Will Obama’s Foreign Policy Legacy Be Built on Rock or Sand?

-

obama netanyahu.jpgJoe Klein has written one of the best 100 day nutshell reviews of the Obama administration’s performance I have read.
Klein’s take squares almost perfectly with a piece I have coming out in the next few days in World Politics Review — not there yet though.
One of the portfolio downside risks that Obama currently owns is an undefined agenda in the Middle East, and Klein frames this around a sharp jab from former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski:

The second big foreign policy challenge is the natural conflict between the demure slog of diplomacy and the need for the American President to be a strong leader who sets the international agenda.
“The one thing Obama hasn’t done in the first 100 days,” says Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser, “is the big Middle East speech where he says, ‘This is the settlement. This is what we’re for.’ If he doesn’t do that soon, [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is going to set the agenda, not us – and that will be a disaster. If we don’t act now, any chance of a two-state solution will be gone. If he does act now, every government in the world will stand with him.” Except, perhaps, the Israelis and their American supporters in the Jewish and Evangelical communities. Obama’s willingness to override domestic politics for the greater good will be a major test.
In a way, Brzezinski’s stark choice is emblematic of the problem that Obama faces now that his first 100 days is nearly complete. There are those who mistake his quiet, deliberative style for softness.
There is the fear that he won’t have the strength to stand up to the Israelis (or the Iranians) or to the left wing of his party on health care or to the porkers on the defense budget. On the other hand, there are three dead Somali pirates who attest to this President’s ability to make tough decisions in a timely fashion.
Obama won’t stand up to everyone, always; he is, after all, a politician. But the quality of fights he does choose will determine whether he builds his legacy on rock or sand. He has had a brilliant time announcing his intentions, but the real game of governing is about to begin.

I agree with Klein and Brzezinski — and think that there are defining challenges that the President must confront in order to restore global confidence in the ability of the United States to achieve the outcomes it has set for itself.
Many of these challenges are in the Middle East today — and a new equilibrium and new opportunities are not possible in the region — without some very tough love sessions with Israel’s leadership.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

57 comments on “Will Obama’s Foreign Policy Legacy Be Built on Rock or Sand?

  1. Mr.Murder says:

    Strip away the teeth of the Evangelical lobby by healthy and strict readings of the Logan Act. Use it to disqualify tax free status of certain interest groups.
    Tought times call for tough meansures.

    Reply

  2. Mr.Murder says:

    Strip away the teeth of the Evangelical lobby by healthy and strict readings of the Logan Act. Use it to disqualify tax free status of certain interest groups.
    Tought times call for tough meansures.

    Reply

  3. questions says:

    Problem with the POA post at 10:08 is that Katrina got old, the war in Iraq is on the older side, swine flu will get old, John Edwards’s affair will get old. It all gets old. Freaking about the disappearance of one story without the context of the disappearance of all stories, many in “record time” is unhelpful.
    What is the proper length of time for any story? I have no answer, but I won’t assume that antiwar.com has the answer either. There are hundreds of separate news judgments made all across the country. It’s not very conspiracy-ish, and of course, (read the link I posted at 10:27) POA would do it differently were he running a major media outlet, but I think people make judgments good and bad, but not generally conspiracy-laden. And perhaps POA’s newspaper would be out of business even before the Boston Globe goes away.
    And, third paragraph so only my true “fans” who are, of course, non-existent, will even read this gibberish, I’m denying all over again one lobby group’s ability to control the media universe.
    Harman’s story is complicated and not very interesting for now. If it turns out that Porter Goss was seeking revenge, it’ll get interesting again. (See TPM from yesterday on this angle.) Freeman really objectively isn’t very interesting. He tried for a government job and he didn’t get it. How long do you run with that?
    People with news judgment may actually feel that in context, the AIPAC jamboree/festival is less interesting than whether or not John Edwards spread swine flu to Katrina victims while riding an Amtrak train with three one-handed victims of gang violence while injecting each with steroids. Now THERE’S a story…..

    Reply

  4. questions says:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/05/health/05mind.html?_r=1&hpw
    An interesting read on how we tend to assume a kind of self-righteous “I’d never do what they do” pose.

    Reply

  5. PissedOffAmerican says:

    http://original.antiwar.com/giraldi/2009/05/04/ignore-aipac-at-americas-peril/
    Ignore AIPAC at America’s Peril
    by Philip Giraldi, May 05, 2009
    What do Charles Freeman and Jane Harman have in common? Nothing, apart from the fact that they are both involved in the truly ugly side of the Israel lobby’s activity in the United States and, for that reason, had their stories dropped by the mainstream media in record time. Harman’s story broke on April 19 and was on life support by the 24th. Freeman’s story had slightly more legs to it only because his withdrawal from his nomination to head the National Intelligence Council on March 10 was preceded by a three-week barrage of vicious ad hominem attacks from the media and the usual suspects in Congress. After he resigned, his story was allowed to die, ending as far as the mainstream media was concerned on March 14 with a coup de grace from Republican Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia, who claimed in a Washington Post op-ed that the Israel lobby had nothing to do with his opposition to Freeman’s appointment. Wolf has reportedly received $72,000 from pro-Israel PACs, more than any other Virginia congressman except Eric Cantor, something that he chose not to mention.
    If one were to ask a reasonably well-informed American citizen about either Harman or Freeman, one would most likely draw a blank. This is because they have been airbrushed out of the collective political consciousness almost as effectively as the pictures of Stalin’s rivals were removed from group photos in Red Square. The mainstream media, which is where most Americans still get their news, has trivialized their stories and has no desire to grapple with issues like Israeli espionage and the establishment of a de facto Israeli loyalty test for the holders of high office. Corruption of the U.S. political system by a small country 5,000 miles away is of no interest to Fox, NBC, CBS, and ABC, not to mention their newsprint counterparts.
    It did not have to be so, and if there had been any spine or even a shred of conscience in the media, then all of this might have gone in another direction, leading to a serious inquiry into how a tiny foreign power has managed to create the most powerful lobby in Washington. When Freeman went down and dared to complain about his treatment, there was considerable noise in the blogosphere suggesting that the Israel lobby had finally overreached itself and would pay the price because everyone would now know just how much it interferes in American politics. That judgment proved premature, as did the suggestion by some that the victory over Freeman might prove Pyrrhic in nature, leading to future defeats. Others, including Stephen Walt, were not so sure, noting that the basis for AIPAC’s power in the media and within the government had not in any way been diminished. That has proven to be the case. A complaisant establishment media rolled over on the Harman story only weeks after Freeman.
    continues………

