October 15, 2012

Benghazi: Gross Incompetence or Criminal?

The title of this piece in The Weekly Standard about the Benghazi disaster is titled "Confusion of Coverup?," but I'd say "both, and add gross incompetence to it as well."

If the Obama Administration was confused, then they're guilty of gross incompetence. It's not as if security for an America ambassador or one of our embassies or compounds is something new. If covering things up, their handling of the disaster is criminal or nearly so.

Either way, this timeline of events is fascinating. Fascinating, and devastating to the Obama Administration's fictional tales.

Confusion or Coverup?
What we knew about the Benghazi attack and when we knew it.
Thomas Joscelyn
October 22, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 06

On September 11, 2012, the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was assaulted by dozens of terrorists. U.S. ambassador John Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. The attack followed an al Qaeda-inspired protest in front of the U.S. embassy in Cairo that same day. And in the days that followed, other U.S. embassies were stormed.

Throughout those challenging days and the weeks that followed, the Obama administration struggled to explain to Americans what had occurred. It took weeks for the administration to disavow the phony storyline it adopted early on. Administration officials maintained that the terrorist attack in Benghazi was the result of a "spontaneous" protest that spun out of control. The protesters supposedly objected to an anti-Islam film titled The Innocence of Muslims.

But there never was any protest in Benghazi. The consulate was simply attacked by terrorists, almost certainly al Qaeda-affiliated groups, on the eleventh anniversary of the most devastating al Qaeda attack in history.

The Obama administration, notably the president himself, was slow to publicly acknowledge al Qaeda's hand in these events. It is not clear even at this writing if President Obama has yet mentioned "al Qaeda" or affiliated groups in this context. The president has found time to repeat one of his favorite campaign mantras: "Al Qaeda is on the path to defeat and Osama bin Laden is dead." But when it comes to the events in Benghazi, the president has offered an inconsistent and misleading narrative.

A timeline of events is set forth below. The events highlighted show that al Qaeda's growing presence inside Libya was recognized by the U.S. government prior to the events of September 11, 2012. The day before the attack in Benghazi, al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri called on jihadists to avenge the drone killing in June of a top al Qaeda operative who hailed from Libya. Other al Qaeda-linked individuals were involved in the assaults on U.S. embassies elsewhere. While it is understandable that the U.S. government would seek to distance itself from a piece of anti-Muslim propaganda, the film repeatedly cited played only an ancillary role in these events.

August - An unclassified report published by the federal research division of the Library of Congress under an agreement with the Defense Department highlights the growing threat of Al Qaeda in Libya. The report ("Al Qaeda in Libya: A Profile") says that al Qaeda's senior leadership in Pakistan has dispatched operatives to Libya. Al Qaeda is on the verge of a fully "operational network," according to the report, and al Qaeda-affiliated militias have acquired extensive weaponry and established training camps. The report notes that al Qaeda operatives inside Libya are also working with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

September 9, Egypt - Clips of The Innocence of Muslims are shown on Egyptian television.

September 10 - Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri releases through jihadist websites a video eulogy for slain al Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al Libi and says that his organization and its ideology are alive. Zawahiri says that Libi's "blood is calling, urging and inciting you to fight and kill the crusaders." Ayman al Zawahiri uses the video to boast that al Qaeda has not been defeated, but its "message has spread amongst our Muslim Ummah, which received it with acceptance and responded to it." A clip of Mohammed al Zawahiri, Ayman's brother (who told CNN earlier this year that al Qaeda's strength is "not in its leaders but in its ideology") is included in the video.

September 11, Cairo, Egypt (early morning) - The U.S. embassy issues a statement indirectly denouncing The Innocence of Muslims. According to the Washington Post, the embassy condemns efforts made by "misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims--as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions." Parts of the statement are also released via Twitter.

September 11, Cairo (morning) - A large crowd carrying numerous al Qaeda flags protests outside the U.S. embassy. Protesters scale the embassy's wall, raise the flag commonly used by Al Qaeda in Iraq, and burn the Stars and Stripes. The protesters chant in Arabic: "Obama! Obama! We are all Osama!" A similar refrain is spray-painted on walls near the embassy. Mohammed al Zawahiri is interviewed by a jihadist propaganda outlet in front of the embassy. He admits to CNN he helped stage the protest.

September 11, Benghazi, Libya (about 2:30 p.m. EDT) - Ambassador Stevens walks his guests out of the compound and onto the street. There is no sign of a protest.

September 11, Benghazi (beginning around 3:40 p.m. EDT) - The terrorist attack on the Benghazi consulate begins. It lasts hours. The terrorists use AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades in a complex assault on the compound. The assailants use diesel fuel to set the compound's buildings ablaze.

September 11 (10:08 p.m. EDT) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton releases a statement on the day's events. "Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind."

September 12, Washington (10:43 a.m. EDT) - In the White House Rose Garden, President Obama addresses the nation concerning the attack in Benghazi. "We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others," he says. "But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence." The president adds, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for."

September 12 - The press is connecting the dots to al Qaeda. CNN's Wolf Blitzer tells viewers that while it is "unclear right now .  .  . it sounds like that al Qaeda operation in Libya is very, very real indeed." Blitzer continues: "All of this suggests to me .  .  . that the attack yesterday on the U.S. ambassador and other Americans on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 was not necessarily simply a coincidence."

September 12, Washington (evening) - Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick F. Kennedy describes the events in Benghazi as a terrorist attack during a private briefing for House and Senate staffers, according to Fox News.

September 13, Sanaa, Yemen - The U.S. embassy is stormed after Sheikh Abdul Majid al Zindani calls for protests, according to the New York Times. Zindani is a known al Qaeda supporter who was designated an Osama bin Laden "loyalist" by the Treasury Department in 2004.

September 13, Washington (evening) - Secretary Clinton honors the end of Ramadan alongside Libyan ambassador Ali Aujali, who denounces the "terrorist attack" in Libya. Clinton refers to the attack as "the actions of a small and savage group" and again denounces the anti-Islam video. "Unfortunately, however, over the last 24 hours, we have also seen violence spread elsewhere," Clinton says. "Some seek to justify this behavior as a response to inflammatory, despicable material posted on the Internet. As I said earlier today, the United States rejects both the content and the message of that video. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others."

September 14, Tunis, Tunisia - The U.S. embassy is assaulted by a group called Ansar al Sharia Tunisia. That group is headed by a notorious al Qaeda-linked terrorist named Seifallah ben Hassine, aka Abu Iyad al Tunisi. The embassy staff has already been evacuated, but Hassine's mob ransacks American property, including cars and a school. In 2000, Hassine cofounded the Tunisian Combatant Group (TCG). According to the United Nations, the TCG was created "in coordination with" al Qaeda. Hassine spent years in prison in Tunisia but was freed in 2011.

September 14, Andrews Air Force Base (2:46 p.m. EDT) - President Obama and Secretary Clinton attend the transfer of remains ceremony for Ambassador Stevens and the three other Americans killed in Benghazi. "This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country," Clinton says. "We've seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We've seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with. It is hard for the American people to make sense of that because it is senseless, and it is totally unacceptable." Clinton quotes from a letter written by the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, who condemned the attack as "an act of ugly terror."

September 14, Washington - "It was a terrorist attack, organized and carried out by terrorists," notably 15 members of "al Qaeda or radical Islamists," says Senator John McCain after a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting. "This was a calculated act of terror on the part of a small group of jihadists, not a mob that somehow attacked and sacked our embassy," McCain says. "People don't go to demonstrate and carry RPGs and automatic weapons."

September 16 (Sunday morning) - U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice goes on five Sunday talk shows to explain what happened in Benghazi. Her narrative is wrong in almost every detail. On CBS News's Face the Nation, for example, Rice says the attack was "sparked by this hateful video." She says that "spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi .  .  . extremist elements, individuals, joined in that--in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent." Rice adds, "We do not .  .  . have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned." Rice makes similar comments on the other four shows.

Libyan president Mohamed Yousef El-Magariaf also appears on Face the Nation and directly contradicts Rice's claims, saying that the attack was "planned--definitely" and that some of those arrested in connection with the attack are associated with al Qaeda.

September 17, Washington (1:57 p.m. EDT) - During a press briefing, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland is asked about Ambassador Rice's comments the day before. "I'd simply say that I don't have any information beyond what Ambassador Rice shared with you and that her assessment does reflect our initial assessment as a government," Nuland says. Asked if the attack in Benghazi was an act of terror, Nuland responds, "I'm not going to put labels on this until we have a complete investigation" and "I don't think we know enough."

September 18 (evening) - President Obama appears on The Late Show with David Letterman. "The ambassador to Libya killed in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi, is this an act of war, are we at war now? What happens here?" Letterman asks. President Obama responds: "No. Here's what happened. You had a video that was released by somebody who lives here, sort of a shadowy character who is extremely offensive [sic] video directed at Muhammad and Islam. .  .  . So this caused great offense in much of the Muslim world. But what also happened was extremists and terrorists used this as an excuse to attack a variety of our embassies, including the one, the consulate in Libya."

September 19, Washington - National Counterterrorism director Matthew Olsen labels the attack in Benghazi a "terrorist attack."

September 20, Washington - White House press secretary Jay Carney calls the attack in Benghazi terrorism for the first time.

September 20 - CBS News reports that "there was never an anti-American protest outside of the consulate" in Benghazi. Instead, according to witnesses, the consulate "came under planned attack." CBS News adds: "That is in direct contradiction to the administration's account of the incident."

September 20 - President Obama is asked about the attack in Libya and other embassy assaults during an appearance on Univision. "What we do know is that the natural protests that arose because of the outrage over the video were used as an excuse by the extremists to see if they could directly harm U.S. interests," President Obama says.

September 21 - "What happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack, and we will not rest until we have tracked down and brought to justice the terrorists who murdered four Americans," Secretary Clinton says.

September 24 - President Obama appears on The View. When asked if it was a terrorist attack in Benghazi, Obama responds: "There's no doubt that the kind of weapons that were used, the ongoing assault, that it wasn't just a mob action. What's clear is that, around the world, there are still a lot of threats out there."

September 25, New York - Before the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama gives an impassioned defense of free speech, while denouncing The Innocence of Muslims. He attributes the events of "the last two weeks" to "a crude and disgusting video that sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world." The president continues: "Now, I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity." The president mentions terrorism only in passing: "Al Qaeda has been weakened, and Osama bin Laden is no more." The president does not mention al Qaeda or affiliated groups or terrorism in the context of the attack in Benghazi.

September 26, New York - At the U.N., Secretary Clinton publicly connects Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to the attack in Benghazi, saying that AQIM members "are working with other violent extremists to undermine the democratic transitions underway in North Africa, as we tragically saw in Benghazi." The New York Times reports that she is "the highest-ranking Obama administration official to publicly make the connection."

September 27 - Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the attack in Benghazi was an act of terror.

September 28 - The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) releases a statement taking responsibility for attributing the attack in Benghazi to a spontaneous protest. The ODNI says that initially "there was information that led us to assess that the attack began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy in Cairo." The ODNI "provided that initial assessment to Executive Branch officials and members of Congress, who used that information to discuss the attack publicly and provide updates as they became available."

October 9, Washington - Two senior State Department officials brief the press on the attack in Benghazi, saying the assault was "unprecedented" and there was no protest beforehand. When asked what led the Obama administration to conclude that a protest precipitated the violence, one official responded: "That is a question that you would have to ask others. That was not our conclusion. I'm not saying that we had a conclusion, but we outlined what happened." This directly contradicts earlier statements made by senior State Department officials.

October 10, Washington - Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb testifies before the House Oversight Committee, "Dozens of attackers .  .  . launched a full-scale assault" on the Benghazi consulate "that was unprecedented in its size and intensity." Lamb makes no mention of a protest.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 29, 2012

Benjamin Netanyahu Draws a Red Line at the United Nations

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu gave a powerful speech before the United Nations yesterday, one that should, but probably won't be, heeded by most nations of the world.


"At this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs. That's by placing a clear red line on Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Red lines don't lead to war; red lines prevent war."

Exactly right. And, as the Prime Minister went on to say, we must draw a clear red line with regards to the Iranian nuclear program.

Here is the section of the speech where he draws the red line on the bomb diagram.

Look at NATO's charter: it made clear that an attack on one member country would be considered an attack on all. NATO's red line helped keep the peace in Europe for nearly half a century.

President Kennedy set a red line during the Cuban Missile Crisis. That red line also prevented war and helped preserve the peace for decades.

In fact, it's the failure to place red lines that has often invited aggression.

If the Western powers had drawn clear red lines during the 1930s, I believe they would have stopped Nazi aggression and World War II might have been avoided.

In 1990, if Saddam Hussein had been clearly told that his conquest of Kuwait would cross a red line, the first Gulf War might have been avoided.

Clear red lines have also worked with Iran.

Earlier this year, Iran threatened to close the Straits of Hormouz. The United States drew a clear red line and Iran backed off.

Quite correct. The "strategic ambiguity" favored by some only encourages troublemakers to continually test the limits, to push the more peaceful nations farther and farther. And in when they do so they usually go too far and war is the result. So how does this apply to the current situation with Iran?

...in fact the only way that you can credibly prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, is to prevent Iran from amassing enough enriched uranium for a bomb.

So, how much enriched uranium do you need for a bomb? And how close is Iran to getting it? Let me show you. I brought a diagram for you. Here's the diagram. This is a bomb; this is a fuse

In the case of Iran's nuclear plans to build a bomb, this bomb has to be filled with enough enriched uranium. And Iran has to go through three stages.

The first stage: they have to enrich enough of low enriched uranium.

The second stage: they have to enrich enough medium enriched uranium.

And the third stage and final stage: they have to enrich enough high enriched uranium for the first bomb.

Where's Iran? Iran's completed the first stage. It took them many years, but they completed it and they're 70% of the way there.

Now they are well into the second stage. By next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage. From there, it's only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

What I told you now is not based on secret information. It's not based on military intelligence. It's based on public reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Anybody can read them. They're online.

So if these are the facts, and they are, where should the red line be drawn?

The red line should be drawn right here.

Before Iran completes the second stage of nuclear enrichment necessary to make a bomb. Before Iran gets to a point where it's a few months away or a few weeks away from amassing enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon. Each day, that point is getting closer.

That's why I speak today with such a sense of urgency. And that's why everyone should have a sense of urgency.

Here is the entire speech

Where is the United States?

Two weeks ago Charles Krauthammer explained, as best anyone can, the position of the Obama Administration:

There are two positions one can take regarding the Iranian nuclear program: (a) it doesn't matter, we can deter them, or (b) it does matter, we must stop them.

In my view, the first position -- that we can contain Iran as we did the Soviet Union -- is totally wrong, a product of wishful thinking and misread history. But at least it's internally coherent.

What is incoherent is President Obama's position. He declares the Iranian program intolerable -- "I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon" -- yet stands by as Iran rapidly approaches nuclearization.

A policy so incoherent, so knowingly and obviously contradictory, is a declaration of weakness and passivity. And this, as Anthony Cordesman, James Phillips and others have argued, can increase the chance of war. It creates, writes Cordesman, "the same conditions that helped trigger World War II -- years of negotiations and threats, where the threats failed to be taken seriously until war became all too real."

This has precipitated the current U.S.-Israeli crisis, sharpened by the president's rebuff of the Israeli prime minister's request for a meeting during his upcoming U.S. visit. Ominous new developments; no Obama response. Alarm bells going off everywhere; Obama plays deaf.

The old arguments, old excuses, old pretensions have become ridiculous:

1) Sanctions. The director of national intelligence testified to Congress at the beginning of the year that they had zero effect in slowing the nuclear program. Now the International Atomic Energy Agency reports (Aug. 30) that the Iranian nuclear program, far from slowing, is actually accelerating. Iran has doubled the number of high-speed centrifuges at Fordow, the facility outside Qom built into a mountain to make it impregnable to air attack.

This week, the IAEA reported Iranian advances in calculating the explosive power of an atomic warhead. It noted once again Iran's refusal to allow inspection of its weapons testing facility at Parchin and cited satellite evidence of Iranian attempts to clean up and hide what's gone on there.

The administration's ritual response is that it has imposed the toughest sanctions ever. So what? They're a means, not an end. And they've had no effect on the nuclear program.

2) Negotiations. The latest, supposedly last-ditch round of talks in Istanbul, Baghdad, then Moscow has completely collapsed. The West even conceded to Iran the right to enrich -- shattering a decade-long consensus and six Security Council resolutions demanding its cessation.

Iran's response? Contemptuous rejection.

Why not? The mullahs have strung Obama along for more than three years and still see no credible threat emanating from the one country that could disarm them.

3) Diplomatic isolation. The administration boasts that Iran is becoming increasingly isolated. Really? Just two weeks ago, 120 nations showed up in Tehran for a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement -- against U.S. entreaties not to attend. Even the U.N. secretary-general attended -- after the administration implored him not to.

Which shows you what American entreaties are worth today. And the farcical nature of Iran's alleged isolation.

The Obama policy is in shambles. Which is why Cordesman argues that the only way to prevent a nuclear Iran without war is to establish a credible military threat to make Iran recalculate and reconsider. That means U.S. red lines: deadlines beyond which Washington will not allow itself to be strung, as well as benchmark actions that would trigger a response, such as the further hardening of Iran's nuclear facilities to the point of invulnerability and, therefore, irreversibility.

Which made all the more shocking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's dismissal last Sunday of the very notion of any U.S. red lines. No deadlines. No bright-line action beyond which Iran must not go. The sleeping giant continues to slumber. And to wait. As the administration likes to put it, "for Iran to live up to its international obligations."

Seen in this light, it seems clear that Netanyahu's speech was an attempt to reverse the current policy of the Obama Administration, which as Krauthammer explained is to talk loud but carry a small stick.

As Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismark (supposedly) said, "diplomacy without credible threat of force is like music without instruments."

Will the United States get with the program and draw a clear red line that the Iranians can clearly understand? If so, will our threat of force be credible? If not, will Israel feel compelled to attack Iran on it's own, and, if so, will the United States support her or complain and stand on the sidelines?

I don't know the answer to any of these for certain, but here is what I do know:

  1. Iranian is getting closer every day to getting the bomb
  2. Sanctions and diplomacy are not working
  3. The Iranian regime with the bomb is totally unacceptable
  4. Israeli military action alone cannot do the job
  5. Short of war, only a clear red line and credible use of force stands a chance of working
  6. A war would be extremely messy, but much better than a nuclear Iran
  7. The Obama Administration is not at all inclined to draw a red line
  8. Obama has not made a credible threat of force against Iran
  9. The way things are going now, Israel will attack Iran on her own, Iran will retaliate by trying to bloc the Strait of Hormuz, and we will become involved whether we like it or not

Iran is not Libya, and everyone knows it, so Obama's actions in that latter country don't scare anyone. I hope that our president wakes up before it's too late, but the similarities to our current situation and 1938 in Europe are too strong to be ignored. The clock is ticking, and we draw ever closer to midnight in the Middle East.


Incredibly, our own ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, skipped Netanyahu's speech. Her excuse is so lame I have to think it was intentional.

Posted by Tom at 3:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 14, 2012

The World Obama Created

This editorial sums up my thoughts pretty well. Obama has been in office for three and three-quarters years, so it's time for him and his minions to stop blaming previous administrations and own up. They have had plenty of time to "reset" relations, and improve relations. But it obviously hasn't worked.

Instead, the White House insists that the Islamist/Jihadist/Terrorist Muslim government in Egypt is an "ally," but the president won't meet with the Israeli prime minister. This is Obama's world, and the results are plain for all to see.

The World Obama Created
Leading from behind leads to global chaos
The Washington Times
Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The tragic events that took place in Libya and Egypt this week were the inevitable consequences of weak U.S. leadership. America and the world cannot afford four more such years.

In Benghazi, four Americans including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens were murdered in a coordinated attack on the U.S. consulate by Islamic militants. On the same day, al Qaeda released a video in which leader Ayman al-Zawahri eulogized Abu Yahya al-Libi, a Libyan al Qaeda commander believed killed in June by a U.S. drone strike. This was no coincidence.

In Cairo, demonstrators -- upset over an allegedly anti-Islamic film trailer being circulated on YouTube -- spray-painted the outside of the U.S. embassy with anti-American slogans, then scaled the walls, hauled down the American flag and ripped it to pieces. Old Glory was replaced by a black jihadist banner as the crowd chanted, "Obama, Obama there are still a billion Osamas."

American inadequacy was compounded in the communications crisis surrounding the incident. Our Cairo embassy put out a statement even before the flag was torn down denouncing the "misguided" film and voicing U.S. support for Islam. This semi-apology clearly had no effect, unless it was to embolden the crowd. After the flag was torn to shreds, there followed a bizarre Twitter debate between an embassy employee and an Egyptian activist in which the staffer seemed to be more concerned with denouncing the purported pretext for the mob's riot than condemning the violence itself. "We consistently stand up for Muslims around the world and talk abt [sic] how Islam is a wonderful religion," the tweeter explained.

These messages were later deleted and serve as a good illustration why Twitter and diplomacy don't mix. If the Obama administration wanted to send a brief missive to the demonstrators, it should have opted for the one suggested by columnist Charles Krauthammer: "Go to Hell."

Both of these crises could have been avoided. They were obviously timed for the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America. In the past, U.S. facilities at home and abroad were placed on high alert on Sept. 11 to be prepared for such situations. There is no evidence of any such warnings going out this year. More disturbingly, according to White House records, President Obama skipped every daily intelligence briefing from Sept. 6-11. The question now is: Did the United States have any prior warning about the impending attacks that might have been acted on had Mr. Obama been paying closer attention?

The brewing crisis in North Africa is a symptom of a foreign policy adrift. It was with respect to Libya that an Obama administration official admiringly coined the expression "leading from behind," a lame attempt to portray Mr. Obama as a deft manager of international crises. However, the term quickly caught on as a more pointed critique of a president who was frequently behind, but never leading. In general, he has been disengaged. A government employee who attended the Pentagon's Sept. 11 anniversary ceremony said Mr. Obama "looked bored," and that while his speech said the right things, "the words never rose up into his eyes."

Mr. Obama points with pride to his foreign-policy record, but there is little to respect. America's global reputation has declined since January 2009. There is no region in the world where U.S. interests are advancing.

The United States no longer has a strong leadership position in Europe. The trans-Atlantic relationship has withered. America is playing no important part in trying to resolve the European debt crisis which threatens to plunge the world into a new recession, if it is not already there. Germany, which has assumed the lead role in addressing the problem, is now voicing concerns that the record amounts of debt being accumulated by the Obama administration will be the catalyst for a new economic collapse.

Mr. Obama has tried to remain flexible for Russia, an adversary state whose leader Vladimir Putin isn't short on ambition. Moscow agreed to the 2010 New START nuclear-arms reduction treaty because it was a bad deal for America. Now the Obama administration is talking about further nuclear cuts, which will weaken our strategic deterrent at a time when Russia and China are modernizing their nuclear arsenals, and proliferator states like North Korea and Pakistan ponder how best to expand their nuclear programs. Washington has no evident influence on Chinese behavior and relies on Beijing to continue to assume responsibility for buying up our mounting debt. U.S. influence in Central and South America is in decline.

There is no evident progress being made in the world's hotspots. The war in Afghanistan grinds on, producing higher casualties and greater volatility. The only thing Mr. Obama can say for certain about that unfortunate country is American troops are departing, and soon. Pakistan remains a haven for terrorists, while Iraq is seeing a spike in sectarian violence. There is no steady hand anywhere across the arc of instability.

Tehran continues its march to nuclear-weapons capability, and the Obama administration seems more concerned with setting red lines for Israel than for Iran. Relations between Mr. Obama and the Israeli prime minister are so frosty that the president has refused to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu when both will be at the United Nations this month. Mr. Obama petulantly cutting off communications will virtually guarantee a major crisis in the region; it's only a matter of time.

The fallout from the much-heralded Arab Spring continues. In Syria, a full-scale civil war is under way which the United States has chosen not to decisively influence. In Egypt, the world is beginning to witness the results of what the State Department described as "legitimate Islamism." Present in the mob outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo on Tuesday was the family of blind Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, who is serving a life sentence for masterminding the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, has promised to seek Rahman's release. Anti-American sentiment is growing, non-Muslim religious minorities are facing increased persecution, and Egypt's peace treaty with Israel that has maintained regional stability for three decades is under assault.

The analogy to the failed Carter presidency is striking. Both Democrats came to power offering a moral critique of U.S. foreign and national-security policy. Both exploited war weariness and a desire for U.S. retrenchment. Both were greeted with enthusiasm from a global community skeptical of American activism. And both were taken advantage of by adversary states who understood that these liberals were weak leaders. Jimmy Carter also saw a diplomat killed on his watch: Adolph "Spike" Dubs, the U.S. representative to Afghanistan who was murdered in Kabul in 1979.

The one positive decision Mr. Obama can point to -- taking out Osama bin Laden -- is his weakest argument for a second term. After all, bin Laden is dead, and that operation cannot be repeated.

It's easier to allow global chaos to emerge than to do the hard work of maintaining stability. It's simpler to make speeches and curry favor than take tough positions needed to advance U.S. interests. Over his term in office, Mr. Obama hasn't shown the necessary qualities for a global leader, and the considerable damage caused by his policies speak for themselves. The world is teetering on the brink of disaster because Mr. Obama has failed to lead. The United States cannot afford another four years of empty-chair diplomacy.

Posted by Tom at 6:39 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 13, 2012

The Result of Obama's Weakness

It is said that in the days of the Roman Republic and Empire, Roman citizens enjoyed a level of protection simply by virtue of their status. If the locals abused them, or brigands set upon them, sooner or later the Legions would show up and lay waste to the area.

Roman authorities, including soldiers, throughout the Empire knew they had to give special treatment to Roman citizens or they, too, would pay. Acts 22:22-29 is illustrative:

The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, "Rid the earth of him! He's not fit to live!"

As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, "Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn't even been found guilty?"

When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. "What are you going to do?" he asked. "This man is a Roman citizen."

The commander went to Paul and asked, "Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?"

"Yes, I am," he answered.

Then the commander said, "I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship."

"But I was born a citizen," Paul replied.

Those who were about to interrogate him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.

That the brigands of the world should know that if they abuse an American sooner or later our Legions would arrive.

Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with.

The Prince
by Nicolo Machiavelli

Liberals are obsessed with the idea that others should like us. We should be concerned with whether they fear and respect us. And in this world, respect comes more from fear than respect. I write more about the fear of consequences from the boss, than fear of a Stalin.

"Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead!"

Theodore Roosevelt

To be sure Roosevelt's bluster was just about that, and the situation not that straightforward, but would that we had a president - of either party - that issued that sort of threat.

"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Ronald Reagan

Some of Reagan's own advisers kept telling him it was too abrasive and inflammatory and he had to take it out of his speech. Reagan kept it in. Would it be that we had a president bold enough to tell off dictators like he did. This is the only language they respect.

Some recent events have exposed President Obama's weakness for all to see:

In Benghazi, four Americans including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens were murdered in a coordinated attack on the U.S. consulate by Islamic militants. On the same day, al Qaeda released a video in which leader Ayman al-Zawahri eulogized Abu Yahya al-Libi, a Libyan al Qaeda commander believed killed in June by a U.S. drone strike. This was no coincidence.

In Cairo, demonstrators -- upset over an allegedly anti-Islamic film trailer being circulated on YouTube -- spray-painted the outside of the U.S. embassy with anti-American slogans, then scaled the walls, hauled down the American flag and ripped it to pieces. Old Glory was replaced by a black jihadist banner as the crowd chanted, "Obama, Obama there are still a billion Osamas."

Well I guess Obama's famous (or infamous?)1990 Cairo speech, "A New Beginning," didn't exactly have the effect he had intended.

At the Democratic National Convention two weeks ago our idiot-savant Vice President Joe Biden said ""America is NOT in decline. I've got news for Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan, it has never, never, ever, been a good bet to bet against the American people."

Apparently they didn't get the message in the Middle East. They're betting against us, and right about now I'd put odds on them winning.

We abandoned the Iranian people in 2009, and the world took notice. They found out that standing up for freedom got you nowhere with the U.S.

Meanwhile, we cower before the false "freedom" of the so-called Arab Spring in the Sunni world. We refuse to condemn the radicalism of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the serial lies of Mohammed Morsi, the new president of Egypt.

As we are seeing, foreign policy is not a "distraction." A strong America as the world leader is integral to who we are and what we should remain. Both the Ron Paul right and Code Pink left are wrong.

The problem is not insults against Islam. Insulting things are said about Christianity every day, and if you search you will find hundreds if not thousands of anti-Christian diatribes on YouTube and everywhere else. Does anyone see Christians rioting anywhere?

Of course not. Jews also never riot. For that matter, I don't see Hindus or Buddhists rioting either.

Far from Islam being under attack, the reality is that religious minorities in Muslim countries are under attack today in a way that we have not seen in decades.

The excuse from the left is that it was only a "few extremists" involved in the rioting. What nonsense. This type of thing is encouraged or winked at by Arab/Muslim governments. They won't condemn these attacks, nor will they arrest and try the perpetrators. They want "independent" mobs to do this so that their fingerprints aren't on it. The mob is doing the work of the government.

And let's be clear; Egypt has a terrorist government. The Muslim Brotherhood is a Jihadist organization, and the only difference between them and al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, or Hamas is tactical.

t is not the business of the United States government what private individuals say about anything, or what films they make. The idea that we are suppose to "understand" the sensitivities of Muslims who rampage an riot over an obscure video is insane. No. They grow up and change their behavior. You do not riot over what someone says about you or your religion period.

Mitt Romney correctly called the Obama Administration's Carteresque response "disgraceful." Predictably, the idiots at MSNBC are more outraged at what Romney said than the attacks on Americans. The left says Romney is "politicizing" the situation. What a load of bull. They're just upset because they know that Obama is vulnerable and they are spinning like tops. 9-11 came when Bush had only been in office for eight months, and was more the result of Clinton's policies than his own. This comes after more than three and a half years of Obama, and is clearly the result of U.S. weakness. That Romney's response is being criticized by liberal media types tells me he's doing the right thing. They love Republicans who are ineffective and only offer "may I please comment on the president's policies?" criticisms, and fear Republicans who call out Obama for what he is really doing to our country.

They attack the U.S. when they believe we are vulnerable and weak. When they believe we will not respond strongly. Right now they don't think we will cut off aid, or impose diplomatic or economic sanctions, much less actually attack rioters who kill Americans.

Strength dissuades attacks on our country. Equivocation and a weak response only invites more attacks.

What do we expect when Obama has not been going to his National Security Briefings? When he doesn't have time to even meet with the Prime Minister of Israel? But he does have time for a fundraiser with Jay z and Beyonce?

Meanwhile, the Iranians are hard at work on a bomb, and what are we going to do about that? Nothing, I am sure.

Posted by Tom at 8:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 31, 2012

Of Course it's the Culture, Stupid

It's worth quoting in full what Mitt Romney said in Israel that has raised such a fuss on the left:

I was thinking this morning as I prepared to come into this room of a discussion I had across the country in the United States about my perceptions about differences between countries. And as you come here and you see the GDP per capita for instance in Israel which is about 21,000 dollars and you compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority which is more like 10,000 dollars per capita you notice a dramatic, stark difference in economic vitality. And that is also between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States. I noted that part of my interest when I used to be in the world of business is I would travel to different countries was to understand why there were such enormous disparities in the economic success of various countries.
I read a number of books on the topic. One, that is widely acclaimed, is by someone named Jared Diamond called 'Guns, Germs and Steel,' which basically says the physical characteristics of the land account for the differences in the success of the people that live there. There is iron ore on the land and so forth. And you look at Israel and you say you have a hard time suggesting that all of the natural resources on the land could account for all the accomplishment of the people here. And likewise other nations that are next door to each other have very similar, in some cases, geographic elements. But then there was a book written by a former Harvard professor named 'The Wealth and Poverty of Nations.' And in this book Dr. Landes describes differences that have existed--particularly among the great civilizations that grew and why they grew and why they became great and those that declined and why they declined. And after about 500 pages of this lifelong analysis--this had been his study for his entire life--and he's in his early 70s at this point, he says this, he says, if you could learn anything from the economic history of the world it's this: culture makes all the difference. Culture makes all the difference.

And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things. One, I recognize the hand of providence in selecting this place. I'm told in a Sunday school class I attended-- I think my son Tagg was teaching the class. He's not here. I look around to see. Of course he's not here. He was in London. He taught a class in which he was describing the concern on the part of some of the Jews that left Egypt to come to the promised land, that in the promised land was down the River Nile, that would provide the essential water they had enjoyed in Egypt. They came here recognizing that they must be relied upon, themselves and the arm of God to provide rain from the sky. And this therefore represented a sign of faith and a show of faith to come here. That this is a people that has long recognized the purpose in this place and in their lives that is greater than themselves and their own particular interests, but a purpose of accomplishment and caring and building and serving. There's also something very unusual about the people of this place. And Dan Senor-- And Dan, I saw him this morning, I don't know where he is, he's probably out twisting someone's arm--There's Dan Senor, co-author of 'Start-up Nation,' described-- If you haven't read the book, you really should-- Described why it is Israel is the leading nation for start-ups in the world. And why businesses one after the other tend to start up in this place. And he goes through some of the cultural elements that have led Israel to become a nation that has begun so many businesses and so many enterprises and that is becomes so successful.

I think that what Romney said is pretty much on target, but if you want to quibble over his universal statement that "Culture makes all the difference," and say that he should have said something like "Culture makes part of the difference," then I don't really have a quibble with you. Reasonable people should be able to debate whether culture makes "all" the difference or only "part" of the difference.

But to call his remarks racist? Give me a break. But that is exactly one Palestinian leader did:

"It is a racist statement and this man doesn't realise that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation," said Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"It seems to me this man (Romney) lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people," Erekat added. "He also lacks knowledge about the Israelis themselves. I have not heard any Israeli official speak about cultural superiority."

The irony is that if Romney knew more about the Irsraelis and Palestinians he'd have spoken even stronger about the differences between the two cultures.

The further irony is that the Palestinian people really are the victims; just not of the Israelis. They are the victims of corrupt and cynical leaders who use them to keep themselves in total power. They are the victims of terrorist and jihadist organizations who use the situation to further their own ends.

What Romney said in London was accurate but unnecessary. What he said in Israel was both accurate and necessary. As Paul Mirengoff said at Powerline, offending Palestinian leaders is "a step in the right direction." These leaders need to be told the truth and their people need to hear it. Not because we're mean, but because we're compassionate, because we want the Palestinians to improve their lot, and that starts with acknowledging reality. Let's hope Romney gets elected so they can hear more like this.

Wednesday Update

Mitt Romney himself has a post at National Review's The Corner in which he explains his thinking further:

Culture Does Matter
By Mitt Romney
July 31, 2012 8:00 P.M.

During my recent trip to Israel, I had suggested that the choices a society makes about its culture play a role in creating prosperity, and that the significant disparity between Israeli and Palestinian living standards was powerfully influenced by it. In some quarters, that comment became the subject of controversy.

But what exactly accounts for prosperity if not culture? In the case of the United States, it is a particular kind of culture that has made us the greatest economic power in the history of the earth. Many significant features come to mind: our work ethic, our appreciation for education, our willingness to take risks, our commitment to honor and oath, our family orientation, our devotion to a purpose greater than ourselves, our patriotism. But one feature of our culture that propels the American economy stands out above all others: freedom. The American economy is fueled by freedom. Free people and their free enterprises are what drive our economic vitality.

The Founding Fathers wrote that we are endowed by our Creator with the freedom to pursue happiness. In the America they designed, we would have economic freedom, just as we would have political and religious freedom. Here, we would not be limited by the circumstance of birth nor directed by the supposedly informed hand of government. We would be free to pursue happiness as we wish. Economic freedom is the only force that has consistently succeeded in lifting people out of poverty. It is the only principle that has ever created sustained prosperity. It is why our economy rose to rival those of the world's leading powers -- and has long since surpassed them all.

The linkage between freedom and economic development has a universal applicability. One only has to look at the contrast between East and West Germany, and between North and South Korea for the starkest demonstrations of the meaning of freedom and the absence of freedom.

Israel is also a telling example. Like the United States, the state of Israel has a culture that is based upon individual freedom and the rule of law. It is a democracy that has embraced liberty, both political and economic. This embrace has created conditions that have enabled innovators and entrepreneurs to make the desert bloom. In the face of improbable odds, Israel today is a world leader in fields ranging from medicine to information technology.

As the case of Israel makes plain, building a free society is not a simple task. Rather, it is struggle demanding constant courage and sacrifice. Even here in the United States, which from our inception as a nation has been blessed with freedom, we faced monumental challenges in harmonizing our ideals with our institutions. We fought a bloody civil war against slavery and it took a nonviolent civil-rights movement to bring political and social equality to all Americans. In these epic struggles we changed our "culture" and vastly improved it.

I have just returned from a trip abroad. I visited three lands -- Israel, Poland, and Great Britain -- which are defined by their respective struggles for freedom. I met with some of the greatest heroes of those struggles. I am always glad to return to American soil. On this occasion, I am only strengthened in my conviction that the pursuit of happiness is not an American right alone. Israelis, Palestinians, Poles, Russians, Iranians, Americans, all human beings deserve to enjoy the blessings of a culture of freedom and opportunity.

Color me impressed. Romney is a thinker in a way that Obama or Biden could never be.

Those on the left who say that culture doesn't matter, or that people like the Palestinians are in their current situation because of "oppression" or history or whatever are simply wrong. The history of hundreds of peoples over thousands of years has proven that wrong time and again. The liberals will never get it, but Romney does, and that is a very good thing.

Posted by Tom at 8:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 20, 2012

The One Religion You Can Persecute

Other than my own congressman, Frank Wolf (R-VA-10), not many politicians spend a lot of time defending Christians against the horrible persecution they face around the world, especially China and around the Middle East. As I mentioned on this blog, President Bush didn't do much of anything about it, and neither did Clinton, Bush41, Reagan, Carter... on back it goes. So on the one hand this editorial in the Washington Times attacking Obama may seem unfair. On the other hand, the attacks on Christians has gotten worse in recent decades. Some will no doubt blame this on American policies, but that's rather beside the point; there was no organized effort to kill Muslims and/or burn their houses of worship before or after 9-11.

Destroy all churches
Obama silent while Saudi grand mufti targets Christianity
The Washington Times
March 16, 2012

If the pope called for the destruction of all the mosques in Europe, the uproar would be cataclysmic. Pundits would lambaste the church, the White House would rush out a statement of deep concern, and rioters in the Middle East would kill each other in their grief. But when the most influential leader in the Muslim world issues a fatwa to destroy Christian churches, the silence is deafening.

On March 12, Sheik Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, declared that it is "necessary to destroy all the churches of the region." The ruling came in response to a query from a Kuwaiti delegation over proposed legislation to prevent construction of churches in the emirate. The mufti based his decision on a story that on his deathbed, Muhammad declared, "There are not to be two religions in the [Arabian] Peninsula." This passage has long been used to justify intolerance in the kingdom. Churches have always been banned in Saudi Arabia, and until recently Jews were not even allowed in the country. Those wishing to worship in the manner of their choosing must do so hidden away in private, and even then the morality police have been known to show up unexpectedly and halt proceedings.

This is not a small-time radical imam trying to stir up his followers with fiery hate speech. This was a considered, deliberate and specific ruling from one of the most important leaders in the Muslim world. It does not just create a religious obligation for those over whom the mufti has direct authority; it is also a signal to others in the Muslim world that destroying churches is not only permitted but mandatory.

The Obama administration ignores these types of provocations at its peril. The White House has placed international outreach to Muslims at the center of its foreign policy in an effort to promote the image of the United States as an Islam-friendly nation. This cannot come at the expense of standing up for the human rights and religious liberties of minority groups in the Middle East. The region is a crucial crossroads. Islamist radicals are leading the rising political tide against the authoritarian, secularist old order. They are testing the waters in their relationship with the outside world, looking for signals of how far they can go in imposing their radical vision of a Shariah-based theocracy. Ignoring provocative statements like the mufti's sends a signal to these groups that they can engage in the same sort of bigotry and anti-Christian violence with no consequences.

Mr. Obama's outreach campaign to the Muslim world has failed to generate the good will that he expected. In part, this was because he felt it was better to pander to prejudice than to command respect. When members of the Islamic establishment call for the religious equivalent of ethnic cleansing, the leader of the free world must respond or risk legitimizing the oppression that follows. The United States should not bow to the extremist dictates of the grand mufti, no matter how desperate the White House is for him to like us.

Posted by Tom at 8:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 4, 2011

Egypt's Revolution in Tatters

It looks like the "Arab Spring" is going downhill and fast. Social forces are powerful things, and when unleashed you never know where they're going. Sometimes it all works out for the better, but often not. Sitting Egypt is headed in the wrong direction.

All very sad. Some will take mutter that "well what did we expect, those people are just that way." Others will say "there is nothing we could have done." See the comments section of the article for examples of both.

I don't quite agree with either sentiment. No doubt that some societies, cultures, and yes, religions, are much more resistant to Western concepts of democracy and liberty than others. But not to a degree that it's an impossible task. And while we are hardly omnipotent in our ability to make things turn out the way we want them, neither are we powerless to give history a nudge.

Egypt's Revolution in Tatters
National Review
August 2, 2011
Stanley Kurtz

The forcible expulsion of young, secular protesters from their encampment in Cairo's Tahrir Square -- with the enthusiastic help of ordinary Egyptians -- has the feeling of a watershed moment. So does the imminent appearance of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in an iron cage to stand trial on live television.

The young, secular protesters in Tahrir Square have been badly outmaneuvered in a three-way contest between themselves, the ruling military council, and the country's rising Islamists. The optimistic view of the revolution held that Egypt's Islamists were artificially propped up by their status as the only available outlet for anti-regime sentiment. Supposedly, the Islamists were destined to decline as a raft of newly empowered democratic parties sparked the enthusiasm of the public.

The truth was the opposite. Once government suppression of the Islamists was lifted, they were legitimized and empowered. The military regime struck up an informal alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood, as defense against the students' desire to strip the military of its business interests and power. The Obama administration's openly expressed willingness to work with the Muslim Brotherhood -- implicitly refusing to hold American aid hostage to keeping the Islamists in check -- removed the last potential obstacle to an Islamist renaissance. The result was the recent immense demonstration in which, not only the Muslim Brotherhood but a wide array of even harder-line Islamists turned on the badly outnumbered students, demanding an end to secularism and a fully Islamic state.

The supposedly secular and liberal pro-democracy protesters were never particularly liberal at all. Rather, they are a motley collection of hard-leftists and Arab nationalists, with only a very few "liberals" mixed in, many of whom would barely be recognizable as liberals to most Westerners. These protesters have deluded themselves into believing that the broader Egyptian public stands with them. That delusion is protected, above all, by the refusal of the supposed pro-democracy forces to organize a serious political coalition and undertake an aggressive campaign to contest the upcoming elections. The protesters keep asking for electoral delays so as to give them more time to organize against the Islamists, yet they never seem to leave Tahrir Square to actually take their case to the people.

The truth is that the Tahrir protesters are less democrats than a new incarnation of the Arab street, more equipped and inclined to achieve their goals through rabble-rousing than through modern electoral politics. Sensing that they cannot defeat the Islamists at the ballot box, their strategy has been to rally the people to their side with demands to put Mubarak and his cronies on trial. The hope is to energize public anger, discredit the remnants of the old regime still clinging to power, force the military to adopt a secular bill of rights before an Islamist-dominated parliament can re-write the constitution, and ultimately push the military rulers aside.

This strategy is yet another hopeless dream of seizing power with no real base from which to work. The recent demonstrations organized by the secularists were supposed to recruit the Islamists to their agenda of putting the old regime on trial and undercutting the military. That failed when the Islamists refused to be co-opted and turned on the secularists. Meanwhile, the broader Egyptian public has also turned sharply against the protesters. The ongoing street disruptions have killed off Egypt's essential tourist industry, hollowed out an already disastrously weak economy, kept the police forces in disarray, and generally kept the country barely functional for months. That's why the public joined in to help the military eject the demonstrators from Tahrir Square just a day before Mubarak's trial.

Now Mubarak will appear in his cage, but with the students out of Tahrir Square and unable to rally the public against the regime. Quite possibly, after a day or two of spectacle, the trial will go into recess. The revolutionists will have been checkmated, and a government run jointly by the military and the Islamists will be left to take root. No doubt, Egypt's Islamists now look to Turkey as a model for how to undercut the military over time. They will be patient, while enjoying substantial power in the meantime.

We are a long way from liberal democracy in Egypt. And as Egypt goes, so goes the Arab Spring.

Posted by Tom at 9:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 27, 2011

Obama Tries to Screw Israel, or is He just and Idiot Part Five Million and One?

Is Obama deliberately trying to hurt Israel or is he just stupid?

What Obama Did to Israel
The president has made negotiations all but impossible
National Review
Charles Krauthammer
May 27, 2011

Every Arab-Israeli negotiation contains a fundamental asymmetry: Israel gives up land, which is tangible; the Arabs make promises, which are ephemeral. The longstanding American solution has been to nonetheless urge Israel to take risks for peace while America balances things by giving assurances of U.S. support for Israel's security and diplomatic needs.

It's on the basis of such solemn assurances that Israel undertook, for example, the Gaza withdrawal. In order to mitigate this risk, Pres. George W. Bush gave a written commitment that America supported Israel's absorption of major settlement blocs in any peace agreement, opposed any return to the 1967 lines, and stood firm against the so-called Palestinian right of return to Israel.

For two and a half years, the Obama administration has refused to recognize and reaffirm these assurances. Then last week in his State Department speech, President Obama definitively trashed them. He declared that the Arab-Israeli conflict should indeed be resolved along "the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps."

Nothing new here, said Obama three days later. "By definition, it means that the parties themselves -- Israelis and Palestinians -- will negotiate a border that is different" from 1967.

It means nothing of the sort. "Mutually" means both parties have to agree. And if one side doesn't? Then, by definition, you're back to the 1967 lines.

Nor is this merely a theoretical proposition. Three times the Palestinians have been offered exactly that formula, 1967 plus swaps -- at Camp David 2000, Taba 2001, and the 2008 Olmert-Abbas negotiations. Every time, the Palestinians said no and walked away.

And that remains their position today: The 1967 lines. Period. Indeed, in September the Palestinians are going to the U.N. to get the world to ratify precisely that: a Palestinian state on the '67 lines. No swaps.

Note how Obama has undermined Israel's negotiating position. He is demanding that Israel go into peace talks having already forfeited its claim to the territory won in the '67 war -- its only bargaining chip. Remember: That '67 line runs right through Jerusalem. Thus the starting point of negotiations would be that the Western Wall and even Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter are Palestinian -- alien territory for which Israel must now bargain.

The very idea that Judaism's holiest shrine is alien or that Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter is rightfully, historically, or demographically Arab is an absurdity. And the idea that, in order to retain them, Israel has to give up parts of itself is a travesty.

Obama also moved the goal posts on the so-called right of return. Flooding Israel with millions of Arabs would destroy the world's only Jewish state while creating a 23rd Arab state and a second Palestinian state -- not exactly what we mean when we speak of a "two-state solution." That's why it has been the policy of the U.S. to adamantly oppose this "right."

Yet in his State Department speech, Obama refused to simply restate this position -- and refused again in a supposedly corrective speech three days later. Instead, he told Israel it must negotiate the right of return with the Palestinians after having given every inch of territory. Bargaining with what, pray tell?

No matter. "The status quo is unsustainable," declared Obama, "and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace."

Israel too? Exactly what bold steps for peace have the Palestinians taken? Israel made three radically conciliatory offers to establish a Palestinian state, withdrew from Gaza, and has been trying to renew negotiations for more than two years. Meanwhile, the Gaza Palestinians have been firing rockets at Israeli towns and villages. And on the West Bank, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas turned down the Olmert offer, walked out of negotiations with Binyamin Netanyahu, and now defies the United States by seeking not peace talks but instant statehood -- without peace, without recognizing Israel -- at the U.N. And to make unmistakable this spurning of any peace process, Abbas agrees to join the openly genocidal Hamas in a unity government, which even Obama acknowledges makes negotiations impossible.

Obama's response to this relentless Palestinian intransigence? To reward it -- by abandoning the Bush assurances, legitimizing the '67 borders, and refusing to reaffirm America's rejection of the right of return.

The only remaining question is whether this perverse and ultimately self-defeating policy is born of genuine antipathy toward Israel or of the arrogance of a blundering amateur who refuses to see that he is undermining not just peace but the very possibility of negotiations.

-- Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2011 the Washington Post Writers Group.

Krauthammer asks whether Obama is an amateur, I say he's an idiot. Ten more years of experience wouldn't matter one whit.

Melanie Phillips says he's pro-Palestinian, and I agree:

As I have written over and over again since the moment Obama burst upon the political stage, the evidence from his background, his friends and his mentors showed he shared the profound antipathy to Israel that is the boilerplate prejudice of the hard-left. Since taking office, he has trimmed this hostility for political necessity alone. As Stanley Kurtz puts it in a piece this week which reprises this evidence for those who have either forgotten it or were never aware of it in the first place:
Taken in context, and followed through the years, the evidence strongly suggests that Obama's long-held pro-Palestinian sentiments were sincere, while his post-2004 pro-Israel stance has been dictated by political necessity.

The fact is that Obama's refusal to play along with the UN gambit is merely - and for whatever reason -- a tactical decision. The important thing is that in his recent speeches, Obama has shown that he is not only still refusing to hold Abbas and co to account for their unbroken hostility to the existence of Israel and acts of aggression towards it, but is still intent on rewarding them - while proposing to cut off their prospective victim, Israel, at the knees.

Thanks to Netanyahu, the American people have now been made aware of this. Thank heavens for Congress.

And let's be clear. Given the state of "Palestine," being pro-Palestinian means being anti-Israel. And i don't mean Israeli policies, I mean anti-Israel. Abbas, Hamas, all of them, want to destroy israel plain and simple. As I've documented time and again, Fatah is a radical Jihadist-terror group that at the end of the day has the same objectives as Hamas, and would kill all the Jews if given the chance. That Obama doesn't know or care speaks ill of him.

As for a Palestinian state, Andy McCarthy had a right a few years ago when he said that

The Palestinians are a backward people, indoctrinated toward brutality. They don't rate a sovereign state or anyone's help until they civilize themselves. Sovereignty is a privilege that implies acceptance of civilized norms -- that is why we speak of states like Iran and North Korea as "rogues." Regardless of whether there really are scattered Palestinian moderates, it is a dangerous fantasy to assume the Palestinian people, as a whole, are ready to be anyone's peace partner.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 25, 2011

Benjamin Netanyahu Takes Washington by Storm

On Tuesday, May 24, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed joint session of Congress, which gave him several standing ovations. via Powerline:

We're proud in Israel that over 1 million Arab citizens of Israel have been enjoying these rights for decades.

Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel's Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights.

Now, I want you to stop for a second and think about that. Of those 300 million Arabs, less than one-half of 1 percent are truly free and they're all citizens of Israel.

This startling fact reveals a basic truth: Israel is not what is wrong with about the Middle East; Israel is what is right about the Middle East

You got that right, Mr Prime Minister

Full text here.

