Not a Smiths Song: Some National Security Advisers Matter More Than Others

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General Jim Jones is an interesting kind of national security adviser. He doesn’t pretend to be an architect of strategic leaps like Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, or Henry Kissinger — who had to wrestle with a tense nuclear weapons-edged global Cold War with lots of abounding episodes of heat.
Jones sees himself instead as an architect of a disciplined decision-making framework that has broadened the number of voices and perspectives that fill out policy options offered to President Obama. There are no Cheney-Rumsfeld type cabals in the Obama White House in part because of the way Jones, his deputy Tom Donilon and chief of staff Denis McDonough have structured the sequence and players at the table when national security matters are under review.
History, however, may not let Jones get away with just being a person who behind the scenes revolutionizes national security bureaucracy. He may have to still focus on how to achieve key strategic jumps forward in confronting and neutralizing defining challenges facing the United States.
Tonight, Jones spoke at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy‘s 25th Anniversary Gala Dinner — while somewhat coincidentally US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice was speaking at the 25th Anniversary Gala Dinner for the Arab American Institute under the directorship of James Zogby.
Jones’ speech is already being pilloried by some on the liberal side of the Israel-Palestine debate for kowtowing too much to a pro-Israel narrative in his speech — the “unbreakable” bond between the US and Israel, no solutions can be imposed, and you know the rest.
But I disagree. I think it’s important to affirm many of the successes of the American Jewish community and to register their fears — but it’s also important to speak some key truths about Israel’s long term security needs and about the tattered state of US-Israel relations.
I think General Jones did a good job embedding his interesting talk with key themes — pushing simultaneously America’s challenges with Iran as well as the partner challenge in the region of achieving a negotiated Israel-Palestine two state solution. He said that these hurdles were defining challenges for the US. Jones hit hard on the point that the status quo in the paralyzed Israel-Palestine peace process was not acceptable.
In a way, I have been advocating a ‘soft containment’ strategy for Iran. To some degree, this is Jones’ soft containment speech slightly hemming in Israel, or at least helping to nudge the Jewish State toward a more productive course.
From his speech to WINEP tonight, Jones said:

In our pursuit of a two-state solution, we recognize that peace must be made by the parties and cannot be imposed from the outside. At the same time, we understand that the status quo is not sustainable. It is not sustainable for Israel’s identity as a secure, Jewish, and democratic state, because the demographic clock keeps ticking and will not be reversed.
The status quo is not sustainable for Palestinians who have legitimate aspirations for sovereignty and statehood. And the status quo is not sustainable for the region because there is a struggle between those who reject Israel’s existence and those who are prepared to coexist with Israel — and the status quo strengthens the rejectionists and weakens those who would live in peace.
Obviously, we are disappointed that the parties have not begun direct negotiations. The United States stands ready to do whatever is necessary to help the parties bridge their differences and develop the confidence needed to make painful compromises on behalf of peace. As we do so, we will also strongly support the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to develop its institutions from the ground up and call on other states, particularly in the region, to do their part to support the Palestinian Authority as well.
We also continue to call on all sides to avoid provocative actions, including Israeli actions in East Jerusalem and Palestinian incitement that fuel suspicion rather than trust.

This is good material for the American-Jewish community to hear. The fuller speech is less compelling than this segment, but to have hard truths be heard, some time they need to be surrounded with a lot of boiler plate that an audience wants to hear.
I can’t write as much on this right now as I would like as I’m in Brazil today preparing for an interesting meeting hosted here by Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on global governance challenges.
But I do think it is important not to write Jim Jones off. He still has the potential to be the kind of national security adviser who helps his President achieve some key strategic leaps — even if that is not exactly the kind of national security adviser that Jim Jones set out to be.
More soon.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

49 comments on “Not a Smiths Song: Some National Security Advisers Matter More Than Others

  1. Jerry says:

    From James L. Jones speech:
    “we understand that the status quo is not sustainable. It is not sustainable for Israel’s identity as a secure, Jewish, and democratic state, because the demographic clock keeps ticking and will not be reversed.”
    The STATUS QUO AND the DEMOGRAPHIC CLOCK.
    TICK, TICK, TICK
    Is General Jones saying at the hour of unsustainablility that nothing can be done to preserve the security, the Jewish nature, and the democratic nature of Israel because Israel will be totally corrupted from within or that events in the Region will dictate strategic realignment or both?
    TICK, TICK, TICK.
    What has former President Bush set in motion by dithering for six years, by calling for premature elections and by the war in Iraq?

    Reply

  2. Jerry says:

    One thing I like about the ‘Posted by …’ caption; it makes it easy to bypass the boilerplate bloggers.

    Reply

  3. nadine says:

    Paul, you have an irritating habit of assuming that your viewpoint is the only reasonable viewpoint, so that anybody who has very quite different views is “twisting” or “distorting” the obvious truth as seen by you. I beg to differ. I call’em like I see’em, to use the American idiom. If you try to fathom the patterns of thinking of the Right as I have done for the Left (of which I used to be a member), we might be able to have a useful exchange of ideas. But you can’t do that as long as you reject those views out of hand as “twisting” and “distorting”.

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  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    6 posts on this thread. NONE engaging Nadine.
    9 posts on the “3 in 5…” thread. NONE engaging Nadine.
    23 posts on the “annotating” thread. NONE engaging Nadine.
    9 posts on the “More from Jordan’s….” NONE engaging Nadine.
    1 post on the Edwards thread, where I refer to Nadine’s suitability to be on the thread, but do not “engage” with her.
    Need I go on, Dan?
    Look, the point I was trying to make is that two of the most astute commentors here are getting sucked into the same kind of fruitless tit for tat horseshit that Nadine thrives on, and that I once got sucked into. No matter how intelligent, appropos, factual, or astute your argument, the lyin’ sack of shit will twist it, pervert it, lie about it, misrepresent it, or ignore it in order to deposit her despicable spew here. Its kinda like feeding the skunk under your porch week after week, even when you find the odor offensive. Eventually, something clicks, and you stop feeding the skunk.

