Friday, April 12, 2002

THE CASE FOR PESIMISSM: "Spoons" predicts that Arafat will slip the noose again:
When it comes to saving his own skin, though, Arafat is as canny an actor as the world has ever seen. This is a guy who should have been killed dozens of times over by now. From his involvement in the massacre of the Israeli Olympic team in 1972, to his personally ordering the murder of a U.S. ambassador and his aide in the Sudan, to the launching of the current intifada, it's astonishing that neither Israel nor the U.S. killed Arafat years ago. He has survived so long, however, for the simple reason that Arafat understands us better than we understand him. He knows exactly how far he can push us, and how far he cannot. He has become a master of bringing us right to the brink, and them backing off.
...Powell is going to walk out of Arafat's compound with what will be described as major concessions. Arafat will agree to a unilateral cease fire. He will agree to crack down on terrorism. He will agree to condemn suicide bombers to his people, in Arabic (he will not say, however, that such people are murderers and not martyrs, and Powell won't press the issue). He will also "agree" to enter into immediate talks on a political resolution to the conflict. We will hear the words "Tenet", and particularly "Mitchell", several times during the announcement.
Arafat will have effectively slipped the noose, and once again, the ball will be in Israel's court.

"Spoons" is too pessimistic, in my view. Even if Arafat does all of that, the next terrorist attack will reverse the momentum. And even the biggest proponents of the recent invasion of the West Bank have no illusion that the next bombing will be long in coming. So even if Arafat slips the noose this time, it will be re-fitted before long.

NOT A BLAST FROM THE PAST: Another great recent piece by Fouad Ajami on how Arafat is in his element. He points out some essential truths that the State Department would prefer to ignore:

The logic behind Arafat's ruthless method is easily seen. In the cold calculus, the balance of casualties now runs 3 to 1–in 18 months, 1,200 Palestinians have been killed for 370 Israelis. In the first intifada, which erupted in 1987 when Arafat was still away from the land, the ratio had been 25 to 1. The lieutenant who sat in for him at the Beirut summit, Farouk Qaddumi, cut to the heart of the matter. This second intifada is working, he said, because Israel "lost stability and security; psychological problems spread, and unemployment and emigration rose." Arafat aims at Israel's soul–to wear it down, to rob it of the sense of normalcy that has been its impossible dream since the beginning of its statehood.
As a gambler and adventurer averse to the normal work of nations, Arafat made peace with Israel only to break it. He had broken with the Arab world only to return to the Arab councils of power and to take up an old, failed history. He was unloved and distrusted by other Arabs. There was loathing of him in Beirut, a city he had set on fire for more than a decade, and contempt for him in Kuwait for his betrayal of the Kuwaitis in 1990's hour of need. But Arafat hoped that there would be uses for him and a new lease on life. This second intifada is his "gift" to the other Arabs: a macabre celebration of the "martyrs," a diversion from the verdict on the Arab condition rendered by the "boys of September 11" who gave the world a cruel illustration of the furies on the loose in Arab lands.
It was true to Arafat's way and to his history that he would try to hold America's campaign against terror hostage to his war against Israel. America is unloved in Arab lands, this argument runs, and its campaign can proceed only if Palestinian claims are satisfied. But this argument is supreme illusion. America indeed is unloved. In truth, the hatred for it is bottomless. Even if we cast Israel adrift, Arab opinion will cut us no slack.

A DOUBLE-HEADER: Two great piesces from Yossi Klein Halevi. The first one is in today's LA Times:

We Israelis watch the growing outrage against us and wonder whether the world has gone mad. How is it possible, we ask each other, that after suffering an unprecedented terrorist campaign, we're portrayed as bullies for finally trying to uproot the threat? Why does so much of the world seem to get indignant not when Israelis are being massacred and turned into a nation of terrorized shut-ins but when we hit back?
Tragically, the anti-terrorist offensive has caused great suffering and dislocation among innocent Palestinians. Any war that is televised produces horrific images. But the crucial moral difference between the Israeli government and Yasser Arafat's regime is that Israel doesn't deliberately target civilians. In fact, rather than use Israel's mighty air power to attack terrorist enclaves, the army has sent infantry into the narrow alleyways of West Bank towns.
There is no fully surgical way to fight the war of survival that has been forced on Israel. Indeed, no national movement has ever fought a dirtier and less justified war than the Palestinians, who could have ended the occupation had they accepted President Clinton's plan and who have since violated every civilized norm--from hiding gunmen behind priests in a holy place to smuggling suicide bombers in ambulances.
...U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has sarcastically asked whether the whole world can be wrong and only Israel right. The same question could have been asked in 1981, when Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak. Then, too, the "whole world" condemned Israel as an outlaw. But who today isn't quietly grateful to Israel for having prevented Saddam Hussein from acquiring the bomb?
The Israeli army is performing a similar service for humanity today by establishing the principle that terrorism won't be indulged. Perhaps one day that too will be acknowledged.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, the diplomatic siege against the Jewish state is being accompanied in Europe by the worst outbreak of violent anti-Semitism since the Holocaust, with Jews being beaten in Berlin and synagogues burned in France.
...Most Israelis have given up on the Europeans, who are seen here as incurable appeasers. But don't we have the right to expect more of Americans, especially at this fateful time?

The second piece is in The Jewish Week. He describes the ways Israelis try to cope with the omnipresent threat of terror, with the following conclusions:
Yasir Arafat has inadvertently helped us cope by restoring to us a belief in the basic justness of our cause. Probably not since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Arab armies attacked Israel on its holiest day, have Israelis been less morally conflicted. Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, followed by the first intifada of the late 1980s, demoralized and divided us. Now, though, most Israelis believe that we’re fighting for our lives.
“I’ve never felt more certain about why we have to fight,” said a friend of mine, a former paratrooper whose son was drafted recently into one of the army’s elite commando units. “That’s what allows me to sleep at night — when I can.”
Daily life persists; inertia sometimes can feel like victory. It is a relief to recall that not every ambulance siren announces a terrorist attack: Even during war, people are born, get sick and die of natural causes. Last week, I attended a memorial for a colleague, a survivor of the 20th century’s wars who’d managed to remain alive until the age of 82. Near the entrance to the cemetery were posted funeral notices for one of the young victims from Cafe Moment. My colleague’s widow greeted us with a smile. “At a time like this,” she said, “we have to put things in perspective. Michael lived a full life; there are other tragedies to mourn.”
The comfort of an ordinary death.

AGAIN: There has been a suicide bombing in the Mahane Yehuda outdoor market in Jerusalem. It is unclear if there have been any other fatalities.
THERE IS NO SOLUTION TO THIS MADNESS: I don't have the energy to give this ridiculous Times editorial the same attention I gave to April 9th's iteration, but the editors haven't learned any lesson.
Israel's long-term interest lies in nurturing Palestinian development, not demolishing it. While Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's determination to strike back at terrorists is understandable, Israel's destruction of Palestinian homes, businesses and public utilities is not. Knocking down houses, destroying electricity pylons and interfering with health care, as Israeli forces have done across the West Bank, cannot be justified by any compelling military need. about the fact that terrorists are enmeshed within the civilian population, using civilians as human shields and houses as bases? Getting to the terrorists seems like a compelling military need to me, though the Times apparently disagrees.
And while the Times is right that it is in Israel's ultimate long-term interest to have a functioning Palestinian economy, Keynes' aphorism was never more apt. In the long run, Israel will certainly be dead unless it can stop the terrorists now. If the Palestinian economy is a short-term casualty, that is certainly unfortunate, but Israel's primary "long-term interest" is survival.
These gains have been obliterated by the past 19 months of conflict, with the greatest damage concentrated in the past two weeks. Yasir Arafat bears much of the blame. Now Israel claims to have proof that he has not only failed to oppose terrorism but has directly authorized it.
Good. The Times' editors have read their own paper for a change. Is there any ramification of this proof of Arafat's perfidy?
Still, Israeli military tactics are responsible for much of the civilian destruction.
While the ostensible goal of Israel's offensive is capturing terrorists and uprooting their organizations, it has resulted in a prolonged siege affecting hundreds of thousands of civilians trying to go about their everyday lives. Mr. Sharon needs to make it clear to his commanders that Palestinian civilians are not Israel's enemy and that their lives, livelihoods and property deserve respect.
Better yet, with Secretary of State Colin Powell in Israel, Mr. Sharon should belatedly heed President Bush's call for immediate withdrawal. Continuing this offensive may yield more terrorist arrests, but at grievous cost to Israel's long-term interests.

Of course not. Sure, Arafat has been directing terror every step of the way, and he should pay a price, as long as it doesn't interfere with the necessity to get back to the process that led to...Arafat directing terror.

FOLLOWING THE MEMO: It's not quite the 67th paragraph, but buried in the middles of Serge Schmemann's latest dispatch is the following:
The Israeli police said today that they had found a belt with explosives in a Palestinian ambulance during a check at a roadblock inside the West Bank. The ambulance was headed toward Israel with the body of a Palestinian man, the police said, and they found the device alongside him. It was the second time in two weeks that Israel has reported finding explosives in an ambulance.
Any chance this will lead the Times & others to reasses their coverage of the Red Cross' complaining? I didn't think so.

