Monthly Archives: July 2010

Afghanistan Papers

I’m not exactly sure why people think the unsurprising fact that Pakistani elements are supporting the Taliban (whom the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, created and supported in the first place) argues in favor of a withdrawal from the region.

It should be clear now that rebuilding Afghanistan into some kind of western democracy can’t happen given hhe political realities of the NATO coalition members’ domestic politics. We just cannot do the heavy lifting. Given that, we should stop trying. I do think, however, that it would be a large mistake to withdraw from the region.

The only cold war in any significant danger of going nuclear hot at the moment is the Indo-Pakistan conflict. And remember, Afghanistan is where the terrorists who actually attacked us were based. Our interests require a presence. They do not require a continued “state building” mission.

Obama: Coward or Master Strategist

There sure is a strong whiff of both.

Obama’s agenda is law. Obama may have over-learned the lessons of the Clinton administration by ignoring social issues and getting the stimulus passed immediately. GOP obstruction began right away, and watered the measure down to the point here it may not be enough. But it passed. This turned out to be a precedent for everything Obama would do up until now.

He would not go to the mat for things. He would spend political capital instead of earning it by forcing the GOP to take the blame for something being blocked. Yet, in the end, financial reform, health care reform (especially this) and the stimulus are law. Unless something goes wildly astray, he will have made two easy Supreme Court appointments.

Last week, I received a text message from the Obama campaign urging me to contact my senator about the unemployment extension. Earlier this week, I saw Obama give a relatively vicious speech on the issue. But by then, the measure was sure to pass!

It appears that it will be signed into law sometime early next week. Another win.

So, Obama has enacted his agenda. But has the White House gotten so used to letting one voice of objection change his plans? Take the cases of Shirley Sherrod and Elizabeth Warren. The first case was fabricated, the latter’s virtues are exactly what rankles some. Yet the WH’s reaction in both cases appears to be to mostly stay behind the scenes and find someone else.

Obama may never enact another significant piece of legislation. It’s not entirely certain he will get to appoint anyone else to the Supreme Court. It is time for him to start standing up for things that matter, even if they lose. You could argue before that it was worth it to get things into law, especially on health care.

It’s time for him to quit letting the media burn his people instantly. It’s time for him to make the Right have some Pyrrhic victories for once. Clinton was the master at the latter, most especially when it came to himself. Obama may have learned how to avoid some of Clinton’s mistakes, but he still needs to learn from his successes.

Then What

Just as the news from Israel keeps getting worse on the surface, there are a lot of behind-the-scenes noises that sound like a two-state solution (at least in the West Bank) might be near. But let me look in to my crystal ball on this:

Palestine has almost no natural resources. It’s primary industry, in terms of GDP, would be tourism. That is easily disrupted by terrorism, should that occur. Even if Gaza is integrated into Palestine, it is only by leave of Israel (in fact if not in law) that Palestine would have access to the seas. Good behavior on the part of the Jordanians and Egyptians is absolutely required.

My prediction is that after the glow of any peace wears off, after the Nobel prizes are handed out, the stories instead will continue to focus on the refugee camps outside of Palestine on the one hand and on the economic disparity between Israelis (including the Arab ones) and Palestinians. I don’t think the Israelis will come out looking like the good guys in the end no matter what they do. Does anyone think that an EU membership is in the offing, for example?

Things will also stop glowing for Palestine. While there will surely be a hard core of people who will never let go of the conflict, there will be a lot of disappointment here too. Women’s issues and other civil rights issues will be exposed. There will be corruption. There will be strife between Christian and Muslim Palestinians. And my guess is that if any Jews try to stay in Palestine, they will be kicked out. Palestine will not be the enlightened European satellite that people think it will be.

A lot of this is my speculation, but most of it is just based on looking at the things as they are that will matter after the politics of a peace deal cease to matter. It’s not a rosy picture. But it should give some explanation as to why leaders on both sides aren’t in a rush to resolve the situation beyond just the evil motives ascribed to them.

If Israel had peace with Palestine and Syria, it would finally have to confront the fact of its being taken over by the Charedi minority. If Palestine finally had peace with Israel, it would have to confront the fact of failure with no one else to blame.