Yoram Ettinger: The problem with US mediation
American peace initiatives have not only failed to produce peace, they have inadvertently fueled Arab belligerence.
FP: Well, duh. I have been arguing this for years. And not just about the US: don’t forget the EU and the UN.
Bill Katz: WHAT?
Why do I think we're being played? Read on, from the Washington Post:
KABUL — The United States has for several years been secretly releasing high-level detainees from a military prison in Afghanistan as part of negotiations with insurgent groups, a bold effort to quell violence but one that U.S. officials acknowledge poses substantial risks.
As the United States has unsuccessfully pursued a peace deal with the Taliban, the “strategic release” program has quietly served as a live diplomatic channel, allowing American officials to use prisoners as bargaining chips in restive provinces where military power has reached its limits.
But the releases are an inherent gamble: The freed detainees are often notorious fighters who would not be released under the traditional legal system for military prisoners in Afghanistan. They must promise to give up violence — and U.S. officials warn them that if they are caught attacking American troops, they will be detained once again.
There are no absolute guarantees, however, and officials would not say whether those who have been released under the program have later returned to attack U.S. and Afghan forces once again.
“Everyone agrees they are guilty of what they have done and should remain in detention. Everyone agrees that these are bad guys. But the benefits outweigh the risks,” said one U.S. official who, like others, discussed the issue on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the program.
I really wonder if the benefits outweigh the risks. After all, what will these fighters do once the United States leaves Afghanisan? I suspect they'll slip right back into combat against loyal Afghan units, with horrible results.
One of the nastier things going on today is our sudden memory loss about the Taliban, what it did when it had real power in Afghanistan, and what it stands for. It was the Taliban that shielded Al Qaeda and allowed it training camps. We especially seem to have forgotten its medieval attitude toward women.
President Obama is overwhelmed with foreign problems. Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, the terminally obnoxious Zbigniew Brzezinski, says that Obama is doing a fine job. Boy, do I feel relieved at that. Point me to the nearest bunker.
FP: Read also Katz’s BUT WE HAVE MONEY FOR THIS, Daniel Greenfield’s Winning the War and JoshuaPundit’s 'Gutsy Call'?? Obama Knew Bin Laden's Location Since Summer Of 2010.
And while you’re at it:
Bill Katz: WELCOME TO THE WHITE HOUSE
President Obama has already invited the new French president, Francois Hollande, to the White House. Indeed, the invitation was issued, somewhat unseemly, before the man's inauguration was even scheduled. It will be in a few weeks.
Obama's enthusiasm is understandable. Hollande will be the first Socialist president of France in 17 years. The first plank in his platform is to launch confiscatory taxation for those earning above a certain amount. He also says he will give priority to economic growth. He hasn't figured out the contradiction between those two planks.
Markets are responding badly to Hollande, and Germany's Angela Merkel, clearly the most influential leader remaining in Europe, is making it clear to the French newbie, that return to theories of a socialist paradise are not in the cards. France's desperate economic problems – overspending, underproduction, high unemployment, and a part of the work force that doesn't believe in work at all – are no different today than yesterday.
We worry mostly about shifts in France's foreign policy. We've had, under Sarkozy, a kind of honeymoon with France. Sarkozy is intensely pro-American, and has been utterly stalwart in opposing Iran's nuclear program. Hollande does not appear to be crazy, but some of his supporters, including Islamic immigrant groups, are very problematical. They represent the darkness of the old European left. Hollande comes in just as the next, crucial round of talks with Iran on its nuclear program are to get started. Will we lose a vital link in the Western alliance? It is a critical question, which will soon be answered. Sarkozy understood the possible need for military action, or at least the credible threat of military action, in dealing with Iran. It is hard to believe that Hollande will support that position.
One by one, the pro-American leaders of Europe are being defeated in elections, replaced by slicksters promising that no real economic austerity is needed to get Europe out of its economic decline. Just keep the checks from the government flowing and the defense budgets shrinking.
This is not a good day. And we have a president who probably, if a bit secretly, welcomes the change in France. That is part of what could be the start of a new, difficult phase in American foreign policy.
Then read Daniel Greenfield’s Niggas in Paris .
Now, what is your conclusion about the future of the West? Mine is that it does not have one.
Regarding polarization and the reemergence of the left: if you don’t want this to happen you must prevent genuine capitalism from descending into its crony version and the corporate welfare state—the kleptocratic alliance between the corporate and political systems, which privatizes profits and socializes cost. And you certainly must not allow the financial gambling sector from holding society by the balls via blackmailing power. Otherwise, you are essentially proving Marx right, not in details, but the overall outcome. Where Marx was fundamentally wrong is that he thought that the outcome would be the solution to society’s problem, while the reality is that it’s society’s self-destruction.
When the USSR collapsed, there was triumphalism in America. Unfortunately, as we now see, both genuine capitalism and genuine communism—neither of which exist for long, even if they are the initial stages—ultimately self-destruct. If what replaces them is Islamism we will know that the human race does not have a decent future, if any.
Paul Mirengoff: But Sir, we are the usual suspects
There’s nothing new about stories on lawlessness on the West Bank, but this one from the Jerusalem Post caught my eye. Last week, gunmen opened fire on the home of the governor of Jenin. The governor was not hit by any of the shots, but he died of a massive heart attack shortly after the incident.
In response, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, ordered a massive security operation in the area, not just to find the gunmen who fired at the governor’s home, but also to find other criminals, including murderers and extortionists. As the commander of the area security force put it, his men conducted “a huge manhunt for outlaws and thugs.”
They found plenty of both, arresting dozens of Palestinians in Jenin and surrounding villages. One of those arrested is Zakariya Zubeidi, the commander of the Fatah’s armed militia in the Jenin refugee camp. Zubeidi was once wanted by Israel for his role in terrorist attacks, but was pardoned a few years ago. He then became a member of the PA security force.
The PA security force also arrested two officers who work in the PA’s General Intelligence Service. According to the JPost, many Jenin residents believe that senior Palestinian security officers are closely tied to the gangs that have visited so much violence on the area.
The PA says that the suspects it has rounded up will be brought to justice, but you have to wonder about this. Already, those close to the detainees are staging demonstrations and demanding their release.
It seems likely that the lawlessness will persist. Indeed, it may happen that the next time there is this sort of a manhunt, some of the current suspects and some of the current rounder-uppers will have reversed their roles.
FP: Let’s give them a state.
Palestinian Christians often deflect Muslim anger away from themselves by directing it at the Jews.
FP: There was once a sketch on the Daily Show, where a Christian and a Muslim were arguing and insulting one another. Jon Stewart, who is Jewish, tried to intervene and stop them and they did, both turning against him and insulting him. IOW, they don’t agree on much, except on anti-Semitism.
"Sometimes it seems that we, Israelis and American Jews, not only inhabit different countries but different universes, different realities," Israel Ambassador to U.S. Michael Oren says • "At stake is nothing less than the unity of a Jewish people."
FP: I would argue that American Jews do think they live in a different universe, but that’s an illusion. The Jews of Europe are getting a wakeup call from a similar delusion. They either buy homes in Israel or emigrate outright. Most American Jews have no connection to Jewish history and replicate the mistake of their brethren in the 30’s. (see next)
Daniel Greenfield: SPEAK OF THE DEVIL
Speaking of Jeffrey Goldberg, he's busy advocating that Israel unilaterally abandon its claim to Judea and Samaria and half of Jerusalem in order to make a "Grand Gesture".
Good Lord, as if the last 20 years haven't been full of enough "Grand Gestures". Surely one more of them will fix everything.
But Goldberg is casually talking about ethnically cleansing 100,000 Jews. And only 70,000 of them would have to be forcibly expelled. But if someone were to suggest a similar treatment of the Arab population, he would be up in arms. So the good news is that persecuting Jews is still moral.
Of course to Goldberg, Honig is one of those crazy people who doesn't understand that we are living in a Tom Friedman world of Realpolitik and Globalization, where everything can be settled with a "Grand Gesture", another partition and another bit of diplomatic theater.
It's worked so well since 1991. Why not finish the job and dig the grave?
If you are plagued with someone who reads Goldberg and takes his insipid nonsense seriously, point them to Sarah Honig, to Caroline Glick to Steven Plaut and the many other columnists who are not just pro-Israel, but are also informed in a way that Goldberg isn't. They actually live in Israel, they understand the country and they can do more than parse diplomatic doggerel from think tanks and retired generals looking for a sinecure.
FP: If it true that Jews are smart, then it must be that Goldberg is not a Jew. And, in fact, that’s not far from reality. Neither are Beinart and Friedman. Not really. I suspect that if Israel disappeared and the growth of anti-Semitism continues, they would insist they are not Jewish or even convert. So let me recommend they read Benzion Netanyahu’s book on the Spanish conversos to dispel any illusion that this will save them.
Campaign slogan "Don't catch a ride — it can catch you" focuses on pressuring soldiers to avoid hitchhiking, includes mock video showing kidnapped soldier pleading to his family for his release.
FP: This is pathetic. To really prevent kidnappings don’t do absurd deals like Shalit’s.
Dan Margalit: The Thin Blue Line
Eighteen years ago, there were 19,400 beat officers in Israel, now there are 19,700 men and women in blue. We need more police.
FP: Yes, but this does not indicate progress. When I lived in Israel in the 60’s there was much less police, but they were more than sufficient. It’s the culture that changed and Israel’s predicament cannot afford it.
Matt Taibbi: Is This the Most Boring Election Ever?
But this campaign, relatively speaking, will not be fierce or hotly contested. Instead it'll be disappointing, embarrassing, and over very quickly, like a hand job in a Bangkok bathhouse. And everybody knows it. It's just impossible to take Mitt Romney seriously as a presidential candidate. Even the news reporters who are paid to drum up dramatic undertones are having a hard time selling Romney as half of a titanic title bout.
Anyone who wants to claim that Romney has a chance in this election needs only to watch candidate Romney's attempt to connect with black voters via his rendition of "Who Let the Dogs Out?" to be disabused of his illusions:
FP: It may be boring, but it is also disastrous for America, because it reflects the crisis of leadership that accompanies decline. That all that is offered in competition with the worst president of the US—who without electoral constraints is an existential danger to the US and the West--were the bunch of the Republican candidates with Romney the winner says about all you need to know about the state of the union and where it’s headed.
Taibbi actually claims that which of the two gets elected does not make a lot of difference:
In other words, Obama versus Bush actually felt like a clash of ideological opposites. But Obama and Romney feels like a contest between two calculating centrists, fighting for the right to serve as figurehead atop a bloated state apparatus that will operate according to the same demented imperial logic irrespective of who wins the White House. George Bush's reign highlighted the enormous power of the individual president to drive policy, which made the elections involving him compelling contests; Obama's first term has highlighted the timeless power of the intractable bureaucracy underneath the president, which is kind of a bummer, when you think about it.
which is consistent with my take on the corporate welfare state and American decline, Obama not withstanding.
Yisrael Beitenu approaches son of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir • Shelly Yachimovich in talks with renegade Israeli reporter • Former Teva CEO to join Yair Lapid's recently created party.
FP: And the crisis of leadership is not different in Israel.