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The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
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The Impact of Islam
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Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
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edited by S.B. Kelly
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Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
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interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
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Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky



















These are all the Blogs posted on Sunday, 19, 2011.
Sunday, 19 June 2011
Washington Times: The War Powers Resolution And The Obama Memo

EDITORIAL: Obama’s weak war memo

Editorial In The Washington Times:

If there’s no war, why do troops get combat pay

 

The White House sent a 38-page report to Congress on Wednesday attempting to explain why the president had the authority to continue military operations against Libya without congressional approval as mandated under the War Powers Resolution. The Obama administration's argument is both legally suspect and politically unfathomable.

The law itself is straightforward. It applies when "introducing United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances." The White House has offered a flurry of reasons why continued military operations against Libya "are distinct from the kind of 'hostilities' contemplated" by the law. The administration argues that America is mainly in a supporting role, that the military action was authorized by the United Nations, that ground troops are not involved, that the conflict has no chance of escalation, that there is a low risk of casualties and that Moammar Gadhafi's forces can't effectively fight back.

None of these factors are germane to the War Powers Resolution. It's a matter of common sense that when the United States bombs another country, it is a hostile act, regardless of how it was authorized, which American forces were involved, whether or not there are casualties and whether the enemy fights back or not. Perhaps the president should solicit Col. Gadhafi's opinion on the definition of "hostilities."

On April 26, the Defense Department designated troops operating in Libya, Tunisia and a portion of the Mediterranean Sea as eligible for imminent danger pay of $225 a month, retroactive to March 19, which was the onset of Operation Odyssey Dawn/Unified Protector. According to the Pentagon, such a designation applies to "foreign areas where U.S. military personnel are subject to the threat of physical harm or imminent danger on the basis of civil insurrection, civil war, terrorism or wartime conditions." Maybe the White House can help Congress understand why U.S. troops are entitled to combat pay absent "hostilities."

The political aspects of the current crisis also reflect poorly on a reputedly savvy White House. This is a needless conflict with no upside for Mr. Obama. The war is costly and unpopular and has alienated the more thoughtful members of his anti-war base. If the international coalition wins - victory here defined as Col. Gadhafi being killed or leaving power, even if the administration dares not utter the words "regime change" - it will not earn Mr. Obama points with any of his constituencies. If the stalemate in Libya drags on, it heightens international tensions within NATO and without, especially with Russia and China, and gives Mr. Obama's domestic critics on the right and left an enduring talking point. The administration's continuing failure to take out Col. Gadhafi makes the takedown of Osama bin Laden look like more like luck than design.

It would still be a simple matter for Mr. Obama to approach Congress for an up or down vote on the war and let the process play out as dictated by law. If Congress approves, the conflict continues; if not, it allows Mr. Obama a way to make a graceful exit. Instead the White House has dug in on untenable ground and faces an ongoing and futile war of attrition.

Posted on 06/19/2011 6:32 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 19 June 2011
U.S. Provides "New, Sophisticated Intelligence Collection And Communication Equipment" -- With Whom Will Pakistan Share It?

From The Washington Post:

Pakistan still getting its U.S. war gear

The U.S. government might be concerned about the leaking of secret operational data in Pakistan. And the U.S. government might not be too pleased that Pakistan has reportedly arrested informants who aided the CIA before the raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound.

But there’s little doubt that, despite those differences, the U.S. military still supplies the Pakistani military with new, sophisticated intelligence collection and communications equipment.

The Army Communications and Electronics Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground recently put out a notice signaling that it may need contractors to train members of the Pakistani military on how to use a new “Ground Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (GISR) system.”

Developed by DRS Technologies, a high-tech military contractor based in New Jersey, the system intercepts and locates the sources of enemy communications and then permits continued monitoring of them. It also allows users to quickly analyze the collected data, including visual material, “to provide mission-critical intelligence to the warfighter.”

Washington and Islamabad are, in name at least, close counterterrorism allies. But officials in Washington have long had an uneasy relationship with Pakistan’s army and intelligence service. Suspicions were heightened with the discovery of bin Laden in Pakistan. Twice in recent weeks, the United States provided Pakistan with information about insurgent bomb-making factories, only to see the militants learn their cover had been blown and flee, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials.

Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, asked whether it was time to take a harder line with Pakistan, insisted that it would be a mistake to interrupt cooperation. [his innocence of Islam, and of what it means, and therefore of what makes the most sense, vitiate his value as a strategis]

 

“We need each other, and this relationship goes beyond Afghanistan,” Gates told the Associated Press. “It has to do with regional stability, and I think we have to be realistic about Pakistani distrust … and their deep belief that when we’re done with al-Qaeda that we’ll be gone, again.”

Comment: It was Western naivete, and Western, especially American, aid, that made Pakistan's "Islamic bomb" possible, from its origins in the theft, by the metallurgist A. Q. Khan, of Western secrets from laboratories he was allowed not only to work in, but to have free and unfettered access to nuclear secrets, to the money freed up for the project by Western aid. And in the last few years, the Pakistani army has managed, thanks to American aid billions, to spend much more in order to greatly increase -- some have said double -- the number of nuclear bombs in its "Islamic bomb" arsenal.

With whom could the Pakistanis share their new understanding of what Americans can do, given such equipment? The Taliban? Al Qaeda? Hamas? Hezbollah? People in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Iran? What about China, the country Pakistani generals now regard as their close friend?

Posted on 06/19/2011 6:43 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 19 June 2011
Michael Young Seems Surprised That Alawites Are Terrified Of Losing Their Grip
Syrian soldiers drive through Jisr al-Shughur on June 15, 2011. (AFP photo/Louai Beshara)

What is Syria’s leadership up to as it mounts a nation-wide armed onslaught against its own people? The simple answer, and it would be an accurate one, is that it is engaged in mass repression. However, we may be missing something more subtle, and more specific. The angry condemnation of the Assad regime’s brutality last week by senior Turkish officials could provide us with a clue as to what this is.
 
