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Your humble narrator is...
...a research analyst at a think tank in the Washington DC area. Born in Israel, raised in Kentucky, movie fanatic and sports nut.
My first-hand account of the Palestinian divestment conference at the U. of Michigan

:: Saturday, February 01, 2003 ::

My prediction--no Israeli/Lebanese front
Without underestimating the bloodthirsty evil of Hizbullah, one of the world's most dangerous terrorist organizations, I'm inclined to believe that there won't be an Israel/Lebanon front of a US-led Iraq war. Meryl thinks there will be one:
There are thousands of rockets aimed at Israel along the border. Recent shipments from Iran gave Hizbullah rockets that can penetrate to every inch of Israeli territory. They've shot rockets at Israel time and time again, with no answer back, at the urging of the United States.

Now I believe there will be a reckoning. The IAF doesn't fly recon for no reason. And Syria-occupied Lebanon having missiles that can reach deep into Israeli territory is not an act of peace. War is coming.
I don't know if Hizbullah's rocket capability has improved that much with recent Iranian shipments, but that's not really as major an issue as whether or not they're going to use them and what Israel can do about it. Ever since Israel withdrew from Lebanon more than 2 1/2 years ago, Hizbullah has launched lots of attacks against the Shebaa Farms region of the Golan Heights, claiming (falsely) that it constitutes occupied Lebanese territory. I guess that's what Meryl is referring to in claiming that "they've shot rockets at Israel time and time again, with no answer back, at the urging of the United States," although I dissent from the conclusion--Sharon has been careful not to be goaded into a response that could escalate into a major distraction from the fight against Palestinian terror, and I don't know of any serious US pressure being applied in that regard. Other Hizbullah attacks since the intifada started: in Oct. 2000, they abducted three IDF soldiers in northern Israel and an Israeli businessman in Europe. They were behind a border crossing attack in March 2002 that killed six Israelis, five of them civilians, and they were almost certainly involved in the Karine-A affair, the weapons ship that was intercepted in Jan. 2002 with tons of weapons en route to the Palestinian Authority. But there haven't been any rocket attacks into northern Israel.

As far as the potential threat from those rockets, the IDF carried out major operations in southern Lebanon in 1993 (Operation Accountabilty) and 1996 (Operation Grapes of Wrath), both of which were justified by massive Hizbullah provocations, but neither of which solved the problem. Grapes of Wrath ended with a terrible disaster as 100 Lebanese civilians died when their village was hit by errant IDF shelling. I certainly think that Hizbullah's hiding of their artillery amongst civilians was responsible for that tragedy, but nonetheless it demonstrates the probable futility of Israel's pursuing a purely military solution to the problem of those rockets. Until Syria and Iran not only cease their weapons shipments to Hizbullah but actually disarm them--an outcome that Israel is powerless to bring about--the threat will still be there, without Israel being able to do much about it. I think the Israeli government and military believe that as well, and they want to avoid any major involvement in Lebanon. As for Hizbullah themselves, no one can accurately predict what goes on in the minds of such vicious killers, but I doubt they'll use an Iraq war as a pretext for attacking Israel if only because of the precedent of Operation Defensive Shield. The IDF launched its first major offensive against the Palestinians, the whole world was screaming bloody murder about Israeli agression, even President Bush was calling for Israel to "withdraw without delay"--what could have been a more ideal international situation for Hizbullah, with Israel so completely isolated diplomatically, to jump in and ignite a serious cross-border conflagration? Yet it didn't happen, so I don't think they'll see an Iraq war as a more ideal pretext.
1:43 PM
:: Thursday, January 30, 2003 ::
Questionable conclusion, false evidence
The New Republic's latest editorial justifies Bush's decision to give inspections another try before going to war in Iraq. But senior editor Lawrence Kaplan is apparently as disdainful of world opinion as the most moralizing neo-cons around. He does a slipshod job this week of arguing that Bush made a mistake when he agreed to inspections.
Bush [has been reduced] to pleading the case for war against Iraq not on the basis of sweeping principles or blatant Iraqi misdeeds but because Saddam has temporarily placed a warehouse or chicken farm off-limits. Thus, rather than announce that the United States is going to war because Saddam is a brutal dictator who cannot be trusted with weapons of mass destruction and who is in violation of a catalogue of U.N. resolutions--a case Bush made quite convincingly in a speech he delivered in Cincinnati last year detailing Saddam's misdeeds--the president is poised to go to war on the basis of ... well, it's no longer so clear.
Bush spent most of 2002 arguing for action solely on the basis that Saddam is a brutal dictator who can't be trusted--he's evil, he gassed his own people--and got precisely nowhere in building international support. Kaplan seems to think it could have worked, but it didn't. As for utilizing Saddam's chronic violation of UN resolutions as a rallying cry, it would have been impossible for the administration to convince wobbly oversea allies on that basis without agreeing to involve the UN once more, and the only way to do that was through another round of inspections. And what fence-sitters were convinced by that Cincinnati speech? I guess Kaplan found it "quite convincing," but he fails to demonstrate that anyone who wasn't already on board for war changed their minds after hearing it.
Where European governments in November were objecting only to unilateral military action, today German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder categorically rejects the use of force--with or without U.N. sanction--and Germany's admirers in Paris echo that "nothing" justifies action against Iraq. Opinion polls throughout Western Europe show that the percentage of people supporting military action against Iraq has declined consistently as inspections have worn on. A Guardian newspaper poll last week found that, even in Great Britain, support for an attack had dropped to 30 percent, down from 42 percent before inspections began.
Using Germany as an example for a decline in European war support is completely dishonest. Schroeder has been categorically rejecting the use of force since his re-election campaign last August, before Bush even decided to involve the UN at all. There was never a time when the Germans "were objecting only to unilateral military action." The Guardian poll did show 42% support for war in Britain in mid-October, before the inspections began. But as the data shows, that number was at 32% in early October and again in early November, which was still before the inspections began. It hasn't been above 40% before or after it hit 42 that one time. It certainly isn't correct to claim, as Kaplan does, that it was at 42% during the entire period before inspections began, or that the inspections alone are to blame for any subsequent decline.

