Hizballah

Really, I don’t care if there is an American ambassador in Damascus. It’s true, given the environment, that he might be shot by terrorists. But, otherwise, why not? We had U.S. diplomats in Tokyo, Berlin and Rome until just after Pearl Harbor. Of course, they did no good. But probably, they also did no harm—except prolonging the illusion that America was at peace with the host countries.  Why doesn't the administration just say that we are returning to our embassy in Syria because Syria is a player in the Middle East?

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The Scribbler

If you’re a journalist, chances are you’ve had some pretty low moments in the last few years, as your industry has imploded all around you. But, in your darkest hours, you were always able to console yourself with one thought: At least I’m not Tucker Carlson. Just consider his bad run. It started in October 2004, when Jon Stewart went on CNN’s “Crossfire,” co-hosted by Carlson, and accused the show of “hurting America,” while making fun of Carlson’s trademark bow tie and calling him a “dick”--all to the laughter and applause of the studio audience.

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Not long ago, Andrew Sullivan had ultra-hawkish views on Israel and the Middle East. The problem as he saw it, was very simple: The Muslim world was anti-Semitic and wanted to kill all the Jews. Naive Western governments pushed innocent Israelis to make peace, when the only answer was force. Here are some excerpts from an August 2001 column he wrote: [T]he notion of a negotiable peace with the murdering hoodlums who run the PLO was always a fantasy.

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Something Much Darker

I. “Trying to explain the doctrine of the Trinity to readers of The New Republic is not easy.” On June 2, 1944, W.H. Auden penned that sentence in a letter to Ursula Niebuhr. On January 26, 2010, Andrew Sullivan posted it as the “quote for the day” on his blog. Displaced and unglossed quotations are always in some way mordant, and bristle smugly with implications. Let us see what this one implies. Auden was at Swarthmore when he wrote his letter to his friend.

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United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, against which I warned long ago, passed unanimously on August 11, 2006. Two days later, the Israeli cabinet approved the motion 24-0--but with one astute minister abstaining. For whatever it is worth, I thought (and wrote) that the restrictions on Hezbollah (and, more than inferentially, on both Syria and Iran) meant less than nothing.

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“The cruel God of the Jews has you beaten too.”--Racine An interview by Joe Klein in Time magazine is hardly a historical event. But, when the interview is with Barack Obama, it lays claim to some newsworthiness. This is especially true when it is ballyhooed as a firstanniversary event. Since, moreover, (right after awarding himself good grades on Al Qaeda in Yemen and Somalia) it’s clear that Obama wanted to make a point: “The other area which I think is worth noting is that the Middle East peace process has not moved forward.

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The Furrows of Algeria

The German Mujahid By Boualem Sansal Translated by Frank Wynne (Europa Editions, 240 pp., $15) I. From the terrible Algerian slaughter, and its terrible silence, comes this small tale, told by an officer of the special forces who broke with “Le Pouvoir” of his own country and sought asylum in France. It is the autumn of 1994, deep into the season of killing. An old and simple Algerian woman, accompanied by two of her children, comes to the army barracks, to the very building where the torturers did their grim work, in search of her husband and her son.

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And they are Abbas Milani, Nader Mousavizadeh, a few others, amongst whom there is the controversial but very insightful Michael Ledeen. The conventional wisdom, frankly, is almost never a conclusion drawn from facts, but a conclusion drawn from temperament. I suppose this was the case with Barack Obama, who was sure that the ayatollahs and their president would negotiate on the basis of his sweet reason. Here’s a piece posted by Michael Ledeen on the Web at 8:25 p.m.

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Bye Bye, Dubai

I haven't seen anything by Tom Friedman or Fareed Zakaria about Dubai. But who knows? Maybe they are confiding to their diaries, although I don't think their type enjoys diaries. (I don't like them either, except the diaries of others.) Anyway, there's nothing good to say about Dubai, and Tom and Fareed don't like to displease their friends.

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Derisionist History

Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations By Avi Shlaim (Verso, 392 pp., $34.95) Avi Shlaim burst upon the scene of Middle Eastern history in 1988, with the publication of Collusion Across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine. Before that, as a young lecturer at Reading University in England, he had produced two books, British Foreign Secretaries Since 1945 (1977) and The United States and the Berlin Blockade, 1948–1949 (1983), and several revealing essays on modern Middle Eastern historical issues in academic journals.

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