Posts Tagged ‘Palestinians’

How to deal with Muslim terrorism in the West.

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Terrorism struck in London last Saturday night and PM Theresa May says, “Enough is enough “

Does she mean it ? Probably but that does not mean anything useful will be done.
Two thirds of British Muslims would not report a plot to police.

The same poll revealed that over half of all British Muslims think homosexuality, the very act of gay sex, should be illegal in Britain. Another 23% want to tear down British common law and replace it with Islamic Sharia. Moreover, 39% believe that wives should always, without exception, obey the commands of their husbands; 31% of Muslim also believed that men (not women of course) should be legally permitted to practice polygamy and marry more than one wife.

That doesn’t sound like assimilation. How about America ?

Minnesota Somalis sound pretty much the same.

‘Is it right to kill someone who insults the prophet?’

“Yes,” said the bearded man with the animated personality. “Because when you, every day you face frustration. And you know, every day you have, uh, you’re mad, or somebody says that, and you feel hate your soul. You could do anything you wanted. If you committed suicide, you don’t care, because your heart, your heart is telling you, ‘I don’t want to live no more,’ because you couldn’t take that much hate. Or you, you kill someone.”

It’s not just Somalis.

The Center for Security Policy released a poll Tuesday that should give all Americans pause. The results show that a startling number of American Muslims, our fellow citizens, agree that violence is a legitimate response to those who insult Islam. A full majority of 51% “agreed that “Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to shariah.”

According to the just-released survey of Muslims, a majority (51%) agreed that “Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to shariah.” When that question was put to the broader U.S. population, the overwhelming majority held that shariah should not displace the U.S. Constitution (86% to 2%). …

Even more troubling, is the fact that nearly a quarter of the Muslims polled believed that, “It is legitimate to use violence to punish those who give offense to Islam by, for example, portraying the prophet Mohammed.”

A full 25% of those polled agreed that “violence against Americans here in the United States can be justified as part of the global jihad.”

What do we do with this ?

Spengler (David Goldman) has some suggestions.

Sherman and Sheridan suppressed sniping at Union soldiers by Confederate civilians by burning the towns (just the towns, not the townsfolk) that sheltered them. In other words, they forced collective responsibility upon a hostile population, a doctrine that in peacetime is entirely repugnant, but that in wartime becomes unavoidable.

I have read a lot about Sherman and his way of dealing with a hostile population was hang snipers and burn the villages that supported them.

Collective punishment has gotten a bad reputation from the Germans in World War I and World War II. They would round up innocent civilians and execute them to punish guerilla attacks in the area. I am not advocating anything like that.

Israel demolishes the homes of terrorists.

“The police are going deeply into the Arab neighborhoods [in Jerusalem], which has not been done in the past,” he said. “We will demolish terrorists’ homes. We are allowing our forces to take strong action against those who throw rocks and firebombs. This is necessary in order to safeguard the security of Israeli citizens on the roads and everywhere.”

Palestinians may consider children expendable but houses are more precious. How would we implement such a policy ?

Many mosques have been used to store weapons and plan attacks.

This is certainly the case in Israel.

The 38-page report includes photographic evidence of weapons being stored under pulpits and elsewhere in mosques during December and January’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. It notes that Israeli troops fighting Hizballah in Lebanon, U.S. troops fighting terrorists in Iraq and even Palestinian Authority officials in the West Bank have encountered similar practices.

How about in the US ? Mosques have been shown to teach violent extremism.

The mosques in the US are largely funded by the Saudis which promote the Wahhabi extreme version of Islam.

Firm figures are elusive, but estimates are that the Saudis fund up to 80% of American mosques, at least in part. And their goal is the same here as it is elsewhere in the world where Islam must compete with other religions: to prevent Muslims from integrating into the host society.

If a terrorist is shown to have attended a mosque, that mosque should be closed.

The terrorists are also winning a psychological war in Europe. They identify police informants and force them to become suicide bombers. That is why so many are “Known Wolves.”

