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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Krauthammer: The price of powerlessness





This photo, grabbed from Russian Defense Ministry video footage issued Aug. 16, is said to show a Tu-22M3 long-range bomber releasing its payload above Syria after it took off from an air base in Iran. (Russian Defense Ministry 



This week Russian bombers flew out of Iranian air bases to attack rebel positions in Syria. The State Department pretended not to be surprised. It should be. It should be alarmed. Iran’s intensely nationalistic revolutionary regime had never permitted foreign forces to operate from its soil. Until now.

The reordering of the Middle East is proceeding apace. Where for 40 years the U.S.-Egypt alliance anchored the region, a Russia-Iran condominium is now dictating events. That’s what you get after eight years of U.S. retrenchment and withdrawal. That’s what results from the nuclear deal with Iran, the evacuation of Iraq and utter U.S. immobility on Syria. Consider:

 Iran

The nuclear deal was supposed to begin a rapprochement between Washington and Tehran. Instead, it has solidified a strategic-military alliance between Moscow and Tehran. With the lifting of sanctions and the normalizing of Iran’s international relations, Russia rushed in with major deals, including theshipment of S-300 ground-to-air missiles. Russian use of Iranian bases now marks a new level of cooperation and joint power projection.

 Iraq

These bombing runs cross Iraqi airspace. Before President Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq, that could not have happened. The resulting vacuum has not only created a corridor for Russian bombing, it has gradually allowed a hard-won post-Saddam Iraq to slip into Iran’s orbit. According to a Baghdad-based U.S. military spokesman, there are 100,000 Shiite militia fightersoperating inside Iraq, 80 percent of them Iranian-backed.

 Syria

When Russia dramatically intervened last year, establishing air bases and launching a savage bombing campaign, Obama did nothing. Indeed, he smuglypredicted that Vladimir Putin had entered a quagmire. Some quagmire. Bashar al-Assad’s regime is not only saved. It encircled Aleppo and has seized the upper hand in the civil war. Meanwhile, our hapless secretary of state is running around trying to sue for peace, offering to share intelligence and legitimize Russian intervention if only Putin will promise to conquer gently.

Consider what Putin has achieved. Dealt a very weak hand — a rump Russian state, shorn of empire and saddled with a backward economy and a rusting military — he has restored Russia to great-power status. Reduced to irrelevance in the 1990s, it is now a force to be reckoned with.

In Europe, Putin has unilaterally redrawn the map. His annexation of Crimea will not be reversed. The Europeans are eager to throw off the few sanctions they grudgingly imposed on Russia. And the rape of eastern Ukraine continues.

Ten thousand have already died and now Putin is threatening even more open warfare. Under the absurd pretext of Ukrainian terrorism in Crimea (reminiscent of Hitler’s claim that he invaded Poland in response to a Polish border incursion), Putin has threatened retaliation, massed troops in eight locations on the Ukrainian border, ordered Black Sea naval exercises and moved advanced anti-aircraft batteries into Crimea, giving Moscow control over much of Ukrainian airspace.

And why shouldn’t he? He’s pushing on an open door. Obama still refuses to send Ukraine even defensive weapons. The administration’s response to these provocations? Urging “both sides” to exercise restraint. Both sides, mind you.

And in a gratuitous flaunting of its newly expanded reach, Russia will be conducting joint naval exercises with China in the South China Sea, in obvious support of Beijing’s territorial claims and illegal military bases.

Yet the president shows little concern. He is too smart not to understand geopolitics; he simply doesn’t care. In part because his priorities are domestic. In part because he thinks we lack clean hands and thus the moral standing to continue to play international arbiter.

And in part because he’s convinced that in the long run it doesn’t matter. Fluctuations in great power relations are inherently ephemeral. For a man who sees a moral arc in the universe bending inexorably toward justice, calculations of raw realpolitik are 20th-century thinking — primitive, obsolete, the obsession of small minds.

Obama made all this perfectly clear in speeches at the U.N., in Cairo and here at home in his very first year in office. Two terms later, we see the result. Ukraine dismembered. Eastern Europe on edge. Syria a charnel house. Iran subsuming Iraq. Russia and Iran on the march across the entire northern Middle East.