    Reply

  6. Paul Norheim says:

    Arthur, I really appreciate that you are attacking my claims and
    arguments this time, instead of my personal integrity and
    motives.
    “If the opinions of evangelical Christians were as influential in
    Washington as you claim, Paul, don’t you think Americans would
    be living in a much different version of their country than the
    one they inhabit? You haven’t forgotten “they” had Eight Years
    with “their” man in the White House, have you?”
    They had eight years with “their” man, yes, and it`s true that
    powerful players like Rove and Cheney didn`t care much about
    “Christian values” once they had got their votes. The Christians
    were disappointed, and asked themselves if they could trust in
    the GOP – a fact that contributed to Obama`s victory.
    The temporary boost after McCain had selected Sarah Palin (very
    popular among evangelical voters) as his VP candidate, may
    have led to republican victory, if Obama hadn`t been down on
    all fours during the AIPAC conference last summer (and if
    McCain had showed a more convincing appearance during the
    financial crisis in the weeks before the election).
    “Was it evangelical Christian’s demands that forced Bush or
    Cheney to alter America irrevocably with the long-prepared
    Homeland Security Omnibus Legislation? ”
    No, I don´t think so. Do you think that this was due to AIPAC or
    Israeli demands?
    “Was it evangelical Christian’s pressure on the administration
    that led to the invasion of Iraq?”
    No. And if you think that Israeli influence, as well as pressure
    from pro Israeli forces contributed largely to this decision, I
    totally agree with that. Netanyahu, Perle, Wolfowitz, etc.etc…
    “Was it their strongly-worded foreign policy advice that has led
    to Israelis being permitted to murder whomever they wish in
    Palestine with impunity?”
    Well, Bush did not need any “strongly-worded foreign policy
    advice” forcing him to give Israel a carte blanche, as he
    happened to be a bona fide Evangelical maniac himself,
    surrounded by a largely pro-Israeli team. The Bush
    administration itself illustrates my point: It was led by an
    evangelical Christian who practiced morning prayers in the
    White House, surrounded by largely pro-Israeli officials and
    influenced by ditto ideologues.
    Let me phrase my point in a different way: You may distinguish
    between “hard” and “soft” power. Holocaust, as well as the
    biblical myths and legends surrounding the “Holy Land”, are
    central elements of the “soft power” in this case. I believe that it
    largely determines the sympathies among the broader
    population, but especially among hardcore evangelical
    Christians. (it starts with the teachers showing the kids maps of
    Palestine and Israel during biblical times). I am not saying that
    this kind of influence will last for ever – it may change (like the
    sympathies have changed here in Norway). It may even backfire.
    “(Sharon) told them they didn’t have to worry about America –
    American would do what it was told. (Or words to that effect.)
    Do you remember that under-reported gem, Paul?”
    Olmert and Lieberman have said more or less the same recently.
    But I happen to believe that Israel and AIPAC would not be able
    to have such an influence on US foreign policy unless the
    American leaders AND people were willing to let them have that
    influence. And this is largely due to the legends and myths I
    mentioned above.
    Joe Sixpack and Jill Boxed White Wine are familiar with these
    stories from the Bible, they learned them at school. How could
    you expect them to update themselves regarding Gaza, the West
    Bank, Syria, Lebanon, Likud, Kadima, settlements… they can`t
    even find Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan on a map! So they stick to
    what their teachers told them.

    Reply

  7. arthurdecco says:

    If the opinions of evangelical Christians were as influential in Washington as you claim, Paul, don’t you think Americans would be living in a much different version of their country than the one they inhabit? You haven’t forgotten “they” had Eight Years with “their” man in the White House, have you?
    Was it evangelical Christian’s demands that forced Bush or Cheney to alter America irrevocably with the long-prepared Homeland Security Omnibus Legislation? Was it evangelical Christian’s pressure on the administration that led to the invasion of Iraq? Was it their strongly-worded foreign policy advice that has led to Israelis being permitted to murder whomever they wish in Palestine with impunity?
    No, it was not and is not still.
    The Republicans wooed them hard, sure. But beyond a few minor concessions, evangelical Christian demands were then and still are politely ignored.
    They’re a red herring in this discussion.
    Anyone with any sense knows who controls American foreign policy in the Middle East and it ain’t evangelical Christians. Nor is their support crucial – only convenient cover for the Real Perpetrators.
    Remember Sharon’s admonishment to several of his cabinet who were nervous about provoking a negative reaction from the American government with their up-coming even harder-line Palestinian policies? He told them they didn’t have to worry about America – American would do what it was told. (Or words to that effect.) Do you remember that under-reported gem, Paul?
    Like I said, evangelical Christians = red herring.