In recent weeks, the brunt of the onslaught has been conducted by predominantly Alawite units under the orders of Maher al-Assad, the brother of President Bashar al-Assad and commander of the regime’s praetorian guard. Action has taken place along two lines. After earlier concentrating its attacks on Tal Kalakh and Arida, located along the northern Lebanese border, the military shifted its attention to Jisr al-Shughur, near the Turkish border. At the same time, the Syrian army and security forces have pursued operations in a parallel corridor along the Homs-Aleppo road. The latest assaults have been directed against Maaret al-Naaman, between Hama and Aleppo.  
 
According to eyewitnesses, the pattern of aggression lately has been similar. The army surrounds and bombards a town or village, or shoots at protesters, accusing the inhabitants of being members of “armed groups.” In a number of localities, the population, mainly Sunnis, has chosen to flee or has been forced out, before soldiers and security agents enter, accompanied by Alawite gangs unleashed primarily to sow terror. In Jisr al-Shughur, for example, refugees have reported rape, theft and the burning of crops.
 
If this sounds vaguely familiar, then perhaps you have a good memory for the tactics used during the wars of the former Yugoslavia. At the time the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army and the regime of Slobodan Milosevic sponsored a number of paramilitary groups, most notoriously the Serb Volunteer Guard under Zeljko Raznatovic, better known as Arkan. Working in conjunction with the army, these groups were responsible for ethnically cleansing swathes of Croatia and Bosnia in order to create a contiguous Serb-majority territory.  
 
Might we be witnessing something similar in select parts of Syria? It’s very difficult to say. However, look at a map of northwestern Syria where the Alawites are concentrated, particularly the mountain range known as Jabal al-Nusayriyya, or Jabal al-Alawiyeen, that runs in a north-south direction from the Turkish border to the foothills above Lebanon’s Akkar plain. If you draw a meridian from Tal Kalakh to Jisr al-Shughur, it runs along the eastern edge of that range, where the plain begins and stretches further east toward Homs and Hama. To consolidate the Alawite heartland, the Assad regime needs to hold that meridian, particularly its northern and southern hinges at Tal Kalakh to Jisr al-Shughur, as well as a third hinge at Arida.
 
At the same time, over the decades Alawites have migrated into the plain, moving to areas around the mainly Sunni agglomerations of Homs and Hama, as well as to other places in Syria. It makes sense for the regime, in order to maintain its power, to regain control of the Homs-to-Aleppo passage. However, it is also true that if the Assads are thinking in sectarian geographical terms, this passage would be the first line of Alawite defense along an Alawite-Sunni fault line.     
 
A good argument could be made that the policy of the Syrian regime has little to do with any scheme to establish an Alawite mini-state, the presumed outcome of any ethnic cleansing campaign. After all, dominating Arida and Tal Kalakh, like Jisr al-Shughur, may just be efforts to seal off potentially dangerous border transmission points to and from Sunni districts in neighboring Lebanon and Turkey.
 
But that only begs three other questions: Why has the Assad regime so heightened sectarian animosities by playing on alleged Sunni-Alawite differences, when anti-regime demonstrations have sought to avoid sectarianism altogether? Why has the behavior of the Syrian army, security agencies and irregular forces in some areas been plainly designed to cause panic specifically among Sunnis, thereby displacing populations and ensuring they would not soon return? And why has the regime, by most accounts, been arming Alawite villages?
 
In the statements of Turkish politicians last week, as well as those of American officials, there was palpable alarm with the potential sectarian consequences of the Assad regime’s measures to eradicate dissent. The Turks are understandably worried that if Syria were to break up into ethnic mini-states, Turkey would face not only the prospect of an Alawite entity across from the province of Hatay – which the Syrians call Alexandretta, where an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 Alawites live – they would also have to deal with the real possibility that Syria’s Kurds would go their own way, with dangerous repercussions for Turkey’s management of its own Kurdish minority.  [and why should American officials be alarmed at any prospect of a Kurdish revolt, or of an independent Kurdistan being carved out of northern Iraq, and eastern Syria, that would then appeal to Kurds in Turkey -- no longer an American ally but a hostile power? And above all, would not such a state appeal to Kurds in western, and other parts too, of Iran? Would an independent Kurdistan, reliant on, and grateful to, the West, weaken Iran and Syria? Would it not provide an example, too, of a non-Arab Muslim people throwing off, in Syria and Iraq, the yoke of Arab supremacists, a useful example for the 80% of the world's Muslims who are not Arabs, and need to learn, and understand, all the ways in which Islam has been a vehicle for Arab supremacism. ]


 
While the Assad regime may not be pursuing a broad ethnic cleansing strategy, in and around Jisr al-Shughur and Tal Kalakh specifically it is doing something suspiciously similar. The plan beyond that, especially in the plains of Homs, Hama and Aleppo, may conceivably involve a two-stage process: first, to try to neutralize the situation on the ground through offensive action in areas with a large Sunni urban presence; and if that fails and the regime’s survival is threatened, to lay the groundwork for a defensive strategy leading to the eventual consolidation of a territory in which Alawites can protect themselves.
 
There are plenty of problems with this theory. Alawites are spread throughout Syria, and there are very substantial Sunni populations in Syria’s coastal cities that would, presumably, be integrated into any Alawite statelet. For now nothing suggests that the Assads have given up on re-imposing their writ over all of Syria. However, quite a few incidents in the northeast also suggest that the regime is calculating in sectarian terms and pursuing a sectarian strategy. Only time, and the continuation of the uprising, will elucidate the Assads’ endgame. 

Michael Young is opinion editor of the Daily Star newspaper in Beirut.

Posted on 06/19/2011 6:56 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 19 June 2011
Why is the BBC so keen on people topping themselves?

On assisted suicide, Damian Thompson agrees with both me and Theodore Dalrymple. So he must be right:

Ten years ago, the BBC was always telling us how bloody marvellous the euro was. Now – for reasons I can’t quite fathom – it’s assisted suicide. Last night we saw yet another plug for Dignitas, whose sinister clinic in Switzerland claims to allow people to die in peace. Really? I should think it’s difficult to slip off quietly, what with the noisy chorus of sympathetic clucking from BBC researchers planning their next free ad for this “service”.