At the heart of this disorder is a simple asymmetry. It is in worldview. The major revisionist powers — China, Russia and Iran — know what they want: power, territory, tribute. And they’re going after it. Barack Obama takes Ecclesiastes’ view that these are vanities, nothing but vanities.


In the kingdom of heaven, no doubt. Here on earth, however — Aleppo to Donetsk, Estonia to the Spratly Islands — it matters greatly.


*****

My only comment is that there is now 153 days 6 hours and 14 minutes left until Obama leaves office

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

BRET STEPHENS :The Meaning of an Olympic Snub


The Arab world has a problem of the mind, and its name is anti-Semitism.

Egypt's Islam El Shehaby declines to shake hands with Israel's Or Sasson


By BRET STEPHENS

An Israeli heavyweight judoka named Or Sasson defeated an Egyptian opponent named Islam El Shehaby Friday in a first-round match at the Rio Olympics. The Egyptian refused to shake his opponent’s extended hand, earning boos from the crowd. Mr. Sasson went on to win a bronze medal.

If you want the short answer for why the Arab world is sliding into the abyss, look no further than this little incident. It did itself in chiefly through its long-abiding and all-consuming hatred of Israel, and of Jews.

That’s not a point you will find in a long article about the Arab crackup by Scott Andersonin last weekend’s New York Times Magazine, where hatred of Israel is treated like sand in Arabia—a given of the landscape. Nor is it much mentioned in the wide literature about the legacy of colonialism in the Middle East, or the oil curse, governance gap, democracy deficit, youth bulge, sectarian divide, legitimacy crisis and every other explanation for Arab decline.

Yet the fact remains that over the past 70 years the Arab world got rid of its Jews, some 900,000 people, while holding on to its hatred of them. Over time the result proved fatal: a combination of lost human capital, ruinously expensive wars, misdirected ideological obsessions, and an intellectual life perverted by conspiracy theory and the perpetual search for scapegoats. The Arab world’s problems are a problem of the Arab mind, and the name for that problem is anti-Semitism.

As a historical phenomenon, this is not unique. In a 2005 essay in Commentary, historianPaul Johnson noted that wherever anti-Semitism took hold, social and political decline almost inevitably followed.

Spain expelled its Jews with the Alhambra Decree of 1492. The effect, Mr. Johnson noted, “was to deprive Spain (and its colonies) of a class already notable for the astute handling of finance.” In czarist Russia, anti-Semitic laws led to mass Jewish emigration as well as an “immense increase in administrative corruption produced by the system of restrictions.” Germany might well have won the race for an atomic bomb if Hitler hadn’t sent Albert Einstein, Leo Szilard, Enrico Fermi and Edward Teller into exile in the U.S.

These patterns were replicated in the Arab world. Contrary to myth, the cause was not the creation of the state of Israel. There were bloody anti-Jewish pogroms in Palestine in 1929, Iraq in 1941, and Lebanon in 1945. Nor is it accurate to blame Jerusalem for fueling anti-Semitism by refusing to trade land for peace. Among Egyptians, hatred of Israel barely abated after Menachem Begin relinquished the Sinai to Anwar Sadat. Among Palestinians, anti-Semitism became markedly worse during the years of the Oslo peace process.

In his essay, Mr. Johnson called anti-Semitism a “highly infectious” disease capable of becoming “endemic in certain localities and societies,” and “by no means confined to weak, feeble or commonplace intellects.” Anti-Semitism may be irrational, but its potency, he noted, lies in transforming a personal and instinctive irrationalism into a political and systematic one. For the Jew-hater, every crime has the same culprit and every problem has the same solution.

Anti-Semitism makes the world seem easy. In doing so, it condemns the anti-Semite to a permanent darkness.

Today there is no great university in the Arab world, no serious indigenous scientific base, a stunted literary culture. In 2015 the U.S. Patent Office reported 3,804 patents from Israel, as compared with 364 from Saudi Arabia, 56 from the United Arab Emirates, and 30 from Egypt. The mistreatment and expulsion of Jews has served as a template for the persecution and displacement of other religious minorities: Christians, Yazidis, the Baha’i.

Hatred of Israel and Jews has also deprived the Arab world of both the resources and the example of its neighbor. Israel quietly supplies water to Jordan, helping to ease the burden of Syrian refugees, and quietly provides surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to Egypt to fight ISIS in the Sinai. But this is largely unknown among Arabs, for whom the only permissible image of Israel is an Israeli soldier in riot gear, abusing a Palestinian.

Successful nations make a point of trying to learn from their neighbors. The Arab world has been taught over generations only to hate theirs.

This may be starting to change. In the past five years the Arab world has been forced to face up to its own failings in ways it cannot easily blame on Israel. The change can be seen in the budding rapprochement between Jerusalem and Cairo, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, which might yet yield tactical and strategic advantages on both sides, particularly against common enemies such as ISIS and Iran.

That’s not enough. So long as an Arab athlete can’t pay his Israeli opposite the courtesy of a handshake, the disease of the Arab mind and the misfortunes of its world will continue. For Israel, this is a pity. For the Arabs, it’s a calamity. The hater always suffers more than the object of his hatred.

****

It would be more accurate to say  that the Muslim world has a problem of the mind, and its name is anti-Semitism.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Obama said Israel supports the Iran deal — here’s their response

New York Post







What could President Obama have been thinking when he claimed that Israel’s “military and security community” now supports his disastrous nuclear deal with Iran?

“The country that was most opposed to the deal,” he said at his Thursday press conference, “acknowledges this has been a game-changer.”

Well, it didn’t take long for those same officials to put the lie to the president’s claim — and in unusually undiplomatic language.

Israel’s Defense Ministry, in an official statement, compared the deal to the infamous 1938 Munich accord, whose “basic assumption, that Nazi Germany could be a partner to any kind of agreement, was wrong.”

Similarly, it added, “agreements of this kind signed between the world powers and Iran,” which “states openly” it aims to destroy Israel, are also useless.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who was outspoken in trying to halt the deal — sought to soften the statement’s impact by stressing the strength of the US-Israeli relationship. But, he added pointedly, Israel’s position “remains unchanged.”

Yes, some former Israeli defense officials have said the deal could present future “opportunities” — but also cite its troubling “challenges.”

And one Cabinet minister who is a top Netanyahu adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, insisted that not only is Israel not on board with the nuke deal, but rather “the opposite is the case” and that “all our worries . . . were justified.”

All of which is understandable: Iran continues to pursue its ballistic-missile program, in violation of UN edicts. It remains, according to Obama’s own State Department, the world’s leading sponsor of terror. And when the deal expires, it will be just weeks from acquiring a nuclear bomb.

The president says the deal’s most outspoken critics should make public mea culpas and apologize. But if anyone deserves a mea culpa and an apology, it’s Netanyahu — from Obama.


****



I’ve spent the last month reading David McCullough’s biographies of Harry Truman and John Adams, most probably because I just could not watch any more the news on the presidential race of 2016.

I am still puzzled how was it possible to conduct diplomacy when it took 6 weeks to cross the Atlantic.  Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams had to make vital decisions themselves with no consultation.

What puzzles me even more today, in the time of instantaneous communication, is how is it possible that the US government could misrepresent the position of one of its main allies on a subject so vital to the survival of that ally and not expect that a denial would follow immediately.  To what purposes was this done? 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Kakistocracy


















I am so disgusted with the choice of candidates in the US presidential election of 2016,  that I found this for me new word  from Peggy Noonan’s  WSJ  article  The Week They Decided He Was Crazy  quite appropriate:

“I end with a new word, at least new to me. A friend called it to my attention. It speaks of the moment we’re in. It is “kakistocracy,” from the Greek. It means government by the worst persons, by the least qualified or most unprincipled. We’re on our way there, aren’t we? We’re going to have to make our way through it together.”



 Etymology
Ancient Greek κάκιστος (kákistos, worst), superlative of κακός (kakós, bad) + -κρατια (-kratia, power, rule, government).

Pronunciation


/kækɪsˈtɑkɹəsi/

Noun

kakistocracy (plural kakistocracies)
Government under the control of a nation's worst or least-qualified citizens. 


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Dry Bones: A General's Advice


Tommy Robinson: I think it's gonna have to eventually come from the people

Tommy Robinson is not your Eton and Oxford or Cambridge educated  Brit,  but everything he says is true and  it is scary that the political  elite are ignoring him, if not harassing him