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
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:: Saturday, January 24, 2004 ::

Great reference
I saw a bookstore talk on TV today by Ron Suskind, the author of a new book about the Bush administration as told through the experience of former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. What he had to say was very interesting, and I just want to repeat one anecdote that I enjoyed for the obvious reason that it used a movie reference.

Suskind talked about the circumstances when he first met O'Neill. Within a month or two after leaving the administration in Dec. 2002, O'Neill was giving a talk in Washington, and Suskind introduced himself just afterwards. Knowing that Suskind had written an Esquire magazine article that quoted former Bush advisor John DiIulio at length, and that DiIulio had subsequently buckled under severe White House pressure and issued a forced apology for the pretty harsh criticisms of the administration that he had made in the article, O'Neill asked, "how do you think they got to him?" Suskind replied, "I don't know, what do you think?" O'Neill thought for a moment and then said, "He's a young man with a long career ahead of him [O'Neill is in his late 60s, almost 25 years older than DiIulio]. But I'm an old guy who's already rich, so what can they really do to me?" Suskind said that the first thing to pop into his head at that moment was the last line from Casablanca:

"Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
10:38 PM
:: Thursday, January 22, 2004 ::
So which version are we getting now?
In politics, there's really something to be said for having the ability to sell yourself differently to different groups of people. If this story is to be believed, Howard Dean is straddling a fine line here:
Dean placed a disappointing third in Iowa and then reinforced the perception that he is the "angry" candidate with a frenzied speech to supporters. In an interview, he suggested the Iowa campaign had gone off-course because of "incessant ... pounding" from rivals.

Dean said he would "hark back to the real values of the campaign" here — his experience as governor, his record of balancing budgets and providing health care to nearly all children in his state, and his willingness to stand up to President Bush on issues such as tax cuts and the war in Iraq.

"It's who I was as governor for 12 years," he said. "I might as well go back to being who I really am."
I have to think that when the main selling point of your campaign has been that you're the only one out there who's really telling the truth, that you're the only one who doesn't test everything with campaign consultants to try to please everybody, that all the other guys have failed "to stand up for what we believe in," etc., that it's just a bit of a contradiction to respond to a surprisingly poor election result by announcing that you're going to "go back to being who I really am." And who might that be? Who was that other guy we kept seeing for the last year or so?

It's also pretty revealing that he's willing to blame "incessant pounding" from the other candidates for his campaign having gone off-course, since one of the main selling points of his own insurgency was basically that "none of those other guys can even compete with me, so what will they do when Bush and Rove get a hold of them?" Looks like somebody else might not be holding up so well to severe scrutiny--which, while some of it has probably been unfair, isn't going to seem like much compared to what awaits the eventual nominee in the general election.
12:45 PM
:: Wednesday, January 21, 2004 ::
This is getting old
I only saw the last 7 or 8 minutes, plus the overtime, of Kentucky's game at Tennessee last night, which the Cats won, 69-68. It's probably good that I didn't see more of it, as they blew yet another huge lead, this one being 15 points early in the second half. UK was shockingly bad on 3-pointers, 3 out of 24, although I saw two of them go in, and they were huge--a super-long shot to tie the game in the last 20 seconds of regulation, and another one in the overtime. These second half collapses are getting awfully tiresome, but they're pretty clearly going to be a regular occurrence as the season goes on.
4:30 PM
:: Tuesday, January 20, 2004 ::
Yet another site to read...
Good looking out from Imshin to mention that Maariv is now online in English. It'll certainly be another daily source for me to find news about Israel.
8:13 PM
:: Sunday, January 18, 2004 ::
Hezbollah and Israel
I dissent somewhat from the part of Diana's post (the first one on Jan. 18) that deals with Tom Friedman's point about this from his column today. He said:
After Israel withdrew from Lebanon, the Hezbollah militia, on the other side, went on hating Israel and harassing the border — but it never tried to launch an invasion. Why? Hezbollah knew it would have no legitimacy — in the world or in Lebanon — for breaching that U.N.-approved border. And if it tried, Israel would be able to use its full military weight to retaliate.
Bad wording here, as no militia is capable of launching an invasion, which requires an actual army and air force to undertake. Friedman's point is that there haven't really been any major Hizbullah attacks over the border into Israel, as sometimes happened in the past with rocket fire against northern Israeli cities. Diana basically says that legitimacy has nothing to do with it, and that a massive Israeli retaliation into Lebanon is what's deterring Hezbollah from launching more attacks.

I agree with Friedman. Having made their name in resisting Israel's presence in Lebanon for almost 20 years, and for being credited as the first Arab force to have "defeated" the mighty IDF, Hezbollah could easily lose a lot of support within Lebanon if they provoked a major Israeli response across the border. The legitimacy "in the world" that Friedman mentions applies more, I think, to Syria. They don't want a major military confrontation with Israel to happen without major international sympathy on their own side, since they know they would be crushed militarily. Since the UN officially recognized the end of Israel's presence in Lebanon after the withdrawal in 2000, Syria would almost certainly find itself without any meaningful support from most international governments if Hezbollah were allowed to launch a major series of attacks into Israel. The Syrians wouldn't be able to rely on anyone to reign the Israelis in from launching some hard-core attacks in response.

I don't think Hezbollah is afraid of an Israeli attack into Lebanon. What would it accomplish? You go in and kick some butt, and then...who runs the place? Who governs the country and makes sure that no more terrorist groups use it as a launching pad for more attacks? It would be the same problem that turned the Lebanon invasion of 20 years ago into a major disaster. The key is to deter the governing power that calls the shots throughout the country, Syria, from allowing the attacks to happen in the first place, as well as doing everything possible to keep the terrorists from having a cause to rally the local population around. That's what Friedman is talking about, and that's why the Barak government's decision to withdraw was the right one.
9:33 PM

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