- The U.S. helps Israel, albeit with constant opposition, and alienates the Arab and Iranian and Turkish world.
- The United States will gradually get tired of the burden and walk away from it.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
War without end. That is what the Obama Administration promises the U.S., Israel, and the Palestinians. If the current Obama-Kerry plan for an Israel-Palestinian deal is implemented, scores of Americans would likely die. This was revealed recently by Secretary of State John Kerry, particularly in a speech at the Saban Forum.
By the way, the Saban Forum Speech was made appropriately on December 7th, the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The former head of the Saban Center has also been chosen as negotiator.
The Obama Administration plan is very simple, assuming that everything goes smoothly–which of course it will not.
According to the plan, the United States would gradually create and maintain the agreement by policing an independent Palestinian state. Israel would be protected by the U.S. forces, and Palestine would be protected from Israel by them. And that's part of the problem, because the Palestinians would stage a huge number of protests against and complaints regarding Israel's actions, likely demanding more concessions.
In addition, the Palestinians, particularly Hamas, would see the new Palestinian state as perpetually victimized. They would mobilize any Arab forces they could to back their complaints. It would be a nightmare. But what the wrong-headed people in the Obama Administration do not understand is that they would be under constant challenge. They do not understand that no matter what they say, Hamas, Fatah, Iran, Syria, al-Qa'ida, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Salafists –and most likely Saudi Arabia–will never accept an Israeli state.
In other words, if Americans are on the ground, they will be targeted. Now the question is what will they do? Will they "protect" Israel? And what is the definition of protecting Israel? If Palestinians ignore that they are attackers, then it is a controversy. Israel does not deserve "protection." And what about gaps in this protection or disagreement among the observers?
In his Saban speech, Kerry said, "…Our commitment to Israel's security spurred the U.S.-Israeli development of ballistic missile defense technologies to keep Israelis safe from rockets and missiles. Those systems and newer technologies continue to protect Israelis from the range of threats that they still face today."
What about a large stream of cross-border attacks? Will Americans attack Palestinians if they violate the agreement? May I point out that at various times Iraqi, Hamas, and Hizballah rockets have landed on Israel with no U.S. defensive action. Again, the most important point is not Iranian nuclear weapons but routine policing of a Palestinian state, not to mention Israel's Lebanon-Syria border.
Are we to believe that American helicopters, airplanes, and ground soldiers would attack when the whole effort of this exercise had been to avoid military commitments? How many years would this neo-mandate continue? Will the United States intimidate certain countries if necessary? Remember that the United States didn't even support the military government in Egypt. So will it defend Egypt in the Sinai, which is in cooperation with Israel?
The United States may suffer a great number of casualties over time. Note the 3,400 deaths of Western coalition soldiers in Afghanistan so far. Are Western forces willing to sacrifice more than 300 soldiers a year? In 2010, IED attacks in Afghanistan wounded 3,366 U.S. soldiers. And that was in just one year of the war.
And of course Americans are going to accidently kill Palestinians, both fighters and unarmed civilians. As of February 2013, between 17,000 and 19,000 civilians died in Afghanistan. This then would create a blood-feud. And by the way, many of these people will blame Israel.
Think along the lines of Afghanistan. The U.S. has informed President Karzai that it is withdrawing its forces. Karzai is not happy with that, and he wants to reject the deal. Again, can Israel rely on American defense even if it accepts it?
Recently, the United States has betrayed the following countries; Egypt (wanting to support a Muslim Brotherhood government); Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey (supporting their side in the Syrian civil war). And it has left a mess in Iraq. Do you think at this moment Israel is going to trust the United States at the peak of distrust in modern times? Consider this too, what will happen when the U.S. soldiers come back in body bags? How long will the U.S. commitment last before dumping an independent Palestinian State on Israel? How long will the American people accept photos of dead Palestinians, much less dead Israelis?
Remember clearly that there will be Turks, Iranians, Arabs, Islamists, and Palestinians who will not to accept the solution or who will continue fighting. And sooner or later, the United States would leave the new state and leave Israel with a mess.