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  5. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Anyway, I don’t think there is anyone here who addresses more posts to Nadine than you do”
    You are mistaken.

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  6. Dan Kervick says:

    “Whats the point in it??”
    What’s the point of your engaging with our engagement, POA.
    Anyway, I don’t think there is anyone here who addresses more posts to Nadine than you do.

    Reply

  7. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Its disheartening seeing Dan and Paul engaging this lying sack of shit; “Nadine”.
    Whats the point in it??

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  8. John Waring says:

    If our policy remains that

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  9. Don Bacon says:

    A “negotiated Israel-Palestine two state solution” is merely a time-worn waltz tune meant to delay the ultimate reality of a one-state solution, given the isolated fragmentation of Palestinians lands and population trends. Israel will self-destruct, given time. MJ Rosenberg has also said so, in so many words. So we must be patient.

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  10. Paul Norheim says:

    The problem, Nadine, is that you have an irritating little habit of
    saying that “liberals” or “lefties” or “realists” or whatever thinks
    like this and this and run in to this and that contradiction. Then
    you read someone’s post, and think: “Oh, he is a leftie, isn’t he?”
    – and then you ASSUME that your theoretical generalizations
    applies to him too, and simply accuse him of it.
    In this case of assuming that Kervick is multi-culti, thus ignores
    the faults of “the other”.
    A couple of days ago you ASSUMED something of our host, and
    distorted his views.
    And since you have a theory that I am a lefty and a theory that
    “all lefties support Hamas”, you once accused me of FINANCING
    Hamas.
    This habit of yours is not only irritating, in it’s carelessness and
    lack of respect of your opponents, it is also destructive and
    distractive.
    I think Dan’s point is a very simple one: He wants to normalize
    the US-Israeli relationship on one hand, and the US-Iranian
    relationship on the other, while not relying so much on the Arab
    autocracies as in the past. He thinks that Iran generally have
    developed stronger democratic institutions than, say Saudi
    Arabia, and that these developments should be encouraged. He
    also think that America should listen more to the Arab streets
    and less to Arab leaders – also from a long term perspective of
    democracy.
    You may agree or disagree with Dan’s position; and as a non-
    American I am not directly involved in the issue nor in issues
    regarding US interests. But I note that this is roughly the current
    European position, and also the position of my own country,
    and I think it is a wise position.
    As for your position and opinions, I have no problem agreeing
    with jdledell that you may be 20-25% correct – especially with
    regard to your criticism of Hamas, Hizbullah, the Iranian
    theocracy, and the Arab autocracies.
    Especially since Sweetness returned to TWN as a frequent
    commenter – after being absent for a year or so – I have noticed
    a positive development in the comment section of this blog. I’ve
    seen a real and serious dialogue between people with real
    disagreements – and more often than not with Sweetness
    involved – discussions between him and DonS, JohnH, myself,
    and others – often even with Carroll.
    Personally I believe that some of these people would be more
    than happy to express their criticism of Palestinian leaders, Arab
    leaders and so forth – if this contributed to the debate, and to a
    common acknowledgement of the many complexities of the
    Middle East issues and conflicts.
    However, the climate on this blog is so polarized, with POA’s
    often insulting and abusive style on one side (never against me,
    fortunately, but other people are often bullied), and your
    consequent partisan approach – exploiting these points or
    admissions in your 24/7 commenting activity for your zionist
    hardline position – on the other side, that it is actually
    extremely difficult – almost impossible! – to establish a real
    discussion instead of the mean, boring, and repetitive partisan
    war that has been going on for years.
    Perhaps the climate on this blog is just a reflexion of the insane
    and dangerous polarization in US politics right now – enhanced
    by the polarizing and fragmentizing developments in
    mainstream media and the blogosphere? I don’t know.
    However, your frequent assumptions, empty accusations, and
    distortions of the views of your opponents is not helpful in this
    climate.
    In any case, I am a pessimist with regards to the Middle East
    conflicts, and an optimist with regard to the discussion on this
    blog – due to the real, sober dialogues we’ve seen here recently,
    on extremely difficult (and often emotional) issues.

    Reply

  11. ... says:

    if israel is a democracy, they can keep it… a democracy that builds on stolen land, gets others who aren’t jewish to walk on the road instead of the sidewalk and etc. etc. is an example of an apartheid state, not a democracy.. wake up and quit fooling yourself.. maybe someone has been listening to nadine for too long?

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  12. nadine says:

    Paul, Dan, I missed the part in these “rants” about where it’s our business to leap into the fray and “press” our “ally” to fix their internal problems, impose a solution on their conflicts, make them stop oppressing people, or else break our alliance with them, stop funding them, stop protecting them, etc, etc.
    I also missed the part where anybody (not you two to be fair, but you know who I mean) says that our ally’s “crimes” are so atrocious that they are just like Hitler, well except maybe for the extermination camps and a million corpses, but no difference really.

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  13. Dan Kervick says:

    I have actually gone on several extended rants here about Saudi Arabia and its plutocratic royal autocrats and terrorist-breeding Wahhabi Salafist wingnuts. That’s a country that falls near the bottom on my personal scale of countries intrinsically worth admiring.

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  14. Dan Kervick says:

    “The US has been allied …”
    Do you think Israel is just some *ally*? Does any other US ally have the kind of loyal column of influential sycophants that Israel has?
    You want to know why a bunch of Americans like me are fed up? Look to yourself. Look to your friends like Chuck Schumer and Steny Hoyer. A whole bunch of people in our government and country are clearly head-over-heels nuts in love with A FOREIGN COUNTRY and its people, in a way that manifestly clouds their capacity to attend to their primary obligations to their fellow-citizens. They are all suffering from River Kwai Syndrome, and I think they need to get their fucking priorities straight. Pick one goddamn country please.
    If Chuck Schumer had ever said ANYTHING that made me think that he cares ONE BIT about my family – in America – at least 1/10th as much as he cares about all his fellow Jews in Israel, then we wouldn’t be having this discussion.
    You guys have dragged your stupid tribal war back to this country, and it has to stop.

    Reply

  15. Paul Norheim says:

    Took me five seconds to google some of them up. You may also
    do a search on Kervick/Dubai at TWN, if you are interested in
    further reading. But here is a general remark:
    “Posted by Dan Kervick, Jan 20 2009, 11:56PM – Link
    While there are many places I could disagree with WigWag, one
    comment in particular strikes me as particularly wrong-headed:
    the one about the irrelevance of the Arab street.
    Yes the Arab street is in some sense irrelevant once again, at
    least to its autocratic leaders and to the government polices of
    the states those leaders run, just as the voices of ordinary Arabs
    have frequently been irrelevant to their leaders in the past. But
    the power of those leaders is transitory.
    For a generation, we were told to ignore the supposedly sheep-
    like Arab public, and pay attention only to their leaders: to the
    “moderate” Arab leaders; to the “modernizing” Arab leaders, to
    the “pragmatic”

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  16. nadine says:

    “The problem is that you chose to ignore Kervicks
    frequent, – and usually extremely harsh – criticism of of those Arab autocracies AS WELL AS Israel.” (Paul Norheim)
    What extremely harsh criticism of Arab autocracies?

    Reply

  17. nadine says:

    “I treat Israel in a special way because my government, and Israel’s thoroughly obnoxious US noise machine, have chosen to make Israel super-duper special in the policy and outlook of the United States.” (Dan Kervick)
    Sorry, Dan, I just don’t buy it. The US has been allied to many far, far more obnoxious places than Israel, with nothing more than an occasional ‘tsk-tsk’ from progressives, such as you give to Our Friends the Saudis — and then only when the President has an (R) after his name.
    The obsession with Israeli sins and Palestinian victimhood, and how the US President must do something about it, right now! engage, impose the solution, right now! is beyond any normal foreign policy discussion.
    We have a special relationship with Britain too (maybe I should say we did before Obama), but obsession with British treatment of commonwealth countries, for example, is not even on the table. We don’t normally go around abusing our allies for all their faults. So that dog won’t hunt.
    The reasons given don’t add up. You progressives say alliance with Israel doesn’t get us anything, which is not true at all; alliance with the strongest and most reliable regional military gets us a lot. You say it interferes with alliance with Arab states. There you might have a point, but it has not prevented our alliance with the Saudis and their acceptance of us as hegemon of the Gulf (Trust me, they’d rather have us than Iran, their current choice). Sometimes you imply, as Gen Jones does, that most of the problems of the Mideast would go away if I/P was solved; this is just plain nuts.
    When I add it up, all I get is the smell of fear, the unwillingness to look at complicated and intractable realities, the blinders of “Orientalist” dogma, and the wish to throw Israel to the wolves to see if that gets rid of the problem. It wouldn’t, of course, but you can’t make geopolitical explanations to people who are thinking dogmatically.

    Reply

  18. Paul Norheim says:

    Nadine,
    you

    Reply

  19. Dan Kervick says:

    “Wigwag, you are a liberal but Dan Kervick is a progressive.”
    Hey don’t get on the case of progressives and multiculturalists just because of me. I’m just me. I never grab onto those labels. Most of the self-described progressives I know have much broader interests in the world’s many miseries than I do.
    My chief concern, where foreign policy is concerned, is the security and prosperity of Americans – especially the ones I know well. I am just looking for ways for extricate my country from its fatally stupid joined-at-the-hip relationship with one icky and unpopular Middle East country in a region of icky countries.
    I think I have frequently taken notice here of the faults of Arab autocracies and monarchies. And there are lots of other crap countries in the world, besides Israel, that do bad things like collectively punish their enemies’ families, ethnically cleanse populations and steal land. But when they do, our stupid congress doesn’t generally issue either ringing endorsements of the sagacity of the depredations or obsequious paeans to the holy solidarity of our unbreakable bond with the rampaging country.
    I treat Israel in a special way because my government, and Israel’s thoroughly obnoxious US noise machine, have chosen to make Israel super-duper special in the policy and outlook of the United States. I would much prefer to let it go, and ignore Israel the way I generally ignore most of the rest of the countries in the world. If you want to advocate detaching the US from its Special Relationship to Israel, be my guest Nadine. I look forward to the day when I can stop paying attention to Israel for good.
    As a temporary measure, how about if everyone in the US who is desperately in love with Israel moves to Israel; and everyone who doesn’t care a whole lot about Israel stays here. That seems like a natural way to divide folks up. I just want all these US Zionists – whether Jewish, Christian or secular – to stop dragging me and mine into their stupid far-away cause.

    Reply

  20. nadine says:

    “No Arab democracy deficit *forced* Israelis to grab the land they clearly wanted to grab. That’s a smokescreen.” (Dan Kervick)
    No, a Jordanian invasion forced the Israelis to fight. The Jordanians lines then collapsed, and Israel held the West Bank. They didn’t want to give it back for nothing. Why should they give Jordan a do-over on Jordan’s aggression? Israel wanted a peace treaty in exchange for the land. The Arabs refused to talk.

    Reply

  21. nadine says:

    Wigwag, you are a liberal but Dan Kervick is a progressive. Therefore, no matter how many times you point out how hypocritical and one-sided it is to fulminate against flaws in Israeli democracy while not caring about wholesale human rights abuses among various Arab autocracies, Dan replies with a rationalization of why we should only notice Israel’s faults. How dare you talk about even-handed judgment when we have been — gasp — an ally of Israel? Well, there were reasons for that, reasons Dan chooses to forget.
    Multi-culturalists are forbidden to notice the faults of the “other”. In any conflict between an “us” and an “other” they will side with the “other”. They will continue to call themselves champions of the oppressed, even when that takes great leaps of rationalization.
    It’s really just that simple.
    Wigwag, you may find yourself one day in the neocon camp whether you want to be there or not. Like Joe Lieberman. I don’t think there is any place for you among those who call themselves liberals today.

    Reply

  22. Carroll says:

    Who thinks Saudi, Egypt, Jordon, and etc,etc is really concerned about Iran nuking them?
    Isn’t the real concern that Iran having nuke capabilites to forstall being threatened itself and to cut into Israel’s trying to swing it ‘blank” around the ME is really all about the balance of power in the ME and upseting the current status quo some ME countries enjoy?
    I mean seriously, Iran appears to want to be a recongized player in the ME power structure which they think is their rightful due, not wipe out the neighborhood.

    Reply

  23. Jerry says:

    “Of course, one of the ways that Iran exerts influence in the Middle East is by exploiting the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict. Iran uses the conflict to keep others in the region on the defensive and to try to limit its own isolation. Ending this conflict, achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians and establishing a sovereign Palestinian state would therefore take such an evocative issue away from Iran, Hizballah, and Hamas. It would allow our partners in the region to focus on building their states and institutions. And peace between Israel and Syria, if it is possible, could have a transformative effect on the region.” (James L. Jones)
    Context cannot be ignored!

    Reply

  24. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Accountability for the violation of human rights in the Occupied Territories
    International law requires that every state deal with serious human rights violations that are committed by bodies or persons acting on its behalf or with its consent. This obligation takes two primary forms: 1) investigation of suspicions of commission of human rights violations followed by prosecution of the persons responsible where the findings of the investigation warrant, and 2) compensation of the victims for the injuries they suffered as a result of the violation.
    One of the primary sources for the obligation to investigate serious violations of human rights is international criminal law. This body of law defines such infringements as international crimes and imposes criminal liability on the persons responsible for their commission. These infringements generally belong to one of three categories, depending on the circumstances of the case and intention of the person responsible: genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The latter is especially relevant in Israel ‘s case inasmuch as it includes the serious violation of human rights of persons living in occupied territory

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  25. Jerry says:

    One ‘hard truth’ is that peace and statehood are not necessarily the same thing. Rather, statehood is the precursor to peace. I agree, peace cannot be imposed but statehood can be imposed and will be. It is the necessary link that leads to peace.

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  26. PissedOffAmerican says:

    If any of your ancestors have lived in the United States, settled in the United States, or visited the United States, you needn’t read the following. You are guilty of genetic complicity, and have no right to decry Israeli attrocities.
    And never mind that the following police actions are NOT the actions of a democratic society. Israel is a “democracy” because the Israelis CALL it a democracy. It is THE NARRATIVE that counts, NOT the TRUTH.
    And if it bothers you that your recent donation to the fascist policies, human rights abuses, and war crimes of Israel, (in the form of the taxes you pay), take heart in the fact that you are doing the right thing, because who knows what travesties and disasters may occur if we stop financing the actions and policies of racists, religious fanatics, and war criminals?
    http://palestinenote.com/cs/blogs/news/archive/2010/04/21/inside-detention-reporting-on-palestine-s-women-and-children-in-israeli-jails.aspx
    04-21-2010 1:14 PM
    News

    Reply

  27. Dan Kervick says:

    “… a more accurate understanding of why peace between Israelis and Palestinians is so difficult to achieve.”
    If the region was more democratic, then its people would have an even more effective voice in kicking Israelis out of their colonies and occupied Palestinian territories. No Arab democracy deficit *forced* Israelis to grab the land they clearly wanted to grab. That’s a smokescreen.
    US interests in the region, and the global interest in the preservation of some semblance of international legal standards and order, have little to do with deciding whether Jews, Turks, Arabs or Persians comprise nicer or more enlightened peoples. Your obsession with hierarchical ethnic ratings systems is of little relevance.

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  28. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Well, its official. Netanyahu has told Obama to go fuck himself over the settlement issue in East Jerusalem.
    We will now see the validation of my past assertions; Hillary Clinton is NOT on board with Obama’s policy advocations, and the best we can hope for from her is tepid criticism of Israel, tempered by praise for the few fictitious “concessions” this racist piece of work Netanyahyu lies about offering. And in addition, Obama will wimp out, unwilling to take on these cowardly mewling bought and paid for traitors in Washington, such as Reid, Hoyer, Harman, Pelosi, and the rest of the groveling money grubbing embarrassments that masquerade as “Statesmen” while they sell us out to the highest bidder.
    I wonder, when will Steve get over his fear of critiqueing this dismal failure, Hillary Clinton?

    Reply

  29. WigWag says:

    “So I think the friends of Israel might want to stop whining about Israel’s being singled out for various kinds of moral upbraiding and public diplomatic criticism. The rest of the states in the region should be so lucky! I suspect the Syrians would trade in a heartbeat a few sporadic finger-waggings or tongue-lashings from the oval office if what they got in return was the amazing quantities of special love and attention the US lavishes on Israel.” (Dan Kervick)
    It’s not about whining, Dan. Steve objected to my characterization (in a previous thread actually) of his one-sidedness and his hypocrisy on the subject of the Arab-Israel controversy. Expressions of concern about Israeli democracy while failing to even acknowledge the status of individual rights in nations that oppose Israel is self-serving and uninformative; it demonstrates bias. Of course we all have bias, not just Steve, but it is entirely appropriate to point it out.
    “Do any of those other states get periodic congressional love-letters, and endless promises and deliveries of expensive sweets and baubles, that the Israelis get?” (Dan Kervick)
    Whatever it is that Israel gets, it gets because as you acknowledge yourself, your pont of view is held by only a small minority. The American people keep electing politicians who view Israel as an especially important friend of the United States. Politicians who don’t cleave to this point of view are routinely defeated. My guess is that it will continue to be that way far into the future; but time will tell.
    Of course, one of the many reasons that Americans support Israel so assertively while viewing the Palestinians with great suspicion, is that millions of Americans believe that the values held by Arab governments including the governments run by Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank are pre-modern.
    The Americans who hold this point of view are correct. But it’s not just Arabs; the entire Muslim world is backwards, reactionary and pre-modern with just a very few exceptions.
    Even the best of what the Muslim world has to offer, Turkey for example, is an economic basket case characterized by high infant mortality, low rates of literacy and the most vicious oppression of minority groups. When viewing the rest of the Muslim world, it only goes downhill from there.
    While this reality is rarely acknowledged in the posts at this blog or by the people who comment here; it has as much to do with American disgust for the Palestinians as anything else.
    Those who care about peace in the Middle East, as Steve Clemons clearly does, should spend less time focusing on threats to democracy in Israel and more time focusing on how profoundly dysfunctional the Muslim world is. Once they do that, they will, at long last, develop a more accurate understanding of why peace between Israelis and Palestinians is so difficult to achieve.

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  30. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Jewish Appeal to Support the Goldstone Report
    The primary author of the recently released UN Report on Gaza, the internationally respected jurist Richard Goldstone, has been attacked by establishment voices within the Jewish community. When those within a community try to

    Reply

  31. Dan Kervick says:

    “Good one, Kervick! Any reports on whether the AAI Occupation ended, or if have the DC police had to supply WINEP with tear gas and cluster bombs?”
    No news. But the US Congress is mooting a resolution that would declare the DC Renaissance “the eternal and undivided Bar Mitzvah banquet facility of WINEP members and their extended families.”

    Reply

  32. Dan Kervick says:

    “But respectfully, your claim of evenhandedness when commenting on the dispute rings hollow. While pointing out the threat to Israeli democracy, you don’t even utter so much as a peep about the democratic status of Israel’s adversaries in the Arab world including the Palestinian Authority.”
    This has little to do with evenhandedness, WigWag. I assume Steve’s – and others – arguments about the long-term threat to Israeli democracy posed by the occupation are designed to *appeal to Israelis* on the basis of something they presumably care about. It’s not just some abstract universal argument based on intrinsic ideological values.
    Similarly, we could imagine Americans trying to persuade Japanese that their failure to sign onto some international fishing convention is a long-term threat to Japan’s own local ocean fisheries. Is it a reasonable criticism of such appeals that Americans don’t simultaneously yap about fish to every other country in the world, but engage in much more fish talk with the fish-loving Japanese?
    This draining conflict is bad for the US, and it’s to be expected that American officials are going to talk differently to and focus differently on their 51st state – with whom they have an entirely different type of relationship, and over whom they have an entirely different kind of influence.
    You want evenhandedness, now? You want the US to treat Israel the way they treat Muslim states that don’t do what the US wants? Well that would include the constant threat of sanctions, diplomatic isolation and military action, which is almost always on the table with those states. But these means are so far off the table in the case of Israel that there are almost no other means left to rectify Israeli recalcitrance.
    So I think the friends of Israel might want to stop whining about Israel’s being singled out for various kinds of moral upbraiding and public diplomatic criticism. The rest of the states in the region should be so lucky! I suspect the Syrians would trade in a heartbeat a few sporadic finger-waggings or tongue-lashings from the oval office if what they got in return was the amazing quantities of special love and attention the US lavishes on Israel.
    Do any of those other states get periodic congressional love-letters, and endless promises and deliveries of expensive sweets and baubles, that the Israelis get?

    Reply

  33. JohnH says:

    Good one, Kervick! Any reports on whether the AAI Occupation ended, or if have the DC police had to supply WINEP with tear gas and cluster bombs?

    Reply

  34. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Egads.
    Its like maple syrup running out of a sewer pipe. From a distance it looks like it might taste good on your morning pancakes, but the closer you get, the more apparent it becomes that it isn’t maple syrup after all.

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  35. WigWag says:

    In response to Steve Clemons, Apr 21 2010, 9:58PM
    Steve, to paraphrase Hamlet (Act 3 scene 2), I’m afraid that thou “doth protest too much.”
    At the Washington Note there has been more than one post in the past several weeks decrying the threat posed to Israeli democracy by a failure to pursue a two state solution. In addition you have catalogued what you view as failures of the Netanyahu Government to pursue peace.
    But respectfully, your claim of evenhandedness when commenting on the dispute rings hollow. While pointing out the threat to Israeli democracy, you don’t even utter so much as a peep about the democratic status of Israel’s adversaries in the Arab world including the Palestinian Authority.
    Israel’s status as the region’s lone superpower has virtually nothing to do with the reactionary nature of virtually every Arab regime. You call yourself a “progressive” realist, but is there anything progressive about cheerleading for some of the most authoritarian and illiberal regimes in the world including Saudi Arabia’s? Perhaps you can share with us just what features of the Hamas philosophy that a progressive person is supposed to find acceptable.
    In my comment, I mentioned the fact that not one of the Arab regimes respects the rule of law, allows for true freedom of religion (Lebanon and to a lesser extent Egypt with its Copts may be an exception), permits freedom of speech, promotes tolerance, believes in gender equality, tolerates homosexuality or has an independent judiciary. The only Arab regime which holds free and generally fair elections is Lebanon. The point of my comment was to suggest that it is far from “progressive” to believe that these regimes are anything other than the most backwards and regressive governments on the planet. With few exceptions this is an indictment that can reasonably be levied against the vast majority of majority Muslim nations.
    In your post, you suggested that some progressive people might object to Jones’ comments to WINEP. Perhaps you can explain to me how anyone who is genuinely progressive can have anything but contempt for Israel’s Arab adversaries including Hamas and Fatah.
    While I agree that there are trends in Israel which suggest that Israeli democracy is moving somewhat in the direction of its Arab neighbors, the Israeli system has a long way to go before it reaches the status of Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia or either of the two Palestinian-dominated territories. You are certainly under no obligation to write about this if it doesn’t strike you as pertinent, but surely you can understand why an objective observer might question your objectivity on the subject.
    The same thing is true when it comes to your comments about Netanyahu and the peace process. It’s fine that you are of the opinion that Netanyahu’s approach is an obstacle to peace. I disagree with that, but your point of view is reasonable. What’s not reasonable is your implication that Netanyahu is the only obstacle to peace. Neither the neigboring Arab regimes nor the Palestinian Authority (and certainly not Hamas) responded positively to the requests made of them by Obama/Mitchell but we get nary a word about this from you.
    And of course, you never mention the peace proposals made by Barak or Olmert that the Palestinians rejected out of hand without even making counter-proposals.
    As a brilliant and insightful commentator you are certainly entitled to your opinions. I wouldn’t be reading your blog if I didn’t find them informative, educational and entertaining. The problem is that you’re right; you have been consistent-consistently one sided.
    That’s fine; when it comes to the Middle East almost everyone who follows it has strongly held opinions; I certainly do.
    But to suggest that you’re less hypocritical than anyone else who comments on the Middle East (including me) just strains credulity.
    You say
    “To simply say that this is a one-sided deal and that there should be no limits on Israel, and no recognition of the irresponsibility of the Palestinians and Israelis regarding their long term mutual interests is a mistake in my view. I think that the failure to achieve a two state deal is eroding confidence in American leadership an power globally…”
    The problem is that you are precisely guilty of the accusation you make against me. It’s you who suggests consistently that this is a “one sided deal.” In this paragraph you actually mention “irresponsibility on the part of the Palestinians” but that phrase is almost taboo in the posts at the Washington Note. I don’t recall seeing even one post, at least recently, focusing on what you correctly call Palestinian irresponsibility. How many posts do we see about what you think is Israeli irresponsibility?”
    Let me say again, I think that’s fine. But it is not objective and it has the taint of hypocracy.
    Let me add that I am glad that we can disagree about this without being disagreeable. This is an emotional subject for lots of people (for a variety of reasons good and bad)and all too often vitriol gets in the way of an honest exchange of ideas; too often I fall prey to this myself.
    While I do think your analysis is generally one-sided and unfair, it is almost always sober and presented in a clear and eloquent manner.
    I appreciate that and I appreciate the Washington Note.

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  36. Dan Kervick says:

    The previous report was garbled during the satellite transmission from our on-scene reporter. The sign held up by the human wall read:
    WINEP/You Other Assholes

    Reply

  37. Dan Kervick says:

    “Tonight, Jones spoke at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s 25th Anniversary Gala Dinner — while somewhat coincidentally US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice was speaking at the 25th Anniversary Gala Dinner for the Arab American Institute under the directorship of James Zogby.”
    In late news …
    Following the breakup of their own gala, the WINEP attendees marched en masse to the DC Renaissance Hotel and began an occupation of the AAI Gala. The WINEP confreres forcibly removed some AAI attendees from their chairs, erected booths and stalls at scattered locations throughout the main banquet hall, diverted the water from the hotel lobby fountain into an impromptu on-site water-bottling operation, and helped themselves to most of the falafel and hummus spread remaining on the buffet table.
    Some WINEP attendees formed a human wall snaking through the banquet hall, and held up a sign that had been hand-painted on the back of the AAI conference placard, and which read:
    “”
    As DC police attempted to restore order, WINEP spokespersons decried the police action for “singling out” WINEP and its members.
    The standoff was unresolved as of this morning, while tensions mounted. Morning editions of the Washington Post carried a full page editorial by renowned Jewish-American writer and pity activist Elie Wiesel who wrote,
    “Ever since my long nights in a concentration camp, I have cried a prayer each day for the return of the Washington Institute of Near East Policy to its historic home in the DC Renaissance Hotel.
    “I will also now cry twice daily for our AAI brothers whose tragic displacement from their DC Renaissance banquet tables was made necessary by the ingathering of WINEP.
    “I mourn also for the waiters, and for the Renaissance’s tip-top conference services staff, and for the loyal hotel laptop and projector that were humiliatingly unplugged during the noble WINEP restoration to the promised hotel.
    “And tears scald my face, like bitter rivers of hot lead, for the attendees of the Patrick Fitzgerald bachelor party that was taking place in the adjoining conference room, and that was disrupted by the historic and prophesied WINEP pilgrimage as the pilgrims and their tragically dispossessed AAI friends banged and jostled against the folding divider between the two conference rooms. I weep for the unopened cases of Guinness Stout and Bushmills, and for the strippers and lap-dancers, their garters empty, and for the 99 serenaded bottles of beer on the wall, which will sadly never be taken down and passed around.
    “And I cry for the children. Ach, the children, the children!
    “Is there a God? What God could have created this madness?”

