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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘america’

Why Does the NY Times So Hate Missile Defense?

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute.

Recent news is that both North Korea and Pakistan have sought help in developing EMP weapons; Iran has launched its missile tests in an EMP mode. The U.S. could, for a small additional expense, protect the country from EMP and nuclear threats through the production of short and medium defense radars and interceptors, now available and in the U.S. inventory.

In nearly two thousand stories and editorials since President Reagan identified missile defense as a critical new capability needed for America’s security, the New York Times has rarely found anything positive to say about America’s first line of defense against enemy missiles.

In the past few weeks, editors of the New York Times continued, announcing their opposition to the newly considered East Coast missile defense site, and describing it as “unnecessary.” [June 4, "An Unnecessary Military Expense"]

Contrast this to how they report on other offensive missile developments by America’s enemies.

North Korean threats to launch offensive rockets at America and its allies, for example, are described as “puzzling” [May 21, 2013, "N Korea Launches Missiles for Third Straight Day"].

Russia’s possible sales of anti-ship missiles to Syria are described as an “indication of the depth of support” of Moscow for Damascus (May 17 “Russia Sends More Advanced Missiles to Aid Assad”).

Hezbollah threats to use rockets against Israel are carefully described as in “retaliation,” implying of course any attack would be Israel’s fault. [May 10, "Hezbollah Threatens Israel over Syria Strike"]

In short, offensive missile deployments by America’s adversaries enjoy whitewashed explanations, while American efforts to defend itself and its allies from these same threats come in only for criticism.

The same New York Times logic was especially on display in 2002. Times Editor Bill Keller argued then that if President Bush withdrew from the ABM treaty the possibility of more nuclear arms control in the future would be very low. He described US missile defenses as a search for an “unfettered” US security policy that sought to “neutralize the power of countries such as North Korea and Iran”, (as if this was a bad idea!)

Keller approvingly referenced a speech by Jack Mendelssohn of the Arms Control Association in which he said that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan could not be confronted unless the US had an effective missile defense, as Washington would “hesitate to come to the island’s aid because of Beijing’s nuclear weapons.”

Keller apparently is aghast that, if the US had a missile defense in place, America might actually defend Taiwan from invasion.

Keller claims the missile defense “schemers” [those supporting their deployment] just want to get into a war with China and might end up spurring an arms race as well.

Added to this is his claim that missile defense advocates are also “deceivers,” seeking secretly to end all arms control restraints on US nuclear weapons.

Is this actually how things turned out? Did arms control disappear as the US deployed protective missile defenses? Well, by the end of 2004, the Bush administration had deployed an initial series of missile defense interceptors against long range missiles, plus hundreds of short and medium range interceptors. To accomplish this, the US did have to jettison the ABM Treaty, which the Bush administration did in 2002.

At the same time, however, the US and Russia secured under the Moscow Treaty a collective reduction of 63% of US’s strategic deployed warheads, with both countries ending up with 2,200 deployed strategic nuclear warheads compared to the 6,000 allowed under the Start I treaty.

Progress on US-Russian arms control and US missile defense deployments continued. By the end of the decade, with the addition of the 2010 New Start Treaty, US deployed warheads fell to 1,550 while missile defense interceptors of all kinds rose to over 1,250. When allied forces are included, the number of defense interceptors, while the exact number is classified, probably exceeds 2,000.

Nuclear weapons down. Missile defense interceptors up.

What the New York Times concluded could never be accomplished had been in fact achieved. But the New York Times apparently never got the message.

During both the Clinton and Bush administrations, the growing capability of Iran missile forces eventually pushed NATO jointly to call for the deployment of better missile defenses.

The Bush administration secured agreement to deploy interceptors in Poland and complimentary radars in the Czech Republic.

Although nuclear weapons arms control had accelerated, simultaneously with the deployment of over 1000 defense interceptors, the New York Times continued to complain.

The Czech and Polish deployments, said the New York Times, would “anger Russia” [April 15, 2008]. A month later, an “expert analysis,” cautioned the Times, cast serious “doubt” on the capability of the proposed system [May 18, 2008].

The analysis of course turned out to be bogus. The two-stage interceptor being proposed for Poland worked and had been tested. The Czech-based radar was similarly qualified for the job.

The Russians ginned up media opposition to the NATO missile defense deal, and then used threats of nuclear-armed missile attacks to delay its deployment.

By the fall 2009, therefore, with a new administration, the Polish and Czech sites previously planned were abandoned by the new administration.

But ironically, new European alternative sites were suggested instead by the new American administration, such as Romania. And instead of a two-stage missile defense interceptor, it was proposed that a new land-based “version” of the Navy Standard Missile (SM) be developed and deployed at a new European site, but sometime after 2020. It became known as the fourth phase of the EPAA or European Phased Adaptive Approach, or SM-3 Block II-B, and was designed to deal with long-range Iranian rockets.

But even that plan eventually came unraveled. Following North Korea’s recent missile launch tests and its explosion of another nuclear device, the administration changed course again.