He even admits that the administration's problem with the inspections is largely a self-fulfilling prophecy:
Many in the administration never really wanted the inspections regime to work. When Colin Powell initially proposed the idea of going down the inspections route, officials at the Pentagon and the White House scoffed. But they subsequently persuaded themselves Saddam would never cooperate with them. The problem is that while these officials viewed inspections as a tactical ploy, everyone else--the Europeans, the inspectors themselves, even the American public--took them seriously. This lack of candor is about to exact a steep price from the United States.
Just like everyone who supports the administration's hard-line on Saddam, I disdain those (like the French and German governments) who are cloaking their complete opposition to war in a veil of legitimacy by pretending that the inspections are working. But it's equally legitimate for those who are nervous about war to distrust an administration that seems to have cloaked a pre-determined commitment to war behind the veil of pretending to want a successful inspections regime. Kaplan fails to demonstrate how the administration could have gained more support without agreeing to inspections, and he also fails to demonstrate that the inspections have decreased its support. The conclusion I draw is not that the administration should never have agreed to inspections, but that they should have wanted them to work. Being honest about that might have made it easier to get support for war, and it certainly wouldn't have made it harder.
11:02 PM
:: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 ::
Never trust a terrorist--that goes for everyone
The constant obfuscation and outright lying of so many Palestinian spokespeople should give Israel's supporters pause before citing certain Palestinian statements as evidence for this or that conclusion. Yossi Klein Halevi is all too willing to cite Hamas in his criticism of Mitzna's campaign:
[Mitzna's] willingness to unilaterally withdraw has been cited by the fundamentalist terrorist group Hamas as proof that terrorism is panicking Israelis into contemplating one-sided concessions.
On the other hand, there's also this:
Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin told Reuters there was no reason for Israel to celebrate Sharon's re-election.

"He (Sharon) has failed to achieve anything. He failed to achieve what he promised the people, and the people re-elected him. This is evidence that it (Israel) has started to collapse and it will end," he said.

"No doubt the situation will be difficult and the confrontation (with Israel) will be difficult, but Sharon will be defeated."
So, according to Hamas, Mitzna's rise to the head of the Labor party is evidence of Israel's impending doom--and so is the opposite event, Sharon's re-election. While I have some serious differences with Sharon's approach, it would be totally misguided to cite Sheikh Yassin's statement as evidence of Sharon's shortcomings. Similarly, while the critics of unilateral withdrawal have some sound arguments at the disposal of their position, citing Hamas' supposed opinion on the matter is not one of them. The level of Hamas' motivation in pursuing the genocide of Israel's citizens is not affected by the policies adopted by the state they're attempting to annihilate.
7:45 PM
:: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 ::
Looks like Bono might be getting results
U2's lead singer in the Washington Post yesterday:
When President Bush delivers his State of the Union address tomorrow, he will focus on the military threats to national security: Iraq, North Korea, terrorism. But I hope that for a few minutes the president will talk about the global AIDS crisis -- and define a historic American response...

