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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Roger Cohen's "Obama's Exceptionalism": What's Happened to Cohen's Memory?

Roger Cohen, "Obama's Exceptionalism" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/01/opinion/01iht-edcohen01.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), March 31, 2011, following Obama's decision to intervene in Libya:

"Obama, having embraced in extremis the radical idea that “the United States of America is different,” having taken a shot at nations that “may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries” (the rising powers — Brazil, Russia, India, China — all abstained on the Libya vote) must now deliver on his honed interpretation of American exceptionalism."

Roger Cohen, "Libyan Closure" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/08/opinion/08iht-edcohen08.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), March 7, 2011, prior to Obama's decision to intervene in Libya, when the administration was sending signals that it would not participate in a no-fly zone:

"There are many reasons I oppose a Western military intervention in Libya: the bitter experience of Iraq; the importance of these Arab liberation movements being homegrown; the ease of going in and difficulty of getting out; the accusations of Western pursuit of oil that will poison the terrain; the fact that two Western wars in Muslim countries are enough.

But the deepest reason is the moral bankruptcy of the West with respect to the Arab world."

So which is it, American "exceptionalism" or American "moral bankruptcy"?

Forgive me, Roger, but you've left me quite confused. Has your memory failed you? Or is it a sycophantic need to fall glibly into line with prevailing Obama administration policy?

The Washington Post Reveals Locations of Hezbollah Bunkers

The Washington Post has published maps indicating the locations of Hezbollah bunkers in southern Lebanon (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/world/Israeli-military-information-on-Hezbollah.html). Why did the Israeli army provide these maps to The Washington Post? Answer: In my opinion, Israel is placing Hezbollah on notice that this costly military infrastructure, financed by Iran, will disappear within less than an hour if they should decide to fire a Scud at Israel.

Now, kindly recall that Roger Cohen sought to equate Hezbollah with the ultra-Orthodox Israeli political party, Shas, in his March 28 op-ed, "Arabs Will Be Free" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/29/opinion/29iht-edcohen29.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss):

"Hezbollah is a political party with a militia. That’s a big problem. Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Shas party has an outsized influence over Israel because of coalition politics. That’s a problem."

How interesting: Hezbollah is a "problem" and Shas is also a "problem". And just to demonstrate to you how much of a problem Shas poses to Israeli democracy, I am showing you below, for the first time, a map of Shas bunkers located throughout Israel:





Where's the map? Sorry, there is no map, and there are no Shas bunkers. There is not even a Shas militia.

Nice try, Roger.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nicholas Kristof's "Democracy Is Messy": The Severed Ear of a Christian Copt Can Indeed Be Messy

Today, in his New York Times op-ed entitled "Democracy is Messy" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/31/opinion/31kristof.html), Nicholas Kristof writes:

"A group of Salafis recently attacked a Coptic Christian, apparently accusing him of illicit sexual activity and cutting off his ear.

Order is breaking down somewhat."

I agree with Kristof. Order is breaking down "somewhat", and a severed ear can indeed be "messy".

Kristof also writes:

"Mohammed Alaiwa, a professor of literary criticism at Cairo University, told me that he was in a dean’s office recently when a Muslim Brotherhood student burst in, pulled out a pistol and threatened to shoot the dean unless he resigned then and there (the student eventually backed down). Professor Alaiwa said that he now fears the Muslim Brotherhood students."

Had the dean been shot in the head, this would have been even "messier", but I cannot help wondering why the learned professor would be fearful of this minor "mess".

Kristof further observes:

"With the police out of commission, the army uses thugs to intimidate its critics. And, when it really gets irritated, it arrests and tortures democracy activists. As I wrote in my previous column, it has even tried to humiliate female activists by subjecting them to forced 'virginity exams.'”

Yes, I suppose torture of critics and "virginity exams" performed by the Egyptian army might also be deemed "messy", but at the risk of being petty, I personally prefer to categorize such behavior as "nasty".

Notwithstanding this disagreement over semantics, I was encouraged by Mr. Kristof's reassurances:

"Moreover, the biggest losers of the revolution are likely to be violent Islamic extremist groups that lose steam when the more moderate Muslim Brotherhood joins the system."

However, Mr. Kristof forgets to mention that Yusuf Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader, claims that the Holocaust was divine punishment of the Jews, defends the Iranian fatwa demanding the death of Salman Rushdie, and promoted a “day of rage” against cartoons of Mohammed printed in Sweden and Denmark. Qaradawi has also defended female genital mutilation and supports the death penalty for those who abandon Islam.

Excuse me, but if this is "moderation", we can only wonder what the "violent Islamic extremist groups", referred to by Kristof, are seeking.

Thanks for the cheerful spin from Cairo, Nicholas. It made my morning.

[Lest I forget, in his last op-ed "Arabs Will Be Free" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/03/roger-cohens-arabs-will-be-free.html), Roger Cohen also wrote: "Democracy is a messy all-or-nothing business." Frankly, I think it is the New York Times op-ed page that is a mess.]

Thomas Friedman's "No Boots on the Ground in Libya": And What About Afghanistan?

In an op-ed in today's New York Times entitled "Looking for Luck in Libya" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/30/opinion/30friedman.html?_r=1), Tom Friedman writes concerning Libya:

"Those boots cannot be ours. We absolutely cannot afford it — whether in terms of money, manpower, energy or attention."

I agree. Well said!

And perhaps he would now care to explain America's ongoing presence on the ground in Afghanistan.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Roger Cohen's "Arabs Will Be Free": Sickening

The following blog entry, which was submitted as an online comment in response to Roger Cohen's op-ed, "Arabs Will Be Free", was censored by The New York Times. Abusive? Not on point? Judge for yourself. To what depths has The New York Times descended? And they want me to purchase an online subscription to their newspaper . . .

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Arabs Will Be Free" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/29/opinion/29iht-edcohen29.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), Roger Cohen would equate the democracies of Turkey, Lebanon and Israel. As one who has spent time in all three of these countries, I am deeply disturbed by Cohen's comparison.

In an opinion piece entitled "While democracy is advancing in Turkey", written by Serkan Demirtaş and published on Friday by Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review (http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=while-democracy-is-advancing-in-turkey-2011-03-25), it is observed, inter alia, that in Turkey:

• 68 journalists have been jailed, hundreds more are being prosecuted, and this country ranks 138th in the Reporters Sans Frontiers index of countries in terms of free media;
• hundreds of people from academia, civil society and the business world have been held in prison for years without being convicted of any crime;
• there is massive illegal wiretapping;
• personal privacy is violated almost every day, and it is widely believed that the judiciary is no longer independent, the media is biased, and democratic rights and freedoms are limited by growing government pressure.

Regarding Lebanon, Cohen tells us:

"Talk to Hezbollah: That’s obvious. It’s no terrorizing monolith."

Hezbollah is "no terrorizing monolith"? Cohen fails to mention:

• the 2005 murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri by Hezbollah;
• Hezbollah's bombing of the Jewish community center building in Buenos Aires in 1994, which killed 85 people and injured hundreds;
• the 1984 kidnap and murder by torture of William Francis Buckley by Hezbollah.
• the 1983 bombing of the Beirut barracks housing the U.S. members of the multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon, which killed 220 Marines, 18 Navy sailors, and three Army soldiers. Attempts at rescuing survivors from the rubble were subsequently hindered by Hezbollah sniper fire.

