Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category.

American Jews Need to Wake Up

I chatted to a friend of mine this morning over what’s been going on in Gaza. He’s Jewish and was quite critical of Israel in a post on Facebook. Instead of commenting on his post, I messaged him, and we went back and forth regarding Israel. Our discussion made me realize how American Jews simply do not get Israel. They don’t fully comprehend what Israel is about. American Jews have had it easy for the past few generations. It’s been a long time since discrimination against Jews was common, and anti-Semitism has been a low key affair here in the USA when compared to Europe and the Middle East.

There have always been some Jews that were Zionists, that felt a deep seated, often faith-based need for the establishment of the state of Israel. But it wasn’t until the Russian Pogroms at the turn of the century followed by the spike of anti-Semitism in continental Europe that culminated in the Holocaust that a majority of  Jews understood the necessity of Israel. For two millennia Jews had relied upon “blending in”, compromising whenever necessary, and relying upon the humanity of non-Jews for their existence. But the Russian Pogroms followed by the Holocaust proved the bankruptcy of such beliefs. Jews might be safe for awhile, but they could never rely upon non-Jews for their very existence. Hitler proved the fragility of the Jewish people, how easily their situation in the Diaspora could turn from success and prosperity to survival overnight.

Hitler and the Nazis did not arise from nothing. The only difference between them and the various kings and queens who expelled or sanctioned the slaughter of Jews since the fall of the Roman Empire was scale. Queen Isabella would surely have used train cars to expel the Jews from Spain had they existed in the 15th century, and the Czars would have resorted to the gas chambers had they the technical know-how of 20th century Germany. To the survivors of the Holocaust “Never Again” didn’t mean the world should never allow mass murder on the scale of the Holocaust, for the Jewish community it was a warning that never again should the Jews entrust their survival to anyone but themselves.

The State of Israel promised that no matter how bad things got in the Diaspora, every Jew had a home, a place of safety, a “plan B” for when things got bad and the disease of Jew Hating arose. For over 60 years Israel has provided that plan B to all Jews no questions asked, and hundreds of thousands of Jews from the Soviet Union to Ethiopia have taken Israel up on the offer.

American Jews of today don’t understand the need for this. Generations have grow up in a culture where not only are Jews accepted, individuals are celebrated. Instead of seeing Jews as “Christ killers” conservative American Christians see Jews as co-religionists and view Israel as proof of the promise and power of G-d’s Word. But through the centuries Jews have enjoyed such prosperity, success and even celebration in places where they were later slaughtered.

The signs are already here. While the fundamentalist Christian sects remain strong Israel supporters, the more liberal Christian sects are falling prey to leftist ideology that embraces anti-Semitism in the guise of anti-Zionism and the cause of the Palestinians. Jewish students are increasingly harassed on college campuses. Yarmulka wearers are attacked. As the BDS movement evolves the distinction between Israeli policy towards the Palestinians and Judaism itself becomes erased. Jew Hatred is so deeply embedded in Western Society that it doesn’t take much for it to arise to the surface. America has a long tradition of Jew Hatred; we just haven’t reverted to type just yet. But we will, and once the disease infects the moderates and eventually the Right, American Jews will learn what “never again” truly meant, but as usual they will only learn it the hard way.

There will always be non-Jews like me who support Judaism for various reasons. Are American Jews ready to rely upon the likes of me for their safety and survival? I would hope not. American Jews need Israel more than I do. It’s their Plan B, there for them when the s**t hits the fan and they need to get out quick. But it will only be there for them if they support it every time it needs them to.

 

On Kirsten Powers

Recently a very good friend of mine asked me about some statements I’ve made about Kirsten Powers’s conversion to evangelical Christianity. I enjoyed her role as the lone lefty Special Report with Bret Baier on Fox News. I’ve always found that position to be a tough one and tend to respect the liberal who is willing to sit there (I’m also a fan of Juan Williams who has appeared there numerous times).

I do like Powers, particularly for her work on the Kermit Gosnell case. Although I am both pro-choice and pro-life (it’s not as untenable a position as either side thinks) I found the MSM’s avoidance of reporting on the case typical. Powers’s reporting was necessary and must have been tough for her, and I wonder if her experience sitting in the courtroom and seeing pictures and video of Gosnell’s atrocities played a role in her conversion.

As I’ve grown older I’ve tended to avoid images of brutality. When I was younger I could stomach the horrors of concentration camp movie reel footage, but now when I happen upon these images today I simply lack the stomach for it. I feel that because of my past exposure I don’t need to see such imagery again. I haven’t forgotten the suffering of the Holocaust, and it shows through my unwavering support of Israel and the Jewish people. Yesterday I caught Nazi newsreel footage of Jews being herded into cattle cars, then their processing upon arrival in the concentration camps, cans of zyklon B, a still smouldering skeleton in a crematorium. I cannot learn anything more from these images except to deeply despise idiots like Toure Neblet for suggesting the Jews survived the concentration camps and came to the US because of the  “power of whiteness.”

As for Christianity,  I’m still an agnostic on my best days, atheist on my worst. But I do not share the Left’s animus against Christianity, especially considering the latitude it gives Islam. Only the Left’s rejection of Christianity can explain its alliance with political Islam, a religion that has no divide between church and state, treats women poorly and executes homosexuals, though I am somewhat encouraged by the Left’s boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel.

But I am still what the Jesuits educated me to be: suspicious of organized religion of all types just some more than others. Boko Haram, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Al-Qaeda. These are not Christian outfits, and the best the Left can come up with is Westboro Baptist Church – which hasn’t exploded any airplanes, thrown grenades in any markets, or fired any missiles. When evangelical Christians start kidnapping girls and firing rockets into Israel, perhaps I’ll reconsider my view that they are relatively harmless.

American Jews Need To Stand For Israel

As someone with less than 1% European Jewish DNA I’m wondering when American Jews are going to stop taking Israel for granted. I might not be Jewish, but I am quite familiar with their story, and it seems to me that bad things happen to them whenever they forget who they are.

If American Jews don’t stand by Israel they shouldn’t expect others to.

The Roots of Anti-Semitism in Egypt

Samuel Tadros writing for American Interest explains why anti-Semitism permeates Egyptian thought.

Egypt’s modern history is the story of continued failure: failure to modernize, failure to deliver the promised salvation to the masses, failure to better their miserable conditions, and above all the failure of a country to find the place it believes it deserves under the sun. Defeats, failures, and disappointments have taken their toll on the people. Only the existence of a Jewish conspiracy against Egypt, Arabs, and Islam can offer them solace. Only by believing that the Jews are responsible for their miserable conditions can they find comfort.

Read the entire thing.

Bullying Has Far Reaching Consequences

In seventh grade, I got quite sick with a rather serious case of strep throat leaving me bedridden for about two weeks. I had lost my father two years before, my mother’s sister was killed crossing the street near her home a few months after that, my sister’s fiancee died in a car accident, my favorite sister lost a child during birth, and two months later my niece with Down’s Syndrome, so special to me in ways that bring a tear to the eye just thinking about her now, would die on the operating table. Needless to say I wasn’t the most emotionally stable 13 year old. When I returned to school, I noticed immediately something was wrong. As I climbed the stairs kids were looking away from me, not catching my eye. As I reached the top of the stairs and opened the double doors several boys met me. “Welcome back Kirwin,” one said, then sucker punched me in the face. I fell backward through the doors onto my back.

Before I had gotten sick I had written a list of 10 people I didn’t like called my “Sh*t List”. This list contained the names of popular boys, jocks who called me names during recess and boys who pushed me around in gym – guys I didn’t like. I remember I added the last name, a boy I didn’t have any trouble with but who hung with the guys I didn’t like, simply because I needed to round up the list to 10. I don’t know why I did it, and it wasn’t the last time my writing would lead to trouble. I made the mistake of telling my best friends about this list that I kept in my desk (another mistake), and one of them, a transfer from another Catholic school, decided to take it out of my desk and betray me to those on the list in order to score points with the popular kids.

The last two years at that school were hell for me because of that list and the betrayal. I lost all my friends at school and was shunned by everyone. I remember standing alone in the corner of the playground playing a mental game with the digital clock at a bank across the street, seeing if I could judge when the minutes would change simply through feel without counting, desperate for recess to be over. Outside school my best friends including my personal Judas would hang out with me, but at school I was alone. For the rest of my tenure there I was at the bottom of the social ladder. Those wishing to climb it would push me around to appear tough, boosting their appeal with those at the top. To the girls of the class I was a non-entity, a weakling of no consequence.

