Deja vu - Judith Apter Klinghoffer
Dr. Judith Apter Klinghoffer taught history and International relations at Rowan University, Rutgers University, the Foreign Affairs College in Beijing as well as at Aarhus University in Denmark where she was a senior Fulbright professor. She is an affiliate professor at Haifa University. Her books include Israel and the Soviet Union, Vietnam, Jews and the Middle East: Unintended Consequences and , International Citizens' Tribunals: Mobilizing Public Opinion to Advance Human Rights
The Arabs were so elated with the election of Barack Hussein Obama that they were careful not to mention that a son of a Muslim father is a Muslim. He reciprocated with a"balanced speech" in Cairo, a studious avoidance of any criticism of their autocratic Islamic ways and humbly apologizing for past American"transgressions." Little may have understood that Barack Obama had no real interest in foreign policy. In their book Game Change, John Heilemann and Mark Halperin reveal that when Barack Obama asked Hillary Clinton to accept the role of Secretary of State, he told her that he intends to focus on domestic policy for the first two years of his administration and therefore he needs her to run his foreign policy.
I am not sure that awareness of his intended benign neglect would have made a difference to the Middle East autocratic leadership so"rudely" challenged by the Bush administration. Like the Nobel committee that awarded Obama their usually prestigious prize, they delighted in the kinder, gentler American leadership and may have trusted Clinton's tougher image. Now they feel menaced by an aggressive Shia Iran and cowboy Bush is no longer there to protect them. Writing from Lebanon for Lebanese, Michael Young ends his sad analysis of Obama's ME policy thus:
That kinder, friendlier face was shown two weeks ago, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly declared that the US would not use force against Iran. An attack on Iran would doubtless be a terrible idea, but for Clinton to rule out such an action so bluntly was not the best use she could have made of American military superiority. Indeed, it clarified a situation that the Obama administration should not have clarified, and the statement may ensure that the hardest of the hardliners in Tehran will win all future domestic debates on the best way to deal with international efforts to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. . . .
The reality is that the Obama administration these days provokes little confidence in its allies and even less fear in its adversaries. The US remains the dominant actor in the Middle East, but to what end? If Obama’s ultimate goal is to be different than George W. Bush, he hasn’t even managed that. As setback follows setback, he is increasingly finding himself constrained by the same dynamics that Bush faced. But at least Bush knew what he was supposed to be about. Obama just seems lost.
And no one wishes to face an aggressive fanatic armed with a nuclear weapon protected by a lost leader. I do not know whether the fact that other troubled parts of the world share their troubles, as do a rapidly increasing number of Americans, would comfort the Arabs but they certainly do.
Who, except"evil neo-cons," would have thunk?!
Posted on Thursday, March 4, 2010 - 14:09
56% Americans believe that the Obama administration is threatening their liberty. But do not expect a member of the Democratic power elite such as William Galston (a former adviser to Bill Clinton and a senior fellow at Brookings) to call for administration soul searching. That would imply that his fellow Democrats did wrong.
Who does Galston blame for the American people's declining trust in their government? The American people, of course.
More ironic is the fact that Galson agrees with the American people that"the current fiscal course is unsustainable." But, instead of blaming Obama for presenting a budget which fails makes matters worse, he argues that the American people must trust Obama to solve their fiscal problems.
And he wonders why experts like are not trusted?
Posted on Thursday, March 4, 2010 - 16:14
"Tiger, turn your faith -- turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."
I was even more surprised when Hume refused to back down when reminded that Woods is a Buddhist."I don't think that faith (Buddhism) offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith," he said. As a Jew, whose people have been burned at the stakes for refusing to convert for many generation, I found Hume's argument most offensive. But I was not sure whether Tiger Woods would. My sojourn in China and India taught me that Polytheistic religions tent towards Syncretism. My refusal to celebrate Christmas never made any sense to my Chinese or Indian friends and I had no reason to assume Thais would be different.
Indeed, it took me sometime to fully appreciate the deep religiosity of the Thais. Indeed, it seems impossible to separate small wheel Buddhism and Thai culture. Signs of reverence were everywhere and I do not mean only the number of temples but the fact that they are overflowing with worshipers acquiring merit by offering food,incense sticks, lotus flowers,
Most young Thai males spend at least a month being monks. They are found everywhere and Thais lovingly provide them with beautifully packaged provisions.
Then, there are the spirit houses. Every building has one be it a private home a mall or a factory.
Even honorable trees are honored with ribbons.
In short, I was not surprised when Tiger Woods took umbrage at Hume's suggestion that he turn to Christianity. Doing so would have meant turning his back on his mother and his Thai identity. My religion is more than adequate, thank you very much, he said:
Part of this for me is Buddhism. It teaches that craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security, it teaches me to stop following every impulse and practice restraint. Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught.
He sure did and all of Thailand is ashamed. That said, Brit Hume should be more careful before dismissing other people's faith. (For more of my Thai photos which I am in the process of posting click here)
Posted on Thursday, March 4, 2010 - 18:02
Clearly, you cannot fool the American people all the time. Americans also know who their allies are and hope that Israel will take care of Iran.
BUT Gallup also reports that Democrats are far less sympathetic to Israel than are Republicans or even independents. Personally, I blame the unrelenting efforts by the media and academia (see, The Intifada comes to campus )to blacken the name of the much too successful Democratic Jewish state as an apartheid state. Democrats only seem to love hapless victims ruled by ruthless tyrants.
Over the last five years, support for Israel has increased slightly among Republicans (rising from about 77% for each of the past several years to 85% today) and independents, but has stayed roughly the same among Democrats. Since 2001, however, there has been a more dramatic shift in partisan attitudes: a 25-point increase in sympathy for Israel among Republicans and an 18-point increase among independents. Even on this longer-term basis, support for Israel among Democrats has been relatively flat.
And, yet, American Jews continue to vote Democratic.
"Will they ever learn?"
Also read, Barry Rubin, Americans love Israel Even More Than You Think
Posted on Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - 12:37
Two weeks of fighting in Marjah (southern Afghanistan) have left over a hundred Taliban dead, and more than sixty captured. NATO forces have suffered 15 dead, partly because the ROE (Rules of Engagement) limit the use of smart bombs and missiles to deal with Taliban gunmen in buildings that might contain civilians. Troops often have to work their way into the buildings, to make sure they get the Taliban shooting at them, and not the civilians being used as human shields.
I think the difficulty here, imagine if it was your son or mine or daughter out there, the difficulty is that we put them in a situation where it's not a traditional war, where it's not just go kill the bad guys and they are in the other uniform.
Now we have people who are dressed in civilian clothes, people who may be hiding or being hidden by village elders. It's not exactly clear.
Actually, it is clear. We playing into the hands of those who are using women and children as human shield. Moreover, we are sacrificing our own best, most committed children (that it how I think of young soldiers) in the process. It is a small wonder that more and more NATO members are saying no. They have had enough of this self sacrificial fighting.
Posted on Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - 00:40
It has been a long while since I have read such a pointed retort to the facetious a-historical accusations carelessly and callously hurled at Israel by self righteous ignoramuses as the one written by the eminent historian Andrew Roberts and published in the less than objective Financial Times under the heading Israel is no more rogue than America . Indeed, if Benjamin Netanyahu did order al-Mabhouh's assassination, his order would not differ from those issued by Winston Churchill or Barack Obama and are currently carried out by NATO.
His argument goes further than that and takes on the ugly falsehood inherent in the notion that Israel is an apartheid state being promoted this week on campuses around the world. Israeli Jews and Arabs are not treated differently. Those who do not believe so should visit my home town, the mixed city of Haifa, and her university Israel's Muslim (over 20%) and Jewish citizens study peacefully together. Like all states, Israel distinguishes between citizens and non citizens and seeks to defend herself from those seeking to terrorize her. The critics simply seek to promote the racist notion that Jews and the Jewish state should be treated differently:
Is state-sanctioned assassination justifiable, or does it somehow de-legitimise the state that undertakes it? Two articles in this newspaper last week, by Henry Siegman and David Gardner, have been violently critical of Israel in the wake of the assassination of the Hamas arms smuggler Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai on 19 January.
Mr Siegman wrote of how “Israel’s colonial ambitions” and “checkpoints, barbed wire and separation walls” were “turning Israel from a democracy into an apartheid state”, thereby creating a “looming global threat to the country’s legitimacy”. Two days later Mr Gardner wrote of how Israel’s “militarist extroversion” over the Dubai murder demonstrated an “Israeli preference for instantly satisfying executive solutions to complex political and geopolitical problems” which would “widen the international battle-space for tit-for-tat attacks” and “encourage the perception that [Israel] is a rogue state”.
Both commentators are completely wrong. All that the Dubai operation will do is remind the world that the security services of states at war – and Israel’s struggle with Hamas, Fatah and Hizbollah certainly constitutes that – occasionally employ targeted assassination as one of the weapons in their armoury, and that this in no way weakens their legitimacy. As for the “separation walls” and checkpoints that one sees in Israel, the 99 per cent drop in the number of suicide bombings since their erection justifies the policy.
There is simply no parallel between apartheid South Africa – where the white minority wielded power over the black majority – and the occupied territories, taken by Israel only after it was invaded by its neighbours. To make such a link is not only inaccurate, but offensive. If Arab Israelis were deprived of civil and franchise rights, that would justify such hyperbole, but of course they have the same rights as every Jewish Israeli.
Far from having any colonial ambitions, Israel wants nothing more than to live peaceably within defensible borders. But equally it demands nothing less.
Furthermore, rather than some kind of knee-jerk “preference for instantly satisfying executive solutions”, the decision to kill Mahmoud al-Mabhouh – assuming it was sanctioned, planned and carried out by Mossad alone, which is anything but clear at this stage – would have been minutely examined from every political and operational angle. Yet sometimes complex political and geopolitical problems do require the cutting of the Gordian knot, and this was one such.
When Britain was at war, Winston Churchill sanctioned the assassination by its Special Operations Executive of the SS General Reinhard Heydrich, the capture (and killing if necessary) of General Heinrich Kreipe on Crete; ditto Erwin Rommel. Just as with some Mossad operations, such as the disaster in Amman in 1997 when agents were captured after failing to kill Khaled Meshal of Hamas, not all Churchill’s hits were successful. But the British state was not de-legitimised in any way as a result.
The intelligence agents of states – sometimes operating with direct authority, sometimes not – have carried out many assassinations and assassination attempts in peacetime without the legitimacy of those states being called into question, or their being described as “rogue”. In 1985 the French Deuxième Bureau sank Greenpeace’s Rainbow warior trawler, killing photographer Fernando Pereira, without anyone denouncing France as a rogue state. Similarly, in 2006, polonium 210 was used to murder Alexander Litvinenko without Putin’s Russia being described as “illegitimate”. That kind of language is only reserved for Israel, even though neither Pereira nor Litvinenko posed the danger to French and Russian citizens that was posed to Israelis by the activities of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.
The reason that such double standards still apply – more than six decades after the foundation of the state of Israel – is not because of the nature of that doughty, brave, embattled, tiny, surrounded, yet proudly defiant country, but because of the nature of its foes. Even though one has to be in one’s seventies to remember a time when Israel didn’t exist, nevertheless there are still those who call the country’s legitimacy into question, employing anything that happens to be in the news at the time – such as this latest assassination – to try to argue that Israel is not a real country, and therefore doesn’t really deserve to exist. Real rogue states such as North Korea might be loathed and criticised, but even they do not have their very legitimacy as a state called into question because of their actions.
Those who wish to understand Israel’s actions and put them in their proper historical context should read Michael Burleigh’s cultural history of terrorism, Blood and Rage. Burleigh quotes a senior Mossad agent saying after the Munich Olympics massacre of 11 Israeli athletes: “If there was intelligence information, the target was reachable and if there was an opportunity, we took it. As far as we were concerned we were creating a deterrence, forcing them to crawl into a defensive shell and not plan offensive attacks against us.”
Is that attitude so very different from the pre-emptive targeted assassination of Taliban leaders that Nato carries out by flying drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan today? Yet are Messrs Siegman and Gardner going to call into question America’s legitimacy? No, that insult is reserved for only one country: Israel.
