another Haaretz article about the settlers in the occupied territory.

The reason I support Haaretz is because their reporters actually go INTO the territories, actually interview both sides, actually try to see what is going on. Contrast this with the armchair analysis of most commentators who (based on filtered and PR-tinged reports from the mass media) predictably fail to see the causal factors.


An essay, Power and Weakness by Robert Kagan takes on why America and Europe have divergent views on foreign policy. The basic argument is one of historical evolution:

World War II all but destroyed European nations as global powers, and their postwar inability to project sufficient force overseas to maintain colonial empires in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East forced them to retreat on a massive scale after more than five centuries of imperial dominance - perhaps the most significant retrenchment of global influence in human history. For a half-century after World War II, however, this weakness was masked by the unique geopolitical circumstances of the Cold War. Dwarfed by the two superpowers on its flanks, a weakened Europe nevertheless served as the central strategic theater of the worldwide struggle between communism and democratic capitalism. Its sole but vital strategic mission was to defend its own territory against any Soviet offensive, at least until the Americans arrived. Although shorn of most traditional measures of great-power status, Europe remained the geopolitical pivot, and this, along with lingering habits of world leadership, allowed Europeans to retain international influence well beyond what their sheer military capabilities might have afforded.

There's a lot to think about here. I think that this underscores the argument that Britain should join NAFTA, not the EU, since IMHO the UK is closer to the American perspective than the rest of Europe. Stephen Den Beste makes a compelling argument that NATO is useless, which makes me view the recent announcement of Russia's inclusion as a "junior member" as less than celebratory.


John Malkovich wants to shoot Robert Fisk. Fisk has a few things to say about that. The warblog crowd think this is about self-pity, but it isn't. It's about a systematic suppression of dissent - not a conspiracy, but a trend. For another example - Bill Maher has finally paid the price.


An editorial in Ha'aretz analyzes how the IDF handles cases of collateral damage.

Morally speaking, we are quick to plead innocence and absolve ourselves of responsibility solely on the basis of intention: It's enough for us that the soldiers did not intend to murder a mother and her two children at Qabatiyah, or that no one intended to kill five children in Khan Yunis. However, the absence of malicious intent is not a sufficient criterion. The fact that the Palestinian terrorists kill civilians with such intent while our soldiers refrain from killing civilians maliciously does not exempt the latter from responsibility. The question that has to be asked is whether the soldiers did enough to ensure that women and children would not be killed. Was the killing of Zakarana and her children unavoidable? Was it not the result of criminal negligence, even if not by intention?

The principle of collateral damage as justified and morally distinct from terrorism targeting civilians is one that demands serious consideration. It's worth noting essays like this one. The main point that I see here is that motive does not excuse killing - killing demands an investigation under law. If someone is killed and this is brushed away nonchalantly as "collateral" and no effort is made at an investigation and punishment for negligence then morally it IS the same as terrorism. To hide behind the shield of collateral damage you MUST be willing to take responsibility. That is the principle to which our own military does adhere, in afghanistan and also when we mistakenly bombed the Canadian troops. The difference in morality of the IDF and the American military is striking.
Unilateral separation is NOT a solution to the middle east conflict.

most insightful section of this article:

Leaving 50,000 hard-core settlers on far-flung hilltops while Israel proper barricades itself is a security problem from hell. With a wall, "every settler who wants to do their shopping will have to be accompanied by a squad of soldiers," says Gal Luft, a former IDF lieutenant colonel who has held commands in Gaza and Ramallah. Instead of stopping Palestinian terrorism, a wall might just rechannel it against the settlements�putting Israel in the excruciating position of either pummeling the Palestinians to get them to stop attacking settlements Israel knows it can't keep or abandoning the settlements and reinforcing the lesson that terror can win territory.

Begin had an alternative plan for peace. It was based on some assumptions that were wrong, however. I am trying to collect these kinds of plans to demonstrate just how wide the range of potential plans there are. Hopefully I can collect enough and crystallize them into a coherent set of proposals.

Think Outside the Box, indeed.
The essay, American Culture Goes Global, or Does It? argues that the idea of American Cultural Imperialism is a myth:

the conception of a harmonious and distinctively American culture -- encircling the globe, implanting its values in foreign minds -- is a myth.

In fact, as a nation of immigrants from the 19th to the 21st centuries, and as a haven in the 1930s and '40s for refugee scholars and artists, the United States has been a recipient as much as an exporter of global culture. Indeed, the influence of immigrants and African-Americans on the United States explains why its culture has been so popular for so long in so many places. American culture has spread throughout the world because it has incorporated foreign styles and ideas. What Americans have done more brilliantly than their competitors overseas is repackage the cultural products we receive from abroad and then retransmit them to the rest of the planet. In effect, Americans have specialized in selling the dreams, fears, and folklore of other people back to them. That is why a global mass culture has come to be identified, however simplistically, with the United States.

This is an interesting essay, especially as it directly contradicts one of the axioms of terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, who attract recruits solely on basis of the threat of America to Islam/culture/values/whatever. In fact the "anti-globalization" crowd is also knee-jerk reacting to this concept of American Cultural Imperialism. The fact that some Americans aggressively promote the idea of a Cultural Conspiracy may even play into the hands of these types of groups.

I have many friends in Asia who undeniably are memserized by Americana - like Levi's jeans, certain types of music and television, etc. but I think that's missing the point. After all, Rumi and Khalil Gibran are the most popular poets in the United States, you can never get into Ethiopian restaurants, etc. etc. - it all goes BoTH ways (enough that some people are frantic about "true Americana" being washed away in a sea of foreign "influences").

There is a SINGLE American idea that is worth packaging and exporting, and it isn't blue jeans or rock and roll, it's the concept that a people are free to elect their leadership. This wasn't invented by Americans either, but it was definitly implemented here in the most visionary way the world hadd ever seen (and has seen since).

The goal is to promote democracy. And almost all of the threats we face (including the terrorism threats, the instability in the middle east, and the general sorry state of the world) is caused by our failure to recognize that single overriding principle. If you look at the history of Iran, of Iraq, of Central America (including recent events in Venezuela), if you consider the legacy of colonialism, a single pattern emerges:

We have consistently acted throughout the last 100 years to thwart the will of people worldwide in electing their own governments, and have supported dictators, funded tyrants, and plotted coups so that we could achieve our strategic aims. The rationale of our foreign policy has been to create "client states" which we can control. The entire Middle East, from Egypt to Iran, and the whole swatth of Central America, have been cruelly manipulated by America. Now we have our eye again on the Central Asian countries. Regional hegemony and client states are not good for democracy - after all, we don't seem to care too much about the farce that Musharraf is pulling in Pakistan right now, do we?

The cruelest aspect is the victimhood inflicted upon ourselves. Had we acted throughout history to support democracies, to seed the world with the very same ideals that make US great, the world would be a radically different place right now. And that would be of strategic benefit far outweighing whatever we reaped from the path we have been following.

Till now, there have been three types of Jewish terrorists:

The first is concerned with mounting attacks on individuals viewed directly or indirectly responsible for murdering Jews. Examples of such terror activity include the attacks and attempted attacks on West Bank mayors in 1980 and the murder in 1993 of a shackled Arab terrorist by Yoram Skolnick.

A second type of Jewish terrorist is one who is convinced that his/her action will hasten the advent of the Redemption (hageula). Members of the Jewish Underground, for example, who were arrested in 1984, hoped that their plan to blow up the Dome of the Rock Mosque would advance the process in which the State of Israel and the Zionist movement played only one stage.

The suspects arrested two weeks ago are thought to belong to the third type of Jewish terrorist, who seek to carry out indiscriminate attacks on Arabs for two possible reasons - to avenge attacks by Arabs on Jews, or to create a deterrence, in their view, that could prevent or minimize future attacks on Jews.

it's refreshing to see that the motivation of "deterrence" is not an excuse for terrorism. (Nor is "I want my homeland free of occupation", but unfortunately the immoral means often do obtain teh ends.)

On another level, this article is another example of the Den Beste Doctrine - that a threatened people become radicalized. It doesn't stop at the settlements though - it happens within "democratic" Israel as well.


Israel's Historic Miscalculation - compare this to the Hamas attitude linked below. But it's not surprising that a settler-PM like Sharon would be so ideologically committed to settlements. Even at the expense of the rest of Israel.
An article by Jonathan Rauch in the Atlantic dismisses the "Mommy Model" of US intervention in the middle east conflict, and makes the following observation:

Like everyone else, I wish the Mommy Model were right. It would be nice to think that the mayhem could be ended soon if only the "cycle of violence" were broken, and that the issue comes down to a land dispute, and that the United States could resolve the conflict without taking sides. Perhaps the Mommy Model may save the day after all. Every passing week, however, makes that seem less likely. American diplomacy, it is becoming clear, would be more sensibly built on a Rational-Warfare Model.

The Rational-Warfare Model takes as its premise that both sides in the Middle East conflict know exactly what they are doing and have good reasons to do it�reasons that will not go away even if the United States shakes its finger and demands better behavior. The reasons are simple. For the Palestinians, terrorism works. For the Israelis, nothing but fighting terrorism works. The war is rational because it is no longer about territory (if it ever was); it is about terror.

The reason we have a "cycle of violence" is because the US has failed utterly as a broker - let alone an honest one - in mediating the conflict. This point is made in an anguished way by Gideon Samit in Ha'aretz. It's silly to say America "pressures" Israel when in fact the bulk of our policy is focused on trivialities and illusions. The concept of the "cycle of violence" has masked the real issues, and become a goal unto itself. Trying to "stop the violence" by sending Jinni then Powell to make trivial demands, hold meaningless talks, and then come home in failure, is as futile as trying to cure pneumonia by taking Advil. Our current policy is symptom-centric.

While Rauch points out the flaw in the approach that the Bush Administration is taking towards diplomacy in the mideast, he doesn't identify the solution. How then should American diplomacy be modified for the Rational-Warfare model? By recognizing the following principles:

[1] If you want peace, work for justice

[2] The ends do not justify the means

Rauch says that the reason that Palestinian extremists (though he doesn't actually bother to make that distinction) choose terrorism is because they have a "good reason to" - which is, that it "works". Actually, he is conflating two qustions here, A. Why are the Palestinians in conflict at all with the Israeilis? then, having accepted that they are in conflict, B. Why have some chosen terrorism? The answer to question Ais because of principle [1] - the occupation is inherently unjust, and not in a theoretical way, but rather a brutal, daily, humiliating, cruel way. The inverse of [1] is that without justice, there can be no peace, because of the very nature of the human condition - to resist, to strive, for freedom and self-expression. That's what makes America so wonderful, and yet is hardly a new idea or a solely-American one. An oppressed people are also radicalized - that's an axiom which I call the Den Beste doctrine. So the answer to question A. is clear.

The answer to question B is because of the muddying by all parties of principle [2]. It's long been an axiom of US foreign policy that the Ends do justify the means. It's why we meddle with other governments, why we play the role of Imperial power, why we look the other way while some countries develop bio- and nuclear- weapons of mass destruction and attack others. It's also how we justify "collateral damage" to civilian areas even though alternatives exist.

So, we don't uphold principle [2]. Fair enough. Are we surprised that our adversaries (of the hour, as it may be. We used to fund Saddam and train Osama) won't uphold it either? As Rauch notes,

Tactically, too, terror has been a grand success. It has brought the brickbats of Europe and the United Nations down upon the head of Israel. It has given the Arab countries an excuse to oppose American action against Iraq. And it has forced the Americans onto the defensive. Just look. The Bush administration had not wanted to deal with Yasir Arafat, whom it regards as a liar and harborer of terrorism; but now it is dealing with him. The administration had insisted, with the Israelis, that a cease-fire must precede political talks; but now it has accepted the Palestinian view that the two must happen together. The administration had waved aside Palestinians' calls for American monitors to enforce a truce (and restrain the Israelis); now it says monitors could be OK.

And it's our Mommy attitude that has revealed the lie to our claims to be an honest brooker (or any sort of broker at all). Having set the stage for moral equivalence, we now find that we are awash in it:

To a degree that would have seemed impossible a couple of years ago, the Palestinian militants have succeeded in establishing the equivalence of terrorism with military action intended to stop terrorism. Civilized people all around the world are coming to accept that "the moral high ground doesn't exist" in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, as James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute, recently told McGrory. Even Powell has adopted the nonjudgmental language of a teacher in the school yard. "Violence of whatever form, whether one would call it an act of terrorism or an act of resistance, at this point is counterproductive," he said. Polls show that most Americans regard Arafat as a "terrorist," but at this rate, even they may come around.

How can you apply these principles in a pragmatic way? That's a much harder question to answer. But I think there are alternatives to our current approach out there and I have been researching them. I'll have to continue this later, though...


Hamas would accept Saudi peace plan !!

Of course I don't trust Hamas. And these are statements by a "moderate". But note the emphasis on "being practical".

Still, instead of wasting time sending POwell or Jinni or another doomed-to-fail lightning rod, why not actually take the initiative?

This is a huge development. It's just as significant as teh Arab league endorsing the Saudi plan. The warbloggers will dismiss it too, but I hope Bush is thinking hard about what other options there are - basically, none.