Posts Tagged ‘1’
I am a nationalist, Zionist, tribalist and hawk.
Here are ten things I believe:
What I like about Rosenthal is what I like about, for example, Caroline Glick, i.e., he’s got balls.
A nationalist, Zionist, tribalist and hawk, huh? That, my friends, is a very bold statement. I will go with number one and number two, particularly since in order to be a Zionist one must, by definition, be a nationalist. As for “tribalist,” I am not even certain what that means.
As for hawk, I simply consider myself a pragmatist. Nobody wants war… I guess… but when aggressors come to kill your children it is probably good policy to strike them back hard enough that they will never do so again.
OK, on to the first five of Rosenthal’s ten propositions. They are:
1 – ‘Israel is the Jewish state’ has a concrete meaning: the owners of the land of Israel are the Jewish people, not all its citizens.
2 – Arabs who live in Israel should have full civil rights, but they should understand that they are living in someone else’s homeland. It’s natural and correct that the flag, national anthem, primary language and other symbols are those of the Jewish people.
3 – It is not a civil right to call for the destruction of the state or the murder of its people.
4 – Israel should not welcome non-Jewish migrants.
5 – Everyone in Israel should have freedom of religious worship and be able to visit their holy places. But the government of Israel should be sovereign over every inch of the land of Israel, in particular the Temple Mount.
Let’s take these individually.
‘Israel is the Jewish state’ has a concrete meaning: the owners of the land of Israel are the Jewish people, not all its citizens.
This strikes me as a difficult sell and I am not entirely certain that I want to sell it.
The land of Israel belongs to the people who own land within Israel. Any Christian or Muslim or Rosicrucian who owns land owns that land. Period. Full stop.
I guess what I would say – and perhaps Vic and I are not quite so far apart on this issue as one might initially think – is that Israel belongs to the Jewish people in the sense that Japan belongs to the Japanese. That is, Israel is the place where Judaism emerged and where its culture and traditions and ways of being and thinking took root and developed for millennia prior to the diaspora.
Israel is unquestionably the home of the Jewish people, but if a non-Jew owns land in Israel, then they own land within Israel.
Arabs who live in Israel should have full civil rights, but they should understand that they are living in someone else’s homeland. It’s natural and correct that the flag, national anthem, primary language and other symbols are those of the Jewish people.
I could not agree more.
I might feel differently if the Arab-Muslim world had ever honestly been decent to my Jewish ancestors, but although dhimmi status was in some times and some places better and some times and places worse it was never better than the ugliest of Jim Crow.
And, of course, given the fact that the Arab-Muslim governments and people still generally hold Jews in Koranically-based contempt, and have repeatedly attempted the genocide of the Jews in the Middle East… we owe them nothing.
It is not a civil right to call for the destruction of the state or the murder of its people.
As we say, democracy is not a suicide pact.
I am not a big fan of sedition laws, but given the fact that the Jewish people in the Middle East are a tiny minority surrounded by a much a larger hostile majority that wants very much to see those Jews either dead or gone, Israel cannot afford treasonous politicians in the Knesset. There is nothing automatically wrong with Arabs, or any non-Jews, being members of the Knesset, but the Israeli government should prohibit anti-Zionists, or friends of terrorists, from participation in government.
Israel should not welcome non-Jewish migrants.
My first reaction upon reading this statement was to say to myself, “I disagree. Of course, Israel should accept a limited degree of non-Jewish migrants, just not so much as to significantly alter the demographic make-up of the state.” On further consideration, however, I think that Vic may have a point. The problem is that our numbers are so small, our enemies are so many, and Israel is all the Jewish people have to stand between the Jewish people of the Middle East and the hostile Arab-Muslim majority population that surround them in that part of the world.
Everyone in Israel should have freedom of religious worship and be able to visit their holy places. But the government of Israel should be sovereign over every inch of the land of Israel, in particular the Temple Mount.
The issue of the Temple Mount is particularly troublesome because it shows the world that the Jewish people are uncertain of our own sovereignty in the Land of Israel, the land of the Jews. In fact, the very reason that Muslims insist that the Temple Mount is theirs is simply because they wish to rob Jews of sovereignty on historically Jewish land.