I go to sleep and still see the bodies of persons murdered by Hezbollah in my dreams.

Israel's democracy? Not by any means perfect, but how does Cohen begin to compare Israel's ultra-Orthodox Shas party with Hezbollah, which has a "militia" that can easily overpower the Lebanese army, and which is regularly used to intimidate other Lebanese factions. Unlike Shas, which has no military wing whatsoever, Hezbollah currently has an arsenal of more than 40,000 rockets and missiles, provided by Syria and Iran.

The power of Israel's democracy? In Turkey and Lebanon wives, mothers, daughters and sisters are regularly victims of so-called "honor killings". In Israel, on the other hand, a former president has just been sentenced to seven years in prison for raping a former employee and sexually harassing two other women. Although an embarrassment to Israel, it also serves as a reminder of the power of Israeli democracy, where women's rights will not be trampled, where a woman heads the main opposition party, and where a woman serves as the chief justice of Israel's Supreme Court.

Cohen writes:

"Democracy is a messy all-or-nothing business. That’s why I love it. You can no more be a little bit democratic than a little bit pregnant."

Sorry, but I don't buy this. As evidenced by the number of Turkish journalists currently languishing in prison, there are obviously countries that call themselves "democratic", but which do not respect the fundamental principles of this form of government.

Syria: Hillary Never Played Poker

Hillary Clinton has announced that she will not be serving as Secretary of State if Obama is reelected and has recently been complaining that she is surrounded in the Obama administration by a bevy of foreign policy neophytes. However, Hillary has once again demonstrated that she is also no repository of diplomatic sagacity. In an interview with CBS News (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/03/27/ftn/main20047627.shtml), Hillary has informed Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad that the U.S. will not intervene even if his security forces continue to murder civilians:

"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this weekend that the U.S. was not currently poised to send U.S. military forces into Syria, noting that while 'we deplore the violence in Syria,' the situation there could not be equated to that of Libya.

. . . .

'There is a different leader in Syria now, many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he's a reformer,' Clinton said."

Yeah, right, Assad is a real "reformer". Just ask Bashar's friend, Senator John Kerry.

However, before reaching conclusions, you might also want to ask the opinion - if you could - of the thousands of political prisoners rotting in Syrian prisons. Even Human Rights Watch has acknowledged that Syria's record on freedom and human rights has not improved since Bashar came to power (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/16/syrian-human-rights-unchanged-assad).

Norway's SV Party: Use Armed Force Against Israel If It Attacks Gaza

Norway's Socialist Left Party, also known as SV, which is the fourth largest political party in Norway and a member of the governing coalition, is voting on a motion to use armed force against Israel if it should attack Gaza (see: http://www.israelwhat.com/2011/03/26/socialistic-left-dubious-moral-tradeoff-for-bombing-libya-use-armed-force-against-israel/). The rationale behind the motion of the SV Party, which is led by Kristin Halvorsen:

"The credibility of the world community in its confrontation with the Gadafi regime is undermined when there is no reaction against other states in the region who commit injustices against civil population. The greater world community must therefore also react against Israeli air attacks on the Gaza strip."

Remarkable! Hamas and friends can fire more than 50 mortar shells in a single day at Israeli civilian targets, as they did this past Saturday, and shoot Grad missiles at the Israeli cities of Beersheva, Ashdod and Ashqelon, as they did this past week, yet Israeli should be bombed by NATO should there be retaliation.

In voting on this motion, the SV Party is joining ranks with Turkey, whose deputy prime minister, Bülent Arınç, also called for airstrikes against Israel (http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/03/21/turkey%e2%80%99s-deputy-prime-minister-calls-for-airstrikes-on-israel/).

Obviously, Norway's closet anti-Semites couldn't care less about acts of terror against Israeli civilians; however, I wonder how they feel about acts of terror against female journalists in Gaza. Read the following from an article in today's Jerusalem Post, entitled "Gaza cops use ‘beatings, stun guns’ on women reporters" (http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=214092) by Khaled Abu Toameh, which describes the fear and oppression perpetuated by Hamas in Gaza:

"A number of Palestinian women journalists complained on Sunday that they had been beaten and tortured by Hamas security forces in the Gaza Strip. They said the assaults occurred in recent days when they and their colleagues tried to cover pro-unity rallies in different parts of the Gaza Strip.

. . . .

Later, Hamas security personnel raided the offices of a number of media organizations and confiscated equipment and documents. Among the offices targeted were Reuters, CNN and a Japanese TV network.

One of the female journalists, Samah Ahmed, complained that a Hamas policeman in military uniform stabbed her in the back as she tried to leave the al-Katiba Square, where pro-unity protesters were staging a sit-in strike. She said that she and another female journalist, Asma al-Ghoul, were later also beaten with clubs before they were taken to detention.

. . . .

Jihan al-Sirsawi, another woman who works as a journalist in the Gaza Strip, said that the police officers who attacked the demonstrators beat her severely. 'They used electrical shocks against us,' she said. 'They beat me so strongly that I lost consciousness and fell to the ground. I woke up only 15 minutes later.'”

Norway's SV Party is obviously unmoved by rockets and missiles aimed at Israeli civilians, and apparently they are also indifferent to the torture of journalists, honor killings, persecution of Christians and murder of political dissidents in Gaza. Afterall, if they were to acknowledge the horrors perpetrated by Hamas and friends, how they possibly continue to demonize Israel and maintain their constituency.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

American Officials Concerned That Assad's Departure Will Destabilize Israel: Are They on Drugs?

As known to all, Syria is one of the most repressive regimes in the Middle East and an exporter of terrorism. Syria can "credit" itself, inter alia, with:

• murdering Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri;
• killing up to 40,000 Sunni dissidents in the city of Hama in 1982;
• providing a friendly domicile for the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad;
• arming Hezbollah to the teeth;
• seeking to build nuclear weapons;
• allying itself with the Islamic Republic of Iran;
• persecuting its Kurdish minority;
• arresting and torturing human rights activists and dissidents.

None of this, however, prevented the Obama administration from overturning Bush policy and sending John Kerry to befriend Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and appointing Robert Ford as the American ambassador to Damascus.

Today we are told in a New York Times "news analysis" entitled "Unrest in Syria and Jordan Poses New Test for U.S. Policy" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/27/world/middleeast/27diplomacy.html?hp) written by Mark Landler, that recent unrest in Syria, which has led to the arrest of hundreds of Syrian civilians and more than 60 dead, is causing great concern to the Obama administration. As stated in the article:

"Even as the Obama administration defends the NATO-led air war in Libya, the latest violent clashes in Syria and Jordan are raising new alarm among senior officials who view those countries, in the heartland of the Arab world, as far more vital to American interests.

Deepening chaos in Syria, in particular, could dash any remaining hopes for a Middle East peace agreement, several analysts said. It could also alter the American rivalry with Iran for influence in the region and pose challenges to the United States’ greatest ally in the region, Israel.

. . . .

