Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Hipster Idealists Lose Faith in the Valley. By Walter Russell Mead.

Hipster Idealists Lose Faith in the Valley. By Walter Russell Mead. The American Interest, January 7, 2014.

Reject Boycott of Israel. By Walter Reich.

Reject boycott of Israel. By Walter Reich. Philadelphia Inquirer, January 7, 2013.


An American academic organization is poised to begin sweeping a respected segment of academia into the dustbin of intellectual and moral irrelevancy.
At its annual meeting this week, the 30,000-member Modern Language Association will hold a session aimed at strategizing how to mount academic boycotts against Israel, and will consider a resolution critical of Israel for the violation of academic rights while ignoring the immensely greater violations of academic rights, as well as far more basic and universal rights, in dozens of countries around the world. This could well presage a future MLA resolution to boycott Israeli universities.
If the MLA were the first academic body to take a stand against Israel, that act would be of limited consequence. But three others, hijacked by political activists, have already voted to boycott Israeli universities. If the MLA sets out on a similar path, it will deeply damage the claim academia has to intellectual and moral leadership in America.
In April, the Association for Asian Studies voted to boycott Israeli universities. In December, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association announced its boycott. And the next day, the American Studies Association (ASA) said that its members had voted to boycott as well.

The boycott effort has been led by the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” movement. Spearheaded by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, it has sought to enlist the world’s academic organizations to label Israel an “apartheid state.”
In parts of academia, this movement has a receptive audience. Many academics in the humanities and social sciences are partial to theories and ideologies, such as postcolonialism, that incline them to see the world as having been ravaged by Western imperialist powers. In their eyes, the worst current offender is the United States. And, the BDS activists insist, another is Israel – which, they argue, victimizes Palestinians through occupation and the violation of their human rights. This movement has had enormous success in Europe, and is beginning to have it in America.
This isn’t a harmless, quixotic enterprise. Academics have immense influence through their public actions and pronouncements and on the students who ultimately become the politicians, journalists, writers, and other artists who will define their country’s political and cultural agendas.
But boycotting Israeli academic institutions not only trashes the sacrosanct academic principle of the free exchange of ideas; it’s also hypocritical and wrong. Most egregiously, it targets Israel to the exclusion of countries with immeasurably worse human-rights records.
What about targeting China, which long ago occupied Tibet, imported Chinese settlers into it, and has set up a system that the Dalai Lama has called “Chinese apartheid”? Chinese officials put their dissidents in “black prisons” and psychiatric hospitals, fire academics, and hound journalists and artists who dissent from the party line.
What about targeting Saudi Arabia? It disenfranchises its women, forbids political parties, punishes homosexuality, and sharply restricts freedom of movement, expression, and religion.
What about targeting the many other countries that carry out human-rights violations enormously greater and graver than Israel’s – Russia and Iran, for example?
What about targeting American universities? They take money from the U.S. government, which some academics have excoriated for human-rights violations and other evils. In fact, many members of the boycotting societies take federal funds for their salaries and work. Why don’t they boycott themselves?
They should listen to Sari Nusseibeh, the Palestinian president of Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, who said in response to earlier British efforts to boycott Israeli academics: “If we are to look at Israeli society, it is within the academic community that we've had the most progressive, pro-peace views and views that have come out in favor of seeing us as equals.”
They should listen to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who said, during Nelson Mandela's funeral, that Palestinians “do not support the boycott of Israel.”
And they should listen to Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University, who, in response to a British academic union’s vote in support of the anti-Israel boycotters, said that the union “should add Columbia to its boycott list, for we do not intend to draw distinctions between our mission and that of the universities you are seeking to punish.”
Since the ASA’s boycott vote, the presidents of at least 125 universities, including Penn, Drexel, Haverford, Swarthmore, and Princeton, have rejected it, and at least five have withdrawn their institutional memberships from that group. It’s urgent that many more academic leaders speak out quickly and forcefully against this betrayal of the values that for so long have sustained higher education in this country – and against the politicization of the academic enterprise.
If they do, one hopes the MLA’s leaders and members, and other academics, will listen. The good name of American academia will depend on it.

The High Price of Obama’s Mideast Peace Push. By John Bolton.

