airspace, no refugees. Once you agree to this we can negotiate a piece of paper and an anthem.

Erekat’s position was that “anything short of 2 states on the 1967 border is meaningless.” He explained his theory on Netanyahu’s strategy:

SE: When Bibi talks about excluding Jerusalem it is to make sure we can’t attend, because he doesn’t want to.

DS: So by not going aren’t you playing into his hand?

SE: You put me in this position! It’s like having a gun to my head — damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Netanyahu had set forth an adamant negotiating position, but also his willingness to negotiate without preconditions. The Palestinians responded with their own adamant position (nothing short of the indefensible 1967 lines) and their unwillingness to negotiate. If the Palestinians were correct about Netanyahu’s strategy, they were playing right into it — and blaming not themselves but the United States! Read More

One of the most interesting “Palestine Papers” is the Minutes of a September 17, 2009, meeting between Saeb Erekat (SE), the chief Palestinian negotiator, and Dan Shapiro (DS) of the White House National Security Council, along with several high level State Department people and George Mitchell’s chief of staff.

The Americans urged the Palestinians to commence negotiations even though the U.S. had been able to obtain only a partial building freeze. The discussion in the Minutes represents, in my view, a microcosm of the 17-year peace process.

Erekat expressed his unwillingness to negotiate with Benjamin Netanyahu (BN), since Netanyahu had made his position clear, which was unacceptable to the Palestinians:

SE: … On substance, from day one BN said: Jerusalem the eternal undivided capital of Israel, demilitarized state without control over borders or airspace, no refugees. Once you agree to this we can negotiate a piece of paper and an anthem.

Erekat’s position was that “anything short of 2 states on the 1967 border is meaningless.” He explained his theory on Netanyahu’s strategy:

SE: When Bibi talks about excluding Jerusalem it is to make sure we can’t attend, because he doesn’t want to.

DS: So by not going aren’t you playing into his hand?

SE: You put me in this position! It’s like having a gun to my head — damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Netanyahu had set forth an adamant negotiating position, but also his willingness to negotiate without preconditions. The Palestinians responded with their own adamant position (nothing short of the indefensible 1967 lines) and their unwillingness to negotiate. If the Palestinians were correct about Netanyahu’s strategy, they were playing right into it — and blaming not themselves but the United States!

Shapiro suggested that the Palestinians had a sympathetic U.S. president and should start negotiating, given his commitment to them:

DE: The President has demonstrated a personal and real commitment to you. What you are saying indicates that you tend to discount the President’s commitment. It strikes me that it doesn’t seem to be worth a lot to you.

SE: This is not about personalities or conscience. Bush did not wake up one day and his conscience told him “two state solution.” It’s about interests. We have waited a painful 17 years in this process, to take our fate in our own hands.

But quite a lot happened in those 17 years. They got three offers of a state on substantially all the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in Jerusalem — and turned all three down. They received all of Gaza and a chance to show they could build a state without threatening Israel — and demonstrated the opposite. They got a U.S. president personally committed to them, who undoubtedly would eventually push “bridging proposals” more to their liking than to Israel’s — and they refused to start negotiations without a complete freeze. A lot of opportunities came their way during those 17 years, while they were “waiting.”

In an old joke, a man tells a bartender he lost his religion after his small plane crashed in frozen Alaskan tundra and he lay there for hours, crying for God to save him, and nothing happened. The bartender says, “wait — you’re here.” “Right,” says the man, “because finally a damned Eskimo came along.” Some day Saeb Erekat will explain to some bartender that he was a negotiator for 17 years but nothing happened, except for all the damned Eskimos who came along.

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A Modest Middle East Proposal

In an article published in Al-Hayat, the Washington Institute’s David Schenker analyzes “President Obama’s First Two Years in the Middle East.” He says it is hard to avoid the conclusion Obama has been ineffective or worse: (1) the mishandling of Israeli-Palestinian talks produced a complete cessation of them; (2) the attempted dialogue with Iran and Syria produced predictable failures; and (3) the uncertain support for U.S. allies in Lebanon produced dramatic setbacks for them. Schenker reverses Samuel Johnson’s remark about remarriage and hopes the next two years produce a more realistic vision — the triumph of experience over hope.

Here is a realistic appraisal of the Middle East situation, followed by a modest proposal:

In the case of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, one cannot effect a two-state solution when (a) half the putative Palestinian state is run by a terrorist group allied with Iran, and (b) the other half is run by an unelected regime with no ability to make peace. In one half, there is no one to negotiate with; in the other, the one to negotiate with is unwilling to negotiate — and thus rejects seriatim offers of a state in favor of unrealistic demands for a “right of return,” indefensible borders, and the division of Israel’s capital on the 1949 armistice lines.

In the case of Iran, if crippling sanctions did not produce results in Cuba, Iraq, or North Korea, Swiss-cheese sanctions are not going to produce them in Iran. American allies will gravitate toward Iran (they already are), unless they soon hear a public commitment from the U.S. president to deal with the problem by whatever means necessary. Talks with Iran cannot succeed absent its belief such means will, if necessary, be used.

The time and place for the president to return to realism is a trip to Israel in the first part of 2011. Obama was invited by Netanyahu six months ago and pronounced himself “ready”; the continued failure to schedule it sends another unfortunate signal to the Middle East. The trip offers the opportunity to reassert in the Knesset the commitment to America’s democratic ally; to issue a long-overdue call for Arab states to “tear down those camps” and make peace possible; and to state, in a place where the statement will be noticed, that the U.S. will not participate indefinitely in unproductive talks nor rely only on sanctions if sanctions do not work.

If he wants to “reset” the situation in the Middle East, President Obama should take that trip and make that speech.

In an article published in Al-Hayat, the Washington Institute’s David Schenker analyzes “President Obama’s First Two Years in the Middle East.” He says it is hard to avoid the conclusion Obama has been ineffective or worse: (1) the mishandling of Israeli-Palestinian talks produced a complete cessation of them; (2) the attempted dialogue with Iran and Syria produced predictable failures; and (3) the uncertain support for U.S. allies in Lebanon produced dramatic setbacks for them. Schenker reverses Samuel Johnson’s remark about remarriage and hopes the next two years produce a more realistic vision — the triumph of experience over hope.

Here is a realistic appraisal of the Middle East situation, followed by a modest proposal:

In the case of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, one cannot effect a two-state solution when (a) half the putative Palestinian state is run by a terrorist group allied with Iran, and (b) the other half is run by an unelected regime with no ability to make peace. In one half, there is no one to negotiate with; in the other, the one to negotiate with is unwilling to negotiate — and thus rejects seriatim offers of a state in favor of unrealistic demands for a “right of return,” indefensible borders, and the division of Israel’s capital on the 1949 armistice lines.

In the case of Iran, if crippling sanctions did not produce results in Cuba, Iraq, or North Korea, Swiss-cheese sanctions are not going to produce them in Iran. American allies will gravitate toward Iran (they already are), unless they soon hear a public commitment from the U.S. president to deal with the problem by whatever means necessary. Talks with Iran cannot succeed absent its belief such means will, if necessary, be used.

The time and place for the president to return to realism is a trip to Israel in the first part of 2011. Obama was invited by Netanyahu six months ago and pronounced himself “ready”; the continued failure to schedule it sends another unfortunate signal to the Middle East. The trip offers the opportunity to reassert in the Knesset the commitment to America’s democratic ally; to issue a long-overdue call for Arab states to “tear down those camps” and make peace possible; and to state, in a place where the statement will be noticed, that the U.S. will not participate indefinitely in unproductive talks nor rely only on sanctions if sanctions do not work.

If he wants to “reset” the situation in the Middle East, President Obama should take that trip and make that speech.

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New Yorker Editor Just Can’t Take Israel Anymore

Examples abound of leading American Jewish liberals who find the State of Israel to be beneath their sympathy. There is also no shortage of those who have just gotten bored with the Middle East conflict. But you’d have to go far to do better than New Yorker editor David Remnick’s comments to Yediot Ahronot’s Friday Political Supplement available in English translation on Coteret.com. Remnick trots out the usual stuff about a new generation of Jews who only see Israel as an “occupier” and rants that:

Even people like me, who understand that not only one side is responsible for the conflict and that the Palestinians missed an historic opportunity for peace in 2000, can’t take it anymore.

The U.S. administration is trying out of good will to get a peace process moving and in return Israel lays out conditions like the release Jonathan Pollard. Sorry, it can’t go on this way. The Jewish community is not just a nice breakfast at the Regency. You think it’s bad that a U.S. president is trying to make an effort to promote peace? That’s what’s hurting your feelings? Give me a break, you’ve got bigger problems. A shopping list in exchange for a two-month moratorium on settlement construction? Jesus.

It might be easier to understand Remnick’s position if he didn’t throw in that line about the Palestinians in 2000. But since he acknowledges that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected peace (and rejected an even better offer in 2008 and will now no longer even negotiate directly with Israel), it’s hard to accept his criticism of the Jewish state. After all, if Israel already knows that sacrifices of territory won’t bring peace, why should it make unilateral concessions simply to appease an American president who acts as if history began on the day he took office? Shouldn’t the fact that Israel is still faced with a Palestinian foe that is so committed to its destruction that it won’t make peace on even favorable terms influence the discussion?

As for Pollard, why shouldn’t the Israelis ask for clemency for a spy who has already served 25 years in prison when those who have spied on the United States for hostile powers — rather than a friend — have received far less or no prison time at all (such as the recent haul of Russian spies who were quickly exchanged)?

The point here is that Remnick, and other Jewish liberals like him, simply can’t be bothered to think seriously about the Middle East anymore. Sure, Israel, like the United States or any other democracy, has its flaws and its unpleasant actors, such as the rabbis who issued a directive opposing the sale of property to Arabs, which Remnick cites elsewhere in the interview without also noting that they were condemned by Israel’s prime minister and many Israeli rabbis. But why should that be a reason for Jews to distance themselves from it? The answer is that liberals like Remnick are simply tired of standing up for a cause that has become unpopular on the left.

Since being pro-Israel these days requires a degree of moral courage, they simply stamp their feet with childish impatience at the willingness of Israelis to stand up for themselves. While Israel will continue to struggle with a difficult security situation and a flawed political system, the unwillingness of liberals like Remnick to stick with it says far more about them than it does about the Jewish state.

Examples abound of leading American Jewish liberals who find the State of Israel to be beneath their sympathy. There is also no shortage of those who have just gotten bored with the Middle East conflict. But you’d have to go far to do better than New Yorker editor David Remnick’s comments to Yediot Ahronot’s Friday Political Supplement available in English translation on Coteret.com. Remnick trots out the usual stuff about a new generation of Jews who only see Israel as an “occupier” and rants that:

Even people like me, who understand that not only one side is responsible for the conflict and that the Palestinians missed an historic opportunity for peace in 2000, can’t take it anymore.

The U.S. administration is trying out of good will to get a peace process moving and in return Israel lays out conditions like the release Jonathan Pollard. Sorry, it can’t go on this way. The Jewish community is not just a nice breakfast at the Regency. You think it’s bad that a U.S. president is trying to make an effort to promote peace? That’s what’s hurting your feelings? Give me a break, you’ve got bigger problems. A shopping list in exchange for a two-month moratorium on settlement construction? Jesus.

It might be easier to understand Remnick’s position if he didn’t throw in that line about the Palestinians in 2000. But since he acknowledges that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected peace (and rejected an even better offer in 2008 and will now no longer even negotiate directly with Israel), it’s hard to accept his criticism of the Jewish state. After all, if Israel already knows that sacrifices of territory won’t bring peace, why should it make unilateral concessions simply to appease an American president who acts as if history began on the day he took office? Shouldn’t the fact that Israel is still faced with a Palestinian foe that is so committed to its destruction that it won’t make peace on even favorable terms influence the discussion?

As for Pollard, why shouldn’t the Israelis ask for clemency for a spy who has already served 25 years in prison when those who have spied on the United States for hostile powers — rather than a friend — have received far less or no prison time at all (such as the recent haul of Russian spies who were quickly exchanged)?