As American officials confront the upheaval in Syria, a country with which the United States has icy relations, they say they are pulled between fears that its problems could destabilize neighbors like Lebanon and Israel, and the hope that it could weaken one of Iran’s key allies."

"Destabilize" Israel? Are these American officials on drugs? Since 2006 Syria has been the conduit to Hezbollah of some 40,000 rockets and missiles, including advanced, long-range Scuds, which threaten all Israeli cities with massive destruction.

The New York Times news analysis goes on to say that the Syrian "crackdown calls into question the entire American engagement with Syria." Indeed, as observed by the article, the Obama administration organized a delegation from Microsoft, Dell and Cisco Systems to visit Syria, and approved export licenses for civilian aircraft parts. However, all of these efforts failed to drive a wedge between Syria and Iran.

But more to the point, the Syrian crackdown calls into question the entire Obama administration school of diplomacy. The Obama Administration's effort to reach out to the world's most repressive regimes in order to demonstrate that tyrannies respond to kindness, i.e. the Obama Doctrine, has fallen on its face, first in Iran, now in Syria. Finally, after more than two years in the White House, Obama is coming to realize that his overtures were perceived as weakness, and instead of returning his kisses, these monstrous regimes are spitting in his face.

Is the Obama administration truly concerned that the crisis in Syria will destabilize Israel, or is it more concerned that they will come away looking like naïve bunglers and will bear this burden going into the 2012 U.S. presidential election?

Or, in other words, is the Obama administration, like the Assad regime, worried about saving its own skin . . .

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spread of Daraa Revolt Spells Assad's Demise: Where Will the Syrian Dictator Go?

Yesterday's protests in Syria spread beyond the southern city of Daraa to Damascus, Homs, Latakia, Hama and Sanamein, despite the brutal shootings of demonstrators by the internal security service, and President Bashar al-Assad's days are numbered.

Notwithstanding the demands of the demonstrators for greater political freedom, the Assad regime is being brought down by the failure of its economy. Syria's agriculture sector employs some 30 percent of its labor force, and much emphasis has been placed in recent years on achieving food self-sufficiency and stemming rural migration. However, Syria's most important cash crop is cotton, which demands much water, and a five-year drought has had catastrophic consequences.

Syria's limited oil reserves are also dwindling.

Add to this volatile mixture the fact that Assad is an Alawite. Alawites, who comprise 10% of Syria's population, are considered by many to be a Shiite sect; however, there are those Sunnis who say that Alawites are not even Muslims. Syria's population of some 22 million is 70% Sunni, and there is much pent up hostility toward Assad, who, like his father, has sought to preserve power by populating the military and secret service leadership with fellow Alawites.

Assad is finished. Unlike the situation in Libya, he cannot attempt to bomb dissident "tribes" into submission, although his father succeeded with a variation of this tactic in 1982, when the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood revolted in Hama, and Hafez al-Assad responded by killing as many as 40,000 of the city's inhabitants. Today, with the entire world watching, Bashar Assad, the son, cannot dare consider this kind of massacre, particularly given that protests are no longer confined to Daraa.

The implications of Assad's demise? Multifold, although there is no way of knowing how it will all pan out. Shiite Iran will almost undoubtedly lose a key partner, and without Assad's proximity and patronage, Hezbollah, already facing budget cuts as the result of reduced Iranian funding, will be dramatically weakened.

Assad and his family will soon go into exile, but who will receive them? John Kerry? Vogue? Maybe Iran - at least until the dissidents again take to the streets in Tehran, which will not be long in coming.

Katzav's Attorney Warns That His Client Might Commit Suicide If Sent to Jail

The attorney representing Israel's former president, Moshe Katzav, who was sentenced to seven years in prison for raping a former employee and sexually harassing two other women, fears that his client might commit suicide if forced to serve his sentence (http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/katsav-may-commit-suicide-if-jailed-for-rape-conviction-warns-his-lawyer-1.351567).

Query: Is Katzav concerned that he might be raped in prison?

Assad's Fate in the Hands of the Kurds

Although they number 30 million, you rarely read of the horrific persecution against the Middle East's Kurds in the world's leading English language newspapers: No mention of the "plight of the Kurds", no mention of pogroms against the Kurds, no mention of "flotillas" bringing much needed aid to the Kurds, and no mention of efforts to purge the Kurds of their cultural identity.

The Kurds are to be found in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, and have long sought independence. Only in Iraq, following the First Gulf War and the imposition of a no-fly zone over Saddam's Iraq, were the Kurds able to establish some measure of self-governance.

This, however, may soon change.

In Syria Kurds total some 10% of the population. As observed in my prior blog entry, an unprecedented five-year drought in Syria has decimated farmlands, caused hundreds of thousands of persons to abandon their rural villages and migrate to Syrian cities, and has reduced three million people to extreme poverty. Kurd villages in particular have been hard struck by this disaster.

Although they have yet to join the protests that started in the southern Syrian city of Daraa, Damascus is becoming increasingly nervous about Kurdish intentions.

As reported in a CNN article entitled "Kurds in Syria 'waiting to take to the streets,' academic says" (http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/03/24/syria.kurds/index.html?hpt=T2), a revolt is simmering:

"The Kurds, representing around 10% of the country's population, are 'ready, watching and waiting to take to the streets, as their cause is the strongest,' according to Robert Lowe, manager of the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Largely concentrated along the borders with Turkey and Iraq in the northeast of the country, the Kurds have long been described as a repressed minority in Syria. Since the break-up of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, they have fought for an independent Kurdistan with fellow Kurds in Iran, Iraq and Turkey. Their situation in Syria has been particularly difficult in the past five decades.

'They didn't have problems before this regime,' said Obeida Nahas, director of the Levant Institute, a London-based Syrian think tank. 'Now they are denied the right to speak or even write in their own language and are told to use Arab names.'"

Although the prospect of granting independence to the Middle East's 30 million Kurds poses a nightmare for Turkey, which also has a history of oppressing its Kurdish minority, it is high time that the Kurds be granted liberty and cultural freedom.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Assad to Improve Living Standards in Syria: Yeah, Right!

After his security personnel slaughtered more than 100 protesters in the city of Daraa over the past several days, Assad has today announced, according to Reuters, his intention to improve Syrian living standards:

"Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ordered on Thursday the formation of a committee to raise living standards and study scrapping emergency law that has governed Syria for the last 48 years, his adviser said.

Assad did not order security forces to fire at protesters in the southern city of Deraa, Bouthaina Shaaban said at a news conference in the Syrian capital."

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/24/syria-assad-committee-idUSLDE72N20320110324

Maybe someone (his buddy, John Kerry?) should tell Assad that it's hard to improve civilian living standards when much of a country's GDP is devoted to providing armaments to Hezbollah and maintaining hegemony over Lebanon.

It is also difficult to improve civilian living standards when an unprecedented five-year drought has decimated farmlands, caused hundreds of thousands of persons to abandon their rural villages and migrate to Syrian cities, and has reduced three million people to extreme poverty.

Yes, Syria could benefit from Israeli desalinization technology, but far more important to Assad is maintenance of his tyrannical hold over the country.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, the protests in Daraa and the subsequent escalation of hostilities between Hamas, whose leadership resides in Damascus, and Israel is no accident. If Assad can distract the Syrian street by encouraging a new war between Hamas and Israel, the Syrian dictator is willing to fight until the last Palestinian.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Nicholas Kristof's "Hugs From Libyans": A New Benchmark for Naivete

In an op-ed in today's New York Times entitled "Hugs From Libyans" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/24/opinion/24kristof.html?hp), Nicholas Kristof writes:

"This time my reporting persuades me that most Libyans welcome outside intervention."

It is hard to imagine that reporting from Egypt, as opposed to Libya itself, provides a credible basis for "persuasion". Moreover, Kristof's determination that "most" (51%?) Libyans support intervention rings hollow. There is still no description by Kristof of the opposing tribes involved in this conflict, but then how could such details find their way into Kristof's op-ed, given that Kristof is to be found in Cairo?

As observed in prior blog entries, Qaddafi's tribe, the privileged Gadaffa, are fighting those seeking a larger share of the pie. The Gaddafa, out to preserve their entitlement, couldn't give a fig about Qaddafi's sponsorship of terror or human rights atrocities. I can authoratively inform Kristof that "most" Gaddafa oppose intervention, and on my next journey to Tripoli, I will be certain to arrange a scientific poll.

However, I agree with Kristof that Qaddafi would have shown no mercy to those living in Benghazi, and intervention was mandated to avert a bloodbath.

"Hugs from Libyans"? Get real, Nicholas. This is still a tribal war, and when the fighting is over and the Gaddafa, Warfalla, Zawiya, Bani Walid and Zintan patch up their differences, my bet is that "most" Libyans will have forgotten this noble gesture and will revert to their prior hatred of the U.S.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thomas Friedman's "Tribes With Flags": Only Intervene in the Affairs of "Real" Countries?

In an op-ed in today's New York Times entitled "Tribes With Flags" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/23/opinion/23friedman.html), Thomas Friedman contends:

"[T]here are two kinds of states in the Middle East: “real countries” with long histories in their territory and strong national identities (Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Iran); and those that might be called “tribes with flags,” or more artificial states with boundaries drawn in sharp straight lines by pens of colonial powers . . ."

But consider for a moment how the borders of the U.S. were ultimately established:

• Wars between European colonizers: Britain, France, Holland and Spain.
• Conflicts with and the displacement of numerous aboriginal tribes.
• Wars and prolonged conflicts at sea with a European colonizer: Britain.
• Territorial purchases from colonizers: France and Russia.
• Territorial purchases from a neighboring state: Mexico.
• Suppression of a war of secession in which rebels received arms from Britain.
• Wars with neighboring states: Mexico and Spain (Cuba).

Query to Mr. Friedman: Given all of the above, is the U.S. a "real" country with "real" borders?

I would observe, however, that the U.S. has a tradition of religious tolerance that is conspicuously absent from the Muslim Middle East, including those countries which Mr. Friedman lists as "real" countries. Note Egypt's persecution of its Copt minority (some 10% of its population). Also note Iran's brutal oppression of its Baha'i and Sunni minorities.

The U.S. should decide to intervene in the Middle East on the basis of "real" or "artificial" country? Or, as was the case in Libya where a dictator threatened civilians with "no mercy", the U.S. should consider basic interests of humanity?

Also to be considered is the threat posed to U.S. interests even by "artificial" countries, e.g., the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

Former Israeli President Sentenced to Seven Years in Prison for Rape

Former Israeli President Katzav has been sentenced to seven years in prison and two years probation for rape and sexual harassment (http://www.jpost.com/NationalNews/Article.aspx?id=213254).

Here is resounding proof that there is justice in Israel and that abuse of women in Israel will not be tolerated.

Where else in the Middle East does such justice exist? Where else in the Middle East are women's rights protected?

Time to Reassess America's Relationship with Turkey

It's time for the U.S. to reassess its relationship with Turkey.

After Obama became president, the first Muslim country that he visited in April 2009 was Turkey, where he told the Turkish parliament that he favors Turkish membership in the European Union. Beyond that, Obama has systematically reneged on his campaign promise to recognize Armenian Genocide. What has the U.S. gotten in return?

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has publicly supported Iran's nuclear program, claiming that it is for civilian purposes only (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8570842.stm), notwithstanding the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and hosted Ahmadinejad in late December 2010.

Erdogan was also among the few world leaders to congratulate Ahmadinejad after the spurious Iranian presidential election in June 2009 (http://www.thememriblog.org/blog_personal/en/17322.htm), notwithstanding the brutal suppression of subsequent mass protests in Tehran.

In December 2010, Erdogan traveled to Tripoli to receive the "Qaddafi International Prize for Human Rights". Previous recipients of the prize, worth some $250,000, have included Louis Farrakhan (1996), Fidel Castro (1998), and Hugo Chavez (2004).

Earlier this month, Turkey opposed sanctions passed by the U.N. Security Council against Libya, and Erdogan announced that he would also object to NATO enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya (http://www.hudson-ny.org/1927/turkey-opposes-no-fly-zone-over-libya-and-un).

Now, Turkey's deputy prime minister, Bülent Arınç, is voicing support for airstrikes against Israel (http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/03/21/turkey%e2%80%99s-deputy-prime-minister-calls-for-airstrikes-on-israel/).

Given all of the above, does the U.S. seriously intend to proceed with its plans to provide Turkey with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter? Time for Obama and friends to give this a little more thought.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hamas Ordered to Seek Confrontation with Israel

As noted in my prior blog entry, encouraged by the actions taken by the rebels in Libya, Syrians are now taking to the streets in Daraa, seeking an end to Assad's tyrannical regime. Yesterday, another protester was killed in Daraa by Assad's security forces.

Also, U.S. and European intervention in Libya has Tehran worried that the next time that the dissidents take to the streets demanding the ouster of Ahmadinejad, the passivity of the West in response to the slaughter of innocents is not assured.

It is no accident that Damascus and Tehran ordered Hamas to fire 50 mortar shells at civilian targets in southern Israel on Saturday in an effort to ignite a confrontation, which was intended to distract their "streets" from events in Libya. Hamas would never act on its own in this manner without instructions.

Yesterday, Hamas continued the rocket and mortar shelling of Israel and fired a Grad-type missile at the Israeli city of Ashqelon, again upon the orders of Damascus and Tehran, in order to provoke Israeli retaliation; however, Netanyahu is no fool, and the Israeli government is acting with restraint.

Quite correctly, Obama has delared that there will be no American "boots on the ground" in Libya, but has also demonstrated to Qaddafi, the monster who ordered the downing of Pan Am flight 103, that America still has teeth in the face of brutal attacks against civilians.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Syria, Facing Internal Dissension, Orders Hamas to Fire Mortars at Israel

This morning 50 mortars shells were fired from Gaza at civilian targets in southern Israel. Hamas's Izzadin Kassam Brigades took partial responsibility for the unprovoked attack. Two Israelis were lightly wounded.

Hamas, whose leadership resides in Damascus, would not dare undertake a provocation of this kind without the express approval of Assad. What has happened? Simple: On Friday there was a demonstration against the Assad regime in the Syrian city of Daraa, which is some 60 miles south of Damascus, during which five demonstrators were killed. Today, Syrian police fired tear gas at 10,000 persons who came to attend the funeral of two of the victims.

Concerned by calls for revolution in light of events elsewhere in the Middle East, Assad is seeking a quick fix by distracting the population with renewed fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Will Assad's ploy work? Probably not, but we have yet to see the full Israeli response to this act of war by Hamas and friends.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Roger Cohen's "Be Ruthless or Stay Out": What Happened to Cohen's "Moral Bankruptcy of the West"?

How remarkable! After opposing the British and French proposal for a no-fly zone over Libya only three days ago, the Obama administration has now changed its mind, and not only supports a no-fly zone, but also wants Qaddafi's airforce, armor and artillery eliminated. Someone in the Obama administration has grown some cojones almost overnight. Or did Hillary threaten to resign over the president's "reflective" torpor?

Less remarkable is how Roger Cohen has flipped on a dime: In a March 7, 2011 New York Times op-ed entitled "Libyan Closure" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/08/opinion/08iht-edcohen08.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), Cohen told us,

"There are many reasons I oppose a Western military intervention in Libya . . . But the deepest reason is the moral bankruptcy of the West with respect to the Arab world."

Today, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Be Ruthless or Stay Out" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/18/opinion/18iht-edcohen18.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), in stark contrast with his earlier directive, yet in keeping with the new Obama administration policy, Cohen is hedging his bet:

"What’s clear to me is that there is no halfway house. Spurn conscience-salving gestures. The case against going in prevails unless the West, backed and joined by the Arab League, decides it will, ruthlessly, stop, defeat, remove and, if necessary, kill Qaddafi in short order. I’m skeptical that determination can be forged. Only if it can be does intervention make sense."

What happened to "the moral bankruptcy of the West"?

In fact, what literally happened to "the moral bankruptcy of the West"? When I turn to Roger Cohen's New York Times "columnist page" (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/columns/rogercohen/index.html), there is no reference to his March 7 "Libyan Closure" op-ed. Surprise, surprise!

Meanwhile, the official Libyan news agency, JANA, is declaring that any foreign military action against Libya will jeopardize all Mediterranean air and maritime traffic, and opposing civilians and military will become targets of a Libyan counterattack.

Unlike Cohen, who opposed intervention on the basis of "the moral bankruptcy of the west", I recommended cratering Qaddafi's airfields more than two weeks ago, when "boots on the ground" would not have been necessary to topple Qaddafi (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/03/nicholas-kristofs-heres-what-we-can-do.html).

The rebels could not possibly oppose Qaddafi's helicopters, armor and artillery without assistance. I still believe that "boots on the ground" must be categorically avoided, but hope it's not too late to defenestrate this monster.

Japan: Where Is Obama?

Given the enormity of the disaster in Japan, I again find myself asking, where is Obama? Yes, I know: There was the brief March 11 statement in which he offered his condolences. But where are the offers of technical cooperation, rescue assistance, medical help and basic human needs, e.g., food and blankets? Is this any way to treat an ally?

And forgive me for daring to ask the unimaginable: Notwithstanding the radiation risk, why can't the president bring himself to visit Tokyo? This gesture would be remembered for generations to come.

Or at least send Hillary, who in the past told tall tales of bravery under sniper fire in Bosnia.

But why should we fool ourselves? Obama is not a leader, and this "reflective" president likes to watch as developments unfold in the Far East and, as we have already painfully learned, in the Middle East.

Regarding the Middle East. I noted in my prior blog entry that Hillary is currently not welcome in Saudi Arabia. Now, we learn:

"A coalition of six youth groups that emerged from Egypt’s revolution last month has refused to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived in Cairo earlier today, in protest of the United States’ strong support for former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who was ousted by the uprising."

http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2011/03/young-leaders-of-egypts-revolt-snub-clinton-in-cairo.html

U.S. prestige around the globe has never been lower.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Obama: Out of Control in the Middle East

I care little for truisms and refuse to live my life according to adages; however, there is indeed one which has set me to thinking of late:

"You are either in control, or out of control."

Make no mistake about it, in the Middle East Obama is "out of control".

After Obama refused to back, even vocally, the dissidents in Iran in 2009, their street rebellion was destined to failure.

More recently, Obama called for, and received, the head of Mubarak, a long-time U.S. ally.

Now, after Obama claimed that the United States is "slowly tightening the noose" on Qaddafi (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110311/ap_on_re_us/us_obama) and Hillary declared that "nothing is off the table" regarding a possible U.S. response to the Libyan crisis (http://blogs.voanews.com/breaking-news/2011/02/28/clinton-no-option-off-table-in-libya-crisis-2/), we now know that the U.S. is refusing to back the no-fly zone sponsored by France and the U.K. (see: http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/03/14/un.libya.no.fly.talks/index.html?hpt=T2). We also know that on Monday Qaddafi's forces had retaken the town of Zuwara from the rebels (http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/03/15/libya.civil.war/index.html?hpt=T2). Apparently that noose around Qaddafi's neck is tightening very, very, very slowly.

Saudi Arabia is furious with Obama, and without consulting the U.S., which has shown itself to be impotent in Saudi eyes, it has sent, together with the United Arab Emirates, 2,000 troops to Bahrain in support of its Sunni leadership. Bahrain's king, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, is facing opposition from the island's majority Shiite population, and the entry of Saudi and UAE soldiers has in turn raised the wrath of Iran, which is labeling the troop movement an "invasion" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/world/middleeast/16bahrain.html?hp).

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is reeling from the recent refusal of Saudi Arabia to play host to Secretary of Defense Gates and Secretary of State Clinton, who were both forced to cancel their visits to the desert kingdom. According to The New York Times, "American officials were left wondering whether the cause was King Abdullah’s frail health — or his pique at the United States" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/15/world/middleeast/15saudi.html?hp).

I cannot believe how daft and obtuse the Obama administration can be, but in any event, so as to leave no stone unturned, I picked up the phone earlier today to King Abdullah, and he is indeed livid with Obama. I don't think I've ever heard this 87-year-old monarch so angry.

As I stated at the outset, "You are either in control or out of control." In the Middle East, as elsewhere, Obama is out of control.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fatah Condemns Itamar Killings While Dedicating a Square in the Name of the Coastal Road Massacre Leader

Hamas in Gaza is labeling the Itamar killings of three sleeping children and their parents a "heroic operation" (http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=211849). I apologize for shocking the sensibilities of any of my readership, and I hope there are no children who read this blog, but for those capable of withstanding the horror of viewing graphic pictures of these tragic murders, see http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/142846. What monster could possibly perpetrate such an act?

Palestinian President Abbas is now denouncing the killings as "despicable, immoral, and inhuman", but on Sunday Abbas's Fatah faction dedicated a town square in El-Bireh after Dalal al-Mughrabi, the leader of the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre.

The Coastal Road Massacre? On March 11, 1978, 11 Fatah terrorists landed near Ma’agan Michael. After killing Gail Rubin, an American nature photographer, they hijacked a passing taxi and drove south toward Tel Aviv. Stopping a northbound bus, they turned it around and began shooting passing cars.

Stopping another bus and taking additional hostages, they were halted at the Glilot Junction north of Tel Aviv, where a battle ensued. As the ultimate result of this barbarity, 37 Israelis and one American lost their lives, including 13 children, and 71 were wounded. (See: http://www.jpost.com/Features/InThespotlight/Article.aspx?id=211632)

Make no mistake about it: Abbas is saying one thing for the consumption of Washington, while doing something altogether else to please the Palestinian street and save his own skin.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Frank Rich's "Confessions of a Recovering Op-Ed Columnist": He Was Never Censored by The New York Times

Frank Rich will no longer be writing op-eds for The New York Times, and in his valedictory entitled "Confessions of a Recovering Op-Ed Columnist" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/13/opinion/13rich.html), Rich proudly asserts that he was never censored by The Times. Forgive me for asking, but why should he have been censored? Rich made a career of writing diatribes against Republicans every Sunday, and there was no reason for these op-eds, very much in keeping with the political philosophy of The Times, to have been set aside.

On the other hand, my online comments in response to Rich and other New York Times columnists are regularly censored, particularly when they express a contradictory opinion.

In fact, the following comment in response to Rich's op-ed of today's date was - you guessed it - censored:

Mr. Rich writes: "During my time on the page, the most frequent question I’ve been asked by readers is: Did The Times ever censor you, or try to censor you? The answer is no."

As someone who submits online comments in response to New York Times op-eds and editorials, and who often disagrees with the New York Times's columnists and editorial staff, I wish I could also say that my comments, particularly when in conflict with the op-ed or editorial, are usually posted.

We are told that "Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive," however, although my opposing views are certainly on-topic and not abusive, many are rejected.

I complained to the New York Times and was informed [by a very senior editor] that a newspaper chooses every day what to print and what not to print and that this is not censorship. However, I observed that this is also not in accordace with the guideline appearing below the comment box.

Censorship or otherwise, I find it disturbing that my opposing views submitted online are often quashed.
I am certain that Rich will be missed by those addicted to attacks upon Republicans, but fortunately for them Gail Collins will continue to supply them with political vitriol, which feeds on people's anger and hatred.

[Is Jeffrey just a neocon with an ax to grind? Sorry, but Jeffrey was once a registered Democrat, who, inter alia, continues to be pro-choice, opposed the Second Gulf War, refused to vote for McCain when he chose Palin as a running mate, and strongly opposes U.S. ground involvement in Afghanistan. Sorry to disappoint . . .]

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sleeping Israeli Family Knifed to Death in Itamar: More Questionable Reporting from CNN

In a story headlined "Israeli family of 5 killed in 'terror attack,' military says" (http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/03/12/west.bank.family.killed/index.html?hpt=T2), CNN tells us:

"Five members of an Israeli family were killed in the West Bank early Saturday morning in what the Israeli military is calling a 'terror attack.'

According to a military spokeswoman, an intruder entered the Israeli settlement of Itamar near the northern West Bank city of Nablus around 1 a.m., made his way into a family home and killed two parents and their three children."

Query: Why are we being told that the source of this news item is the Israeli military? Is this to cast doubt upon the accuracy of the report? The story is also being reported by all Israeli newspapers and television stations.

Moreover, why is "terror attack" placed in quotation marks? When two parents and three children are knifed to death in their sleep, can there be any doubt that this was a terror attack? Yes, I know, they were West Bank settlers, but does this make these murders any less monstrous?

Although the attack has been condemned by the Fatah leadership of the West Bank (see http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=211814 ), Hamas in Gaza is labeling the killings a "heroic operation", and candy was distributed to passersby and drivers in celebration of the event in Rafah (http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=211849).

Does the world care about these horrifying murders? Apparently not, and a new flotilla of of ships sailing for Gaza is planned for late May (http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=new-flotilla-for-gaza-on-deadly-raid-anniversary-2011-02-07). Events in Iran, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya? Who cares! Persecution of Iranian Baha'is, Egyptian and Iraqi Christians, and Turkish, Syrian and Iranian Kurds? It doesn't matter!

Thank you, CNN, for your tacit support of this abomination (see also: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/search/label/CNN).

Friday, March 11, 2011

Henry Kissinger: Democracy in the Muslim Middle East Is Wishful Thinking

I'm no friend of Henry Kissinger, but his analysis of the turmoil gripping the Middle East is entirely in accord with the message of this blog over the past two months:

"Speaking at IHS's CERA's annual energy conference, Kissinger said most media reports have indicated the Mideast protests should result in a relative peaceful transition to more democratic regimes.

Most experts speaking at the conference this week have said that while turmoil and change may come to the Middle East, the end result should be positive for the whole region and that oil supplies should remain stable.

While Kissinger made no prediction on the fate of Middle East oil, he threw cold water on the idea that the transition of power in the region would lead to a new era of democracy there.

'That's wishful thinking,' said Kissinger, who as secretary of state in 1973 helped end the war between Israel, Egypt and Syria and largely shaped the current political makeup of the Middle East. 'There's evidence of rejection of the previous model, but no evidence of what the new model will be.'"

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Oil-industry-gets-Middle-East-cnnm-2433156481.html?x=0&sec=topStories&pos=9&asset=&ccode=

Indeed, the overthrow of Egypt's Mubarak had little to do with "democracy", as much of the media would have us believe, but rather entails a conflict between haves and have-nots, with the have-nots shackled to a life of squalor.

Want proof? A "Million Woman March" on Tuesday, International Women's Day, demanding "fair and equal opportunity for all Egyptian citizens -- beyond gender, religion or class," brought less than a thousand persons to Tahrir Square and quickly degenerated into a shouting match. On Wednesday, a Muslim mob attacked Christian Copts protesting the burning of a Cairo church, resulting in the death of 11 people.

Libya? It is a tribal feud, having nothing to do with democracy, in which the privileged Gaddafa, Qaddafi's tribe, and the Warfalla, are fighting those seeking a larger share of the pie. The Gaddafa and the Warfalla, out to preserve their entitlement, couldn't give a fig about Qaddafi's sponsorship of terror or human rights atrocities.

Meanwhile, as the rebels lose ground to Qaddafi's armor and attack helicopters, Obama promises us that the United States is "slowly tightening the noose" on Qaddafi (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110311/ap_on_re_us/us_obama), the author of the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am flight 103, with the emphasis on "slowly" . . .

Further Evidence That Big Pharma Needs to Take Its Medicine

Anyone who reads this blog knows my opinion of Big Pharma, which is sorely in need of innovation, but which in past years has been reluctant to swallow the medicine needed to heal itself, emphasizing short-term profitablity over long-term growth.

If you still have any lingering doubts about Big Pharma, note Fortune's list of the world's 50 most admired companies (http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/mostadmired/2011/full_list/index.html).

Sadly, the only pharma company on the list is Johnson & Johnson (no. 17), and one can only wonder if it would have made the list without its consumer health products.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Iran Continues to Arm the Taliban

By now, most have forgotten Roger Cohen's April 8, 2009 New York Times op-ed, "Israel Cries Wolf" (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/09/opinion/09iht-edcohen.html), in which Cohen wrote:

"What’s critical right now is that Obama view Netanyahu’s fear-mongering with an appropriate skepticism, rein him in, and pursue his regime-recognizing opening toward Tehran, as he did Wednesday by saying America would join nuclear talks for the first time."

Cohen's prattle was consistent with the views of the Obama administration: If we "make nice" to Iran, surely they will respond in kind.

Consider now where Obama's overtures have ultimately taken us, as reported by The Telegraph:

"British Special Forces in Afghanistan have seized a convoy of powerful Iranian rockets destined for Taliban fighters.

The haul is the strongest evidence yet of a significant escalation in Tehran's support for the Taliban, military officials said.

The consignment of 48 rockets hidden in three trucks was intercepted last month after a fierce fire fight which left several insurgents dead in the remote southern province of Nimroz, bordering Iran.

. . . .

The 122mm rockets have twice the range and twice the blast radius of the Taliban's more commonly used 107mm missiles and have not been seen in action against Nato forces for the past four years.

The 48 weapons had been deliberately disguised to appear manufactured elsewhere, but tests by weapons experts had determined they were from an Iranian factory.

. . . .

The rockets have a range of more than 12 miles and shower shrapnel to a radius of nearly 100 feet."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/8371807/SAS-seize-Iranian-rockets-destined-for-Taliban-fighters.html

Of particular interest here is Shiite Iran's increasing willingness to arm the Taliban, whose adherents consist primarily of Sunni Muslim Pashtuns. In addition to Hezbollah and Hamas, Iran has now taken under its wing yet another terrorist proxy. So much for the Obama Doctrine of appeasing tyrannical regimes while undermining longstanding allies.

The Story Nicholas Kristof Isn't Covering: 11 Die in Christian-Muslim Clashes in Cairo

If you read Nicholas Kristof's New York Times op-eds over the past several weeks, you might have been led to believe that Egypt's Muslims and Christians had come together in Tahrir Square to dethrone a dictator and embrace "democracy" for the benefit of all. Well, here's a story that I don't imagine Nicholas will be covering anytime soon, given that he never bothered in the past to write about the persecution of Egypt's Copts:

"Muslim-Christian clashes in the Egyptian capital Cairo have killed 11 people and wounded more than 90, security and hospital officials said on Wednesday.

The clashes broke out Tuesday night when a Muslim mob attacked thousands of Christians protesting against the burning of a Cairo church last week. Muslims torched the church amid an escalation of tensions between the two religious groups over a love affair between a Muslim and a Christian that set off a violent feud between the couple's families.

The officials said Wednesday that the killed were six Christians and five Muslims, all died from gunshot wounds. They said 94 people were wounded - 73 Muslims and 21 Christians."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110309/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_egypt

And what about equal rights for Egyptian woman in this brave new world? As reported by CNN:

"Also Tuesday, several hundred people showed up for a pro-women demonstration in Cairo -- including some men who chanted anti-feminist slogans.

Egyptian activists had called for a Million Woman March Tuesday, demanding "fair and equal opportunity for all Egyptian citizens -- beyond gender, religion or class."

The march started in Tahrir Square Tuesday afternoon, on International Women's Day.

The turnout appeared to be no more than than 1,000, and the event quickly degenerated into shouting matches between the two sides."

http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/03/09/egypt.clashes/index.html?hpt=T2

Ah, yes, the sweet smelling fruit of nascent "democracy" on the Nile . . .

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Libya: Hillary Also "Likes to Watch"

As you already learned when failing to answer correctly Question No. 5 of the patented JG Caesarea Middle East IQ Intelligence Test (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/02/jg-caesarea-middle-east-iq-test.html), Obama's foreign policy is guided by his passion for sitting on the sidelines and contemplating events as they roll past him. In a nutshell, Obama "likes to watch." Yesterday a senior administration official acknowledged that the U.S. president had excused his own inertia with respect to the crisis in Libya by claiming "the best revolutions are completely organic" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/08/world/middleeast/08policy.html?hp).

Now we learn that Hillary shares Obama's passion: She also "likes to watch". On Tuesday, she declared that any no-fly zone over Libya must be internationally backed and not a U.S.-led effort, i.e. the U.S. is unwilling to assume a leadership role. Moreover, when asked about the possibility of lifting the arms embargo on Libya and providing support to the rebels, she responded:

"Everything is being looked at. It is difficult in the midst of this civil conflict that's going on now to even know how you would do that, because right now it's not clear what part of the country is actually under rebel control."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110309/pl_nm/us_libya_clinton

Let's dissect this pearl of wisdom from the U.S. Secretary of State:

"Everything is being looked at."
What could be more reassuring coming from an administration that is famous for doing . . . nothing. But why should we be surprised? Remember Obama's response to the oil spill in the Gulf and his failure to extricate the U.S. from Afghanistan.

"It is difficult in the midst of this civil conflict that's going on now to even know how you would do that".
Excuse me, Hillary, but what the heck are you saying here? It is difficult to know how you would do what? Find the rebels and provide them with aid? Yeah, this is "Mission Impossible", and these are indeed reassuring words of wisdom from America's most senior diplomat.

"[I]t's not clear what part of the country is actually under rebel control."
Of course it's not clear when you're watching from afar and the rebels are getting their noses bloodied and losing ground to Qaddafi's armor and aircraft.

Not to worry, one of these weeks or months Obama and Hillary will get it together and formulate a response, or, more likely, a non-reponse.

Meanwhile, in furtherance of the Obama administration's policy of watching and waiting, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell tells us that the Pentagon is "preparing a list of military options regarding Libya, and that [Defense Secretary Gates] would outline the risks of taking action as part of those discussions" (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-gates-libya-20110310,0,5816685.story). Maybe Morell can tell us whether he expects the insurrection in Libya to have ended by the time the list is ready.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Roger Cohen's "Libyan Closure": The West Should Not Intervene Owing to "Moral Bankruptcy"

A condensed version of the following blog entry, which was submitted as an online comment in response to Roger Cohen's op-ed, "Libyan Closure", was censored by The New York Times:

Regarding his opposition to Western military intervention in Libya, Roger Cohen writes today in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Libyan Closure" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/08/opinion/08iht-edcohen08.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss):

"But the deepest reason is the moral bankruptcy of the West with respect to the Arab world. Arabs have no need of U.S. or European soldiers as they seek the freedom that America and the European Union were content to deny them. Qaddafi can be undermined without Western military intervention. He cannot prevail: Some officer will eventually make that plain."

There is no mention in this op-ed of the Lockerbie bombing, which killed all 243 passengers and 16 crew members on Pan Am Flight 103. Libya's ex-justice minister, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, has acknowledged what all the world already knew: Qaddafi personally ordered this bombing in 1988. When weighing "moral bankruptcy", why has Cohen omitted this horror?

Moreover, given Cohen's line of reasoning, should the U.S. also avoid any intercession in the Congo, where 5 million people have been slaughtered, or in Darfur, where another half million people have been murdered, inasmuch as slavery was once legal in the U.S.?

Or given that England expelled the Jews in 1290, did this justify the decision not to bomb the railroad lines leading to Auschwitz during World War II?

Wait until "some officer" ultimately disposes of Qaddafi? How many thousands of innocents will die in the interim?

Personally I prefer immediately making deep holes in Qaddafi's airfields, thereby leveling the playing field for the rebels, and I am embarrassed to note that for once, John Kerry and I are in agreement.

But it need be noted that Roger is in fact echoing the thoughts of President Obama (Surprise, surprise!), who likes "to watch" (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/02/jg-caesarea-middle-east-iq-test.html). As reported in an excellent New York Times article entitled "Discord Fills Washington on Possible Libya Intervention" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/08/world/middleeast/08policy.html?hp), David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker tell us:

"Of most concern to the president himself, one high-level aide said, is the perception that the United States would once again be meddling in the Middle East, where it has overturned many a leader, including Saddam Hussein. Some critics of the United States in the region — as well as some leaders — have already claimed that a Western conspiracy is stoking the revolutions that have overtaken the Middle East.

'He keeps reminding us that the best revolutions are completely organic,' the senior official said, quoting the president."

"Organic"? The president appears to be confusing revolutions with Michelle's garden. Last I remember, the 13 American colonies received no small amount of vital assistance from France during their war of independence, but heck, that was so many years ago.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Nicholas Kristof's "Here’s What We Can Do to Tackle Libya": Clueless Advice from a Neophyte

In a op-ed in today's New York Times entitled "Here’s What We Can Do to Tackle Libya" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/03/opinion/03kristof.html), Nicholas Kristof provides a ridiculously short laundry list of suggestions how to dislodge Qaddafi. The sum totality of Kristof's advice:

"The dispatch of American naval vessels to the sea off Libya is a useful step to show resolve. So are sanctions. A no-fly zone would have only a small impact on the fighting, but it would be a powerful signal to the Libyan military to stand down. Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, said Wednesday that the Arab League and African Union might work together to impose a no-fly zone, and Western countries should cooperate closely with them on the idea. We could also try to disrupt Libya’s military communications.

One possible solution to the crisis being discussed within Libya is for Colonel Qaddafi, who isn’t actually president or prime minister, to retire with his sons to his hometown of Sirte and relinquish power to his longtime friend, Mohamed al-Zwai, who is technically head of state. Mr. Zwai, the former ambassador to Britain, has a reputation as a pragmatist and might then be able to bring in rival groups and tribes and stitch the country back together again in a more democratic way. It’s a long shot but worth exploring — and it’s feasible only if Colonel Qaddafi and his friends believe that otherwise they are going down."

Unfortunately, entirely absent from Kristof's discussion of how to remove Qaddafi is a discussion of Libya's tribal structure and loyalties.

There is no mention in Kristof's op-ed concerning the allegiance between Qaddafi's tribe, the Gaddafa, and the Warfalla, and their fealty to Qaddafi, which overrides any human rights concerns that they might feel.

Sadly, there is no indication whatsoever in Kristof's piece how these tribal loyalties and jealousies can be managed in order to dislodge this maniacal tyrant.

Libya's tribal structure is incomprehensible to much of the West, and Nicholas still has years of homework to do before proffering advice how to "tackle" Qaddafi.

Okay, Jeffrey, if you're so smart, what is your advice how to handle this situation? I'm not so smart, but the answer in a nutshell: Work the tribal divisions. Immediately assist in establishing and recognizing an alternative government. And if called upon to do so by this alternative government, destroy, with the Arab League's approval, Qaddafi's military airfields. This will also send a much needed, tacit message to Ahmadinejad. Are you listening, Langley? Susan and Samantha lack the necessary gumption.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Qaddafi, Ahmadinejad and the Bomb

Imagine for a moment that Libya's Qaddafi had an atomic weapon at his disposal. Faced with his current predicament, would Qaddafi choose to launch the weapon at his domestic enemies, Israel or Europe? Under the present circumstances, I believe that there would be an excellent chance that he would let a nuclear tipped missile fly.

Fortunately for the world, Qaddafi was defanged. In an excellent article entitled "In U.S.-Libya Nuclear Deal, a Qaddafi Threat Faded Away" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/02/world/middleeast/02arms.html?hp), David Sanger of The New York Times recently wrote:

"Senior administration officials and Pentagon planners, as they discuss sanctions and a possible no-flight zone to neutralize the Libyan Air Force, say that the 2003 deal removed Colonel Qaddafi’s biggest trump card: the threat of using a nuclear weapon, or even just selling nuclear material or technology, if he believed it was the only way to save his 42-year rule. While Colonel Qaddafi retains a stockpile of mustard gas, it is not clear he has any effective way to deploy it.

'Imagine the possible nightmare if we had failed to remove the Libyan nuclear weapons program and their longer-range missile force,' said Robert Joseph, who played a central role in organizing the effort, in the months just after the invasion of Iraq.

'You can’t know for sure how far the Libyan program would have progressed in the last eight years,' said Mr. Joseph, who left the administration of President George W. Bush a few years after the Libya events, partly because he believed it had gone soft on nuclear rogue states. But given Colonel Qaddafi’s recent threats, he said on Monday, 'there is no question he would have used whatever he felt necessary to stay in power.'”

Query: Is Iran's Ahmadinejad any less crazy than Qaddafi? Although their symptoms might be different, both men are dangerously psychotic.

Now consider Roger Cohen's April 8, 2009 New York Times op-ed "Israel Cries Wolf" (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/09/opinion/09iht-edcohen.html), in which Cohen wrote:

"What’s critical right now is that Obama view Netanyahu’s fear-mongering with an appropriate skepticism, rein him in, and pursue his regime-recognizing opening toward Tehran, as he did Wednesday by saying America would join nuclear talks for the first time."

Cohen's prattle was consistent with the views of other left-leaning commentators: If Israel has nuclear weapons, why shouldn't Iran be given the same rights, which might force Israel to make peace?

As we watch Qaddafi in his death throes, the need to control Iranian nuclear ambitions has never been clearer.

Thomas Friedman's "This Is Just the Start": Bringing New Meaning to the Word "Sycophancy"

A condensed version of the following blog entry, which was submitted as an online comment in response to Thomas Friedman's op-ed, "This Is Just the Start", was censored by The New York Times:

In an op-ed in today's New York Times entitled "This Is Just the Start" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/02/opinion/02friedman.html?hp), Thomas Friedman places the "Obama Factor" at the top of his list of “not-so-obvious forces” that fed the mass revolt in the Muslim Middle East. He says that he is convinced that "more than a few" young Arabs compared Obama with themselves:

"Hmmm, let’s see. He’s young. I’m young. He’s dark-skinned. I’m dark-skinned. His middle name is Hussein. My name is Hussein."

Great thinking, Tom. It would appear, however, that there are more than a few comparisons that Mr. Friedman omitted:

"Hmmm, let's see. He's a millionaire. I'm not. He owns a three-story mansion on a plot which includes land purchased from Tony Rezko. I don't. He writes books about himself. I don't. He bowed to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. I didn't. He greeted Qaddafi of Libya with a big smile and a warm handshake. I didn't. He refused to support the dissidents when they took to the streets of Tehran in 2009. I have more courage than he does. He was among the last leaders in the world to call for the ouster of Qaddafi. On which side of the street is he anyway?"

Yes, Tom, Obama has granted you private audiences, but get real.