The high price of Obama’s Mideast peace push. By John Bolton. New York Post, January 7, 2014.


The breaking news that al Qaeda has captured Fallujah and Ramadi raises the question whether America’s sacrifices in Iraq were made in vain. It also highlights the utter inadequacy of President Obama’s Middle East policy, especially his disregard for critical regional threats.
Instead, Obama has focused on Israeli-Palestinian issues, essentially to no avail. Despite Secretary of State John Kerry’s repeated visits, including one just ended, the “peace process” has seen no significant movement.
Proponents of “peace processing” ignore this reality, asserting that the process itself has an inherent value, and that real movement comes only when deadlines loom and decision-makers realize “it’s now or never” to “take risks for peace” and achieve “a peace for the brave.” And when all else fails, peace processers say, “What have we got to lose?”
Such rhetoric might be appealing initially, but it is in fact utterly hollow. The entirely predictable unraveling of Obama’s current effort is neither novel nor surprising. What is surprising is the near-religious faith peace processers still profess, despite the overwhelming contrary evidence. It’s therefore critical to note the negative consequences of their approach — because there is indeed much to lose by continuing to follow their strategy.
Diplomacy, like all human activity, has costs as well as benefits. The obsessive focus on Israeli-Palestinian issues incurs what economists call “opportunity costs” — namely, the lost opportunity to concentrate on other issues of greater importance or where there are better chances for progress. This is a decidedly serious problem.
The most immediate costs fall on the parties themselves, especially Palestinians, used and abused for decades not by Israel, but by Middle Eastern radicals who’ve made “Palestine” the point of their attack against Israel’s very existence.
With attention diverted from repeated failures to create legitimate, representative institutions of governance, Palestinians have been left with a corrupt, ineffective Palestinian Authority, no functioning economy, few useful economic skills, precious little foreign investment and a dependency existence fostered by UN and other relief programs.
The vaunted “international community” should feel only shame for emphasizing the mirage of “Palestine” instead of the basic economic aspirations of individual Palestinians.
As a result of all this, there is simply no Palestinian entity that can make and implement the kinds of commitments necessary to sustain a true peace agreement. This is the basic reason why the current Obama-Kerry effort must inevitably fail.
Individual Palestinian leaders may perform responsibly, not simply grasping for wealth and power, but they alone can’t provide adequate assurances of sustaining any agreement over time.
Israel, in turn, faces even graver problems, notably Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, resurgent terrorism and the failure of the Arab Spring. Every hour spent talking to Secretary Kerry about West Bank apartment construction is an hour not spent addressing these more serious issues.
US time and resources are also being diverted from other, more-pressing international problems, not least of which are elsewhere in the Middle East. Iran’s nuclear-weapons program is not merely or even primarily Israel’s problem, it is America’s. Unfortunately, Obama’s administration is making the same mistake as its predecessors by trying (and failing) to negotiate Iran out of its nuclear ambitions.
But even beyond that, Obama’s misjudgments and inattention are imperiling the entire region. Libya is dissolving partly because Obama lost interest once Khadafy was overthrown, leading to the Sept. 11, 2012, murders in Benghazi, which remain unavenged and unresolved 16 months later. Syria is not only in chaos, but so too is Obama’s Syria policy, incoherent to the point of embarrassment for almost three years.
There is turmoil across North Africa as Islamic extremists and militants threaten existing governments. South Sudan is collapsing in civil war and others seem destined to follow. And, again, there is al Qaeda’s resurgence in Iraq.
More globally, of course, are the serious problems of Chinese territorial aggrandizement in Asia; Russian efforts to re-establish hegemony in Ukraine, the Caucasus and other former Soviet states, as well as North Korea’s threatening nuclear-weapons program.
The list is long. For Obama to focus on Israel-Palestinian issues to the effective exclusion of others more pressing in the short run and more consequential in the long run therefore imposes high costs on the United States and future administrations.
Finally, there is always the danger that, as the “peace process” deadline approaches, the White House will try to impose a solution on Israel. If so, some will undoubtedly hail it as representing success for Obama’s efforts, but that would be pure propaganda.
The parties must themselves not only want peace, as former Secretary of State Jim Baker repeatedly emphasized, but they must also both be capable of it. Until those conditions are met, peace processing is not just wasteful but potentially dangerous.

