Wednesday, January 4th, 2023
This tweetstorm by Heshmat Alavi points out how the MSM glorified IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani, no doubt at least partially because it was Bad Orange Man who ordered him killed. Most egregiously, MSNBC compares this methodical murderer to Princess Diana and Elvis Presley!
Saturday, December 3rd, 2022
A History of the Israeli Army
Author Ze’ev Schiff provides a matter-of-fact overview, probably not too different from many other books of Israeli military history, though I did learn that it was probably Arafat who precipitated the Six Day War. The edition I read was published a decade after the first publication, in the midst of the Lebanon War, about which the author is caustic and upset yet manages to end the book on an optimistic note, wishing Lebanon serve at least as a lesson for future non-endeavors.
Saturday, October 8th, 2022
Himars, highly mobile precision missile launchers, is a revolutionary military technology that has changed the balance of war in Ukraine’s favour against Russia.
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.
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.
Tuesday, August 9th, 2022
I agree with the sentiment in this Haaretz op-ed piece “It’s Time for Israeli Media to Start Calling Gaza Victims by Their Names”, an issue I blogged about during a previous Gaza altercation back in 2014 and haven’t changed my mind. What regular folks here in Israel care about are the disruptions caused due to incoming rocket fire — and that’s totally legit. But for the record the media should be noting whom Israel kills in order to ameliorate the aggression — especially when they are non-combatants. Perhaps one argument against doing so is that we must rely for the facts on the Palestinians themselves, for whom facts seem to be malleable instruments. If credibility is truly Israel’s issue, then we should enlist the aid of credible third-parties organizations for corroboration.
Tuesday, May 17th, 2022
Not only is it newsworthy that Israeli company Watergen is installing its drinking water generators in Syria, but that (opposition web site) Syria TV reported the fact.
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 15th, 2022
The prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia have met with President Volodymy Zelenskyy. The glimmerings perhaps of a significant new bloc.
Thursday, March 10th, 2022
In the new inflation, the water-cooler is gone, the press serves as water-cooler, the government as press. This does have the fortunate effect of leaving the people available to govern.
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.
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 this interview, Francis Fukuyama points out:
One of the things that’s happened over the past couple of weeks is that Russia has effectively reabsorbed Belarus. It had been an independent country, after 1991, but it’s effectively become part of Russia.
Israel’s Channel 12 News has tweeted out this video of an Israeli Ukrainian soldier, saying in Hebrew:
It’ll be ok. All the world is with us. They are finished regardless. And Putin won’t be able to do anything with this. This was his last war. And that’s it, we will win regardless. We already beat them actually, even if we die, we beat them. It’s incontrovertible.”
Saturday, February 26th, 2022
At /r/interestingasfuck, President of Ukraine Zelensky plays piano without his hands. As humanity rallies to ballsy Ukraine, it seems Putin has lost already?
Monday, January 3rd, 2022
Nice, Tasshin writes on Risk:
As I play RISK, I watch myself flip back and forth between means-ends thinking and conditions-consequences thinking. If I lose, I can without fail look back and see that I got trapped in means-ends thinking. If I stay in a conditions-consequences mindset, though, I will almost inevitably win the game.
Sunday, December 19th, 2021
Can the USA stay checked-in long enough to deliver Israel the required refueling tankers? Michael Makovsky of JINSA hopes so.
Tuesday, November 16th, 2021
In American Affairs, my man David P. Goldman argues once again that the United States must step up its basic technological research if it is to avoid losing preeminence to China — and we are all to avoid falling prey to a rather less liberal hegemon. Spengler’s point:
The definitive inventions of late twentieth century technology — laser-powered optical networks, fast and light integrated circuits, and the Internet — all came out of Defense Department projects whose originators could not have foreseen the impact of the new discoveries … All the elements of the modern digital economy — integrated circuits, laser-powered optical networks, sensors, and displays — were invented at the behest of NASA or the Defense Department.
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.
Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021
Anybody with a serious interest in Israel’s ongoing regional conflicts should watch this serious panel, moderated by top-flight journalist Eli Lake, JINSA Gaza Conflict 2021 Assessment: Report Release. Now JINSA is a thinktank with the slogan “Securing America, strengthening Israel”, but think of this not as bias but seriousness.
Tuesday, October 26th, 2021
Hijinks for the practicing intellectualoid: Mansfield on Machiavelli, acknowledging the Florentin’s modernity paternity.
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…
Sunday, September 12th, 2021
This is so full-throated by David Horowitz (posted by John Hinderaker at Powerline). Entitled “The Read Existential Threat”, it rings very true to me, given the unforced error that is the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Anti-white racism, and ignorant attacks on the American founding – these constitute the greatest existential threat to America. And the fact that Black Lives Matter fictions make up the crippling doctrine of our military leaders should wake everyone to the menace we face. There never has been a greater threat to our patrimony and freedom since the darkest days of the Civil War.
Sunday, July 18th, 2021
This top-draw (The New Republic) essay on James Bond and Ian Fleming is ostensibly disparaging about its subject, but author Scott Bradfield’s sheer depth of knowledge marks him a fan. Another clue: although it’s a book review of The World Is Not Enough: A Biography of Ian Fleming by Oliver Buckton, in the entire piece Buckton’s name is mentioned just once! This guy Bradfield’s clearly been chomping at the bit to write something Bondy.
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.
Sunday, June 13th, 2021
Good Risk advice dressed up as systems thinking [via Hacker News].
A few further points. First, the dynamic of the game becomes more stark once players are eliminated; in the 3-man game is it better to be strongest, weakest or in the middle? More tactically, in the 2-man game I think it’s decisively better to abandon Australia because your defensive army is likely to be blocked and at this point you need all your offense.
Patton neglects feints, such as pretending to leave the game and letting the rather dumb AI take over your turn; as a bot, players tend to consider you less a threat and leave you alone, often to the point of weakening each other tremendously, figuring they’ll deal with the dumb bot later. A more complex feint is mimic being a newbie who does not know the principles Patton describes, though honestly I’ve not tried this and it seems difficult to pull off, as you do lose real armies being stupid, and as soon as you start behaving sensibly you may appear even more formidable; the trick here then would be to play dumb until the very end.
Perhaps more importantly is to keep in mind the pathetic fallacy, to remember that when behaving judiciously and prudently in dealing with the strongest player, relying on the self-interest of others to do so as well, they may not get it, and behave stupidly and weaken themselves against someone else, enabling the strongest player to then sweep to victory.
Thursday, June 10th, 2021
Monday, May 17th, 2021
A sober-sounding Thomas Friedman argues that the Israeli-Hamas war broke out to derail the Lapid-Bennet-Mansour Abbas coalition that was being formed. Now, I would have thought that the unprecedentedly egregious Jewish-Arab tensions within Israel would be all the more reason to bring an Arab party into a governing coalition. Instead — and demonstrating how much I consistently misunderstand the Israeli mindset — Naftali Bennet explicitly ruled out such a coalition, returning to Netanyahu.
Sunday, May 16th, 2021
Jerusalem Post editor Yaacov Katz argues that Israel’s rough treatment of the international media during the current conflagration — duping them to entice Hamassholes into their tunnel network before bombing it, then razing the building that housed the AP and Al-Jazeera — will bite us in the behind.
I’m not so sure Katz is correct — it could be the media needed to stop taking Israel for granted, that they required a little fear put in them in order to finally do their job properly and aim for truth — but at at any rate the issue he raises is a real one.
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.
Wednesday, May 12th, 2021
Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defence in action, in a series of videos compiled by the UK’s The Sun.
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.
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.
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.
Israel intercepts a cruise missile in a test of its 3-tier missile defence system.
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.”
Monday, August 31st, 2020
Dore Gold explains that Arab nations have long held common cause with Israel. This is part of Mosaic Magazine’s symposium on the Israel-UAE peace accords, and contains links to the other essays.
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.
Thursday, January 9th, 2020
“The Soleimani Killing: An Initial Assessment” [PDF], a study by Hillel Frisch, Eytan Gilboa, Gershon Hacohen, Doron Itzchakov, and Alexander Joffe at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.
Friday, January 3rd, 2020
From “you can’t do anything” to “a severe revenge”: Khamenei fumes regarding “that guy” Trump as US kills Iran’s Al-Quds Force leader Soleimani in a missile attack at Baghdad Airport.
Friday, October 18th, 2019
Dore Gold primes us on why Israel must retain the Jordan Valley. Like the Golan, it’s not only about strategic depth but also strategic height. When driving down the magnificent road along the Dead Sea from Jerusalem to Ein Bokek, I would often loftily complain that one wouldn’t know one has exited Israel proper as there are no signs, just a little roadblock upon entering Ein Bokek (and a much more significant one upon reentering Jerusalem near the city limits). Whenever there’s no sign, it’s a sign that the State has deemed this land integral yet history has not yet ripened sufficiently for declaring it so.
Monday, October 7th, 2019
“Guidelines for Israel’s National Security Strategy” by Gadi Eisenkot and Gabi Siboni [PDF] published October 2019 by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Tuesday, October 1st, 2019
I support every clause and every irony in this best Victor Davis Hanson piece in a while. VDH must even resort to a consistent use of italics, his points are so pertinent. My one qualm here is that Israel is surely uneasy with America’s seeming passivity vis-a-vis Iran’s attacks. But this qualm is quelled because Israel is only Little Satan, whereas Big Satan has economic pressures it can and is bringing to bear on Iran that are just not in Israel’s wheelhouse.
Sunday, September 8th, 2019
Israel should finally be a part of CentCom, Caroline Glick argues. “A future [increasingly hostile to Israel] Democratic president faced with a reality in which Israeli officials cooperate openly with their Sunni Arab counterparts under the aegis of the US Central Command, and in which Israel serves as a key partner in the development of offensive and defensive systems that are critical to the US, will not rush to abandon the US alliance with Israel.”
Monday, August 5th, 2019
Monday, July 22nd, 2019
Friday, May 17th, 2019
China breaches US oil export sanctions against Iran, Debka reports. Oh dear.
Friday, March 22nd, 2019