Never Again?

Giulio Meotti’s book about Palestinian terrorism tells a truth many Westerners don’t want to hear.

“A New Shoa: The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of Terrorism,” is a hard read. Not because it is badly written; it is clear, precise, and eloquent. It is a hard read because it is deeply moving—many times, I had to stop reading and catch my breath, wipe away the tears. Giulio Meotti, an Italian author and journalist, has written a monumental study of pain and grief, of mourning and remembrance, of hatred and love.

The book’s title is well-chosen. From the very first pages, Mr. Meotti makes clear that he considers Palestinian terrorism and Arab hatred of Israel and the Jews the continuation of Nazi anti-Semitism. He shows that Palestinian and Arab rhetoric is focused on Jews—not just Israelis. The dream of the Islamists is to destroy the Jewish people, not just the sliver of land called Israel.

This is not a matter of opinion but of facts, which Mr. Meotti’s well-researched book provides in abundance. Take just this recent example from a public speech by Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, aired on Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV on November 5, 2010:

“Allah willing, their [the Jews’] expulsion from Palestine in its entirety is certain to come. We are no weaker or less honorable than the peoples that expelled and annihilated the Jews. The day we expel them is drawing near. . . .

“There is no place for you [Jews] among us, and you have no future among the nations of the world. You are headed to annihilation.”

These words move far beyond a conflict about territory—the underlying emotion is genocidal rage. Mr. Meotti’s list of murderous anti-Semitism by Palestinian leaders and media is exhausting. But it is a list the Western media ignore as it would destroy the prevailing narrative that the Mideast conflict is about land and Palestinian suffering. It isn’t. It is about that old sickness, Jew-hatred.

Mr. Meotti’s other great achievement is to record the stories of the Jews who died as a result of this hatred and preserve their memories. He recalls victims who were trying to lead an ordinary life in a unique country. They were on their way to work, to the market, to see friends when the murderers crossed their paths, themselves dying in the fires they unleashed.

The roll of victims is long. “This is the Ground Zero of Israel, the first country ever to experience suicide terrorism on a mass scale,” Mr. Meotti writes, “more than 150 suicide attacks carried out, plus more than 500 prevented. It’s a black hole that in 15 years swallowed up 1,557 people and left 17,000 injured.”

It must have been almost unbearable to write this book. Mr. Meotti gave the Jewish victims names and faces and, amid all that horror, packed his book also with descriptions of hundreds of acts of human kindness and dignity.

“There is a long, heartbreaking list of teenage Jewish girls whose lives were cut off in a moment by a suicide bomber,” Mr. Meotti writes. “Rachel Teller’s mother decided to donate her daughter’s heart and kidneys: ‘That is my answer to the hyena who took my daughter’s life. With her death, she will give life to two other people.’ Rachel wore her hair very short and had a wistful smile. Her friends remembered the last time they saw her. ‘We said bye-bye, a little bit bored, like it was nothing. Instead, it was the last time we said goodbye to Rachel.'”

The book is filled with these moments of intense pain, but this 400-page study of Jewish love of life is indispensable for anybody who wants to understand Israel’s position in the world and the tragic position of the Jews in history.

There is the story of Massoud Mahlouf Allon, who was an observant Jewish immigrant from Morocco. “He was mutilated, bludgeoned and beaten to death while giving poor Palestinians the blankets he had collected from Israelis,” Mr. Meotti recounts.

Or the disabled Arnad, who was blown up in the seat of his motorized wheelchair in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market.

Or Nissan Cohen, who was a teenager when he fled from Afghanistan. “During the day he helped handicapped children, and at night he studied the Gemarra, the commentary on the Law. A bomb killed him at the entrance to the Mahane Yehuda market.”

This book doesn’t dumb down evil. It doesn’t try to understand terrorists as victims of their socio-economic circumstances, doesn’t miscategorize them as poor or uneducated (they are often middle class) or driven allegedly to despair by the very same people they murdered. No, in “A New Shoah,” the terrorists remain what they are, the executors of a hate-filled religious ideology. This is a truth too many Westerners still don’t want to hear.

My own Dutch publishing house, the distinguished De Bezige Bij, born out of the Dutch resistance against the Nazis, refused to publish this amazing book. It had no qualms, however, about publishing a book of anti-Zionist rants by Dries van Agt, the former Dutch prime minister and Hamas apologist.

In a Continent stuck in denial about both Palestinian anti-Semitism and Europe’s own resurgent Jew-hatred, hidden behind the label of anti-Zionism, Mr. Meotti’s hard read is a breath of fresh air.

Mr. de Winter is a Dutch novelist. His latest book is “The Right of Return” (De Bezige Bij ,2008).

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Full article and photo: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704312504575618193385907122.html

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The Trouble With Talking to the Taliban

As in Vietnam, compromise is not in the insurgents’ playbook.

So the U.S. has now given safe passage to senior Taliban commanders for parleys with the Afghan government in Kabul. That’s good for Hamid Karzai, who must look to his own post-American world, good for the Obama administration, which wants a politically graceful exit from Afghanistan, and excellent for the Taliban, which seeks to return to power. Too bad it also risks turning Afghanistan into another Vietnam.

By late 1967, the U.S. had been fighting in Vietnam for seven years, combat deaths were at the 10,000 mark, and pundits and policy makers (though not yet the public) were concluding the war was unwinnable. The Johnson administration had undertaken a bombing campaign of the North but had refused to go after communist sanctuaries in neighboring Laos or Cambodia, or to disrupt the supply of Soviet arms. Nor would the U.S. invade the North out of a misplaced fear of Chinese intervention.

Under those restrictive conditions, the war really was unwinnable. But rather than change the military strategy, the administration opted to change the diplomatic one. In September 1967, Johnson announced his willingness to halt the bombing in exchange for “productive discussions” with the North. Productive meaning what? Hanoi’s idea of diplomacy was first to object to the shape of the negotiating table, and then to insist that the U.S. collude in overthrowing the government of South Vietnam.

It would be another five years before an agreement was reached. It was less the product of the talks themselves than of a series of sharp military reversals for the North. And even then the agreement proved meaningless: The North refused to honor its terms, and the U.S. lacked the political will to enforce them. And so Vietnam was lost.

What, then, did the talks accomplish? Politically, they were supposed to demonstrate that the U.S. wanted peace. The antiwar movement was not impressed. Strategically, they were supposed to offer the U.S. an alternative to a victory that U.S. policy makers had concluded was beyond reach. But as Henry Kissinger would later observe, “Hanoi’s leaders had launched their war in order to win, not to cut a deal.”

On the other hand, what the talks did do was provide the North with innumerable opportunities to pocket U.S. concessions, forestall U.S. military actions, and manipulate U.S. public opinion. If negotiations were, for Washington, an effort to end the war, for Hanoi they were a form of warfare by other means.

Now to Afghanistan. Plainly the war there is not Vietnam redux. The Taliban has a more limited base of popular support and no superpower patron. Their sanctuaries in Pakistan are nothing like North Vietnam itself. The U.S. military has internalized the lessons of counterinsurgency doctrine. American combat deaths over nine years of war are barely half of what the U.S. lost in May 1968 alone. The war remains eminently winnable.

But all that is put at risk the moment the U.S. embarks on the same talk-and-fight strategy it adopted in Vietnam. If winning over the Taliban’s “reconcilables” were the goal, we could simply adopt an amnesty strategy on the same generous terms Colombia offered FARC deserters. High-level negotiations are another story.

How shall we expect the Taliban to negotiate? Their first tactic—disavowing that the commanders who went to Kabul speak for the Taliban itself—is straight out of the guerrilla’s playbook: By creating the illusion of a gap between their negotiators and fighters (think Sinn Fein and the IRA), they permit the negotiators to maintain a veneer of credibility without compromising their military options.

Second, they will make maximalist demands, in the expectation that Mr. Karzai or the U.S. will moderate their own negotiating stance. This was the experience of the U.S. in Vietnam, just as it is now between the West and Iran.

Third, they will seek to exploit latent divisions between Mr. Karzai and the Obama administration. What happens in the event that Mr. Karzai is prepared to accept terms unacceptable to the U.S., such as sharing power with Mullah Omar? Ultimately, we are in Afghanistan to defend core U.S. interests, not the whims of its capricious president.

Fourth, the Taliban will create security problems that it will then offer to “solve” at the price of this or that concession. Kim Jong Il is the master of this style of bargaining.

Finally, the Taliban will never honor any agreement it makes. Like most modern insurgencies, its grievances are all pretexts: What it seeks is absolute power, exercised without restraint. We know how that movie ends.

There’s one way—and only one way—the U.S. could get the Taliban to come to terms: a series of decisive military blows that give them no other option. At that point, who would want to rehabilitate them? Surely not an administration intent on avoiding, as this one so keenly is, “another Vietnam.”

Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal

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Full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304410504575560112389695490.html

Lethal Force Under Law

The Obama administration has sharply expanded the shadow war against terrorists, using both the military and the C.I.A. to track down and kill hundreds of them, in a dozen countries, on and off the battlefield.

The drone program has been effective, killing more than 400 Al Qaeda militants this year alone, according to American officials, but fewer than 10 noncombatants. But assassinations are a grave act and subject to abuse — and imitation by other countries. The government needs to do a better job of showing the world that it is acting in strict compliance with international law.

The United States has the right under international law to try to prevent attacks being planned by terrorists connected to Al Qaeda, up to and including killing the plotters. But it is not within the power of a commander in chief to simply declare anyone anywhere a combatant and kill them, without the slightest advance independent oversight. The authorization for military force approved by Congress a week after 9/11 empowers the president to go after only those groups or countries that committed or aided the 9/11 attacks. The Bush administration’s distortion of that mandate led to abuses that harmed the United States around the world.

The issue of who can be targeted applies directly to the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen hiding in Yemen, who officials have admitted is on an assassination list. Did he inspire through words the Army psychiatrist who shot up Fort Hood, Tex., last November, and the Nigerian man who tried to blow up an airliner on Christmas? Or did he actively participate in those plots, and others? The difference is crucial. If the United States starts killing every Islamic radical who has called for jihad, there will be no end to the violence.

American officials insist that Mr. Awlaki is involved with actual terror plots. But human rights lawyers working on his behalf say that is not the case, and have filed suit to get him off the target list. The administration wants the case thrown out on state-secrets grounds.

The Obama administration needs to go out of its way to demonstrate that it is keeping its promise to do things differently than the Bush administration did. It must explain how targets are chosen, demonstrate that attacks are limited and are a last resort, and allow independent authorities to oversee the process.

PUBLIC GUIDELINES The administration keeps secret its standards for putting people on terrorist or assassination lists. In March, Harold Koh, legal adviser to the State Department, said the government adheres to international law, attacking only military targets and keeping civilian casualties to an absolute minimum. “Our procedures and practices for identifying lawful targets are extremely robust,” he said in a speech, without describing them.

Privately, government officials say no C.I.A. drone strike takes place without the approval of the United States ambassador to the target country, the chief of the C.I.A. station, a deputy at the agency, and the agency’s director. So far, President Obama’s system of command seems to have prevented any serious abuses, but the approval process is entirely within the administration. After the abuses under President Bush, the world is not going to accept a simple “trust us” from the White House.

There have been too many innocent people rounded up for detention and subjected to torture, too many cases of mistaken identity or trumped-up connections to terror. Unmanned drones eliminate the element of risk to American forces and make it seductively easy to attack.

The government needs to make public its guidelines for determining who is a terrorist and who can be targeted for death. It should clearly describe how it follows international law in these cases and list the internal procedures and checks it uses before a killing is approved. That can be done without formally acknowledging the strikes are taking place in specific countries.

LIMIT TARGETS The administration should state that it is following international law by acting strictly in self-defense, targeting only people who are actively planning or participating in terror, or who are leaders of Al Qaeda or the Taliban — not those who raise funds for terror groups, or who exhort others to acts of terror.

Special measures are taken before an American citizen is added to the terrorist list, officials say, requiring the approval of lawyers from the National Security Council and the Justice Department. But again, those measures have not been made public. Doing so would help ensure that people like Mr. Awlaki are being targeted for terrorist actions, not their beliefs or associations.

A LAST RESORT Assassination should in every case be a last resort. Before a decision is made to kill, particularly in areas away from recognized battlefields, the government needs to consider every other possibility for capturing the target short of lethal force. Terrorists operating on American soil should be captured using police methods, and not subject to assassination.

If practical, the United States should get permission from a foreign government before carrying out an attack on its soil. The government is reluctant to discuss any of these issues publicly, in part to preserve the official fiction that the United States is not waging a formal war in Pakistan and elsewhere, but it would not harm that effort to show the world how seriously it takes international law by making clear its limits.

INDEPENDENT OVERSIGHT Dealing out death requires additional oversight outside the administration. Particularly in the case of American citizens, like Mr. Awlaki, the government needs to employ some due process before depriving someone of life. It would be logistically impossible to conduct a full-blown trial in absentia of every assassination target, as the lawyers for Mr. Awlaki prefer. But judicial review could still be employed.

The government could establish a court like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which authorizes wiretaps on foreign agents inside the United States. Before it adds people to its target list and begins tracking them, the government could take its evidence to this court behind closed doors — along with proof of its compliance with international law — and get the equivalent of a judicial warrant in a timely and efficient way.

Congressional leaders are secretly briefed on each C.I.A. attack, and say they are satisfied with the information they get and with the process. Nonetheless, that process is informal and could be changed at any time by this president or his successors. Formal oversight is a better way of demonstrating confidence in American methods.

Self-defense under international law not only shows the nation’s resolve and power, but sends a powerful message to other countries that the United States couples drastic action with careful judgment.

Editorial, New York Times

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Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/10/opinion/10sun1.html

Your move, Mr. Abbas

The prospects are dim but the process is right. The Obama administration is to be commended for structuring the latest rounds of Middle East talks correctly. Finally, we’re leaving behind interim agreements, of which the most lamentable were the Oslo accords of 1993.

The logic then was that issues so complicated could only be addressed step by step in the expectation that things get easier over time. In fact, they got harder. Israel made concrete concessions — bringing in Yasser Arafat to run the West Bank and Gaza — in return for which Israel received growing threats, continuous incitement and finally a full-scale terror war that killed more than a thousand innocent Israelis.

Among the victims was the Israeli peace movement and its illusions about Palestinian acceptance of Israel. The Israeli left, mugged by reality, is now moribund. And the Israeli right is chastened. No serious player believes it can hang on forever to the West Bank.

This has created a unique phenomenon in Israel — a broad-based national consensus for giving nearly all the West Bank in return for peace. The moment is doubly unique because the only man who can deliver such a deal is Likud Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu — and he is prepared to do it.

Hence the wisdom of how the Obama administration has shaped the coming talks: No interim deals, no partial agreements. There are no mutual concessions that can be made separately within the great issues — territory, security, Jerusalem, the so-called right of return — to reach agreement. The concessions must be among these issues — thus if Israel gives up its dream of a united Jerusalem, for example, the Palestinians in return give up their dream of the right of return.

Most important is the directive issued by U.S. peace negotiator George Mitchell: What’s under discussion is a final settlement of the conflict. Meaning, no further claims. Conflict over.

What’s standing in the way? Israeli settlements? Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, one of Israel’s most nationalist politicians, lives in a settlement and has said openly that to achieve peace he and his family would abandon their home. What about the religious settlers? Might they not resist? Some tried that during the Gaza withdrawal, clinging to synagogue rooftops. What happened? Jewish soldiers pulled them down and took them away. If Israel is offered real peace, the soldiers will do that again.

The obstacle today, as always, is Palestinian refusal to accept a Jewish state. That has been the core issue of the conflict from 1947 through Camp David 2000, when Arafat rejected Israel’s extraordinarily generous peace offer, made no counteroffer and started a terror war (the Second Intifada) two months later.

A final peace was there to be had. It remains on the table today. Unfortunately, there’s no more sign today of a Palestinian desire for final peace than there was at Camp David. Even if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wants such an agreement (doubtful but possible), he simply doesn’t have the authority. To accept a Jewish state, Abbas needs some kind of national consensus behind him. He doesn’t even have a partial consensus. Hamas, which exists to destroy Israel, controls part of Palestine (Gaza) and is a powerful rival to Abbas’s Fatah even in his home territory of the West Bank.

Indeed, this week Abbas flatly told al-Quds, the leading Palestinian newspaper, “We won’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state.” Nice way to get things off on the right foot.

What will Abbas do? Unable and/or unwilling to make peace, he will exploit President Obama’s tactical blunder, the settlement freeze imposed on Israel despite the fact that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations had gone on without such a precondition for 16 years prior. Abbas will walk out if the freeze is not renewed on Sept. 26. You don’t need to be prescient to see that coming. Abbas has already announced that is what he’ll do.

That would solve all of Abbas’s problems. It would obviate signing on to a final settlement, fend off Hamas and make Israel the fall guy.

The trifecta. Why not walk out? The world, which already condemns Israel even for self-defense, will be only too eager to blame Israel for the negotiation breakdown. And there is growing pressure to create a Palestinian state even if the talks fail — i.e., even if the Palestinians make no concessions at all. So why make any?

The talks are well designed. Unfortunately, Abbas knows perfectly well how to undermine them.

Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post

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Full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/09/AR2010090904999.html

Our distracted commander in chief

Many have charged that President Obama’s decision to begin withdrawing from Afghanistan 10 months from now is hampering our war effort. But now it’s official. In a stunning statement last week, Marine Corps Commandant James Conway admitted that the July 2011 date is “probably giving our enemy sustenance.”

A remarkably bold charge for an active military officer. It stops just short of suggesting aiding and abetting the enemy. Yet the observation is obvious: It is surely harder to prevail in a war that hinges on the allegiance of the locals when they hear the U.S. president talk of beginning a withdrawal that will ultimately leave them to the mercies of the Taliban.

How did Obama come to this decision? “Our Afghan policy was focused as much as anything on domestic politics,” an Obama adviser told the New York Times’ Peter Baker. “He would not risk losing the moderate to centrist Democrats in the middle of health insurance reform and he viewed that legislation as the make-or-break legislation for his administration.”

If this is true, then Obama’s military leadership can only be called scandalous. During the past week, 22 Americans were killed over a four-day period in Afghanistan. This is not a place about which decisions should be made in order to placate members of Congress, pass health care and thereby maintain a president’s political standing. This is a place about which a president should make decisions to best succeed in the military mission he himself has set out.

But Obama sees his wartime duties as a threat to his domestic agenda. These wars are a distraction, unwanted interference with his true vocation — transforming America.

Such an impression could only have been reinforced when, given the opportunity in his Oval Office address this week to dispel the widespread perception in Afghanistan that America is leaving, Obama doubled down on his ambivalence. After giving a nod to the pace of troop reductions being conditions-based, he declared with his characteristic “but make no mistake” that “this transition will begin — because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.”

These are the words of a man who wants out. Most emphatically from Iraq, where Obama has long made clear that his objective is simply ending combat operations by an arbitrary deadline — despite the fact that a new government has not been formed and all our hard-won success hangs in the balance — in order to address the more paramount concern: keeping a campaign promise. Time to “turn the page” and turn America elsewhere.

At first you’d think that turning is to Afghanistan. But Obama added nothing to his previously stated Afghan policy while emphatically reiterating July 2011 as the beginning of the end, or more diplomatically, of the “transition.”

Well then, at least you’d expect some vision of his larger foreign policy. After all, this was his first Oval Office address on the subject. What is the meaning, if any, of the Iraq and Afghan wars? And what of the clouds that are forming beyond those theaters: the drone-war escalation in Pakistan, the rise of al-Qaeda in Yemen, the danger of Somalia falling to al-Shabab, and the threat of renewed civil war in Islamist Sudan as a referendum on independence for southern Christians and animists approaches?

This was the stage for Obama to explain what follows the now-abolished Global War on Terror. Where does America stand on the spreading threats to stability, decency and U.S. interests from the Horn of Africa to the Hindu Kush?

On this, not a word. Instead, Obama made a strange and clumsy segue into a pep talk on the economy. Rebuilding it, he declared, “must be our central mission as a people, and my central responsibility as president.” This in a speech ostensibly about the two wars he is directing. He could not have made more clear where his priorities lie, and how much he sees foreign policy — war policy — as subordinate to his domestic ambitions.

Unfortunately, what for Obama is a distraction is life or death for U.S. troops now on patrol in Kandahar province. Some presidents may not like being wartime leaders. But they don’t get to decide. History does. Obama needs to accept the role. It’s not just the U.S. military, as Baker reports, that is “worried he is not fully invested in the cause.” Our allies, too, are experiencing doubt. And our enemies are drawing sustenance.

Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post

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Full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/02/AR2010090203991.html

Obama’s ‘Come Home America’ Speech

A dangerous world needs stronger U.S. leadership.

At times Tuesday night, it sounded as if President Barack Obama didn’t know what kind of speech he wanted to give. Was it a foreign policy address aimed at assuring a world-wide audience of America’s resolve in the war against militant Islam? Or was it an election stump speech to confirm to voters that the economy is job No. 1 for this president and his party?

The speech’s best moments were those praising the commitment, courage and sacrifice of America’s military. The president powerfully said that “our troops are the steel in our ship of state,” and all who serve join “an unbroken line of heroes that stretches from Lexington to Gettysburg; from Iwo Jima to Inchon; from Khe Sanh to Kandahar.”

For someone who had been such a vocal war opponent, he was generous in acknowledging what our troops accomplished—defeating “a regime that had terrorized its people” and helping “Iraq seize the chance for a better future.” Because of our troops, he said, “Iraq has the opportunity to embrace a new destiny, even though many challenges remain.”

As a foreign policy address, however, the speech missed the mark. While Mr. Obama did acknowledge that the U.S. “intends to sustain and strengthen our leadership” in the world, most foreign observers will probably remember the president’s tone of haste, withdrawal and even retreat. His phrase, “It is time to turn the page,” caught many an ear around the world—and not to America’s advantage.

Mr. Obama’s was not the confident voice of Harry S. Truman promising to protect Europe and Japan against “outright aggression and . . . the threat of further armed attack.” Nor did the president sound like the determined Dwight Eisenhower explaining America’s commitment to South Korea’s transition to democracy after the Korean War by saying, “We may not now relax our guard nor cease our quest.”

Instead, Mr. Obama’s address was more reminiscent of Sen. George McGovern’s plea in the 1972 presidential campaign to “Come home, America.” It sounded like he couldn’t head for the Iraq exit door quickly enough.

Imagine if after World War II, America had left Europe in the face of the aggressive Soviet threat. What would Asia look like now if, following the Korean War, the U.S. had set a quick date for withdrawal from the peninsula?

As much as he may wish, Mr. Obama cannot ignore Iraq or withdraw prematurely from Afghanistan. He has ownership of both wars; it’s part of his job description. He will share in the wars’ success or be blamed if they are lost. And he will have a better chance of succeeding if our friends and enemies sense resolve, rather than weariness.

The world needs a determined United States. It is in the security, diplomatic and economic interests of our nation to provide to Iraq and Afghanistan the same patient leadership we provided in Europe and Asia. We face new threats from Iran. China and Russia are both flexing their muscles. Telegraphing to the world that America is no longer a dependable ally is the worst possible message a president can send.

Tuesday might have been better spent visiting not just Fort Bliss but other military installations as well to honor all the services. Then Mr. Obama could have given an Oval Office address when the new Iraqi government is formed, pairing progress on security with political success.

Mr. Obama suggested that a trillion dollars had been squandered to no good purpose in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade. Are removing murderous regimes that were threats to peace and stability, catalyzing change in the Arab Middle East by expanding democracy, dealing a brutal blow to al Qaeda, protecting the American homeland, and diminishing the threat of transnational terrorism really of so little value to the president?

Speaking of trillions, have we prospered because of the trillion dollars Mr. Obama is spending on stimulus? Are we more confident of our country’s future because Mr. Obama will lay out two-and-a-half trillion dollars in ObamaCare’s first decade of operation? Do back-to-back-to-back deficits under this president—each of more than a trillion dollars—give us comfort about his fiscal leadership?

All issues pale compared to the question of U.S. leadership. America can either shape the world’s agenda, or wait for direction from international organizations.

