:: Friday, January 10, 2003 ::
Oz and Grossman discuss the situation
:: Thursday, January 09, 2003 ::
Ari Shavit's interview with authors Amos Oz and David Grossman is very interesting. As always, Oz has lots of worthwhile insights:
There is a wave of fanaticism that is sweeping not only Hamas and the Kahanists. It's a worldwide wave. Its most flagrant and shocking manifestation is Islamic zealotry. Of the 29 conflicts that are bleeding today around the world, there is a Muslim side in at least 27 of them. From Chechnya to Somalia, from Algeria to the Philippines. But Islam is not alone. There is Christian fanaticism with manifestations of European anti-Semitism and there is Jewish religious-nationalist fundamentalism. And they all resemble one another in several senses. All of them are walking exclamation marks.
Grossman seems to be going a bit far with this sexual analysis, but I'm sure he's right about the feeling of power that many Israelis had just after the Six-Day War:
There is also a postmodern clock that posits everything in a relative light. Maybe there is a connection between the two developments. One form of extremism engenders another. Either there is only one truth and whoever does not share it must be killed, or everything is true and everyone is equal, so murderers, too, have the right to murder...
There is a deep, dark element in the Christian narrative. In Christianity, people are raised on a story that there is someone who can kill God. And whoever can kill God is terribly strong and smart, more than human, but also evil. Because who will want to kill God? Only someone who is evil and smart. Millions of Christian children around the world open their eyes and the first picture they see is of a person bleeding on the cross, a person dying in torment on the cross. And when the Christian child comes to understand that this is a picture of the dying God, he asks who the criminal is. Who did this? It trickles even into people who have become atheists. Because even people who have moved to the margins of the left and never set foot in a church were raised on that mother's milk. It's not that they are anti-Semitic in the banal sense of wanting to kill every Jew; they have a mix of awe and fear. And sometimes they also set a very high bar of moral demands vis-a-vis Jews. It's as though after they exonerated the Jews of collective responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus, they have to prove that they deserve the exoneration.
Here is where the deep element lies: apart from Israel, there is not one country in the world that exists on condition. Israel is told, If you behave in such-and-such a way, you have the right to exist. If not, you don't have the right to exist and the whole thing was one big mistake. Behave well - you will live; behave badly - you will be dismantled. No one said that about Germany after World War II. No one said half will go to France and half will go to Poland, but there will be no more Germany.
But what especially frightens me is how far many Israelis in the intelligent, enlightened, peace-seeking left have internalized this approach. They too see Israel as a state-on-condition. A state whose existence depends on its behavior. So you find people in Tel Aviv who are against the death penalty for serial killers and are against the death penalty for rapists and against the death penalty for terrorists, but who support the death penalty for a state that does not behave well. For one particular state that does not behave well. I think that is terrible. From the moral perspective, that is a terrible approach.
For my generation, there was some sort of interfusion of the sexual energies of adolescence and the energies of the occupation. There is no ignoring it: the sudden penetration and the breaking of the taboo and the entry into these holy places. There is something erotic in the contact between occupier and occupied. I absolutely remember the physical sensation, the sensation of power.Grossman also suggests that Shas and Shinui could combine into one party called "Shisui," which appropriately enough means "incitement."
Class warfare by any other name...is still class warfare
E.J. Dionne's column from the other day is about how the President sometimes engages in a sort of warfare that many Republicans like to accuse the Democrats of waging:
Arguing for limits on medical malpractice awards in a North Carolina speech last July, Bush told the story of Jill and Chet Barnes of Las Vegas. "Jill is a student teacher," Bush said, "and her husband is a fireman." Because Nevada had such high malpractice insurance rates, Jill, who was eight weeks pregnant at the time, was having trouble finding a doctor -- "that's got to be really frightening to a young mom" -- and eventually got one by traveling an hour and a half to Arizona.
It didn't take long for Bush to describe the villain of the piece. He declared that "what we want is quality health care, not rich trial lawyers."
Yes, there's a lot to be said about the malpractice issue. And you felt bad for the young couple. But if setting up a teacher and a firefighter against "rich trial lawyers" is not class warfare, then Karl Marx is the current editor of the Wall Street Journal's editorial pages.