These attacks, in other words, are designed to impress the Muslim public as much as they are intended to horrify the western public. In so many words, the terrorists tell Muslims that western police agencies cannot protect them. If they cooperate with the police they will be found out and punished. The West fears the power of Islam: it evinces such fear by praising Islam as a religion of peace, by squelching dissent in the name of fighting supposed Islamophobia, and by offering concessions and apologies to Muslims.

Demolishing or closing some homes and a few mosques might signal more resolution than speeches by politicians. Deporting a few families would also be salutary.

The “Islamic State” or barbarians as it should be better known.

Friday, December 26th, 2014

The Washington Post is worried that the “Islamic State is failing as a state.”

Services are collapsing, prices are soaring, and medicines are scarce in towns and cities across the “caliphate” proclaimed in Iraq and Syria by the Islamic State, residents say, belying the group’s boasts that it is delivering a model form of governance for Muslims.

The Muslims have never been much at governing. In the early days after Muhammed and his nomadic warriors conquered much of the Middle East, the people pretty much governed themselves as the Arabs were better at fighting than governing.

The “Golden Age of Islam was from the rule of Harun al Rashid to the Mongol conquest, in 1260 to 1300. The Sack of Baghdad, which ended the “Golden Age, occurred in 1258.

Although the Abbasids had failed to prepare for the invasion, the Caliph believed that Baghdad could not fall to invading forces and refused to surrender. Hulagu subsequently besieged the city, which surrendered after 12 days. During the next week, the Mongols sacked Baghdad, committing numerous atrocities and destroying the Abbasids’ vast libraries, including the House of Wisdom. The Mongols executed Al-Musta’sim and massacred many residents of the city, which was left greatly depopulated.

The Golden Age of Islam had been chiefly carried out by Christians and recent converts (mostly involuntary) who translated Greek classics into Arabic. It was mostly a fiction created in the 19th century.

The metaphor of a golden age begins to be applied in 19th-century literature about Islamic history, in the context of the western cultural fashion of Orientalism. The author of a Handbook for Travelers in Syria and Palestine in 1868 observed that the most beautiful mosques of Damascus were “like Mohammedanism itself, now rapidly decaying” and relics of “the golden age of Islam”


Is Israel winning the Global War on Terror for us ?

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

Update: From Instapundit

UPDATE: Question: Come a real confrontation with Obama — which seems possible — could the Israelis flip and ally with Putin? The Soviets backed the Israelis pre-1967, and right now Putin’s siding with Assad against the Islamists. Israel would be a game-changing ally for Russia in the Middle East, especially with all the traditional Arab powers looking shaky — not only in terms of military assets, but more significantly in terms of intelligence assets.

Interesting as a game changing gambit although unlikely. Not even Obama is that stupid.

Hamas has attacked Israel, first with the kidnapping of three teenagers, now with rockets aimed, for example, at Tel Aviv and its airport.

GAZA: Islamist Hamas’ armed wing has warned airlines that it intends to target Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport with its rockets from Gaza and has told them not to fly there, a statement by the group said Friday.

So far, Israel’s Iron Dome antimissile system has been successful in intercepting those that are a risk to populated places.

Israel’s astonishingly effective Iron Dome air defense has prevented Hamas from killing Israeli Jews and spreading terror in the civilian population. Ironically, though, the better Iron Dome works, the less sympathy the rest of the world has for a nation that remains under rocket attack.

That sentiment is to be expected as even the Presbyterian Church is anti-Isreal.

David Goldman, who has been writing as “Spengler” for years, reports on the situation in Israel.

the thumbnail version is that Hamas is making a demonstration out of weakness. Money is tight, 44,000 Gaza civil servants haven’t been paid for weeks, and the IDF did significant damage to its infrastructure on the West Bank after the kidnapping-murder of the three yeshiva boys. Netanyahu will look indecisive and confused, because he has to deal with an openly hostile U.S. administration on one side and his nationalist camp on the other. Time, though, is on Israel’s side: economically, demographically, strategically. The proportion of Jewish births continues to soar. The fruits of a decade of venture capital investing are ripening into high-valuation companies. And the Arab world is disintegrating all around Israel’s borders.

