April 27, 2010
On October 19 of last year, the op-ed page of The New York Times contained a bombshell: a piece by Robert Bernstein, the founder and former chairman of Human Rights Watch (HRW), attacking his own organization. HRW, Bernstein wrote, was “helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.” The allegation was certainly not new: HRW had been under assault for years by American Jews and other supporters of Israel, who argued that it was biased against the Jewish state. And these attacks had intensified in recent months, with a number of unflattering revelations about the organization.
The government was Russia’s. So it shouldn’t be derided entirely. But its importance shouldn’t be exaggerated either. After all, Washington and Moscow are not currently in any world historical conflict—at least not one likely to lead to a nuclear standoff. There were several of these during the Cold War. But I conclude in retrospect that they were mostly bluffs. This is even true of the Soviet threats to Israel in 1956, 1967, and 1973. It is probably true about John F. Kennedy’s warnings to Khrushchev and Fidel Castro, as well.
The Party Line
April 07, 2010
Russia and the Arabs: Behind the Scenes in the Middle East from the Cold War to the Present By Yevgeny Primakov Translated by Paul Gould (Basic Books, 418 pp., $29.95) Over the decades, many people in the West, and certainly most Israelis, came to view the Soviet Union and then Russia as a force for ill, if not evil, in the Middle East, and perhaps farther afield as well.
White Hot Bosporus
April 07, 2010
Ankara, Turkey Turkey may not be a totalitarian state, but the streets of its capital city are reminiscent of one. From tall buildings around Ankara hang enormous, colorful posters of the country’s founder, Kemal Ataturk, presenting an endless variety of noble poses and natty costumes. Here he is resplendent in a military uniform, there sporting formalwear with a white bow tie, here a dandy with a vest and a pocket watch—and always looming several stories above the street. His face also adorns every Turkish lira.
What Are Nukes Good For?
April 07, 2010
The nuclear order seems to be falling apart. Gone is the uneasy balance between the cold war superpowers. We now face a slew of new nuclear actors. North Korea has reprocessed enough plutonium for perhaps ten bombs, in addition to the two it has already tested. Iran’s centrifuge program seems poised to produce weapons-grade uranium. And Syria was apparently constructing a clandestine nuclear facility, before it was destroyed by Israeli air strikes in 2007. It’s not just enemies that pose a problem.
The War On Terror And The Bush-Obama Presidency
April 06, 2010
I take it is a relief that, aside from its rhetorical pandering to the civil libertarian absolutists who can’t seem to grasp that Muslim terror networks are in a worldwide war with the United States and its remaining allies, the Obama administration is actually extending the life of the Bush presidency in its defense against jihad. Eli Lake, who is among the most discerning journalists on the intelligence beat, has written an analysis in Reason on where—or, rather, how little—the Obami have deviated from Bush guidelines. When it comes to the legal framework for confronting terrorism, President
Well, everything--especially the conclusions--point to Israel. But what would you not believe about the Jewish state? And, what’s more, about the Jewish people, who have the temerity twice each year--once on Yom Kippur and twice on Passover--actually to pray for “next year in Jerusalem.” The very chutzpah. This is especially chutzpadik for American Jews who know just how much President Obama wants them to cut out all this shit about Zion and other immemorial aspirations so that he can get the Palestinians to participate in “proximity talks” with Israel.
Ban Ki-moon is the secretary general of the United Nations. The world is in pretty good shape. This is why he can spend so much of his time relieving the pain of the Arabs of Palestine, who are (if you don’t know already) the only people who suffer from their neighbors. The other Arabs probably suffer from their local overlords. But most of this is kept hush-hush, maybe because Barack Obama wants to have nice relations with them. Mr. Ban certainly wants to have good ties with them.
Stoicism and Us
March 17, 2010
Marcus Aurelius: A Life By Frank McLynn (Da Capo Press, 684 pp., $30) A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy By William B. Irvine (Oxford University Press, 314 pp., $19.95) Barbara Ehrenreich’s latest book, Bright-Sided, offers a damning indictment of the ideology of positive thinking, which she sees as the fundamental flaw in American life.
I’ve written myself about the Obama administration’s more-than-flatfooted policies on Syria (here, here, and here) and Iran (here, here, and here). So I am particularly gratified when I find myself in alignment with Barry Rubin, a truly brainy scholar with a slight polemical touch. His latest analysis is below. Syria is a galling instance of the president’s obsessions ... and for several reasons. A weak country, both economically and militarily, its only possible political sway is to exacerbate the hatreds of its neighbors towards Israel.