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
Archives

:: Saturday, September 06, 2003 ::

The next move?
It seems pretty likely that Abu Mazen's resignation is a tactical move to eventually strengthen his position. He had threatened to resign at least a couple of times when facing direct conflict with Arafat, and he probably figured that there were only so many crises before he had to play that card in order to get any further with it than he already has. More European and Arab pressure on Arafat to renounce control over the security services, plus more concessions from Israel, is surely what Abu Mazen is hoping to get out of this.
4:14 PM
:: Thursday, September 04, 2003 ::
Surprise, surprise
What can one say about someone who thinks that "U.S. unilateralism is a possible international threat in the next 10 years"? That's close to treason in some blogospheric circles. But according to this Washington Post article about a new poll of American and European public opinion about international issues, 67 percent of Americans agree with that statement. 67%! I was surprised by that number, so I looked up the report on the poll data from the organization that conducted it. The poll report says that:
Not only Europeans, but also Americans, share apprehension of the way in which the US is exercising its power. When asked whether U.S. unilateralism is a possible international threat over the next 10 years, 78% of European and 67% of Americans listed it as an extremely important or important threat.
Interesting. Many of the other results from the poll are not that surprising, as mentioned in the Post article:
About 84 percent of Americans said war may be used to achieve justice, while only 48 percent of Europeans agreed... Both sides supported strengthening the United Nations, but 57 percent of Americans were prepared to bypass the world organization when vital interests were at stake, while only about 40 percent of Europeans said they would do so.
The poll report says that about 70% of Americans want to strengthen the UN, while half of that group is willing to bypass it if "vital interests" are at stake--that pretty much describes me. Only about 25% of Americans are willing to bypass the UN and don't want it strengthened. So much for withdrawing from the UN and creating our own little fantasy world international organization where everyone agrees with us all the time.
10:37 AM
:: Tuesday, September 02, 2003 ::
On second thought, about that "flypaper" thing...
OK, I really do like reading Andrew Sullivan, even though I frequently disagree with him, particularly on the matter of his overheated anti-anti-war rhetoric. But what's up with the sudden doubt about events in Iraq?
The longer the impasse continues the harder it will be to get ourselves out of it. About this we hear two refrains from the White House: a) everything is going fine, actually; and b) this new intensity of terror in Iraq is a good thing because it helps us fight the enemy on military, rather than civilian, terrain. The trouble that we're discovering is that a full-scale anti-terror war is not exactly compatible with the careful resusictation of civil order and democratic government, is it?
Well, yes, that's exactly the trouble with that theory (along with the non-fixed number of terrorists in the world, which could very well go up the longer we get bogged down in Iraq). But Sullivan didn't mention that when he supported the "flypaper" theory two months ago:
Being based in Iraq helps us not only because of actual bases; but because the American presence there diverts terrorist attention away from elsewhere. By confronting them directly in Iraq, we get to engage them in a military setting that plays to our strengths rather than to theirs'. Continued conflict in Iraq, in other words, needn't always be bad news. It may be a sign that we are drawing the terrorists out of the woodwork and tackling them in the open.
To be fair, he was hedging his bets at least a bit back then ("it may be a sign that..."), and he now argues for greater resources and presidential involvement in Iraq, so maybe he thinks that "flypaper" can still work against terror under those circumstances. But I'm probably being too generous. His tunnel vision love of Bush's war policies (the flypaper stuff first came up as a defense of Bush's "bring 'em on" comment regarding attacks on US troops in Iraq) obviously blinded him about this to begin with.
4:05 PM
:: Monday, September 01, 2003 ::
A cinema first?
I don't know if there's a precedent for this, but on the new 2-disc DVD of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, there's a short film by Sean Astin (he plays Samwise in the movies) called "The Long and Short of It," and there's also a featurette called "The Making of The Long and Short of It"--where the doumentary is longer than the film it's about! 7 minutes vs. 8 minutes, in this case.
9:05 PM
:: Sunday, August 31, 2003 ::
Build it faster
From a pro-fence article in Ha'aretz:
According to Brigadier General Eran Ophir, the head of the logistics department of the Technological and Logistics Directorate, the examination of the functioning of the fence since it began its routine operation exceeds expectations. According to him, there is satisfactory feedback coming in from the field ranks responsible for operating the fence and carrying out the security missions along its length. In this context he notes that "a number of infiltration attempts by terrorists have been blocked thanks to the fence."

The positive indications of the advantages of the fence in stopping terror along the stretch where its construction has been completed are augmenting the criticism concerning the delays in completion of the fence: "It is infuriating," says Major General (res.) Uzi Dayan, the head of the public council for establishing a security fence for Israel, that even though the defensive significance of the fence in preventing terror within the state is clear, only one-third of the route has been approved and constructed.

"It has to be understood that what is being done today is like building one-third of a dam against a flood. We saw this last week in the terror attack in Jerusalem, and we saw this in Rosh Ha'ayin," says Dayan.

An examination of the dynamics of approving the route of the fence until now shows that the decision to build certain segments of the entire route has always been taken at the height of terror activity. The decision by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's first government, in June 2002, to build the Salem-Elkanah segment and parts of the so-called Jerusalem envelope was taken only after one of the bad waves of terror during the intifada, which claimed dozens of victims. The decision to build the fence in the Gilboa envelope was also taken immediately after the suicide attack at the Likud branch headquarters in Beit She'an, in January 2003 (toward the end of the term of Sharon's first government). This was also true of the security cabinet's decision last week to build an additional part in the fence along the route that surrounds Jerusalem (an additional several dozen kilometers), a decision taken after the horrendous terror attack on the No. 2 bus in Jerusalem.

As Dayan sees it, this conduct is scandalous, especially as it is clear to him that ultimately the fence will be built, and the question that remains open is at what cost in blood. "This fence could have been completed a year ago, and it is infuriating to see that they are building it in bits and pieces because of political considerations, because the leadership is not taking responsibility for the security of its citizens," he says.
Building the fence all along the West Bank would bring up the uncomfortable question of the settlements, and where the final border will be, roughly speaking. But it seems to be a fairly effective tool at stopping suicide bombers (though obviously not a complete solution to terror), so the sooner it gets finished, the better.
3:09 PM

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