Commentary Magazine


Topic: Zbigniew Brzezinski

Eric Alterman, Hack

I suppose that one of the benefits of having an easily-misspelled last name is that it provides an opportunity to see which of my detractors have actually read my work, and which are so lazy that they simply parrot the lines of other hacks.

Here is Eric Alterman in the latest issue of The Nation, on the Samantha Power controversy:

These attacks, as blogger Matthew Yglesias notes, have largely amounted to the following: “First Obama was an anti-Semite because Zbigniew Brzezinski is an anti-Semite. Then Obama was an anti-Semite because Robert Malley is an anti-Semite. And now according to [Commentary's Noah] Pollack it’s Samantha Power who’s tainted by Jew-hatred.”

Throughout the rest of the piece he commits the same mistake, which leads me to wonder: Has Alterman read a single word I’ve written? I suspect not. Do the editors of The Nation fact-check their articles? Same answer.

One might be able to take these accusations seriously if the people advancing them fulfilled basic journalistic requirements, such as spelling a person’s name correctly. And so I offer the same challenge to Alterman that I did to the fabulist originators of the Pollack-says-Power-is-a-Jew-hater myth: Quote me.

I suppose that one of the benefits of having an easily-misspelled last name is that it provides an opportunity to see which of my detractors have actually read my work, and which are so lazy that they simply parrot the lines of other hacks.

Here is Eric Alterman in the latest issue of The Nation, on the Samantha Power controversy:

These attacks, as blogger Matthew Yglesias notes, have largely amounted to the following: “First Obama was an anti-Semite because Zbigniew Brzezinski is an anti-Semite. Then Obama was an anti-Semite because Robert Malley is an anti-Semite. And now according to [Commentary's Noah] Pollack it’s Samantha Power who’s tainted by Jew-hatred.”

Throughout the rest of the piece he commits the same mistake, which leads me to wonder: Has Alterman read a single word I’ve written? I suspect not. Do the editors of The Nation fact-check their articles? Same answer.

One might be able to take these accusations seriously if the people advancing them fulfilled basic journalistic requirements, such as spelling a person’s name correctly. And so I offer the same challenge to Alterman that I did to the fabulist originators of the Pollack-says-Power-is-a-Jew-hater myth: Quote me.

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An Inconvenient Truth

Matt Yglesias writes a fun attack on me today in which he says:

Spencer Ackerman flags a Shmuel Rosner article on Samantha Power in which she responds to allegations that she hates Jews, etc., etc. The article’s not terrible, but anything that refers to Noah Pollack, who’s been peddling these smears, as a “yound and talented writer,” is bound to be at least somewhat problematic. To make a long story short, though, first Obama was an anti-semite because Zbigniew Brzezinski is an anti-semite. Then Obama was an anti-semite because Robert Malley is an anti-semite. And now according to Pollack it’s Power who who’s tainted by Jew-hatred.

I have a very simple challenge for Yglesias and Spencer Ackerman, although I suspect they’re both too lazy and dishonest to take it up: Please do me and your readers the favor of linking to the posts in which I have accused Power — or anyone associated with the Obama campaign — of “Jew-hatred,” or anything that could be construed as Jew-hatred. I’ll even do the hard work for you guys and provide, in reverse chronological order, links to everything I’ve written about Power: see here, here, here, and here.

Have at it, boys.

Matt Yglesias writes a fun attack on me today in which he says:

Spencer Ackerman flags a Shmuel Rosner article on Samantha Power in which she responds to allegations that she hates Jews, etc., etc. The article’s not terrible, but anything that refers to Noah Pollack, who’s been peddling these smears, as a “yound and talented writer,” is bound to be at least somewhat problematic. To make a long story short, though, first Obama was an anti-semite because Zbigniew Brzezinski is an anti-semite. Then Obama was an anti-semite because Robert Malley is an anti-semite. And now according to Pollack it’s Power who who’s tainted by Jew-hatred.

I have a very simple challenge for Yglesias and Spencer Ackerman, although I suspect they’re both too lazy and dishonest to take it up: Please do me and your readers the favor of linking to the posts in which I have accused Power — or anyone associated with the Obama campaign — of “Jew-hatred,” or anything that could be construed as Jew-hatred. I’ll even do the hard work for you guys and provide, in reverse chronological order, links to everything I’ve written about Power: see here, here, here, and here.

Have at it, boys.

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Nader Raises Obama’s Israel Issue

Ralph Nader finagled airtime on Meet the Press to announce he is mounting another presidential run, which certainly will garner even less attention than last time. He also contributed this analysis of Barack Obama:

But his better instincts and his knowledge have been censored by himself. And I give you the example, the Palestinian-Israeli issue, which is a real off the table issue for the candidates. So don’t touch that, even though it’s central to our security and to, to the situation in the Middle East. He was pro-Palestinian when he was in Illinois before he ran for the state Senate, during he ran–during the state Senate. Now he’s, he’s supporting the Israeli destruction of the tiny section called Gaza with a million and a half people. He doesn’t have any sympathy for a civilian death ratio of about 300-to-1; 300 Palestinians to one Israeli. He’s not taking a leadership position in supporting the Israeli peace movement, which represents former Cabinet ministers, people in the Knesset, former generals, former security officials, in addition to mayors and leading intellectuals. One would think he would at least say, “Let’s have a hearing for the Israeli peace movement in the Congress,” so we don’t just have a monotone support of the Israeli government’s attitude toward the Palestinians and their illegal occupation of Palestine.
The Republican Jewish Coalition responded with a press release which read, in part:
“People should be very skeptical of Barack Obama’s shaky Middle East policies. When a long-time political activist like Ralph Nader, with a well-documented, anti-Israel bias, claims that Senator Obama shares this anti-Israel bias, that is alarming,” said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks. “If Senator Obama supports Ralph Nader’s policies, which consistently condemn Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism, and if Sen. Obama has only reversed his positions to run for president, it once again raises serious questions about his grasp of the geo-political realities of the Middle East and puts into doubt his commitment to the safety and security of Israel. These are important questions we in the Jewish community will be asking.”
Now Ralph Nader is not exactly a keen or accurate political observer, but the problematic issue of Obama’s views and advisors on Israel, explored at length here, here and here, is not something the Obama camp can ignore. He recently had this to say in Cleveland:
“Well here’s my starting orientation is A – Israel’s security is sacrosanct, is non negotiable. That’s point number one. Point number two is that the status quo I believe is unsustainable over time. So we’re going to have to make a shift from the current deadlock that we’re in. Number three that Israel has to remain a Jewish state and what I believe that means is that any negotiated peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians is going to have to involve the Palestinians relinquishing the right of return as it has been understood in the past. And that doesn’t mean that there may not be conversations about compensation issues. It also means the Israelis will have to figure out how do we work with a legitimate Palestinian government to create a Palestinian state that is sustainable. It’s going to have to be contiguous, its going to have to work its going to have to function in some way. That’s in Israel’s interest by the way. If you have a balkanized unsustainable state, it will break down and we will be back in the same boat. So those are the starting points of my orientation. My goal then would be to solicit as many practical opinions as possible in terms of how we’re going to move forward on a improvement of relations and a sustainable peace.”
He also sought to distance himself from association with Zbigniew Brzezinski:

“I do not share his views with respect to Israel. I have said so clearly and unequivocally,” Obama said. “He’s not one of my key advisers. I’ve had lunch with him once. I’ve exchanged e-mails with him maybe three times. He came to Iowa to introduce . . . for a speech on Iraq.”

No word as yet on whether he is having second thoughts about advice from Samantha Power or whether his “talking to our enemies” mantra includes Hamas and Hezbollah. This certainly will be a general election issue. It remains to be seen whether Hillary Clinton will raise this as an example of the risk of getting an “unknown quantity” with an Obama presidency (perhaps it would be a more effective argument for her than desperation moves like this).

Ralph Nader finagled airtime on Meet the Press to announce he is mounting another presidential run, which certainly will garner even less attention than last time. He also contributed this analysis of Barack Obama:

But his better instincts and his knowledge have been censored by himself. And I give you the example, the Palestinian-Israeli issue, which is a real off the table issue for the candidates. So don’t touch that, even though it’s central to our security and to, to the situation in the Middle East. He was pro-Palestinian when he was in Illinois before he ran for the state Senate, during he ran–during the state Senate. Now he’s, he’s supporting the Israeli destruction of the tiny section called Gaza with a million and a half people. He doesn’t have any sympathy for a civilian death ratio of about 300-to-1; 300 Palestinians to one Israeli. He’s not taking a leadership position in supporting the Israeli peace movement, which represents former Cabinet ministers, people in the Knesset, former generals, former security officials, in addition to mayors and leading intellectuals. One would think he would at least say, “Let’s have a hearing for the Israeli peace movement in the Congress,” so we don’t just have a monotone support of the Israeli government’s attitude toward the Palestinians and their illegal occupation of Palestine.
The Republican Jewish Coalition responded with a press release which read, in part:
“People should be very skeptical of Barack Obama’s shaky Middle East policies. When a long-time political activist like Ralph Nader, with a well-documented, anti-Israel bias, claims that Senator Obama shares this anti-Israel bias, that is alarming,” said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks. “If Senator Obama supports Ralph Nader’s policies, which consistently condemn Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism, and if Sen. Obama has only reversed his positions to run for president, it once again raises serious questions about his grasp of the geo-political realities of the Middle East and puts into doubt his commitment to the safety and security of Israel. These are important questions we in the Jewish community will be asking.”
Now Ralph Nader is not exactly a keen or accurate political observer, but the problematic issue of Obama’s views and advisors on Israel, explored at length here, here and here, is not something the Obama camp can ignore. He recently had this to say in Cleveland:
“Well here’s my starting orientation is A – Israel’s security is sacrosanct, is non negotiable. That’s point number one. Point number two is that the status quo I believe is unsustainable over time. So we’re going to have to make a shift from the current deadlock that we’re in. Number three that Israel has to remain a Jewish state and what I believe that means is that any negotiated peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians is going to have to involve the Palestinians relinquishing the right of return as it has been understood in the past. And that doesn’t mean that there may not be conversations about compensation issues. It also means the Israelis will have to figure out how do we work with a legitimate Palestinian government to create a Palestinian state that is sustainable. It’s going to have to be contiguous, its going to have to work its going to have to function in some way. That’s in Israel’s interest by the way. If you have a balkanized unsustainable state, it will break down and we will be back in the same boat. So those are the starting points of my orientation. My goal then would be to solicit as many practical opinions as possible in terms of how we’re going to move forward on a improvement of relations and a sustainable peace.”
He also sought to distance himself from association with Zbigniew Brzezinski:

“I do not share his views with respect to Israel. I have said so clearly and unequivocally,” Obama said. “He’s not one of my key advisers. I’ve had lunch with him once. I’ve exchanged e-mails with him maybe three times. He came to Iowa to introduce . . . for a speech on Iraq.”

No word as yet on whether he is having second thoughts about advice from Samantha Power or whether his “talking to our enemies” mantra includes Hamas and Hezbollah. This certainly will be a general election issue. It remains to be seen whether Hillary Clinton will raise this as an example of the risk of getting an “unknown quantity” with an Obama presidency (perhaps it would be a more effective argument for her than desperation moves like this).

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Obama’s Teflon Passivity

Over the past few weeks, there has been a series of low-level flare-ups surrounding Barack Obama which he has, quite remarkably, been able to dismiss with a wave of the hand. Take, for instance, questions raised about his Farrakhan-loving preacher Jeremiah Wright. Those who made mere mention of Obama’s association with Wright were categorically condemned as smear artists little different from those who peddled stories earlier in the campaign that Obama was some sort of Manchurian Muslim candidate. The Obama campaign’s lame response to the Wright contretemps — that Obama doesn’t always agree with the preacher whose ministry he joined many years ago, whom he has praised as a mentor, whom he chose to deliver the invocation at the rally announcing his candidacy but whose invitation he withdrew at the last minute, who coined the vacuous term “Audacity of Hope” — did not nearly go far enough in explaining the Obama-Wright relationship.

Then there were the photographs that hit the blogs this week showing Obama’s Houston campaign headquarters festooned with flags of Che Guevara. As Jeff Jacoby wrote in his Sunday Boston Globe column, this was a strange thing to hang in the office of a candidate so often likened to the man who launched the Bay of Pigs invasion. Days after the story made headlines, the Obama campaign issued a press release stating that the display of Guevara’s visage “does not reflect Senator Obama’s views.” Good to know.

The latest incident was a story last week in the New York Sun, which revealed that Zbigniew Brzezinski, a top foreign policy adviser to Obama, traveled to Damascus to meet with, according to his spokesperson, “high level people in the region.” Even though Obama himself has said he would meet unconditionally with America’s enemies, the campaign assured the Sun that, “Brzezinski is not a day-to-day adviser for the campaign, he is someone whose guidance Senator Obama seeks on Iraq.”

It is understandable that Obama has not taken these challenges to his campaign seriously, seeing that Democratic primary voters probably care little — if at all — about a candidate’s associations with anti-Semitic preachers, campaign workers who revere Che Guevara or a foreign policy adviser who sips tea with a regime that kills Lebanese politicians. But these things will matter once the general election campaign begins, and I hope that Barack Obama drops his passivity accordingly.

Over the past few weeks, there has been a series of low-level flare-ups surrounding Barack Obama which he has, quite remarkably, been able to dismiss with a wave of the hand. Take, for instance, questions raised about his Farrakhan-loving preacher Jeremiah Wright. Those who made mere mention of Obama’s association with Wright were categorically condemned as smear artists little different from those who peddled stories earlier in the campaign that Obama was some sort of Manchurian Muslim candidate. The Obama campaign’s lame response to the Wright contretemps — that Obama doesn’t always agree with the preacher whose ministry he joined many years ago, whom he has praised as a mentor, whom he chose to deliver the invocation at the rally announcing his candidacy but whose invitation he withdrew at the last minute, who coined the vacuous term “Audacity of Hope” — did not nearly go far enough in explaining the Obama-Wright relationship.

Then there were the photographs that hit the blogs this week showing Obama’s Houston campaign headquarters festooned with flags of Che Guevara. As Jeff Jacoby wrote in his Sunday Boston Globe column, this was a strange thing to hang in the office of a candidate so often likened to the man who launched the Bay of Pigs invasion. Days after the story made headlines, the Obama campaign issued a press release stating that the display of Guevara’s visage “does not reflect Senator Obama’s views.” Good to know.

The latest incident was a story last week in the New York Sun, which revealed that Zbigniew Brzezinski, a top foreign policy adviser to Obama, traveled to Damascus to meet with, according to his spokesperson, “high level people in the region.” Even though Obama himself has said he would meet unconditionally with America’s enemies, the campaign assured the Sun that, “Brzezinski is not a day-to-day adviser for the campaign, he is someone whose guidance Senator Obama seeks on Iraq.”

It is understandable that Obama has not taken these challenges to his campaign seriously, seeing that Democratic primary voters probably care little — if at all — about a candidate’s associations with anti-Semitic preachers, campaign workers who revere Che Guevara or a foreign policy adviser who sips tea with a regime that kills Lebanese politicians. But these things will matter once the general election campaign begins, and I hope that Barack Obama drops his passivity accordingly.

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Brzezinski to Damascus

Eli Lake has a scoop today in the New York Sun entitled “Obama Adviser Leads Delegation to Damascus.”

Zbigniew Brzezinski will travel to Damascus for meetings as part of a trip Syria’s official Cham News agency described as an “important sign that the end of official dialogue between Washington and Damascus has not prevented dialogue with important American intellectuals and politicians.”

An important sign indeed, and one that should tell us a lot about what Brzezinski would advise a President Obama to do (Brzezinski is also one of the leaders of the engage-Hamas movement). There is, of course, a lot to talk about with the Syrians, first and foremost being the appalling amount of bloodshed and destruction Assad’s regime enjoys inflicting on Iraq, Lebanon, and Israel through its array of terrorist proxies.

But it is almost inconceivable that Brzezinski would use his visit to confront Assad and lodge a protest on behalf of the civilized world. For the Obama campaign, there is a lesson here: When you bring people like Brzezinski onto your campaign, there is a good chance you’ll have to suffer embarrassing episodes like this. It’s what lawyers call “assuming the risk.”

Eli Lake has a scoop today in the New York Sun entitled “Obama Adviser Leads Delegation to Damascus.”

Zbigniew Brzezinski will travel to Damascus for meetings as part of a trip Syria’s official Cham News agency described as an “important sign that the end of official dialogue between Washington and Damascus has not prevented dialogue with important American intellectuals and politicians.”

An important sign indeed, and one that should tell us a lot about what Brzezinski would advise a President Obama to do (Brzezinski is also one of the leaders of the engage-Hamas movement). There is, of course, a lot to talk about with the Syrians, first and foremost being the appalling amount of bloodshed and destruction Assad’s regime enjoys inflicting on Iraq, Lebanon, and Israel through its array of terrorist proxies.

But it is almost inconceivable that Brzezinski would use his visit to confront Assad and lodge a protest on behalf of the civilized world. For the Obama campaign, there is a lesson here: When you bring people like Brzezinski onto your campaign, there is a good chance you’ll have to suffer embarrassing episodes like this. It’s what lawyers call “assuming the risk.”

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Obama and American Jews

Throughout his presidential campaign, Barack Obama has faced a series of disturbingly slanderous e-mails. Obama has been falsely accused of being secretly Muslim; studying in an Indonesian madrassa; and refusing to say the pledge of allegiance, among other charges. Sensing that these e-mails were particularly prevalent within Jewish circles, Obama held a conference call with Jewish journalists yesterday afternoon.

During the call, Obama sought to reassure the Jewish community by addressing Jewish identity issues. He thus declared his support for Israel “as a Jewish state”; expressed concern for continued rocket attacks from Gaza; stated that the Palestinian right of return could not be interpreted “in any literal way”; and opposed negotiations with Hamas so long as it denies Israel’s right to exist. He further denied that he had ever practiced Islam, and said that his church leader had made a “mistake of judgment” in honoring Louis Farrakhan. “My church has never issued anti-Semitic statements, nor have I heard my pastor utter anything anti-Semitic,” he said. “If I have, I would have left the church.”

The implication that Obama—by virtue of his church leader’s connections with Farrakhan—is anti-Semitic is hard to swallow. After all, Obama remains one solid degree removed from Farrakhan—highly significant in a political environment in which Joseph Lieberman declared his “respect” for Farrakhan during his 2000 vice-presidential candidacy. Moreover, it is saddening that Obama continually feels the need to address his non-Islamic faith, particularly when doing so insultingly implies that Islam is undesirable.

Yet one question remains legitimate: how can voters who care about the U.S.-Israel relationship be reassured that Obama’s staunchly pro-Israel declarations are not mere pandering? After all, Obama is on record as having called for an “even-handed approach” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2000, just as the Palestinians commenced the Second Intifada following Camp David. According to Electronic Intifada founder Ali Abunimah, Obama’s pro-Israel epiphany occurred shortly before his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign—an about-face for which Obama apologized to Abunimah. “Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I’m hoping when things calm down I can be more up front,” Obama said at the time.

Obama’s apology to Abunimah—a major proponent of the one-state “solution”— indicates an unsophisticated view of American politics, in which success requires whispering sweet Zionist nothings to satisfy the almighty, one-issue Jewish electorate. Obama’s foreign policy advisers have similarly promoted this inflated vision of Jewish power. As my contentions colleague Noah Pollak has assiduously noted, Obama adviser Samantha Power has declared that sound Middle East policy might require “alienating a domestic constituency”—guess which one. His staff further features Zbigniew Brzezinski, who has defended the Walt-Mearsheimer “Israel Lobby” thesis that the U.S.-Israel relationship is the product of Jewish power politics, rather than strategic interest.

This mixture of prior statements and advisory influences suggests little regarding how Obama might act towards Israel if elected. Obama has repudiated Brzezinski’s call for dialogue with Hamas, while Power’s support for ending U.S. foreign military aid to Israel probably represents too radical a departure from historic U.S. policy to be taken seriously.

Rather, Jewish concerns regarding Obama’s candidacy should focus on whether Obama and his posse view American Jewry as a stumbling block in the way of promoting U.S. interests in the Middle East. This is the insidious crux of the “Israel Lobby” thesis, and Obama’s prior statements to Abunimah—as well as the writings of Power and Brzezinski—are hardly reassuring.

Throughout his presidential campaign, Barack Obama has faced a series of disturbingly slanderous e-mails. Obama has been falsely accused of being secretly Muslim; studying in an Indonesian madrassa; and refusing to say the pledge of allegiance, among other charges. Sensing that these e-mails were particularly prevalent within Jewish circles, Obama held a conference call with Jewish journalists yesterday afternoon.

During the call, Obama sought to reassure the Jewish community by addressing Jewish identity issues. He thus declared his support for Israel “as a Jewish state”; expressed concern for continued rocket attacks from Gaza; stated that the Palestinian right of return could not be interpreted “in any literal way”; and opposed negotiations with Hamas so long as it denies Israel’s right to exist. He further denied that he had ever practiced Islam, and said that his church leader had made a “mistake of judgment” in honoring Louis Farrakhan. “My church has never issued anti-Semitic statements, nor have I heard my pastor utter anything anti-Semitic,” he said. “If I have, I would have left the church.”

The implication that Obama—by virtue of his church leader’s connections with Farrakhan—is anti-Semitic is hard to swallow. After all, Obama remains one solid degree removed from Farrakhan—highly significant in a political environment in which Joseph Lieberman declared his “respect” for Farrakhan during his 2000 vice-presidential candidacy. Moreover, it is saddening that Obama continually feels the need to address his non-Islamic faith, particularly when doing so insultingly implies that Islam is undesirable.

Yet one question remains legitimate: how can voters who care about the U.S.-Israel relationship be reassured that Obama’s staunchly pro-Israel declarations are not mere pandering? After all, Obama is on record as having called for an “even-handed approach” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2000, just as the Palestinians commenced the Second Intifada following Camp David. According to Electronic Intifada founder Ali Abunimah, Obama’s pro-Israel epiphany occurred shortly before his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign—an about-face for which Obama apologized to Abunimah. “Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I’m hoping when things calm down I can be more up front,” Obama said at the time.

Obama’s apology to Abunimah—a major proponent of the one-state “solution”— indicates an unsophisticated view of American politics, in which success requires whispering sweet Zionist nothings to satisfy the almighty, one-issue Jewish electorate. Obama’s foreign policy advisers have similarly promoted this inflated vision of Jewish power. As my contentions colleague Noah Pollak has assiduously noted, Obama adviser Samantha Power has declared that sound Middle East policy might require “alienating a domestic constituency”—guess which one. His staff further features Zbigniew Brzezinski, who has defended the Walt-Mearsheimer “Israel Lobby” thesis that the U.S.-Israel relationship is the product of Jewish power politics, rather than strategic interest.

This mixture of prior statements and advisory influences suggests little regarding how Obama might act towards Israel if elected. Obama has repudiated Brzezinski’s call for dialogue with Hamas, while Power’s support for ending U.S. foreign military aid to Israel probably represents too radical a departure from historic U.S. policy to be taken seriously.

Rather, Jewish concerns regarding Obama’s candidacy should focus on whether Obama and his posse view American Jewry as a stumbling block in the way of promoting U.S. interests in the Middle East. This is the insidious crux of the “Israel Lobby” thesis, and Obama’s prior statements to Abunimah—as well as the writings of Power and Brzezinski—are hardly reassuring.

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Andrew Young’s Mouth

Last week, Andrew Young, former Atlanta Mayor and Jimmy Carter’s ambassador to the United Nations, had this to say about why he was endorsing Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama:

“To put a brother in there by himself is to set him up for crucifixion,” he said. But he could not resist adding a kicker. “Bill [Clinton] is every bit as black as Barack—he’s probably gone with more black women than Barack.”

Irrespective of the latter part of this statement’s validity, the contention that Bill Clinton is “every bit as black as Barack” has a long genealogy, dating back to Toni Morrison, who stated that Clinton was indeed the country’s “first black president.” How could this white man from Arkansas be African-American? Simple. Clinton “displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.” Clinton’s metaphorical hue was, of course, “white skin notwithstanding.”

This is not the first time Young’s mouth has gotten him in trouble. He was fired from his perch at the United Nations after he broke State Department protocol by meeting with representatives of the PLO. This was too much even for Jimmy Carter. And last year Young was forced to resign from an organization created by Wal-Mart to drum up support for it in minority communities after he defended the corporation from claims that it forced “mom and pop” stores to close because such establishments were owned by:

people who have been overcharging us selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they’ve ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans, and now it’s Arabs; very few black people own these stores.

Ultimately, however, Obama need not worry about losing Young’s endorsement; having won Zbigniew Brzezinski’s, he’s doing quite well in the race for washed-up Carter administration officials.

Last week, Andrew Young, former Atlanta Mayor and Jimmy Carter’s ambassador to the United Nations, had this to say about why he was endorsing Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama:

“To put a brother in there by himself is to set him up for crucifixion,” he said. But he could not resist adding a kicker. “Bill [Clinton] is every bit as black as Barack—he’s probably gone with more black women than Barack.”

Irrespective of the latter part of this statement’s validity, the contention that Bill Clinton is “every bit as black as Barack” has a long genealogy, dating back to Toni Morrison, who stated that Clinton was indeed the country’s “first black president.” How could this white man from Arkansas be African-American? Simple. Clinton “displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.” Clinton’s metaphorical hue was, of course, “white skin notwithstanding.”

This is not the first time Young’s mouth has gotten him in trouble. He was fired from his perch at the United Nations after he broke State Department protocol by meeting with representatives of the PLO. This was too much even for Jimmy Carter. And last year Young was forced to resign from an organization created by Wal-Mart to drum up support for it in minority communities after he defended the corporation from claims that it forced “mom and pop” stores to close because such establishments were owned by:

people who have been overcharging us selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they’ve ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans, and now it’s Arabs; very few black people own these stores.

Ultimately, however, Obama need not worry about losing Young’s endorsement; having won Zbigniew Brzezinski’s, he’s doing quite well in the race for washed-up Carter administration officials.

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More Idiocy from Zbigniew Brzezinski

In today’s Washington Post, Zbigniew Brzezinski argues for a patient American approach to Iran’s nuclear program, saying that the Chinese can be our partner in helping to stop the Iranians. “China, despite its meteoric rise toward global preeminence, currently is geopolitically a status quo power,” Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser states.

Zbig, after his recent talks with Chinese leaders, tells us they are concerned about the fallout of “a major U.S.-Iran collision” and the Chinese are ardent supporters of “strategic patience.” Once we sit down with the Iranians at the negotiating table, “China could help break the stalemate.” In Brzezinski’s mind, negotiations with Iran would follow the North Korean model. We are on the path to peace in North Asia because the United States dropped its confrontational policy, he contends. Then he adds this: “Even more important, China’s abandonment of its initial reticence eventually proved vital to convincing Pyongyang that its own political intransigence could become suicidal.”

Too bad Brzezinski could not have read the New York Times before penning his op-ed. This morning the paper reports that everyone is hitting a dead end in dealing with the Iranians over their nuclear program. “The chosen strategy of pressure and engagement is not working,” said a European official involved with Tehran. “As a result, you have a lot of people desperately banging on the door of the Iranians. All of them are coming back empty-handed.” The Iranians, the Times reports, believe that renewed diplomatic effort on the part of others is proof that their defiance is working. That’s making any talks with them, in a word, counterproductive.

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In today’s Washington Post, Zbigniew Brzezinski argues for a patient American approach to Iran’s nuclear program, saying that the Chinese can be our partner in helping to stop the Iranians. “China, despite its meteoric rise toward global preeminence, currently is geopolitically a status quo power,” Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser states.

Zbig, after his recent talks with Chinese leaders, tells us they are concerned about the fallout of “a major U.S.-Iran collision” and the Chinese are ardent supporters of “strategic patience.” Once we sit down with the Iranians at the negotiating table, “China could help break the stalemate.” In Brzezinski’s mind, negotiations with Iran would follow the North Korean model. We are on the path to peace in North Asia because the United States dropped its confrontational policy, he contends. Then he adds this: “Even more important, China’s abandonment of its initial reticence eventually proved vital to convincing Pyongyang that its own political intransigence could become suicidal.”

Too bad Brzezinski could not have read the New York Times before penning his op-ed. This morning the paper reports that everyone is hitting a dead end in dealing with the Iranians over their nuclear program. “The chosen strategy of pressure and engagement is not working,” said a European official involved with Tehran. “As a result, you have a lot of people desperately banging on the door of the Iranians. All of them are coming back empty-handed.” The Iranians, the Times reports, believe that renewed diplomatic effort on the part of others is proof that their defiance is working. That’s making any talks with them, in a word, counterproductive.

The other major flaw in Brzezinski’s reasoning is that the Chinese actually helped broker a deal with Pyongyang. There’s no question they sponsored dialogue with the North Koreans, arranging the multilateral talks that continue to this day. Yet that’s not the same as promoting a solution. Beijing, by dragging out the negotiations, gave Kim Jong Il the one thing he needed to construct his bomb: time. And after the detonation of the North Korean device in October 2006, the record shows that there was real progress—if we can call it that—only when Christopher Hill, the State Department’s point man, met with his North Korean counterparts without the Chinese present.

Now, Chinese leaders are proposing to Brzezinski that the Iranians get even more time to build a bomb. Tehran, which earlier this month announced that it has 3,000 centrifuges fully working, needs two years at most before it possesses the fissile material for its weapon.

Hasn’t Brzezinski learned from the mistakes of his old boss? In 1994, Jimmy Carter arranged a deal with the North Koreans that ended up giving them almost another decade to perfect their nuclear weapons technology. Zbig, at this moment, wants to provide to the Iranians a similar opportunity.

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Annapolis: Engaging With What?

Yesterday I attended two Annapolis-related presentations in Washington, the first at the New America Foundation and the second at the National Press Club, sponsored by The Israel Project. The events offered a useful contrast in the way that two camps view not just the state of the peace process, but the conflict itself. The Israel Project symposium featured Shmuel Rosner of Haaretz, Tamara Cofman Wittes of Brookings, and David Wurmser, the former Middle East adviser to Vice President Cheney. This was by far the more interesting presentation, as the three participants were serious people trafficking in serious ideas.

The New America event, on the other hand, was intended to publicize the “re-release” of a letter first published in the New York Review of Books on October 10th, most notably signed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee Hamilton, and Brent Scowcroft, which has now attracted a couple dozen more signatories. It was ignored the first time it was published, and it’s enjoyable to predict that the addition of the signatures of Joseph Wilson and Gary Hart is going to further cement its irrelevance.

In any event, the New America panelists were Daniel Levy, Robert Malley, Ghaith al-Omari, and Steve Clemons, and they lodged as their major criticism the United States and Israel’s refusal to “engage” Hamas. That refusal is shaping up, for the realist and leftist critics of the peace process, as a primary objection, and in the coming months it will likely be invoked by the same critics as a major reason why Annapolis accomplished nothing. This faction is positioning its argument so that the failure of Annapolis can be leveraged to undermine the isolation of Hamas. As such, it is worth wondering whether people like Malley and Levy actually have a point.

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Yesterday I attended two Annapolis-related presentations in Washington, the first at the New America Foundation and the second at the National Press Club, sponsored by The Israel Project. The events offered a useful contrast in the way that two camps view not just the state of the peace process, but the conflict itself. The Israel Project symposium featured Shmuel Rosner of Haaretz, Tamara Cofman Wittes of Brookings, and David Wurmser, the former Middle East adviser to Vice President Cheney. This was by far the more interesting presentation, as the three participants were serious people trafficking in serious ideas.

The New America event, on the other hand, was intended to publicize the “re-release” of a letter first published in the New York Review of Books on October 10th, most notably signed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee Hamilton, and Brent Scowcroft, which has now attracted a couple dozen more signatories. It was ignored the first time it was published, and it’s enjoyable to predict that the addition of the signatures of Joseph Wilson and Gary Hart is going to further cement its irrelevance.

In any event, the New America panelists were Daniel Levy, Robert Malley, Ghaith al-Omari, and Steve Clemons, and they lodged as their major criticism the United States and Israel’s refusal to “engage” Hamas. That refusal is shaping up, for the realist and leftist critics of the peace process, as a primary objection, and in the coming months it will likely be invoked by the same critics as a major reason why Annapolis accomplished nothing. This faction is positioning its argument so that the failure of Annapolis can be leveraged to undermine the isolation of Hamas. As such, it is worth wondering whether people like Malley and Levy actually have a point.

The engagement camp says that it wishes to bolster the moderates while engaging the extremists, which is presented as a cost-free way to conduct diplomacy—never mind that U.S. diplomatic attention directed at Hamas thoroughly would discredit Mahmoud Abbas, whose only selling point to the Palestinian people at this point is the fact that he is the Palestinians’ only focal point for American and Israeli attention. That is a rather obvious point, of course. But the one I wish to emphasize involves the incompleteness with which the engagement camp makes its case.

What I have always found strange about the engagers is their reluctance to make arguments that move beyond bumper-sticker bromides about the need to talk to your enemies, and to explain precisely what would be up for discussion with Hamas. The Hamas charter seems to preempt diplomacy insofar as it says that “there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.” I say “seems,” because perhaps in practice Hamas does not hew to the strict language of its founding declaration—but alas, there is no historic or contemporary evidence for this conceit. Hamas is famous for denying the right of Israel to exist, but not many people seem to pay much regard to the fact that Hamas also denies the right of Palestine to exist: Hamas has always been abundantly clear that its goal is the violent imposition of an Islamic caliphate throughout the Middle East—not the establishment of a Palestinian state.

So what, pray tell, do people like Daniel Levy and Robert Malley propose is up for negotiation with Hamas? In the face of both Hamas’s plainly stated antipathy to diplomacy, in addition to decades of concrete experience of the same, would it not behoove Levy and Malley to pay special attention to this particular aspect of engaging Hamas? Shouldn’t an explanation about the contours of, and prospects for, a successful pursuit of diplomacy with Hamas indeed be the very first thing to which Levy and Malley set themselves? I know that if I were arguing in good faith for engagement, this is where I would be compelled to start: to provide an answer to the question, What can Israel offer Hamas other than its own suicide?

At yesterday’s event, as he has elsewhere, Levy proposed an Israel-Hamas cease-fire as a starting measure…and then changed the subject. Well, what comes after that, Daniel? How many times has Hamas agreed to cease-fires with Israel (and with Fatah) out of its own need to regroup and rearm, only to attack later at a time of its choosing? At what point in the course of the “engagement” process do the leaders of Hamas renounce the basic premises and tactics for which their movement stands? Does Khaled Mashal march down to his local Al Jazeera office in Damascus to announce to the world that because he got a phone call from a member of the Quartet, he’s realized that all the crazy stuff in the Hamas charter—about how the Jews started the French Revolution, the Communist Revolution, both World Wars, the League of Nations, the United Nations, the Rotary Club and the Freemasons, all in pursuit of Zionist world domination—was perhaps a bit too anti-Semitic? Can you tell us, Robert Malley—you who has argued repeatedly that giving money, diplomatic attention, and concessions to Hamas will change the group—of a single instance in which Hamas permanently has moderated a position or altered its behavior because of diplomatic pressure? As people who continuously are banging on the table about “genuine engagement” with Hamas, is it too much to ask, you know, for some genuine details?

As it stands right now, the intellectual output of the Levy-Malley faction involves bromides about “engagement” that are quickly buried in an avalanche of ambiguous diplomatic jargon designed to avoid the possibility of having to commit themselves to engaging in a serious explanation of how diplomacy is going to transform Hamas from a genocidal Islamic supremacist group to a peaceful Palestinian nationalist movement. This is an act of alchemy that Levy and Malley cannot credibly perform, and it is the reason why all of their voluminous babble about engagement never manages to rise above the level of the vague cliché.

There are dozens of reasons why Annapolis will be unable to achieve anything close to its stated goals, but, contrary to popular opinion, one of them is not the absence, next week, of representatives of Hamas at the Naval Academy. Nevertheless, that absence will emerge, from the Scowcrofts and Malleys, as a major source of the peace process’s failure. I propose a different failure: the refusal of the most prolific advocates for engagement to display a little intellectual courage and put themselves on the record explaining how their concessions are going to transform Hamas. Because if that actually works, and one of the most intransigent Islamist groups in the world can be defeated by diplomacy, then clearly there are two other diplomatic summits that should be convened—between Israel and Hizballah, and the United States and al Qaeda.

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Obama’s Diplomacy Gap

Barack Obama claims to understand uniquely how the world’s perceptions of the United States have changed in recent years. For starters, Obama lived in Indonesia from the ages of six to ten, making him the only presidential candidate to have spent any substantial period of time in the Muslim world. Moreover, as he’s eager to tell us, Obama is deeply connected with other cultures, with a grandmother living in Kenya, a half-Indonesian sister, and a Chinese-Canadian brother-in-law. In this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, James Traub explores how Obama’s biography has influenced his vision for American foreign policy:

[Obama] returns again and again to the question of what America means to the rest of the world…. Obama would like to restore the era when people in capitals all over the world could go to the local American cultural center to read books and magazines, the way he could in Jakarta—though now he would add English lessons and vocational training, and “stories of America’s Muslims and the strength they add to our country.”

Obama is correct that the United States should more aggressively reach out to Muslim publics. However, restoring America’s reputation will require more than emphasizing those values that Americans share with the Muslim world—which the presence of a strong, domestic Muslim-American community certainly symbolizes. Indeed, the true challenge of public diplomacy lies in frankly addressing those issues on which the United States and the Muslim world differ, including the war in Iraq, the fight against Islamist terrorist groups, support for Israel, and the drive to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear capabilities.

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Barack Obama claims to understand uniquely how the world’s perceptions of the United States have changed in recent years. For starters, Obama lived in Indonesia from the ages of six to ten, making him the only presidential candidate to have spent any substantial period of time in the Muslim world. Moreover, as he’s eager to tell us, Obama is deeply connected with other cultures, with a grandmother living in Kenya, a half-Indonesian sister, and a Chinese-Canadian brother-in-law. In this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, James Traub explores how Obama’s biography has influenced his vision for American foreign policy:

[Obama] returns again and again to the question of what America means to the rest of the world…. Obama would like to restore the era when people in capitals all over the world could go to the local American cultural center to read books and magazines, the way he could in Jakarta—though now he would add English lessons and vocational training, and “stories of America’s Muslims and the strength they add to our country.”

Obama is correct that the United States should more aggressively reach out to Muslim publics. However, restoring America’s reputation will require more than emphasizing those values that Americans share with the Muslim world—which the presence of a strong, domestic Muslim-American community certainly symbolizes. Indeed, the true challenge of public diplomacy lies in frankly addressing those issues on which the United States and the Muslim world differ, including the war in Iraq, the fight against Islamist terrorist groups, support for Israel, and the drive to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear capabilities.

In explaining the U.S.’s interest on these critical issues, Obama is ill-prepared. He prides himself on having opposed the Iraq war since 2002, and would likely reinforce the perception of many in the Muslim world that the war was the product of “exaggerated fears.”

Obama further appears unsuited to explaining the U.S.-Israel relationship, which he has supported publicly. He is advised by former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who has defended the Walt-Mearsheimer thesis that this relationship is the product of Jewish pressure, not strategic interest—a theory that has contributed to the proliferation of popular anti-Semitism on the “Arab street.” Indeed, Brzezinski is a huge liability if Obama hopes to convince Americans of his ability to sell American foreign policy. Brzezinski recently signed a letter demanding dialogue with Hamas, a move that would turn our backs on the one Arab constituency still nominally receptive to American aims—liberal Arabs. Of course, this letter was consistent with Obama’s own belief that the U.S. should talk with Iran’s leaders—a move that similarly would alienate Iran’s younger generation, widely thought to be liberal and pro-American.

If Obama hopes to prove that his version of “soft power” is truly powerful, he must explain how he will broaden America’s appeal among opponents in the Middle East without alienating allies. Distributing State Department-approved copies of Muhammad Ali’s biography and providing free English lessons simply won’t cut it.

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The Zbig Lie

On Wednesday, the Obama campaign received an important new endorsement: Zbigniew Brzezinski, best known for having been Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, introduced Obama on the occasion of his Iraq speech in Iowa. Expect to hear a great deal from Brzezinski about his triumphs of Middle East diplomacy, which he—not to mention Jimmy Carter—is quite fond of recounting. “The fact of the matter is that I’m part of the only administration that brought about peace between Israel and its neighbors,” Brzezinski told NBC News on the day Obama delivered his Iraq policy speech. “And so I’m proud of my record in the Middle East.”

This is a deceptive attempt at rewriting history, one that Brzezinski and his gang have been pursuing for years in an effort to manufacture retroactively a success story for the Carter administration. The administration didn’t “bring about” peace between Israel and Egypt so much as hold a summit at Camp David to work out the details after Israel and Egypt had already committed themselves, independently and entirely in pursuit of their own interests, to a peace treaty. From the outset of the Carter administration, the American commitment had been not to a deal between Israel and Egypt, but to a comprehensive resolution of the Palestinian question, and it was during the administration’s busy pursuit of a renewed Geneva Conference, inclusive of the Soviet Union, Israel, and the PLO, that the Israel-Egypt deal essentially fell into Carter’s lap.

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On Wednesday, the Obama campaign received an important new endorsement: Zbigniew Brzezinski, best known for having been Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, introduced Obama on the occasion of his Iraq speech in Iowa. Expect to hear a great deal from Brzezinski about his triumphs of Middle East diplomacy, which he—not to mention Jimmy Carter—is quite fond of recounting. “The fact of the matter is that I’m part of the only administration that brought about peace between Israel and its neighbors,” Brzezinski told NBC News on the day Obama delivered his Iraq policy speech. “And so I’m proud of my record in the Middle East.”

This is a deceptive attempt at rewriting history, one that Brzezinski and his gang have been pursuing for years in an effort to manufacture retroactively a success story for the Carter administration. The administration didn’t “bring about” peace between Israel and Egypt so much as hold a summit at Camp David to work out the details after Israel and Egypt had already committed themselves, independently and entirely in pursuit of their own interests, to a peace treaty. From the outset of the Carter administration, the American commitment had been not to a deal between Israel and Egypt, but to a comprehensive resolution of the Palestinian question, and it was during the administration’s busy pursuit of a renewed Geneva Conference, inclusive of the Soviet Union, Israel, and the PLO, that the Israel-Egypt deal essentially fell into Carter’s lap.

In the mid-1970′s, Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian dictator, was in a bad position: The war he launched in 1973 to wrest the Sinai back from Israel had been a humiliating catastrophe, and he was under growing internal pressure to do something—anything—to salvage Egypt’s honor and retrieve its lost territory. Sidelined by the Carter administration’s focus on the Palestinians, Sadat’s only option was to pursue the Sinai through peaceful means, by directly engaging Israel. A series of monumental and previously unthinkable events took place: In November 1977, Sadat announced to the Egyptian parliament that “Israel will be astonished to hear me say now, before you, that I am prepared to go to their own house, to the Knesset itself, to talk to them.” Four days later Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin formally invited Sadat to Jerusalem, and a week later Sadat’s plane touched down at Ben Gurion airport. Sadat visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, and then addressed the Knesset, declaring that “we accept living with you in peace and justice.” All of this happened entirely independent of—and actually in defiance of—the Carter administration, whose agenda in the region was entirely focused on laying the groundwork for the hoped-for Geneva Conference (which never ended up happening).

The Carter administration was caught completely off guard by this sudden rapprochement, and had no option but to try to include itself as much as possible in the dealmaking. By the time the Camp David summit was convened in September 1978, the only thorny issue left to resolve was the question of whether there would be any Israeli presence left in the Sinai as part of a peace treaty; Begin was initially intransigent on the question, but eventually conceded to a complete withdrawal. Peace between Israel and Egypt was born.

And so today, when Brzezinski brags to the press about how his dedication to diplomacy got results—as opposed, he intones, to the senseless warmongering of the Bush administration—we are witnessing a self-aggrandizing swindle, an attempt not only at enhancing the legacy of the Carter administration but of advancing the proposition that in the Middle East, peace is always possible with the right amount of skilled and dedicated American diplomacy.

The true lesson of the Egypt-Israel rapprochement is actually the opposite of what people like Brzezinski would like it to be: It is a lesson in the sometimes irrelevance of American diplomacy in forging peace between nations, and more importantly it is an example of the reality that peace between implacable foes is usually only possible when one has so thoroughly beaten the other on the battlefield that the defeated party is left with only one option, to sue for peace. People like Brzezinski would like us to believe that heroic diplomacy in 1978 midwifed a peace treaty. Candidate Obama will be ill-served listening to this nonsense.

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Kristof’s Sick Column

A few months ago, before Nicholas Kristof’s appearance in the Tufts University Hillel’s “Moral Voices” lecture series, a Tufts student asked him to define his own “guiding moral doctrine.” The New York Times columnist was able to articulate only this in response: “I don’t think I have any sort of, you know, particularly unusual or even sophisticated moral doctrine.” Kristof proves this, abundantly, in his column today: “Cheney’s Long-Lost Twin.”

Kristof ponders: “Could Dick Cheney and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad be twins separated at birth?” The suggestion that Cheney and Ahmadinejad are “jingoistic twins” is fatuous, absurd on its face, whatever you may think of the Vice President. But the real damage that rhetoric of this kind does is to obscure the evil that Ahmadinejad represents. Suppose that the very worst accusations—cronyism, power-grabbing, even the subversion of the Constitution—leveled against Cheney by his fieriest critics were true. It’s hard to see how they would rank alongside the actions of which Ahmadinejad makes no secret: plans for genocide, a millenarian nuclearization program, proud sponsorship of Hizballah, interference in Iraq, scoffing at the IAEA. (David Billet exposes more of Kristof’s fatuities here.)

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A few months ago, before Nicholas Kristof’s appearance in the Tufts University Hillel’s “Moral Voices” lecture series, a Tufts student asked him to define his own “guiding moral doctrine.” The New York Times columnist was able to articulate only this in response: “I don’t think I have any sort of, you know, particularly unusual or even sophisticated moral doctrine.” Kristof proves this, abundantly, in his column today: “Cheney’s Long-Lost Twin.”

Kristof ponders: “Could Dick Cheney and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad be twins separated at birth?” The suggestion that Cheney and Ahmadinejad are “jingoistic twins” is fatuous, absurd on its face, whatever you may think of the Vice President. But the real damage that rhetoric of this kind does is to obscure the evil that Ahmadinejad represents. Suppose that the very worst accusations—cronyism, power-grabbing, even the subversion of the Constitution—leveled against Cheney by his fieriest critics were true. It’s hard to see how they would rank alongside the actions of which Ahmadinejad makes no secret: plans for genocide, a millenarian nuclearization program, proud sponsorship of Hizballah, interference in Iraq, scoffing at the IAEA. (David Billet exposes more of Kristof’s fatuities here.)

Kristof contends that, as “61 percent [of Iranians] oppose the current Iranian system of government,” America should not bomb Iran, “the most pro-American Muslim country in the region.” But the props of his argument actually suggest a conclusion opposite from the one he draws: removing Ahmadinejad from power would be a welcome intervention for brutalized Iranians. Leaving the threat of a nuclear Islamic republic aside for a moment, one would think that Kristof, so concerned about the genocide in Sudan, would be in favor of removing Iran’s “wipe-Israel-off-the-map” president, and the regime that is the biggest sponsor of terror in the state system.

In a sorry irony, Kristof cites, as source of this wisdom, Gary Sick of Columbia University, perhaps the last man whose advice our country should heed. Sick oversaw Iranian affairs on Jimmy Carter’s National Security Council. Together with Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski, Sick presided over the worst blunder in American postwar foreign policy: our inaction in the face of the fall of the Shah, and his replacement by revolutionary Islamists. As Jeane Kirkpatrick wrote in “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” “the Carter administration not only failed to prevent the undesired outcome, it actively collaborated in the replacement of moderate autocrats friendly to American interests with less friendly autocrats of extremist persuasion.”

And this is Kristof’s sage?

COMMENTARY research assistant Daniel Halper collaborated on this post.

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Jimmy Carter’s Brilliant Diplomacy

In retrospect, the collapse of the shah of Iran in 1979 and the rise of a radical Islamic regime in his place have to be classed among the great strategic disasters of American foreign policy in the latter half of the 20th century.

Was this debacle inevitable, or could the U.S., under President Jimmy Carter, have taken effective action to prop up our ally?

Zbigniew Brzezinski was national security adviser to Carter at the time and about all this he wrote something quite wise in his memoirs:

I felt strongly that successful revolutions were historical rarities, that they were inevitable only after they happened, and that an established leadership, by demonstrating both will and reason, could disarm the opposition through a timely combination of repression and concession.

But, of course, despite the efforts of Brzezinski and others serving Carter, the shah did not succeed in disarming the opposition, either via repression or concession. In the end, the Persian king of kings was toppled by an Islamic revolution, and after this happened, it too became “inevitable” when we look back at it.

Could the U.S. have kept our ally in power by some means? History cannot be rewound to answer that question (except perhaps via Hillary Clinton’s favorite television show, The Time Tunnel). But what can be demonstrated to an absolute certainty is that decision-making in the U.S. government in that period was catastrophically disordered. Read More

In retrospect, the collapse of the shah of Iran in 1979 and the rise of a radical Islamic regime in his place have to be classed among the great strategic disasters of American foreign policy in the latter half of the 20th century.

Was this debacle inevitable, or could the U.S., under President Jimmy Carter, have taken effective action to prop up our ally?

Zbigniew Brzezinski was national security adviser to Carter at the time and about all this he wrote something quite wise in his memoirs:

I felt strongly that successful revolutions were historical rarities, that they were inevitable only after they happened, and that an established leadership, by demonstrating both will and reason, could disarm the opposition through a timely combination of repression and concession.

But, of course, despite the efforts of Brzezinski and others serving Carter, the shah did not succeed in disarming the opposition, either via repression or concession. In the end, the Persian king of kings was toppled by an Islamic revolution, and after this happened, it too became “inevitable” when we look back at it.

Could the U.S. have kept our ally in power by some means? History cannot be rewound to answer that question (except perhaps via Hillary Clinton’s favorite television show, The Time Tunnel). But what can be demonstrated to an absolute certainty is that decision-making in the U.S. government in that period was catastrophically disordered.

To see such a demonstration one need go no further than an essay by Gregory Treverton in a fascinating new book, Dealing With Dictators: Dilemmas of U.S. Diplomacy and Intelligence Analysis, 1945-1990, which paints a devastating portrait of Carter’s handling of the Iran crisis in the last months and days of the shah’s reign.

Thanks in no small measure to his own cutbacks in the realm of human intelligence, Carter and his subordinates were driving blind in the dark. But even with their partial grasp of what was transpiring, they were wholly unprepared to act in a coherent way. Carter himself was caught between the imperatives of his much vaunted human-rights policy and his recognition of Iran’s vital strategic position. Evidently unable to reconcile the two in his mind, he zigzagged.

Thus, at a state dinner in Tehran in 1977, Carter toasted the shah for his “wisdom,” “judgment,” “sensitivity,” and “insight.” The Iranian leader, said the U.S. President, was “an island of stability” in the Middle East.

Two years later, when the going got rough, and the shah’s survival hung in the balance in the face of massive demonstrations and strikes, Carter was asked whether the shah could survive. His response was a case study in vacillation, timorousness, irresolution, and indecision:

I don’t know. I hope so. This is something that is in the hands of the people of Iran . . . . We personally prefer that the shah maintain a major role in government, but that is a decision for the Iranian people to make.

These words, writes Treverton, were taken by Iranians both inside the government and in the opposition “as an indication that the United States intended to dump the shah.” Try as Carter might to have his subordinates correct this impression, a “stream of clarifications and restatements issued over the following days in Washington could not change that reading.”

Carter’s words plunged the shah himself into a “deep depression.” Six weeks later he was gone. We are still dealing with his successors. The stakes in Iran were enormous back then. With nuclear weapons now entering the equation, they are even higher today.

To read about the destructive effects of a nuclear weapon, click here.

To read about how Jimmy Carter bungled the Iranian hostage crisis, click here.

To learn more about what I think about Jimmy Carter, and what he thinks about me, click here.

To read about why Jimmy Carter is our worst ex-president, click here.

To learn about peanut farming in the United States, click here.

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Zbig, Andrew, and the War on Terror

The often percipient Andrew Sullivan was up too early when, at 6:15 yesterday morning, he posted an attack on my attack on Zbigniew Brzezinski’s attack on the “war against terror.” Sullivan said he found it “depressing that Josh retreats to anti-Carter arguments and ad hominem slurs instead of addressing the fiasco that neoconservatives have helped engineer in Iraq.”

As it happens, I have addressed that very subject. In the February issue of the Foreign Service Journal I wrote:

Bush has gotten himself and our nation into trouble in Iraq. For that, he and those of us who extolled his actions deserve to take our lumps. . . . But . . . that does not prove that Bush’s overall strategy of promoting democracy or his decision to treat terrorism as a matter of war rather than law enforcement were wrong.

Brzezinski’s article, however—and here’s where Andrew needs to rub the sleep from his eyes—was not about Iraq. It was about the war on terror. “Terrorized by ‘War on Terror’: How a Three-Word Mantra Has Undermined America” was its title. Whatever you think now about Iraq, the question Brzezinski posed was whether our problems with terrorists are essentially self-inflicted and exaggerated or whether there is a real and menacing enemy out there. Andrew has trumpeted his own reversal on Iraq. Does he also repudiate his support for the war on terror?

The often percipient Andrew Sullivan was up too early when, at 6:15 yesterday morning, he posted an attack on my attack on Zbigniew Brzezinski’s attack on the “war against terror.” Sullivan said he found it “depressing that Josh retreats to anti-Carter arguments and ad hominem slurs instead of addressing the fiasco that neoconservatives have helped engineer in Iraq.”

As it happens, I have addressed that very subject. In the February issue of the Foreign Service Journal I wrote:

Bush has gotten himself and our nation into trouble in Iraq. For that, he and those of us who extolled his actions deserve to take our lumps. . . . But . . . that does not prove that Bush’s overall strategy of promoting democracy or his decision to treat terrorism as a matter of war rather than law enforcement were wrong.

Brzezinski’s article, however—and here’s where Andrew needs to rub the sleep from his eyes—was not about Iraq. It was about the war on terror. “Terrorized by ‘War on Terror’: How a Three-Word Mantra Has Undermined America” was its title. Whatever you think now about Iraq, the question Brzezinski posed was whether our problems with terrorists are essentially self-inflicted and exaggerated or whether there is a real and menacing enemy out there. Andrew has trumpeted his own reversal on Iraq. Does he also repudiate his support for the war on terror?

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Tiramisu, Andrew?

Joshua Muravchik wrote what I thought was a sharp and sensible item about Zbigniew Brzezinski here yesterday. Others disagree. Andrew Sullivan called Josh’s posting a “brutal, personal attack.” Andrew then proceeded to note that he is still waiting “for one leading neocon to examine some of the premises that led us into what is clearly a bloody and endless trap in Iraq.”

To paraphrase Josh, this is rich. Actually, it is not just rich, it is a parfait on top of tiramisu.

Leading neoconservatives have been examining the premises which led us to topple Saddam Hussein longer than Andrew has been lambasting conservatives—and avidly flagellating himself—for supporting the war.

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Joshua Muravchik wrote what I thought was a sharp and sensible item about Zbigniew Brzezinski here yesterday. Others disagree. Andrew Sullivan called Josh’s posting a “brutal, personal attack.” Andrew then proceeded to note that he is still waiting “for one leading neocon to examine some of the premises that led us into what is clearly a bloody and endless trap in Iraq.”

To paraphrase Josh, this is rich. Actually, it is not just rich, it is a parfait on top of tiramisu.

Leading neoconservatives have been examining the premises which led us to topple Saddam Hussein longer than Andrew has been lambasting conservatives—and avidly flagellating himself—for supporting the war.

One highly pertinent examination was Norman Podhoretz’s essay “Who Is Lying About Iraq?

As Podhoretz noted there, first and foremost among the reasons we went to war was the widely shared belief that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. Podhoretz noted that in judging Iraq’s progress toward the acquisition of such weapons, Bush’s CIA director George Tenet

had the backing of all fifteen agencies involved in gathering intelligence for the United States. In the National Intelligence Estimate of 2002, where their collective views were summarized, one of the conclusions offered with “high confidence” was that “Iraq is continuing, and in some areas expanding its chemical, biological, nuclear, and missile programs contrary to UN resolutions.” The intelligence agencies of Britain, Germany, Russia, China, Israel, and—yes—France all agreed with this judgment.

So did Andrew Sullivan. Here is one sample of what he was saying before the war was under way: “The question with Iraq is simple,” Andrew wrote on October 20, 2002:

in trying to stop Saddam getting a nuke, do we follow the same policies as Clinton and Carter in 1994 with North Korea, or do we try something else? Amazingly, large swathes of apparently intelligent people seem to think we should try the Carter/Clinton approach to Iraq. My view is simple: if we do not disarm Saddam now, we never will. And if we don’t, a full-scale nuclear, biological and chemical war is inevitable in the Middle East; and that war, with the help of terror groups like al Qaeda, will soon come to LA and New York and London and Washington. So the choice is a dangerous war now; or a much more destructive war later. I know democracies don’t like to hear these as the two options; democracies rightly, understandably hate to go to war. But these choices, in my view, are the only ones we actually have. So what’s it gonna be? Or do we still want to change the subject?

After we were already in the war and had toppled Saddam Hussein, and doubts began to arise about whether Iraq did in fact have weapons of mass destruction, Andrew continued his defense of the enterprise. On October 3, 2003, in the Washington Times, he wrote:

Today’s ubiquitous second-guessers would have us believe that there was an easy alternative to confronting Saddam earlier this year, and deposing him. But there were no good options—and none better than the difficult decision to go to war. President Bush should, in my view, say something similar at some point. I know that any concession with regard to prewar intelligence can lead to the anti-war hysterics piling on and the Democratic opportunists playing clairvoyants. But the point of concession is to say that he took the right decision—even if the intelligence turned out to be flawed—and may have to make a similar decision again. The threat has not gone away.

And a week later, also in the Washington Times, Andrew continued in the same vein, while adding some additional reasons we were still right to go to war:

The casus belli was not proof of Saddam’s existing weapons, but proof of his refusal to cooperate fully with U.N. inspectors or account fully for his WMD research. Nothing we have discovered after the war has debunked or undermined any of these reasons. And the moral reason for getting rid of an unconscionably evil regime has actually gotten stronger now that we see the full extent of his terror-state.

And by late January, 2004, when it was becoming clearer that Saddam did not have the arsenal of weapons of mass destruction all had feared, Andrew continued to remain on board, writing in the Washington Times yet again:

I still believe in the need to take out WMD threats before they take us out. And I don’t buy the argument that you have to have proof of actual ready-to-go weapons in order to take action. All you really need is componentry. And the preliminary Kay report convinced me—and still convinces me—that the war was worthwhile, that Saddam Hussein had been lying, that he couldn’t be trusted, that we had no viable future alternative to war [sanctions were becoming grotesquely immoral and porous] and that the future threat was absolutely real. But—and it’s a big but—we made the case on the existence of actual, operational WMD and stockpiles of the same. We did so publicly, openly, clearly to as big a global audience as we could find. We said: Trust us. We know. But we didn’t. I cannot see how a single ally will support us in future similar circumstances because of that. Certainly, Britain won’t be able to. And I think a large swathe of American public opinion will be more skeptical than ever. It’s not exactly a case of crying wolf. The wolf was there all right. It’s a function of exaggerating a threat. I believe it was an honest mistake.

In April 2004, around the time the Abu-Ghraib story broke, Andrew Sullivan came to have great misgivings about the way the Bush administration was handling the war. He’s been a shrill critic ever since and has expressed his “shame and sorrow” for his initial support of the war.

Some of his criticisms are legitimate. Many of them, expressed in lacerating—sometimes self-lacerating—tones, are not. But when it comes to the basic decision to go to war, Andrew has disavowed his initial position for reasons that hindsight, and only hindsight, can provide.

Given what we knew at the time, going to war was a necessary move. A legitimate debate can be held now about the mistakes made along the way, about the path forward, or about whether and how to exit. But in conducting that debate, let us not erase the past. By all means let us examine the premises that led us into this war. And let us examine exactly who shared those premises and why.

