Tuesday, March 28th, 2023
A couple of worthwhile recent podcast episodes: Dan Senor on Israel at the Commentary podcast and Kevin Kelly at Russ Robert’s EconTalk [both links via Overcast].
Wednesday, March 22nd, 2023
Israel and the UK have signed the 2030 Roadmap for UK-Israel Bilateral Relations. (Why oh why in the Vision section is there a comma before “signed”? Why the terrible digitized “two” in “as 2 innovation and technology leaders…”. And I really detest this recent UK-ism: “We are clear that democratic norms are…” — no, people are not clear that anything.)
Regarding the Abraham Accords, “the UK joins Israel in acknowledging [their] historic significance … which have the potential to enable profound advancements for security, co-existence, prosperity and peace for the region and its peoples.” Given Britain’s ties with the Gulf, it would be great if she dive in and actually catalyze things further.
And, stuck enthusiastically at the end of a paragraph on health cooperation: “Our ambition for closer, mutually beneficial ties is limitless.” Heartening!
Saturday, March 4th, 2023
David Goldman, back on form, untangles Türkiye’s high-wire new stratagems that leverage its centrality every which way. But I don’t know, this all seems too clever by half and could unravel fairly instantly.
By the way, for ages Goldman was talking about how Türkiye was collapsing and becoming a vassal state to China. But of course, course-corrections happen among the living. For me as someone who believes Goldman is pretty prescient, it’s reassuring that he updates his views.
Thursday, March 2nd, 2023
Monday, February 13th, 2023
In “Overmatch”, Michael Doran and Can Kasapoğlu perfectly explicate the growing peril of America’s posture in the Middle East. If NATO was designed to keep the Americans in, the Germans down and the Russians out, the Obama/Biden approach to the Middle East seems hell-bent on getting America out, the Iranians up, and the Chinese in.
Like marriages gone sour and houses in Malibu, international orders erode gradually at first and then all at once. News of the demise of the American order in the Middle East is certainly premature, but the ground beneath it is shifting in very unsettling ways that American policymakers appear determined to ignore.
Tuesday, January 10th, 2023
Finally, Congress will pass a resolution expressing solidarity with and support for Iran’s protesters.
Senior Saudis tell an American delegation they are ready for normalization with Israel, but first they want normalization with the United States, writes JINSA’s John Hannah in The Jerusalem Post after the visit.
Thursday, December 29th, 2022
As Netanyahu retakes the reins of Israel, Caroline Glick, excitable as she may be, lays it out, as far as I can tell, pretty darn accurately: the main difference between this government and the previous is that Israel will now stand up to the erratic and mostly misguided Biden Administration.
Tuesday, December 20th, 2022
Binyamin Netanyahu is interviewed at wonderful length by, wonderfully, Al-Arabiya. One question he addresses is the maritime agreement that the previous Lapid government made with Lebanon:
Look, my concern is that the revenues that come out of the sea that I think heavily favored Lebanon, do not favor Lebanon. They favor Hezbollah. And Hezbollah has not been a force for peace. So you may just be funding Hezbollah’s military arsenal that could be used not only against Israel, but against many others in the Middle East. You have to think about that very carefully. But that is already done. As I said, I’ll see what I can do to moderate any damage or to secure Israel’s economic and security interests.
Netanyahu articulates what I believe the clear-eyed majority of Israelis saw (and as I posted on October 14th before the election): that having the Yesh Atid camp in power is a burgeoning danger to Israel’s national security due to their willingness to make visibly unfavorable diplomatic deals, which not only are harmful to Israel’s interests in themselves, but signal weakness that invites further depravations.
It’s also interesting to witness Bibi weave in constant complimentary references to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states and address their concerns without compromising the Israeli perspective. I know what they say about Netanyahu’s untrustworthiness, but all this reeks of integrity.
That said, it’s clear what he wants to get across: the key word is “reaffirm”, that he’s heading to Washington to argue on Saudi’s behalf.
