Sunday, July 22, 2012

US's Hypocritical Annoyance with Russia over Syria

Rami Khouri writes at The Daily Star about the increasingly evident inexorability of Assad's demise in Syria.  Whether Syria can survive as a unitary state in the wake of that demise is, of course, a different matter altogether.  Katie Paul at Foreign Affairs has written of the coastal region around Tartus as a possible Alawite refuge;  but Josh Landis at his Syria Comment blog is of the view that a separate Alawi state carved out of Syria is not in the offing.  Meanwhile, Roula Khalaf at Financial Times notes the growing regional concern about the fallout from Syria's fall-apart.

But I'm especially struck by Khouri's harpooning of the US for its hypocrisy in the UN Security Council as regards Russia's veto of UN action against Assad:

Everything going on at the U.N. Security Council is now irrelevant, and has been for about a month, for the center of gravity of this political struggle shifted some time ago to military developments inside Syria. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice’s protestations against the Russian and Chinese vetoes of resolutions to pressure Syria are pathetic gibberish, given the much worse track record of the United States in vetoing resolutions that seek to force Israel to comply with international law and morality. The U.S. and Russia at the U.N. are acting like children, with their self-serving hypocrisy and selfishness. We just have to accept that the Security Council does not function when the superpowers shift into infantile mode, and talk nonsense. We should keep our gaze instead on more important things, like developments inside Syria.

 

This leads me to conclude that the bigger story that links Syria with the other Arab uprisings and recent Middle Eastern developments is that the will and actions of indigenous Arabs, Iranians and Turks will always have a greater impact than anything done by powers abroad. The striking inability of the Americans, Russians and their assorted allies to shape events in Syria follow similar serial failures in recent decades in their attempts to promote Arab-Israeli peace, democratic transformations, economic trajectories or other such strategic issues.

 

Only when local people across the Middle East took matters into their own hands did conditions change, and history resume. The sentiments of ordinary people such as those in Bab al-Hawa, Midan, Deir al-Zor and Deraa are far more significant that the pronouncements of the world’s powers. The sooner we learn this lesson, the better off we will all be.

 

The colonial era may finally be drawing to a close.

Inshallah.

Do Today's Bombings in Iraq Portend New Civil War?

As reported by AP via Time on-line.

Most of the recent bombings in Iraq have targeted Shiites, and al-Qaeda in Iraq has claimed responsibility.  The ones today in Mahmudiya, however, targeted Sunni.  

Who were the perpetators?  Will this be a one-off deal?  Or is this an example of local Iraqi Shiites sending a warning to Sunnis who might be feeling restive with coming Sunni ascendancy in Syria as Assad's Alawi-based regime is inexorably pushed out?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A New Spyware Named "Mahdi"?

Reported at Wired.  Of the 800 known targets, almost half are in Iran - but Israel has its share of targets as well.

Clinton says Iran's proposals are "Non-Starter"

As reported at CNN, with an oh-so-sweet picture of a beaming, bubbly, positively resplendent US Sec of State shaking the hand of a smiling, significantly more gravitas-bearing Israeli president Shimon Peres. 

Hillary's statement comes during her visit to Israel, where, following a string of American emissaries who preceded her, she undoubtedly threatened, cajoled, and pleaded (h/t to Richard Burton's song in Camelot - which was titled, ironically enough, How to Handle a Woman) with Netanyahu et al to not bomb Iran.  And especially, not bomb Iran before the November election.  I wonder if Mitt will have any suggestions for Bibi on that score when he comes to pay homage visit him.

But the timing of this picture, and Hillary's statement, is woeful.  One could easily make the argument - indeed, some will make the argument - that it's the US that's doing Israel's dance while Bibi calls the tune.

More worrying . . . the US is giving Iran no room to negotiate.  The Iranian diplomat who stated that the US is offering peanuts and wants diamonds in exchange is spot-on.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Jeffrey Goldberg's Chutzpah on Hezbollah - and Iran

At The Atlantic today, former IDF interrogator Jeffrey Goldberg reports from Israel (based on a report in Haaretz by  Amos Harel) that

International law enforcement agencies have broken-up yet another alleged plot against an Israeli target, arresting an apparent Hezbollah operative in Cyprus who was there to identify suitable targets for terrorist attacks. According to press reports, the operative was particularly interested in Israeli airliners.