The fourth phase of the EPAA was redesigned, and in all likelihood cancelled. The Iranian missile threats to Europe appeared to no longer be taken seriously by the administration.

Instead, it was announced that 14 ground-based missile interceptors, originally scheduled for deployment in Alaska by the Bush administration (but cancelled in 2009), would in fact go forward, and provide some additional protection to the United States (but not NATO) from emerging missile threats from Iran and North Korea.

On March 15, trying to maintain its perfect record of hostility to missile defense, the New York Times, twisting itself, acknowledged that while the added West Coast deployment was indeed in response to North Korean “provocations,” such defense was probably not needed because even without any U.S. defenses, Pyongyang would “surely be destroyed” if it attacked the United States.

And, added the Times, such a defense response by the United States might give North Korea “the satisfaction of making the rest of the world jumpy.” (And we certainly could not have that!)

There are, however, bipartisan reasons why the Times is wrong.

As Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Congresswomen Yvette Clarke (D-NY) told a recent Capitol Hill conference, the missile threats emerging from Iran and North Korea now might very well involve an EMP nuclear device capable of rendering the U.S. electrical grid and infrastructure useless. Tens of millions of Americans would be at risk of dying, as two Congressional EMP Commissions had previously concluded in the last decade. These fears of former Director of Central Intelligence, Ambassador R. James Woolsey, echoed in a particularly passionate brief at the event.

Recent news is that both North Korea and Pakistan have sought help in developing EMP weapons; and we know Iran has launched its missile tests in an EMP mode.

Such threats could be launched from a missile at sea some hundreds of kilometers off of our coasts as well as from intercontinental distances. Such maritime threats—largely surreptitious—would be difficult to deter, as in all likelihood the adversary would be unidentifiable.

The U.S. could, however, for a modest additional expense, begin to protect the country from such maritime EMP and nuclear threats through the production of additional short and medium missile defense radars and interceptors, now available and in the US inventory. Upgrades in the future would probably be required as the threat worsened. But we could begin work now.

This could be part of a new phased East Coast missile defense site or system. Other threats, such as long range missiles from the Middle East, could be dealt with through the deployment on the East Coast of an advanced version of the current West Coast deployments, or a variant of the current sea-based BMD systems, including better sensors and kill vehicles or the final element of an interceptor that actually crashes into the incoming warhead.

Whether traditional nuclear or EMP nuclear threats, missiles have become the military technology of choice of both terror master nations and their terror group affiliates. Such threats may not be subject to the traditional notions of deterrence developed during the half century of the Cold War. Hamas, for example, late last year, launched more rockets on Israel than Nazi Germany launched in all of World War II. Israel defended itself with the deployment of the Iron Dome missile defense system, which was developed and put into place within just three years.

In short, real threats need real defenses. The “hope” of deterrence is not enough.

Can we build better defenses? Of course we can.

In Israel, the military made upgrades to the Iron Dome defense system even as it was engaging enemy rockets. Upwards of 85-90% of all targeted Hamas rockets were intercepted. Contrary to the same academic “experts” often cited by the New York Times, this missile defense system worked and worked very well. The intercepts were meticulously recorded and verified. When told of the key basis for the critics’ conclusion that Iron Dome hit only 15% of the targets—private cell phone pictures—a coterie of Pentagon civilian and military experts burst out laughing.

The US is now in partnership with Jerusalem to produce more Iron Dome batteries.

We should take our inspiration from Israel.

To defend the homeland and build better missile defenses simply follows our constitutional requirement to “provide for the common defense.”

Obama’s Vision: Government Itself as the American Ideal

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

In his speech at Ohio State University, President Barack Obama used the word “together” four times.

Yet each time he defined the collective endeavor of Americans as merely that of promoting more government. Thus, while trying to turn American history and even the Constitution into precedents for his goals and policies, Obama reverses reality, undermining not only the conservative vision of America but also the historic liberal one.

Normally, a president would speak of the vast array of efforts made “together” to refer—or at least include—non-government activities. That means the actions of voluntarily formed communities, organizations, corporations, charities, religious groups, and trade unions. It is the freedom, energy, and enthusiasm to form such groups that marks American society as unusual in the world.

All those things are actions independent of the government. It was the virtue of American government that it accepted limitations to permit the maximum space for the autonomous action of citizens and groups of citizens. After all, democracy is not defined as the ability to come together to serve the state. On one level, all countries require some such service. But on another level this is the philosophy of the modern ideological dictatorship.

Let’s consider Obama’s four uses of the word “together” to gain better understanding of his ideology:

That’s precisely what the founders left us: the power to adapt to changing times. They left us the keys to a system of self-government – the tool to do big and important things together that we could not possibly do alone. To stretch railroads and electricity and a highway system across a sprawling continent. To educate our people with a system of public schools and land grant colleges, including Ohio State. To care for the sick and the vulnerable, and provide a basic level of protection from falling into abject poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth. To conquer fascism and disease; to visit the Moon and Mars; to gradually secure our God-given rights for all our citizens, regardless of who they are, what they look like, or who they love.

Here, Obama cleverly cites cases of consensus government action—the public school system, fighting wars, and the space program–in a misleading way. Two side remarks: First, it is significant that Obama doesn’t say, “To conquer fascism and Communism.” Second, whatever one thinks on the issue, Obama’s claim that gay marriage is a “God-given right” is certainly a theological novelty.

But back to the main point. In other words, because minimal or moderate government has achieved great things, Obama illogically argues that maximum government can achieve even greater things despite the contrary evidence of history, including present-day American history. Today, government doesn’t “stretch” railroads; it blocks oil pipelines; it doesn’t promote agriculture, it refuses to give water to California farmers because of a small fish; it cripples coal mining and pumping petroleum.

It is quite true that land was granted by the government in the mid-nineteenth century to make it possible to build railroads and colleges. But once the land was given, the government stepped entirely out of the picture! Giving one item and then getting out of the way—I’m talking here about creation not regulation—is quite different from the government doing these things itself.

In fact, Obama is here stealing credit from private enterprise and turning American history on its head. The same point applies to “conquer…disease” where Obamacare marks a highly questionable extension of government power to hitherto unimaginable heights.

He continues about providing “a basic level of protection,” which is often called the safety net. But the whole point, of course, is that this idea emerged relatively late in American history and was finally enshrined in the New Deal of the 1930s and afterward.

A “basic level of protection,” however, has grown to extraordinary size, far beyond what was envisioned even in the 1960s, to the point that it threatens the sustainability of the economy and of freedoms. We are not talking any more about “abject poverty,” which the American system has made rare. The safety net has been expanded to the point–as in lavish retirement spending on public employees and “poverty” programs that mainly benefit well-paid bureaucrats– that it may be strangling the country. Obama continues:

We, the people, chose to do these things together. Because we know this country cannot accomplish great things if we pursue nothing greater than our own individual ambition.

This is a fascinating piece of propaganda. He begins by citing the Declaration of Independence—coupling himself with the Founders (because he knows this is his opponents’ main argument) and ending with a refutation of capitalism. He counters “we the people,” (the 99 percent, Democrats, those for strengthening the state) against greedy “individual ambition” (the Republicans, capitalists, those who want to keep individual freedom).The founding argument of capitalism, originally made by Adam Smith was that individual ambition could be harnessed for maximum economic progress. Few students in America today are taught to understand how this apparent contradiction has produced the world’s most democratic, prosperous, and stable societies. By Obama’s definition, however, a government bureaucrat cannot be greedy or oppressive.

Standing in Israel’s Shoes

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

What if Americans woke up to hear on the morning news that Canada had tens of thousands of missiles, many with chemical warheads, aimed at them? And that the Canadian government — a vicious enemy of the U.S. itself — was losing control of these weapons, which were in danger of falling into the hands of terrorist groups that were sworn to destroy the U.S.?

And what if, at the same time, it was reported that Mexico — whose president had recently called Americans “bloodsuckers, warmongers … descendents of apes and pigs,” and said that Mexicans should “nurse their children on hatred” for the U.S. — was descending into chaos, unable to feed itself but still, above all, obsessed with hatred for its neighbor.

If that wasn’t enough, suppose the newscaster reported that terrorists who had taken over a coastal strip of California from the Mexican border to Monterey — who had pelted the rest of the country as far as Washington D.C. and New York City with deadly missiles a few months ago — had instituted military training in high schools to produce the “next generation of resistance fighters” who would “liberate the land” occupied by those pesky Americans.

Finally, what if, say, Venezuela was developing nuclear weapons and every other day one of their officials promised to root out the ‘cancer’ that was the U.S.?

Boker tov, people, welcome to Israel.

I didn’t mention that the U.N. is planning yet another resolution condemning Israel, or that Jew- and Israel-hatred is reaching new heights worldwide, especially in Europe and of course the U.K. Or that the president of the U.S., Israel’s main ally, has nominated three more or less anti-Israel candidates for Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and CIA director.

But despite all this, Israel just completed a free and fair election — not so usual in the Middle East — in which the major issues were social and economic. Surveys (like this one last year) show Israelis to be happy overall. Israel’s economy is doing well, although there are concerns about rising inequality and a housing shortage (but there is also a recognition that these problems can and should be solved). There is a broad consensus in Israel on questions of national security, including the need to attack Iran if it is about to obtain nuclear weapons, and on the unlikelihood of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Here in the U.S., the nation is bitterly divided on left-right lines. There is no consensus on how to deal with either security or economic issues. The Congress is suffering from permanent gridlock. The economy is slowly improving, but employment is not — and that appears to represent a structural change in the kind and number of jobs available. Many states and municipalities are close to bankrupt (California and Fresno come to mind). Infrastructure is decaying and we don’t seem to have the will to fix it. The middle class is becoming harder to get into from below, and harder to stay in. Americans don’t (yet) have to worry about missile attacks from Mexico, but its prestige and ability to protect its interests abroad have fallen sharply.

Despite the existential threats, Israel is in some important ways doing better than we are. And if it succeeds in weathering its primarily external threats, it will be around for a long time. The U.S., on the other hand, while still enormously powerful, seems to have lost its way.

Visit Fresno Zionism.

The Complainers are Alive and Well in America

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

In this Shabbat’s Torah portion, we met the complainers. Among the different types of personalities and personality disorders, there are complainers. There are people who complain about everything. Wherever they are, whatever they’re doing, they always have the need to complain. “This is no good, and that’s no good. This should be done that way, and I could have done the same thing better.”

We meet them right after our incredibly miraculous salvation from the armies of Egypt, as the Egyptians are still drowning in the sea, and our spontaneous song of joy is still echoing over the wilderness mountains, the people started complaining. Not all the people. The complainers.

First they complained that there wasn’t any fresh water – as if King of the Universe, who split the sea five minutes ago, couldn’t give them a little fresh water! Then they complained against Moshe and Aharon, finding fault with the greatest leaders in the world! Then they complained about the menu, which ever since has become a very Jewish thing to do. “Waiter, this steak is too rare.” Or, “Waiter, this steak is well done.” Then, once again in the wilderness, they complained about the lack of water, accusing Moshe of trying to kill them! A little later on, they are going to start complaining about having to live in Eretz Yisrael.

I’m sure you are familiar with the type. For instance, there is no shortage of them amongst Jewish bloggers in America. Surely you’ve noticed. Some are always complaining: “This in Israel is no good, and that’s no good, the country is too secular, or the religious have too much power, you can’t make a living there, the Israelis are rude, and on and on and on and on.”

After reading this Shabbat’s Torah portion, I realized that they’re the modern-day complainers. Apparently, it’s something genetic. It’s not their fault. They can’t help it. I suppose a doctor would call it an obsessive compulsion, and a psychiatrist might term it a neurotic disorder. It could be there are medicines that can help the problem, like the drugs that doctors prescribe for just about everything else. Maybe anti-depressants would work. After all, they don’t seem like very happy people, the way they’re complaining all the time.

The only other thing I can think of that might help them is to learn Emunah, which means faith. Rabbi Kook would always say that Emunah must be learned. True faith in God doesn’t grow on trees in Brooklyn. Every Jew has Emunah deep down inside. But it must be developed. Emunah is more than eating bagels and lox and putting on tefillin. True faith in God requires learning. Not just any type of learning, but learning designed to bring a person to a living connection with God, and to put his life in line with what God wants for the Am Yisrael, the Nation of Israel.

Books like the “Kuzari” and the writings of Rabbi Kook are a good place to start. And a true reading of the Torah is the best place of all. Like they very thing that we are reading about now – how God doesn’t want us to live in foreign countries, and how He even turned the world upside down with the greatest miracles ever, to teach us this lesson and bring us to the Land of Israel where He wants us to live. But the complainers didn’t like the way God was handling things.

For example, the Spies were outstanding Torah scholars, but they were the biggest complainers of all. They believed in some things, but they didn’t believe in others. They agreed to keep Shabbat and put on tefillin, but when it came to making aliyah, they didn’t believe in God, as the Torah says, “In this matter, you did not believe in the Lord your God” (Devarim, 1:32). In the matter of going to live in Israel. They wanted to live in Brooklyn, and Chicago, and Texas instead.

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook taught:

The Gemara talks about types of “Tzaddikim who don’t believe” (Sotah 48B). They choose words of Torah and commandments, saying, “This matter is arranged properly by the Almighty. It’s very nice; it pleases me; it’s easy; I agree to abide. However, this matter is not so good.” This approach to Torah leads to dangerous consequences and heresy. There is a startling saying of our Sages in the Gemara regarding someone who says, “This precept is pleasant, and this one isn’t pleasant; this matter is pleasing to me, and this other matter is not. Everyone who chooses between the mitzvot in the Torah, saying this one he agrees with, this one he doesn’t, loses the richness of Torah” (Eruvin 64A).

So You Say You Want a US Style Constitution in Israel…

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

After you make aliyah from the United States, it’s hard not compare everything to what you’ve come to expect from your prior life.  Whether it’s people’s attitudes, prices, the government bureaucracy, and so many other things. As a lawyer who has studied American and Israeli law and someone who has been politically active in both the US and Israel, I compare Israeli and American constitutional law.

The first thing, of course, that jumps out is not that there is no constitution in Israel. That doesn’t in and of itself bother me. What bothers me is that the Supreme Court believes there is one and therefore acts as if it has the power of judicial review.

But after that, there is the fact that when Israeli legal authorities talk about a constitution they didn’t really mean a whole constitution, they mean only a bill of rights. That’s why it was so easy for Aharon Barak and the Supreme Court he led to rationalize giving themselves the power of judicial review. Israel, they thought, has basic laws on everything except a bill of rights. Now the Knesset has approved a basic law on “human dignity and liberty” so therefore the constitutional process has been competed and what are termed “basic laws” will automatically be considered superior law to regular laws.

That was how they glossed over the fact that only some basic laws have “entrenchment clauses,” which say make the law superior to later laws unless the later law is approved by a certain sized majority, and that when Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty was approved legislators were told by the Chairman of the Knesset committee on the Constitution, Law and Justice that it would not give the Supreme Court the power of judicial review.

But a constitution is much more than a bill of rights. It’s about the structure of government and how that impacts decision-making and in and of itself protects the rights of the people.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear much thought was put into the system of government in Israel – not the serious kind of political philosophy that when into the U.S. Constitution. Israel’s governmental structure is very simplistic. There are no districts, so elections are just one big free for all, with whoever can form a majority-coalition in the legislature forming the government. And then off to the side there is the Knesset. Of course, that doesn’t make politics simple. In fact it makes it unduly complicated, but in all the wrong ways.

While studying the evolution of judicial review in Israel, I read Emmanuel Rackman’s account of early Israeli constitutional decision-making – both in the provisional government and then in the Constituent Assembly, the body elected to adopted a constitution and which became Israel’s first Knesset. The main constitutional issues which were discussed and debated were the concept of the a written constitution and a bill of rights. No one could agree on those so it was agreed to disagree and make laws about the basics parts of government in “basic laws” which would later be used as the basis for a constitution.

In my op-ed in last Thursday’s Jerusalem Post, I wrote that the Disengagement – which involved a forcible mass transfer of thousands of a certain class (Jews) – was a result of the inability of the Israeli governmental system to protect citizens’ rights and ensure the adoption of sound policy, due to the fact that it lacks the checks and balances as they exist in the US constitutional system (as well as many others).

My conclusion was that,

Those who recognized the disengagement as the act of despotism it was ought to consider how our form of government affects the policies which are adopted and how it should be changed to ensure that a plan that pits soldiers against thousands of their countrymen is never approved again.

But against all my arguments and comparisons between the Israeli and American systems, first person to comment on the article argued that, “The grass really isn’t greener elsewhere. Here in the US, our one-time system of checks and balances has been largely destroyed, and we are on the fast track to financial ruin.”

That wasn’t the first time I’ve gotten such a response to a US-Israel constitution comparison. Once, while making the point about Israel’s judicial selection procedure (judges are chosen by a committee of nine, three are from the Supreme Court, two from the Knesset (one is an opposition member), two from the government and three from the bar association who side with the judges) and how it was inferior to the American judicial selection procedure, in which judges are more tied to the people since they are chosen by the political branches, a distinguished ivy-league educated law professor remarked about how judicial committee hearings in the Senate can be a joke, so perhaps it should not be so emulated.

That all may be true. The US system has its dirty moments. It’s the nature of democracy and politics in any system that politicians will play to the cameras and their base for popularity and in so doing make a mockery of themselves and potentially lead to bad decisions.

Nevertheless, the US system is quite remarkable and renowned around the world. It has also served the US quite well. When it was first adopted it was not even agreed that the US was to comprise a nation, but in the framer’s vision that’s what the country became.  And it stayed that way despite deep-seeded differences between the North and the South, which only turned to civil war once (which was perhaps inevitable) – and the Union – i.e. the United States as bound by the Constitution won out.

Senators who might make a show for the public over a judicial nomination dispute are doing just that – making a show. The rhetoric is just the public face for whatever  actual reasons they are voting for or against the judge, reasons which may differ from time to time, but it’s still a story as old time.

And the US may be facing a recession, maybe one day another depression, I don’t know. But something tells me – that the US will come out alright in the end. I believe it will remain the world’s foremost superpower for decades to come, if not much longer.  (One of those things that informs my opinion on this is an excellent essay, “The World America Made,” by Robert Kagan).

As for Israel – thank God, Israel has survived and done pretty well since it’s birth. But I wouldn’t thank it’s current system. Let’s face it, people here don’t vote for representatives. Party bosses and power players do. The judges choose themselves. The government controls the legislature. It’s just a no good, very bad, terrible system.

For Israel’s survival and lack of devolution into civil war or national destruction at the hands of our enemies, I would thank those who had the foresight not to let things get out of hand – such as Menachem Begin, when he did not allow the Irgun to retaliate for the Saison or the Altalena, who ensured that Israel would have a democracy instead of a one-party dominated system, and whose victory stopped the two-state solution from being implemented (Labor had by that point endorsed withdrawal from all disputed territories).

More generally the culprit of our prosperity is the ingenuity and persistence of the Jewish people, that, and by God’s grace do we go on. Those things will keep Israel around despite whatever terrible decisions are wrought by it’s current governing system. Not that anyone should rely on that – bad things do happen when the citizenry is apathetic, regardless of divine preference (recall the joke about the Rabbi praying for God to save him, but every time someone comes a long to rescue him he says he would rather wait for God to do it) or our national qualities.

Making these comparisons is not to simply to complain and let out frustration, or to put the US on a pedestal (though denying American strength, success and generosity is just being intellectually dishonest) or conjure up fear that if we don’t change things the state will be destroyed some time soon (the direction that many Israel-related political arguments take).

