Monday, October 3rd, 2022
For the first time, Iranian protests are nationwide, multi-ethnic, political and non-clerical, so much so that this could finally be the end for the mad mullahs.
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, sufficiently reputable that Walter Russell Mead seems unwilling to criticize them by name, sufficiently retrograde however 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 exist. 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 this support comes 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.
Friday, August 12th, 2022
Hamas stays out of the fray in Israel’s latest Gaza blow-up, further fractalizing the Palestinian movement.
Thursday, April 14th, 2022
In an interview on Israel’s national broadcaster Kan, this is a fair-minded well-informed backgrounder on Temple Mount tensions.
Tuesday, November 23rd, 2021
Apple has disabled its shopping cart in Turkey, the Mac press is reporting, including MacRumors. This could be the mother of Turkish crises, and Turkey is a pivotal enough country that this may affect others. [Update 2021 Nov 30: Sales have been restored at a 25% increase.
David P. Goldman has been writing about a Turkish economic implosion for years — by 2018 he was already examining some consequences.
Saturday, October 2nd, 2021
As rather beautifully cogently introduced by The Center For Peace Communications, Yossi Klein Halevy has written a book that invites replies, and which serves, uniquely as far as I know, as the exquisite Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor: A New Conversation About Narratives and Peace website.
Saturday, August 7th, 2021
In this Al-Jazeera coverage of the protests comprising the anniversary of the Beirut explosion, the word “Hezbollah” doesn’t appear at all.
Wednesday, August 4th, 2021
As Israel finally passes a budget, Mansour Abbas, leader of the Islamist Raam party, appears to have been the kingmaker, is budgeted an unprecedented $16b for infrastructure, crime, healthcare, education and transport.
Friday, July 9th, 2021
A voice new to me, David E. Bernstein, gives a fresh and concise viewpoint on the tired topic of why so many love to hate on Israel, providing separate reasons for the disparate groups. For Christians:
Christian critics of Israel so often accuse Jews of not learning anything from the Holocaust; in their mind, the Holocaust is a story about Christian sin and possible redemption via the actions of the victims; the fate of the Jewish people as a people is at best irrelevant.
Mohammed started his empire with limited territory and a small army, only to expand throughout the Middle East and North Africa. There is undoubtedly some latent fear that Israel is a camel’s nose under the tent for Jewish expansionism. This of course misunderstands Zionism and Judaism, but the average Muslim knows little about Judaism.
Friday, May 14th, 2021
Excellent piece by Haviv Rettig Gur explaining that the current conflagration between Israel and Hamas is more about internal Palestinian power struggles.
Friday, April 2nd, 2021
Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020
This lengthy interview with Secretary-General Sayyid Nasrallah may be useful for insight into Hezbollah’s perspectives. There are some bizarre connections, such as the notion that Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 because of deep concern regarding Iran’s “liberation of Khorramshahr” in the Iran-Iraq War.
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, August 4th, 2020
This is gold. For Bar-Ilan University’s BESA Center, Kenneth S. Brower pens a blunt bracing comprehensive assessment “Israel Versus Anyone: A Military Net Assessment of the Middle East” with conclusions aplenty. Here’s one:
The Israeli political-military leadership has over-responded to the current tactical threat posed by Iran and its non-state forces and has all but ignored the looming potential strategic threat of renewed hostility with Sunni Arab nations.
Saturday, June 6th, 2020
Friday, April 3rd, 2020
Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life
Nusseibeh’s central thesis (well, secondary thesis, the primary implicit one being that the Palestinian people should all along have appointed both his Dad and then him their oh-so-reluctant leaders) I too have felt almost in my bones: that Israelis and Palestinians are natural allies. Or, more accurately, that there’s a natural affinity which will enable us to be powerful allies if and when we ever get over our admittedly fundamental conflict.
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
Meir Kraus, a fellow at the research center at the Shalom Hartman Institute, sets out challenges, lessons, options and insights for a balanced and feasible option on Jerusalem as part of a wider solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Friday, October 12th, 2018
An interview at the impressive Fathom Journal with Lyn Julius, author of Uprooted.
The Jews were intrinsic to the rhythm of life in the Middle East. It all ended in the space of a generation. Some 850,000 Jews fled 10 Arab countries; most found refuge in Israel, where over half the Jewish population has roots in Arab or Muslim lands.
Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018
Pinhas Inbari sheds new (to me) light on the roots of Palestinian nationalism, arguing that the similarities to Syria’s schisms are more than parallels but in fact the same issue: pan-Arabism (Fatah, Ba’athists) vs pan-Islamism (Hamas, ISIS).
Wednesday, April 4th, 2018
Saudi heir to throne: “I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.”
Sunday, April 1st, 2018
Michael Rubin at aei.org: Yes, Turkey has definitely become a rogue regime.
From my brief travels I came across the standard blue/red divide, but it’s more virulent in Turkey due to the revolutionary power of the local religion.
Monday, December 11th, 2017
There has never been a West European post-Second World War policy in [the Middle East] except to await the American position and then stake out something more favourable to the Arabs.
Thursday, December 7th, 2017
On the eve of US recognition of Israel’s capital, very much in-the-loop Ambassador Ron Dermer speaks (three paragraphs at a time!) to the Global Politico podcast.
Thursday, July 20th, 2017
Modi and Netanyahu, India and Israel’s prime ministers, are a match made in history. By Jonathan Spyer in The American Interest.
Saturday, April 22nd, 2017
This is fascinating: Turks residing in liberal Europe voted far more heavily for Erdogan’s authoritarian referendum — about 70/30 — than did Turks at home, about 50/50. Far less still did Turks in the USA and the UK vote for it — about 84% and 80% against respectively. A measure of ideological/cultural integration?
Tuesday, January 10th, 2017
Ian Buruma on Brussels. I found it a pretty exciting city so when I saw this article I jumped on it (plus I vaguely remember being impressed by something else this fellow wrote) and it’s pretty sweeping and fun.
Saturday, July 16th, 2016
“The Kemalist era in Turkish history lasted for almost 100 years, but finally came to an end in the last 18 hours.” A great balance between up-to-the-minute reports and historical background, Walter Russell Mead live-blogs the failed Turkish Coup.
Tuesday, May 10th, 2016
Saturday, April 30th, 2016
Good point: Islam has already had its reformation: Wahabism. So what to do? Nice article at patheos.com.
Monday, January 4th, 2016
Saudi Arabia cuts diplomatic ties with Iran for the first time since 1989–92. Sudan follows. Blimey.
Wednesday, November 25th, 2015
Valuable first-hand account of contemporary Saudi Arabia by their special man in the West, Thomas L. Friedman.
Monday, March 16th, 2015
It’s a rich place at the heart of the world but Turkey’s mind is precarious.
Saturday, August 2nd, 2014
In case it’s of interest/relevance, a translation of Hamas’s charter.
Monday, July 7th, 2014
By looking the other way and unconditionally supporting and arming Maliki, President Obama has only lengthened and expanded the conflict that President Bush unwisely initiated, argues — nay, explains — a US official who saw it all. A must-read.
Tuesday, June 24th, 2014
Michael J. Totten and Samuel Tadros discuss Egypt’s failed revolution. Tadros concludes that the US should withdraw aid in order to shock the
Egyptians into getting real.
Monday, June 23rd, 2014
In tandem with Robert Kagan’s recent piece on post-WW2 Pax Americana, Lee Smith suggests Obama is (mistakenly) pursuing a balance of power rather than hegemonic arrangement in the Middle East.
Monday, May 27th, 2013
Sorry, but more David P. Goldman, this time at Tablet with “Dumb and Dumber” (not his title) on recent US Middle East policy. He begins: “Errors by the party in power can get America into trouble; real catastrophes require consensus.” Like liberals, neocons got mugged by reality.
Sunday, May 26th, 2013
Sunday, April 7th, 2013
I like what the Middle East has become. The inevitabilities are being processed and Iran is more isolated than ever.
Thomas PM Barnett
Sunday, November 18th, 2012
Gershon Baskin, the man who negotiated Gilad Shalit’s release, writes in the New York Times that he believes it was a mistake for Israel to kill Ahmed Al-Jabari, as a long-term ceasefire was in the works.
Tuesday, October 30th, 2012
Andrew C. McCarthy in National Review: The challenge is Sharia.
Sunday, October 21st, 2012
It begins — Istanbul schoolchildren get a poisonous textbook: Darwin “had two problems: first he was a Jew; second, he hated his prominent forehead…”
Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012
Andrew C. McCarthy clarifies the Turkey situation vis-a-vis Islam and accession to the EU.
Wednesday, March 7th, 2012
CNN’s video and transcript of President Obama’s 2012 Super Tuesday press conference dealing with Israel, Iran, Syria.
Sunday, February 19th, 2012
Revenge of the Sunnis: What the Arab Spring is really about. By Edward Luttwak. In Foreign Policy.
Thursday, February 2nd, 2012
Saturday, January 21st, 2012
Monday, December 5th, 2011
Rashid Khalidi speaks at length to Haaretz. Agree or not, it’s required reading.
Friday, October 21st, 2011
Dead. Qua-daffy. The NYT’s potted (and potty) history. “By the time he was done, Libya had no parliament, no unified military command, no political parties, no unions, no civil society and no nongovernmental organizations.”
Monday, September 5th, 2011