When the Beeb is really keen on something, it enlists the support of a soft-Left celebrity to make its case – the most popular candidates being Stephen Fry and Eddie Izzard, neither of whom can resist hauling themselves on to a bien pensant hobby horse. In this instance, though, it’s Sir Terry Pratchett, who took part in Choosing to Die because he was “ashamed that British people had to drag themselves to Switzerland, at considerable cost, in order to get the services that they were hoping for”.

You have to say this for Sir Terry: Alzheimer’s has not dented his self-regard. On the contrary, he seems to think it gives him the moral authority to campaign for the legalisation of a really serious criminal act – not suicide, but killing other people, some of whom may not even be ill, just old. But it doesn’t.

As for the BBC, I wonder what the moral status is of exploiting a writer with a degenerative brain disease to nudge us towards a creepy change in the law – at our expense, of course. I would threaten to withhold my licence fee in protest, but the Beeb is utterly relentless in tracking down evaders and the last thing I want is to wake up in a Swiss clinic with a syringe staring me in the face.

Posted on 06/19/2011 7:45 AM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 19 June 2011
Art for Art's Sick

Thanks to David Thompson for drawing my attention to a new piece of performance art Nexus Vomitus, by Millie Brown:

The full 34-minute performance can be endured experienced here. On her regurgitation of coloured milk, Ms Brown says this:

The use of canvas is a natural progression from my early performances. I started puking down myself in various outfits, but wanted more longevity from the end result. Canvas allows me the room to experiment with pattern and colour. I have learnt to manipulate the process to produce artwork that I consider separate from the performance that produced it, both are equally important to me.

Aesthetes among you may detect the influence of Professor Keith Boadwee, whose colonic evacuations and “explorations of identity politics” are seared into the art world’s collective memory. And doubtless that of his students.

Now may be a good time to revisit Pwll’s rules of art appreciation. There is, after all, a difference between shock and awe, and a difference between wonderment and tedious disgust. Those who don’t know the difference, or who’ve chosen to forget it in the name of transgression, are left with little to do besides scream at passers-by and beg for attention.

Hard liquor and ammunition are, as usual, available at the bar.

This is nothing new. After all, as the limerick goes:

There was a young artist named Saint
Who swallowed some samples of paint
All shades of the spectrum
Flowed out of his rectum
With a colourul lack of restraint

 

Posted on 06/19/2011 7:58 AM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 19 June 2011
Art for sicks sake

 I wanted an excuse to put this picture up - It can't lower the tone any further than this.

I had occasion a few months ago to visit a hospital in an area where many (most?) of the patients (and some of the staff) do not speak English. Management were anxious to contain a D&V epidemic.

Posted on 06/19/2011 9:44 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 19 June 2011
In Afghanistan, Counter-Terrorism More Cost-Effective Than Counter-Insurgency

From The New York Times:

June 19, 2011

 

Qaeda Woes Fuel Talk of Speeding Afghan Pullback

WASHINGTON — As the Obama administration nears a crucial decision on how rapidly to withdraw combat forces from Afghanistan, high-ranking officials say that Al Qaeda’s original network in the region has been crippled, providing a rationale for an accelerated reduction of troops.

The officials said the intense campaign of drone strikes and other covert operations in Pakistan — most dramatically the raid that killed Osama bin Laden — had left Al Qaeda paralyzed, with its leaders either dead or pinned down in the frontier area near Afghanistan. Of 30 prominent members of the terrorist organization in the region identified by intelligence agencies as targets, 20 have been killed in the last year and a half, they said, reducing the threat they pose.

Their confidence, these officials said, was buttressed by information found in Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. They said the trove revealed disarray within Al Qaeda’s leadership, with a frustrated Bin Laden indicating that he could no longer direct terrorist attacks by lieutenants who feared for their own lives.

The American success in the counterterrorism campaign would seem to bolster arguments for a swift withdrawal from Afghanistan — an issue the administration is currently examining. The officials emphasized that Mr. Obama had not yet made a determination on that question.

Fighting Al Qaeda, they noted, was the main reason Mr. Obama agreed to deploy 30,000 more troops last year, even as he adopted a broader, more troop-intensive and time-consuming strategy of making key towns in Afghanistan safe from the Taliban and helping the Afghans to build up security forces and a better-functioning government.

The focus on progress against Al Qaeda was also a counter to arguments made by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and other military officials in recent days that the initial reduction of troops should be modest, and that American combat pressure should be maintained as long as possible so that the gains from the surge in troops are not sacrificed.

The military has been pressing for a plan under which only a few thousands troops out of the 100,000 currently in Afghanistan would come home immediately, with the bulk of the 30,000 troops sent last year remaining for another year or more.

The officials declined to discuss Mr. Obama’s views on how many troops should be withdrawn, or how quickly. But their analysis of the counterterrorism operations clearly reflected conclusions presented to the president as the deliberations over force levels reach their final stage. The conclusions would seem to give Mr. Obama room to justify a more accelerated withdrawal than the plan sought by the Pentagon.

The White House appears to be moving swiftly to conclude the internal debate, with officials saying that the president may announce a decision as early as next week, avoiding the kind of drawn-out deliberations that preceded Mr. Obama’s decision in late 2009 to increase troop levels in Afghanistan by 30,000.

Mr. Gates, in an interview on Friday, said: “This was a much more abbreviated process. Nobody wanted to go through what we went through in the fall of 2009.”

In the 18 months since then, one official said, Mr. Obama has developed strong views about what has worked in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The infusion of troops into Afghanistan, he said, had broken the momentum of the Taliban, which in 2009 had made alarming inroads toward its goal of toppling the Afghan government.

But the success in singling out terrorists in neighboring Pakistan has been far more striking, with another official saying that the United States was “poised” to defeat Al Qaeda in what was once its most thriving haven. The organization could no longer use that region as a “launching pad for attacks,” he said. “The safe haven is a misnomer now,” he added. “It is anything but safe for Al Qaeda.” [but Al Qaeda is not the point: the point is all  those who, in the world today, devoutly believe it their duty to particpate in Jihad, directly or indirectly, and not always through obvious violence, to remove all obstacles to the spread, and then the dominance, of Islam]

Officials acknowledge that worldwide, Al Qaeda is far from broken. They consider Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to be the most immediate threat to the United States homeland, hatching plots from its base in Yemen like the attempt to blow up a jetliner over Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009.

The recent success against Al Qaeda also does not guarantee that its militants will not take root again in Afghanistan, particularly as the United States turns security over to a shaky Afghan government. And a fast reduction of troops could allow the Taliban, which is stalled but not destroyed, to regain power it recently lost to the surge.

In Pakistan, the recent gains could be reversed by the deteriorating relationship between the Pakistani and American governments, which threatens to curtail cooperation in counterterrorism operations and increase Pakistani opposition to drone strikes.

Still, for Mr. Obama, who is weighing the heavy costs of the Afghan war as well as an increasingly restive Congress and public, counterterrorism success is a potentially appealing argument for a relatively rapid American withdrawal.

In 2009, intelligence officials identified 30 top Qaeda leaders in Pakistan and along the Afghan-Pakistan border, a senior administration official said. “We took 15 off the battlefield last year,” he said, including Sheik Saeed al-Masri, the group’s third-ranking operative until he was killed in a drone strike in 2010.

In addition, he said, 5 more of the 30 leaders on the 2009 list were killed this year, including Ilyas Kashmiri, a Pakistani veteran of the Soviet-Afghan war who was accused in 2009 of conspiring with two Chicago men to attack a Danish newspaper that had published a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

While typically new operatives take the place of those killed, the rapid pace of attacks has dealt an unusually heavy blow to the organization. An American intelligence assessment concluded that the 28 drone strikes the Central Intelligence Agency has carried out in Pakistan since mid-January have killed about 150 militants, according to an official.

And then there was the spectacular raid by the Navy Seal team that killed Bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2. It produced a cache of information — documents, hard drives and other materials — that officials said contained revealing discussions between Bin Laden and his key commanders. “The sense was clear that morale was hurt,” an official said, describing the findings without offering documentation or specifics about the internal communications. “They worried most about safety.”

The officials interviewed Friday made no attempt to disguise their belief that the counterterrorism campaign, which was favored by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 2009, has outperformed the more troop-intensive counterinsurgency campaign pushed by Mr. Gates, Gen. David H. Petraeus and other top military planners.

This progress has been enabled by our surge, and the training of A.N.S.F., which will be critical to the durability of gains against the safe haven and against the Taliban,” said Tommy Vietor, a National Security Council spokesman, referring to the Afghan National Security Force. “These gains would not have been possible at this rate and quality without the service of our men and women in uniform.” [this is the self-serving view, the apologia,  of those who continue to remain True Believers in the "counter-insurgency strategy" of Gates and Petraeus and McCain and Graham and others. But what does this "counter-insurgency" strategy do, except require a long-scale commitment of American (and other) forces in distang and hostile Iraq and Afghanistan, places whose people and leaders do not feel and cannot feel any gratitude (though occasionally, to inveigle still more money out of the Americans, and of course wanting them to remain to keep the peace among the various local factions), and require the spending of even more money than the two trillion already squandreed in Iraq and the one trillion squandered in Afghanistan.

Men such as Gates and Petraeus are akin to the British officer played by Alec Guinness in Bridge On The River Kwai, who becomes so consumed with his immediate task -- building that bridge -- that he forgets what the effect of what he is doing will be. To build up the infrastructure of Muslim states, to allow them to milk us for all we are worth, to sacrifice American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and lessen military morale, and divert attention from the only two things that matter: preventing Pakistan from using, or transferring, or enlarging the number of, the nuclear weapons it was so foolishly allowed to acquire through theft and deception, and in preventing, not through "invasion" but certainly through the intelligent application of military force, Iran from becoming a second Islamic nuclear power, one run not only by people up to their necks in international terrorism, but also deep believers in a chiliastic version of Islam which could make Iran the state equivalent of one gigantic suicide-bomber.  

These people,these gateses and petraeuses, are limited. They never studied Islam before, and they haven't taken the time to do so since. They can't grasp the nature of the world-wide Jihad. They are not paying attention to how non-Muslims are treated all over the Muslim-dominated lands. They are not studying, and are apparently unembarrassed about not studying, the texts and tenets of Islam, and the attitudes and behavior such texts and tenets naturally give rise to. They can't quite understand why it is that every Muslim leader or statte in the end seems to be meretricious, treacherous, ungrateful -- they simply can't seem to figure it out, nor why the Muslim peoples are so unmoved by the acts of fantastic generosity that the Americans and other Westerners have performed. They have invested, these "strategic thinkers" with their generalizations about insurgencies (what kind of man would write, would think, for one minute, such a sentence as "in general, insurgencies last about ten years"?).  not only themselves, their own careers,  but the lives and fortunes of many others, in a strategy that has proven fantastically wasteful -- of men, money, materiel, and morale -- and that, in its attempt to keep Iraq and Afghaniistan from descending into internecine warfare, and to make their peoples prosperous -- temporarily --through infusions of Western aid and knowhow -- and does nothing to exploit the natural fissures within the Camp of Islam, which might be used to divide and demoralize the Camp of Islam. At this point neither those people who were Bush loyalists, and thought that it made sense to stay in Iraq after early 2004, when the regime of Saddam Hussein was over, and forever, and the "counter-insurgency" loyalists who managed to capture a president  -- Barack Obama -- who, being unlearned in history, and innocent of geopolitics, and certainly unable ever to push for a policy of military engagement of another kind, that would concentrate on attacks, from afar, as needed, and jettison forever the vain hope of winning Muslim hearts and minds, was impressed with Petraeus and Gates, assumed they must know what they were doing, and fell in, more or less, with their policies. He may, at this point, end the American presence in Iraq, not because such an ending would make sense, but because the Iraqis may not invite the Americans to stay. He may, at this point, get out of Afghanistan, not because he at long last understands that there is no need to try to change a primitive warlike society riven with corruption and tribal strife,  but just because he senses the mounting fury over the expense of that operation. 

Oh, some  of these people may someday, if they have the leisure to read and think about Islam, world history, and strategy, may finally own oup to their own folly. But it is unlikely to happen soon. It took Robert McNamara thirty-five years to do so in the case of Vietnam.]