When it comes to our national prosperity, we should never shy from imagining the ideal and advocating for its realization.  And while we’ve done relatively amazing compared to the odds stacked against us, life in Israel and Israeli policy making is still far from ideal. If we can prosper even with this system and in our geopolitical situation, imagine how much better we could do with a system of government that could properly reflect and channel our exceptional national ingenuity and will.

Saying America was Punished with Sandy Hook is Blasphemous

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

On CNN last week, I was asked by Ashleigh Banfield to respond to the comments of Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association who suggested that Americans were to blame for the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, because they had abandoned God.

“The fact is that is the ultimate statement of heresy,” I said. “This is not a religious man… Not only is he [Bryan Fischer] wrong that we kicked God out of our lives, the United States and the American people are the most righteous people in the world. We have spent endless blood and treasure to defend complete strangers, women from being beaten up by the Taliban. Our soldiers died for those people. God is on our money. We give more charity than any nation on earth. We deserve better. I am tired of people maligning the American people and saying we deserve to suffer. This is the most religious country in the Western world.”

The Raw Story reported that this sentiment is becoming widespread. “Numerous figures on the Christian right, including James Dobson and Mike Huckabee, have linked the horrific mass killing of 20 young children to issues such as prayer in school, abortion and same sex marriage. They claim these issues prove the United States no longer respects God.”

A day later, Fischer struck back on his radio show, claiming I had ‘demonized’ God:

“Shmuley Boteach, a Jewish Rabbi and  [CNN] gives him ample air time to demonize both God and me! So he demonizes God, this whole thing is God’s fault. We need to defy God. We need to challenge God. We need to demand of God. We need to blame this on God. He’s all powerful, could have stopped it, and he didn’t do it, and its His fault.”

“It’s interesting,” Fischer continued in his attack, “that… the theology I’m drawing from is from the Old Testament… I wonder whether he has read his own bible.”

Well, Mr. Fischer, I have read. We don’t call it the Old Testament, as there is nothing old or outdated about it. We call it the Hebrew Bible and this is what it says: “The hidden things are for God to understand, but the revealed things are for us and our children.” Why God allows good people to suffer is a secret known to him. But we human beings ought to have no interest in knowing the secret. What we want, what we demand, is that the suffering stop completely so that God and humanity can finally be reconciled, after a long history of human travail and agony, in a bright and blessed future, bereft of suffering, absent of tragedy, and filled with blessing.

In the face of catastrophes there are always those who are trying to divine the mind of God when really their role as humans is to argue with God. That’s exactly what the name Israel means, He who wrestles with God. Isn’t that what Abraham does with the news of the impending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, where he raises his fist to the heavens and proclaims, “Will the judge of the entire earth not Himself practice justice?” Would God really allow the righteous to die along with the wicked?

Is this not also what Moses says to God after he is told that the Jews will be annihilated for the sin of the Golden Calf? If you do so, says the great prophet, “then I beseech you, erase my name from the Torah You have written.”

And when God had earlier sent Moses to free the Jews from Egypt but Pharaoh had instead intensified their suffering and servitude, Moses, defiant, says to God, “Why have you behaved wickedly to this people, and why have you sent me… You have thus far not saved Your people.”

And, in the New Testament, as I argue in Kosher Jesus, Jesus does the same thing. Dying on the cross, he cries out in agony, “My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?” He is defiant against the death sentence imposed on him by the brutal and wicked Romans. He asks why God has not intervened to rescue him.

The role of human beings in the face of seeming divine miscarriages of justice is to hold God accountable and demand clemency for humanity. God is all powerful. He does not need a defense attorney. But humans are fragile and vulnerable and they need all the protection they can get.

January 1st is Not New Year’s

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Imagine the Jews wanted to take down the giant Xmas tree in Rockefeller Center, or the huge Xmas tree on the White House lawn! First of all, no Jew in America would have the guts to demand such a thing. But that’s what happened this week in Jerusalem. Some clown at the Jerusalem Municipality gave his approval to place a Xmas tree at the entrance to the Old City’s Jaffa Gate. Residents of the Jewish Quarter complained, along with a representative of the Shas party, and the Xmas was removed. That’s one further example of the difference between living in a foreign country and our own Jewish State. Here in Israel, public Xmas trees are out.

Let’s face it. America is a Xtian country. So are most of the countries of Europe – that is, where Islam hasn’t yet taken over. Yesterday was the fast day of the 10th of Tevet, marking the beginning of the siege on Jerusalem. But the siege continues even today. Look how all the countries of the world condemned Israel for wanting to expand building in Jerusalem. They want to keep us under siege, in compartmented areas of the city, without a chance to grow.

Who are they, the Europeans and Americans who go bananas every time one of their spy satellites spots a Jew in Jerusalem clearing ground to build a house? The same Crusaders of old, now dressed in suits and ties. They don’t want the Jews getting any stronger in Jerusalem, because all of humankind, in its deepest unconscious psyche, knows that the nation which controls Jerusalem is the Chosen Nation, chosen by God to bring His word to the world, and they don’t want it to be the Jews and our Torah, because they want to be free to continue paying lip service to God while carrying on with their fornicating, robbery, and murder.

And while we’re talking about the upcoming pagan holidays, we should all remember, that for Jews, New Year’s is Rosh HaShanah, a time of judgment and prayer – not drunken orgies. Celebrating January 1st as the beginning of a new year, in the manner of the gentiles, is following after their ways, and a practice that all pious Jews should avoid. After all, for a Jew, counting the years from the birth of the founder of Xtianity is absurd, to say the least, and sadly schizophrenic. Think about it. Why count the years from the birth of Jezeus? The world was around a long time before he appeared. Why mark that as the beginning of history? Why identify with Xtians? Why should the calendar start with them?

But that’s what happens when a Jew is cast out from his own Jewish Land and compelled to wander among the gentiles. He begins to identify with the culture around him. It’s a sad but natural phenomenon. That’s what happened to the Jews in Egypt too. They descended to Egypt just to sojourn there during the famine, but they ended up staying. That’s what happens. It’s happened again and again, from Berlin to Brooklyn. We forget that our real home is in Israel.

We learn this from the end of this Shabbat’s Torah portion of “Vayigash.” The verse tells us: “Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt in the region of Goshen; they possessed property in it and they were fruitful and multiplied” (Bereshit, 47:27).

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook would say, “They settled and sank,” referring to our propensity to get stuck in galut. Citing the commentary of the “Kli Yakar,” Rabbi Kahane explains that this verse is a condemnation of their behavior. Hashem had told Avraham that his descendents would be temporary “aliens” in a foreign land, but they sought to become permanent settlers by acquiring property and building villas for themselves – just like we see today in many Diaspora communities.

Interestingly, the Hebrew for “they possessed property in it, “ויאחזו” is written in the passive form, literally meaning that “they were possessed by it.” That is the situation in galut. We become possessed by the foreign lands and cultures where we live. We come to identify with foreign languages, customs, values, holidays, and nationalities – very much like the Jews who were slain in the plague of darkness in Egypt, a staggering 80% of the Jewish community, because they didn’t want to leave Egypt and go on aliyah to Eretz Yisrael. They actually liked Egypt! Would you believe it? Just like Jews like Brooklyn and Berlin.

While Yaakov only came to Egypt to temporarily sojourn in the land, his descendants let themselves become gripped by it. This is why Yaakov gave his children the order to bury him in Israel – so they would never forget that Eretz Yisrael was their homeland, not Egypt, America, France, Canada, Mexico, or Australia, and that Rosh HaShanah was their New Year’s and not January 1st.

I can understand how an assimilated Jew who doesn’t study Torah could come to love a foreign Xtian place – but for a religious Jew who believes in the Torah, I simply cannot understand it at all. Can you?

America Has No Foreign Policy

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

The United States of America has a State Department, it has row after row of people who speak badly every language from Arabic to Swahili badly, and it has rich donors who take on the task of acting as ambassadors to some foreign country every four to eight years. There are think-tanks, actual tanks and institutes dedicated to turning out papers on foreign policy. And despite all this, or perhaps because of all this, the country still has no foreign policy.

Americans are by nature isolationist. American leaders, since Woodrow Wilson dumped ashes from his pipe on the Oval Office carpets and dumped America into the international game of empires, are bent on getting involved in world politics. Unfortunately everything they know about world politics comes from the back of cereal boxes. And yes that includes our current precious genius who comes to us from eating dog and living the life of a privileged member of Indonesia’s upper classes, but knows almost as little about the world outside Chicago, as he does about economics.

The big problem with American foreign policy is that there isn’t one. Our current foreign policy can be boiled down to three words. “Don’t Hate Us.” The current administration has introduced an innovative fourth word. “Please.”

It’s a long way from a century ago when American leaders still had no foreign policy, besides warning European countries to stay out of their hemisphere, but had begun to think that being involved in the affairs of other countries was a prerequisite for global good citizenship.

Theodore Roosevelt won a Nobel Prize for trying to get the Russians and Japanese to end a disastrous war in which the Japanese had the suicide determination and the Russians had the machine guns, but barely broke even.

Roosevelt, like many of his successors, had no true foreign policy beyond articulating American greatness on the world stage. But the deeper those successors involved themselves in international politics, the more they came to see American greatness as the obstacle, not the point. The more the United States became involved in organizing global alliances to hold back one threat or another, the more that same national greatness began to be seen as an obstacle to maximizing those alliances.

A hundred years ago, American presidents thought that their country should be a world power because of the manifest destiny of its national greatness. A century later they were minimizing that national greatness to preserve world power status.

Roosevelt’s “Pedicaris alive or Raisuli dead” became “Let’s Pull Together” and “Don’t Hate Us” during the Cold War. And today the motto, in a world where a whole lot of people want to do it, is, “Please Don’t Kill Us.”