The Temple Mount, of course, is symbolic. If the Arabs can deny Jewish sovereignty on even the place where the Second Temple stood then they can challenge Jewish sovereignty over the country, as a whole. And that is precisely the project that they have undertaken, lo these many decades, since the early part of the twentieth-century.
Furthermore, current Israeli and Jordanian policies concerning the Temple Mount are undemocratic and unjust. Only Muslims have unfettered access to the space and only Muslims are allowed to pray there. Given that Israel is supposed to be a Jewish and democratic state, this is a great humiliation to that country.
The Temple Mount issue exposes Jewish Israeli weakness while demonstrating their willingness to capitulate to Arab-Muslim authoritarianism.
It also should be noted that the Temple Mount is not the third anything to anyone. All the Temple Mount is is the holiest spot in the world to devout Jews. It is the site of the Temples and the Holy of Holies. The reason that some Muslims call it the “third holiest site in Islam” is simply because Islam is a conquering religion and its leadership is entirely comfortable with the genocide of the Jews, when they are not actively calling for it.
I will continue my conversation of Vic’s ten propositions
“Commanders for Israel’s Security” are a group I would much rather respect than ridicule, but drivel is drivel, even when it comes from men with an illustrious past and an accumulated 6000 years of security experience
One does not have to be a military expert to easily identify the critical defects of the armistice lines that existed until June 4, 1967 Deputy PM Yigal Allon, former commander of Palmah strike-force, 1976.
…historians a thousand years hence will still be baffled by the mystery of our affairs. They will never understand how it was that a victorious nation, with everything in hand, suffered themselves to be brought low, and to cast away all that they had gained by measureless sacrifice and absolute victory…Now the victors are the vanquished… Winston Churchill, in the House of Commons, 1938.
The Jews consider Judea and Samaria to be their historic dream. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse… Then we will move forward. Abbas Zaki, PLO ambassador to Lebanon, 2009
*It genuinely distresses me to have to write this article—but I feel I have little option.
Despite My Personal Bias
I confess that I have a strong personal bias in favor of men who have devoted years of their lives to the defense of their country and endangered themselves to protect others. The members of the Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS) certainly fit that bill- comprising a group of over 200 former high-ranking officers in the IDF, intelligence services and police.
Today, however, we are faced with the bitter irony of a spectacle, in which scores of ex-senior security officials, who spent most of their adult life defending Israel, are now promoting a political initiative that will make it indefensible.
Recently, CIS, an allegedly non-politically partisan organization, which ran a virulently anti-Netanyahu campaign in the run-up to the March 2015 elections, published what purports to be a “plan” to break the ongoing deadlock over the “Palestinian issue”, appealingly but misleadingly, entitled “Security First: Changing the Rules of the Game–A Plan to Improve Israel’s Security and International Standing” .
In broad brush strokes, the seminal elements on which the entire proposal is based are that Israel should:
- Proclaim, unilaterally, that it forgoes any claim to sovereignty beyond the yet-to-be completed security barrier, which in large measure coincides with the pre-1967 “Green Line”, adjusted to include several major settlement blocks adjacent to those lines; but,
- Leave the IDF deployed there—until some “acceptable alternative security arrangement” is found – presumably the emergence of a yet-to-be located pliant Palestinian-Arab who will pledge to recognize Israel as the Jewish nation-state; and
- Embrace the Saudi Peace Plan–a.k.a. Arab Peace Initiative (API) subject to certain changes which the Arabs/Saudis recently resolutely refused to consider.
Noxious Brew of the Fanciful, the False & the Failed
According to the CIS folk (p.7), implementation of this so-called “plan” will:
– Enhance personal and national security.
– Preserve conditions for a future permanent status agreement with the Palestinians.
– Increase prospects of Israel’s integration into regional security/political arrangements with pragmatic Arab states.
– Improve Israel’s international standing and ‘pull the rug’ from under BDS-like movements.
Sadly, little analytical acumen is needed to show that not only will the CIS plan fail to achieve the objectives it claims it will, but in all probability, it will precipitate precisely the opposite results, exacerbating the dangers it was designed to ameliorate.
Admittedly this is harsh condemnation of the public positions of a large group of prominent figures. However, over the coming weeks, I will be at pains to substantiate my severe censure of their policy recommendations.
Indeed, as I read the CIS proposal my sense of despair and dismay deepened. It is a document so embarrassingly implausible, it seems inconceivable that men who boast of 6,000 years of accumulated security experience would allow – much less, wish –their names to be associated with it.
For what it presents is little more than a disturbing brew of the fanciful, the false and the failed—deeply flawed both in the political principle on which it bases itself and the practical details which it prescribes.
Attempting to eschew being labelled yet-another (and largely discredited) attempt to achieve peace, something which it concedes is “currently unfeasible” (p.10), the CIS plan is presented as focusing primarily on enhancing security—hence the title “Security First.”
Taking the Name of “Security” in Vain?
Curiously, however, throughout its almost 70 pages (in the English version), the proposal deals only scantily with security, the professed forte of its authors, and then only in a very general manner, with virtually no stipulation of operational details. By contrast, it devotes much time to political assessments, municipal administration, water supplies, employment , even suggesting (see pp. 45-47) that Israel intervene in the internecine Palestinian feud between Fatah and Hamas.
These are, of course, issues of considerable importance in their own right, with pursuant impact on overall security, but hardly ones in which CIS, as an organization, can claim any special professional expertise, on the basis of their long experience in the military or the security services.
But it is precisely these accumulated years of service that CIS invoke for the authority they attribute to their policy prescriptions.
After all, however admirable it may be in its own right, the battle-tested experience of an intrepid armored corps commander hardly provides any professional edge in stipulating how Jerusalem should be administered, or determining why the Palestinians have not developed wastewater treatment plants, or in assessing the state of Palestinian agriculture—all of which comprise elements of significance in the CIS policy proposal.
Accordingly, one might well be excused for feeling a sense of uneasy suspicion that CIS just might be taking the name of security in vain—to further a political agenda, which they strenuously deny they have.
“Based on our Cumulative 6,000 years of Experience…”
Thus, on its well-endowed bilingual website, the fellows from CIS attempt to sweep aside any dissent from mere mortals, enlisting their formidable security credentials to launch into the promotion of a political initiative that has been rejected not only by successive Israeli governments—including some of the most Palestinian-compliant (PC) in the nation’s history–but also by a sound majority of the Israeli electorate.
Accordingly, they proclaim:
“Based on our cumulative 6,000 years of experience in Israel’s various security agencies, we emphatically state that:
- Political agreements and security arrangements with the Arab World, including the Palestinians, are vital Israeli national security objectives.
- Local and regional realities make it mandatory and urgent to pursue these objectives. They also make them attainable.
- The IDF [as] by far the most potent military force in the region… can provide effective security and address all challenges within the present or any future borderline as agreed-to by our government and endorsed by our people…”
In terms of recommended policy elements, this translates (see p.8), among other thing, into Israel:
-Accepting, in principle, the Arab Peace Initiative (API), with requisite adjustments to accommodate Israel’s security and demographic needs as a basis for negotiation.
-Reiterating its commitment to resolving the conflict through negotiations towards a permanent status agreement based on the principle of ‘two states for two peoples.’
-Foregoing claims to sovereignty over West Bank territories east of the ‘security fence’, but continuing to exercise control over them in a custodial capacity until alternative security arrangement are put into place within the framework of a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians.
– Freezing the construction of new settlements, the expansion of existing ones or the development of civilian infrastructures east of the ‘security fence.’
The Most Glaring Defect?
Clearly, then, this is not a non-partisan ,apolitical position but a clear endorsement of the longstanding predilections of the concessionary Israeli left, which have failed so dramatically over the last quarter-century, and now are allegedly “justified” anew by ongoing changes in the region, which, if anything, make them more implausible, irresponsible and inappropriate than ever.
As I noted previously, CIS’s plan is so deeply flawed, both in principle and in detail, that it would require far more than a single opinion column to expose and analyze them all. Accordingly in this week’s column, I will limit myself to a far-from-exhaustive discussion of what is, arguably, its most glaring defect, postponing debate on further flaws and faults for the coming weeks:
This is the a-priori (read “unilateral”) renouncing of any claims to sovereignty over the territory beyond the security barrier.
CIS wish to sidestep criticism of their plan, that could be ascribed it, given the dismal failure of the unilateral evacuation of Gaza (and South Lebanon), and the consequent emergence of a Jihadi-controlled enclave, with an arsenal bristling with weapons capable of reaching virtually the whole of Israel.
Accordingly, they claim (pp.28-9): “In contrast [to] the unilateral withdrawals Israel carried out in 2000 (from South Lebanon) and 2005 (from Gaza), the ‘Security First’ Plan calls for the
IDF to remain in the West Bank…until a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians ushers in alternative concrete, sustainable security arrangements.”
This of course raises the intriguing question of how CIS imagine events would have unfolded in, say, Gaza, had their plan been adopted, and the IDF remained deployed there, waiting with bated breath until some Palestinian emerged to “usher in alternative concrete, sustainable security arrangements.”
Unilateral Withdrawal in Principle
Indeed, despite all the semantic acrobatics, the unilateral capitulation inherent in the CIS proposal cannot be camouflaged by rhetoric. For whichever way you spin it, the CIS prescription comprises a unilateral acknowledgement, without any commensurate quid-pro-quo, of Arab sovereignty over the territory east of the ‘security barrier.’
In effect this constitutes a “unilateral withdrawal in principle”, entailing the abandonment of positions long held by successive Israeli governments’ for over a half-century and a clear admission that Israel has been unnecessarily and unjustifiably intransigent for decades. Even if this is not CIS’s intention, there can be little doubt that this is how it will be eagerly interpreted by a hostile international community—and an affirmation that the anti-Israel campaigns against Israel were, in fact, justified.
Indeed, for all their 6000 years of accumulated security experience, CIS seem to have lost sight of a recurring lesson of history: Giving in—or at least pledging to give in—to the demands of despots will only whet their appetite, not satiate it.
It requires little imagination to envision the pernicious political predicament such an injudicious move would create for Israel, were it to heed the CIS counsel of an open-ended deployment of the military in territory over which any claims to sovereignty are eschewed.
A Giant South-Lebanon
In a stroke, Judea-Samaria would, by Israel’s own admission, be converted from “disputed territories” to “occupied territories”, and the IDF from a “defense force” to an “occupying force.”
This reality would replicate—only on a much larger scale and much closer to the urban center of the country—the realities that prevailed in pre-2000 South Lebanon when the IDF was deployed in the security zone, despite the fact that Israel made no claims to sovereignty over it.
The manner in which that episode ended—with the ignominious flight of the IDF—should provide a sobering reminder of what CIS measures are liable to lead to.
(As an aside, it might be edifying to note that both the situations in South Lebanon and Gaza, which CIS apparently wish to avoid, were the result of policy decisions made by men with “impeccable security credentials”… Ariel Sharon, and Ehud Barak.)
Of course, under the CIS plan, the time that IDF will be required to deploy in Judea-Samaria will be entirely determined by the Palestinian side, until they agree to “acceptable alternative … security arrangements”—something which is highly unlikely, since less pliant competing factions could plausibly point out that, if the Jews are confronted with sufficient resolve and violence, they will concede all for nothing.
Thus, the IDF will be ensnared in the “West-Bank mud” as it was in the “Lebanon -mud”, subject to increasing attack from a hostile alien population, and unsympathetic international opinion with increasing domestic pressure to “bring our boys home.”
And so the unilateral withdrawal in principle will inexorably become a unilateral withdrawal in practice—with no agreement with the Palestinian side and Israel exposed to all the dangers CIS hoped to avert.
As readers might sense – I have barely scratched the surface in my endeavor to expose the myriad of internal contradictions, non-sequiturs and grave errors in the CIS formula “to extricate Israel from the current dead end and to improve its security… and international standing.”
But from what I have written they may already understand why I chose to entitle this and coming columns – “Imbecility squared.”Dr. Martin Sherman
The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s Subcommittee on Civil Affairs and Security in Judea and Samaria on Tuesday took a stab at figuring out just how many Arabs live in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, where in the latter two no one has taken a scientific census in ages, and the numbers appear to be skewed according to the political leanings of the different sources.
Lies, Damned Lies, and PA Census Data
The CIA World Factbook, updated July 2015, estimates there are 2,785,366 “Palestinians” living in those three areas, a.k.a. the “West Bank.” The Knesset subcommittee’s discussion suggested this figure is more than a little inflated.
Subcommittee Chairman MK Mordhay Yogev (Habayit Hayehudi) opened the debate saying “this is our second discussion of this issue, and we’d like to focus on data regarding Area C which is our responsibility. When I served as Ephraim Brigade Commander, over a period of one year, we executed an accurate count of all the residents in the sector, including Tulkarm and Qalqilya. The State of Israel possesses the needed means to find out, and the State of Israel must find out what is the number of residents for whom it is responsible, and about whom it would have to reach future decisions.”
Head of the Operations Directorate of the Civil Administration Lt. Col. Eyal Zeevi began his part by stressing that the civil administration does not engage in demographic studies, and that the responsibility for that in all of Judea and Samaria belongs to the Palestinian Authority, according to the 1995 interim agreement between Israel and the PA. In that context Zeevi explained that the PA demographic data does not offer specific Area C-related figures. However, Avi Gur-Ari, Population Administration officer in the Civil Administration clarified that he does maintain reliable testing of the data received from the PA.
This came as a surprise to the chairman, who requested that the entire PA census, including the data for Area C, be given to his subcommittee, noting that since the data includes the names of individual communities it should be feasible to discern those communities that are included in Area C.
Zeevi said it wasn’t as simple as that, because some of the Arab villages are split between Area C and neighboring, PA-governed Areas A and B. Other villages border the Jerusalem municipality. “With all due respect for the chairman, I don’t think it can be done in the suggested schedule. To do this professionally would require time and resources, which the political echelon has not yet decided to allocate.”
Once in the Roll, Always on the Roll
Zeevi shared some of the most common problems with the Palestinian Authority census: for one thing, a resident who leaves the PA remains listed as a resident; and these residents are able to visit, register their children and return abroad. Zeevi estimates that as many as 15,000 residents are added to the PA census this way annually.
“The immigration data presented today is partial and pertains only to the Allenby bridge border crossing into Jordan,” Zeevi added, estimating that “over the past 15 years more than 175 thousand have left through the crossing and never returned.”
According to Zeevi, the registered Arab population who carry Palestinian ID cards in Judea and Samaria, not including eastern Jerusalem, is 2.63 million. He believes that with the current growth rate coefficient in 2020 there will be 3.28 million and by 2030 there will be more than 4 million Arabs in all of Judea and Samaria.
According to Avi Lekach from the Population and Immigration Authority, in eastern Jerusalem there are at least 300 thousand Arab residents. David Koren, a consultant to the Jerusalem Mayor, noted that while there are 316 thousand registered Arab residents in Jerusalem, there may be as many as 60 thousand Arabs from the PA who are seeking residency in Jerusalem as part of family reunions.
Italian-born Israeli demographer and statistician Prof. Sergio Della Pergola told the subcommittee that he believes there are some 2.4 Arab residents in Judea and Samaria today, and that the Jewish majority in all of Eretz Israel is only about 52% — which includes people who identify as Jewish but halakhically are not. In his opinion, the halakhically Jewish majority is long gone.
But former Ambassador Yoram Ettinger cited his own research which found that the birthrate balance has switched and that today’s Jewish birthrate is higher than the Arab. Ettinger also said that his research showed that by the end of 2015 there were only 1.75 million Arabs in Judea and Samaria.
Analyzing PA Eligible Voter Data Implies Even Lower Numbers
Back in 2013, Middle East analyst Dr. Guy Bechor cited the number of eligible PA voters in the 2012 local elections — 515 thousand — setting it as the number of adults 18 and older. If we add to it an identical number of people ages 0-18, we’ll get a little more than one million. Add the maximum figure of eastern Jerusalem Arabs and you’ll get a generous estimate of only 1.4 million Arabs. The number of Jews, incidentally, is comprised of 385 thousand in Judea and Samaria and 300 thousand in eastern Jerusalem, or close to 700 thousand in total.
