Bob Woodward’s New Book: Obama’s Wars – in Afghanistan and within the White House

September 30, 2010

Top investigative reporter Bob Woodward reveals Obama’s exit strategy in Afghanistan against U.S. military and the State Department.

Bob Woodward's Book Says Afghanistan Divided The White House

Bob Woodward’s Book Says Afghanistan Divided The White House

George Friedman, founder of the private intelligence corporation Stratfor, says President Barack Obama is “not going to order a complete withdrawal of all combat forces any time soon – the national (and international) political alignment won’t support such a step. At the same time, remaining in Afghanistan is unlikely to achieve any goal and leaves potential rivals like China and Russia freer rein.”

In the Washington Post, an adaptation of Bob Woodward‘s new book Obama’s Wars describes President Obama’s long-held view that Afghanistan was threatened by a “cancer” in Pakistan, which was a safe haven where al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban could recruit Westerners whose passports allowed them to move freely in Europe and North America.

Bob Woodward reveals the conflicts within the White House through exhaustive accounts of two dozen closed-door secret strategy sessions and nearly 40 private conversations between Obama and Cabinet aides and intelligence officials.

Tensions frequently turned personal. National security adviser James L. Jones confidentially mentioned Obama’s political aides as “the water bugs,” the “Politburo,” the “Mafia,” or the “campaign set.” General David Petraeus, who felt excluded by the new administration, told an aide that he considered the president’s senior adviser David Axelrod to be “a complete spin doctor.”

Read full story.


Französische Philosophin Élisabeth Badinter: “Der Ökofeminismus ist reaktionär”.

September 27, 2010

Der Feminismus sieht überall nur Opfer. Das Opfer ist der grosse Held unserer Gesellschaft geworden. Wer in der Politik oder sonst wo etwas erreichen will, muss heute als Opfer auftreten, erst dann wird er gehört und geachtet. Die Feministinnen haben diesen Stimmungswechsel schnell kapiert und präsentieren Frauen unter allen möglichen Gesichtspunkten permanent als Opfer – Opfer der Männer, der Arbeitswelt, der Politik – kurz: als hilflose Wesen, die immer öfter beim Gericht Zuflucht suchen wie Kinder bei Papa und Mama. Aus den Frauen werden Kind-Frauen gemacht. (Philosophin, Frauenrechtlerin und Hochschulprofessorin Élisabeth Badinter, dreifache Mutter, Aufsichtsratspräsidentin des Medienkonzerns Publicis Groupe, Interview Die Weltwoche, 13/04)

Élisabeth Badinter
Élisabeth Badinter

In einem Gespräch erschienen in der WELT AM SONNTAG kommentiert die stets brillante Élisabeth Badinter die Kinder- und Frauenfeindlichkeit der grünen Ideologie bzw. Öko-Bewegung. Nach dem Willen der Ökofeministen ist die Lösung ganz einfach: Familie, Kinder und Karriere verweigern…der Umwelt zuliebe. Für das Wohl der Frauen interessieren sich diese Feministen in keiner Weise, da sie selbst weder kinderlieb noch frauenfreundlich sind.

[Intermezzo: Françoise Hardy, eine echte Frau – kein hasserfülltes kinderloses hässliches Gestalt à la Alice Schwarzer]

“Diese ganze Ideologie der Ökoradikalen, die auch verlangen, dass man Windeln nicht wegwirft, sondern wäscht, lastet schwer auf den Frauen. Ich war schockiert, als unsere ehemalige Umweltministerin – selbst Mutter von zwei kleinen Kindern – eine Strafsteuer auf Wegwerfwindeln verlangte. Das bedeutet, dass die Anliegen der Frauen hinter jenen der Natur zurückzutreten haben. Zwischen der Verteidigung der Rechte der Natur und der Verteidigung der Rechte der Frauen entscheide ich mich aber für Letzteres.” […]

Dieser ‘Zurück zur Natur’-Feminismus hält sich für die Avantgarde. In Wirklichkeit ist er aber reaktionär. Da die Ökofeministen auf komplette Fusion mit ihren Kindern eingestellt sind und sie den ganzen Tag in diesen schrecklichen Umhängetüchern herumtragen, haben sie die Männer aus der Verantwortung entlassen; so konnten diese ihr altes, traditionalistisches Verhalten wieder aufnehmen.”

Vollständiges Gespräch lesen.


Celebrating the Jewish Holiday of Sukkot

September 24, 2010
The festival of Sukkot (September 22 till September 29, 2010), the nine-day festival also known as Chag’ha Succot, the “Feast of Booths” (or Tabernacles), is named for the huts (sukkah) that Moses and the Israelites lived in as they wandered the desert for 40 years before they reached the Promised Land.
Moses and Joshua in the Tabernacle, c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902), at the Jewish Museum, New York

Moses and Joshua in the Tabernacle, by Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902), at the Jewish Museum, New York

Adonai says: “Chazak ve’ematz — Be strong and resolute; do not be terrified or dismayed, for the Eternal, Adonai, is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). This custom developed over the course of Jewish history connected with Adonai’s first revelation to Joshua after the death of Moses.

Three times at the conclusion of a book of Torah, we tell one another to be strong: Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek — Be strong, be strong, and together we will be strengthened.


Searching for Stability in Sudan

September 24, 2010

World leaders meet today at the United Nations to discuss growing fears over the possible collapse of Sudan, which U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently called a “ticking time bomb.

Map of Northeast Africa highlighting the Darfur region of Sudan

Map of Northeast Africa highlighting the Darfur region of Sudan

U.S. legislators sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging his administration to “take additional steps” to define its policy on Sudan and to “publicly articulate” the consequences should the Sudanese government break his word on commitments to the 2005 peace accord.

There is large disagreement about the best policy course for the United States to pursue in Sudan, but analysts concur that any effective policy will have to consider Sudan’s internal politics and the center’s relationship with its periphery.

Read full story.


Principles for Economic Revival

September 22, 2010

Top White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers announced he will leave, allowing President Barack Obama to reshape his economic staff after midterm elections.

President Barack Obama makes his point to Lawrence Summers, left, head of the National Economic Council, and Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, seated next to Summers, during a budget meeting in the White House Roosevelt Room in the President's first week in office. Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff, is seated to the President's left (January 24, 2009)

President Barack Obama makes his point to Lawrence Summers, left, head of the National Economic Council, and Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, seated next to Summers, during a budget meeting in the White House Roosevelt Room in the President's first week in office. Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff, is seated to the President's left (Photo: Peter Souza; January 24, 2009).

The Federal Reserve said yesterday it was prepared to do more to help the U.S. economy but stopped short of announcing specific measures.

In the Wall Street Journal, George P. Shultz, Michael J. Boskin, John F. Cogan, Allan Meltzer, and John B. Taylor outline a set of policies to guide economic policymakers back to rapid growth, including lowering taxes, balancing the budget, modifying Social Security and healthcare entitlements, and a stronger monetary policy.

Read full story.


Stop The Iranian Threat!

September 21, 2010

 

Dear Friend of Israel,

U.S. Congress overwhelmingly passed the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act of 2010 on June 24, by a vote of (408-8-1) in the House and (99-0) in the Senate.

This historic legislation is the toughest Iran sanctions bill ever to emerge from Congress.

To complement this legislation, members of the House of Representatives have now introduced The Iran Transparency and Accountability Act (ITA) of 2010 (H.R. 5833).

This new legislation would require companies to declare publicly sanctionable investments in Iran in their quarterly and annual reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The legislation is the next step to ensuring that there is sustained accountability in the implementation of Iran sanctions and the recently passed (CISADA).

Please email your House member today and urge them to co-sponsor the Iran Transparency and Accountability Act (ITA).

Now is the moment to demonstrate leadership as a member of AIPAC, the only organization working to ensure critical American support for Israel in these uncertain times.

Thank You,

Jonathan E. Missner
Director of National Affairs and Development


U.S. Recession Longest Since World War II

September 21, 2010

The U.S. recession lasted eighteen months and was the longest since World War II, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, which announced yesterday that the recession ended in June 2009.

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Interview with ISAF Commander David Petraeus

September 20, 2010

Although violence in Afghanistan‘s parliamentary elections over the weekend could be a serious setback for U.S. efforts, some experts see an opportunity for change if the elections lead to serious conversations about corruption.

General David Howell Petraeus

General David Howell Petraeus

In the Hamburg weekly Der Spiegel, U.S. commander David Petraeus says despite polls that show 70 percent of the Afghan population has no confidence in their national parliament, other polls show “that Afghans are optimistic about their future.” There is “understandable concern about the pace of progress, which also means that there are high expectations.”

Read full story.


The Arab Lobby and US Foreign Policy

September 17, 2010

The Arab lobby is one of the strongest in America—even stronger than Israel’s, argues a new book written by Mitchell Bard – The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America’s Interests in the Middle East.

A book review by Alan M. Dershowitz

While the media and politicians engage in frenzied debate about the virtues and vices of building—or preventing the building of—a Muslim community center (cum mosque) near the “sacred ground” of 9/11, Iran continues to build a nuclear weapon, as the Israelis and Palestinians take a tentative step toward building a peaceful resolution to their age-old conflict.

Inevitably, whenever Middle East issues take center stage, the question of the role of lobbies, particularly those that advocate for foreign countries, becomes a hot topic. This book by longtime Middle East authority, Mitchell Bard, is a must read for anyone who cares—and who doesn’t?—about the role of lobbies in influencing American policy in the Middle East. Its thesis, which is sure to be controversial, is easily summarized:

Yes Virginia, there is a big bad lobby that distorts U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East way out of proportion to its actual support by the American public. Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, author of the screed, The Israel Lobby, are right about that. But the offending lobby is not AIPAC, which supports Israel, but rather the Arab lobby, which opposes the Jewish state.

Both the pro-Israel and pro-Arab lobby (really lobbies because there are several for each) are indeed powerful but there is a big difference—a difference that goes to the heart of the role of lobbying in a democracy. Bard puts it this way:

“One of the most important distinguishing characteristics of the Arab lobby is that it has no popular support. While the Israeli lobby has hundreds of thousands of grass root members and public opinion polls consistently reveal a huge gap between support for Israel and the Arab nations/Palestinians, the Arab lobby has almost no foot soldiers or public sympathy. It’s most powerful elements tend to be bureaucrats who represent only their personal views or what they believe are their institutional interests, and foreign governments that care only about their national interests, not those of the United States. What they lack in human capital in terms of American advocates, they make up for with almost unlimited resources to try to buy what they usually cannot win on the merits of their arguments.”

This is a critical distinction for a democracy. The case for Israel (though not for all of its policies) is an easy sell for pro-Israel lobbyists, especially elected representatives. Voting in favor of Israel is popular not only in areas with a large concentration of Jewish voters, but throughout the country, because Israel is popular with Evangelical Christians in particular and with much, though certainly not all, of the public in general. Lobbies that reflect the will of the people are an important part of the democratic process. Thus, the American Association of Retired People (AARP), the principal lobbying group for the elderly, is extremely powerful because there are so many elderly people in this country who want to protect social security, Medicaid, and other benefits. The National Rifle Association (NRA) is a powerful lobby precisely because so many Americans, for better or worse, love their guns. And The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is a powerful lobby because Americans, in general, support the Middle East’s only democracy and reliable American ally.

But why is the Arab lobby, and most particularly the Saudi lobby, also powerful? Saudi Arabia has virtually no support among Americans. Indeed, it is widely reviled for its export of terrorists such as Osama bin Laden, its manipulation of oil prices, its anti-Christian and anti-Semitic policies, its total deprivation of any semblance of freedom of speech or dissent, and its primitive forms of punishment that include stoning and amputation. Yet, as Bard demonstrates, the Saudi lobby has beaten the pro-Israel lobby over and over again in head-to-head conflicts, such as the sale of sophisticated weapons to a regime that doesn’t even have the technical skills to use them, and the conflict over whether to move the United States’ embassy to Jerusalem. Even now, Saudi Arabia is lobbying to obtain a multibillion-dollar arms deal, and it is likely to succeed over the objections of Israel.

How then does a lobby with no popular support manage to exert influence in a democratic country? The secret is very simple. The Arab lobby in general and the Saudis in particular make little effort to influence popularly elected public officials, particularly legislators. Again, listen to Bard:

“The Saudis have taken a different tact from the Israeli lobby, focusing a top-down rather than bottom-up approach to lobbying. As hired gun, J. Crawford Cook, wrote in laying out his proposed strategy for the kingdom, ‘Saudi Arabia has a need to influence the few that influence the many, rather than the need to influence the many to whom the few must respond.'”

The primary means by which the Saudis exercise this influence is money. They spend enormous amounts of lucre to buy (or rent) former state department officials, diplomats, White House aides, and legislative leaders who become their elite lobbying corps. Far more insidiously, the Saudis let it be known that if current government officials want to be hired following their retirement from government service, they had better hew to the Saudi line while they are serving in our government. The former Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar, who was so close to the President George H.W. Bush that he referred to himself as “Bandar Bush,” acknowledged the relationship between how a government official behaves while in office and how well he will be rewarded when he leaves office. “If the reputation then builds that the Saudis take care of friends when they leave office, you’d be surprised how much better friends you have when they are just coming into office.”

Bard concludes from this well known quid pro quo that: “given the potential of these post-retirement opportunities, it would not be surprising if officials adopted positions while in government to make themselves marketable to the Arab lobby.”

The methodology employed by the Arab lobby is thus totally inconsistent with democratic governance, because it does not reflect the will of the people but rather the corruption of the elite, while the Israeli lobby seems to operate within the parameters of democratic processes. Yet so much has been written about the allegedly corrosive nature of the Israeli lobby, while the powerful Arab lobby has widely escaped scrutiny and criticism. This important book thus contributes to the open marketplace of ideas by illuminating the dark side of the massive and largely undemocratic Arab lobbying efforts to influence American policy with regard to the Middle East.

© Alan M. Dershowitz

***

About the author: Professor Alan M. Dershowitz is a Brooklyn native who has been called “the nation’s most peripatetic civil liberties lawyer” and one of its “most distinguished defenders of individual rights.” He is Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Professor Dershowitz’s new novel, The Trials of Zion, will be published by Hachette Book Group on October 1, 2010


U.S. Senate Approves Arms Treaty With Russia

September 16, 2010
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar and Committee member Barack Obama at a base near Perm, Russia. This is where mobile launch missiles are being destroyed by the Nunn-Lugar program.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar and Committee member Barack Obama at a base near Perm, Russia. This is where mobile launch missiles are being destroyed by the Nunn-Lugar program.

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 14 to 4 to approve the Obama administration‘s START nuclear treaty with Russia, after Republicans‘ concerns about missile defense and modernization of the nuclear arsenal were addressed.

Read full story.


An Open Letter on the Ground Zero Mosque

September 11, 2010

The location undermines the goal of interfaith understanding. 

Aerial view of the World Trade Center site, September 23, 2001.

An op-ed by Daniel Samuel Senor
Author of Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle

August 3, 2010
The Wall Street Journal

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo are locked into their position on the plan to build a mosque and Muslim community center—the Cordoba House—at Ground Zero. They maintain there are no security risks posed by the project and that this is simply an issue of religious expression. The Lower Manhattan Community Board, after holding hearings, recommended against halting the project.