    Reply

  8. Paul Norheim says:

    The discussion about the influence of AIPAC is incomplete if
    you don`t include the crucial influence of the evangelical
    Christians, which one could estimate is 30 % founded on
    Holocaust, and 70 % on myths and legends about the promised
    land. Any President, presidential candidate, or party who
    seriously attempted to implement a decent policy in the ME in
    general, or in the Israel/Palestine conflict specifically, would
    loose the next election.
    Showing up at the annual AIPAC conference etc. is not solely an
    act to bough to the pressure of the lobby, but also an effective
    way to please the evangelical Christian voters. Whether there
    actually are more influential lobbies in US politics than AIPAC,
    as questions claims, or not, is entirely irrelevant. Due to the
    combined power of AIPAC and the evangelical Christians,
    America will not put serious pressure on Israel in the
    foreseeable future.
    Someone (any Christians reading this?) have to convince more
    Americans that being a Christian is not synonymous with
    applauding every single brutal act committed by the Israeli
    state. This would also weaken the influence of AIPAC.

    Reply

  9. questions says:

    Straw man argument — citing the AIPAC website and then disputing it. Gee.
    Read Greenwald on the asymmetries between Franklin and the other two. Has something to do with government employees’ having different legal status vis-a-vis government information. The other two are not government employees. Apparently that fact makes for a legal distinction.
    And apparently part of the concern is that if it’s illegal for a civilian who receives government information to pass it along, then it is illegal for reporters to report on what whistleblowers tell them.
    There’s some real concern amongst investigative reporters over this one. Figure out what side you’re on. And remember the law of unintended consequences. You could see the shut down of investigative reporting if you get what you want on the Rosen case.

    Reply

  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Franklin pled guilty to espionage charges in 2005 and was sentenced to 12 years in the hoosegow plus a substantial fine. His handlers, however, have escaped, not only unscathed but hailed by the Lobby and its friends as persecuted heroes. Yet the confession, conviction, and sentencing of Franklin stand as the perfect rebuke to the AIPACers’ claims of “vindication.” If no crime was committed, then why not free Franklin? This is precisely what his defenders have advocated, yet it won’t happen for the very good reason that the charges against Franklin stand, along with his confession and his punishment, as testimony to the fact that a real crime was indeed committed”
    “One merely has to read the indictment to see that: at one clandestine rendezvous of the Rosen-Weissman-Franklin spy cell, they moved the venue to three different restaurants in the course of a single meeting. They were afraid – rightly, as it turned out – they were being followed, because they knew they were committing a crime”

    Reply

  11. Carroll says:

    “”On the other hand, there are three dead Somali pirates who attest to this President’s ability to make tough decisions in a timely fashion.””
    ROTFLMAO…the pirates don’t have a lobby and Pirate PAC’s with with oddles of campaign money. If they did we would be funding them and calling them Robin Hoods.
    The US hasn’t had a president who stood up to the Jewish Lobby and actually governed for American interest since Eisenhower and Kennedy.
    There isn’t enough space on this site to list all of the Jewish Lobby’s and Israel and congress’s transgressions against the US and American’s welfare.
    Next stop Iran.

    Reply

  12. PissedOffAmerican says:

    http://www.aipac.org/130.asp#24601
    “While Washington, D.C., is increasingly consumed with bickering between Democrats and Republicans, the U.S.-Israel relationship remains the one issue that transcends the partisan divide. In a display of this bipartisan spirit, more than half of Congress will attend tonight’s Gala Banquet”
    Who the fuck is questions trying to fool? Does he think we’re a pack of idiots?

    Reply

  13. Mr.Murder says:

    “Chase is a registered Democrat, and is an outspoken liberal. He endorsed President Barack Obama on his appearance on The Howard Stern Show on September 18, 2008.” -wiki
    My fanhood of Chase just increased expnentially.
    Posted by questions,
    “Mr. Murder,
    Is it the Cusack movie, War, Inc? missed the reference before, but it’s coming back to me. Tried googling the phrase, but no luck.”
    My apologies it was a series episode of Chuck. Cheney unmistakably mimics Cheney on the program doing his part to double cross a sensitive security apparatus by going after the star of the series’ personal family.
    It clearly mirrors the Valerie Plame outing.
    Because some artists have the balls to do what no journalists will.

    Reply

  14. PissedOffAmerican says:

    And, uh, by the way, when the Vice “I am a Zionist” President of the United States gets up in front of any other lobby, and vows his fealty to a foreign nation, lemme know, will ya? Perhaps then I’ll try a sip of your snake oil. But just a sip, mind you. Anymore than that and I’d be afraid my synapses would start misfiring at a rate approaching yours.
    And, hey, how ’bout that Hillary hound, eh? Saberi must be thrilled Hillary is on the case! A shame about Anderson, though. Perhaps someone should give Hillary a call, and tell her who he is. But something tells me she already knows, but just doesn’t give a shit. After all, she knows who butters her toast.
    Thats something. An American citizen engaged in peaceful protest, gunned down by the Israeli gestapo. And nary a peep from our Secretary of State? Sure glad Israel doesn’t have any power over Washington, eh?

    Reply

  15. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “But then, you don’t read things this long from me”
    Naaaah, I read the whole thing. You’re much better with sarcasm than you are with long winded blathering crap.
    And you don’t need a shrink, you just need to stop peddling bullshit. Trust me, you’ll feel a whole lot better.

    Reply

  16. questions says:

    “There’s no doubt in my mind that I read you correctly.”
    Wow, I’m never without doubt. I’m impressed, POA, really impressed.
    And it’s nice that you don’t read far down into my posts, especially nice that you’re not reading this because it’s the third paragraph and you’ve already stopped.
    Never had an elephant in my living room, or a steaming pile of anything, or maybe I have and I never noticed. Hmmm. I’ll have to see what Plato says about that. I’m sure it’ll be useless crap, since the only thing that’s useful is Mr. MondoWeiss, and Justin Raimondo I s’pose. But of course, you’re not reading this. I’m posting it for the non-existent elephant, who has read lots of lit! One smart non-existent elephant it is.
    My detachment from reality, ummm, oh yeah. That’s when I don’t agree with you and MondoWeiss and W and M. If I cite other people who disagree with same, I suppose they’re either not real, or we’re a bunch of us equally detached. I suppose I should go see a shrink or something.
    And as for the poor souls who get tricked into reading anything I write here, oh well, I s’pose they’ll recover. And you, POA, will make sure that everyone knows the truth of the matter anyway. But then, you don’t read things this long from me.