Israel has been in mortal danger for 50 years. They have survived and thrived. The Arab countries are collapsing into chaos. Iran is still a threat but its demographic future is grim.

There will be no Intifada on the West Bank: the Palestinian Arabs are older, more resigned and less inclined to destroy their livelihoods than in 2000. Syria and Iraq continue to disintegrate, Lebanon is inundated with Syrian Sunni refugees (weakening Hezbollah’s relative position), and Jordan is looking to Israel to protect it against ISIS. Egypt is busy trying to survive economically.

Israel is becoming a huge economic success under Netanyahu. Just think of our future had we elected his friend, Mitt Romney.

Obama promised a “pivot to Asia” but Israel may in fact be the one doing the pivot, leaving us in the dreary Socialist past.

Richard Fernandez notes that in the view of the world press and elites being rich makes you “white.” Everybody knows that white people, even if they are Asian like John Derbyshire’s Eurasian children, are the root of all evil.


The Next World War

Sunday, December 29th, 2013


This next summer will be 100 years since the fatal August of 1914. We live in a similar era of “history is over and everybody is happy.” See above. In August 1914, Germany was trading partners with Britain and France. There were people who believed that democracies that did business with each other never went to war. Sound familiar ? Here is a discussion of the same topic. I am concerned that the spark will be in the middle east but this is another area to think about.

The Telegraph has an excellent piece on the present world situation.

As we look forward to the First World War commemorations, three stark conclusions are hard to refute. First, that in the course of this century we will need a great deal of luck to avoid a nuclear catastrophe. Second, that the Enlightenment has failed. Third, that this can all be traced back to the Great War.

As a result of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, it seemed that mankind might make a decisive break with the scarcity and oppression that had characterised previous eras. There was, admittedly, one early warning. The French Revolution proved that a radical reconstruction of society on abstract principles was likely to end in tyranny and bloodshed. But after 1815, the 19th century developed into one of the most successful epochs in history. Living standards, life expectancy, productivity, medicine, the rule of law, constitutional government, versions of democracy – there was dramatic progress on all fronts, and in the spread of civilisation across the globe.


Lessons from Boston

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

One jihadist is dead and the other is in custody. The younger bomber’s wounds have not been described so it is impossible to say if he will survive. The emergency is over and now it is time to think about why this happened. It now appears that both young men were long time residents of this country and, at least the younger was a citizen. Both had registered to vote, according to Nexis. The older brother was married with a child. His wife had converted to Islam and, according to reports yesterday, was wearing a full chador when she was taken from their home protesting about a male FBI agent handling a Muslim woman. She was lucky, as one commenter observed, that she was not strip searched as Chechen women have been prominent in terrorism cases in Russia, sometimes as suicide bombers wearing bomb belts.

The majority [of suicide bombers] are male, but a huge fraction — over 40 percent — are women. Although foreign suicide attackers are not unheard of in Chechnya, of the 42 for whom we can determine place of birth, 38 were from the Caucasus. Something is driving Chechen suicide bombers, but it is hardly global jihad.

I doubt the Times’ insistence on the absence of Islamist motives although Chechens have been at war with Russians for centuries. The suicide bomb is a common weapon for jihadists. The Palestinian “Mother of Martyrs” comes to mind.

Mariam Farhat, who said she wished she had 100 sons to die while attacking Israelis, died in a Gaza city hospital of health complications including lung ailments and kidney failure, health official Ashraf Al-Kidra said. She was 64.


The Battle for Egypt Begins

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

There has been much jubilation over the ouster of President Mubarak and much ridicule at the idea that the Muslim Brotherhood would take over. Well, the Egyptian Revolution ended a week ago with Mubarak’s resignation. Yesterday, the second revolution began with the return from exile of a radical Imam. Sound familiar ?

As I posted yesterday, over a million Egyptians turned out in Tahrir Square last Friday to cheer the vile anti-Semitic Sunni cleric Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who had been exiled by Mubarek, and who espouses the fundamentalist Islamic view that Jews must live as Dhimmis under Islamic control. Instead of accurately reporting the significance of this event, The New York Times whitewashed the cleric as someone who supports a “a pluralistic, multiparty, civil democracy.”