The point here is that Remnick, and other Jewish liberals like him, simply can’t be bothered to think seriously about the Middle East anymore. Sure, Israel, like the United States or any other democracy, has its flaws and its unpleasant actors, such as the rabbis who issued a directive opposing the sale of property to Arabs, which Remnick cites elsewhere in the interview without also noting that they were condemned by Israel’s prime minister and many Israeli rabbis. But why should that be a reason for Jews to distance themselves from it? The answer is that liberals like Remnick are simply tired of standing up for a cause that has become unpopular on the left.

Since being pro-Israel these days requires a degree of moral courage, they simply stamp their feet with childish impatience at the willingness of Israelis to stand up for themselves. While Israel will continue to struggle with a difficult security situation and a flawed political system, the unwillingness of liberals like Remnick to stick with it says far more about them than it does about the Jewish state.

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There Is a Moral Void in the Oval Office

It struck me in observing the FPI conference yesterday and in reading Eli Lake’s piece on Russian democracy activist Boris Nemtsov, the former Russian deputy prime minister, that there is a a growing realization by those who are and should be friends of America that the U.S. is AWOL when it comes to leading the West and the values the West stands for.

At yesterday’s session, former Spanish president Jose Maria Aznar reminded the audience that America is the “indispensable” nation and bemoaned the president’s decided lack of attention to Europe. (The U.S. is not looking at Europe,” he remarked.) When asked about his concerns regarding the Obama administration, he bluntly responded,

As you know, I am not a supporter of President Obama. … This is the first time the Europeans feel that for the American President, especially after the First and Second World War, Europe is not a priority. It is not an important part of the solution. … A lot of Europeans think Mr. Obama is not an American president. Now, he’s living in a moment of confusion, and disagrees in economic terms. … Politically, leadership is in my opinion weak. Economically, it is a very serious problem. I consider that the current economic American policy is a huge mistake, and in terms of security, it depends.

To send the message that the power, the force, in the sense of the United States, the presence of the United States is necessary to maintain. I hear every day organize and pull out the 19 troops, and another day, no. What is the policy of the United States. It is not possible if you want to maintain the capacity to be the leader in the world.

After his public remarks, I asked Aznar, who is a founder of the Friends of Israel Initiative, whether Israel delegitimizers have been inspired by Obama’s public animus to the Jewish state. He replied that when there is an opportunity, Israel’s delegitimizers grab it. (He also contends that things are better now between the U.S. and Israel, reflecting some observers’ misperception, I would argue, that the absence of public shouting matches denotes a more productive relationship.)

Eli’s piece provides more support for the unfortunate conclusion that Obama’s disinterest in human rights and yearning to remove conflicts with rivals and foes (even at the price of sacrificing our own interests) is leaving our friends bewildered. He explains with regard to Nemtsov :

“Russians do not know what Obama thinks about human rights and democracy,” he told a conference held by the Foreign Policy Initiative.

The criticism from Mr. Nemtsov highlights the Obama administration’s approach to improving relations with Russia that critics say has neglected past U.S. priorities for Russia, such as advancing democracy and the rule of law. Instead, the administration has sought to win Russian cooperation with U.S. goals at the United Nations, to sanction Iran and to win cooperation for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.

Here’s the stunner, conveyed by Eli:

In the meeting, Mr. Nemtsov presented Mr. Obama with a copy of a 2005 Senate resolution co-sponsored by then-Sen. Obama condemning the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Russian oligarch who was detained in 2005 on charges widely considered to be political retaliation from Mr. Putin, who was then Russia’s president.

Mr. Nemtsov said the president’s face had no expression when presented with the old resolution. He only said, “I know.”

“I was disappointed,” Mr. Nemtsov said of the encounter with Mr. Obama over Mr. Khodorkovsky. “I talked with [White House Russia specialist] Michael McFaul about that. He had a clear position about this case; he agreed with me. I don’t think Obama had a clear position. If Obama had this position, I am sure he would have responded.”

Think about that. The leader of the Free World is presented with information about one of the most highly publicized Russian human-rights violations and expresses no emotion or even interest in it. Can you image any other U.S. president reacting in this way?

In sum, the concern that Aznar and Nemstov expresses is one that conservatives have raised for some time: Obama’s lack of resolve and reticence on human rights is leaving allies in the lurch and making the world a more dangerous place. Obama, who is quite enamored of European opinion, would do well to listen to what some of its best representatives are saying.

It struck me in observing the FPI conference yesterday and in reading Eli Lake’s piece on Russian democracy activist Boris Nemtsov, the former Russian deputy prime minister, that there is a a growing realization by those who are and should be friends of America that the U.S. is AWOL when it comes to leading the West and the values the West stands for.

At yesterday’s session, former Spanish president Jose Maria Aznar reminded the audience that America is the “indispensable” nation and bemoaned the president’s decided lack of attention to Europe. (The U.S. is not looking at Europe,” he remarked.) When asked about his concerns regarding the Obama administration, he bluntly responded,

As you know, I am not a supporter of President Obama. … This is the first time the Europeans feel that for the American President, especially after the First and Second World War, Europe is not a priority. It is not an important part of the solution. … A lot of Europeans think Mr. Obama is not an American president. Now, he’s living in a moment of confusion, and disagrees in economic terms. … Politically, leadership is in my opinion weak. Economically, it is a very serious problem. I consider that the current economic American policy is a huge mistake, and in terms of security, it depends.

To send the message that the power, the force, in the sense of the United States, the presence of the United States is necessary to maintain. I hear every day organize and pull out the 19 troops, and another day, no. What is the policy of the United States. It is not possible if you want to maintain the capacity to be the leader in the world.

After his public remarks, I asked Aznar, who is a founder of the Friends of Israel Initiative, whether Israel delegitimizers have been inspired by Obama’s public animus to the Jewish state. He replied that when there is an opportunity, Israel’s delegitimizers grab it. (He also contends that things are better now between the U.S. and Israel, reflecting some observers’ misperception, I would argue, that the absence of public shouting matches denotes a more productive relationship.)

Eli’s piece provides more support for the unfortunate conclusion that Obama’s disinterest in human rights and yearning to remove conflicts with rivals and foes (even at the price of sacrificing our own interests) is leaving our friends bewildered. He explains with regard to Nemtsov :

“Russians do not know what Obama thinks about human rights and democracy,” he told a conference held by the Foreign Policy Initiative.

The criticism from Mr. Nemtsov highlights the Obama administration’s approach to improving relations with Russia that critics say has neglected past U.S. priorities for Russia, such as advancing democracy and the rule of law. Instead, the administration has sought to win Russian cooperation with U.S. goals at the United Nations, to sanction Iran and to win cooperation for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.

Here’s the stunner, conveyed by Eli:

In the meeting, Mr. Nemtsov presented Mr. Obama with a copy of a 2005 Senate resolution co-sponsored by then-Sen. Obama condemning the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Russian oligarch who was detained in 2005 on charges widely considered to be political retaliation from Mr. Putin, who was then Russia’s president.

Mr. Nemtsov said the president’s face had no expression when presented with the old resolution. He only said, “I know.”

“I was disappointed,” Mr. Nemtsov said of the encounter with Mr. Obama over Mr. Khodorkovsky. “I talked with [White House Russia specialist] Michael McFaul about that. He had a clear position about this case; he agreed with me. I don’t think Obama had a clear position. If Obama had this position, I am sure he would have responded.”

Think about that. The leader of the Free World is presented with information about one of the most highly publicized Russian human-rights violations and expresses no emotion or even interest in it. Can you image any other U.S. president reacting in this way?

In sum, the concern that Aznar and Nemstov expresses is one that conservatives have raised for some time: Obama’s lack of resolve and reticence on human rights is leaving allies in the lurch and making the world a more dangerous place. Obama, who is quite enamored of European opinion, would do well to listen to what some of its best representatives are saying.

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A More Dangerous World

COMMENTARY contributor Bret Stephens identifies the cumulative danger posed by an administration obsessed by multilateralism and possessing many false and bad ideas about international affairs:

Last week, Mr. Obama was so resoundingly rebuffed by other leaders at the G-20 summit in Seoul that even the New York Times noticed: Mr. Obama, the paper wrote, faced “stiff challenges… from the leaders of China, Britain, Germany and Brazil.” His administration has now been chastised or belittled by everyone from the Supreme Leader of Iran to the finance minister of Germany to the president of France to the dictator of Syria. What does it mean for global order when the world figures out that the U.S. president is someone who’s willing to take no for an answer?

The answer is that the United States becomes Europe. Except on a handful of topics, like trade and foreign aid, the foreign policy of the European Union, and that of most of its constituent states, amounts to a kind of diplomatic air guitar: furious motion, considerable imagination, but neither sound nor effect. When a European leader issues a stern demarche toward, say, Burma or Russia, nobody notices. And nobody cares.

And, as Bret points out, the world becomes more chaotic, and the smaller democracies get the shaft as a result of America’s feckless approach:

The small and distant abuses of power, would grow bolder and more frequent. America’s exhortations for restraint or decency would seem cheaper. Multipolarity is a theory that, inevitably, leads to old-fashioned spheres of influence. It has little regard for small states: Taiwan, Mongolia, Israel, Georgia, Latvia, Costa Rica.

That approach to foreign affairs is also characterized by an inordinate amount of disingenuousness. Obama says he’s in favor of free trade but loses the face-off with South Korea because he is on the side of the auto companies’ efforts to maintain protectionist barriers just a little bit longer. Obama says he’s a grand friend of Israel but continues the lopsided public bullying of Israel. Obama says he’s a great champion of human rights and democracy, but his policy choices are curiously lacking in any meaningful assistance for the oppressed and any real opposition to the oppressors. There is, to be blunt, a collapse of our moral standing and our credibility, which is frittered away in an effort to mask the essential amorality of our policy.

Gradually the bullies and the despots get the idea the U.S. can be played and its allies pushed about. We’ve been down this road before, and the results are never good.

COMMENTARY contributor Bret Stephens identifies the cumulative danger posed by an administration obsessed by multilateralism and possessing many false and bad ideas about international affairs:

Last week, Mr. Obama was so resoundingly rebuffed by other leaders at the G-20 summit in Seoul that even the New York Times noticed: Mr. Obama, the paper wrote, faced “stiff challenges… from the leaders of China, Britain, Germany and Brazil.” His administration has now been chastised or belittled by everyone from the Supreme Leader of Iran to the finance minister of Germany to the president of France to the dictator of Syria. What does it mean for global order when the world figures out that the U.S. president is someone who’s willing to take no for an answer?

The answer is that the United States becomes Europe. Except on a handful of topics, like trade and foreign aid, the foreign policy of the European Union, and that of most of its constituent states, amounts to a kind of diplomatic air guitar: furious motion, considerable imagination, but neither sound nor effect. When a European leader issues a stern demarche toward, say, Burma or Russia, nobody notices. And nobody cares.

And, as Bret points out, the world becomes more chaotic, and the smaller democracies get the shaft as a result of America’s feckless approach:

The small and distant abuses of power, would grow bolder and more frequent. America’s exhortations for restraint or decency would seem cheaper. Multipolarity is a theory that, inevitably, leads to old-fashioned spheres of influence. It has little regard for small states: Taiwan, Mongolia, Israel, Georgia, Latvia, Costa Rica.

That approach to foreign affairs is also characterized by an inordinate amount of disingenuousness. Obama says he’s in favor of free trade but loses the face-off with South Korea because he is on the side of the auto companies’ efforts to maintain protectionist barriers just a little bit longer. Obama says he’s a grand friend of Israel but continues the lopsided public bullying of Israel. Obama says he’s a great champion of human rights and democracy, but his policy choices are curiously lacking in any meaningful assistance for the oppressed and any real opposition to the oppressors. There is, to be blunt, a collapse of our moral standing and our credibility, which is frittered away in an effort to mask the essential amorality of our policy.

Gradually the bullies and the despots get the idea the U.S. can be played and its allies pushed about. We’ve been down this road before, and the results are never good.

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How’s the Peace Process Going?

The direct non-peace talks stopped being direct more than a month ago. Obama has tried to bribe and cajole Bibi into extending the settlement moratorium. It hasn’t worked, and the longer the hiatus, the less likely it seems that the talks would resume. And don’t expect things to improve, given the midterm elections’ results.

Elliott Abrams explains:

There is one clear bottom line from this election: Obama emerges from it a weakened president. And that, says ex-U.S. diplomat Elliott Abrams, means that “anyone who is trying to resist him feels probably that resistance is a little easier.” That will probably hold true in the case of the Middle East peace talks, where the U.S. president has been pushing the Israelis and Palestinians to come to an accord.

Now, says Abrams, “both sides out there [will] feel a little bit freer to push back.” And they’re almost certainly not the only ones who will see it that way. This election clearly does not make Barack Obama’s job as America’s diplomat in chief any easier.

In fact, there is so much downtime for the peace-talk negotiating team that its members are actually spending time talking to outside experts on efforts to promote democratization in Egypt. Maybe this is for real and bespeaks a recognition that their current sloth is a moral embarrassment and a strategic error. Or maybe this is just for show. But it also says something about the state of the non-peace, non-talks:

The fact that the key NSC regional officials participated in Tuesday’s meeting was interpreted by the outside foreign policy experts as a significant indicator that the Obama administration is giving more serious and high-level policy attention to the issue.

It may also be a sign as well that [Dennis] Ross and [Dan] Shapiro basically had both time and reason to devote to the issue because the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is currently on hold, and the Obama administration is “looking for a positive agenda in the region to talk about,” a participant posited. The Obama administration is also concerned, he suggested, that its previous diplomatic efforts to press Cairo in private conversations and in written statements to repeal its Emergency Law and to accept international elections monitors have been rejected or ignored.

I suspect there’s going to be a whole lot more rejecting and ignoring going on in the next two years. Obama has proven himself weak internationally and politically vulnerable at home; that is a recipe for international mischief-making by our foes and recalcitrance from our allies.

The direct non-peace talks stopped being direct more than a month ago. Obama has tried to bribe and cajole Bibi into extending the settlement moratorium. It hasn’t worked, and the longer the hiatus, the less likely it seems that the talks would resume. And don’t expect things to improve, given the midterm elections’ results.

Elliott Abrams explains:

There is one clear bottom line from this election: Obama emerges from it a weakened president. And that, says ex-U.S. diplomat Elliott Abrams, means that “anyone who is trying to resist him feels probably that resistance is a little easier.” That will probably hold true in the case of the Middle East peace talks, where the U.S. president has been pushing the Israelis and Palestinians to come to an accord.

Now, says Abrams, “both sides out there [will] feel a little bit freer to push back.” And they’re almost certainly not the only ones who will see it that way. This election clearly does not make Barack Obama’s job as America’s diplomat in chief any easier.

In fact, there is so much downtime for the peace-talk negotiating team that its members are actually spending time talking to outside experts on efforts to promote democratization in Egypt. Maybe this is for real and bespeaks a recognition that their current sloth is a moral embarrassment and a strategic error. Or maybe this is just for show. But it also says something about the state of the non-peace, non-talks:

The fact that the key NSC regional officials participated in Tuesday’s meeting was interpreted by the outside foreign policy experts as a significant indicator that the Obama administration is giving more serious and high-level policy attention to the issue.

It may also be a sign as well that [Dennis] Ross and [Dan] Shapiro basically had both time and reason to devote to the issue because the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is currently on hold, and the Obama administration is “looking for a positive agenda in the region to talk about,” a participant posited. The Obama administration is also concerned, he suggested, that its previous diplomatic efforts to press Cairo in private conversations and in written statements to repeal its Emergency Law and to accept international elections monitors have been rejected or ignored.

I suspect there’s going to be a whole lot more rejecting and ignoring going on in the next two years. Obama has proven himself weak internationally and politically vulnerable at home; that is a recipe for international mischief-making by our foes and recalcitrance from our allies.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Is Harry Reid down for the count? “Angle took full advantage of Reid’s position as a political insider, taunting him for his support of Democratic policies, from the stimulus to the health care bill. At one point, Angle told Reid to ‘man up’ – and later questioned how he became so wealthy as a public servant. By debate’s end, Reid had failed to land any significant blows on Angle. He looked unprepared for Angle’s barbs. With just one day until early voting becomes available to Nevada residents, Reid’s performance didn’t improve his precarious political standing.”

Angle also pummeled Reid in fundraising: $14.3 million vs. $2.8 million in the third quarter.

Angle wasn’t the only Republican woman who won on points in her debate. “Democrat Richard Blumenthal now leads Republican Linda McMahon by just five points in Connecticut’s race for the U.S. Senate in a survey conducted two nights after their third and final head-to-head debate.”

Nancy Pelosi is going to take the fall, bemoans Jonathan Cohn: “It’s not Pelosi’s fault Congress didn’t produce more liberal legislation. But she, not Harry Reid or Barack Obama, is the one most likely to lose her job because of that failure.” Unintentionally funny, but correct.

A low blow: “Obama in 2010 on the path of John McCain 2008?”

If you expected liberal feminists to smack down Jerry’s Brown’s camp, you aren’t cynical enough. “The president of the National Organization for Women may have said it’s wrong for anyone to call a woman a ‘whore,’ but the head of the California NOW affiliate says Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman is one. California NOW President Parry Bellasalma told the TPM blog on Thursday that the description of the Republican candidate for governor of California is accurate. ‘Meg Whitman could be described as ‘a political whore.’ Yes, that’s an accurate statement,’ Bellasalma said after a TPM blogger called to ask her about a story that appeared on the Daily Caller website.”

Failing Democrats are dealt a knockout punch – by their own party. “The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is tasked with keeping the party in the House majority after Nov. 2, began to make those unkindest of cuts last week, walking away, financially and figuratively, from more than half a dozen Democratic candidates. Call them ‘the Expendables,’ the first but certainly not last group to receive political pink slips from their party leaders. Among their ranks: Reps. Suzanne Kosmas (Fla.), Kathy Dahlkemper (Pa.) and Steve Driehaus (Ohio), as well as open-seat candidates in Tennessee, Indiana and Kansas.”

The conservative base is simply not going to go to the mat for a candidate already talking about raising taxes. Sometimes, when someone says he doesn’t want to be president, it’s wise to take him at his word.

Mort Zuckerman explains why the Middle East talks and Obama’s own credibility are on the ropes. “So why should the settlements have become the one issue to kill the talks? The key reason is that from the very beginning of his presidency, Obama put the construction in the settlements at the center of his Middle East strategy. It was the original sin that has hamstrung the possibility of successful talks. Public advocacy of the freeze not only put Israel in a bind, but it also put the Palestinians in an even tighter bind, giving both little room to maneuver. When Obama spoke repeatedly for a construction freeze in the West Bank as a public condition for the renewal of talks, it turned the settlement freeze from a dignified wish into a threshold demand that needed to be met in full. It also set a bar that made it impossible for the Palestinians to compromise. Abbas cannot be less Palestinian than the U.S. president.”

Is Harry Reid down for the count? “Angle took full advantage of Reid’s position as a political insider, taunting him for his support of Democratic policies, from the stimulus to the health care bill. At one point, Angle told Reid to ‘man up’ – and later questioned how he became so wealthy as a public servant. By debate’s end, Reid had failed to land any significant blows on Angle. He looked unprepared for Angle’s barbs. With just one day until early voting becomes available to Nevada residents, Reid’s performance didn’t improve his precarious political standing.”

Angle also pummeled Reid in fundraising: $14.3 million vs. $2.8 million in the third quarter.

Angle wasn’t the only Republican woman who won on points in her debate. “Democrat Richard Blumenthal now leads Republican Linda McMahon by just five points in Connecticut’s race for the U.S. Senate in a survey conducted two nights after their third and final head-to-head debate.”

Nancy Pelosi is going to take the fall, bemoans Jonathan Cohn: “It’s not Pelosi’s fault Congress didn’t produce more liberal legislation. But she, not Harry Reid or Barack Obama, is the one most likely to lose her job because of that failure.” Unintentionally funny, but correct.

A low blow: “Obama in 2010 on the path of John McCain 2008?”

If you expected liberal feminists to smack down Jerry’s Brown’s camp, you aren’t cynical enough. “The president of the National Organization for Women may have said it’s wrong for anyone to call a woman a ‘whore,’ but the head of the California NOW affiliate says Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman is one. California NOW President Parry Bellasalma told the TPM blog on Thursday that the description of the Republican candidate for governor of California is accurate. ‘Meg Whitman could be described as ‘a political whore.’ Yes, that’s an accurate statement,’ Bellasalma said after a TPM blogger called to ask her about a story that appeared on the Daily Caller website.”

Failing Democrats are dealt a knockout punch – by their own party. “The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is tasked with keeping the party in the House majority after Nov. 2, began to make those unkindest of cuts last week, walking away, financially and figuratively, from more than half a dozen Democratic candidates. Call them ‘the Expendables,’ the first but certainly not last group to receive political pink slips from their party leaders. Among their ranks: Reps. Suzanne Kosmas (Fla.), Kathy Dahlkemper (Pa.) and Steve Driehaus (Ohio), as well as open-seat candidates in Tennessee, Indiana and Kansas.”

The conservative base is simply not going to go to the mat for a candidate already talking about raising taxes. Sometimes, when someone says he doesn’t want to be president, it’s wise to take him at his word.

Mort Zuckerman explains why the Middle East talks and Obama’s own credibility are on the ropes. “So why should the settlements have become the one issue to kill the talks? The key reason is that from the very beginning of his presidency, Obama put the construction in the settlements at the center of his Middle East strategy. It was the original sin that has hamstrung the possibility of successful talks. Public advocacy of the freeze not only put Israel in a bind, but it also put the Palestinians in an even tighter bind, giving both little room to maneuver. When Obama spoke repeatedly for a construction freeze in the West Bank as a public condition for the renewal of talks, it turned the settlement freeze from a dignified wish into a threshold demand that needed to be met in full. It also set a bar that made it impossible for the Palestinians to compromise. Abbas cannot be less Palestinian than the U.S. president.”

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A Mess of His Own Making

Politico reports that Obama will probably not go to Ground Zero for 9/11, where he hasn’t visited since his campaign. Well, you can imagine the reaction if he did:

Obama’s aides … are unsure if they want to put him back in the middle of the Park51 controversy, which has damped down somewhat. Obama has not been to ground zero since he ran for president, when he and Republican nominee Sen. John McCain appeared there together on Sept. 11, 2008 — a rare bipartisan moment in a hard-fought campaign.

Last year, in his first commemoration of the Sept. 11 attacks as commander in chief, Obama and the first lady held a moment of silence on the south driveway of the White House. The president later spoke at the Pentagon to families and friends of the 184 people killed there.

This is the proverbial rock and a hard place. (“No matter where he goes, the president’s critics will likely speak out. If he doesn’t go to New York , Obama could be accused of dodging ground zero because of the Islamic center. If he does, he risks facing the anger of some Sept. 11 families and New York officials offended by his position.”)

What other locale has he avoided since the campaign? Why Israel, of course. He’s gotten some flack from American Jewish groups for not going. But once again, imagine the reaction if he showed up in the Jewish state. It would be hard to keep him out of reach of the 90 percent of Israelis who think he’s pro-Palestinian. Bad visuals of Israeli Jews screaming, waving signs, and potentially walking out in the Knesset must terrify the Obami.

We have gone from a president who was lionized by emergency and rescue workers at Ground Zero and who gave one of the best speeches (to the Knesset) on Israel ever given by a U.S. president (what even comes close?) to one who’s afraid to go to both. You can’t get more un-Bush than that. And in case you have forgotten:

Yes, it still makes me cry too.

Politico reports that Obama will probably not go to Ground Zero for 9/11, where he hasn’t visited since his campaign. Well, you can imagine the reaction if he did:

Obama’s aides … are unsure if they want to put him back in the middle of the Park51 controversy, which has damped down somewhat. Obama has not been to ground zero since he ran for president, when he and Republican nominee Sen. John McCain appeared there together on Sept. 11, 2008 — a rare bipartisan moment in a hard-fought campaign.

Last year, in his first commemoration of the Sept. 11 attacks as commander in chief, Obama and the first lady held a moment of silence on the south driveway of the White House. The president later spoke at the Pentagon to families and friends of the 184 people killed there.

This is the proverbial rock and a hard place. (“No matter where he goes, the president’s critics will likely speak out. If he doesn’t go to New York , Obama could be accused of dodging ground zero because of the Islamic center. If he does, he risks facing the anger of some Sept. 11 families and New York officials offended by his position.”)

What other locale has he avoided since the campaign? Why Israel, of course. He’s gotten some flack from American Jewish groups for not going. But once again, imagine the reaction if he showed up in the Jewish state. It would be hard to keep him out of reach of the 90 percent of Israelis who think he’s pro-Palestinian. Bad visuals of Israeli Jews screaming, waving signs, and potentially walking out in the Knesset must terrify the Obami.

We have gone from a president who was lionized by emergency and rescue workers at Ground Zero and who gave one of the best speeches (to the Knesset) on Israel ever given by a U.S. president (what even comes close?) to one who’s afraid to go to both. You can’t get more un-Bush than that. And in case you have forgotten:

Yes, it still makes me cry too.

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RE: Speaking of Pro-Israel

The Emergency Committee for Israel responded to the J Street gang’s inquiries late yesterday. Spokesman Michael Goldfarb went through the questions one by one (my comments in brackets):

“Always happy to guide the perplexed” [Bonus points for Maimonides reference], Goldfarb wrote, before taking on J Street. …

“Question: “ECI refuses to take a position on the two-state solution. But two-thirds of Israelis and American Jews support it. The last four prime ministers of Israel have. Will ECI stop hiding its true colors on the only possible way to achieve real peace and security for Israel as a Jewish, democratic homeland?”

Answer: ECI supports a two-state solution if Israel has defensible borders [not 1967 borders, obviously] and if the Palestinian state is stable, peace-loving [which isn't remotely in the cards, but we all should have goals] and anti-terrorist [like Sweden]. ECI does not support a “two-state solution” if one of the states is to be a terrorist state. And, yes, ECI believes there can be peace and security for Israel without having yet achieved a two-state solution. [It would help if the U.S. president were less overtly hostile, of course.]

Question: “Does ECI support the new peace talks starting this week, built on the notion that it should be possible to achieve a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?”

Answer: Yes. ["Notion" is a good way of putting it.]

Question: “Do they support the governments of Israel and of the United States in doing what they can to make them successful?”

Answer: Yes, if “success” means real peace and security. No, if “success” means the Obama administration [with J Street's blessing] pressuring Israel to make concessions that would strengthen anti-Israel extremists, weaken Israel’s security, decrease the chances of real peace, and lead to a terrorist state on Israel’s borders. [In other words, why would Israel trust the Obama administration, which has been indifferent or unhelpful on all these points?]

He then asks two pointed questions: “Does J Street support a two-state solution no matter what the character and borders of both states? Does J Street support peace and security for Israel in the absence of a Palestinian state?” The first is a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose proposition, because the J Street leftists get flummoxed by the notion of a “Jewish” state — no, really, they do. But if they actually said so or hedged to keep their anti-nationalist, anti-Zionist supporters and followers from hollering at them, they’d tip their hand that they are way outside the mainstream. The next is also a gotcha — because J Street has for some time argued that the two-state solution is essential to Israel’s security, sidestepping the current needs of the Jewish state to defend itself.

Now this has the makings of a lively and healthy debate. How about a real one — you know Peter Beinart and Jeremy Ben-Ami vs. a couple of the ECI team? Oh, it’d be lots and lots of fun. The J Streeters can even bring along  Stephen Walt and  John Mearsheimer for intellectual and moral support, of course.

The Emergency Committee for Israel responded to the J Street gang’s inquiries late yesterday. Spokesman Michael Goldfarb went through the questions one by one (my comments in brackets):

“Always happy to guide the perplexed” [Bonus points for Maimonides reference], Goldfarb wrote, before taking on J Street. …

“Question: “ECI refuses to take a position on the two-state solution. But two-thirds of Israelis and American Jews support it. The last four prime ministers of Israel have. Will ECI stop hiding its true colors on the only possible way to achieve real peace and security for Israel as a Jewish, democratic homeland?”

Answer: ECI supports a two-state solution if Israel has defensible borders [not 1967 borders, obviously] and if the Palestinian state is stable, peace-loving [which isn't remotely in the cards, but we all should have goals] and anti-terrorist [like Sweden]. ECI does not support a “two-state solution” if one of the states is to be a terrorist state. And, yes, ECI believes there can be peace and security for Israel without having yet achieved a two-state solution. [It would help if the U.S. president were less overtly hostile, of course.]

Question: “Does ECI support the new peace talks starting this week, built on the notion that it should be possible to achieve a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?”

Answer: Yes. ["Notion" is a good way of putting it.]

Question: “Do they support the governments of Israel and of the United States in doing what they can to make them successful?”

Answer: Yes, if “success” means real peace and security. No, if “success” means the Obama administration [with J Street's blessing] pressuring Israel to make concessions that would strengthen anti-Israel extremists, weaken Israel’s security, decrease the chances of real peace, and lead to a terrorist state on Israel’s borders. [In other words, why would Israel trust the Obama administration, which has been indifferent or unhelpful on all these points?]

He then asks two pointed questions: “Does J Street support a two-state solution no matter what the character and borders of both states? Does J Street support peace and security for Israel in the absence of a Palestinian state?” The first is a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose proposition, because the J Street leftists get flummoxed by the notion of a “Jewish” state — no, really, they do. But if they actually said so or hedged to keep their anti-nationalist, anti-Zionist supporters and followers from hollering at them, they’d tip their hand that they are way outside the mainstream. The next is also a gotcha — because J Street has for some time argued that the two-state solution is essential to Israel’s security, sidestepping the current needs of the Jewish state to defend itself.

Now this has the makings of a lively and healthy debate. How about a real one — you know Peter Beinart and Jeremy Ben-Ami vs. a couple of the ECI team? Oh, it’d be lots and lots of fun. The J Streeters can even bring along  Stephen Walt and  John Mearsheimer for intellectual and moral support, of course.

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Bibi-Obama Presser

The presser was long on platitudes and short on specifics. To reaffirm the “special relationship” (actually a term generally used for the U.S.-British relationship, which is less than special these days) is nice. Obama disputed that he had tried to distance the U.S. from Israel — entirely disingenuous but generally a good idea to close the public distance between the two countries. As the New York Times reports:

The two leaders were not specific about what “concrete steps” Mr. Netanyahu could take to move the peace talks along, though Mr. Obama seemed to suggest a timetable when he said it was his hope that direct talks would begin “well before” a moratorium on settlement construction expires this fall. The president said he believed that Mr. Netanyahu was “willing to take risks for peace.”

Informed observers really aren’t buying that much has changed:

Even so, Aaron David Miller, a longtime Middle East peace negotiator, said that Tuesday’s session at the White House reflected a “false calm” in the relationship.

“It’s symptomatic of the fact that neither man right now has a stake in a fight, a crisis, and both in fact have stakes in wanting to demonstrate that this relationship is functional,” Mr. Miller said, adding that he saw a “fundamental expectations gap” between the two leaders.

Netanyahu seemed pleased about the progress on sanctions against Iran, but there was not much new on that most critical issue:

Obama also asked Iran to “cease its provocative behavior,” and said that “as a consequence of hard work, internationally the toughest sanctions ever have been put on Iran, in addition to [the US's] robust sanctions.”

“We will continue to pressure Iran,” Obama added.

“We will work together against new threats,” Netanyahu said. “The biggest threat is Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. I appreciate the president’s work. I urge other leaders to follow the U.S. and pass tougher sanctions, especially in the energy sector.”

It’s never a bad thing for the U.S. president and the Israeli prime minister to be chummy in public. Nevertheless, it’s apparent that whenever Israel is the topic, Obama’s focus is on the “peace process” and not on the mullahs’ nuclear program. That is a central, but certainly not the only, failing in Obama’s Middle East policy.

The presser was long on platitudes and short on specifics. To reaffirm the “special relationship” (actually a term generally used for the U.S.-British relationship, which is less than special these days) is nice. Obama disputed that he had tried to distance the U.S. from Israel — entirely disingenuous but generally a good idea to close the public distance between the two countries. As the New York Times reports:

The two leaders were not specific about what “concrete steps” Mr. Netanyahu could take to move the peace talks along, though Mr. Obama seemed to suggest a timetable when he said it was his hope that direct talks would begin “well before” a moratorium on settlement construction expires this fall. The president said he believed that Mr. Netanyahu was “willing to take risks for peace.”

Informed observers really aren’t buying that much has changed:

Even so, Aaron David Miller, a longtime Middle East peace negotiator, said that Tuesday’s session at the White House reflected a “false calm” in the relationship.

“It’s symptomatic of the fact that neither man right now has a stake in a fight, a crisis, and both in fact have stakes in wanting to demonstrate that this relationship is functional,” Mr. Miller said, adding that he saw a “fundamental expectations gap” between the two leaders.

Netanyahu seemed pleased about the progress on sanctions against Iran, but there was not much new on that most critical issue:

Obama also asked Iran to “cease its provocative behavior,” and said that “as a consequence of hard work, internationally the toughest sanctions ever have been put on Iran, in addition to [the US's] robust sanctions.”

“We will continue to pressure Iran,” Obama added.

“We will work together against new threats,” Netanyahu said. “The biggest threat is Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. I appreciate the president’s work. I urge other leaders to follow the U.S. and pass tougher sanctions, especially in the energy sector.”

It’s never a bad thing for the U.S. president and the Israeli prime minister to be chummy in public. Nevertheless, it’s apparent that whenever Israel is the topic, Obama’s focus is on the “peace process” and not on the mullahs’ nuclear program. That is a central, but certainly not the only, failing in Obama’s Middle East policy.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Do you think the British public will figure out what rubbish is the latest pronouncement by their “health experts” that “fetuses before the age of 24 weeks do not feel pain, and thus may be rubbed out without even the tiniest bit of conscience-pricking for Mum or abortionist”? It would require them, after all, to ignore the “daily new discoveries in the science of the womb.”

The Washington Post could never figure out that its “conservative” blogger has nothing but contempt for conservatives. But he quit, so we wait with baited breath for the next “conservative.”

Anyone who cares to figure out what J Street is up to, can: “J Street clearly does not share a viewpoint with Kadima. If anything it shares a viewpoint with Meretz, Israel’s hippy-dippy left-wing eco-party that boasts all of three seats in the Knesset. The views J Street espouses have been overwhelmingly rejected in Israel. They’ve been overwhelmingly rejected in Congress.Unfortunately, this White House is exactly where J Street is on the peace process, on the blockade, on settlements, and you have to worry they’re in the same place on Iran, too, despite the occasional half-hearted insistence to the contrary.”

It’s not hard to figure out why the world is getting more dangerous: “The United States and its allies have all the tools at their disposal to defeat our shared enemies. Success will depend on three basic commitments: American leadership, a stronger Europe, and a common transatlantic vision. Unfortunately, we have recently been witnessing the opposite: an internationally reluctant American president, a Europe which is mired in its own problems, and an eroded Atlantic bond. … Today, the growing perception among European elites is that the U.S. president is not interested in Europe at all. Many of those elites instead believe that, as president, Obama is mainly concerned with improving America’s image in the Muslim world.” It took Obama to make European elites seem sane.

It’s not taking very long to figure out what’s wrong in Afghanistan: “A military source close to Gen. David Petraeus told Fox News that one of the first things the general will do when he takes over in Afghanistan is to modify the rules of engagement to make it easier for U.S. troops to engage in combat with the enemy, though a Petraeus spokesman pushed back on the claim. Troops on the ground and some military commanders have said the strict rules — aimed at preventing civilian casualties — have effectively forced the troops to fight with one hand tied behind their backs.” Now all we need to do is can the incompetent civilian officials. Then we might win this.

Jeremy Warner can figure out what Obama is up to in demanding Europe to follow his lead on spending: “Like much of what Mr Obama says and does these days, the US position is cynically political. With mid-term elections looming and the Democrats down in the polls, the administration hasn’t yet even begun to think about deficit reduction. … In berating others to carry on spending, Mr Obama is being neither politically wise nor economically sound. He should instead be attending to his own back yard by mapping out some sort of credible, long-term plan for returning the U.S. to balanced budgets.” Cynical or economically illiterate? Both, maybe.

Voters can figure out that “stimulus” means “stimulate the growth of government”: “Since the beginning of the recession (roughly January 2008), some 7.9 million jobs were lost in the private sector while 590,000 jobs were gained in the public one.  And since the passage of the stimulus bill (February 2009), over 2.6 million private jobs were lost, but the government workforce grew by 400,000.”

If you figure out a topic on which Peter Beinart is credible, please send word. Regarding Afghanistan, he wrote on June 23: “[Obama] should use McChrystal’s transgression to install a general who will publicly and unambiguously declare that America’s days in Afghanistan are numbered.” Well, instead he appointed Gen. Petraeus and started to walk back the timeline.

Do you think the British public will figure out what rubbish is the latest pronouncement by their “health experts” that “fetuses before the age of 24 weeks do not feel pain, and thus may be rubbed out without even the tiniest bit of conscience-pricking for Mum or abortionist”? It would require them, after all, to ignore the “daily new discoveries in the science of the womb.”

The Washington Post could never figure out that its “conservative” blogger has nothing but contempt for conservatives. But he quit, so we wait with baited breath for the next “conservative.”

Anyone who cares to figure out what J Street is up to, can: “J Street clearly does not share a viewpoint with Kadima. If anything it shares a viewpoint with Meretz, Israel’s hippy-dippy left-wing eco-party that boasts all of three seats in the Knesset. The views J Street espouses have been overwhelmingly rejected in Israel. They’ve been overwhelmingly rejected in Congress.Unfortunately, this White House is exactly where J Street is on the peace process, on the blockade, on settlements, and you have to worry they’re in the same place on Iran, too, despite the occasional half-hearted insistence to the contrary.”

It’s not hard to figure out why the world is getting more dangerous: “The United States and its allies have all the tools at their disposal to defeat our shared enemies. Success will depend on three basic commitments: American leadership, a stronger Europe, and a common transatlantic vision. Unfortunately, we have recently been witnessing the opposite: an internationally reluctant American president, a Europe which is mired in its own problems, and an eroded Atlantic bond. … Today, the growing perception among European elites is that the U.S. president is not interested in Europe at all. Many of those elites instead believe that, as president, Obama is mainly concerned with improving America’s image in the Muslim world.” It took Obama to make European elites seem sane.

It’s not taking very long to figure out what’s wrong in Afghanistan: “A military source close to Gen. David Petraeus told Fox News that one of the first things the general will do when he takes over in Afghanistan is to modify the rules of engagement to make it easier for U.S. troops to engage in combat with the enemy, though a Petraeus spokesman pushed back on the claim. Troops on the ground and some military commanders have said the strict rules — aimed at preventing civilian casualties — have effectively forced the troops to fight with one hand tied behind their backs.” Now all we need to do is can the incompetent civilian officials. Then we might win this.

Jeremy Warner can figure out what Obama is up to in demanding Europe to follow his lead on spending: “Like much of what Mr Obama says and does these days, the US position is cynically political. With mid-term elections looming and the Democrats down in the polls, the administration hasn’t yet even begun to think about deficit reduction. … In berating others to carry on spending, Mr Obama is being neither politically wise nor economically sound. He should instead be attending to his own back yard by mapping out some sort of credible, long-term plan for returning the U.S. to balanced budgets.” Cynical or economically illiterate? Both, maybe.

Voters can figure out that “stimulus” means “stimulate the growth of government”: “Since the beginning of the recession (roughly January 2008), some 7.9 million jobs were lost in the private sector while 590,000 jobs were gained in the public one.  And since the passage of the stimulus bill (February 2009), over 2.6 million private jobs were lost, but the government workforce grew by 400,000.”

If you figure out a topic on which Peter Beinart is credible, please send word. Regarding Afghanistan, he wrote on June 23: “[Obama] should use McChrystal’s transgression to install a general who will publicly and unambiguously declare that America’s days in Afghanistan are numbered.” Well, instead he appointed Gen. Petraeus and started to walk back the timeline.

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Speaking Truth to the “Life Lie”

Former Norwegian diplomat Sven Olaf Eid e-mailed a response to my April 20 post about Israel’s Independence Day (“There Could Have Been Two Independence Days”). The post quoted Abba Eban’s 1958 speech to the UN laying responsibility for the Arab refugees on the Arab leaders who had rejected the UN two-state solution in 1947 — and the five Arab countries that sent their armies to destroy the sliver of a Jewish state on the day it declared its independence in 1948.

Mr. Eid wrote that he agreed with the post but wanted to add an important point made in his August 17, 2006, Wall Street Journal letter, which read as follows:

Based on my experience from service with the United Nations in Egypt, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon in the 1950s and ’60s, along with several later visits to the region and lifelong studies of its history, I present the following comments regarding [Lebanon’s] suffering.

The U.N.’s partition of Palestine in 1947 was the only possible, realistic situation. The partition would have come about anyhow due to the situation on the ground. But especially since the U.N. Relief and Works Agency took responsibility for the Arab refugee problem in 1949, the U.N. has represented a hindrance to the peaceful settlement of the partition conflict by taking the responsibility for the refugees from the responsible Arab countries: Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is only one of many in the region, but it has since served as the bouc emissaire for all the religious and political problems in the Islamic world.

Much-greater human problems concerning territories and refugees were solved (without the U.N. of course) after World War II. The Arab states, helped by the U.N., are responsible for keeping the Israeli-Palestinian conflict alive and have used it cleverly to overshadow their lack of religious and political will and/or capacity to civilize their societies. The Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was an outstanding exception, and we know what happened to him. Another was King Hussein of Jordan. But apart from that, the absence of statesmen, intellectuals and journalists is remarkable.

The great dramatist Henrik Ibsen described a human phenomenon: livslognen or, here in Spain, la mentira vital. “The life lie”: this bigoted belief that all one’s problems are the fault of others. In my opinion, that very clearly characterizes the Arab world’s general politics since World War II.

Since the 1948 war they started, the Arab states have kept the resulting refugees (and generation after generation of their children) in squalid camps, lest their resettlement be deemed an acceptance of Israel. The refugees in Lebanon have not been given rights to hold property, obtain higher education, or work in numerous professions, much less the right of citizenship in the country in which they have lived all or most of their lives over six decades. Instead, they are kept in a culture of dependency served by UNRWA — a “temporary” UN agency formed in 1949, now a bloated bureaucracy in its seventh decade and funded primarily by the U.S. and other Western countries.

The refugee problem will not be solved by “negotiations” between Israel and Mahmoud Abbas. The solution will require a fundamental change in perspective — one that might begin if a U.S. president were ever to travel to Cairo and call for an end to UNRWA, in a speech that would term the treatment of Arab refugees by Arab countries an affront to human rights, and that would end by challenging the leaders of the Arab countries to “tear down those camps.”

Former Norwegian diplomat Sven Olaf Eid e-mailed a response to my April 20 post about Israel’s Independence Day (“There Could Have Been Two Independence Days”). The post quoted Abba Eban’s 1958 speech to the UN laying responsibility for the Arab refugees on the Arab leaders who had rejected the UN two-state solution in 1947 — and the five Arab countries that sent their armies to destroy the sliver of a Jewish state on the day it declared its independence in 1948.

Mr. Eid wrote that he agreed with the post but wanted to add an important point made in his August 17, 2006, Wall Street Journal letter, which read as follows:

Based on my experience from service with the United Nations in Egypt, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon in the 1950s and ’60s, along with several later visits to the region and lifelong studies of its history, I present the following comments regarding [Lebanon’s] suffering.

The U.N.’s partition of Palestine in 1947 was the only possible, realistic situation. The partition would have come about anyhow due to the situation on the ground. But especially since the U.N. Relief and Works Agency took responsibility for the Arab refugee problem in 1949, the U.N. has represented a hindrance to the peaceful settlement of the partition conflict by taking the responsibility for the refugees from the responsible Arab countries: Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is only one of many in the region, but it has since served as the bouc emissaire for all the religious and political problems in the Islamic world.

Much-greater human problems concerning territories and refugees were solved (without the U.N. of course) after World War II. The Arab states, helped by the U.N., are responsible for keeping the Israeli-Palestinian conflict alive and have used it cleverly to overshadow their lack of religious and political will and/or capacity to civilize their societies. The Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was an outstanding exception, and we know what happened to him. Another was King Hussein of Jordan. But apart from that, the absence of statesmen, intellectuals and journalists is remarkable.

The great dramatist Henrik Ibsen described a human phenomenon: livslognen or, here in Spain, la mentira vital. “The life lie”: this bigoted belief that all one’s problems are the fault of others. In my opinion, that very clearly characterizes the Arab world’s general politics since World War II.

Since the 1948 war they started, the Arab states have kept the resulting refugees (and generation after generation of their children) in squalid camps, lest their resettlement be deemed an acceptance of Israel. The refugees in Lebanon have not been given rights to hold property, obtain higher education, or work in numerous professions, much less the right of citizenship in the country in which they have lived all or most of their lives over six decades. Instead, they are kept in a culture of dependency served by UNRWA — a “temporary” UN agency formed in 1949, now a bloated bureaucracy in its seventh decade and funded primarily by the U.S. and other Western countries.

The refugee problem will not be solved by “negotiations” between Israel and Mahmoud Abbas. The solution will require a fundamental change in perspective — one that might begin if a U.S. president were ever to travel to Cairo and call for an end to UNRWA, in a speech that would term the treatment of Arab refugees by Arab countries an affront to human rights, and that would end by challenging the leaders of the Arab countries to “tear down those camps.”

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Israel Prepares for the Enemy It Faces

In contrast with the Obama administration, which perpetually talks down the potential for a military strike, Israeli officials are beginning to talk openly about such action. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The Israeli security establishment is divided over whether it needs Washington’s blessing if Israel decides to attack Iran, Israeli officials say, as the U.S. campaign for sanctions drags on and Tehran steadily develops greater nuclear capability.

Some senior Israeli officials say in interviews that they see signs Washington may be willing to live with a nuclear-armed Iran, an eventuality that Israel says it won’t accept. Compounding Israeli concerns were U.S. statements this past weekend that underscored U.S. resistance to a military option. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sunday discussed a memo to National Security Adviser James Jones warning that the U.S. needed new strategies, including how to contain a nuclear Iran—suggesting that Iran could reach nuclear capability without any foreign military force trying to stop it.

Until now Bibi has played along both with the Obama engagement gambit and the sanctions effort, but we now hear that “Israeli officials have increasingly voiced frustration over the slow pace of diplomatic efforts to get sanctions in place.” We are, after all, running out of time. The concern for the Israelis tells us much about the state of U.S.-Israel relations and the real weak link in going after Iranian nuclear capabilities:

Many Israeli military experts say Israel can easily cope with any military retaliation by Iran in response to a strike. Iran’s medium-range rockets would cause damage and casualties in Israel, but they aren’t very accurate, and Israel’s sophisticated missile-defense system would likely knock many out midflight. Israel has similarly proved it can handle attacks against Israel by Hezbollah and Hamas. Israel also hosts a contingent of U.S. troops attached to a radar system to help give early warning against incoming rocket attacks.

More worrying to Israeli strategic planners examining possible attack scenarios is the possibility that Iran would respond to an Israeli attack by ramping up support to groups battling U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to recently retired officials familiar with the military’s thinking on Iran. If American soldiers start dying in greater numbers as a result of an Israeli unilateral attack, Americans could turn against Israel.

The debate and planning go on within Israel, which, unlike the U.S. president, does not have the luxury of procrastination or the ability to wish away the looming threat it faces.

Meanwhile, a newly released unclassified report on Iran’s military and terrorist activities is worth a read, especially the description of its foreign policy goals and tools — “diplomacy, economic leverage, soft power, and active sponsorship of terrorist and paramilitary groups are the tools Iran uses to drive its aggressive foreign policy.” Left unsaid is the lunacy of expecting that such a regime would voluntarily — unless its survival were threatened — give up the most powerful tools it could acquire: nuclear weapons. Also of note is the section on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qod Forces, which are “well established in the Middle East and North Africa, and recent years have witnessed an increased presence in Latin America, particularly Venezuela.” The report also details “Iranian Support to Terrorists and Regional Military Groups” — the very sorts of groups Obama said he is most concerned might acquire a nuclear weapon.

So the gap between the Israelis’ planning and ours is vast, as is the mismatch between the nature of the Iranian regime and our chosen strategy for thwarting its nuclear ambitions. Whatever the merits and risks of a military strike, at least Israel is focused on the real world that confronts it and an enemy determined to use every weapon to undermine and destroy the Jewish state. As for the United States, our meandering, slow walk through engagement and toward itty-bitty sanctions seems spectacularly unsuited to blocking the ambitions of the regime described in the report.

In contrast with the Obama administration, which perpetually talks down the potential for a military strike, Israeli officials are beginning to talk openly about such action. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The Israeli security establishment is divided over whether it needs Washington’s blessing if Israel decides to attack Iran, Israeli officials say, as the U.S. campaign for sanctions drags on and Tehran steadily develops greater nuclear capability.

Some senior Israeli officials say in interviews that they see signs Washington may be willing to live with a nuclear-armed Iran, an eventuality that Israel says it won’t accept. Compounding Israeli concerns were U.S. statements this past weekend that underscored U.S. resistance to a military option. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sunday discussed a memo to National Security Adviser James Jones warning that the U.S. needed new strategies, including how to contain a nuclear Iran—suggesting that Iran could reach nuclear capability without any foreign military force trying to stop it.

Until now Bibi has played along both with the Obama engagement gambit and the sanctions effort, but we now hear that “Israeli officials have increasingly voiced frustration over the slow pace of diplomatic efforts to get sanctions in place.” We are, after all, running out of time. The concern for the Israelis tells us much about the state of U.S.-Israel relations and the real weak link in going after Iranian nuclear capabilities:

Many Israeli military experts say Israel can easily cope with any military retaliation by Iran in response to a strike. Iran’s medium-range rockets would cause damage and casualties in Israel, but they aren’t very accurate, and Israel’s sophisticated missile-defense system would likely knock many out midflight. Israel has similarly proved it can handle attacks against Israel by Hezbollah and Hamas. Israel also hosts a contingent of U.S. troops attached to a radar system to help give early warning against incoming rocket attacks.

More worrying to Israeli strategic planners examining possible attack scenarios is the possibility that Iran would respond to an Israeli attack by ramping up support to groups battling U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to recently retired officials familiar with the military’s thinking on Iran. If American soldiers start dying in greater numbers as a result of an Israeli unilateral attack, Americans could turn against Israel.

The debate and planning go on within Israel, which, unlike the U.S. president, does not have the luxury of procrastination or the ability to wish away the looming threat it faces.

Meanwhile, a newly released unclassified report on Iran’s military and terrorist activities is worth a read, especially the description of its foreign policy goals and tools — “diplomacy, economic leverage, soft power, and active sponsorship of terrorist and paramilitary groups are the tools Iran uses to drive its aggressive foreign policy.” Left unsaid is the lunacy of expecting that such a regime would voluntarily — unless its survival were threatened — give up the most powerful tools it could acquire: nuclear weapons. Also of note is the section on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qod Forces, which are “well established in the Middle East and North Africa, and recent years have witnessed an increased presence in Latin America, particularly Venezuela.” The report also details “Iranian Support to Terrorists and Regional Military Groups” — the very sorts of groups Obama said he is most concerned might acquire a nuclear weapon.

So the gap between the Israelis’ planning and ours is vast, as is the mismatch between the nature of the Iranian regime and our chosen strategy for thwarting its nuclear ambitions. Whatever the merits and risks of a military strike, at least Israel is focused on the real world that confronts it and an enemy determined to use every weapon to undermine and destroy the Jewish state. As for the United States, our meandering, slow walk through engagement and toward itty-bitty sanctions seems spectacularly unsuited to blocking the ambitions of the regime described in the report.

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Why Didn’t Obama Call Off the Ambush?

There is an obvious reason why the Israeli prime minister canceled his attendance at President Obama’s nuclear security summit: he sought to avoid a combined Egyptian and Turkish attack on Israel’s nuclear program.

But there is an important follow-up question that is of far greater consequence: why do Egypt and Turkey, both American allies, feel at liberty to show up in Washington D.C. at a conference organized by the U.S. president and dump on one of America’s closest allies?

This latest incident is not really about Israel’s relations with Egypt and Turkey; both countries can be counted on to take cheap shots at Israel whenever they can, especially the increasingly Islamist Turkey. The critical issue is why they believed they had a green light to engage in such theatrics. Upon hearing of the ambush they were planning, Obama or Clinton could have sent a very clear message to the Turkish prime minister and the Egyptian dictator: “You either come to Washington and behave yourselves, or stay home. This is a respectable conference, not a platform for anti-Israel grandstanding.”

But clearly, Obama made no such call, and clearly he did not instruct the secretary of state to deliver a 43-minute tongue-lashing to the leaders of either country, as she has recently shown herself capable of doing. There are two possible explanations, and I’m not sure which is more disturbing. Obama either welcomed the prospect of another humiliation of Netanyahu, or he was afraid to stand up to two Muslim leaders. Perhaps both are true.

In his pettiness, Obama has once again lost perspective on what really matters. What could have been a useful opportunity to present a unified front against Iran’s nuclear ambitions has now descended into a spectacle of pointless drama not terribly dissimilar from a meeting of the Arab League. In his decision to indulge Middle East leaders in their obsessive desire to castigate Israel, Obama has once again shown his utter lack of interest in confronting the real threat to America’s national security.

There is an obvious reason why the Israeli prime minister canceled his attendance at President Obama’s nuclear security summit: he sought to avoid a combined Egyptian and Turkish attack on Israel’s nuclear program.

But there is an important follow-up question that is of far greater consequence: why do Egypt and Turkey, both American allies, feel at liberty to show up in Washington D.C. at a conference organized by the U.S. president and dump on one of America’s closest allies?

This latest incident is not really about Israel’s relations with Egypt and Turkey; both countries can be counted on to take cheap shots at Israel whenever they can, especially the increasingly Islamist Turkey. The critical issue is why they believed they had a green light to engage in such theatrics. Upon hearing of the ambush they were planning, Obama or Clinton could have sent a very clear message to the Turkish prime minister and the Egyptian dictator: “You either come to Washington and behave yourselves, or stay home. This is a respectable conference, not a platform for anti-Israel grandstanding.”

But clearly, Obama made no such call, and clearly he did not instruct the secretary of state to deliver a 43-minute tongue-lashing to the leaders of either country, as she has recently shown herself capable of doing. There are two possible explanations, and I’m not sure which is more disturbing. Obama either welcomed the prospect of another humiliation of Netanyahu, or he was afraid to stand up to two Muslim leaders. Perhaps both are true.

In his pettiness, Obama has once again lost perspective on what really matters. What could have been a useful opportunity to present a unified front against Iran’s nuclear ambitions has now descended into a spectacle of pointless drama not terribly dissimilar from a meeting of the Arab League. In his decision to indulge Middle East leaders in their obsessive desire to castigate Israel, Obama has once again shown his utter lack of interest in confronting the real threat to America’s national security.

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Obama’s Empty Nuclear Posturing

I find it hard to get excited about the Nuclear Posture Review released today by the Obama administration, in part because the relationship between “declaratory” nuclear policy and actual nuclear policy has always been tenuous at best. During the Cold War, the U.S. always reserved the right of first use of nuclear weapons, meaning that it if the Red Army rolled into Europe, we would supposedly nuke Moscow. What would have happened in an actual World War III is hard to know, but there is good reason to doubt that any U.S. president would have been the first to order nuclear escalation, whether the Russian hordes were crossing the Fulda Gap or not.

Likewise, today, for all the speculation going on about whether the U.S. will extend its nuclear umbrella to Iran’s neighbors in case the Islamic Republic acquires nuclear weapons, there is good cause to doubt whether the U.S. (especially under the leadership of Nobel Laureate Barack Obama!) would really be prepared to incinerate Tehran in the event of Iranian aggression against Saudi Arabia or even Israel.

Thus, I don’t attach much significance to the Obama administration’s narrowing the categories under which the U.S. would supposedly use nuclear weapons. As the Washington Post account notes:

Under the new policy, the administration will foreswear the use of the deadly weapons against nonnuclear countries, officials said, in contrast to previous administrations, which indicated they might use nuclear arms against nonnuclear states in retaliation for a biological or chemical attack.

But Obama included a major caveat: The countries must be in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations under international treaties. That loophole would mean Iran would remain on the potential target list.

I suppose the administration gets credit for resisting liberal pressure to foreswear any first use of nukes, but, to my mind, any such policy, whether it remains on the books or not, is not terribly credible. It’s fine to keep a small nugget of deterrence alive by not formally burying it, but it’s hard to imagine the U.S. ever using nukes unless it had first been attacked with WMD – meaning nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. The Obama review says that countries that employ only biological or chemical weapons won’t be nuked unless they’re out of compliance with nuclear nonproliferation treaties. Actually, the administration is leaving even more wiggle room than that. According to the New York Times:

White House officials said the new strategy would include the option of reconsidering the use of nuclear retaliation against a biological attack, if the development of such weapons reached a level that made the United States vulnerable to a devastating strike.

In short, the Obama policy isn’t that big of a change from the policy it inherited. It is, as the Washington Post has it, a “middle course.”

To my mind, the real test of our nonproliferation policy isn’t how we claim we will respond to hypothetical scenarios but rather what we do about actual current dangers. In regard to Iran – the world’s No. 1 proliferation threat – the auguries aren’t propitious, with the Financial Times reporting that a new round of sanctions won’t be on the UN Security Council agenda in April. Thus, Obama’s threats to hit Iran with tough sanctions if his entreaties to talk were rejected are increasingly being exposed as hollow. That kind of wishy-washiness is something that Iran and other rogue regimes understand. By comparison, the theoretical language contained in the Nuclear Posture Review seems more like, well, academic posturing.

I find it hard to get excited about the Nuclear Posture Review released today by the Obama administration, in part because the relationship between “declaratory” nuclear policy and actual nuclear policy has always been tenuous at best. During the Cold War, the U.S. always reserved the right of first use of nuclear weapons, meaning that it if the Red Army rolled into Europe, we would supposedly nuke Moscow. What would have happened in an actual World War III is hard to know, but there is good reason to doubt that any U.S. president would have been the first to order nuclear escalation, whether the Russian hordes were crossing the Fulda Gap or not.

Likewise, today, for all the speculation going on about whether the U.S. will extend its nuclear umbrella to Iran’s neighbors in case the Islamic Republic acquires nuclear weapons, there is good cause to doubt whether the U.S. (especially under the leadership of Nobel Laureate Barack Obama!) would really be prepared to incinerate Tehran in the event of Iranian aggression against Saudi Arabia or even Israel.

Thus, I don’t attach much significance to the Obama administration’s narrowing the categories under which the U.S. would supposedly use nuclear weapons. As the Washington Post account notes:

Under the new policy, the administration will foreswear the use of the deadly weapons against nonnuclear countries, officials said, in contrast to previous administrations, which indicated they might use nuclear arms against nonnuclear states in retaliation for a biological or chemical attack.

But Obama included a major caveat: The countries must be in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations under international treaties. That loophole would mean Iran would remain on the potential target list.

I suppose the administration gets credit for resisting liberal pressure to foreswear any first use of nukes, but, to my mind, any such policy, whether it remains on the books or not, is not terribly credible. It’s fine to keep a small nugget of deterrence alive by not formally burying it, but it’s hard to imagine the U.S. ever using nukes unless it had first been attacked with WMD – meaning nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. The Obama review says that countries that employ only biological or chemical weapons won’t be nuked unless they’re out of compliance with nuclear nonproliferation treaties. Actually, the administration is leaving even more wiggle room than that. According to the New York Times:

White House officials said the new strategy would include the option of reconsidering the use of nuclear retaliation against a biological attack, if the development of such weapons reached a level that made the United States vulnerable to a devastating strike.

In short, the Obama policy isn’t that big of a change from the policy it inherited. It is, as the Washington Post has it, a “middle course.”

To my mind, the real test of our nonproliferation policy isn’t how we claim we will respond to hypothetical scenarios but rather what we do about actual current dangers. In regard to Iran – the world’s No. 1 proliferation threat – the auguries aren’t propitious, with the Financial Times reporting that a new round of sanctions won’t be on the UN Security Council agenda in April. Thus, Obama’s threats to hit Iran with tough sanctions if his entreaties to talk were rejected are increasingly being exposed as hollow. That kind of wishy-washiness is something that Iran and other rogue regimes understand. By comparison, the theoretical language contained in the Nuclear Posture Review seems more like, well, academic posturing.

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RE: The Fallout

Republican House Minority Whip Eric Cantor has released a blistering critique of the Obama anti-Israel gambit:

To say that I am deeply concerned with the irresponsible comments that the White House, Vice President, and the Secretary of State have made against Israel is an understatement. In an effort to ingratiate our country with the Arab world, this Administration has shown a troubling eagerness to undercut our allies and friends. Israel has always been committed to the peace process, including advocating for direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians, in effort to bring this conflict to an end. Unfortunately, the Palestinian Government continues to insist on indirect talks and slowing down the process. …

While it condemns Israel, the Administration continues to ignore a host of Palestinian provocations that undermine prospects for peace in the region. Where is the outrage when top Fatah officials call for riots on the Temple Mount? Why does the Palestinian Authority get a pass when it holds a ceremony glorifying the woman responsible for one of the deadliest terror attack in Israel’s history? Surely, the Administration’s double standard has set back the peace process. …

Israel continues to be a world leader in the fight against terrorism and speak out against the prospects of a nuclear Iran. For this Administration to treat our special relationship with Israel, one of our closest and most strategic Democratic allies, in this fashion is beyond irresponsible and jeopardizes America’s national security.

Minority Leader John Boehner, embellishing on a brief response over the weekend has weighed in as well:

The Administration’s decision to escalate its rhetoric following Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel is not merely irresponsible, it is an affront to the values and foundation of our long-term relationship with a close friend and ally. The Administration has demonstrated a repeated pattern since it took office:  while it makes concessions to countries acting contrary to U.S. national interests, it ignores or snubs the commitments, shared values and sacrifices of many of our country’s best allies. If the Administration wants to work toward resolving the conflict in the Middle East, it should focus its efforts on Iran’s behavior, including its pursuit of nuclear weapons, its state-sponsorship of terrorism, its crushing of domestic democratic forces, and the impact its behavior is having, not just on Israel, but also on the calculations of other countries in the region as well as on the credibility of international nonproliferation efforts.  House Republicans remain committed to our long-standing bilateral friendship with Israel, as well as to the commitments this country has made.

These statements are significant in that they put the Republican Congressional leadership squarely on the side of Israel supporters, including AIPAC and the ADL, which have objected strenuously to the misplaced priorities and bizarrely hostile treatment shown to our ally Israel. The focus will now be on the Democrats: do they defend the adminsitration or challenge it to clean up the mess made over the last few days?

It is not a good thing for support for Israel to break down on party lines. That has not been the case historically. As noted earlier, in 1991, three founders of the Republican Jewish Coalition — Max Fisher, George Klein, and Dick Fox — penned a letter to then President George H.W. Bush strongly protesting the cutoff of loan guarantees as a lever to get (yes, nearly two decades and not much has changed) Israel to knuckle under at the bargaining table (then it was Madrid). It is the bipartisan support for Israel in Congress and in the United States at large which has been critical to the maintainence of a robust and warm alliance between the two countries. That it is fraying now, when the most critical national-security threat to both (Iran’s nuclear ambitions) looms large, is especially troubling. And that, in the statements from pro-Israel Republicans, AIPAC, the ADL, and others, is what the administration is being asked to focus on. But then, they have no solution or game plan — it seems — on Iran. So beating up on Israel passes the time and excuses, in their own mind, the inactivity on that most critical issue.

A bipartisan coalition in support of Israel, in which stated principles trump partisan loyalty and political convenience, has been the cornerstone of the U.S.-Israel relationship. We are reminded now that for a president to enthusiastically lead, rather than decimate, that coalition is essential. What’s indispensible is a U.S.president who does more than mouth platitudes about our enduring relationship with the Jewish state. What is needed is a president who does not adopt the rhetoric and the bargaining posture of  intransigent Palestinians waiting for the U.S. to deliver Israel on a platter. Can our relationship survive without such a president? We are regrettably going to find out.

Republican House Minority Whip Eric Cantor has released a blistering critique of the Obama anti-Israel gambit:

To say that I am deeply concerned with the irresponsible comments that the White House, Vice President, and the Secretary of State have made against Israel is an understatement. In an effort to ingratiate our country with the Arab world, this Administration has shown a troubling eagerness to undercut our allies and friends. Israel has always been committed to the peace process, including advocating for direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians, in effort to bring this conflict to an end. Unfortunately, the Palestinian Government continues to insist on indirect talks and slowing down the process. …

While it condemns Israel, the Administration continues to ignore a host of Palestinian provocations that undermine prospects for peace in the region. Where is the outrage when top Fatah officials call for riots on the Temple Mount? Why does the Palestinian Authority get a pass when it holds a ceremony glorifying the woman responsible for one of the deadliest terror attack in Israel’s history? Surely, the Administration’s double standard has set back the peace process. …

Israel continues to be a world leader in the fight against terrorism and speak out against the prospects of a nuclear Iran. For this Administration to treat our special relationship with Israel, one of our closest and most strategic Democratic allies, in this fashion is beyond irresponsible and jeopardizes America’s national security.

Minority Leader John Boehner, embellishing on a brief response over the weekend has weighed in as well:

The Administration’s decision to escalate its rhetoric following Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel is not merely irresponsible, it is an affront to the values and foundation of our long-term relationship with a close friend and ally. The Administration has demonstrated a repeated pattern since it took office:  while it makes concessions to countries acting contrary to U.S. national interests, it ignores or snubs the commitments, shared values and sacrifices of many of our country’s best allies. If the Administration wants to work toward resolving the conflict in the Middle East, it should focus its efforts on Iran’s behavior, including its pursuit of nuclear weapons, its state-sponsorship of terrorism, its crushing of domestic democratic forces, and the impact its behavior is having, not just on Israel, but also on the calculations of other countries in the region as well as on the credibility of international nonproliferation efforts.  House Republicans remain committed to our long-standing bilateral friendship with Israel, as well as to the commitments this country has made.

These statements are significant in that they put the Republican Congressional leadership squarely on the side of Israel supporters, including AIPAC and the ADL, which have objected strenuously to the misplaced priorities and bizarrely hostile treatment shown to our ally Israel. The focus will now be on the Democrats: do they defend the adminsitration or challenge it to clean up the mess made over the last few days?

It is not a good thing for support for Israel to break down on party lines. That has not been the case historically. As noted earlier, in 1991, three founders of the Republican Jewish Coalition — Max Fisher, George Klein, and Dick Fox — penned a letter to then President George H.W. Bush strongly protesting the cutoff of loan guarantees as a lever to get (yes, nearly two decades and not much has changed) Israel to knuckle under at the bargaining table (then it was Madrid). It is the bipartisan support for Israel in Congress and in the United States at large which has been critical to the maintainence of a robust and warm alliance between the two countries. That it is fraying now, when the most critical national-security threat to both (Iran’s nuclear ambitions) looms large, is especially troubling. And that, in the statements from pro-Israel Republicans, AIPAC, the ADL, and others, is what the administration is being asked to focus on. But then, they have no solution or game plan — it seems — on Iran. So beating up on Israel passes the time and excuses, in their own mind, the inactivity on that most critical issue.

A bipartisan coalition in support of Israel, in which stated principles trump partisan loyalty and political convenience, has been the cornerstone of the U.S.-Israel relationship. We are reminded now that for a president to enthusiastically lead, rather than decimate, that coalition is essential. What’s indispensible is a U.S.president who does more than mouth platitudes about our enduring relationship with the Jewish state. What is needed is a president who does not adopt the rhetoric and the bargaining posture of  intransigent Palestinians waiting for the U.S. to deliver Israel on a platter. Can our relationship survive without such a president? We are regrettably going to find out.

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What Brown’s Election Should Teach Israel

Former Israeli ambassador Yoram Ettinger notes that Scott Brown’s upset victory in Massachusetts offers an important lesson for Israelis: that American democracy revolves “around constituents and not around the President, Congress, or political parties.” To Americans, that doubtless seems obvious. But since Israel’s electoral system is not constituency-based, it’s a point often missed by Israeli leaders — with negative consequences for Israel’s foreign policy.

Israel is virtually the only Western democracy that still elects its legislature via closed nationwide lists. Israelis vote for a party, not a candidate, so general election voters have no say over which individuals occupy their party’s Knesset seats. This means they also have no way to punish individual legislators for unpopular positions or poor performance: As long as a Knesset member satisfies his party bosses, he can count on a “safe seat” next election, meaning a slot high enough on the party list to keep him in the Knesset even if the party loses seats.

Consequently, prime ministers have enormous power over rank-and-file MKs, far greater than what U.S. presidents enjoy. A president has no power to get a congressman reelected; that decision lies solely with the congressman’s constituents. But prime ministers have considerable power to get an MK reelected. Though all three major Israeli parties currently choose their Knesset slates via nationwide primaries, these slates are so riddled with “reserved seats” that a premier’s ability to shape his party’s list remains enormous — especially if he maintains good relations with “vote contractors” (key local activists) who can persuade large numbers of primary voters to vote a pre-approved list.

All this causes Israeli premiers to overestimate the U.S. president’s power. And this often leads them to sacrifice Israeli interests to the president’s desires, for the sake of maintaining good relations with Israel’s only ally. What they fail to understand is that reasonable relations can be maintained even without kowtowing to the president’s every whim, because even in the foreign-policy realm, where his power is extensive, he still needs Congress. And he cannot just order congressmen to fall in line. Thus as long as support for Israel remains strong among the American people, and hence in Congress, there are limits beyond which even the most hostile president won’t go.

This understanding is particularly important because even the friendliest presidents generally adopt less pro-Israel positions than either the Congress or the American people desire. Thus, for instance, Congress overwhelmingly passed legislation to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, but every president has utilized waivers to postpone the move.

Having lived in the U.S., current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu largely understands this. But most Israeli premiers don’t. Thus in their dealings with Israeli leaders, one of the most important services American Jewish leaders could perform is explaining how the American system truly works — and how to leverage the American people’s strong support for standing up to a hostile president.

Former Israeli ambassador Yoram Ettinger notes that Scott Brown’s upset victory in Massachusetts offers an important lesson for Israelis: that American democracy revolves “around constituents and not around the President, Congress, or political parties.” To Americans, that doubtless seems obvious. But since Israel’s electoral system is not constituency-based, it’s a point often missed by Israeli leaders — with negative consequences for Israel’s foreign policy.

Israel is virtually the only Western democracy that still elects its legislature via closed nationwide lists. Israelis vote for a party, not a candidate, so general election voters have no say over which individuals occupy their party’s Knesset seats. This means they also have no way to punish individual legislators for unpopular positions or poor performance: As long as a Knesset member satisfies his party bosses, he can count on a “safe seat” next election, meaning a slot high enough on the party list to keep him in the Knesset even if the party loses seats.

Consequently, prime ministers have enormous power over rank-and-file MKs, far greater than what U.S. presidents enjoy. A president has no power to get a congressman reelected; that decision lies solely with the congressman’s constituents. But prime ministers have considerable power to get an MK reelected. Though all three major Israeli parties currently choose their Knesset slates via nationwide primaries, these slates are so riddled with “reserved seats” that a premier’s ability to shape his party’s list remains enormous — especially if he maintains good relations with “vote contractors” (key local activists) who can persuade large numbers of primary voters to vote a pre-approved list.

All this causes Israeli premiers to overestimate the U.S. president’s power. And this often leads them to sacrifice Israeli interests to the president’s desires, for the sake of maintaining good relations with Israel’s only ally. What they fail to understand is that reasonable relations can be maintained even without kowtowing to the president’s every whim, because even in the foreign-policy realm, where his power is extensive, he still needs Congress. And he cannot just order congressmen to fall in line. Thus as long as support for Israel remains strong among the American people, and hence in Congress, there are limits beyond which even the most hostile president won’t go.

This understanding is particularly important because even the friendliest presidents generally adopt less pro-Israel positions than either the Congress or the American people desire. Thus, for instance, Congress overwhelmingly passed legislation to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, but every president has utilized waivers to postpone the move.

Having lived in the U.S., current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu largely understands this. But most Israeli premiers don’t. Thus in their dealings with Israeli leaders, one of the most important services American Jewish leaders could perform is explaining how the American system truly works — and how to leverage the American people’s strong support for standing up to a hostile president.

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What Comes from Kowtowing

I suppose it could have been worse. China could have sentenced “a veteran Chinese human rights campaigner who challenged the central government over the faulty construction of school buildings that collapsed during last year’s Sichuan earthquake” while Obama was still in the country. Instead they waited a week to throw the activist into jail for three years for “possessing secret state documents.” That’s what you get when a U.S. president downplays and downgrades human rights. Obama’s wimpiness has not gone unnoticed by human-rights activists:

Jiang Tianyong, described in a telephone interview how he was taken in for questioning by police Thursday, while walking his 7-year-old daughter to school, and detained for 13 hours before being released. The previous day, Jiang said, he had tried to approach the U.S. Embassy because he had heard that Obama might meet with human rights lawyers. But he was taken back to his house by police.

Jiang expressed disappointment that Obama had not met with human rights activists during his trip.

“There are a bunch of people in Chinese civil society who have enough courage to talk with Obama about the human rights issue in China,” Jiang said. “But Obama is not decisive enough or doesn’t have enough willpower to talk with the civil society.”

Despite his mention of “universal rights,” Obama, in the view of rights activists, “didn’t strike as hard of a tone on human rights as some of us had hoped for,” said Sam Zarifi, the Asia-Pacific director for the London-based group Amnesty International. “It’s tough to wag your finger about human rights when your hand is stretched out for more money.”

And what did we get for downplaying human rights in China? Nothing — well, there’s always the contempt of the government that knows it can act with impunity. We shouldn’t be surprised if we see more of the same, not only in China, but also in Cuba, Iran, Russia, North Korea, Syria, and other thuggish regimes. Despots in those countries will also see that they too can crack down on their own people without suffering many, if any, adverse consequences from the Obami. Maybe they’ll even get a state visit, one without uncomfortable interchanges between the U.S. president and human-rights activists.

I suppose it could have been worse. China could have sentenced “a veteran Chinese human rights campaigner who challenged the central government over the faulty construction of school buildings that collapsed during last year’s Sichuan earthquake” while Obama was still in the country. Instead they waited a week to throw the activist into jail for three years for “possessing secret state documents.” That’s what you get when a U.S. president downplays and downgrades human rights. Obama’s wimpiness has not gone unnoticed by human-rights activists:

Jiang Tianyong, described in a telephone interview how he was taken in for questioning by police Thursday, while walking his 7-year-old daughter to school, and detained for 13 hours before being released. The previous day, Jiang said, he had tried to approach the U.S. Embassy because he had heard that Obama might meet with human rights lawyers. But he was taken back to his house by police.

Jiang expressed disappointment that Obama had not met with human rights activists during his trip.

“There are a bunch of people in Chinese civil society who have enough courage to talk with Obama about the human rights issue in China,” Jiang said. “But Obama is not decisive enough or doesn’t have enough willpower to talk with the civil society.”

Despite his mention of “universal rights,” Obama, in the view of rights activists, “didn’t strike as hard of a tone on human rights as some of us had hoped for,” said Sam Zarifi, the Asia-Pacific director for the London-based group Amnesty International. “It’s tough to wag your finger about human rights when your hand is stretched out for more money.”

And what did we get for downplaying human rights in China? Nothing — well, there’s always the contempt of the government that knows it can act with impunity. We shouldn’t be surprised if we see more of the same, not only in China, but also in Cuba, Iran, Russia, North Korea, Syria, and other thuggish regimes. Despots in those countries will also see that they too can crack down on their own people without suffering many, if any, adverse consequences from the Obami. Maybe they’ll even get a state visit, one without uncomfortable interchanges between the U.S. president and human-rights activists.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Conn Carroll at Heritage reminds us of Obama’s promises that his health care would “‘provide stability and security for Americans who have insurance; quality, affordable options for those who don’t; and bring down the cost of health care for families, businesses, and our government, while strengthening the financial health of Medicare.’ Quite a bold statement if true. But a report released Friday by the non-partisan and independent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency in charge of running Medicare and Medicaid, blows the lid off of every one of Obama’s claims.”

It is one thing to make up stimulus jobs, but the Obami are not beyond making up a congressional district.

It’s not over till it’s over: “Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman has ‘unconceded’ in New York’s special House election after reports that the vote margin between him and Rep. Bill Owens (D) has narrowed. Hoffman conceded the race on Election Night after learning he trailed Owens by 5,335 votes. But the Syracuse Post-Standard reported last week that the margin had shrunk to 3,026 votes after recanvassing.”

It seems that Obama was denied much access to the Chinese people by his hosts: “The net effect is that the trip, which isn’t expected to yield major substantive agreements, also isn’t likely to give Mr. Obama much of a symbolic victory either. Longtime observers say the visit, which ends Wednesday, is one of the most tightly controlled in recent memory, with Mr. Obama afforded none of the opportunities to reach Chinese people given to his two predecessors.” How could it be that he’s less effective than his predecessors? The smart diplomacy flops once again.

The Washington Post’s editors think Obama shouldn’t be “welcoming” cooperation with undemocratic China: “The United States has no choice but to recognize China’s rise as a great power, and Mr. Obama may be right that a policy of containment would be counterproductive. But ‘welcome’ a dictatorship to global influence? It’s hard to see why that is a necessary or sensible stance for the U.S. president.”

Bret Stephens reminds us of the track record of terrorist trials: “The Moussaoui trial wasn’t merely interminable. It was also incompetent. Moussaoui did everything he could to turn it into a circus, at various times entering contradictory pleas on the view, as he put it, that ‘you’re allowed to lie for jihad.’ Lawyers for the government were repeatedly accused of malfeasance. … The judge herself came close to dismissing the entire case, even as the Fourth Circuit had to step in to reverse one of her rulings.”

Democrats aren’t doing so well in Iowa: “A new Des Moines Register poll is great news for Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, as well as GOP gubernatorial hopefuls Terry Branstad and Bob Vander Plaats. It is very bad news for Iowa’s current Governor. The poll clearly shows Iowans are fed up with the inept management of Democrat Chet Culver. His overall approval rating sits at just 40 percent.”

Bill McGurn explains the unintended consequence of the decision to try KSM in a civilian court: “Why fight the Marines and risk getting killed yourself or locked up in Bagram forever when you can blow up American citizens on their own streets and gain the legal protections that give you a chance to go free? With this one step, Mr. Holder is giving al Qaeda a ghastly incentive: to focus more of their attacks on American civilians on American home soil.”

Michael Goldfarb on the NIAC scandal and those whose first instinct is to run to the defense of the mullahs’ front man.

David Brody takes issue with the new Newsweek cover photo of Sarah Palin: “Where’s the sexy photo of Mitt Romney? Why not a picture of Tim Pawlenty with an unbuttoned shirt relaxing on a couch in the Twin Cities?” I suspect Romney and Pawlenty are wondering the same thing.

Conn Carroll at Heritage reminds us of Obama’s promises that his health care would “‘provide stability and security for Americans who have insurance; quality, affordable options for those who don’t; and bring down the cost of health care for families, businesses, and our government, while strengthening the financial health of Medicare.’ Quite a bold statement if true. But a report released Friday by the non-partisan and independent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency in charge of running Medicare and Medicaid, blows the lid off of every one of Obama’s claims.”

It is one thing to make up stimulus jobs, but the Obami are not beyond making up a congressional district.

It’s not over till it’s over: “Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman has ‘unconceded’ in New York’s special House election after reports that the vote margin between him and Rep. Bill Owens (D) has narrowed. Hoffman conceded the race on Election Night after learning he trailed Owens by 5,335 votes. But the Syracuse Post-Standard reported last week that the margin had shrunk to 3,026 votes after recanvassing.”

It seems that Obama was denied much access to the Chinese people by his hosts: “The net effect is that the trip, which isn’t expected to yield major substantive agreements, also isn’t likely to give Mr. Obama much of a symbolic victory either. Longtime observers say the visit, which ends Wednesday, is one of the most tightly controlled in recent memory, with Mr. Obama afforded none of the opportunities to reach Chinese people given to his two predecessors.” How could it be that he’s less effective than his predecessors? The smart diplomacy flops once again.

The Washington Post’s editors think Obama shouldn’t be “welcoming” cooperation with undemocratic China: “The United States has no choice but to recognize China’s rise as a great power, and Mr. Obama may be right that a policy of containment would be counterproductive. But ‘welcome’ a dictatorship to global influence? It’s hard to see why that is a necessary or sensible stance for the U.S. president.”

Bret Stephens reminds us of the track record of terrorist trials: “The Moussaoui trial wasn’t merely interminable. It was also incompetent. Moussaoui did everything he could to turn it into a circus, at various times entering contradictory pleas on the view, as he put it, that ‘you’re allowed to lie for jihad.’ Lawyers for the government were repeatedly accused of malfeasance. … The judge herself came close to dismissing the entire case, even as the Fourth Circuit had to step in to reverse one of her rulings.”

Democrats aren’t doing so well in Iowa: “A new Des Moines Register poll is great news for Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, as well as GOP gubernatorial hopefuls Terry Branstad and Bob Vander Plaats. It is very bad news for Iowa’s current Governor. The poll clearly shows Iowans are fed up with the inept management of Democrat Chet Culver. His overall approval rating sits at just 40 percent.”

Bill McGurn explains the unintended consequence of the decision to try KSM in a civilian court: “Why fight the Marines and risk getting killed yourself or locked up in Bagram forever when you can blow up American citizens on their own streets and gain the legal protections that give you a chance to go free? With this one step, Mr. Holder is giving al Qaeda a ghastly incentive: to focus more of their attacks on American civilians on American home soil.”

Michael Goldfarb on the NIAC scandal and those whose first instinct is to run to the defense of the mullahs’ front man.

David Brody takes issue with the new Newsweek cover photo of Sarah Palin: “Where’s the sexy photo of Mitt Romney? Why not a picture of Tim Pawlenty with an unbuttoned shirt relaxing on a couch in the Twin Cities?” I suspect Romney and Pawlenty are wondering the same thing.

Read Less

Emboldening Terrorists

Harvard researchers have determined that the broadcasting of American doubt about the war has an “emboldenment effect” on insurgents. Here’s the Washington Times:

Periods of intense news media coverage in the United States of criticism about the war, or of polling about public opinion on the conflict, are followed by a small but quantifiable increases in the number of attacks on civilians and U.S. forces in Iraq, according to a study by Radha Iyengar, a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in health policy research at Harvard and Jonathan Monten of the Belfer Center at the university’s Kennedy School of Government.

Not exactly shocking. But maybe the media executives who’ve been so eager to run photos of flag-draped coffins and the journalists who start each day thinking of a fresh way to cover America’s demise could keep this in mind.

Particularly now. We are in the midst of a “five years on” media riot. The number 4000 is suddenly everywhere. Yes, a free press is a cornerstone of our democracy. But it shouldn’t be exploited for the sole purpose of lamenting out military efforts. The success of the troop surge was barely acknowledged for half a year, and yet the 4000th U.S. casualty in Iraq made it into the headlines at the speed of light. And here’s something worth considering: If random criticism of the war causes spikes of insurgent violence, imagine the effect of a U.S. president whose guiding principle is the wrongness of this war.

Harvard researchers have determined that the broadcasting of American doubt about the war has an “emboldenment effect” on insurgents. Here’s the Washington Times:

Periods of intense news media coverage in the United States of criticism about the war, or of polling about public opinion on the conflict, are followed by a small but quantifiable increases in the number of attacks on civilians and U.S. forces in Iraq, according to a study by Radha Iyengar, a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in health policy research at Harvard and Jonathan Monten of the Belfer Center at the university’s Kennedy School of Government.

Not exactly shocking. But maybe the media executives who’ve been so eager to run photos of flag-draped coffins and the journalists who start each day thinking of a fresh way to cover America’s demise could keep this in mind.

Particularly now. We are in the midst of a “five years on” media riot. The number 4000 is suddenly everywhere. Yes, a free press is a cornerstone of our democracy. But it shouldn’t be exploited for the sole purpose of lamenting out military efforts. The success of the troop surge was barely acknowledged for half a year, and yet the 4000th U.S. casualty in Iraq made it into the headlines at the speed of light. And here’s something worth considering: If random criticism of the war causes spikes of insurgent violence, imagine the effect of a U.S. president whose guiding principle is the wrongness of this war.

Read Less




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