The post is titled "Iran's War Against Israel and Jews."  Goldberg's assumption is that in anything and everything it does, Hezbollah takes its orders from Iran.  One can make a case for that, to be sure, but one might also note that the interests and motives of Lebanon's Shii Arabs (of whom Hezbollah is the principal political representative) are not exactly the same as those of Iran's leadership.  (Goldberg might do well to have a look at Roschanack Shaery-Eisenlohr's Shi'ite Lebanon: Transnational Religion and the Making of National Identities).  That a Hezbollah agent might indeed have been scouting out El Al airliners for terror bombing is hideous indeed, but let's be mindful that Goldberg (and Israel, for which he's been carrying water for years) is here targetting Iran, not Hezbollah.

Goldberg saves the real corker for the end, where he quotes from Harel's article that:

Interestingly, Israeli leaders have significantly lowered the volume of their own threats against Iran recently. But at a time when Israel’s dilemma on Iran has been boiled down to a four-word slogan, “bomb or be bombed,” a third scenario must also be considered: A poorly-thought-out Iranian move, in the Persian Gulf or elsewhere, could ignite a conflict even before anyone decides to attack its nuclear facilities.

A poorly thought out Iranian move as prime instigator for a Persian Gulf war?!  This, after Israel's role in purveying the Stuxnet worm into Iran's computers? After Israel's role in assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists inside Iran?!  After so many months of Netanyahu, Barak et al. threatening to launch airstrikes againt Iran's nuclear facilties (and in the meantime labeling Ahmadinejad as the new Hitler only awaiting his opportunity to inflict a new Holocaust, mostly because of a speech widely mistranslated as stating that Iran was going to "wipe Israel off the map")?!

The fact of the matter is that both sides - but Israel most recently - have committed acts against the other that can be legitimately construed as acts of war.  Add to that the increasing pressure from US naval forces in the Persian Gulf: more aircraft carriers on station, a floating base for Special Ops attacks, sea-drones to destroy any mines that the Iranian navy might lay in the Straits of Hormuz.  And don't forget the recently ramped-up economic sanctions that the US and its pals have used to cripple Iran's economy and immiserate its people.

Humongous pressure is being piled on Iran.  One senses that Israel and the US are just waiting for that "just twitch and I'll blow you to Mars" moment.

Let's be real.  Goldberg and his ilk are laying the ground for blaming the victims for their own devastation.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Romney Foreign-Policy Team

As described - and skewered - by Adam Smith at Foreign Policy.  A brief excerpt: 

 

Out of Romney's 24 special advisors on foreign policy, 17 served in the Bush-Cheney administration. If Romney were to win, it's likely that many of these people would serve in his administration in some capacity -- a frightening prospect given the legacy of this particular group. The last time they were in government, it was disastrous.

 

For example, one of Romney's top surrogates on the campaign trail is John Bolton, who served as President George W. Bush's ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton embodies the reckless neoconservative thinking that was largely responsible for getting us into Iraq under false pretenses. Today, he openly roots for diplomacy with Iran to fail and is all-too-eager to send our men and women in uniform into war. Last year, for instance, Bolton said that, "It would be in our interest to overthrow this regime in Syria."

 

The idea of Bolton and other Bush-Cheney officials serving in a Romney administration should be a scary prospect for all Americans.

 

Critics might object that employing former Bush staffers does not necessarily mean implementing all of their advice. But voters can only judge candidates by what they say they will do if in office, and the recklessness of Dick Cheney is clearly reflected in the foreign policies that Romney has advocated so far on the campaign trail.

 

Romney supported the invasion of Iraq and opposed ending the war last year. In December, as Obama welcomed home our troops from Iraq after almost nine years of conflict, Romney said, "It is my view that the withdrawal of all of our troops from Iraq is unfortunate. It's more than unfortunate, I think it's tragic." Cheney echoed that sentiment, saying a few months before we ended the war in Iraq that "it would be a real tragedy if we leave too soon before they are ready to fend for themselves."

 

On Afghanistan, though Obama and all of our international coalition partners have agreed on a timetable to transfer all security responsibility to Afghan control by the end of 2014, Romney contends that we should stay in Afghanistan indefinitely, with no strategy behind his rhetoric and no plan to bring troops home. Again, Cheney has said that we don't "need to run for the exits" in Afghanistan.

 

And Romney, like Cheney, remains stuck in a Cold War mentality. Romney has called Russia our "number one geopolitical foe" -- an outlandish statement that stunned foreign policy experts across the political spectrum. When former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who served under President Bush, was asked about Romney's comments, he replied, "C'mon, Mitt, think. That isn't the case." Romney's rhetoric toward Moscow has the ring of comments Cheney made in 2008, asserting that Russia posed a "threat of tyranny, economic blackmail, and military invasion" to its neighbor, Ukraine.

Yeah, Mitt! Please, think!  Then ditch Bolton, and Cheney.

Then, go home. Jet ski.  Stay there.  Do something good for your country.

The Levy Committee: Israel's Death Spiral?

Events in Egypt and Syria - as well as Mr. Obama's hands-off stance concerning anything Netanyahu wants to do during the run-up to the November elections - are letting a major development in Israel fly mostly under Americans' radar.
I speak of the recent findings of the Israeli government's so-called Levy committee, which was convened in order to issue recommendations concerning the ongoing Jewish/Israeli occupation of the West Bank.  I commend heartily to your attention the recent op-ed from the Philadelphia Inquirer's Trudy Rubin.  She concludes:
If pre-1967 Israel becomes permanently entwined with the West Bank, it will have to choose whether to give the Palestinians full citizenship and lose the Jewish majority within Greater Israel, or deny them rights and keep them confined to cantons. Down that road lies an apartheid state.
Indeed, the real intent of the Levy report may be to pave the way for annexation of much of the West Bank. According to Ori Nir, spokesman for Americans for Peace Now, which monitors settlement expansion in the West Bank: "The big thing on the Israeli right, which is gaining momentum, is to annex all of Area C [the 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli civil and military control]. That is the trend. The fact that the Levy committee walked toward that is important."
Given these troubled Mideast times, few would expect that Israel would accept the risk of a new Palestinian state in the short term. But unless the Jewish state keeps that prospect open - blocking new settlements and taking down those that are illegal - the two-state option will permanently vanish. Israel will find itself conjoined with West Bank Palestinians in a single, untenable state.
Israel has been steadily moving in this direction - and toward this fate - for decades - essentially ever since the rise of the Likud under Menachem Begin.  The celebrated Oslo Accords were a chimera.  The advent of an American president whose ignorance of (or complete non-chalance toward) history, combined with his hyper-evangelical Christian Zionism - I speak of course of George W. Bush - put paid to the ongoing joke that was the "peace process."
Since 2009, Mr. Obama has let himself be neutered by the realities of US electoral politics and his own determination to be "bipartisan."  As a result, he - and the US - have become feeble bystanders as an increasingly right-wing Israeli government and public have engineered what may well be the destruction of their state.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Is Designating Afghanistan a Major non-NATO Ally a Big Joke?

The short answer is yes; or at least, it's poorly considered.

Excellent essay by Nicholas Gvosdev for World Politics Review points out why:

 

Most reports indicate that this status was granted to Afghanistan to reassure the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the U.S. does not plan to abandon him after transferring responsibility for Afghan security to Afghan forces in 2014. But this is a troubling development, for it reveals the lack of trust Kabul has in Washington’s promises, even after months of Obama administration statements about the depth of America’s post-2014 commitment to Afghanistan.

The status conferred on Afghanistan requires the approval of both the secretaries of defense and state, and it is not merely an honorary position casually bestowed. A country so designated is able to take part in cooperative research and development projects with the U.S. Department of Defense and purchase advanced U.S. weaponry without being subject to many of the provisions of the Arms Control Export Act. The status also allows its companies to bid on some U.S. military contracts. And while there are no legally binding provisions committing the United States to defend the territorial integrity and sovereignty of such allies, being so designated usually indicates that the country in question is vital to U.S. national interests and that its well-being is of concern to Washington.

The original major non-NATO allies, designated during the first Bush administration in 1989, were Japan, South Korea, Egypt, Israel and Australia. All are countries with critical importance either to U.S. global strategy or regional interests. In subsequent years, other countries that were seen as frontline states in the war on terror, including Pakistan, Jordan and Morocco, or that were emerging as key partners in Asia, such as the Philippines or Thailand, were added to the list. Most security experts would agree that along with the NATO allies, the major non-NATO allies form the first tier of America’s national security relationships.

Afghanistan is a strange addition to the group. With its underdeveloped economy, Afghanistan is not going to be a major partner in developing the latest fifth-generation weapons systems, as is Japan. Nor is it strategically located to act as a staging ground for U.S. land, air or naval forces, as are Bahrain, Kuwait and the Philippines. It does not have a military or intelligence establishment that is able and willing to plug gaps in U.S. capabilities, as do Jordan and Morocco, and as did Egypt under Hosni Mubarak. 

Instead, Afghanistan’s importance to the U.S. is situational, linked largely to the threat that, under the right conditions, al-Qaida might try to reconstitute its former network of assets there. But much of al-Qaida’s operational network has already shifted to more-fertile locations elsewhere in the world. And to be perfectly frank, if Afghanistan does not again become the main safe haven for an international terrorist network determined to wage war on the U.S. and its allies, the country will return to the level of attention it held in U.S. strategic planning during the 1990s: overlooked and peripheral.

Some have argued that Afghanistan needed major non-NATO ally status in order to be eligible for continued U.S. military and security assistance, but there is no evidence that current regulations were preventing the Defense Department from providing the Afghan government with the equipment and training it needs for its armed forces and police. Nor are there any indications that Congress was preparing to restrict Afghanistan’s ability to obtain future tranches of security assistance.

The reality is that the “golden ticket” of major non-NATO ally status was proffered because the United States, over the years, has eroded the currency of another term that more accurately sums up the U.S.-Afghanistan relationship: strategic partner. For the past two decades, the very concept of “strategic partnership” has been debased, with the term often bandied about as a diplomatic consolation prize when Washington has been unprepared or unwilling to contemplate closer ties. It is understandable why the United States might seek to prevent countries that are not particularly close friends from turning into foes. But “strategic partnership” has been used to describe not only the U.S. relationship with countries such as China and Russia, but also with actual potential partners such as Brazil and India. Indeed, in official U.S. diplomatic language, with the exception of a few “rogues” like North Korea or Iran, most countries are now either U.S. “allies” or “partners.”

But if that is the case, then partnership no longer indicates any sort of special or preferred relationship. This helps to explain why Georgia, for example, is not satisfied with merely being a U.S. partner, but rather continues to pursue any chance, no matter how unrealistic, of gaining entry into the NATO alliance.  

Making Afghanistan a non-NATO ally simply to signify that Washington is serious about its pledged commitments to Kabul’s security threatens to weaken the whole designation itself. More broadly, the temptation to use the status as a way to say that Washington is really serious about a particular partnership runs the risk of devaluing the designation, similar to what has happened with “strategic partnerships.” Major non-NATO ally status should not be offered to a particular government in a country that happens to be temporarily at the top of Washington’s strategic agenda -- it should be reserved for countries where there is a long-term U.S. interest and where the desire for closer strategic relations is shared by most segments of that country’s political elite. The U.S.-Japan, U.S.-South Korea and U.S.-Australia relationships endure despite changes of government. Will the U.S.-Afghanistan relationship be similarly durable once Karzai is no longer in office in Kabul? 

Having made the commitment to Afghanistan, the U.S. must now see it through, lest it further devalue major non-NATO ally status. But it is time to take stock of all of America’s alliances and partnerships to ensure that they do not devolve into polite diplomatic gestures with little substantive meaning.  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Iran and Syria: What can the US Do?

My response all along, of course, has been - don't resort to military action.  We don't have the ability, or even the requisite power, to save Syria, or to get Iran to back away from its nuclear program to the extent that Mr. Netanyahu wants us to.

Which brings me to David Ignatius' interesting WaPo essay today, "Can diplomacy succeed with Iran and Syria?"  He's very concerned about how high tensions have been ratcheted up - and especially by the fact that the Saudis have alerted some military and officials to cancel their summer leaves.  He provides kind of a status check on the current crises with Iran and Syria, and then ends with a very interesting conclusion:

The Obama administration has opted to work with international coalitions to confront Syria and Iran. This still seems like the most sensible policy. But if these multilateral efforts are failing, it will fall to the United States to devise an alternative strategy. If the United States wants to get to “yes” in these negotiations, it will have to bargain more independently and aggressively.

