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Showing posts from July, 2006

More on you know what

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Aluf Benn in Haaretz is a reliable source of info and analysis, so I read his latest Giving the war an image of victory, not a draw with great interest.Borrowing from the world of soccer beloved to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the Israel Defense Forces operation in Lebanon went into overtime on Monday.

Olmert wants to take another stab at a decisive conclusion before the UN Security Council blows the final whistle. That's why he convened the cabinet on Monday to approve a wide-scale ground operation targeting villages used by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

Olmert is fighting the battle over public opinion, both at home and abroad. He wants people to see the war as a victory, not a draw. It was this attitude that led Olmert to tell a conference of mayors on Monday that the operation is continuing despite the unfortunate deaths of dozens of Lebanese civilians in Qana Sunday.

"Israel is continuing to fight," the prime minister said. One can imagine the slogan as part of a comme…

Next stop: Syria?

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Israeli commentator Uri Avnery is brilliant and demonstrates it once again jn A Nice Little War in which he warns that if the Israeli leaders sense that the perception is that the Hizbollah is "winning," they'll be tempted to target Syria which can be defeated by Israel in a conventional war:When it becomes clear that nothing is helping, that Hizbullah goes on fighting and the rockets continue to fly, the political and military leadership will face bankruptcy. They will need to pin the blame on somebody. On who? Well, on Syrian President Bashar Assad, of course.

How is it possible that a small "terror organization", with a few thousand fighters altogether, goes on fighting? Where do they get the arms from? The finger will point towards Syria.

Even now, the army commanders assert that new rockets are flowing all the time from Syria to Hizbullah. True, the roads have been bombed, the bridges destroyed, but the arms somehow continue to arrive. The Israeli government…

More on the same

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I was talking today with a former U.S. diplomat and a Washington "insider" who made the following comment: "I'm beginning to suspect that the Israeli military has been 'Americanized.' They seem to repeating our mistakes in Iraq. Very discouraging for them and for us." This is coming from someone who is a critic of the Bush administration's policies and has been opposed to the Israeli response in Lebanon. My guess is that the Bushies and the neocons are hysterical. After all, much of what the neocons have been pushing for has been the "Israelization" of Americnan foreign policy and national security, in a sense that the Americans should adopt the tough Israeli methods in dealing with global threats, especially vis-a-vis the Arabs who supposedly "only understand force." The problem is that both in Iraq and Lebanon (now and earlier) and in the West Bank/Gaza this approach has proved to be a total failure in terms of policy (forget f…

On Israel, Lebanon, Hizbollah

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I've been busy working on several projects and haven't had the time to write a long item on the "situation." But Tony Karon has been reading my mind, so to speak, and has raised some of the arguments I've been discussing for quite a while. In "Is Israel Fighting a Proxy War for Washington?" he stresses that Bush and Condi have not only given a "green light" to Israel in Lebanon; that they have encouraged that (“Don’t hold back on our account, in fact, make sure you finish them off…”"). And he points out that: I’ve always maintained that the “pro-Israel” position of the Bush administration, formulated and influenced by hardline American Likudniks (whom, it must be said, are hardly representative of mainstream Israeli thinking) is actually fundamentally bad for Israel. Its infantile, aggressive maximalism precludes Israel from doing what it will take to live at peace with its surroundings, instead demanding a confrontational approach in kee…

Book event on C-SPAN

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C-SPAN will air the Cato Institute's Book Forum on "Sandstorm" On Sunday, July 30 at 7:45 pm
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Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East
Leon Hadar with James Pinkerton and Geoffrey Kemp
Description: Leon Hadar talks about his book, "Sandstorm," at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC. In the book, Mr. Hadar argues that the U.S. should pursue "constructive disengagement" from the Middle East, where the costs of our involvement over the decades has outweighed the benefits. James Pinkerton (Newsday, Fox News) and Geoffrey Kemp (Nixon Center) provide commentary.

Author Bio: Leon Hadar is a research fellow at the Cato Institute. He is a former U.N. bureau chief for the Jerusalem Post and current Washington correspondent for the Singapore Business Times. Mr. Hadar is also the author of "Quagmire: America in the Middle East."

Also you can listen and/or watch a audio/vide…

They are always wrong...

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Media Matters has a great item on Conservative pundits made wildly wrong claims about how Iraq would turn out -- what are they saying now about the Middle East? It's entertaining and depressing at the same time.

And Billmon who is right most of the time has critique of Israel:A Blight Unto the Nations, a kind of Cry the Beloved Country expresses genuine sadness over the the policy direction taken by the Israeli leaders. He also has a link to commentary by Meron Benvenisti in Ha'aretz. I also recommend reading Nehemia Shtrasler's commentary in the same newspaper.The second war in Lebanon has no name yet. The army and the government are waiting to see how things work out. If the results are good, Dan Halutz and Ehud Olmert will choose a heroic name to immortalize their action. But if it ends badly - which appears more likely - they will try to belittle it and turn it into a small, unimportant, nameless operation.

Expectations were high. For the first time in decades, two civi…

Book Forum today

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The Cato Institute held a forum today to discuss my book Archived Events Online. C-SPAN recorded it, so they should be airing it soon, perhaps as early as this weekend. Meanwhile you should read the review of Dr. Strauss about the event:
Looking for some concise, sane and informed analysis of the Middle East chaos? Who isn't.

You might do well to check out our friend, Dr. Leon Hadar of CATO and author of the book Sandstorm. Leon was the guest and subject of a CATO policy book forum today. He was joined by a panel featuring Jim Pinkerton of Newsday and Fox News, as well as Geoff Kemp, nee Reagan NSC staff for Middle Eastern Affairs and currently with the Nixon Center. Christopher Preble, Director of Foreign Policy Studies for CATO, served as the able emcee.

Leon's innovative analysis has earned strongly positive reviews from James Fallows, Middle East Review, Foreign Affairs and others. That trend continued today with both Jim and Geoff Kemp.

In short, Leon advocates the United St…

Timely Book Forum

Hope to see you there...

Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East
(Palgrave Macmillan, 2005)
BOOK FORUM
Thursday, July 27, 2006
12:00 PM (Luncheon to Follow)

Featuring the author Leon Hadar, Research Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies, Cato Institute; with comments by Jim Pinkerton, Columnist, Newsday, and analyst, FOX News; and Geoffrey Kemp, Director of Regional Strategic Programs, the Nixon Center, and Senior Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs, National Security Council (1983–1985).

The Cato Institute
1000 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001

Watch the Event Live in RealVideo
Listen to the Event in RealAudio (Audio Only)

Against the backdrop of the war in Iraq, the nuclear crisis with Iran, and the deadlocked Israeli-Palestinian peace process, there is a growing sense that U.S. policy in the Middle East has failed to advance American national interests. In his book, Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East, Cato Research Fellow Leon Hadar surveys the historical evo…

Superpower not so powerful

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It's interesting that many members of the Reality Based Community (RBC) who have challenged the notion that the United States can "democratize" Iraq and "remake" the Middle East are so, so confident that the United States -- if only it wanted -- could end the current Mideast crisis as well as make peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Well, I remain very skeptical about that and have concluded that in many ways what we are seeing now in the beginning of a process in which the U.S. is beginning to lose its ability to take the lead in global affairs. I don't know how long it will all take. Recall that in the early 1950's pundits were still referring to Britain and France as major world powers. It took several crises, including the 1956 Suez War to demonstrate that that was not the case. So I think that like The Continental character in SNL played by Christopher Walken -- a once-upon-a-time "player" who thinks that at his old age he can still…

Let Mideast be EU's problem

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It’s a Local Battle, Not WWIII

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You might call it the American foreign policy establishment’s own form of Pavlovian Response. Whenever one people goes to war against another, in any part of the world, it arouses the interventionist impulse of politicians and pundits in Washington. And when that war happens to take place in the Middle East, the urge to “do something” acquires an almost apocalyptic urgency. Indeed, raising the specter of a Middle Eastern war in the Capitol is like shouting “fire” in a crowded movie theater, as the experts warn that a hands-off approach towards a civil war or an inter-state confrontation in the region would risk a global war, an oil crisis and more terrorism.

So it is not surprising that the current hostilities between Israel and guerrilla groups in Gaza and Lebanon have elicited a shrill response from lawmakers and talking heads seeking swift U.S. action. ‘This is, in fact, World War III,” former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich says about the crisis, in which the most powerful …

Bush should have read Quagmire

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That's what one reader has posted on amazon.com:
Near prescience, July 18, 2006
Reviewer: TXPenguin (Texas) - See all my reviews
If only George W. Bush had taken the time to read this book before he plunged the United States into the Iraq War! Hadar's 1992 prediction of disaster stemming from America's interventionist policies has come true. The civil war now raging in Iraq came about from the foolish neoconservative view that democracy could be successfully forced upon the Iraqi people. Hadar effectively refuted such ideas in this book. It is well worth reading especially today with proponents of American meddling in the Middle East planning further wars against Iran and Syria.
I happen to agree...