Posted on Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - 13:25
Posted on Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - 12:56
Robert Higgs, Anatomy of the Current Recession
Worst of all, the investors’ famine and the government’s feast are not merely coincidental, but causally connected. The explosion of the federal government’s size, scope, and power since the middle of 2008 has created enormous uncertainties in the minds of investors. New taxes and higher rates of old taxes; potentially large burdens of compliance with new energy regulations and mandatory health-care expenses; new, intrinsically arbitrary government oversight of so-called systemic risks associated with any type of business—all of these unsettling possibilities and others of substantial significance must give pause to anyone considering a long-term investment, because any one of them has the potential to turn what seems to be a profitable investment into a big loser. In short, investors now face regime uncertainty to an extent that few have experienced in this country—to find anything comparable, one must go back to the 1930s and 1940s, when the menacing clouds of the New Deal and World War II darkened the economic horizon.
Matthias Kuntzel, The Berlin-Dubai-Tehran Axis
Although Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered the increase of uranium enrichment to 20%—bringing Tehran much closer to weapons-grade nuclear material—China still opposes new United Nations sanctions. The responsibility for stopping the Iranian bomb thus rests with a “coalition of the willing.” The attitude of Germany—Iran’s most important Western trading partner—will be critical to the success of such a coalition. But while the recent announcement by Siemens and Munich Re to exit the Iranian market have garnered headlines, hundreds of German manufacturers remain determined to continue doing business as usual with Tehran.
N.M. Guariglia,Why does the American left fear the rise of India?
The American relationship with the republic of India is heading in the wrong direction. Given recent history, where strong and positive U.S.-Indo relations were in full bloom, this is especially disconcerting. President George W. Bush’s administration, long maligned as arrogantly unilateralist, solidified a close bilateral partnership — friendship, even — with the rising South Asian power. Bush saw India as a natural ally: the world’s largest multiethnic democracy, looking at its place in the world at the turn of this century through much the same prism our own ancestors looked through in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As Harvard historian Sugata Bose observed, the strengthening of ties between India and the United States “may turn out to be the most significant foreign policy achievement of the Bush administration.”
Under President Barack Obama, however, those ties are in moderate though steady and not insignificant decline. Since Obama’s inauguration, our relationship with India has begun to erode. To its credit, the Obama administration authorized a $2.1 billion arms sale with New Delhi last year. But there is more — there should be more — to the American-Indian friendship than signing off on a Boeing contract with the Indian defense ministry.
The real irony is that the Indian elite is at least as leftist as Obama and has been delighted with his rise to power. Prior to the election, an Indian think tank asked me to write an article analyzing the consequences of the elections for American Indian relations. I explained that Indians should hope McCain wins. They failed to publish the piece.
Dieter Farwick: What is going wrong in the fight against terrorists?
Walter Laqueur: I am always surprised how little use is made of the great weakness of the terrorists, especially the Islamists. They deeply believe in all kind of conspiracy theories, the stranger and more fantastic, the more plausible they appear to them, they frequently cannot differentiate between truth and falsehood, they are mostly paranoiacs-or at least paranoids. They spread fantastic stories-and they are willing to believe fantasies. They are easily misled by their propensity to believe in cock-and-bull stories. This is where an anti-terrorist campaign should come in-but the West (and especially Western bureaucracies) have never been good at this sort of things.
A bureaucracy must not spread lies-except in extremis. In a famous essay on Machiavelli in 1859 the great British historian Macaulay wrote" qui nescit dissimulare. Nescit regnare"which, freely translated, means that he who does not know how to dissimulate has no business to be in politics. This principle is now"unacceptable" (a fashionable term today) but I doubt whether any other will work.facing an antagonist who does not believe in Kant and the Geneva conventions. . . .
Dieter Farwick: You wrote:"Warning in democratic societies will usually come late, and sometimes too late." Why is there no effective symbiosis between think tanks and political leaders to overcome this?