His version ?

Based in Qatar, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi is one of the most influential clerics in Sunni Islam. He currently serves as president of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFW), and is a highly influential spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Qaradawi has twice (in 1976 and 2004) turned down opportunities to serve as the Brotherhood’s highest-ranking leader. His preference, he explains, is to avoid tying himself to “any movement which might constrain my actions, even if this is the Muslim Brotherhood under whose umbrella I grew and which I so defended.

It’s OK, though, because they are secular.

Here is the video of the rally (in Arabic, via Israel Matzav) with the crowd chanting:

“To Jerusalem We go, for us to be the Martyrs? of the Millions.”

Here is the transcript.

We demand that the Egyptian army liberate us from the government, which was formed by Mubarak in the days of his soon-to-be-erased rule. We want a new government, without a single one of the faces that people cannot tolerate anymore. Whenever people see these faces, they remember the injustice, the killing, they remember the invasion of the camels, mules, and horses, as well as the snipers who killed the people.


A message to our brothers in Palestine: I harbor the hope that just like Allah allowed me to witness the triumph of Egypt, He will allow me to witness the conquest of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and will enable me to preach in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Oh Allah, allow us to preach in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

There is a peaceful sentiment. The Al Aqsa Mosque sits atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Another helpful statement:

Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: The Rafah border crossing will be opened for you. This is what I demand from the Egyptian army and from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

That will open the border to Gaza. Frankly, that makes sense as Gaza was part of Egypt before the 1967 war. It has nothing to do with Palestine. The only problem is with the Hamas terrorists who rule Gaza. This may well be Obama’s Khomeini moment.

One of the most publicized figures outside Egypt in this story the last few weeks is a Google executive who is Egyptian.

One of the western media’s favorite Egyptian rebels is Google executive Wael Ghonim. No surprise there: if you had to choose among radical clerics like al-Qaradawi, hooligans like those who assaulted Lara Logan, and a suave, Westernized Google exec, whom would you want to interview? Ghonim was present on Friday and intended to address the crowd, but he was barred from the platform by al-Qaradawi’s security. He left the stage in distress, “his face hidden by an Egyptian flag.” Is Ghonim Egypt’s Kerensky? Well, at least Kerensky got to rule for a while.

Ghonim is one more proof, as if we needed any more, that brilliance in another field is no guarantee of common sense in politics, especially revolutionary politics. We are now about to move to the next stage, which in the French Revolution ended with the Terror. In Iran, it still goes on.

UPDATE: Here is a more optimistic view.

Israel, the existential threat.

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

UPDATE: We are staring to see some frank talk about Turkey’s role in the crisis. Turkey has turned away from us and should no longer be considered an ally. That includes the F 35 fighter we have agreed to sell to them. We might as well sell them to Iran, at this point.

I have previously posted on the Cordesman paper about a possible Iran-Israel nuclear exchange. He estimates that Iran would lose with 28 million dead and “the end of Iran as an organized society.” While that would deter a rational state, Iran is not a rational state.

The recent raid on a ship carrying cargo and militant Islamists to Gaza has brought world wide opprobrium on Israel although that was to be expected. The UN, as expected, postured and pontificated. Obama produced vague generalities that are faintly anti-Israel. The American left has become progressively (no pun intended) more hostile to Israel. A former ambassador attacks them for “alienating” supporters, as if defending oneself would alienate a true supporter.

In less than six months, under its truncated Likud government, Israel has managed to alienate its most important regional Muslim ally, Turkey; angered the United Arab Emirates with the botched assassination saga in Dubai; endured expulsion of diplomats from Australia and the United Kingdom — two of Israel’s greatest friends; accorded Hamas’ supporters a public relations bonanza, and kicked settlement construction sand in the eyes of Vice President Biden.

Here we see much of the leftist narrative. Turkey has been shifting toward the Islamist forces since Erdogan and the AKP party took over seven years ago. Army officers are being arrested for “treason” as the Islamists try to emasculate the secular army. This has nothing to do with Israel and everything thing to do with Islamist politicians who are destroying the legacy of Ataturk.

It is all Israel’s fault. Hamas is just a political party; the settlements in Jerusalem were not in traditional Jewish neighborhoods, and so on. The fact remains that Israel has control of the West Bank and Gaza because the Arabs started a war and lost. In fact, they started three wars and lost them all. When Germany started a war and lost, they lost East Prussia and Sudetanland. We do not see German suicide bombers in Poland or Czech Republic protesting that they were dispossessed just because they lost a war and demanding “right of return.” They would be laughed out the UN. Why is Israel different ?

Well, they are Jews. They were expelled from what is now the West bank in 70 AD after rebelling against the Roman provincial officials. However, there have always been some Jews living in what is now Israel, especially Jerusalem. The Zionist movement began when Theodore Herzl recognized the implications of the Dreyfus Affair. After watching anti-Semitic rallies in paris, he came to the conclusion that assimilation was a trap, an opinion reinforced in Germany in the 1930s. The emigration of Jews to the portion of the Ottoman Empire now called Israel and Palestine began with the Russian pogroms in 1888. Herzl then encouraged more emigration around the turn of the century. Arab- Jewish violence was well established by the 1930s, mostly at the instigation of the Arabs. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in the 1930s was an avid follower of Hitler. Copies of Mein Kampf are still on sale in Cairo and, interestingly, in Turkey. Turkey, in recent years, has seen a rise in anti-American conspiracy theories that are intertwined with anti-Jewish folklore. One that goes back to the Middle Ages is the cannibalism of Christian children. The modern equivalent is seen in a popular Turkish movie in which Americans harvest the kidneys from dead Iraqis for shipment to Israel. It starred many well known American actors.

The level of vicious anti-Israeli rhetoric is high and this is not just disgusting but dangerous. Some American leftists have concluded that Israel is an embarrassment rather than an ally. They have no strategic sense and the instinct is to dump your friends when they are
not being helpful. Harry S Truman once said that about a famous Roman Senator, “His downfall began when he took his friends for granted and tried to bribe his enemies.” This is a profound statement and one I have lived by. It is an instinct to try to add to our circle by recruiting new members, even if it may push aside a loyal supporter. This appears to be the central tenet of the Obama foreign policy, illustrating how far the Democratic Party has come from its origins.

Anyway, the present crisis has its origins long ago and has nothing to do with the actions of Israel, which are totally defensive.

Israel, Gaza and the Palestinians

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

UPDATE: Commentary is critical of this piece and they are absolutely correct on this item.

NEVE DEKALIM, Gaza Strip – Palestinians looted dozens of greenhouses on Tuesday, walking off with irrigation hoses, water pumps and plastic sheeting in a blow to fledgling efforts to reconstruct the Gaza Strip.

American Jewish donors had bought more than 3,000 greenhouses from Israeli settlers in Gaza for $14 million last month and transferred them to the Palestinian Authority. …

Palestinian police stood by helplessly Tuesday as looters carted off materials from greenhouses in several settlements, and commanders complained they did not have enough manpower to protect the prized assets. In some instances, there was no security and in others, police even joined the looters, witnesses said.

That story was well known and I was disappointed to see him bungle that issue.

Lawrence Wright is an expert on the Middle East and militant Islam. He is the author of The Looming Tower, the best book I’ve seen on the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qeada. He had a piece in the New Yorker that I think it is important to read. There has been quite a bit of misinformation about the Israeli invasion of Gaza that was called “Cast Lead.” The recent report by Richard Goldstone, is as anti-Israel as one would expect in a report coming from the UN. The report can be downloaded from that link. It is very popular on the left, as one might expect give the left’s infatuation with militant Islam lately. Of course the Jews and gays on the left are too smart to actually go to see for themselves. That might be dangerous. Haaretz, the self hating leftist Israeli newspaper is on the case with all venom one could expect. Just for a microsecond, imagine a newspaper in the Muslim world that would attack its own government like that. They even claim that the fact that Goldstone is Jewish inoculates him from the anti-Semitism claim. I would remind them that there is an American member of al Qeada who was raised Jewish.

Anyway, I will accept Lawrence Wright as a fair observer.

Every opportunity for peace in the Middle East has been led to slaughter, and at this isolated desert crossing, on June 25, 2006, another moment of promise culminated in bloodshed. The year had begun with tumult. That January, Hamas, which the U.S. government considers a terrorist group, won Palestine’s parliamentary elections, defeating the more moderate Fatah Party. Both parties sent armed partisans into the streets, and Gaza verged on civil war. Then, on June 9th, a tentative truce between Hamas and Israel ended after an explosion on a beach near Gaza City, apparently caused by an Israeli artillery shell, killed seven members of a Palestinian family, who were picnicking. (The Israelis deny responsibility.) Hamas fired fifteen rockets into Israel the next day. The Israelis then launched air strikes into Gaza for several days, killing eight militants and fourteen civilians, including five children.

I think the artillery shell story has been debunked. The wounded children were taken to a Palestinian hospital and something was done to them, possibly removal of telltale shrapnel fragments, before they were allowed to go to Israel for definitive care. One version of the story is here but there are inconsistencies. Even this story notes the odd incident with the shrapnel.

The victims had initially been treated by Palestinian doctors who removed almost all shrapnel from the bodies of victims before they arrived at Israeli hospitals for treatment.[26] Representatives of the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center said that Palestinian doctors at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, who had treated a woman wounded during the blast, had made unnecessary cuts all over her body in an effort to remove all the surgically reachable shrapnel. The Israeli hospital said they had never before received a patient from which all possible shrapnel had been removed.”[27]

To go on with the story.

Amid this strife, Mahmoud Abbas—the head of Fatah, and the President of the Palestinian Authority, the governing body established by the Oslo peace accords of 1993—put forward a bold idea. The people of Palestine, he declared, should be given the chance to vote on a referendum for a two-state solution to its conflict with Israel. Perhaps it was a cynical political maneuver, as the leaders of Hamas believed. The fundamental platform of Hamas was its refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist, yet polls showed that Palestinians overwhelmingly supported the concept of two states. A referendum would be not only a rebuke to Hamas; it also would be a signal to Israel—and to the rest of the world—that Palestinians were determined to make peace. Abbas set the referendum for July.

A paranoid person would suspect that Hamas and their al Qeada allies would try to create an incident to derail this olive branch.

Just before dawn on June 25th, eight Palestinian commandos crawled out of a tunnel into a grove of trees in Kerem Shalom. A new moon was in the sky, making it the darkest night of the month. With mortar fire and anti-tank missiles providing cover, the commandos, some of them disguised in Israeli military uniforms, split into three teams. One team attacked an empty armored personnel carrier, which had been parked at the crossing as a decoy. Another team hit the observation tower. The two Israelis in the tower were injured, but not before they killed two of the attackers.

The third team shot a rocket-propelled grenade into a Merkava tank that was parked on a berm facing the security fence. The explosion shook the tank; then its rear hatch opened and three soldiers tried to flee. Two of them were shot and killed, but a third, lightly wounded, was captured. The attackers raced back into Gaza with their prize: a lanky teen-ager named Gilad Shalit.

That was the beginning of the Gilad Shalit hostage story. It is pretty clear that the provocation was planned well. It has ended all chance of reconciliation and eventually ended in the Gaza invasion. The entire story is worth reading as it contains what I consider to be a fair account of the invasion and the circumstances surrounding it. Wright may occasionally lean toward the Palestinians in his account but he is fair.

It has been said that the “Palestinians never lose an opportunity to lose an opportunity.” The militants have little interest in governing. They are conducting a war with Israel. He even recounts stories of young women being harassed at the beach, the only feature of Gaza that is not a slum, even though they are fully dressed.

I would like to visit Israel and hope it might be possible next year.

Implausible deniability

Monday, September 21st, 2009

The Obama administration seems to be well on the way to surpassing the record for ineptitude of the Carter administration. Its actions in the ballistic missile defense situation in eastern Europe are about as bad as it can get.

UPDATE: There is another theory about Obama’s actions. It is that his actions are deliberate gestures and indicate his contempt for the US allies he insults.

We must keep in mind the fact that Obama is not a yokel and that the State Department is there to prevent an ill-informed president from unnecessarily stepping on toes. What happened last Thursday was a deliberate gesture. It was aimed at our allies in eastern Europe and at Russia, and it was recognized as such in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Russia. Vladimir Putin spoke of Obama’s decision as a courageous act. Our friends in eastern Europe would not have used that adjective. A signal has been given, and they know the meaning.

We are living in a dangerous time. It seems highly unlikely that Barack Obama will get his way in domestic affairs. The Democrats may control Congress, but they now fear a rout in 2010, and they are likely to tread with caution from now on. In foreign affairs, however, presidents have a relatively free hand, and this president has ample time to do damage to a country that, there is reason to suspect, he deeply hates.

I don’t know if this is a credible explanation but nothing in American history so far explains these actions.

Last week the Obama administration announced that it was reconfiguring U.S. plans for ballistic missile defense (BMD) in Europe, beginning with halting plans for installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. The shift would include an increased emphasis on Aegis-equipped warships already being upgraded to BMD capability that would patrol the waters of the North Sea and Mediterranean. At a press conference last Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates emphasized the technical rationale for the decision: The assessment of Iran’s ability to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile had shifted, indicating that the development of such a missile is a long way off; this new scheme would protect Europe, which was still at risk and would continue to be vulnerable; and the new scheme would be in place sooner and ultimately would be more effective.

As it happened, technology aside, the decision met one of Russia’s ongoing demands — that the United States should not base BMD installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. However, Gates stated that “Russia’s attitude and possible reaction played no part in my recommendation to the president on this issue. Of course, considering Russia’s past hostility toward American missile defense in Europe, if Russia’s leaders embrace this plan, then that will be an unexpected — and welcome — change of policy on their part.”

This is unbelievable and is a cause for worry that the Russians will perceive this statement as worse than weakness.

U.S. President Barack Obama insisted that the decision had nothing to do with the Russians, saying it was merely a bonus if Russia’s leaders ended up “a little less paranoid” about the United States. Speaking to CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Obama said, “My task here was not to negotiate with the Russians. The Russians don’t make determinations about what our defense posture is.”

If Gates and Obama are to be believed, the decision to halt deployment in the Czech Republic and Poland was made without any consideration of Russian views whatsoever. It was simply the result of technical and military analysis, and the question of how the major power in the region — Russia — might react simply wasn’t considered.

Once again, this is simply not credible.

The issue is not, as the president has put it, one of Russian paranoia. The Russians might well be paranoid, but that paranoia is not a matter of incidental importance to the United States. Unless the United States is abandoning the idea of sanctions and moving to accept Iran as a nuclear power, or has already made the decision to strike Iran, Russia — paranoid or not — is important to the United States. We suspect that it crossed someone’s mind that in making this move now, the United States would be capitulating to a major Russian demand.

Certainly, it could not have escaped the administration’s attention that the decision, regardless of how it was made, would be seen by all as a response to the Russians. This is how the Poles and Czechs saw it; it is how the Russians saw it; it is how any reasonable observer would have seen it. That’s because this was a core Russian demand and because the announcement came two weeks before the meetings on Iran.

Is Obama really this incompetent?

In foreign policy, it is always important to be prepared to pretend that the elephant is not in the room. But there has to be a touch of plausibility to the pretense. In this case, the problem is that the administration’s description of how it made this decision indicates breathtaking incompetence. In saying they took the decision without considering diplomatic consequences, U.S. officials are claiming the administration doesn’t know how to play major league ball — and seem proud of that.

Maybe he is really this incompetent. Let’s look at Israel, another erstwhile ally. Obama promised change we could believe in and he has been as good as his word .

U.S. relations with Israel have had their minor bumps, but Israeli trust of America and respect for the American president have been constant. This was true whether the president was Nixon or Carter, Clinton or George W. Bush.