    Reply

  17. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Questions…
    To be totally honest with you, there is no point in composing long windy posts directed at me. If it is your intention to reach whatever gullible jackass that might stumble upon one of your essays of intellectual tchotchke, than by all means, carry on. But if you are expending the effort on my behalf, and entertain the fantastic notion that I actually read past the first paragraph or two, its my suggestion that you don’t waste your time. Your literary citations don’t mean shit to me, and as far as I am concerned, they have just clogged your brain with a bunch of useless crap. Its painfully obvious that a guy could march an elephant through your living room, and if it fit your agenda, you’d deny such an event happened. Never mind the steaming pile of elephant crap in the middle of the carpet, next to the crushed coffee table and the ivory tusk sticking through the front door.
    There’s nothing you haven’t said, at length, to describe your detachment from reality as it applies to this issue. You’ve said it all, questions. There is no doubt in my mind that I read you correctly.
    Sell your snake oil if you must. But sell it to someone else, I’m not buying.

    Reply

  18. questions says:

    Mr. Murder,
    Is it the Cusack movie, War, Inc? missed the reference before, but it’s coming back to me. Tried googling the phrase, but no luck.
    Thanks for the Tibet info. The world sucks.

    Reply

  19. Mr.Murder says:

    “And that wierdo walking calmly and slowly towards the exit, smiling crookedly, mumbling “theres nothing to worry about”?.
    He’s either detached from reality, or the arsonist”
    ~Chevy Chase uses the Cheney grin in a recent movie.
    Away from artists portraying political pitbulls. Back to reality:
    Tibetans sentenced for taking part in protests in March 2008
    “On April 8th, China sentenced two Tibetans, Lobsang Gyaltsen and Loyak, to death for their alleged involvement in last year’s protests in Lhasa. Two others, Phuntsok and Kangtsuk, were also sentenced to death but with a two year reprieve, and Dawa Sangpo was sentenced to life imprisonment.
    These harsh sentences signal an alarming escalation in the Chinese government’s campaign to punish and intimidate Tibetans who dare to speak out against Chinese rule.
    Without a reprieve, Lobsang Gyaltsen and Loyak could be executed any day now. Help save their lives by taking action now.
    Please take action now by sending this urgent action to the Minister of Justice demanding that the death sentences are quashed with immediate effect.”
    http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5380/t/5114/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=598
    -thanks to radiohead for having this on their blog front page.
    http://www.radiohead.com/deadairspace/

    Reply

  20. Mr.Murder says:

    Syria can triangulate every position around it.
    The importance of Turkish assitance to NATO and the EU is a huge factor in coming years.
    Like most of the tasks in this era they require us to sustain advance that is contradictory to traditional interests of neighboring lands.
    This requires an ffort to sweeten the reward for both sides and can be done. There’s where new economic growth can occur. It’s an opportunity.

    Reply

  21. questions says:

    And, by the way, POA,
    Your sentence about how polling can be found to support any view comes closer to agreeing with Etzioni than you might want. His point is basically that W and M falsely reported or I guess, possibly misunderstood and so misreported, polling data and made it look like their view was right. Since the whole point of their book is that THELOBBY is huge and fearsome and FORCES the US to go against its national interests, the use of the poll matters.

    Reply

  22. questions says:

    POA,
    What MC doesn’t want the cheapest, easiest way to court money and votes? Showing up at AIPAC’s annual soiree (or whatever time of day it is) is a cheap and easy thing to do. It’s up there with declaring general support for a famous person, a cure for a horrible disease, “National Toothache Month,” naming post offices, or whatever. Your constituents like you and your donors like you, and no one can hate you, do oppo research and primary you. Easy breezy.
    Showing up at AIPAC, then, isn’t much proof of anything.
    MCs have to think through what the chances are any vote, action, or word will cost re-election or support re-election. They also have to vote for or against huge amounts of legislation they know little about. These two facts of life for MCs go further in explaining votes than your whole ILOBBY conspiracy theory. They have political parties to please, media people to please, constituents to please…. When there are conflicts among potential supporters they have to pick the least alienating position. That’s the system. AIPAC is certainly part of this system, but so are lots and lots of others. I simply don’t have the kind of tunnel-vision you have, so I see lots of other things going on in an MC’s decision-making process.
    Some worthwhile questions to answer:
    What is a powerful lobby — meaning, just what is this power? How is it exerted, and does it really change votes? Remember, if the MC would vote for X regardless of donations, than we should assume that lobbying has had no effect on the vote. It’s only if the MC changes his or her vote that we can see the effect of lobbying. Since it’s difficult to find controls to deal with this situation, it’s honestly difficult for academics to know for certain what you FEEL is true. Yours is a feeling, not knowledge. In Socrates’s words, it’s an opinion, not knowledge. Now it may be a correct opinion, or it may be an incorrect opinion, but opinion it is nonetheless.
    Does any MC actually believe what s/he is saying when s/he utters the words, “Oh, my is that a powerful lobby”? Or is this kind of statement the sort of thing we’d expect to hear. Who in his/her right mind would say, “Pfff, they don’t convince me of anything”???
    If we can’t KNOW who should win the Gold Medal for Power Lobbying, then why pick AIPAC? Mostly, I’m guessing because you vehemently disagree with their stances and you can’t see how ANYone could objectively agree with AIPAC, so supporting AIPAC must be tainted in your view. But, again, this view is your opinion, not a fact. Plenty of people KNOW what’s happening in Gaza, KNOW what Israel does, and they still support the program, or wish for changes that aren’t the ones you want. In our political system, people who have the most votes get more of what they want. It doesn’t really take a huge amount of lobbying.
    Look up opensecrets dot org and run through some lobbying expenses. AIPAC, and even all pro-Israel lobbies together spend not huge sums of money. If money is power, it ain’t AIPAC/pro-Israel lobbies.
    There are plenty of smart enough people, Greenwald, Etzioni, even MJ Rosenberg, who disagree with you and Mr. Mondo about the spying charges. Are they arsonists? Really? I have a lot of issues with MJ, I mostly but not always, like Greenwald, and Etzioni I’ve only read bits and pieces of, but none of them seems like a weirdo or an arsonist to me. They have well-reasoned arguments on this particular non-espionage case and I don’t really have a reason to be suspicious given how calm and clearly stated the views are, and how well-reasoned their arguments are.
    I’ve read huge amounts of lit on Congress and the kinds of OMG-ILOBBY claims I keep coming across just don’t fit in with all the books I’ve read. So for now, I’m sticking to the stacks of books that make claims about the workings of Congress, that back up the claims with reasonable arguments and a lot of voting data. There are debates among the scholars for sure, but much of the basics are in enough agreement that I don’t see your view of AIPAC as being well-supported. Should I come across a book or article that is both well-researched and well-reasoned, and that agrees with you, you’ll be the second person to know. (W and M doesn’t cut it for me, as I’ve argued many times. They’re out of their field, their concepts don’t really hold up under scrutiny, and they apparently have misreported a survey (see Etzioni’s post linked to in a previous post) — this kind of sloppiness is really unacceptable.)
    I could certainly be convinced otherwise, but what it takes to convince me is a well-reasoned argument, not an emotive screed about how there’s a secret cabal that controls the minds of MCs. There are some very simple explanations for congressional action without the need to postulate secret societies (that aren’t even really secret).
    And Sand, I’m not sure if your comment is directed at me, but I’ll answer anyway, just in case. The methodology has to be faithful to the possibility of gaining certainty. That is, we may reach something of an epistemic limit when we are trying to figure out what motivates MCs to vote one way or another. We may not be able to know for certain just how much lobbying of one stripe or another affects MCs’ votes. There are causation/correlation issues, false reporting issues, and all sorts of reasons for votes to happen the way they do. One assumes that MCs want to be re-elected and that they will do what, in their best judgment, helps with this goal. One can assume that they can’t know what will help and harm in every case, because the future is not an open book. If going to AIPAC’s jamboree seems safer than staying away, then go they will. AIPAC does seem to have talent for making itself appear very grand and powerful. Why would any MC with half a brain bother trying to find out? The aura of power is all it takes. Aura isn’t exactly power though.

    Reply

  23. PW says:

    Syria should be the first, second, and third priorities.

    Reply

  24. Sand says:

    …And WHAT methodology would you use for such corruption when so many variables are hidden out of sight out of mind…

    Reply

  25. Sand says:

    …And methodology would you use for corruption when so many variables are hidden out of sight out of mind…

    Reply

  26. PissedOffAmerican says:

    If there is just one person standing up in the theatre and screaming “fire”, questions, than its pretty safe to assume that person is paranoid or delusional. But when the majority of the crowd is screaming, its probably prudent to look for flames, and make a beeline for an exit that lies in the opposite direction.
    And that wierdo walking calmly and slowly towards the exit, smiling crookedly, mumbling “theres nothing to worry about”?.
    He’s either detached from reality, or the arsonist.

    Reply

  27. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Depending on methodology, and what segment of the population is polled, one can create the statistical evidence for just about any argument one wants to advance.
    Personally, I prefer to just examine the evidence thats in front of my face, and draw my own conclusions based on that unfortunate fact of life known as “reality”. That would be the factual historical events and evidence that questions chooses to totally ignore.
    Perhaps questions will be so kind as to provide us with examples of annual conferences that draw the sheer numbers of Congressional “guests” and “featured speakers” that the AIPAC conferences do. Can he show us one single “lobbyist organization” that affects FOREIGN policy as extremely as AIPAC does? What about national security? Is there any other lobby organization that is so well placed to influence foreign policy in such a manner that our national security can be adversely influenced?
    Truth be known, questions is totally detached from reality, and his asinine denials, obsfucations, equivications, and flights of fantasy are astounding. It has become somewhat amusing watching him attempt to sell an intellectual product that is clearly labeled “Snake Oil”, (if one is wont to chuckle at such pathetic displays of absurdity.)
    Unfortunately, it is also getting old. What sales person continues to tap a market that has no buyers? Its absurd. If it has already been established theres no buyer for your Hoover behind the door you’re aproaching, why knock? Or, more appropriately, if you’re the uninterested party, why answer?? That appears to be the fix questions’ sales pitch is in. Increasingly, he’s knocking on doors that have already seen his product, and expressed zero interest. And one by one, people are beginning to refuse to open the door to hear his pitch.

    Reply

  28. Mr.Murder says:

    Plan:
    US and Saudi dollars open investment banks for creation of joint production capabilities for the two states. This way they pattern economic integration.
    Only when the interests and money get shared does thing move forward. The two major players in terms of capital help accord peace for profit.
    Both have to for the amount of market revenue it will free over reduced oil costs, as easi g tensions will reduce some demands on insurance and market supply challenges.

    Reply

  29. Mr.Murder says:

    Lobby interests of Abramoff and Reid helped stop the Clinton deal over venture backing to establish a gymcrack theme park at the Sea of Galilee.
    That’s right, we threw away peace in the middle east for an effort to turn the Holy Land into Dollywoood.
    *Apologies to Dolly, she remains fabulous.
    Look atr Abramoff close, the same way you need to look at Sen.Hulk Tie, both due a closer look at their brands of corruption. you might free enough poltiical capitalto move on foreign policy in several sectors and still gain additional domestic leverage.