Walter Laqueur: Warnings in democratic societies usually come late and sometimes too late. To be precise-there are usually warnings, but they are not believed. The tendency in such societies (today perhaps more often than at any time in the past) is to live in peace and calm and to suppress anything that does not confirm this desire. Unfortunately, as Trotsky once wrote, anyone wishing to live in peace should not have chosen the 20th century. And I fear-neither the 21th. And Spengler said-trying to opt out of world politics does not protect one against the consequences. I am not a great believer in Trotsky and Spengler but in this case the were quite right.
Posted on Tuesday, March 2, 2010 - 00:21
Dubai has been doing the same for Iran, has also been paid well for her services and has hoped to enjoy similar benign neglect. Now she fears there is a movement a foot to prevent her from continuing to eat her forbidden fruit. If the FT editors reflect Dubai's thinking and as I believe they do, Dubai places the assassination of the Hamas operative within that context. Hit Squat has hit Dubai as well argue these editors. The FT editors ignore exculpatory evidence such as the arrest in Jordan and extradition to Dubai of two Palestinians as well as the fact that 3 of the hit squad absconded to Iran. Nor do they mention the obvious attempt to defame Israel by using passports of Israeli dual citizens. They do, however, point to additional puzzlements:
Important though all that is, there is something unexplained about the Dubai operation. It was captured on security cameras in a way its perpetrators surely knew it would be – almost as though they wanted the world to know.
Odder still, the idea that murdering one, not especially significant figure in Hamas required the mobilisation of 26 agents – not so much a hit squad as a swarm – does not quite stack up. Mossad used about half that number to take on the entire Black September network after the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre.
What reason would the Mossad have to act in such an weird way? To let Dubai know that it would not be able to continue to get away with helping Iran in the manner Switzerland helped Nazi Germany.
Hamas, of course, gets support from Iran. But Iran depends greatly on Dubai, which, with its large numbers of Iranian citizens, companies and institutions, serves almost as an extra lung for a regime already withering under sanctions, with more to come.
Dubai has been a free-wheeling entrepôt of such value to all the players in the Middle East that it has been almost totally incident-free. January’s assassination in the emirate looks like a statement that this immunity is now moot.
In an"unrelated" news article, the FT seeks to delegitimize bi-partisan Congressional legislation seeking to punish foreign companies that continue to deal with Iran by blaming the passage of the bill on Lobbyists and Obama administration opponents. It is true that Congressional attempts always annoy the executive branch. It is particularly true in this administration as Obama has repaid the Iran lobby for its overwhelming support during the elections by including many of its members within his administration including a board member of the National Iranian American Council, John Limbert, who is officially responsible for US policy towards Iran though it is possible that he, too, can no longer abide the bloody Mullahs.
Still, Dubai's aid to Iran is not only distasteful to Israel and the US but also to it's Arab neighbors. Thus when Dubai's sovereign wealth fund needed a bail out last year, the issue of her Iran ties came up. John Carney explained the Geopolitics of the Dubai debt crisis thus:
Abu Dhabi has been trying to put pressure on Dubai to cut ties to Iran. The split between Abu Dhabi and Iran is in part rooted in an older territorial dispute, fear of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, religious differences between Shiites and Sunnis, and—importantly—Abu Dhabi’s close ties to Washington, DC. . . .
More importantly, Dubai is a major exporter to Iran and a major re-exporter of Iranian goods. The trade between Iran and Dubai is one of the principal sources of Tehran's confidence that it can survive US-led sanctions. Iranian investment in Dubai amounts to about US $14 billion each year. US intelligence officials have long suspected that the Iranian government uses Dubai based front companies to get around sanctions.
Some of the banks said to have the largest exposure to Dubai debt have in the past been linked to Iran. Notably, HSBC, BNP Paribas and Standard Chartered came under investigation and pressure from US authorities in recent years to cut ties to Iran. Some US officials have quietly protested that these banks just shifted to doing business with Iran through Dubai. The US may want to see these creditors take losses from their Dubai exposure.
I do not know if all the pressure or perceived pressure will lead to behavior change. I do know that the pressure is beginning to be felt and not a moment too soon.
Posted on Monday, March 1, 2010 - 20:23