My mother was devastated by the same losses I was going through, and she tried everything. We spoke to my teachers, the principal and the pastor. None could offer much help. The principal suggested I could transfer to another school, but then followed up the suggestion with the observation that the bullying and ostracism would follow me there. When my Judas gave me the nickname of the Italian slang word for “penis”, and all the kids in the class started calling me that, my mother suggested I call him the Gaelic word for outhouse. Nice try mom.

The only thing she didn’t try and which I was too scared to do at the time was encourage me to fight back.

Being bullied changed my life. It pushed me onto a deeply destructive path throughout my teens and twenties that finally culminated 13 years ago in the choice of sobriety or a life alone in the gutter. Before the bullying I was a stellar student taking advanced math classes dreaming of a life in Academia. Afterward all I cared about was Oblivion, doing almost anything to achieve it. My grades cratered. I sought the extremes of subcultures and the solace of artists and the drugs and alcohol they called their muses.  I suffered flashbacks, waking up with the faces of my 13 year old tormentors in my twenty-something year old mind. It took years of bitter experience, counseling and therapy to finally let go of the anger, the hatred of my tormentors, and the loss of my childhood brought about through Fate and the brutality of children.

With the birth of my son I put my personal experience to work. When he came crying to me about being bullied, I comforted him but I also told him, “Next time, fight back.” As he progressed through school I realized that fighting back against bullies was being discouraged. Teachers and school administrators would punish both children for fighting, refusing to make the effort to determine who was right and wrong, who was the victim and who was the victimizer. I learned an important lesson about public school systems: they always follow the path of least resistance and especially the path of least effort. If a fight broke out they had to have authorities who were nearby and paying attention to what the kids were doing. It’s far easier to not expend the effort to be vigilant and be alerted to a fight after one has started then simply punish both sides.

Imagine cops being called to a domestic violence situation and arresting both aggressor and victim because they didn’t want to take the time to investigate what happened, deciding it’s easier to throw both in jail. Will this deter the batterer next time? No but it will deter the victim from screaming too loud and alerting the authorities.

This is a terrible lesson to teach kids.

What prompted this little bit of soul exposure on the Internet? Bookworm Room’s post, Schools and parents who teach children to become chum for bullies. Bookworm writes, “I cannot believe that a mother told her child to be a punching bag for bullies.  Moreover, I cannot believe that a mother told this to her girl child. One of the primary lessons women learn in every self-defense class is this:  if you fight back against someone who is assaulting you, you are likely to suffer physical injuries, but you are also much less likely than the passive victim to be raped or killed.”

In adolescence I told my son, “Don’t worry about the School. I’ll take care of them. You just make sure that if you can’t avoid a fight, you inflict as much pain on your tormentor as possible.” I knew this from experience. A busted lip will disappear in days; shame lasts a lifetime.

Bookworm agrees:

 

Ever since my kids hit school, I’ve given them a single message: Never be the one to start a fight but, if someone else starts the fight, you make sure to end it. And don’t worry about the school’s subsequent response. If you had to use physical force to defend yourself, and if the school attempts to punish you, I will take the school on if I have to go all the way to the Supreme Court. I’ve never had to make good on this promise, since no one has ever physically attacked my kids. I suspect that, with my instruction ringing in their ears, they don’t walk around like shark bait.

 

I made the Kid a promise. If he gets in trouble for defending himself he has nothing to fear. I would hire lawyers to turn his principal into a Cinco de Mayo pinata in court. I would own the trailers his bullies called “home,”  have them moved to our property, set them on fire and roast s’mores in the flames. I’ve backed this up with personal appearances at the principal’s office whenever there was a whiff of trouble. He knows I have his back even when I’m not there, and that confidence itself has deterred trouble. Bullies smell weakness like sharks smell chum. The personal losses I suffered between 1977-1980 weakened me. Had Fate been kinder I suspect I would not have become a target and suffered such life-changing torment.

But the lessons of standing up to bullies go far beyond the school yard. My experience has made me extremely suspicious of authority, whether small town cops, multi-national companies or the Federal Government. It has driven me to stand up to bad bosses and quit jobs rather than suffer torment in the workplace. When a company pisses me off I will fire off letters or even go to court. Neighbors have tried bullying me and received letters from attorneys then been forced to reimburse me for my trouble.

Bookworm Room writes, “I always back up this instruction to my kids by telling them that, had Jews not been conditioned by centuries of oppression to avoid arms, put their heads down, and try to appease authorities, its likely that the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened.  Please understand that I’m not blaming those victims.  First, no one could ever have imagined what the Germans intended to do.  Second, the Jews’ behavior wasn’t a conscious decision.  It was the result of a thousand years of conditioning.  Israel, thankfully, while not blaming the victims, nevertheless learned the lesson.  Like my children, Israel won’t start a fight, but she will finish it.”

We should be teaching our children to fight back and not be victims. Bullies don’t disappear at age 20; they will always be with us so learning how to confront them should be taught as a life skill in our schools.

Failure – The Obama Administration’s Foreign Policy Legacy

I’m fascinated by disaster and failure. I’m not talking natural disaster; although fascinating in themselves (who around back then does not recall when Mount St. Helens blew up in 1980?) natural disasters don’t provide teachable moments the way a man-made failure or disaster does. Soon the Discovery Channel and The Science Channel will simulcast a scripted movie about the Challenger disaster. The movie is based on Dr. Richard Feynman’s memoir “What Do You Care What Other People Think” and will invariably show how Science and the human analytical mind went from a cloud of smoke and debris at 50,000 feet to the reason for the disaster: an O-ring seal in a solid rocket booster. Such failure analysis is why travel on large aluminum jets is the safest method of transportation in human history, going from perhaps the deadliest form of transport to the safest in less than a century. Such success came about through hard detective work the scene of each disaster, followed by a long period of investigation and analysis where the failure was pinpointed and most importantly, having the lessons learned applied to the rest of the industry.

The bible for those interested in the study of failure is German professor Dietrich Dorner’s 1996 book, The Logic of Failure. The book is based on a set of cognitive experiments done with software simulating a small town’s society in the US, and a fictional area in the Sahel. The studies found that while participants came from varied walks of life and backgrounds, “People court failure in predictable ways.” It then ties the experiments to real life failures such as the nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl. As a systems analyst involved with complex multi-million dollar software development programs, I consider the book “must reading” for everyone in IT. Feel free to pass along a copy to those behind the Obamacare rollout.

Five years ago the people of Iraq had, thanks to the blood of thousands of American and allied soldiers, achieved a level of freedom unparalleled in their history. The national sport of kite flying was legal again and girls headed to school in Afghanistan. al Qaeda and its affiliates were on the run and confined to lawless patches in northern Pakistan, northern Nigeria and Somalia. Iran was boxed in between biting sanctions that undermined the regime internally, successful American military operations on either side of it, and an Israel ready, willing and backed by American leadership to attack Iran to stop it from acquiring nuclear weapons. China was busy flooding the world with cheap crap, content to use North Korea as its proxy to stir up trouble in favor of the regime in Beijing. Our relationship with Russia had begun drifting away from engagement towards confrontation over its aggression towards Georgia, but Russia was clearly a state in decline both internally and internationally. Even Syria was seen as a player, with Democrats having genuflected at Bashir Assad’s feet, Nancy Pelosi having claimed “the road to peace begins in Damascus” in 2007, four years before Vogue’s schmaltzy interview with the Assad family, “A Rose In the Desert.”

Today Iraq is a client state of Iran, its skies filled with Iranian cargo planes resupplying the Assad regime in Syria and Hezballah in Lebanon, its social fabric once again ripped by car bombs as the Sunni/Shi’a war rages on the ground. The Obama administration, convinced of its failure before it took office walked away from American success in Iraq by its refusal to negotiate a status of forces agreement with Baghdad. Historians will one day ask “Who lost Iraq?” and the answer will be Barack Obama. Immediately after setting up their base in Afghanistan in 2001, the Marines buried a piece of steel taken from the World Trade Center rubble on the site. Soon the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies will reclaim this as a war trophy as the kites and girls disappear from the streets, and the music that has filled the air in Kabul since 2001 will be replaced once again with silence punctuated by gunfire and explosions. Again historians will ask “Who condemned these people to savagery? Who lost Afghanistan?” Again the answer will be President Obama, a man who once called Afghanistan “the good war.”