MK Hilik Bar (Zionist Camp-Labor) said it was shameful that Israel does not know how many Arabs actually live in Area C. “We know how many Syrian tanks there are, but not how many civilians are living under our care,” he said, suggesting that whether Area C becomes part of Israel or is handed over to the PA, “we should know how many potential Arab citizens we’ll have in the state.”JNi.Media
QUESTION: Hi, Mrs. Adler, big fan of your book! I have a question for you. My question is: How do you get someone that you really like to respect you, be serious with you and drop the whole “hard to get” game? Hope you can shed some light. Thanks.
Response from Mrs. Adler: Typically, people play “hard to get” when they are not confident in the reality of what they feel that they have or may not have to offer. Sometimes, a person sells him or her self-short in their own mind. That said – the result of a self-imposed short sale could go many ways. One way is this way.
For some people, the choice to play “hard to get” can seem like a good way to grasp control in a budding relationship. This control is temporary at best. Playing hard to get can also be used as an attempt to escape the inevitable reality of a situation – judgment.
For some people, especially, those lacking a level of self confidence, they are unable to cope with others feeling that they are “not for them.” Interestingly enough, I have met people that have been rejected by potential spouses that they have no interest in and they are still very hurt. Why? They want everyone to like them. They also want the to hold the control and be the one that ultimately says yes or no.
Now, let’s go deeper. Finding a marriage partner is about finding someone whom you can build a life-together with. This means, on a daily – if not hourly basis – you two will be forced (by life) to devise plans and assign tasks that are based on the strengths and weaknesses that you each possess.
When a person is dating, they should notice and act on the signs that blink like neon lights in Times Square. In this case, a huge sign would be that a person who is busy playing ‘hard to get’ is busy comforting his or her own needs. This is a sign that they are not available for a “team project.”
Seek specific compatibility. This means, find out what you want in a daily routine and various things about running a home. How do you want to raise your kids? Then discuss how your relationship as two people “in love” will be able to continually develop from this. Not every day is ‘date night’, and sometimes there may be no money for a vacation. What happens then?
If you can say that you two match up in these points then you are moving in the right direction. If one of you is busy babysitting the other ones inability to handle the other ones ideas or criticism, then there is a long, tough, road ahead. Avoid taking a complicated path with potholes when the highway is an option.
Make them “Get Real”: Example Questions to Ask
From my book 1,000 Questions to Ask Before Getting Married
- Question # 130: Do you think I naturally help you grow as a person?
- Follow-up Questions: (If, YES) How? (If, NO) Why not? (If, NO) Do you think I ever could?
Why ask this question?
- A person focusing on their own needs and their ability to control the conversations focus by talking about his or her self wouldn’t scare off the person. Plus, maybe your potential match actually realizes they don’t want to play hard to get. They could reveal that here.
- Question #132: Have you ever felt that I could distract you from living up to your responsibilities and upholding your commitments?
(See follow-up questions in book). Why ask this Question?
- Because, life is about living alive as opposed to a lie. If a person can’t talk about where they are going then they certainly can’t articulate where you and he or she is going and if they can go there with you. This is a tougher question than the last.
- The answer to this question should be understood to determine your present and potential “team capability” or lack there of. If you cannot be a team then you should NOT be a couple.
More on this Question and Topic
When a person plays hard to get, the dynamic of the foundation that they are creating is that of acquisition. At best, they are inspiring someone to want to acquire them. This is not a relationship. A relationship aims for merger as opposed to acquisition.
That said – getting someone to respect you isn’t a cut and dry formula. However, respect is something a person must understand before they can do it. Some people are oblivious to this. In this case, a person who has not been raised to dwell in or at least comprehend the basic levels of respect is dangerous to one who has.
Hence, ‘playing hard to get’ does not make someone respect you. If a person knows how to respect others then they will respect you until you show them reasons not to. If a person does not know how to respect others, you cannot make them.
Playing any game with a person wastes their time. Be direct. Identify what you want with someone then let them answer you. If they are not on the same page as you, then thank Hashem that do not have to waste any more time on a dead end. Value yourself and your time. The more time you waste on the road to marriage, means the less time you have to enjoy your marriage.