More key excerpts:

In an unstable Middle East, Israel is the one anchor of stability. In a region of shifting alliances, Israel is America's unwavering ally. Israel has always been pro-American. Israel will always be pro-American.

My friends, you don't have to -- you don't need to do nation- building in Israel. We're already built.

You don't need to export democracy to Israel. We've already got it.

And you don't need to send American troops to Israel. We defend ourselves.

This path of liberty is not paved by elections alone. It's paved when governments permit protests in town squares, when limits are placed on the powers of rulers, when judges are beholden to laws and not men, and when human rights cannot be crushed by tribal loyalties or mob rule.

Israel has always embraced this path in a Middle East that has long rejected it. In a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted, Israel stands out. It is different.

Now, we've achieved historic peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, and these have held up for decades.

I remember what it was like before we had peace. I was nearly killed in a firefight inside the Suez Canal -- I mean that literally -- inside the Suez Canal. I was going down to the bottom with a 40- pound pack -- ammunition pack on my back, and somebody reached out to grab me. And they're still looking for the guy who did such a stupid thing.

I was nearly killed there.

And I remember battling terrorists along both banks of the Jordan.

Too many Israelis have lost loved ones, and I know their grief.

I lost my brother. So no one in Israel wants to return to those terrible days.

I recognize that in a genuine peace, we'll be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland. And you have to understand this: In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers.

We're not the British in India. We're not the Belgians in the Congo. This is the land of our forefathers, the land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one God, where David set out to confront Goliath, and where Isaiah saw a vision of eternal peace.

No distortion of history -- and boy, am I reading a lot of distortions of history lately, old and new -- no distortion of history could deny the 4,000-year-old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.

You see, our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It's always been about the existence of the Jewish state. This is what this conflict is about.

In 1947 the U.N. voted to partition the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews said "Yes." The Palestinians said "No."

In recent years, the Palestinians twice refused generous offers by Israeli prime ministers to establish a Palestinian state on virtually all the territory won by Israel in the Six-Day War.

They were simply unwilling to end the conflict.

And I regret to say this: They continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name public squares after terrorists. And, worst of all, they continue to perpetuate the fantasy the Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees.

My friends, this must come to an end.

I say to President Abbas, "Tear up your pact with Hamas, sit down and negotiate, make peace with the Jewish state. And if you do, I promise you this: Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as the new member of the United Nations. It will be the first to do so."

My friends, the momentous trials of the last century and the unfolding events of this century attest to the decisive role of the United States in defending peace and advancing freedom. Providence entrusted the United States to be the guardian of liberty. All people who cherish freedom owe a profound debt of gratitude to your great nation.

Among the most grateful nations is my nation, the people of Israel, who have fought for their liberty and survival against impossible odds in ancient and modern times alike.

I speak on behalf of the Jewish people and the Jewish state when I say to you, representatives of America, thank you.

Thank you. Thank you for your unwavering support for Israel. Thank you for ensuring that the flame of freedom burns bright throughout the world.

May God bless all of you, and may God forever bless the United States of America.

Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.

He speaks words of wisdom that we should all take to heart.

Posted by Tom at 12:45 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 19, 2011

There will be no Peace in the Middle East and Obama is an Idiot Part Five Million

In The World Turned Upside Down, British author Melanie Phillips says that one's view of the Middle East is a sure guide to their view of the world. If someone believes that Israel, despite her faults, is generally on the side of what is right, good, and true, and that the Palestinians and Arabs are mostly at fault, that person can be counted on to have a rational view of the world. If, on the other hand, they see Israel as the oppressor, equate it's policies with apartheid, and see the Palestinians as victims, they are almost always "moral and cultural and relativists who invert truth and lies, right and wrong over a wide range of issues, and are incapable of seeing that their beliefs do not accord with reality."

That so many take that latter view is why indeed the world is, as Phillips says, turned upside down. Take today's news:

Obama prods Mideast allies to embrace reform, make peace
The Washington Post
by Scott Wilson
May 19, 2011

President Obama prodded Israel on Thursday to pursue a peace deal with the Palestinians based on boundaries defined more than half a century ago, the first time an American president has articulated such a stance, and urged Arab governments to carry out the democratic reforms their citizens have demanded.

The president pressed Israel, in unusually frank terms, to reach a final peace agreement with the Palestinians, citing the boundaries in place on the eve of the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War as the starting point for negotiation about borders.

The formulation goes beyond principles outlined by President George W. Bush, who stated during his first term that "it is unrealistic to expect" Israel to pull back to the 1967 boundaries, which were based on cease-fire lines established in 1949. Obama said the negotiations about final borders, which he indicated may include land swaps to accommodate Israel's large settlement blocs, should result in "a viable Palestine, a secure Israel."

Which is completely impossible with an Israel confined to the 1967 borders. If an independent Palestinian state was to be formed, especially one in which Hamas had a role, all we'd end up with is yet another terrorist state dedicated to the eradication of Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows this perfectly well. From an Associated Press story carried in the Washington Times today:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday rejected a key aspect of President Obama's Middle East policy speech, saying that a return to his country's 1967 borders would spell disaster for the Jewish state.

In a statement released late Thursday, Mr. Netanyahu called the 1967 lines "indefensible."

I have been to Israel. I stood on a mounaintop on the Golan Heights and looked out into Syria. I went through part of the "West Bank" and saw the so-called "settlements." You don't have to be a military genius to know that it would be pretty easy to overrun the country if you broke through a line or two of defense. And with their rocket arsenals Hizbollah and Hamas can pretty much hit the whole of Israel - weapons Egypt and Syria did not have in 1967 and 1973.

We've heard recently of a "reconciliation" agreement between Fatah/Palestinian Authority and Hamas. If true, this spells a serious shift toward radicalism/Jihadism/rejectionism whatever you want to call it, but it's bad news for Israel.

Jackson Diehl, Deputy Editorial Page Editor of The Washington Post, explains how the Obama Administration and our lovely European "allies" have responded:

Mahmoud Abbas's formula for war
The Washington Post
by Jackson Diehl
May 18, 2011

The Obama administration and its allies appear suitably alarmed by all this. But their principal reaction so far might be summed up as, "Now we really have to put the screws to Netanyahu."

"It's more vital than ever that both Israelis and Palestinians find a way to get back to the table," Obama declared after a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah on Tuesday. Senior European diplomats who have recently phoned or met with Netanyahu have made clear what that means: Unless he can engage Abbas in negotiations before September, their governments will probably vote for the U.N. declaration of statehood.

Embedded in these demands is what might be called the soft bigotry of wishful thinking about Arab strongmen. U.S. and European leaders indulgently swallow the private assurances they receive from suit-wearing, English-speaking men like Abbas, rather than judging them by their actual behavior.


And someone needs to remind our president that Egypt, the military colossus of the Arab world, is under new management. The Muslim Brotherhood may not end up in total control, but it will have a lot of influence, and they will never agree to anything other than the total destruction of Israel.

Meanwhile, not too far away, Iran marches on towards acquiring nuclear weapons and the missiles to put them on. It may we awhile yet before they have that capability, but given enough time, it'll happen.

It is true, as Charles Krauthammer points out, that the idea of returning to the 1967 borders has "been the working premise for negotiations since 2000. But no president had ever before publicly and explicitly endorsed the 1967 lines." This because they know that although it's all very nice in theory in practice it could only lead to disaster.

Elliot Abrams gets it right:

Obama's Empty Speech
In "balanced" terms, Obama treated Assad as a potential democrat, and proposed a non-plan for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations
National Review
by Elliot Abrams
May 19, 2011

(Obama's) idea was to put off Jerusalem and refugees, two impossible issues, and instead negotiate borders and security. But in fact, the border issues in the farther northern and southern areas are often simple, and most of the time the Israeli security fence is actually on or very near the 1949 armistice line, often mistakenly called "the 1967 border." The far harder matter is the Jerusalem area, and if Jerusalem is not solved, borders cannot be solved. It won't work. Nor will it work to solve security issues in isolation from others, such as whether Palestinians really accept the permanent existence of the Jewish state at all. Hamas's prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, said last week he had "great hope of bringing to an end the Zionist project in Palestine," and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said, "We will never give up the right of return," by which he means flooding Israel with millions of Palestinian "refugees." In 2004 President Bush told Prime Minister Sharon that "an agreed, just, fair, and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel." That Bush position, contained in a letter to Prime Minister Sharon, was then endorsed by both houses of Congress. President Obama's failure to restate it will rightly strike Israelis as a dangerous shift in position, and one can only hope that he clarifies the matter when he addresses AIPAC on Sunday.

The Israelis aren't going to give up what they call Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank") because they know it would put their very existence at risk. The Palestinians don't just want a homeland, they want to eradicate Israel. Everyone in the Middle East understands these two realities. Why can't Obama?

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 4, 2011

Strange Contradictions Over Libya

VDH sees through the nonsense spewed by the administration:

Into the Libyan Labyrinth
National Review
Victor Davis Hanson
April 1, 2011

We should watch for some very strange things in Libya in the days ahead:

(a) Euros bet on the wrong rebel horse, and if Qaddafi survives, he will surely "renegotiate" his massive oil exports to Europe, or perhaps prefer to deal with the Chinese. So Britain, Italy, and France will become increasing panicky and want us to ratchet things up.

(b) Expect to hear less and less about the UN and the Arab League as Obama, to win, needs more and more to ignore their restrictions on using American ground troops and direct bombing of Libya's assets.

(c) Expect the Left to get increasingly antsy as it weighs the viability of Obama's progressive domestic agenda versus their own humiliation at having to keep still and support a preemptive bombing campaign against a Muslim, Arab, oil-exporting nation, without congressional approval, that was not a national-security threat to the U.S. The Left is going to have to accept Obama's rendering inoperative the UN and Arab League restrictions when he inserts some ground troops or orders some Milosevic-like bombing. His supporters also will have to endure the fact that Obama's prior pledges of "turning over" and "toning down" a war that we would supposedly fight neither on the ground nor by sustained aerial bombardment are simply untrue -- and this on top of everything from the now jim-dandy Guantanamo and A-OK renditions.

(d) We are quickly evolving beyond the choices of both a Mogadishu- or Beirut-like clean skedaddle and a 12-year-Iraq-like-no-fly-zone humanitarian mission, and most likely are considering either bombing Qaddafi like crazy or sending in some troops or both.

Bottom line: It is always a dangerous thing for a president to start a war without Congress, without a consistent mission, without a coherent methodology, without a plausible end game, and without a clue who our rebel allies are or just how strong their opponent actually might be -- contingent on a fickle UN, impotent but oil-enthused allies, and a passive-aggressive Arab world, all to prove a point that we could reinvent our military into a humanitarian rescue force, subordinate to international unelected bodies -- and all the more dangerous during the golfing, basketball-playoffs, and resort seasons.

Posted by Tom at 6:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

No Objective in Libya

No time for a proper post so this will have to do. Mark Steyn sums up my thoughts on President Obama's confused policy on Libya, however. I wrote about the contradictory statements administration and foreign officials had made a few weeks ago, and unfortunately the situation hasn't gotten any better.

Obama's Missionless War
National Review
Mark Steyn
April 2, 2011

If I recall correctly, we went into Libya -- or, at any rate, over Libya -- to stop the brutal Qaddafi dictatorship killing the Libyan people. And thanks to our efforts a whole new mass movement of freedom-loving democrats now has the opportunity to kill the Libyan people. As the Los Angeles Times reported from Benghazi, these democrats are roaming the city "rousting Libyan blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa from their homes and holding them for interrogation as suspected mercenaries or government spies." According to the New York Times, "Members of the NATO alliance have sternly warned the rebels in Libya not to attack civilians as they push against the regime of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi." We dropped bombs on Qaddafi's crowd for attacking civilians, and we're prepared to do the same to you! "The coalition has told the rebels that the fog of war will not shield them from possible bombardment by NATO planes and missiles, just as the regime's forces have been punished."

So, having agreed to be the Libyan Liberation Movement Air Force, we're also happy to serve as the Qaddafi Last-Stand Air Force. Say what you like about Barack Obama, but it's rare to find a leader so impeccably multilateralist he's willing to participate in both sides of a war. It doesn't exactly do much for holding it under budget, but it does ensure that for once we've got a sporting chance of coming out on the winning side. If a coalition plane bombing Qaddafi's forces runs into a coalition plane bombing the rebel forces, are they allowed to open fire on each other? Or would that exceed the U.N. resolution?

Who are these rebels we're simultaneously arming and bombing? Don't worry, the CIA is "gathering intelligence" on them. They should have a clear of who our allies are round about the time Mohammed bin Jihad is firing his Kalashnikov and shouting "Death to the Great Satan!" from the balcony of the presidential palace. But America's commander-in-chief thinks they're pretty sound chaps. "The people that we've met with have been fully vetted," says President Obama. "So we have a clear sense of who they are. And so far they're saying the right things. And most of them are professionals, lawyers, doctors -- people who appear to be credible."

Credible people with credentials -- just like the president! Lawyers, doctors, just like Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's No. 2. Maybe among their impeccably credentialed ranks is a credible professional eye doctor like Bashar Assad, the London ophthalmologist who made a successful mid-life career change to dictator of Syria. Hillary Rodham Clinton calls young Bashar a "reformer," by which she means presumably that he hasn't (yet) slaughtered as many civilians as his late dad. Assad Sr. killed some 20,000 Syrians at Hama and is said to have pumped hydrogen cyanide through the town: There wasn't a dry eye in the house, as the ophthalmologists say. Baby Assad hasn't done that (yet), so he's a reformer, and we're in favor of those, so we're not arming his rebels.

According to the State Department, Colonel Qaddafi's 27-year-old son, Khamis, is also a "reformer." Or at least he was a few weeks ago, when U.S. officials welcomed him here for a month-long visit, including meetings at NASA and the Air Force Academy, and front-row seats for a lecture by Deepak Chopra entitled "The Soul of Leadership." Ten minutes of which would have me buckling up the Semtex belt and yelling "Allahu Akbar!" but each to his own. It would have been embarrassing had Khamis Qaddafi still been getting the red carpet treatment in the U.S. while his dad was getting the red carpet-bombing treatment over in Tripoli. But fortunately a scheduled trip to West Point on February 21st had to be canceled when young Khamis was obliged to cut short his visit and return to Libya to start shooting large numbers of people in his capacity as the commander of a crack special-forces unit. Maybe he'll be killed by a pilot who showed him round the Air Force Academy. Small world, isn't it?

Meanwhile, the same CIA currently "gathering intelligence" on these jihadist lawyers, doctors, and other allies has apparently been in Libya for some time arming them, according to a top-secret memo on their eyes-only clandestine operation simultaneously leaked by no fewer than four administration officials to the press. A reader suggested to me that they'd misheard the Warren Zevon song "Send Lawyers, Guns And Money," and were sending guns and money to lawyers. And, if some of the guns and money end up in the hands of "al-Qaeda elements," I'm sure Janet Napolitano can have it re-classified as an overseas stimulus bill. In the old days, simpletons like President Bush used to say, "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists." This time round, we're with us and we're with the terrorists, and you can't say fairer than that.

So this isn't your father's war. It's a war with a U.N. resolution and French jets and a Canadian general and the good wishes of the Arab League. It's a war with everything it needs, except a mission. And, if you don't have a mission, it's hard to know when it's accomplished. Secretary Gates insists that regime change is not a goal; President Sarkozy says it is; President Obama's position, insofar as one can pin it down, seems to be that he's not in favor of Qaddafi remaining in power but he isn't necessarily going to do anything to remove him therefrom. According to NBC, Qaddafi was said to be down in the dumps about his prospects until he saw Obama's speech, after which he concluded the guy wasn't serious about getting rid of him, and he perked up. He's certainly not planning on going anywhere. There is an old rule of war that one should always offer an enemy an escape route. Instead, David Cameron, the British prime minister, demanded that Qaddafi be put on trial. So the Colonel is unlikely to trust any offers of exile, and has nothing to lose by staying to the bitter end and killing as many people as possible.

Meanwhile, the turbulence in the Middle East has spread to Syria, Kuwait, Yemen, Jordan, and beyond. In Egypt, an entirely predictable alliance between the army and the Muslim Brotherhood seems to be emerging. The "Arab Spring" turns out to be a bit more complicated than it looks on CNN, and a CIA that failed to see the bankruptcy of its own pension plan looming is unlikely to be a very useful guide to the various forces in play. For the Western powers to be bogged down in the least consequential Arab dictatorship's low-grade civil war desultorily providing air support to incompetent al-Qaeda sympathizers may be an artful if expensive piece of misdirection.

Either that, or we haven't got a clue what we're doing.

Posted by Tom at 6:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 26, 2011

Now They Tell Us

Surprise, surprise, aside from the Army the Muslim Brotherhood is proving to be the primary force in the Egyptian Revolution:

Islamist Group Is Rising Force in a New Egypt
The New York Times
By Michael Slackman
Published: March 24, 2011

CAIRO -- In post-revolutionary Egypt, where hope and confusion collide in the daily struggle to build a new nation, religion has emerged as a powerful political force, following an uprising that was based on secular ideals. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group once banned by the state, is at the forefront, transformed into a tacit partner with the military government that many fear will thwart fundamental changes.

It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the nonideological revolution are no longer the driving political force -- at least not at the moment.

As the best organized and most extensive opposition movement in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was expected to have an edge in the contest for influence. But what surprises many is its link to a military that vilified it.

"There is evidence the Brotherhood struck some kind of a deal with the military early on," said Elijah Zarwan, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. "It makes sense if you are the military -- you want stability and people off the street. The Brotherhood is one address where you can go to get 100,000 people off the street."

Like I said on February 3, when the protests turned violent, "no good can come of this."

"We are all worried," said Amr Koura, 55, a television producer, reflecting the opinions of the secular minority. "The young people have no control of the revolution anymore. It was evident in the last few weeks when you saw a lot of bearded people taking charge. The youth are gone." ...

In the early stages of the revolution, the Brotherhood was reluctant to join the call for demonstrations. It jumped in only after it was clear that the protest movement had gained traction. Throughout, the Brotherhood kept a low profile, part of a survival instinct honed during decades of repression by the state.

The question at the time was whether the Brotherhood would move to take charge with its superior organizational structure. It now appears that it has.

But in these early stages, there is growing evidence of the Brotherhood's rise and the overpowering force of Islam.

Yup. The only surprise is that anyone could be surprised. Egypt has turned more and more Islamist these past few decades. While in the 1950s and 60s it looked like the country was moving in the direction of adopting a more Western way of progress, they've steadily backslide these past thirty years. See here and here for examples.

For a time the military will keep the Brotherhood from imposing it's true extreme agenda. But the Brotherhood, like the Saudi Wahabists, is very good at infiltrating organizations, and now that it will play a serious role in government, I believe that over time it will come to control the military.

On the one hand I want to compliment the Times for coming out and telling us the truth about the Brotherhood and it's role in the revolution. On the other there's this paragraph:

This is not to say that the Brotherhood is intent on establishing an Islamic state. From the first days of the protests, Brotherhood leaders proclaimed their dedication to religious tolerance and a democratic and pluralist form of government. They said they would not offer a candidate for president, that they would contest only a bit more than a third of the total seats in Parliament, and that Coptic Christians and women would be welcomed into the political party affiliated with the movement.


Posted by Tom at 12:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 22, 2011

Confusion Over Libya

I have no idea what the president is trying to achieve in Libya. Tony Blankley doesn't either:

President Obama, March 4: "Let me just be very unambiguous about this. Col. [Moammar] Gadhafi needs to step down from power and leave."

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, March 20: It "isn't about seeing [Col. Gadhafi] go." Asked whether it was possible that the mission's goals could be achieved while leaving Col. Gadhafi in power, Adm. Mullen said, "That's certainly potentially one outcome."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said, "It is not about regime change."

Then what is this war about? On Friday, Mr. Obama, in announcing our military intervention, cited as justification that Col. Gadhafi might kill "thousands the region could be destabilized the democratic values that we stand for would be overrun." But he also wanted to be "clear about what we will not be doing. The United States is not going to deploy ground troops. We are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal specifically, the protection of civilians in Libya."

So we want to topple Gadhafi, but we don't. We are there to protect the civilians, but we're attacking Libyan military installations that have little to do with that objective.

Do we not quit until Gadahfi is gone... or not? If he doesn't leave, how long do we protect the civilians?

Not to worry, though, the Brits are just as confused:

On Sunday, Dr Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, said that targeting Gaddafi personally "would potentially be a possibility" under the terms of the UN resolution. When the same question was put to General Sir David Richards, the Chief of the Defence Staff, yesterday, he replied: "Absolutely not. It is not allowed under the UN resolution and it is not something I want to discuss any further."

And the conflict between the UN resolution and Obama's objective is just as bad:

The U.N. Security Council's stated objective is "the immediate establishment of a cease-fire and a complete end to violence." This is entirely incompatible with President Obama's stated objective of getting Moammar Gaddafi "to step down from power and leave." If the violence ends, Gaddafi will not leave. To the contrary, if military intervention succeeds in achieving the United Nations' goal of forcing a cease-fire on the warring parties, it will lock in the status quo on the ground.

Obama's attitude seems to wish that the whole thing would go away. As such, he ran from Washington to South America, where he could be on what amounts to a vacation. Yes, trade with Brazil is important. No it is not more important than a disaster that killed thousands in Japan and a Middle East that is exploding at warp speed.

Obama apparently thought that if he ignored Libya long enough those troublesome foreigners would go away. But the UN passed a resolution, the Arab League wanted a no-fly zone, and France said it wanted to take action. Faced with irrelevancy, Obama had no choice but to go along.

As a result he has inherited a policy rather than made one. Because we are the strongest power, we will bear the brunt of any military action no matter who is nominally "in charge" or "leading."

Right now a lot of things are happening at home and abroad. There are showdowns in several states between Republicans and public sector unions. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are in tense negotiations over the budget. A huge disaster in Japan has killed thousands. Egypt just underwent a revolution, and Libya, Bahrain and Yemen are in the middle of one. Did I miss anything? Iran inches closer to the bomb.

What we need is a president who exerts firm leadership, and instead we have someone who has punted on all of the above. He's more interested in his March Madness picks than in governing. He sent more troops to Afghanistan, but it's clear that he did so reluctantly and his heart isn't in it, something you can be sure the Afghans and Taliban have picked up on (why do you think Hamid Karzai is hedging his bets?).

So now we mount an operation meant to enforce a "no fly zone," but clearly it's gone way beyond that. We're attacking ground targets, military storage depots, and bombing this and that.

As if all this wasn't bad enough, the entire act of going to war against Libya contradicts what candidate Obama said while on the campaign trail:

"The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."

December 2010

But this is exactly what Obama, now as President, has done. He accepts the UN resolution as enough but doesn't see the need to go to Congress.

Finally, if Gadhafi is killed or captured (and that's what it will have to be, he's not leaving), will we go in and at least try to help the rebels set up a decent government? Did we attempt to approach them before the airstrikes with a sort of quid pro quo; we help you overthrow the dictator, give you aid, and you agree to take our advice on x, y, and z when you win. We condition future aid on you setting up a decent government. Did we try that? Sure, they'd probably reneg on at last some of it, and who knows who we're even negotiating with, but you've at least got to try, I'd think.

My position: The president should have formulated a firm policy one way or the other as soon as the Libyan revolution started. He should have exerted strong U.S. leadership for whatever policy he thought best and got other important countries on board. Either immediate strong unilateral intervention or complete hands-off is better than this half-way confused muddle by a disengaged president we have now.

Where will this go? My guess is it "ends" in a sort of stand-off in which Gadhafi controls most of the country but the rebels have an enclave. We continue to fly strikes and patrols for years. Reminds of of another place not too far away, and look what we eventually had to do there.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 17, 2011

A Few Quick Comments on Some of the Issues of the Day

Not having much time to blog these days, I won't be able to do my usual in depth analysis of the issues of the day. It's a terrible confluence of events; I get involved in some big projects just as the world goes nuts. On the other hand, while it bugged me greatly for a while to be away from the blog, pretty soon you get used to it. About three of four years ago I decided to just up TV entirely because it was just taking up too much time. For a few weeks I missed my shows, but now I can't imagine going back to it.

The Japanese Nuclear Crisis

Yes the situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant is serious. Let's also recall that it was hit by not only an earthquake that registered a whopping 9 on the Richter scale, but a tsunami as well. This is not Three Mile Island... which oh by the way didn't kill anyone.

The bigger question is what the effect will be on nuclear power as a source of electricity. One can only despair after looking at the news, which is in full meltdown over the situation. The extreme environmentalists are licking their chops, figuring that (finally!) they can stop new plants from being built and shut down existing ones.

Amazingly, over 50 percent of Americans still think that nuclear power is generally safe. Unfortunately, another poll shows that half of all voters see Obama as being serious about reducing the deficit, so I guess we shouldn't put too much faith in either polls or the intelligence of the American people, take your pick.

The bottom line is that there is no energy source that is free of pitfalls. Nuclear plants run the risk of meltdown. Coal, oil, and natural gas emit greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide, which the enviros now tell us is a pollutant (who would have guessed?). There are no more locations for hydrodynamic dams, and solar and wind are a joke. Biofuels based on sugar products, grass, or waste hold some promise, but only barely. Only nuclear and fossil fuels can produce enough electricity to matter, and of course the enviros are against both.

Yes let's make nuclear plants safer. Yes let's learn from this and make sure that if they're in earthquake zones they are more survivable. But we either need them as a power source or the enviros need to stop complaining about fossil fuels.

And yes I would be perfectly fine if they built a nuclear power plant in my neighborhood.

The Libyan Revolution

The unrest started on Feb 15, and within a week or two it was clear that a revolution was under way. Unlike his Egyptian neighbor Mubarak, Muammar Gaddafi has decided to stay and fight it out. No doubt the Mubarak left because he lost the support of the army, whereas Ghaddafi has cobbled enough of a force from mercenaries and his own army to put up a good fight. In fact, some say he's winning.

"The world," has mostly told Ghaddafi that shooting his own civilians isn't so good, which is kind of ironic since the government in most of those nations would do the same thing if they felt their rule threatened.

On March 10 France even went so far as to recognize the rebel National Transitional Council as the legitimate government.

Most recently, the UN Security Council has approved a no-fly zone over Libya. "The world" seems to see that something needs to be done. Unlike, that is, our own president. But more on that below.

Gasoline Prices

Gas is about $3.50 a gallon where I live. From what I can see there are two general reasons for the rise; the crisis in the Middle East and our own refusal to exploit our own reserves.

Yes we risk spills if we drill. And no it won't solve all our problems. But if you don't like drilling then come up with your own energy source... and please don't embarrass yourself by talking about electric cars, wind, or solar.

I hear Obama and his advisers want to open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Big mistake. One, the reserve was meant for a true crisis, and we're not near that. Two, it's only a short-term solution.

The Federal Budget Standoff

Democrats want to spend, Republicans want to make a few tepid cuts. The entire federal budget is about $3.8 trillion. Republicans want to cut a measly $61 billion, and the Dems a pathetic $6 billion.

Put in context, the Republicans want to cut 61 cents of a budget of 380 dollars, and the Dems 6 cents on the same.

Guess what? The Dems tell us the world will come to an end if we cut any more than $6 billion.

Oh and the deficit is about $1.5 trillion, and by his own projections Obama will have doubled the national debt. But no one aside from those crazy Tea Party types seems to want to do anything about it.


Chris Christie is getting some competition for status most admired governors among conservatives. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has rode the storm in his state admirably and refused to back down in the face of an unprecedented level of threats and intimidation from union thugs. He kept his party together, and as a result they have achieved the unthinkable; a serious rollback of union abuses.

You don't have to believe everything muckrackers like Upton Sinclair wrote to know that abuses in the workplace were horrendous a hundred or so years ago. I would have been a union organizer myself in the 19th and early 20th centuries. When it comes to coal mines I'm still sympathetic to unions.

But today over 50 percent of union members are white collar workers. The only reason unions were or are needed is to ensure workplace safety and obtain more than starvation wages. There is no reason for labor unions in most work environments today, let alone in white collar environments.

Public sector unions are especially odious, especially so if they have collective bargaining power. The reason is pretty straightforward: The people elect legislators to determine the salaries of public employees. When public sector unions put forth a special representative to bargain with these legislators, they've effectively elected their own special legislator. Worse, they're doing it all with our tax dollars.

This is an usurpation of democracy. The "seat at the table" for public sector employees is and must be only through normally elected legislators. They don't get another seat, or a special representative. If they don't like their salaries they need to work to elect different legislators.

As if this wasn't bad enough, the incredible thuggish behavior of the unions in Wisconsin foretold of what will happen around the country if we do not get a handle on this situation now. As mentioned earlier, while union membership is declining among blue-collar workers it is increasing among public-sector white-collar workers. While workers everywhere should have the right to form an organization (provided they do it on their own time and not at the workplace), the absolutely must not have collective bargaining power.

In the old days there was an implicit agreement in the trade-off of benefits between private and public sector employment. You got higher wages in the private sector, but your job was always somewhat at risk. Public sector employees made less, but had more job security, to the point where in some professions such as teaching you basically have a guaranteed job for life.

Public sector employees now want it all. They want wages equal to or greater than their counterparts in the private sector. The latest rationale is that public sector employees are supposedly more talented and thus deserve more. Besides being arrogant and condescending, such an argument ignores the fact that public sector employment enjoys better job security.

The NPR Scandal

That a few big shots at NPR have whacko leftist views and are willing to take money from the world's biggest Jihadist-terrorist organization is in a way not news. Conservatives have known this for years.

If the big media - "mainstream media" - did their jobs NPR would have been exposed long ago and their funding eliminated. As it is they don't care because with the exception of Fox News and a few other conservative outlets they are only different by degree, not by kind.

The NPR scandal comes on the heals of other citizen-journalist pieces by James O'Keefe and Lila Rose exposing ACORN and Planned Parenthood. What's amazing, and irritating at the same time, is that all three of these; NPR, ACORN, and Planned Parenthood, were ripe targets just waiting to be picked. Everyone who is not drinking the liberal cool-aide knows they're corrupt. And it was so easy to trip them up. If a few ordinary young folks could do it with cheap store-bought equipment, why can't the big media with their millions of dollars in resources?

Instead of introspection on such questions, though, we are treated to idiotic pieces about how "There is no ethical canon or tradition that would excuse such deception on the part of a professional journalist." Yeah that's the important part.

What's scary is what the liberal media must have gotten away with in the days before the internet.

Where's Obama?

So where's our president? Dithering, of course. Playing golf. Going to fundraisers. Consulting with Michelle over this year's vegetable garden. Having fun being president, I guess, but whatever he's up to the issues of the day don't seem to concern him.

His supposedly pro-nuclear power secretary of energy is mostly silent on nuclear power.

He doesn't seem to care a whit about Libya. He and his SecState are always "consulting," but this is a process, not a policy. We have no policy. The UN can pass any resolution it wants about no-fly zones, but we all know that only the US can enforce it.

Worse, he seems to treat foreign policy problems as annoyances, not concerns that should be at the front and center for any president. The only thing that seems to bother him are Israeli "settlements" on the West Bank.

Union thugs? He's behind them. Some on the right say it's all about the money and donations to the Democrat Party, but it's more than that. Public sector unions are integral to his plan to bring European-style socialism to this country.

Before the election Obama told us that "under my plan... electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket." If that's his plan for electricity, why should he think any differently for gasoline?

And the budget? He's AWOL on that too, letting the Dems in Congress do the negotiating for him.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 12, 2011

Mubarak Resigns: What Next? Different Views

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned yesterday and left the country. A few years ago I would have been more optimistic about the chances for real democracy than I am today. Maybe I've just read too much about Islam or the Middle East, or I've been jaded by our experience in Iraq.


Nonie Darwish' book Now They Call Me Infidel certainly didn't help. Darwish grew up in Egypt in the 1950s, and now lives in America. Her visits back to her home country have convinced her that Egypt is moving backwards, becoming more Islamist, rather than less. They are rejecting Western ways, not embracing them.

Reading about Islam in general and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular hasn't helped either. You don't have to believe everything Walid Phares, Bruce Bawer, Walter Laqueur, Melanie Phillips , Oriana Fallaci, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Bernard Lewis, Mark Steyn, Steve Emerson, John Guandolo, Andrew McCarthy, Steve Emerson, Robert Spencer and oh about a few hundred other scholars and experts have to say to know that Islam in much of the world has a problem with we in the West think of as liberty and democracy.

Read this - I use "democracy" here to mean the process of voting, and "liberty" to be those things we have in our Bill of Rights. Democracy and liberty are therefore not completely synonymous. You can and certainly have the vote in many countries where they do not have civil liberties, although the reverse is not often the case.

There just don't seem to be many or any true Muslim democrats. There is no reform movement of any significance within Islam. Our own failure, under GWB and continued under Obama, to support Muslim democrats and an Islamic reform movement.

Sure, there are a few reform minded Muslims and organizations, which I've profiled on Redhunter. People like Dr Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, and Irshad Manji, and organizations like the Free Muslims Coalition, the International Quranic Center, Muslims Agrainst Sharia, and the Quillam Foundation. But if you haven't heard of any of these except perhaps the first, there's a reason; they're rejected by most other Muslims. This is tragic, and something we need to try and reverse, though even the Bush Administration didn't do much in the way of embracing Muslim reformers and democrats.

Different Views on the Right

I think these excerpts capture the essence of these two editorials, but follow the link and read the whole thing if you prefer.

The optimistic view

Stand for Freedom
The Weekly Standard
William Kristol
February 14, 2011

It was not so long ago, after all, when conservatives understood that Middle Eastern dictatorships such as Mubarak's help spawn global terrorism. We needn't remind our readers that the most famous of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta, was an Egyptian, as is al Qaeda's number two, Ayman al Zawahiri. The idea that democracy produces radical Islam is false: Whether in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian territories, or Egypt, it is the dictatorships that have promoted and abetted Islamic radicalism. (Hamas, lest we forget, established its tyranny in Gaza through nondemocratic means.) Nor is it in any way "realist" to suggest that backing Mubarak during this crisis would promote "stability." To the contrary: The situation is growing more unstable because of Mubarak's unwillingness to abdicate. Helping him cling to power now would only pour fuel on the revolutionary fire, and push the Egyptian people in a more anti-American direction....

It's understandable that conservatives should be wary of people taking to the streets--even when they are entitled to do so. It's also reasonable for conservatives to warn of the unanticipated consequences of ostensibly hopeful developments....

Conservatives are used to focusing on the downsides of situations. And there are potential downsides ahead, to be sure. But there is also a huge upside to a sound and admirable outcome in Egypt. American conservatives should remember our commitment, in the words of Federalist 39, to "that honorable determination which animates every votary of freedom, to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government."

Egypt turns out to have its votaries of freedom. The Egyptian people want to exercise their capacity for self-government. American conservatives, heirs to our own bold and far-sighted revolutionaries, should help them.

The pessimistic view:

The Egyptian Precipice
National Review
The Editors
February 11, 2011

The interest of the United States in Egypt is to avoid the worst case -- chaos, or a takeover of the state by the Muslim Brotherhood. That means we should want a very deliberate process of transformation, playing out over an extended period rather than all in a rush in the coming weeks or months. The best way to buy time for careful change shepherded by the Egyptian military is to do as much as possible now to meet the protesters' reasonable demands, beginning with Mubarak's resignation....

Elections have to be delayed so that players besides the Brotherhood can organize. We want to give independent political parties, journalists, and activists the space they need to build the foundations of a democratic polity. It very well may be that there's no way to deny the Brotherhood a role in the political process, but we shouldn't welcome that fact, and we shouldn't tell ourselves ridiculous bedtime stories about what the Brotherhood is, as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper did in his congressional testimony yesterday.

Count us as cautiously pessimistic on Egypt. It needn't go the way of Iran in 1979. Yet we should remember that Egypt -- for all the hope represented by the young, tech-savvy protesters -- is a society with basically illiberal values. Simply throwing elections on top of such a society is not a formula for liberal democracy.

Our friend Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard writes, "An American conservatism that looks back to 1776 cannot turn its back on the Egyptian people." No one should turn his back on the protesters, who have risked their lives for what they imagine will be a better future. But we should be careful about comparisons to the American Revolution. In 1776, America already had a vast amount of experience with elections, self-government, and the rule of law; we were already in important respects a democratic society.

Egypt doesn't have that luxury, which is why its revolution must be handled with the utmost care.

What does President Obama Think?

If the views of retired Air Force Lt. General James R. Clapper, recently appointed by the president to replace Dennis Blair as the Director of National Intelligence are any indication, we're in deep trouble:

He has since, ah, "clarified" his statement, or rather, the White House clarified it for him, but readers can judge for their own what he and the Administration really think.

It's already been reported that the White House has reached out to the Brotherhood, and has thought to bring them into a post-Mubarak Egypt.

President Obama offered some remarks yesterday after Mubarak's resignation had been announced. Following are what I think are the key excerpts:

By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian people's hunger for change. But this is not the end of Egypt's transition. It's a beginning. I'm sure there will be difficult days ahead, and many questions remain unanswered. But I am confident that the people of Egypt can find the answers, and do so peacefully, constructively, and in the spirit of unity that has defined these last few weeks.

For Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day. ...

The United States will continue to be a friend and partner to Egypt. We stand ready to provide whatever assistance is necessary -- and asked for -- to pursue a credible transition to a democracy. I'm also confident that the same ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit that the young people of Egypt have shown in recent days can be harnessed to create new opportunity -- jobs and businesses that allow the extraordinary potential of this generation to take flight. And I know that a democratic Egypt can advance its role of responsible leadership not only in the region but around the world....

And above all, we saw a new generation emerge -- a generation that uses their own creativity and talent and technology to call for a government that represented their hopes and not their fears; a government that is responsive to their boundless aspirations. One Egyptian put it simply: Most people have discovered in the last few days that they are worth something, and this cannot be taken away from them anymore, ever....

The word Tahrir means liberation. It is a word that speaks to that something in our souls that cries out for freedom. And forevermore it will remind us of the Egyptian people -- of what they did, of the things that they stood for, and how they changed their country, and in doing so changed the world. Thank you.

What Does Democracy Mean in the Middle East?

Barry Rubin reminds us why we shouldn't be too optimistic about elections in the Muslim world:

  1. Iranian revolution, 1978-1979: Mass protests by a wide coalition against dictatorship. Result? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is now president.
  2. Beirut Spring, or the "Cedar Revolution", 2005: Christians, Sunni Muslims, and Druze unite against Syrian control. Moderate government gains power. Result? Hezbollah is now running Lebanon.
  3. Palestinians have free elections, 2006: Voters protest against corrupt regime. Result? Hamas is now running the Gaza Strip.
  4. Algeria holds free elections(1965?): Voters back moderate Islamist group. Result? Military coup; Islamists turn (or reveal their true thinking) radical; tens of thousands of people killed.

The jury is still out on Iraq. Turkey held a lot of promise for many years, but has taken a serious turn toward Islamism in recent years.

All in all, not a good track record.

Polling Data

I'm not so sure that the Egyptian's idea of democracy and liberty is in any way similar to our own. A poll published by the Pew Research Center on Dec 2 isn't encouraging. Some key findings about Egyptians:

30 % have a favorable view of Hizbollah
66 % have an unfavorable view of Hizbollah, with 4% undecided
49 % have a favorable view of Hamas
48 % have an unfavorable view of Hamas, with 3% undecided
20 % have a favorable view of al Qaeda
72 % have an unfavorable view of al Qaeda, with 8% undecided

I don't know whether to be happy or not to know that according to the poll people in some other Muslim countries the numbers are even higher. Returning to Egyptian attitudes:

75 % favor laws stipulating the stoning of people for adultery, and the cutting off of hands for theft

59 % favor a democratic form of government
22 % say that in some circumstances a non-democratic form is preferable,
16 % don't care one way or the other

Unfortunately, this or any other Pew poll that I could find doesn't discuss how popular the Brotherhood is in Egypt, but googling around indicates that they're not liked by a lot of Egyptians.

On The Other Hand

It's just possible that elections will marginalize extremist groups like the Brotherhood. It is true that they derive some of their support from people who are disaffected or oppressed by autocratic governments. Remove the autocracy and you remove some of the attraction for these groups.

The question is how strong is the Islamist attraction people have for groups like the Brotherhood as opposed to the attraction just because of a reaction to the autocracy. I'm not sure, but we're certainly going to find out.

Do Polls Matter?

It seems to me that as often as not history is not so much decided by majorities, but by which group is the most organized and determined. Polls matter to the extent that they show how much support extremist groups have.

Neither the Jacobins in France nor the Bolsheviks in Russia took power immediately after the Ancien Régime was overthrown. Polls often don't show a lot of support for extremist groups, yet they end up at the top because they are organized, ruthless, and often underestimated by their opponents.

It's not at all certain that the Muslim Brotherhood will come out on top, but we should be worried that they might, and we need to take all the steps we can to marginalize them. The first step is for the Obama Administration to at least recognize them for the threat to Egypt and the world that they are.

Posted by Tom at 2:45 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 3, 2011

The Protests in Egypt Turn Violent: No Good Can Come of This

The protests in Egypt have turned into a near-revolution. What started in Tunisia has spread to Sudan, Jordan, Yemen, and of course Egypt. There are demonstrations scheduled for Syria and Algeria tomorrow, all this according to numerous reports.

Having the most people and being the strongest military, what happens in Egypt could set the tone for the rest of the region.


The longer the conflict continues the greater chance for a bad outcome.

In my last post on this on Sunday, I quoted Barry Rubin who said there were three probable outcomes. Summarizing, they are

1) The military deposes Mubarak and takes over, but otherwise keeps the regime
2) A revolution ensues, and radical elements, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, take over
3) Neither side gets the upper hand, and a bloody civil war ensues.

Now I'll add number four as what I think will happen

4) Mubarak hangs on and/or he is deposed and the military takes over, but either way elections are held in short order. A supposedly moderate government is formed and the world breaths a sign of relief. We're told that Egypt is on the path to pluralism and democracy.

And then, a few years later, the radicals are in control.

Revolutionary History

Let's go through a few popular uprisings that turned into revolutions. I'm leaving the American Revolution out of it because it was more a colonial revolt, and it was characterized by a long war instead of a mass uprising, and it is that latter model we want to examine.

French Revolution - In 1789 Louis XVI called for a meeting of the Estates-General to discuss a tax problem. Things spiraled out of control, and a revolution ensued with no small amount of violence. But when the dust settled, it did seem that there was hope for democracy ("liberté, égalité, fraternité") in France. There were radicals involved from the outset, but moderates (the Girondists) held much power. But within a few years the radical Jacobins had taken power and during the ensuiing Reign of Terror (September 5, 1793, to July 27, 1794) they sent their enemies to the guillotine. Eventually being deposed themselves, the whole thing devolved into the military dictatorship of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Russian Revolution - For a variety of reasons the Russian people were tired of the Romanov dynasty, and in 1917 decided to do something about it. There were two revolutions in 1917, one in February and the other in October. The February one left the Social Democrats in control, at least nominally. However, in October the Bolsheviks seized power.

Iranian Revolution - Demonstrations against the Shah started in 1978 and within a year the country was paralyzed by strikes. The Shah fled, Khomeini returned and the country voted to become an Islamic Republic. The first president of the new republic, Banisadr, was a relative moderate, but fell out of favor with Khomeini and was impeached and removed from office. Wikipedia has it right in that ""what began as an authentic and anti-dictatorial popular revolution based on a broad coalition of all anti-Shah forces was soon transformed into an Islamic fundamentalist power-grab."

Philippine Revolution In 1986, President Ferdinand Marcos was reelected in an election widely held to be fraudulent. Already upset over the assassination of Benigno Servillano "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr, in 1983, elements within the armed forces organized to overthrow Marcos. The people saw what was happening and mass demonstrations ensued. The Philippine communist party was taken by surprise and largely sidelined. Marcos fled, and by all accounts the Philippines are a free country today.

Romanian Revolution - . Nicolae Ceausescu ran Romania with an iron fist for 25 years, then one day in December 1989 we heard about disturbances in the streets, then in a few days there was a revolution and he was hopscotching around the country in a helicopter, and a week later he and his wife were shot dead by firing squad. The victors set up a democracy, and by anybody's reckoning is a free country today.

Cedar Revolution - A popular uprising that followed the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 led to the ouster of Syrian troops. Without their presence, it seemed that the country had a chance to the relative prosperity, stability, and democracy the country had enjoyed before the start of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975. Today Hizbollah is the most powerful element in the government.

In four of my six examples, what started as a popular uprising against a tyrannical regime ended up being hijacked by extremists who turned the government into something worse than it was before.

How did Romania and the Philippines escape? Put another way, why did France, Russia, Iran, and Lebanon succumb to extremists? I'm not entirely sure, and such complex events are not given to pat analysis. But I think there are a few factors we can identify

  1. If there is a healthy civil culture, there is a greater chance the country will end up as a true democracy
  2. If no powerful and/or well organized extremist group is waiting in the wings, the greater the chance the country will end up as a true democracy
  3. If the country has a Western culture the greater the chance the country will end up as a true democracy

What else? Help me out, commenters.

This is Not Encouraging

A few hours ago the New York Times broke the story that the Obama Administration wants Mubarak to go now, and that the Muslim Brotherhood should be part of a provisional government:

The Obama administration is discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately, turning over power to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military, administration officials and Arab diplomats said Thursday.

Even though Mr. Mubarak has balked, so far, at leaving now, officials from both governments are continuing talks about a plan in which, Mr. Suleiman, backed by Sami Enan, chief of the Egyptian armed forces, and Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the Defense Minister, would immediately begin a process of constitutional reform.

The proposal also calls for the transitional government to invite members from a broad range of opposition groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, to begin work to open up the country's electoral system in an effort to bring about free and fair elections in September, the officials said.

Senior administration officials said that the proposal is one of several options under discussion with high-level Egyptian officials around Mr. Mubarak, though not him directly, in an effort to convince him to step down now.

No long term good can come of this.

It's not just that Egypt is the home of the Muslim Brotherhood, because that organization has chapters in a lot of countries. It's also because Egypt itself has become more Islamist in the past few decades. A country that looked like it was becoming more Western in the 1950s and 60s has taken a serious turn toward radicalism. I doubt that can be reversed with a few votes, but hopefully I'll be proven wrong.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 30, 2011

Egyptian Outcome Possibilities

I said in my post yesterday about the protests in Egypt that there were no good choices, or at lease ones that did not carry significant risk, for the United States, and I see no reason to change that assessment.

If Mubarak somehow hangs on, the dislike and hatred for his government will only increase. This ends up playing into the hands of the radicals, whose power will increase. They will eventually overthrow the government and a radical Islamist regime will be placed in power.

If there are free and fair elections, Islamists will be voted into power sooner or later. It'll be just like the 1979 revolution in Iran, where the revolution went on for almost a year before the Islamic radicals took the reigns.

In other words, there's small chance of any decent government emerging.

I think Barry Rubin has the best take on what's happening. He sees three possible outcomes:

First, the establishment and army stick together, get rid of Mubarak, but preserve the regime. The changes put in charge a former Air Force commander (the same job Mubarak once held) and the intelligence chief. The elite stays united, toughs it out, does a skillful combination of coopting and repressing the demonstrations, and offering some populist reforms. The old regime continues. In that case, it is only a minor adjustment.

Second, the elite loses its nerve and fragments, in part demoralized by a lack of Western -- especially U.S. -- support. The Muslim Brotherhood throws its full weight behind the rebellion. Soldiers refuse to fire at or join the opposition. Eventually, a radical regime emerges, with the Muslim Brotherhood as either ruler or power behind the throne. Remember that the "moderate democratic" leaders have been largely radical and willing to work with the Brotherhood. In that case, it is a fundamental transformation.

The new regime turns against the West, tears up the peace treaty with Israel (in practice if not formally), and joins hands with Hamas. Iranian influence isn't important with this regime, but that will be small comfort as it launches its own subversive efforts and even goes to war against Israel at some point in the future. This will be the biggest disaster for the region and the West since the Iranian revolution 30 years ago. And in some ways it will be worse.

Third and least likely, neither side backs down bringing bloody civil war.

Absolutely critical here is the Muslim Brotherhood's decision. Should it be cautious or decide that the moment for revolution has arrived? The choice is not clear because if it picks wrong it could be destroyed. Have no doubt, though, that the Brotherhood is the only non-government group with disciplined followers, real organization, and mass support. In an election where it was harassed, repressed, and cheated -- thus undercounting its support -- the Brotherhood officially received 20 percent of the vote.

Did you get that last sentence? That the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the three branches of the jihad and the organization that created Hamas, got 20 percent of the vote the last time in Egypt and that was almost certainly an undercount?

So why the pessimism? In a word, experience. Rubin again:

1. Iranian revolution, 1978-1979: Mass protests by a wide coalition against dictatorship. Result? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is now president.

2. Beirut Spring: Christians, Sunni Muslims, and Druze unite against Syrian control. Moderate government gains power. Result? Hezbollah is now running Lebanon.

3. Palestinians have free elections: Voters protest against corrupt regime. Result? Hamas is now running the Gaza Strip.

4. Algeria holds free elections: Voters back moderate Islamist group. Result? Military coup; Islamists turn (or reveal their true thinking) radical; tens of thousands of people killed.

I could also mention Muslim Turkey, which has gone Islamist recently, almost completely abrogating the promise of Kemalism.

We've also seen where sudden revolutions take us in the West as well; the French Revolution which started off well enough in 1789, but descended into a Reign of Terror after the Jacobins seized control, and then into the military dictatorship of Napoleon Bonaparte.

The protests in Iran in Dec 2009 - Jan 2010 were by a people already under an Islamist regime, and the goals of the demonstrators seemed to be to want to push things in a better direction. To be sure, even if they had somehow succeeded in overthrowing the government there's no guarantee they would have gotten what they wanted, but it was at least worth a try.

More, from what I know the Iranian people are generally much better educated and sophisticated than the Egyptians.


But what do Egyptians really think? According to a recent Pew poll, they are extremely radical even in comparison to Jordan or Lebanon. When asked whether they preferred "Islamists" or "modernizers," the score was 59% to 27% in favor of the Islamists. In addition, 20 percent said they liked al-Qaeda; 30 percent, Hezbollah; 49 percent, Hamas. And this was at a time that their government daily propagandized against these groups.

How about religious views? Egyptian Muslims said the following: 82 percent want adulterers punished with stoning; 77 percent want robbers to be whipped and have their hands amputated; 84 percent favor the death penalty for any Muslim who changes his religion.

In a democracy, of course, these views are going to be expressed by how people vote. Even if Egypt does not have an Islamist government, it might well end up with a radical regime that caters to these attitudes and incites violence abroad.

How unhappy.

What To Do

All this said, we can't support Mubarak. We may as well take our chances with elections and hope for the best. As such, the suggestions made by the bipartisan Working Group on Egypt are as good as any:

Statement of the Working Group on Egypt, Saturday January 29, 2011

Amidst the turmoil in Egypt, it is important for the U.S. to remain focused on the interests of the Egyptian people as well as the legitimacy and stability of the Egyptian government.