After taking power President Obama fluttered around the world on what critics like me called his “Apology tour,” apologizing for American misdeeds both real and imagined, in the belief that the new-found humility would please our friends and sway our enemies. The Obama Administration has accomplished exactly the opposite. Today Iran is expanding its “Shi’a Crescent” throughout the Middle East, and the only ones standing in the way is Israel in an unlikely (and unspoken) alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. This after a popular rebellion took the streets in 2009 that could have changed the course of History, but it received no hint of support or backing from the Obama administration and it was ruthlessly crushed. It will be decades before the people rise up against the theocracy, if they ever do.

Today from Morocco across northern Africa to the Sinai, and from Nigeria across the continent to Somalia Africa burns with Muslim extremists allied with al Qaeda. Obama’s support of the rebellion to replace Mohammar Khaddafi in Libya has opened a Pandora’s Box of weaponry built over decades by Libya’s Great Loon, handing AK-47s, RPGs, and anti-aircraft missiles to everyone with an axe to grind and a Koran burning a hole in their hearts. Where there had been one failed state 5 years ago, Somalia, there are now at least 3 (Somalia, Mali, Libya) with numerous others (Algeria, Chad, Mauritania, Nigeria, Niger, Western Sahara) circling the drain. After Khaddafi’s fall al Qaeda training camps sprouted like mushrooms across North Africa and the Sub-Sahara, breathing the lawlessness that the Libyan Debacle created, and repaying the Obama administration for its “lead from behind” strategy by killing an American ambassador and his three bodyguards in the first such incident in 30 years.

Although the administration’s failure vis-a-vis China is not as bad as the disaster it has created in the Middle East, the Obama Doctrine of placating our foes while dissing our friends has been noticed in Asian capitals. South Korea is developing closer ties with China at the same time Japan rearms and prepares to ditch its anti-war constitution ghost written by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Nations like Pakistan who haven’t really decided whether they are American allies or its enemies see no downside to throwing their lots in with the Chinese or Iranians. Pakistan even provides China the tail-section of a top-secret stealth helicopter used in the operation to kill Osama Bin Laden, America’s enemy number 1 watching porn in air conditioned comfort on Pakistani soil. There is no blow-back, no consequences suffered for entertaining the man responsible for the deaths of 3,000 Americans, and none for handing over the tail rotor section to America’s greatest military adversary. And to top it off, the true hero of the event, a local doctor who had the guts to help the Americans confirm Bin Laden’s identity, sits in jail as a traitor to his people. If anything playing up to America’s adversaries almost wins respect from the Obama administration itself. China understands this best, waging a cyber war against the US government and private industry without retribution.

Then there’s Europe. When the Obama Administration hasn’t sacrificed its allies to appease its enemies in Teheran and Moscow, it bugged their phones, proving yet again this administration’s inability to differentiate friend from foe. “Everyone does it,” is not an acceptable excuse for a superpower. There is absolutely no reason the US should be bugging Angela Merkel’s phone just as there is no reason it should be spying on 10 Downing Street. Perhaps the mushy-headedness that comes with moral relativism has blinded the administration to the differences of say, between Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin, or David Cameron and Ayatollah Khamenei.  The “Special Relationship” with the UK is special for a reason, one that is much older than the inhabitants of the West Wing and much more sublime than the political wonks can comprehend. Ditto the German Chancellor. Frau Merkel was born in East Germany and has first hand experience with illegal and unjustified surveillance. Unlike some of her predecessors, she has not risen to power on an anti-American platform, and has done an exemplary job of aligning the interests of Germany with the broader interests of Europe and the United States. Spying on her was a stupid idea that should never have been approved, and once approved, it should have been cancelled, and if not cancelled it should never have been revealed. Yet a contract DBA waltzed off with the keys to the entire American Intelligence in the worst espionage failure since Klaus Fuchs handed the Soviets the Bomb. Again, no consequences. No one fired let alone jailed.

Many on the right have concluded that this is all by plan, that the Obama administration and his Democratic party supporters have been intent on taking the ship of state and intentionally running it aground because they are socialists or communists. In the Irving Kristol Lecture to the American Enterprise Institute on February 10, 2004 Charles Krauthammer suggests it is more complex and subtle than that:

“What I do know is that today it is a mistake to see liberal foreign policy as deriving from anti-Americanism or lack of patriotism or a late efflorescence of 1960s radicalism.

On the contrary. The liberal aversion to national interest stems from an idealism, a larger vision of country, a vision of some ambition and nobility – the ideal of a true international community. And that is: To transform the international system from the Hobbesian universe into a Lockean universe. To turn the state of nature into a norm-driven community. To turn the law of the jungle into the rule of law – of treaties and contracts and UN resolutions. In short, to remake the international system in the image of domestic civil society…

And to create such a true international community, you have to temper, transcend and, in the end, abolish the very idea of state power and national interest. Hence the antipathy to American hegemony and American power. If you are going to break the international arena to the mold of domestic society, you have to domesticate its single most powerful actor. You have to abolish American dominance, not only as an affront to fairness but also as the greatest obstacle on the whole planet to democratized international system where all live under self-governing international institutions and self-enforcing international norms.” – Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passion, Pastimes and Politics

Seen in this light, Obama’s foreign policy has not been a failure at all. It has accomplished exactly what it was intended to do. It has weakened America’s foreign policy hand across the board. America’s military is weakened through political purges of its officer corps, lack of direction and budget cuts. Its diplomatic corps is undermined by the lack of protection of its staff, as proven in Benghazi, by the White House’s high-handedness shown towards America’s closest friends the UK and Israel, and the spying program targeting American allies as well as its enemies that State Department personnel are forced to explain in their host countries. Its adversaries Syria, Iran and North Korea are all in better positions than they were five years ago. Ditto China and Russia. As the US weakens its enemies strengthen, and its allies are then forced to either band together (EU standing up to Russia and encouraging Ukraine to join, ASEAN nations co-coordinating efforts to balance China) or leave its sphere of influence entirely (Saudi Arabia, Egypt and perhaps Israel in the Middle East, South Korea in East Asia).

Obama has domesticated America on the international stage, to use Krauthammer’s term: so now what? Where is the Golden Age promised by Locke and the internationalists? If they are correct, a humbled America should encourage its enemies to stop their own military buildups (they don’t need offensive military capability with America’s gone). North Korea and Iran no longer need nukes now that American nukes are rusting away awaiting destruction as Obama unilaterally disarms. Without American backing Israel should engage its enemies diplomatically in a desperate bid to secure peace with the Palestinians. The world should be much better today than it was five years ago.

Is it? I suppose that depends on your perspective. Five years ago Americans could have traveled safely throughout Africa except for one nation Somalia. Today I’d hesitate to walk through the narrow streets of Zanzibar as I once did freely nearly two decades ago, and have struck Valley of the Kings in Egypt off my bucket list until further notice. Northern Kenya, Mali, Eritrea, Mauritania, Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Western Sahara, and Libya are now no-go areas for Westerners. I suppose that’s great if you can’t help but shout Allahu Akhbar every time you touch an AK-47, but for the rest of us things have gotten worse not better under the new regime.

Dietrich Doerner writes, “For them (people who failed most often at complex analytical tests) to propose a hypothesis was to understand reality; testing that hypothesis was unnecessary. Instead of generating hypotheses, they generated ‘truths’.” The Obama administration came to power proposing a hypothesis, that the world would be a better place with the United States weakened. It treated this hypothesis as a truth, steadfastly refusing to let go of it, sacrificing ambassadors, diplomatic relationships built over generations, and American influence in the process. When Doerner’s study participants failed, they invariably blamed others for their failures just as the Administration has focused the blame on the GOP.

When the Obama administration took power I and many others had hoped it would govern from the center, that things wouldn’t be as dire as we had feared. We hoped that it would try its crazy ideas, learn they didn’t work, then try something else. But they didn’t learn. They stuck to their “truths.” Five years on our foreign policy is a shambles, America weaker and friendless as it has been at no other time in its history. The disaster is worse than we expected, and we still have 3 full years left in this president’s term.

Will America be able to survive this epic failure? Thirty-two years ago Ronald Reagan took power and turned around foreign policy debacles of the previous Carter administration pretty quickly. Will a Republican president be able to do the same after eight years of disaster? And what if the GOP selects the wrong candidate and Hillary Clinton wins in 2016? How much failure can this country accept and still survive?

Ignore Iran Today – But Not Tomorrow

American diplomacy is a mess. Much of this can be blamed on the current administration who came into power believing they were different from the previous ones, gifted with talent and intelligence their predecessors lacked. But the truth is American diplomacy has always been a mess because honestly, we suck at it.


Having the ability to talk your way to get what you want is only useful for someone who is weak. In the hundred years or so after America’s founding when it was relatively weak to the Great Powers in Europe, we were far enough from the fray to not really matter, and the Europeans only took interest of us when they thought they could use us in their schemes against their primary European opponent. Thankfully American administrations heeded Washington’s advice to avoid foreign entanglements, and were content with expanding power across the continent.  At our weakest point, the years of the Civil War, when the European powers had the opportunity to sway the outcome of the war, it was only a blunder by Confederate President Jefferson Davis to bully the European powers using cotton exports to European textile mills as his primary bargaining chip to attain diplomatic recognition of the Confederate states, and the Union’s more benign and positive support of free trade and past military cooperation with Britain and France that convinced these powers to stay out of the fray. Had Davis been more diplomatic and the European powers more interested in the goings on across the Atlantic, chances are good I’d be writing from my seat in the Confederate States of America.


Things changed after America achieved its “manifest destiny” of spreading across the continent, and began following in the footsteps of the European powers in constructing an empire. During this time diplomacy didn’t matter; what mattered was brute force and the ability to wield it, first in Mexico then throughout the Central America and the Caribbean as it displaced first France and later Spain. But America came late to the game, so its empire was small and inconsequential compared to the great empires of France and Great Britain, and the world wars that followed in the 20th century exposed the danger of empire building as well as the limitations of diplomacy. The Europeans chewed the fat with Hitler for years and it didn’t stop him from taking over continental Europe. Had Neville Chamberlain advised the King to select Lord Halifax, whom he liked and was the popular choice at the time, instead of the unflappable Winston Churchill, it’s quite possible Hitler would have held it.


Americans came closest to learning the art of diplomacy during the Cold War when military supremacy was far from assured while mutual destruction was. This was a decades long learning curve, and during that time the Soviet Union and the United States stood at the brink of war, most notably during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But these lessons have limited value in today’s world where there is no superpower to challenge us. Worse, the Cold War proved the Soviets were “rational actors”, something that isn’t assured by countries like North Korea, Iran or terrorist organizations like al Qaeda.


American foreign policy in the Middle East has never been handled well. After World War 2 America imported British policies in the region, then tailored them to fit the realities of the Cold War. These policies favored stable dictatorships that were either friendly enough to host America forces sent to guarantee the West’s oil supply, or at least were friendly enough not to host Soviet forces. The Soviets weren’t stupid, of course, and the rise of Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt who assumed a neutral stance towards the superpowers offered them an opportunity to expand their influence throughout the Arab world. Although officially non-aligned, the Egyptians followed policies that for all intents and purposes matched those of the Soviets, provoking the Eisenhower administration to isolate Nasser by supporting the Saudis as a counter-weight in the region. Thus began the alliance between the Saudis and the Americans, an alliance that has dictated policies by both governing parties over the next 50 years.


Has this policy benefited the United States? The Saudi monarchy and its supporting administrations have proven to be master diplomats. They’ve had to be because they have a valuable resource in a dangerous area and have limited means to defend it. The Saudis took power in the Arab peninsula by first co-opting the Wahhabi preachers prevalent in the area, then kept them under control by providing them a portion of the oil wealth they could use to spread their version of Islam around the world.


Wahhabi Islam is the most intolerant religious sect in the modern world. Imagine the Westboro Baptist Church with tens of millions of followers and billions of dollars yearly at its disposal, and even this analogy is limited due to the WBC’s non-violent teachings compared to the exhortations to violence that regularly appear in Wahhibi sermons and commentary. Yes WBC hold signs at military funerals stating “God Hates Fags,” but they don’t execute suspected homosexuals as the Wahhabis do.


Islam is a conversion-based religion, spreading throughout Asia and Africa and laying siege to Christian Eur0pe first in Spain and later in Eastern Europe. As Islam spread it changed as most conversion based religions do, incorporating customs and traditions of the natives, thereby making it more desirable to the locals at the expense of doctrine. Also lacking a central authority unlike Christianity, numerous strains of Islam appeared, making the Islam of Indonesia different from the Islam of India, which was different from the Islam of Iran which itself differed from the Islam of the Arab nations.


The Wahhabis took their opportunity to re-establish purity and achieve Mohammed’s dream of a global Caliphate by sending well-funded (thanks to Saudi money) missionaries to set up Wahhabi mosques and schools throughout the world, paying special attention to countries with large communities of Muslims. The Wahhabi missionaries would arrive in a community flush with cash, then set up a new mosque and madrassa preaching Wahhabi teachings. These mosques and schools could provide education and services that outcompeted the existing mosques and schools since these relied upon local funding to survive.  The result has been the radicalizing of Muslims in previously multi-religious societies throughout Africa and Asia. Countries where Muslims and Christians had lived intermingled for years suddenly experienced religious strife such as has happened in Indonesia and most recently Kenya and Tanzania.


American foreign policy seems filled with ironies, and none is perhaps as ironic as the fact that the United States supported the Saudis to fight the existential threat of communism during the Cold War, only to create the existential threat of religious intolerance-bred terrorism.


The only thing that has kept Saudi Arabia from appearing on the list of states sponsors of terrorism has been its alliance with the United States. This alliance goes very deep, and the likelihood of its rupture is minimal. The Saudis have built deep personal ties with American leaders in politics, business and academia in their effort to sway American policy to favor their kingdom. The relationship has weathered Saudi sponsored terror attacks including 9-11 and the funding of Sunni militias in Iraq that killed hundreds of American soldiers. So far these ties and the influence that comes with it have convinced the Americans to defend Saudi Arabia from Saddam in Iraq and an Iranian regime seeking nuclear weapons.  In a private comment released by Wikileaks former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the Saudis were willing to fight the Iranians to the last American, yet American leaders have been more than willing to give Saudi Arabia a pass on its sponsorship of terrorism while focusing on such sponsorship by its Shiite nemesis Iran.


Into this complicated situation America has elected its most inexperienced, arrogant and incompetent leader since before the Civil War. The Obama administration’s policy failures in the Middle East, from its failure to secure the peace in Iraq, through its naïve support of the Arab Spring to the gross mishandling of the civil war in Syria has destabilized the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States. The selection of Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran has presented a tempting diplomatic opportunity for the United States, one that President Obama seems to be entertaining, as Rouhani makes tempting noises in the press about normalized relations with the West.


Is a normalized relationship with Iran worth entertaining? First, there is no doubt that Iran is a sponsor of terrorism, whether through its own Revolutionary Guard or through its support of Hezbollah. There also is no doubt Iran has American blood on its hands. But Shi’a Islam is nowhere near as intolerant a sect of Islam as Wahhabi Islam. Iran is much more tolerant of other faiths than Saudi Arabia, and has not built an industry out of sponsoring mosques and madrassas to inspire hatred of other faiths and sects. Traditionally Shi’a Islam also has something roughly akin to a separation between Church and State, something that the Ayatollah Khomeini and his successor the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei have downplayed in order to maintain clerical supremacy of Iranian society. In the long run it is unlikely that Iran would present the existential threat to the United States that the Saudis have through their support of Wahhabism, and would likely be more amenable to taking a slower track towards nuclear weapons.


This is what Obama likely sees, and its a vision that in the eyes of a worthy leader could change history for the better. But Obama is not that leader.


Obama is desperate for success, and like any man who is desperate he will reach for anything. The Iranians know this which is why they are making gestures towards the current administration. They smell Obama’s desperation, and see an easy opportunity to separate the United States from its traditional Saudi and Israeli allies. They will negotiate from a position of strength, guaranteeing any diplomatic successes will only be attained through great cost by American negotiators.Is the Saudi relationship on the table? Perhaps not wholesale but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to put some daylight between the Saudis along with the Israelis and the American regime.


Given this administration’s track record, such offers should not be surprising. Look at the deal Putin got out of the President. The diplomatic community hasn’t seen a come-down like that since Carter tried rescuing the hostages in 1980. Obama’s idea of political horsetrading is making a speech. He’d be unable to get a good deal on a used car lot let alone in the international arena where regimes like the Saudis, Israel and Iran are fighting for their very existences.


There will come a time when America can strike a deal with Iran that will benefit both nations, but now is not that time. Such a time will only come when the situation is reversed, when America is negotiating from a position of strength and the Iranians are weak. Such a deal would likely see the United States freed from Saudi influence of its policies, allowing it to see the existential threat that the oil rich kingdom has unleashed on the world for what it is. Such an event would inevitably lead to the downfall of the House of Saud which is the policy Americans should have been pursuing all along since the end of the Cold War.


Now is not that time.


UPDATE: As usual Michael Totten explains why we should “Beware Persian Leaders with Masks” better than me, pointing out that Rouhani is not the leader of Iran: “Seriously, getting excited about Rouhani is a like foreign heads of state swooning when the United States gets a new Senate Majority Leader.”


Obama’s Leadership Failure

Over the past five years I have watched the collapse of American prestige in the world. I have come to terms with this loss, recognizing that such things are reversible and that a new administration will one day take over and reverse the decline. But as we learned during the Carter era, reinforced by Reagan’s retreat from Lebanon after 242 US Marines were killed in 1983 and later Clinton’s Somalia fiasco, such a loss resonates into the future. The prime example of this was Osama Bin Laden’s recognition of these failures as signs of America’ s loss of will, making it the “weak horse” which would collapse by the addition of a grain of salt on its back. One by one grains were added, the 1993 WTC attack, the Khobar bombings in Saudi Arabia, the Embassy Bombings of 1998, and the USS Cole attack of 2000, and the horse failed to fall. The 9-11 attacks were just more of the same, more grains of salt added to the horse’s back from Bin Laden’s perspective. But instead of collapsing under the strain Bin Laden’s metaphor collapsed, and he and his organization found itself on the defensive against a determined foe, one that eventually turned him into fish food in the Indian Ocean.

We are repeating history, and in this sequel we are much closer in time to Carter’s 1980 failed hostage rescue mission than we are to Tora Bora. President Obama’s core belief that words matter, that diplomacy can solve every crisis and that the military option is only resorted to by leaders less intelligent than himself, has been shown a failure to everyone outside his inner circle. Over the past 5 years (I include Obama’s promises in the final stage of the 2008 campaign as well as the self-importance he attached to his president-elect status after the 2008 election and before the 2009 inauguration) Obama has used promises and threats instead of deeds and action to guide US foreign policy. There was some success at first as allies took his word for the former and our enemies heeded the latter, but as the world changed the promises weren’t met and the threats weren’t acted upon, our allies became disheartened while our enemies were encouraged. Such mistakes must have come as a surprise to both, to see the most powerful and influential nation on earth run by an administration filled with the best and brightest progressive leaders the country had to offer acting like an impoverished, helpless and morally bankrupt banana republic on the world’s stage.

Nations adjusted accordingly. China has become more aggressive in its territorial claims. North Korea continues to threaten the world with nuclear annihilation with impunity. Iran has taken the success of North Korea to heart and vigorously pursues the Bomb. While the Obama administration spoke about the decimation of al Qaeda, the terrorist organization proved powerful enough to kill an American ambassador, the first in thirty years, take over leadership of the rebellion in Syria, turn Iraq into a killing zone,  and scare the administration into closing a score of embassies throughout the Middle East. Not bad for an organization that the administration has said is “on the run.” Clearly al Qaeda accomplishes more in retreat than many armies do on the offensive.

Then there is Russia.  It’s ironic that President Obama treats Vladimir Putin as his equal and Russia as a superpower by giving it veto power over American actions in the Middle East and throughout Asia. In effect Obama elevates the status of Russia while subverting American interests abroad. Such actions must demoralize nations in the former Russian sphere of influence like Poland and the Czech Republic, while encouraging our friends in the Middle East such as Israel and Saudi Arabia to begin to cut their own deals with Russia.

Speaking of friends, we once had one in Egypt. It was a typical Middle Eastern friend. It took gobs of money from us then fed the masses a steady diet of anti-American propaganda that encouraged Islamic terrorism. But the Egyptian regime was successful for the most part. It kept itself in power, maintained the peace – albeit a cold one – with Israel, and kept the foreign currency flowing into Egypt from European and American tourists. Make no mistake Hosni Mubarak was no Winston Churchill, and the Egyptian regime never had our back the way Australia always has, but to expect anything more from Arabs in the Middle East requires complete ignorance of the culture and history of the area. Nevertheless the Obama administration and the State Department under the leadership of Hillary Clinton, a woman whose resume highlight for the job included hosting dinners as the First Lady in the White House for eight years, proved through their actions (and inactions) that for all their supposed brilliance, they were at heart as dumb as a box of blocks when it came to Egypt.

First the administration saw the Arab Spring as a revolutionary moment for liberalism in the country, forgetting that Egypt has been ruled throughout its five thousand year history by pharaohs, kings and military juntas when independent and by Rome, the Ottoman Empire or France when not. Although Egypt lacked any democratic culture or institutions, the Obama administration happily threw Hosni Mubarak under the bus, thinking that he would be replaced by a liberal Democrat they had met at a Washington DC state dinner, Mohamed ElBaradei. The Obama administration didn’t understand what was really happening in Egypt during the Arab Spring: the military junta had stopped supporting Mubarak when he attempted to turn over power to his son and make the presidency a dynasty. Elections were held and the masses didn’t vote for a familiar face in the DC dinner circuit; instead they elected the front of a terrorist organization bent on the destruction of Israel and the United States, and the ideological parent organization of both Hamas and al Qaeda.

Maybe the Obama administration and the State Department thought they were dealing with the Egyptian equivalent of Sinn Fein, and that like the IRA in Ireland, the terrorists in Egypt would lay down their arms and take up the ballot box to achieve their aims of global conquest. Many on the Right questioned the administration support for the Brotherhood as being more diabolical, and that some great conspiracy lay behind American support of the Brotherhood even when it became obvious that it was trying to turn Egypt into an Islamic state like Iran. Although I doubt that Obama is a closet Muslim, or that Hillary’s “special friend” Huma Abedin’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood dictated our policy towards Egypt, nothing but sheer stupidity successfully explains our support of the organization as it attempted to wrest control of the state from the military. The military reacted and said “Enough,” taking power away from the Islamists and restoring the status quo of a generation ago when Mubarak ruled Egypt with military support and the Muslim Brotherhood conspired to take power from behind bars. The result of this episode in Middle Eastern foreign policy is the brilliant progressive leaders of the Obama Administration and State Department have angered all sides in Egypt.

For perhaps the first time in his life Obama will be judged not by his words but his actions. No speech he gives will excuse the failure of his leadership on foreign policy, particularly on Syria. It is ironic that the words so prized by Obama and his followers are what has boxed him into a corner in the first place. His team knew the ad libbed term “red line” would prove disastrous. Now he is so desperate he is begging Republicans like former foe Senator John McCain and House Speaker John Boehner to save him. Given the stupidity of the GOP it’s quite possible they just will, providing him the option he needs so that when things get worse in Syria he can blame them. Unlike McCain and Boehner I can live with an America that cannot be trusted by its friends and is no longer feared by its enemies – at least until January 2017. The progressives and Obama believed they knew best and elections have consequences. To paraphrase my late mother-in-law, they chose this path, and they must walk it.

 

The Day After: When Iran Successfully Tests The Bomb

Before visiting Israel President Obama said in an interview with Israeli TV Iran was about a year away from having the Bomb, and “all options were on the table” for preventing it from acquiring it. Visiting Jordan later in his trip Obama took a more conciliatory tone, saying the issue is best resolved through diplomacy and the United States will continue to apply pressure on Iran “in a non-military way.” But if what Obama says is true, that Iran is a year away from having a bomb, it would represent a failure of diplomacy and would contradict the CIA position held as recently as 2012 that Iran had “halted its nuclear weapons program” in 2003. So what would it mean for Iran to have the Bomb? What would happen after a successful bomb test?

The first awareness of a successful Iranian underground nuclear test would come from seismic sensors detecting an earthquake  having a magnitude of 4.0-5.0 centered in a sparsely populated region of Iran. Such man-made earthquakes have a distinctive seismic signature compared to naturally occurring quakes and can be detected within minutes of a test. Occasionally an underground test, such as one conducted by North Korea in 2006, releases cesium 137 into the air which can be picked up by detectors downwind in China, India and Pakistan, but it is likely the seismic signature of a blast would be enough to announce to the world that Iran had joined the nuclear club.

Press reports would appear suggesting a nuclear detonation in Iran, but in the initial hours after the blast most nations would be quiet about it, preferring to review their own intelligence before making statements, and the media in the USA and Europe will double and triple-check their sources before setting the headlines. Not so the Iranian press. A nuclear Iran has been perhaps the only thing opposition groups and the theocratic regime agree on, and Iranian media outlets will be trumpeting the news throughout the nation and the regime will be passing out sweets in the streets of Teheran in celebration. Therefore it is likely we would learn about a successful nuclear blast from the Iranian press via American and European media reports before official confirmation came from western governments.

When those official confirmations arrive expect them to be funereal in tone, of the type “The (your nationality here) people condemn the Iranian regime for its unlawful nuclear weapons test that threatens the stability of the region as well as the regime itself.” There would likely be near panic in some quarters, jubilation in others with commentators and reporters expecting the imminent obliteration of Israel. But Israel will not be in immediate danger.  Building a bomb for a test and a bomb that can be put onto a missile or airplane are two separate engineering challenges, and because of that they are most likely occurring concurrently and with assistance from North Korea and some assistance from Russia.

There will be a sense in the West that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was worthless, and the sanctions Iran has put up with for over 15 years have completely failed. Promises made by the Obama administration to Israel and other states in the Middle East that containment of a nuclear armed is not an option as Vice-President Joe Biden said to a meeting with the Jewish group AIPAC“Let me make clear what that commitment is: It is to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon, period. End of discussion. Not contain. Prevent,” would be repeated by some right wing or conservative media outlets while others more supportive of the administration would spike such “we told you so” stories.

There would likely be a window of at least a year or two beyond the bomb test before Iran could target a weapon on Israel, and during that time nothing  on the surface will seem to have changed much. In fact because of that calm, voices preaching containment and appeasement would begin to appear, saying “How are the Iranians different from the Soviets?” “The Iranians got the bomb, but they won’t use it.” “If containment worked for the Soviets why can’t it work for the Iranians?” Ron Paul said as much in the 2012 Presidential debates. Leaks would come out of the Israeli and US intelligence agencies of possible military action being launched against Iran to keep it from “weaponizing the bomb,” with the intent of undermining the rationale for the attacks in favor of non-intervention. Iranians would return to the negotiating table, promising to halt their nuclear program in exchange for this that or the other thing. North Korea plowed, graded, paved and painted lines on this road so expect the Iranian regime to ride it in comfort. As the sting from the surprise of the test wears off, liberals, anti-war type and other useful idiots of the Islamic regime will play a more active role and attempt to protect the regime. “The USA is the only state ever to use the Bomb,” expect them to say, “So why should we trust it more than Iran?”

And they’ll have a point, but for the wrong reasons. US credibility will be at a low not seen since the Iranian Hostage Crisis at this point. States such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia have already begun dusting off their own test programs, and a successful test by Iran would accelerate this research. Of  the two nations Saudi Arabia being the wealthier would probably simply buy a nuclear weapons program from Pakistan with assistance from France and other European nations, and perhaps share it with Turkey. But it would still take the better part of a decade for the Saudis to join the Nuclear Club. It would also push these nations closer to Russia who would be seen as an honest broker in the region, even when it is honestly supplying the Iranians whom the Sunni regimes in the Middle East detest. At least the Russians could be trusted while the Americans make threats and do nothing.

The time between a nuclear test and the successful weaponization of the Bomb will be the last window of opportunity for the Israelis and Americans to gather what remains of their spines and attack Iran. Failure at this point would lead to the fulfillment of promises made consistently over the history of the current Iranian regime: Israel will be destroyed. And while Israel will not go down without a fight, taking hundreds of thousands of Persians with them, it will not be said that the Iranians didn’t warn us; but it will be said that we were foolish not to believe them.

 

An Obama Victory May Be Good for the War on Terror

In the final weeks before the election I’ve been thinking long and hard about what the outcome could mean for the future of my country. Regardless of who wins, he will face a China that is bullying its neighbors into American arms, a Middle East that has become more radicalized not less, an Iranian nuke or a war started by Israel or the United States but blamed on the Great Satan regardless of which flag is painted on the bunker busters. The November winner will face a crumbling Europe, a soaring American debt that has become so big no one knows how to tame it, and a catatonic domestic economy. American education spends more than any nation in the world on its students yet they learn less. The weight of the pensions of Baby Boomers threatens to crush public spending, turning cities and states into mob enforcers who shake down the working, relatively poor young and pass the cash to the retiring relatively wealthy elderly.

I will leave the economic issues aside for the moment to focus on foreign policy. In my view with the exception of China, Obama has made all of these problems worse. But looking at these issues over the long-term, say through the remainder of this decade, would an Obama loss be really a victory for those of us who have opposed him every step of his way to the office he now holds?

China stands as perhaps the only issue I agree with the administration on. I’ve studied China and East Asia for decades, and recognize that handling a rising superpower is never easy, especially one with a 4,500 year history and cursed by a long, often twisted, memory. The Obama administration has attempted to encourage the rise of a peaceful, prosperous China that would take its place as an equal partner in the Pacific, but at the same time has worked to support our allies such as Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea. It is an art more than a science, and while mistakes have been made by the Obama administration, they are to be expected in such a long-term important endeavor. The Chinese cannot understand why the United States would welcome a peaceful, prosperous and powerful China that is integrated with the rest of the world, and instead sees every American move through paranoid eyes and zero-sum calculations. We can’t do much to change this view of American policy in the Pacific, except by doing what this administration has done, setting policies that reassure our allies while encouraging the Chinese to play nice with others in the Pacific’s playground.

Unfortunately the tact, intelligence and real-politic shown by the Obama administration towards China has not been manifested anywhere else in the world. In the same way the reality of Iraq showed the folly of the neocon dream, the murder of our diplomat in Libya and the virulent anti-American nature of the “Arab Spring” has put paid to the dreams of Obama and his liberal eggheads. Obama believed that he alone could solve the Middle East problem with a grand speech in Cairo and apologies and bows to Arab leaders. He thought he could strong-arm Israel to make peace with the Palestinians, and that the Muslim world would see the wisdom of the Nobel committee’s awarding him his Peace Prize. He believed that once free from Iraq, he would be able to exit Afghanistan gracefully without fear of the Taliban taking it over and turning back the clock to 2000.

Nearly four years later America is even more hated than it was under the Bush administration. Iraq is becoming a satellite of Iran, allowing its Shiite neighbor unrestricted flights over its territory to resupply the Assad regime. Pakistan has degenerated into a pit of vipers that protected a man personally responsible for more American deaths than anyone since Ho Chi Minh and allowed Chinese to test a piece of top secret American gear left behind after its forces aired out his skull. Vast swathes of North Africa have been lost to al-Qaeda affiliated radicals including half of its most populous nation, Nigeria. Women are being secreted behind closed doors in Cairo and Tunis, as Egyptians copts are raped and terrorized out of their homes, putting an end to communities that date almost to the time of Christ. Liberals laughed when a man threw shoes at George W. Bush; they are oddly silent as they see Obama burned in effigy by crowds throughout the Middle East. Americans once were able to visit the Pyramids and Valley of the Kings; today members of the Egyptian government call for the destruction of the Pyramids and the State Dept warns Americans to avoid Egypt.

Hope and change.

The murder of the Libyan ambassador proves the Obama administration has failed to learn the lessons of 9-11. The average rapper has better security in Los Angeles than the Libyan ambassador. Threats against American interests there were ignored just as Bin Laden’s declaration of war against the US was in 1998. Many on the right including myself have given a pass to the Clinton administration for failing to imagine the attacks of 9-11 and stop them; today the Obama administration has no such excuses.

And speaking of silence, where is Code Pink, Cindy Sheehan and the other anti-war Left? Where are the anti-war drums that sounded for every dead Muslim civilian or American soldier arriving at Dover Air Force base in Delaware in the middle of the night? Where is the anger, the spiteful commentary of lost wars, the Vietnam comparisons that flowed thick through every mainstream news outlet during the Bush administration? As Walter Russell Mead notes, “If George W. Bush were president now, and had ordered the surge and was responsible for the strategic decisions taken and not taken in Afghanistan over the last four years, the mainstream press would be rubbing our noses in his miserable failures and inexcusable blunders 24/7. The New York Times and the Washington Post would be treating us to pictures of every fallen soldier. The PBS Newshour would feature nightly post-mortems on “America’s failed strategies in the Afghan War” and every arm-chair strategist in America would be filling the op-ed pages with the brilliant 20/20 hindsight ideas that our pathetic, clueless, failed president was too dumb and too cocky to have had.”

After his election I feared that Obama would weaken the position of the United States in the world. I envisioned Obama to be a pacifist who would gut our military, anger our friends and embolden our enemies. I was wrong about Obama’s pacifism; he may be a pacifist at heart but he has shown a willingness to kill America’s enemies that would make Dick Cheney offer him a high-five. Unfortunately he has succeeded in doing what I feared. Our alliances with our closest friends Australia, Canada and Great Britain are ignored. Our long-standing friendship with Israel rebuffed. A deep relationship with Egypt lost. Meanwhile Iran, North Korea and the socialist states in South America continue on as before, confident that the US lacks the resources to challenge them. As Machiavelli wrote “if one cannot be both, it is better to be feared than loved.” Obama should play less golf and read more because he has failed to do either.

The only solace I can take is that the Obama administration has shown a willingness to kill our enemies. Bin Laden is crab food, and drone strikes and special operations continue worldwide. The administration avoids calling it by its name, but the Global War on Terrorism continues using the same methods and tactics that the Bush administration developed and supported. What Obama has not done is use his speech giving abilities to provide an explanation to the American people why the war continues, and show that he and his administration understand the existential threat posed by radical Islam. It is a shame because it is possible that a liberal like Obama could do more to protect and advance freedom in the world for the same reason that a cold warrior like President Nixon could open up to China: his base trusts him.

And this is what concerns me about a Romney victory. If Romney wins I would expect that the Democrats would stoke the flames of their anti-war brothers at a critical time in our history. War is Not the Answer bumperstickers would sprout on foreign cars. Colleges would be wracked by anti-war protests. We need a coherent strategy explained to the American people while continuing the fight against terrorists around the world. There is the potential for Obama to do that, and for his allies to keep their anti-war instincts at bay. Likewise I suppose it’s possible that Obama, having achieved his goal of reelection would simply allow his own pacifist instincts to rule the day, putting American in even more danger. But I would hope that four years of at least occasional Angry Birds free Intelligence Briefings would have convinced Obama the threat to our nation is real.

So it is possible that the best outcome is an Obama victory for those of us who believe in the primacy of the war against radical Islam. The continued media silence at dead terrorists may be worth the price of four more years of Obama. This of course will not change my vote in November, but it has given me something to think about.

Read Mead

If you don’t read Walter Russell Mead, then by all means do so immediately because you are missing some of the best writing and analysis around. There are very few pundits I will sit through bad commercials to see, and even fewer writers that I will drop everything to read. Brit Hume and Charles Krauthammer are two pundits that stop me in my tracks at dinner time, and PJ O’Rourke and Walter Russell Mead are two writers that instantly overcome my ADD and allow me to focus on their essays. Unlike the others, Mead is actually a registered Democrat and centerist, so if you are expecting Conservative fire and brimstone, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Still, or perhaps because of his level-headeness his writing is persuasive and compelling. In short he’s just fun to read.

Two recent pieces worth reading: Top Saudi Cleric Issues Fatwa: Destroy Churches and Palestinian PM: Don’t Use Us to Justify Your Anti-Semitism. In the former, Mead imagines a dialog between a Christian and an Islamist that captures the zero sum nature of Islamism. The latter uses a dissenting voice on the Palestinian side to show that some Palestinians aren’t anti-Semites while many Europeans and Americans are.

Israelis Stand Up to the Haredi

My love for Israel knows no bounds except for it’s tolerance of ultra-orthodox parasites like this guy:

An orthodox Jew was charged with sexual harassment on Thursday after a young Israeli woman soldier was verbally abused for refusing to sit at the back of a bus, a judicial source said.

Shlomo Fuchs, a 44-year-old father, was charged for allegedly insulting the soldier several times, including calling her a “whore,” for refusing demands to sit on the rear benches of the vehicle.

The sheer audacity, or perhaps a better word is chutzpah of this man to insult a woman young enough to be his daughter, as she protects his Orthodox ass and those of his family from being swept into the sea by the likes of men in every way like him except for the name of the god they pray to, is an insult to everyone who supports the state of Israel. I understand why the Israelis tolerate the orthodox community: they are Jews although I wouldn’t go so far to claim they are Zionists, and Israel was set up for ALL Jews no matter how idiotic the ideas or parasitic their natures. And ultra-orthodox Jews like Fuchs are parasites. They don’t serve in the military (though G-d knows no officer would want them under their command), nor do they vote or pay taxes. Israel may be surrounded by enemies dedicated to wiping everyone there out, orthodox, reformist or secular and atheist alike, but the ultra-orthodox do nothing except complain and try to impose their Taliban-like demands on everyone else.

As a man older than Fuchs, I also particularly bristle at the use of the word “whore” against a woman. Call me old-fashioned but I deeply hate that word and all its connotations almost as much as Americans hate the “n” word. I’ve known women who worked in the sex industry and I wouldn’t even use that word to describe them. It is a degrading word, completely baseless, meant to disparage in a way that the victim cannot fight back. Having studied Middle Eastern cultures, I’m aware of its power in Arabic, Farsi and Hebrew and other languages, which is why it is commonly used in insults and invectives hurled by Iranian leaders and Taliban clerics alike. It may sound funny to hear one Arab leader call another the son of a thousand whores, but rest assured that in Arabic it’s the equivalent of “mother f***er.”

And for this man, a father like myself, to use it against a woman most likely his own daughter’s age, is beyond the Pale. That woman has a father; how would Fuchs feel if that father called his daughter a whore? It’s a simple juxtaposition, and one that Fuchs in his mindless fury forgets, but it’s a rule that binds society and keeps relations between strangers tolerable.

I’m not sure what Fuchs’s punishment should be. Deporting him to Pakistan would be interesting but I’m sure the lesson would be lost on him. Shaving off his beard would only make him a victim in the eyes of other parasites.

No, the best punishment for men like Fuchs is to prevent Israel from turning into Saudi Arabia. Secularists must stand up, fighting each and every attempt at imposing orthodox laws on the non-orthodox in a state that the ultra-orthodox don’t even believe in. That means allowing women to ride in the front of the bus in a land they are willing to die for. Let the ultra-orthodox parasites infest the back.

UPDATE: It gets worse. Now these “men” are bullying 2nd graders:

On Tuesday night, thousands of Israelis in the city of Beit Shemesh, just west of Jerusalem, gathered to protest the harassment of Naama Margolese, a cherub-faced second grader filmed weeping as she described walking to school while a few ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jewish men spat and screamed at her. The Haredi hecklers took issue with eight-year-old Naama’s exposed arms. More generally, they resented having to watch a procession of what they called “Nazis” and “whores” traipsing down their streets to get to a single-sex school nearby.

Notice how these cowards bully 8 year olds, not their parents. I guess they’re too afraid that they would get the crap kicked out of them – and nothing is worse for an haredi “man” than to be beaten up by a “whore.” I know plenty of Jewish women that would have no problem with the likes of them.

Fragility

I’ve always believed that the Jews got a raw deal from their god. Things would have been a lot easier for the Jews had they found the promised land in present day Florida or maybe in an isolated spot in the Japanese archipelago. Instead He found them and they Him in the world’s crossroads. Every king, general or determined clan leader with a pointed stick had to pass through the Sinai, Canaan, Judea and Sumeria on their way to subjugate someone else. It strikes me as the equivalent of trying to survive in the middle of a busy intersection.

Nevertheless the Jews managed to do it. For close to 5,000 years they have struggled, triumphed, been slaughtered, overcome and suffered through it all, yet managed to remain faithful to their faith. While I don’t share it, it would be impossible for me not to appreciate their accomplishment and support it in any way I can.

It is difficult for Americans to appreciate the situation in Israel. The nation is tiny as this graphic below shows.
US Israel comparison, copyright zionism-israel.com
Americans have benefited from our isolation. Bounded on two sides by wide oceans and relatively weak nation states on the other sides, we have been able to prosper and grow without the threat of invasion for most of our history. Israel has never been so lucky. It’s borders are much less defensible. There are no natural barriers to protect it. It has never known peace with the neighbors, and has spent the bulk of its history as a story told from one generation to the next, its land owned by others and its people scattered to the corners of the earth.

In their diaspora, the Jewish people were subjected to the most heinous acts imaginable, and that was before the Holocaust when our ability to imagine horror and depravity reached its limit and was surpassed by the brutality of the Nazis and their sympathizers in the Middle East and Europe. Israel wasn’t founded on a whim in 1948. The Jews founded Israel because they needed a place which they controlled where they wouldn’t be kicked out, forced to convert, sold into slavery, or stripped naked and machine gunned. Throughout the diaspora Jews had been welcomed by one regime or another. But regimes rise and fall and leaders change. A safe haven one day could mount a pogrom or expel the Jews the next. The dream of Israel, and later its reality, gave the Jewish people what had been taken away by the Babylonians and later the Romans: a home.

Today this home is in a very bad neighborhood. The revolutions that are happening throughout the Middle East do not portend well for Israel, and Israelis aren’t as sanguine about events there as Americans or Europeans. While the mainstream media in the West applauds the downfall of Arab dictatorships in the region, the Israelis understand that the forces that are overthrowing these regimes aren’t democratic or tolerant as many commentators in the West assume. The use of the term “Israeli” is intentional: I believe that there is a divide between diaspora Jews and Israelis when it comes to recent events in the Middle East, and that the former are unaware of the danger that awaits the state of Israel.