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Brzezinski’s Paranoia

Writing in the Sunday, March 25 Outlook section of the Washington Post, Zbigniew Brzezinski claims that “The ‘war on terror’ has created a culture of fear in America.” Moreover, he says, “the vagueness of the phrase was deliberately (or instinctively) calculated by its sponsors [to] stimulate . . . the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions, and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue.” The “fear-mongering” of President Bush has been reinforced, says Brzezinski, “by security entrepreneurs, the mass media, and the entertainment industry.” As a result, the American people have been subjected to “five years of almost continuous national brainwashing on the subject of terror.”

This, Brzezinski continues, has “stimulate[d] Islamophobia.” In particular, the “Arab facial stereotypes, particularly in [American] newspaper cartoons,” remind Brzezinski of the “Nazi anti-Semitic campaigns.” The people who do such things are “apparently oblivious to the menacing connection between the stimulation of racial and religious hatreds and the unleashing of the unprecedented crimes of the Holocaust.”

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Writing in the Sunday, March 25 Outlook section of the Washington Post, Zbigniew Brzezinski claims that “The ‘war on terror’ has created a culture of fear in America.” Moreover, he says, “the vagueness of the phrase was deliberately (or instinctively) calculated by its sponsors [to] stimulate . . . the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions, and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue.” The “fear-mongering” of President Bush has been reinforced, says Brzezinski, “by security entrepreneurs, the mass media, and the entertainment industry.” As a result, the American people have been subjected to “five years of almost continuous national brainwashing on the subject of terror.”

This, Brzezinski continues, has “stimulate[d] Islamophobia.” In particular, the “Arab facial stereotypes, particularly in [American] newspaper cartoons,” remind Brzezinski of the “Nazi anti-Semitic campaigns.” The people who do such things are “apparently oblivious to the menacing connection between the stimulation of racial and religious hatreds and the unleashing of the unprecedented crimes of the Holocaust.”

Brzezinski’s goal, he says, is an end to “this hysteria . . . this paranoia.”

How to react to this? Would that one could say simply that it is sad to see a former high official go off the rails, and leave it at that. But the very fact that the Post chose to give the man such prime space shows that he will be taken seriously, although he no longer deserves to be. So here are a few comments.

It is rather rich to decry hysteria and paranoia in the same breath that one likens the slights to Arabs in the American news media to the depiction of Jews by the Nazis, and to imply that these slights may be the prelude to another Holocaust.

It is also rich to hear Brzezinski sneer at “security entrepreneurs.” How, exactly, would Brzezinski describe his own career? The Encyclopedia of World Biography’s entry on him reminds us that “Brzezinski was openly eager to be appointed assistant to the President for nation security affairs and delighted when President-elect Carter offered him the position in December 1976.”

It is amusing to be lectured that “America today is not the self-confident and determined nation that responded to Pearl Harbor” by the national security adviser of the President who delivered the infamous “malaise” speech, telling Americans that our problems arose from “a crisis of the American spirit” and a “los[s of] confidence in the future.” Aside from being rich, Brzezinski’s claim is false. Fear of the enemy is not the opposite of determination and confidence in ultimate victory. There was much fear of the enemy in 1941, including some that was quite hysterical. The main difference in regard to self-confidence between World War II and the war on terror is that after Pearl Harbor, one no longer heard voices like Brzezinski’s claiming that the real enemy was ourselves.

In a further sneer, Brzezinski writes: “President Bush even claims absurdly that he has to continue waging [the war on terror] lest al Qaeda cross the Atlantic to launch a war of terror here in the United States.” Quite a fool, that Bush. Terror here in the United States? Absurd, indeed! How could al Qaeda cross the Atlantic? In airplanes? Ha, ha.

Between sneers, Brzezinski waxes professorial. “Terrorism is not an enemy but a technique,” he explains. Quite so. The enemy might more precisely be described as jihadism, a political ideology that claims that the Christian and Jewish worlds are at war with Islam and that the Islamic world must make war on them. This ideology traces its roots to the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in the 1920′s. But it only took wing after a jihadist government seized power in Iran in 1979, much as Communism only emerged as a major force after a Communist government was established in Russia. And where was Brzezinski when this enemy was taking shape? At the very pinnacle of the American government, flapping about pathetically, pursuing policies that enabled this strategic disaster to happen. His qualification for instructing us about how to deal with jihadism is therefore clear: there are few Americans who did us much as he to create the problem.

* Editor’s Note: You can read Gabriel Schoenfeld’s response to one of Muravchik’s critics here.

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Iran’s Long War

There has been a surge of alarmism about Iran within the U.S. foreign-policy community. Many experts fear that belligerent fanatics will soon use their fearsome arsenals to put the entire world at risk with unprovoked aggression.

Makes sense, you might say. Except that in the view of some analysts, the fanatics are in Washington not Tehran. Some of our most eminent foreign-policy thinkers seem to think that supposedly trigger-happy hawks in America are a bigger threat to world peace than terrorism-sponsoring mullahs in Iran.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 1, Zbigniew Brzezinski warned of a looming conflict with Iran “and much of the world of Islam at large” in which he sees the U.S. as the culprit: “A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a ‘defensive’ U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.” Note the skeptical quotes around “defensive.” In Brzezinski’s telling, a U.S. attack on Iran could resemble Hitler’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, which was preceded by a staged provocation in which SS soldiers in Polish uniforms pretended to attack a German radio station.

Stanford political scientists Larry Diamond and Leonard Weiss take up a similar refrain in the Los Angeles Times, urging Congress to use “its power of the purse to prevent an American attack on Iran.” Weiss and Diamond concede that “Iran is not innocent of dangerous and provocative behavior” but go on to assert that “war is not yet justified, except in the minds of those who have been lobbying for it for years.” Whoever they are.

As it happens, I agree with Weiss and Diamond—and with Edward Luttwak—that it’s not time to bomb, at least not yet. But I take exception to the premise of their argument and of Brzezinski’s, which is that if the U.S. were to bomb Iran, this would amount to starting a war out of the blue. In reality, Iran has been waging war on the U.S. for a quarter century, from the 1979 hostage crisis to the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut to its present policy of supplying Explosively Formed Projectiles—i.e., highly potent landmines—to Shiite and possibly even Sunni insurgents in Iraq who use them to blow up American armored vehicles, killing or injuring the occupants. A U.S. attack on Iran would not represent the beginning of a war; it would merely represent belated recognition on our part that a war is going on.

That isn’t to say that military action is the right course. For the time being, I would prefer more political, economic, and diplomatic pressure, which already seems to be taking a toll on President Ahmadinejad’s popularity with the Iranian political class. But my fear is not that we will respond too belligerently but that, as in years past (including during the first six years of the Bush administration), we will respond too supinely—that we will continue to do nothing, beyond a few tartly worded statements, about the growing Iranian threat. That really will make war more likely.

There has been a surge of alarmism about Iran within the U.S. foreign-policy community. Many experts fear that belligerent fanatics will soon use their fearsome arsenals to put the entire world at risk with unprovoked aggression.

Makes sense, you might say. Except that in the view of some analysts, the fanatics are in Washington not Tehran. Some of our most eminent foreign-policy thinkers seem to think that supposedly trigger-happy hawks in America are a bigger threat to world peace than terrorism-sponsoring mullahs in Iran.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 1, Zbigniew Brzezinski warned of a looming conflict with Iran “and much of the world of Islam at large” in which he sees the U.S. as the culprit: “A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a ‘defensive’ U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.” Note the skeptical quotes around “defensive.” In Brzezinski’s telling, a U.S. attack on Iran could resemble Hitler’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, which was preceded by a staged provocation in which SS soldiers in Polish uniforms pretended to attack a German radio station.

Stanford political scientists Larry Diamond and Leonard Weiss take up a similar refrain in the Los Angeles Times, urging Congress to use “its power of the purse to prevent an American attack on Iran.” Weiss and Diamond concede that “Iran is not innocent of dangerous and provocative behavior” but go on to assert that “war is not yet justified, except in the minds of those who have been lobbying for it for years.” Whoever they are.

As it happens, I agree with Weiss and Diamond—and with Edward Luttwak—that it’s not time to bomb, at least not yet. But I take exception to the premise of their argument and of Brzezinski’s, which is that if the U.S. were to bomb Iran, this would amount to starting a war out of the blue. In reality, Iran has been waging war on the U.S. for a quarter century, from the 1979 hostage crisis to the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut to its present policy of supplying Explosively Formed Projectiles—i.e., highly potent landmines—to Shiite and possibly even Sunni insurgents in Iraq who use them to blow up American armored vehicles, killing or injuring the occupants. A U.S. attack on Iran would not represent the beginning of a war; it would merely represent belated recognition on our part that a war is going on.

That isn’t to say that military action is the right course. For the time being, I would prefer more political, economic, and diplomatic pressure, which already seems to be taking a toll on President Ahmadinejad’s popularity with the Iranian political class. But my fear is not that we will respond too belligerently but that, as in years past (including during the first six years of the Bush administration), we will respond too supinely—that we will continue to do nothing, beyond a few tartly worded statements, about the growing Iranian threat. That really will make war more likely.

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