Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Charles Krauthammer: The Shifting Middle East: What's Next

We are at the end of a historic era. Post colonial phase
Self delusion in the West regarding the Muslim Brotherhood.
It was only a question of time before they learned how to use the mechanisms of power and democracy to control Egypt and turn it into an Islamic state.
The coup shows that clearly Islam is not the answer. It brings dictatorship and totalitarian rule and in the end it cannot succeed. Where else was there to go in Egypt?
The great thinking was that Islam would liberate the Arab from economic and cultural despair.

Two kinds of Islamic rule.
a, Iran
b. Turkey
They have different features. But CK thinks that after the coup it is not clear that the people think that Islam is the answer for the future of the Middle East and the post colonial age.
CK thinks that the brotherhood had a shine of being out of power. But if you perform like Morsi without any interest in democracy, and the people saw with disdain his performance to undermine democracy. he has no regret what the military did. They may have saved democracy.
He criticizes the US administration. The military of Egypt is in the same light as the military in Turkey as the guarantor of stability, secularism and democracy.
He does not believe that there is a necessary trajectory of leading the Arab world and Egypt into confrontation with Israel. More of a rosier view of the future.
More renewed cooperation between Egypt and Israel militaries. A good sign for the future.

Syria- likened to the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. Big powers using their proxies.
the arc is Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. 
this is why the gulf states are terrified of Iran.
Assad's fall would be in our interest and would be a blow to Hezbollah and defeat for Iran. Passivity of US administration has been tragic.
If Syria falls who inherits it. No one! it will fall apart. a weak failed state which is still preferable to a Syria run by Assad or by the jihadists.
US administration should be trying to bring down Iraq.
Iran is the elephant in the room.
The reason Netanyahu agreed to the peace process is all about Iran. Everything is about Iran. The peace process is going nowhere. Netanyahu will do anything to appease the US in order to deal with Iran.
CK believes that there is ambiguity about Iran. All he has wanted to do is get out of the Middle East.
The US is not serious about stopping Iran. Will the US give Israel the green light to go after Iran?
CK speculates that maybe the Israelis can't do bomb Iran effectively. Maybe that is the real issue why they have not launched an attack yet.
Yet Ck questions why the US administration is even engaging in the peace process. The Palestinians will not recognize the final line which is to say "We accept you." Abbas will not say it. It is a waste of political capital. it tells him the administration is doing this as a diversion from all the issues they cannot and should be doing in the MIddle East.
He really believes that there will be a confrontation with Iran and that is why Israel will appease the administration to get it to act on Iran.

Honorable Joe Liberman

Retired Senator Joseph Lieberman 
Despite all the partisanship and polarization in Congress in all issues, I did not see it with regard to Israel.
There are still shared goals between Israel and America.
The first part of the talk:
a. Israel  Ben Gurion said, "If you don't believe in miracles you are not a realist."
God's hand was in the rebirth of Israel.
People, of course, made it happen, with christian political leaders too. Balfour, Truman etc. 
There is a balance of God empowering and human actions bringing it to a reality. You need both. Faith in God and in ourselves. 
For Israel it is the best of times. Economy, world class military and intelligence culture.
Worst of times-Islamic Republic of Iran that threatens Israel. Lieberman is a realist which makes him a pessimist.
2003 Iran had no stockpiles of enriched uranium. Today it has 6 tons of enriched uranium to 5% purity which could lead to making 5 bombs. Plutonium enrichment plant going. it is not a game changer but a world changer for the US, Europe and Israel.,
Syria: the Iranian regime knows they must prop up Assad. He is their only ally.  Lieberman has met with the Syrian opposition. He thought they were nationalists seeking better economic conditions. Mistake: US stood back and let Assad brutalize the citizens and didn't help the opposition.
The gap we  It's late but not too late to make a difference for US policy.
What can we do about these enormous geopolitical developments?
Lieberman thinks we can still make a difference towards influencing US policy.
a. don't take miracles of Israel's existence for granted.
b. support leaders of both parties who will support Israel and oppose Iran
c. work to create ties between Christians and Jews to support Israel.
d. the freedom of Jews in the US. unprecedented in Jewish history. This is connected to our understanding to working for Israel.
e. find ways to strengthen opposition to Assad.
f. even stronger sanctions against Iran.