Although it is tiny, the state of Israel maintains military superiority over its neighbors. But there are limits to technology, and it’s unclear whether the Israeli military wouldn’t be overwhelmed. A nuclear strike by Iran on Israel won’t destroy it, but it would mean the deaths of Jews on a scale that hasn’t been seen since the ovens at Auschwitz cooled. Such a strike would signal to its neighbors that the time had come to rid the region of Israel once and for all. Israel would immediately be subject to armies from Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Hezballah in Lebanon and possibly even Turkey. These forces may not be inclined to attack Israel, but they would be driven to do so by their own peoples, whom they have fed a daily diet of anti-Semitic propaganda for decades. I would expect waves of lightly armed Arabs to immediately set out to take Israel with their bare hands if necessary. When God is on your side, you don’t need body armor or an assault rifle. Pointed sticks and mindless fanaticism will do.

The Israeli government would have tens of thousands of casualties from the nuclear strikes. The dead wouldn’t be the immediate problem; as with any disaster it’s the living and particularly the injured that require the most resources. Israel would also face the question of retaliation. Would it use its nuclear weapons against Iran? Would it intentionally kill hundreds of thousands of Tehranis? Would it use the nukes against the masses of Arabs attacking it from all sides?

These are questions only an Israeli or a diaspora Jew can decide. I honestly don’t know if the Jewish people are willing to kill on such a grand scale even after being attacked. Contrary to Arab propaganda, the Jewish people are not monsters. They are a deeply moral people who abhor killing even in their own defense. Golda Meir most famously exposed this morality when she said to Anwar Sadat, “We can forgive you for killing our sons. But we can never forgive you for making us kill yours.”

Imagine this scenario: Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are on fire. Reports are sporadic and contradictory that both have been hit with devastating nuclear blasts. Casualty reports begin in the thousands and are expected to climb. We will have incomplete information about these attacks, but the immediate assumption will be that Iran has launched nuclear strikes, either using missiles or warheads in shipping containers. The Western press will be more skeptical, expecting the Iranian regime to claim responsibility for the attack. But just as al Qaeda remained silent for almost a year after the 9-11 attacks, so Iran will be silent. al Qaeda’s silence was intentional. Zawahiri and Bin Laden knew that the media expected responsibility calls to follow, and failure to receive them would cause some to question who perpetrated the attacks. In the months after 9-11 even no less an august figure as Nelson Mandela said, “The labeling of Osama bin Laden as the terrorist responsible for those acts before he had been tried and convicted could also be seen as undermining some of the basic tenets of the rule of law.” Iran will lay low, and the “Arab Street” will develop the propaganda line that Israel nuked itself in order to justify the attack on Iran. News outlets antagonistic to the Jewish State such as La Monde, the Guardian, al Jazeera and the New York Times will question the motives of the Israeli response and immediately demand that Israel wait for an international investigation before retaliating.

How will the Israeli government respond? Will it retaliate against civilian populations just because it can? It could target military facilities in Iran or Syria, but its enemies aren’t stupid; they will have surrounded their key military assets and personnel with layers of civilian human shields. Just to kill a single soldier the Israelis will have to kill dozens if not scores of innocent men, women and children. Israel will have to swallow its morality and tear through the flesh of innocents in order to strike at the heart of the regime that has attacked it. Does it have the will to do this?

For all of its power, its vaunted military, Israel is a fragile nation. The coming months and years will determine once and for all how fragile it is.

Turkey’s Most Dangerous Game

Image courtesy of Monkey in the Middle at http://findalismonkeyinthemiddle.blogspot.com
Courtesy: Monkey in the Middle

I have issues with Turkey. In the late 1990’s I used to write for a website and penned commentaries on the Turkish mistreatment of the Kurds. I remember getting into some pretty heated discussions with Turkish nationals over my support of a Kurdish homeland, and received a few threats thrown my way although nothing serious. I support the Kurdish cause which would could take a big bite of about a third from Turkey. The Kurdish state predates the modern Turkish state built by Kamal Ataturk in the 1920’s by a decade. The Kurds had been promised a state from the rubble of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, but for various reasons (like the European powers colonizing the region) it wasn’t to be, and for nearly a century the Kurds have been ignored. Ignored everywhere except in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran – states that have actively fought to stamp out Kurdish culture and history that can trace its roots back to Pharaonic Egypt. The Kurds are a distinct people with their own language and culture, unlike the “Palestinians” who have neither although they already have a state – 3 of them actually: Gaza, the West Bank and Jordan itself.

Over the past eight years or so the Turks have been getting their Islam on, becoming more pious and anti-Western in the process. A decade or so Turkey seemed likely to integrate with the EU and become a full-fledged western state, but the AKP took power in 2002 and has been undermining the secularist state built by Ataturk and the generals that followed him. This process has included reversing the growing economic and military relationship with Israel under the previous regimes, leading recently to the threat by the Turkish prime minister that Israel’s refusal to apologize for the deaths of 7 Turks at the hands of Israeli commandos aboard a Turkish ship challenging the blockade of Gaza was cause for war. Never mind that as soon as the Israelis left Gaza, Jewish holy sites were destroyed as were greenhouses that had provided jobs to Palestinians, and the state became a launching pad for rockets and mortars into Israeli. So much for trading land for peace...

If the Turkish Prime Minister wants to get his war on, why not clear out the festering cesspool that is Syria on his doorstep? The Syrians would welcome the relief, and the Turks might even be lauded by the West for its humanitarian mission – and by Sunni states for checking Iranian power. The AKP has lightened the iron fist on the Turkish Kurds, and the Kurds can wait because they are a patient people. Their time will come and they know it.

But challenging Israel risks unleashing forces that I doubt Prime Minister Erdogan comprehends. American policymakers haven’t forgotten Turkey’s refusal to allow coalition forces through Turkey to Iraq. Provoking Israel would pretty much end Turkey’s flirtation with the EU and result in its expulsion from NATO. American politicians including a US president seen as weak on Israel would leap at the chance to appear supportive of the Jewish state. The Armenian Genocide Resolution which has been dead in Congress for 4 years would likely be signed into law. It would be a purely symbolic act, but symbolic acts are what Turkey is all for – at least when it comes to the Gaza blockade. 70% of US aid to Iraq flows through Turkey, but the Americans are drawing down and the strategic importance of that route lessens by the day. Pakistan has learned the limits of using supply lines for political leverage; the US has contracted with Moscow to move material through Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union; shipping through the Suez Canal and Persian Gulf might add a few weeks to the delivery time, but the material would go through. The biggest card Turkey holds is the Incirlik airbase. Closing that would dent US logistical support in Iraq and Afghanistan – but would also end the hundreds of millions of dollars Turkey receives from Washington DC each year for leasing the base, as well as the loss of thousands of jobs in support personnel. Other nations have played similar games with the US over its bases; ask the Philippines how things are doing at Clark and Subic Bay these days compared to 30 years ago.

A report leaked that Israeli foreign minister Avi Lieberman was considering opening talks with the PKK which the PKK and Lieberman both denied – although Israel is very well versed in playing the Arab “enemy of my enemy is my friend” game. Expect them to announce a “new relationship” with Greece, and for pressure on the US administration to side with the Greeks on the Cyprus Issue. For Turkey Israel is a religious affront, but to Israel Turkey simply joins the long line of intolerant Muslims who want to follow Mohammed’s orders and kill the Jews wherever they are found. For Israel such matters are of life and death, and they will fight accordingly.

Turkey is playing a dangerous game but doesn’t appear to have fully thought through the outcome of its actions. The Turks may find that the game has become all too real and that they don’t want to play anymore – but by then it will be too late.

UPDATE: Joshuapundit weighs in and agrees that war with Israel is unlikely.

Netanyahu Speaks to Congress

I’ve been a big fan of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since Desert Storm in 1991. The man is extremely media savvy and seems completely comfortable in front of a camera or as today, making a speech in front of Congress. He’s relaxed, witty and unflappable – as proven when he used the squawking of a protestor to emphasize the point that only in free nations such as Israel and the United States can such a person be heard without being silenced forever. His speech was relatively short – about half an hour – and hit all the main points. The speech was very well received by both sides in Congress, and it is clear that Netanyahu’s visit to Washington is much warmer this year than last.

Full text of speech here
. One of my favorite lines: “This startling fact reveals a basic truth: Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East. Israel is what is right about the Middle East.”

Indeed.