Is he suggesting in that last sentence that the US distance itself from Netanyahu's zero-sum stance regarding Iran's nuclear program?

I hope so.  But if he is, I wish he'd said so a lot more explicitly.

And, by the way, for a different sort of take on the Syria crisis - and why Russia and China are hanging tough alongside Assad - have a look at Michael Ignatieff's essay in the New York Review of Books blog.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

WINEP (Who Else?) Pushing the US Toward War with Iran

In the WaPo, a piece by Michael Singh, "managing director" of Israel's premier US think-tank - WINEP, the Washington Institute for Never Ending Prattle Near East Policy - asserting that oil sanctions just aren't going to be enough to get Iran to move in ongoing negotiations about its nuclear program.  (Singh, of course, never entertains the possibility that a fair solution might be in reach if Israel could only move its own position - which, as it happens, offers absolutely no room for compromise.  Either Iran surrenders completely and unconditionally, or else . . . .)

The "or else" is plain to see:

Washington should bolster the credibility of its military threat. Recent steps to strengthen its force posture in the Persian Gulf are a good start. They should be accompanied by more serious statements about U.S. willingness to employ force and an end to statements exaggerating the downsides of military action. This is likely to garner attention in both Tehran and Beijing. If the alternative is military conflict in the Persian Gulf, China may see further reductions in its Iranian oil imports — which would be the most significant way to strengthen the current sanctions — as prudent.

As I posted last night (commenting on Reza Marashi's infinitely more fair-minded essay in The National Interest), continuing to push Iran to the wall - which is what Singh is advocating - can very possibly push Iran over the limit in terms of how much of the crap that US-Israel is throwing at it Iran's willing to swallow.

Pat Buchanan Asks, Why the US Obsession with Iran?

Posted at RealClearWorld, Pat Buchanan asks the question, shares his incredulity, and notes in the process Gideon Rachman's (Financial Times) observation that if the US is concerned about hostile Muslim countries with A-bombs, it ought to be looking more closely at Pakistan.

Is the US truly so scared of the Ayatollah Khamenei and Mr. Ahmadinejad, asks PB?

That PB can't bring himself to point the finger where it deserves pointing leaves me baffled.  It ought to be obvious to anyone with a brain in his head that Iran, even with nukes, is no threat to the US.  Nor is it a threat to Israel, whose military dwarfs Iran's and which possesses a mighty nuclear arsenal.

But if Netanyahu says Iran is a threat to Israel, America's Congress and Christers will insist that America go to war to defend poor outmanned and outgunned Israel.  

And our calculating smooth-operator shiny-brite president kowtows.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Obama's Failures: Outweighed by GOP Idiocy, Compounded by Bibi's Paranoia

As we approach the pre-election silly season, I recommend this recent essay by Paul Krugman and Robin Wells as a snapshot of current American political dynamics, and as food for thought as we assess the Obama presidency so far.  
In my view, Krugman and Wells make it abundantly clear that a Romney victory, along with any GOP surge in Congress come November, would be potentially catastrophic for the future of the United States as "united states."  
But, on the other hand, Mr. Obama's policy of always making it appear that he's the most adult, bipartisan person in the room when it comes to party politics, legislation, and relations with Wall Street has obviously not been successful in terms of moving his agenda forward.
The man is a smooth operator - and, as this piece by Reza Marashi in The National Interest suggests, perhaps too calculating in his approach to the current negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.  Marashi makes the point - and, in my opinion, all the reports I've seen back it up - that the US will not take "yes" from the Iranians, and keeps "moving the goalposts" on them.  
The reason? The upcoming November elections, combined with Israel's (in my opinion, unreasonable) demands that Iran close down its Fordo nuclear installation and abandon all uranium enrichment.  Iran seems to be offering to abandon its 20-percent enrichment efforts if the US and friends will end their increasingly devastating economic sanctions and also recognize Iran's right to enrich uranium.  
Iran - as opposed to Israel - is a subscriber to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, by the terms of which, of course, it has the legal right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.  And, let's not forget, Iran has yet to develop a nuclear weapon; Israeli intelligence heads have stated their belief that Iran is still years away from being able to do so, if that is indeed Iran's intention -- whereas Israel possesses (but will not admit to) one of the largest nuclear arsenals on the planet.  (If you haven't checked it out yet, see the recent Foreign Affairs essay by Kenneth Waltz on why Iran should get the bomb.  The resulting balance of power just might bring a better chance of peace.)
But . . . Netanyahu is insisting that Iran have no nuclear program whatsoever; Congress has lined up solidly behind the prime minister of Israel; Mitt Romney will soon be on his way to Jerusalem to be anointed by said prime minister; so Obama dare not "look weak" on the issue of the perfidious mullahs.
As Marashi notes then, Obama is playing for time - trying to kick this can down past the November election.  Netanyahu - and Romney - and the white Christian evangelicals upon whom Romney's chances are riding - will be pressing him to take action against Iran . . . .
. . . which he may have to do.  With its back to the wall, at what point will Iran's leaders see such action as provocation that needs to be responded to.
That's how big wars start . . . and thousands get killed.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Is Thomas Friedman Paying Attention to Egypt's Realities?

Just out, Thomas Friedman's NYT essay on "What Does Morsi Mean for Israel?"  

In his opinion, possibly some very good things (as in real peace between Israel and the Egyptian people, as opposed to a cold and brittle peace between Israel and Mubarak).  Sounds wonderful, but it's all predicated upon a "Muslim Brotherhood-led Egypt." 

TF needs to read more broadly.  Perhaps he could start with two recent, spot-on pieces by Kent State University's Joshua Stacher in the NY Times and in MERIP - one here, another here.

What he'd learn is that, Morsi or no Morsi as president, Egypt rests firmly in the grasp of the military - specifically, the high officers who comprise the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).  Parliament remains dissolved, the higher judiciary seems to answer mostly to SCAF, and the presidency itself has been semi-neutered by SCAF fiat.  

Bottom line: SCAF ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.  The new president's job will be to somehow accommodate that reality to the reality of the (very slim) electoral victory that brought a Muslim Brotherhood candidate to "power" (such as it is), and to the demands of constituents who are counting on him to improve their lives even as the Egyptian economy founders.

More Fear-mongering from WINEP

From what amounts to the Israeli government's own think-tank in DC, WINEP's David Schenker tries to catalogue some of the wacky chicanery of those crazy, rambunctious Muslims (both Salafis and Muslim Brothers) who now will surely turn Egypt into an Islamist state.

His message (oh so predictable, given the source): be very afraid.  These people are crazy; definitely not like you and me.

The intended impact: scare us all, and prepare us for whatever steps the "sane" adult countries like the US - and Israel - will surely need to take somewhere down the line.

Gosh, WINEP - thanks for clearing that up for us.  Otherwise we might have kept deluding ourselves that the Egyptian people just had a free and fair presidential election and are striving for a democracy that's accountable to the will of the Egyptian people - not to US/Israeli interests.

Romney Off to Bond with Bibi

Ron Kampeas at JTA reports on Mitt Romney's coming trip to Israel, where he will meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and try to come across as a statesman and world leader.  Kampeas also notes the NYT's reported statement from one of Mr. Netanyahu's people that Romney is "strong friend of Israel and we'll be happy to meet with him."

But as Kampeas also notes (and as I opined several months ago in a guest column at Juan Cole's Informed Comment site), Romney direly needs to upgrade and burnish his credentials with those millions of right-wing Christian evangelicals who now comprise the GOP base but don't trust the pro-Israel commitment of a Mormon candidate. 

It is among evangelicals where Romney’s visit might resonate, said David Brog, the executive director of Christians United for Israel.

“Its no mistake when conservative candidates want to appeal to the Christian base, Israel is the top issue to speak on,” Brog said.

Michael Hines, the media director for the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, a Nashville-based group that conducts pro-Israel outreach among evangelicals, said a visit to Israel could help cement Romney’s relationship with the community.

“In the primaries campaign there was a certain reticence in the evangelical community,” Hines said. “Now that everyone has coalesced, or at least Republican evangelicals have coalesced, they see him as a contrast to Obama and there is a widespread view” among evangelicals “that Obama has not been the best friend of Israel.”

Obviously, Bibi will meet with Mitt.  What Bibi says for public consumption both then and in the aftermath will be huge for Romney's chances.  But dare Bibi further alienate Barack?

Speaking of the Heat . . . .What's Mitt's Stance on Global Warming?

