Gleanings, 20.04.11

NB. Most of the postings (and the regularity of) the Gleanings comes from Fabian Pascal (oao), who blogs at The PostWest.

Efraim Inbar & David Weinberg (U.S. Strategic Fatigue Worries Israel)

In fact, America wants out of the Middle East, they suggested. Out of Iraq; out of Afghanistan; and to a certain extent, out of Israeli-Palestinian affairs, too. The U.S. certainly has no zitzfleish, or stamina, for truly confronting a nuclear Iran.

You could almost feel the exhaustion in the room. America is overextended, we heard. While the tenor of the discussion was not isolationist, the positions expressed indicated an inclination to disengage from overseas commitments. Call it strategic fatigue.

Even more disturbing was the hint that America’s withdrawal from the Middle East stems from a deeper, more ideological place. It’s not just fatigue. It was hard to shake the feeling that American foreign and defense policy practitioners — at least those close to the current administration — no longer want to project American power in the Middle East because they no longer believe in the justness of doing so.

President Obama’s difficulty in openly identifying with American exceptionalism is well known. He seems embarrassed by, has often apologized for, the exercise of American power. The shadow of such feckless thinking seemed to loom over the conference.

Yet, strategic fatigue and ideological indolence were only one part of the pictured we Israelis were presented with in New York. We also found policy confusion.

… All this reinforces the Israeli view that Washington has lost it. A mix of strategic weariness and naïve ideology supporting a half-baked doctrine of sporadic intervention for humanitarian reasons is a recipe for growing uncertainty about American wisdom and leadership. Many Middle Eastern states will distance themselves from an unreliable U.S., especially if its leaders appear to be misguided amateurs.

A confused and unpredictable America is even more frightening than a tired superpower. A Middle East without clear and strong American leadership is a very unruly place, especially for Israel.

FP: My take is that America does not really “want” out. It is more or less out. Major domestic and foreign policy incompetence induced steep decline which, in turn, caused power loss. The Obama policy of engagement is an attempt to gain the friendship of the strong horse in the ME, the islamists, in the delusion that they will be kinder to it on its way down. Good luck with that.

AlMasryAlYoum: Brotherhood leaders announce they’ll implement Sharia, set off storm

Mahmoud Ezzat, the Muslim Brotherhood’s deputy Supreme Guide, said in a forum held in the Cairo district of Imbaba on Thursday that the group wants to establish an Islamic state after it achieves widespread popularity through its Freedom and Justice Party. Meanwhile, Brotherhood leader Saad al-Husseiny, said at the forum that the group aims to apply Islamic legislation and establish Islamic rule. His remarks rattled the leaders of several political parties, who said the statements, which were at odds with the concept of a civil state, would worry liberals.

The Coptic Orthodox Church decided to suspend its dialogue with the group after additional Brotherhood leaders said it was seeking to implement Islamic Sharia and declare Egypt an Islamic state, church sources said. The sources said the Brotherhood is trampling over the principles of equality and citizenship, and that its rhetoric changed after the 25 January revolution to adopt the language of the toppled regime.

FP: Democracy Arab style

Barry Rubin: Obama’s Passover Message Misses The Message of Passover

There’s some controversy about President Barack Obama’s Passover message. The key passage is this:

“The story of Passover…instructs each generation to remember its past, while appreciating the beauty of freedom and the responsibility it entails. This year that ancient instruction is reflected in the daily headlines as we see modern stories of social transformation and liberation unfolding in the Middle East and North Africa.”

… I think the greater problem here is the endless universalizing of specifically Jewish experiences that are never seen as sufficient in their own right, as well as the basic opportunism of making Passover into an event backing Obama Administration policy.

…It remains to be seen whether recent events in the Middle East will ultimately be ones of liberation for the people living under the new regimes. It should already be obvious, however, that the result in Egypt is dangerous for Israel’s security and probably very bad for U.S. interests.

Lebanon and the Gaza Strip have gone the opposite way from liberation with no serious U.S. effort to reverse events or even realization that what has happened is disastrous social transformation at the hands of radical Islamism assisted by Iran and Syria. Indeed, in Iran and Syria, two places where change could be genuinely liberating, the Obama Administration has done nothing to help.

More genocidal-minded radical nationalist and Islamist forces may come to power elsewhere. The main concern stemming from Obama’s Passover message is that he still has no clue about such things. Indeed, I think Obama genuinely does not understand that social transformation and change can be a very bad thing.

PowerLine: Obama as political historian

Barack Obama is a creature of the modern university and therefore an amazingly shallow man. I have written about his historical howlers in the New York Post column “Anti-terror oops,” in the Weekly Standard column “The Kennedy-Khrushchev conference for dummies,” and in the Power Line post “Obama veers into the Daily Ditch.”

Obama’s historical ignorance could be a full time beat for somebody who does this work for a living, and it tells us something truly important about Barack Obama. His ignorance is as broad as it is deep. Not that you couldn’t deduce that on your own from his performance on the job.