    Reply

  38. Carroll says:

    I have a suspicion that all the soothing talk for Israel in the adm’s public remarks are for US jewish political community consumption only.
    Not necessarily reflective of how the adm really feels about the flea on the elephant’s ass.

    Reply

  39. Carroll says:

    Interesting.
    Holiday over for Israel as Obama lays down the law
    Omar Karmi, Foreign Correspondent
    Last Updated: April 21. 2010 10:43PM UAE / April 21. 2010 6:43PM GMT
    Israel went back to work yesterday after a holiday season that has disrupted most of April. For the Israeli coalition government, however, that return is probably even less welcome than to everyone else, with the country expected to come up with answers to US probing over a peace process with the Palestinians.
    Barack Obama, the US president, is widely understood to have requested, even demanded, a number of gestures from Israel in order to get a peace process with the Palestinians back on track. These reportedly include a freeze on settlement building in East Jerusalem, an extension to the partial settlement construction freeze elsewhere in occupied territory, and a withdrawal of troops to pre-September 2000 positions in the West Bank.
    The holiday season gave Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, some breathing space to formulate a reply to these requests, but it is not at all clear that he has come up with a workable strategy. And, with a former US ambassador telling Israel that it needs to take into account US interests and an administration official ruling out military action against Iran, a key Israeli concern, tensions in US-Israeli relations show no sign of easing.
    Mr Netanyahu spent the holiday season trying to avert more confrontation with the United States, but crucially, he has also been keen to keep his right-wing coalition government together.
    Consequently, he has been telling everyone who would listen that while Israel is eager to get back to negotiations with the Palestinians over a final status agreement, he will not stop Jewish construction, illegal under international law, in occupied East Jerusalem.
    Stopping construction there, Mr Netanyahu said in an interview with ABC television on Monday, is

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  40. nadine says:

    Who does Iran threaten, JohnH? Try asking Saudi Arabia that question. Or Lebanon. Or Iraq. Or Afghanistan. Or the Gulfies. Iran is a big country with 75 million people. If the US withdraws, Iran doesn’t have to field much of an army to take the Gulf. With nukes, even less.
    You live in a la-la land.

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  41. nadine says:

    “– but [Israels] democratic credentials, which are important, are eroding as it continues to do little to allow a state to grow to its side”
    It’s up to Israel to make the Palestinians grow a state? Don’t the Palestinians have to want one? Bibi is cooperating with Fayyad, what more do you want?
    The security threats are real, as is the Fatah-Hamas civil war — over 2,000 dead, says Khaled Abu Toameh — and yet you cling to the religion of Mideast Peace Processing, as if the Palestinians had one leadership that could sign a deal if only the Israelis were encouraged hard enough to give the right one.
    And yet your idea of encouraging Israel is to order them about like insolent servants, and act like Barak and Olmert’s offers and Sharon’s withdrawals never happened. Nope, Obama ‘forgot’ those deals. But then he says to Bibi, Trust me now.
    Well, you encouraged Israel to say NO before the orders got even sillier, and you encouraged the Palestinians to refuse to cooperate in anything, even to sit at the table. Since you never blame the Palestinians for anything, you made them think they will get everything for nothing is they wait.
    So, how’s it going, this smart diplomacy?
    It’s funny, just as the Arab states are giving up on the Palestinians (they have bigger fish to fry, what with the threat of Iran), America suddenly decides the Palestinians are the guys to trust, the guys to go to bat for.
    Aaron David Miller just told you in FP that you’re all out of touch with reality. Will anyone listen?

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  42. JohnH says:

    Yes, soft containment is an interesting policy for Iran. But what exactly are we containing? It’s not as if Iran has a military worthy of concern. Which of its neighbors is it threatening?
    Before we do sanctions or soft containment, we need to be very clear about the objectives, which have been constantly shifting over the past 30 years. Now the US is focused on the nuke program, which the IAEA and the US NIE say doesn’t exist!
    So what is the goal?
    Soft containment of Israel is very intriguing. Israel has a long record of trashing the neighborhood at the slightest provocation. Soft containment might brake Likud/Kadima’s tendency to regard war as the purest expression of Zionism. It could also force Israel to engage in a serious negotiations, instead of “peace processing” or negotiations for appearance sake only. (I expect that Nadine will proclaim this to be nonsense, so I will have to post Yitzhak Shamir’s admission of this as fundamental Likud strategy once again.)
    And if soft containment doesn’t work, there’s always the possibility of hard containment…

    Reply

  43. nadine says:

    “”Soft containment” is an interesting turn of phrase. Very diplomatic in intent.
    The question is, what does it mean, how does it let organic/internal political structures develop?”
    What does “soft containment” mean? It means managing American decline.
    Real containment is a hard, muscular policy that involves checking expansion of the contained power, by war or proxy war if need be. The US contained the USSR through many such situations and even wars.
    That is, if containment could even work against a theocratic revolutionary regime like Iran’s. No one knows the answer to that. Most people who have studied the regime closely think it won’t work.
    Obama has been in office for over a year, and he has done NOTHING about Iran. Unless you count shredding American credibility by setting up deadlines and then letting them pass.