Daniel Politi at Slate has this piece on what climate scientists are noting as the increasing evidence of global warming.  (As the essay notes, it's not just for polar bears anymore.)  Which leads me to wonder . . . . as elections approach, where does Mitt Romney stand?

It's plain, of course, that a huge proportion of  social conservatives (whose support he must have if he's to have any chance of being elected in November) think of global warming as a huge fraud being perpetrated by Al Gore and the liberal propeller-head crowd.  (For the life of me, I can't remember his name - but I have a stomach-turning recollection of the Republican Congressman who, after the 2010 elections, took over the House (sub?)committee whose remit included such matters.  In his public statement upon acceding to his new chairmanship, he made a point of asserting his belief in the Bible and in Jesus/God's guidance over human affairs on this planet.  Thus, we need not fear global warming.  The Lord's got it covered.

People such as this are the constituency of fools whom Romney has to have on-board and squarely behind him by November.  Romney's own views?

Have a look at this October 2011 "Politifacts" check.  Here's their ruling:

In June 2011, Romney said he believed "the world is getting warmer" and that "humans contribute to that." In October 2011, by contrast, Romney said that "we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet."

It’s unclear to us whether this was an inadvertent omission or a calculated attempt to say divergent things to different audiences. Because Romney, in our view, is savvy enough to know the difference between suggesting a human role in climate change and leaving it out, we think it’s reasonable to perceive Romney as taking two distinct stances in these two statements. We rate this a Half Flip.

 

Ya think?  I strongly recommend reading the entire piece.

It's scary.

Americans' Frustration over East Coast Power Outages. Iraq, Anyone?

I know, I know - been there, done that.  It's awful to be nailed by a huge storm and then be without without air-conditioning and electricity in the heat of summer.  Yuck!

Might be a good time to reflect upon what the Emperor Boy George Bush and his entourage did to the Iraqis with their own little Shock-and-Awe storm in 2003 and its aftermath.  In those parts of Iraq outside the realm of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the vast majority of Iraqis have spent nine springs and summers with 100+ degree heat and little to no electric power - ergo, no air conditioning.  Most of them still struggle with woefully inadequate electrical power.

And that, of course, after 12 years of US-led sanctions that crippled the Iraqi economy, impoverished the majority of its population, and left their water supply, schools, and medical care in shambles.

Meanwhile, bombings continue in Baghdad and nearby cities, the Iraqi security forces simply unable to control the stiuation.  And thanks in no small part to the hugely flawed constitution that we helped Iraq's political "leadership" draw up after our invasion, corruption reigns; human rights are a joke; the parliament is a travesty; the prime minister has turned himself into Saddam-lite . . . and the Iraqi people still languish in the summer heat, even as (as Walter Pincus pointed out in the WaPo today) the Baghdad government's treasury carries a surplus of $50 billion.

At least the people of Maryland and Virginia can rest assured that, in the very near future, the power will come back on.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Miss Holocaust Survivor?

The LA Times runs a piece on this event, staged only a few days ago in Israel.  It raises important questions as to whether the pageant honors the memory of those who suffered, or trivilializes it.  It raises the same question about recent movies, and about the increasingly frequent recourse to the terms "Holocaust" and "Nazi" - even "Hitler" - in colloquial usage.  Mr. Netanyahu has, of course, led that parade lately with his obsessive references to Iran's president Ahmadinejad as the new Hitler and Iran's alleged quest for nuclear weapons as presaging a new Holocaust.  But the American movie industry has played its own part, with flicks such as "Inglorious Basterds."  (Of course, that history goes way back; remember "Hogan's Heroes"?)

As a university professor who teaches courses in modern Middle Eastern history to often woefully ignorant undergrads, I am constantly appalled (even if no longer surprised) when my students show only minimal awareness of the Holocaust, or even World War II in general.  They may have heard of Hitler, but the mention of names like Herman Goering, Josef Goebbels, and Adolf Eichmann elicits blank stares.  

I suppose the, that for such reasons I ought to be grateful for events like this pageant, if only because they may serve to prick students' self-absorption bubbles of Facebook/Twitter/texting.  But these kids are also of a generation whose attention is fixed on the glamor and celebrity of non-entities like the Kardashians and Jersey Wives.  One could easily make a case for including beauty-pageant queens and contestants in that crowd.

And now they can ponder "Miss Holocaust Survivor"?  Hmmm . . . .

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