When President Obama arrives in Tokyo on Friday, he will confront a country that seeks to be an ally of the United States. For Japan has never been an American ally. It was first a rival, then an enemy, and finally, after it lost the war it foolishly started with the U.S., it became a protectorate, not an ally. The distinction matters. An alliance is an institution negotiated between two sovereign governments in which each agrees to a series of reciprocal obligations that have the force of law.
It looks like I underestimated the intelligence of the British public when I said that Gordon Brown's spat with the grieving mother of a dead British soldier was a no-win situation for him. Actually, he's winning: a new poll finds that 65 percent of British voters think that the attacks on Brown--which are being orchestrated by The Sun, the Murdoch-owned tabloid that's supporting David Cameron--are unfair. Alex Massie captures the sentiment: [T]here come moments when legitmate criticism crosses some kind of line and becomes bullying. This is one such instance.
Last month, the Maldives held its cabinet meeting underwater to highlight the fact that the island nation is at risk of vanishing as global warming causes sea levels to rise. The cabinet members all put on scuba gear, got paired with a diving expert, and had to communicate by writing on whiteboards with nifty waterproof pens. Now the Nepalese government is trying to do one better, announcing its own cabinet meeting on... Mount Everest, in order to draw attention to melting glaciers.
This coming Wednesday will be the 14th anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin at a Tel Aviv rally for the Oslo peace accords. Like the initial rally itself, the memorial--scheduled for Saturday, October 31, but postponed due to what turned out to be only light rains--was to be a highly charged political event. Except that in 1995, Israel was still stirred by hopes of bringing the decades of war with the Arabs to an end. Yet, at the same time, foreboding grew that these hopes themselves constituted a trap, a mortal trap.
J Street is having an identity crisis right in front of the cameras. For a year and a half it's been trumpeting that it's both "pro-Israel" and "pro-peace." Actually, that's how I would characterize myself. I am for a two-state solution and always have been. I was for a "Jewish state" and an "Arab state" ever since I was a kid. That's ultimately what nearly every Israeli prime minister has been for, too. And that's what Israel has been trying in different ways and in different circumstances to negotiate.
After years of stalemate, negotiations over Iran's controversial nuclear development program seemed to progress last week when an Iranian delegation in Vienna agreed to the export and modification of its low-enriched uranium. The resulting optimism did not last. Officials in Tehran demurred, insisting that they needed more time to study the proposal and could not meet Friday's deadline to ratify the agreement. While Iran's stonewalling came as a disappointment to the United States, it did not come as a surprise.
At the end of my piece on Rory Stewart in the current print issue, I mentioned that he was already plotting his leave from Harvard by running for parliament back in the U.K. A quick update on that: Over the weekend, Stewart was adopted as the Conservative candidate for Penrith and Border, which, since this is a safe Tory seat, means he'll be trading in his professorship to become an MP next year. Alex Massie has some interesting thoughts on whether Stewart's brief for a more modest approach in Afghanistan will find any takers in Parliament: I don't expect this view to catch on.
The news surrounding today's meeting between Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is pretty bad. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has taken the opportunity to dump cold water on our hopes for more Iran sanctions and to trumpet a Sino-Russian gas pipeline deal that would weaken our hand in Central Asia. But, despite all that, it's worth keeping in mind that the "New START" treaty that Hillary is in Moscow to negotiate is a solid one. The deal would supplant both START I, the arms-control treaty signed by George H.W.
President Obama designated George Mitchell his special envoy to the Jews and the Arabs because he had experience with them. Of course, Mitchell's familiarity with the Middle East was the familiarity of utter failure. No matter. Obama couldn't have sent George Tenet again ... or, God forbid, Anthony Zinni.
It is just about 15 years since Yasir Arafat received the Nobel Peace Prize. Everybody understood that the two leaders of the State of Israel who shared the award with him, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, actually deserved it. But Arafat's primary deed in life was to be a terrorist. A tactician of terror and a strategist of terrorism. Thinking about Arafat in the royal palace made me cringe then. When I went to Al Gore's installation two years ago, I could not get out of my head that the rais had stood in the same spot, a usurper and a fraud.