Yesterday he was at it again, in his peevish interview with the feisty local broadcast reporter from Texas. Why are you so unpopular in Texas? the reporter asked. Obama being Obama, he was unable to laugh off the question and say he’d do better next time around. Obama responded: “Texas has always been a pretty Republican state, for, you know, historic reasons.”

Has the guy ever heard of LBJ? You know, the fellow who first brought us socialized medicine? Has he ever read a single volume of Robert Caro’s monumental biography of LBJ? It’s hard to miss the extent to which the Democratic Party dominated Texas politics for the duration of LBJ’s (long) political career.

Obama majored in political science at Columbia. Did he miss the fact that Texas was part of the solidly Democratic South — the slaveholding, segregated, Jim Crow South — more or less from statehood in 1845 until Nixon’s 1972 landslide?

Did Obama skip class the day he might have learned that in the the postbellum South, including Texas, the Republican Party was virtually nonexistent? Apparently so. Or maybe he was just de

Christopher Hitchens: Beware the In-Laws

Does Kate Middleton really want to marry into a family like this?

Myself, I wish her well and also wish I could whisper to her: If you really love him, honey, get him out of there, and yourself, too. Many of us don’t want or need another sacrificial lamb to water the dried bones and veins of a dessicated system. Do yourself a favor and save what you can: Leave the throne to the awful next incumbent that the hereditary principle has mandated for it.

Andrew Ross: Human Rights, Academic Freedom, and Offshore Academics

The rush to create universities abroad, especially in countries with authoritarian governments, can come at a high cost: from exploitation of migrant labor to uncertain protection of free speech and basic rights.

7 Responses to Gleanings, 20.04.11

  1. Walter Sobchak says:

    Cognitive Egocentrisism Claims Another Victim:

    “Past Holds Clue to Goldstone’s Shift on the Gaza War” By Ethan Bronner and Jennifer Medina in the New York Times on April 20, 2011 at page A4:

    “Two decades ago, Richard Goldstone, a Jewish South African judge, played a vital role in reconciling his country’s white minority government and rising black majority movement by leading a fact-finding mission into black violence that offered a Solomonic conclusion.

    ***

    “In 2009, he tried to do the same thing in the other country close to his heart: Israel. Mr. Goldstone, a Zionist who believes that political reconciliation will result when both sides face the unbiased rigors of international law, agreed to lead a United Nations inquiry into the war between Israel and Hamas, telling friends that the mission could make a real contribution to Middle East peace.

    “The resulting report that bears his name accused each side of wrongdoing — deliberately making civilians targets. But the report not only failed to bring peace to the region and universal honor to its author. It also hardened positions and brought a storm of attacks on Mr. Goldstone, especially from within his community.

    “In trying to understand why he published an essay on April 1 in The Washington Post retracting his harshest accusation against Israel and toughening his stand toward Hamas and the United Nations — an essay that has been rejected by the fellow members of his investigation panel — the South African precedent is important. For Mr. Goldstone, it was the model of how the Gaza report would work. Instead, it helped drive Israeli politics farther to the right, gave fuel to Israel’s enemies and brought no notable censure on Hamas.”

  2. SE says:

    http://www.jidaily.com/SqyP

    July 20, 2010 — but not outdated in the slightest!
    Who’s Against a Two-State Solution?
    By Efraim Karsh

  3. Cynic says:

    Walter,

    With regard to the NYT excerpt by leading a fact-finding mission into black violence that offered a Solomonic conclusion.
    please read Goldstone damaged South Africa as well, on page 9 of the SA Jewish Report, by Dr Anthea Jeffery, head of special research at the South African Institute of Race Relations.

    On the crucial issue of the
    Third Force, Goldstone initially
    stood firm in the face of ANC
    pressure. In April 1992 he said
    there was “no evidence” of a
    Third Force in the form of a
    “sinister and secret organisa-
    tion orchestrating violence on a
    wide front”. Instead, he identi-
    fied “the primary cause” of vio-
    lence as “the political battle
    between supporters of the ANC
    and the IFP”.
    Two years later, however,
    when the ANC stood on the cusp
    of victory, Goldstone issued
    a flawed report which impli-
    cated both IFP officials and
    three senior police generals
    in Third-Force violence. This
    report, released a month
    before the April 1994 elec-
    tion, was particularly useful
    in further discrediting both
    the IFP and State President F
    W de Klerk.

    The IFP in this case is the Zulu’s Inkatha Freedom Party.
    Solomonic my eye.

    • oao says:

      Sounds like an opportunist to me, if it ever was one.

      And his acceptance of the Ghaza task was clearly similarly driven by ambition.
      If I recall correctly, he was interested in some UN job which ultimately he did not get anyway. His recant could be at least partially caused by that.

      I really don’t buy the conscience theory. If there was any concern, it was his reputation being hurt by the demolishing of the report in so many ways.

  4. Rich Rostrom says:

    Power Line understates the scope of Obama’s howler about Texas. Nixon carried Texas in 1972, but the state remained Democrat in just about everything but Presidential voting for another generation.

    Democrats controlled both houses of the state legislature until 1996, and sent a majority of Democrats to the U.S. House until 2004.

    Does Mr. Obama think that history began when he was elected to the Senate?

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