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  44. questions says:

    “Soft containment” is an interesting turn of phrase. Very diplomatic in intent.
    The question is, what does it mean, how does it let organic/internal political structures develop?
    The old fashioned hard containment seems to put enough external pressure on that internal structures come out as reactionary forces and though certain unsavory behavior can be deterred, internal institutional development is arrested as a hard-contained ruler has an easy external enemy to rail against and to allow for consolidation of power.
    What does soft containment do? If it makes it harder for, say, Netanyahu to rally the Israeli right, then that would be something. Arresting the rightward movement, keeping Israel from bombing the living daylights out of Iran (while still maybe posing some balance of influence against Iran), making some space politically in Israel for something like a leftish humanitarian party to emerge — all of this would be nice. But how does one actually “contain” and not be seen as containing all at the same time?
    It’s an interesting issue. It may actually be that “soft” just shouldn’t be couple with “containment”.
    I think the goal with Israel really has to be a major shift in sensibility. And that comes with a major shift in threat level. They have a traumatized population — Europe, USSR, Ethiopia — all places with pretty screwed up recent histories — all descended upon one tiny little screwed up nation.
    Bring on the psychoanalysts, the sociologists, the war theorists, and see how high the walls have to go before Israel can give up some of its trauma.
    Maybe soft is more important than containment. That would be heading towards wu wei territory.
    There’s a beautiful book called Cherishment by I can’t remember who right now. It focuses on wu wei, therapy, and the need we all have to feel cherished. Perhaps both sides of the conflict have a pretty intense shared historical memory of dispossession and disdain and perhaps a dose of cherishment and soft non-containment would be a thing to think through.
    Don’t chase what you want, go away from it and maybe it comes to you? Or maybe not. It’s a thought at any rate.

    Reply

  45. HeatherH says:

    Steve-
    I appreciate those graphs too. It is worth noting that Secretary Clinton had exactly the first two graphs, with only a few words’ difference, in her speech at the Center for Middle East Peace launch dinner last week. The paragraphs were similarly surrounded with oceans of boilerplate. So this is a concerted effort to get this across to key Beltway audiences — which, like you, I applaud.
    Have fun in Brazil…

    Reply

  46. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I agree that Israel is a democracy….”
    Why? Because we call it one?
    That must be the reason, because IN ACTUALITY, their treatment of Arab Israelis disqualifies the assertion. This CRAP about “democracy” is just one more component of a contrived narrative that turns day into night and black into white.
    When are you going to critique Hillary’s performance, Steve? Why the “hands-off” stance towards someone who has returned NOTHING of value to us?

    Reply

  47. Steve Clemons says:

    wig — i think you are overstating your case, and you know better than to draw such stark lines. I agree that Israel is a democracy — but its democratic credentials, which are important, are eroding as it continues to do little to allow a state to grow to its side. I have seen the border check points, the road blocks, the harrassment, and have heard cases that are really shocking argued in the Supreme Court of Israel. To simply say that this is a one-sided deal and that there should be no limits on Israel, and no recognition of the irresponsibility of the Palestinians and Israelis regarding their long term mutual interests is a mistake in my view. I think that the failure to achieve a two state deal is eroding confidence in American leadership an power globally — and the Israelis and Palestinians are losing their chips on this one. Israel is the superpower in the region. It largely sets the temperature in the region – and particularly in the Occupied Territories. It’s time to get out of zero sum thinking and begin to conceive of structures that are going to achieve a sensible, inclusive equilibrium that cannot easily be upended by a violent minority.
    have to crash — but thanks for your post. I’ve been reading your other items — and I’ll just add here that no, i’m not hypocritical on Middle East issues…I’m pretty consistent.
    all best, steve

    Reply

  48. JohnH says:

    “Obama, Clinton and Jones have done an even worse job than Bush, Rice and Stephen Hadley.” Surely you jest. Bush and Rice were totally incompetent and had nothing to show for their meek efforts but a continuation of the unsustainable. Of course, that is exactly what endeared them to the Israel right or wrong crowd.
    I predict that the Obama will find a way to ambush the Netanyahu government and hang it out to dry, just like it did Goldman Sachs. This should not be hard to do given Israel’s crumbling moral position.

    Reply

  49. WigWag says:

    “Jones’ speech is already being pilloried by some on the progressive side of the Israel-Palestine debate for kowtowing too much to Israel-eze in his speech — the “unbreakable” bond between the US and Israel, and you know the rest.” (Steve Clemons)
    Not having heard or read the Jones speech, I can’t comment on it. The one thing that is clear is that the Obama Administration’s approach has made a peace deal even harder to achieve not easier to achieve. In a nutshell, they’ve failed; at least so far. This puts them in good company of course, but the sad part is that in terms of promoting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Obama, Clinton and Jones have done an even worse job than Bush, Rice and Stephen Hadley.
    One thing that Steve said in his post is clearly inaccurate; while the people he’s referring to who might object to the Jones’ speech may think that they are “progressive,” in fact they are anything but. In fact, those who sympathize with the Arab side in the Middle East dispute are actually reactionary at best and profoundly reactionary at worst.
    From almost any perspective, the organization of every Arab society is objectionable to anyone who has even a modicum of progressive values. Whether its tolerance, freedom of expression, the rule of law, democracy, minority rights, gay rights, women’s rights, freedom of religion, etc. Arab societies including Palestinian society represent precisely the opposite of what progressive people believe in.
    Those who support the Palestinians or the position of other Arabs in this dispute may think they are progressive but they flatter themselves; in fact they’re delusional if they think that there is anything “progressive” about their point of view.
    What they are is something else entirely.

    Reply

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