Haifa:A personal note

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Haifa has been in the news quite a lot in the last few days. I was actually born in that city and although I didn't grow up there I spent several happy summers there with my grandparents, who incidently celebrated their honeymoon in a vacation in Lebanon (that was in the 1920's when you could take a train from Haifa to Beirut). And I also have several good friends in Lebanon and from Lebaon and have always wanted to visit the country. For many years (especially during the Oslo process), I've fantasized about the revival of Spirit the Levant (which includes Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon) hoping that the region could be transformed into a great global center of trade and tourism in which different religious and ethnic could co-exist together as they raise their families, make money, enjoy the great weather, go to the beach, and dream about far-away lands. Maybe one day...Inshallah. Meanwhile I'm very depressed and I hope and pray that the fighting will end…

Mideast

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My All Hell Breaks Loose in the Middle East provides (I think) a certain strategic perspective on the Mideast crisis/war. More specifically, I see it as a direct consequences of the failure of the Bush/neocon project in the Middle East. Some interesting updates: The Iraqi PM leading the Shiite-led government in Baghdad has defended Hizbollah and conemned Israel. Waiting to see how Kristol, Brooks, etc. will make sense of that. Well, their predecessors in the old Comintern didn't have any problem defending the Stalin-Hitler pact based on some complex dialectics. My guess is that if Saddam was still in power he would by congragulating Israel... I wasn't surprised by the mild Saudi reaction. Some of their guys who have been visiting Washington in recent months have warned the Bushies that they would be forced to make deals with Iran (appease them) unless the Americans take some action against Tehran to restore the balance of power in the Persian Gulf. As In Mideast Strife, Bush S…

I told you so

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Steve Sailer asks:"Please remind me again: Which ones are the Good Muslims: Shunnis or Si'ites?" and "Do we really know what we are doing over there [the Middle East]?" I know it's not very dignified to brag that "I told you so." But if you read my Quagmire: America in the Middle East (published in 1992) and the more recent one, Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East (links to the two books on the left) one can figure out what's happening there (never-ending tribal, religious, ethnic, and national wars since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire) and what the U.S. should do (start a process of "constructive disengagement" from the region). Just one quote from the book in response to Steve:The U.S. is discovering now what many outside global players have learned the hard way, that it is impossible for any actor to impose its particular agendas on the Middle East. In the Middle East everything is related to everything else; the boun…

Mideast iPod

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This girl is so, so excited. Is it Bono? No, she is listening to my podcast on the crisis in the Mideast. I just have that effect on women...(when you access the Cato Institute website, click on the "Daily Poscast." After 7/20 go to Daily Podcast arcive).

Necons in Arms...

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Don't worry. There is no live fire here. Bill Kristol and David Frum are alive and well. We're talking here only about the War of Ideas. Dr. Strauss does a great job summarizing the hysteria in the neoconservative camp against the backdrop of the Mideast mess, "appeasement" of North Korea and Iran, Israel in Lebanon, George Will's attack on the Weekly Standard, Weekly Standard's call for joining Israel in war on Iran, etc., including many links and funny stuff. Most disappointing was this Conservative Anger Grows Over Bush's Foreign Policy article which suggests that most conservatives are neo-conservatives. There is no doubt that Will's view reflect a rising frustration among real conservatives about Bush's foreign policy. In any case, my sense is that we all these foreign policy crises are going to lead to very, very interesting times and bring about major changes in America's Middle East policy, an issue that I will discuss next week in the…

what bush really said to Blair

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Hey, guys, you didn't get it. What he said was: "See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this SHIITE [Nasralla, that is] and it's over." How do I know? A friend of mine covered the Lebanese civil war in the 1970's and he recalls that an American war correspondent from Texas approached him once and asked whether he could tell him something about "these shits." It took my friend a while to figure out that the Texan was referring to "these Shiites."
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Sorry, but I've been busy writing commentary and analsis for several newspapers and magazines as well as doing a few broadcasting interviews. But I'm pasting here something on U.S. policy in the Middle East which was I published a while ago and which was based on an address before a group in Washington. Too bad that George Will didn't read it then and wouldn't have to wait so long to come to similar conclusions (sort of).January 24, 2003
In the Wake of War
by Leon T. Hadar

Leon Hadar is a research fellow in foreign policy at the Cato Institute.


Following the end of the first Gulf War and the Madrid Peace Conference, there were high expectations in Washington that a new American-led order would be established in the Middle East. The Madrid Peace Conference and the ensuing Oslo peace process were supposed to lay the foundations for a New Middle East: Peace between Israel and a Palestinian state. And the integration of the region into the global economy.

Ten years later and …

Mideast stuff

The following editorial which quotes me, distributed by the Freedom View was published in several newspapers:

It’s important to step back and view the situation between Israel and Lebanon with some perspective. Despite the repeated images from the 24/7 cable news channels, which understandably emphasize destruction and explosions, Israel is not engaged in a full-fledged “two-front war,” at least not yet. It is dealing with guerrilla-style incursions undertaken by nonstate-sponsored terrorist groups that have some ties with governments (more on that later) but operate with a certain amount of autonomy — and mystery.

Israel in the past has fought conventional military wars and prevailed. This time, we haven’t seen troops massed on Israel’s borders or bombers taking off with payloads meant for Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. The conflict could escalate into a more conventional war and even pull in outside powers. The activity Thursday suggested the conflict is beginning to escalate into a signific…

Mideast update (sort of)

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I've been reading newspapers, watching television (including from Israel and the Mideast), googling the news, and it's quite difficult to get a clear picture of what's happening and predict what's going to happen. My sense is that the G-8 statement was more favorable to the U.S. position (and by extension to Israel) than I would have expected. It stressed Israel's right to act in "self defence" and seems to suggest that Hizbollah and Hamas should return the kidnapped soldiers as first steps and as part of the conditions for cease-fire. There were also clear indications that the leading Arab-Sunni states, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt are hoping for Hizbollah's demise. I think that Israel could probably continue with the bombing for quite a while. I also don't think that the war would expand beyond Lebanon.

"War, What is good for? Absolutely Nothing"*

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*O Jays

Even some of the guys and gals I trust in terms of understanding what's up in the world seem to be confused about the recent Mideast Madness. Leading think-tanker Steven Clemons thinks that Some Questions Regarding Israel's Objectives: Is Israel Trying to Curb America's Deal-Making in Middle East? while veteran Mideast watcher Robin Wright concludes thatStrikes Are Called Part of Broad Strategy U.S., Israel Aim to Weaken Hezbollah, Region's Militants, while Israeli journalist and peace activist Uri Avnery suspects Israeli-American collusion with an unidentified Lebanese "elites." In fact, my online pal Michael Sharon suggests that Ehud Olmert and George W. concluded a "secret accord" to oust Hammas during the Israeli PM's visit to Washington. (in hebrew). And also check-out my earlier posts on which historical analogies we need to apply (1967? 1973? 1982?) to understand Israel's moves (well, neither and all of them...). Since my main…

Uri Avnery on Israel's aims in Lebanon

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Ome my favorite Israeli journalists suggests that theThe real aim is to change the regime in Lebanon and to install a puppet government.

That was the aim of Ariel Sharon's invasion of Lebanon in 1982. It failed. But Sharon and his pupils in the military and political leadership have never really given up on it.

As in 1982, the present operation, too, was planned and is being carried out in full coordination with the US.

As then, there is no doubt that it is coordinated with a part of the Lebanese elite.

That's the main thing. Everything else is noise and propaganda. (read the rest)

I'm skeptical about the idea that Israel wants to do a rerun of 1982 in Lebanon. Avnery seems to imply that there could be some collusion between Israel and the Lebanese "elite" with some support for Washington. Anything is possible. But it sounds far-fetched to me. I certainly agree with him that "another secondary aim is to rehabilitate the 'deterrent power' of the army. That…

Another historical analogy: 1973 Mideast War/2006 Mideast War

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Billmon advances it:Punching Above Its Weight

Three days in, and it looks like Israel is losing the war.

Not militarily, of course -- The IDF could turn Lebanon into a parking lot if it wanted to, and if it's willing to take enough casualties it can probably push Hezbollah away from the Israeli border and suppress the rocket attacks (or at least most of them.)

No, Israel is losing this war the same way it "lost" the October 1973 War -- by not crushing its enemies swiftly and completely, and then rubbing their faces in their own impotence and humilation.

Just the opposite: Today it was Israel that suffered the humilation of nearly losing one of its missile frigates to a warhead-carrying Hezbollah drone -- a threat the IDF apparently didn't even know existed.

An explosives-laden drone, apparently launched by Hezbollah, hit an Israel Navy warship off the coast of Beirut, causing serious damage to its steering capability . . . Several hours after the vessel was hit, an Israel…

On Mideast Mess and Invite to Book Forum

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I was sitting down to write something about the topic (and it's starting to feel a bit undignified making once again the same point, that "I've told you so"). But then I read E. J. Dionne's Big Bang Theory In Ruins in the Washington Post who has basically written the commentary for me. So now I can go to the pool... Here is Dionne's item with some added comments by moi (in bold):The most intellectually honest case for the war in Iraq was never about Saddam Hussein's alleged stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction. It was the Big Bang Theory. [why do social scientists like to compare themselves to real scientists?)
Not to be confused with theories about the origins of the universe, the Middle East Big Bang idea was simple and seductive. [simple, yes; not very seductive] Unlike other arguments for the war, it was based on some facts, though also [almost all] on some wishful thinking. The point was that the Middle East was a mess. A nest of authoritarian r…

Some Good News from the Middle East: Faiths in Jerusalem United....

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...Over Gay March...

And here are other reactions by Moslems and Jews to the Gay March:
Arab MK: No gays in Muslim society.
Rabbi Yosef: Move gay pride parade to Sodom.
MK Vilan on gay parade: Remember King David.
And why is the following story interesting? Four prominent members of gay community send letter to PM requesting that he retract his support for election of former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau as president following criticism of Gay Pride Parade, homosexual life style. I'll answer that with a question: What do Vice President Cheney and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have in common. Apparently, Olmert's daughter Danna who is a lecturer in literature at the Tel Aviv University, is a self-identified lesbian and lives with her partner in Tel Aviv. It seems that her parents, like the Cheneys, are accepting of their daughter's sexual identity and partner. Danna is also a anti-war activist and is seen below demonstrating against Israeli policies in Gaza. Not that there is any…

Perhaps it's too late for Bush to become a non-cowboy

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Time magazine's cover story The end of cowboy diplomacy has been mentioned, talked about, recycled, etc. in the print and broadcast media in recent days. You can guess what the article says even without reading it... Here are the last paragrphs. But in the span of four years, the administration has been forced to rethink the doctrine by which it hoped to remake the world. Bush's response to the North Korean missile test was revealing: Under the old Bush Doctrine, defiance by a dictator like Kim Jong Il would have merited threats of punitive U.S. action. Instead, the administration has mainly been talking up multilateralism and downplaying Pyongyang's provocation.

The Bush Doctrine foundered in the principal place the U.S. tried to apply it. Though no one in the White House openly questions Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq, some aides now acknowledge that it has come at a steep cost in military resources, public support and credibility abroad.

The administration is p…

Interesting historical analogies: Eshkol/1967 and Olmert/2006

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Aluf Benn had a very interesting piece, In Eshkol's Shoes in Haaretz over the weekend. Eshkol was the Prime Minister that led Israel during the 1967/Six-Day-War. A new book on the war, written by a well-regarded Israeli military historian and former government official (and based on newly published documents) portrays Eshkol as a weak political figure with no military background who was pressed by an activist IDF to attack Egypt. Benn seems to be concerned that PM Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who like Eshkol were not part of the military/security establishment are being pressured by the Israeli military to act tough in Gaza. Benn also raises some interesting parallels between the U.S. role then (LBJ stuck in Vietnam gives Israel a "yellow light" to attack Egypt) and now (GWB stuck in Iraq (and North Korea, and Iran, and... gives Israel a "yellow light" to attack Gaza?) Worth reading. It's pasted here:Here is a piece of advice for Prime Mini…

Neocons: The Next Generation

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Sorry, but since no one is paying me to write a review of the new book by neocon-pisher Peter Beinart, I'm not going to read it. But I do recommend two excellent reviews of this crap, by Nicholas von Hoffman in The American Conservative and by Andrew Bachevich in The Nation. Enjoy!

And, hey, and too bad I missed this 2005 Festival of Ideas. The notion that "Festival" and "Ideas" associated with the two guys below:

I didn't know Harry Truman...

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Harry Truman wasn't a good friend of mine,
(I actually didn't like him),
But you, George W. Bush are not Harry Truman....

Dr. Strauss has a very interesting post on the neocons' effort to "Trumanize" (and "Rooseveltize" and "Reaganize" and even "Lincolnize") George W. which he describes (and rightly so) as "appalling and intellectually dishonest." Neocons? Appaling and intellectuall dishonest?

Now who is the plagiarist here...

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On this blog on February 24, 2006, I posted ports in raging political storm in which I highlighted the interesting "coalition" between some neo-conservatives and some libertarians over the issue of the Dubai ports and discussed the topic. A few days later I received an email ("subject: plagiarism") from a colleague who mentioned that a certain conveyer of dreck has made the same exact arguments re: libertarians/neoconservatives/Dubai on March 3 and 11. I responded that I don't think that it was really an issue of "intellectual property rights" and more important, who really cares what this intellectual Amoeba writes anyway. Well, now my friend emails me that the same small-time nudnik referring to an article I published in The American Conservative on March 27 --- in which I reiterated the points I had made in my earlier post on this blog -- is now kvetching that these comments were plagiarized from her "work." Note how so, so pathetic she s…