Friday, October 7th, 2022
Oh my, Walter Russell Mead joins Tyler Cowen for a rich brief hour, and they barely mention WRM’s new book Arc. While in print WRM can seem a bit mealy-mouthed, often it seems throat-clearing to not alienate those with whom he basically disagrees, here he comes out strong and hearty. And TC’s idiosyncratic method of firing off questions works with WRM because each one prompts such a rich answer that there’s little need for normal back and forth.
Sunday, October 2nd, 2022
The Arc of a Covenant: The United States, Israel, and the Fate of the Jewish People
Walter Russell Mead
Mearsheimer and Walt — three words that do not appear once in this 1045-page book but are clearly its raison d’etre. John Mearsheimer is Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago; Stephen Walt is Professor of International Relations at Harvard Kennedy School; together they are the respectable face of American anti-Semitism, reputable enough that Walter Russell Mead seems unwilling to criticize them by name, despicable enough that their book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy infuriated our southern-born dean of foreign relations to work on this book for a dozen years or so.
The Wikipedia article on the Lobby book illustrates Mead’s Southern Gentleman approach; whereas Israeli historian Benny Morris says “their work is riddled with shoddiness and defiled by mendacity,” Mead applauds the authors for “admirably and courageously” initiating a conversation on a difficult subject, but more in sorrow than in anger laments that while their intentions are surely strictly honorable, they commit “easily avoidable lapses in judgment and expression.”
Making multiple approaches from multiple angles, Mead demolishes their central notion, giving it the withering moniker of Vulcanist thinking. (Actually I take issue a little with this label, because since the book is so long I forgot the elegant historical anecdote that originates it — a theory of astronomy that attempted to explain celestial workings by means of an undetected planet that doesn’t actually exis. Instead I mentally defaulted to popular culture, where Star Trek’s Vulcan is a stand-in for excessive logic — a characterization quite antithetical to his notion of Vulcanist thinking. This is a shame because the term therefore probably won’t catch on, which it could have perhaps as a shorthand for tendentious yet respectable and therefore ultimately even more ridiculous thinking.)
Especially enriching are his fleshing out of the geopolitical maneouverings among the US, Britain and Russia at the time of Israel’s founding. Important here for Mead’s thesis is that the legend of Truman’s Jewish friend from back in Missouri inveighing on the flummoxed President to recognize Israel be relegated to Queen Esther-echoing myth. For it is WRM’s contention in his chapter “Cyrus Agonistes” that American support for Israel is endemic to the United States, rather than due to the influence of the American Jewish lobby qua Walt and Mearsheimer — moreover it’s despite American Jews, whose leaders have for most of Israel’s history been actively working against a Jewish state, their energies only turning once America as a whole pursued full-throated support for Israel after it became the Middle East’s unambiguous Six Day War strong horse.
It’s also a helpful historical insight that WRM groups 19th century American support for Jewish return to Israel with support for the birth of the Italian and Greek nationstates:
In the ancient world, as Americans saw it, the Greeks, Romans, and Hebrews had been much like Americans of the nineteenth century. They were mostly agrarian people, nations of family-owned farms. They had free institutions and their societies were grounded in virtue. But corruption, urbanization, and monarchy had wreaked their ugly work; in time, all three of the ancient peoples fell from their virtue and freedom into slavery, superstition, and oppression.
As the nineteenth century progressed, and the Greek and Italian independence movements advanced, the possibility of a restored Jewish commonwealth also began to gleam on the horizon.
In fact the discussion of nationalism’s birth pangs from the empires of eastern Europe, the chapter entitled “Maelstrom”, is perhaps the richest part of the book.
As a columnist I have been irritated by what I perceive as WRM’s intellectual mealy-mouthedness. But as a full-throated podcast guest I realize this is merely his print persona, a tic I suppose similar to what he probably views as his Straussian icy politeness regarding Mearsheimer and Walt. That said, I took umbrage when in the book he referred to the Second Intifada, a wave of despicable terror attacks against Israel in the wake of the Oslo Agreements, using the BBC-like passive even-handed term: “violence flared”. I instantly recalled eyewitnessing the shellshock in the hours after the Dolphinarium suicide bombing that killed and maimed dozens of partying teenagers. I was only somewhat mollified later in the book when he mentioned this particular bombing by name, without mentioning that the victims were teenagers.
This is a book about America not Israel, and as well as constituting a scathing retort to Mearsheimer and Walt, is a continuation by other means of his 2001 book Special Providence that classifies the various streams of America’s foreign policy; in portraying America’s relationship with Israel, Arc explicates the fullest expression of the Jacksonian stream, a Meadian classification that, unlike Vulcanism, does seem to be sticking.
Saturday, September 24th, 2022
Kudos to the Biden Administration: Musk’s Starlink is legally permitted by the US Government to supply internet to Iranians.
Thursday, September 22nd, 2022
Israel’s patience and humility is rewarded first by Trump and now by Truss: the UK may follow the US in relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv the seafront metropolis to Jerusalem the capital.
Tuesday, September 6th, 2022
The Mufti, Qadaffi, King Hussein — I’m vastly enjoying season 2 of the Israeli TV documentary series Enemies (streaming requires an Israeli IP). One thing I can’t help but notice is the impressive living rooms in which the interviewees — mostly military intelligence vets — sit. None of them are in apartments, all have leafy window views, there’s a lot of wood, and most of them aren’t furnished like typical Israeli dwellings. I guess these aren’t military men, they’re men and women of the world.
I can’t tell if I enjoy Israeli docs because they’re so good, or merely because I’m the target audience. If it’s the former, and I think it is, they really should be selling them subtitled to wider audiences, say to Netflix and Amazon Prime.
It’s great, this pounding away at Israeli history, each episode a different prism.
Friday, August 12th, 2022
Hamas stays out of the fray in Israel’s latest Gaza blow-up, further fractalizing the Palestinian movement.
Friday, August 5th, 2022
The second most important country in the Western Alliance is almost detached from it, all by the apparently innocuous and meliorist actions of Germany’s peppiest environmentalists.
Conrad Black, Triumph of Davos Man
Saturday, July 9th, 2022
Walther Russell Mead illustrates his Jacksonian stream of American foreign policy thinking by showing how much affinity it has with Israel. I think for the most part WRM partakes of it himself.
Monday, June 13th, 2022
What a nice bunch of independent-minded eccentrics they are over at the New English Review, where they have published an excellent brief frank primer on Israel’s perspective on Jordan by Mordechai Nisan. It begins with a nicely articulated section entitled “Jordan is an Israeli Interest: Four Reasons”. Then you can guess what the opposing second section is entitled, and it’s just as bracing. These two sections articulate pretty much what almost all Israelis believe, because it is the simple reality of things. The third section, however, “Conclusion”, goes I think where most Israelis, this one included, will not tread.
Tuesday, March 29th, 2022
Niall Ferguson’s important and much-quoted Bloomberg piece of March 22nd on the cynical/optimistic Biden strategy for Ukraine:
It is, when you come to think of it, archetypal Realpolitik to allow the carnage in Ukraine to continue; to sit back and watch the heroic Ukrainians “bleed Russia dry”; to think of the conflict as a mere sub-plot in Cold War II, a struggle in which China is our real opponent. … The optimism, however, is the assumption that allowing the war to keep going will necessarily undermine Putin’s position; and that his humiliation in turn will serve as a deterrent to China. I fear these assumptions may be badly wrong and reflect a misunderstanding of the relevant history.