Bipartisan health experts agree that from the United States at least $2.5 billion is required this year to kick-start the war against HIV and AIDS and to show the poorest, most vulnerable people in the world that America is a true partner for health, global security and prosperity. I'm from Europe, where the response has not yet matched the scale of the crisis -- we will have to follow America's lead in this war.
President Bush, in his State of the Union address tonight:
We have confronted, and will continue to confront, HIV/AIDS in our own country. And to meet a severe and urgent crisis abroad, tonight I propose the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa.

This comprehensive plan will prevent 7 million new AIDS infections, treat at least 2 million people with life-extending drugs and provide humane care for millions of people suffering from AIDS and for children orphaned by AIDS.

I ask the Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years, including nearly $10 billion in new money, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean.

10:36 PM
Is it always someone else's fault?
Over on Kesher Talk, William Leon posted a message from an Israeli voter. This person's view of history strikes me as being odd:
It was Chamberlain who got Britain into the mess that they were in during WWII, and it was the Barak, Peres and the Labor Party who got Israel into the mess that we are in right now.
As bad a leader as Chamberlain was, it was my impression that the actual responsibility for WWII was on Hitler's shoulders. And whatever one thinks about Barak, I don't recall him being the one who launched the intifada--in fact, I think Arafat was the one who did that. As for the Labor Party getting Israel into the mess that it's in, about 70% of the Israeli public, which includes lots of people who aren't in the Labor Party, supported Oslo at the time it was signed. A similar phenomenon happened in Israel when the Lebanon War turned for the worse--suddenly it was exclusively Sharon and Begin's fault, as if the large majority who supported the war when it began bore none of the responsibility for what followed.

Naturally, voters in a democracy have to hold their leaders accountable for the decisions that those leaders make. But it's not terribly honest to hold them solely responsible for what happens when they commanded large majorities for their decisions at the time they were made. I certainly thought Israel made the right decision in pursuing the Oslo process, and while I've regretfully concluded that it was a mistake because it was predicated on an unreliable partner, I can't pretend that those who made the decision to deal with him are exclusively to blame for what has happened. In the country where I happen to live, we're poised on the brink of invading another country and toppling its regime. I support that policy, but if it goes badly, neither I nor anyone else who lives here will honestly be able to put all the blame on George W. Bush.

This unnamed Israeli guy whose message was posted on Kesher Talk (I guess I'm fisking him!) also has some consistency issues:
Every single person connected to that disaster [Oslo] should have resigned in shame from public life. This is what Lyndon Johnson did in 1968. Anthony Eden did the same in 1957. Menachem Begin resigned as well in recognition of his own mistakes in 1983.
Begin did indeed resign, probably in recognition of how badly the Lebanon War had turned out, but another guy who helped to formulate that policy, Ariel Sharon, is still in public life in Israel and has the support of this voter who claims to admire Begin's principles. As for Eden, what brought him down was the Suez War, which was arguably quite beneficial to the country that did most of the fighting against Egypt--that's right, Israel! Does this Israeli voter I'm quoting really think that Eden made a mistake in joining forces with Israel in that conflict?
9:07 PM
:: Monday, January 27, 2003 ::
Contrasting opinions
In the long awaited Iraq inspections report, IAEA director Mohammed El Baradei wants more time and is eager not to be too critical of Iraq:
Inspections are time consuming. I should mention that even in the case of South Africa, with full and active cooperation was forthcoming, it took the IAEA about two years to complete the process in that country...

These few months, in my view, would be a valuable investment in peace because they could help us avoid a war. We trust that we will continue to have your support as we make every effort to verify Iraq's nuclear disarmament through peaceful means and to demonstrate that the inspection process can and does work as a central feature of the international nuclear arms control regime.
But chief UN inspector Hans Blix almost sounds like Condoleeza Rice here when he also mentions the South Africa precedent. Maybe he's not the anti-US stooge that the war hawks have made him out to be:
Unlike South Africa, which decided on its own to eliminate its nuclear weapons and welcomed the inspection as a means of creating confidence in its disarmament, Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace.

5:03 PM
The smartest Republican of them all?
The ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee since the end of the Cold War was the incorrigible right-wing extremist Jesse Helms of North Carolina. Now that Helms has retired, Dick Lugar of Indiana has taken over, and thank goodness for that. Lugar describes his outlook on terrorism, Iraq, and other issues in this article. He actually has a strategy that supercedes "moral clarity":
Military action will be necessary to deal with serious and immediate threats to our national security, but the war on terrorism will not be won through attrition -- particularly because military action will often breed more terrorists. To win this war, the United States must assign to economic and diplomatic capabilities the same strategic priority we assign to military capabilities. What is still missing from American political discourse is support for the painstaking work of foreign policy and the commitment of resources to vital foreign policy objectives that lack a direct political constituency...

In the Iraq crisis, military capability has never been in doubt. If we decide to go to war, we will depose Saddam Hussein's regime. What have been in doubt are factors determined by our diplomatic strength, our alliance relationships and foreign perceptions of the United States. Can we line up the support of the U.N. Security Council? Can we secure basing and overflight rights? Can we generate international support that will mitigate anti-American reactions in the Arab world? In short, the unknown in our Iraqi policy depends on U.S. foreign policy capabilities. It depends on programs and personnel that are funded at about $26 billion per year, an amount equal to 6.7 percent of our defense budget.

The Iraq debate in Congress focused on whether the United States should make concessions to world opinion or pursue its perceived national security interests unencumbered by the constraints of the international community. But this was a false choice. National security decision-making can rarely be separated from the constraints of the international community, if only because our resources and influence are finite. Our security depends not on clever decision-making about when to go it alone but on executing a potent foreign policy that ensures the international community will be with us in a crisis.

In the coming months, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will explore five foreign policy campaigns necessary to win the war against terrorism:

• Strengthen U.S. diplomacy. Congress and the president must commit to robust, long-term investments in diplomats, embassy security, and effective foreign policy communications strategies and tools. We also must gear up our foreign assistance programs.

• Expand and globalize the Nunn-Lugar program. Since 1991 the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program has worked effectively to safeguard and destroy the immense stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union. We need to redouble these efforts and expand the process to all nations where cooperation can be secured.

• Promote trade. Free trade is essential to strengthening our economy, building alliances and spreading the benefits of market economics. Expanding trade in the developing world is essential to building the conditions that dampen terrorist recruitment and political resentment.

• Strengthen and build alliances. The stronger our alliances, the more likely we are to have partners who will share financial burdens and support our efforts against terrorism.

• Reinvigorate our commitment to democracy, the environment, energy and development. The United States must reassert itself as a positive force for democracy and development. This must include improving energy supplies worldwide to free up resources in developing nations and reduce the dependence of the world economy on Persian Gulf oil. International environmental protection is required for successful economic development in many regions. Environmental concerns are linked to the dismantling of weapons, our ability to build alliances and political attitudes toward trade expansion.

These five campaigns will require not only money but also political leadership from the Bush administration and Congress. We must explain to the American people why these campaigns are as critical to the war on terrorism as our military efforts. Without them we will relegate ourselves to fighting a holding action in which time is on the side of the terrorists.
Amen to every word of that. I hope decision-makers in both parties are paying close attention to everything he says.
1:49 AM
Not a very Super Bowl
Tampa Bay's 48-21 win over the Raiders was an oddly uninteresting game. The Bucs' brilliant defense, combined with an uncharacteristically inept Oakland offense, led them to their first NFL championship. It looked like it might get interesting in the fourth quarter as the Raiders finally decided to show up, but the 34-3 hole they got into was too deep to get out of. Congratulations to Tampa on a well-earned title--they dominated all three of their playoff opponents and left no doubt as to who the best team in the league was this season.
12:46 AM
:: Sunday, January 26, 2003 ::
I hope the administration has thought about this
Ehud Ya'ari is optimistic about America achieving its goals in an Iraq war, but he goes into great detail about the most pressing potential problem and how to get around it:
The most serious danger lurking in Iraq [is] a war that will set off a farhoud of enormous proportions, farhoud being the particular term in colloquial Iraqi Arabic for a pogrom -- namely, the massacre of the Jews of Baghdad in 1941 -- or a general settling of accounts. A limping military campaign (like the Israeli Army’s tortuous journey to Beirut) could, by dint of its slow, careful pace, spark any number of farhouds in a country where every ethnic group, every tribe and every district harbors a huge impulse, built up over 30 years and more, to avenge anyone who wronged them under Saddam...

The threat of farhouds is more serious than the fighting capabilities of the divisions of the Republican Guard. The only way to allay this most palpable risk is for the Americans to make a decisive overland drive to Baghdad -- a left hook from Kuwait via Samawa and Nasiriya, on the highway that skirts the valley and the desert, straight to the capital. The journey can be done in 10 hours in a private car. Armored divisions will need two to three days, but any more than that will be an invitation to a farhoud.