    Reply

  30. questions says:

    To those of us for whom the claim that the Israel lobby is all-powerful is neither a well established truism nor an ugly piece of anti-Semitism, the evidence presented in support of this claim matters a great deal. Surely Washington has more lobbies than a derelict dog has fleas. And, lobbying is a constitutionally protected activity. Hence, a pivotal question is whether the Israel lobby is significantly more powerful than the others.
    A new book making this case has been written by two highly regarded scholars; John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt of the University of Chicago and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, respectively. The authors write:
    In 1997, Fortune magazine asked members of Congress and their staffs to list the most powerful lobbies in Washington. AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] was ranked second behind the American Association of Retired Persons, but ahead of the AFL-CIO and the National Rifle Association. A National Journal study in March of 2005 reached a similar conclusion, placing AIPAC in second place (tied with AARP) in the Washington ‘muscle rankings.’
    In fact, Fortune’s survey was not made of Congress members and their staffs, but of 2,165 “Washington insiders” (chosen by two panels whose membership has not been disclosed), which includes an unknown number of congressional members and staffers, among an unknown number of others. In both surveys roughly six out of every seven persons asked did not respond. The authors’ claim that members of Congress and their staffs ranked the Israel lobby more powerful than many others is based on the responses of 15% of those who were surveyed. I wonder if most of my colleagues would agree that this is not a proper generalization. (Also note that none of the numerous social science procedures to correct for such a deficit of responses were employed).
    The number of people who responded is so small that an additional vote or two, or a change of mind by one or two respondents, would have significantly altered the findings. The total number of the National Journal responses—which surveyed only law makers—is 73. The National Federation of Independent Business was ranked first and the National Rifle Association second—with nine and eight votes, respectively. In third place, ranked as the most powerful by seven members, was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The AARP and AIPAC were each given the nod by five members. The oil companies and the arms manufacturers were not on the list of those to be ranked.
    What role should sociologists play in clarifying statistical procedures for those without social science training? What are the limits and value of such data?
    **Amatai Etzioni, 2008
    http://www.asanet.org/footnotes/jan08_R/asa_forum.html

    Reply

  31. questions says:

    National Rifle Assn
    The National Rifle Association (NRA) isn’t just the most powerful pro-gun lobby in Washington. It is the most powerful lobby of all, at least according to Fortune magazine, which put the NRA at the top of its list of “Power 25” lobbying groups in 2002. The NRA goes to great lengths (and spends a huge sum of money) to defend the right to bear arms. It is opposed to virtually every form of gun control, including restrictions on owning assault weapons, background checks for gun owners, and registration of firearms. NRA’s influence is felt not only through campaign contributions, but through millions of dollars in off-the-books spending on issue ads and the like. (The NRA spent an $20 million on such activities during the 2000 elections alone, estimates the Annenberg Public Policy Center.) Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the NRA supported proposals to arm airline pilots with guns.
    http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000000082
    And note that Durbin now says it’s the banks. So I suppose there’s some competition for “most powerful lobby.”

    Reply

  32. questions says:

    “Although it’s true — as I argued three years ago and again yesterday — that the prosecution of the two former AIPAC officials was wrong and abusive, that hardly means there was no wrongdoing here. Indeed, as part of this case, a former DOD official and aide to Douglas Feith — Larry Franklin — was convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison for passing classified military information to these two AIPAC officials and to an Israeli official. The FBI agents assigned to this case continued through this week to insist that not only now-convicted Franklin, but also the two AIPAC officials, committed serious crimes and that there was ample evidence to prove their guilt.”
    http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/05/02/goldberg/
    This is from a Greenwald post arguing that AIPAC is indeed powerful and not at all a victim as it claims, and that the spy case was weak/misguided — “wrong and abusive.”
    Note that Bromwich has a piece up on HuffPo that counters my view of the universe. (I’m putting this note in just for Paul!)

    Reply

  33. PissedOffAmerican says:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/baroud05012009.html
    “However, if recent comments made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suffice as a general indication of the administration’s Middle East policy, then little change is on the horizon.”
    “Clinton told US legislators 23 April that the key to peace between Israel and the Palestinians was Tehran; that without getting tough on Iran, Israel could not be expected to pursue peace with the Palestinians. “The two go hand in hand,” she emphasised. What a baffling approach to peacemaking. In order for peace to prevail, Israel should engage Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in “discussions” aimed at inspiring the isolation of Iran, for reasons entirely pertinent to US interests and Israeli “security”.”
    “While Clinton’s approach rests on luring Israel into her proposed peace discussions, what is Clinton’s promise to the Palestinians, the Arabs, and indeed Iran but endless chatter, a regional cold war and sectarian divisions? Hasn’t the Middle East seen enough of that? Is it not time to relegate such detrimental language and focus on positive engagement, regional stability and economic cooperation?”
    “In fact, there is concrete evidence that supports the claim that a responsible US policy in the region could indeed usher in a new beginning, which would ultimately prove beneficial to the US in a time of economic meltdown and repeated crises. For example, Iran has made clear its intentions of espousing dialogue with the US, Hamas is openly seeking “engagement”, and Hizbullah — which seems committed to Lebanon’s stability — is positively responding to EU diplomatic overtures”
    “However, it seems that the new US administration with all the gutsy talk of boldness, daring and audacity is still unwilling or unable to confront Israel’s chaotic and destructive behaviour in Palestine and in the Middle East at large”

    Reply

  34. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Chutzpah is one word for it, hubris is another. In any case, the Lobby is riding for a fall, in spite of its political power, its financial resources, its stranglehold on Capitol Hill and the policymaking apparatus of the US government. If the US is drawn into yet another war with the Lobby’s fingerprints all over it, the American people — after having voted for a presidential candidate many thought was intent on reversing the relentless warmongering of the past eight years — are bound to react. As the Lobby jeers at and otherwise disrespects our laws and our nation’s security, sooner or later popular revulsion against this faction of brazen fifth columnists is bound to give AIPAC and its allies a monumental slapping down”