But there is an additional message that politicians and business leaders could convey to Cordoba House planner Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf that does not contradict their argument about freedom of religious expression and private property. It could be in the form of an open letter that I suspect the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers would support:

To Imam Feisal: We write with an unshakable commitment to religious freedom, and to your right to exercise it in meaningful and concrete ways. We have great appreciation for the progressive and inclusive interpretation of Islam to which you speak. We have read with care your own words about the purpose of the Cordoba House. We take those words as our starting point for the issues we raise in this letter, as we appeal to your senses of decency, empathy and prudence—and to those of all Muslims of goodwill.

Your stated goal of interfaith and cross-cultural understanding is a good one—one that we all share and have devoted considerable energy to furthering. It may well be that this goal would be furthered still by the building and operation of Cordoba House. However, while we will continue to stand with you and your right to proceed with this project, we see no reason why it must necessarily be located so close to the site of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Those attacks, as you well know, were committed in the name of Islam. We applaud and thank every Muslim throughout the world who has rejected and denounced this association. But the fact remains that in the minds of many who are swayed by the most radical interpretations of Islam, the Cordoba House will not be seen as a center for peace and reconciliation. It will rather be celebrated as a Muslim monument erected on the site of a great Muslim “military” victory—a milestone on the path to the further spread of Islam throughout the world.

Someone who rejects the link between Islam and the brand of radicalism and violence espoused by al Qaeda and like-minded groups should be wary of helping to further, even inadvertently, the rhetoric and propaganda of those groups. Indeed, we believe that such a person should take an active role in opposing any measure or message that might be seized upon by those whom he considers to be the blasphemers of his own faith.

Our deeper concern is what effect Cordoba House would have on the families of 9/11 victims, survivors of and first responders to the attacks, New Yorkers in general, and all Americans. As you have seen in the public reaction to the Cordoba House, 9/11 remains a deep wound for Americans—especially those who experienced it directly in some way. They understandably see the area as sacred ground. Nearly all of them also reject the equation of Islam with terrorism and do not blame the attacks on Muslims generally or on the Muslim faith. But many believe that Ground Zero should be reserved for memorials to the event itself and to its victims. They do not understand why of all possible locations in the city, Cordoba House must be sited so near to there.

Many New Yorkers and Americans will conclude that the radical interpretation of Cordoba House’s purpose is correct. That belief will harm what you have articulated to be Cordoba House’s core mission. Rather than furthering cross-cultural and interfaith understanding, a Cordoba House located near Ground Zero would undermine them. Rather that serving as a bridge between Muslim and non-Muslim peoples, it would function as a divide. Your expressed hopes for the center not only would never be realized, they would be contradicted from the start. Insisting on this particular site on Park Place can only reinforce this counterproductive dynamic.

Another site—not just away from Ground Zero but also closer to residential neighborhoods—would serve your institution and the city better. Worshipers would be closer and the communities that need help would also benefit from proximity. We stand ready to help you select and secure another site, to overcome regulatory hurdles, and to make up for any lost time.

The American people have shown themselves to be respectful of Muslim religious sensibilities—even in cases in which it was not clear to them why or how those sensibilities were being offended. We shall confine ourselves to one example among hundreds. The original name for the military operation against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan was “Operating Infinite Justice.” Several leading Muslim scholars and clerics objected that the term was offensive to Muslims because “infinite justice” can come only from Allah. The American government immediately changed the name to “Operation Enduring Freedom,” with the full support of the American people.

The name seemed to us to be immaterial to the mission—which is why we judged the change to be a worthy gesture to people whom we did not wish to offend but hoped to honor. Similarly, the exact street address of your cultural center cannot matter to the performance of its mission—but it very much does matter to the perceptions of your fellow Americans. We urge you to reconsider.

This article appears in full on HIRAM7 REVIEW by permission of its author. It was originally available here (Subscription required).