World

When Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Barack Obama on Monday, the main issue will be trust. Obama will ask that Israel trust America’s determination to stop Iran, and trust that when he says all options are on the table he means it. Netanyahu will likely be thinking about May 1967. In late May 1967, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol dispatched his foreign minister, Abba Eban, to Washington. Egyptian and Syrian troops were pressing on Israel’s borders; Egypt had imposed a naval blockade on the Straits of Tiran, Israel’s shipping route to the east.

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I know that this is harsh. But I use the word pusillanimous in its ugliest meaning—which is the “unmanly” meaning—especially in relation to Saudi Arabia, having stockpiled weapons and trained soldiers for decades so that by now it is the only Arab country capable of taking on the monstrous regime in Damascus … and winning. I say “unmanly” because the kingdom has done nothing of the sort.

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My posting, “All of Western Civilization Could Soon Be Threatened By a Nuclear Iran,” went up on Friday/Saturday at midnight. I don’t know whether there have ever been as many readers’ comments as there were for this piece. To be sure, some of them were simply stupid and produced by the lame brains who have attached themselves (ongetshepet, my mother would have said onomatopoetically) to my writings.

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Time has not appeared to be on Rupert Murdoch’s side in the phone hacking scandal. The stream of revelations about the ethically and legally dubious practices at Murdoch’s media properties seems to have no end. And as the investigations have taken their toll, Britain’s Left has mostly watched in glee, assuming that their longtime adversary was finally receiving his comeuppance. Yet the schadenfreude seems to have been premature.

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When interests meet ideals in the arena of states, ideals lose out. How shall we count the ways? In recent times, there were Somalia, Rwanda and Darfur—the massacres and the ethnic cleansing dwarfing anything happening in Syria or, last summer, in Libya. In more ancient history, the world allowed Japan to grab Manchuria and wipe out Nanking. Mussolini used poison gas to conquer Abyssinia while the League of Nations postured and then fell apart. The U.S. wouldn't even bomb the train tracks to Auschwitz, the reasons put forward being: We need the ordinance for the war against the Germans.

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I don’t know whether it’s time just yet for someone, anyone to bomb Iran. But it’s been quite a few years since the wise folk in the strategy profession have been saying “sanctions need time.” This sounds very reassuring unless, of course, Tehran’s nuclear option beats out Tehran’s financial collapse. Just how much economic pain will the world’s self-appointed moral monitors permit even a repellent and perilous Islamic power to endure until all the strings of conscience are played and the will to act is foreclosed.

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A U.N. panel tasked with investigating the human rights situation in Syria released its report yesterday. It’s a disturbing, but sobering, read. Based on 369 interviews, the report documents the many crimes against humanity committed by the Syrian regime during the past year; below, we’ve gathered some of the most appalling violations.     Torturing Children “Children continued to be arbitrarily arrested and tortured while in detention. According to former detainees interviewed by the commission, children were treated in the same way as adults, in blatant disregard of their age.

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This is a contribution to ‘What Should the United States Do About Syria?: A TNR Symposium.’ This symposium was convened to consider the question of what the United States should do about the crisis in Syria. And yet, most of the contributions have been about a narrower concern: what the U.S. can do. It is a sign that uppermost in the minds of most Americans are the limits of American power. Certainly they are uppermost in President Obama’s mind. But what I can’t stop thinking about are the consequences of allowing the Assad regime to prevail in Syria.

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A Time to Act

Thousands of people have already died in Syria, and it appears likely that thousands more will die in the weeks and months to come. Bashar Al Assad’s forces show no sign of relenting, and the international community shows no sign of coming to the rescue of the Syrian people. China and Russia have effectively blocked any chance of working through the United Nations. World opinion is horrified, but world leaders are paralyzed. No lack of diplomatic effort has been expended in trying to get Assad to back down; but these efforts have done nothing to stop the bloodshed.

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The Partial Reformer

Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of ChinaBy Ezra F. Vogel (Belknap Press, 876 pp., $39.95)  Revolutionaries get all the attention, but reform is much harder. A reformer has to reshape a rigid structure without breaking it. Before Deng Xiaoping, only Kemal Atatürk in the twentieth century managed to do this. Others, like Nasser and the Shah of Iran, left key parts of the old system intact, or, like Gorbachev, destroyed the regime in trying to save it. The China that Deng inherited from Mao Zedong was just such a brittle system.

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