Middle East

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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My Rodney King Moment

A photo of President Obama, with his feet on the desk in the Oval Office while speaking to advisers, is making the right-wing email rounds, along with outraged commentary about Obama's "attitude": Wonkette waxes sarcastic: Can you believe this guy? Our queen gave us this holy desk back when his people were still slaves or whatever, and now he’s putting his feet on it? Oh, the wingnuts.

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Rinse, Wash, Repeat

I don’t think anyone would mistake me for a big fan of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the main (as they put it) “pro-Israel” lobby in Washington. The only organization of that kind that I’ve ever given money to is Americans for Peace Now. And I have defended critics of AIPAC, including Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, the authors of The Israel Lobby, from charges of anti-Semitism. But I think Walt and Mearsheimer have been dead wrong in trying to blame the Israel lobby or the Israeli government for America’s invasion of Iraq.

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No, I am not deserting the president on this one either. Any country that is under siege by Al Qaeda is likely to have strategic and/or ideological interest to us. But it’s a big stretch to argue that we have a democratic interest in Yemen’s future. It will not be before hell freezes over that we may have such an interest in Yemen. That time is neither now nor tomorrow. And since history in the Arabian Peninsula moves in geological time, let’s stop deluding ourselves about another democratic ally. Our interest in Yemen is strategic.

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Rinse, Wash, Repeat

 I don’t think anyone would mistake me for a big fan of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the main (as they put it) “pro-Israel” lobby in Washington. The only organization of that kind that I’ve ever given money to is Americans for Peace Now in Israel. And I have defended critics of AIPAC, including Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, the authors of The Israel Lobby, from charges of anti-Semitism. But I think Walt and Mearsheimer have been dead wrong in trying to blame the Israel lobby or the Israeli government for America’s invasion of Iraq.

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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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Bombs Away

As President Obama begins a push to impose harsher economic sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, his success will be determined largely by the answer to a single question: Will China and Russia get on board?

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A few years ago, few places on Earth were as hellish as Iraq’s Anbar Province. Spanning the country’s western desert, Anbar is best known by its major cities, Fallujah and Ramadi, both of which became home bases for Al Qaeda-linked terrorists who flooded across Iraq’s border with Syria and joined with Sunni insurgents to carry out bombings, executions, kidnappings, and torture across the country.

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The Financial Times is the six-day-a-week newspaper of the Pearson Publishing Group. It is, then, the sister of The Economist. Both are widely read, although the weekly magazine--that is, the latter journal--no longer has much competition in the English-speaking world. (And certainly not from Time or Newsweek.) Ten years ago, in a TNR piece about The Economist, Andrew Sullivan pointed out a particularly noxious passage in the magazine’s pages. Here’s what he wrote back then: Other vestigial Brittery abounds, including the usual condescension to Israel.

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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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