Republican class warfare is not confined to trial lawyers. Almost daily, Republicans attack privileged groups: "the cultural elite," "the Hollywood elite," "the intellectual elite" and, of course, "the liberal elite."
Bush merged some of these categories in 1994 when he was running for governor of Texas. No slouch as a fundraiser himself, he chided Ann Richards, his opponent, for going to California to raise money from the "liberal elite." That same year, the president's brother Jeb, running for governor of Florida, defended his views by declaring: "These are mainstream ideas, ideas that matter, whether the intellectual elite in this state like them or not."
The Bush sons learned from a master. A lovely bit of class warfare was the former president Bush's assault on his 1988 Democratic opponent, Michael Dukakis, for representing the views of the "Harvard boutique." In 1992 Vice President Dan Quayle divided the world into "two cultures, the cultural elite and the rest of us." You know you're dealing with class warfare when an "elite" is set up against "the rest of us." George H.W. said he quite liked the speech.
Detect a pattern? Class warfare around cultural issues is wonderful. It distracts attention from the grubby details about how certain economic policies may benefit a rather small group of Americans who just happen to be the wealthiest Americans.
Oops, I committed class warfare again.
Years ago, Harold Lasswell, the great political scientist, suggested that one of the fundamental political questions is "Who gets what, when and how." It's a question we're not supposed to ask anymore.
An Operation by any other name...
:: Wednesday, January 08, 2003 ::
In the likely event of an Iraq war, I hope the Pentagon planners come up with a decent name for the war. At the very least, they should avoid any obviously crappy names. I can think of two really bad ones from the past. One was the bombing of Iraq in Dec. '98 when the weapons inspectors were kicked out. Amazingly, it was called Operation Desert Fox, which of course was the nickname the Allies gave to their most famous foe of WWII, German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Why the US armed forces would ever use a name that could be associated with someone who fought for the Nazis is beyond me. The second one I'm thinking of is the British landing at the Italian city of Taranto in the Allied invasion of '43, which was given the ignominious name of Operation Slapstick.
A brief message from your Future President:
This post is part of the Amish Tech Support Blog A Day Tour, a foolish effort by Laurence Simon as he tries to post on a different blog every day of the year for 2003.
Hi there. My name is Laurence Simon. And when the FX Network answers my e-mail entry to American Candidate one of these years, I'll be competing to run for President in 2004.
Every few weeks, I come up with some goofball campaign promises. Well, I figured I'd get the word out by posting a few of them here. Just to let you know right now, none of these new campaign promises have anything to do with Israel. I've already made many of those, like making aliyah after I leave office, serving in the IDF two years, and running for Knesset.
Anyway, what caught my attention this time is the practice of the President phoning the winners of the Super Bowl, the NCAA National Champions, the World Series winners, Slam Ball Spectacular, and so on. Well, that practice ends with me, Future President Laurence Simon. No more phoning the winners.
Instead, I'm going to be at the games. No more Presidents sitting their butts at the White House, choking on pretzels. Why the heck do we have a Vice President, anyway... I'm going to the games and my Veep Meryl Yourish runs the joint.
There's no more phoning it in or watching on an HDTV that nobody other than a god can afford. I'm going to attend those events in my Presidential Booth, like Caesar attending the Games. I may even go down to the field and play oboe with the marching band.
I can't play oboe, but damn it, I'm the President. I'm going to try my darnest to play that oboe to the best of my ability.
And when the winner is determined, I'm going to be down in the winner's locker room shaking hands with the winners.
I may even shower with them.
Now some of you might ask "What about the various All Star and Pro Bowl games?"
Forget those. They're not real competitions. They're just slam duck and home run derby events. I'm talking post-season tournaments, folks.
Finally, when I attend these games I'm not going to be showing up in the broadcast booth like some washed-up Hollywood star or injured player. Your're there to watch, and I'm there to watch. If I go to the broadcast booth, it's only to order my Secret Service agents to shoot Don Criqui and Dick Enberg for being a pair of mealy-mouthed idiots. And if NBC puts Isaiah Thomas on the sidelines for an NBA Finals, I'm revoking their broadcast license and parceling their bandwidth out to cell phones and handheld computers.
It's not rocket science, you know. It's the Amish Tech Support Blog A Day Tour. If you're interested in hosting a post as part of the Tour, write Laurence Simon with an invitation. He needs you... he loves you!