THE FUSE IS LIT: This is big. Very big. I'm not sure even Sharon thought that the bureacracy of terror was this extensive.
I don't see any way Arafat can survive this. No Israeli governmet will or can negotiate with him with a straight face. When Powell's mission fails, this documentation will be exactly what the Bush administration needs in terms of political cover for allowing Sharon to kill or exile Arafat and finish destroying the PA. This will also mute the caterwauling of the Arab governments, most of whom live in fear of their own Muslim fundamentalists and are furious with Arafat anyway for involving Iran in the conflict. After Sharon initially confined Arafat to Ramallah in December, the sympathy from the Arab governments took a notable downturn after the Karine A shipment from Iran was discovered.
Here are links to documents from Bethlehem, Jenin and other documents from Arafat.
WILD HORSES CARRIED HIM AWAY: In yesterday's Ha'aretz, left-wing (even by Ha'aretz's standards) columnist Akiva Eldar attempts to be witty:
Since Israel ran the PA horses out of the barn and put its own horses in place, if the U.S. forces Sharon to pull them out, Powell best make sure that American horses replace them because otherwise wild horses in the form of Hamas and Islamic Jihad will take their place.
Eldar doesn't appreciate the metaphor. In the wake of the collapse of Camp David, Arafat let the terrorist horses out of the barn. And when someone lets horses out of the barn, he may truly desire and try to get them back. (Not that this was ever true about Arafat.) But the one who let them out is nevertheless responsible for the damage they cause, even if he lacks the power to prevent them from doing damage once they are loose.

Thursday, April 11, 2002

CREDIT WHERE IT IS DUE: Today's (Wednesday's) Washington Post has a tremendous amount of good stuff on Israel.
First, Charles Krauthammer carves up the intellectual fantasies of those who assert that a withdrawal from the territories occupied in the 1967 war will solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
[F]or two decades, Israel was hectored to comply with U.N. resolutions demanding Israel's withdrawal. In May 2000, it complied. To ensure that there could be no possible residual territorial dispute, Israel asked the United Nations to draw the line demarcating the true Israeli-Lebanese border -- the so-called Blue Line -- then pulled back behind it.
...Hezbollah was not mollified. While its ostensible mission was the liberation of Lebanese territory, it did not disband. On the contrary. It occupied south Lebanon, imported huge new supplies of weapons from Iran and began sporadic cross-border attacks on Israel.
...Not only, therefore, is Lebanon the most dangerous piece of tinder in the region. It is the most instructive. The Arabs claim that their grievance is Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Give it back and you'll have land for peace. Like the Lebanon peace?
Western observers totally missed the irony of the Arab summit whose "Saudi peace plan" ostensibly offered Israel peace in return for full territorial withdrawal. The offer was made in Beirut, capital of a country from which Israel had done precisely that -- fully withdraw -- and received in return a more entrenched, emboldened, heavily armed enemy ready to trigger a general war.
It gets better. To justify carrying on the war after Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon, Hezbollah concocted a territorial claim on a few acres called the Shebaa Farms. Hezbollah says it is Lebanese territory, and therefore occupied -- a position contrary to the internationally sanctioned Blue Line drawn by the United Nations, hardly a partisan of Israel.
What is the Arab League position on all this? Few Western observers actually read the Saudi peace plan adopted by the Arab League. If they had, they would have seen that the plan demands not just the usual withdrawal from Palestinian and Syrian territory but also from "remaining occupied Lebanese territories."
But there are no remaining occupied Lebanese territories. Thus the Arab League, in precisely the same document -- no, the same breath -- in which it ostensibly offers land for peace, endorses a totally fabricated, post-withdrawal Lebanese land claim that even the United Nations rejects. Why? Because it serves as an excuse for continuing the war against Israel.
Just end the occupation of the West Bank, say the Arabs, and we will guarantee Israel peace. Do you want to see Israel's future if it caves in to that demand? Look at Lebanon...
I don't agree with Krauthammer's assertion that the conflict has the potential to bring Armageddon, but the thrust of his piece is undeniable.
Second, Michael Kelly summarizes the facts that would be denied by those who distinguish between the Palestinina Authority and the terrorists:

[D]uring the current crisis, it has become impossible to maintain the fiction of Arafat as a pursuer of peace (impossible, that is, except for certain members of the news media and the Nobel Peace Prize committee). It has become impossible to deny that he is anything other than, as Sharon said, the architect of the Palestinian war and the dispatcher of Palestinian mass murder.
This is no longer a matter of belief, or rhetoric, but evidence:
• The Karine A. As Robert Satloff sums up in the current issue of the National Interest, Israeli, American and European officials have confirmed that Arafat's Palestinian Authority was the moving force, paymaster and operational supervisor of the attempt, foiled by the Israelis on Jan. 3, to smuggle 50 tons of Iranian-supplied rockets, mortars, anti-tank missiles, assault rifles and C-4 explosives by freighter into Gaza.
The smugglers' ship, the Karine A, was purchased by Adel Awadallah, the head of the Palestinian Authority's procurement arm, with $400,000 provided by Fuad Shobaki, director of the PA's Military Financial Administration and one of Arafat's closest advisers. The buy was supervised by two PA naval police officials, Fathi Razam and Omar Akawi.
• The Al Aqsa Martyrs invoice. On April 2 Israel made public an invoice that was found among documents taken by Israeli troops in Arafat's Ramallah compound. The invoice, titled "Financial Report" and dated Sept. 16, 2001, appears to be a bill to the Palestinian Authority from the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which the United States officially recognizes as a terrorist organization and credits with a series of suicide bombings and shootings. It requests from Arafat's government payment for, among other things, electrical and chemical components for 30 bombs: "We need about 5-9 bombs a week for our cells in various areas." The Bush administration has found no reason to doubt Israeli's characterization of this document as genuine.
• The Tanzim and Fatah payments. These documents, found in Arafat's offices, authorize cash payments to various commanders and active operatives in the Tanzim and Fatah terrorist brigades, which are credited with numerous lethal attacks on Israelis. The authorizations appear to be signed by Arafat himself. Again, the U.S. government has no reason to doubt the legitimacy of the documents.

Most importantly:
It is possible, of course, to make peace with him still. But only by defeating him, and the forces under his command, and negotiating from the point of their surrender. And surrender stems from victory in war.
WARFARE IN THE TRENCHES: This Washington Post article is headlined "Defiant Sharon Losing Support in White House."
A closer read of the article, though, makes it appear that this is merely a continuation of the regular debate between the State Department types on the one hand, who are loath to allow Sharon free reign, and the Cheney-Rumsfeld axis on the other.
First, the decisive action-phobes:
After months of steadfast backing of Sharon by the Bush administration, senior White House aides are beginning to express doubts about whether the Israeli leader can be a long-term partner in achieving the administration's goals in the Middle East.
White House aides also fear that Sharon's intransigence in the face of Bush's repeated demands over the past week for an end to the Israeli attacks could make the president appear ineffective and erode his standing in the world.
As part of the emerging shift of opinion about the Israeli leader, some White House officials are now making a distinction between support for Israel and support for Sharon.
"Sharon is arguably doing what he thinks needs to be done," a senior administration official said. "After he's finished, what's next? The fear is that he knows no other way than being tough."
This might be reading something into nothing, but I find it interesting that the article distinguishes between the steadfast backing of Sharon by "the Bush administration" and the supposedly new questioning by "senior White House aides." Does that imply that those "senior White House aides" did not agree with the earlier steadfast backing? That's probably reading too closely, but it may be true.
A more likely tip-off is the fear that Sharon's actions may make the President appear ineffective in the world. Somehow, I don't think that fear is felt by Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz et al. I detect a State Department following its usual instincts.
As another reminder that the headline may be a faction fighting for supremacy within the White House through the press, the article states:
Some administration officials said Sharon has been more receptive to Bush's request than is publicly apparent. "We're being precipitous if we base what we say only on what we see," one official said but would not elaborate.

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

THE STRONG HORSE RIDES THROUGH JENIN: Seth Gitell dissects the implications of the Israelis' victory in Jenin:
A Hamas official is conceding that a large number of his warriors surrendered their weapons. When these fearsome fighters ran out of ammunition, they stopped fighting. And they were unwilling (or unable) to give their own lives. This would seem to undermine the conventional wisdom about Hamas and other terrorist organizations--namely, that military victory over them is not possible, and that combat only leads to "desperation" and more violence. .
...Israel did not achieve this victory with high-altitude bombing. It put the lives of its own soldiers on the line; literally speaking, it spilled its own blood. In so doing, Israel demonstrated that if its very existence is in jeopardy, as it is now, it is willing to fight man-to-man. In doing so, Israel took direct aim at a key precept of its enemies: that the Israelis are so weak and materialistic that they are unwilling to put soldiers at risk.
In a sense, the message it sends is the exact opposite of Israel's hastened retreat from Southern Lebanon two years ago: Israel is sticking around this time around. And this is crucial, because the conflict between Israel and the Arab world is as much a psychological battle as it is a military one. In recent months, with the onslaught of suicide bombings, Israel's morale has seemed shaky. Sensing this weakness, its enemies have circled like sharks tasting blood. The victory at Jenin changes that psychological dynamic.
1+1=0: Via Instapundit, The Idler collects a number of the high-minded statements made by the NY Times' editors over the last several months regarding Arafat and Israel. It's amazing how many "last chances" a man can get. Why would Arafat think his one whould be any different?
HAPPY YOM HA-SHOAH, EVERYONE! Via Charles Johnson, an editorial cartoon from Arab News that shows just how that paper's readership celebrates the official Holocaust Rememberance Day. A warning: Don't click the link on a full stomach. And make sure you're sitting down.
THE PROBLEM THAT MUST NOT BE NAMED: The Arab-Israeli conflict has long been exacerbated by the unwillingness of the U.S. government to admit or act on certain indisputable truths. One of those truths is described by Michael Mandlebaum:

The Arab regimes bear a large share of the responsibility for the origins and the continuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and it is in their power to do a great deal to end it.
Unfortunately, Bush's well-chosen words, and whatever Powell tells the Arab leaders privately, are likely to have little effect. Perpetuating the conflict with Israel serves interests that are more important to these governments than is peace with Israel or the approval of the United States.
...[I]n the year 2000, when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat a Palestinian state on virtually all of the territory captured in 1967, with a Jerusalem shared with Israel as its capital, the leaders of Egypt and Saudi Arabia urged him to refuse, which he did. The war he started in the wake of his refusal finally triggered the Israeli military operations of the last several days.
...The Arab governments supply Arafat with the money and political support upon which his position as Palestinian leader depends. If they chose to do so, they could pressure him to make peace with Israel or encourage the Palestinians to find another leader willing to do so.
But they have chosen to do neither...
The conflict with Israel is a convenient, perhaps even indispensable, device for each regime to divert the attention of the chief victims of its dismal performance - those it rules. It is also a way to place the blame for their condition on an external enemy - Israel - rather than on those - the rulers themselves - who bear responsibility for it.
Thus, like the Jewish communities that were singled out for blame for plagues and political and economic troubles throughout European history, Israel functions as a scapegoat for the misfortunes of its Arab neighbors.
There's more, all on target.

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US (SERIOUSLY!): Via Rod Dreher in "The Corner," a red heifer has apparently been born in Israel. Red heifers have an important part in purification rituals described in chapter 19 of the book of Numbers which were done in the Jewish Temple.
WALK TO DAYLIGHT: Joel Sherman notes how the Yankees have resumed drawing many more walks than their opponents, an important part of their recent dominance. Long-time readers of the defunct "Rob & Rany on the Royals" are familiar with their "Royals Walk Watch," where they constantly pointed out that a team which consistently had the worst walk differential in the league could not possibly win.
I would have preferred that Alfonso Soriano develop some more plate discipline before becoming the leadoff hitter, but if he continues to have 5 hits a game it doesn't really matter.
THE EXPERTS HAVE NO CLOTHES: Steven Den Beste has established himself as one of the most perceptive writers on the Web. Today's entry dissects the conventional wisdom about the Powell mission to the Middle East and the upcoming Iraqi campaign. I san't pick excerpts; go read the whole thing.
PREACHING TO THE UNINITIATED: A glowing review of Bill James' New Historical Baseball Abstract by Bob Ryan.
IT DEPENDS WHO'S COUNTING: In a dispatch for the NYT on the fighting in Jenin, David Rohde notes the following:
In a rare example of public criticism, a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross demanded that Israeli forces allow aid convoys access to the area.
Perhaps it's rare for countries other than Israel (and the U.S., for that matter), but I've lost track of how many times the Red Cross has publicly criticized Israel.
THE TIMES LOSES IT ONCE AND FOR ALL: Today's lead editorial is a masterpiece, even by Times standards. It demands a full-length treatment:
The announcement last night that the Israeli military was pulling out of two Palestinian cities was welcome but it was far from clear that it signaled the start of the full, immediate withdrawal from the West Bank towns and refugee camps repeatedly requested by President Bush. Earlier in the day, Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, brushed off Mr. Bush's demand in a defiant speech to the Knesset, insisting that the campaign would end only when its mission had been accomplished.
Check out the text of Sharon's speech, which the editors seem to not have read. In my opinion, the only "defiance" in the speech is Sharon's insistence on repeating facts which the Times would rather ignore.
But see for yourselves.
Perhaps Mr. Sharon does not understand. The president of the United States, speaking out of profound friendship and growing impatience, has asked him to withdraw "without delay." This was not a request made lightly. Mr. Bush has expressed sympathy with Israel's plight and made clear that its security and well-being are of the highest concern. He has sent his secretary of state to the region to try to end the bloodshed. Yet Mr. Sharon says he will remove the tanks and troops whenever it suits him. This is an insult to Mr. Bush and the United States.
It is unbelivable how churlish the Times can get when authorities - especially conservative or Israeli ones - do not obey its commands. Sharon stated that the incursion will continue"until the mission has been accomplished, until Arafat's terrorist infrastructures are uprooted and until murderers holed up in various places are captured." Is that identical to "whenever it suits him?" If so, he has good judgment.
...It is increasingly clear that the costs to broader Israeli interests far outweigh whatever short-term security benefits this military operation may be yielding. Mr. Sharon's actions may be netting some terrorists and some of the terrible tools they employ, but they are inflaming the fury of thousands more Palestinians and millions of Arabs whose governments are being asked by Mr. Bush to press for more responsible Palestinian leadership. The prestige of the United States is on the line in an effort to help Israel, and the Israeli government is doing nothing to make the job easier.
1) Let's see...what has not happened in the last week? Oh yes - there have been no successful suicide bombings since the Israeli operation got underway. That's a pretty broad Israeli interest. Would that have happened without the Israeli incursion? 18 months of experience says no.
2) What if Israel had not invaded? The Times need only consult its newest Pulitzer winner, Thomas Friedman, who recently described how the Palestinians feel that suicide bombings work. Is there any chance the attacks would not have continued and increased? As Friedman noted: "[T]he Palestinians have not chosen suicide bombing out of "desperation" stemming from the Israeli occupation. That is a huge lie.... President Clinton offered the Palestinians a peace plan that could have ended their "desperate" occupation, and Yasir Arafat walked away." Or, as Jonah Goldberg puts it succinctly: "The more hope, the more murder."
So, in sum - the Times would rather have Israel continue to have its citizens murdered in grisly, steadily-increasing terror attacks than inflame "the fury of thousands more Palestinians and millions of Arabs whose governments are being asked by Mr. Bush to press for more responsible Palestinian leadership." As anyone who's ever checked out MEMRI (which does not seem to include the Times editors) knows, those thousands of Palestinians and millions of Arabs had pretty inflamed furies already. A largely successful action to prevent such terror attacks seems worth the cost.
Israel's declared objective is to dismantle the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure, but Mr. Sharon has also targeted leaders and offices of the Palestinian Authority. Israeli gunfire, curfews and military checkpoints have abused the lives, livelihood and dignity of the civilian population.
For all those who still believed that there was a distinction between "the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure" and the "leaders and offices of the Palestinian Authority," the documents recently discovered and publicized by the Israelis should put paid to that concept. If the Times editors had followed the news lately (or even read Sharon's speech cited in its own pages or the work of its own Douglas Frantz), they might have figured it out.
Mr. Sharon says he needs more time to destroy the terrorist network. Israeli forces, however, have already badly damaged the Palestinian civilian infrastructure, with supplies of water, food and medicine disrupted, independent television shut down and residents trapped in their homes. More than 200 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,500 wounded since Israeli tanks and helicopter gunships rolled into the West Bank on March 29. The refusal of Israeli forces to let wounded Palestinians be removed to hospitals is inexplicable.
1) Elementary logic: Even assuming that Israel has "already badly damaged the Palestinian civilian infrastructure, with supplies of water, food and medicine disrupted, independent television shut down and residents trapped in their homes," why is that necessarily incompatible with needing "more time to destroy the terrorist network?" Presumably the Times feels that it is worth leaving the terrorist network in place rather than inflict the damage on Palestinian civilians. That is understandable, but if you are unwilling to risk civilian casualties, how can you ever attack terrorists who use civilian centers as human shields? I don't see any recognition of the issue.
2) I am reading the "Parody" section (unfortunately not available online) from this week's Weekly Standard, a supposed memo to journalists covering the Israeli invasion. Here are a couple of excerpts:
a) "In the West Bank, [w]e do not care if the terrorist organizers of Hamas, Islamic Jihad or Al Aksa are killed or captured. We will simply not ask that question."
The Times righteously states that "More than 200 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,500 wounded." Did you notice any attempt to distinguish between terrorist and civilian casualties? Was there any intimation that any of those casualties may have been part of the "terrorist network?" Of course not.
b) "[R]eferences to the terrorist practice of using ambulances to transport explosives shall not be included in the top 67 paragraphs of any story."
The Times goes beyond this directive, not mentioning it at all. Is it really so "inexplicable" that the Israelis are chary about letting wounded Palestinians be transported to hospitals?
It is also true that the Arab states have reacted shamefully to Mr. Bush's efforts. The president asked them to condemn Palestinian terrorism and make clear that suicide bombers are murderers, not martyrs. There has been no response. King Mohammed VI of Morocco, greeting Mr. Powell in Casablanca yesterday, asked the American why he had not gone directly to Jerusalem, as if the Arabs had nothing to account for. In Bahrain, the American ambassador is the focus of fierce protests because at a mock United Nations session there for students, he requested that along with a moment of silence for Palestinian victims, a moment be observed for Israelis as well.
Mr. Powell's Mideast mission was never going to be easy. Even before the Israeli invasion, Arab leaders refused to denounce Palestinian suicide bombings. Mr. Arafat still refuses to call on his people to give up violence.
All true. But what conclusion is drawn?
A wise Israeli leader would use the Bush initiative to show that he stands ready to talk peace with any responsible partner. Instead, Mr. Sharon embarrasses Mr. Bush and gives the Arabs easy excuses.
Let's pretend to be a "wise Israeli leader." Would you rather: a) try to keep your citizens from being massacred, or b) forego the one course of action that can largely succeed in that aim in favor of showing the people described in the previous bolded section that you are ready to "talk peace." That doesn't seem to be a tough decision, but don't ask the Times to make it.
The Times editorials are often suffused with paternalistic conviction that the paper knows best, and all other objections should be stifled for that reason (parents' authority is self-justifying, so they certainly don't have to justify their decisions). When George Bush or Ariel Sharon refuses to understand that the proposed action is for his own good, the paper often gets churlish. All these qualities are on display in this editorial. Rarely, though, are the consequences so dire.
UPDATE: A warm welcome to all those who are visiting for the first time through Instapundit!

Monday, April 08, 2002

THE "DOMINO THEORY" REVISITED: Bernard Lewis suggests that democracy can take hold in Iraq faster than we think, and that if it happens, other countries in the region will undergo similar, positive change.
I have no idea if he is right, but Lewis has been on target for years in describing the rage endemic to Arab Middle Eastern societies and prophetic in predicting the results. Accordingly, his views should be taken more seriously than those who fell all over themselves to predict how the U.S. was doomed to fail in Afghanistan, among other things.
AXIS OF EVIL: From Best of the Web, an explosive item (pun not intended) from London's Daily Telegraph alleging that Iraq and the Palestinian Authority have been meeting to plan terrorist attacks:

They have been passed details of a meeting in Baghdad at the end of last month when an Arafat aide is said to have provided a list of strategic sites in Israel and Saudi Arabia that might be attacked in the event of American air strikes on Baghdad. The list of possible targets was presented to officials at the GIA, which is controlled by Uday Hussein, Saddam's eldest son.
Apart from agreeing to share intelligence, the Palestinians are said to have provided Iraqi security agents with 37 blank passports, obtained from a variety of Arab countries, that might be used by the Iraqis when mounting terrorist attacks.

The article also alleges that one reason that Secretary Powell's first stop is Morocco is because:

it was suggested that one of the purposes of Mr Powell's visit to Morocco was to discuss plans for Mr Arafat's exile. The US is said to have suggested that Mr Arafat should move to Morocco unless he can prove his ability to halt Palestinian violence and co-operate in progress towards peace talks.
Both the Moroccans and the Israelis are reported to have baulked, however, at Mr Arafat's demand for an entourage of 70 Palestinian officials to be guaranteed safe passage with him, including some who are on Israel's "wanted" list as terrorists.

Both points bear watching.
STANDARD RULES: This week's issue of The Weekly Standard has two articles which deserve to be discussed and remembered.

FIRST, THREE CHEERS FOR THE BOURGEOISIE: David Brooks has a monumental piece on why the Arabs and Europeans hate the U.S. and Israel. His thesis, in short, is that the U.S. and Israel are emblematic of bourgeois virtues and material success, and that the Arabs and Europeans are heirs to the tradition of "bourgeoisophobia," which emerged as soon as the bourgeois did. Taking any selection from Brooks' piece runs the risk of oversimplification, but here is a description of the phenomenon:
Bourgeoisephobia is really a hatred of success. It is a hatred held by people who feel they are spiritually superior but who find themselves economically, politically, and socially outranked. They conclude that the world is diseased, that it rewards the wrong values, the wrong people, and the wrong abilities. They become cynical if they are soft inside, violent if they are hard. In the bourgeoisophobe's mind, the people and nations that do succeed are not just slightly vulgar, not just over-compensated, not just undeservedly lucky. They are monsters, non-human beasts who, in extreme cases, can be blamelessly killed.
Brooks argues that:
[T]oday, in much of the world's eyes, two peoples--the Americans and the Jews--have emerged as the great exemplars of undeserved success. Americans and Israelis, in this view, are the money-mad molochs of the earth, the vulgarizers of morals, corrupters of culture, and proselytizers of idolatrous values. These two nations, it is said, practice conquest capitalism, overrunning poorer nations and exploiting weaker neighbors in their endless desire for more and more. These two peoples, the Americans and the Jews, in the view of the bourgeoisophobes, thrive precisely because they are spiritually stunted. It is their obliviousness to the holy things in life, their feverish energy, their injustice, their shallow pursuit of power and gain, that allow them to build fortunes, construct weapons, and play the role of hyperpower.
And so just as the French intellectuals of the 1830s rose up to despise the traders and bankers, certain people today rise up to shock, humiliate, and dream of destroying America and Israel. Today's bourgeoisophobes burn with the same sense of unjust inferiority. They experience the same humiliation because there is nothing they can do to thwart the growing might of their enemies. They rage and rage. Only today's bourgeoisophobes are not just artists and intellectuals. They are as likely to be terrorists and suicide bombers. They teach in madrassas, where they are careful not to instruct their students in the sort of practical knowledge that dominates bourgeois schools. They are Muslim clerics who incite hatred and violence. They are erudite Europeans who burn with humiliation because they know, deep down, that both America and Israel possess a vitality and heroism that their nations once had but no longer do.
...The bourgeoisophobes have no politburo. There is no bourgeoisophobe central command. They have no plausible strategy for victory. They have only their nihilistic rage, their envy mixed with snobbery, their snide remarks, their newspaper distortions, their conspiracy theories, their suicide bombs and terror attacks--and above all, a burning sense that the rising, vibrant, and powerful peoples of America and Israel must be humiliated and brought low.
There is much, much more, and it all should be read.
I have one quibble, though. As anyone who's lived in Israel can tell you, the Israeli economy and attitudes towards social organization are much closer to Western Europe than to the U.S. Israel has come very far from a free-market standpoint since the early 1980s, but it could still use a version of Margaret Thatcher in many ways. So I don't think that anti-bourgeios sentiment is all that helpful in explaining European antipathy towards Israel. (Straightforward anti-semitism probably has more to do with it.)
Other sources for similar arguments are this article in the NY Review of Books by Avishai Margalit and Ian Buruma, and this hilarious Mark Steyn piece.

SECOND, THEY CAN COUNTERFEIT THE GREAT TRAGIDIANS: Also, Norman Doidge has an extraordinary article on how evildoers like Yasser Arafat use the consciences of good people for their own ends. Drawing on a fascinating analogy from Shakespeare's Richard III, he argues:
[W]hile conscience allows us to understand ordinary crimes, it actually blinds us before the most extraordinary ones.
...Conscience, when it is functioning well--automatically and without the intervention of reason, so that we do the right thing without thinking--is not simply rational. It is a force, a blunt instrument before which the conscientious person is guilty until proven innocent. As the preventive agency in the mind, conscience blocks first, thinks later. Men like Arafat and Richard know this. That is why both men constantly charge others with crimes--to paralyze them. Both know it doesn't matter whether the charges are false. Richard brazenly accuses Anne of inspiring the murder of her husband, as Arafat accuses the West of causing terrorism.
It is this force inside the psyche of his enemies that the person without a conscience can so effectively enlist as a fifth column. Having himself no such inner force always second-guessing him, he can see it clearly in others--far more clearly than do those who are in its thrall and take each of its charges seriously. Arafat gets endless second chances because the conscience of the West is doing what a conscience does: second-guessing the West's own actions. That is why Arafat is always playing upon the conscience of the West, especially by his endless recourse to "international law" and invocation of "human rights," an utterly brazen ploy coming from a terrorist.

What Arafat, and the Arab countries, do not understand is the extent to which they are playing with fire. When the U.S. "street" understands how their best instincts have been used against them, the reaction will be something which Arabs will warn their children about for many, many generations. Ask Germany and Japan.