Only free and fair elections provide the prospect for a peaceful transfer of power to a government recognized as legitimate by the Egyptian people. We urge the Obama administration to pursue these fundamental objectives in the coming days and press the Egyptian government to:

-- call for free and fair elections for president and for parliament to be held as soon as possible.

-- amend the Egyptian Constitution to allow opposition candidates to register to run for the presidency.

-- immediately lift the state of emergency, release political prisoners, and allow for freedom of media and assembly

-- allow domestic election monitors to operate throughout the country, without fear of arrest or violence.

-- immediately invite international monitors to enter the country and monitor the process leading to elections, reporting on the government's compliance with these measures to the international community.

-- publicly declare that Mr. Mubarak will agree not to run for re-election.

We further recommend that the Obama administration suspend all economic and military assistance to Egypt until the government accepts and implements these measures.

Evolution, Not Revolution?

One answer is slow evolution towards liberty and plurality over time. The authoritarian governments on Taiwan and in South Korea morphed into democracies. Francos' fascist Spain is a democracy today. It can happen.

Samuel Huntington explained how this worked in his 1996 book The Clash of Civilizations:

During the 1970′s and 1980′s over thirty countries shifted from authoritarian to democratic political systems....Democratization was most successful in countries where Christian and Western influences were strong....These transitions and the collapse of the Soviet Union generated in the West, particularly in the United States, the belief that a global democratic revolution was underway and that in short order Western concepts of human rights and Western forms of political democracy would prevail throughout the world. Promoting this spread of democracy hence became a high priority goal for Westerners....The greatest resistance to Western democratization efforts, however, came from Islam and Asia. This resistance was rooted in the broader movements of cultural assertiveness embodied in the Islamic Resurgence and the Asian affirmation. (p 193)

In the post-Cold War world the choice can be the more difficult one between the friendly tyrant and an unfriendly democracy. The West's easy assumption that democratically elected governments will be cooperative and pro-Western need not hold true in non-Western societies where electoral competition can bring anti-Western nationalists and fundamentalists to power....As Western leaders realize that democratic processes in non-Western societies often produce governments unfriendly to the West, they both attempt to influence those elections and lose their enthusiasm for promoting democracy in those societies. (p 198)

So even a slow, evolutionary change, is harder to pull off in some countries than others. History seems to show that the more a country has been influenced by the West, the greater it's chances of success. The more Islamic, the worse it's chances.

What about Iraq, then? The jury is still out so we can't really say. It's headed in the right direction, but now that we are withdrawing we'll see if the situation holds.

In Conclusion

Instant revolutions rarely produce good outcomes. Ours was more a colonial revolt than a true government; we didn't go to London and depose the king.

Could I be wrong? You betcha. It's possible that the Brotherhood doesn't gain a foothold in a new government, and that instead of morphing into an Islamist regime it moves toward real liberty. Moderate voices could prevail. I'm just not holding my breath.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 29, 2011

The Cairo Clashes: Will Mubarak Survive? Should He?

As is so often the case with dictatorships, the Mubarak regime has been shown to be at once strong yet fragile. They control their countries with varying degrees of ruthlessness and brutality, but control them they do. They go for decades with amazing political stability, calm in the streets, and a secret police that keeps opposition under control.

Then, one fine day, seemingly out of nowhere, chaos erupts. Sometimes the government falls, sometimes not, but either way it is weakened. We've seen the pattern time and again. Nicolae Ceausescu ran Romania with an iron fist for 25 years, then one day in December 1989 we heard about disturbances in the streets, then in a few days there was a revolution and he was hopscotching around the country in a helicopter, and a week later he and his wife were shot dead by firing squad. "Where did that come from?" was the reaction of most people in the West.

We saw something similar happen in Iran ten years prior. Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, appeared secure on his thrown. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a few small anti-Shah demonstrations that no one had paid much attention to exploded and soon the country was paralyzed by strikes. Ayatollah Khomeini returned, and the Shah fled. Most of the world was caught totally by surprise.

Likewise, nobody paid much attention to the protests in Tunisia last month, either. Then a few weeks ago they jumped to the front page of the papers and we learned that the government had resigned and the president had fled. "Where did that come from" was what everyone said.

Is the same thing happening in Egypt now?

Right now there are no good options for U.S. policymakers. But that's because for the past few decades we haven't been doing what we should have been doing.

Right Now

As of this writing, the Egyptian capital seems to have fallen into anarchy. Protesters own the streets. The army and police are overwhelmed, and at this point are holding back and not even trying to disperse the protesters any more. They have relegated themselves to protecting what government and state television and radio buildings as they can. Military and police vehicles are overrun by demonstrators. Yesterday, the protesters burned down the ruling party's headquarters.

The government has shut down all Internet access, cellular and landline telephone systems. Foreign news media report their stories through private satellite links.

Photos via Fox News

What is happening is going far beyond what happened in Iran last year and is more reminiscent of the Iranian revolution of 1979. Mubarak has not had to flee, however, as did Ceausescu. Mubarak has fired his cabinet, but the crowds have made it clear that they are not going to be satisfied with that. They want him gone.


The Democracy Alternative

Maybe, just maybe, we would not be in this situation if we had spent the past few decades promoting liberty in these countries instead of just proping up whatever strongman was in power as long as we could work with him.

To be sure, sometimes we were able to follow this policy and get away with it. The Kuomintang government on Taiwan ran the country as a single party state, i.e quasi-dictatorship, until the 1990s. South Korea was run by a series of autocrats until maybe the 1980s. Both are full democracies today.

But as with the Iran or Nicaragua, sometimes the opposite happens, and they go from a pro-American authoritarian dictatorship to an anti-American totalitarian one. They go from the frying pan into the fire, as it were.


The biggest criticism that the left made about US policy during the Cold War was over our support of right-wing dictators over a communist alternative. It was wrong to support a dictator who oppressed the people just because they were "our guy," the argument went. And, truth be told, their case was hardly without merit.

Our justification was that 1) these dictators were the lesser of two evils, and 2) they might evolve into democracies whereas communist countries would not (see Jeanne Kirkpatrick's Dictatorships and Double Standards) Although countries like the ROC and ROK did evolved into democracies, the left did have a point. We should have pushed these countries harder to reform.


The Islam Problem

But it's not just a lack of voting rights or free speech that is the problem. We would be sticking our heads in the sand if we didn't say that there was a problem within Islam as well.

This is emphatically not to say that "Islam is the problem," or is unreformable. I reject that conclusion. What it is to say is that the way all too many Muslims interpret their religion is conducive to radicalism, whether it goes by the name of Salafism, Wahabism, Khomeinism, or something else. The Sharia of old must be rejected. The Caliphate is not a legitimate form of government.

That this will be difficult to achieve is an understatement. Now is not the time for me to lay out my ideas on how to push the Islamic world in that direction, and I've done so too many times before here on this blog (start here and start scrolling).

All Choices Now are Bad Ones

Right now we have three choices

1) Support Mubarak
2) Call for Mubarak's ouster and support the protesters
3) Do nothing except issue a general plea for peace and calm.

The problem with the first is that it goes against our principles, and if he's overthrown the new government will remember that we supported him.

The problem with the second is that the protesters would likely set up an Islamist government that is at best unfriendly to us, and at worst is straight out dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. It may well become the Sunni equivalent of Khomeinist Iran.

The argument against the third is that we ought to at least try and push things in a direction that is favorable to us.


Either way, in the long run we cannot go back to the old way of supporting one dictator over another. Hopefully, whatever the outcome of this current situation, we come to realize that we have to adopt a policy of pushing this region of the world towards some sort of pluralism and Western concepts of liberty.

The Muslim Brotherhood

Long story short, the Muslim Brotherhood was formed in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna as a response to the fall of the Turkish Caliphate in 1924. In the intervening years, it has become the world's largest Muslim organization, with branches and front organizations in nearly all parts of the world. It's stated goal is the restoration of the caliphate and imposition of Sharia rule. Groups in the United States like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) are Brotherhood front groups. The National Islamist Front, the political party that runs Sudan, is a Brotherhood organization. The Brotherhood created Hamas, the terrorist organization in Gaza. On and on it goes.


Although officially banned in Egypt, the Brotherhood is in reality quite active. Over the years, in order to prepare for the day when Islamists can seize power, they have spent their time infiltrating Egyptian institutions. Over the decades the government has attempted to destroy the Brotherhood by mass arrests and persecution, but has never been completely successful, as the Brotherhood always comes back.

Brotherhood is independent of any state. It works with rulers who are sympathetic to it, but operates outside of them. Theirs is a "grassroots" strategy. While the Wahabists "float with the world", the Brotherhood floats with the target society, which thus far has always been a Middle Eastern one.

The Brotherhood is part of the same Sunni Salafist tradition as the Wahabists. To some extent the Brotherhood competes with the Saudi Wahabists for influence within the Muslim world. Sometimes they cooperate, it all depends on the politics of the moment.

Basically, the Brotherhood seeks to change a society and government by trying to put its members or sympathizers in positions of influence. These positions may be in the media, industry, military, or, if it exists in the target country, a parliament. It is willing to start small, encouraging members to join at the "entry level" and work their way up. Rather than fighting the regime directly, it seeks to undermine it from the bottom up.

After infiltrating from the bottom up, they work their way back down again. As Walid Phares explains, "the Brotherhood would be interested in spreading through the elites, converting them patiently into the Salafi doctrine, and only then enlisting them into the organization." They never engaged the regime directly until they reached full strength. Their methods were "amazingly fluid and adaptable to circumstances. Their ideal shortcut wa to infiltrate the ranks of the military and proceed with a coup d'etat against the government. Their next choice was to "advise" the ruler and influence him instead."

Although the Brotherhood appears to be officially sitting out the protests, they are no doubt waiting in the wings, positioning themselves for a takeover or at least to have significant influence in any post-Mubarak government.

All of this is why we cannot ignore groups like the Brotherhood and pretend that there is no problem within Islam. This is why we need to celebrate and promote true reformers in the Muslim world. We need a long term policy of pushing for reform so that we are not faced with these devil's choices.

Why Should We Care?

We should care because whether we like it our not we are a nation with worldwide interests. The world complains about us, but expects us to "do something" to solve problems when they arise, whether they be tsunami relief or revolutions.

We didn't support Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua and the Sandinistas proved worse. We didn't support the Shah and the Khomeinists have become a huge problem for the world. We didn't support Ceausescu (not that we would have, but just for the sake of example), and the new government proved far better. Which way will Egypt go if the revolution topples Mubarak?

Iran is now on the verge of getting nuclear weapons. Egypt could have nuclear weapons if they wanted them. We can stop Mubarak from getting them, but have little chance against an Islamist government.

It's also bad enough to have the Muslim Brotherhood as an independent organization trying to spread it's ideology throughout the world. The problem would be far, far, worse, if they had control of a government. al Qaeda is dangerous enough as it is; they were far more so when they were fully supported by the government of Afghanistan.

An Islamist government in Cairo could incite wars, support terror in ways a private organization could not, abrogate the peace treaty with Israel, and threaten our access to natural resources, i.e. oil.


In Conclusion

Mubarak will have to go, but we should not fully support the protesters either. Whether Mohamed El Baradei should be the person who takes over or someone else is a matter for the experts, but perhaps we can thread the needle between options #1 and #2 above.

We must make sure that a post-Mubarak government has minimal Brotherhood infiltration (that there will be some is inevitable), but most of all is perceived as legitimate by the people. And we must adopt a true program of pushing them towards some sort of pluralism, liberty, and Islamic reformation. Difficult? You betcha. Impossible? Stranger things have happened.

Posted by Tom at 10:15 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

January 22, 2011

The South Koreans Respond to Pirates the Right Way

The South Koreans respond to piracy the right way; by killing the pirates. The Somali pirates, at least, will have second thoughts before seizing any more ROK (Republic of Korea) flagged ships, or in seizing any ships at all when the South Korean military is in the area.


SKorea storms Somali pirates to rescue ship crew
January 21, 2011
Fox News/Associated Press

South Korean special forces stormed a hijacked freighter in the Arabian Sea on Friday, rescuing all 21 crew members and killing eight assailants in a rare and bold raid on Somali pirates, South Korea said.

The military operation in waters between Oman and Africa, which also captured five pirates and left one crew member wounded, came a week after the Somali attackers seized the South Korean freighter and held hostage eight South Koreans, two Indonesians and 11 citizens from Myanmar.

"We will not tolerate any behavior that threatens the lives and safety of our people in the future," South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said in a brief televised statement, adding that the rescue was a "perfect operation."

The successful raid is a triumph for Lee, whose government suffered harsh criticism at home in the weeks following a North Korean attack in November on a South Korean island near disputed waters. Critics said Lee's military was too slow and weak in its response to the attack, which killed two marines and two civilians.

With a South Korean destroyer and a Lynx helicopter providing covering fire, South Korea's special navy forces stormed the hijacked vessel in a pre-dawn rescue operation that left eight of the pirates dead and five captured, Lt. Gen. Lee Sung-ho told reporters.

The captain of the ship was shot by a pirate and taken by a U.S. helicopter to a nearby country for treatment, but the wound is not life-threatening, Lt. Gen. Lee said. The 20 other crew members were rescued unharmed, he said.

"This operation demonstrated our government's strong will to never negotiate with pirates," the general said.

Storming a ship held by pirates is rare and navies tend to avoid it because of the risk of harming hostages, who are usually kept below decks out of sight. So rescues are not normally attempted once the pirates are onboard the ship unless the crew is locked in a safe room -- often called a "citadel" -- with two way communications.

Authorities did not immediately give details on the location of crew members during the rescue.

The 11,500-ton chemical carrier Samho Jewelry was sailing from the United Arab Emirates to Sri Lanka when it was hijacked. It was the second vessel from South Korea-based Samho Shipping to be hijacked in the past several months.

In November, Somali pirates freed the supertanker Samho Dream and its 24 crew -- five South Koreans and 19 Filipinos -- after seven months of captivity.

It's tempting to say that they only responded with force this time because South Korean President Lee Myung-bak felt he needed to look tough to his constituents after the North Korean artillery attack on Yeonpyong Island last November. And that was probably part of it. They may also have been embarrassed over the seizure of the other South Korean ship alluded to above.

More, as the article relates, the South Koreans did not just up and respond in knee-jerk fashion to the seizure of the Samho Jewelry, risking the killing of the hostages, but apparently made sure that the situation on the ship was favorable before proceeding with the rescue.

The Israel Analogy

Just recently, Malaysian naval commandos also freed a ship seized by Somali pirates. As Richard Fenandez quips that the Malaysians and Koreans had a secret "wonder weapon" that led to their success was that "they were neither European nor American."

Its the same mentality that leads the international left to want George W Bush in the dock at the International Criminal Court than Fidel Castro or Robert Mugabe.

Sad but true. If we'd carried out such an attack our press would have fretted for months over whether we'd given negotiations long enough to succeed, and if a Republican was in the White House you can guess that the more leftist members of Congress would talk of possible war crimes. On our part, that is.

People who live in tough neighborhoods tend to become tough themselves. It's a matter of sheer survival. Likewise, when an otherwise peaceful country has militarily aggressive or terrorist neighbors, it tends to take far tougher actions than do countries what are far away from the danger.

South Korea has been the victim of dozens of attacks by the communist North Koreans for over 60 years. The list of border incidents precipitated by the North is staggering.

It's therefore easy for Americans or Europeans to say that the Koreans or Israelis are "overreacting." Other than 9/11, our homeland has never really been attacked. Western Europe hasn't seen serious military action since World War II. While these are very good things, they do seem to breed a softness in dealing with threats.

The Somali Piracy Situation

The map on Somali Piracy from the Wikipedia:


Googling around, it's hard to say exactly if the situation is getting worse or at a plateau. The Wikipedia article is extensive but doesn't directly answer the question.

Certainly the long-term solution is a single, stable, government in Somalia that is perceived as legitimate by the majority of the people there. But the Somalians don't seem to have the desire or wherewithal to come to their senses, and the "international community" isn't about to take any serious action to install one either.

Using naval ships is for the most part like using a sledgehammer to swat flies. Most modern ships were built to deal with more sophisticated threats, and so most of their weapons are not even applicable. More, since the end of the Cold War the combined navies of the world are a lot smaller. What is needed off Somalia is a lot of low-tech ships that can provide something as simple as gunfire and a floating base for a small team of commandos, not a handful high-tech ships capable of sinking nuclear subs or shooting down supersonic anti-ship missiles.

In Piracy - The Simple Yet Impossible Solution and Piracy - The Simple Yet Impossible Solution Part II I wrote that Steve Shippert's idea of arming the merchant ships themselves with .50 cal machine guns would solve the problem in short order. And indeed I believe it would. But it'll never happen because right now it's cheaper for the shipping companies to pay the ransom, the sailors would for some reason I don't get rather run the risk of being taken hostage or killed rather than train for their own self-defense (the anti-gun mentality, as near I can tell), and everyone knows that the so-called human rights groups would much rather have Western capitalists and politicians in the dock than the pirates themselves.

So we'll stumble along as we are now, with everyone acknowledging that piracy, from Somalia and elsewhere, is a problem, but with no one doing much of anything about it. In the meantime, hats off to the Malaysians and South Koreans for showing us the way, even if we do not follow.

Posted by Tom at 12:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 11, 2010

"Why Israeli's Distrust Obama"

This is spot-on:

Why Israelis distrust Obama
New York Post
July 10, 2010

President Obama says he knows why polls show Israelis overwhelmingly consider him pro-Palestinian, while less than 10 percent believe he supports the Jewish state.

"Some of it may just be the fact that my middle name is Hussein, and that created suspicion," he told Israeli TV.

Of course, there might be other reasons why Israelis and their supporters view Obama with suspicion. Such as:

* His public humiliation last March of Bejamin Netanyahu at the White House, when Obama walked out of their talks to go have dinner with his family, leaving Israel's prime minister alone for over an hour, and then refused to release even a photo of their meeting.

* His disturbing comparison, during that "outreach" speech to the Arab world in Cairo, of the Palestinians' "daily humiliations" and "intolerable" situation to the Nazi Holocaust.

* His administration's public demand that Israeli leaders "demonstrate not just through words but through specific actions that they are committed to this relationship and to the peace process" -- a demand Sen. Chuck Schumer labeled "terrible" and "counterproductive."

* His continued push for closer US ties with Syria -- an ally of Iran, state sponsor of terrorism and major backer of both Hamas and Hezbollah.

* His decision to join the farcical UN Human Rights Council -- which devotes most of its time to denouncing Israel.

Obama's public reconciliation this week with Netanyahu is welcome, although the timing -- heading into critical midterm elections -- is a tad suspicious.

Supporters of Israel, in other words, are less concerned with Obama's name than with his record. And they believe this president, too, must demonstrate, "not just through words but through specific actions," that he is fully committed to Israel's security.

Posted by Tom at 8:50 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 4, 2010

Let There Be No Doubt...

... as to where I stand

Israel Flag House June 2010

This shouldn't surprise any of my neighbors, who from yard signs know I'm a conservative Republican. And generally I'm not "in your face" about things, and I don't bring up politics at work or when around people when I'm not familiar with their sympathies. I take candidate bumper stickers off my car when the election is over. But there come certain issues where the situation is so out of hand that you have to take a stand and let everyone know what you see as right and wrong. Now is one of those times

Posted by Tom at 7:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 3, 2010

Whatever Happened to Turkey?

It wasn't that many years ago when I thought Turkey might play an important role in a Muslim Reformation. Alone among Muslim nations, it was secular, almost militantly so. I'm no expert on Turkish history, but I know enough to know that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk moved the country away from what we today call Islamism and towards a European model. Seeing how the Arab secular alternative was Ba'athism, Kemalism, for all it's faults, looked pretty good to me.

No more. While I only follow Turkish politics peripherally, scanning the occasional blurb in the newspaper or website, what I did read was disturbing. There was no mistaking the rise of Islamism. The current ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP in the Turkish initials) was usually described as "conservative" in the press, which for most of the msm means "we don't like them."

So while I've been disturbed by what's happening in Turkey for awhile, never did I imagine that it's leaders would bring themselves to approve or even encourage the organization of the "peace flotilla." But that is exactly what happened. And although I figured they might tut-tut over Israeli actions, I never thought that they'd condemn Israel the way they have. Silly me.

So when I read thatTurkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan describes the interception of the "peace flotilla as "This bloody massacre by Israel on ships that were taking humanitarian aid to Gaza deserves every kind of curse," and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu says "Psychologically this attack is like 9/11 for Turkey because Turkish citizens were attacked by a state, not by terrorists, with an intention, a clear decision of political leaders of that state," I was somewhat taken aback.

Robert Pollack has a must-read piece in the Wall Street Journal about Turkey's "national decline into madness." Excerpts follow, but read the whole thing:

Israeli special forces and their commanders were apparently shocked to find their boarding attempt on the Mavi ("Blue") Marmara met with violence. They should not have been. I have no doubt that the Turkish "peace activists" aboard the ship regarded Israeli troops as something akin to the second coming of Hitler's SS.

To follow Turkish discourse in recent years has been to follow a national decline into madness. Imagine 80 million or so people sitting at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. They don't speak an Indo-European language and perhaps hundreds of thousands of them have meaningful access to any outside media. What information most of them get is filtered through a secular press that makes Italian communists look right wing by comparison and an increasing number of state (i.e., Islamist) influenced outfits. Topics A and B (or B and A, it doesn't really matter) have been the malign influence on the world of Israel and the United States.

For example, while there was much hand-wringing in our own media about "Who lost Turkey?" when U.S. forces were denied entry to Iraq from the north in 2003, no such introspection was evident in Ankara and Istanbul. Instead, Turks were fed a steady diet of imagined atrocities perpetrated by U.S. forces in Iraq, often with the implication that they were acting as muscle for the Jews....

There can be little doubt the Turkish flotilla that challenged the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza was organized with his approval, if not encouragement. Mr. Erodogan's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, is a proponent of a philosophy which calls on Turkey to loosen Western ties to the U.S., NATO and the European Union and seek its own sphere of influence to the east. Turkey's recent deal to help Iran enrich uranium should come as no surprise.

The obvious answer to the question of "Who lost Turkey?"--the Western-oriented Turkey, that is--is the Turks did. The outstanding question is how much damage they'll do to regional peace going forward.

Considering this article, Gabriel Schoenfeld at The Weekly Standard concludes that

The reaction of the democratic world to the Gaza flotilla debacle suggests that the barbarians are making impressive headway. The outpouring of condemnation from Europe--so outsized, so hypocritical, so ready to ignore the plain truths evident in the videos of the incident, so ready to pounce on embattled Israel--truly does reveal a world gone mad--the headline of a Jennifer Rubin post over at Contentions. One hopes that we are not yet in 1939. But we are unquestionably somewhere in the 1930s, a decade in which few and lonely voices were willing even to recognize the looming catastrophe.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 2, 2010

Israel and the Big Lie of the "Peace Flotilla"

This was predictable:

U.S. urged Israel to use caution and restraint with aid boats heading to Gaza
The Washington Post
By Scott Wilson and Glenn Kessler
Thursday, June 3, 2010; A01

The Obama administration said Wednesday that it had warned Israel's government repeatedly to use "caution and restraint" with half a dozen aid boats bound for the Gaza Strip before Israeli commandos raided the flotilla this week in an operation that killed nine people.

"We communicated with Israel through multiple channels many times regarding the flotilla," P.J. Crowley, a State Department spokesman, said in a statement issued in response to a question from The Washington Post. "We emphasized caution and restraint given the anticipated presence of civilians, including American citizens."

Yes yes, Israel must "exercise restraint." You could have written this before anything had ever happened. Israel must always "exercise restraint." No one ever asks the terrorists Palestinians or their terrorist enabling supporters to "exercise restraint."

Richard Fernandez' post at the Belmont Club seemed to sum up the moral confusion of the anti-Israel crowd nicely:

Never mind what the press or the diplomats say happened, the above is what happened. The Times Online reports that "Security Council members, who had broken off from their spring holiday to hold an emergency session prepared a draft document calling on Israel to lift its blockade and immediately release the ships and hundreds of international activists arrested on board them. " That some of the "peace activists" were members of the Islan Haklary Ve Hurriyetleri Vakfi, itself an organization of ill-repute, is irrelevant. Nothing must get in the way of the narrative, the facts least of all. But the reason anyone should care about the gap between reality and conventional wisdom has nothing to do with what one may think of Israel. The main reason to worry is that it illustrates the Western addiction to fiction, an addiction which sooner or later will have practical consequences. That addiction was also being pandered to on the other side of the world. ...

As a result, any moderately well informed individual knows that there is no Islamic extremism, nor even terrorism. There are only man made disasters. Everybody knows that we can borrow our way out of debt, that the welfare state is the sustainable wave of the future; that Egypt has no border with Gaza through which it can provide supplies if it wanted; that the UN has kept Hezbollah from importing hundreds of missiles into Lebanon; that the thought of a handful of Jews has kept hundreds of millions of oil-rich Muslims from attaining prosperity; and that Global Warming is the main danger facing the planet Earth. That these assertions are untrue hardly matters; that they are indisputable is what seems to count. For who shall dispute them?

Reality might. And therein lies the problem.

Here's what is going to happen with one hundred percent certainty. All of these lies will explode with considerable force in the faces of political establishment. Nothing can prevent it. Just as reality eventually exposed the hollowness of the financial bubble and showed that nothing was "too big to fail," eventually it will demonstrate to our extreme cost, that no lie can be maintained forever. That is the real reason anyone should really care about what happened on the "peace flotilla." We are as corrupt as a preacher in a whorehouse. It ain't what we don't know that will hurt us, it's what we know that ain't so that will drive the dagger into our hearts.

Indeed they will all be exposed as lies sooner or later. I just hope not too much damage is done before they are.

Call me biased if you will, but I'm going to take the rest of this post with videos and commentary from the website of the Israeli Defense Forces. Just as I would take commentary from the Allies over the Nazis during World War II.

Video Footage: Flotilla Activists Getting Ready to Attack IDF Soldiers

02 June 2010 , 22:17

The Mavi Marmara's security camera recorded a video displaying the "peace activists" getting prepared to welcome IDF soldiers.

While the soldiers of the Shayetet Naval Special Forces are approaching the Mavi Marmara ship, the "peace activists" are getting prepared to welcome them. In this special video recorded by the ship's security camera, we can see the way they equip themselves: clubs, pipes, glass and metal bottles. This was recorded a few minutes before they started attacking the IDF soldiers in a violent and uncontrolled way.

Breaking Footage from Mavi Marmara interception

02 June 2010 , 14:53

Video shows what took place as IDF soldiers intercepted the Mavi Marmara ship and were attacked by its passengers

Video footage shows Shayetet Naval Special Forces attempting to intercept the Mavi Marmara ship which is part of the Gaza flotilla. Passengers on board are seen throwing chains, metal pipes and a stun grenade at the soldiers while attacking them with water hoses. The passengers later use the same metal pipes to beat the soldiers who boarded the Marmara. The soldiers can be seen armed with paintball guns, to be used as a means of riot dispersal.

Five other ships arrived to the area with the flotilla, however IDF interception took place with no incident. The passengers on board these other ships cooperated nonviolently with IDF soldiers and there were no injuries

Hamas Refuses to Allow Flotilla Aid into Gaza Strip

02 June 2010 , 20:42

CoGAT reports that Hamas did not allow today the transfer of the cargo brought on the flotilla to Gaza's residents

As of right now, the State of Israel has loaded 25 trucks with various types of aid found onboard the flotilla. Expired medication, clothing, blankets, some medical equipment and toys were among the aid found on the ships. Some humanitarian aid is still waiting at the port of Ashdod. The CoGAT is acting in coordination with international aid organizations operating in the Gaza Strip which are waiting for the transfer of the cargo on the other side of the border.

Unfortunately, the Hamas terror organization is unwilling to accept the cargo and the trucks filled with humanitarian aid have not been allowed to enter the Gaza Strip. It appears that Hamas is in fact stopping the transfer of the humanitarian aid. Hamas did not explain his opposition to the transfer of the aid.

The Ministry of Defense and the IDF allow the crossing of goods and equipment in a routine and frequent manner, and enable the transfer of people for medical, religious, welfare, business or diplomatic reasons. About a hundred of trucks containing aid are delivered everyday by the IDF. In the first quarter of the year 2010, 95,000 tons of supplies and 1068 tons of medicines and medical equipment were transferred in about 4,000 trucks. Also, at the time of swine flu epidemic fear, three Israelis hospitals were designated to treat patients from Gaza and 44,500 vaccinations were delivered into the Gaza Strip.

The State of Israel seeks to achieve regional stability and protection of her citizens. It is not in the interest of Israel to harm the people of Gaza and the state does its utmost to assist aid efforts, so as not to harm the quality of life for the residents of Gaza. Hamas, in its continued efforts to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip, harms the people of Gaza and undermines further development. Despite these ever-present security threats, the IDF continues to allow the transfer of commercial goods, building materials, and medical equipment into Gaza.

Supply of weapons discovered on board Mavi Marmara ship

01 June 2010 , 01:15

After passengers on board the Mavi Marmara departed the ship at the Ashdod port, security forces began checking the boat and found a cache of weapons on board.

Arnon Ben-Dror

After IDF soldiers succeeded in stopping the attack against them by passengers on board the Mavi Marmara ship, the ship was brought to the Ashdod port and arrived in the late hours of Monday evening (May 31). Flotilla participants were brought off the ship and taken for questioning.

Once the activists left the ship, security forces began a thorough search and found a supply of weapons, including knives, Molotov cocktails, detonators, wood and metal clubs, slingshots and rocks, large hammers and sharp metal objects. In addition, gas masks were found, pointing to the prior intention of the ship's passengers to use violence against IDF soldiers who would then be forced to use riot dispersal methods.

The IDF has gotten a lot better over the past few years with it's information campaign. They did lousy in the war against Hizbollah in 2006, but much better in 2008-9 against Hamas in Gaza. This time they've added much more video, and to anyone interested in the truth the effect is devastating. Sadly, much of the world prefers a lie.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

"Humanitarian" Relief Flotilla My Foot

The "international condemnation" of Israel's stopping the "humanitarian relief flotilla" is driving me nuts. There is nothing that so illustrates the moral bankruptcy of so many people as just about any confrontation between democratic Israel and terrorist-jihadist Muslims.

I've been so busy I haven't had time to blog much, but a few quick notes are in order because this situation is so insane.

This situation, like so many others, was a no-win for Israel. If they had not stopped the ships, it would have been portrayed as a victory for Hamas by all those who hate Israel. Even if these first six ships weren't carrying weapons, the next ones would be. But since they did stop the ships, there is an "international outcry" against Israel's use of "disproportionate force" blah blah blah.

One of the primary organizers behind the "relief ships" is the Turkish organization Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH, must be Turkish initials). Among other things, the IHH was identified by the CIA in 1996 as being tied to terrorism through linkis to Iran. French magistrate Jean-Louis Brugiere determined that the IHH played an "important role" in the 1999 Los Angeles "millennium plot" organized by al Qaeda that thankfully failed. But you've read all this elsewhere by now so none of that is a big surprise.

You've also read that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which is quite true. Israel allows anyone who wants to send humanitarian supplies to Gaza if they simply dock their ship in Israel, allow the goods to be inspected, and then sends them to Gaza by truck.

But of course these six ships weren't about relief. They were about the destruction of Israel. The goal was to delegitimize the state of Israel by creating the no-win situation described above.

Thankfully, most Democrats as well as Republicans in the United States see this for what it is, a shameful attempt by Islamists so destroy Israel. In January 2009 both houses of Congress issued strong bipartisan statements of support for Israel in their current war with Hamas. I'm sure President Obama will support Israel. A few on the far left and far right will say otherwise, but they're in the minority.

Unfortunately we cannot say the same for many in the rest of the world. They seem to be afflicted with either outright anti-Semitism, moral blindness, or both.

A few quick excerpts from various articles and then I've got to run off to work. First up is a post over at Powerline that's got some great links:

Those manning the Turkish Hamas flotilla seeking to run the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza were no fools. They knew exactly what they were doing -- see Jonathan Schanzer's "The terror finance flotilla" -- and they accomplished their mission in part.

The fools weren't on the ship. The fools are on dry land, as can be deduced from the ship-of-fools quality to the response to Israel's encounter with the flotilla. See Wesley Pruden's "A shocking story of Israeli survival" and Caroline Glick's "Ending Israel's losing streak." See also Mona Charen's "Flotillas and falsehoods" (query: "Don't members of the press ever resent being so used?") and David Hornik's "World regrets death of jihadists, vilifies Israel." For a footnote involving the New York Times, see Seth Lipsky's "Mavi Marmara and the Exodus."

Claudia Rosette has more on the Turkish IHH:

For details on what led a French magistrate in the 1990s to explore IHH connections to terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda, a piece of required reading is a working paper released in 2006 by the Danish Institute for International Studies: "The Role of Islamic Charities in International Terrorist Recruitment and Financing." The entire report is illuminating, but for the section on the IHH, scroll to pages 10-14. When this report was written, the IHH was active in providing "charitable donations" to what were then "rebel-dominated areas of restive Sunni central Iraq."

Not too long ago I naively thought that Turkey could lead the way, or at least play a role, in the reform of Islam that is so desperately needed. But the Turkey of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is going, going..... It is dying a death of demographics (his secular supporters in the cities are being out-babied by those more inclined towards radicalism) and the general rise of Islamism around the Muslim world.

Victor Davis Hanson has more:

The virulent worldwide reaction to Israeli's handling of the Gaza flotilla has been quite instructive. The bankrupt Greeks, for example, are taking a holiday from railing at the Germans to demonstrate in solidarity with the Turkish-organized Gaza effort, which puts them on the same side as those whose government supports the occupation of much of Greek-speaking Cyprus and its divided capital.

No one in Europe worried much about the constant shower of missiles from Gaza in the past. No one in Europe said a word when North Korea torpedoed and slaughtered South Koreans on the high seas. No one objected when the Iranians hijacked a British ship and humiliated the hostages.

We ourselves seem to be getting a sort of novel pass for executing scores of suspected terrorists -- and anyone in their vicinity -- in our new, stepped-up Predator drone assassinations.

But the Western and Islamic worlds have a preexisting furor at the Jewish state that can be tapped at will by almost any pro-radical-Palestinian group clever enough to do proper P.R. after a desired asymmetrical confrontation. The fallout from Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount, the distortions around the 2002 terrorist storming of the Church of Nativity, the 2006 Lebanon war -- over time, these incidents do their part, in weird fashion, to incur hatred for a liberal democracy while creating sympathy for a theocratic thugocracy like Hamas.

What explains this preexisting hatred, which ensures denunciation of Israel in the most rabid -- or, to use the politically correct parlance, "disproportionate" -- terms? It is not about "occupied land," given the millions of square miles worldwide that are presently occupied, from Georgia to Cyprus to Tibet. It is not a divided capital -- Nicosia is walled off. It is not an overreaction in the use of force per se -- the Russians flattened Grozny and killed tens of thousands while the world snoozed. And it cannot be the scale of violence, given what we see hourly in Pakistan, Darfur, and the Congo. And, given the Armenian, Greek, and Kurdish histories (and reactions to them), the currently outraged Turkish government is surely not a credible referent on the topic of disproportionate violence.

Perhaps the outrage reflects simple realpolitik -- 350 million Arab Muslims versus 7 million Israelis. Perhaps it is oil: half the world's reserves versus Israel's nada. Perhaps it is the fear of terror: Draw a cartoon or write a novel offending Islam, and you must go into hiding; defame Jews and earn accolades. Perhaps it is anti-Semitism, which is as fashionable on the academic Left as it used to be among the neanderthal Right.

Perhaps there is also a new sense that the United States at last has fallen into line with the Western consensus, and so is hardly likely to play the old lone-wolf supporter of Israel in the press or at the U.N.

At this point, it doesn't much matter -- as this latest hysterical reaction reminds us, much of the world not only sides with Israel's enemies but sides with them to such a degree as to suggest that, in any existential moment to come, the world either will be indifferent or will be on the side of Israeli's enemies.

Quite frightening, when you think of it.

Indeed. I feel a big war coming on in the Middle East, one that will make the recent ones against Hizbollah and Hamas look like small potatoes. No matter how it starts or proceeds, the "international community" will be against Israel. Any U.S. president will support Israel, but whether he does so strongly or tepidly remains to be seen. Even Reagan criticized Israel for it's 1981 attack on the French-built nuclear power plant in Osirak, Iraq, even though it should have been clear at the time that Saddam Hussein was going to use it to build nuclear weapons.

I have relatives of Greek extraction, and they are very worried about Turkey, a worry that wasn't quite as intense not too many years ago. The forces of evil are aligning in a very malign way. The growing influence of radical Islam in Europe, Ahmadinejad's bogus reelection and the coming Iranian bomb, Hugo Chavez' consolidation of power in Venezuela, the Turkish-Brazilian-Iranian nuclear agreement, even the incessant Chinese military buildup seem part of an aligning of forces against the United States and Israel. Is it 1939 again?

Posted by Tom at 7:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 28, 2010

Obama Insults Our Ally and is Weak Towards our Enemy

If this story is even half true it's enough to set your teeth on edge. The Telegraph reports on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit to the White House:

The Israeli prime minister arrived at the White House on Tuesday evening brimming with confidence that the worst of the crisis in his country's relationship with the United States was over.....

But Mr Obama was less inclined to be so conciliatory. He immediately presented Mr Netanyahu with a list of 13 demands designed both to the end the feud with his administration and to build Palestinian confidence ahead of the resumption of peace talks. Key among those demands was a previously-made call to halt all new settlement construction in east Jerusalem.

When the Israeli prime minister stalled, Mr Obama rose from his seat declaring: "I'm going to the residential wing to have dinner with Michelle and the girls."

As he left, Mr Netanyahu was told to consider the error of his ways. "I'm still around," Mr Obama is quoted by Israel's Yediot Ahronot newspaper as having said. "Let me know if there is anything new."

For over an hour, Mr Netanyahu and his aides closeted themselves in the Roosevelt Room on the first floor of the White House to map out a response to the president's demands.

Although the two men then met again, at 8.20 pm, for a brief second meeting, it appeared that they failed to break the impasse. White House officials were quoted as saying that disagreements remained. Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, added: "Apparently they did not reach an understanding with the United States."

Meanwhile, Obama is softening his sanction plan against Iran. But of course.

Posted by Tom at 10:15 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

February 1, 2010

"The Steady Erosion of Women's Rights in Egypt"

In Now They Call Me Infidel, Nonie Darwish tells of growing up in a relatively secular and Westernizing Egypt in the 1950s, only to see the country take a sharp Islamist turn as the decades wore on. The experience led her to flee her native country, and eventually the faith of her birth, for the United States and Christianity.

Sometimes the level of freedom or liberty in a society is not obvious by simply looking around. Economic freedom, to say nothing of freedom of speech and press, cannot be easily discerned by simply walking down the street. But other times there are visible signs that make it painfully obvious where a society or nation ranks. We're all familiar with communist and Nazi propaganda posters and statues. Huge signs of the head of state are a sign of a cult of personality that is a telling sign of totalitarian or authoritarian societies.

These are still around, but in today's world we face a new threat to our liberties; a fundamentalist or radical Islam. One of the first things that happens in a society infected with that disease is the degradation of women's rights, and the most visible sign of that is the wearing of the veil, whether the full burka or the head-covering-only hijab.

Chester, over at Pajamas Media , has documented the degradation of women's rights in Egypt through four photographs sent to him by a friend. They show the graduating class of Cairo University in 1959, 1978, 1995, and 2004.

click on each photo to enlarge

Class of 1959

Egypt Women 1959.jpg

Class of 1978

Egypt Women 1978.jpg

Class of 1995

Egypt Women 1995.jpg

Class of 2004

Egypt Women 2004.jpg

Commenting on the photos, Mark Steyn says that

Whenever I give a speech on Islam, some or other complacenik always says, "Oh, but they haven't had time to Westernize. Just you wait and see. Give it another 20 years, and the siren song of Westernization will work its magic." This argument isn't merely speculative, it's already been proved wrong by what's happened over the last 20 years. Compare the Cairo University class of 1959 with those of the 21st century, and then see if you can recite your inevitablist theories of social evolution with a straight face. The idea that social progress is like the wheel or the internal combustion engine -- once invented, it can never be uninvented -- is one of the laziest assumptions of the Western Left.

Posted by Tom at 8:45 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 8, 2009

The Moral Bankruptcy of the United Nations - Part 12,874,372

Watch this, if you can.

Warning: Put all throwable objects out of reach first.

Eye on the UN via TWS

Posted by Tom at 8:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 6, 2009

The Moral Bankruptcy of the International Atomic Energy Agency

Victor Davis Hanson over at NRO

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed ElBaradei is a living metaphor for all that is wrong with post-Western society. He now proclaims that Israel -- democratic and constitutional -- is the "number one threat" to the Middle East. That he made this comment from Tehran -- after his hosts have serially promised to wipe Israel off the map, and after his own agency missed an entire weapons facility run by an autocratic theocracy -- says it all.
ElBaradei, who was educated in the West, and much of whose family lives in the safety and prosperity of the West, has made a career of appeasing Iran, lecturing Westerners about their assorted sins, and saying nothing about the dictatorship in Egypt (for which he once worked). Indeed, beyond Egypt, he has said nothing about the Middle East's self-induced pathologies -- from tribalism, gender apartheid, and statism to dictatorship and religious intolerance -- which are a far more significant cause of the region's economic stagnation than is Western colonialism.

That ElBaradei has been showered with awards from Western governments and universities -- among them the Nobel Prize -- reveals how well he understands the West's timidity and lack of principle. He knows that he and his family are safer and freer outside Egypt than they are inside Egypt, and he knows that Israel is not going to nuke its neighbors or announce that it would like to wipe Syria or Egypt off the map. He also knows that elites in the West like to be chided by Westernized non-Westernizers about their assorted sins -- it allows those Western elites to alleviate their guilt at very little cost.

In short, if ElBaradei didn't exist, he would have to be invented.

Posted by Tom at 10:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 25, 2009

Obama v Netanyahu at the United Nations

United States President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu each gave major speeches at the United Nations this week. One was a profile in moral cowardice, the other in courage.

Profile in Cowardice

Obama's speech was, or should be, a national embarrassment. The man is stunningly naive, with a child-like view of the world that is breathtaking. He insults his own country again and again. He is more narcissistic than any politician I've known. And he is a moral coward because he hides behind politically correct pieties and refuses to address, let alone acknowledge the villains and evil nations in the world.

A few excerpts

I took office at a time when many around the world had come to view America with skepticism and distrust. Part of this was due to misperceptions and misinformation about my country. Part of this was due to opposition to specific policies, and a belief that on certain critical issues, America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others.

I'm disgusted with him already. Lucky I didn't see him on TV or I'd have thrown my shoe through it.

Now, like all of you, my responsibility is to act in the interest of my nation and my people, and I will never apologize for defending those interests. But it is my deeply held belief that in the year 2009 -- more than at any point in human history -- the interests of nations and peoples are shared.

"more than at any point in human history" any point? More than at any time in thousands of years of recorded history? The ignorance is staggering.

On my first day in office, I prohibited -- without exception or equivocation -- the use of torture by the United States of America.

We never tortured, you pathetic excuse for a president. And thank you for giving our enemies a propaganda point that they will use against us again and again.

We've also re-engaged the United Nations. We have paid our bills. We have joined the Human Rights Council. (Applause.)

Of course they're applauding, you idiot. The UN Human Rights Council serves to protect dictators and human rights abusers. Sitting on it now are among other human-rights -abusing countries China, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Bahrain, and the Russian Federation. They're on the council so they can prevent it from condemning and taking action against abusers such as themselves. The council spends most of it's time bashing Israel. Who in their right mind thinks that this council is capable of anything good?

The cooperative effort of the whole world. Those words ring even more true today, when it is not simply peace, but our very health and prosperity that we hold in common. Yet we also know that this body is made up of sovereign states. And sadly, but not surprisingly, this body has often become a forum for sowing discord instead of forging common ground; a venue for playing politics and exploiting grievances rather than solving problems. After all, it is easy to walk up to this podium and point figures -- point fingers and stoke divisions. Nothing is easier than blaming others for our troubles, and absolving ourselves of responsibility for our choices and our actions. Anybody can do that. Responsibility and leadership in the 21st century demand more.

What meaningless drivel.

In an era when our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold. The traditional divisions between nations of the South and the North make no sense in an interconnected world; nor do alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War.

The time has come to realize that the old habits, the old arguments, are irrelevant to the challenges faced by our people. They lead nations to act in opposition to the very goals that they claim to pursue -- and to vote, often in this body, against the interests of their own people. They build up walls between us and the future that our people seek, and the time has come for those walls to come down. Together, we must build new coalitions that bridge old divides -- coalitions of different faiths and creeds; of north and south, east, west, black, white, and brown.

Unreal. As I said, a staggering level of naivete.

But if the governments of Iran and North Korea choose to ignore international standards; if they put the pursuit of nuclear weapons ahead of regional stability and the security and opportunity of their own people; if they are oblivious to the dangers of escalating nuclear arms races in both East Asia and the Middle East -- then they must be held accountable. The world must stand together to demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise, and that treaties will be enforced. We must insist that the future does not belong to fear

Really? And what exactly will you do when they ignore your words and forge ahead with their nuclear programs? The most you're going to get Russia and China to agree to is to ban the export of number two lead pencils to Iran. The truth, Obama, is that you don't do a blasted thing. You'll give more fine speeches but "the world" isn't interested in stopping Iran or North Korea.

These principles cannot be afterthoughts -- democracy and human rights are essential to achieving each of the goals that I've discussed today

Oh but it most certainly is an afterthought, coming at nearly the end of the speech.

I've had enough. On to a man of courage.

Profile in Courage

It took the leader of one of the smallest nations in the world, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, to speak the truth. His was the speech Obama should have given Excerpts:

Yesterday the President of Iran stood at this very podium, spewing his latest anti-Semitic rants. Just a few days earlier, he again claimed that the Holocaust is a lie.

Last month, I went to a villa in a suburb of Berlin called Wannsee. There, on January 20, 1942, after a hearty meal, senior Nazi officials met and decided how to exterminate the Jewish people. The detailed minutes of that meeting have been preserved by successive German governments.

Here is a copy of those minutes, in which the Nazis issued precise instructions on how to carry out the extermination of the Jews. Is this a lie?

A day before I was in Wannsee, I was given in Berlin the original construction plans for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Those plans are signed by Hitler's deputy, Heinrich Himmler himself. Here is a copy of the plans for Auschwitz-Birkenau, where one million Jews were murdered. Is this too a lie?

This June, President Obama visited the Buchenwald concentration camp. Did President Obama pay tribute to a lie? And what of the Auschwitz survivors whose arms still bear the tattooed numbers branded on them by the Nazis? Are those tattoos a lie?

One-third of all Jews perished in the conflagration. Nearly every Jewish family was affected, including my own. My wife's grandparents, her father's two sisters and three brothers, and all the aunts, uncles and cousins were all murdered by the Nazis. Is that also a lie?

No they are not lies, Mr. Prime Minister. But I'm sure that many in the room listening to you think that they are. Anti-Semitism has a home at the United Nation.

Yesterday, the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this podium. To those who refused to come here and to those who left this room in protest, I commend you. You stood up for moral clarity and you brought honor to your countries.

But to those who gave this Holocaust-denier a hearing, I say on behalf of my people, the Jewish people, and decent people everywhere: Have you no shame? Have you no decency? A mere six decades after the Holocaust, you give legitimacy to a man who denies that the murder of six million Jews took place and pledges to wipe out the Jewish state. What a disgrace! What a mockery of the charter of the United Nations!

Truth. The emperor has no clothes.

Perhaps some of you think that this man and his odious regime threaten only the Jews. You're wrong. History has shown us time and again that what starts with attacks on the Jews eventually ends up engulfing many others.

This Iranian regime is fueled by an extreme fundamentalism that burst onto the world scene three decades ago after lying dormant for centuries.

Indeed those who think that it's a small terrorist problem of al Qaeda that we can solve through police type actions and "international cooperation" are dead wrong. Radical Islam will consume us all unless we recognize it for what it is and take action to stop it.

That is why the greatest threat facing the world today is the marriage between religious fanaticism and the weapons of mass destruction, and the most urgent challenge facing this body is to prevent the tyrants of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Are the member states of the United Nations up to that challenge? Will the international community confront a despotism that terrorizes its own people as they bravely stand up for freedom?

A real challenge, unlike the PC nonsense Obama spouted.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the jury is still out on the United Nations, and recent signs are not encouraging. Rather than condemning the terrorists and their Iranian patrons, some here have condemned their victims. That is exactly what a recent UN report on Gaza did, falsely equating the terrorists with those they targeted.

Yes, and the real problem with the UN is not that it won't address "climate change," as Obama said, but because it will not call evil for what it is and take firm concrete action. Instead of taking action against Iran and North Korea for their nuclear programs, they spend their time condemning Israel.

But it gets better

For eight long years, Hamas fired from Gaza thousands of missiles, mortars and rockets on nearby Israeli cities. Year after year, as these missiles were deliberately hurled at our civilians, not a single UN resolution was passed condemning those criminal attacks.

We heard nothing - absolutely nothing - from the UN Human Rights Council, a misnamed institution if there ever was one. In 2005, hoping to advance peace, Israel unilaterally withdrew from every inch of Gaza. It dismantled 21 settlements and uprooted over 8,000 Israelis. We didn't get peace. Instead we got an Iranian backed terror base fifty miles from Tel Aviv. Life in Israeli towns and cities next to Gaza became a nightmare.

You see, the Hamas rocket attacks not only continued, they increased tenfold. Again, the UN was silent. Finally, after eight years of this unremitting assault, Israel was finally forced to respond. But how should we have responded? Well, there is only one example in history of thousands of rockets being fired on a country's civilian population. It happened when the Nazis rocketed British cities during World War II.

During that war, the allies leveled German cities, causing hundreds of thousands of casualties. Israel chose to respond differently. Faced with an enemy committing a double war crime of firing on civilians while hiding behind civilians - Israel sought to conduct surgical strikes against the rocket launchers.

That was no easy task because the terrorists were firing missiles from homes and schools, using mosques as weapons depots and ferreting explosives in ambulances. Israel, by contrast, tried to minimize casualties by urging Palestinian civilians to vacate the targeted areas. We dropped countless flyers over their homes, sent thousands of text messages and called thousands of cell phones asking people to leave.

Never has a country gone to such extraordinary lengths to remove the enemy's civilian population from harm's way. Yet faced with such a clear case of aggressor and victim, who did the UN Human Rights Council decide to condemn? Israel. A democracy legitimately defending itself against terror is morally hanged, drawn and quartered, and given an unfair trial to boot.

By these twisted standards, the UN Human Rights Council would have dragged Roosevelt and Churchill to the dock as war criminals. What a perversion of truth! What a perversion of justice!

Delegates of the United Nations, will you accept this farce? Because if you do, the United Nations would revert to its darkest days, when the worst violators of human rights sat in judgment against the law-abiding democracies, when Zionism was equated with racism and when an automatic majority could declare that the earth is flat.

A devastating indictment of the UN.

I believe such a peace can be achieved. But only if we roll back the forces of terror, led by Iran, that seek to destroy peace, eliminate Israel and overthrow the world order. The question facing the international community is whether it is prepared to confront those forces or accommodate them.