Plenty of blame to go around
:: Tuesday, January 07, 2003 ::
Ha'aretz reporter Amira Hass has reported from and/or lived in the Gaza Strip and West Bank for several years. I don't regularly read her column since it's usually pretty predictable in its far-left dogma, but this one is very interesting. In the midst of some typical moralizing about the travails of life under occupation, she criticizes three segments of Palestinian society--Arafat and his close associates, Fatah leaders on the ground, and social activists working through NGOs--for failing to generate any social or moral pressure against terrorism within Palestinian society. She concludes that internal squabbling between these different factions is largely the problem: "The failure of the people who form these three layers of leadership also shows that they failed over the years to work together to form a joint strategy and working plan against the Israeli occupiers. Apparently, they don't trust each other and each other's intentions."
So what constitutes "appeasement" anyway?
Just like "racism" and "imperialism," two words whose actual meanings have been largely eroded by vast overuse and misuse, the term "appeasement" is rapidly losing any useful definition. A lot of people claim that dealing with thuggish dictators in any way short of threats, and certainly through any sort of negotiations with such vicious liars, is appeasement.
The reference is of course to the Munich conference of Sept. 1938, where Hitler asserted his sovereign right to part of Czechoslovakia (the Sudetenland), and the British and French leaders acquiesced with "a series of craven meetings that conceded him even more than he had initially demanded," in military historian John Keegan's words. Ever since then, the conventional wisdom has been that "they should have stopped Hitler at Munich," as Clemenza says to Michael in "The Godfather." But the Western powers had no way of "stopping him" short of war--the problem was that they failed to own up to this earlier, not that they didn't recognize it until it was too late. As Josh Marshall explains:
What had happened when Hitler invaded Poland? The British and the French had given Hitler an ultimatum: an attack on Poland meant war with Britain and France. As was clear then and since, this wasn't the most propitious moment to draw a line in the sand -- neither Britain or France were in a position to actually defend Poland. It was just a tripwire. It should have been done earlier in Czechoslovakia or the Rhineland. But a line had to be drawn. And it was drawn on the Polish border, even though it was done with the knowledge that it almost certainly would mean war. And of course, it did.So when does failure to stand up to the bad guys become appeasement, at least in the derisive sense of being cowardly, the charge that "appeasement" always carries with it? In short, when the good guys have a credible option of dealing with a threat with something besides negotiating, but lack the will to exercise it. In N. Korea, no such options are realistically available, nor is the administration trying to put one together with any credibility. More from that same Marshall post:
In their endless desire to see every diplomatic standoff through the prism of 1938, conservatives want to cast themselves in the role of the guys who put an end to appeasement -- in this case, in North Korea. So they're the ones who said 'this far and no further' -- as the Brits and the French did in Poland with the Nazis.
With regards to Israel, the word "Oslo" is almost as associated with appeasement as "Munich" is. So was Oslo, in and of itself, appeasement? Was Yitzhak Rabin the Israeli Neville Chamberlain? Absolutely not. Knowing that there was no other way to resolve Israel's conflict with the Palestinians except through negotiations, which is as true today as it was then, Rabin figured that dealing with Arafat was worth the risk, and--crucially--he calculated that the benefits Arafat would gain from being recognized by the world as a head of state would also come with responsibilities. That is, if Arafat went back on his word and returned to using terrorism, the international community would pressure him into holding up his end of the bargain. The problem was not just that Arafat never intended to put an end to the conflict, but, just as importantly if not more so, that the rest of the world never held him to his word. The appeasers in this case are all the diplomats from around the world who think that Arafat doesn't want terror, and even if he does, that Israel is at fault anyway for not conceding enough to him. Rabin was mistaken in thinking that a peace process with Arafat could conclude successfully, and how he would have dealt with that if he had lived is unclear. What is entirely clear is that Rabin was not an appeaser, and that anyone who equates Oslo with appeasement is himself a coward, unless he is willing to visit Rabin's grave and spit on it.
But there's a problem with this analogy, and an infinitely revealing one. The Brits and the French knew what they were going to do if Hitler called their bluff. They had a plan: go to war. And they did. They had, in a word, a plan.
What's the administration's plan with North Korea? They don't have one.
Short and sweet
:: Monday, January 06, 2003 ::
Fareed Zakaria is hardly a partisan analyst, and rarely if ever stoops to the level of insult. His latest piece, a thorough takedown of the Bush administration's N. Korea failure, is unusually blunt and thus particularly enjoyable:
Republican hard-liners railed against [Bill Clinton's] “appeasement” and for two years we have had a policy of cheap rhetoric and cheap shots—except it suddenly isn’t so cheap anymore. As a result, the chest-thumping machismo from the hard-liners has now morphed into sophisticated realism. The situation is very complex, you see. Soon the administration will return to a version of the Clinton policy it condemned. Senior officials have already told CNN that while they will not “negotiate” with North Korea, they could well “talk.” I suppose it all depends on what the definition of the word “negotiate” is.
At the next National Security Council meeting Colin Powell should ask that the group all hold hands and repeat after him, “Diplomacy is not appeasement,” swallow its pride and get to work. If the administration negotiates well, using a mixture of sticks and carrots, it could significantly improve on the Clinton deal, which had some flaws and blind spots. We don’t just need to cap but to reverse North Korea’s nuclear program. Ronald Reagan said of Gorbachev’s Russia, “Trust but verify.” With the North Koreans, I suggest a simpler motto, “Verify and verify.”
Eventually this grotesque regime will fall and President Bush will be well remembered for speaking plainly of its evil. But between now and then we do need a policy.
Maybe they'll do it right this time
:: Sunday, January 05, 2003 ::
Despite their still professed disdain for nation-building, the administration might be on track for doing a decent job in the aftermath of an Iraq war, according to this NY Times piece:
¶Though Mr. Bush came to office expressing distaste for using the military for what he called nation building, the Pentagon is preparing for at least a year and a half of military control of Iraq, with forces that would keep the peace, hunt down Mr. Hussein's top leaders and weapons of mass destruction and, in the words of one of Mr. Bush's senior advisers, "keep the country whole."
Not bad. The mixed record in Afghanistan is not an ideal precedent, but it sounds like they're taking this one seriously.
¶A civilian administrator — perhaps designated by the United Nations — would run the country's economy, rebuild its schools and political institutions, and administer aid programs. Placing those powers in nonmilitary hands, administration officials hope, will quell Arab concerns that a military commander would wield the kind of unchallenged authority that Gen. Douglas MacArthur exercised as supreme commander in Japan.
¶Only "key" senior officials of the Hussein government "would need to be removed and called to account," according to an administration document summarizing plans for war trials. People in the Iraqi hierarchy who help bring down the government may be offered leniency.
¶The administration plan says, "Government elements closely identified with Saddam's regime, such as the revolutionary courts or the special security organization, will be eliminated, but much of the rest of the government will be reformed and kept."
¶While publicly saying Iraqi oil would remain what one senior official calls "the patrimony of the Iraqi people," the administration is debating how to protect oil fields during the conflict and how an occupied Iraq would be represented in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, if at all.
¶After long debate, especially between the Pentagon and the State Department, the White House has rejected for now the idea of creating a provisional government before any invasion.
Guess who said this?
Someone wrote this today in trying to convince me that Yitzhak Rabin would have adopted forced transfer as a solution to Israel's problems if he had lived:
Itzhak Rabbin was the person who "ordered to break the bones"in the first intifada. Apparently he also expelled inhabitants of several Palestinian villages who were involved in anti Israeli activity during the War of Independence.So who would claim that this constitutes evidence of Rabin's preference for transfer? Surely a typically conspiracy-theory-minded Palestinian supporter, or perhaps a far-left Israel hater. But, no--it was far-right Israel supporter alexbmn in the midst of an LGF discussion. What a classic example of the not uncommon alliance, as ironic as it is unholy, between the mindsets of the Arabs and the Israeli extreme right.
Just shut up
I must have missed this last week: President Bush said Tuesday the U.S. economy "cannot afford to stand an attack" from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Oh, yeah, that'll convince the doubters. Nobody has made the absurd argument that our economy can afford an Iraqi-backed terrorist strike more than it can afford a war to topple Saddam, which is the only argument that Bush's statement addresses. Maybe I should just invent another reason for war in Iraq--my roommate suggested that we can't allow someone with a mustache as large as Saddam's to be in power--and call the White House. No doubt they'll trot it out the next time someone asks them about the war.