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Posts Tagged ‘National Review Online’

Daniel Pipes: Reflections on Current Hamas-Israel Hostilities

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Two observations about the hostilities that began on Nov. 10:

(1) The old Arab-Israeli wars were military clashes, the recent ones are political clashes. The wars of 1948-49, 1967, and 1973 were life-and-death struggles for the Jewish state. But the wars of 2006, 2008-09, and now 2012 are media events in which Israeli victory on the military battlefield is foreordained and the struggle is to win public opinion. Opedshave replaced bullets, social media have replaced tanks. Will Israel prevail in arguing that its enemy initiated offensive action? Or will those enemies, Hamas or Hezbollah, convince observers that Israel is an illegitimate regime whose recourse to force is criminal? The war must be fought primarily as amedia event.

(2) If Hamas knows it cannot defeat the Israel Defense Forces and will get a bloody nose for its efforts, it obviously has motives other than victory in mind. What might those be? Several come to mind:

  • Test the waters in the aftermath of Barack Obama’s reelection.
  • Rouse public opinion against Israel and make it pay a price internationally.
  • Refute accusations by Palestinian Islamic Jihad that it has abandoned “resistance.”
  • Remind the Palestinian Authority, as it seeks statehood at the United Nations, who controls Gaza.
  • Rile up Israeli Arabs.
  • Preempt Egyptian plans to destroy Gaza tunnels, as Cairo cannot be seen helping Israel in a time of crisis.

(November 15, 2012)

Nov. 16, 2012 update: Readers have suggested a number of other incentives for Hamas to absorb a pounding by the IDF, which I list here along with my responses:

  • Distract attention from the Iranian nuclear buildup or the civil war in Syria. But this distraction will last for days or weeks, while the Iranian and Syrian crises last years, so I don’t see that it brings significant benefits.
  • Helps Netanyahu in the elections, thereby lessening Labor’s prospects and the possibility of an agreement with the Palestinian Authority. That makes good sense but strikes me as a bit too Machiavellian for an organization, Hamas, under acute stress.
  • Test the level of Egyptian support. Useful information, but is it worth getting bloodied for this?

Originally published at DanielPipes.org and the National Review Online on November 15th, 2012.

Daniel Pipes: Why I am Voting Republican

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Note the title is not “Why I am voting for Mitt Romney.” That’s because the two major American parties, Democratic and Republican, represent contrasting outlooks and you vote for the one or other of them, not for a personality. The presidential candidate is captain of the team but its many other players act autonomously. The past half-century has seen a sharpening of the divide between the parties’ philosophical consistency which I (unlike most observers) see as a positive development; who needs Rockefeller Republicans, wets, or RINOs? And ticket-splitting increases gridlock.

I vote Republican because I support the party’s core message of individualism, patriotism, and respect for tradition, in contrast to the core Democratic message of dependence, self-criticism, and “progress.” I am inspired by the original reading of the U.S. Constitution, by ideals of personal freedom and American exceptionalism. I vote for small government, for a return of power to the states, for a strong military, and an assertive pursuit of national interests.

And on my special issues, the Middle East and Islamism, Republicans consistently outperform Democrats. Extensive polling and many congressional actions establish this pattern for the Arab-Israeli conflict and a similar contrast exists also on other foreign policy issues, such as the Iranian nuclear buildup, energy policy, and the Arab upheavals. As for the new totalitarian ideology, Islamism, Democrats show a marked softness, just as they previously did vis-à-vis the communist one.

Finally, I worry that Barack Obama will do far more damage in a second term than he could in his first, that Obamacare will prove just the start of what, before his inauguration, I called the “fundamental restructuring of the relationship between state and society such as occurred under three of his Democratic predecessors of the past century – Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson.”

And so I am voting the straight Republican ticket and urge readers to do likewise. (November 4, 2012)

Originally published at the National Review Online and at Daniel Pipes.org on Nov. 4th, 2012.

Daniel Pipes: Superficiality Reigns Before the Election

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

It happens every four years, as U.S. presidential elections roll around: I feel like a stranger.

That’s because news reports blare out what’s not of interest: trivial statistics (171,000 jobs added in October; jobless rate up 0.1 percent to 7.9 percent), biographical irrelevancies (claims that Romney outsourced jobs to other countries when at Bain Capital), and forgettable gaffes (Obama saying that “Voting is the best revenge”).