Tuesday, March 8th, 2022
Full transcript of Mohammed bin Salman’s interview with Graeme Wood of The Atlantic — and JCPA’s take on it:
This is the first time the Saudi crown prince has publicly referred to Israel as a “potential ally.” He also spoke about Iran in a different tone. In an Atlantic interview four years ago, Bin Salman compared Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to “Hitler” and said Iran was leading the “axis of evil.” This time such talk was replaced by calling the Iranians “neighbors” of Saudi Arabia.
Tuesday, March 1st, 2022
Russia, as parlance goes, is too big to fail; we need to forge it an off-ramp from this horrific self-inflicted disaster, as Commentary’s Noah Rothman argues in “What if Russia loses”, Sam Altman of YCombinator tweets, and presumably plenty of other smart people are saying.
Putin though is probably not quite ready to take it, thinking he may yet regain the military upper hand, as attested by the lengthy convoys headed today to Kyiv. He may then as Putin biographer Anita Hill fears, savvily offer the delectable compromise of partitioning Ukraine, wherein he gets the east and others can divvy up the rest. Joe Biden has after all a predilection for territorial break-up — he thought it right for Iraq.
Fortunately it seems we are well beyond Europe countenancing such temptations; Germany has reoriented around the danger emanating from Russia, the UK is acting on what it called it “a catastrophe on our continent” [emphasis mine], and a myriad of surprising others are joining the fray each in their way (Switzerland, Finland, etc).
Also, it does seem self-evident that Vlad the Mad has lost some of the faculties he’s had up to now, so that such diplomatic savvy might never be forthcoming from him. As of now, Russian diplomatic efforts in such forums as the United Nations are of the Baghdad Bob sort even as the Ukrainians are performing masterfully, not just spreading the word but showing Westerners (and probably everyone else): we’re your sort of people — more, we’re the sort of people you hope you are.
Once again, the West must win firmly, though this time — unlike after the collapse of its Soviet Union guise — there should be effective stroking of Russia’s vanities.
Cogent interview with Putin biographer Fiona Hill. She floats the notion that he’d be happy to have Ukraine broken up:
In 2015, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was at the Munich Security Conference after the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbas. And he talked about Ukraine not being a country, saying pointedly that there are many minority groups in Ukraine — there are Poles and there are Romanians, there are Hungarians and Russians. And he goes on essentially almost inviting the rest of Europe to divide Ukraine up.
So what Putin wants isn’t necessarily to occupy the whole country, but really to divide it up. He’s looked at Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and other places where there’s a division of the country between the officially sanctioned forces on the one hand, and the rebel forces on the other. That’s something that Putin could definitely live with — a fractured, shattered Ukraine with different bits being in different statuses.
Partitioning the country; that’s a solution Biden always goes for. And if Putin suggests it, the Europeans may pressure the Ukrainians to accept it. Though it could well be that the European mood has changed sufficiently so that even the newly feckless United States could accept that, they won’t.
Monday, February 28th, 2022
At last, Mark Steyn is writing again.
I take faint glimmers of a new seriousness in the chancelleries of Europe not as a sign of Nato “unity”, but as the dawning realization that the US has blown the last thirty years and they’re now in a post-American world, and, absent course-correction, ultimately on the same grim trajectory as Ukraine.
In Tablet, Lee Smith writes lists the plethora of wickedly poor decisions that led to the Russian invasion of Ukraine:
Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal in 1994 in exchange for U.S. security guarantees in the event its neighbors, Russia in particular, turned hostile. What kind of strategy dictates that a state hand over its security vis-a-vis local actors to a country half the world away? No strategy at all. Ukraine was not able to transcend its natural geography as a buffer state — and worse, a buffer state that failed to take its own existence seriously, which meant that it would continue to make disastrously bad bets.
By tying itself to an American administration that had shown itself to be reckless and dangerous, the Ukrainians made a geopolitical blunder that statesmen will study for years to come: A buffer state had staked its future on a distant power that had simply seen it as an instrument to annoy its powerful neighbor with no attachment to any larger strategic concept that it was willing to support.
To sum it up in few words: “10% for the big guy”.