Since this will cost a great number of American fatalities; money, conflicts of agreement, interpretation, and prestige in the Middle-East; and constant American interventions, such a solution will not work. I cannot conceive that people do not look forward in this way and rather seem to be guided by wishful thinking that the conflict will end suddenly.
It is no accident that Israel has never been willing to trust its security to a third party. This is a roadmap for increased conflict.
For example, is the U.S. air force going to bomb a building in Gaza that is an open headquarter for Gaza rocket and terrorist attacks? Will it aggressively go after foreign fighters, even if those foreign fighters have attacked Americans? Will it send them to Guantanamo Bay? Will it respond to criticism in the UN? May I point out that U.S. counterterrorism policy has not been very aggressive of late.
Think about Benghazi.
The United States will then have two choices:
In other words, Israel would not benefit from what can only be called "ObamaStrategicCare."
If you like it, no matter what you've heard, you can keep your strategic patron or plan, you can keep your ally (Obama), and you'll save money. No one will be able to take that away from you.
Posted by Barry Rubin at 8:03 PM
Times have changed,
And we’ve often rewound the clock,
Since the Puritans got a shock,
When they landed on Plymouth Rock.
Any shock they should try to stem,
‘Stead of landing on Plymouth Rock,
Plymouth Rock would land on them.
In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,
But now, God knows,
The first thing is that everything in the Middle East has changed. And so has the U.S. relationship with it.
Why does the Obama administration treat the Middle East in the way that it does? Simple, it's their culture. Think about it, previous White Houses view the foreign policy of the United States as being set by U.S. interests. They focus on monetization, and they think that the rest of the world should catch up to Western life.
But for the Obama administration, the preference of social monetization and Western life is an arrogant construct. After all, who says that Western society is better than any other?
Think about this, in the 1850s in India, a Hindu priest complained to General Charles Napier about the outlawing of suttee. He said, "We have a custom of burning our widows," to which Napier replied:
"This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs."
In contemporary context–now that Islam and not British colonial doctrine is supposed to rule–countries will burn windows again. However, since death is usually but not always the "reward" of an erring daughter or wife, this would not be publishable by law. And of course, the Koranic law, or a milder version of it, should be reinforced–in other words, the situation is like this: Colonialism has been repealed and opposing Western customs–if only modern–are racist.
In other words, the goal is not modernization or Westernization, but not imposing colonial Western "modern" laws on people–and look at politics. The right of "terrorism" is really a rational response to say the existence of Israel. Or even the existence of a non-Shari'a Afghanistan. The Muslim Brotherhood, or Islamism, is a pro-traditional custom response, not a reactionary response.
Again, Western society, culture, and civilization should not be opposed. What does this mean? It means that Islamic traditional customs should be in response. It is Western imposition of customs that is reactionary. It seems that this key concept is not understood. Of course, this is what is taught in the media, in newspapers. By the way, this is true of European society too. If you oppose a law in Europe that makes Islamic garb illegal, that is a racist reactionary response, according to the new view. If you impose a law mandating that covering a woman's face is illegal, that is a racist reactionary response. This means that countries lose control of their own internal laws, and no nation can exist if it doesn't do that.
If you don't understand this–that Shari'a schools within a country can oppose any family law that they want–you are wrong. That is the real issue here. Once you accept that Islamist religious law should triumph, even if the country itself is forcibly secular, you have given way. A country that imposes public secularism–the refusal of any public religious observance–but embraces Islamic religiosity is doomed.
And that is what the Obama administration and many European governments have done. For example, why is it that Islamic Iran can be a good government when run by Islamic law?
It is not acceptable that certain behavior which would be considered in other places should be met with death or imprisonment. No longer do Western states desire to transform India into a modern country, but say to transform Turkey, Syria, or Iran, whose legitimate customs are governed by Shari'a. In other words, the Obama administration has a new doctrine. If Obama were General Napier, you want to keep your widow's pyre? You can keep it.
The modern society is "victimizer," and the widow maker becomes victim because of the political cultures.
Posted by Barry Rubin at 8:02 PM
If you have never understood U.S. Middle East, policy here it is: The response to September 11.
What do I mean? Simple.
There are two ways to respond to September 11:
- There is a struggle with revolutionary Islamists, which is a huge battle that is parallel to the Cold War or the Allied-Axis conflict. America must organize a united front to fight this battle against the Islamists: Sunnis or Shia; Turkish, Iranian, or Arab; the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists, and al-Qa'ida; Hamas, Hizballah, and even the Taliban.
- Or, what seems easier: having many more allies and fewer enemies only to focus on al-Qa'ida. After all, who else attacked the United States, Great Britain, Spain, Kenya, etc.?
That's it. Honest. And guess what? The Washington insiders, "experts" (anything but), officials, many intelligence people (including John Brennan, the head of the CIA), military officers, and sectors of the Republican party (especially Senator John McCain) believe this.
In Washington, it is not good for one's career not to believe it.
But it is understandable, after all (albeit also inaccurate and stupid).
Look at this point:
Who do you believe is an enemy who wants to fight and hurt America and the West?
- The Syrian and Egyptian Muslim Brotherhoods, the Salafists, al-Qa'ida, Hamas, Hizballah, the Taliban, Iran, and Turkey.
- Just al-Qaida?
See what I mean?
And suppose we could get all these not al-Qa'ida Islamists as allies?
Suppose we could get all these non al-Qa'ida Islamists to repress al-Qa'ida and so stop terrorist attacks? Wouldn't that be an easier job? One less involved, theoretically, in costing American lives and in costing money? One that would be popular with voters?
And finally, of course, that is what the administration and much of the mass media believe.
The problem is, though, that gets the Islamist ideology wrong. Al-Qa'ida and the other revolutionary Islamists have different tactics but not different goals. Learning that lesson will take years and be very painful. The wrong ideas are deeply embedded in large parts of the arrogant, ignorant, and financially interested establishment.
Posted by Barry Rubin at 1:00 AM
Monday, December 9, 2013
Last week on CNN, Wolf Blitzer asked Fareed Zakaria a question: Did Zakaria think the death of Nelson Mandela might make international statesmen turn pacifistic and more concerned with people's welfare. Zakaria said in a polite way, of course not.
This exchange was extremely significant. Blitzer apparently thinks that the purpose of diplomacy is to avoid conflict. Zakaria knew that the world is run by power politics. I think that's the view of post-Cold War naivety–that the post-Cold War conflict resolution model is dominant in the West (Blitzer), although he was clearly discussing wishful thinking–and yet, realpolitik, conquest, and armed force is dominant among people of Third-World origin or citizenship.
Another example last week was South Korea willing to go to war with China if necessary over a submerged rock on their sea border.
On a different level, another example comes to mind. I asked one of my American students who was studying intensive Arabic in an Arabic capital how it was going. His response:
"Fine, except when I had a problem."
"What?" I asked.
"My roommate was a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. He asked if I could come back later because he hadn't finished torturing another student." That was not a joke!
I think people have forgotten: before countries and great powers dealt with the medical systems and making foreigners instant citizens, they dealt with survival and identity. States dealt with stability, conquest, and defense.
Once upon a time, this behavior was taken for granted. England could fight war for territory against Holland or France. Nowadays, the purpose of Dutch foreign policy is to give out money to Sudan or Yemen.
Nowadays, no EU or North American powers play that way.
The settlement of European disputes, the Cold War, exhaustion, the decision that seeking territorial hegemony was not worthwhile or possible was generally good.
Unfortunately, not everywhere is like central Europe in this sense. In fact, there is–one might say–Dar al-Harb (region of war) and Dar al-Salaam (region of peace). Or to put it another way, there is a place where realpolitik still prevails and a place where it doesn't.
And the Dar-al Harb must at every moment prove that it is unbiased, leaning over backward to be fair, blinding its eyes, ignoring massacres or violent (Islamist) ideologies, all while it is cutting off the head of a soldier in London, committing an assassination in Amsterdam, detonating a bomb at the Boston Marathon, or murdering several thousand people at the tallest building in the country (World Trade Center, and being rewarded by a building permit for a mosque).
But in a sense, that is appropriate, because these are respectively Dar al-Harb and a Dar al-Salaam.
What is Dar al-Harb? (I refer to the doctrine of Islamism, but this after all a legitimate one that must be justified if it is not enacted). It is a place where many methods of war, violence, and tyranny must be justified if not used. These states must be expanded and their religion spread further.
Of course, it can be put this way: Everything is fair between Christians and Jews; nothing is fair against Arabs who weren't hostile to the West–which makes sense. But what makes no sense is Obama's empowerment and support of hostile Islamist, Iranian, and Turkish states and terrorist groups.
In other words, because Islam and expansionist conflict–including aggressive realpolitik–is so totally legitimate, inter-group, inter-state, inter-ethnic conflict is legitimate, as in the Syrian civil war.
They are limited in promoting too much liberty. These governments operate under extreme restrictions. They cannot be seen to support Israel publicly; they cannot be seen to support Christians, Europe, or defending real democracy or certain economic systems. The Egyptian government has to be careful to not be seen supporting the Copts too much. They are restricted from doing things for their own prosperity, for their own defense.
Look at Turkey, converting a major historical church into a mosque—it is easier for the Turkish government to protect a mosque than a church. The first defense of freedom is outside the boundary.
Thus, both inside and outside, the system seems to be defined on both sides–Harb and Salaam–as:
"War is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength." –George Orwell, 1984
The less you know about Islam, the better. Ignorance is strength.
War is peace, i.e., the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, now at least 80 (or 100) years old.
Freedom is slavery in Shari'a law, even though radical Islamism entails less freedom in certain ways. The fact that you are a slave, in certain ways, may mean you are free. Freedom may be defined as the absolute opposite of freedom in the West. This can be social or political.
Let me provide a political example.
When visiting Washington, Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, met with the President Obama. To his amazement, Karzai was told that Obama said the Taliban was not an enemy of the United States and Washington did not want to fight them.
Do you realize the significance of this?
- The Taliban was collaborator in the September 11 attacks! It could have warned about them and probably stopped them! In other words Obama wants to be friends with the September 11 terrorists! Tell me, did the Taliban apologize? The Taliban have also killed thousands of U.S. and other Western soldiers in the last decade. Did they apologize? Did the Taliban turn over terrorists voluntarily?
- But think of Karzai, too! He's a Western client regime. That means the Taliban want to put his head on a pole in the fighting that will follow the U.S. withdrawal! They will torture him, if they can ever catch him.
But, he asked, if the Americans wanted to be friends with the Taliban, then why did they fight them so much?
Do you know how the U.S. responded to Karzai? That they would pressure him until Afghanistan made unilateral concessions to the Taliban! You know who said that? The absolutely ridiculous Secretary of "Defense" Chuck Hagel. (Guess what? He was known to be soft on Iran and nasty against Israel, which is probably why he was appointed.)
Note this is the same policy for Iran, Turkey, and Lebanon (the pro-American oppositions), and almost for Egypt (Obama-Kerry wanted to support Muslim Brotherhood government, but they backed down after the Brotherhood government was overthrown by a military coup).
These people use real bullets.
So one must understand:
- Islamists feel non-Islamists have no rights.
- All Western states are open ground for subversion and terrorism, including against moderate Muslims.
- Islamist-ruled states will not measure up to any deal with Western states, especially one with compromises.
- The weaker the Western states act, the weaker the Islamists think Westerners to be.
But we should be grateful! After all, Kerry must work hard for his undeserved fame and wealth! Surely you must remember articles about Dean Rusk, Henry Kissinger, and Zbigniew Brzezinki and how hard they worked!
Here's who we should really be grateful to:
Shane Patton, Danny Dietz, Michael P. Murphy–three SEALs who were killed–and Marcus Luttrell–who survived–after a June 28, 2005, operation in Afghanistan to capture Ahmad Shahd of the Taliban, with whom Obama wants to be friends.
As a "reward," and to assist with his rehabilitation, the surviving SEAL Luttrell received a yellow Labrador puppy. He named the dog 'DASY,' representing his name and those of the three fallen SEALs–Danny Dietz, Matthew “Axe” Axelson, Southern boy (Marcus), and Michael “Yankee” Murphy.