Suggesting that only by withdrawing from the world can a president “jump-start industries,” reform education, and make “tough decisions” about issues at home leaves the impression that Mr. Obama has little interest in being commander in chief, that his real passion is domestic issues and his goal to mold America into a European-style social democracy.

Presidents can simultaneously pursue international and domestic agendas. In dangerous times, it is vital that the president use America’s power to shape the world.

Mr. Rove, the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, is the author of “Courage and Consequence” (Threshold Editions, 2010).

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Full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703882304575465832623095078.html

Time stands still in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Say what you will about the Arab world, it’s hard to earn its gratitude. President Obama went to Egypt and not Israel. He demanded that Israel cease adding new settlements in the West Bank. He treated Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with a chilling disdain. For all of that, though, Obama’s approval rating in Arab countries has sunk. Unlike almost a fifth of Americans, the Arab world clearly knows Obama is no Muslim.

The polls show some startling numbers. When this spring the Pew Global Attitudes Project asked residents of Islamic countries what they thought about Obama, he got good marks when it came to such matters as climate change. But when the question was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the numbers not only declined in Indonesia and Turkey, they nearly went through the floor in the three Arab countries polled. In Jordan, 84 percent disapproved of the way Obama was handling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In Egypt, the figure was 88 percent and in Lebanon it was 90 percent.

For Obama, the figures must be disheartening. They strongly suggest that his attempt to woo the Arab world, to convince it that America can be an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians, has dismally failed. In fact, the extent of this failure is most stark in Lebanon. There, 100 percent of Shiite respondents — in other words, Hezbollah and others — have no faith in Obama and his good intentions. This may be a setback for Obama, but it is paradoxically a success for American values.

What the Arab world seems to appreciate is that America will never agree to what the Arab world most wants — an Islamic state where a Jewish one now exists. This entirely reasonable conclusion is based on what has long been American policy — not what the State Department wanted but what the American people supported. America has always liked the idea of Israel. The Arab world, for totally understandable reasons, has always hated it. Nothing has changed.

A fundamental document in this area — a once-secret CIA analysis from 1947 — was unearthed (to my knowledge) by Thomas W. Lippman and reported in the winter 2007 issue of the Middle East Journal. The CIA strongly argued that the creation of Israel was not in America’s interests and that therefore Washington ought to be opposed. This was no different than what later diplomats and military men (most recently, David Petraeus) have argued and it is without a doubt correct. Supporting Israel hurts America in the Islamic — particularly the Arab — world and, given the crucial importance of Middle Eastern oil, makes no practical sense.

The CIA further argued that the so-called Arab-Israeli conflict would soon widen to become an Israeli-Islamic conflict — another bull’s-eye for what was then an infant intelligence service. That process was already underway, which is why some non-Arabs (Bosnian Muslims, for instance) fought the creation of Israel, and has only intensified as radical Islam, laced with healthy doses of anti-Semitism, has gotten even stronger.

But where the CIA went wrong — and not, alas, for the last time — was in predicting that the Arabs would defeat Israel and that the state would not survive. The CIA was pretty sure of the outcome, what a later CIA figure might have called a “slam dunk.”

What neither the CIA nor, for that matter, the anti-Israel State Department recognized in the late 1940s is that America’s interests are not always measurably pragmatic — metrics, in the jargon of our day. Sometimes, our interests reflect our national ethic, an affinity for other democracies, sympathy for the underdog. These, too, are in America’s interests and they may be modified, but not abandoned, for the sake of mere metrics.

This is why Obama’s overture to the Arab world, clumsily executed, was never going to succeed. America can please some Arab governments — Egypt and Jordan, for instance — but not the Arab people. What they want, and what they have been told repeatedly they deserve, is a return of Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel and control over all of Jerusalem. These are both out of the question as far as Israel is concerned. It is not willing to give up its capital and, in a relatively short time, its Jewish majority.

This week, Palestinians and Israelis will once again talk peace in Washington. But until both sides, particularly the Arab peoples, give up on what they really want, the clock will remain where it has been. Those Pew polls show that’s around 1947.

Richard Cohen, Washington Post

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Full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/30/AR2010083003775.html