Archive for the ‘Foreign leaders’ category

The Real Middle East Story

September 25, 2016

The Real Middle East Story, The Amerian InterestWalter Russell Mead, September 23, 2016

The reason that Bibi has been more successful than Obama is that Bibi understands how the world works better than Obama does. Bibi believes that in the harsh world of international politics, power wisely used matters more than good intentions eloquently phrased.

Bibi’s successes will not and cannot make Israel’s problems and challenges go away. And finding a workable solution to the Palestinian question remains something that Israel cannot ignore on both practical and moral grounds. But Israel is in a stronger global position today than it was when Bibi took office; nobody can say that with a straight face about the nation that President Obama leads. When and if American liberals understand the causes both of Bibi’s successes and of Obama’s setbacks, then perhaps a new and smarter era of American foreign policy debate can begin.

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Peter Baker notices something important in his dispatch this morning: at this year’s UNGA, the Israel/Palestine issue is no longer the center of attention. From The New York Times:

They took the stage, one after the other, two aging actors in a long-running drama that has begun to lose its audience. As the Israeli and Palestinian leaders recited their lines in the grand hall of the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, many in the orchestra seats recognized the script.

“Heinous crimes,” charged Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president. “Historic catastrophe.”

“Fanaticism,” countered Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister. “Inhumanity.”

Mr. Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu have been at this for so long that between them they have addressed the world body 19 times, every year cajoling, lecturing, warning and guilt-tripping the international community into seeing their side of the bloody struggle between their two peoples. Their speeches are filled with grievance and bristling with resentment, as they summon the ghosts of history from hundreds and even thousands of years ago to make their case.

While each year finds some new twist, often nuanced, sometimes incendiary, the argument has been running long enough that the world has begun to move on. Where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once dominated the annual meeting of the United Nations, this year it has become a side show as Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas compete for attention against seemingly more urgent crises like the civil war in Syria and the threat from the Islamic State.

Baker (and presumably many of his readers) don’t go on to the next, obvious question: What does this tell us about the relative success or failure of the leaders involved? The piece presents both Netanyahu and Abbas as irrelevant. They used to command the world stage, but now nobody is interested in their interminable quarrel.

What the piece doesn’t say is that this situation is exactly what Israel wants, and is a terrible defeat for the Palestinians. Abbas is the one whose strategy depends on keeping the Palestinian issue front and center in world politics; Bibi wants the issue to fade quietly away. What we saw at the UN this week is that however much Abbas and the Palestinians’ many sympathizers might protest, events are moving in Bibi’s direction.

There is perhaps only one thing harder for the American mind to process than the fact that President Obama has been a terrible foreign policy president, and that is that Bibi Netanyahu is an extraordinarily successful Israeli Prime Minister. In Asia, in Africa, in Latin America, Israel’s diplomacy is moving from strength to strength. Virtually every Arab and Middle Eastern leader thinks that Bibi is smarter and stronger than President Obama, and as American prestige across the Middle East has waned under Obama, Israel’s prestige — even among people who hate it — has grown. Bibi’s reset with Russia, unlike Obama’s, actually worked. His pivot to Asia has been more successful than Obama’s. He has had far more success building bridges to Sunni Muslims than President Obama, and both Russia and Iran take Bibi and his red lines much more seriously than they take Obama’s expostulations and pious hopes.

The reason that Bibi has been more successful than Obama is that Bibi understands how the world works better than Obama does. Bibi believes that in the harsh world of international politics, power wisely used matters more than good intentions eloquently phrased. Obama sought to build bridges to Sunni Muslims by making eloquent speeches in Cairo and Istanbul while ignoring the power political realities that Sunni states cared most about — like the rise of Iran and the Sunni cause in Syria. Bibi read the Sunnis more clearly than Obama did; the value of Israeli power to a Sunni world worried about Iran has led to something close to a revolution in Israel’s regional position. Again, Obama thought that reaching out to the Muslim Brotherhood (including its Palestinian affiliate, Hamas) would help American diplomacy and Middle Eastern democracy. Bibi understood that Sunni states like Egypt and its Saudi allies wanted Hamas crushed. Thus, as Obama tried to end the Gaza war on terms acceptable to Hamas and its allies, Bibi enjoyed the backing of both Egypt and Saudi Arabia in a successful effort to block Obama’s efforts. Israel’s neighbors may not like Bibi, but they believe they can count on him. They may think Obama has some beautiful ideas that he cares deeply about, but they think he’s erratic, unreliable, and doesn’t understand either them or their concerns.

Obama is an aspiring realist who wanted to work with undemocratic leaders on practical agreements. But Obama, despite the immense power of the country he leads, has been unable to gain the necessary respect from leaders like Putin and Xi that would permit the pragmatic relationships he wanted to build. Bibi is a practicing realist who has succeeded where Obama failed. Bibi has a practical relationship with Putin; they work together where their interests permit and where their interests clash, Putin respects Bibi’s red lines. Obama’s pivot to Asia brought the US closer to India and Japan, but has opened a deep and dangerous divide with China. Under Bibi’s leadership, Israel has stronger, deeper relationships with India, China and Japan than at any time in the past, and Asia may well replace Europe as Israel’s primary trade and investment partners as these relationships develop.

The marginalization of Abbas at the UN doesn’t just reflect the world’s preoccupation with bigger crises in the neighborhood. It reflects a global perception that a) the Sunni Arab states overall are less powerful than they used to be and that b) partly as a result of their deteriorating situation, the Sunni Arab states care less about the Palestinian issue than they used to. This is why African countries that used to shun Israel as a result of Arab pressure are now happy to engage with Israel on a variety of economic and defense issues. India used to avoid Israel in part out of fear that its own Kashmir problem would be ‘Palestinianized’ into a major problem with its Arab neighbors and the third world. Even Japan and China were cautious about embracing Israel too publicly given the power of the Arab world and its importance both in the world of energy markets and in the nonaligned movement. No longer.

Inevitably, all these developments undercut the salience of the Palestinian issue for world politics and even for Arab politics and they strengthen Israel’s position in the region and beyond. Obama has never really grasped this; Netanyahu has based his strategy on it. Ironically, much of the decline in Arab power is due to developments in the United States. Fracking has changed OPEC’s dynamics, and Obama’s tilt toward Iran has accelerated the crisis of Sunni Arab power. Netanyahu understands the impact of Obama’s country and Obama’s policy on the Middle East better than Obama does. Bibi, like a number of other leaders around the world, has been able to make significant international gains by exploiting the gaps in President Obama’s understanding of the world and in analyzing ways to profit from the unintended consequences and side effects of Obama policies that didn’t work out as Obama hoped.

Bibi’s successes will not and cannot make Israel’s problems and challenges go away. And finding a workable solution to the Palestinian question remains something that Israel cannot ignore on both practical and moral grounds. But Israel is in a stronger global position today than it was when Bibi took office; nobody can say that with a straight face about the nation that President Obama leads. When and if American liberals understand the causes both of Bibi’s successes and of Obama’s setbacks, then perhaps a new and smarter era of American foreign policy debate can begin.

A policy of hypocrisy

April 25, 2016

A policy of hypocrisy, Israel Hayom, Dr. Haim Shine, April 25, 2016

Judging by his approach to complex national and international issues, U.S. President Barack Obama is very frustrated. The frustration is natural for someone who made big promises, almost messianic ones, and is now leaving behind nothing more than a trail of shattered dreams. During his eight years in office, the United States has gone from being a leading superpower, a pillar of Western civilization, to a state that is hesitant, indecisive and alarmingly slow to respond. Its domestic economy is faltering, sowing uncertainty and insecurity among the large middle class.

Needless to say, the success enjoyed by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is an expression of a great number of Americans who grew up hearing about how their flag was raised on Japan’s Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima toward the end of World War II, and who are now watching with heartache as their beloved flag is being lowered to half-mast before being taken down altogether.

In an effort to gather up the pieces of his crumbling legacy, Obama set out on his final trip to the Middle East and Europe. America’s long-time allies feel betrayed. Their resentment is clear. Relationships between countries are not disposable. The Obama administration’s deference to Iran has had major implications on its ties with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. A divided Egypt is still paying the price for Obama’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

The state of Israel, which has led the struggle against a nuclear Iran for a long time, has by now come to terms with the fact that the United States was duped by the fake smiles of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his friends in Tehran. Singing Passover songs in Hebrew won’t change the fact that Obama has not changed, after having sided entirely with the mendacious Palestinian narrative of victimhood.

Leaders in the Middle East cannot decide whether Obama is a naive president or one who is willing to sacrifice his fundamental values and his credibility just so he can leave behind what he sees as a positive sentence in the books of history — a sentence that will be erased with record speed.