As a result, Israeli prime ministers — even crusty old war horses like Yitzak Shamir and Ariel Sharon — have struggled mightily to remain on good terms with the U.S. president. It can be argued that when a brash young Benyamin Netanyahu got on President Clinton’s bad side, the price was his office.

But in nine months all of this has changed. A recent survey sponsored by the Jerusalem Post showed that only 4 percent of Israelis believe that President Obama’s policies are more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian. Considering that the margin of error in the poll was 4.5 percent, one might wonder whether any Israeli, or at least any Israeli Jew, believes Obama is on the side of America’s long-time ally.

Meanwhile 51 percent of those polled believe that Obama’s policies are more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israel. When more than half of the Israeli population believes that the American president tilts towards their sworn enemies, it’s fair to say that Obama has produced a sea-change in this small but important corner of the world.

But this is only the beginning of “change you can scarcely believe” in Israel. For decades Israelis have been bitterly divided, often more or less down the middle, over politics. And throughout much of this period, Benyamin Netanyahu has been among the most divisive Israeli politicians.

When Netanyahu formed a largely “right-wing” coalition government earlier this year, his regime was considered fragile even by Israeli standards. But then the Obama administration insisted that Israel halt all new construction in West Bank settlements, including construction of new homes within large settlements to accommodate natural population. Then it protested plans to build a new apartments in East Jerusalem.

When Netanyahu rejected these demands, his popularity soared. Obama had transformed the least lovable of all Israeli politicians into a leader around whom a strong majority of Israelis could rally.

How has Obama’s change in policy affected the Arabs, his preferred partners in the middle east ? There is no sign of any positive response as the Arabs worry much more about Iran than about Israel, rhetoric notwithstanding. They see the same weakness in Obama as he considers abandoning Afghanistan and accepting Iran as a nuclear power.

This will not end well.


Monday, May 18th, 2009

Bibi Netanyahu is in Washington today to talk to President Obama. Last week, I was very concerned about some tough talk that had come out of the Obama administration. This week the concern seems to have been premature. Obama has been cautious in action, much more cautious than in talk. Theodore Roosevelt famously proposed to “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Obama appears to believe the opposite.

Obama is much stronger politically, but he has consistently acted with caution, particularly in the foreign policy arena. Much of his foreign policy follows from the Bush administration. He has made no major breaks in foreign policy beyond rhetoric; his policies on Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Russia and Europe are essentially extensions of pre-existing policy. Obama faces major economic problems in the United States and clearly is not looking for major changes in foreign policy. He understands how quickly public sentiment can change, and he does not plan to take risks he does not have to take right now.

I don’t know if the serious people Obama has to deal with across the world will grow tired of his lies but, for now, they are better than his proposals. The realities of the situation make his previous assertions about a two-state solution sound foolish.

The foundation of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process for years has been the assumption that there would be a two-state solution. Such a solution has not materialized for a host of reasons. First, at present there are two Palestinian entities, Gaza and the West Bank, which are hostile to each other. Second, the geography and economy of any Palestinian state would be so reliant on Israel that independence would be meaningless; geography simply makes the two-state proposal almost impossible to implement. Third, no Palestinian government would have the power to guarantee that rogue elements would not launch rockets at Israel, potentially striking at the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem corridor, Israel’s heartland. And fourth, neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis have the domestic political coherence to allow any negotiator to operate from a position of confidence. Whatever the two sides negotiated would be revised and destroyed by their political opponents, and even their friends.

So, the two-state solution is a delusion. What comes next ?

Overall, Israel is a conservative power. In terms of nation-states, it does not want upheaval; it is quite content with the current regimes in the Arab world. But Netanyahu would love to see an international conference with the Arab states roundly condemning Israel publicly. This would shore up the justification for Netanyahu’s policies domestically while simultaneously creating a framework for reshaping world opinion by showing an Israel isolated among hostile states.

Obama is likely hearing through diplomatic channels from the Arab countries that they do not want to participate directly in the Palestinian peace process. And the United States really does not want them there, either. The peace process normally ends in a train wreck anyway, and Obama is in no hurry to see the wreckage.

So, once again, it is all theater and talk, no substance. Since most of Obama’s policies fit that description, it should be no problem.