Haggai's Place

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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

:: Friday, August 22, 2003 ::

I love the ridiculous sounding things that athletes often say. This example is pretty mild, from a story about LeBron James, soon-to-be NBA rookie sensation, signing some new endorsement deals:
"I have been drinking Sprite and Powerade for a long time," James said in a statement. "I have always admired the way Sprite and Powerade spoke to young people and athletes, and I can't wait to be a part of it."
Hey, I've been drinking Sprite for a long time too! Longer than LeBron, he's 8 years younger than me. Shouldn't they pay me more than they're going to pay him?
5:20 PM
:: Thursday, August 21, 2003 ::
One way of thinking about the settlers
There's never been majority support in Israel for building settlements deep within densely populated Palestinian areas. I could probably find some more recent poll results if I looked harder, but consider these from a December 2002 poll:
Assume the terror stops and Arafat doesn't rule the Palestinian Authority any more. Then would you support or oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state?
Support 64% Oppose 27% Don't know 9%
Likud: Support 49% Oppose 39%

Within the framework of such an arrangement, would you support or oppose the evacuation of all the settlements in the Gaza Strip?
Support 61% Oppose 30% Don't know 9%
Likud: Support 47% Oppose 43%

Within the framework of such an arrangement, would you support or oppose the evacuation of most of the settlements in Judea and Samaria?
Support 55% Oppose 36% Don't know 9%
Likud: Support 36% Oppose 54%
Well over 50% support for evacuation in the context of a workable agreement, well under 40% opposition. So how did so many of them manage to get built? Politically speaking, I think the best way to look at it is that over the years, the settlers have managed to become a very powerful special interest group. They've managed to get the political system working in their favor, even though they never had majority support for their far-flung outposts. Most of the grandiose treatises I've seen about how Israel became a "colonial society" after 1967, or whatever, trying to explain everything with sweeping generalizations about Zionist philosophy and Jewish history, overlook this very mundane angle that accounts for a lot of the success that the settlers have had.
5:06 PM
:: Wednesday, August 20, 2003 ::
I don't get it
I'm confused by Tom Friedman's latest column:
The Pentagon, with its insistence on doing nation-building in Iraq on the cheap, has been too slow in forming a provisional Iraqi government, too slow in getting the electricity on, too slow in turning security over to Iraqis. As a result, while most Iraqis are happy to be rid of Saddam, too many feel that their lives are tangibly worse in every other respect — jobs, electricity, roadblocks — because of the U.S. presence. "Saddam was paranoid, but he kept the streets open — you're closing all the arteries," Muhammad Kadhim, a Baghdad professor, said to me.

Everyone has advice now for the U.S.: bring in U.N. peacekeepers, bring in the French. They're all wrong. There are only two things we need: more Americans out back and more Iraqis out front. President Bush needs to give the U.S. administrator, Paul Bremer III, more resources to get basic services here running and Iraqis in charge as fast as we can. This is not Germany 1945. America is much more radioactive in this region. We don't have infinite time.
Yes, we need more resources in Iraq, and yes, our presence there is pretty radioactive. Now how are we going to take care of those problems without getting a lot more help from the rest of the world, which we're clearly not going to get if we don't agree to some power-sharing through the UN, NATO, etc.? This bit about "U.N. peacekeepers," i.e. blue-helmet forces a la the ones that failed in Bosnia, is a straw man. The large majority of troops in Iraq are going to be American no matter how many other ones we bring in, so the US would still have most of the command authority on the ground. Getting other countries to commit more troops and resources by sharing some authority via the UN doesn't necessarily mean that all (or even most) of the new people coming in would be wearing UN helmets or serving at the pleasure of the Secretary General.

As for Friedman's disdain for "bring[ing] in the French," what kind of argument is that? Whose advice to the administration starts and ends with "bring in the French"? It's about bringing in lots of other countries, not just the French. Getting the maximum amount of international co-operation and legitimacy for re-constructing Iraq--a point that Friedman himself frequently emphasized as being important in the run-up to the war--inevitably involves some sort of French participation, seeing as how they have a veto on the Security Council, and that their position on the war was a very accurate reflection of continental European public opinion. Heck, even British public opinion on Iraq, with the exception of the public support for the war that went over 50% while their troops were in there fighting it, has almost certainly been more in line with France than with their own government. So if we can't (or don't) "bring in the French," we're not going to be bringing in any appreciably larger amount of international support than we have now, which is not much.
5:09 PM
:: Tuesday, August 19, 2003 ::
Almost two dozen dead in the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, and a similar death toll in a Jerusalem bus bombing. Not much else to say, what a dreadful day.

Some among the Palestinians and their supporters are justifiably pilloried by many for responding to suicide bombings by saying "we condemn the attack, but the Israelis had it coming, they need to change their policies if they want it to stop," or words to that effect. Those who condemned the 9/11 attacks while saying "US policies are to blame, get your own house in order if you don't want it to happen again" were also justifiably condemned by many for shifting the blame onto the US and away from the terrorists and their supporters. Now we see that there are at least a couple of right-wing bloggers, here and here, who are the mirror images of such moral pygmies, using the deaths of innocents to score cheap political points, and shifting blame from the terrorists onto the UN.
3:21 PM
:: Monday, August 18, 2003 ::
Personal friction in wartime
Some new archival analysis is coming out in Israel about the Yom Kippur War, as this coming October marks 30 years since it happened. This Ha'aretz article gives some details from an official analysis. It doesn't mention much about the terrible resentment that a lot of the generals felt toward each other, which was discussed in a Ha'aretz article by Ze'ev Schiff last week that isn't online anymore. From what I've read about the war, the mutual hatred was appallingly bad among Moshe Dayan (he was the Defense Minister), Dado Elazar (Chief of Staff), Shmuel Gorodish (commander of the Southern front for the first week of the war), Haim Bar-Lev (the ex-chief of staff who was brought in during the war by Dayan to command Gonen), and Ariel Sharon (he commanded one of the divisions in the Sinai). Elazar and Bar-Lev were childhood friends when they grew up in Sarajevo. Sharon and Dayan apparently had a grudging respect for each other, but Sharon seems to have thought that some of the other generals were scheming to prevent him from personally commanding a decisive counter-attack against the Egyptians because they didn't want him to benefit from it politically in the future. He was probably just being paranoid, as the others just thought that his plans were irresponsibly aggressive, but the lack of trust between all of them in the midst of a potential national disaster is pretty shocking to read about. Gorodish later claimed that, after the war, he had seriously entertained the thought of killing Dayan.

Schiff's article last week emphasized the contrast with the Golan front, where the Northern commander, Haka Hofi, had relatively smooth dealings with division commanders Dan Laner and Moussa Peled, although there was some friction near the end of the war with the promotion of the irascible Raful Eitan. It seems to me that every other high-level officer in the IDF at the time was named Peled. In addition to Moussa, there was Benny Peled, the commander of the Air Force, as well as a Col. Yossi Peled who served under Laner. Two of the generals during the Six Day War were Matityahu Peled, who eventually became a prominent far-left activist, and Elad Peled. I could be wrong about this, but as far as I know, none of the numerous high-ranking Peleds of the IDF in the late '60s and early '70s were related to each other.
7:01 PM
:: Sunday, August 17, 2003 ::
Not widely predicted
One of the big concerns before the war was the potential for sectarian violence in Iraq between Sunnis and Shiites, which fortunately doesn't seem to be a big problem so far. What I don't think anyone expected was coordination between religious leaders from the two groups in resisting US forces, which is starting to happen, according to this Washington Post article. Hopefully it won't amount to much, but it's not a very encouraging sign.
3:35 PM

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