Europe is also discouraged by the United States. Obama’s indecisiveness regarding the madness in Syria has allowed Russia to take significant steps in the Middle East and Europe. The failed efforts to confront the Syrian problem have contributed to the tsunami of migrants flooding Europe and all the resulting consequences for European society and its security. Add to this, of course, the financial crisis currently threatening to destroy the European Union, the seeds of which were sown in 1992 with the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992.

It is against this backdrop that the British are expected to decide via referendum whether or not to remain a part of the European Union. During his recent visit to England, Obama spoke out strongly against Britain’s potential separation from the EU. This was a crude and disproportionate effort to meddle in another state’s affairs — an expression of his desire to evade blame for the collapse of the European Union. In his mind, British citizens are expected to forgo their opinions and best interests in favor of his legacy.

It is therefore unclear why Obama unleashed his fury at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when the latter made tireless efforts to convince Congress and the American public not be deceived by the dangerous nuclear deal. How much hypocrisy does it take to allow yourself to do things that you reprimand others for doing? Immanuel Kant saw this kind of behavior as a basic moral failure. Luckily for Britain’s citizens, Obama cannot veto their decision.

Europe Still Sleeps, and Europeans Still Die

March 30, 2016

Europe Still Sleeps, and Europeans Still Die, Front Page MagazineBruce Thornton, March 30, 2016

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While England Slept is the title of Winston Churchill’s 1938 book documenting the failure of England to counter Germany’s rearmament. Despite the gruesome price paid for ignoring Churchill’s warnings, postwar Europe has slumbered for decades while its cultural dysfunctions have nurtured the jihadist violence erupting across Europe. Last week’s attacks in Brussels, coming four months after the Paris attacks that killed 130, suggests there are more attacks to come. According to AP, 400-600 ISIS-trained terrorists are making their way to Europe.

Europe can’t say it wasn’t warned. In 2002 Oriana Fallaci published The Rage and the Pride, a passionate defense of Western civilization and an indictment of those who appease Islamic illiberalism.  Ten years ago Bruce Bawer’s While Europe Slept gave first-hand reports of Europe’s feckless immigration policies that fostered and appeased Muslim radicalism and violence. A year later Claire Berlinski’s Menace in Europe and Melanie Phillips’ Londonistan sounded the same alarms. And there are the dystopian novels of Michel Houellebecq like Platform and last year’s Submission, which link Europe’s cultural and spiritual exhaustion to the rise of homegrown jihadism and Islamization.

An even more important prophet is Bat Ye’or, whose Eurabia (2005) documented “Europe’s evolution from a Judeo-Christian civilization, with important post-Enlightenment secular elements, into a post-Judeo-Christian civilization that is subservient to the ideology of jihad and the Islamic powers that propagate it.” The result is the dhimmi mentality of Europe’s elites, which manifests in word and deed Western inferiority to Islam, and guilt over alleged crimes against the Muslim world.

But a secularized Europe committed to multicultural fantasies and la dolce vita as the highest goods has dismissed these prophets as bigots and “Islamophobes” who distort the “religion of peace.” Yet after the collapse of the Ottoman caliphate in 1923––the “catastrophe” Osama bin Laden mentioned after 9/11–– the theorists of modern jihadism were forthright and plain in expressing the intolerant and triumphalist Islamic beliefs and jihadist imperative consistent with Ye’or’s analysis. Islam’s nature, Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna wrote, is “to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its laws on all nations, and extend its power to the entire planet.” Fellow Muslim Brother Sayyid Qutb concurred: “Islam has a right to remove all those obstacles which are in its path.” The Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the Iranian Revolution, agreed: “The great prophet of Islam carried in one hand the Koran and in the other a sword; the sword is for crushing the traitor and the Koran for guidance . . . Islam is a religion of blood for infidels but a religion of guidance for other people.”

Nor are these sentiments alien to traditional Islamic beliefs as codified in the Koran, Hadith, Muslim histories, and the biographies of Mohammed. As such, the jihadist imperative, despite anticolonial and nationalist rhetoric, was the foundational motivation for the military attacks on Israel in 1948, 1967, and 1973, and today it still drives the terror campaigns against Israel waged by Hamas, Hezbollah, and the PLO. Jihad in the name of Allah sparked the Iranian Revolution of 1979, and the subsequent launching of the Iranian terrorist mother ship from which numerous jihadist organizations have continued to receive training and financial support. The Taliban who gave sanctuary to al Qaeda in Afghanistan are close students of jihad and shari’a law, executing transgressors in a soccer stadium paid for by the EU.

Nor has the West been spared. Jihad lay at the heart of al Qaeda’s serial attacks on the U.S. and its military in 1993 (first World Trade Center bombing), 1996 (Khobar Towers), 1998 (East African embassies), 2000 (U.S.S. Cole), and the spectacular carnage of September 11, 2001, as well as inspiring the terrorist murders in Madrid (2004), London (2005), Fort Hood (2013), Boston (2013), San Bernardino (2015), Paris (January and November, 2015), and now Brussels. And don’t forget the torture, rape, and murders perpetrated by ISIS, the latest and most successful example of modern jihadism inspired by traditional Islamic doctrine.

We know the terrorists’ Islamic bona fides because they continually tell us why they want to kill us, in speeches, internet videos, and writings filled with Koranic verses and precedents from the life of Mohammed. Yet despite this evidence, elites in Europe and the U.S. refuse to confront the religious origins of jihadism, settling for the stale environmental and psychological causes dear to the materialist mentality. Thus they continue to chant the “nothing to do with Islam” mantra, as our president did in response to the Brussels attack. “ISIL is not ‘Islamic,’” the president asserted. “No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim.” The first two clauses are patently false to Koranic commands and Islamic history, and the third is a non sequitur.

But the most powerful refutation of this common delusion is the scarcity of public protests by observant Muslims against the “extremists” who allegedly have “hijacked” their faith. After each jihadist atrocity there is typically more celebratory ululation and cries of “Allahu Akbar” in the Muslim world than marches against terrorism by heretical “extremists.” There are no “million Muslim marches,” no “not in our name movements,” no large scale Muslim attendance at memorial services for the victims. Yet perceived insults to Islam or Mohammed will produce violent mobs and lethal rampages.

Nor should this surprise us, when poll after poll registers significant pluralities and majorities of Muslims who approve of violence against infidels, and support the implementation of illiberal shari’a law. The latest evidence for such support from “moderate Muslims” comes from Brussels, where the planner of the Paris and Brussels attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was hiding in plain sight in the Muslim-dominant district of Molenbeek. Yet it still took four months for Belgian police to find him, and when they moved in for the arrest, they were met with rocks and bottles from residents who knew he was there and never tipped off the authorities.

Yet this is just one of many such enclaves in Europe. Ca n’Anglada in Barcelona, Marxloh and Neukölln in Germany, Seine-Saint-Denis and Clichy-sous-Bois in France, Malmo in Sweden, and many other towns and neighborhoods across Europe house disaffected and unassimilated Muslim immigrants whose faith predisposes them to contempt for the infidel and his secular laws, and justifies violence against the enemies of Islam. And despite the segregation, unemployment, crime, costly welfare transfers, and jihad-preaching mosques in these neighborhoods, Europe has accepted hundreds of thousands more Muslim immigrants in 2015 alone. Undoubtedly among them are untold numbers of ISIS-trained terrorists, many of them from the 5000 European Muslims who have gone to fight for ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

That is the reality everyone knows who wants to know. But too many in the West do not want to know, just as those enamored of Soviet communism did not want to know about the gulags and show-trials and engineered famines that killed at least 20 million. Like yesterday’s communist sympathizers, today the sleepwalkers of Europe are trapped in their ideological fever-dreams––fashionable self-loathing, guilt for colonialism and imperialism, sentimental one-worldism, and noble-savage multicultural fantasies. Worst of all, they are crippled by a refusal to appreciate and defend their political and cultural inheritance––prosperity, human rights, freedom, consensual government, and tolerance––created by their ancestors.

The character of Michel in Houellebecq’s Platform (2001) articulates the failure of civilizational nerve that has paved the way for metastasizing jihadist violence. Europe’s forbears, the jaded hedonist Michel muses, “believed in the superiority of their civilization,” and “invented dreams, progress, utopia, the future.” But their “civilizing mission,” their “innocent sense of their natural right to dominate the world and direct the path of history had disappeared.” All that is left is the dwindling cultural capital being squandered by their descendants, who have lost “those qualities of intelligence and determination,” and who exist only for the present and its material pleasures. Like like Michel, they are “decadent” and “given over entirely to selfishness.”

But at least Michel, unlike the sleepwalking European elite, recognizes that this is cultural suicide: “I was aware, however, that such a situation was barely tenable, that people like me were incapable of ensuring the survival of a society. Perhaps, more simply, we were unworthy of life.”

The terrorists of Paris and Brussels agree.

Donald Trump’s message to Lower Slobbovia

March 8, 2016

Donald Trump’s message to Lower Slobbovia, Washington Times, 

(Hey! Wait a minute! Trump might change things. We can’t have that! — DM)

GOP_2016_Trump.JPEG-0c383_c0-434-5184-3456_s885x516Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally Monday, March 7, 2016, in Madison, Miss. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Ringling Brothers, ever on the hunt for the latest wild man from Borneo with two heads and three feet, should move the greatest show on earth into the Big Top and charge admission. Everybody wants to watch, even if the faint of heart complain that the sight of it all makes them leave the tent with wet pants.

Reuters, the British news service, reports that foreign diplomats are alarmed by the Donald’s “inflammatory and insulting public statements.” The folks in Foggy Bottom, who are trained to view with alarm and never have to learn to point with pride, are stumped for what to tell them. “As the Trump rhetoric has continued,” one of the officials tells Reuters, “and in some cases ‘amped’ up, so too have concerns by certain leaders around the world.” Three officials who were willing to talk about the shortage of fainting couches in the frightened precincts of the world, declined to say exactly where these precincts are, but conceded that some of them were in India, South Korea, Japan and Mexico.

But leaders in Britain, France and Canada have indeed gone public with their not-so-private fears. The economics minister of Germany, who you might think would be devoting full attention to the swarms of migrants from the Islamic world threatening to make Muslims of Germans, says the Donald threatens peace and prosperity.

A spokesman for the Mexican embassy wouldn’t confirm that any Mexican diplomat had complained to anyone in Washington about Trump fatigue, but observed that its top diplomat, Claudia Ruiz Massieu, had called Mr. Trump “ignorant” and, of course, “racist,” and his plan to build a wall to keep Mexicans at home was “absurd.” The fear of such a wall is that it might actually work, as such a wall has worked in Israel, and hamper the dumping of an excess of Mexicans.

Foreign governments in the past have always kept their criticisms of American elections muted. There’s something of an agreement among the gentlemen (and ladies) in striped pants. If the prime minister of Lower Slobbovia, for example, won’t say anything in public about a scary candidate in America, maybe an American president won’t say anything about the mayhem and abuse in Lower Slobbovian elections.

Foreign criticism is thus mostly hyperventilation; diplomats must have someone to complain to, and to report that he said something in what used to be called “cables” to the Home Office. Now everything is sent via email, secure or, in the case of a famous former American secretary of State, not so secure. However, diplomats from countries where everyone must mind his tongue lest it be removed with a rusty knife, never quite learn how America works, and think the U.S. government can control what a candidate, like everyone else, is allowed to say.

Donald Trump scares these foreign diplomats because they think he might mean what he says about forcing the rest of the world to do their share of the heavy lifting required to keep the free world more or less free. In fits of candor, some diplomats concede concerns that the United States might become “more insular” under President Trump, who has threatened to repeal or revise trade agreements and push allies to take a larger role in facing up to the radical Islamic threat in the Middle East.

“European diplomats are constantly asking about Trump’s rise with disbelief and now with growing panic,” a senior NATO official tells Reuters. “With the European Union facing a [serious] crisis, there’s more than the usual anxiety about the United States turning inward when Europe needs American support more than ever.”

Gen. Philip Breedlover, the senior U.S. commander in Europe, says he’s getting more questions than usual about how American elections work. “And I think they see a very different sort of public discussion than they have in the past.”

Indeed they do, and if these foreign diplomats in Washington had been paying closer attention to what’s going on in the United States, particularly in the flyover country that is as foreign to American elites as it is to the rest of the world, they would have seen the phenomenon of 2016 coming. Donald Trump did not come out of nowhere, like a summer squall that ruins the picnic.

The great Republican unwashed feel betrayed. So do many Democrats, as Bernie Sanders could tell you. The wheel that goes around comes around, and it may be about to crush anyone who doesn’t get out of the way. That’s the message to be sent to Lower Slobbovia.