Besides going after Qaeda and Taliban operatives, the counterinsurgency campaign includes a broad plan to try to improve governance in Afghanistan, fight corruption, train the Afghan Army, wean farmers off the cultivation of poppies, promote women’s rights and protect local population centers. [put otherwise: to bring toys and good things to eat to all the Afghan boys and girls on the other side of the mountain, what might be called the I-Think-I-Can Strategy that has been a spectacularly expensive failure, for it ignores the mental substrate, the immutable substrate, of Islam that does not allow us to win Muslim hearts and Muslim minds, no matter what we do].

When Mr. Obama decided in December 2009 to go with the more ambitious plan backed by the Pentagon that is, agreed to send an additional 30,000 American troops so as to help that strategy of "counter-insurgency" favored by Gates, Petraeus, and others[ who have squandered hundreds of billions in Iraq and Afghanistan] , the president said he would allow “18 months to test those concepts,” a senior White House official said.

What we’ve seen is the pursuit of Al Qaeda has yielded probably even greater successes than we thought,” the official said. As for the assortment of projects under the banner of counterinsurgency, the official said that the “infusion of resources has allowed the Afghan National Army forces to be trained up.” [note how limited and paltry is the gain: "the Afghan National Army forces" have been "trained up" -- but the silence of the unnamed official as to how wonderfully that training has gone, how splendid the results of that training, is telling.]

 

Posted on 06/19/2011 12:46 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 19 June 2011
McCain Confuses Dismay Over Infeffective Squandering Abroad With "Isolationism"

From CNN:

McCain slams GOP hopefuls' 'isolationism'

Washington (CNN) -- Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, took aim Sunday at the field of contenders for the 2012 GOP nomination, accusing them of "isolationism."

"We cannot repeat the lessons of the 1930s, when the United States of America stood by while bad things happened in the world," McCain said in an interview with ABC's "This Week."

Citing what he viewed as the GOP presidential hopefuls' positions in general on both Libya and Afghanistan, McCain said, "We are the lead nation in the world, and America matters, and we must lead. But sometimes that leadership entails sacrifice, sadly."

Asked about a threat by House Speaker John Boehner to consider cutting funding for U.S. involvement in the NATO-led military mission, McCain, R-Arizona, responded, "I was more concerned about what the candidates in New Hampshire the other night said," referring to a CNN debate among seven people seeking the Republican presidential nomination.

"This is isolationism," McCain said. "There's always been an isolationist strain in the Republican Party, the Pat Buchanan wing of our party. But now it seems to have moved more center stage, so to speak."

If former President Ronald Reagan had watched the debate, McCain said, he "would be saying that's not the Republican Party of the 20th century and now the 21st century. That is not the Republican Party that has been willing to stand up for freedom" for people all over the world.

A bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers has filed suit against the Obama administration, alleging that continuing the U.S. military involvement in Libya without Congressional approval violates the War Powers Resolution. The Obama administration denies any violation.

McCain said every president has disagreed with the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution, "but they have adhered to it."

"So the Congress of the United States should pass a resolution -- and Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) and I have the resolution that's ready to go -- that would comply with the War Powers Act," McCain said.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi "was at the gates of Benghazi," McCain said. "He said he was going to go house to house to kill everybody. That's a city of 700,000 people. What would we be saying now if we had allowed for that to happen?"

Citing the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and a 1986 Libyan sponsored bombing of a German disco frequented by U.S. soldiers, McCain said Gadhafi has Americans' blood "on his hands."

"If Gadhafi remains in power, it's clear that you will see him engage in an escalated effort, of course, to harm the United States of America, obviously," he said.

McCain was equally adamant that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan must continue.

"We abandoned Afghanistan once, and we paid a very heavy price for it in the attacks of 9/11," he said. "So that is an important lesson that we must learn."

In the CNN debate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, currently leading the pack of GOP hopefuls in polls, said "it's time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can, consistent with the word that comes from our generals that we can hand the country over."

McCain took issue with that.

"I wish that candidate Romney and all the others would sit down" with General David Petraeus, commander of the war in Afghanistan, "and understand how this counterinsurgency is working and succeeding," McCain said.

Posted on 06/19/2011 1:18 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 19 June 2011
A Musical Interlude: You Said it (Ben Selvin Orch., voc. Paul Small, Helen Rowland)

Listen here.

Posted on 06/19/2011 1:21 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 19 June 2011
Trevor Phillips Fit To Be Tied

From The Telegraph:

Christians are more militant than Muslims, says Government's equalities boss

Muslims are integrating into British society better than many Christians, according to the head of the Government's equality watchdog.

Trevor Phillips, Chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission
Trevor Phillips, Chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission  Photo: GRAHAM JEPSON
 

Trevor Phillips warned that "an old time religion incompatible with modern society" is driving the revival in the Anglican and Catholic Churches and clashing with mainstream views, especially on homosexuality.

He accused Christians, particularly evangelicals, of being more militant than Muslims in complaining about discrimination, arguing that many of the claims are motivated by a desire for greater political influence.

However the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission expressed concern that people of faith are "under siege" from atheists whom he accused of attempting to "drive religion underground".

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph ahead of a landmark report on religious discrimination in Britain, he said the Commission wants to protect Christians and Muslims from discrimination, admitting his body had not been seen to stand up for the people discriminated against because of their faith in the past.

In a wide-ranging intervention into the debate over the role of religion in modern Britain, Mr Phillips:

* warned it had become "fashionable" to attack and mock religion, singling out atheist polemicist Richard Dawkins for his views;

* said faith groups should be free from interference in their own affairs, meaning churches should be allowed to block women and homosexuals from being priests and bishops;

* attacked hardline Christian groups which he said were picking fights - particularly on the issue of homosexuality - for their own political ends;

* told churches and religious institutions they had to comply with equality legislation when they delivered services to the public as a whole.

The report, published by the Commission tomorrow, says that some religious groups have been the victims of rising discrimination over the last decade.

It shows that in the course of the last decade, the number of employment tribunal cases on religion or belief brought each year has risen from 70 to 1000 - although only a fraction of cases were upheld.

Mr Phillips spoke after a series of high-profile cases which have featured Christians claiming they have been discriminated against because of their beliefs, with a doctor currently fighting a reprimand from the General Medical Council for sharing his faith with a patient.

