By building him up into a great Satan, the oil man who invades
countries to seize their reserves and the Christian who orders bloody
crusades, [the liberal-left in Europe and North America] have hidden the totalitarian threats of our age from
themselves and anyone who listens to them. Bush allowed them to explain
away radical Islam as an understandable, even legitimate, response to
the hypocrisies and iniquities of American policy. Even those in the
European elites who do not buy the full 'America has it coming' package
believe that Bush is a cowboy who doesn't understand that the
postmodern way to end conflict is to compromise rather than fight.
January, Bush will be history, leaving liberals all alone in a
frightening world. Little else will change. Radical Islam will still
authorise murder without limit, Iran will still want the bomb and the
autocracies of China and Russia will still be growing in wealth and
confidence. All those who argued that the 'root cause' of the Bush
administration lay behind the terror will find that the terror still
flourishes when the root cause has retired.
Agreed 100%. In many ways, an Obama presidency would be a relief, in that it would force the Democratic Left to confront the realities of an ideology of religious supremacism that stands foursquare opposed to all of its professed ideals. But since that ideology doesn't originate with familiar opponents, it may take awhile for the realization to set in. But those realities will be there to be confronted, and the illusions will last only so long once hard decisions must be made.
Once back in power, the Democrats will find that they can stay in power by pursuing popular programs here at home and putting out soothing idealistic rhetoric abroad, all the while quietly building on the assets left to them by the Bush administration, i.e., an emerging democratic Iraq and an al-Qaeda back on its heels after a stinging defeat in Mesopotamia -- a defeat Obama the Democrats would have gladly embraced to repudiate Bush and his war, regardless of the enormous cost. Fortunately, Bush made it easy by doubling down on the Surge, enabling that victory to occur at virtually no cost to the Democrats.
For their part, if the GOP is out of power, they will need to put country above politics and lend enthusiastic support to any moves by Obama to counter the influence and aggression of radical Islam, even if that means on occasion siding with the opposition party on principle, as did Joe Lieberman. Will the GOP have the courage of its convictions, even if they no longer call the shots?
Hmmm...Only two weeks or so behind the curve. "Independent journalist beats MSM to the story" is seeming more and more like "dog bites man". Would be nice if occasionally, the mainstream press acknowledged this.
UPDATE: Maybe only 2 days behind the curve? On July 16, the AP was quietly saying the war was winding down, it just wasn't the headline. But Gateway Pundit commemorated the occasion with a flying pig.
Former Ambassador John Bolton weighs in with a harsh analysis of Obama's recent address in Berlin before a crowd of 200,000 Germans:
First, urging greater U.S.-European cooperation, Obama said, "The
burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together." Having
earlier proclaimed himself "a fellow citizen of the world" with his
German hosts, Obama explained that the fall of the Berlin Wall and the
reunification of Europe proved "that there is no challenge too great
for a world that stands as one."
Perhaps Obama needs a remedial
course in Cold War history, but the Berlin Wall most certainly did not
come down because "the world stood as one." The wall fell because of a
decades-long, existential struggle against one of the greatest
totalitarian ideologies mankind has ever faced. It was a struggle in
which strong and determined U.S. leadership was constantly questioned,
both in Europe and by substantial segments of the senator's own
Democratic Party. In Germany in the later years of the Cold War,Ostpolitik-- "eastern politics," a policy of rapprochement rather than resistance
-- continuously risked a split in the Western alliance and might have
allowed communism to survive. The U.S. president who made the final
successful assault on communism, Ronald Reagan, was derided by many in
Europe as not very bright, too unilateralist and too provocative.
This is, of course, exactly right. The Cold War didn't come to an end because we all came together as one world to reject Communism; it ended in spite of a drift towards seeing the Soviet Union as a mirror image of -- and occasionally useful counterbalance to -- to the excesses of American power. During the '80s, Ronald Reagan's hard line against the Soviet Union, which included basing medium range Pershing missiles in Germany, sparked massive protests across Europe. Yet, it was this hard line stance that convinced the Soviet leadership that they would not be able to prevail in a confrontation with the West. The need to choose between guns and butter ultimately led to the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev and his polices of glasnost (political openness) and perrestroika (economic restructuring).
The Berlin Wall fell, in no little part because of Gorbachev's outreach to the West and his decision to not use military might to rein in Poland and other balky Warsaw Pact nations. But without the hard line -- and unpopular -- Cold War stance of Reagan, backed by Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II, the Soviets would have pushed more aggressively for world domination, and reformers like Gorbachev would not have been ascendant,
Obama either forgets or ignores those lessons at his own peril. It is very possible that, should he end up in the Oval Office, he will be forced into a remedial course.
15 years after the institution of "Don't ask, don't tell." a sea change in public attitudes towards gays in the military. From the Washington Post:
Today, Americans have become more supportive of allowing openly gay men
and women to serve in the armed forces. Support from Republicans has
doubled over the past 15 years, from 32 to 64 percent. More than eight
in 10 Democrats and more than three-quarters of independents now
support the idea, as did nearly two-thirds of self-described
These numbers are heartening, especially the response from conservatives.
WorldNet Daily is carrying an "insider account" of secret US-brokered negotiations that will supposedly lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state by the end of this year:
According to the source who has been playing a role in the meetings, the two sides are drafting an agreement, to be signed by the end of the year, requiring Israel to evacuate most of the West Bank and certain eastern sections of Jerusalem.
The source said Israeli community blocks in the zones of Gush Etzion, Maale Adumin and Ariel would remain Israeli while most of the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem will be slated for a Palestinian state.
In contradiction to statements by Olmert, the status of sections of Jerusalem is being negotiated but the specifics of any agreed-upon Israeli withdrawal is as yet unclear, said the source.
"It is understood [Jerusalem] Arab neighborhoods would become part of a Palestinian state," the source said.
The source told WND both sides agreed Israel would retain Jerusalem's Pisgat Zeev neighborhood, which is located near large Arab communities. Many of those Arab towns were constructed illegally on property owned by the Jewish National Fund, a Jewish nonprofit that purchases property using Jewish donors funds for the stated purpose of Jewish settlement.