This limited discussion misses two main points: First, the quite contrary philosophies of Democrats and Republicans. Where’s the discussion of equality vs. liberty, the federal government vs. federalism, much less about topics like education, immigration and Islamism? What are the candidates’ criteria for appointing federal judges, their ways to solve the debt crisis, or their guidelines for the use of force abroad? What about the scandalous administration reaction to the events in Benghazi on Sep. 11, 2012? It almost seems that the candidates tacitly agreed to ignore the most important and interesting issues.

Second, the debate ignores that the candidates are not isolated individuals but heads of large teams. Who are the candidates for secretary of state, defense, and treasury, and for attorney general? Who are likely heads of the National Security Council and the Council of Economic Advisers? What are the implications of each team taking office?

Let’s hope that voters can see their way through this miasma of superficiality. (November 3, 2012).

Originally published at National Review Online and DanielPipes.org on November 3, 2012.

Romney Stumbles on Foreign Policy

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

The final presidential debate focused disproportionately on the Middle East. Four of the six segments were on the Middle East, just two on other topics (one about the U.S. role in the world, the other about China). Egypt was mentioned 11 times, Libya 12 times, Iraq 22 times, Pakistan 25 times, Syria 28 times, Afghanistan 30 times, Israel 34 times, and Iran 47 times. In contrast, the European crisis got no mention, nor did India, Germany, Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, or Australia.

Barack Obama has a weak record in the Middle East, but one would not learn this from the debate, where Mitt Romney praised Obama’s achievements (“It’s wonderful that Libya seems to be making some progress”), agreed with Obama more than he disagreed, and rarely pointed out his failings. Presumably, Romney took this mild approach to establish his likability, competence, and suitability to serve as commander-in-chief.

When asked about Egypt, Romney digressed to the need for a strong U.S. economy. When asked about American’s role in the world, he touted the achievements of 4th graders in Massachusetts during his governorship. Perhaps his recurring emphasis on the economy will win over the elusive undecideds, but it left this viewer frustrated.

The Libya topic was Romney’s great surprise and his missed opportunity. Asked a softball question about the mistakes made in the aftermath of the attack on Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, he talked about better education, gender equality and other worthy goals – but ignored the opportunity to establish that the Obama administration is not only inept but engaged in fabrications. Most agonizingly, Romney congratulated Obama for taking out Osama bin Laden without noting that this did limited good, for Al-Qaeda still had the ability to attack and kill Americans in Benghazi.

In terms of policy, Obama made statements about Iran worthy of note: “As long as I’m president of the United States Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. … A nuclear Iran is a threat to our national security, and it is a threat to Israel’s national security. … We are going to take all options necessary to make sure [the Iranians] don’t have a nuclear weapon.” Oddly, Romney replied with a detailed program of actions (such as indicting Ahmedinejad under the Genocide Convention) but did not make parallel statements of intent.

Like senators who vote leftwards for six years but then campaign as moderates during election season, Obama presented himself in this and the other debates as profoundly different from the president he has been. Someone not versed in his ideology and his record would not realize his distaste for a powerful United States. He sounded like a nationalist, making punchy patriotic statements (“I said if I got bin Laden in our sights I would take that shot”), speaking with a smooth eloquence, and showing himself at ease and in control. The question is, how many people will be fooled by this performance? (October 22, 2012)

Oct. 23, 2012 update: Having been criticized by some for my response to the 2nd debate, it might be useful to explain what I am and am not doing in these analyses.

* Although sympathetic to Romney, I am not flacking for his campaign. I write to express my sincere opinion and assume that readers want that from me.

* My opinions focus on the Middle East dimension of the debate, rather than its possible impact on the presidential race. Perhaps this debate stopped Romney’s momentum, perhaps it did not; that is not my topic.

Originally published at DanielPipes.org and the National Review Online, The Corner October 22, 2012 and updated on October 23. 

Romney Channels George W. Bush’s Middle East Policy

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Mitt Romney gave a generally fine speech today on the Middle East. Sensibly, he criticized the Obama administration for its Benghazi shenanigans, for the “daylight” with Israel, fecklessness vis-à-vis Tehran, and the cuts in military spending. Very justifiably, he called it “time to change course in the Middle East.”

But I worry about three specifics.

First, Romney’s policy ideas echo the rosy-tinted themes of George W. Bush’s failed policies in the region. Flush with optimism for Afghanistan, Iraq, and “Palestine,” Bush spoke a language that now seems from another world.

For example, almost exactly nine years ago he predicted “a free Iraq [that] will be an example of freedom’s power throughout the Middle East.” I espy shades of this otherworldliness in Romney’s pronouncement that the Middle East hosts “a struggle between liberty and tyranny, justice and oppression, hope and despair,” his goal to build democratic institutions in Egypt, and his dream of “a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security” with Israel. These are slogans, not serious policy.

Second, except in reference to the attack in Benghazi, Romney pointedly avoids mention of Islam, Islamism, or jihad. Rather, he refers to “terrorists who use violence to impose their dark ideology,” avoiding the real issue and portending problems ahead.

Third, his readiness to jump into the Syrian morass worries me. While one can hardly disagree with Romney’s call to “identify and organize those members of the opposition who share our values and ensure they obtain the arms they need,” those friendly members of the opposition are, in fact, a bedraggled few. Operationally, Romney is prepared to arm the Turkish-allied Islamists, a long-term prospect even more frightening than the Iranian-allied Assad regime now in power.

In office, I hope that Romney will shake the GWB-era illusions, not repeat them.

This blog posting originally published at DanielPipes.org, cross-posted from National Review Online, The Corner on October 8th, 2012. 

Experts: Israel’s New Bunker-Busters Can Take Out Iran’s Nuke Plants

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

In an article titled “Israel has the power to knock out Iran’s nuclear facilities” published in the NY York Daily News, Berlin-based reporter Benjamin Weinthal argues that Israel has the military capability to launch a successful attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Weinthal, who is a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and has reported on European-Iranian relations for The Wall Street Journal Europe, Slate, The New Republic, The Weekly Standard, National Review Online, Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post and Der Tagesspiegel, says Israel should be able to attack Iran’s facilities successfully on its own,  largely because President Barack Obama has made good on President GW Bush’s promise, and “delivered untold numbers of GBU-28 bunker busters, which can tunnel through concrete before exploding deep underground. President Bush is also rumored to have sold Israel several midair refueling aircraft.”

According to Weinthal, “the vast military complex at Parchin, where Iran denied access to International Atomic Energy Agency inspections last month, has more than 100 buildings, many of which lie deep underground. The uranium enrichment complex at Natanz consists of both buried and ground-level buildings.

“A second enrichment facility is buried deep into the side of a mountain at Fordo, near the holy city of Qom. Burrowed under 300 feet of rock, the Fordo facility is located in a hardened tunnel.”

This is where successive bunker-busting attacks will be required, using GBU-28 bunker busters to knock out Iran’s entire nuclear program.

According to the Military Analysis Network, the Guided Bomb Unit-28 (GBU-28) is a 5,000-pound laser-guided conventional munition that uses a 4,400-pound penetrating warhead. The bombs are modified Army artillery tubes, weigh 4,637 pounds, and contain 630 pounds of high explosives. The operator illuminates a target with a laser designator and then the missile is guided to a spot of laser energy reflected from the target.

“Writing in last month’s daily Die Welt, Hans Rühle, who directed the planning department of the German Defense Ministry from 1982 to 1988, expressed almost supreme confidence that Israel’s Air Force could obliterate Iran’s main nuclear sites,” reports Weinthal. “He believes that with 25 of its 87 F-15 fighter planes and a smaller deployment of F-16 jets, the Israelis could destroy all six of Iran’s key sites.”

When asked by the Jewish Press whether he shared Rühle’s assessment, in light of the military hardware required for the mission and the logistical difficulties that can befall such a complicated operation, Weinthal said:  “I would not describe [Rühle's] views as excessively optimistic.  He clearly identifies the herculean task of destroying the Fordo plant, an enrichment facility that is buried deep into the side of a mountain … Israel’s Air Force has had a singleness of purpose over a period of almost four years in terms of confronting Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities. And, contrary to the efforts by the U.S. Administration last month to undermine Israel’s military capacity to perform complex, long-range strikes, Israel’s pilots have the technology and firepower to obliterate Iran’s key facilities, with a view toward significantly setting  back Tehran’s nuclear program.”

“The one-two punch of surgical military strikes targeting Iran’s primary nuclear sites — coupled with a new round of hard-hitting economic sanctions—might just topple the regime,” Weinthal added.

Ideally, he concluded, “the best of all possible remedies would be a combined military operation to decimate Iran’s 25 to 30 military and nuclear sites, launched by a coalition involving the U.S. , the EU, Israel and perhaps some of the panic-stricken Arab countries, like Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Iran’s nuclear program is, after all,  an intolerable threat to the EU and the Sunni countries in the region.  It seems to me a military strike ought to be merged with an economic regime-change strategy. Iran’s clerical rulers are wedded to their nuclear arms program. Israel and its Western allies can, in the final analysis, only solve the nuclear crisis through the replacement of Iran’s reactionary and jingoistic leadership with a democratic government.

“Unfortunately, the crucial need to support the pro-democracy movement in Iran is vanishing from the policy and military discussions about Iran’s atomic weapons systems .”

Arab Like Me

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

There are two kinds of Arabs in this world. Those who hate Jews, and those who don’t. And in my life, I have met more of the former than the latter.

I am not proud to say that. Arabs will not like me for admitting it. But it is true. And it is something I wish the Obama administration understood. It is something Americans should know as the “Arab Spring” enters its second year.

I didn’t know much about any of this as a Lebanese kid growing up in New Jersey. But I found out about it when I wrote my first pro-Israel column for my college paper as a young student journalist.

I defended Israel on some point I’ve long forgotten, but what I’ll never forget is the backlash I received from fellow Arabs. Some were Americans, others were students from Arab countries, many of whom I counted as friends.

First came the letters to the editor, then the personal insults. It was as if I’d broken a secret code I didn’t know existed. Some secret blood oath, which goes something like this: Arabs don’t speak unkindly of Arabs in public, or kindly about Israel.

The backlash stunned me. I pondered the pounding I had taken, and floundered a bit. I even thought for a short time of writing something negative about Israel the next time I had a chance, just to balance things out and reestablish my Arab bona fides.

One friend accused me of being a self-hating Arab. He explained to me that I was exploiting my ancestry to ingratiate myself with white America and the Jews who controlled white America.

I explained to him that I was white. And that I was an American. And that I didn’t believe that Jews controlled America. The Jewish men I knew had a hard enough time controlling their own families! But nothing I said helped relieve the tension, not even my stab at humor.

I also explained that many of my Jewish friends did not like my column. Most were liberals from New York or northern New Jersey who assumed I was with them on the politics of the Middle East, that I was in agreement with the governing thesis that drives most Arabs and liberal Jews: that it is Israel that is the problem in the region, not the Palestinians, and not the Arab world itself.

I also explained to him that I was mostly Lebanese, but also part German and part Italian, and that I was raised by parents who didn’t much care for the whole notion of hyphenated America. They taught me to think for myself, and have the courage to challenge authority. Even theirs, if I could make the case.

The fact is, Arabs don’t all look alike or think alike. But we are often pushed into a kind of groupthink, a kind of self-censorship that hinders our development and our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

We are not a universal group. But some of us believe in a simple universal truth: that every Arab deserves to live in freedom, wherever he or she might call home. Some of us want Arab countries to be more like America and Israel, places where the individual can flourish.

Say those words to many Arabs and they are shocked and angered. Soon, words like imperialist are thrown about, and the subject turns to Israel. Always, it seems, it turns to Israel.

Why the anger when I hint that America and Israel might have something to teach the Arab world? I thought about it for the longest time, and only recently stumbled upon the answer.

It is all about Arab self-doubt. It is all tied to a profound lack of cultural self-confidence, and a deep-seated fear that maybe, just maybe, Arabs won’t be very good at the self-governance thing. That Arab nations won’t be capable of building democratic cultures that engender the flourishing of human freedom, and that these nations won’t have the ability to tap the God-given talents of their people the way Americans and Israelis do. That maybe, just maybe, the Arab world will never measure up to America or Israel.

Better, goes the logic, to cling to anger over the plight of the Palestinians. Better to cling to international policy disputes and to a deep-seated hatred of Israel. Better to play the role of victim, and the role of self-righteous critic, than to do the hard work of lifting up the conditions of your people.

An Arab American friend of mine who works for a large NGO is a case in point. He is Jordanian, he’s well educated, and he speaks five languages. But mention the word Israel and watch his blood boil immediately. He will go into a lengthy diatribe about the injustices perpetrated against the Palestinians by Israel. When Prime Minister Netanyahu’s name is mentioned, I worry that he will have a seizure on the spot. Why is this? Why is all of his passion, all of his anger and rage, directed at this one country, this one people?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/arab-like-me/2012/02/22/

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