    Reply

  35. questions says:

    “In a statement issued this morning, the acting top federal prosecutor in the Virginia court district, U.S. Atty. Dana J. Boente, said the government was moving to dismiss the charges because of additional burdens imposed on prosecutors by the recent court decisions.
    “When this indictment was brought, the government believed it could prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt based on the statute,” Boente said.
    But, Boente added, “given the diminished likelihood the government will prevail at trial under the additional intent requirements imposed by the court and the inevitable disclosure of classified information that would occur at any trial in this matter, we have asked the court to dismiss the indictment.”
    Rosen and Weissman were not charged with espionage. Instead, prosecutors accused them of getting classified information from government sources like Franklin and then mishandling it by leaking it to reporters, think tank personnel and, most controversially, Israeli government officials, often in exchange for other information.
    Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, who tracked the case closely for its effect on U.S. espionage policy and freedom of information, said the charges were almost unprecedented and misguided from the outset, in that authorities used provisions of the 1917 Espionage Act that had never before been applied to lobbyists.
    “This is a repudiation of the attempt to use the Espionage Act against leaks and those who receive them,” Aftergood said. “That’s what made it so troublesome. Espionage charges would have been fine; they would have been found innocent or guilty. Instead they were charged with a much more diffuse and flimsier crime.”
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/la-na-aipac2-2009may02,0,6024831.story
    End paragraphs of a Trib story.

    Reply

  36. Kathleen G says:

    Protesting Aipac this weekend
    http://www.stopaipac.org/protestaipac.htm

    Reply

  37. dalivision says:

    He should start with Cuba. Expand the agenda by
    removing the embargo, let American interests
    assist in rebuilding Cuba, and allowing Americans
    to visit. He would not only show his strength in
    Latin America but would be a step toward the
    Middle East as well. Nevertheless, he must show
    something to frame the agenda in the ME.

    Reply

  38. Kathleen G says:

    On Monday This Legislation will Be the I lobbies Focus “Iran Diplomatic Enhancement Act”
    On Monday the Israeli Lobby will be pounding the halls of congress pushing for H.R. 1985
    “To amend the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 to enhance United States diplomatic efforts with respect to Iran by expanding economic sanctions against Iran to include refined petroleum, and for other purposes.
    To The Phones
    Call your congress members on Monday. Ask them to support a sane policies in regard to Iran which should be based on verifiable intelligence. Ask them to vote against H.R. 1985
    Ask them to re-open the investigations into Jane Harman’s activities
    Demand that Aipac be required to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act
    http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/fara/
    http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h1985/show

    Reply

  39. Kathleen G says:

    On Monday This Legislation will Be the I lobbies Focus “Iran Diplomatic Enhancement Act”
    On Monday the Israeli Lobby will be pounding the halls of congress pushing for H.R. 1985
    “To amend the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 to enhance United States diplomatic efforts with respect to Iran by expanding economic sanctions against Iran to include refined petroleum, and for other purposes.
    To The Phones
    Call your congress members on Monday. Ask them to support a sane policies in regard to Iran which should be based on verifiable intelligence. Ask them to vote against H.R. 1985
    Ask them to re-open the investigations into Jane Harman’s activities
    Demand that Aipac be required to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act
    http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/fara/
    http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h1985/show

    Reply

  40. John says:

    The goal is not just internationally recognized borders. The goal is Palestinian sovereignty.
    Bibi wants a sham Palestinian state.
    The Administration must make the Israeli Prime Minister understand that either the Palestinians get a true state of their own, or the Palestinians become true citizens of Israel. The Palestinians are not going away. Nor will this moral issue disappear. The current situation in the West Bank can accurately be described as Jim Crow on steroids. It is unconscionable.
    As Steve’s conference earlier this week demonstrated, we in this country can have an adult conversion with the Saudis, in spite of our differences. I’m afraid the APICS conference will demonstrate our infantile paralysis vis a vis the Israelis.

    Reply

  41. Sand says:

    Sorry to be a debbie downer — but a democratic one-State solution with Netanyahu — with Lieberman’s loyality courts? — Don’t think it’s gonna happen.

    Reply

  42. Don Bacon says:

    Regarding Harman, there is some evidence that former CIA people, possibly Porter Goss, was involved in her latest outing. Whatever the source and the reason, AIPAC acted swiftly and recently added Harman as a speaker at the AIPAC Conference starting tomorrow, which is when she’ll speak. Smart move.
    While the conference speakers this year don’t rival last years lineup, there will be a lot of red-meat pro-Israel types speaking and the Obama administration obviously stands to gain if the weak Harman and Rosen/Weissman cases were in the dustbin and were not a distraction from more important issues.

    Reply

  43. Don Bacon says:

    Getting back to Zathras’s point on details, there must be talk of borders. B-O-R-D-E-R-S. Empty talk of a two-state solution, where one of the states is a bunch of Bantustans plus Gaza, doesn’t solve the problem. Better then to talk about a one-state solution.

    Reply

  44. Kathleen G says:

    Steve the answer to your guestion “Will Obama’s foreign policy legacy be built on rock or sand’
    The answer is obviously “sand”

    Reply

  45. Kathleen G says:

    AP just reported that the Aipac espionage trial has been dismissed.
    he MSM will be all over this now that it is over. Diane Rehm who has not touched this story and the rest will report more about this in the next week than we have heard in four years.
    What power, What influence. Larry Franklin takes the hit, the media barely reports about the investigation and 9 time delayed trial, Rosen takes out Charles Freeman, the MSM starts reporting when it was announced that the trial would be dismissed, Jane Harmans connection in this spy case is swept under the rug, the trial is dismissed just days before the beginning of the Aipac conference.
    What Power What influence What undermining of U.S. national Security
    http://jta.org/news/article/20…..rs-dropped
    Israel and the I lobby win. The National Security of the U.S. loses.
    NEXT STOP IRAN

    Reply

  46. Sand says:

    The problem with sanctions and their effectiveness: dead babies start appearing on our TV screens.
    http://www.aei.org/events/eventID.1921,filter.all/event_detail.asp
    Kagan appears the sane guy out of the lot.