Questions to Lieberman and his comments:
the worst choice is to let Assad stay in power.
He believes that most congressional reps want to make a difference and get work done. but what is missing is compromise. It is a value that has been subsumed under ideological fervor.
Trust is missing and the people have lost confidence in the government. He wishes there was third party in the political process of American life.
He is concerned for America's credibility and its ability to help in the world when America appears to turn away from involvement in the Middle East especially in Syria and Egypt.
He thinks that in Egypt the military was acting in the best interest of the country recognizing what the Morsi government was doing to the country. Democracy is about process and its about results too.
Morsi was doing everything to suppress human rights and political rights.
Truthfully Egypt is not at the top of the agenda of most congressional legislators these days.

Rabbi David Wolpe and Leon Wieseltier (Literary Editor of New Republic)

A conversation about Israel and the Role of the American Jewish Community
Rabbi Wolpe interviews Wiesseltier
LW thinks Obama has diminished the standing of the US around the world. His policy on Syria. His inaction in Syria caused the influx of jihadis and has endangered Israel.
In Egypt the US is on all sides.
If Obama writes a memoir it will be called Bearing Witness. All he does is bear witness. nothing more. He speaks as if he is powerless. He will not play in a game he might lose. And LW says failure is good.
What can Rabbis say about the American -Jewish -Israel relationship on HHDays.
Is it diminishing? and if so why?
1. marginally disaffection from Netanyahu policies.
2. identity affiliation is a problem is a greater problem not just Israel loyalty.
3. life on the internet. the greatest attack on human attention in history. We are talking on constancy of focus of mind.
Attention is the disorder. it has implications for the Jewish community and young people and their notions for commitment.
LW says it all went down with the tv clicker. Dispersal of attention reflects dispersal of identity.
Virtual becomes real and real becomes a relic.
4. The future of European Jewry- LW says- Jews are still the other their. We should give them our solidarity.
5. But the future of Judaism is about the US and Israel.
6. The influx of Islam will only bring more hatred to Jews. European culture is different and cultural diversity is radically different in Europe than in America.
7. Is there a future for Jewish peoplehood? We need to bring back a respect for Jews of all ideological strains.
8. LW condemns the Haredim. This attitude must be universal love of the Jewish people. This concept must be revived. We need to stop excluding Jews.
9. What is a Jew?  Anyone who calls him or herself a Jew. We need to improvise and be more flexible and proactive in drawing people in to the orbit of Jewish life.
10. People who refused to talk to each other because of distinct ideological and religious differences must begin to talk to each other. When people want to find solutions to issues of personal status and religious identity solutions can be found. But LW is saying that today people just don't want to find those solution and they, on all sides of the spectrum, they remain isolated with suspicion and fear.
11.  LW connects the land of Israel to the state of Israel. there is a interrelationship . The sanctity of the land does not confer complete sanctity to the state. we have to separate those feelings. What does Judaism have to do with the map of the state of Israel.
12.  LW says there is a connection for right wing fundamentalist Christians in America who struggle to bring their religion to the fullest impact in America. they too question why they have to strain themselves. Jewish believers have to struggle why they too have restrain their religious fervor to maintain a Jewish state of such diversity.
13. LW asks, " What is the value of Peace.?" What are the compromises for peace? Do we want to live in a democratic and open society or not? That question relates to the religious fervor of Jews in Israel as it would apply to the religious fervor of Christians in America.
14.   LW says, The highest form of parental love is one that continues to justifies itself. It is not one that just accepts a love without regard for any actions.
15.  The kids today have to knowledge of history. How can they love Israel when they have no history of Israel. Also when all the kids see is criticism of Israel how do young people develop a positive view of Israel.

