Friday, January 25, 2013

The Middle East Media Sampler 1/25/2013: Roger Cohen Thinks Israel's Friends, Aren't

From +David Gerstman:

1) False friend Cohen

In Israel's True Friends, Roger Cohen argued that Israel's "'true friends' ... are in facts true friends only of the Israeli right:"
... propels Israel into repetitive miniwars of dubious strategic value.
(Apparently he needed some editing as the verb "propels" doesn't seem to match its antecedent.)

According to a recent paper, Operation Pillar of Defense: Objectives and Implications:
From a military standpoint, Operation Pillar of Defense was different from Operation Cast Lead in several significant ways. Since 2008, Hamas and other Gaza factions have expanded their rocket arsenals to include longer-range rockets. In 2008, Israeli intelligence estimated that all factions in Gaza possessed around five thousand rockets; by the outbreak of Pillar of Defense they were estimated to have ten to twelve thousand, including, for the first time, rockets that could reach Tel Aviv. Indeed, those rockets were used during the recent conflict, albeit in a symbolic fashion. Israel, however, did not sit idly by between these two operations, and the cardinal development of this conflict was the amazingly successful performance of the Israeli-manufactured Iron Dome rocket-defense system. The deterrence achieved by Operation Cast Lead afforded Israel some time, and Israel used this time to develop Iron Dome with its remarkable 85-percent success rate achieved during Operation Pillar of Defense, providing both security and a sense of security to the Israeli population. That, moreover, was one of the major reasons Israel did not ultimately feel it had to launch a ground operation into Gaza. In the absence of Iron Dome, the pressure in Israel – in response to casualties and damage – may well have pushed the government into such an operation, as occurred during Cast Lead.
Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense weren't propelled by an false friends of Israel. They were in response to growing terrorist threats.

Elder of Ziyon notes:
It has been over two months since the last rocket was launched from Gaza into Israel.
As far as I can tell, there has never been a two-month period without rockets into Israel since the first Qassam was shot into Israel in February 2002.
"Strategically dubious?"

Given the obvious falsity of his claim, Cohen loses any credibility to designate others to be friends of Israel or claim to be one himself.

2) The Hillary watchdogs

The Washington Post has a bewildering editorial, Hillary Clinton’s clarity on threats in North Africa. Why is it bewildering?
The outgoing secretary’s statements were particularly striking when compared with President Obama’s inaugural address Monday, which promised to end “a decade of war” in favor of nation-building at home, and with the White House’s current approach to Mali. France sent troops there this month to prevent jihadists linked to al-Qaeda who are entrenched in Mali’s northern deserts from taking over the rest of the country. 
But as the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, Mr. Obama and his advisers have taken a skeptical view of the need for U.S. involvement. French requests for air refueling and surveillance help are still on ice two weeks after being made; the administration grudgingly agreed to transport some French troops to the country but only after trying to stick Paris with the bill. The Journal reported that while the Pentagon has wanted to target the leaders of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which was involved in the Benghazi attack as well as last week’s assault on a gas field in Algeria, White House policymakers argue that the group doesn’t pose a direct threat to the United States.
For one thing, while the Post's editors clearly prefer Secretary Clinton's views to those of the White House, there's nothing more here than an implicit criticism of the President.

But there's a question here. If Secretary Clinton is at such odds with the President's foreign policy why did she serve the whole first term? This isn't some minor disagreement, but one about the fundamental direction of the country's foreign policy. Even if she's a loyal soldier, how could she have possibly represented the administration if she holds view so different from President Obama?

The editorial continues:
Ms. Clinton evidently doesn’t agree. “People say to me all the time, well, AQIM hasn’t attacked the United States,” she said. “Well, before 9/11, 2001, we hadn’t been attacked on our homeland since, I guess, the War of 1812 and Pearl Harbor. So you can’t say, well, because they haven’t done something they are not going to do it.”
The outgoing secretary’s point about U.S. leadership — and the results of its absence — doesn’t apply just to Mali. It is equally true of Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other “unstable environments.” If Mr. Obama continues to eschew an active U.S. role in those places, or to retreat from one, there will be, as Ms. Clinton said, “consequences.” 
There's some wisdom in these words, but is this what she truly believes? Talking tough is not the same thing as acting in accordance with those words. This brings us to the other puzzling aspect of the editorial. The editorial omits any mention of the Secretary's "What difference does it make?" (Not that she took that approach when the subject was Iraq during the Bush administration.) After explaining what difference the cause of the attack made, Barry Rubin observes 
The Obama Administration wants to bury this analysis because it calls attention to the threat of revolutionary Islamism and, in the last case, to the negative aspects of its own Libya policy. 
Whether or not that initiative of overthrowing Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi was a good idea the fact remains that such a policy has costs. Whether or not unilateral actions and the use of force is a good idea or not in any specific case, standing aside and doing nothing while Americans were killed will also have its costs. Whether or not America has made mistakes in its past policies, apologies and concessions will only persuade the Islamists and a large sector of the local population that the United States is weak, can be defeated, and therefore attacks should be escalated. 
Aside from the irrelevance of motive, the other point Clinton made was to emphasize that the most important thing was to punish those responsible. While that sounds impressive, virtually nothing has been done to achieve that goal. In general, of course, the problem is identifying and finding the terrorists, especially if they are located in a country which provides a safe haven to terrorists. The United States never effectively punished, for example, those who attacked the Marine barracks in Beirut in the 1980s.
It would appear that Secretary Clinton's tough talking was just words. Possibly she's trying to maintain her viability as a candidate in 2016. But the Washington Post took her empty words as promises of action. (Similarly, I heard Bob Schieffer previewing Face the Nation on the radio this morning, saying "She acquitted herself well.") Our tough watchdog media has apparently decided that boosting Hillary Clinton is its primary duty at this time.

If you found this post interesting or informative, please it below. Thanks!

Technorati Tag: and and and .

No comments: