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Showing posts from February, 2007

Dialogue with Iran? Syria?

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I know. You're just out of your league

Dana Milbank fantasizes in The Washington Post that The White House Gets Neighborly in the Middle East and Steve Clemons is dreaming that Chess Pieces Move: Bush Admin Officials Plan to Meet with Iranian and Syrian Reps in Neighborhood "Block Party," and I just think that the administration is continuing to muddle through and buy time. As I pointed a few months ago:Indeed, when it comes to the Bush administration's policy towards Iran (and other global problems), much of what the pundits describe as "diplomacy" is actually nothing more than an attempt to "muddle through" one crisis after another; to come up with ad-hoc responses that reflect the existing political pressures at home and the balance of power abroad without advancing a consistent policy that articulates US interests by utilizing available power and selecting the necessary means to advance realistic goals.(read the rest)
I think that part of all th…

Starring on YouTube...

The Southern Avenger has produced There's Nothing to Win in Iraq which is one of the best vidoes on the war on Iraq -- and, yes, he was nice enough to mention some of my comments.

U.S.-Pakistan: The more things change...

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Oscar Predictions

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Best Picture:













Should and Will Win:The Departed: Everything you want in a great movie: exciting plot, unbelievable cast, entertaining and intelligent. It's not The Godfather, but it gets close.









But hedging my bets: Babel could win. I liked the film which is supposed to be a critique of globalization, kind of "why can't we get along?" The "story" doesn't make a of sense, but some of the scenes like the North African mountains, Mexico, Tokyo are fantastic.

Best Director:








Should Win: Clint Eastwood for Letter from Iwo Jima. The movie is a masterpiece anti-war/war film in the same league of All Quiet on the Western Front and Grand Illusion. Eastwood as a director is not only talent, but also has a wonderful taste and style, and a lot of courage.
















But Martin Scorsese will win for The Departed. It's time for him to get one. He is certainly one of the best film directors.

Best Actor:













Forest Whitaker should and will get it for playing Idi Amin better than Idi Amin…

The British withdrawal: “a basically good-news story"

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This is the way a U.S. official described to the Washington Post the announcement by the Brits that they were withdrawing more than 2,000 troops from Iraq just as the Bush Administration was increasing the number of U.S. troops by more than 20,000. The Post then deconstructed the White House's media strategy in A Ludicrous Attempt at Spin. How about spinning run amok. Well, perhaps the Post and other media should start analyzing their coverage since 2003 and explain why they have been buying into the White House's spin that the United States with more than 140,000 (as of now) in Iraq has been leading a “coalition” or an “alliance” or a “multinational force” the largest military contingency of non-Americans in that country is from Britain with 7,100. And, yes, let's us all thank Netherlands (15 troops), Slovenia (4 troops), and our great ally, Iceland (2 troops). So let's see: The U.S. military is overstretched and the fate of Western civilization will be determined in …

Is Washington being sidelined on the Middle East?

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The Right Web which is affiliated with the International Relations Center has just published my analysis Is Washington being sidelined on the Middel East? Among other things I suggest that: Now that the cost of the U.S. drive for power in the region is producing countervailing pressures at home and abroad, U.S. capacity and determination to advance the Arab-Israeli peace process has been weakened and has created a diplomatic vacuum in the Middle East that is gradually being filled by regional— and outside—players. The diplomatic role that Saudi Arabia has played in mediating the intra-Palestinian conflict parallels its discussions with Iran to stabilize Lebanon, its move to co-opt Syria into the Arab-Sunni camp, and its support for the Arab-Sunnis in Iraq.

Similarly, U.S. failures in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine have created disincentives for Washington to engage Iran and Syria, a step that it fears could be perceived as a sign of weakness. But both Syria and Israel share common inter…

Why Bush is bad for Israel (and America)

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I've been arguing for a very long time that the neoconservative agenda pursued by the Bush Administration, including the war in Iraq and against the backdrop of the Israeli-Hizabollah war, are hurting and not advacing long term Israeli national interests. See for example, my two commentaries in The American Conseravtive, Bad For You Too? How the Iraq War disappointed Israel and Special Relationship: A one-sided U.S. policy toward Israel endangers both countries’ interests. Now comes Gregory Levey in Israel's surge of despair: Top Israeli officials admit last summer's war against Hezbollah was a failure -- and denounce President Bush's actions in the Middle East on Salon.com(via Dr. Strauss)and makes the same point. Interesting and depressing read.

Breach is great!

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I'm movie buff and a political junkie who is a fan of spy literature (fiction and non-fiction). So it's not surprising that went to see and enjoyed Breach in which Chris Cooper does a fantastic job playing the Robert Hanssen, the FBI agent who was convicted of selling secrets to the Soviet Union. To say that Hanssen was (is) a complex character is an understatement. A self-proclaimed patriot and anti-communist ideologue who betrayed his country spying for Moscow and a devout Catholic who engaged in kinky sex. Cooper captures all of that in a way that explains (to some extent) why he was able to deceive everyone and for so long. Director Billy Ray gets our attention without exploiting the material: no kinky sex or car chase scenes and very little violence. But yet everything hits you straight in the face. Bottom Line: Why did Hanssen do it? Certainly not for ideology. While money probably played a role, the main reason had to do with boredom and ego. The guy felt suffocated by …

The Empire Rocks!

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Tired of 24'sAgent Jack Bauer and his band of computer geeks saving L.A. from terrorists and nuclear bombs? Then you should watch The State Within, on BBC America. It's a conspiracy thriller which actually takes place in the Capital of the Empire, with a lot of political corruption, violence, sex, and just good old decadence, which sounds a lot like Rome, which is a wonderful HBO show. At one point, the British Ambassador tells his staff that they need to finish their work "before Washington wakes up." Finally, my city gets the respect it deserves (Not!). In any case, the plot revolves around a cabal of political insiders, led by an arrogant Secretary of Defense who are exploiting a major terrorist act in order to advance their secret agenda, which includes the toppling of a Moslem dictator. I'm telling you, the guys who produce these television shows are paranoides! Only anti-American Brits can come up with crazy ideas like this. Indeed, Blaming America First wr…

In Chronicles Magazine

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Just to let you know that four (!) of my articles on the U.S. and the Middle East were published in the January, February and March issues of Chronicles which is one of the most original magazines around which publishes leading paleo-conservative writers. Most of the magazine is not available online, so you can either purchase or subscribe to it. Also the Rockford Institute, which publishes Chronicles, has also published a book (which I may have mentioned before), Peace in the Promised Land: A Realist Scenario. It's an anthology and one the articles on the Israeli perspective was authored by your truly.

Will Congress extend Bush's trade authority

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Will Congress extend Bush's trade authority? There's now stronger opposition among Democrats to renewing his TPA
Business Times - 15 Feb 2007
By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT
MOST political analysts have concluded that the election of the new Democratic-controlled US Congress in November 2006 has strengthened the power of the protectionist forces on Capitol Hill.
With leading Democratic lawmakers advancing a populist economic agenda, the conventional wisdom in Washington has been that US President George W Bush would not be able to win enough support in Congress for renewing his trade promotion authority (TPA), which expires on June 30.
And the loss of the TPA - first called 'fast track' - would mean Congress would be able to make changes in trade deals negotiated with other countries, a process that would make it less likely that Washington could conclude such agreements since US trade partners would be reluctant to negotiate with the American administration.
But Pres…

On Sino-American relationship

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Business Times - 13 Feb 2007
Will WTO's China case take the heat off Bush?
WTO action against China could help ease pressure to take a tougher approach against China
By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT
WHEN US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson address-ed law-makers on the Bush Administration's global economic policies late last month, he couldn't fail to detect a growing scepticism over US policies towards China and rising demands in Congress for imposing punitive economic sanctions on Beijing in order to force officials there to change China's fixed exchange rates which that critics blame for soaring US trade deficits.
During a hearing at the Senate Banking Committee on Jan 31, both Democratic and Republican senators criticised the Bush administration for not designating China guilty of currency manipulation in its latest report on the global foreign exchange market.
Mr Paulson, who headed a delegation to China last December, responded by defending the Bush administration…

Tonkin Gulf and Persian Gulf

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The new issue of The American Conservative (Feb. 26) has my analysis, "Persian Gulf of Tonkin Incident: Spoiling for another fight, the United States may try to provoke Iran." It's not available online. But you can read it by clicking on the images below:



Debating Israel's national identity: Can it remain an exclusive Jewish state?

Interesting piece in the NYT today on Noted Arab Citizens Call on Israel to Shed Jewish Identity. Here is the full text:By ISABEL KERSHNER
JERUSALEM, Feb. 7 — A group of prominent Israeli Arabs has called on Israel to stop defining itself as a Jewish state and become a “consensual democracy for both Arabs and Jews,” prompting consternation and debate across the country.

Their contention is part of “The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel,” a report published in December under the auspices of the Committee of Arab Mayors in Israel, which represents the country’s 1.3 million Arab citizens, about a fifth of the population. Some 40 well-known academics and activists took part.

They call on the state to recognize Israeli Arab citizens as an indigenous group with collective rights, saying Israel inherently discriminates against non-Jewish citizens in its symbols of state, some core laws, and budget and land allocations.

The authors propose a form of government, “consensual democr…

On U.S., Israel and American-Jews

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Highly recommended Norman Birnbaum's Israel on the Potomac: power under pressure. Among other things he makes the following points:After the six-day war of 1967 war, the Israel lobby was able to count on the support of the media, the marginalisation of Israel's critics, and overwhelming support in Congress. A politician who incurs the anger of the Israel lobby is taking a risk. One example of many is from the 2004 presidential campaign, when Howard Dean called for American "even-handedness" in the middle east - and then retreated, in haste and under fire.

A problem here is that American Jewry has allowed itself to be represented by persons who in manner and personality resemble not the Nobel prizewinners, writers and thinkers of whom it has every reason to be proud, but an earlier generation's formidable gangsters, who are not above descending to vulgar ethnocentrism for the sake of defending Israel.

This can be manifest in the tension between the claim of full …

Uri Avnery on the next war

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Read his thoughts on the plans to attack Iran. I liked this part:
At this moment, people in Washington and in Jerusalem are thinking about a war in Iran. Not if it should be started, but when and how.

If this is to be an American war, its consequences will be many times more grievous than the war in Iraq. Iran is a very hard nut. The Iranian people are united. They have a glorious national tradition, a highly developed national pride and a tough religious ideology. One can bomb their oil facilities, but it is a big country, not dependent on a sophisticated infrastructure, and it cannot be subdued by bombing alone. There will be no alternative to a military attack on the ground.

Bush is already preparing the war. This week he instructed his soldiers in Iraq to hunt down and kill all "Iranian agents" there. That is reminiscent of the infamous "Kommissarbefehl" of June 6, 1941, on the eve of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, in which Adolf Hitler ordered the sum…

William Pfaff: A foreign policy realist

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Who is therefore my kind of guy. Read his GREAT piece in the New York Review of Books. Here is one section which reads as though it was authored by someone working in a libertarian think tank:The noninterventionist alternative to the policies followed in the United States since the 1950s is to minimize interference in other societies and accept the existence of an international system of plural and legitimate powers and interests. One would think the idea that nations are responsible for themselves, and that American military interference in their affairs is more likely to turn small problems into big ones than to solve them, would appeal to an American public that believes in individual responsibility and the autonomy of markets, considers itself hostile to political ideology (largely unaware of its own), and professes to be governed by constitutional order, pragmatism, and compromise.

A noninterventionist policy would shun ideology and emphasize pragmatic and empirical judgment of th…

On To the Point

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I was a guest today on the To The Point radio show hosted by Warren Olney. You can listen (I hope) to program "The Arabs, the Jews and American History" here.