While the equalities boss promised to fight for the rights of Christians, he expressed concern that many cases were driven by fundamentalist Christians who are holding increasing sway over the mainstream churches because of the influence of African and Caribbean immigrants with "intolerant" views.

In contrast, Muslims are less vociferous because they are trying to integrate into British "liberal democracy", he said. [!]

"I think there's an awful lot of noise about the Church being persecuted but there is a more real issue that the conventional churches face that the people who are really driving their revival and success believe in an old time religion which in my view is incompatible with a modern, multi-ethnic, multicultural society," Phillips said.

"Muslim communities in this country are doing their damnedest to try to come to terms with their neighbours to try to integrate and they're doing their best to try to develop an idea of Islam that is compatible with living in a modern liberal democracy.

"The most likely victim of actual religious discrimination in British society is a Muslim but the person who is most likely to feel slighted because of their religion is an evangelical Christian."

Senior clergy, including Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, have attacked equality laws for eroding Christianity and stifling free speech, but Phillips said many of the legal cases brought by Christians on issues surrounding homosexuality were motivated by an attempt to gain political influence.

"I think for a lot of Christian activists, they want to have a fight and they choose sexual orientation as the ground to fight it on," he said.

"I think the whole argument isn't about the rights of Christians. It's about politics. It's about a group of people who really want to have weight and influence."

He added: "There are a lot of Christian activist voices who appear bent on stressing the kind of persecution that I don't think really exists in this country."

However, Mr Phillips, who is a Salvationist from a strong Christian background, expressed concern over the rise in Britain of anti-religious voices, such as Richard Dawkins, who are intolerant of people of faith.

"I understand why a lot of people in faith groups feel a bit under siege," he said.

"There's no question that there is more anti-religion noise in Britain.

"There's a great deal of polemic which is anti-religious, which is quite fashionable."

Phillips said that the Commission is committed to protecting people of faith against discrimination and also defended the right of religious institutions to be free from Government interference.

The Church of England is under pressure to allow openly gay clergy to be made bishops, while the Catholic Church only permits men to be priests, but the head of the Government-funded equalities watchdog said they are entitled to rule on their own affairs.

"The law doesn't dictate their organisation internally, in the way they appoint their ministers and bishops for example," he said.

"It's perfectly fair that you can't be a Roman Catholic priest unless you're a man. It seems right that the reach of anti-discriminatory law should stop at the door of the church or mosque.

"I'm not keen on the idea of a church run by the state.

"I don't think the law should run to telling churches how they should conduct their own affairs."

The intervention by the Commission comes after criticism of its £70 million annual budget, which is to be cut drastically.

Mr Phillips, a former Labour chairman of the Greater London Assembly and television producer was criticised for his £110,000 a year salary and was accused of "pandering to the right" by Ken Livingstone, the former Labour London mayor, for saying that multiculturalism had failed.

Posted on 06/19/2011 1:26 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 19 June 2011
A Langue-Et-Parole Cinematic Interlude: A Question Of Language (Laurie And Fry)

Watch, and listen, here.

Posted on 06/19/2011 1:30 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 19 June 2011
Ambassador Eikenberry Replies To Karzai

From The Independent:

US gives Karzai a rare dressing down over 'occupation' rhetoric

By David Usborne, US Editor
Monday, 20 June 2011

Straying beyond the normal boundaries of diplomatic nicety, the American Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, delivered a sharp verbal slap to President Hamid Karzai yesterday for his criticism of Nato's operations in his country implying that the US was becoming weary of it.

While Mr Eikenberry, who was delivering an address at Herat University, did not mention Mr Karzai by name, there was no doubting whom he was castigating. His remarks came one day after a speech by Mr Karzai in which he said the Nato countries were in his country "for their own purposes".

"When Americans, who are serving in your country at great cost – in terms of life and treasure – hear themselves compared with occupiers, told that they are only here to advance their own interest, and likened to the brutal enemies of the Afghan people, they are filled with confusion and grow weary of our effort here," said Mr Eikenberry, who is to leave the post later this summer.

"Mothers and fathers of fallen soldiers, spouses of soldiers who have lost arms and legs, children of those who lost their lives in your country – they ask themselves about the meaning of their loved one's sacrifice," he said. "When I hear some of your leaders call us occupiers, I cannot look these mourning parents, spouses and children in the eye and give them a comforting reply."

That Mr Eikenberry would air such grievances in public and with such evident personal passion will be seen as an indicator that relations between Washington and Mr Karzai are becoming dangerously strained. The new rift comes at a delicate moment with President Barack Obama preparing to decide on the details of a drawdown of American troops in Afghanistan that is supposed to start this summer.

On Saturday, Mr Karzai also went further than ever before in acknowledging that efforts are under way to start talks with the Taliban as a first step towards a political settlement. "The foreign military and especially the United States itself is going ahead with these negotiations," he said in his speech.

But the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, who retires at the end of this month, used warned at the weekend against building up expectations regarding such contacts. And he advised against any precipitate withdrawal of US troops arguing that keeping the Taliban militarily engaged is the only way to draw them into political talks.

"The Taliban have to feel themselves under military pressure, and begin to believe that they can't win before they're willing to have a serious conversation," he said, adding that it would be months before any "substantive headway" can be made in peace talks.

So close to stepping down from a job in which he has spanned the administrations of Mr Obama and former president George Bush, the Defense Secretary is using his last days in office to articulate some of his broader views on America's role in the world. In an interview with The New York Times, he suggested his experience in office had led him to be more wary about excercising American military power.

"If we were about to be attacked or had been attacked or something happened that threatened a vital US national interest, I would be the first in line to say, 'Let's go.' I will always be an advocate in terms of wars of necessity," Mr Gates said. "I am just much more cautious on wars of choice." [Does he think  the 10-year war in Afganistan makes sense, since the U.S. was attacked by those who plotted from Afghanistan, or should it have ended once Al Qaeda had been disrupted and it was clear it could continue, from afar, to be disrupted and kept off balance? Does he think that the attaining of nuclear weapons by the IRI (Islamic Republic of Iran) threatens a "vital US national interest" -- such as the survival of Israel, which can be seen as both a moral and geopolitical matter -- and if he does, why has he apparently stopped those who want to deal with Iran in the only way it can now be dealt with?]