The United States does not appease in pursuit of its objectives, appeasement has become the objective. Being hated is the ultimate national security threat. Being loved is the ultimate national security objective. These aren’t even sarcastic observations. They are actual policy.

CVE (Countering Violent Extremism) through outreach to Muslims is our foreign policy and like global warming and gay rights, it encompasses every single area of our government, to the absurd extent that NASA’s top priority under the dog-eater-in-chief was designated as improving Muslim self-esteem. NASA’s former priority of boosting American self-esteem was no longer appropriate because that would just make people hate us even more and make us act in such a way that they would hate us.

Americans and American leaders now both want the same thing. To be left alone. But American leaders remain convinced that the best way to be left alone is to appease those who might want to attack their country by minimizing national power and contributing more lunch money to their international cause of free lunches.

America is often accused of bullying other nations, but our policies are not those of a bully, they are those of his victim cowering in the corner with broken glasses and smeared tears, one hand extended with his crumpled up lunch money inside. Our lunch money total comes into the many billions, but as our bullies and their advocates remind us, we’re rich enough to be able to afford it.

The kid in the corner has been bullied enough that his only policy is avoiding another incident. That is our foreign policy, driven by CVE or Here’s Some More Halal Lunch Money, finding ways of getting the bullies to leave us alone. Even the more militant elements of our military campaign are defensive, ripe with ways to convince the bullies to leave us alone, using drones to minimize civilian casualties and nation building exercises to turn our bullies into friendly peaceloving countries.

Reactive foreign policies are a recipe for defeat, but America has never had any foreign policy beyond progressive world citizenship and coalition building against global threats. And that has made American into the world’s social worker and the world’s policeman for so long that it has hardly any sense of what it might want for itself, as a country.

America is still involved in global citizenship projects even though the dictatorships who are the plurality of the global polity and the progressives who define global citizenship innately hate it. while working hard at maintaining global coalitions that do not exist against a threat that not even it is prepared to name. Whatever relevance these had, they no longer have any relevance when the conventional clash of nations of the Cold War gave way to the ride of the barbarians in the Islamic Wars of Terror.

The United States has been suckered into playing the same game as Israel. The impossible game of winning wars without alienating anyone. And that game is played by not winning wars and being more hated than if they had won all those wars. If we are forced to fight because we are hated, then the only way to avoid fighting is not be hated which means fighting just enough to survive, but not enough to earn us any more than the minimum amount of hate balanced against the minimum amount of survival. And if we win, maybe they’ll leave us alone. If they don’t, we’ll fight back even less.

During the Cold War the United States sacrificed its economy, its trade balance and its manufacturing sector to score coalition points and contain Communism. With Communism defeated and capitalism thriving in Russia and China, the United States is now stripping away civil liberties to counter Islamic terrorism. But that doesn’t just mean strip searches in airports, it means outlawing anything that offends Muslims. And if we survive that, and the Muslim world becomes a mecca of free speech, then we’ll have won yet another Pyrrhic victory at our own expense.

Countering external threats is a legitimate foreign policy interest, but it cannot be the only interest. That way leads to a purely reactive foreign policy and down the garden path to Stockholm Syndrome politics that accept responsibility for the actions of an aggressor to maintain the illusion of control over his actions. Our leaders, the ones who eat dogs and the ones who just pose for photos with them, are already there. If we reach European critical velocity, then we’ll be there as an entire nation, not just members of our chattering and spending classes.

America needs a foreign policy that is bigger than its defensive needs but smaller than progressive ambitions of global citizenship. It is a foreign policy that cannot be defensive or altruistic, but that actually resurrects the long buried question of American interests, rather than American obligations or needs. And to get there, the country’s policymakers have to get in touch with their 19th Century selves and stop asking what America is obligated to do for the world or what it desperately needs from the world, but what it would like to do with the world.

That is the way that Russia or China think. It’s the way that most countries, from the largest rivals to the smallest islands, approach the outside world, not as a place that they are obligated to or whom they dare not offend, but as a place for extending their ambitions and sense of self into. That does not mean going on a spree of territorial expansionism, necessarily, but that too would be a healthier way to function than the listless apathy of appeasement that has overtaken American foreign policy.

A foreign policy is assertive. It seeks to gain things, rather than to minimize losing things. It is not as concerned with the feelings of the world, as it is with the feelings of its own citizens. To the question of what it wants, it does not answer with the time-honored response of Miss America contestants, to make the world a better place, but rather it answers to make America better, bigger, richer and stronger. That answer is not idealistic, it is realistic. It is how other countries expect us to think and it is how they react no matter how altruistic our policies may be.

American foreign policy needs goals and horizons to gain definition. It needs to want something more than a way to avert the next big explosion or to feed the hungry people of Warlordistan to have a foreign policy that is based on substance, rather than cobwebs of fears and dreams. It needs to stand not for a better world, but for a better, stronger and richer America.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/daniel-greenfield/america-has-no-foreign-policy/2012/11/29/

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