    Reply

  47. Sand says:

    “…Israel is strong and the rest of the world just needs to get used to that…”
    http://justworldnews.org/archives/003422.html

    Reply

  48. Zathras says:

    I have no inside information as to the Obama administration’s thinking about the Middle East. I don’t even know who will be driving the boat in this area.
    However, common sense tells us that the core of a settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians has to be the disposition of land on the West Bank. With respect to this subject, a bold declaration by itself doesn’t get us very far. The cliche’ observation “the devil is in the details” doesn’t quite cover this situation; on the West Bank, the details are everything. Defining what we want — what the American government’s ideas for a settlement ought to be — would require a fair amount of time if President Obama and his team were determined to avoid another round of aspirational proposals followed by slow-rolling and haggling on the Israeli side matched by Palestinian efforts to blow up negotiations through terror attacks.
    For all I know, the Obama administration may not have a clue as to what to do with the Middle East, or it may simply have so much else on its plate that the bold diplomacy Brzezinski and others are calling for can’t be organized right now. All I’m saying is that if it could be organized in a way that promised success, more time would be needed than Obama has had so far.

    Reply

  49. fidelcastroruz says:

    esteban, please dont forget to utter the name of the israeli lobby now that you are crusading for america and her foreign policy interests.
    its aipac and its really dangerous.

    Reply

  50. ... says:

    don bacon, i note ‘obamas’ gov’t wants to let off the 2 accused of spying for israel…

    Reply

  51. samuelburke says:

    http://antiwar.com/radio/2009/04/30/philip-weiss-3/
    Investigative journalist Philip Weiss discusses all the implications of the Jane Harman wiretap story the MSM hasn’t run with yet, the evidence of Israeli attempts to dominate U.S. policy decisions on Iran to start a war, the J Street lobby’s moderating influence and how Israeli leaders are oblivious of the political re-evaluation of Israel by American Jews.
    MP3 here. (25:46)
    Philip Weiss is an investigative journalist who has written for The Nation, New York Times Magazine, The American Conservative, Jewish World Review and other publications. He is the author of American Taboo : A Murder in the Peace Corps and writes the blog “Mondoweiss“.

    Reply

  52. Don Bacon says:

    Obama has never been, or even pretended to be, a strong leader. His game has been to be a conciliator and his first hundred days have been unmarked by strong leadership. If he persists in this role, besides squandering election fervor, he will prove himself not qualified to be president.
    The next indication to look for on I/P is John Kerry’s speech to the AIPAC Conference in a few days. Kerry was recently strong on AfPak and he may be, may be, strong at the Israel Pep Rally which starts tomorrow. Stay tuned for any administration shifts on I/P. (Harman speaks tomorrow, and her praise of Zionism will no doubt be fulsome.)

    Reply

  53. Dan Kervick says:

    On public diplomacy, nuclear weapons policy, Latin America, East Asia, and environment policy, I think Obama has been very good. On Russia, signs of improvement.
    But Middle East policy? Not so good. They keep trumpeting the fact that they have a “comprehensive Middle East policy”. And indeed, it appears that is true. But that comprehensive policy looks a lot like warmed over, conventional Washington thinking. It is far too dependent on deeply unpopular old guard Sunni allies in the region.
    Right now, the focus seems to be on peeling off Syria, and forging some sort of Israeli-Sunni cold war containment front against the Dreaded Persians. This is drearily predictable stuff from Washington, Cairo and Riyadh, with no secure and enduring foundation in Middle East public opinion. Rather than moving boldly to get out in front of regional change, they are lining up with decadence, autocracy and last-century thinking.
    On Iran, the administration’s public signals have been conflicting and confusing. But overall, Obama appears to be following the Dennis Ross playbook: isolation and containment, leading to tougher sanctions, with potential for military action down the road. The much vaunted Iran diplomacy front seems to have degenerated into some occasional happy-talk gestures to Obama’s left flank to keep them on board. But so far it’s not serious. Ross is nominally in favor of talking with Iran, but it looks like the only kind of talking he and the administration are interested in is the kind the US did with Mamoru Shigemitsu on the deck of the USS Missouri in 1945.
    On Israel-Palestine, they appear so far quite clueless. Israel has lurched dramatically to the right and elected a far right government, and its foreign policy is now in the hands of a wingnut Prime Minister and an inexperienced, far-wingnut and somewhat buffoonish Foreign Minister. And yet we are seeing no signs of any serious recalibration to take this historic, off-the-deep-end game-changer into account.
    Af-pak and Iraq? The horror show goes on. But I’m not sure what can be done one way or another.
    Obama is so far missing a major opportunity for change in this region, and clearly has not been able to cut the cord decisively with the policies of the previous administration. His temperamental disposition toward pragmatic incrementalism may be getting the best of him. This is all going to end in failure and disappointment, and likely violent conflict, unless he manages to make a cleaner break with the past. And screwing up the Middle East means screwing up most of our other major relationships in the world, given the way the lines are entangled in that region.
    We are still waiting for bold initiative of the kind Brzezinski is talking about. Best-case interpretation: they are waiting for June 12 and the Iranian presidential election before rolling anything out. If the Iranians manage to elect Mousavi, and get rid of that fool Ahmadinejad, the diplomatic situation could be dramatically improved.

    Reply

  54. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi says:

    The positive futurity of President Obama’s foreign policy rests with the space and accommodation it offers to the poor and developing nations by offering a new deal of neo- American exceptionalism to the world.

    Reply

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *