Commentary Magazine


Topic: Web Exclusive

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Neda: The Cause, the Song

When a revolutionary cause hits the pop charts, it’s a fair indication that the cause is sunk. Pop stars don’t get behind campaigns requiring action, especially evil, American neo-imperialist, military-industrial action of the kind they’d prefer to write protest songs about. (In fact, there are more songs protesting that phantom phenomenon than songs opposing real dangers.) When a human-rights slogan is marketed as a three-minute rhyme set to a 4/4 beat, it means the artist has confirmed that the topic is yielding a safe degree of political inattention. There will be no risk of action beyond the purchasing of some music files. The true last resort in American foreign policy is consumerism.

To continue reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

When a revolutionary cause hits the pop charts, it’s a fair indication that the cause is sunk. Pop stars don’t get behind campaigns requiring action, especially evil, American neo-imperialist, military-industrial action of the kind they’d prefer to write protest songs about. (In fact, there are more songs protesting that phantom phenomenon than songs opposing real dangers.) When a human-rights slogan is marketed as a three-minute rhyme set to a 4/4 beat, it means the artist has confirmed that the topic is yielding a safe degree of political inattention. There will be no risk of action beyond the purchasing of some music files. The true last resort in American foreign policy is consumerism.

To continue reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Israel, Trapped in Plato’s Cave

Like a rock emerging in a sea of lies, we know important facts about the confrontation that took place on Monday between Israel and a flotilla of ships making its way to the Gaza strip.

The blockade was justified by international law. (Egypt, by the way, had also imposed a blockade on Gaza because of the threat from the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which illegally seized control of Gaza in 2007.) The Israeli navy first tried to warn the ships off verbally. The “peace activist” on board assaulted Israeli commandos (who were armed with paintball guns) with clubs, knives, metal pipes, stun grenades, and handguns; it turns out that many of them were recruited specifically to attack Israeli soldiers. The “humanitarian relief” the flotilla was supposedly bringing to Palestinians in Gaza was in fact no such thing (food, medicine, relief supplies, and electricity continue to pour into Gaza on a daily basis). And the “charity” that helped organize the flotilla was in fact the radical Turkish group IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi), which has longstanding ties to Hamas and the global jihadist movement. Yet somehow, some way, it is Israel that is condemned when it acts in its own self-defense.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Like a rock emerging in a sea of lies, we know important facts about the confrontation that took place on Monday between Israel and a flotilla of ships making its way to the Gaza strip.

The blockade was justified by international law. (Egypt, by the way, had also imposed a blockade on Gaza because of the threat from the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which illegally seized control of Gaza in 2007.) The Israeli navy first tried to warn the ships off verbally. The “peace activist” on board assaulted Israeli commandos (who were armed with paintball guns) with clubs, knives, metal pipes, stun grenades, and handguns; it turns out that many of them were recruited specifically to attack Israeli soldiers. The “humanitarian relief” the flotilla was supposedly bringing to Palestinians in Gaza was in fact no such thing (food, medicine, relief supplies, and electricity continue to pour into Gaza on a daily basis). And the “charity” that helped organize the flotilla was in fact the radical Turkish group IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi), which has longstanding ties to Hamas and the global jihadist movement. Yet somehow, some way, it is Israel that is condemned when it acts in its own self-defense.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Peter Beinart and the Destruction of Liberal Zionism

In political debates, it remains true that the messenger usually matters more than the message. I say this because Peter Beinart’s much-discussed essay in the New York Review of Books and the reaction to it has been in substance merely a procession of the kind of cliches on liberal disaffection with Israel that anyone who has been paying attention became familiar with years ago. But because Beinart is a Jewish former editor of a steadfastly pro-Israel magazine, the New Republic, his public apostasy has garnered attention in great disproportion to the quality or originality of his complaints.

The most important requirement for joining the Israel-bashers is to charge Israel with bad faith in the course of the effort to bring peace to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, which is the glue that holds the narrative together and makes the recriminations seem warranted. This charge has two subordinate tenets: revisionism for dealing with the past, and conspiracy theory for dealing with the present. Thus, in Beinart’s telling, large numbers of Israelis are racists and authoritarians who never really wanted peace, and their political leaders are fanatics manipulating guileless Americans and Palestinians while mainstream American Jewish organizations enable them from the sidelines.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

In political debates, it remains true that the messenger usually matters more than the message. I say this because Peter Beinart’s much-discussed essay in the New York Review of Books and the reaction to it has been in substance merely a procession of the kind of cliches on liberal disaffection with Israel that anyone who has been paying attention became familiar with years ago. But because Beinart is a Jewish former editor of a steadfastly pro-Israel magazine, the New Republic, his public apostasy has garnered attention in great disproportion to the quality or originality of his complaints.

The most important requirement for joining the Israel-bashers is to charge Israel with bad faith in the course of the effort to bring peace to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, which is the glue that holds the narrative together and makes the recriminations seem warranted. This charge has two subordinate tenets: revisionism for dealing with the past, and conspiracy theory for dealing with the present. Thus, in Beinart’s telling, large numbers of Israelis are racists and authoritarians who never really wanted peace, and their political leaders are fanatics manipulating guileless Americans and Palestinians while mainstream American Jewish organizations enable them from the sidelines.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Saving Iraqi Kurdistan

Erbil, Iraq. In the lobby of a certain hotel in the Kurdish city of Erbil, you find the familiar row of wall clocks indicating current time in various metropolitan hubs. Only something breaks your heart a little about the local twist put on this fixture of jet-set urbanity. Between clocks whose faces have been factory-stamped Istanbul or New York or Madrid, you see one displaying local time, and it looks like the others except for a single, small anomaly. The Erbil hasn’t been emblazoned onto the clock face by a manufacturer’s machine. It’s been printed out, in ordinary bold font, onto computer paper; cut down to a word-sized rectangle; and glued over the name of some other magnificent city.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Erbil, Iraq. In the lobby of a certain hotel in the Kurdish city of Erbil, you find the familiar row of wall clocks indicating current time in various metropolitan hubs. Only something breaks your heart a little about the local twist put on this fixture of jet-set urbanity. Between clocks whose faces have been factory-stamped Istanbul or New York or Madrid, you see one displaying local time, and it looks like the others except for a single, small anomaly. The Erbil hasn’t been emblazoned onto the clock face by a manufacturer’s machine. It’s been printed out, in ordinary bold font, onto computer paper; cut down to a word-sized rectangle; and glued over the name of some other magnificent city.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: “Shake Up the Army, Dave”

Those were the words of Pete Schoomaker, then chief of staff of the Army, to General David Petraeus, who at the time (2005) was commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The context of Schoomaker’s remarks was that the war in Iraq, which had been going on for more than two years, wasn’t going well. The trajectory of events was, in fact, alarming. So Schoomaker tasked Petraeus, the leader of a group of intellectual-warriors in the Army, to rethink our counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy. The job was to determine the right overarching concepts and intellectual underpinnings of the war — and then to put them into practice.

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Those were the words of Pete Schoomaker, then chief of staff of the Army, to General David Petraeus, who at the time (2005) was commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The context of Schoomaker’s remarks was that the war in Iraq, which had been going on for more than two years, wasn’t going well. The trajectory of events was, in fact, alarming. So Schoomaker tasked Petraeus, the leader of a group of intellectual-warriors in the Army, to rethink our counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy. The job was to determine the right overarching concepts and intellectual underpinnings of the war — and then to put them into practice.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Newsweek Squeak

Last year, Newsweek redesigned itself with an eye toward failure. Literally. The newsmagazine was getting itself out of the newsmagazine business and pursuing a higher-end market through a combination of news analysis and opinion. The idea behind the magazine’s redesign was to hasten its contraction from a circulation over 2 million to one around 1 million, while simultaneously raising the cover price. This was not, in and of itself, a silly idea. What Newsweek and its editor Jon Meacham were acknowledging is that the 2 million circulation was illusory, and that the actual readership of the magazine, with people renewing their subscriptions year after year or buying it on the newsstand week after week, was half the size.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Last year, Newsweek redesigned itself with an eye toward failure. Literally. The newsmagazine was getting itself out of the newsmagazine business and pursuing a higher-end market through a combination of news analysis and opinion. The idea behind the magazine’s redesign was to hasten its contraction from a circulation over 2 million to one around 1 million, while simultaneously raising the cover price. This was not, in and of itself, a silly idea. What Newsweek and its editor Jon Meacham were acknowledging is that the 2 million circulation was illusory, and that the actual readership of the magazine, with people renewing their subscriptions year after year or buying it on the newsstand week after week, was half the size.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: The Cost of Realism

BISHKEK, KYRGYZSTAN ­  For anyone who has witnessed the slow erosion of democracy in Russia over the past decade, seeing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin win the public relations war over the recent revolution in Kyrgyzstan has been nothing short of maddening. Commenting on the violent ouster of President Kurmanbeck Bakiyev, who fled the country last week after violent riots protesting his corrupt and oppressive rule, Putin said he could “remember that when President Bakiyev came to power, he harshly criticized toppled President [Askar] Akaev for nepotism and giving his relatives or friends top economic and political posts at every corner. I have the impression that Bakiyev has fallen into the same trap.” Coming from the leader who serves as the 21st-century model for budding authoritarians around the world, laments the collapse of the Soviet Union, and routinely orders the police to break up the smallest of peaceful protests, it’s hard to take these sentiments seriously.

To continue reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

BISHKEK, KYRGYZSTAN ­  For anyone who has witnessed the slow erosion of democracy in Russia over the past decade, seeing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin win the public relations war over the recent revolution in Kyrgyzstan has been nothing short of maddening. Commenting on the violent ouster of President Kurmanbeck Bakiyev, who fled the country last week after violent riots protesting his corrupt and oppressive rule, Putin said he could “remember that when President Bakiyev came to power, he harshly criticized toppled President [Askar] Akaev for nepotism and giving his relatives or friends top economic and political posts at every corner. I have the impression that Bakiyev has fallen into the same trap.” Coming from the leader who serves as the 21st-century model for budding authoritarians around the world, laments the collapse of the Soviet Union, and routinely orders the police to break up the smallest of peaceful protests, it’s hard to take these sentiments seriously.

To continue reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Why the Western Sahara Matters

Most Americans know little or nothing about the conflict over the western Sahara or the self-styled “liberation” group the Polisario Front (originally backed by the former Soviet bloc). The Obama administration and Congress are focused on other problems in the Middle East. But the conflict that has ensnared Morocco, Algeria, and tens of thousands of Sahrawi (natives of the disputed territory) refugees warehoused in camps in Algeria poses a humanitarian crisis and creates another hotbed of terrorism and the narco-smuggling that accompanies it.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Most Americans know little or nothing about the conflict over the western Sahara or the self-styled “liberation” group the Polisario Front (originally backed by the former Soviet bloc). The Obama administration and Congress are focused on other problems in the Middle East. But the conflict that has ensnared Morocco, Algeria, and tens of thousands of Sahrawi (natives of the disputed territory) refugees warehoused in camps in Algeria poses a humanitarian crisis and creates another hotbed of terrorism and the narco-smuggling that accompanies it.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: If You Shoot at a King You Must Kill Him

Last week I spoke with Reza Kahlili, a man who during the 1980s and 1990s worked for the CIA under the code name “Wally” inside the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. He wrote a terrific book about his experience as an American agent called A Time to Betray, and today he’s issuing a serious warning about his former Iranian masters: they mean what they say, and the West had better start taking them seriously.

He thinks President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei fully intend to use nuclear weapons if they acquire them, either by exploding them in enemy cities or holding the Middle East and the world’s energy resources hostage. It’s hard, to be sure, for even a well-placed expert to know this for certain. Perhaps not even the leadership knows exactly what it will do with the bomb once it gets the chance. (Either way, a nuclear-armed Iran won’t suddenly play well with others.) What happens in the region over the next couple of years may depend in large part on whether the Israelis are willing to chance it.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Last week I spoke with Reza Kahlili, a man who during the 1980s and 1990s worked for the CIA under the code name “Wally” inside the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. He wrote a terrific book about his experience as an American agent called A Time to Betray, and today he’s issuing a serious warning about his former Iranian masters: they mean what they say, and the West had better start taking them seriously.

He thinks President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei fully intend to use nuclear weapons if they acquire them, either by exploding them in enemy cities or holding the Middle East and the world’s energy resources hostage. It’s hard, to be sure, for even a well-placed expert to know this for certain. Perhaps not even the leadership knows exactly what it will do with the bomb once it gets the chance. (Either way, a nuclear-armed Iran won’t suddenly play well with others.) What happens in the region over the next couple of years may depend in large part on whether the Israelis are willing to chance it.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: President Obama’s Priorities: Human Rights Be Damned

The UN Human Rights Council’s month-long session ended in Geneva on Friday, along with any justification for believing that President Obama is a champion of human rights. The president insisted that America join the UN’s lead human-rights body for the first time very early in his presidency, and the consequences are now painfully clear. The enemies of democracy and freedom are having a field day at the expense of American interests and values.

The Council is the personal playground of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. They hold the balance of power by controlling the Asian and African regional groups, which together form a majority at the Council. The Council’s agenda is accordingly fixated on issues of priority to the Islamic bloc — number one, delegitimizing Israel; number two, trumping free speech in the name of Islam; and number three, avoiding any criticism of human-rights violations in their own backyards. None of which has anything to do with protecting human rights.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

The UN Human Rights Council’s month-long session ended in Geneva on Friday, along with any justification for believing that President Obama is a champion of human rights. The president insisted that America join the UN’s lead human-rights body for the first time very early in his presidency, and the consequences are now painfully clear. The enemies of democracy and freedom are having a field day at the expense of American interests and values.

The Council is the personal playground of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. They hold the balance of power by controlling the Asian and African regional groups, which together form a majority at the Council. The Council’s agenda is accordingly fixated on issues of priority to the Islamic bloc — number one, delegitimizing Israel; number two, trumping free speech in the name of Islam; and number three, avoiding any criticism of human-rights violations in their own backyards. None of which has anything to do with protecting human rights.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Outsmarting History

If ever a moment caught Obamaism mid-flight and pinned its wings back for viewing, it is the present one. In domestic affairs, the country has been forced down the first stretch of the road toward untenable Euro-statism. At the same time, the U.S. secretary of state defends the new American policy of rejecting domestic Israeli construction. Had the so-called lunatics of the 2008 McCain-Palin rallies been caught saying that in the course of one day, an Obama presidency would seize one-sixth of the private sector and describe East Jerusalem housing as “undermin[ing] mutual trust” and “expose[ing] daylight between Israel and the United States,” we’d have choked to death on headlines about “playing with fire” and “the politics of fear.”

Yet, little more than a year later, we’re living in one of those clever political columns written as an over-the-top straight story from a frightening future.  “After seizing the American automobile industry almost a year ago, the Obama administration has used a parliamentary procedure to take control of one-sixth of the private sector … in other news, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended the administration’s stand against housing construction in Jerusalem …”

To continue reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

If ever a moment caught Obamaism mid-flight and pinned its wings back for viewing, it is the present one. In domestic affairs, the country has been forced down the first stretch of the road toward untenable Euro-statism. At the same time, the U.S. secretary of state defends the new American policy of rejecting domestic Israeli construction. Had the so-called lunatics of the 2008 McCain-Palin rallies been caught saying that in the course of one day, an Obama presidency would seize one-sixth of the private sector and describe East Jerusalem housing as “undermin[ing] mutual trust” and “expose[ing] daylight between Israel and the United States,” we’d have choked to death on headlines about “playing with fire” and “the politics of fear.”

Yet, little more than a year later, we’re living in one of those clever political columns written as an over-the-top straight story from a frightening future.  “After seizing the American automobile industry almost a year ago, the Obama administration has used a parliamentary procedure to take control of one-sixth of the private sector … in other news, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended the administration’s stand against housing construction in Jerusalem …”

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: What the Obama Presidency Stands for Now

Some thoughts on the meaning of the passage of yesterday’s health-care bill.

1. It is without question a landmark bill, among the most far-reaching pieces of social legislation in our history. For President Obama to be able to have resurrected it in the midst of enormous public opposition and deep concerns among Democrats, especially in the aftermath of the Massachusetts Senate race in late January, is politically quite impressive. When he was being told to pare down his plan, Obama instead doubled down and, in terms of winning passage of his signature domestic initiative, he won. As a result, the media coverage will be overwhelmingly favorable to Obama and Democrats. Among the political class, he instantaneously goes from being seen as a weak president to being seen as a strong president, from inept to imposing. Barack Obama has certainly left his stamp on history.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Some thoughts on the meaning of the passage of yesterday’s health-care bill.

1. It is without question a landmark bill, among the most far-reaching pieces of social legislation in our history. For President Obama to be able to have resurrected it in the midst of enormous public opposition and deep concerns among Democrats, especially in the aftermath of the Massachusetts Senate race in late January, is politically quite impressive. When he was being told to pare down his plan, Obama instead doubled down and, in terms of winning passage of his signature domestic initiative, he won. As a result, the media coverage will be overwhelmingly favorable to Obama and Democrats. Among the political class, he instantaneously goes from being seen as a weak president to being seen as a strong president, from inept to imposing. Barack Obama has certainly left his stamp on history.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Obama and Israel: Not Smart

In both politics and diplomacy, actors must think at least one move ahead. They need to be reasonably sure that when they say or do A, then the other party will say or do B. And they should want the other party to say or do B, otherwise it makes no sense to say A in the first place. The purpose of action isn’t just to act, in other words, but to make sure that the reaction you get advances your purposes and your interests.

Which is why the administration’s behavior in deepening and perpetuating its latest confrontation with Israel is actually rather bewildering. Let’s start out by acknowledging that what happened during Vice President Biden’s trip last week — the announcement of new housing starts in East Jerusalem — was an affront to the United States. I believe Israel has every right to do what it is doing, but the view of the visiting representative of the administration is that what it is doing is wrong and injurious to future prospects for peace, and this conflict of visions is not going to be resolved. Biden was embarrassed, his visit overshadowed, and expressions of diplomatic dismay appropriate as a result. The Israeli prime minister, who did not know about the announcement, apologized to the visitor, and was embarrassed as well by the way in which the dysfunctional Israeli political system was exposed to international view.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

In both politics and diplomacy, actors must think at least one move ahead. They need to be reasonably sure that when they say or do A, then the other party will say or do B. And they should want the other party to say or do B, otherwise it makes no sense to say A in the first place. The purpose of action isn’t just to act, in other words, but to make sure that the reaction you get advances your purposes and your interests.

Which is why the administration’s behavior in deepening and perpetuating its latest confrontation with Israel is actually rather bewildering. Let’s start out by acknowledging that what happened during Vice President Biden’s trip last week — the announcement of new housing starts in East Jerusalem — was an affront to the United States. I believe Israel has every right to do what it is doing, but the view of the visiting representative of the administration is that what it is doing is wrong and injurious to future prospects for peace, and this conflict of visions is not going to be resolved. Biden was embarrassed, his visit overshadowed, and expressions of diplomatic dismay appropriate as a result. The Israeli prime minister, who did not know about the announcement, apologized to the visitor, and was embarrassed as well by the way in which the dysfunctional Israeli political system was exposed to international view.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Whither Iran Policy?

Could it be true? According to the Los Angeles Times, the U.S. administration may have changed its mind on the virtues of engaging Iran’s regime while giving the cold shoulder to its street opposition. As Paul Richter reports,

After keeping a careful distance for the last year, the Obama administration has concluded that the Iranian opposition movement has staying power and has embraced it as a central element in the U.S.-led campaign to pressure the country’s clerical government.

Clearly, the administration is not about to embrace the rhetoric of regime change. Nor is it going to send an expeditionary force to oust the tyrants in Tehran. But perhaps there is a growing realization that something unprecedented has happened in Iran since June 12, 2009, and that the best hope American interests have rests on a change of regime carried out from the inside.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Could it be true? According to the Los Angeles Times, the U.S. administration may have changed its mind on the virtues of engaging Iran’s regime while giving the cold shoulder to its street opposition. As Paul Richter reports,

After keeping a careful distance for the last year, the Obama administration has concluded that the Iranian opposition movement has staying power and has embraced it as a central element in the U.S.-led campaign to pressure the country’s clerical government.

Clearly, the administration is not about to embrace the rhetoric of regime change. Nor is it going to send an expeditionary force to oust the tyrants in Tehran. But perhaps there is a growing realization that something unprecedented has happened in Iran since June 12, 2009, and that the best hope American interests have rests on a change of regime carried out from the inside.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: A World-Historic Find in Jerusalem

The greatest threat to the hopes of those who think parts of Jerusalem should be off-limits to Jews comes not when Jewish-owned buildings go up in the city, but rather when Jews start digging into the ground of East Jerusalem. Because the more the history of the city is uncovered, the less credible becomes the charge that Jews are alien colonists in what the media sometimes wrongly refer to as “traditionally Palestinian” or “Arab” Jerusalem.

That’s the upshot from the release of an amazing archeological dig conducted just outside Jerusalem’s Old City. The excavations conducted by archeologist Eilat Mazar in the Ophel area, which were made public today, revealed a section of an ancient city wall of Jerusalem. According to the press release from the Hebrew University, under whose auspices the project was carried out, the dig uncovered the wall as well as an inner gatehouse for entry into the royal quarter of the ancient city and an additional royal structure adjacent to the gatehouse as well as a corner tower. While ancient buildings are not uncommon in the city, the significance of this discovery is the fact that these edifices can be dated to the 10th century before the Common Era — the time of King Solomon, credited by the Bible for the construction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. Pottery found at the lowest levels of the dig is dated to this era.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

The greatest threat to the hopes of those who think parts of Jerusalem should be off-limits to Jews comes not when Jewish-owned buildings go up in the city, but rather when Jews start digging into the ground of East Jerusalem. Because the more the history of the city is uncovered, the less credible becomes the charge that Jews are alien colonists in what the media sometimes wrongly refer to as “traditionally Palestinian” or “Arab” Jerusalem.

That’s the upshot from the release of an amazing archeological dig conducted just outside Jerusalem’s Old City. The excavations conducted by archeologist Eilat Mazar in the Ophel area, which were made public today, revealed a section of an ancient city wall of Jerusalem. According to the press release from the Hebrew University, under whose auspices the project was carried out, the dig uncovered the wall as well as an inner gatehouse for entry into the royal quarter of the ancient city and an additional royal structure adjacent to the gatehouse as well as a corner tower. While ancient buildings are not uncommon in the city, the significance of this discovery is the fact that these edifices can be dated to the 10th century before the Common Era — the time of King Solomon, credited by the Bible for the construction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. Pottery found at the lowest levels of the dig is dated to this era.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Arnold Beichman, 1913-2010

Word has just arrived of the death of Arnold Beichman at the age of 96. Arnold was, I think, the most extraordinary man I’ve ever known, and though I first knew him as a boy, I found to my wonderment that I became his friend as a man, even though he was nearly a half-century older.

And yet he was not older. He was younger. Younger than I at 23 when he was 72 and we became reacquainted at the Washington Times; younger than I at 47 when I last saw him in his 97th year, though he had finally wearied enough of walking that he was mostly using a wheelchair. Whatever Arnold Beichman had in him, if they could bottle it and we could take it, we would immediately lead lives of energy and purpose, high good humor and great good feeling, and a sense that, though there were very dark forces at work in the world, the world itself was a wonderful place and one should embrace it and drink it deep to the dregs, and then drink the dregs and relish them too.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Word has just arrived of the death of Arnold Beichman at the age of 96. Arnold was, I think, the most extraordinary man I’ve ever known, and though I first knew him as a boy, I found to my wonderment that I became his friend as a man, even though he was nearly a half-century older.

And yet he was not older. He was younger. Younger than I at 23 when he was 72 and we became reacquainted at the Washington Times; younger than I at 47 when I last saw him in his 97th year, though he had finally wearied enough of walking that he was mostly using a wheelchair. Whatever Arnold Beichman had in him, if they could bottle it and we could take it, we would immediately lead lives of energy and purpose, high good humor and great good feeling, and a sense that, though there were very dark forces at work in the world, the world itself was a wonderful place and one should embrace it and drink it deep to the dregs, and then drink the dregs and relish them too.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: A Less Perfect Union

It was three years ago today that, amidst tremendous hope and anticipation, Barack Obama announced his presidential bid. “In the face of a politics that’s shut you out,” Obama said, “that’s told you to settle, that’s divided us for too long, you believe we can be one people, reaching for what’s possible, building that more perfect union. That’s the journey we’re on today.”

Mr. Obama ended his speech this way:

And if you will join me in this improbable quest, if you feel destiny calling, and see as I see, a future of endless possibility stretching before us; if you sense, as I sense, that the time is now to shake off our slumber, and slough off our fear, and make good on the debt we owe past and future generations, then I’m ready to take up the cause, and march with you, and work with you. Together, starting today, let us finish the work that needs to be done, and usher in a new birth of freedom on this Earth.

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY web exclusive.

It was three years ago today that, amidst tremendous hope and anticipation, Barack Obama announced his presidential bid. “In the face of a politics that’s shut you out,” Obama said, “that’s told you to settle, that’s divided us for too long, you believe we can be one people, reaching for what’s possible, building that more perfect union. That’s the journey we’re on today.”

Mr. Obama ended his speech this way:

And if you will join me in this improbable quest, if you feel destiny calling, and see as I see, a future of endless possibility stretching before us; if you sense, as I sense, that the time is now to shake off our slumber, and slough off our fear, and make good on the debt we owe past and future generations, then I’m ready to take up the cause, and march with you, and work with you. Together, starting today, let us finish the work that needs to be done, and usher in a new birth of freedom on this Earth.

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY web exclusive.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: The Most Unethical Act: Losing a War

Monday night, PBS’s American Experience series will broadcast a new documentary titled The Bombing of Germany, about the strategic-bombing campaign carried out against the Nazis by American forces in World War II. Coming from the liberal-leaning PBS and in an era where denunciations of American military actions — even in the “good war” against Nazi Germany — have become commonplace, it would have been no surprise if this film was yet another revisionist attempt to decry Allied tactics as immoral. This impression is reinforced by the introduction to the film on PBS’s website, which highlights the number of German civilian casualties incurred by Allied bombing and the “defining moments that led the U.S. across a moral divide” that would make it easier to drop a nuclear bomb on Japan. Indeed, the narration heard during the opening moments of The Bombing of Germany goes straight to this conclusion when it says that by the time the war ended, the bombing left “both German cities and America’s lofty ideals in ruins.”

But, fortunately, there is more to this documentary than the facile conclusion that the bombing of Germany was so immoral that it cannot be defended even in a war in which the future of civilization was at stake.

To read the rest of the COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Monday night, PBS’s American Experience series will broadcast a new documentary titled The Bombing of Germany, about the strategic-bombing campaign carried out against the Nazis by American forces in World War II. Coming from the liberal-leaning PBS and in an era where denunciations of American military actions — even in the “good war” against Nazi Germany — have become commonplace, it would have been no surprise if this film was yet another revisionist attempt to decry Allied tactics as immoral. This impression is reinforced by the introduction to the film on PBS’s website, which highlights the number of German civilian casualties incurred by Allied bombing and the “defining moments that led the U.S. across a moral divide” that would make it easier to drop a nuclear bomb on Japan. Indeed, the narration heard during the opening moments of The Bombing of Germany goes straight to this conclusion when it says that by the time the war ended, the bombing left “both German cities and America’s lofty ideals in ruins.”

But, fortunately, there is more to this documentary than the facile conclusion that the bombing of Germany was so immoral that it cannot be defended even in a war in which the future of civilization was at stake.

To read the rest of the COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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The Middle East Has Always Been Hard

As Jennifer pointed out yesterday, President Barack Obama admitted in an interview with Joe Klein at Time magazine that he had been “too optimistic” about his ability to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that it’s “just really hard.” Those of us with experience in the region are thinking, “Well, duh,” right about now, but at the same time, I sympathize. In the first half of the last decade, I felt naively optimistic about the region myself.

Things were looking up after the demolition of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party regime in Iraq, the termination of the second Palestinian intifada, and the Beirut Spring that ousted the Syrian military occupation from Lebanon. I was hardly alone in getting carried away. Middle Easterners felt it too — or at least some did. “It’s strange for me to say it,” Lebanon’s Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said shortly after the uprising against Bashar Assad’s overlordship in his country began, “but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it.”

The Middle East’s “Berlin Wall,” so to speak, may have cracked, but it didn’t fall.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

As Jennifer pointed out yesterday, President Barack Obama admitted in an interview with Joe Klein at Time magazine that he had been “too optimistic” about his ability to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that it’s “just really hard.” Those of us with experience in the region are thinking, “Well, duh,” right about now, but at the same time, I sympathize. In the first half of the last decade, I felt naively optimistic about the region myself.

Things were looking up after the demolition of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party regime in Iraq, the termination of the second Palestinian intifada, and the Beirut Spring that ousted the Syrian military occupation from Lebanon. I was hardly alone in getting carried away. Middle Easterners felt it too — or at least some did. “It’s strange for me to say it,” Lebanon’s Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said shortly after the uprising against Bashar Assad’s overlordship in his country began, “but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it.”

The Middle East’s “Berlin Wall,” so to speak, may have cracked, but it didn’t fall.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: A Political Inflection Point

Here are some thoughts on last night.

1. A year ago Barack Obama took the oath of office with enormous public support and unprecedented goodwill behind him. Today he presides over a party that is panic-stricken, having lost a Senate race in Massachusetts that ranks among the most consequential nonpresidential elections in American history.

The president is now badly wounded, his agenda badly weakened, his signature domestic issue in critical and perhaps fatal condition. Not many presidents have had a worse opening act.

2. The result of the Massachusetts election, which is epic, should not be seen in isolation. It is the most recent occurrence in a long chain of events, including crushing gubernatorial losses in Virginia and New Jersey. Massachusetts makes it an electoral hat trick for the GOP.

A year ago the GOP was in tatters, its “brand” tarnished, its supporters dispirited. Today Republicans are riding a wave of enormous size and force, one that is in the process of wiping out Democrats who occupy seats in states of every political color: red, purple, and blue. After last night’s results, almost no Democratic seat that is being contested in 2010 can be considered safe.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Here are some thoughts on last night.

1. A year ago Barack Obama took the oath of office with enormous public support and unprecedented goodwill behind him. Today he presides over a party that is panic-stricken, having lost a Senate race in Massachusetts that ranks among the most consequential nonpresidential elections in American history.

The president is now badly wounded, his agenda badly weakened, his signature domestic issue in critical and perhaps fatal condition. Not many presidents have had a worse opening act.

2. The result of the Massachusetts election, which is epic, should not be seen in isolation. It is the most recent occurrence in a long chain of events, including crushing gubernatorial losses in Virginia and New Jersey. Massachusetts makes it an electoral hat trick for the GOP.

A year ago the GOP was in tatters, its “brand” tarnished, its supporters dispirited. Today Republicans are riding a wave of enormous size and force, one that is in the process of wiping out Democrats who occupy seats in states of every political color: red, purple, and blue. After last night’s results, almost no Democratic seat that is being contested in 2010 can be considered safe.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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