For all Obama's strong words today about Iran's secret enrichment facility the way things are going now it's going to be accommodation.

In an normal world Netanyahu would have received the applause and Obama the silence. Of course it was just the opposite.

Netanyahu has moral courage for speaking the truth. Obama is a moral coward for refusing to do so.

Posted by Tom at 11:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 10, 2009

Book Review - Now They Call Me Infidel


It takes a brave Muslim to speak out about their religion. It's perhaps more impressive when that person is a woman.

Nonie Darwish was raised Muslim in Egypt, and came to the United States while in her 20s. She was the daughter of a Shahid, or martyr, her father killed while fighting the hated Israelis.

She is now a Christian, Republican, and American living in California. Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror is the story of her life's journey from a culture of hatred to one of love.

Some Muslims are able to speak the truth about their religion and remain Muslims. Dr M. Zuhdi Jasser, chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, is one. Other reform minded groups are the Free Muslims Coalition, the International Quranic Center, Muslims Agrainst Sharia: Islamic Reform Movement, and of course Irshad Manji.

Others, like Darwish, have left Islam. Perhaps the most prominent among these is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose book Infidel is the classic of the genre.

Following is a summary of the Darwish's book, followed by my observations.

Book Summary

The Daughter of a Shahid

Darwish was born in 1948 into a solidly middle-class Egyptian family. Her father, Colonel Mustafa Hafez, was an intelligence officer in the army. Shortly after the coup that deposed King Farouk in 1948, President Nasser assigned him to Gaza with orders to organize the Palestinians into a fighting force and "drive the Jews into the sea."

It was clear to Darwish at an early age that the Arabs wanted the Palestinians to live in poverty and squalor in their camps, the better to motivate them to fight "the Zionists." The last thing they wanted was for the Palestinians to establish their own state in Gaza or elsewhere. Indeed, Palestinians were denounced by other Arabs if their zeal to destroy the hated Zionist enemy was not seen to be ardent enough.

In 1956 the Israelis killed her father, who had been organizing raids into their country. He was immediately proclaimed a shahid and the highest honors were bestowed upon his family. As of the writing of her book in 2006 there was still a high school named after her father in Gaza.

Her mother moved the family to Cairo shortly after her father's death. Realizing the value of a good education, she sent the children to St Clare's College, a British Catholic school run by English nuns. Despite the name, it was K-12. Also despite the Catholic nature of the school, half the students were Muslim, no doubt because the education offered by the school was superior to the public schools. Darwish recalls that unlike the public schools, hatred of the Jews was never taught at St. Clare's.

The Primacy of Jihad

One of the primary themes of the book is the pervasiveness of the call to jihad and the exhortation to destroy Israel. It was part of every subject in school. It was everywhere in the media. The idea that there could be any sort of peace with Israel was unthinkable. Jews were not simply the enemy, they were subhuman, "pigs and apes," if not worse. Every day the students at her school were required to write anti-Jewish poetry and stories, and express their desire to become a shahid, or martyr.

Darwish makes clear that the term "jihad" means violent holy war, something that is crystal clear to all Muslims. Further, it is a call to fight all infidels, not just Israelis, the objective of which is to extend the realm of Islamic control over the entire world. It is only in the West that the lies start, and we are told that it means something like "peaceful internal struggle" or some such nonsense.

A Woman's Plight

Another theme in the book is how badly women are treated in Islamic countries. Like in all Islamic countries, Egyptian societies are organized around the clan, and as such there is no social structure or support services at all available apart from it.

Poligamy was practiced in Egypt, and it was extremely harmful to social cohesion, to say nothing of it's effects on men and women. Married women never trusted non-married women, and when a woman got married she usually cut off all contact with any friends were were not married.

There are several types of polygamous marriages, from overt to the secret, or urfi marriage. Another type is the mutaa, or "pleasure marrage," which is literally a legalized one-night stand. As you might imagine, all of these are destructive to society and harmful to the people involved. There is simply no trust in marriage when such things are permissable.

Of course, there were a million restrictions that are unthinkable in Western countries. No dating, no partying, no social mixing between men or women was permitted at all. Women could not go out of the house without a male escort. Of course sex outside of marriage was unthinkable. Marriages were all arranged, and the concept of romantic love unheard of.

A woman's reputation was everything, and in typical Islamic hypocritical fashion, did not apply to men. Women could not so much as smile at a man (or girls to boys, it started very early) or they would be accused of being "loose." On the other hand, it was quite acceptable for men to grope women on a crowded bus. Men could be promiscuous, for women it was forbidden.

The Effects on Men

The repression of women and double standards described above are also harmful to men. Poligamy reduces the number of women available for marriage. Complete repression of sexuality and sensuality in society franky drives young men into the hands of extremists. Reality is replaced with the promise of 72 virgins if one dies in jihad. Given their lot in life, it seems a good deal, and one they're promised every Friday at the mosque.

It it considered good and normal for superiors to abuse their employees through rude and brutal treatment. Young men are by definition low on the hierarchy, and are the recipients of much ill-treatment. It is part of human nature that many will react by coming home from their jobs and take out their frustrations by beating their wife (if they are lucky enough to have one) and children.

A Young Woman

Through the adroit use of several maneuvers within her family, Darwish managed to avoid the fate that befell many of her friends, the arranged marriage. As such she left home single and went into the job market.

Her first job was working as an editor, translator, and censor for the Middle East News Agency. As censor she was by definition able to see information that the public in Egypt never saw. As part of her duties she also traveled to several foreign countries. That, coupled with her knowledge of English led her to realize that there was a lot more to the world than what she had been told all her life, to say the least.

As part of the Camp David Accords signed in 1978, Egypt got the Sinai back, which it had lost to Israel in the 1967 war. As with many Egyptians, she was amazed at how the Israelis had developed the area economically in that short time. It completely changed their perceptions of the area, which they had assumed was only a wasteland. It was also one of several events which led Darwish to question what she had been told about Israel and Jewish people.

Coming to America

In November of 1978 Darwish moved to the United States. Egypt and the United States had gradually been establishing closer ties, and her boyfriend had moved to California to live with his brother and cousins.. Between that and the desire to get away from the totalitarian control of the Egyptian state and society, she went to California to join him.

Describing herself as a naturally outgoing and open person who questioned authority and existing social arrangements, the experience of America provided a sharp contrast with her life in Egypt. Americans would talk about almost anything with anyone, constrained by few of the inhibitions so typical of Arab and Muslim society. A women talking openly about anything in Egypt was seen by the man as an invitation to sex, in America it was just two people talking. In Egypt honesty in everyday life was seen as naive, in the West it is considered a virtue. Class and sex provide few if any barriers. As such, she found that her personality fit more with the West than the Middle East.

However, many Egyptians and Arabs she met in the United States felt quite alienated. Far from accepting American society, the rebelled by becoming more Islamist. Women who would never wear a veil or headscarf in their home countries put them on here. Men who never went to a mosque or grew a beard did so in America. While Darwish found living in America as a liberation from radical Islam, many of her fellow Muslims determined to bring a radical version of their faith here.

Islamism in the United States

The paradox of Middle Eastern Muslim societies is that although Islam is dominant, the vast majority of the people are quite ignorant of it's details. Illiteracy is high, so few have read the Koran,and fewer still understand it. As such, most people only know what the Imams have told them. Further, although everyone is a Muslim, it is often in name only, as many do not go to mosque or pray regularly. It is a situation similar to the West in the Middle Ages.

Darwish and her family were themselves not regular mosque goers. They decided to attend a service only when a friend from Egypt came to visit. To their surprise and horror the mosque turned out to be quite radical and the experience was quite bad. This opened her eyes to the pervasive influence of Islamist ideology in the United States. Upon doing some research, she found that many of these mosques were funded by Saudi Arabia.

To be sure, most Muslims in America blend in happily and want no part of radicalism. The problem is that they are intimidated into silence, and too many mosques are controlled by radicals. To avoid these influences, and avoid being denounced, many of them simply choose to worship at home, including Darwish and her family. Her experience at the mosque began a move by her away from Islam.

All of this builds a process whereby Islamists are trying to undermine the West and impose their values on us. As one prominent Muslim leader said, "Thanks to your democratic laws we will invade you, thanks to our religious laws we will dominate you."

There is much doubletalk from Islamist Muslims. An obvious case discussed above are the lies about the definition of jihad. More subtle is when they say they're against terrorism but go on to express sympathy for groups such as Fatah and Hamas, or refuse to denounce any Islamic terrorist group by name. Another tactic is to say one thing in English to Western audiences, and another in Arabic to Muslims.

Second Marriage And A New Life

For reasons not entirely clear, Darwish divorced her husband in 1987. Whatever the causes, she stresses that she maintains good relations with him and his family and taht her main goal was to be a good mother to her children. in 1991 she married again to a man who she describes as politically very liberal who was born and raised in Berkeley, California. He was not at all religious.

One day she saw a pastor on the TV and liked the message. The basis of his sermon was 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

She found this quite inspiring and different from what she had heard in Islam, it containing none of the "destroy the infidels' rhetoric she had heard as a child, and decided to visit a local church. She liked the message of tolerance. It is not entirely clear if she became a Christian per se, but describes it as a "cataclysmic" event and says that "I had turned from a culture of hatred to one of love."

A Visit To Egypt

Over the years Darwish had kept in contact with her family back in Egypt. In 1994 her brother fell ill and they took him to a hospital in Israel. He lived, and her mother regaled Darwish with tales of the Israeli hospital the contradicted everything she had heard about the way Israelis behaved. This incident started a process that led her to change her view of the Jewish state.

In 2001 Darwish and her family went to Egypt to see her relatives, arriving back in the United States on September 10. What she found shocked her. The nation had become far more Islamist than when she had lived their previously. Many more women now were veiled while in public. Men were more radical in their religious views. Anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment was at an all-time high.

Speaking with people, she found their attitude was that the problems in Egypt and other Muslim countries were entirely the fault of the West and Israel. Few if any were able to look inward and say that they bore some of the responsibility themselves. Paradoxically, though, many of these same people wanted to go live in the West for it's economic benefits and political freedoms.

In what may seem strange to Westerners, the veil has become the new identity symbol for Muslim women, both in the West and in traditionally Muslim lands. They are taught from a young age that they are nothing but sex symbols to men, who are not expected to control their desires when confronted by a woman. Thus, to preserve modesty, the entire onus is on her to hide herself from men.

Politically, the Muslim Brotherhood exerted more influence than ever before. While previously it had been marginalized, it was now gaining in popularity. Saudi money was also flowing into Egyptian mosques, ensuring that the most radical messages where the only ones heard.

The entire experience was a bad one for Darwish and she and her daughters were happy to leave. It solidified her decision to live in the United States, something her daughters were quite thankful for as well.

The Reaction to 9/11

To Darwish, it was obvious that yes, it was al Qaeda who had attacked us. But when she called her friends in Egypt she was shocked. To a person they were convinced that it was an Israeli plot and that there was no way Muslims would do such a thing.

The situation was little better when she called her Arab friends living in America. Although most of them acknowledged the reality of who was behind the attacks, none were willing to speak out. Some even repeated the lie that "3,000 Jews who worked in the World Trade Center did not show up for work that day."

Most Muslims are not terrorists and say that they oppose it. However, this "silent majority" will not take a stand, publicly or privately, against the agents of jihad. Everything they have been taught since childhood was jihad, jihad, jihad, with Islam victorious against the infidels. Worse, they are taught the culture of victimhood, that Muslims are constantly persecuted by the infidels.

As such, they will denounce terrorism out of one side of their mouth while providing a "but" with the other. They usually refuse to criticize any terrorist group except for al Qaeda by name. If Israel or any non-Muslim nation kills Muslims it is instantly condemned, while the worst by Muslims is ignored or excused.

Speaking Out

It was at this point that Darwish decided to speak out and write herself. Her first articles appeared in Republican Women's Club publications. One of the first was "The Daughter of a "Shahid" Speaks out for Change" She soon received invitations to speak. Because there were so few Muslims willing to issue more than a few rote statements condemning terrorism, Darwish soon found herself in demand.

In the past few years she has spent time speaking in numerous forums; colleges and universities, on television, and before private groups. She has written many articles and this book in an attempt to get her message out.

One of the things that shocked Darwish is how radical Muslims have become on American college campuses, even by Egyptian standards. Bearded men and veiled women are becoming the norm, all with a chip on their shoulder and attitude to boot. Muslim student groups refuse to label Hamas a terrorist group, and openly say that Israel should not exist. Yet at the same time they insist that Islam is a "religion of peace."

As mentioned earlier, one of the PR ploys of radical Islam, Islam in general, really, is to claim that the word "jihad" means "peaceful inner struggle" and all that business about holy war is a relic of the past. Nothing could be farther from the truth, she says. Everyone in the Middle East knows that "jihad" means "holy war against the infidels to spread the faith." It's only in the West that this new definition is heard.

Another misconception is that jihad is only supported by a few Muslims who operate at the fringes. The truth is that such philosophy is widely accepted, even if most Muslims do not actively participate. The problem, in other words, is larger than we have been led to believe.

My Take

Her take on Islamic society is confirmed in whole or in part by such scholars and writers as Walid Phares, Andy McCarthy, Steve Emerson, Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, and Bernard Lewis, most of whose work has been used on this blog.

This said, I did not try to verify individual details about the book. And Darwish is clear that she is not a scholar, nor is this meant to be a scholarly book. It is one person's lifelong observations.

It's understandable that Darwish and others like her are portrayed as evil hatemongers by many Muslim groups. After all, they don't want their agenda's exposed. What's more perplexing is that so often the liberal-left often takes this line. Muslims have managed to get themselves portrayed as "victims," and so Islam escapes the scrutiny reserved for Christianity. It's ironic because almost all that liberals claim to stand for is antithetical to just about everything in Islam.

Saying that "only ten percent of Muslims are radicals" isn't really true, and more than that misses the point. Islam and Muslim societies are under the domination of the jihadists, and even many or most moderates hold opinions that are shocking to most Westerners. Most reform minded Muslims are afraid to speak out not only because they'll be attacked, perhaps violently, by other Muslims, but because they know that they will get little support from Westerners. The message of this book is that Islam as practiced today is antithetical to Western values, and if it is to change we need to support people like Nonie Darwish. Ignoring the problem won't make it go away.

The last chapter or two tend to read like a newspaper editorial, which is perhaps expected but most of her recommendations are by this point predictable. Perhaps though I only see it this way because I've read so much on this subject.

Otherwise, this is a reasonably good book and is recommended to everyone who wants to understand the realities of Egyptian society this past half century, as well as an insight into Muslims in the United States.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 7, 2009

The Speech Obama Should Have Given in Cairo

Last week I eviscerated President Obama for giving a pretty awful speech to Muslims while in Cairo. Doctor Zero, posted at Hot Air the speech Obama should have given:

I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and grateful for your hospitality. I will honor you in return by addressing you directly. I came here to speak to you, not to European leaders or American media commentators. I hope you will forgive my frankness, but we have much to talk about, and some of what I came here to say will not be easy for you to hear.

I will not waste your time by carefully selecting quotes from the Koran, in a misguided attempt to tell you what your religion means. I am here to tell you what membership in the community of civilized nations means. Your faith is your own affair, but it ends where the rest of our lives begin. It is fashionable among the Western elites to say that we have much to learn about the Muslim world, but the truth is precisely the reverse. One of the bedrock principles of Western democracy is that we don't need to understand, or even like, a particular religion in order to respect its faithful and their rights. There are some things the West is long overdue in teaching its Muslim neighbors, however. Let us begin with dismissing the notion of a "Muslim world." There is no such thing. There is one world, made increasingly intimate by the easy movement of people, resources, and ideas. We are all in the process of learning how to live with our fellow men, and while the West is far from perfect, we are much further ahead in our studies than the nations of the Middle East. Our security, and yours, will be greatly enhanced if we can lend you some of the wisdom we have accumulated.

We did not come by this wisdom easily. We learned by taking incredible risks... and making terrible mistakes... magnified by the power of Western military tradition and technology. The people of the Middle East have never known anything to compare with the industrialized slaughter of the two World Wars, in which millions of lives were lost to decisively settle the question of what makes a government just and legitimate. You have never watched five thousand of your sons die on a single day, to secure a beachhead against the forces of genocidal fascism - a battle we commemorate on the sixth of June every year. Your fighting men have not faced anything like the battle for Okinawa, where American Marines faced an eighty percent chance of death - and did not waver. You have not sacrificed half a million soldiers to destroy the evil of slavery, as America did during its Civil War. You have not spent blood and treasure around the world to save other nations from the savage darkness of communism. You have no leaders to equal the Founding Fathers who pledged their lives, and sacred honor, to win America's independence from imperial domination.

You have not burned and bled for freedom, as we have. We would spare you that pain, if we could. We are willing to burn and bleed for you - and we have been doing so, for eight long years. Instead of indulging in foolish paranoid fantasies about crusaders and oppression from America, open your eyes and look to the mountains of Afghanistan, where over a thousand Coalition troops have died to overthrow the Taliban, after their despicable complicity in the murders of September 11, 2001. We did not have to send those troops into harm's way, to avenge the slaughter at the World Trade Center. We could have eliminated all life in that region, in a matter of hours. If we followed the standards of our enemies, we would have. We sent our best and bravest into battle because of who we wished to spare, not who we wanted to kill.

Open your eyes and look to Iraq, where we allowed thousands of Iraqi troops to lay down their arms and go home, instead of killing them where they stood. We paid an awful price for this act of mercy, as many of those men went on to join the brutal terrorists who dreamed of keeping the Iraqi people enslaved. Some in America and Europe find it politically expedient to draw moral equivalency between American soldiers and the terrorists they fight. I ask you to show me the al-Qaeda "equivalent" of Private First Class Ross McGinnis, who climbed down into an armored vehicle and smothered a grenade to protect his crew, when he could easily have leaped from his gunnery hatch to safety. Show me an "insurgent" who can match the valor of Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith, who flung himself into an impossible battle against odds of a hundred to one... to save the lives of a hundred wounded men. These two soldiers are among those who have won the Congressional Medal of Honor for their sacrifices in Operation Iraqi Freedom. No one on the other side is worthy of such an honor. I say this to you because keeping silent - whether from misguided modesty, self-loathing, or the desire to avoid offending your vanity - is an insult to your honor, and an injury to your future.

We have made a fetish of "tolerance" in America, and it has curdled into poison. I am here to tell you what the civilized world is no longer prepared to tolerate. We will not stand silently by while women are enslaved, brutalized, or murdered. We will no longer hypnotize ourselves with self-criticism over gay rights, while you bury gay men and women under piles of jagged stone. We will not swallow our tongues for fear of offending Islam, when Islam oppresses all other religious beliefs within its borders. We know you can do better. We also know that nothing will improve unless we demand you do better... and we do demand it. The world has turned, and the old days of totalitarianism and pillage are done. There is no more place in it for barbarians. Believe what you will, follow your customs, honor the holy writings of your Prophet, and strive to understand God's will through prayer, music, and scholarship. You will find nothing but honest respect and admiration from the West. But when you stand among civilized people, you will be civilized people. When you are shown respect, you will answer with respect. As the West reveres and protects the life of your innocents, so you will revere ours.

I speak to you as the democratically-elected leader of a great republic, which has earned the right to walk tall and proud through the halls of history. It is a right earned on battlefields... but also at humanitarian relief camps, pharmaceutical laboratories, civil-rights marches, and field hospitals. It is a right earned by rebuilding shattered enemies after terrible wars, by tearing down the statues of tyrants and building schools for the children of their liberated victims. Ours is a hard-won glory that can be seen in six men raising a flag on Mount Suribachi, or one man planting that flag in the dust of the moon... or millions of men and women stepping into voting booths. Look at the free people of Iraq, with their fingers proudly covered in purple ink after they vote, and know that America is eternally eager to share her glory. Indeed, we believe we can only render it proper honors by sharing it with all of our brothers and sisters around the world. But also remember this: the Middle East stands at a crossroads, and the heavy responsibility of reconciling faith, tradition, and the demands of the modern world rests with you. You must choose between old hatreds and new possibilities. You must choose between murder and prosperity. I have come here today to tell you clearly, and without reservation, that you cannot have both. May the next leader chosen by the American people stand in my place someday, to congratulate you on a wise choice.

Posted by Tom at 9:42 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 4, 2009

President Obama's Speech to the "Muslim World"

Early today President Barack Obama delivered a major address to the Muslim world from Cairo, Egypt. The transcript is here. Following are excerpts and my observations. And yes I'll try and be fair.

All indented text is President Obama, except at the end under "other opinion"

The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

Oh for pete's sake. We're only in the second paragraph and this train is going off the rails. I've read more than a little world history, and I don't recall "centuries of co-existence and cooperation" between the Islam and the West. I'm not even sure it adds up to a few decades.

More fundamentally, we're off into victimology. Obama seems to be saying that the problems in the Muslim world are the fault of the West.

He is right, though, in that modernity is seen as a threat by many Muslims.

I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers - Thomas Jefferson - kept in his personal library.

Heavens. This is either ignorant or a deliberate misrepresentation. Islam has been a minuscule part of American history.

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words - within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum: "Out of many, one."

This is good and I'm glad he said it. Here he is on solid ground, and this is just what the rest of the world needs to hear. It gets even better with this:

Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.

Great stuff. Unfortunately it's not followed up with "and there is no religious freedom in the Muslim world and this needs to change." But of course Obama didn't say this. President Bush's Freedom Agenda is dead as far as this administration is concerned.

We also have this curious part

Much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores - that includes nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today who enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average.

There is the grating bit about only he is allowed to use his middle name when it suits his purposes, but how dare anyone else.

There are nowhere near seven million Muslims in the United States. Daniel Pipes cites two studies saying that the true figure is probably closer to 3 million (here and here), and maybe less than that.

This is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes subjugating one another to serve their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; progress must be shared.

For the most part this is boilerplate drivel, and I was tempted to pass it off as such until I reread it and a phrase in the middle jumped out at me

any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail

If Obama has his way then we have come to the end of American Exceptionalism.

Sorry, Mr. President, but there are differences between nations and peoples, and as currently constructed some are better than others. Some nations and cultures are better than others. Cultures that tolerate stoning are bad. Cultures that subjugate their women are bad. West Germany was better than East Germany. South Korea is better than North Korea. Taiwan is better than mainland China. And Israel is better than Gaza. Of course I write not of genetic, racial differences, but of culture, legal, and governmental practices.

As I have written time and again, the entire problem with the United Nations, and what makes it such a terrible institution, is that by it's nature it sees all natiions as equal. It makes no distinction between democracy and tyranny.

Barack Obama is either a moral idiot, steeped in relativism, or he can't say what he really means. If we take him at his word, he has no preference for America. We are just one of many nations, with nothing special about us.

Throughout the years the United States has been seen as a beacon of hope for many. Economic, religious, and political freedoms have never been perfect here, and often in need of great reform. But even our imperfections have never prevented people from coming here to seek a better life. More, our example has inspired millions around the world to better their own countries.

The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America's goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice, we went because of necessity. I am aware that some question or justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet Al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with....

We also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who have been displaced. And that is why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend upon.

All very good. Unfortunately in between all this we find this statement

The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism - it is an important part of promoting peace.
As Robert Spencer points out, this is utter nonsense. The idea that Islam is part of "promoting peace" flies against what one reads in the daily papers. Islam as currently practiced in much of the world is part of the problem. It is a religion for the most part stuck in the Middle Ages that desperately needs real reform. That President Bush also spun us with the "religion of peace" line is no excuse.
Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: "I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be."

Here we go again, back to his serial apologies. He just has to remind everyone that he that he opposed the war in Iraq, the clear implication being "we're sorry." Absolutely disgraceful.

How about other countries being asked to apologize to us for a change? For that matter, instead of us trying to understand the rest of the world, how about they try to understand us?

On to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people - Muslims and Christians - have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations - large and small - that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

As the invaluable Melanie Phillips reminds us "The Palestinians have been offered a homeland repeatedly - in 1936, 1947, 2000 and last year. They have repeatedly turned it down. The Arabs could have created it between 1948 and 1967, when the West Bank and Gaza were occupied by Jordan and Egypt. They chose not to do so. They could have created it after 1967, when Israel offered the land to them in return for peace with Israel. They refused the offer. The Palestinians have suffered because they have tried for six decades to destroy the Jews' homeland."

But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

This is relativism at it's worst.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

Yes the Palestinians must abandon violence, but comparing their situation to that of black people is absurd. It implies an equality of justice that simply is not there. The Palestinians are in their current situation not because they have been mistreated by the Israelis, but because 1) they have been mistreated by their fellow Arabs, and 2) they have taken a bad situation and made it infinitely worse by their own behavior.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.

He's certainly right that the Palestinians need to switch their energies from building rockets to building industry. And yes Hamas needs to do the things he outlines, and maybe one day pigs will fly.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

I'm not a fan of the settlements either, but they're not the problem. I guess he figures he has to say this though to appear even handed.

Moving to Iran, we have this

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically- elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question, now, is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

With Obama, every criticism of the Muslim world has to be met with an equal criticism of the United States. So before he can talk about Iranian transgressions, he has to apologize for something the United States did - as if there is an equality. We had to put up with this moral equivalency all throughout the Cold War from the anti-anticommunists and it looks like that attitude is alive and well in the White House today.

Next the president moves to the issue of Iran and nuclear weapons. Much of what he says is standard dipomatic drivel, but we do have this which is of note

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation - including Iran - should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

Several points.

First, this business about how "no single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons" is again just so much moral relevancy. A gun in the hands of a policeman is good, while a gun in the hands of a bank robber is bad. Nuclear weapons in the hands of France or the United States is good, nuclear weapons in the hands of the Soviet Union or Iran is bad.

Second, energy concerns do not justify Iran's nuclear program.

Third, the idea of a world without nuclear weapons is a childish fantasy. I know, I know, Reagan said it too. All politicians say it. And it's silly coming from any of them. For some reason though they all feel compelled to repeat it.

Next the president addresses democracy. Or at least how he doesn't think it particularly important.

I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

The best reading of this is that he wants everyone to live in liberty but the exact structure of that government is left to the people. One wonders if he knows or cares that after World War II we imposed systems of government on Japan and Germany.

Again fine words, but not backed up by the needed challenge to the Muslim world; "you need to reform because there is precious little liberty in your part of the world."

Next the president addresses religion

Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind, heart, and soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it is being challenged in many different ways.

The idea that "islam has a proud tradition of tolerance" is so insanely at odds with reality I'm speechless.

Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit - for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.

I hardly see religious tolerance in the West as a problem.

Next we come to women's rights.

I know there is debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Can he actually believe that the veil is anything less than a symbol of subjugation?

Now let me be clear: issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, we have seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.

As if there is an equivalence between the struggle by women for equal rights in the West and in the Muslim world. Two hundred years ago women had it better in the West than they have it in much of the Muslim world today. Obama had a chance to demand women's rights and he blew it.

In his final comments President Obama discussed economic and scientific cooperation, but it was all boilerplate and as such of little interest.


Islam needs to be challenged to reform, and Obama dropped the ball. Yes I realize that it all must be couched in diplo-speak, but even so.

The Muslim world does not need our "understanding." It needs liberty for its people.

One problem with not standing up to dictators is that this is used by those leaders to squash dissent in their countries. Former political prisoners Natan (Anatoly) Sharansky (gulag, Soviet Union) and Armando Valladares (Cuba) have spoken and written about this. What they say is that obsequiousness by a US president is shown to dissidents and political prisoners and they are told "see, the US president doesn't care about you!" On the other hand, when a US president calls out the totalitarians, word eventually makes it to even political prisoners, whose morale is boosted. Sharansky, for example, tells of being told of Reagan's "evil empire" speech while in the gulag and being greatly encouraged.

The bottom line: President Obama had an opportunity to challenge the Muslim world to reform and adopt principles of liberty and he failed.

Dissidents across the Middle East are weaping.

Other Opinion

The Washington Times

Respect is a two-way street. Recent polls suggest that about half of Americans hold negative views of Islam, and this is not merely blind bigotry. If they want respect, Muslim states must seek active ways to improve relations with the United States

Melanie Phillips

So in conclusion, yes, there was some positive stuff in this speech - but it was outweighed by the United States President's shocking historical misrepresentations, gross ignorance, disgusting moral equivalence between aggressors and their victims, and disturbing sanitising of Islamist supremacism.

In short, deeply troubling.

Angelo Codevilla

Just imagine: After a thousand years during which Islam and Western civilization have trod opposite paths in philosophy, science, and the most basic attitudes toward relations between the sexes and the role of work in life -- and after a half-century during which Muslims have murdered Western ambassadors and Olympians, to the cheers of millions of their own -- suddenly a young American seems to believe he can conjure up a "new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world." How could anyone imagine he possesses such a "reset button"? The answer only starts with Yuppie hubris.

Dr Zuhdi Jasser

As long as this administration ignores ideology and focuses only on superficial public relations, the Islamists will continue to advance the ideas of political Islam while we sleep. It is time for a comprehensive, public domestic and foreign strategy against Islamism. It is time for Muslims to lead this effort with real American support and not just lip service.

Mansoor Ijaz

The architecture of President Obama's speech was brilliant -- it certainly addressed the most burning issues facing Muslims around the world today.

Atmospherically, he hit it just right. His recitations from the Koran, his greeting to the gathering in Arabic, and even the respect he showed by saying "Muhammad, peace be upon him" when referring to Islam's Holy Prophet, all demonstrated an abiding respect for Islamic traditions...

Where he failed in Cairo was to delineate the overarching fact that Islam's troubles lie within. It is not that America is not at war with Islam. It is that Islam is at war within itself -- to identify what this religion and system of beliefs is in the modern age. Osama bin Laden and his Egyptian sidekick Ayman Al Zawahiri want to take us all back to the Stone Age because they have nothing better to offer their followers than hate-filled preaching. Why didn't Obama say that?

Islam's worst enemies are within it. If wealthy Gulf Arabs want peace for Palestinians with Israel, why don't they take a fraction of their profligate spending (in nightclubs in Geneva, at bars in London, at boutiques in Milan) and redirect it to rebuilding Palestinian enclaves with schools, hospitals, food-production facilities, and manufacturing plants? We might then have durable peace possible in the Middle East. Why didn't Obama say that?

Charles Krauthammer: "Abstraction...self-absorption...vapidity...moral equivalence"

Wesley Pruden

He told the Cairo audience that "to move forward we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts," but he wasted the opportunity to forcefully instruct Muslims that respect and appreciation must be mutual. While conceding the mote in American eyes, he said almost nothing about the beam that blinds Muslim eyes. He enumerated the "sources of tension" between Islamic countries and the West and never mentioned terrorism. He chided the West for its harsh view of Islamic treatment of women - "I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal" - and suggested that denying education to women is the gravest Muslim sin against women. He could have denounced "honor killings," forced marriages and how women in Muslim countries are flogged on the pretext of minuscule violations of eighth-century Sharia law.

Posted by Tom at 10:25 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 11, 2009

Obama Set To Betray Israel

On Sunday were heard this nonsense from President Obama's National Security Adviser, retired General James Jones, as reported in the Jerusalem Post:

In an interview with ABC television, Jones said that the US government agrees with Jerusalem that Teheran's nuclear ambitions pose an "existential threat" to Israel.

"We understand Israel's preoccupation with Iran as an existential threat. We agree with that," the senior official was quoted as saying by AFP....

"By the same token, there are a lot of things that you can do to diminish that existential threat by working hard towards achieving a two-state solution," he reportedly said.

As if this was not bad enough, the story goes on to tell us that

In a closed meeting with AIPAC's major donors last week, Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel, reportedly said that America's ability to face Iran depended on Israel's ability to make progress with the Palestinians.

He also reportedly told them that solving the conflict would enable progress in dealing with the main threat of Iran.

The cluelessness of these people knows no bounds.

Unfortunately, Pope Benedict XVI hasn't been much better. Fox News reports that

Pope Benedict XVI called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian homeland immediately after he arrived in Israel Monday, a stance that could put him at odds with his hosts on a trip aimed at improving ties between the Vatican and Jews...

"The hopes of countless men, women and children for a more secure and stable future depend on the outcome of negotiations for peace," he told a welcoming ceremony at Israel's international airport. "In union with people of goodwill everywhere, I plead with all those responsible to explore every possible avenue in the search for a just resolution of the outstanding difficulties, so that both peoples may live in peace in a homeland of their own within secure and internationally recognized borders."

I suppose it's his job to say these things, and religious leaders like him do serve as a check on our thinking.

The idea that giving the Palestinians a state will have any affect at all on Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons or their desire to destroy Israel is lunacy. I have covered Iran and the motivations of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and some of the leading Mullahs in some detail in my postings on Iran, but I am hardly the only one.

Further, I do not think that any more of a Palestinian homeland is a good idea. As I've said here a zillion times, I used to believe in the "two-state solution," but no more. President Clinton gave it a good try with the 1993 Oslo accords, but after the failed Camp David meeting of him, Israeli PM Ehud Barack, and Palestinian terrorist leader Yassir Arafat, it should have been clear to all that the Palestinians are simply not interested in recognizing Israel's right to exist.

Worse, the Palestinians have had what amounts to their own country now for about 3 years in Gaza, and they've made a total hash of it. They had a golden opportunity to show the world that they could govern themselves in a reasonable manner and instead they turned it into a jihadist nightmare. It's a well known fact that Iran has been supplying and helping Hamas; google it yourself.

But let's get back to our own president. via Melanie Phillips, Ha'aretz reports that the aforementioned General James Jones, National Security Adviser:

... quoted in the telegram as saying that the United States, European Union and moderate Arab states must redefine 'a satisfactory endgame solution.' The U.S. national security adviser did not mention Israel as party to these consultations.

As Phillips says, of course Jones is not going to consult with Israel. "If you are going to throw a country under the bus, you don't invite it to discuss the manner of its destruction with the assassins who are co-ordinating the crime."

She then goes on to the heart of the matter

Of course Obama doesn't care that Hamas would run any Palestinian state. Of course he doesn't care that Israel would be unable to defend itself against such a terrorist state. Because he regards Israel as at best totally expendable, and at worst as a running sore on the world's body politic that has to be purged altogether (see this bleak assessment by Sultan Knish). His administration is proceeding on the entirely false analysis that a state of Palestine is the solution to the Middle East impasse and the route to peace in the region. What that state will look like or do is something to which at best the administration's collective mind is shut and at worst makes it a potential cynical accomplice to the unconscionable. So Israel is to be forced out of the West Bank. Far from building a coalition against Iran, Obama is thus doing Iran's work for it.

Next let's turn to Carolyn Glick, possibly the most insightful correspondent in Israel. Surveying the information on Obama and his planes cited above, she points out that it's even worse than most people think. From her Jerusalem Post column on Thursday;

Moreover, this week we learned that the administration is trying to get the Arabs themselves to write the Quartet's new plan. The London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi pan-Arab newspaper reported Tuesday that acting on behalf of Obama, Jordanian King Abdullah urged the Arab League to update the so-called Arab peace plan from 2002. That plan, which calls for Israel to withdraw from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights and accept millions of foreign Arabs as citizens as part of the so-called "right of return" in exchange for "natural" relations with the Arab world, has been rejected by successive Israeli governments as a diplomatic subterfuge whose goal is Israel's destruction.

By accepting millions of so-called "Palestinian refugees," Israel would effectively cease to be a Jewish state. By shrinking into the 1949 armistice lines, Israel would be unable to defend itself against foreign invasion. And since "natural relations" is a meaningless term both in international legal discourse and in diplomatic discourse, Israel would have committed national suicide for nothing.

If you're not familiar with this so-called "right of return," this google search will tell you all of the details. Essentially, though, the Palestinians want to flood Israel proper (i.e. pre-1967 borders) with millions of people, and then vote the country out of existence. This, and not the settlements, have always been the true obstacle to a negotiated settlement. Ok, that an incessant Palestinian terrorism.

Follow the link to Glick's column and read the whole thing, as it just gets worse and worse. It's clear that the Obama Administration has a fairy-tale vision of the Middle East and wants to force it on Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to come to the United States to meet President Obama and his staff on May 18. Netanyahu is no shrinking violet, and maybe he can talk some sense into our president. But I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 19, 2009

Doctors Without Borders: Running Cover for Terrorists

Years ago I gave substantial amounts of money (for me, anyway, these things are of course relative) to Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres. They seemed to be doing good things in extremely bad parts of the world and supporting them seemed the natural thing to do. In recent years I've given a lot less as I've changed where I send my charitable dollars, but still send them enough for them to send me their booklet/magazine once or twice a year.

Despite what I'm about to write, I want to make clear that they are still doing good things in extremely bad parts of the world.

But despite that, I'm not giving them any more money, and the reason is that this is what I saw in their recent "Alert" booklet (it's also on their website):

Gaza: A Devastating Disregard for Civilians

Attacks on the Gaza Strip by the Israeli army during three weeks in December 2008 and January 2009 made medical action extremely difficult. The vulnerability of civilians sparked humanitarian outrage and widespread criticism.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) works in some of the most conflict-ridden areas of the world, but in most cases, civilians have the ability to flee to safer areas. Inside the locked-down borders of Gaza, one of the world's most densely populated areas, there was no way out. From December 27 to January 19, the number of wounded people grew to 5,450 and the dead totaled 1,300, according to the UN agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). Shelling destroyed an estimated 17,000 homes and reports spread about bombing of locations considered safe zones and used for shelter by civilians....

..."Despite official statements from the Israeli government, there are serious obstacles to providing humanitarian aid and, specifically, medical aid. Bombs and bullets do not spare ambulances, hospitals, or health workers," said Dr. Marie Pierre Allie, president, MSF France, during a January 16 press conference. MSF attempted several times to reopen its pediatric clinic in Beit Lahia to relieve Kamel Edwan Hospital. But each time, the attempt was cut short; a January 1 bomb attack forced the MSF team to suspend its work only two hours after starting. Two MSF clinics for post-operative care, where patients from Al Shifa hospital are usually referred, were empty: patients in Gaza City could not reach the clinic, and no one could enter the south of the territory from the north after the Israeli army effectively cut the 140-square-mile Gaza Strip in two....

The safety of medical facilities, protected under humanitarian law, was not respected, according to Dr. A: "Buildings near Al Shifa hospital were hit with missiles. And when a building is bombed, the neighbors are immediately affected. The hospital windows that were broken in the explosions caused cuts and wounds, mainly to the children who were sleeping." Over three weeks, 34 facilities were destroyed or damaged, including 8 hospitals, according to the WHO....

MSF expressed strong criticism of the Israeli army's assault on Gaza and of the international community for standing by while the incursion continued for 22 days.

"How far can the Israeli army go before the international community mobilizes to stop it?" asked Cécile Barbou during a press conference on January 16. "It's hell here. Even people carrying white flags are being shot at. It's high time for the international community to organize, position itself, make decisions, and take the measures required to stop this conflict. This passive stance is unbearable, intolerable! This has got to stop. We are outraged."...

"Today, 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip--almost half of them children--are the victims of incessant shooting and bombing," said MSF head of mission Franck Joncret. "How can anyone believe that such a steamroller attack would spare civilians, who are prevented from fleeing and are crowded in a densely-populated enclave?

The idea that Israel exhibited a "disregard for civilians" is outrageous and insane.

I urge you to give no more money to this organization, despite the good work that they do around the world. The piece cited above makes accusations completely out of touch with reality.

Of course Israel does not do everything right, and I've said this time and again on this blog. But if one adds up the moral scales the difference between Israel and Hamas is that of the United States and Nazi Germany. We were wrong to fire bomb Dresden as we did in February of 1945, but that didn't change the moral calculus of that war either.

I first began to question the integrity of Doctors Without Borders in the immediate aftermath of our invasion of Afghanistan after 9-11, when I heard one of their officers testify on Capital Hill. He was objecting to U.S. Military airdrops of food aid, saying that only private organizations such as his should do such things. I forget his exact reasoning, but it struck me as pretty specious at the time.

But Doctors Without Borders has gone too far this time. I was able to forgive their earlier transgressions, but not this one. This article (and probably others) whitewash the situation in Gaza to the degree where they are effectively acting as a Hamas propaganda agent. I looked on their website for a section on Israel, but the country is not even mentioned as an area of concern. Because Israel does such a good job at protecting it's citizens, they are not worthy of aid. The Palestinians, on the other hand, deliberately put their people in harms way hoping they will be killed, the better to use them as propaganda. This is bad enough, but organizations such as Doctors Without Borders should not be assisting them in crafting their message.

Sample Previous Posts on the subject of Israel, it's 2007/8 war with Hamas, and Moral Clarity:

Of Moral Idiots and War Crimes
The Israeli War on Hamas and the Moral Bankruptcy of the "International Community"
The Israeli War on Hamas and Personal Responsiblity

August 19 2009 Update

Apparently I wasn't the only one who criticized them, because now we see this on the same page:

Editor's Note
To our Supporters:

It has been brought to our attention that a number of our supporters were upset by the article, "Gaza: A Devastating Disregard for Civilians," on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict published in the spring 2009 edition of the Alert newsletter.

At Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), we pride ourselves on transparency and accountability to our donors and to an open and constructive dialogue with those who believe in supporting the principles of providing assistance to victims of violence and disease regardless of political, religious, or economic affiliations.

Upon further reflection, we recognize the legitimacy of the concerns expressed that the Alert article was too one-sided in its presentation of the Gaza conflict. The article, as it was written, did not sufficiently contextualize the Israeli incursion into Gaza as a response to the longstanding and indiscriminate rocket attacks being launched by Hamas from the Strip into Israel. In no way was the omission of the broader context intended to diminish the suffering caused by these attacks on Israel. Human suffering is deplorable in all its magnitudes.

As MSF, we pride ourselves on a constant reflection of our medical humanitarian action and speaking out. This is a daily engagement playing out in our headquarters and among our field teams around the world. As our supporters, you are a vital part of this reflection. Just as MSF is an association composed of medical and non-medical field staff from across the globe, bound by independent, impartial, and neutral medical action, we are a movement supported by millions of individuals like you.

We thank you for the vitality of your engagement in our collective endeavors, and in difficult economic times need your continued support more than ever. Please continue to challenge us, in all aspects of our work, in the days ahead.

I'll give them credit for this, and most of these organizations wouldn't have even gone this far. They still don't take back the most offensive and factually incorrect charge, that Israel showed a "a devastating disregard for civilians."

It's not clear whether they live in a fantasy world whereby a military can act with fewer civilian casualties, whether they don't realize that Hamas deliberately puts Palestinian civilians in harms way hoping they'll be killed so they can be exploited for propaganda purposes, or they're pacifists who don't believe in any military action no matter what. Annoyingly, they don't address these hard issues.

As such, I'm still not giving them any money.

Posted by Tom at 10:30 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 4, 2009

$4.4 Billion for Hamas, er, "Gaza" - International Stupidity in Action

Yesterday I raked the Obama Administration over the coals for their brain-dead idea to give $900 million in American tax dollars to "Gaza" to "help rebuild" it in the wake of Hamas' unsuccessful war with Israel.

Today I discovered this is only the tip of the iceberg. An "International Donor Conference" has pledged $4.4 - 5.4 billion (depending on which news account you believe) to aid in "rebuilding Gaza. This AP story is typical

International donors pledged $5.2 billion Monday to rebuild the devastated Gaza Strip and fund the Palestinian government, giving a powerful boost to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and putting new pressure on the rival Hamas militant group to moderate....

Hillary Rodham Clinton, attending the gathering on her first Mideast tour as U.S. secretary of state, told reporters the pledges showed the international community's "confidence" in Abbas and his administration, which has been severely weakened by its confrontation with Hamas.

This is insane. As I explained yesterday the money will end up going to Hamas.

Further, this simply rewards the Gazans for their bad behavior. They voted Hamas into power, and all signs point to them as supporting Hamas before and after their Dec-Jan war with Israel. Rebuilding Gaza would make sense only if Hamas was already removed from power and real liberals (note the small "l") in power; you know, like we did with Germany and Japan some 60 odd years ago.

Of all the commentators I've read Melanie Phillips, author of Londonistan, hits it out of the park. It's so good I'd love to quote the whole thing, but I'd rather you go there yourself. Following are excerpts:

There has never been a situation like this. 'Surreal', as Daniel Pipes expostulates, just doesn't begin to describe what America, Britain and Europe are doing in Gaza. America has pledged $900 million for the 'rebuilding' of Gaza; at the 'donors' conference at Sharm el Sheikh yesterday, pledges from more than 70 states including Europe and Britain swelled that total to more than $4.4 billion. The beleaguered British taxpayer may be rather surprised to know that bankrupt Britain is throwing £30 million at the place.

These governments all piously intone that the money will not end up in the hands of Hamas. This is utterly absurd. Hamas run Gaza. They control it. Nothing happens there without their say-so. UNRWA, which is apparently supposed to distribute the humanitarian aid, is riddled with Hamas operatives amongst its staff; Hamas won more than 80 percent of the vote in the last election for the UNRWA workers association and the UNRWA teachers association.

To avoid the money going to Hamas, we are told with a straight face, aid is to be funnelled through the Palestinian Authority. But the PA are in the West Bank. They are not in Gaza. Hamas run Gaza. The PA have no more power to stop that money from ending up in the pockets of Hamas than they have of flying to the moon.

Who can doubt that the $4.4 billion will go straight to Hamas so that it can buy yet more rockets and missiles and construct yet more death-dealing factories to enable them to bombard Israel and kill the innocent?

No one with an ounce of common sense. But just to show how insane this proposal is,

Even the Saudis seem to think this is mad:
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal told al Arabiya TV that rebuilding Gaza would be 'difficult and fool-hardy, so long as peace and security do not prevail' in the territory.

The banality of our Secretary of State is also on full display

Clinton's delusion is the distillation of the key liberal fallacy that the perfection of the world lies in the application of reason; that people are all innately reasonable, and will always act in furtherance of their own rational self-interest. Seen through this prism, Israel's destruction of Palestinian infrastructure - indeed, any action it takes to prevent Gazans from murdering Israeli citizens - is frightfully inconsiderate because it mucks up the only real agenda in the Middle East which is to set up a Palestinian state -- not the fact that Israel is under permanent siege from a real agenda of genocide. So Gaza's donors told themselves this:
A new drive to revive the Middle East peace process is needed because violence could easily erupt again in Gaza, wrecking aid efforts, international donors were told at an aid conference today... 'We are confronted with a serious dilemma,' Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told the final news conference. 'Will we once again reconstruct something we built a few years ago and now has been hammered and flattened?'

Note - the dilemma is not whether the donors' money will be used to hammer and flatten Israel; it is only whether Israel will give the donors a poor return for their investment in Gaza, by having the gall to seek to protect its citizens against the violence that the donors' money will fund.

And of course we all know that the moral idiots of the "international community" will rush to condemn Israel if it strikes back at Hamas terror. There can be no peace with the Arabs and Palestinians in their current state. They are the ones who must reform, and no good will come of rewarding the Gazans for their support of Hamas.

By the way, did you know that Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel? In fact, over 130 Qassam rockets and mortar shells have been fired since the supposed end of hostilities on January 18.

No sign that Obama, Hillary, or the "international community" care.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 3, 2009

Obama's New Middle East Policy

We're starting to see the outlines of President Obama's Middle East policy, and it appears to be about as bad as expected. Unfortunately I can't say I was particularly enamored of President Bush's second term policy either. As such, at best we're continuing a flawed policy, at worst building on an existing failure.

From the White House website, here's the official policy of the Obama Administration

Obama and Biden will make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a key diplomatic priority from day one. They will make a sustained push -- working with Israelis and Palestinians -- to achieve the goal of two states, a Jewish state in Israel and a Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and security.

A "two-state solution" will not work under current circumstances. Any Palestinian state will be a terrorist entity that will make Iran look tame by comparison.

More on this later, but at least it's pretty standard stuff. The worst part is that we're giving $900 million to the terrorists of Hamas er, "Gaza":

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States plans to offer more than $900 million to help rebuild Gaza after Israel's invasion and to strengthen the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, U.S. officials said on Monday.

The money, which needs U.S. congressional approval, will be distributed through U.N. and other bodies and not via the militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza, said one official.

"This money is for Gaza and to help strengthen the Palestinian Authority. It is not going to go to Hamas," said the official, who asked not to be named as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton planned to announce the funding at a donors' conference in Egypt next week.

In 2007 I raked the Bush Administration over the coals for giving arms to Fatah which ended up in the hands of Hamas. Now, though, we're giving money to Hamas, and Obama and Clinton are not even smart enough to realize it

Let's start with some basic economics; money is a fungible commodity. What this means is that one unit is indistinguishable from the next. If you put two fungible units together by definition they mix and you cannot later distinguish A from B. For example, suppose you give $20 to a drunk and tell him that he must spend it on food. He does so. But you still cannot say "he spent my $20 on food" because by spending an additional $20 on food he freed up another $20 for wine.

Illustratiing tthe point, Steve Schippert points out on NRO, "there is ultimately just one distributor (and confiscator) of aid in Gaza: Hamas and this frees them to spend other funds directly on rearming."

Some will object that Palestinian children are in need. Should we have given humanitarian aid to Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan during WWII? Hamas is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood,which is at war with us, whether we accept it or not.

The only difference between Hamas and the Nazis is opportunity. In a way, Hamas is even worse. The Nazi's did not turn their children into suicide bombers. The Hitler Youth was nothing compared to what Hamas and Fatah do to their children.

Speaking of children, big surprise but Mrs "It takes a Village" is in it for... the children:

Clinton puts 'heart' into Mideast peace, Cites future of children as focus of solution Nicholas Kralev The Washington Times

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday committed herself personally to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, saying that finding a solution is "in my heart, not just my portfolio."

Mrs. Clinton cited the persistent peacemaking efforts of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and linked a solution to the future of Israeli and Palestinian children.

"I personally am very committed to this, and I know it can be done. I believe that with all my heart," she told reporters at a donors' conference for Gaza at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik. "To me, this is about what happens to the children in Gaza and the West Bank. I got into politics, because I care deeply what happens to children."

Get me that air sickness bag now.

But wait, it gets worse

"Some of you know that George Mitchell's father was Irish and his mother was Lebanese. Well, he solved half of his family's problems, so now he is here working on the second half, and we hope that we will see it come to fruition," she said in a humorous reference to Mr. Mitchell's role in negotiating the 1998 Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland.

The reason I'm quoting this is that you're going to hear this nonsense a lot; "we negotiated a peaceful settlement in Northern Ireland and can use that model for the Israelis and Palestinians.

It's enticing, but a false analogy. John Bew and Martyn Frampton over at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs wrote a lengthy document saying why. Following is a key excerpt:

  • By the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Republic of Ireland had become a force for stability and peace in Northern Ireland and worked in close cooperation with the British government in the search for a settlement. The same cannot be said of Israel's neighbors. On the contrary, Iran and Syria continue to support Hamas and encourage its violent campaign, offering it arms, funding, training, and sanctuary.
  • For the British government, formal negotiations with the IRA could only occur in a context in which republican violence had been brought to an end. With the IRA in a position of declining military and political fortunes, it sought to extricate itself via the peace process. The perception of the republican leadership had become - rightly - that IRA violence had held back the political prospects of Sinn Fein.
  • The aims of the IRA posed no existential threat to the British. This is not the case where Israel and Hamas are concerned, however. The objectives of Hamas require the destruction of the State of Israel. Moreover, whereas the political goals of the IRA were confined locally to the future of the island of Ireland, Hamas, by its own admission, is part of a global Islamist movement, known as the Muslim Brotherhood. Thus, diplomatic engagement with Hamas has broader international implications.