Conservatism for the People. By Henry Olsen.

Conservatism for the People. By Henry Olsen. National Affairs, No. 18 (Winter 2014).

The Caucasus: Laboratory of Geopolitics. By Robert Kaplan.

The Caucasus: Laboratory of Geopolitics. By Robert Kaplan. Real Clear World, January 2, 2014.

A Yellow Light for Government. By Michael Gerson.

A Yellow Light for Government. By Michael Gerson. Real Clear Politics, January 7, 2014. Also at the Washington Post.


One of the main problems with an unremittingly hostile view of government — held by many associated with the tea party, libertarianism and “constitutionalism” — is that it obscures and undermines the social contributions of a truly conservative vision of government.
Politics requires a guiding principle of public action. For popular liberalism, it is often the rule of good intentions: If it sounds good, do it. Social problems can be solved by compassionate, efficient regulation and bureaucratic management — which is seldom efficient and invites unintended consequences in complex, unmanageable systems (say, the one-sixth of the U.S. economy devoted to health care). The signal light for government intervention is stuck on green.
For libertarians and their ideological relatives, the guiding principle is the maximization of individual liberty. It is a theory of government consisting mainly of limits and boundaries. The light is almost always red.
Conservatism (as Peter Wehner and I explain in our recent National Affairs essay, “A Conservative Vision of Government”) offers a different principle of public action — though one a bit more difficult to explain than “go” or “stop.” In the traditional conservative view, individual liberty is ennobled and ordered within social institutions — families, religious communities, neighborhoods, voluntary associations, local governments and nations. The success of individuals is tied to the health of these institutions, which prepare people for the responsible exercise of freedom and the duties of citizenship.
This is a limiting principle: Higher levels of government should show deference to private associations and local institutions. But this is also a guide to appropriate governmental action — needed when local and private institutions are enervated or insufficient in scale to achieve the public good.
So conservatism is a governing vision that allows for a yellow light: careful, measured public interventions to encourage the health of civil society. There are no simple rules here. Some communities — disproportionately affected by family breakdown, community chaos or damaging economic trends — will need more active help. But government should, as the first resort, set the table for private action and private institutions — creating a context in which civil society can flourish.
This goal has moral and cultural implications. Government has a necessary (if limited) role in reinforcing the social norms and expectations that make the work of civic institutions both possible and easier. Some forms of liberty — say, the freedom to destroy oneself with hard drugs or to exploit other men and women in the sex trade — not only degrade human nature but also damage and undermine families and communities and ultimately deprive the nation of competent, self-governing citizens. (The principle applies, more mildly, to softer drugs. By what governing theory did the citizens of Colorado — surveying the challenges of global economic competition, educational mediocrity and unhealthy lifestyles — decide that the answer is the proliferation of stoners?)
But conservatives also need to take seriously the economic implications of this governing vision. Just as citizens must be prepared for the exercise of liberty, individuals must be given the skills and values — human capital — that will allow them to succeed in a free economy.
This is the essence of equal opportunity. But it is not a natural social condition. And many conservatives have failed to recognize the extent to which this defining American promise has been hollowed out.
Economic mobility has stalled for many poorer Americans, resulting in persistent, intergenerational inequality. This problem is more complex than an income gap. It involves wide disparities in parental time and investment, in community involvement and in academic accomplishment. These are traceable to a number of factors that defy easy ideological categorization, including the collapse of working-class families and the flight of decent blue-collar jobs.
Where are the creative conservative policy ideas to strengthen civil society and private enterprise in places where the playing field of equal opportunity is scandalously tilted? Such a project is not unprecedented. In the 1990s, a cadre of conservative reformers achieved success against three seemingly intractable problems: welfare dependency, drug use and violent crime.
This history highlights the current conservative divide. Many in the tea party and libertarian wings, if left to their own devices, would say almost nothing about these matters. Yet a number of Republican governors and members of Congress — see recent efforts by Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) — promise a more constructive spirit of governance.
The appeal of conservatism as a governing vision now depends on the transformation of this nascent effort into a movement that is strong enough to redefine a party.

Two States for Two Peoples? When Pigs Fly. By Moshe Arens.

Two states for two peoples? When pigs fly. By Moshe Arens. Haaretz, January 7, 2014. Also here.


John Kerry has arrived in the area once again and in his pocket is a framework agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority which he expects Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas to sign off on, sooner rather than later. It presumably addresses the “core issues”: the borders of the Palestinian state-to-be, its capital, the Palestinian refugees, the territorial “swaps,” security arrangements, and Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. In other words, the whole lot – everything that has made an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority a mission impossible until now, but which according to the U.S. secretary of state will now turn it into mission possible.
But the bottom line, the be-all and end-all of the suggested agreement, is that once implemented there will be three Palestinian states without a single Jew in any of them: East Palestine (Jordan), West Palestine (Judea and Samaria), and South Palestine (the Gaza Strip). The exclusion of Jews from these territories is, of course, not one of the principles listed in the framework agreement, but it is the basis without which, as things stand at the moment, that agreement falls apart. Call it “two states for two people” until you’re blue in the face and pigs can fly. But it’s four states for two people – three without Jews and one whose population is 20-percent Arab.
A precondition for this arrangement, though not explicitly stated in the proposed framework agreement, is that all of the area, down to the last square kilometer, conquered by the Jordanian army in its invasion of Palestine in 1948, must be turned over to the West Palestinian state. If towns or settlements with a sizable Jewish population located beyond the 1949 armistice lines – i.e., the so-called settlement blocs – are to be included in the State of Israel, they must be “swapped” for unpopulated areas that are currently part of the state, which will be turned over as compensation to West Palestine. Thus, the latter will contain no Jews but will cover the exact number of square kilometers as did the area under Jordanian occupation until 1967. Why the Jordanian attempt to destroy the State of Israel in 1948 should become the basis for Palestinian territorial claims is an issue Kerry prefers not to address; he simply expects Israel to swallow it.
Kerry may not be aware of the fact that the territory of all three Palestinian states, together with that of today’s Israel, was intended to constitute the territory of the Jewish state, in accordance with the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, bestowed upon Britain after World War I. One of the provisions there was that Jewish settlement on the land was to be encouraged by the Mandatory power.
It was Winston Churchill, as Britain’s colonial secretary, who arbitrarily decided to turn over the area east of the Jordan to Abdullah, the son of Hussein, the sharif of Mecca, and to close it to Jewish immigration and settlement. This is now the Kingdom of Jordan, whose population is 70-percent Palestinian; today Jordanian law calls for the death penalty to be handed down to anyone selling land to a Jew. The Jewish settlements that were established in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip during the days of the British Mandate in Palestine were destroyed by the Egyptian and Jordanian armies during the May 15, 1948 invasion, and their inhabitants were killed or deported.
Kerry’s framework agreement in effect implies that Judea and Samaria – before becoming a third Palestinian state – be cleared of all Jews. This position is hardly consistent with the principles of democratic rule, and is not likely to be supported by most people in the democratic world. Whether Israel can subscribe to such a principle is a decision the Israeli government will have to take – unless Mahmoud Abbas surprises us all and declares that he would welcome Jews in the Palestinian state he wishes to establish.

Two Types of Negotiators: Warriors and Shopkeepers. By Guy Bechor.

Two Types of Negotiators: Warriors and Shopkeepers (or Jordan is part of the solution). By Guy Bechor. Ynet News, January 3, 2014.

The West Fails to Understand the Nature of the Muslim Brotherhood. By Zvi Mazel.

The Muslim Brotherhood: Wolf not even in sheep’s clothing. By Zvi Mazel. Jerusalem Post, January 4, 2013.

Jesus of Palestine? By Clifford D. May.

Jesus of Palestine? By Clifford D. May. National Review Online, January 2, 2013. Also at Israel Hayom.

Fallujah, al-Qaeda, and American Sacrifice. By Tom Rogan.

Fallujah, al-Qaeda, and American Sacrifice. By Tom Rogan. National Review Online, January 7, 2014.

Many Iraqis are alive today because of the Americans who died in Fallujah.