The source said the U.S. pledged advanced training for thousands of PA security officers who would take over security in the West Bank and eastern sections of Jerusalem and operate in those territories instead of the Israel Defense Forces and Israeli police.
The U.S. previously has trained thousands of Palestinian security officers, including units in which known members of Fatah's Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terrorist group serve. Scores of those security forces have carried out terrorist attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians, including recent deadly shootings in the West Bank.
But the source claimed the planned U.S. training is different:
"This training is unlike anything before. The PA, Israel and the U.S. are working very closely to vet the forces. All sides are approving the training candidates. The training is more advanced than ever. It will create a very serious Palestinian army," said the source.
Color me skeptical, but also hopeful. I was in favor of Israel withdrawing from Gaza, not because I expected it to improve the prospects for peace, but because in my view, it was an untenable situation for Israel to devote military resources to protecting a few thousand Jewish settlers embedded among a million-plus Palestinians in a Hamas-led enclave. In a post dated August, 2005 I wrote:
The Gaza pullout makes tremendous sense to Israel, not as a "peace offering" (Sharon is not so naive) but as a military strategy. It makes no sense to have 9,000 settlers surrounded by 1.3 million Palestinians, many of whom want them dead. Even from a religious standpoint, Gaza has little significance compared to areas of the West Bank ("Judea and Samaria" to the Israeli right). It requires some thirty thousands IDF soldiers to protect those settlements, and Sharon's decision to abandon them is based purely on a cost-benefit analysis. Removing the settlements not only removes the roadblocks and occupation forces that have increased misery for the Palestinian residents of Gaza, but it also puts the emphasis on the creation of a functioning civil government. He (and future Israeli leaders) can now demand that Gaza get its house in order before there are any further concessions. And should Israel need to undertake military operations against Hamas and other terrorist groups using Gaza as a base, they can go on the offensive without having to divert resources to protecting setllers (not killing innocent Palestinians in the process will still be a major challenge, given that terrorist groups often hide among and draw support from the civilian population).
Since then, we have seen that the Hamas leadership in Gaza did not take advantage of the pullout to "get its house in order" and create a functioning civil government, but rather to continue to target Israeli civilians with rocket attacks on Sderot, near the Gaza border. Hamas has made no bones about their aim to establish Palestine in the place of Israel and to murder Jews as a means to that end. Although the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank is led by the supposedly "moderate" Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah ("Conquest") party, I do not expect a different outcome were Israel to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state there. Fatah and Hamas have the same goal, they differ only in their tactics and timframe, with Fatah willing to use negotiations as an interim step to the long-term goal of eliminating Israel altogether, which has never been eliminated from the PLO charter.
So that explains the skeptical part, but then how in the world could I be hopeful? Because a two-state solution ultimately makes more sense for Israel than the alternative: a single "bi-national" Jewish-Arab state which, through sheer demographics, would soon become yet another Arab majority country in the region. For better or worse, Israel is the only place on earth where Jews can live as a majority and live according to their own religious and cultural norms. To maintain Israel is a Jewish state (one where Arabs ironically have more political freedom than anywhere else in the Middle East), the Israeli government will need to relinquish the West Bank to the Palestinians.
This will not bring about an end to terrorism against Israel, but it will allow for clarity as to what motivates that terrorism: the refusal of many Arabs to accept, in any form, the existence of a Jewish state in their midst (84% of Palestinians preferred continued violence over talks, according to a recent poll). Nonetheless, with the removal of the occupation as a pretext and Palestine officially negotiated and on the map, it will be difficult to maintain the fiction that the conflict has ever been solely about land and borders.
But with the US fully engaged and applying the lessons learned from its counter-terrorism strategy in Iraq, there is a possibility that over the coming years, some semblance of civil society will return to the West Bank, as well as economic development and trade with Israel. We saw glimpses of this during the illusion of Oslo -- if a deal can finally be reached, we may yet see that illusion become the reality. As the alternative would be a continuation of endless war, one can't fault Bush and Olmert from making one last effort before the clock runs out for both of them.
I am late to the party blogging on this extremely clever video that riffs on the Obama phenom. It's been out for several weeks (you can tell because there are no pictures of Jeremiah Wright), but it's a fun sendup of the candidate and his minions.
Obama's more recent, er, religious problems notwithstanding, there is no question that he is the most electrifying candidate in the race.
On Jihad Watch/Dhimmi Watch, Hugh Fitzgerald offers an interesting thought experiment in response to the question: "If the Israel/Palestinian conflict were exactly the same as it is, only the roles of the two warring parties were exactly reversed, would you then switch allegiances to the Palestinian side?"
If there were 22 Jewish states, and only one tiny Arab state, and if in those 22 Jewish states every other group was denied anything like equality (see the various groups of Christians all over the Muslim Arab world, or for that matter see the various groups of non-Arab Muslims -- such as Kurds, Berbers, and black Africans in Darfur), and if those 22 Jewish states also possessed fantastic oil reserves and the one tiny Arab state possessed nothing but the intelligence of its populace, and if those 22 Jewish states were the size of the 22 members of the Arab League, with 14,000,000 square miles of territory, and the one tiny Arab state had less than 1/1,000th of that, or about 10,0000 square miles, and if those 22 Jewish states were possessed of an ideology that required them to move heaven and earth in order to eradicate that one tiny Arab state...
Daniel Pipes conjures a grim near-future scenario that deftly mixes speculative fiction with recent history and current events:
Just as the 7/7 bombings had revealed in Great Britain, Islamist sleepers in substantial numbers lived quietly and unobtrusively in the United States. The violence became daily, ubiquitous, endemic, and routine, occurring in rural towns, upscale suburbs, and metropolitan centres, targeting private houses, restaurants, university buildings, gas stations, and electricity grids. As its frequency increased, terrorists became less cautious, leading to many arrests and bulging prisons. Some terrorists avoided this ignominious fate by engaging in suicide attacks, usually accompanied by boastful Internet videos. In all, roughly 100,000 incidents meant an average 10,000 deaths and many times more injuries each year.
Jihadis for Justice laid siege to Capitol Hill and the White House, inspired by three prior terrorist assaults on symbols of sovereignty: the attack on Trinidad's Red House in 1990, on India's Parliament House in 2001, and the failed plot to storm Ottawa's Parliament Hill in 2006. Despite massive security in Washington, sniper attacks picked off some legislators and presidential aides. Jihadis for Justice relied on Iranian and Saudi patronage but no U.S. retaliation followed because, before acting, President Obama required proofs that would pass muster in a U.S. court of law, something the intelligence agencies could not provide.
As in other countries – Israel offering the most obvious comparison – major changes in American life followed. Whoever wished to enter supermarkets, bus stations, malls, or campuses had to produce identification, show his bags and perhaps submit to a search of his person. Cars routinely underwent inspections at road blocks. As airline passengers had to arrive four hours before flight time to run the gauntlet of security questions about their travels, airports emptied and airline companies went bankrupt. Local public transportation went through similar upheavals, as commuters took up bicycling rather than submit to interrogations and near-strip searches on their way to work. Telecommuting finally took off.
If money determines political and public views as Carter insists "Jewish money" does, Carter's views on the Middle East must be deemed to have been influenced by the vast sums of Arab money he has received. If he who pays the piper calls the tune, then Carter's off-key tunes have been called by his Saudi Arabian paymasters. It pains me to say this, but I now believe that there is no person in American public life today who has a lower ratio of real to apparent integrity than Jimmy Carter. The public perception of his integrity is extraordinarily high. His real integrity, it now turns out, is extraordinarily low. He is no better than so many former American politicians who, after leaving public life, sell themselves to the highest bidder and become lobbyists for despicable causes. That is now Jimmy Carter's sad legacy.
In 1976 I voted for Jimmy Carter and saw his inauguration as a long-overdue cleansing of the Nixonian stench hanging over Washington and the country. But over the years I have come to see Carter as a failed president, albeit a moral man who worked hard for worthy causes such as his Habitat for Humanity.
More recently, I have been troubled by his tendency to focus on Israel's occupation of the West Bank as though it were the only obstacle to middle East peace, with his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid being the most egregious example. It is sad enough to think that Carter is merely so shallow as to uncritically drink the Israel-as-South-Africa kool-aid retailed the world over as thoughtful analysis, but that he is a bought-and-paid-for shill, working as a tool of the Saudis even as denounces the influence of the "Zionist lobby" on US policy-making.
Is Carter sincere? I believe that at this point he is, but in the mold of Dershowitz' example of the tobacco lobbyist, he has thoroughly convinced himself that a genocidal Hamas-led government in Palestine is less of an obstacle to peace than an Israeli polity that builds a wall to protect itself from that genocide. And that human rights abuses in the Arab world (or China, North Korea, Sudan or Iran for that matter) don't merit the condemnation that Carter seems to think is due uniquely to Israel.
The negative attitude regarding Israel typical of the French government of late is shifting towards a new policy, according to the delegation of French senators sent to visit Israel and the West Bank by the Medbridge Institute.
Now, France is eager to offer Israel support in ensuring its national security by confronting terrorist groups and regimes in the Middle East. "The feeling in France today is that terror must be handled directly, and we are ready to combat terrorism," Jean Pierre Plancade, vice president of the Foreign Affairs and Defense committees, told The Jerusalem Post over the weekend.
Based on France's history of accommodating Arab governments, one would expect its position on the new Palestinian "unity" government agreed to in Mecca by Hamas and Fatah to be closer to that of Russia, i.e. that the Road Map's preconditions can be thrown over the side and the unity government could receive funding from the UN and EU in spite of its continued refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce terrorism or abide by past peace agreements with Israel. In fact, my own expectation was that France would eagerly cooperate in such a charade. Perhaps it will, but the initial reaction gives me more reason to hope than I would have otherwise had."
According to a French Foreign Ministry official, the French government's position on the conditions of the road map are non-negotiable. "Obviously we cannot judge what will happen in the future, but don't expect either Royal or Sarkozy to differ from the current government's position," the ministry official said.
Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert urged the French delegation to fulfill their "moral obligation" regarding Iran, insisting that "Europe must remain forceful regarding the nuclear capabilities of Iran." That position was echoed by Plancade, who acknowledged the threat of a nuclear Iran and opposed their efforts saying that a France under Royal "would totally oppose a nuclear Iran in any capacity. We have carefully analyzed the situation, and are against Iran having a nuclear program of any kind."
He added that they are "in favor of a more severe handling of Iran if they do not cease their efforts. It is not only Israel who will be in danger, but the Sunnis and the rest of the world would be under the Iranian threat." While the Chirac government is opposed to an Iranian nuclear arsenal and has expressed concern over the lack of cooperation by the Iranians with the international community regarding the program, they do not oppose peaceful nuclear technology in Iran.
Other delegates, such as Senate Secretary Yvon Collin, have admitted to broadening their views concerning Israeli-Palestinian relations. "We arrived with preconceived ideas but every day those preconceptions... make room for new realities," declared Collin.
France has a long history in the Middle East, and prides itself on knowing the nuances of the political situation in countries like Lebanon, Syria and Iran. French citizens have long championed the Palestinian cause, viewing Israel through the prism of its own colonial past in the Middle East, and not as an embattled democracy at war with both government and non-government forces who are determined to end its existence.
Now, perhaps realizing that French president Jacques Chirac's recent bizarre offhand comments indicating a comfort level with an Iran that has the Bomb, combined with its own realization that it may be facing its own "intifada" in the streets of its cities, it is possible -- maybe -- that elites in the French government are coming to the realization that the Arab-Israeli conflict may not be just about land, nor even about Arabs and Israelis -- but about a complete unwillingness on the part of the Muslim world to tolerate the existence of Israel under any circumstances, regardless of its policies.
If France is waking up because it perceives a threat to the democratic West, what about the rest of the EU? It seems odd to hear French criticism of the EU, but what to make of this?
Medbridge Chairman and member of the European Parliament Francois Zimeray, who founded the institution to fill the information gap between Middle East and the EU, said from Paris: "This is why Europe has no real impact in the Middle East. They cannot mediate a peace in the Middle East because they do not understand the Middle East.
"I was fed up hearing European diplomats talking about realities that they do not understand, so that is why I have sent 350 parliamentarians from 27 different European countries to Israel and the Palestinian territories." According to Zimeray, one such diplomat is French President Jacques Chirac, who he believes exposed his ignorance of Israel and the Middle East last week with his comment that Teheran would be razed if Iran fired a missile at Israel.
"Israel's real friends are those who understand the fragility of the state of Israel" Zimeray noted. "Saying that Israel would destroy Teheran shows that Chirac doesn't understand Israel's fragility. Israel is not going to take on confrontations all over the world, they need friends and supporters."
Why is it that apologies for a militant Islam which stands for everything the liberal left is against come from the liberal left? Why will students hear a leftish postmodern theorist defend the exploitation of women in traditional cultures but not a crusty conservative don? After the American and British wars in Bosnia and Kosovo against Slobodan Milosevic's ethnic cleansers, why were men and women of the left denying the existence of Serb concentration camps? As important, why did a European Union that daily announces its commitment to the liberal principles of human rights and international law do nothing as crimes against humanity took place just over its borders? Why is Palestine a cause for the liberal left, but not China, Sudan, Zimbabwe, the Congo or North Korea? Why, even in the case of Palestine, can't those who say they support the Palestinian cause tell you what type of Palestine they would like to see? After the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington why were you as likely to read that a sinister conspiracy of Jews controlled American or British foreign policy in a superior literary journal as in a neo-Nazi hate sheet? And why after the 7/7 attacks on London did leftish rather than right-wing newspapers run pieces excusing suicide bombers who were inspired by a psychopathic theology from the ultra-right?
In short, why is the world upside down? In the past conservatives made excuses for fascism because they mistakenly saw it as a continuation of their democratic rightwing ideas. Now, overwhelmingly and every where, liberals and leftists are far more likely than conservatives to excuse fascistic governments and movements, with the exception of their native far-right parties. As long as local racists are white, they have no difficulty in opposing them in a manner that would have been recognisable to the traditional left. But give them a foreign far-right movement that is anti-Western and they treat it as at best a distraction and at worst an ally.
Cohen grew up on the political and cultural left, which he always saw as inherently virtuous. Now, he bemoans the left's betrayal of everything it formerly stood for. Case in point, Iraq:
Journalists wondered whether the Americans were puffing up Zarqawi's role in the violence - as a foreigner he was a convenient enemy - but they couldn't deny the ferocity of the terror. Like Stalin, Pol Pot and Slobodan Milosevic, they went for the professors and technicians who could make a democratic Iraq work. They murdered Sergio Vieira de Mello, one of the United Nations's bravest officials, and his colleagues; Red Cross workers, politicians, journalists and thousands upon thousands of Iraqis who happened to be in the wrong church or Shia mosque.
How hard was it for opponents of the war to be against that? Unbelievably hard, it turned out. The anti-war movement disgraced itself not because it was against the war in Iraq, but because it could not oppose the counter-revolution once the war was over. A principled left that still had life in it and a liberalism that meant what it said might have remained ferociously critical of the American and British governments while offering support to Iraqis who wanted the freedoms they enjoyed...
The policy of not leaving Iraqis stranded was so clearly the only moral option, it never occurred to me that there could be another choice. I did have an eminent liberal specialist on foreign policy tell me that 'we're just going to have to forget about Saddam's victims', but I thought he was shooting his mouth off in the heat of the moment. From the point of view of the liberals, the only grounds they would have had to concede if they had stuck by their principles in Iraq would have been an acknowledgement that the war had a degree of legitimacy. They would still have been able to say it was catastrophically mismanaged, a provocation to al-Qaeda and all the rest of it. They would still have been able to condemn atrocities by American troops, Guantanamo Bay, and Bush's pushing of the boundaries on torture. They might usefully have linked up with like-minded Iraqis, who wanted international support to fight against the American insistence on privatisation of industries, for instance. All they would have had to accept was that the attempt to build a better Iraq was worthwhile and one to which they could and should make a positive commitment.
A small price to pay; a price all their liberal principles insisted they had a duty to pay. Or so it seemed.
Like Christopher Hitchens, Cohen has become something of an outcast for his consistency in opposing fascism and supporting human rights and self-determination, even if that ostensibly lands him in the same camp as George W. Bush and Tony Blair. He refuses to treat politics as an us-against-them team sport, instead holding the left and the anti-war movement accountable for its betrayal of what he thought were obvious principles.
In an essay for the Jerusalem Post, Israeli historian Benny Morris lays out the depressingly plausible scenario:
The second holocaust will be quite different. One bright morning, in five or 10 years, perhaps during a regional crisis, perhaps out of the blue, a day or a year or five years after Iran's acquisition of the Bomb, the mullahs in Qom will convene in secret session, under a portrait of the steely-eyed Ayatollah Khomeini, and give President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, by then in his second or third term, the go-ahead.
The orders will go out and the Shihab III and IV missiles will take off for Tel Aviv, Beersheba, Haifa and Jerusalem, and probably some military sites, including Israel's half dozen air and (reported) nuclear missile bases. Some of the Shihabs will be nuclear-tipped, perhaps even with multiple warheads. Others will be dupes, packed merely with biological or chemical agents, or old newspapers, to draw off or confuse Israel's anti-missile batteries and Home Front Command units.
With a country the size and shape of Israel (an elongated 20,000 square kilometers), probably four or five hits will suffice: No more Israel. A million or more Israelis in the greater Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem areas will die immediately. Millions will be seriously irradiated. Israel has about seven million inhabitants. No Iranian will see or touch an Israeli. It will be quite impersonal.
Some of the dead will inevitably be Arab - 1.3 million of Israel's citizens are Arab and another 3.5 million Arabs live in the semi-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Haifa have substantial Arab minorities. And there are large Arab concentrations immediately around Jerusalem (in Ramallah-Al Bireh, Bir Zeit, Bethlehem) and outside Haifa. Here, too, many will die, immediately or by and by.
It is doubtful whether such a mass killing of fellow Muslims will trouble Ahmadinejad and the mullahs. The Iranians don't especially like Arabs, especially Sunni Arabs, with whom they have intermittently warred for centuries. And they have a special contempt for the (Sunni) Palestinians who, after all, though initially outnumbering the Jews by more than 10 to 1, failed during the long conflict to prevent them from establishing their state or taking over all of Palestine.
Besides, the Iranian leadership sees the destruction of Israel as a supreme divine command, as a herald of the second coming, and the Muslims dispatched collaterally as so many martyrs in the noble cause. Anyway, the Palestinians, many of them dispersed around the globe, will survive as a people, as will the greater Arab nation of which they are part. And surely, to be rid of the Jewish state, the Arabs should be willing to make some sacrifices. In the cosmic balance sheet, it will be worth the candle.
Read it all. With Iran on track to realizing its nuclear ambitions and Ahmadinejad confidently predicting the end of the "criminal zionist regime", does anyone doubt this is the likely scenario? Will any country, even the US, move pre-emptively, or even after the fact? Can Israel?
Taking their cue from the successful IAF destruction of Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, the Iranians duplicated and dispersed their facilities and buried them deep underground (and the Iranian targets are about twice as far from Israel as was Baghdad). Taking out the known Iranian facilities with conventional weapons would take an American-size air force working round-the-clock for more than a month.
At best, Israel's air force, commandos and navy could hope to hit only some of the components of the Iranian project. But, in the end, it would remain substantially intact - and the Iranians even more determined (if that were possible) to attain the Bomb as soon as possible. It would also, without doubt, immediately result in a world-embracing Islamist terrorist campaign against Israel (and possibly its Western allies) and, of course, near-universal vilification. Orchestrated by Ahmadinejad, all would clamor that the Iranian program had been geared to peaceful purposes. At best, an Israeli conventional strike could delay the Iranians by a year or two.
IN SHORT order, therefore, the incompetent leadership in Jerusalem would soon confront a doomsday scenario, either after launching their marginally effective conventional offensive or in its stead, of launching a preemptive nuclear strike against the Iranian nuclear program, some of whose components are in or near major cities. Would they have the stomach for this? Would their determination to save Israel extend to preemptively killing millions of Iranians and, in effect, destroying Iran?
This dilemma had long ago been accurately defined by a wise general: Israel's nuclear armory is unusable. It can only be used too early or too late. There will never be a "right" time. Use it "too early," meaning before Iran acquires similar weapons, and Israel will be cast in the role of international pariah, a target of universal Muslim assault, without a friend in the world; "too late" means after the Iranians have struck. What purpose would that serve?
I am unable to see any realistic alternative scenario. Even if Israel were able to successfully launch a pre-emptive strike to take out the Iranian nuclear facilities, the Iranians would then retaliate and the world would condemn Israel as the aggressor. And if missiles were launched, Israel's anti-missile defenses would need to achieve a 100% success rate, a virtual impossibility.
Can anyone offer an alternate scenario not based on wishful thinking?
Victor Davis Hanson points up the irony of how the US public, and particularly Democrats, have come to view Iraq: "If we fail..."
Prior to Iraq, there was some American guilt over past realism, whether stopping before Baghdad in 1991, playing Iran off Iraq, cozying up to dictatorships, or predicating American Middle East foreign policy solely on either oil or anti-Communism. Read the liberal literature of the 1990s and it was essentially a call for what George Bush is now doing — and being damned for. Then the liberal bogeyman was not Paul Wolfowitz, but Jim Baker (“jobs, jobs, jobs”/”F—- the Jews”). Now the latter is the model of Republican sobriety.
Arab intellectuals and much of the Western Left once decried Bakerism and called for a new muscular idealism that put us on the side of the powerless reformers and not with the entrenched authoritarians. But if we fail in Iraq, then again, fairly or not, the verdict will be far more sweeping than simply the incompetence of the Bremer proconsulship or the impotence of the Maliki government.
Rather, the conventional wisdom will arise that an infantile Middle East ipso facto — whether due to Islamism, tribalism, gender apartheid, sectarianism, engrained dictatorship, or corruption — is simply incapable at this time of consensual government. Anyone who seeks such reform, whether in the Gulf, Palestine, Lebanon, or Egypt, is to be written off not only as naïve, but as reckless as well. A Libyan dissident, a feminist writer in Egypt, or an Iraqi intellectual who decries Western indifference to their plight or American tolerance of regional dictatorships will be told to quit whining and get a life, by a been-there/done-that American public.
Both carping hothouse Arab intellectuals and Western liberals should be put on notice of this change to come. However imperfect, however flawed, however improperly explained our efforts in Iraq were, they nevertheless represented a costly American about-face to offer something in the Middle East other than theocracy or dictatorship — something we are not likely to see again in our lifetime.
Democrats and liberals should likewise realize that for all their hatred of George Bush and the partisan points to be gained by coddling up to the libertarian and paleo-conservative Right, George Bush’s embrace of freedom was far closer to their own past rhetoric than almost any Republican administration in history.
There is definitely a sense of having slipped into some alternate reality from the one I knew pre-9/11. I remember in early 2001 a sense of foreboding that, with the Republicans having won the White House, there would be a shift back to the realpolitik of Bush I and James Baker. The warnings of the Clinton administration about the strategic threat posed by Saddam Hussein and the urgent need to push for regime change in Iraq would be ignored, and we would continue to treat the Middle East as, in the words of Thomas Friedman, "a big dumb gas station". I fully expected the Republicans to stick to their traditional script, and ignore democratic reformers in the Middle East in favor of the usual dictators, tyrants and strongmen.
I didn't figure on George W. Bush, the most unlikely figure in the world to make democratic reform a centerpiece of Middle East policy. In a post-9/11 world, he concluded that there was no safety in the old "stability", only societies forced to choose between rule by thugs or theocrats, who would continue to demonize the West in order to redirect the anger and resentment of their people against an external "other", i.e. "decadent" democracies. Something had to be done to change that dynamic, otherwise it was only a matter of time before we were confronted with an alliance of terrorist networks equipped by their state sponsors with terrifying weapons that could kill hundreds of thousands and wreak social and economic turmoil. He concluded that confronting dictatorial regimes that were actively pursuing such weapons would be far less costly than fighting them when they had achieved their aims and had become emboldened.
It has now become fashionable to deride the so-called "neocons" as Machiavellians ruthlessly plotting global American hegemony, but an objective reading of their writings reveals an idealism rooted in the belief that America should stand with the forces of democratic reform and liberalism in places like the Middle East. Given a choice between coddling dictators and championing rule of law, the equality of women, and a free press, we should be unapologetically in favor of the latter. That support would not necessarily have to be military in nature, but diplomacy must to be backed with a credible threat of force or else it is ineffectual, especially in dealing with despotic regimes.
Now, with the neocons discredited and the general consensus that post-Saddam Iraq is ungovernable, we are back to a weird nostalgia for the dictators. James Baker is suddenly considered the voice of reasonableness by his erstwhile Democratic critics, even as he urges cutting deals with the likes of Iran's Ahmadinejad and Syria's Assad, who he assures us with a straight face have a long-term interest in a stable Iraq. Meanwhile, Iraqi democrats who risked their lives to elect a representative (if flawed and ineffectual) government are to be ignored. And bizarrely, Israel, the only true democracy in the region, is treated as a bargaining chip as we pursue the delusion that a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the magic key that will resolve Sunni-Shia bloodletting in Iraq and cause Iran to abandon its nuclear program and ambitions to dominate the region. And these are the "realists"!
And in the midst of all of it, there's George W. Bush, his popularity in the toilet, his credibility losing altitude by the minute, his every statement second-guessed, his war-fighting strategy undermined -- and yet he keeps at it, sending in yet more troops to take on the militias and terrorist gangs that are determined to impose their will on post-Saddam Iraq and make it a base for jihad against the West. Many of us have checked out, having concluded this war is already lost and not worth a single additional American life. Others want it to be lost if only to repudiate George W. Bush, whom they despise more than Saddam Hussein, the late Abu Musab Zarqawi, or Moqtada Al-Sadr. Ironically, Bush remains a "true democrat" while his critics on the left and right seem to have retreated to the comforts and illusions of the old realpolitik.
But whether the so-called "surge" turns the tide or represents yet another failed attempt to stabilize Iraq, we should all be desperately hoping it succeeds. Because to hope it fails, or to express ambivalence -- as apparently one third of Americans do according to a recent poll -- is to objectively side with religious zealots, Ba'athist thugs, and ethnic cleansers against the majority of Iraqis who want to live decent lives, just because you don't like Bush and want him to go down. If, like me, you retain the liberal idealism you grew up with, that realization should make you shudder.
UPDATE: In a must-read essay on America's checkered history with Iraq and the choices the US has made over the years, Neo-neocon makes a similar observation:
The funny thing about the whole thing (and I mean funny-strange, not funny ha-ha) is that it is the neocon philosophy that represents one of the only strategies offering a possible way out of the realpolitik dilemma. And yet those who criticize our realpolitik decisions to back dictators also criticize our neonconnish decisions to overthrow them and try to institute a better and more democratic form of government. Odd, isn't it?
Partisanship has its advantages. Committed Dems and Repubs don't feel conflicted. They may not march in lockstep with their respective parties, but by and large they share in their respective worldviews. Even if you have friends or relatives across the aisle, you can still retreat to the solace of your own side and know that 50% of the country (give or take) is with you.
Kermit had it wrong - being green is easy. It's purple that's a bitch.
Though I am a registered independent, I am culturally a Democrat. I voted for Carter and Clinton, Mondale and even Mike Dukakis (yes, that Mike Dukakis, the one in the tank). I voted for Paul Wellstone (and still proudly stand by those votes). I'm all for gay marriage, I'm pro-choice, I think we need some form of national health insurance, and don't object to taxing people at the upper end of the income spectrum a few percentage points higher to subsidize public services like roads and parks and good schools and mass transit. I think racism, sexism and homophobia remain real problems. I think artists, writers and musciains should be free to express themselves without fear of censorship or intimidation. I don't want to see the environment despoiled for the sake of a few extra short term bucks. I fear the erosion of the wall of separation between church and state. I want to live in a country ruled by imperfect human laws, rather than those of God, which by definition cannot be challenged or even questioned. I hold deep suspicion of those with authoritarian impulses.
In short, I'm your basic liberal (excuse me, sorry, I mean progressive).
I think free markets create prosperity and excessive government regulation stifles innovation. I don't have a problem with wealth, especially as a reward for risk-taking and innovation. I fear government bureaucracies that want to regulate my life "for my own good". I never thought Castro, Che or Arafat were cool. I think the theocrats in Iran are far scarier than the ones here, and don't want them getting their hands on nukes. I think the UN is a corrupt cesspool that caters to the worst dictators on the planet, and is largely impotent when it comes to stopping bloodshed or saving people from genocide. I unapologetically support the right of Israel to defend itself from those who would recreate the holocaust if they had the means, even as they deny it ever happened. I watch in dismay as Europe complacently accepts and even embraces Islamism, even as it acquiesced to Communism and fascism in earlier generations. I view the War on Terror, including Iraq, as not another Viet Nam, but as a struggle like World War II, against a virulent and hateful totalitarian ideology that we must confront and defeat. I also believe that democracy and rule of law, in one form or another, should be the destiny of every society on the globe, and the alternative -- life under a global taliban-style regime -- would be intolerable.
So I suppose that makes me a conservative. Actually, it makes me a neocon.
I recently came across a brilliant essay by author Orson Scott Card that sums up my dilemma. It begins:
There is only one issue in this election that will matter five or ten years from now, and that's the War on Terror.
And the success of the War on Terror now teeters on the fulcrum of this election.
If control of the House passes into Democratic hands, there are enough withdraw-on-a-timetable Democrats in positions of prominence that it will not only seem to be a victory for our enemies, it will be one.
Unfortunately, the opposite is not the case -- if the Republican Party remains in control of both houses of Congress there is no guarantee that the outcome of the present war will be favorable for us or anyone else.
But at least there will be a chance.
I say this as a Democrat, for whom the Republican domination of government threatens many values that I hold to be important to America's role as a light among nations.
But there are no values that matter to me that will not be gravely endangered if we lose this war. And since the Democratic Party seems hellbent on losing it -- and in the most damaging possible way -- I have no choice but to advocate that my party be kept from getting its hands on the reins of national power, until it proves itself once again to be capable of recognizing our core national interests instead of its own temporary partisan advantages.
To all intents and purposes, when the Democratic Party jettisoned Joseph Lieberman over the issue of his support of this war, they kicked me out as well. The party of Harry Truman and Daniel Patrick Moynihan -- the party I joined back in the 1970s -- is dead. Of suicide.
Tomorrow, there is a very good possibility that the moribund Democratic party will gain control over the House and possibly the Senate. Should that come to pass, its leaders will use their newly-gained power, not to defeat the forces of totalitarianism but to relentlessly undermine the effort to defeat those forces. Of course, they won't believe they are doing that at all -- they will see themselves as wresting control of the country from a power-drunk cabal of corrupt self-serving crooks who have misled us into a needless war from which we must now extricate ourselves. They will seek to reign in the power of the "American Empire" and as they succeed in that effort, the vanguard of a far more ruthless and unapologetic empire will advance, filling the vacuum.
In bringing about the change in direction demanded by their base, they will move to "redeploy" military assets, seek to appease and accommodate tyrants, place their faith in the UN and the "international community". They will watch from the sidelines as Iraq is divided up between al-Qaeda and Iran, as Iran goes nuclear, and as Israel is threatened with annihilation for having the temerity to even think it has the right to exist as a Jewish state in the midst of the Islamic world.
The Democratic left will quietly and without a fuss abandon their commitment to feminism and gay rights in the name of multiculturalism that holds that stoning women and executing homosexuals are just cultural differences we need to accept as global citizens. They will fall silent on the topic of religion in public life, when that religion is Islam. Rather than protesting the encroachment of sharia law, they will insist that we must accommodate the beliefs and practices of religious muslims, practicing self-censorship so as not to provoke violence over perceived insults to religious sensibilities. They will turn away as Europe descends into another dark ages.
Because of the stakes in this midterm, I am forced to consider my vote carefully. I have ended up favoring Democrats at the local and state level, while rooting for the Repubs to stay in control of Congress. Based on my reading of the polls, and my understanding of the GOP's get-out-the-vote strategy, I expect that the Senate will stay in Republican hands, but the Dems will wil control of the House (Speaker Pelosi, anyone?). Ironically, this may end up being the best outcome, as Democrats will once again have some semblance of national power and some ability to propose policies, but they will likely not have the numbers to override a presidential veto, or even to push through legislation without some compromise. This will force them to either govern responsibly or it will show them up to be incapable of doing so.
If the Dems have any hope of regaining their lost majority status, they will have to do better than the feckless and muddled candidate they put up in 2004, and their nebulous non-platform of 2006. They will need to stand for something. Anything. Ideally, I would like the Democratic left to stand for the spread of liberalism in a world that is increasingly moving in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, that requires conviction, a clear sense of right and wrong, and a willingness to fight a protracted war against a determined and ruthless enemy. So I guess those of us who really want to see liberalsim prevail are stuck with the GOP for the foreseeable future.
In tribute to the recently departed Italian journalist, interviewer and polemicist Oriana Fallaci, Neo-neocon recalls her famous encounter with Ayatollah Khomenini. As good as you remember (or would imagine).
I was introduced to Fallaci's work through reading her 1977 collection, Interview with History, in which the Khomeini interview appears, along with similarly revealing interviews of Golda Meir, Mohamar Qaddafi, Yasser Arafat and Henry Kissinger. Hard to get hold of but still highly relevant and a showcase for Fallaci's take-no-prisoners style. She was one tough lady and feared no one. She will be sorely missed.
Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair is Israel's best friend in Europe. And he's not a very good friend.
Immediately after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US, Blair was instrumental in convincing US President George W. Bush to view the Palestinian jihad against Israel as a conflict completely separate from the global jihad. His success in convincing Bush of this distinction turned the anti-Semitic - not to mention strategically disastrous - view that terrorists who kill Israelis should be treated differently from terrorists who kill anyone else into one of the cognitive foundations of the US war on Islamic terror.
I am a huge fan of Tony Blair, whom I see as one of the last bastions of the responsible Left. Although he is clearsighted about the nature of the global jihad against the West, he has a blind spot when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians.
Like most on the Left, Blair operates under the assumption that terrorism against Israelis is somehow distinct in its motives and justification from terrorism anywhere else in the world. It is a tragically naive point of view, one that is implicitly or explicitly held around the world. It is based on the misplaced analogy that the Israelis are to the Palestinians what the former white nationalist apartheid government of South Africa was to black South Africans. In this framework, the Israeli/Palestinian question (and not religious extremism that rejects the existence of the Jewish state) lies at the heart of all problems in the Middle East. In Britain and Europe, reeling from terrorist attacks and looking for scapegoats, this worldview is expressed in a hatred for not only Israel (and by extension, its US sponsors) but of Jews in general. The old anti-Semitism has become fashionable again, only this time it comes from the supposedly progressive Left:
British antipathy towards the US and Israel was clearly exposed in an opinion poll published on September 6 in the Times of London. The poll reported that 73 percent of Britons believe that Blair's foreign policy, and especially his "support for the invasion of Iraq and refusal to demand an immediate cease-fire by Israel in the recent war against Hizbullah, has significantly increased the risk of terrorist attacks on Britain."
More than 62% said that to "reduce the risk of terrorist attacks on Britain, the government should change its foreign policy, in particular by distancing itself from America, being more critical of Israel and declaring a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq."
The day after the poll was published, Blair announced that he would leave office in a year.
Also, on September 7, a committee of members of Parliament released a report on anti-Semitism in Britain. The all-party committee found that that since the Palestinian jihad against Israel began in 2000, anti-Semitism in Britain has become a mainstream phenomenon. Attacks against Jews in Britain were at an all time high over the summer.
In their anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, the British, of course, are no different from their Continental brethren. And the situation in Europe is alarming. Writing in Frontpage magazine this week, Islamic expert Andrew Bostom reported that in November 2005, Stephen Steinlight, the former director of education at the US Holocaust Memorial Council, told a conference in Washington that on average, Muslims attack Jews in Paris 12 times a day. According to Steinlight, this means French anti-Semitic violence is approaching the level of anti-Semitic violence in Germany during the days of the Weimar Republic.
These attacks against Jews in Europe are accompanied by ever increasing official hostility towards Israel on the part of European governments. On the second day of the war with Hizbullah, Chirac felt comfortable alleging that "Israel's military offensive against Lebanon is totally disproportionate." Chirac then acidly asked, "Is destroying Lebanon the ultimate goal?"