Mr Karzai's criticisms of Nato are not new but seem in recent weeks to have taken a more ferocious tone. In particular, the Afghan leader has berated the alliance for killing civilians and for conducting nighttime raids which he has opposed. But it was his comment on Saturday about Nato members being self-serving that seems to have triggered the indignation of Mr Eikenberry.

"They're here for their own purposes, for their own goals, and they're using our soil for that," Mr Karzai said.

Posted on 06/19/2011 9:51 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 19 June 2011
Obama Tells Israel "The Situation Is Not Sustainable." What Is Not Sustainable Is "Palestine."

From the pro-PLO writer Amira Hass comes, nonetheless, this bit that should give donor-nations pause:

"Ajluni, who was born in the United States and is the scion of a Palestinian family from Ramallah, has been studying the economy of the occupied Palestinian territories for the past 20 years. He has worked in various UN agencies and Palestinian Authority ministries. Since 2006, he has been employed by UNRWA. "I went to look for the flourishing West Bank economy, which everyone is talking about," he said yesterday. He does not have to look far: The MAS economic bulletin reported a 9.3 percent increase in Palestinian GDP in 2010, and a per capita increase of 6.1 percent.

But Ajluni also sees what is happening in the job market. "True, there are investments, but most of them are in construction," he says. "These are not investments that create long-term jobs. Although I've seen an increase in jobs, there is a greater increase in the number of unemployed. The absolute number of people who have found work is about a quarter of those who looked for work. It's true that there is commercial activity and about 90,000 jobs in commerce and in the public sector on the West Bank and a similar number in the Gaza Strip whose salaries create buying power."

Still, whenever donations from abroad are delayed, he notes, so are salary payments. "Without annual external assistance to the tune of about $1 billion from the donor countries, this is not a sustainable situation. I'm not the only one saying this. So is the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and [Palestinian Prime Minister] Salam Fayyad."

__________________________

The only reason Hamas-run Gaza, and Fatah-run "West Bank" stay afloat is becuase the Western nations keep shelling out billions of dollars. Neither is economically viable, neither is democratically possible, neither can ever become anything more than a vehicle for continuing to garner sympathy for anti-Israel propaganda purposes and to remain as the center for the shock troops waging Jihad against the Infidel nation-state of Israel. That is the function and province of the local Arabs carefully renamed "the Palestinian people." That is their reason for being.

Posted on 06/19/2011 10:00 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 19 June 2011
Lazar Berman: Might Israel Know What It Is Doing?

From The American Thinker:

Might Israel Know What It’s Doing?

June 15, 2011

Tracking the outcome of recent controversial Israeli actions, surprisingly, portrays Israel in an entirely different strategic light.

Sometimes, it seems Israel doesn’t have a clue.

The narrative that Israel is tactically proficient but strategically hapless continues to gain currency. Commentators often criticize the Jewish state for its overreliance on force and its inability to consider the strategic ramifications of its responses to Hezbollah, Hamas, and myriad attempts to delegitimize Israel.

These criticisms grew louder in the wake of this month’s deadly clashes with Palestinian protesters on Israel’s northern borders. Andrew Exum, the insightful creator of the Abu Muqawama blog at Center for a New American Security, wrote that the “IDF almost always seems to do the strategically stupid thing in these situations, either using force more than is necessary or using force indiscriminately.” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged Israel to adhere to international law, cautioning that “the use of live ammunition against allegedly unarmed protesters, resulting in large numbers of deaths and injuries, inevitably raises the question of unnecessary and excessive use of force.”

To be sure, Israel, like the United States, makes its share of foolish and sometimes downright perplexing mistakes. But it is easy to disparage Israel’s actions without appreciating the complexity of the unceasing challenges with which it must cope. What’s more, there has been a dearth of sustained analysis of the ramifications of Israeli “blunders.” Tracking the outcome of recent controversial Israeli actions, surprisingly, portrays Israel in an entirely different strategic light. Though often caught off-guard, the Israeli government and military learn quickly, understand the calculations of its enemies, and are able to minimize continued bloodshed by firm deterrent responses.  

Challenge and Response

Israel’s recent challenges range from intense battles against Hezbollah fighters to mostly unarmed protesters trying to cross Israel’s borders. In the major incidents with which Israel has had to cope in recent years, the immediate reaction, domestically and abroad, was that its response was ineffective and ill-conceived.

The grand strategic question of Israel’s presence in the West Bank, while important, is not germane to this discussion. Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, and the various anti-Israel activists are fighting Israel’s existence, not its policies in territory captured in 1967. Israel would face the same, if not worse, challenges if it was not in these areas.

Israel faces a complex set of threats—Iran’s nuclear program, Hezbollah and Hamas rockets, neighboring regimes falling, flotillas, protesters willing to die, international pressure, and terrorism, to name a few.

Against Hezbollah in 2006, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) relied heavily on standoff firepower—air and artillery strikes instead of ground maneuver—to damage the organization, leading to significant destruction in parts of Lebanon and what is seen widely as a disappointing performance from the IDF. The Economist boldly declared, “Nasrallah wins the war.”

 Israel fought again in late 2008, this time against Hamas in Gaza. In this operation, the IDF maneuvered hard on the ground, using massive firepower, while Israeli Air Force jets pounded strategic targets and provided close air support. But in so doing, the IDF killed at least 300 civilians, and brought upon itself the opprobrium of the international community. The UN Goldstone Report accused Israel of perpetrating “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate, and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”

On May 30, 2010, a flotilla organized by the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish NGO IHH (described by the Carnegie Endowment’s Henri Barkey as an organization that “has been deeply involved with Hamas for some time”) was intercepted by Israeli naval commandoes. After being attacked by knives and clubs, the soldiers opened fire on the mob, killing nine passengers. The international community reacted angrily, with British Prime Minister David Cameron declaring, “Let me be clear: the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable.”

On May 15, 2011, annual “Nakba Day” protests reached a new intensity as Palestinians in Syria and Lebanon attempted to infiltrate Israel’s borders. In the Golan Heights, hundreds of protesters stormed the border fence and crossed into a Druze town. IDF fire killed four protesters and wounded many more.

It is easy to disparage Israel’s actions without appreciating the complexity of the unceasing challenges with which it must cope.

On the Lebanese border, similar scenes played out. Ten protesters were killed climbing the border fence, and Israel was blamed for the deaths. The IDF, however, maintained that most of the dead and wounded were hit by indiscriminate fire from the Lebanese Army (LAF). Maddeningly, the IDF decided not to release surveillance footage showing the LAF firing on the protesters, arguing that the LAF could not be coerced into preventing future protests if it was embarrassed by the released footage.

Palestinian protesters from Syria returned to the border on June 5, “Naksa Day,” commemorating the Arab defeat in the Six Day War. This time, IDF forces kept the protesters from infiltrating, though some were killed. The obviously suspect Syrian state media reported 23 dead, though Israel expressed serious skepticism, arguing that many of the casualties resulted from land mines on the Syrian side. Still, the IDF was shown in the media firing on mostly unarmed protesters, evoking comparisons, unfair as they may be, of the crackdowns in neighboring Arab regimes.

More Than Meets the Eye

Many wondered why Israel was repeatedly caught unprepared, and why its reactions repeatedly lead to PR disasters. With all of Israel’s resources, experience, and brainpower, could it really not come up with better solutions? But recent developments indicate Israel’s decisions, though criticized at the time, emerge from a coherent understanding of its security situation and from a plan, imperfect though it may be, for dealing with those challenges.

As time goes by, Israel’s strategic gains from the recent conflicts against them have looked more impressive.

On June 5, the date of the Naksa Day protests, the LAF did exactly what Israel hoped it would when the IDF decided not to release the surveillance footage. After the Lebanese Army declared the border a closed military zone, organizers of the march cancelled it altogether. Israel could not have hoped for a better LAF response. The decision not to release the tapes of the LAF firing on protesters, though damaging for short-term PR, had the effect Israel wanted. Thankfully, no more blood was spilled on the Lebanese border.

Though flotillas keep on coming, Israel seems to be in a much-improved situation following the May 31, 2010, incident. Subsequent flotillas, including the Malaysian Finch, were turned away with little effort or media attention.

The new flotilla organized by IHH, expected at the end of June, is feared to be a more aggressive version of the Mavi Marmara flotilla. However, quiet diplomatic efforts have begun to pay off for Israel. After repeatedly refusing to condemn the flotilla, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said last week that organizers should reconsider their plans, using the opening of the Egyptian-Gaza border as a pretext. Turkish newspapers also reported that the U.S. government was trying to convince Ankara to stop the flotilla in exchange for a Mideast peace conference in Turkey, a sign Israel’s diplomacy has convinced the Obama administration of the flotilla’s potential for violence.

Though often caught off-guard, the Israeli government and military learn quickly, understand the calculations of its enemies, and are able to minimize continued bloodshed by firm deterrent responses.

The threats posed by Hamas and Hezbollah are complex and ongoing, but as time goes by, Israel’s strategic gains from the recent conflicts against them have looked more impressive. As I’ve written in the American Enterprise Institute’s Center for Defense Studies blog, Israel’s approach to counter-insurgency (COIN) is based on deterrence, in which a few years of quiet is an important accomplishment. An expanded United Nations Interim Force in southern Lebanon, timid behavior from Hezbollah, and no response after the killing of Imad Mughniyeh is a significant strategic gain for Israel at the relatively modest cost of 122 military deaths. Before 2006, Hezbollah regularly fired rockets into Israel for a variety of reasons, but even at the height of Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s campaign against Hamas in 2008-2009, it held its fire. There were certainly problems for Israel during the war, and both Lebanon and Cast Lead cost Israel PR points, but damaging terrorist organizations while deterring them for years is no mean feat.

Even the Palestinian plan to pursue UN recognition in September, hugely problematic for the Israelis, is beginning to fray. President Obama is firmly opposed to the plan, and other Western leaders, including Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, are publicly warning the Palestinians against making any unilateral moves. The AP is reporting that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas even wants to “climb down from the tree” and forgo the UN plan, but cannot because of public pressure. The impending September diplomatic tsunami may well turn out to be nothing but harmless ripples.

The Complexity of No Good Options

Evaluations of Israel’s actions must take into account the bewildering complexity of challenges it faces. Take the fight against Hamas, for example. Israel has tried the range of non-diplomatic and coercive means to discourage Hamas from targeting its citizens. It pulled every Israeli soldier and civilian out of the Gaza Strip, agreed to a series of cease-fires, and, with Egypt, blockaded Hamas’s territory. Still, Hamas launched Qassams, killed soldiers, and smuggled advanced weaponry. Israeli leaders faced a dilemma—continue the status quo and allow 1 million Israelis to live under Hamas attacks or move to a military option that will undoubtedly harm Palestinian civilians.

When Israel finally opted for a military operation, Hamas’s tactics forced the IDF to balance military necessity with its ethical restraints. Battling enemies who fire rockets from Palestinian schools and civilian areas as a matter of policy, the IDF compromised military effectiveness to protect enemy civilians, allowing Hamas more breathing room. In the words of British Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, “Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. To deliver aid virtually into your enemy's hands is, to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable. But the IDF took on those risks.”

Israel faces similar challenges across the spectrum—Iran’s nuclear program, Hezbollah and Hamas rockets, neighboring regimes falling, flotillas, protesters willing to die, international pressure, and terrorism, to name a few.  Outnumbered by hostile forces, both on the ground and in the international community, Israel is further restricted by an ethical code that limits its responses to enemies for whom all Israelis are legitimate targets. Somehow, Israel usually manages to find a balance, striking a blow to its adversaries while remaining within the bounds of military and Jewish ethics. This is no easy feat. Though its responses often seem haphazard and excessively violent, the long view indicates that Israel’s mix of diplomacy, deterrence, and force keeps its citizens safe and minimizes extended bloodshed.

In a reality in which there are often no good options, Israel just might know what it’s doing.

Posted on 06/19/2011 10:09 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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