Wednesday, February 23rd, 2022
I just had to read this one entitled “Why Putin didn’t invade Ukraine during the last U.S. administration”. The question should be a discomfiting one indeed for people of the author’s ilk. His response, prefaced by a prudent “perhaps”: “because Putin was so pleased to see Trump pursuing goals in line with Moscow’s agenda”. Steve Benen is a producer for The Rachel Maddow Show.
Saturday, February 5th, 2022
Friday, January 28th, 2022
The New York Post appears to be cruisin’ for another cancellin’, what with their Peter Schweizer reporting that the Biden family has done five deals in China arranged by individuals with ties to Chinese intelligence. Such poor taste, reporting on this sort of distraction from the real issues.
Tuesday, December 14th, 2021
Abu Dhabi leader Mohamed bin Zayed will visit Israel, reports Israel’s Globes.
Tuesday, November 16th, 2021
I’m pleased to see this — Fathom, the organ of BICOM, the British-Israeli thinktank, has a series of articles under the rubric UK-Israel 2021. They are:
- Ambivalent Allies? Zionism, Israel and the Conservative Party from Balfour to Boris by James Vaughan, Lecturer in International History at the Department of International Politics, Aberystwyth University
- Mandate: The Palestine Crucible 1919-1939 by Colin Shindler, Emeritus Professor at SOAS, University of London and founding chairman of the European Association of Israel Studies
- The Flourishing of UK-Israel Academic Networks by John Levy, Director of The Academic Study Group on Israel and the Middle East
- When Britain almost declared war on Israel by Ronnie Fraser, an independent scholar and Director of the Academic Friends of Israel
- How Israel military tech (and doctrine) will make the UK better at fighting the hybrid warfare of the future by Seth Frantzman, op-ed editor of The Jerusalem Post and Research Associate at the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs at IDC Herzliya
- The Roots of the ‘Al Aqsa is in Danger’ Myth: Alfred Mond and a Speech Distorted by Yisrael Medad, media column for the Jerusalem Post and foreign press spokesperson for the Yesha Council of Jewish communities
I want bilateral histories.
Friday, November 5th, 2021
Walter Russell Mead points out that the USA and EU are progressing towards trade deals at the expense of China. This is a grand thing, a major story, that I’m not seeing reported anywhere else at all.
Sunday, September 26th, 2021
In what turned out to be his final essay, “Graveyard of Narratives”, Angelo Codevilla excoriates America’s response to 9/11, even going so far as to point out that it wasn’t really fully clear just how involved Osama Bin Laden was. Codevilla:
Since WWII, whether in the name of anti-communism, anti-terrorism, democracy, or humanitarianism, it’s always the same: dismiss the substance of local quarrels; recast the local scene in terms of American elites’ concerns…
Thursday, June 24th, 2021
The Biden Administration appears to be walking back recognition of Golan and Jerusalem sovereignty. How dangerously and unsurprisingly lame.
Wednesday, May 26th, 2021
The Lebanese are warming to Israel. I believe that one day there will be more than convivial relations between the two Levantine nations.
After some throat-clearing, Thomas Friedman promotes Trump’s Deal of the Century between Israel and the Palestinians. He writes regarding the Palestinian capital:
Biden should reshape U.S.-Israeli-Palestinian relations by opening a diplomatic mission to the P.A. — as the nascent Palestinian state government — near its headquarters in Ramallah.
That’s Ramallah, not Jerusalem, which is for Israel:
The U.S. should encourage the six Arab states that have normalized relations with Israel (Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates) to simultaneously move their embassies from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem…
And then this:
Biden should propose negotiations on peace with Trump’s plan as the starting point.
Saturday, May 22nd, 2021
In “The Realignment” authors Michael Doran and Tony Badran are forthright about the egregious and insensible Iran-appeasement policy that the Biden Administration is continuing from the Obama era, despite years now of experience both bitter (Syria) and sweet (Abraham Accords) demonstrating its utter folly.
Friday, May 14th, 2021
This feels important — Austria flies Israel’s flag alongside its own and the EU’s over the Chancellory in Vienna.
Wednesday, April 28th, 2021
(The irritatingly insouciant) Lionel Shriver notes that there will likely be unpleasant geopolitical consequences to wokeness in that Western civilization’s illiberal adversaries will interpret the bewailing self-castigation coming from American and British elites as evidence of actual decline — correctly or not (though I suspect correctly).
Friday, April 9th, 2021
Israel’s INSS thinktank believes it’s time to more firmly oppose Assad’s Syria. Israel’s mostly hands-off approach towards this horrendous conflict on her borders may well go down in history as the main stain on Netanyahu’s record. Yet if Israel could have tipped the scales of civil war at some point to get rid of Assad, would things have been any better? We know from other interventions, eg Libya, the vacuum and chaos that would most likely have ensued. Very hard.
Wednesday, December 16th, 2020
Good old Speccie:
For Britain, there are many lessons to be learned from the IDF, a democratic military machine that relies heavily on technology to engage enemies on various fronts and in diverse contexts.
This from “Britain is right to pursue closer military ties to Israel” by Jake Wallis Simons. I had not known that the source of Israel’s tip-off regarding Syria’s North Korean nuclear reactor was a British spy.
Sunday, November 8th, 2020
Seeming US President-elect Joe Biden “has said openly for a long time that “he will go back to the nuclear agreement,” warns Israel’s Settlements Minister and long-time soothsayer Tzachi Hanegbi. “I see that as something that will lead to a confrontation between Israel and Iran.”
Robert Kagan puts recent US history into perspective, talking to the rather platitudinous Walther Russell Mead. Some choice cut:
Russia and China are always going to be fundamentally at odds. It would be a very strange universe in which they are not. If I really believe that if you’re a Russian and you wake up sweating bullets at 3:00 in the morning, what you’re sweating about is the fact that China is going to take over Siberia in one way or another. China is a big, and by the way, the racist feelings on both sides are enormous. They both think the other one is a monkey and have always felt that way.
Wednesday, November 4th, 2020
“How Israel Helped Win the Cold War” by Joshua Muravchik in Commentary Magazine. Great piece, great service. How I wish every American who writes anti-Israel comments in online threads all over — remember the Liberty, stop making us fight your wars for you, etc — would read this — very slowly.
Sunday, November 1st, 2020
“Because the Republic is at stake”: David Goldman for Trump. Allow me to also attest: as president, Donald Trump has passed George Gilder’s Israel test with colors so stratospheric it almost makes one cynical about cynicism.
Sunday, September 20th, 2020
Obvious yes but still worth a quick read: the people likely to benefit most from Israeli-Gulf relations are Arab Israelis.
In due time, they stand to serve as excellent mediators for any further economic and tourism ties between the UAE and Israel.
Friday, September 18th, 2020
“Recognizing that the Arab and Jewish peoples are descendant of a common ancestor…” — Let us savor the text of the Treaty of Peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Blessed are the peacemakers…
Tuesday, September 1st, 2020
Israel and UAE sign their first agreement in the normalization talks: on banking and finance.
Friday, August 7th, 2020
Shamefully kowtowing to China, Israel has withdrawn a Ministry of Health public service video that humorously refers to the coronavirus as “Made in China (yet works properly)”. This isn’t going well is it?
Saturday, July 25th, 2020
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the Nixon Library to a new posture regarding China.
If we bend the knee now, our children’s children may be at the mercy of the Chinese Communist Party … securing our freedoms from [the CCP] is the mission of our time.
Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020
It’s telling that in their respective theatres — the Middle East, Europe and Eurasia — the prime strategic directive for liberal bulwarks Israel, Britain and the United States is to block aspiring authoritarian hegemons.
Thursday, June 4th, 2020
Rejecting “false equivalency between rule of law and rule by law”, the USA has published its Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China.