Chirac's remarks opened the floodgates for anti-Israel propaganda throughout Europe. They were followed by the barring of El Al cargo planes carrying weapons shipments from the US from European airports. That prohibition still stands.
For those who have not yet caught on, the forces of global jihad are not going to suddenly abandon their desire to make war upon unbelievers just because those unbelievers favor retreat from Iraq, allowing Iran to go nuclear, or blaming Israel for fighting back "disproportionately" against enemies who want to wipe it off the face of the earth. The jihadists will gladly accept all these concessions as proper tribute to the rightness of their cause, and continue to push for the establishment of Islamic sharia law as the only acceptable form of rule in the world.
The Europeans, and even the British, in their willingness to demonize Israel (which last time I checked was not blowing up trains in their capitals), are selling out the only Western democracy in the Middle East, in the hopes of quelling their restive Muslim populations. And in the end, they will find that they are still targets, willingly co-opted by religious extremists for whom there will be no peace until all the world falls under their rule.
Making Israel the problem lets them ignore the real problem, and maintains the bubble of denial. This denial was on full display recently as the EU decided to back the newly formed Palestinian "unity" government, even though it does not recognize Israel's right to exist, and has not renounced terrorism.
Tony Blair is a little less cynical about this exercise than his counterparts on the continent; I have always seen him as an idealist, who wants to see a just peace in the Middle East but not at the expense of Israel's right to exist. But he is, sadly, the exception. And now he is headed for the exit.
The five-year anniversary of Sept. 11 feels like intermission. We are well into what will prove to be a very long war, and already it feels like we have lost focus. Conspiracy theories run rampant: some 36 percent of the American public finds it plausible that the US government was somehow complicit in the 9/11 attacks. The level of denial required to believe this is astonishing; you have to ignore the obvious fanatics chanting "death to America" and issuing fatwas declaring war on the west for over a decade and instead assume that the Bush administration, the managenent of the World Trade Center, the airlines, the military and the media were all in on a murderous plot and coverup involving minimally hundreds of people if not thousands. (Bonus points for implicating Israel.)
The big story over the weekend was the attempt by the Clintonistas to censor and/or kill off altogether ABC's docudrama "The Path to 9/11", apparently because it showed them to be as clueless about Al Qaeda as the Bush admininstration on Sept. 10. Because of all the furor, I actually bothered to watch it (I hadn't dragged myself to either "Flight 93" or "World Trade Center"). It was better than I thought, particularly the scenes set in Afghanistan. Although we were constantly reminded that it was a dramatization, etc. etc., it was a much-needed tonic to the usual hand-wringing introspection.
Having not posted all day, I was startled to see my traffic spike, almost all of it pointing to a 9/11 essay I wrote two years ago, entitled "9/11 then and now". How it is that this has particular essay has become a magnet for so many people I don't know, but it's still just as relevant today as it was in 2004, so I'll quote it here:
Three years later, on the anniversary of 9/11, nothing fundamental has changed. The ideology of militant Islam that wrought destruction on New York and Washington three years before has not abated. We have scored some major victories in the opening phase of the war: routed the Taliban, killed or captured two-thirds of al-Qaeda's leaders and destroyed their training camps. But we are fighting a worldwide ideological movement, not a single group, and the religious fanaticism that drove the 9/11 hijackers flourishes around the world and rises, hydra-like to attack mercilessly in country after country: Indonesia, Turkey, Spain, Israel, Iraq, Russia. It kidnaps and beheads hostages, murders children, blows up innocents whether they are dancing in discos or at worship in synagogues. Its targets are everywhere - Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and of course Muslims who do not subscribe to its radical and violent interpretation of their faith and are therefore considered enemies.
Unless we understand this, we won't win this war. We can be critical of our own society, we can flagellate ourselves over decades of shortsighted policies in the Middle East, we can try to be more sensitive and understanding of other cultures, we can try to imagine "why they hate us". But in the final analysis, the people we're up against are fanatical theocrats who want us dead. Period. They're not nice people and as much as we think conflict shoud be solved by talking it over, they really have nothing to talk to us about. We're just supposed to eiether die or accept our destiny as second-class dhimmi subjects of the global Caliphate to come. Not really that hard to get it, yet it seems that the entire world and a good chunk of the US desperately does not want to deal with that unpleasant fact.
Moreover, to Islam’s further advantage, it has led most of today’s “progressives” to say little, or even to keep silent, about what would once have been regarded as the reactionary aspects of Islam: its oppressive hostility to dissent, its maltreatment of women, its supremacist hatred of selected out-groups such as Jews and gays, and its readiness to incite and to use extremes of violence against them. Mein Kampf circulates in Arab countries under the title Jihadi.
This is by far the most depressing aspect of the current political scene: the people who should have been most opposed to Islamic radicalism instead are wearing keffiyahs and marching in the streets proclaiming "we are Hezbollah". Cue Mark Steyn:
In theory, if you’d wanted to construct an enemy least likely to appeal to the progressive Left, wife-beating gay-bashing theocrats would surely be it. But Islamism turned out to be the ne plus ultra of multiculti diversity-celebration — for what more demonstrates the boundlessness of one’s “tolerance” than by tolerating the intolerant. The Europeans’ fetishization of the Palestinians — whereby the more depraved the suicide bombers are the more brutalized they must have been by the Israelis — has, in effect, been globalized.
But instead of the artful Steyn addressing the nation, we get George W. Bush, who understands the threat posed by radical Islam but is only capable of repeating the same formulaic phrases in speech after speech: "America is safer than it was, but not yet safe...We are fighting them over there so we won't have to fight them here..." If only he could be articulate as Steyn, or Christopher Hitchens. But then, we have the example of Tony Blair, certainly several rhetorical grades above Bush, and very articulate on the nature of the challenges we face -- yet still being pushed off the political stage in his own party.
In the final analysis, too many are unwilling or unable to contemplate what it would mean if the ideology espoused by the Taliban/al-Qaeda/Hezbollah /Hamas/Iran/Muslim Brotherhood were to sweep the globe and supplant our liberal Western civilization with its separation religion and state and its guarantees of personal freedoms. Five years after 9/11, my darkest fear is that we will know all only too soon.