It's official now. You cannot use "Muslim extremism" or "Islamic terrorism." Not because the words don't describe a real phenomenon in the world. An ugly phenomenon. And, alas, an abundant phenomenon. But because the president doesn't like the thought. And he certainly doesn't like the religious adjective. I myself don't mind calling Jewish extremists "Jewish extremists." In fact, calling them Jewish extremists neatly separates the very few from the very many.
Well, It Sure Wasn’t A “One-Off”
May 14, 2010
Waverley Avenue in Watertown is about half a mile from my house in Cambridge. Two Pakistani men were arrested yesterday in their apartment down the road. It was big enough news to persuade the Boston Globe to run two above-the-fold articles under the headline “2 held in local antiterror raids.” A third man was nabbed in Connecticut. Yet another was imprisoned in Pakistan. And good luck to him. So it turns out that, despite Janet Napolitano’s instinct to pass out Valium after every shock to public peace, the failed Times Square car bombing was no “one-off” at all.
April 28, 2010
I am told that “Guantanamera,” a song derived from a poem by the Cuban turn-of-the century revolutionary Jose Marti and made famous by the American Communist folk singer Pete Seeger, refers to a girl, presumably very beautiful, from Guantanamo. The original Spanish lyrics do not confirm this.
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.
Why Not Hamas?
March 26, 2010
The current crisis in the Obama-Netanyahu relationship should propel both leaders to reassess their basic policies toward Palestine. They must redefine their targets, to think realistically but also creatively. Ending the conflict between Israel and Palestine is not an attainable goal. What is attainable is a clear and dramatic decrease in tension in the conflict—a goal that would, indeed, serve the necessities of American foreign policy on Iran, Afghanistan, and Yemen.
Yes, We Have To Save Yemen, Too
February 13, 2010
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.
January 29, 2010
“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.
Barack Obama is stuck with another of his campaign pledges. There are still nearly 200 prisoners in Guantanamo. I, for one, do not care if they are moved to a jailhouse in Illinois. But I still wonder what is wrong with that tip of Cuba (which happens to be U.S. territory) functioning as a penitentiary. In any case, the deadline that candidate Obama set for President Obama to meet--the end of last year--has now passed.
How Did This American Terrorist Slip By?
January 22, 2010
The man's name is Abdulhakim Muhammad, although it used to be Carlos Bledsoe. From his picture attached to an article on CNN.com, he looks like an African American. A native of Memphis, where presumably he converted to Islam, he had gone to Yemen for 16 months. To do what? Teach English, learn Arabic, and find himself a Muslim bride. Which he did. Abdulhakim says he teamed up with "Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula" in Yemen, from which he was deported back to America. He apparently had overstayed his Yemeni visa and was traveling on a fake Somali passport.
John Kerry and the Underbelly of History, John Kerry and the Underbelly of the Present
January 20, 2010
Watching the wake for Martha Coakley on television Tuesday night, I saw John Kerry hobbling into the Sheraton Boston ballroom, his crutches supporting the hip replacement he'd had last week. What a difference between this very serious and cerebral senator and the lightweight who aspired to join him in the upper house of the U.S. Congress. I allude to two efforts by Kerry to reveal facts that others would prefer to leave undisturbed. The first is a scandal of history. It has been quite evident that J. Edgar Hoover pursued Martin Luther King, Jr. in his life and after his murder.