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren

The world in 2009
Mubarak empowered in Egypt
Assad empowered
Iran had a small stockpile of uranium
no sanctions
Palestinians were refusing to negotiate.
US had just entered the period of profound dislocation
the American people were exhausted with involvement in the Middle East wars.
The conversion law occupied the American Jewish community and Israel. A real crisis. It might have closed the window of reform and conservative judaism with Israel
The question of the Kotel and Women of the Wall.
Then everything changed.
The Arab spring forced Israel to rethink everything.
Egypt-Israeli border inflamed, 10 killed
Sinai filled with international terrorists
Gaza, through Iranian smuggling, becomes militarized. Hamas.
Complex and Dangerous.
Jordan began to stagger with half a million refugees
Jordanian Iraq border is the security for Israel.
Syrian border used to be a quiet border. Weapons of mass destruction hovering being transported around.
17,000 jihadis entered into Syria.
Lebanon, 70,000 rockets from Hezbollah under the watchful eye of the UN.
Now those rockets can go to Elat.
Iranians building underground,
install advanced centrifuges increasing enrichment process to weapons grade.
All the efforts of the Obama administration to negotiate only lead Iran to grow closer to the red line that Obama warned about.
Israel has to explore new realms of cooperation with the US. Israel has succeeded to do so.
On the Egyptian border. the peace treaty has held. good!
Deterrence with Hamas-ceasefire.
build fence of a billion dollar fence. no ground attacks. stopped the flow of labor seeking people from
Iron Dome. 2010 first anti ballistic system that worked in history. 86 % success rate. All possible from help of the US.
Israel built a fence on the Syrian border. will cost almost a billion dollars.
David's sling- a system to knock out cruise missles.  All with the help of the US
Jordan is critical ally and is dealing with huge challenges. Israel is playing a behind the scenes role.
With regard to Iran:
The current administration has sent the Iran economy into a nose dive with sanctions.
Israel and the US still want  a diplomatic solution. but the best chance for a diplomatic solution must have a credible military threat ready to go and they must believe it.

Palestinian issues:  expectations low.  The Israeli government is committed to the process.
Challenges to the Jewish people:
The Kotel is a thorny issue that goes to the core of the issue of the Israel Diaspora relationship.
Sharansky proposals to create a new and expanded plaza for a gender neutral for prayer.
It is a not just a Jewish-Jewish issue but it is a Jewish-Muslim issue as well. Security issues and theological ones overlap in this realm as well.
Oren feels that the story has been a good and successful one over the last four years.

Questions for Ambassador Oren and his comments:
1. Israel wants the EU to play a constructive role.  Right now that is not happening.
2. Israel and Turkey? Better relations but not as far as he would have liked. The flotilla incident and the Gaza event caused the cancelation of the joint military exercises. That was a myth. Well it was the rightward leaning and turning to the Muslim world and the Arab world of Turkey.
This issue also has to due to with oil issues and Israel with Greek Cyprus.
3. The Turks will stay out of Israel's way. Cooperation of commercial ties. Turkey is staying out of the oil issues of Israel and the Gaza blockade for now.
4. YK message since YK war. The message is Klal Yisrael. peoplehood.  preserve peoplehood even if that term appears to be politically incorrect in many circles of American Jewish life.

5. How can American Jews be critical without playing into the hands of advesaries.Israel can withstand pressures but american jews have to think about what they are saying. respect whose lives are on the line.
6. Israelis caree about one thing above all. they care about the sec of their families. taking risks for israelis requires them to be able to defend themselves. that is what it is all about for Israelis.

Journalist Yossi Klein HaLevi: How the Yom Kippur War Changed Israel

The Israel we know today was formed by the Israel after 1973.
Israel has struggled with the consequences of that war ever since.
In retrospect the YK war was maybe its most impressive victory given its ability to recover from the surprise attack.
Yet Israelis say today that Egypt won the war. How is that possible.
And in that question is the origin of the left -right schism to this very day.
Israelis see two events that define the state of mind that makes them wary, to not let their guard down
a. Holocaust
b. YK war.
c. Both the settlement and the peace movements both began after the YK war.
d. the sin is Israeli arrogance from YK war.

Two narratives to read Israeli history
a. Left politics:  Sadat was left with no alternative but to attack. His trip to Jerusalem was the beginning of Israeli atonement and that is why peace happened.
b. Right politics:  Sadat- nonsense that he wanted to make peace before 73. he needed a victory to have the credibility to make peace. His waiting for Labor to fall and Likud to prominence was a vindication of the right wing and Begin.
c. Zionism as Racism UN resolution reinforced that we live in a hostile world.
d. Intifadas-  when Israel offers the peace is when the Palestinians go violence. That is the true Palestinian view.
e. the sin is Israeli complacency from YK war

40 years later after the YK war. What has Israel learned?
a. a bit of right and the left. It is a blend of both characteristics.
b. We need to be more careful recognizing a false sense of security and being more open to risking to Havi is saying thatpeace. It is a balance.
c. Most Israelis would be happy if the current negotiations would produce something of a peace agreement. But few Israelis believe that there is a serious partner for peace.
d. Israelis have learned the lessons of YK war and whatever they think went wrong.

a. He says that Jews of the left should atone for minimizing the threats that Israel experiences daily. They should atone for minimizing the dangers and political pressures  upon Israel.
b. Right wing Jews in America should atone for the sins of the occupation and not paying attention to what has happened to Israel over the last few years.
c. This YK left and right wing Jews should atone for not being willing to listen to each other.
d. In Israel both sides have each won and lost the big arguments to some extent. Neither camp has the entire the truth.
e. The fortieth anniversary of the war could contribute to a further sense of unity and healing consistent for the high holy days and for Jewish unity.

questions of speaker and his comments:
The Likud leaders are the more dynamic in the Israeli political movement in Israel today.
He does not see that old arrogance and bravado that was Israel after 67-73. Israel has changed and learned how to live as a normal country yet still knowing that it is not living in a normal world.
 Israel is more democratic now than ever before.
He talked about the freedom of the press. There is not

the blind trust in the govt that there was.
This might have contributed to Israel being caught off guard at YK 73. A free press is critical for Israel.
We may be in a holding action right now. Maybe the current negotiations could lead to an interim agreement. That is about it.
This is the year of Iran. Will Iran be stopped or will it be allowed to go nuclear?
Israel is taking it one day at a time.
See Jabotinsky's article  the

Iron Wall which is critical to understanding the Arab and the Israel position. He says this article, written sixty years ago, prophetic for understanding our times today.

He does not believe that Israel is truly not existentially threatened  by Iran in this moment. He believes that Israel will make a preemptive strike against Iran.
Will Tu
Will Turkey be the new Iran and Iran the new Turkey

His point is that we need to remember that israel needs to put up with American Jewish opinion if they wantAmerican JHewish support on the important issues to secuity.

AIPAC Symposium- Policy Analyst Aaron David Miller

aaron david miller
vp for new initiatives , Distinguished Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
the way the world is and the way the world you want it to be.
what is the balance
 1. Middle East is a region of risk, liability and vulnerability
2.  We cannot change the region and we cannot extricate ourselves from it.
3. hard to succeed and hard to leave it.
4. How do you measure success?
5. We have less street credibility than ever before.
6.  the key to life is success! it breeds friends and power. People who succeed generate followers. us has not succeeded

point 2.
1. we are learning about the limitations of american military power
2. we have not been attacked on the homeland since 9/11
We are safer but not safe
We are weaning ourselves away from a dependence on arab hydrocarbons
Canada and Mexico is good.
a. energy security is still an issue
b. other nations still need arab oil

3. This region has more complexity and moving parts
a. Iran search for nuclear weapons, palestine issue and israel are based upon domestic issues
b. long term issues . there are 
c. it is hard to deal comprehensively with these issues.
4.  partisanship of american politics is not relevant. it is about being smart or dumb. Polarization between states and ideologies is bad.
1. Israeli -Palestinian Peace
a. kerry peace process view point. a conflict ending agreement to settle the basic issues is unimaginable. Then what is possible?
Are leaders prisoners of political constituences
boarders and 
jerusalem and refugees
recognition of Jewish state
You care only what you own. Nobody every owned a rental car 'Larry Summers
Arab Spring-depressing but inevitable.
3 limits for democratic life do not exist
leaders cannot rise above their sectarian basis.
institutions that are inclusive
 institutional mechanism to debate volitile issues without destroying the system.
Iran- who can stop Iran? Iran. the costs might prove prohibitive.  but no evidence to suggest it.  it is about the capacity to produce the weapon. 
Our best hope is to keep Iran from becoming a breakout nation as a nuclear weapon state. Iran is driven by profound insecurity and grandiosity. dangerous
idealism without illusion. never give up. eyes wide open.
the Palestinian problem is called the Noah's ark syndrome
they have two of everything. how do you make peace?
security and identity issu