In April 2009, the dog was killed by four men, who Luttrell chased "through four counties" until they were apprehended by the police. "Upon arrest, the suspects verbally threatened Luttrell’s life and taunted him." In March 2012, "Alfonso Hernandez was sentenced to two years in a state jail….Michael John Edmonds was sentenced to five years' probation and fined $1,000."
"At the sentencing, Luttrell testified that he was 'still pretty upset' about the killing of DASY and that he felt both defendants should have gotten the maximum sentence."
Now, what was Kerry rewarded with after his bragging, including anti-patriotism, like throwing his medals over a wall?
$3.2 billion, estimated to make him the 30th most wealthy person in the country, and the third richest if he were elected U.S. president.
But wait! About 30% of Kerry's wealth came from a Republican (from his wife Teresa Heinz)! And he did nothing to earn all these riches. He was just born with a silver spoon in his mouth!
Posted by Barry Rubin at 3:38 PM
Friday, December 6, 2013
I'm surprised that the following coincidence was not connected to Purim. Once again an Iranian tyrant is threatening countries in the region, and it isn't just Jews that are worried. In an absolutely remarkable historical event, President Shimon Peres delivered a speech to 29 representatives from Arab and Islamic states via satellite. Do not kid yourself; this would not have happened if the Egyptians, Saudis, and others hadn't thought that the U.S. had sold out the Sunni Arabs.
"Everybody understood that this was something historic: the president of the Jewish state sitting in his office in Jerusalem with an Israeli flag and the foreign ministers sitting in the Persian Gulf discussing security, the war on terror and peace," said one of the Arab organizing officials.
There are three themes to Peres' speech. The threat of Iranian nuclear weapons on all the region's nations, the dangers of radical Islamism, and the usefulness of making peace with Israel (of course he would talk about peace with Israel, but notice that this is not within the context of the Iranian threat). Another easy thing to miss is that simultaneously, the Israeli government said it would provide further details of how close Iran is to obtaining nuclear weapons. Another point that might be missed is the implication that Israel will share nuclear intelligence with other Arab-Muslim nations.
At a meeting between an Israeli ambassador and a very high-ranking Saudi official, the latter said, "Jerusalem must be liberated and Palestine must be an independent country. Okay, that's out of the way, now let's talk about everything else."
The Arab-Turkish cooperation forum is still stalled. When Erdogan became prime minister, Turkey had good relations with Israel against the Arab states. Yet Erdogan is a Sunni Islamist supporting revolutionary Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists. Because of this, he switched from relative support for Israel to support for revolutionary Islamists. But note the cost: This month a parliamentary candidate is openly running in a Marxist-Kurdish party. And in fact, the Kurdish Worker's Party has been strengthened, especially in Syria.
There is, however, something more here, and believe it that the Saudis will listen and hear that the bill has been presented and Turkey expects to pay. At the same time, the Turkish ambassador has been expelled from Egypt, and Gulf Arabs are increasingly worried about continued Turkish support for the Syrian insurgency. In other words, Israel may claim the new Middle East politics better than Iran and even better than the United States. Obviously, Israel and Saudi Arabia are not going to carry out a joint attack on Iran or take any other drastic measures. Yet this may lead to other positive developments. Just don't forget the old pattern. In a television broadcast, a senior Kuwaiti mullah said:
“Oh servants of Allah, how saddening and very painful it is to see many Muslim youths glued to TV screens at cafes or at home, passionately watching entertainment shows, like the football World Cup, in despicable subjugation to the abominations of the other nations–as if we were not a nation with a brilliant history and a lofty civilization…The Jews were successful in preoccupying the Muslim youth–except those protected by Allah–with the most inane matters, distracting them from important things…” –Shaykh Abd al-Muhsin al-Mutairi
None of this has changed the politics. It is for Arab public consumption. It would be too hazardous for an Arab government to accept Israel's nationhood.
Finally, note that since Egypt is angry with Hamas–and Egypt and Israel are keeping peace in the Sinai–Hamas has more limited wartime capabilities. And Hizballah–because of its participation in the Syrian civil war–wants to avoid armed conflict with Israel. This situation seems to be the best that can be achieved in the region.
Posted by Barry Rubin at 2:47 PM