The Simple Answer to this Question
People will always do what they “want” to do. If a person wants to be with someone then they will. If not, then they won’t. Please know that some people will never be the one to leave a potential relationship. They will stall it from progressing though so they must be left. And, many times that is not only what they want but also what both parties need.Mrs. Amber Adler
Originally published at Daniel Pipes.
It’s a privilege to be an American who works on foreign policy, as I have done since the late 1970s, participating in a small way in the grand project of finding my country’s place in the world. But now, under Barack Obama, decisions made in Washington have dramatically shrunk in importance. It’s unsettling and dismaying. And no longer a privilege.
Whether during the structured Cold War or the chaotic two decades that followed, America’s economic size, technological edge, military prowess, and basic decency meant that even in its inactivity, the U.S. government counted as much or more in world developments than any other state. Sniffles in Washington translated into influenza elsewhere.
Weak and largely indifferent presidents like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton mattered despite themselves, for example in the Iranian revolution of 1978-79 or the Arab-Israeli conflict in the 1990s. Strong and active presidents like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush had greater impact yet, speeding up the Soviet collapse or invading Afghanistan and Iraq.
But now, with Barack Obama, the United States has slid into shocking irrelevance in the Middle East, the world’s most turbulent region. Inconstancy, incompetence, and inaction have rendered the Obama administration impotent. In the foreign policy arena, Obama acts as though he would rather be the prime minister of Belgium, a small country that usually copies the decisions of its larger neighbors when casting votes at the United Nations or preening morally about distant troubles. Belgians naturally “lead from behind,” to use the famed phrase emanating from Obama’s White House.
Qatar (with a national population of 225,000) has an arguably greater impact on current events than the 1,400-times-larger United States (population: 314 million). Note how Obama these days takes a back seat to the emirs of Doha: They take the lead supplying arms to the Libyan rebels, he follows. They actively help the rebels in Syria, he dithers. They provide billions to the new leadership in Egypt, he stumbles over himself. They unreservedly back Hamas in Gaza, he pursues delusions of an Israeli-Palestinian “peace process.” Toward this end, the U.S. secretary of state made six trips in four months to Israel and the Palestinian territories in pursuit of a diplomatic initiative that almost no one believes will end the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Meanwhile, the U.S. secretary of defense called Egyptian leader Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi 17 times in conversations lasting 60-90 minutes, yet failed in his pleas that Sisi desist from using force against the Muslim Brotherhood. More striking yet, Sisi apparently refused to take a phone call from Obama. The $1.5 billion in annual U.S. aid to Egypt suddenly looks paltry in comparison to the $12 billion from three Persian Gulf countries, with promises to make up for any Western cuts in aid. Both sides in Egypt’s deep political divide accuse Obama of favoring the other and execrate his name. As dozens of Coptic churches burned, he played six rounds of golf. Ironically, Egypt is where, four long years ago, Obama delivered a major speech repudiating George W. Bush policies with seeming triumph.
Obama’s ambitions lie elsewhere – in augmenting the role of government within the United States, as epitomized by Obamacare. Accordingly, he treats foreign policy as an afterthought, an unwelcome burden, and something to dispatch before returning to juicier matters. He oversees withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan with little concern for what follows. His unique foreign policy accomplishment, trumpeted ad nauseam, was the execution of Osama bin Laden.
So far, the price to American interests for Obama’s ineptitude has not been high. But that could change quickly. Most worrisome, Iran could soon achieve nuclear breakout and start to throw its newfound weight around, if not to deploy its brand-new weapons. The new regime in Egypt could revert to its earlier anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism; already, important elements in Egypt are calling for rejection of U.S. aid and termination of the peace treaty with Israel.
As an American who sees his country as a force for good, these developments are painful and scary. The world needs an active, thoughtful, and assertive United States. The historian Walter A. McDougall rightly states that “The creation of the United States of America is the central event of the past four hundred years” and its civilization “perturbs the trajectories of all other civilizations just by existing.” Well not so much perturbation these days; may the dismal present be brief in duration.Daniel Pipes