AIPAC Seminar: Panel Discussion Crafting Middle East Policy

Panel Discussion: Dr. Yamara Cofman Wittes Former deputy assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affarirs-Obama Administration
John Hannah- Former national security advisor, VP Richard Cheney

moderator-Jeff Jeff Colman- AIPAC

Exploring the current trends
ethnic nationalism
Muslem Brotherhood approach
Al Qeada approach
What is different that is going on now?
absence of strong states.
There is a vacum and regional actors are doing what they do which is take advantage of the vacum.
Turkey is running up agains the limits of their power surge.
The actors in the Gulf States are responsible for stoking that fire in Lebanon and Iraq.
And what they do is lend credence to the arguments of Al Qeda and the most extreme elements.
 Both panelists agree that the war in Syria is a game changer for the region.
They both agree that the tension especially the religious tensions between the Sunni and Shia is unprecedented.
American Policy options.
Goals and Options?
John Hannah
1. Administration would like to see a negotiated ouster of Assad-unlikely
2. strengthen the  hand of the rebels.
3. Is there a viable American partner in Syria?
she agrees that the momentum is to create the process to negotiate
the other process is containment- not getting Assad out but just protecting refugees and defend against use of chemical weapons.
yes there are options but no low cost options.
How important is getting the desired outcome in Syria to American interests?
How much of an American investment in this issue given that America is exhausted with international intervention. Polls demonstrate that Americans are more isolationist since 1992.
There is no pressure from the population to do anything about this matter.

Colman to Hannah: Is America just not as big a player in the Middle East?
Response- Not to dictate but to shape them.  But the US needs to be engaged. The world is better off with US involvement and leadership.
The president does well in steering the course. The one player everyone looks to is still the US. The players still look to the US even if the regional players say they  hate the US 
Panel Response
Is it American policy to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon?
What would be the perception about US if Iran gets the weapon?
Hannah- It comes down to the President.
He will have to use military force to downgrade and buy time to figure out what to do in the long run.
The president has given himself little wiggle room.,
The President asks, "Do I want on my political legacy, on my watch, to have the Iranians get the bomb?" The problem is how effective will the intelligence be to know before it happens. It is a new world if they get a nuclear weapon. There is no communication between diplomats between Iran and US. No one to talk to resolve problems . Incredibly dangerous.
A nuclear standoff between Iran and Israel and Saudi Arabia will have huge economic implications -oil.
Wittes response:
1.  there is a permissive response in the American public opinion to allow for a US strike against Iran.
2.  a best case scenario would only retard Iranian process not destroy it.
3.  international coalition that has worked together on sanctions against Iran might help create a change in Iran. It is important to maintain that coalition.
4. Iranian elections: Meaning? Iran@saban blog.Iranian politicians are arguing over the sanctions and what they are doing to their economy. the new elections show that the regime is trying to do something about Iran's isolation and building ties to the  world. 
It does mean that the sanctions are having an impact politically but may not match the timetable of development of Nuclear weaponry. 
Hannah response.
Everyone was surprise. He agrees with Wittes comments.
Sanctions have been effective in generating a huge amount of debate in the society.
Keep the pedal to the medal with Iran. Pressure.
the current president was a concession to the disgust of the Iranian people to their government.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

My view on the Trayvon Martin Case: Taking the Moral Highground


Here is my most recent newspaper column on the Trayvon Martin verdict. As you can well imagine I have received a few critical comments. One described my views as "drivel." Well you cannot make everyone happy. Well, that is not what this column is about. You may not like what I wrote or disagree with it. That is fine and I still love you all. Go ahead and disagree with me. But let's do it in a civilized way.
Take care and thanks for taking the time to read the column.