The regular Iraqi troops must remain in their barracks. The division commanders should in no way volunteer to help the American forces in the race to Baghdad. It must be made clear that whoever stays put will not risk being bombed from the air, and whoever dares to move will be smashed.

The Americans would do better to leave the Ba’ath party bureaucracy intact, and there is nothing to be gained from bombing the infrastructure. The motto should be "Saddam first. De-Saddamization much later. And de-Ba’athization only after that."

And most importantly, the Iraqis have to be informed that there is already a prepared model for a future regime based on a Shi’ite-Kurdish consensus that preserves the rights of the Sunni minority, along with the rights of the other, smaller ethnic groups.

There needs to be a clear recognition that Iraq has a formula for a new government, and that it will be responsible for settling past scores. That may be enough, inshallah, to prevent a farhoud.

But if there is a feeling in Iraq that everything is open and the various ethnic factions begin to compete for the spoils, then the U.S. president might find himself at the gates of a hell several times more horrific than the one Sharon encountered at Sabra and Shatilla.

Then we will be left without Saddam, but without a new Iraq either.

1:01 PM
Wishful thinking
Andrew Sullivan is indulging in a flight of fancy about what regime change in Iraq might do to the pro-Saddam extreme left in America--defeat them!
If we wage a successful war in Iraq, the academic and elite left in this country, previously deeply wounded, cannot survive. They will be shown for what they are: defenders of everything real liberals should oppose. That, I suspect, is why so many of them are resisting the war so fiercely. They know that their fate is now bound up with Saddam's. What an irony. But what an opportunity to despatch both at once.
As if the anti-American far left hasn't been exposed like this before without fading away. One of my favorite writers, Tom Wolfe, wrote about the total lack of self-scrutiny among the same crowd in this essay from a few years ago called "In the Land of the Rococo Marxists." He's referring here to the end of the Cold War, an event of far more global significance than an Iraq war would be:
It was a mess, all right-no two ways about that. It made it damned hard to express your skepticism, your cynicism, your contempt, in Marxist terms. "Capitalism," "proletariat," "the masses ... .. the means of production," "infantile leftism ... .. the dark night of fascism," or even "anti-fascism"-all these things suddenly sounded, well, not so much wrong... as old.. . "Vulgar Marxism" it came to be called, vulgar in the sense of... unsophisticated.

The important thing was not to admit you were wrong in any fundamental way. You couldn't let anybody get away with the notion that just because the United States had triumphed, and just because some unfortunate things had come out after the Soviet archives were opened up-I mean, damn! it looks like Hiss and the Rosenbergs actually were Soviet agents-and even the Witch Hunt, which was one of the bedrocks of our beliefs-damn again! these books by Klehr and Haynes, in the Yale series on American Communism, and Radosh and Weinstein make it pretty clear that while Joe McCarthy was the despicable liar we always knew he was, Soviet agents really did penetrate the U.S. government. Yale!-so respectable, too!-how could they give their imprimatur to these renegade right-wing scholars who do this kind of stuff? Not to mention the Spanish Civil War-archives! Turns out the Loyalists secretly called in the Soviets at the very outset of hostitities - and if they'd won, Spain would have been the first Soviet puppet state!

And now Vietnam, our other bedrock, the holiest of all our causes - those damnable archives again! How could anybody be so perfidious as to open up secret records? They make it look like the Soviets and the Chinese, in concert with the North Vietnamese Communists, were manipulating the Vietcong all along! They make it look like America's intervention in Vietnam was some kind of idealistic crusade, fought solely to stop the onslaught of Communism's Magyar hordes in Southeast Asia!

The main thing is to make sure we don't let them use this stuff to invalidate the way we ascended the Olympian peaks of aloofness for seven decades, from November 11, 1918, the end of World War I, to November 9, 1989, the day the Wall fell. The fact that America won the Cold War does not wash away the stains America left during the Cold War, does it? We've still got the devil himself, the brute, Joe McCarthy, and Richard Nixon and the House Committee on Un-American Activities and all that crowd, who cost a lot of people in Hollywood and academia their jobs, don't we? And racism? The mere fact that the powers that be gave everybody all these so-called civil rights and voting rights doesn't mean that virulent and peculiarly American disease has been eliminated, does it? Not by any means!
An American-led liberation of Iraq won't be the last straw for this crowd, not by a long shot. To name just one thing, there'll still be Israel's existence to oppose.
12:07 PM

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