So don't believe any of it.

The Obama-Clinton Middle East policy is

  • Send huge sums of money to "the Gazans", pretending that the terrorists of Hamas won't get it

  • Talk Israel into giving up land for pieces of paper

  • Set up one or another Palestinian state

I've stated my ideas in a dozen or more posts. They boil down to; isolate the Palestinians, incent them to develop true liberty and shake off Hamas, Fatah must truely reform, and give them nothing until these things happen. The full version is more lengthy and complicated (follow the link) but essentially the carrot and stick is based on the Jackson-Vanik Amendment and the Helsinki Accords.

The bottom line is that in their current condition the Palestinians do not deserve a state. If they got one, either on the so-called West Bank (Judea and Samaria), or in Gaza, it would simply be the world's worst terrorist state.

I disagreed with President Bush when he and Secretary Rice had them all over to Annapolis in November of 2007, and I'm disagreeing with Obama and Clinton now. Nothing good can come from any of this.

Posted by Tom at 10:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 17, 2009

Ceasefire in Gaza

Earlier today the Israeli cabinet declared a unilateral ceasefire. Fox News has a pretty comprehensive story so we'll quote them:

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced Saturday, folllwing a Security Cabinent vote in favor of a cease-fire, said that the goals of Israel's offensive in Gaza had been achieved.

Israel has no immediate plans to withdraw troops from Gaza, but the cease-fire likely will entail the end of Israeli attacks on Hamas now that the militant Palestinian group appears to have been disabled to the point that there is less of a threat of rocket attacks on southern Israel.

Olmert said in a televised address that Israel's "goals have been achieved, and even more." Fighting stopped at 2 a.m. local time (7 p.m. EST) but Israel will keep troops on the ground for the time being, Olmert said.

But Hamas leaders have repeated that it will not respect any cease-fire as long as Israel remains inside Gaza....

The vote follows Friday's signing of a "memorandum of understanding" in Washington between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni that calls for expanded intelligence cooperation to prevent Hamas from rearming. Livni called the deal, reached on the final working day of the Bush administration, "a vital complement for a cessation of hostility."

Israel's 12-member Security Cabinet was expected to approve the Egyptian proposal, under which fighting would stop immediately for 10 days. Israeli forces would remain in Gaza and the territory's border crossings with Israel and Egypt would remain closed until security arrangements are made to prevent Hamas arms smuggling.

We don't know if the ceasefire will hold, or how long Israel will remain in Gaza. We won't know for a few days or weeks whether Israel achieved it's war aims or not. But I do know how we may be able to tell here shortly.

Two things will tell us pretty quickly if Israel didn't achieve it's war aims: One, Hamas is able to gather up it's remaining forces and stage serious attacks on Israeli units inside Gaza. Two, if they are able to restart rocket attacks on Israel to a degree that is more than a few sporadic shots.

It's been reported today that Hamas fired 8 or 20 rockets (depending on the story) rockets and mortar shells in to Israel. No doubt they feel they have to fire a few now to save face. The question is whether in coming weeks and months they keep firing them at the rate at which they were before the war.

Other Long term signs will be how fast Hamas reestablishes itself, if at all. Right now Fatah is taking advantage of the situation by cooperating with the IDF in arresting Hamas elements on the West Bank. My guess is that hopes that Hamas is smashed to the point they disappear are over optimistic. Word is that they still have enough forces to control Gaza. However, they may have lost enough to the point where they conclude that terror rocket attacks on Israel are counterproductive. That in itself will be a victory for Israel.

A good sign is simply that Prime Minister Olmert was able to declare victory. He could not do so after the 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, because everyone knew it wasn't true. As I said in a previous post, during that war we saw a lot of commentary about how Israel wasn't achieving it's aims, and saw it from the beginning of the war to the end. We did not see similar coverage this time. Note that I'm only referring to reliable sources.

Also good is that Israel declared the ceasefire on it's own terms. It did not cave to international pressure and accept some UN brokered settlement, which would have been disastrous. Internationalists and UN types have Israel's worst interests at heart.

More importantly, my perception from browsing various news sources is that Hamas somewhat lost the battle for public opinion in the Muslim world, or at least did not do nearly as well as Hezbollah in it's war with Israel. They were seen by some or many as the instigators, as picking a fight they could not hope to win, and unnecessarily derailing the "peace process" (which I don't buy into but that's an argument for another day.

More to come.

Sunday Evening Update

Although it's all very fine to destroy Hamas, an editorial in the Jerusalem Post throws cold water on the idea that Fatah is much better:

They attribute Hamas's ascendancy and Fatah's decline to the current fighting, or to settlements, or to the "occupation" pushing ordinary Palestinians ever deeper into Hamas's embrace.

It is more accurate, however, to sadly acknowledge that Hamas's world view better reflects the extremism, rejectionism and self-destructive tendencies that embody the ethos of much of the Palestinian polity. Fatah's perceived drift toward moderation, combined with its corruption, have made it increasingly irrelevant to many Palestinians....

Though Fatah denounces Israel's battle with Hamas in the most venomous terms, the West Bank masses are said to be fuming that Fatah won't let them confront Israel directly. "This will irreparably damage its standing in the eyes of Palestinians..." an Arab expert told The Christian Science Monitor.

In other words, many ordinary Palestinians want Fatah to again lead them into another violent uprising - despite the devastation a third intifada would bring down on them. Never mind that the standard of living in the West Bank is better than it has been in years.

So the problem is not just a PA demonstrably incapable of reforming itself, or a politically toxic Hamas; it is, more fundamentally, much of the Palestinian political culture.

Unfortunately, this makes sense. Andrew McCarthy is right; in their present condition the Palestinians do not deserve statehood.

Sunday January 20 Update

Melanie Phillips links to sources confirming that since Israeli troops have left, Hamas has returned and Gaza has "returned to rule by thug." They're rounding up and shooting Fatah members and anyone else they dislike.

She points out that the UN, Human Rights Watch, the BBC, and all of the others who were oh-so-offended by Israel's conduct during the war are strangely silent.

No doubt it will all be blamed on Israel.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Of Moral Idiots and War Crimes

Note: I wrote this before the cease-fire was announced. I'll have more to say about it later tonight.

Now we have "senior UN officials and human rights groups" accusing Israel of war crimes. The charge is that the IDF engages in "reckless and indiscriminate" shelling of civilian neighborhoods in Gaza. To add grotesqueness to an already idiotic charge, they charge that IDF soldiers are using "Palestinian families as human shields."

Just because I had to see the idiocy on display for myself, I went to the website of the UN Human Rights commission, and found their latest missive on how "the violence must stop." It is a model of moral neutrality. Read it for yourself. If you were completely unfamiliar with the players, you would never know from anything this commission said that Israel was a democracy that had been the subject of terrorist attacks for years, and that the other was a fascist jihadist terrorist entity.

But no, they couldn't do that. The article in the Guardian exposes the moral idiocy of the UN and that of these so-called human rights organizations in all their macabre glory. Or gory.

The UN's senior human rights body approved a resolution yesterday condemning the Israeli offensive for "massive violations of human rights". A senior UN source said the body's humanitarian agencies were compiling evidence of war crimes and passing it on to the "highest levels" to be used as seen fit.

Some human rights activists allege that the Israeli leadership gave an order to keep military casualties low no matter what cost to civilians. That strategy has directly contributed to one of the bloodiest Israeli assaults on the Palestinian territories, they say.

John Ging, head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza, said: "It's about accountability [over] the issue of the appropriateness of the force used, the proportionality of the force used and the whole issue of duty of care of civilians.

Who said terrorism doesn't pay?

One of the things Israel is accused of doing is the illegal use of "white phosphorus," particularly in the form of what are called M825 Felt-Wedge projectiles. The claim is that the IDF is illegally using this and similar weapons in densely populated areas, and that this is illegal.

To be sure, White phosphorus can be nasty stuff. So can suicide vests, but the UN and so-called human rights groups can't be bothered with them. Might get death threats, you know.

John Noonan, writing at The Weekly Standard, explains

The problem in the UN's argument, as with most of the arguments against Israel's use of force in Gaza, is that it rewrites international treaties on warfare to better fit an anti-Israel narrative. White Phosphorous -- or 'Willy Pete' -- has been used for decades to create large smokescreens for troop cover and target illumination and is not -- despite any claim to the contrary -- an incendiary weapon (nor is it proscribed under any law on armed conflict). Article one of the treaty banning incendiaries says as much:
Incendiary weapon means any weapon or munition which is primarily designed to set fire to objects or to cause burn injury to persons through the action of flame, heat, or combination thereof, produced by a chemical reaction of a substance delivered on the target. (a) Incendiary weapons can take the form of, for example, flame throwers, fougasses, shells, rockets, grenades, mines, bombs and other containers of incendiary substances.

(b) Incendiary weapons do not include:
(i) Munitions which may have incidental incendiary effects, such as illuminants, tracers, smoke or signalling systems.

That's not to say Willy Pete is without collateral effects. There have been several documented cases where WP has injured or killed civilians, as the illuminant burns slowly at extremely high temperatures. But like with other legal conventional munitions such as artillery shells and guided bombs, the responsibility for incidental death and damage lies with Hamas and any other combatant which uses human shields to mask its operations.

International war crime statutes were written to prosecute those who fill mass graves with the bodies of noncombatants, the Hitlers and the Milosevics, not those who use legal illuminants in small, localized conflict. If a treatise on armed conflict can no longer differentiate between the use of military smoke shells and deliberate rocket attacks on civilian populations, the effect is to doom such treaties to irrelevance.

It's the last paragraph that's important. There is a type of "internationalist" and human-rights type who can no longer distinguish between a terrorist entity that deliberately puts it's own civilians in harms way hoping they will be killed so they can be used for propaganda, and a democracy fighting a defensive war imperfectly.

Balance of Outrage

What gets me is that the outrage over atrocities, real or imagined, is so far out of balance. No one would say that Israel, or the United States for that matter, is above reproach. If you want to say we should not use this or that weapon, fine, make your case.

But shouldn't you also spend just a little bit of time criticizing terrorists? If you want to ban cluster bombs ok, make your case, but why can't we have one banning suicide vests as well? Of course, we know why such a treaty doesn't exist; the UN and human rights organizations don't care, and the Muslim nations would object. They'd say that singled them out (as if banning cluster bombs doesn't single us out) or insist on an exemption for "wars of national liberation" (like they do for a simple definition of terrorism).

I've heard all the excuses about how we must maintain the moral high-ground, how it would be useless to ban something like suicide vests, or how two wrongs don't make a right so what does it matter? I don't buy any of them.

Melanie Phillips, as always, cuts to the heart of the matter and asks the right questions:

One final question: when Foreign Secretary David Miliband, UN Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon and a zillion others in the west lament the 1000 in Gaza whom the Israelis have killed, are they lamenting the killing of the 75 per cent-plus of that total who were Hamas terrorists, whose purpose in life was to annihilate Israel and exterminate Jews? Are they lamenting the killing today of the key senior Hamas leader Said Siyam, said to have been a radical close to Iran? Would they have preferred that all these individuals remained alive to continue pursuing their genocidal project? Are they saying that no-one should be killed in war and that therefore there should never be war? And if so, when will we hear Miliband similarly lament all those Taleban who have been and are still being killed by British forces in Afghanistan, along with al Qaeda in Iraq?

I'm not sure about the first three, but the answers to the last two are yes and that's probably next.

Double Standards

If the "world community" is so upset about civilian deaths in Gaza, why aren't they as concerned about what's going on in the Congo? A story in Pajamas Media, using at it's source a Ugandan news outlet, says that "over 1,000 civilians have been killed by a Ugandan rebel group since Christmas."

Terrible that so many of the horrors that take place in Africa go unreported.

Sunday Evening Update

Mona Charen adds more to our list of horrors ignored by those oh-so-concerned by Gaza:

Since the start of 2007, 16,000 civilians have been killed in fighting. Not in Gaza, so you may have missed it. It was in Somalia, where an Islamist movement is fighting Ethiopian troops. This is the 18th year of civil strife in that country.

In Sri Lanka, some 70,000 people have perished in a civil war that has flared on and off since 1983. The regime in Burma has killed thousands and forced an estimated 800,000 into involuntary servitude.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), 45,000 people are dying every month. Nearly 5.5 million have died since 1998 in a conflict that grew out of the violence in Rwanda and spread. Half of those deaths were of children under the age of five, according to the International Rescue Committee. The violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has caused more human devastation than any conflict since World War II.

In Darfur, Sudan, more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million made homeless by violence.

Posted by Tom at 5:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 12, 2009

Israel in Gaza: Now is Not the Time to Stop

From today's Jersusalem Post:

Israeli ministers were told on Sunday that at least some of Hamas's leaders in Gaza are desperate for a cease-fire, on almost any terms. Hamas has sustained significant losses. Some of its fighters are going AWOL. Others have been captured. Amir Mansi, Gaza City's Kassam commander, was reduced to firing his own rocket at Israel on Saturday, and was killed by the IDF in the process.

Indeed we read in a different article from the same newspaper the leadership of Hamas is almost begging for a ceasefire:

For the first time since the beginning of the IDF military operation in the Gaza Strip, Hamas on Monday openly signaled its willingness to accept a cease-fire with Israel. The message from Hamas was issued by its prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, who has been in hiding since the beginning of the offensive.

Clearly the leadership of Hamas is worried. Gone is the bravado. They know that Israel can destroy enough of their movement so that what they have left will be a shell of it's former self. In the Arab/Muslim world, "face" is everything. Theirs is a culture based on honor, as Dr Sanity has pointed out. It was seen that Hezbollah won in 2006 because it retained it's honor, or face. It is this that the leaders of Hamas fear they will lose, I think.

Either way, now is not the time for Israel to let up. Napoleon knew that it was not enough to chase the enemy from the battlefield, but to destroy him entirely. It is imperative that Israel not agree to any cease-fire until she has achieved all of her war aims.

From the first article, here's yet another reason for Israel to press home the attack:

An immense network of tunnels - many of them still believed to be intact, despite repeated Israeli bombings - had enabled Hamas to progress a fair way down the path to replicating Hizbullah's weapons capacity and subterranean entrenchment. If the smuggling is allowed to resume, Israel will merely have set the stage for a far tougher next round against a Hamas more determined than ever to bring Israel to its knees - just as Hizbullah's serene rearmament since 2006 now sees it reconstituted as a greater strategic threat than it posed three years ago.

Such a shame all that energy directed towards tunnels was not directed towards building industry, which would work to the betterment of the people of Gaza.

Again from the Jerusualem Post, this time from Tuesday:

As the IDF operation in the Gaza Strip entered its 10th day, Hamas has begun sending conflicting messages regarding its intentions.

These contradictory messages, Palestinian political analysts said, reflected the state of confusion in Hamas and raised questions as to who was calling the shots in the Gaza Strip.

While some Hamas leaders have been openly signaling their readiness to accept a new cease-fire, others are still calling for pursuing the fight against Israel "until victory."

What is clear is that Hamas is now desperate for a lull in the fighting. But it is also eager to score some kind of a "military victory" before a cease-fire is reached.

During the July/Aug 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, we saw many articles from trustworthy sources questioning Israeli strategy and wondering whether they could achieve any meaningful victory. Not so much this time. We have the usual drivel from the usual sources, but once you filter them out we are presented with an entirely different picture: If Israel can hold out against the so-called "international community" she has a chance to smash Hamas. As I pointed out yesterday, the only chance for true peace is to let that happen.

Tuesday Evening Update

Bill Roggio, writing at The Weekly Standard, provides a hope and a warning. Roggio has a history of correct analysis with regards to Iraq, so I take him seriously.

First the hope:

The 18-day old Israeli operation in Gaza appears to be on the cusp of intensifying as Israeli troops are preparing to conduct the third phase of the operation and enter the urban sprawl of Gaza City. Intense fighting is expected as Hamas has dug in and planted mines and booby traps along the roads and in buildings. Clearing a city the size of Gaza City may take weeks and will generate more images of the plight of the Palestinian people.

Reports from the region indicate Hamas may indeed be on the ropes. Israeli intelligence believes Hamas's military arm has suffered significant losses. As Michael Goldfarb noted yesterday, Hamas's leadership in Gaza is pushing for a ceasefire, despite calls to continue the fight by Hamas's leadership in Damascus and the Iranians.

Fatah, Hamas's political enemy, has essentially endorsed the Israeli incursion and has held Hamas responsible for Palestinian deaths. And despite reports to the contrary, the vaunted "Arab Street" has been relatively quiet as the Israelis pound Gaza. Most Arab regimes are pleased to watch Israel destroy the Iranian and Syrian-sponsored Hamas.

Phase One was the air campaign, with Phase Two being the initial ground invasion. Now Israel stands poised to launch a Third Phase, which would be to enter Gaza City and clean out the rats nest of Hamas fighters, hopefully once and for all.

However, it might not be launched:

Despite the current momentum on the Israelis'side, the word from Israel is the leadership troika of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni may be getting cold feet in taking the fight into the heart of the cities in Gaza to root out Hamas.
Political sources said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni decided late on Monday against ordering troops in the next two or three days to engage in all-out urban warfare.

Opening a "Phase 3" of the offensive would likely complicate truce efforts, lead to intense street fighting and could cause heavy casualties on both sides, a politically risky move less than a month before Israel's parliamentary election.

Israel clearly has the upper hand in the fight. While the Israelis were clear that their goal wasn't to defeat Hamas, they may actually have the opportunity to do so. Olmert, Livni, and Barak could very well snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by cutting a peace deal with Hamas and leaving the organization intact and in control of Gaza. As Goldfarb said yesterday, the Israelis would be well served to "give war a chance."

Olmert gave up in Lebanon because the war was not going well and international pressure was too much. This is different, however. Operation Cast Lead has been going relatively well and the objectives the IDF set for itself have been obtained. The international pressure is not nearly as intense, and many or most Arabs know that Hamas is to blame. If Olmert and his cabinet give up this time, they will have no excuse.

Posted by Tom at 11:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 11, 2009

For the Sake of Peace, Let Israel Destroy Hamas

Unlike the editors of Time magazine, who ask "Why Israel Can't Win," I think that israel can and possibly is winning it's war with Hamas. Rather than asking "Can Israel Survive It's Assault on Gaza?" they ought to be asking if Hamas can survive. Further, it's not Palestinian moderates who will be the casualties if Israel is allowed to win, but the radicals.

But of course to Time and those of their sort Israel must never respond to terror but must grant concession after concession. Only the so-called "peace process" will lead to peace. What hooey. As Natan Sharansky pointed out in The Case for Democracy, "strengthing" Arafat let to nothing good. Rather than weaken Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the defeat of Hamas will strengthen him. That the editors of Time cannot see this is mindboggling, but sadly not surprising. The only people Israel can or should negotiate with are moderates.

Too many people put the political cart in front of the security ox in Iraq. For years we tried to foster political and economic progress in a country where there was no security. Only when Gen. Petraeus' team published Field Manual 3-24, and we implemented the surge, did we reverse our strategy. When researching FM 3-24, the authors found that history proved that you cannot have political or economic progress unless you have security. We surged troops, changed the strategy, achieved security, and now you have political and economic progress in Iraq.

Although parallels are never exact, I believe that we have a similar situation with regard to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Trying to achieve political progress when there is no security for Israel is a fools errand. Let Israel destroy Hamas, and maybe things can move forward.

Martin Kramer (h/t TWS) explains

Hamas in power, from the outset, sought to break out of what it has called the Israeli "siege" by firing rockets into Israel. Its quid pro quo was an end to Hamas rocket fire in exchange for a lifting of the Israeli "siege." When Israel and Hamas reached an agreement for "calm" last June, Hamas hoped the sanctions would be lifted as well, and Israel did increase the flow through the crossing points, by about 50 percent. Fuel supplies were restored to previous levels. But Hamas was fully aware that sanctions were slowly eroding its base and contradicting its narrative that "resistance" pays. This is why it refused to renew the "calm" agreement after its six-month expiration, and renewed rocket fire.

Were Israel to lift the economic sanctions, it would transform Hamas control of Gaza into a permanent fact, solidify the division of the West Bank and Gaza, and undermine both Israel and Abbas by showing that violent "resistance" to Israel produces better results than peaceful compromise and cooperation. Rewarding "resistance" just produces more of it. So Israel's war aim is very straightforward, and it is not simply a total cease-fire. At the very least, it is a total cease-fire that also leaves the sanctions against Hamas in place. This would place Israel in an advantageous position to bring about the collapse of Hamas rule sometime in the future--its long-term objective.

Exactly. Fatah is hardly a bunch of boy scouts, but they're a preferable to Hamas. With Hamas there is no hope, because they have no intention of governing anything in the normal sense. They exist for one reason and one reason only; to destroy Israel and kill Jews. Agreements and treaties are things that they will only agree to when they need a temporary respite from the IDF, and something they will break as soon as they think they have the advantage again. Negotiating with them is pointless.

Hamas' War Against Fatah

Years ago, when the PLO was the only game in town, we could think of it as strictly an Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But after Hamas ("Islamic Resistance Movement") was founded in 1987, all that changed. The various PLO organizations were mostly secular and Marxist in outlook. Hamas, as the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, was strongly Islamic and jihadist.

What this means is that the differences between Fatah and it's PLO factions and Hamas are not those of two normal political parties, but a chasm that cannot be resolved.

Hamas won a resounding victory over Fatah and other factions in the January 2006 elections for the Palestinian Parliament. In June of 2007 they launched a coup against Fatah and the PA in Gaza, taking the place over and killing or ousting hundreds of Fatah members. Long story short this resulted in a split in the PA, with Hamas controlling Gaza and Fatah maintaining at least nominal authority over the PA on the West Bank.

If Israel had done nothing, Hamas would dominate future elections. If Israel stops it's offensive now it may be seen as a Hamas victory, with a resulting increase in their prestige. Again, Hamas benefits in elections. Is this what those who push for a cease-fire want?

The Democrats Know

Yesterday I wrote about how the leadership of the Democrat party was strongly behind Israel. Michael Goldfarb of The Weekly Standard tells us why:

The Democratic party leadership seems to understand completely the need for the current Israeli government to hold on to power, and the need for Hamas to be severely weakened, if the peace process is to resume. The left, however, is crying for a cease fire, the result of which would almost certainly be the strengthening of Hamas and Likud. In this case, reflexive anti-Israel bias has blinded the left to the fact that their own aspirations for a negotiated settlement hinge on the success of Israel's operation in Gaza. Leaving Hamas intact, as the settler quoted above points out, will only push a final settlement even further into the distance.

General elections in Israel are scheduled for February 10. If the Kadima-Labor government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did nothing about Hamas, the Israeli electorate would be driven to the right, as they want someone who will protect them. I don't really follow internal Israeli politics that much, but it is well-known that Binyamin Netanyahu is more willing to use force, and less sympathetic towards the Oslo "peace process." Netanyahu is leader of the opposition Likud Party.

So Can Israel Win?

In the wake of Vietnam, too many Americans, especially those in the media, became convinced that we could never win again. Desert Storm only went a little ways towards destroying that myth, but it came back full force after the insurgency ramped up in Iraq.

We see a similar situation in Israel. Her initial adventure in Lebanon (1982-2000) and the 2006 war there led to the belief that Israel could not defeat a terrorist/jihadist army. But as Thomas Donnelly & Danielle Pletka explain in The Weekly Standard, Gaza is not Lebanon:

To begin with, the physical and geographical differences between southern Lebanon and the Gaza strip could hardly be greater....Gaza is also an inherently isolated battlefield. Whereas Hezbollah could be resupplied not from northern Lebanon, Syria, and even from the sea, Gaza is surrounded by Israeli walls and a closed border with Egypt. And the Israeli Navy dominates the coastline. As long as Egypt restricts movement into and out of Gaza, the Hamas leadership and forces are trapped in a very small pocket....

Hamas and Hezbollah are also profoundly different beasts. While neither is really the "non-state actor" as popularly understood, Hezbollah is a much more robust and state-like organization, while Hamas is only a notch above its roots as a terrorist group, and has failed to capitalize on its control of quasi-independent Gaza to organize or modernize. And further, while both are Iranian proxies, the duration, depth and strength of Tehran's investments in Hezbollah far exceeds its investments in Hamas....

Militarily, the Israelis seem much better organized, conducting combing and coordinated air and land operations, and committing adequate forces from the start rather than feeding forces into the fight in a piecemeal fashion. They've also been more patient, a very necessary virtue.

Given time, I do believe Hamas can be weakened to the point where it is no longer a serious player.

Give War A Chance

Charles Krauthammer, writing in The Washington Post, explains why a cease-fire now would not achieve anything, and in fact would be counterproductive:

The U.N.-mandated disarmament of Hezbollah in Lebanon is a well-known farce. Not only have foreign forces not stopped Hezbollah's massive rearmament, their very presence makes it impossible for Israel to take any preventive military action, lest it accidentally hit a blue-helmeted Belgian crossing guard.

The "international community" is now pushing very hard for a Gaza replay of that charade. Does anyone imagine that international monitors will risk their lives to prevent weapons smuggling? To arrest terrorists? To engage in shootouts with rocket-launching teams attacking Israeli civilians across the Gaza border?

Of course not. Weapons will continue to be smuggled. Deeper and more secure fortifications will be built for the next round. Mosques, schools and hospitals will again be used for weapons storage and terrorist safe havens. Do you think French "peacekeepers" are going to raid them?

Such a deal would buy Israel maybe a couple of years. After which, Round Two -- with Hamas rockets by then killing civilians in Tel Aviv, making Ben-Gurion airport unusable and reaching Israel's nuclear reactor in Dimona.

The good news, if we can really call anything in war good, is that far from acquiescing to a cease-fire, Israel is pressing it's offensive deeper into Gaza, with troops now in Gaza City itself.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 10, 2009

Congress Stands with Israel

I am proud and pleased to see that the United States Congress has issued strong bipartisan statements of support for Israel in it's current war with Hamas.

On Thursday January 8 the Senate passed Resolution #10. When it appears in Thomas Registry you can read it here. In the meantime, you can read Majority Leader Harry Reid's statement introducing the resolution:

"I rise to voice my strong support of a resolution in support of Israel that I have introduced with (Minority) Leader McConnell, along with an overwhelming number of bipartisan cosponsors. When we pass this resolution, the United States Senate will strengthen our historic bond with the State of Israel by reaffirming Israel's inalienable right to defend against attacks from Gaza, as well as our support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

"I spoke with Prime Minister Olmert last week and again expressed my understanding of and appreciation for the terrible situation that Israel has faced. Hamas has been firing rockets and mortars into Israel, killing and maiming innocent Israeli civilians, for more than eight years.

"I ask my colleagues to imagine if this were happening here in the United States and rocket fire was coming from Vancouver, Canada, into Seattle. Would the United States react? Of course we would. We would have to react to protect our people, and it would be not only our right but our obligation to do so. That is what the Israelis have done.

"Hamas must stop the rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. That is the stated objective of the Israelis.

"I acknowledge and appreciate the calls by some for a cease-fire. Certainly we must encourage a peaceful resolution of the conflict. But we must be certain that any cease-fire is sustainable, durable, and enforceable.

"Our resolution reflects these sentiments. It states that:

* The United States Senate stands with Israel at this critical moment and recognizes Israel's right to self-defense;

* Hamas must end the rocket and mortar attacks against Israel;

* Any cease-fire must be durable, enforceable and sustainable;

* The lives of innocent civilians should be protected; and

* We support a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a strong and secure Israeli living in peace with an independent Palestinian state.

"I encourage all of my colleagues to support this critical expression of support for our steadfast ally, the State of Israel."

I certainly don't say this often, but Senator Reid, my hat is off to you.

In the House, Republican Whip Eric Cantor and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer co-wrote an editorial in which they expressed their strong support of Israel which appeared in newspapers across the country. Here are excerpts:

During this difficult war in the Gaza Strip, we stand with Israel. Why? Because we have been to Israel. We have seen Sderot.

In August 2005 and again in 2007, we visited the region of southern Israel that includes this embattled Israeli border town. Taken together, the trips helped us define the historical and military context for Israel's current action in Gaza...

What distinguishes the two sides, however, is their very aim. While Israel targets military combatants, Hamas aims to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible. Hamas, after all, is one of the Middle East's most notorious terrorist outfits. Since its inception in 1987, it has worked systematically to fulfill the goal laid out in its charter: the destruction of Israel. During the last Intifada, Hamas claimed credit for 52 suicide bombings that killed 288 Israelis, according to Israeli government figures...

Like most Americans, we identify strongly with Israel's ongoing, elusive quest to achieve peace and security in a dangerous part of the world. We recognize that by arming and training Hamas, Iran has made this latest Israel-Hamas war a key front in its effort to remake the region in its own radical image.

America would never sit still if terrorists were lobbing missiles across our border into Texas or Montana; and just as we assert our right to defend ourselves, Israel has every right to protect its own citizens from the implacable foes on its borders. Support for Israel in her time of need, from both Democrats and Republicans, is not just the logical choice. It is both a strategic and moral imperative.

Would it be that out Congress could think so clearly on other issues.

Posted by Tom at 10:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 8, 2009

The Israeli War on Hamas - Not Nessarily a Left-Right Divide

While I think it's accurate to say that that most on the right support Israel, and most on the left at least oppose what Israel is doing even if they're not outright pro-Hamas, this is not always the case.

Republican Congressman Ron Paul reveals his moral bankruptcy when says that "we should be on neither side; this is a conflict that has been going on for a long time"

You can see why he didn't make any headway in the primaries.

Pat Buchanan isn't any better. Here's an excerpt from what he wrote on Dec 30:

About Israel's right and duty to defend its border towns, there is no dispute. When Hamas permits Gaza to be used as a launch pad for rockets, it must expect retaliation. Nor can Hamas claim some right to dictate the limits of that retaliation.

Yet the wisdom of so savage a retribution for rockets that killed not one Israeli is open to question. And crass Israeli politics seems to be behind this premeditated and planned blitz....

The moderate Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas, who has been talking to Israel, testifying to her good faith, has been made to appear the puppet and fool. A new intifada spreading to the West Bank, with suicide attacks inside Israel, is now possible.

Moderate Arabs, who have recognized Israel or backed peace, will now be seen by the Arab street as appeasers impotent to stop the public suffering of the Palestinian people....

Whatever Israel decides, we support. For eight years that has been the most reliable guide to U.S. Middle East policy.

Buchanan's statement that Israel has a right to defend itself is clearly a throwaway line. Where all his Arab moderates are is a mystery to me. None of this is a big surprise, though, because as far back as 1991 William F Buckley Jr concluded that Buchanan was an anti-Semite.

On the other side, consider this blog post by a guy who styles himself "Truth101." I ran into him over at American Power, where we usually disagree, but was pleasantly surprised to find him taking Israel's side. Here's an excerpt from his post "The Left isn't always Right"

One of my fellow lefties at Newshoggers posted some nonsense about Israel and the Gaza Conflict. He was trying to make a case that Israel was occupying Gaza and was overreaching or something.

Lefties: the people of Hamas are not your friends. They are lying, sniveling pricks that have no interest in peaceful coexistence with anyone. Let alone Israel. Once the Left and the world accepts these jokers for the no good terrorist, innocent women and children killing pricks they are, we will all be better off and ready to fight a real war on terror. Not the make Halliburton and Blackwater lots of money war Bush has waged.

In the comments section I wrote that my hat was off to him for his clear thinking on this issue.

No matter what Israel does the so-called international community disapproves. The good news is that unlike during the 2006 war in Lebanon, Israel is holding its own in the propaganda war, and setting the record straight as soon as Hamas propaganda hits the news. I'll go out on a limb and sai that I think Israel is going to win this one, much the the chagrin of the internationalists.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 7, 2009

The Israeli War on Hamas and the Moral Bankruptcy of the "International Community"

Nothing so illustrates the moral bankruptcy of the so-called international community," and indeed of so many others both on the left and on the right, as does the Israel-Palestine issue.

Consider this letter to the editor published in today's Washington Times. A brief excerpt:

This is a call for women of the world to unite with peace-loving men to stop the terrorist tactics used by both parties in the Israel/Palestine confrontation. It is nonsense for one group to say they are fighting terrorism when they themselves are using terrorist tactics....

Is the main reason for using weaponry today so that those in positions of power can keep their power? Our present State Department can only mouth one-sided views having to do with "our allies."

This attitude tries to make us afraid and to urge us to fight "an enemy." The truth is that we are the people of one world, and when we harm others, we are harming ourselves and the whole earth.....


Katonah, N.Y.

If queried about her letter, my suggestion to Ms Cypser is for her to say that she was drunk at the time so didn't really mean what she wrote.

Unless Israel is perfect and kills absolutely no civilians it is condemned by folks like her and the "international community," while the actions of Hamas are ignored or excused. Don't believe me? Do as columnist Mona Charen did and google for "international condemnations of Hamas" She's right, no such condemnations come up, even if you fiddle with the wording. On the other hand, google for "international condemnations of Israel" and you get quite a bit.

Lest anyone think that I'm just reprinting a crazy letter to the Times and doing a google search to make the point, Charen points out that

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, "strongly condemned Israel's disproportionate use of force," as did Brazil. Indonesia called on all countries to "sever all forms of diplomatic and business ties with Israel." French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who currently holds the rotating chair of the European Union, did call upon Hamas to halt its rocket attacks but also censured Israel's "disproportionate response."

We've all seen the articles. There's no need to go on. We see this every time Israel responds to terrorism. After the failure of the 2000 peace talks at Camp David, Yassir Arafat launched an intifada against Israel, sending suicide bombers into Jewish cafes and pizza parlors. Israel responded with a security fence. Who did the international community condemn? Israel.

Israellycool get's it about right in what is unfortunately only a half-parody:

In other news, Hamas executed 6 suspected collaborators with Israel (leading to widespread condemnation by "human rights" organizations and "peace activists"), France's Channel 2 have once again shown their true colors, and an ex-aide of Saddam Hussein has gotten all Baghdad Bob on us.

The "international community" has been intent on pushing for a cease-fire from the moment Israel launched what they call Operation Cast Lead. They apparently actually think that if such an agreement was hammered out Hamas will honor it's side of the deal, all past experiences to the contrary. Nowhere have I found any proposal from anyone to stop Hamas from launching it's terror rockets.

Even if such a promise was to be made, Israel would be justified in rejecting it based on history. In 2005 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1559, which demanded the disarming of Hezbollah. To this date Hezbollah has not been disarmed because it refused to relinquish it's weapons and no one has the will to do it by force. Countries do not send troops on UN peacekeeping missions if they think there is a chance of serious fighting.

Even so, it is important to note that despite the chatter, many Muslims and Arabs are not taking Hamas' side. They make the standard denunciation of Israel, but one gets the impression it's just for show. They're angry at Hamas for interrupting what they saw as a "peace process" that might actually get somewhere (I don't think so, but that's for another day). They also realize that Hamas basically had it's own country, and did itself no good by provoking a powerful foe into attacking. This is good, and Israel senses it.

What's really disturbing is when the Bush Administration joins in the international chorus. To be sure, they've kept the UN Security Council from passing egregious resolutions (see eye on the UN website) but why do they have to join everyone else in calling for a cease fire? Why can't they just say one time it would be good if Israel destroyed Hamas? We expect others to back our attacks, but we can't back Israel?

I'm sure that privately we are telling Israel to "go for it" but I get tired of the two-facedness of it all. Condi Rice has proven to be a terrible Secretary of State, her 2007 peace conference in Annapolis being ill-planned and achieving nothing. The good news for the Obama Administration is that they can hardly do worse. Knock on wood.

Saturday Evening Update

On Thursday, Jan 8, the UN Security Council Resolution passed Resolution 1860 calling for a ceasefire. It's all a lot of hooey. Here are a few excerpts

Expressing grave concern at the escalation of violence and the deterioration of the situation, in particular the resulting heavy civilian casualties since the refusal to extend the period of calm; and emphasizing that the Palestinian and Israeli civilian populations must be protected,...

Stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza;...

Calls on Member States to support international efforts to alleviate the humanitarian and economic situation in Gaza, including through urgently needed additional contributions to UNRWA and through the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee;

The document expresses the moral equivalency the UN has been so famous for. All states are equal, and no blame is assigned. At least the US abstained, though we should have vetoed it. I know we abstained instead of exercising our veto power so as not to fray relations with states like Turkey and Jordan, but it was still a cowardly act.

The good news is that the Olmert government seems to have more backbone than we do. According to this AP story, they may even be escallating the war

Israel dropped bombs and leaflets on Gaza on Saturday, pounding suspected rocket sites and tunnels used by Hamas militants and warning of a wider offensive despite frantic diplomacy to end the bloodshed.

Good. Hamas is a cancer that needs to be cut out and killed. Although they were foolish enough to vote them into power, the real benefit would be the Palestinian people themselves.

Sunday January 18 Update

An editorial in today's Jerusalem Post hits the nail on the head. Money quote:

Israelis are told that no matter the provocation, we are "too quick" to resort to force. As if negotiations with Hamas were an option; as if eight years was too quick.

And if we've acted so "disproportionately" in our brutal march to triumph, how come the enemy is still standing and declaring victory?

To the morally obscene charge that we've committed "genocide" in Gaza - does anyone seriously doubt that were genocide our goal, heaven forbid, there would be 500,000 dead Palestinians, and not 1,000?

What other army drops warning leaflets and makes automated warning calls prior to attacking? Why is it ethical for Hamas to fire from a mosque or over the walls of a UN facility, but unethical for our citizen-soldiers to save themselves by responding with heavy weapons?

The truth is that no Western country faced with a similar set of circumstances - fighting an enemy that principally targets non-combatants while hiding behind its own civilians - would comport itself with higher moral standards than the IDF.

Sophomoric ideals about wartime morality are barely tolerable in Philosophy 101. When mouthed by leaders and pundits who should know better, they reflect intellectual laziness and dishonesty.

Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 5, 2009

The Israeli War on Hamas and Personal Responsiblity

Once again, here goes another post on the Middle East in which I have to check the "Moral Clarity" category box as well.

Of all the issues around the world, the Israeli-Palestine one is the absolutely most frustrating from this standpoint. It generates more moral confusion than any other. And let me be clear on this; I'm not talking about whether it was wise for Israel to attack Hamas, or Hezbollah in 2006. One can be morally clear on the issues and simply believe that there was another way to deal with the problem.

Here is a typical news story, this one from the AP

Israel ignored mounting international calls for a cease-fire Monday and said it won't stop its crippling 10-day assault until "peace and tranquility" are achieved in southern Israeli towns in the line of Palestinian rocket fire.

They never call for a cease fire when it's only Israel getting hit. Nor do they call it a "crisis", a word you see all over the news now that Israel is shooting back.

I could pick any of a hundred anti-Israel posts, but Glenn Greenwald, writing at Salon, is typical when he goes after pro-Israel blogger Michael Goldfarb of The Weekly Standard:

One should be clear that this sociopathic indifference to (or even celebration over) the deaths of Palestinian civilians isn't representative of all supporters of the Israeli attack on Gaza. It's unfair to use the Goldfarb/Peretz pathology to impugn all supporters of the Israeli attack. It's certainly possible to support the Israeli offensive despite the deaths of these civilians, to truly lament the suffering of innocent Palestinians but still find the war, on balance, to be justifiable.

Those who favor the attack on Gaza due to that calculus are certainly misguided about the likely outcome. And many war supporters who fall into this more benign category are guilty of insufficiently weighing the deaths of Palestinian innocents and, relatedly, of such overwhelming emotional and cultural attachment to Israel and Israelis that they long ago ceased viewing this conflict with any remnant of objectivity.

Greenwald is nicer than most of his sort in saying that it is "certainly possible to support the Israeli offensive despite the deaths of these civilians," but there's one big problem with his thesis.

The Palestinians aren't as innocent as he says they are.

A Brief History

Fist we need to set the stage.

In January of 2006 the Palestinians voted Hamas into power in the elections for the Palestinian Parliament, Hamas winning 75 seats to Fatah's 45. The electoral system is a bit complicated (see here), as some of the seats are awarded by proportionality and some by district. While because of these peculiarities (follow the link) Hamas didn't have quite the level of support the results would indicate, in the end a significant amount of people voted for Hamas.

In June of 2007, Hamas took complete control of Gaza in a bloody coup, killing who knows how many Fatah members and civilians (websites vary). They created their own government in Gaza, basically splitting the Palestinian Authority in two, with Fatah (nominally) in control in Judea and Smaria (the "West Bank").

Caroline Glick describes the run-up to the war in an interview with K-Lo over at The Corner

The fighting in Gaza today started about three weeks ago when Hamas renewed its rocket, mortar, and missile assault against Israel. Last June, Israel foolishly agreed to a six-month ceasefire with Hamas. Hamas used the time to have Iran double the size of its missile arsenal and double the range of its missiles, and to build up its Iranian-trained, armed, and financed Hezbollah-style army of 20,000 men. Hamas called its renewed offensive "Operation Oil Stain." On December 17, Hamas attacked Israel with more than 80 missiles, rockets and mortars. It took Israel ten days to finally respond to Hamas's assault, which for the first time put Israeli major cities like Ashdod, Yavne, Beersheva, and Gedera under assault.

Who is Responsible?

To varying extents, a people bear responsibility for their government. If it is a dictatorship, the people are only responsible to the degree that they try and resist it. I realize it's all very easy to talk about resisting tyranny from the safety of one's keyboard and from the perspective of the United States in 2009, but it's true nonetheless.

Certainly, though, if you vote that government into place you bear responsibility. And the fact is that when given the chance, Palestinians voted for Hamas. They got what they wanted. And let's be clear, Fatah isn't that much better. Their Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are their terrorist wing, as they have been designated by the U.S. Department of State since 2002.

Here's the point - If you vote for terrorists as your government, and then they terrorize your neighbor, you have no legitimate reason to cry foul if your neighbor strikes back.

At least the Germans and Japanese had the decency not to pretend that they were the victims when we bombed and occupied their homelands.

Strangest of all, it is in the best interests of the Gazans that Hamas be destroyed. Ever since Israel withdrew from Gaza in August of 2005, they have basically had their own country. Not much of one, to be sure, and one beset with huge social and economic problems, but a country or homeland of sorts. They had a golden opportunity to show everyone that they could be a responsible self-governing entity. And they blew it.

Among other things the Gazans inherited in the wake of the Israeli withdrawal were more than 3,000 greenhouses, which could have been used to grow valuable flowers for export to Europe. American Jewish philanthropists even paid $14 million to save them from destruction by Jewish settlers so the Gazans could have them. And what happened? Many were damaged or destroyed by looters that the Palestinian authorities were helpless to stop, often because their security forces stood idly by.

They got their homeland, and they have made the worst of it.


This said, it is still incumbent upon nations to not directly target civilians. It is an integral part of Just War Theory. Now, I don't think that traditional JWT is completely applicable to our modern world. It needs updating. But the principal of discrimination, which basically says you cannot directly target civilians, is accepted by all civilized nations.

The whole issue gets complicated, and I urge readers to follow the links and read the whole thing themselves, but the salient point here is that Israel does not target civilians and Hamas does. Just because civilians are killed while attacking military targets does not mean that "Israel is killing civilians," because such a formulation implies that Israel is doing so deliberately.

In the end, the Gazans therefore bear some responsibility for what is happening to them. Critics need to stop pretending that they are totally innocent bystanders.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 3, 2009

Israel hits Hamas - The Ground War Begins

Updated with video at bottom - even if you don't read the whole post please watch it

A few hours ago at the gym I was treated to the usual "Crisis in the Middle East" headline from the media. In this case it was CNN, but they all do it.

Funny how it only becomes a "crisis" when Israel shoots back.

Moving on...

Earlier today Israel began phase two of Operation Cast Lead, it's operation to destroy Hamas and it's ability to launch terror rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel. A few hours ago Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak released this statement:

"A few hours ago, Israeli ground forces entered the Gaza Strip as part of Operation Cast Lead against the Hamas terrorists, their affiliates, and their infrastructure in Gaza. So far, the Israel Defense Forces have dealt an unprecedented heavy blow to Hamas. In order to complete their mission, we have now launched the ground operation.

I have said all along that our military activities will widen and deepen as much as needed. Our aim is to force Hamas to stop its hostile activities against Israel and Israelis from Gaza, and to bring about a significant change in the situation in southern Israel.

We have carefully weighed all of our options. We are not war hungry but we shall not, I repeat - we shall not-- allow a situation where our towns, villages and civilians are constantly attacked by Hamas. It will not be easy or short, but we are determined.

..... While we are fighting in Gaza, we keep watch on the sensitive situation on our northern border. We have no aggressive intentions there. We hope the situation there will remain calm; nevertheless, we are ready to face any unwarranted development in that area.

We are peace seekers. We have restrained ourselves for a long time, but now is the time to do what needs to be done. We are determined to afford our citizens what any citizen anywhere in the world is entitled to - peace, tranquility and freedom from threats."

Let's hope they succeed. Although the Palestinian people were foolish enough give Hamas a victory in the 2006 legislative elections, it is they who will benefit most from an Israeli victory. Their only hope is to be governed by peaceful leaders who will turn from terror to looking after their economic interests and social well being. If Israel has nothing to fear from them, trade would or could flourish and there would be no reason to cut off supplies of anything.

Predictably, the UN, most countries around the world, and even our own state department have issued statements to the effect that they are "working for a ceasefire," but I don't think this is like the Aug/Sept 2006 war in Lebanon. My take is that privately most, especially some of the Arab governments, are hoping Israel deals a severe blow to Hamas.

Why wouldn't a cease-fire work? Martin Peretz, writing in The New Republic, says that "Hamas is a Taliban State" (h/t JCPA):

...it is clearer in my mind than ever why a cease-fire between Jerusalem and the regime in Gaza will never hold. Even the so-called cease-fire in place since the summer was not remotely close to a true pause in the fighting. That is, in the fighting from the other side of the frontier. Day-in and almost every day-out, rockets were launched from Hamas territory, and Israel did not fight back. Then, one day last week, Hamas aimed 60 missiles, some more rustic, some much less, into the Land, into eretz, as it is commonly called in Hebrew. This was one violation of the truce too many. How long was Israel to stand aside while its enemies, sworn by fanatic Islam to its destruction, rained death, injury, and terror on its population?

In other words, this is not a standard war in which one or both sides started shooting more or less at the same time, and gee can't they both back off? The events of the past few years have shown conclusively that Hamas fires at Israel whether the latter responds at all. Therefore, it is certain that if there was a cease-fire, and Israel upheld it's end of the bargain, Hamas would resume it's terror rocket attacks.

What is the Israeli Goal?

From the website of the Israel Defense Forces:

The IDF Spokesperson emphasizes that this stage of the operation will further the goals of Operation Cast Lead as communicated: To strike a direct and hard blow against Hamas while increasing the deterrent strength of the IDF, in order to bring about an improved and more stable security situation for residents of southern Israel in the long now term. "Stage two of Operation Cast Lead has been launched to support our central goals which are to deal a heavy blow to the Hamas terror organization, to strengthen Israel's deterrence, and to create a better security situation for those living around the Gaza Strip that will be maintained for the long term," states Brig. Gen. Avi Benayahu.

A CNN story quotes Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev as saying that "We haven't articulated regime change as the goal of this operation. Our goal is to protect our people."

The invaluable Steve Schippert, writing on NRO's The Tank military blog, says this about probable Israeli goals:

Israel is most likely setting the stage for a Fatah-Hamas showdown redux in Gaza. A couple of things have to happen to prepare for this eventuality first, however. Hamas has spent two years -- under Iranian strategic direction, guidance, assistance and supply -- duplicating Hizballah's offensive missile capabilities in order to lure the IDF into a Hizballah-modeled urban defense of tunnels, deception, firepower, and explosives. See here from earlier.

As such, Israel has to accomplish a few things under increased Gaza Hizballah-modeled defenses.

  1. Destroy known large weapons caches -- for both immediate and down-the-road benefit.
  2. Disable the tunnel systems into Egypt that are used to re-supply Hamas's increasingly lethal arsenal.
  3. Seal sea-based approaches, as submersible containers are also used to ferry weapons ashore from cargo ships.
  4. Liquidate as much of Hamas's key leadership as possible.
  5. Liquidate Hamas terrorist ranks, especially rocket crews and builders, as much as possible.

Israel will stop the operations not when the rockets stop, but rather when Israel thinks it has crippled Hamas and hindered its regenerative ability to the point where the next incredibly challenging step can be taken: Assist and empower Fatah enough in Gaza that it can once again raise a significant challenge to Hamas's violent domination there. Fatah was decimated in Gaza by Hamas in '06 and '07. It must be rebuilt.

Follow the links to Schippert's posts; both of them.

Now to sit back and see whether Israel achieves it's objectives. I hope they do.

Sunday Evening Update

I don't think this needs any introduction:

link here.

Posted by Tom at 10:15 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 30, 2008

Israel Hits Hamas in Gaza: "Disproportionate Force?"

The Jerusalem Post reports that despite the usual nonsense the UN, it would seem that Israel is doing well in the international media, if not outright ahead. The main reason seems to be that having learned it's lesson from the 2006 Lebanon War, Israel is doing a better job of getting it's message out. The reason for this is that their various government agencies, from the IDF to the Prime Minister's office and more, are offering a coherent, unified message, and are coordinating efforts much better than in the past.

This said, the criticism that is still out there is that the Israeli response is "disproportionate." French President Nicholas Sarkozy, also the President of the European Union, said that he "firmly condemns the irresponsible provocations that have led to this situation, as well as the disproportionate use of force." We've all seen multiple statements of this sort so there's no point in my posting more here.

So is the Israeli attack a disproportionate to Hamas' rocket attacks?

Before we answer that question, we need to ask the critics to come clean.

What exacrtly is the Objection?

Those who say the Israeli attacks, officially Operation Cast Lead, are disproportionate, need to tell us what they would have Israel do. I've surveyed leftist sites, as well as news media reports, and for the life of me I cannot find any concrete proposals. The most I get is that Israel shouldn't have attacked at all.

Any commenters here who say the Israeli attacks are disproportionate are advised to make clear what they would have Israel do.

The Just War

Just War Theory (JWT) is a specific body of thought that has built up over the past few hundred years. Primarily Catholic in origin, it is used by many today, Christian and secular, as a model for determining whether a war is just or not. At it's most basic, it can be broken down into two parts; Recourse To War (jus ad bellum) and Conduct In War (jus in bello).

The entire body of thought is quite complex, and for our purposes we will only consider that part of it relevant to the current charge against Israel, that of using force disproportionally (See my entire series on JWT here).

Proportionality comes up twice in JWT, once as part of Recourse To War, and again in Conduct In War.

Here are the essentials of what I wrote about Proportionality as part of Recourse to War

Proportionality in the decision to go to war means "...that the damage to be inflicted and the costs incurred by war must be proportionate to the good expected by taking up arms."

...we need to consider the cost of not resisting aggression.

...One must beware of a strict "cost-accounting" approach. Quality of life, or values, matters too. Who would accept life as a slave by any of the aforementioned tyrannies?

This is the type of stuff you can twist any way you like if you're not careful. Looking at all three criteria above:

The question in whether the cost of going to war is greater than the good expected depends on Israel's objective. If they just hit Hamas for a few days and then stop, Hamas retains it's strength and will continue it's rocket attacks. If they have a credible plan for ending Hamas' ability to launch attacks, then it seems more justified.

The cost of not resisting Hamas' aggression is not only more attacks with Qassam rockets, but an encouragement to Hamas to obtain larger, more powerful rockets. As we can see in the below chart (via Wikipedia), as it is the attacks have steadily escallated

Qassam Rocket attacks from Gaza

There have been reports for some time of Hamas attempting to obtain longer range rockets. From their standpoint, if Israel never responded, why not obtain and launch them?

One can say that the rocket attacks weren't killing very many Israelis, and it wasn't inconveniencing too very many of them. Quality of life is pretty subjective. One can also say that Hamas doesn't have the ability to destroy Israel, but that's only true if Israel sits back and lets them build up strength.

In the end, I say Israel is justified according to this criterion.

Turning to Conduct In War, here is what I wrote that is relevant to our discussion (quotation marks mean I am quoting Joseph Martino, see link above)

"The principle of proportionality with regards to conduct in war "deals not with a whole war but with a single military action in that war. The criterion requires that the good to be achieved by the action be proportionate to the damage done. Again, this means values preserved compared with values sacrificed, not a single cost-accounting of lives and dollars." ...

Giving our enemy a sanctuary is unacceptable. Yet we must not be callous and "hardcore" and simply state that any and all accidental civilian casualties are acceptable....

On the one hand, a "...we have to reject the view that simply concentrating the deaths in one location makes the total disproportionate when the same total would be proportionate if it were distributed widely." In other words, concentration or dispersal of civilian deaths is irrelevant.

On the other hand, "...the total values to be preserved by going to war, the values forming the basis for the jus ad bellum proportion, amount to a budget of values." This is not to imply a precision such as one has in financial accounting. Rather, we must keep in mind that there is a "total budget" available in a war, and we exceed it we risk making the entire war disproportionate.

In other words, "...we may not attack anything and everything of some military value in the enemy nation, simply 'because it's there'". Some people, of course, would have us do just that. We must reject that extreme view....

There's a lot to digest here. Despite a plethora of information from the media and other sources we see through a glass darkly, with the Nelsonian fog of war obscuring exactly what is going on. How precise are the Israeli strikes? How much care are they taking to avoid civilian casualties? The answer you get seems to depend on your source, and frankly I don't have the time to do a complete survey.

Hamas, like Hezbollah, deliberately locate their bases and stage their operations from civilian areas, knowing that no matter how precise the attack civilians will be killed. They do so for the most cynical of reasons; to get good propaganda. The world is catching on to these tactics, yet there are those who seem to think that they should be allowed what amounts to a sanctuary because any attack on them will result in civilian casualties. This view must be rejected.

In the end, I'll assume that Israel is taking reasonable care to only strike military targets. That civilians are killed is primarily the fault of Hamas.

An Israeli View

Dore Gold is a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations 1997-1999) who is now President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA). Two years ago I reviewed the book he wrote about his experiences at the UN, Tower of Babel: How the United Nations has Fueled Global Chaos. The title pretty much says it all.

Call it biased if you like, but the JCPA has published a useful primer by Dore Gold explaining why in his opinion Israel is not using disproportionate force. Following are a few key excerpts:

* Israeli population centers in southern Israel have been the target of over 4,000 rockets, as well as thousands of mortar shells, fired by Hamas and other organizations since 2001. Rocket attacks increased by 500 percent after Israel withdrew completely from the Gaza Strip in August 2005. During an informal six-month lull, some 215 rockets were launched at Israel.

* The charge that Israel uses disproportionate force keeps resurfacing whenever it has to defend its citizens from non-state terrorist organizations and the rocket attacks they perpetrate. From a purely legal perspective, Israel's current military actions in Gaza are on solid ground. According to international law, Israel is not required to calibrate its use of force precisely according to the size and range of the weaponry used against it.

* Ibrahim Barzak and Amy Teibel wrote for the Associated Press on December 28 that most of the 230 Palestinians who were reportedly killed were "security forces," and Palestinian officials said "at least 15 civilians were among the dead." The numbers reported indicate that there was no clear intent to inflict disproportionate collateral civilian casualties. What is critical from the standpoint of international law is that if the attempt has been made "to minimize civilian damage, then even a strike that causes large amounts of damage - but is directed at a target with very large military value - would be lawful."

Look at the second paragraph again. JWT does not require exact tit for tat. What it requires is that you size the bomb (missile, whatever) to the target so that collateral damage is limited. As civilian casualties have been very low, we may infer that Israel has been careful to do just this.

More from the JCPA document

When international legal experts use the term "disproportionate use of force," they have a very precise meaning in mind. As the President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Rosalyn Higgins, has noted, proportionality "cannot be in relation to any specific prior injury - it has to be in relation to the overall legitimate objective of ending the aggression." In other words, if a state, like Israel, is facing aggression, then proportionality addresses whether force was specifically used by Israel to bring an end to the armed attack against it. By implication, force becomes excessive if it is employed for another purpose, like causing unnecessary harm to civilians. The pivotal factor determining whether force is excessive is the intent of the military commander. In particular, one has to assess what was the commander's intent regarding collateral civilian damage.

When most people talk about Israel using "disproportionate' force they are comparing the Israeli attacks to the Qassam rockets. But as shown above, this is not the correct comparison.

Further, as I asked above, those who make this charge against Israel need to come clean. Are they asking Israel to hit back tit for tat? They fire one missile to every one fired by Hamas? If so, doesn't this perpetuate the "cycle of violence" Israel's critics are always complaining about?

One last quote

There clearly is no international expectation that military losses in war should be on a one-to-one basis; most armies seek to decisively eliminate as many enemy forces as possible while minimizing their own losses of troops. There are NATO members who have been critical of "Israel's disproportionate use of force," while NATO armies take pride in their "kill ratios" against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Bingo. We hear the charge that the United States uses disproportionate force against insurgents in Iraq and elsewhere. Would they be happy if more American soldiers were killed?

The long and the short of it is that most people who talk about Israel using "disproportionate' force don't know what they're talking about.


On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the United States Naval base at Pearl Harbor. In the weeks and months to come, they attacked and overran our facilities across the Pacific, including Wake Island and the Philippines. The Japanese never had credible plans to attack the continental U.S., much less march into Washington D.C. Yet we sank every last ship in their navy, bombed their homeland into oblivion (this before the atomic bombs, ended their government and occupied their nation. Was our response, then, disproportionate?

On September 11, 2001, al Qaeda terrorists seized four civilian aircraft and crashed three of them into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. Excluding the 19 terrorists, some 2,974 people were killed in the attacks. Neither al Qaeda nor their Taliban hosts had any credible plans to end our government and occupy our nation. Yet we ended the Taliban government and occupied their base country. I don't know the exact number of Afghan civilians killed by us, the insurgents, or through indirect causes, but it's a lot more than 2,974. Was our response, then disproportionate?


Of course our response to Pearl Harbor and the other Japanese aggressions were justified and proportionate, though one may dispute this or that U.S. bombing campaign. I think our fire raids on Tokyo were not justified, but without them Japan may not have surrendered, atomic bombs or no. Of course it was right and just for us to march into Afghanistan and end the Taliban as the government there and kill them and the al Qaeda, though again we may dispute this or that attack along the way.

The reason is that one does not proportion the response to the attack, but rather proportions it to what it will take to end the threat. In order to end the threat of Japanese fascism we had to end their government. The first step towards ending the threat of al Qaeda was to eliminate their sanctuary of Afghanistan. And in order to end the threat not only of Qassam and other rockets but of all terrorism from Gaza, Israel must eliminate Hamas as a fighting force, if not entirely.

Therefore, from what I can tell Israel is justified in using the level of force it has been using.

Update - January 1, 2009

Melanie Phillips has a much better post on this topic than I do, which is why she's a paid editorialist and I'm a hack blogger. Money quote:

If anything has been 'disproportionate', it's been Israel's refusal to take such action during the years when its southern citizens have been terrorised by rockets and other missiles raining down on them from Gaza. No other country in the world would have sat on its hands for so long in such circumstances. But whenever Israel defends itself militarily, its response is said to be 'disproportionate'. The malice, ignorance and sheer idiocy of this claim is refuted here comprehensively by Dore Gold, who points out that Israel's actions in Gaza are wholly in accordance with international law. This permits Israel to launch such an operation to prevent itself from being further attacked. Moreover, it defines 'disproportionate' force as when
force becomes excessive if it is employed for another purpose, like causing unnecessary harm to civilians.

But Israel has demonstrably not been targeting civilians but Hamas terrorists. Despite the wicked impression given by the media, most of the casualties in this operation have been Hamas operatives. Even Hamas itself has admitted that the vast majority of sites Israel has hit were part of their military infrastructure. UNRWA officials in the Gaza Strip have put the number of deaths at 310, of whom 51 were civilians. The rest were Hamas terrorists.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Tom at 8:15 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 28, 2008

Israel Hits Hamas in Gaza

I thought about titling this "Israel Hits Hamas," but in our modern age of moral confusion that wouldn't do. Israel isn't "attacking Gaza" any more than they were "attacking Lebanon" two years ago. Apologists for whichever terrorist faction being hit like to make it appear that Israel is attacking the whole country, civilians and all. Unfortunately, too many seem to buy into this story line. As such, I find myself including "Moral Clarity" as a category for all of my posts on the Middle East.

Starting yesterday, Saturday Dec 27, Israeli jets have struck Hamas positions in Gaza in Operation Cast Lead. This in response to unrelenting Qassam rocket attacks by Hamas and it's associated factions/groups into Israel. One wonders what Hamas was thinking. Surely they knew that the Israeli strikes were bound to happen.

Most likely Hamas was looking for a replay of the July-Aug 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon. It is thought by most that because Israel did not succeed in neutralizing Hezbollah or it's ability to launch rockets, the latter won. Hamas has been provoking Israel, hoping for a retaliation, and calculating that they will survive. The mindset of the terrorists is that if they survive somewhat intact they win, an in a way they're right. That hundreds or thousands of of their own fighters, never mind innocent civilians may die helps all the more, as photos of dead bodies shown on TV around the world make for good anti-Israel propaganda. A Reuters report has it that Hamas is not allowing the wounded to cross into Egypt for treatment.

Israeli motivations, of course, are different. Their stated intention, as taken from a story on the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) website:

"Our intention is not to arrive at a ceasefire; it is to destroy Hamas' motivation and intention to fight," explained IDF Spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Avi Beninyahu. "The IDF's goal is to create a different reality along the Gaza periphery; to create a safe and secure environment that will be long lasting." In addition, Brig. Gen. Beninyahu expressed complete confidence that IDF forces are acting with caution and intention: "We know exactly what we need to do and what needs to be done. We will continue to act in order to decrease the terror coming from the Gaza Strip."

Ok, but I'm not exactly sure what this means. On the one hand it's possible this is just a short-term attempt to quell the rocket attacks. The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is not a strong one, and the PM himself caught up in many scandals and criticized for many things, including his handling of the 2006 war in Lebanon. His popularity is low. As such, it's hard to have much faith that this will be a better thought out war than the last one.

But people do learn, and anyway Gaza is not Lebanon. It and Hamas are smaller than Lebanon and Hezbollah. Olmert may be determined to carry through until Hamas cries uncle or has truely suffered to the point where they are not even much of a political entity anymore. Unlike in Lebanon, where Hezbollah had an open supply line from Syria, Hamas can be much more easily cut off.

Seen from it's most cynical perspective, it's possible that the Israeli government is doing this for purely political reasons. There will be a general election this Feb 10, and according to this scenario Olmert just doesn't want to look weak going into them.

The last possibility is that Olmert will follow air strikes with a ground assault and will not only reoccupy Gaza but will go all out to end Hamas' existence. This would take time and would be difficult, and so is not likely.

It's impossible to say how long Israel has been planning this. The reason is that they no doubt constantly monitor Gaza, Lebanon, etc, so keep their target lists updated daily. It's probably more a matter of arranging air schedules and flight paths than anything else. My guess is they can "pull the trigger' with very short notice.

Before we go farther, here's a useful timeline I found at Fox News

-- June 1967: Israel captures the Egyptian-controlled Gaza Strip during six-day Mideast war. An Israeli census put the population at 380,000, at least half of whom were refugees from Israel. Today the population stands at about 1.5 million. The U.N. lists just over 1 million as refugees and their descendants.

-- December 1987: A clash in the Jebaliya refugee camp sets off Palestinian uprising, which lasted until 1993 and claimed the lives of more than 2,000 Palestinians and 192 Israelis. The militant Islamic Hamas is formed early in the uprising.

-- September 2005: Israel withdraws its troops and all of its 8,500 Jewish settlers. It retains control of Gaza's airspace, coastal waters and border crossings.

-- June 2007: Hamas violently seizes control of Gaza after routing forces loyal to rival Fatah faction of President Mahmoud Abbas.

-- June 2008: Hamas and Israel reach truce to halt the cross-border rocket attacks and end Israeli offensives in Gaza.

-- November 2008: Palestinians resume rocket and mortar fire into Israel after Israeli incursion.

-- Dec. 19, 2008: Hamas formally declares the truce over, rocket fire on Israel intensifies.

-- Dec. 27, 2008: Israel launches a fierce air offensive, killing more than 200 Palestinians in the first day.

As of this writing, a story on the IDF website says they've hit some 210 target locations in Gaza. Hamas has fired some 110 rockets and mortar shells into Israel since Operation Cast Lead began.

Moral Clarity, Please

Whenever Israel strikes back at terrorists you can count on stories like these to appear:

The Telegraph: Israel launches more air strikes as UN calls for ceasefire

The United Nations Security Council called for an immediate ceasefire as there was growing evidence of Israeli plans to increase its military operations.

Jerusalem Post: Israel defends Gaza op to UN chief

President Nicholas Sarkozy of France, who holds the rotating European Union presidency, said he "firmly condemns the irresponsible provocations that have led to this situation, as well as the disproportionate use of force," according to an e-mailed statement.

The EU itself has also urged an immediate halt to Israeli air strikes and Palestinian attacks in and around Gaza and the lifting of Israeli blockades in the area, saying in a statement that the 27-nation bloc "condemns the disproportionate use of force" from both sides. "There is no military solution in Gaza," the EU statement said, urging a lasting truce.

The EU statement also urges the "reopening of all checkpoints and the immediate resumption of fuel and humanitarian aid deliveries."

Washington Post: Israeli Airstrikes on Gaza Strip Imperil Obama's Peace Chances

Israel's airstrikes on Gaza yesterday, in retaliation for a nonstop barrage of rocket attacks from Hamas fighters, raised the prospect of an escalation of violence that could scuttle any hopes the incoming Obama administration harbored of forging an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Terrorist groups can fire rockets at Israel for years with no "international condemnation", yet everyone calls for an immediate cease fire when Israel responds.

Israeli response to terrorism must be "proportionate." Yet these same moral pontificators are quick to condemn "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" thinking.

And of course there is the "peace process" that must be preserved, even when it is obvious to anyone with eyes that it is all process and no peace. We could only make peace with these terrorists if only those dastardly Israelis would stop defending themselves.

Israel isn't perfect. I wish they'd stop growing the settlements in Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank"). Sometimes I wonder if bulldozing homes, even those of terrorists, is really the best response.

Of all the criticisms leveled at Israel, the one that their response is not "proportionate" is the most ridiculous. Don't get me wrong; I very much know that proportionality is part of Just War Theory. Follow the link and you'll see that I wrote quite a bit on the subject a few years ago.

Suffice it to say for now that the requirement for proportionality does not mean "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." After all, our own response to Japanese attacks on U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor, Wake Island, and the Philippines was hardly proportional as measured by this standard. We invaded and ended their government, while they never had plans to even attack the continental United States, much less march into Washington D.C.

So of course Israel's response is greater than Hamas' rocket attacks. If the schoolyard bully pushes you, you don't push him back, you knock his block off. The point is not to engage in tit for tat, but to end the rocket attacks. Just as the bully won't push you anymore if you show that you will go all-out to defend yourself, Hamas will stop if it becomes convinced that it's very existence is threatened. If not, then Israel ends it's existence.

More later. For now check out the live blogging of the war over at Israellycool.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 11, 2008

Missed Opportunities

In my last post I promised to review missed opportunities for peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Here it is, as promised.

One: The Arabs could have accepted the 1948 UN plan which would have divided the area and created two countries; Palestine and Israel. But instead they invaded with 8 armies.

Two: If it was so important for the Palestinians to have a homeland on what is termed the "West Bank", then Jordan could have given them this land at any time between 1948 and 1967, because they controlled it. But they didn't, and King Hussein's bad decisions during the Six Day War cost him this land.

Three: After the 1967 Six Day War Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan famously said that he was "expecting a phone call"; from the Arab governments. He expected them to agree to peace treaties in return for getting their land back. He never got any calls.

Four: The Arabs could have taken Anwar Sadat's lead and approached Israel to make similar deals. Instead, they threw Egypt out of the Arab League and made Sadat a pariah. When he was murdered they celebrated throughout the Arab world.

Five: Yassir Arafat could have agreed to the deal offered him at Camp David in 2000 by President Clinton and Israeli PM Ehud Barak. But instead of taking an offer that would have created a Palestinian state, he started an intifada that took hundreds if not thousands of lives.

Yes yes I know the objections; the 1948 plan was unfair to the Arabs and the Zionists would have chased them off the land anyway, that it was unrealistic to expect Jordan to give up part of their territory for the Palestinians, that the Arabs would have lost face had they called Moshe Dayan in 1967, that the situation with regard to Egypt and the Sinai was different, and that the 2000 deal would have left too many Israeli settlements.

But by rejecting every opportunity for peace, the Arabs miss something else too. If they had accepted the UN plan in 1948 and the Zionists had then chased them off the UN designated land, they'd have a case. If Jordan had given them land on the "West Bank" after 1948 and Israel had invaded without provocation, they'd have a case. If the Israeli's hadn't returned the land they won in the 1967 Six Day War after reasonable negotiations they'd have a case. If they'd tried to follow up on the Carter-Sadat-Begin settlement and been rebuffed they'd have a case. And if they'd accepted Clinton and Baruk's proposal at Camp David in 2000 and the Israelis reneged they'd have a case.

But in each case they didn't. They missed their opportunity and thus have no case, or at least have a weaker one.

And no I am not saying that the Israelis have been perfect. I wish they had not built so many settlements, and that they would stop building new ones.

For the sake of argumentation we'll take take every Arab objection at face value. But what have the Palestinians got now? Only a rump Palestinian Authority and no real nation. Isn't half a loaf better than none?

Further, as time goes on the land available to the Palestinians grows smaller and smaller. It's like a declining stock; if you sell you lose money, but the longer you wait the more money you lose. Eventually you figure out it's not going to go back up again and you cut your losses, sell, and move on.

As the Israeli diplomat and politician Abba Eban said, "the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity"

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 4, 2008

No, the Settlements are Not the Problem

Once again we have a news story that spectacularly misses the point. All the more disappointing since it's in The Washington Times:

Israeli settlements seen subverting peace talks

Top Palestinian negotiators complained Tuesday that continuing Israeli settlement construction on contested land was undermining chances of a peace deal this year, even as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Bush administration still hoped to nail down at least the outlines of a peace deal before Mr. Bush leaves office in January.

With embattled Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Washington for talks with President Bush on Wednesday, Maen Areikat, deputy general of the Palestine Liberation Organization's negotiating department, said Israel's continued settlement building since the U.S.-sponsored Annapolis conference in November had dimmed prospects of a breakthrough.

"Unfortunately, the situation on the ground has not changed significantly" since Annapolis, Mr. Areikat said on a Washington visit. "On the contrary, Israel is trying to change the facts on the ground to its advantage."

Another story in the Times earlier this week made essentially the same point about the Golan Heights

KATZRIN, Golan Heights | Life has suddenly become very uncertain for the residents of the 32 Israeli communities in these highlands captured from Syria in 1967.

Recent peace overtures with Syria have put their homes on the trading block, raising the prospect that they could be evicted in scenes reminiscent of the evacuation of the Gaza Strip in 2005.

But the Golan occupies a very different place in the Israeli national psyche from Gaza or the West Bank, where ideologically driven settlers live in tense proximity to a Palestinian majority....

Israelis feel more at home in the Golan than in the West Bank and even Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods. Now that the Golan is back on the bargaining table, Israeli residents there bristle at comparisons with the religious nationalist settlers of the West Bank and the former Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip....

Tourists, a rare sight in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, browse for upscale wine at a Golan Heights shop. Residents there do not consider themselves to be nationalist settlers.

Since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, the Golan Heights' border between Israel and Syria has been the calmest of any border zone. Despite the ubiquitous presence of military vehicles on the roads, residents ask rhetorically why a treaty with Syria is necessary when the Golan is more tranquil and more secure than Tel Aviv.

The message is clear: If it wasn't for those darn settlements there would be peace in between Israel and Palestine.

What rubbish.

Answer Me This

If the settlements are the problem today, what was the problem before 1967?

The "West Bank"

Suppose Israel removed every settlement from what we call the West Bank, and what they call Judea and Samaria. Fatah would be nominally in control, at least for a short period. However, Hamas would undoubtably make a play for total control, and would likely succeed just as they did in Gaza. What we would then have is a terrorist state that would spend it's time attacking Israel.

If Fatah retained control, however, the situation would not be much if any better. Fatah, as I have written, is basically a terrorist organization that has no intention of accepting the existence of Israel. As Andy McCarthy wrote last year

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are Fatah's terrorist wing. They have been a specially designated Foreign Terrorist Organization under U.S. law since 2002, and, as I noted here, have now taken to directly threatening the United States. ("We won't remain idle in the face of the siege imposed on the Palestinian people by Israel, the U.S. and other countries[.]...We will strike at the economic and civilian interests of these countries, here and abroad.")

Fatah's Abbas, our "moderate" "peace partner," maintains close ties to the Brigades -- even if he didn't want to (which I doubt) he has no choice as they are very popular among Palestinians.

Even as the administration announced its strong support for Fatah in the wake of Fatah's ouster from Gaza by Hamas, Fatah's al Aqsa Brigades have continued to carry out attacks against Israel, in coordination with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another designated terrorist organization with a long history of working with Fatah.

The reason for all this is simple; the Palestinians do not want a "two-state solution". They want to destroy Israel. Notably missing from most stories, including the ones in the Times above, is any mention of the Palestinian demand for a "right of return".

The "right of return" is what the Palestinians is their right to return to land "stolen" from them in the 1948 War of Independence. What they want to do is to be able to go into Israel proper, ie the pre-1967 borders, and take land that they claim is theirs. Four million or more Palestinians want to exercise this "right." Given that the population of Israel is currently only 7 million, with 1 million being Arabs, clearly this is a recipe for the end of Israel.

Some might propose a trade; the Palestinians give up their "right of return" and the Israelis the settlements, but one neither side will give in, and anyway it doesn't answer the question of Palestinian terrorism.

Lastly, I don't see any evidence that granting the Palestinians their own state would "pull the ideological rug out from under the terrorists", or "take away their issue", as we are commonly told. As it is, about 50% of Palestinians support "resistance operations" against Israel.

The Golan Heights

Readers will recall that in early May I visited Israel and as part of out tour went up on the Golan Heights. On the Golan plateau we went up on Mount Avital, at the top of which is an old Israeli fort since turned into a park. Here's the view from the top into Syria


As with Gaza, the West Bank, and the Sinai, Israel captured the Golan in the 1967 war. It's essentially a plateau to the northeast of Israel proper.

Some say that Israel should give it back in return for a peace treaty with Syria. As the Times story above implies, if only the settlements weren't in the way there'd be peace.

Again, what rubbish.

To this day Syria supplies and funnels arms from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Yet United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 demands the disarming of Hezbollah. There are UN peacekeeping troops in Lebanon who are charged with enforcing 1701. Yet they do not, and Hezbollah remains well armed.

So there is no reason to suppose that if Syria regained control of Golan they would not let in Hezbollah and continue to supply them with arms. Hezbollah would use Golan as they do Lebanon; as a base with which to attack Israel. The idea that peacekeepers from the UN or anywhere else would do anything about it is silly.

"Peace for Land"

Peace for land worked with Egypt because Anwar Sadat was a sane man with whom the Israelis could work. He was a dictator, to be sure, but rational and pragmatic. This cannot be said about Mahmud Abbas or Bashir Assad.

Once Israel gives up territory, it's gone for good. Taking it back would require a bloody war.

When Israel left Gaza, the Palestinians there a golden opportunity to show the world that they could govern themselves in peace. Instead they massacred each other and have turned it into a terrorist sanctuary.

Right now there's simply no good reason to believe that they do anything different anywhere else.

Missed Opportunities

The Arabs have had, by my count, at least five chances to make peace with Israel since 1948. In my next post I am going to go through them.

Whatever you think about the settlements, however, they are not the barrier to peace.


Here it is: Missed Opportunities.

Posted by Tom at 9:27 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

May 16, 2008

Bush in Israel and the Democrat Melt Down

Well well, so Senator Obama and a whole slew of Democrats are all bent out of shape over what President Bush said in Israel. Here's the part of his speech before the Knesset yesterday that has them all in a tizzy:

Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history. (Applause.)

Note, of course, that no Democrat is actually named. If the currently outraged Democrats had been thinking, they would have issued statements that went something like this:

"One thing all Americans agree on is that appeasement doesn't work. As president, I will engage in tough, principled, and direct diplomacy just like Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan before me. And of course, no American president will engage with terrorists, least of all those who seek to destroy our stalwart ally, Israel. I look forward to celebrating the 65th anniversary of Israel's independence."

But nooooo, they had to all go off and through a big hissy fit.

Senator Obama showed why he'll never be qualified to be president:

I'm a strong believer in civility and I'm a strong believer in a bipartisan foreign policy, but that cause is not served with dishonest, divisive attacks of the sort that we've seen out of George Bush and John McCain over the last couple days


That's exactly the kind of appalling attack that's divided our country and that alienates us from the world

"Divisive"? This from a senator who's party wants to force "gay marriage" on us through the courts; the most undemocratic branch of government? That is in bed with Movon.org, one of the most "divisive" groups out there? That panders to the nutroots crowd who regularly deride Bush and Cheney in the most vile terms?

Mark Salter nails Obama's M.O.

We have all become familiar with Senator Obama's new brand of politics. First, you demand civility from your opponent, then you attack him, distort his record and send out surrogates to question his integrity. It is called hypocrisy, and it is the oldest kind of politics there is.

Rich Lowry lists Obama's "rules", and what is "off limits"

He can't be called a "liberal" ("the same names and labels they pin on everyone," as Obama puts it); his toughness on the war on terror can't be questioned ("attempts to play on our fears"); his extreme positions on social issues can't be exposed ("the same efforts to distract us from the issues that affect our lives" and "turn us against each other"); and his Chicago background too is off-limits ("pouncing on every gaffe and association and fake controversy").

Should we on the right take Obama up on his stated desire to have an oh-so-clean campaign?

We could take Obama's rules in good faith if he never calls John McCain a "conservative" or labels him in any other way. If he never criticizes him for his association with George Bush. If he doesn't jump on his gaffes (like McCain's 100-years-in-Iraq comment that Obama distorted and harped on for weeks). And if he never says anything that would tend to make Americans fearful about the future or divide them (i.e., say things that some people agree with and others don't).

Oh, and he would have to stop lying about the meaning of Senator McCain's "100 years in Iraq" statement.

Obama's not alone, though, in his whining. Michael Goldfarb, blogging at The Weekly Standard, has usefully compiled a list of reactions. Here's one

(Senator Joe) Biden again did not mince words when discussing Bush's remarks, accusing the president of engaging in "long-distance swiftboating" with his speech in Israel. Biden also cited numerous examples of the Bush Administration reaching out to unfriendly regimes in Libya, North Korea and Iran, arguing that Bush's insinuation that the Democrats were soft on terrorism was "truly delusional ... and truly disgraceful."

The Democrats can sure dish it out but they can't take it.

So What of Appeasement?

The Democrats claim that they're not appeasers of dictators and terrorists. Are they?

Since Senator Obama is the one in the limelight, let's look briefly at his record:

Senator Obama: yesterday "George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists..."

Senator Obama November 1, 2007: "I would meet directly with Iranian leaders. I would meet directly with Syrian leaders. "

A quick look at the relevant website for the State Department confirms what we already know

Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism....

Since Syria's 1979 designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, it has continued to provide political support to Palestinian terrorist groups.....

What really is the difference between meeting with Hamas, Hezbollah, and the leaders of those who sponsor them? Neither group could survive were it not for their sponsors.

Want more? Here's Obama at one of the Democrat debates last year:

Asked if he would be willing to meet separately "without precondition" during the first year of his administration with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea, Obama said, "I would."

Here he is again:

"The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them...is ridiculous," Sen. Obama said in a debate last year. "One of the first things that I would do in terms of moving a diplomatic effort in the region forward is to send a signal that we need to talk to Iran and Syria."

What's ridiculous is the notion that such a meeting will not be trumpeted as a victory by the Jihadists. What Obama does not seem to realize is that the United States is not just an average run-of-the-mill nation. The President, Democrat or Republican, is not called "the leader of the free world" for nothing. Simply meeting with the President will be interpreted as lending legitimacy to regimes that are illegitimate and worried about it. Dictators, by their very nature, have no real legitimacy. The pseudo-elections in Iran and Venezuela (they probably have them in Syria, Cuba, and North Korea too) change this not at all.

So even if nothing is decided at these "talks", they will be portrayed as a victory by the other side. We can say all we want that no, they're not a victory for Iran/Syria/Cuba/North Korea/Venezuela, but it won't matter. The propaganda organs of our opponents will be out in full force, and in one of Bush's biggest failings he hasn't beefed up ours, so there won't be much of a response.

Not Just Obama

It's not just Sen. Obama who is an appeaser. Kathryn Jean Lopez has helpfully compiled a list of other Democrats the President could have been talking about, such as

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, freelance diplomat, who in December 2007 said: "the road to Damascus is a road to peace."

Or, perhaps he meant Speaker Pelosi in April 2007: "I believe in dialogue. As my colleagues have said over and over again, unless you communicate, you cannot understand each other. You cannot reach agreement."

Or maybe he meant recent Obama endorser and former North Carolina senator John Edwards, who, according to his own press release in February of last year, believes "the U.S. should step up our diplomatic efforts by engaging in direct talks with all the nations in the region, including Iran and Syria."

Or former Democratic presidential candidates and senators Chris Dodd and John Kerry, who met with Syria's al-Assad and said: "As senior Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee, we felt it was important to make clear that while we believe in resuming dialogue, our message is no different: Syria can and should play a more constructive role in the region ...

Liberals typically bring up the fact that U.S. presidents from Roosevelt to Reagan met with Soviet leaders. This is true, but misleading. These were meetings well scripted out in advance, with little being left to chance. Reykjavik in 1986 was the exception, not the rule.

Further, Obama seems blissfully unaware that unscripted high-level meetings are highly risky. As often as not they backfire. Reykjavik backfired on Gorbachev. Khrushchev sized up Kennedy as a "weakling" in their initial meeting, prompting the former to believe he could get away with sneaking nuclear-armed missiles into Cuba. It's widely thought that Stalin snookered Roosevelt at Yalta. If nothing else, Obama should read Khrushchev's rants at Eisenhower or Nixon during some of their meetings. That alone would give him second thoughts.

So should we not "talk" with these regimes? I hate to sound Clintonian, but it depends on what you mean by "talk". A meeting with an Iranian representative in the back room of the Canadian embassy in Madrid? No problem. President-to-President talks surrounded by thousands of reporters? Hold your horses.

Lastly, in fairness I will say that President Bush's tough talk hasn't extended to the Saudis, who's export of Wahhabism is designed to destroy the West. Also, our dopey Secretary of State has been "pressuring Israel to meet with Hamas representatives". Side

On the upside, Senator John McCain tells it like it is

If Senator Obama wants to sit down across the table with the leader of a nation that calls Israel a stinking corpse--what is it that he wants to talk about with him?


Meaningful negotiations could take place if they stop sponsoring terrorist organizations...those are the preconditions for sitting down with the Iranians.

Exactly right.


This is the guy who wants to negotiate with the dictators of Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba (h/t Dagney's Rant)

I'm sure they'll all take him very seriously after he destroys our ability to respond to anything militarily.

What we need to do is spend more money on weapons, not less.

Posted by Tom at 8:00 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

May 11, 2008

Israel Trip 2008

We visited the Mount of Beatitudes, watched Israeli F-15s and 16s fly in formation over Jerusalem, contemplated Jesus agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, saw one place where David hid from Saul, went to an Independence Day concert, spoke with Israeli soldiers, swam in the Dead Sea, peered into Syria from an old Israeli fort on the Golan, and stuffed ourselves with all manner of delicacies morning, noon, and night. Oh, and the weather was perfect.

It was a fantastic trip. Nothing I write here can do justice to all that we saw and experienced, and I can only post a few of the photos. Speaking of which I took 461 photos in 7 days of touring, more than on any other trip. Thank heavens for digital photography.

I've uploaded all of my photos to photobucket, but unfortunately they're out of chronological order, and I can't figure out why. They run from #IM000539 to IM001000, so that's your clue as you scroll through. I'll try and fix it when I get time. Even if I can't fix the order, I will go through and label as many as I can.

This was a trip set up by my church, and was mainly a tour of the holy land, to see where the various events occurred in both Old and New Testaments. My pastor, who went with us, said that once you've been to the holy land you'll never read the bible the same way again. I can already see that he was right. I can't say that it made me stronger in my faith, as I'm pretty strong now, but there's nothing quite like seeing the landscape where it all took place.

We landed in Tel Aviv on Thursday May 1 after what seemed two never-ending flights, and spent our first night there. The next day we boarded the tour bus and headed north to Tiberius by the Sea of Galilee, stopping at several placed along the way. We spent three days in Tiberius, and then headed south to Jersusalem, skirting the border with Jordan. We then spend the last three days in and around Jerusalem.

We'll start with this; for almost 2,000 years the doubters said that Pontius Pilate was a myth, a legend invented by Christians. There being no records in the Roman archive referring to him, Christians could only defend themselves by referring to scripture. Then, in 1961, a block of limestone was uncovered in Caesarea that referred to him, and was dated to the 1st century A.D. Once again, the scriptures were confirmed. Known as the "Pilate Stone", the original is in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Here's our Israeli tour guide, Ronnie Cohen, beside a facsimile of the stone at Caesarea, explaining its significance.


Here's Pastor Gary teaching from atop Mt Carmel


Our typical procedure when we arrived at a site was that Ronnie would first provide an overview, explaining the site's historical and religious significance and perhaps some geography. Then, Pastor Gary would lead us in a bible study. At Mt Carmel we studied 1 Kings 18, especially verses 16 - 45.

Long story short, Mt Carmel was where the prophet Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal, and challenged them to a contest, one that they failed miserably. The key is perhaps in verse 21

Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him." But the people said nothing

There's a point in life where you have to make a choice. You either follow the way of God or you choose the pleasures of the world. The prophets of Baal choose poorly.

Here's me in the small Catholic chapel built in 1939 atop the Mount of Beatitudes, the site of where Jesus gave his famous "Sermon on the Mount"


The event is recorded in Matthew 5-7, and probably in Luke 6:17-49 (there's some disagreement over whether they're the same or different sermons).

Either way, the basic message is that we as believers are commanded to live the uncommon life. We should live to a higher standard, to a higher degree.

At various times over the centuries, the Catholic Church has purchased the land in and around holy sites in Israel. The advantage is that this has prevented commercial developers from spoiling the sites. The downside is that the churches really have nothing per se to do with the significance of the site.

We stopped off at a spot alongside the Jordan River and Pastor Gary did a mass baptism. The river water was somewhat stagnant, I've been baptized as an adult already, and and all-in-all I'd rather not have done it, but I figured there was no point in going all that way to Israel and not participate in everything.


Baptism is not required for salvation, but, as with works, is evidence of faith.

North to the Golan Heights

The next day we headed north to the Golan Heights. We stopped at several places, but our ultimate destination was an Israeli fort that had been turned into a national park. The Golan is essentially a plateau that rises above Galilee to a maximum height of 1,700 feet. It is a strategic location that Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War, and managed to retain during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In my opinion they've have to be nuts to give it back to the government of Bashir Assad in return for a piece of paper promising peace.

Along the way we passed several Israeli Army bases. Here is a photo of some Merkava tanks that I took from the bus (as always, click on the photo to enlarge).

Thumbnail image for IM000677.JPG

The fort was atop Mt Avital, just a few miles from the Syrian border. Our guide, Ronnie, had been stationed here as part of his tour in the Israeli Army, Here's the fort


And here's a view eastward from the fort. The farmland in the foreground is Israeli, and the treeline and beyond is Syria. Syrian military positions are hidden in the trees.


I had the same feeling here as I did while standing on the beaches of Normandy some years ago. These are places that if you're like me you've read about dozens of times, and seen innumerable History Channel programs about. In Normandy I could almost see the American troops make their way through the villages, tossing a hand grenade over a wall before going around it. Here I could almost feel the victory of 1967 and the desperation of Yom Kippur some six years later.

South to Jerusalem

After three days at Tiberius we packed up and headed south. If you don't stop the trip from Tiberius to Jerusalem is only a few hours, but we took a whole day to do it since we made several stops along the way; Mount Arbel, of no biblical significance but a great view of Galilee, Beit Shean (or "Beth Shan"), where among other things Saul and his son's bodies were hung from the city walls1 Samuel 31, Gideon's Spring, where the Israelites won a victory over the Midianites because they obeyed God (Judges 7), and had dinner in a tent at Genesis Land hosted by none other than "Abraham" himself. It was kind of hokey but in the end pretty neat and well worth doing.

As we drove south the land went from green to arid. As mentioned earlier, we drove on route 90, which runs just parallel to the Jordan River, which is the border. As such, most of the Israeli "settlements" and Palestinian territory was well to the west of us. We did see a few settlements, however. What was striking was the Israeli ability to turn the desert into productive farmland, something that the Arabs never did when it was all theirs.


We spent two of the next three days in Jerusalem itself, and one day went to the Dead Sea area. We did so much in the city it's hard to know what to exclude from this brief overview, but no account would be complete without the Garden of Gethsemane, which is at the bottom of the Mount of Olives, just outside the Old City (Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14: 32-41, Luke 22:39-46 and John 17, although Gethsemane is not directly mentioned in the latter two.


And here it is, the "Western Wall", or "Wailing Wall"; all that stands of Herod the Great's expansion of the second temple in 19 B.C.


The photo above was taken the evening we arrived in the city. The soldiers in the foreground are there for a rehearsal of their Memorial Day observances (more about which later). You can't see it in this photo, but just to the right are a lot more soldiers milling about.

The photo below was taken on Thursday May 8, the last day we were in Israel. As you can see, there was a multitude of people up at the wall. Anyone could go up to it; they don't check your religion. The only requirements were that men and women were segregated (the women's section is to the right beyond a small wall in the photo) and all men had to have some sort of head covering.


Despite the history and religious significance, one of the most moving and important stops was at a small shop called Shorashim Biblical Shop, owned and operated by Moshe and Dov Kempinski.

As we sat in a semi-circle in their shop, Moshe explained the unique mission he and his brother have set forth on: It's all about "bridge building". The fall of the Iron Curtain led to a fall of another curtain between Judaism and Christianity. Though they set up their shop 25 years ago, it has only been in the past 16 the Christians became interested in their store. We need to listen to each other, he stressed, and learn each other's language. God brought you to Jerusalem, he said. Sure, everyone has their own excuse for coming; to see the sights, where Jesus walked, to learn the history... all tricks God used to get you here. The fact is that why you think you're here is a trick played by God to get you here so that he could spend some time with you in His house. Of course, in the end, it's all about more than "god talk"; if you can't walk the walk don't talk the talk.

Because of the upcoming Israeli Remembrance Day (May 7. It's similar to our Memorial Day, but they're actually solemn about it) and Independence Day (May 8) observances, security was very tight, and soldiers were posted everywhere. I saw throughout the Old City, but also at toll booths and shopping centers. Geek that I am, I noticed that most carried the American M-4 carbine, some had the M16A2, but a few the Vietnam-era M16A1.

Here's a representative photo of the Old City. If I have it right, the large Menorah at right is a recreation by The Temple Institute of the original one in Solomon's temple (the First Temple, which lasted from 1000 B.C. to 586B.C. when it was destroyed by the Babylonian King Nebuchadrezzar).


On May 8 we were just outside Jersusalem on a hill looking over into Bethlehem when what came flying overhead but several formations of F-16s, F-15s, old A-4s (!) and even a KC-135 tanker escorted by more F-16s. It was quite a thrill!


There are two places where Christians believe Jesus may have been buried before rising on the third day. One is at Calvary (sometimes called "Golgotha"), and what is now the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The other is the Garden Tomb, the site of a tomb where he may have been buried (still having been crucified at Calvary). Of the two we only visited the latter.

Of course, no one really knows the location, so it may have been one of the above sites or neither. As our guide (an entertaining old gentleman) at the Garden Tomb stressed, it doesn't really matter.

Thumbnail image for IM000990.JPG


The Dead Sea Area

While the Sea of Galilee is about 900ft below sea level, and Death Valley only 281ft below sea level, the Dead Sea is a whopping 1,378ft below sea level. At 30% salinity vs 3.5% for the ocean, it is the second saltiest body of water on earth, with only a lake a remote part of east Africa being saltier. The Dead Sea is also quite large, at 42mi x 11 mi, versus 13mi x 8mi for the Sea of Galilee. The Great Salt Lake in Utah is 75mi x 28mi, but has an average depth of only 14ft and maximum depth of 33ft, versus 394ft and 1,083ft respectively for the Dead Sea. In other words, it is darn huge and very salty. As its name implies, nothing can live in it.

Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of me or the other swimming in it, but it is incredibly bouyant. You can float no problem on either you back or your stomach without any effort. If you try and stand straight up (in deep water without your feet touching), your feet want to pop up as if they have floats on them. It was very weird and quite fun.

However, before going in there were a few soldiers stationed outside, and I overheard they both speaking fairly good English. I approached them, said I was a tourist from the U.S.A., said that I appreciated what they were doing, and that our fight in Iraq and Afghanistan against AQI and the Taliban was part of their fight against Hamas and Hezbollah; "they're all jihadists". They enthusiastically agreed and let me have my picture taken with them.


The mountaintop fort of Masada is not part of biblical history, but is such an important part of Jewish and Israelite history that no trip to Israel is complete without a visit. Overlooking the Dead Sea, it was the "last stand" of a Jewish group known as the Zealots after Rome destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and ended the existence of Israel until modern times.

Long story short, the Zealots held out against a Roman seige for three years. Finally, when the Romans broke through and entered the fortress city, they found no one alive but two women and five children. Why were the rest all dead? The Roman seize machines hadn't killed that many.

The answer is that the Jews knew that rape, torture, and slavery awaited them if taken alive. But Jewish law forbade suicide.

They way they got around it was the each man killed his family, then the men killed each other, until they were down to twelve. These then drew lots, with the loser killing his fellows, and finally falling on his sword, so that only he violated the law.

The story of Masada is not part of the Talmud, and was largely forgotten by Jews until the 1920s. That we know of it at all is only due to the writings of Flavius Josephus, who accompanied the Romans during their seige.

Because of the situation of modern Israel, it is therefore natural that they look to Masada as Americans look at The Alamo; "never again". Indeed, all or some Israeli soldiers take their oath atop Masada and repeat the oath "Masada shall not fall again."

Masada today is a national park, with the easiest way to get up by cable car. Atop the mountain they've got all the usual markers just as you find at any park in the U.S. Our tour guide Ronnie did his excellent job. But then, during the tour, something different happened. Something special.

At exactly 11:00 a voice came through a speaker (in Hebrew, of course), followed by a one minute siren. This happened all throughout Israel, not just through loundspeakers, but on radio and television. The speaker asked for a minute of silence in observance of Israeli war dead.

It was their Memorial Day.


One of the places where David hid from King Saul was at the oasis of Ein Gedi (1 Samuel 23 - 24) Situated in a mountain crevice, it's just what you think of when you think of an "oasis"; a beautiful stream and waterfall surrounded by palm trees in the middle of the desert. The land surrounding the Dead Sea is a stark and harsh deseert; kind of like what you see in much the American southwest. Here's a representative scene


Then here's Ein Gedi


Pretty nice, huh? It doesn't take you long to figure out why David selected this place as a hideout.

We did much more in Israel than I can write about here. See the photobucket page for all photos, which I promise to label some day.

I've been fortunate to have been to a half a dozen or so European countries, and enjoyed every one. That said, most are only worth one visit. Before Israel, Greece is the only one I'd really like to go back to. Now Israel is on that list too.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

November 21, 2007

A Counterproductive Attempt at Legacy

I've wanted to write about this for a few weeks, not, but another story or issue always won out. This today from the AP in the Washington Times sent me over the top

The United States will try to close an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal before President Bush's term expires, giving the administration a little over a year to help the two sides craft a resolution to one of the world's longest and most intractable conflicts. ...

"The parties have said they are going to make efforts to conclude it in this president's term, and it's no secret that means about a year," Rice said. "That's what we'll try and do. Nobody can guarantee that - all you can do is make your best effort."

Just what I suspected; Bush wants to go out a "peacemaker". This might be bearable, but for this, reported by Agence France Presse

US President George W. Bush made more calls to Middle East leaders Tuesday as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pinned the success of next week's Annapolis conference on simply opening negotiations for a Palestinian state, even without a work plan.

"The success of this meeting is really in the launch of negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians for the establishment of a Palestinian state and therefore a two-state solution," Rice said about the conference planned for Annapolis, Maryland, near Washington.

As with so many others, the President and his Secretary of State have it exactly wrong. The problem is not the lack of a "two state solution." The problem is that the Palestinians are ruled by terrorists who want to destroy it. Specifically, neither Fatah nor Hamas have given up their "right of return"

The "Right of return" is one in which the Palestinians insist that the refugees, and their descendants, allegedly displaced during the 1948 war of independence, have the right to return to Israel proper and claim the land that they say they owned. Depending on which website you believe, this would mean anywhere from 3.5 to 6 million Arabs moving into Israel, a country of 6 million Jews and 1 million Arabs. The clear purpose of the "right of return" is to destroy Israel.

Fatah (or "Fateh"), is supposedly the "good" organization with whom we can make peace. Yet on their website they insist on this "Right of return"

The inalienable rights of the Palestinian people include the right to self-determination, the right of return, the establishment of a sovereign state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Also, as part of their constitution (somehow now missing from their website) is this

Obstacles to Peace

The first obstacle to a settlement, then is the Palestinian insistence on a "right of return"

The second obstacle, though, is the Israeli fear that if they give the Palestinians a state terrorist and rocket attacks will continue as before.

The settlements are not an obstacle. If you want to know why, read what I wrote here. The short version, however is this: If the settlements are the problem today, what was the problem before 1967?

But perhaps the bigglest obstacle to peace is that the Palestians are in a state of near chaos. As it is, the Palestinian territories are split; Fatah rules the West Bank and Hamas Gaza.

If Mahmud Abbas ("Abu Mazen", or whatever name he goes by these days) reaches a settlement, will the rest of Fatah go along? What about the other political parties that make up the Palestinian Authority? Will Hamas agree to any settlement?

Of course, it's unlikely in the extreme that anyone except Abbas and his closest associates will agree to anything. The rest of them will reject the settlement, and will continue with their terrorism and Qassam rockets.

Just consider this: Ismail Haniyeh is a senior Hamas official. On March 29, 2006 he was sworn in as Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority. Abbas dismissed him on June 14 2007, but Haneyeh refuses to accept Abbas' authority and says that he is still PM, governing what he can from Gaza. There is a big dispute over the legality of Abbas' dismissal of him but the point is that they can't govern themselves. Haniyeh is part of the rejectionist camp, having declared in December of 2006 that "we will never recognize the usurper Zionist government and will continue our jihad-like movement until the liberation of Jerusalem."

Some say that if we give them (or allow them to have) a country the infighting will cease and they'll behave. I consider this argument unpersuasive.

I used to think that the Palestinians (as they are called, a whole debate unto itself) should have their own country. No more. Until they can behave with a minimum of decency they should not be allowed to rule anything.

As such, any meeting in Annapolis will be counterproductive. The Palestinians will be promised a country before having had to make any concessions. They will then refuse to give up their "right of return" or make any meaningful concessions of their own. Because of this refusal they will not be given a state, just promised one at some indefinate time in the future. Abbas and his cronies will get mad, and this will be a signal to the terror masters that it is time to unleash their minions and start another Intifada. Israel will retaliate, and the world will condem Israel.

Andrew McCarthy, writing in National Review this past June, summed up his analysis if Fatah and the prospects for a peace agreement with them by saying that

The Palestinians are a backward people, indoctrinated toward brutality. They don’t rate a sovereign state or anyone’s help until they civilize themselves. Sovereignty is a privilege that implies acceptance of civilized norms — that is why we speak of states like Iran and North Korea as “rogues.” Regardless of whether there really are scattered Palestinian moderates, it is a dangerous fantasy to assume the Palestinian people, as a whole, are ready to be anyone’s peace partner.

We are enabling their hatred when we provide support without insisting that the Palestinian people — not just Abbas and Fatah, but the people — convincingly foreswear revolution, terrorism, violence, ethnic-cleansing, and the goal of eliminating Israel. We are a generation or more, at least, from any hope of such developments. In the meantime, as long as we subsidize the hatred, we shall be buying more of it, while giving the Palestinians no incentive to reform.

My thoughts exactly.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 1, 2007


Let's take a minute to recognize an organization that is absolutely invaluable for anyone who wishes to understand the Middle East.

MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, is or should be a national treasure. From their mission statement

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) explores the Middle East through the region's media. MEMRI bridges the language gap which exists between the West and the Middle East, providing timely translations of Arabic, Persian, and Turkish media, as well as original analysis of political, ideological, intellectual, social, cultural, and religious trends in the Middle East.

What you have are translators who sift through all manner of newspapers, magazines, blog sites, radio broadcasts and television shows that originate out of the Middle East. Material deemed important is posted in English on their website. You can also sign up for their email newsletter, which I have done.

Translated are the good, the bad, and the ugly. Contrary to what detractors no doubt say, any fair survey of MEMRI translations shows that they are not simply trying to make Arabs or Persions look bad. But there will be no pleasing some people.

Recently launched isMEMRI TV, which is fast becoming an indespensible resource. . Middle Eastern television shows are monitored and posted with English subtitles. Transcripts for each show are also available.

Unfortunately they don't allow you to post clips on other sites, like what you can do with YouTube or other videosites. Hopefully this will change, but until then head over and check out what they've got.

Posted by Tom at 8:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 1, 2007

What A Waste

Today's news tells us that in it's infinite wisdom the Bush Administration is going to send millions in aid to the Palestinian authority

The U.S. is beginning work on tens of millions of dollars worth of aid projects aimed at boosting the Palestinian economy and President Mahmoud Abbas at the expense of Hamas. ...

The $2.5 million project, commissioned by the U.S. Agency for International Development, had been suspended after the January 2006 victory by the militant movement Hamas in Palestinian elections. The project got the green light after Mr. Abbas dismissed the Hamas government because of its violent takeover of the Gaza Strip.

What a waste of money.

Sarcasm aside, the reality is that there isn't much to choose from between Abbas' Fatah and Hamas.

Fatah is only "better" than Hamas in that at the moment they're shooting fewer people. Abbas, like Yassir Arafat, has learned to play the PR game. He's now considered the "moderate".

Fatah is a terrorist organization. It's charter calls for the destruction of Israel, and it's leaders still insist on the "right of return". Mahmud Abbas, Abu Mazen, or whatever name he goes by these days, is a holocaust denier who in his 1983 Ph.D disseration says that the "Zionists" were involved in a scheme with the Nazis to steal Arab land.

It is foolish of us to try and play Fatah off against Hamas. Ever since at least the 1993 Oslo Accords the United States and Israel have been trying to "strengthen" the "moderate" fatah against those we perceived were more radical. This strategy has resulted in neither a peace settlement nor a reduction in the strength of the radicals.

Despite what I just said I do not blame President Clinton for our current situation. While I think his strategy flawed, he did do the right thing in 2000 by inviting Yassir Arafat and Israeli PM Ehud Barak to Camp David in an attempt to hammer out an agreement. That it failed was soley the fault of Arafat.

I do blame the Bush Administration for continuing this flawed strategy. Not only does it not work for reasons discussed above, it puts a lie to the "with us or against us" regarding terrorism. Apparently only al Qaeda, and maybe Hezbollah, count as terrorist groups.

No Aid and No State

Not only do the Palestianians not deserve our aid, they do not deserve their own country. I used to buy into the "two state solution", but not anymore. It's not simply that they squander our aid, they vote terrorist organizations like Hamas into power. Those who say that we must "respect" the vote because it was (allegedly) "free and fair" are at best making a fake argument, at worst are moral idiots.

If the Palestinians vote for Hamas or Fatah they need to bear the consequences. And part of those consequences is that we stop sending them aid and refuse to meet with their leaders.

What I Would Do

My strategy would revolve around the recommendations made by Natan Sharansky in his 2004 book The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror. The idea would be to set up a series of preconditions that the Palestinian Authority would have to meet before they got any aid. More importantly, they would have to meet these requirements before we would resume peace talks.

Until then, let the Israelis finish their wall and have nothing more to do with them.

Posted by Tom at 8:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 15, 2007

Consequences of Failure

What would happen if we left Iraq as soon as possible, as many now want? What if we just immediately halted offensive operations, returned to our bases, and began packing?

Austin Bay has come up with seven scenarios. Summarized, they are

1) Three new countries are formed; Kurdistan, Southern Iraq dominated by the Shia, and Anbar, controlled by the Sunni. The latter two fight over Baghdad, but the rest of the country is relatively peaceful.

2) Full-scale civil war between Sunnis and Shias breaks out. Sunni Arab states aid the former, and Iran the latter. Iran sees this as an opportunity to expand its border. The Kurdish north remains relatively peaceful.

3) Turkey invades the Kurdish north. This scenario can be combined with others.

4) The Iraqi state quickly becomes a Shia dictatorship. Sunnis are either massacred or flee (or a little of both). The Kurds throw in their lot with the Shia in return for limited autonomy.

5) Chaos. This differes from #2 in that the country devolves into many factions, instead of two or more large warring parties. More than in any of the other scenarios, in this al Qaeda is able to use the situation to build up a series of terrorist training camps in the country.

6) The Shia tribes "gang up" and expel virtually all Sunnis from the country (note; I am not clear on how this differs from #4)

7) The democratic government holds, and ultimately proves popular. After several months, the Iraqi Army defeats all major rivals.

As Bay accurately concludes, only numbers 1 and 7 benefit all Iraqis, the US, and the civilized world.

At this point there's no way I'm going to try and predict which would happen if we withdraw.

Ralph Peters, along with Austin Bay a retired Army colonel, thinks that the result will be a massacre along the lines of what happened in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge took over.

I'll tell you what happens: massacres. And while I have nothing against Shia militiamen and Sunni insurgents killing each other 24/7, the overwhelming number of victims will be innocent women, children and the elderly

Bosnia? That was just rough-necking at recess compared to what Islamist fanatics and ethnic beasts will do. Given that Senate Majority Misleader Harry Reid and Commissar of the House Nancy Pelosi won't tell us what they foresee after we quit, let me lay it out:

* After suffering a strategic defeat, al-Qaeda-in-Iraq comes back from the dead (those zombies again . . .) and gets to declare a strategic victory over the Great Satan.

* Iran establishes hegemony over Iraq's southern oil fields and menaces the other Persian Gulf producers. (Sorry, Comrade Gore, even that Toyota Prius needs some gasoline . . . )

* Our troops will have died in vain. Of course, that doesn't really matter to much of anyone in Washington, Democrat or Republican. So we'll just write off those young Americans stupid enough to join the military when they could've ducked out the way most members of Congress did.

* A slaughter of the innocents - so many dead, the bodies will never be counted.

Obviously Peters does not subscribe to Bay's scenario numbers 1 or 7.

Assuming neither 1 or 7 occur, we should not think that repercussions will be limited to Iraq. As Michael Rubin points out

The idea floating around Washington that Iraq can be separated from Afghanistan is naive. The Iranians, who interfere in both, have the same objectives in both. Iraq is a laboratory. If strategies applied there cause the U.S. Congress to embrace defeat, then those same strategies will be applied in Afghanistan.

And how long before those who tell us we need to "redeploy" so as to better fight al Qaeda will decide that Afghanistan isn't worth it after all? Not too long, I'll wager.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 25, 2007

Our New Friends at Fatah

The other day I wrote about the Bush Administration's plans to send Fatah $60 million in aid money in a post I titled "The Dead Bush Doctrine". Fatah, I wrote, is basically a terrorist organization that has no intention of accepting the existance of Israel. I provided some information about them which I thought bolstered my case.

In case you doubt me here's a tidbit from the Jerusalem Post (h/t NRO)

A Fatah faction and the Islamic Jihad both claimed responsibility for Sunday morning's Kassam rocket attack on Sderot, which damaged a home and left three people lightly wounded.

Love that "faction" bit.

These clowns aren't even a coherent organization. They're more an armed mob. The "faction" business only serves to give Abu Mazen Mahmoud Abbas an excuse to say he had nothing to do with it.

Andy McCarthy also reminds us of another faction, er, wing, within Fatah; Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (love that name).

Let's connect the dots here:

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are Fatah's terrorist wing. They have been a specially designated Foreign Terrorist Organization under U.S. law since 2002, and, as I noted here, have now taken to directly threatening the United States. (“We won't remain idle in the face of the siege imposed on the Palestinian people by Israel, the U.S. and other countries[.]…We will strike at the economic and civilian interests of these countries, here and abroad.”)

Fatah's Abbas, our "moderate" "peace partner," maintains close ties to the Brigades — even if he didn't want to (which I doubt) he has no choice as they are very popular among Palestinians.

Even as the administration announced its strong support for Fatah in the wake of Fatah's ouster from Gaza by Hamas, Fatah's al Aqsa Brigades have continued to carry out attacks against Israel, in coordination with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another designated terrorist organization with a long history of working with Fatah.

As predicted here last week, Abbas will not try to disband the al Aqsa Brigades. Instead, he will be incorporating them into the Palestinian Authority Security Forces.

The administration, meanwhile, is pushing for a renewal of millions of foreign aid dollars for the PA, including for its security forces to buck them up against Hamas. Thus, our tax dollars will be directly underwriting and arming the al Aqsa Brigades (instead of indirectly underwriting and arming them, as they have been doing up until now).

BONUS ROUND: We were arming Abbas even before the latest outbreak of fighting between Hamas and Fatah. As a result, when Fatah got run out of Gaza, Hamas took control of caches of American assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, rocket launchers and ammunition.

So our new policy both arms terrorist factions designated as such under U.S. law and throws U.S. support behind an organization, Fatah, with a long history of terrorism, a constitution that dedicates the organization to the annihilation of Israel, an academic and media program that relentlessly inculcates hatred of Jews and the illegitimacy of Israel, and which doesn't even have the good grace, ability or will to stop its terrorist wing from launching attacks on Israel while the U.S. and Europe are publicly pressing for a renewal of financial and political support.


Hamas is in full bragging mode about the U.S. weapons they seized. Here's Mahmoud Zahar, a co-founder of the organization, as interviewed by the German magazine Spiegel (h/t LGF)

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What will improve for people in Gaza now that Hamas is in control?

Zahar: The good thing is that we can now collect information about our enemies and informants from foreign powers. We will look for Israel’s spies.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Last week there were street battles in the West Bank between Fatah and Hamas militias. Fatah maintained the upper hand. How will Hamas loyalists defend themselves in the event of any new fighting?

Zahar: Let me ask you: How have we defended ourselves so far against the Israeli occupation?

SPIEGEL ONLINE: With bombs and attacks?

Zahar: Exactly. But you said that, not me. ...

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The militant wings of Fatah and Hamas have been fully armed over the last few months. Are these weapons still in circulation?

Zahar: There are naturally very many weapons around now. Two years ago, one bullet in Gaza cost around €3.50 — now it would cost 35 cents. The American aid money has been translated into weapons. Thank you, America!

(emphasis added)

What are they going to do with their new weapons? "We Will Try to Form an Islamic Society" says Zahar.

But of course.

I suppose, though, I shouldn't be too hard on our president. After all, Israeli President Ehud Olmert said he would release "hundreds of millions" of dollars tied up in frozen accounts to Fatah, " a gesture to bolster the moderate Palestinian leader in his standoff against the Islamic militant group Hamas."

All through the 90s we propped up Arafat for just the same reason and look where it's gotten us. We never learn.

As a final bit of depressing news, Michael Rubin reminds us that the Bush Administration was once committed to democracy for the Palestinians. How times have changed.

Posted by Tom at 9:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 23, 2007

The Dead Bush Doctrine

This past February Secretary Rice announced that the United States was going to "talk" with Iran and Syria over the future of Iraq. Although she quiclkly "clarified" that the talks would't be direct, it didn't really matter. After 9-11 President Bush announced that "you're either with us or against us in the fight against terror." Because both Iran and Syria are state sponsors of terror, at the time I announced that the Bush Doctrine was dead.

Now the Bush Administration has pledged it's support for Fatah in the wake of Hamas' takover of Gaza. We're even going to send them $60 million to "upgrade Mahmoud Abbas's presidential guard and for other security expenses". No doubt in the months to come we'll see more announcements of programs designed to prop up Fatah, as our "partner in peace".

We allowed al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent terrorist groups refuge in Iran and Syria. We refused to attack their bases or supply depots there. We have done nothing about Hezbollah in Lebanon, other than force a "peace" settlement on Israel that does nothinb but give the terrorist group time to rearm.

For a few years Bush insisted on the "six party talks" format with North Korea, but has now seeminly abandoned that and has rewarded the DPRK with direct talks.

At the beginning of his term he refused to buy into the global warming hype, but at the recent G8 summit appeared to acquiese to at least part of the environmental agenda. While this isn't directly related to the "Bush Doctrine", I think it does show how far the administration has fallen in holding onto it's original beliefs.

All this is making the left chortle with glee. But then they've always wanted us to abandon Iraq to it's fate, make nice with every Palestinian terrorist group and Arab dictator (witness Speaker Pelosi's trip to Damascus).

Regarding the Bush Administration's new policy, I think that Andrew McCarthy has it right when he describes it as "Our Terrorists Are Better Than Your Terrorists"

The Palestinians are a backward people, indoctrinated toward brutality. They don’t rate a sovereign state or anyone’s help until they civilize themselves. Sovereignty is a privilege that implies acceptance of civilized norms — that is why we speak of states like Iran and North Korea as “rogues.” Regardless of whether there really are scattered Palestinian moderates, it is a dangerous fantasy to assume the Palestinian people, as a whole, are ready to be anyone’s peace partner.

We are enabling their hatred when we provide support without insisting that the Palestinian people — not just Abbas and Fatah, but the people — convincingly foreswear revolution, terrorism, violence, ethnic-cleansing, and the goal of eliminating Israel. We are a generation or more, at least, from any hope of such developments. In the meantime, as long as we subsidize the hatred, we shall be buying more of it, while giving the Palestinians no incentive to reform.

Tough words about the Palestinians, but it's hard to see things otherwise. If by some magic every Israeli settlement disppeared and the Palestinians got an internationally recognized state tomorrow with at least part of Jerusalem as it's capital, all they'd do is use it as a base from which to attack Israel. And murder each other.

There isn't going to be any "two state solution", as long as either Fatah or Hamas are in charge. Neither wants to live side by side with Israel. We're only fooling ourselves by trying to play one off of the other.

What Fatah Stands For

Fatah is basically a terrorist organization. Its very name means "conquest", that which is supposed to happen during or after a jihad; the holy war leads to conquest. They don't choose these names by accident or without considering their meaning. Fatah was created by the late terror master himself, Yasser Arafat. It was operatives from Fatah which formed Black September, the group which carried out the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic games in Munich.

Today the organization is led by Mahmoud Abbas (or "Abu Mazen", or whatever name he goes by these days). If Arafat was a street punk grown up to be the local crime boss, Mazen Abbas is the nutty neighbor down the street. In his 1983 Phd.D dissertation, The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism, he

...suggested that the figure of six million Jews murdered by the Nazis was a false one, "peddled" by the Jews. To bolster that thesis, he quotes known Holocaust revisionists as authoritative sources. Seeking conspiracy theories that would serve Arab interests, Abu Mazen also wrote that the Zionist movement "led a broad campaign of incitement against the Jews living under Nazi rule... to expand the mass extermination." Zionists, he contends, collaborated with the Nazis to murder Jews, in order to gain sympathy for the creation of the State of Israel.

And this is the guy we're trying to make nice with. This is insane.

Look at Fatah's Constitution. Under "Goals", we have

Article (12) Complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence.

Article (13) Establishing an independent democratic state with complete sovereignty on all Palestinian lands, and Jerusalem is its capital city, and protecting the citizens' legal and equal rights without any racial or religious discrimination.

"Complete liberation" does not mean the West Bank and Gaza. It means that and the whole of Israel too.

Here's the Fatah logo, which you get get straight off of their website at Fateh.net


According to Wikipedia

The Fatah official emblem shows two fists holding rifles and a hand grenade superimposed on a map of historic Palestine (i.e. British Mandate borders, including present-day Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip)

In other words, they want the whole thing.

Elsewhere, on their website, Fatah insists on the "right of return".

The Right of Return is one in which the Palestinians insist that the refugees, and their descendants, allegedly displaced during the 1948 war of independence, have the right to return to Israel proper and claim the land that they say they owned. Depending on which website you believe, this would mean anywhere from 3.5 to 6 million Arabs moving into Israel, a country of 6 million Jews and 1 million Arabs. The clear purpose of the "right of return" is to destroy Israel.

See now why peace with Fatah is impossible?

Until they change their ways we are wasting our time with them. President Clinton was probably smart when he invited Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to Camp David in 2000 to try and hammer out an agreement based on the 1993 Oslo Accords (the ones which established the "roadmap for peace". Arafat refused all reasonable offers, and the situation has deteriorated every since. Anything we do for them needs to be conditioned on improving their record on human rights, corruption, and terrorism, as Eric Cantor suggests. To do otherwise is to lend aid to our enemies. You know, the ones the President Bush at one time said we were against.

Posted by Tom at 11:10 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 25, 2007

The Moral Blindness of Omar Shakir

When I decided to file this under two categories; the Middle East and Moral Clarity I had to smile. Rarely do Muslims or those on the left have moral clarity when it comes to the Middle East. They go to great lengths to excuse the terrorism and human rights abuses committed by every Muslim regime in the region, while complaining incessantly and loudly about their favorite whipping boy; Israel.

I open this mornings paper and find an article titled "Student urges Stanford divestment from Israel".


You just know what such a story is going to be about, and you just know how awful it's going to be. This one didn't disappoint.

Student Omar Shakir wants Stanford University to divest from a country that he says engages in an apartheid-style system of oppression and human rights abuses against a beleaguered minority.

Bosnia? Sudan? Not quite. Mr. Shakir is referring to Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians, and his campaign has become this year's hot political topic on the Stanford campus.

"We don't want our university to profit from abuses of human rights and violations of international law," said Mr. Shakir, a senior international-relations major who heads Students Confronting Apartheid in Israel.

This Omar Shakir sounds about as vile as Jimmy Carter.

Shakir is head of a group caleld Students Confronting Apartheid in Israel. They're beyond disgraceful.

I've no idea whether Shakir will achieve his goals. On the one hand I rather doubt it. The article does mention that he has "legions" of critics. On the other hand these leftists are nothing if not persistent, and if not countered quickly and forcefully they will get their ideas adopted.

Some time ago on this blog I laid out my position on the Israeli settlements. Since there's no point in reinventing the wheel, here it is again

Today we hear from the Arabs that the settlements are the major obstacle to peace. And, if you read the papers, you can be forgiven for thinking that if only the Israelis would give up their settlements a peace could be quickly worked out. The solution, it is said, is to give the Palestinians a country on the West Bank, and to let (demand, really) that Israel live within it's pre-1967 borders.

This is not true for a number of reasons.

1. If the settlements are the problem today, then what was the problem before 1967? Terrorism against Israel did not begin with the end of the Six Day War. The PLO, for example was formed in 1964.
2. If the West Bank is such a perfect home for the Palestinians, why didn't Jordan give them this land as their country when they had the chance (i.e. before 1967)?
3. The fact is that Israel is willing to negotiate with the Arab countries but with the exception of Egypt and Jordan the Arab countries still refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist.
4. The Palestinian "right of return" must be abandoned. This is not something that you read about often (if at all) in your daily newspaper but it is one of the most important things that must be resolved. In short, during the 1948 War of Independence, some 800,000 Arabs fled the area (for reasons that are disputed). Today their ancestors demand the right to return to Israel and claim the land they left, or at least to take up Israeli citizenship. One need not be a demographer to see that these ancestors (and anyone could claim to be one as documentation would be impossible to verify) would now number in the tens of millions. They would simply flood Israel with Arabs, and, in the next election, vote the state of Israel out of existance.
5. In short, if the Arabs had not opposed Israel's right to exist from the beginning, had negotiated a peace, had given the Palestinians a homeland on the West Bank, stopped their terrorism, formed democratic (or at least representative) governments, the present situation could have been entirely avoided.
6. Further, the Security Fence that Israel is building is not preventing peace as some alledge. It is stopping terrorism, and that is a good thing. My only question is why didn't the Israelis think of it earlier. And I don't care what any "world court" has to say about it.

So "the settlements" per se are not really the issue preventing peace.

The Real Issues

The main issues preventing peace are the following

1. Lack of Moral Clarity. I've written on this before here. Here are two of the essential elements of moral clarity lacking in some people:
A. Israel is an imperfect democracy, but it is a democracy. No Arab state is a democracy. This does not mean that Israel may do anything it wishes, but it does mean that we should give them the benefit of the doubt.
B. Israeli forces practice discrimination in warfare. That is, they only attack military targets. Civilians are sometimes killed as a byproduct, but the civilians are not the target themselves. Arab/Muslim terrorists deliberately target civilians. Why this is hard for some people to understand is beyond me.
2. Lack of Democracy among the Arab States. Natan Scharansky wrote about this in his excellent book "The Case for Democracy". Simply put, democracies do not fight each other. We in the west are partly responsible for the current state of affairs, since in the past we did not pressure Arab governments to reform.
3. Palestinian terrorism - until the Arab states and/or the PA put and end to terrorism by organizations such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the others there will be no peace.
4. The expansion of the settlements should stop. Ok, I know I said earlier that "the settlements per se" are not the problem. And that is true. But it is also true that in my opinion Israel does not need new settlements, and by expanding them they give Palestinian extremists a propaganda message that is useful in recruiting terrorists.

I'll even add that Israel should abandon most of the setttlements. Not all, but most.

The Bottom Line

In the end the Arabs have had many opportunities for peace and have blown every one of them. They could have accepted the UN partition in 1948. Jordan could have given the Palestinians the West Bank at any time before 1967. They could have at least offered to join Sadat in his peace talks with Begin. Arafat could have listened to President Clinton at Camp David in 2000 and accepted what Prime Minister Baruk offered him.

And when Israel unilaterally handed over Gaza they could have shown the world what wonderfully peaceful people they were by spending their time trying to make the place better, instead of turning it into a base from which to attack Israel.

But no, they can't do this. And they cry foul when Israel does the only sensible thing and builds a wall to keep the terrorists out. But then, such is the moral blindness of people like Omar Shakir

Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 19, 2006

Reasons for Hope Amid Despair

Some of my recent posts have been pretty pessimistic, and while sometimes that's needed, it's also never a good thing to wallow in despair. No situation is so bad that it cannot be salvaged, and so despite out current troubles there is hope.

First up, is the media. Victor Davis Hanson in "Hope Amid Despair" points out, for example, that if there was ever any doubt that much of the media was helping the terrorists (unwittingly or otherwise), they are now completely discredited.

The globalized media is absolutely discredited after the coverage of Lebanon. Reuters has destroyed its reputation, gained from 150 years of world reporting, by releasing doctored pictures and tolerating staged photo-ops. Almost all the Western media outlets failed to distinguish Lebanese civilian from military casualties — as if the Hezbollah terrorists they never filmed and never interviewed never died.
Indeed, thanks to the unprofessional reporters abroad, and their disingenuous chiefs back home, the world never saw the killers who sent the rockets nor many of their civilian victims on the ground in Israel. Nor did the reporters apprise their audience of the different landscapes in which they worked: candor in Israel might win loud disagreement; truth in Lebanon meant death. It would be as if Reuters, AP, or the New York Times embedded its reporters within the Waffen SS, beaming daily reports back home about the great morale and noble suffering of the Wehrmacht as it advanced into the snowy Ardennes.

Next, up are Iran and Syria

Iran and Syria unleashed Hezbollah because they were both facing global scrutiny, one over nuclear acquisition and the other over the assassination of Lebanese reformer Rafik Hariri. Those problems won’t go away for either of them — nor, if we persist, will the democratic fervor in Afghanistan and Iraq on their borders.

Let't also not forget that Israel did significant damage to Hezbollah. The latter may have claimed victory, but it's not as if they are still the fighting force they were a month ago.

We still don’t know the extent of the damage that Hezbollah suffered, but it perhaps took casualties ten times the Israelis’ — losses — not to be dismissed even in the asymmetrical laws of postmodern warfare. Hezbollah’s leaders were hiding in embassies and bunkers; Israel’s were not. For all the newfound magnetism of Nasrallah, he brought ruin to his flock, and fright to the Arab establishment around Israel.

Further, the war may have simply taught Israel how to do it right next time. When the ceasefire proves to be a fraud, for surely it will, won't it reveal the impotence of the UN and those who always drone on about "international solutions"?

A surprised Israel now has a good glimpse of the terrorists’ new way of war, and probably next time will attack the supplier, not the launcher, of the rocketry. And when the Reuters stringers go away, the “civilians” of southern Lebanon, off-camera, might not be so eager to see more real fireworks lighting up their skies — or far-off, pristine Syria and Iran in safety praising the courage of the ruined amid the rubble. Note how Hezbollah already is desperately racing around the craters to assure its homeless constituency that it has enough Iranian cash to buy back lost sympathies.

Even the ceasefire can come back to bite the Islamists and their supporters. Hezbollah won’t be disarmed as promised, much less stay out of Katyusha range of the border. And that defiance will only reveal the impotence of the Lebanese and the U.N., reminding both that they have talked themselves into a corner and now are responsible to keep caged their own pet 7th-century vipers. This can only work to Israel’s favor when the next rockets go off, since no one then will be proposing an “international” solution — although it will be interesting to see whether Jacques Chirac talks of the “nuclear” option once his soldiers begin to be picked off by Hezbollah

Lastly, the London airplane bomb plot proved the fallacy of dealing with domestic Muslim extremists through "multiculturalism" once and for all. To this I would also add the terrorist plot in Canada revealed a few months ago. Both countries worshiped at the altars of "tolerance", "diversity" and "multiculturism", and all it got them was hatred and bombs.

In a larger sense, the foiled London terrorist plot won’t endear either Islamists or their appeasers to millions in the world who face travel delays, cancelled flights, and body searches — on top of paying billions more to the Arab oil producers who in response whine even more in their victimhood.

In the light of recent developments in the Middle East, this might not seem like much. Those who are blind to the threat of Muslim extremism because of their hatred of George W Bush or Tony Blair will not change. We see this in their chortling over their "victory" in court over the Terrorist Survelience Program. But perhaps the average citizen has learned a bit this past month, and, as Hanson says, " that is a sort of progress after all."

Posted by Tom at 12:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 4, 2006

1938 Redux?

Several commentators at National Review have written recently that what they see happening in the world resembles nothing so much as the 1930s.

In the 1930s Britain and France appeased Hitler. Anything to prevent the horrors of what they called The Great War, they said. The United States stood on the sidelines, naively thinking we were secure in our isolationist policies. The elite mocked Churchill as a drunkard alarmist.

Today many in the West so no danger from Iran or the various terrorist groups that cannot be negotiated away. The elite today mock George Bush and Tony Blair.

First up is Michael Ledeen, who points out that although "9/11 was supposed to have been the wakeup call," "we are again asleep". The problem now, he says, is that we fail to recognize that it's not just about fighing "insurgents" in Iraq, or Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran and Syria are behind much or most of it, and behind that is a virulent form of radical Islam. Although I still say that going into Iraq put us on the strategic offensive, Ledeen points out that since the invasion we have been playing defense.

Meanwhile, a collection of frauds, writing in places like Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and Mother Jones, continuously recycles a story saying that a neocon (code for “Jewish”) conspiracy duped Bush into going to war in Iraq, and is now arranging the invasion of Iran.

For those that forget, President Roosevelt was treated to the same sort of nonsense from the likes of people like Father Coughlin, who accused the president of "leaning toward international socialism or sovietism on the Spanish question." Indeed, as Ledeen says

It is the Thirties again. Many of the statements above apply to Franklin Roosevelt’s first two administrations, and to the political atmosphere of those dreadful years. Then, too, the mounting power of what became the Axis was ignored. As my father often reminded me, a few months before Pearl Harbor, at a time when Nazi armies were long since on the march, the draft passed by a single vote. Apologists for Hitler and Mussolini were legion, and some of our leading intellectuals were saying that American democratic capitalism was a failure, and we would do well to emulate the European totalitarians.

Continuing this same theme, Victor Davis Hanson reviews some of the apologists of that era

...nevertheless it is still surreal to reread the fantasies of Chamberlain, Daladier, and Pope Pius, or the stump speeches by Charles Lindbergh (“Their [the Jews’] greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government”) or Father Coughlin (“Many people are beginning to wonder whom they should fear most — the Roosevelt-Churchill combination or the Hitler-Mussolini combination.”) — and baffling to consider that such men ever had any influence.

Tell me, what is the difference between any of the above cited men and Michael Moore or Markos "Screw them" Moulitsas? Or Pat Buchanan, for that matter?

And how are our "allies" In Europe responding to all this? Hanson continues

There is no need to mention Europe, an entire continent now returning to the cowardice of the 1930s. Its cartoonists are terrified of offending Muslim sensibilities, so they now portray the Jews as Nazis, secure that no offended Israeli terrorist might chop off their heads. The French foreign minister meets with the Iranians to show solidarity with the terrorists who promise to wipe Israel off the map (“In the region there is of course a country such as Iran — a great country, a great people and a great civilization which is respected and which plays a stabilizing role in the region”) — and manages to outdo Chamberlain at Munich.

Our enemy, as I mentioned, is not just a few Taliban remnants, or "insurgents" in Iraq, it is Islaofascism (or whatever you want to call it) in general. Principal among the villans is the government of Iran. And before we congratulate ourselves, Barbara Lerner says that far from confronting Iran,

...we have yet to admit that Iran is at war with us, or to seriously consider striking back at her, and, in speaking of our own war aims, we never dare use the v-word — victory — anymore. Instead, we make head-in-the-sand happy-talk about “peace,” “democracy,” and “ceasefires,” rejecting any military action against Iran for fear of “widening the war” — as if Iran were not already at war with us — and rely on the U.N. and “the international community” to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions and to prevent her proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, from continuing to bring death and destruction to our smallest, truest, and most vulnerable ally, Israel. ...

Worse, we meet the jackals halfway by endlessly apologizing for sins our soldiers and guards are falsely accused of, in Iraq and Guantanamo, and by urging “restraint” on Israel — as if she weren’t employing near-suicidal restraint already. Then, we congratulate ourselves for our “courage” in standing up to international pressure by not forcing Israel to stop fighting for her life immediately, and promising, in return, to “protect” her with a “peace-keeping” force of enemies, led by the reborn Vichy France of Jacques Chirac and Phillipe Douste-Blazy — the French foreign minister who just called Iran “a stabilizing force.”

So is this were we are, again on the brink of the precipice? After 9/11 we said "never again", but even a casual reading of any newspaper reveals a large segment of opinion-makers who believe that George W Bush and Tony Blair are the greatest threats to world peace. Sorry, but I don't buy the notion that all would be well if only we hadn't invaded Iraq.

It also doesn't explain current attitudes on the left towards Iran. This article at Mother Jones typifies the "what me worry?" attitude the left has towards Iran: "The confrontation with Iran has very little to do with nukes—and a lot with the agenda of empire".

The good news is that the Bush Administration is letting Israel have a go at destroying Hezbollah. The bad news is that we are not serious about dealing with Iran or Syria. Barbara Lerner, in her article linked to above, has some good ideas for dealing with Iran. All too many of our elites, however, seem mired in the attitudes of the 1930s. And we all know what that got us.

Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 2, 2006

The Contrarian Views

Two days ago I wrote that "There seems general consensus that the military campaign is not destroying Hezbollah as hoped." Yesterday's post cited several astute analysists who said that Israel was not winning it's war, and that the United States was not doing so well either in the larger war on Islamofascism.

Perhaps I spoke too soon regarding a consensus. American Thinker certainly disagrees that Israel is losing. He says that the current war most resembles the battle for Iwo Jima. The Japanese defenders thought they had constructed the perfect fort, which would surely hold off the Americans. Instead, they were slaughtered, with only 1020 of the 21,000 defenders surviving.

The Israeli strategy, he says, is more subtle than many have supposed.

It is Hezbollah that has been outsmarted here, though uninformed, mainstream reporting of the initial results obscure this fact. For in banking on a massive Israeli offensive, Hezbollah apparently posted a sizeable force in the Lebanese border towns that are being picked apart one by one by the IDF. Already there are IDF reports of as many as 230 Hezbollah terrorists killed in Maroun al-Ras and Bint Jbeil. The Bint Jbeil meat-grinder, where Hezbollah appeared determined to make an ill-advised last stand, has done its work.
The IDF and the Israeli Air Force (IAF) have destroyed an estimated 1,300 Hezbollah missiles that range from the Katyushas to Farj-3s, Farj5s, and Zelzal-2s. Meanwhile, Hezbollah has expended an estimated 2,000 missiles and has little to show for it. Israeli military officials report soldiers have found and destroyed Katyusha rocket launchers, antitank missile launchers and large caches of ammunition. Few launchers are reported available. Like the Japanese at Iwo Jima, Hezbollah has stored enormous quantities of ammunition in the Lebanese border towns, perhaps planning to wage a hit-and-run guerrilla war on Israel’s supply convoys as the IDF repeats the 1982 invasion. But Israel’s been there, done that, and she is not going to make the same mistake twice. “‘This battle against Hezbollah is going to last,’ Avi Dichter, Israel’s public security minister” informed reporters. “‘We’re not in any hurry.’”

Over whatever time remains before the conflict is forced to end, the IDF will take apart the Hezbollah terrorist-guerrillas that made the ultimate error of remaining in fixed positions. It is Hezbollah that is stoked in the passions and delusions of over-confidence. If Hezbollah takes comfort from fighting in fixed positions, they need only brush up on Napoleon, who said “the army that remains in its forts is beaten.”

Steve Schippert of ThreatsWatch believes that Hezbollah is on the ropes

...in a radio interview with John Batchelor, retired Air Force General Tom McInerney detailed a debriefing with a senior IDF official in which he detailed that Israel believes their airstrikes have eliminated 70% of the long-range Iranian ZelZal missile systems in Hizballah hands. McInerney noted that over 1000 Hizballah infrastructure targets have been struck by Israeli air power up and down the Bekaa Valley (once called the most heavily defended air corridor on the planet) and throughout Southern Lebanon, including weapons storage facilities, command and control centers, vehicle repair facilities and 18 Hizballah financial centers which serve in the place of banks.

While sustaining these enormous losses, Hizballah is having difficulty re-supplying across the Syrian border. Convoys from Syria are struck by F-16’s and drones once they are within Lebanese borders, often with the massive secondary explosions that indicate arms shipments. The Israelis believe that Bashar Assad is “directly involved” in the attempts to smuggle rockets, other arms and ammunition to Hizballah, and the release of the results of ‘defense establishment’ intelligence is Israel’s way of sending a message to the Syrian president.

Lastly, Haaretz Correspondent Yoav Stern says that "Hezbollah's reports have become less and less believable

On Monday, Al-Manar television - the central component of Hezbollah's well-oiled media empire - reported that the organization had destroyed an Israeli ship off the coast of Tyre, which had some 50 sailors aboard - a charge the IDF dismissed completely."

It's not clear what incident, if any, the report was referring to, and the Arab world has been asking questions. Al-Arabiya television asked Mahmoud Kamati, a member of the Hezbollah political bureau, about the Hezbollah claim and he repeated that an Israeli ship had been hit, but said no pictures were broadcast because visibility was poor.

Given that much of the msm seems to consider Hezbollah and Israeli statments of equal value, we need to consider that the view of the war we have been receiving is not entirely honest.

So who is right? I don't know. We hear that all Hezbollah has to do to win is survive. Since propaganda is a very important part of war, this has some validity. But Israel is fighting because most of the people in it's northern cities are living underground, and it's economy has ground to a halt in these areas. It simply cannot survive under these conditions. Simply ending the rocket attacks is a victory for Israel.

The good news is that politicians in the United States are fairly united in their support for Israel. With the exception of a few moonbats on the left, most all Democrats and Republicans are in opposition to Hezbollah and are willing to give Israel the time it needs. I can't find the link, but I recall reading that the IDF thought it needed just another 10-14 days. Let's make sure they get it.

Posted by Tom at 9:43 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 1, 2006

Book Review: Why We Fight: Moral Clarity And The War on Terrorism

To put it mildly, the war on radical Islam is getting more difficult by the day. For those of us who have been ardent supporters of what we call the War on Terror, and believe firmly the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do, and that "of course" we should support Israel, these are difficult times.

We've all seen the headlines, and most of you visit the same websites that I do. National Review says that we may not be winning the war (either Iraq or the larger one on terror) , but we're not winning it either. Bret Stevens and Ralph Peters think that Israel is losing it's war agaist Hezbollah.

Michael Ledeen thinks it's the 1930s all over again. That's never good. Supposedly we got over that the day after 9-11.

The greatest failure of our leaders, with rare exceptions, is their refusal to see the war plain, which means Iran and Syria (might as well call them “Syran,” since they operate in tandem, with Tehran pushing most of the buttons). It was never possible to “win in Iraq” so long as we insisted on fighting in Iraq alone. You can not win a regional war by playing defense in one country. It was, and remains, a sucker’s game. Syran pays no price at all for killing our kids and our allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now in Gaza and Lebanon/Israel.

Syran reasonably concluded that there was no price to pay for killing us, and so they predictably expanded the scope of the war. Our leaders do not see this whole; they see each component as a separate issue. They see that Hezbollah is an Iranian entity. They see Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers at work in Lebanon and Iraq. They know the best weapons in the war come through Syran and in many cases are manufactured by Syran. Any logical person has to conclude that you cannot win this war without defeating Syran.

Unfortunately, I think Ledeen is correct. 9-11 did not prove to be sufficient to wake us from our slumber. And no, Iraq did not distract us, as the left will tell you. They'd have forgotten about the whole thing once the Taliban were defeated in Iraq.

With all this, I thought it would be a good idea to step back for a minute. The situation may be dire but it is never lost. Time to remind ourselves why we need to fight this war.

It wasn't long after the terrible events of Sept 11 2001 that William Bennett saw the need to write a book explaining "why we fight". Just as Reagan was attacked for his "evil empire" reference, President Bush was attacked for "Axis of Evil". In our postmodern age, the very word "evil" is too much for some people.

The book Bennett wrote was Why We Fight: Moral Clarity And The War on Terrorism. It is short, only 170 pages, and without footnotes or index. But it was not meant to be a scholarly work, rather a quick treatise on, well, why we fight.

If you doubt that such a book is necessary, all you have to do is read the reviews at Amazon. It is obvious that the left made a concerted effort to trash the book by flooding Amazon with negative reviews. They wouldn't have done this if they hadn't felt threatened, and Bennett's logic provides much to threaten them with.

On to the book. Rather than attempt to summarize it, I thought it best if I just quoted extensively from it.

One route to pacifism, as I mentioned earlier, runs by way of current psychological doctrine. Generations of American Children have by now been raised on the principle that violence is always wrong, and that every difference can be negotiated though “dialogue.” Likewise, generations of American businessmen and executives have been trained in the principles of conflict resolution and anger management. Generations of American diplomats and negotiators have been instructed in the art of “getting to yes.”
What is wrong with that? Nothing – as long as the parties to a dispute are playing by the same procedural rules, as long as the matters under dispute are truly negotiable, and as long as each side can be trusted to abide by the settlement. In other circumstances, and especially in war, anger management is a best irrelevant. “Don’t hit!” is easy advice; “Don’t hit back!” is more fraught with complexity.

The appeal to stifle our anger and negotiate our differences with extremists bent on nullifying our existence was not only irrelevant, it was immoral; it amounted to a counsel of unilateral disarmament and a denial of justice.

One saw this bias (against the employment of force by the U.S.) at work, for example, in the insistence that the war against terrorism be prosecuted by me4ans of an international coalition and not by the United States alone. Of course, there were sound strategic reasons for securing the active cooperation of others, as we did from the start. Morally, too, there is always something to be said for having an explicit seal of approval from the global community. Something, but not everything. To make such international approval a requirement of action, as if otherwise we lacked warrant to defend ourselves, was not morally sound but morally repugnant, springing from a hostility to America that had little to do with pacifism and everything to do with the larte4r political and ideological agenda of the “peace party”. The idea behind it was that we could not b e trusted to restrain ourselves – and idea that no amount of evidence to the contrary could dislodge from the minds of those holding it.

“Killing people won’t prove anything. It’s more of the same”
More of the same? Terrorists target innocent civilians by definition; they seek the destruction of innocent life. Military action to combat terrorism seeks to avoid noncombatant casualties. It’s not more of the same; it is the opposite of the same.

“You should never be violent”
…teaching children this lesson does an unforgivable injury both to them and to the adult community of which they are about to become a part. It renders them vulnerable to abuse and injury, and leaves them without moral or intellectual recourse when abuse and injury are inflicted upon them. If no distinction is made between kinds of “peace,” children are deprived of the tools they require to distinguish a just from an unjust peace, peace with honor from the peace of the grave. They are robbed of the oldest and most necessary wisdom of the race, which is that some things are worth fighting and dying for.
Are we to tell our children that, because “you should always find a peaceful way to solve your problems,” the brave men who fought in the revolutionary War, the Civil War, the two World Wars, and every other conflict in history were acting immorally? That way lies a generation prepared only for accommodation, appeasement, and surrender.

John Stuart Mill:
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of a moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth was is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight – nothing he cares about more than his own safety – is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

(on multiculturalism) In short, little schoolchildren are routinely taught that America represents but one of many cultures and in principle deserves no automatic preference, that there is no such thing as a better or worse society, that cultural values different from our own need to understood and accepted in a spirit of sympathetic tolerance, and that, all things considered, we ourselves have at least as much to answer for as to be proud of.

The nonjudgementalism with which some of us have allowed ourselves to become infected, and which we wear as a badge of tolerance, functions as an excuse for gross moral irresponsibility. Pretending to rise above the “common” view, it robs us of the ability to recognize and call things by their proper names.

Under the aegis of nonjudgementalism, some Americans have ended up tolerating, protecting, or apologizing for evil….the refusal to distinguish good from evil (or right from wrong).

…it does no good to pretend that religions and cultures are everywhere basically the same, and basically the same as the ones we happen to know.

There is a defensive and an offensive Jihad. There are tighter limits on the latter. The nature of the war between Islam and the infidels is governed by rules. There can be no killing of innocents, or terrorism.

Around the world, we have intervened repeatedly during the past decade in behalf of Muslim interests. We defended Kuwait and Saudi Arabia from Saddam Hussein; we stopped wholesale persecutions of Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo; we brought assistance to the Muslim nation of Somalia, we were; long the biggest provider of food in Afghanistan itself, and now we have liberated that country from the boot of the Taliban. We have often been rewarded for our efforts with petulance, double-dealing, resentment, hatred – and terror. That large parts of the Muslim world remain sunk in economic and social degradation is a fact for which we are assigned the blame.

If the Islamic world is ever to experience the uplift it has demanded, all this will have to change – on both sides. They will have to cease rejecting Western civilization and instead begin to study it, we will have to cease indulging ourselves in guilt….

…whatever the connection between hatred of Israel and hatred of America (prev: that the Muslims hate America because of our support of Israel)….one could more plausibly argue, as Norman Podhoretz did in the Wall Street Journal, …that the connection ran the other way: that “the hatred of Israel is in large part a surrogate for anti-Americanism,” and that “if Israel had never come into existence, or if it were magically to disappear, the U.S. would still stand as an embodiment of everything that most of these Arabs consider evil.”

…as Gamal Abdel Nasser, the president of Egypt, put it with complete frankness, the “aggression” the Arabs sought to undo in provoking that war (1967) was the existence of Israel itself.

As the writer Norah Vincent has coldly but truly put it, “If it weren’t for our (and Israel’s) cultural commitment to tolerance and the rule of law, to the use of violence only in self-defense and to the reaching of diplomatic solutions, the Palestinian people would have no cause at all. They would not exist.”
And what if their cause should triumph? “Do you imagine,” Vincent asks, that the new state of Palestine “would be anything other than a repressive dictatorship bent on crushing it’s God-given enemies/” And “do you really suppose there would be any Jews left to protest?”

If you don't have Why We Fight on your bookshelf, get it.

Posted by Tom at 9:05 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 31, 2006

The End of Illusions

We're at the point now where an serious person must realize that the "land for peace" formula that was the backbone of the "roadmap to peace" is dead and buried.

We have been told for over 30 years now that peace can be achieved if Israel would only give up this or that piece of land. And it seemed to work, once. In 1978, Anwar Sadat, the President of Egypt, concluded a deal with Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel, the essential part of which was that Israel would return the Sinai to Egypt in return for various security guarantees.

This same formula, it was believed, could also be made to apply with regard to the people who became known as "Palestinians". If Israel would give them the West Bank as their own country then they would have no reason to attack Israel. Ditto with Gaza.

President Clinton tried to make this work with the Oslo Accords. In 2000, he even invited PLO leader Yassir Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to Camp David for an all-out push to resolve the matter. Despite numerous Israeli concessions, Arafat refused to accept the offers made to him. Nevertheless, people still felt that the "land for peace" had merit.

But with what has happened in the past few years should put an end to the illusion once and for all.

Israel accepted the Palestinian Authority government on the West Bank, almost a de facto country. All the Palestinians had to do is behave and in short order they'd have the rest of the West Bank and become a full-fledged county. But no, they launched another Intifada, this time with suicide bombers. Israel pulled out of Gaza earlier this year, and far from be grateful and try to live peacefully, it is now simply a new base for the terrorists. Israel has dismantled many or most of their settlements on the West Bank, and all they have received for their trouble is more terrorism.

Now we've got Hezbollah firing rockets into Israel, turning it's cities into ghost towns. What can Israel do? Jonah Goldberg nails it

It seems to me the inescapable lesson of the current conflict is a depressing one for Israel and the United States. It ain't about land. In the 1990s, we were repeatedly told that Israel's problems could be solved via a geopolitical swap-meet. Everyone get together in back-slapping fellowship and trade land and, abracadabra, we'd have peace. It turns out, in Israel's case, this is nonsense. Hezbollah doesn't want land-for-peace, it wants genocide for peace. (Note: if someone brings up Shebaa Farms as "proof" Hezbollah only wants land, they will have annointed themselves "Sucker for the Day" in my diary). Of course, this generalization doesn't apply to every Arab talking head and potentate. But as far as the militants with the guns and the hearts and minds go, that's the reality. Perhaps there are deal-makers even among the Iranians, but the fact is Hezbollah means what it says and it's stock is going up, not down. That means all of the 1990s illusions about how the Arab-Israeli (now more of a Muslim-Israeli) conflict could be solved through negotiations have been exploded.
A similar lesson applies to America. Al-Qaeda is our Hezbollah (and, in a sense, Hezbollah was our al Qaeda before al Qaeda showed up on the scene). Immediately after 9/11, the argument was made repeatedly that al Qaeda should be treated like a bunch of militant Palestinians. It was our support for Israel, our military presence in Saudi Arabia, etc, etc, which "created" al Qaeda and sustained them. Stop doing what bothers them and they will go away. True or not, the fact is the question of what created al Qaeda in particular or Jihadism in general is irrelevant at this pont. Hezbollah was created by Israel's occupation of Lebabon. But until three weeks ago Israel no longer occupied Lebanon. This didn't make Hezbollah disappear. It made Hezbollah stronger. America could pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq tomorrow. This would not make al Qaeda weaker. It would make al Qaeda stronger. And not long thereafter we'd hear how if "we" only gave them Spain, we could have peace.

So what do we do? The moonbat left believes that our problems with al-Qaeda are caused by our presence in the Middle East. But it is increasingly clear that if we left, the terrorists would simply follow us. Europe already has a huge problem with it's Muslim immigrants, and the problem will not go away. If we do not defeat the Islamic radicals in their homelands, they will only send forth more propagandists and terrorists to our countries. And then they will be asking for Spain back.

What does Israel do? There seems general consensus that the military campaign is not destroying Hezbollah as hoped. Mario Loyola, writing on NRO, believes that the only hope for Israel is, get ready, a "robust Security Council resolution" . If the situation is that dire, then we are in trouble indeed, for the UN is not an institution that any freedom-loving person has reason to trust.

No doubt that ending the threat from Hezbollah or any other terrorist group requires more than military action. A simple "cease fire" would only postpone the current conflict. Hezbollah would simply use the time to rearm, and I don't share Loyola's faith in the UN.

But the bottom line here is that "land for peace" is dead and buried. And it was killed by the failure of so many Arabs to take advantage of a gift horse when it was staring them in the face. Rather than follow the example that Anwar Sadat set, they have followed the example of Yassir Arafat. And the result has only been war and misery.

Posted by Tom at 9:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 30, 2006

Outrage! They Cried

It's an Outrage! they cried! Outrage!

Oh yes, now the usual suspects are outraged because an Israeli airstrike killed 60 civilians, inclucing 37 children, in a building in Qana, Lebanon. "Denunciations spread across the Arab and Muslim world" , with the attack called a "horrendous crime", the Israeli's are "war criminals".

"Palestinian protesters stormed the main U.N. compound in Gaza City on Sunday during a demonstration against" the bombing. Several hundred members of Islamic Jihad ("militants" to Reuters), attacked the compound, throwing rocks and firing rifles.

Nevermind the fact that the building collapsed some 8 hours after the Israeli attack. What they ought to be asking is why people were in a building that was structurally unsound.

But Hezbollah has gotten what it wants; more propaganda that suckers around the world willingly lap up and use to fuel their hatred of the Jews Israel. They deliberately hide their weapons among civilians, caring about them only insofar as they serve a useful propaganda purpose.

Oh, and that idiot Kofi Annan keeps prattling away, this time demanding an end to "the violence", and insisting that the Security Council step in. I'd say that he probably feels guilty about not preventing the genocide in Rwanda when he was given multiple opportunities to do so, but I know too much about him to believe that.

It would almost be funny if the situation wasn't so serious.

At an emergency meeting of the council called to address the killings, Annan said the region was growing impatient that U.N.'s most powerful body had yet to issue any meaningful response after three weeks of war in Lebanon.

But what statement might the Security Council issue?

The five permanent members at the United States, United Kingdom, France, China, and Russia.

The rotating members currently are Argentina, Greece, Qatar, Congo, Japan, Slovakia, Denmark, Peru, Tanzania, and Ghana.

The only reasonable statement that should be issued is one supporting Israel and condemning Hezbollah. If you want to add something cautioning Israel to be careful in it's attacks fine.

But there is no way a body composed of such members would issue such a statement. Anything that would garner majority support and avoid a veto would have to be "evenhanded". In otherwords, without moral clarity. And such a statement would be completely unacceptable. Which illustrates once again why the UN is not simply worthless, but is absolutely harmful to anyone who knows right from wrong.

The Good News

The Bush Administration is resisting much pressure from around to world to jump in and call for an immediate cease fire. The President and his Secretary of State apparently realize that Hezbollah needs to be destroyed, or at least significantly degraded.

The Bad News

Unfortunately, the IDF is not having as much success as it had hoped against Hezbollah. As John Hinderaker notes on Power Line, that "It's frustratingly hard to get a good fix on the military situation" but that "my sense is that the IDF hasn't made as much headway against Hezbollah as we would have wished."

That's what I'm picking up too, from a general reading of the news. Hezbollah is proving a much tougher customer than the PLO was in 192, when Israel went into Lebanon under what they called Operation Peace of the Galilee.

The Insanity

The insanity of it all boggles the mind. The same Palestinian "militants" who are so outraged over Israel's accidental bombing, one for which it has apologized , themselves attack civilians.

Kofi Annan is completely unable to distinguish aggressor from victim. To him all participants are simply "warring parties", to be dealt with equally.

Most Arabs cannot tell between an attack on a military target in which civilians are accidentlly killed (or killed as a byproduct), from a direct attack on civilians. For that matter, many in the West seem to have forgotten that distinction as well.

The Lebanese people, most of whom seem upset that another country is trying to destroy a terrorist force occupying much of its territory. The Lebanese Prime Minister who "thanks Hizbollah for its 'sacrifices'".

More insanity in the War on Radical Islam. Just another day.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 28, 2006

More Moral Confusion at the UN

Jan Egeland, the guy who called US aid to Indonesia "stingy" after last year's tsunami, is at it again. Now he says that Israel has "created a generation of hatred" with it's attack on Hezbollah (hat tip TigerHawk)

Talk about being born yesterday. The Arabs have hated Israel from day one. The never accepted that country's right to exist.

But what's most interesting is that he goes to great lengths to be evenhanded in the way he condems both Hezbollah and Israel

"The rockets have to stop. The terror has to stop. But please remember that for every civilian killed in Israel there are more than 10 killed in Lebanon. It has to stop on both sides." He charged that Israel had used "excessive" and "disproportionate" force in violation of international humanitarian law, and dismissed Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's contention that proportionality is measured in relation to the threat posed by a force.

"You cannot invent new kinds of proportionalities. I've never heard that the threat is supposed to be proportional to the response," he said. "Proportionality is there in the law. The law has been made through generations of experience on the battlefield. If you kill more civilians than military personnel, one should not attack," he said.

Egeland reiterated his condemnations of Hizbullah's tactics. "Armed men should not cowardly hide among civilians. It will inflict civilians casualties," he said, calling Hizbullah's cross-border kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers "a mega-catastrophe."

But, he stressed, "Civilians must be protected, and when there are many more dead children than armed men, something is fundamentally wrong, not only with how the armed men behave and where they seek hiding, but also in the response."

From what I can tell, Egeland is saying that because not as many Israeli civilians have died, Israel should not be responding as vigorously. Or that they're killing too many Lebanese civilians.

Yes it should "stop on both sides." But here's what it comes down to: You go to Israel and ask, "what would it take for you to stop?" The Israeli spokesperson would say "Hezbollah has to stop attacking us." Go to Hezbollah and ask the same question, and the response you'll get is "Israel must cease to exist and we're going to fight it until we win." The only way to reconcile these differences is for one or the other to be destroyed.

Speaking of rockets, one fired by Hezbollah hit the top floor of a hospital in he Israeli border town of Nahariya earlier today. Fortunately no one was killed. Think many people will trip overthemselves in a rush to condemn Hezbollah?

The same article goes on to say that Hezbollah has fired a "new kind of rocket, which landed deeper inside Israel than hundreds of other strikes in 17 days of fighting." But according to Egeland, Israel is supposed to sit there and take it, becasue they cannot respond proportionally.


The proportionality is part of just war theory, something developed in the West by Christian thinkers which I think is a pretty good guide to actions before and during war. I wrote extensively about it last year, and you can find all of my posts on it here.

From the section on proportionality

"The principle of proportionality with regards to conduct in war "deals not with a whole war but with a single military action in that war. The criterion requires that the good to be achieved by the action be proportionate to the damage done. Again, this means values preserved compared with values sacrificed, not a single cost-accounting of lives and dollars."


In summary, then, the jus ad bellum criterion of proportion says one mustn't go to war unless the values to be preserved by the war exceeded the values to be sacrificed. Within the war, the jus in bello criterion of proportion says that when one takes action against enemy military units or installations, the values sacrificed in the attack must not exceeded the values that would be threatened by the continued existence of the target.

The application, of course, is where it get's tricky. Let's take a quick look at a few things that are going on.

1) Hezbollah rockets have turned Israel's third largest city, Haifa (pop 280,000) into a ghost town. Ditto for the border along Lebanon.

2)By dropping leaflets, Israel is warning residents who live near Hezbollah sanctuaties to evacuate.

3) Israel is using precision weapons when necessary. No these do not prevent all civilian casualties, but they do mimimize them

4) Just War Theory does not allow sanctuaries. It is impermissable to hide behind civilians and then scream foul when they are killed.

5) The number of civilians killed so far is far less than in previous wars.

6) The doctrine of proportionality does not contain a "one to one" rule. That is not how it works.

7) If Israel had done nothing, or stops short of destroying Hezbollah and accepts a ceasefire under the auspices of the UN, within a short time Hezbollah will rearm itself with more and longer-range missiles. They will return to firing them, this time deeper into Israel. Israeli civilians will be killed. At some point Israel will say "enough is enough" and respond, but this time Hezbollah will be even stronger, so the fighting harder, thus more civilians killed. It is therefore better to suffer some casualties now than more casualties later.

Creating "a Generation of Hatred"?

The idea that all Israel is doing is creating "a generation of hatred" is the strangest of all. The Arabs have hated Israel since 1948. Even before the state of Israel was created, the Jews and Muslims in the area did not always get along. Perhaps a few Lebanese who didn't mind Israel will now be turned against it, but even that doesn't go very far.

Here's the point; suppose that is was true that most Lebanese hate Hezbollah and want them gone. Suppose further that they are sympathetic to Israel, or at least don't hate it (ok, a lot of supposing, but hear me out). Wouldn't they want Israel to destroy Hezbollah even if it cost civilian lives?

The website of the D-Day Museum says that during the Battle for Normandy, "between 15,000 and 20,000 French civilians were killed, mainly as a result of Allied bombing", which fits with what a tour guide told me when I was over there some years ago. Yet the French were and are today thankful that we freed them (Yes they are. Despite policy differences since then, they do appreciate that we liberated them from the Nazis).

Any deaths are a tragedy. The question is whether it is better to suffer fewer now or more later. And I think the answer to that question is obvious.

Posted by Tom at 8:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 26, 2006

More Reasons Not to Trust the United Nations

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says that Israel deliberately attacked a UN position in southern Lebanon

The UN secretary general Kofi Annan says an Israeli attack on a UN observation post was "apparently deliberate". Four unarmed military observers were killed in the air strike in southern Lebanon. ...

Mr Annan later called for participants at a Mideast conference to push for an immediate ceasefire to end fighting between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas.

Hizbollah must stop its "deliberate targeting of Israeli population centers". And Israel must put an end to all bombing, ground operations and blockades of Lebanese ports.


Only someone completely deluded could believe such a thing. I could go through my usual analysis, but I think that John Podhoretz summed it up best over at NRO:

He's an anti-Semite who sucks up to Arab dictators and presides over an organization choking on its own immoral filth.

I think that about sums it up nicely.

But if it's analysis you want, head over to Belmont Club where Richard Fernandez does his usual masterful job. After examining various UNIFIL press releases about it's activities in southern Lebanon, Fernandez concludes that ". If each of the press releases is read in their entirety is manifestly clear that UNIFIL is performing none of these authorized missions," which are to "to a) Confirm the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon; b) Restore international peace and security;" and "c) Assist the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area."

Maybe this picture of a Hezbollah and UN flag side-by-side say it all

UN and Hezbollah.jpg

Michelle Malkin has details.

Posted by Tom at 9:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 25, 2006

The Israeli attack on Hezbollah

I haven't written anything about the current Israeli war against Hezbollah for two reasons, one, I've been too busy, and two, it all seems so obvious. To me, Israel must be allowed to destroy Hezbollah. If Hezbollah is allowed to survive, all that will happen is that it will reconstitute itself and resume attacks on Israel. In other words, we'll return to the situation that prompted the war in the first place.

The problem is that Lebanon does not have a government that controls the entire country. The reason for this is that it has been fractured by years of civil war and Syrian intervention. The Cedar Revolution eliminated the latter in an overt form, but of course Syrian influence remains. Syria supports Hezbollah, and doesn't want the government of Lebanon to tolerate it. Hezbollah gained so much strength that it has cabinet ministers in the Lebanese government, so it's influence is not easy to eliminate. Indeed, it spent much of the past several years killing anyone in Lebabon who spoke out too strongly against it.

So the first step towards peace and stability in Lebanon is to eliminate Hezbollah. We've all heard that UN Security Council Resolution 1559 called for the disarming of Hezbollah, but of course that hasn't happened, and won't as long as the UN is in charge of making it happen.

Therefore, the worst thing that could happen now is for other nations to impost a premature cease-fire that allows Hezbollah to survive. This would be repeating 1982, when we allowed that terrorist Arafat and his PLO to survive and escape to Tunisia just when the IDF had them cornered in Beirut.

Alan Dershowitz lays out the case why we should not allow the UN to mediate or have anything to do with the situation. He describes how the UN legitimizes terrorism:

If anyone wonders why the UN has rendered itself worse than irrelevant in the Arab-Israeli conflict, all he or she need do is read UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's July 20 statement. Annan goes to great pains to suggest equal fault and moral equivalence between the rockets of Hezbollah and Hamas that specifically target innocent civilians and the self-defense efforts by Israel, which tries desperately, though not always successfully, to avoid causing civilian casualties. In his statement, Annan never condemns, or even mentions, terrorism, which is a root cause and precipitator of the conflict.

Even Annan was forced to acknowledge that "Hezbollah's provocative attack on July 12 was the trigger of this particular crisis"; that Hezbollah is "deliberate[ly] targeting ... Israeli population centers with hundreds of indiscriminate weapons"; and that Israel has the "right to defend itself under Article 51 of the UN charter." But he doesn't stop there. He goes out of his way to insist on equating Hezbollah's terrorists with Israeli military response, which he labels "disproportionate" and "collective punishment." He condemns both Hezbollah and Israel. He also criticizes Israel for its efforts at preventing Qassam rocket attacks against its civilian populations, noting that the Hamas rockets have produced no "casualties in the past month." (This, of course, is not for lack of trying.) He ignores Hamas' long history of terrorism against innocent civilians.

Annan then calls for an "immediate cessation of indiscriminate and disproportionate violence" on both sides, again suggesting a moral equivalence. Among the most immoral positions anyone can take is to suggest a moral equivalence between morally different actions.

Dershowitz nails the entire problem with the UN; moral equivalence. It simply cannot distinguish between agressor and defender, between right and wrong, between terrorist and victim. To Annan, Israel and Hezbollah are simply two warring parties which must be brought to heal.

Unfortunately, this attitude has infected many around the world and in the US. Hezbollah hides among civilians, knowing that no matter how precise the Israeli attack, some will be killed. Despite that the civilian death toll is far less than in the 1982 operation, many insist on a cease fire "for the children". So the terrorists get to have it both ways; when they fire their rockets into Israel or send forth their suicide bombers, a few tut-tut but then quickly insist that Israel must make this or that concession "for peace". But when Israel tries to destroy the terrorists, it's "they're using disproportionate force" and "it perpetuates the cycle of violence".

Lastly Derschowitz reminds us that there have been UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon for years, but they haven't exactly done any good

The UN peacekeepers on the Lebanese border have turned out to be collaborators with Hezbollah, videotaping the Hezbollah kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers in 2000 and then refusing to release the video--which could have helped in the rescue--on the grounds that it might compromise their "neutrality."

Yes the current situation is frought with danger. A wider war, and a spread of chaos would not been good for the situation in Iraq. It is worth the risk, however, if we can destroy or at least significantly harm Hezbollah. Let Israel do what it has to do.

Posted by Tom at 9:54 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 17, 2006

All You Need to Know About Hezbollah


These are pictures from several Hezbollah gatherings from the invaluable StrategyPage., which comments, "We'll let you draw your own conclusions."

Go Israel!

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 3, 2006

Options for Dealing with the Gulf States

As everyone knows Iran is determined to get nuclear weapons, and will likely have then before 2006 is out.

And as anyone who is at alll in touch with current events knows, this will lead to war. Whether the war starts just before they have something deliverable or not depends on luck and how good our intelligence is, but either way unless there's a miracle it's going to happen.

The only question is whether we'll be able to effectively take out the relevant sites in Iran.

While it would be foolhardy of me to attempt a complete answer to that question, I will look at one aspect of it.

And that is, where are we going to hit them from?

Let's take a look at a few maps of the region

First, an area-wide map,


Just from this we can see a few things

1) Iran is an awfully big country

2) Unless we control the Persian Gulf, the Iranians will easily wreck havoc on shipping there.

3) While some of Iran is certainly accessible by carrier-based aircraft in the Indian Ocean/Arabian Sea, it sure would be nice to get the carriers into the northern part of the gulf so the plans didn't have to fly so far without refueling etc

Ok, you knew this already, you say.

So let's get close up


Unfortunately this map does not have a scale, but it does give some idea of where we have military bases.

The point is this; we cannot fight a war with Iran without help from other countries in the Persian Gulf. And that includes the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Now, I have been second to none in bringing you stories of Saudi Arabian perfidity. In my opinion George W Bush has been far too cozy with them, as was his father.

And yes, Iran's air force would not pose any real threat to our aircraft.

Taking out Iranian nuclear facilities will require more than planes on aircraft carriers.

It will require more than B-52s, B-1s, and B-2s, based on Diego Garcia, Guam, and Missouri.

It will take more than aircraft based in Iraq.

It will take aircraft based in the countries of the Persian Gulf.

GlobalSecurity gives some idea on the immense scale of operations needed to take down Iranian nuclear facilities

American air strikes on Iran would vastly exceed the scope of the 1981 Israeli attack on the Osiraq nuclear center in Iraq, and would more resemble the opening days of the 2003 air campaign against Iraq. Using the full force of operational B-2 stealth bombers, staging from Diego Garcia or flying direct from the United States, possibly supplemented by F-117 stealth fighters staging from al Udeid in Qatar or some other location in theater, the two-dozen suspect nuclear sites would be targeted.

Mansoor Ijaz, writing in National Review, elaborated on this a few months ago

A massive air campaign, which only the U.S. could launch, could require attacking as many as 100 sites, destroying a good part of Iran's air force before attacking its facilities, and causing a lot of collateral damage. Iran's retaliation could be to close the Straits of Hormuz and force a showdown with America's naval forces. Iran would probably manage to get a handful of ballistic missiles in the air. No Gulf country wants a nuclear Iran, but neither do they need another Gulf war.

His solution was to encourage an uprising that would overthrow the government. I agree that we should try this. But of course the probability of success is not high, and at any rate it is something we cannot count on. Therefore we must be prepared to strike.

Further, as Mansoor Ijaz points out, the gulf states will the the ones that might be hit in a war since they are right there. But if the US decides on airstrikes, the gulf states are targets no matter what. So their and our best security is for us to work with them on security matters. We can hit Iran fastest and hardest if we use bases located in their countries.

A complete order of battle for US forces in the gulf region can be found here on the Global Security website.

Military City also has a pretty good order of battle and includes forces in the Mediterranian.

Check them both out. There is simply no way we can hit Iran without the use of these bases, and have a a lot of them in the region.

Friends, Enemies, or Something Else?

Are the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf region our friends, our enemies, or something else entirely?

Today we have four options being promoted in the United States:

1) Zero Tolerance
They will remind us that every single Gulf region country is an autocracy, and while some are more oppressive than others, Liberty is a stranger in all of them. The governments of these countries falsely arrest and torture their own citizens and foreigners alike, they support radical clerics, and have been linked to most terrorist organizations at one time or another. I have posted many articles on Saudi Arabia, for example, documenting what they have done in this regard.

Their position is, roughly speaking, that we should have no military or political alliances with these countries at all. We can buy their oil, but security in this regard is their problem.

2) The Realists
They say you've got to accept the world as it is. These people can't be changed, at least not in our lifetimes, so don't bother trying. Besides, if you upset the apple cart you're liable to make things worse. Remember what happened to the Shah of Iran?

This attitude is typified by people such as former former General Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor in the Carter Administration. Their mantra is "stablity uber alles".

3) The Alternative Energy Advocates
They believe that we can end our "oil addiction" and thus not need petroleum from this region. Perhaps so, at some point far into the future. I believe this to be dangerously misguided and unrealistic thinking. Given our level of technology, it will be a long time before we can significantly cut down on oil consumption. Pursuit of "alternative energy sources" may alleviate the problem somewhat, but anything to the degree that would make a serious difference would require far too much government coercion for me.

4) The Bush Doctrine
Then there's the new approach that George W Bush and his team are trying out. Although I have a few quibbles on the details, it is the one to which I subscribe.

The Bush Doctrine can be summarizsed as having four parts:

1) Pre-emption of security threats
2) Unilateralism when multilateralism fails
3) Strength beyond challenge
4) Extending Democracy, Liberty, and Security to All Regions

As a practical matter this means pushing the gulf countries to change their ways while working with them to counter threats such as Iraq and Iran. Unlike the old days, promotion of liberty will not be made with empty words. At the same time, we're not going to take the Carteresque approach whereby autocracies were turned into something worse; such as Iran going from the Shah to Khomeini.

It is my contention, that all things considered, the Bush Doctrine is the best option availabe. We ought to pursue it.

Posted by Tom at 9:15 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 28, 2006

The Palestinian Elections

Hamas has won 76 seats out of a possible 132 in the Palestinian Parliament. Fatah, founded by Yassir Arafat and the party of (president?) Mahmoud Abbas, received 43 seats. The balance went to a variety of other parties. As we've heard on the news again and again, this is either a "stunning victory" for Hamas or a "stunning defeat" for Fatah, depending on which broadcast you listen to.

Is this outcome a good thing or a bad thing for Israel and the United States?

Is Democracy Always Good?

First, we need to get this out of the way: elections mean that people get to choose, it does not mean that they will make the choice that we want them to make. This does not, however, mean that elections themselves are wrong or bad. Nor do I brook any favor with the argument that "some people aren't ready for democracy."

The entire philisophical question of "can people elect a tyranny" cannot be answered in full here. People do have the right to elect pretty much whomever they want, but some freedoms are not up for a vote. Reasonable people can debate the limits.

However, I see all too many people using this as an excuse to simply bash the Bush Administration and it's goal of bringing democracy to the Middle East. Some, like bigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, favor stability uber alles. To them, "stable" but "friendly" dictators are to be prefered. On the far left and far right, we hear the "they can't handle democracy" line. Some on the left just want to use anything they can to attack our president and I'm sure we'll hear the "ha! I told you democracy wouldn't work!"

More seriously, the results of the elections mean that they weren't held soon enough, say, 10 or 20 years ago. As Natan Scharansky said in his book "The Case for Democracy", outlines the problem with the Oslo agreements, in which Israel and the US agreed not to push the Palestinians towardds democracy, believing that shoring up a dictator like Arafat was the best road to peace:

Whereas the Helsinki agreements forged a direct link between human rights and East-West relations, the Oslo accords failed to establish any connection between human rights and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Worse, as would later become clear in word and deed, Oslo's architects actually believed that such a link would be detrimental to the interests of both parties.

Because no such link was ever established, the Palestinians had no incentive to reform. Since they didn't reform, Fatah became more and more corrupt. We saw the results earlier this week, in which voters chose Hamas, believing they would clean up the corruption.

What Does It Mean?

Some have said that this brings "unavoidable clarity to the central issues in the region" and that, along with recent statements by Iranian president Ahmadinejad, make "impossible for (most) apologists to minimize the nature of the threats we face." Also gone will by the hypcrisy of Yassir Arafat, when he would "denounce them(terrorists) in English in the morning and celebrate them in Arabic in the afternoon. Hamas will not have that luxury".

No doubt moral clarity is a good thing. I always thought that those who criticized Ronald Reagan for his "evil empire" speech, and those who attacked George W Bush for his "axis of evil" characterization, were very misguided.

Another aspect of this is that now Hamas will have to perform. It is easy to criticize when on the outside, and tough rhetoric always whips up one's followers. But they will find that actually running a government is not so easy, and that public support is fickle. A leader in the Lebanese parliament seemed to speak for many Arab governments when he said that "Hamas had better get its act together." Other Muslim and Arab leaders voiced similar sentiments.

Hamas also has to decide whether it wants to become anything more than just a terrorist organization. The Wall Street Journal opined that it "...may even have the long-run benefit of educating Palestinians about the terrible cost of their political choices." The United States, let alone Israel, will not allow a state governed by terrorists to emerge in Palestine.

Besides clean government, voters also chose Hamas because they believe it can bring victory against Israel. Powerline observes "the fact is that a great many Palestinians, perhaps a majority, are living in a fantasy world in which the massacre of the Jews will somehow solve their problems." This is no doubt true, just as it is true that increased terrorism will only make matters worse for Palestinians.

Perhaps they will have to learn the hard way. The Bush Administration has announced that it will not deal with Hamas "unless it renounces its goal of destroying Israel." We will see whether the administration will be able to resist the inevitable calls that will eventually come to "recognize reality" and deal with the "legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people" that we will soon be hearing.

And They Want Their Own Country?

The response of Fatah supporters to the Hamas victory has been to riot and torch cars. No doubt we will hear many excuses from the left about how this is the result of their being misteated by the Israelis, poverty, not being "respected", bad childhoods....

Whatever. Last September Belmont Club reported that Palestinians werewrecking, dismantling, and carrying off very expensive greenhouses left for them in Gaza when the Israelis evacuated. The high-tech greenhouses could have been a source of much revinue for the Palestinians. That the Palestinian security forces did nothing to stop the looting is telling. If they cannot or will not stop looting, how can they run a country?

Behavior such as this can only harm their aspirations to nationhood.

The anti-Semitic portion of the world, which is all to great a part of it, will always excuse such behavior. The part that counts toward granting the Palestinians a country, the US and Israel, will not. And so as long as they behave this way, they'll stay poor and nationless.

Posted by Tom at 11:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 19, 2005

Freedom Advances

The Defeatocrats keep complaining...

...but freedom advances across the Middle East.

From a press release issued today by Freedom House:

The people of the Arab Middle East experienced a modest but potentially significant increase in political rights and civil liberties in 2005, Freedom House announced in a major survey of global freedom released today.

The global survey, "Freedom in the World," shows that although the Middle East continues to lag behind other regions, a measurable improvement can be seen in freedom in several key Arab countries, as well as the Palestinian Authority. In another key finding, the number of countries rated by Freedom House as Not Free declined from 49 in 2004 to 45 for the year 2005, the lowest number of Not Free societies identified by the survey in over a decade. In noteworthy country developments, Ukraine and Indonesia saw their status improve from Partly Free to Free; Afghanistan moved from Not Free to Partly Free; and the Philippines saw its status decline from Free to Partly Free.

According to Thomas O. Melia, acting executive director of Freedom House, "The modest but heartening advances in the Arab Middle East result from activism by citizen groups and reforms by governments in about equal measures. This emerging trend reminds us that men and women in this region share the universal desire to live in free societies."

The global picture thus suggests that the past year was one of the most successful for freedom since Freedom House began measuring world freedom in 1972.

(Hat tip NRO)

Yes the advance of democracy is slow.

Yes Iraq is still rated "not free" by Freedom House.

Yes there will be setbacks in the future.

But when has it not been this way?

As I recall, the American South was not totally free in 1867, and that's putting it mildly. Rarely does a country go from complete tyranny to complete freedom overnight. In this regard Japan and Germany were the exceptions.

So it will take time to get Iraq right. But time is now on our side, as the terrorists are slowly but surely being defeated. Their strategy of attacking Iraqi civilians has backfired, and we see the results in the elections of a few days ago where the Sunni's participated in great numbers.

All we have to do is to stay firm. At the beginning of the War on Terror I said that it was really about willpower, and current events are proving this out. And yes, Iraq is the central front in the War on Terror, and no it doesn't matter that Saddam didn't plan or know about 9/11. We can't stick our head in the sand, our offensive strategy of engaging the enemy on his turf is working despite greater than anticipated difficulties (Clausewitz smiles knowlingly; google for "friction of war").

As Freedom House notes, freedom is advancing steadily if slowly. And as Margaret Thatcher once said, "This is no time to go wobbly"

Posted by Tom at 10:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 9, 2005

"Annoy a Dictator Today"

Yemen may not be one of the most important countries in the Middle East, and I don't think it condescending to say that most people would have trouble finding it on a map. So the idea of fighting for press freedom in that country may seem a bit odd. After all, aren't there bigger, more important countries in the Middle East that we should be concerned with?

The spark to revolution occurs in the most odd places. Who would have guessed that events in Romania or Czechoslovakia would free Eastern Europe? If it is true that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, it is also surely accurate to say that democracy anywhere is a threat to tyranny everywhere.

Tyrants around the world are frightened of what is happening in Iraq, which explains much of the opposition to our efforts there. The flame of pluralism spreads unevenly, one country at a time. We are at a unique point in history, where a "reverse dominoe effect" may be occuring, or able to occur.

Yemen is that battleground. What follows was brought to my attention by Jane Novak, a very courageous journalist who has done much work in bringing to light human rights abuses in Yemen. fyi,Jane is a real journalist, she has links on her site to articles of hers on Yemen and the Middle East that have been published.

This is the situation as Jane tells it on her blog, and how you can "annoy a dictator today":

My *cousin* and our good friend Abdulkarim al-Khaiwanii, editor of al-Shoura newspaper in Yemen, Yemen's main reformist voice, democracy advocate, was imprisoned from last September to March when he recieved an anmesty. The charges were insulting the president, actually he wrote some very hot articles about Saleh planning on giving the presidency to his son. This is the guy who wrote the letter about democracy and we made the petition. OK? (Also he hates the jihaddis as much as me. And they hate him back.)

Once he was released, of course he continued writing the truth, like about nine year old children in prison becasue they're Shites, how in Saada soldiers were throwing women and children from the windows and then shooting them on the ground, and just recently about the massive corruption of President Saleh who is stealing the millions from a generation of dreadfully poor children. Some reports say Saleh is worth 20 billion at this point.

Also after al-Khaiwanii started republishing the newspaper, he published my last six articles on Yemen in Arabic in al-Shoura.

Also he's getting serious death threats and wrote about in al-Wasat newspaper. He'a a very couragous guy.

OK, following so far? Good, that was the easy part. They are very tricky.

al-Shoura is the paper of the Popular Forces Union (PFU) political party. The party is very moderate and democracy oriented. It has been calling for political reform and criticizing the brutal ethnic cleansing of the Shiites in Saada.

The security guard of the PFU party headquarters (who is not a member of the party) recently went into the PFU headquarters with some other thugs, took control of the building, and held the party leader at gunpoint for several days. (Do we all remember the kidnapped guy? He is also with this party and was another seperate target. ) At that time, the security gurad also went to al-Shoura and stole all the computers and equiptment.

After a few weeks, there was an arrest warrent for the security guard issued by the prosecutor. The police go to arrest him. He shoots at them. THE POLICE LEAVE AND DO NOT RETURN.

So a few days ago, the security guard goes to the building of al-Shoura newspaper, with guns and takes it over. And publishes the paper. With bogus content. So the security guard now is in control of two buildings: the PFU party headqarters and the al-Shoura newspaper building.

Oh BTW the story from the sleezy brutal immoral Salafist Yemeni government is that its an internal party dispute and the gunman wants to reform the party.

Also al-Shoura is normally published by the independent printing press (of the recently murdered Mohammed Salem Al-Sagheer) that serves the majority of opposition parties. This issue of al-Shoura (the one produced by the gunman) was printed by the Yemeni government's printing press.

al-Khaiwani goes to publish his paper with some brutal articles on corruption in it, and the government shuts down the printing press.

The Socialist Party, which has a fatwa on it for advocating a secular government (one of their leaders was assasinated), calls the government attacks on the PFU "political terrorism."

You can go to her site for the full story, but I think you get the picture. Here's an article with good information about what's going on in Yemen, hat tip Winds of Change.

This post is to ask you, dear reader, to take a moment and send an email to the relevant authorities on the subject of "In support of al-Khaiwanii and al-Shoura" or "in support of a Free Press in Yemen"
or "in support of a Free Press in Yemen"

So if you'd like to annoy a dictator, take a minute and send an email of protest to the following addresses. Or you can go to Jane's blog where she has an email link already set up.

nic@y.net.ye (National Yemeni Informatin Center)

You can also write to our government to let them know that we are following this closely. A good place to start is with your two Senators and congressman. You can find your senator here and your congressman here.

Before posting I sent all the Yemeni's, and I also contacted my senators and congressman.

It only takes a minute. Let's see if we can make a difference.

Posted by Tom at 11:46 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 14, 2005

Trouble in Syria?

Is Bashar al-Assad on the Rocks? StrategyPage thinks so:

There has been rising dissatisfaction with his rule in Syria. Because of economic mismanagement, and the collapse of the Baath Party in Iraq, the Syrian Baath Party has lost any credibility as a revolutionary, pan-Arab movement, and is largely controlled by corrupt, aging bureaucrats who have blocked any attempts at reform. The party is also very narrowly-based, drawing most of its strength from the Alawite minority, a Moslem religious sect that includes only about 15 percent of the population. This has led to an increase in sympathy for Islamic radical movements, which tend to consider any Moslem not Sunni to be heretics. ...

Assad seems to believe that reforms are needed to permit the Baath Party to remain in power, including abandonment of the party's pan-Arab pretensions to focus on Syria's needs, broadening the party's base, and liberalizing economic and social controls. Since the extreme Baathists view his withdrawal from Lebanon as a sign of weakness, Assad may take advantage of an impending party congress to attempt a purge the dead wood. The resulting power struggle may prove interesting.

Things could heat up very quicky. As Natan Sharansky is fond of pointing out, dictatorships look strong to outsiders but in fact are fragile. His father, Hafez al-Assad, maintained an iron-tight grip on the country. The son does not seem as politically adept.

The United States should keep a full-court press on Syria. This regime could be on its last legs. True, there is no guarantee that a reformists would come to power should the current one fall. But "stability uber alles" is always a bad policy. Sometimes shaking the tree is worth the effort, and Syria is one of them.

Posted by Tom at 10:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 15, 2005

Kidnapping in Yemen

Jane of Armies of Liberation has done a fantastic job at keeping an eye on Yemen. This is yet another Arab/Muslim country where reforms are needed. They'd been making some headway, and then came the mysterious kidnapping of a Yemeni journalist, Nabil al-Wazer:

Nabil al-Wazer was kidnapped in Yemen on Tuesday. Everyone knows where he is and who’s got him. Lets see if the Yemeni government can get him back safely, and act like a normal government with the first priority of securing the wellbeing of its citizens. Or are they in on it and going to say “Woops.” (You know, like woops we bombed the civilians in Saada.)
Nabil al-Wazer is a civil engineer but also the treasurer of the Popular Forces Union, a Zaidi party with a secular basis. He’s also related to the party’s leader. Just like they bombed the Zaidi region (Saada), now its the turn of the Zaidi party to be attacked. Its part of the jihad against the Yemeni Zaidis (shia). Otherwise the government would go get him and return him safely to his family. Nabil al-Wazer is being held against his will by Houssain Abo Dunya in Hajja (no not Hajja) since Tuesday, kidnapped.
He’s kidnapped. His location is known. Since Tuesday. Not a police in sight. Nothing. The kidnapper is asking for approximately $50,000 US dollars.

So the Yemeni government can do mass arrests and arbitrary arrests, but not legitimate arrests. It can target its citizens but not protect them. It can arrest women, and boys, and old men, but not criminals.

Jane, as followers of her blog know, was on top of it. She started a campaign to find out the truth and put pressure on the Yemeni government. The msm picked up on it (she mentions MSNBC on her blog, but I can't find a story. If someone finds it please send it to me), which shows the power of a concerted effort. Many bloggers joined in her campaign. Due to other obligations, I did not pick up on this until just now.

Fortunately the situation has been resolved. However, the details remain murky. Nabil was "released", but we don't know what happened to the kidnapper(s). Were they arrested? Let's see if the government there does the right thing.

Visit her blog for the latest.

Posted by Tom at 8:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 11, 2005

Stand up for Israel

Maia Lazar has organized a "Jewish Blogburst". Stop over at the blogburst site where she has a list of those who participated and an excerpt from their post.

I will use this opportunity to discuss once more a topic that I believe to be vitally important; moral clarity and the Middle East.

In all of the areas of the world, of all the issues that we discuss, none is more clouded by moral confusion as that of Israel and the Middle East. It is a subject that to me seems so obvious, yet to so many others at home and abroad it is so clouded. It almost pains me to say it, but their moral confusion on this issue is evidence of problems with the entire concept of democracy, freedom, and the concept of "right versus wrong". Big stuff, but there it is.

The Confused

Here is what we hear from the confused on an almost daily basis:

  • Israel stole land that belongs to the Palestinians
  • Israel is one of the most repressive states on the planet
  • Zionists are racists
  • Israeli troops deliberately kill civilians
  • "The Jews" control the banks, Hollywood, U.S. foreign policy, (fill in the blank with your favorite)
On and on it goes. Of all of the repressive regimes on our planet, tiny Israel receives more venom and hatred directed towards it than all of the others put together. It is regularly attacked in the UN General Assembly. It is despised in Europe.

The fact is, of course, that those who attack Israel so venemously know perfectly well what they are doing. They are not really confused at all.

A Perfect Example

The best example of moral confusion is in regard to Israeli military actions versus terrorist actions by Palestinian and other Muslim extremists.

Israel directs it's attacks at military targets, by which we mean people who are either armed themselves or directly part of a military-type structure aimed at doing harm. Sometimes civilians are killed during the fighting. However, they civilians are not only the ones not targeted, but the evidence is overwhelming that Israel, like the United States, goes out of its way to avoid civilian casualties.

Palestinian and other Muslim extemists, however, directly target Israeli civilians.

Why this difference is hard for some people to understand is utterly beyond me. My only conclusion is that they are so enraptured by leftist ideologies that they are beyond reason.

The Settlements

We're forever hearing that the settlements are standing in the way of peace.

To which I ask; if the settlements are the problem today, what was the problem before 1967?

The usual response; silence. Of course. They have no answer.

I wrote about this at some length in a previous post. My conclusion:

The main issues preventing peace are the following
  1. Lack of Moral Clarity. I've written on this before here. Here are two of the essential elements of moral clarity lacking in some people:
    1. Israel is an imperfect democracy, but it is a democracy. No Arab state is a democracy. This does not mean that Israel may do anything it wishes, but it does mean that we should give them the benefit of the doubt.
    2. Israeli forces practice discrimination in warfare. That is, they only attack military targets. Civilians are sometimes killed as a byproduct, but the civilians are not the target themselves. Arab/Muslim terrorists deliberately target civilians. Why this is hard for some people to understand is beyond me.
  2. Lack of Democracy among the Arab States. Natan Scharansky wrote about this in his excellent book "The Case for Democracy". Simply put, democracies do not fight each other. We in the west are partly responsible for the current state of affairs, since in the past we did not pressure Arab governments to reform.
  3. Palestinian terrorism - until the Arab states and/or the PA put and end to terrorism by organizations such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the others there will be no peace.
  4. The expansion of the settlements should stop. Ok, I know I said earlier that "the settlements per se" are not the problem. And that is true. But it is also true that in my opinion Israel does not need new settlements, and by expanding them they give Palestinian extremists a propaganda message that is useful in recruiting terrorists.

Onwards to Democracy

There will not be a permanent peace in the Middle East until the Arab states start to embrace pluralistic forms of government. This includes the Palestinian Authority.

Natan Sharansky wrote about this in his book "The Case for Democracy". Sharansky said that agreements such as the one at Oslo were a mistake because they did not require that the Palestinians reform themselves, and I believe that history has shown him to be correct.

While some doubt that democracy is possible among Muslims, Sharansky (and I) disagree. Many once thought that democracy was not possible for people in the former Soviet Republics and Eastern Europe. History has proven them wrong.

Stand up for Israel

So in the meantime we must stand up for Israel, for to do so is to stand for democracy. We do this not because of some misguided notion of "Israel right or wrong", for Israel is not always in the right. But it is more right more often that it's enemies, far more, in fact. And we also stand up for Israel because, strange as it may sound, to do so is to stand up for democratic change in the Arab world, for they deserve to live as we do also.

Posted by Tom at 3:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 13, 2005

The Israeli Settlements

In the news on a periodic basis is the issue of Israeli settlements on two pieces of territory; the West Bank and the Gaza strip. Last week Israeli Prime Minister Sharon met with President Bush on the latter's ranch in Texas, where they discussed these and other issues. Sharon wants to "evacuate" settlers from Gaza, while expanding settlements on the West Bank.

Like everyting else in the Middle East, the technical, social, and historical details are unbelievably complex, but the moral issues are fairly straightforward.

Here is a map of Israel for those folks not completely familiar with the geography. One thing to keep in mind is how small the area concerned is. Look at the scale; one could drive the entire length of Isreal in two or three hours. You can stand on some hills on the West Bank and see the Mediterranian Ocean.

Map of Israel

The (very) short version of the history of Israel as regards the settlements is that after the 1948 War of Independence Israel formed borders now known as the "pre-1967 borders". This is the light colored area in the map above.

While the reasons for the 1967, or "Six Day War", are, like everything else in that region of the world, complex, but essentially repeated provocations, including blockade of sea routes by Egypt and Syria convinced Israel that it had no choice but to "pre-empt" the Arabs by attacking first. On the morning of June 5 the Israeli Air Force wiped out first the Egyptian Air Force, then the Syrian Air Force, while they sat on the ground in a "Pearl Harbor" type raid. With the Arab air forces decimated, Israeli ground troops quickly destroyed their enemies.

During this war Israel captured four territories:

1) The West Bank (west bank of the Jordan river) captured from Jordan
2) The Golan Heights (a plateau in south-western Syria bordering Israel) captured from Syria
3) The Gaza Strip (now in west south-western Israel) captured from Egypt
4) The Sinai Desert (marked simply "Egypt" on the map above) captured from Egypt

Of these territorie, Sinai was returned to Egypt as part of the Sadat-Begin peace accords of 1979.

Shortly after occupying the territories the Israelis began to occupy them with civilians.

Again, the short version is that Israel captured these terrorities because their original borders were militarily indefensibe, and two, because some religious Jews cite historical and religious claims to the land. However, some Israelis have moved to the settlements for more mundane and practical reasons, such as tax incentives, cheap housing, etc.

The Settlements are Not the Issue

Today we hear from the Arabs that the settlements are the major obstacle to peace. And, if you read the papers, you can be forgiven for thinking that if only the Israelis would give up their settlements a peace could be quickly worked out. The solution, it is said, is to give the Palestinians a country on the West Bank, and to let (demand, really) that Israel live within it's pre-1967 borders.

This is not true for a number of reasons.

  1. If the settlements are the problem today, then what was the problem before 1967? Terrorism against Israel did not begin with the end of the Six Day War. The PLO, for example was formed in 1964.
  2. If the West Bank is such a perfect home for the Palestinians, why didn't Jordan give them this land as their country when they had the chance (i.e. before 1967)?
  3. The fact is that Israel is willing to negotiate with the Arab countries but with the exception of Egypt and Jordan the Arab countries still refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist.
  4. The Palestinian "right of return" must be abandoned. This is not something that you read about often (if at all) in your daily newspaper but it is one of the most important things that must be resolved. In short, during the 1948 War of Independence, some 800,000 Arabs fled the area (for reasons that are disputed). Today their ancestors demand the right to return to Israel and claim the land they left, or at least to take up Israeli citizenship. One need not be a demographer to see that these ancestors (and anyone could claim to be one as documentation would be impossible to verify) would now number in the tens of millions. They would simply flood Israel with Arabs, and, in the next election, vote the state of Israel out of existance.
  5. In short, if the Arabs had not opposed Israel's right to exist from the beginning, had negotiated a peace, had given the Palestinians a homeland on the West Bank, stopped their terrorism, formed democratic (or at least representative) governments, the present situation could have been entirely avoided.
  6. Further, the Security Fence that Israel is building is not preventing peace as some alledge. It is stopping terrorism, and that is a good thing. My only question is why didn't the Israelis think of it earlier. And I don't care what any "world court" has to say about it.
So "the settlements" per se are not really the issue preventing peace.

The Real Issues

The main issues preventing peace are the following

  1. Lack of Moral Clarity. I've written on this before here. Here are two of the essential elements of moral clarity lacking in some people:
    1. Israel is an imperfect democracy, but it is a democracy. No Arab state is a democracy. This does not mean that Israel may do anything it wishes, but it does mean that we should give them the benefit of the doubt.
    2. Israeli forces practice discrimination in warfare. That is, they only attack military targets. Civilians are sometimes killed as a byproduct, but the civilians are not the target themselves. Arab/Muslim terrorists deliberately target civilians. Why this is hard for some people to understand is beyond me.
  2. Lack of Democracy among the Arab States. Natan Scharansky wrote about this in his excellent book "The Case for Democracy". Simply put, democracies do not fight each other. We in the west are partly responsible for the current state of affairs, since in the past we did not pressure Arab governments to reform.
  3. Palestinian terrorism - until the Arab states and/or the PA put and end to terrorism by organizations such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the others there will be no peace.
  4. The expansion of the settlements should stop. Ok, I know I said earlier that "the settlements per se" are not the problem. And that is true. But it is also true that in my opinion Israel does not need new settlements, and by expanding them they give Palestinian extremists a propaganda message that is useful in recruiting terrorists.

That's my take on the whole issue, or at least all I have time to write for now. I may add to this post later.

Posted by Tom at 11:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 25, 2005

Yemeni Journalist Freed!

I'm a bit late in posting on this but Yemeni journalist Abdul-Karim Al-Khaiwani has been freed and is at home! Congratulations to Jane Novak for her campaign to get him out of prison. (visit her blog for details if you haven't been following this case)

As she reminds us, though, the battle is far from over, as there is still no freedom of the press in Yemen, or indeed in just about any other Arab country other than Iraq (hmm, how'd that happen?)

This is just one battle in a large war, but wars are won one battle at a time. Mark one up for the good guys.

Posted by Tom at 9:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 19, 2005

Petition to free al-Khaiwani

Jane Novak over at Armies of Liberation has been leading the effort to free imprisoned Yemeni journalist Abdulkarim Al Khaiwani. I'm a bit late helping her out with a post and link, but better late than never.

I'm asking all my readers to visit her site and sign the petition to free this journalist.

Jane is a professional columnist, having had her work appear in both regular newspapers and on-line publications.

She's got so many posts on this issue that I'm not going to link to any specific ones. Just visit her website and scroll down to find them.

Here's a summary of the situation:

Upon a quick trial held during judiciary leave, violating all definite legal texts, and after a rushed interrogation with Al Khawani, accused of press charges, during August 2004, a verdict was issued by the south west Sana’a primary court sentencing Abdul Kareem Al Khaiwani to one year in prison and closure of Al Shoura newspaper for six months. This verdict was issued against the law, and dishonored by the defense committee which filed an appeal immediately after the verdict in September 5th, 2004.a

In the evening of September 5th, Abdul Kareem Al Khaiwani is arrested by authorities in a humiliating and terrorizing way. Al Shoura news paper is closed and its editors were kicked out to the street in a step to access the verdict which could not be reversed till this moment.

Sana’a appeal court prolongs holding its sessions intentionally based on weak justifications aiming to keep Al Khaiwani in prison. It requests Al Khaiwani to court more than once handcuffed accompanying murderers and drug smuggling convicts.

After 5 months of intentional prolongation of procedures, the appeal court holds it first sessions in February 8th, 2005. The judge decides in a quick session without hearing to the defense discussions to suspend the case until verdict is issued in March 1st, 2005.
On that day, the judge postpones the verdict to March 22nd, 2005.

Al Khaiwani was attacked physically 5 times which risked his life and safety. The administration of central prison did not blink about it!

The Yemeni president and government ignores all demands and calls for the release of Al Khaiwani made by local, regional, and international organizations concerned with rights and freedoms.

The newspaper opened files of corruption, inheritance of power, and political reform as well as abuse of public financial resources. The charges against Al Khawani and Al Shura newspaper are “ publishing false topics and news that harm public order and infringes national unity. These topics support Al Huthi’s rebellion against governmental authorities which resulted in the incitement of tribal and sectarian discrimination as well as insulting the president publicly” according to the prosecutors. It is clear that the reason behind his arrest and imprisonment is opening the files of inheritance, abuse of financial resources of the country and political reform.

The political, legal and press media in Yemen is concerned about the severity of the verdict against al Khaiwani and the continuous closure of Al Shoura newspaper under political authoritative pressure and according to personal wishes against the publishing of facts.

In March 5th 2005, it will have been 6 months since the newspaper was first closed. Yet, the prosecutors office refuses to the request for reopening the newspaper’s office and republishing its issues.

Posted by Tom at 10:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 27, 2005

It's Catching On

First we had elections in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian Authority, (however imperfect), and now Egypt:

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in a surprise reversal, yesterday took a significant step toward democratic reform in the world's most populous Arab country by ordering that presidential challengers be allowed on the ballot this fall.

Mr. Mubarak made the announcement in a nationally televised speech, surprising even some in his inner circle, one source close to the presidency said.

Touting "freedom and democracy," Mr. Mubarak told an audience at Menoufia University, north of Cairo, that he had instructed parliament and the consultative Shura Council to amend the constitution's Article 76 on presidential elections.
It seems like this democracy thing is catching on.

Yes, I know; the elections are far from perfect, and there is a long way to go in each of the aforementioned countries. It is also hard to establish cause and effect, so one cannot "prove" that the invasion of Iraq was the impetus. Still, I am hopeful, and it would be a stretch to say that the invasion and successful elections had nothing to do with what's happening.

Posted by Tom at 9:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 23, 2004

Amazing What Some People will Believe

A quick perusal of the MEMRI website this morning brings forth this delightful story

Iran's Sahar 1 TV station is currently airing a weekly series titled "For You, Palestine," or "Zahra's Blue Eyes." The series premiered on December 13, and is set in Israel and the West Bank. It broadcasts every Monday, and was filmed in Persian but subsequently dubbed into Arabic.

The story follows an Israeli candidate for Prime Minister, Yitzhak Cohen, who is also the military commander of the West Bank. The opening sequence of the show contains graphic scenes of surgery, and images of a Palestinian girl in a hospital whose eyes have been removed, with bandages covering the sockets.

In Episode 1, Yitzhak Cohen lectures at a medical conference on the advances being made by Israeli medicine regarding organ transplants. Later in the episode, Israelis disguised as UN workers visit a Palestinian school, ostensibly to examine the children's eyes for diseases, but in reality to select which children's eyes to steal to be used for transplants.

In Episode 2, the audience learns that the Israeli president is being kept alive by organs stolen from Palestinian children, and an Israeli military commander is seen kidnapping UN employees and Palestinians.

Unbelieveable. Unfortunately such stories are all too common. It has been widely reported that Mein Kampf and The Protocols to the Learned Elders of Zion are best-sellers in much of that part of the world.

One of the things we did not anticipate was how different the thinking can be in other parts of the world. Steven Vincent has a series of excerpts from his new book In the Red Zone on the National Review website that touches on this subject. Here's one

She was a Sunni Muslim, an attractive, thirty-something writer, one of the few women I met who eschewed a scarf in public. And she was overjoyed at the demise of Saddam. "I am so happy! Freedom at last! The world is open to me now!" she exclaimed during a small social function at an art gallery in Karada. "Can you recommend some American magazines I might send my writing to?"

I promised I'd draw up a list of suitable periodicals, then added — carelessly, for this was my first trip to Iraq — "You must not mind seeing American soldiers on the streets."

The woman's smile vanished. Her brow darkened and she shook her head. "Oh, no. I hate the soldiers. I hate them so much I fantasize about taking a gun and shooting one dead."

Stunned by her vehemence, "But American soldiers are responsible for your freedom!" I replied.

"I know," the woman snarled. "And you can't imagine how humiliated that makes me feel."

He was a short, intense, bespectacled lawyer from Baquba, who claimed he had connections with anti-Coalition forces in the Sunni Triangle. As we drove through the desert into Baghdad, "I hate your country," he informed me. "Every time I see a U.S. tank I feel like it is crushing my skull."

Less startled by this expression — for this was my second trip to Iraq — I asked the attorney the cause of his feelings. As if explaining the most self-evident thing in the world, he replied, "America is occupying my country — as a patriot, of course I must resist." He fixed his wire-rimmed gaze on me. "Imagine if a foreign power was occupying America — wouldn't you resist?"

This is so illogical to us that it is hard to believe that people actually think this way. But we should not be surprised, for we hear this from our own left. I've often read some liberal/leftist say something like "well, how would you like it if someone invaded your country?" The obvious response is "If I were ruled by a murderous dictator and a democracy invaded, I'd love it!"

Perhaps we're just so used to the leftists saying this that we can't imagine that people in other parts of the world believe it too. I'm not sure.

Recently the Iraqi brothers who write the pro-democracy Iraq the Model blog visited the United States. Catherine Seipp writes about how the American Left views them

You might assume that a pro-America, pro-democracy Baghdad blog would be considered a good thing across the political spectrum here in the U.S., but unfortunately you would be wrong. Lefty bloggers complain that most Iraqis are not as pro-America as the Fadhil brothers, which might be true (although Omar and Mohammad — who, like Saddam and his crew, are Sunni — argue vehemently to the contrary). But so what?

Should we have refused to support the French Resistance in World War II because so many of their countrymen sympathized with the Vichy government? Or — a better analogy — if some Americans had tried to discredit anti-Nazi, pro-U.S. Germans after the war (because after all, Hitler had the support of the masses) should they have expected anyone here other than the American Nazi party to take them seriously?

<>Some leftists are convinced that they are backed by the CIA. Amazing what people will believe.

Posted by Tom at 9:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 12, 2004

Yassir Arafat

When I first heard that Yassir Arafat was seriously ill and that his days may be numbered, my first response was "good." My second response was to ask forgiveness for that thought from the good Lord. I'm pretty confident, though, that Arafat will have a much tougher time getting through the pearly gates than me.

The plight of the Palestinian people is at once sad and maddening. Sad because so many of the live in such abject poverty, and are controlled by "leaders" who are nothing more than terrorists. It is maddening because they have brought so much of it on themselves. Their history is one of lost opportunities.

Arafat was as much trouble to the Arab nations among which he and his PLO lived as the Israelis against whom he fought. King Hussein had to use his army to chase him out of Jordan. He brought nothing but misery to the Lebanese when he used Beruit as a base. And his tenure as leader of the Palestinian Authority has only brought a much worse form of terrorism, suicide bombings, to the West Bank and Israel.

He stole upwards of a billion dollars from his own people. The money now resides in Swiss bank accounts. If the secret codes died with him, then that is just all the more money that he squandered for the "cause".

President Clinton gave Arafat his Palestinian nation on a silver platter and he turned it down. The excuse was that he would only be granted 95 or 98% of the West Bank, and the few Israeli enclaves left constituted an intollerable insult. The real reason, perhaps, is that he was so locked into his role as rebel that he could not handle the idea of actually leading a nation.

Perhaps the best insight into his character took place some years ago when it was reported that he threatened his own security chief with a pistol at a cabinet-type meeting. This showed Arafat as he truely was; the Arab equivalent to the teenager who robbed convenience stores grown up to be mafia don. He was nothing more than a street thug who managed to ingratiate himself with world leaders.

Now we have the sickening spectacle of these so-called leaders paying tribute to the fallen terrorist. It's bad enough that the man was actually awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Scenes such as the huge funeral with thousands of weeping worshipers are unfortunately the norm for such types. So many showed up for Stalin's funeral that crowd control became impossible and, in a macabre tribute to the dictator, hundreds suffocated.

Perhaps now the new Palestinian leadership will be able to break free of the bonds of the past that held Arafat so tightly. A look at their personal histories does not give one optimism, unfortunately. But it took a protoge of Stalin, one Nikita Khrushchev, to lead that country out of the darkness of terror. While Khrushchev remained a dictator (and indeed something of a warmonger), at least the mass murders stopped. It is not wishing for much to hope that the new Palestinian leaders can do as much.

Update I

So why did so many Westerners fall for his act? Max Boot, writing in the Sunday Washington Times, says that they are

Motivated by a combination of guilt for their countries' past conduct, a taste for vicarious revolutionary adventure, and condescension toward Africans and Asians thought incapable of Western standards, European and American intellectuals were willing to excuse any crime committed in the name of "national liberation."
Makes sense to me.

Update II

Charles Krauthammer thinks that with the death of Arafat the prospects for peace are more distant than most people think.

Posted by Tom at 8:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack