Thursday, June 30, 2011

My head is spinning

Even for someone like me with little faith in the Obama administration's foreign policy, today is exceptional:

-- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announces the resumption of "limited contacts" with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to "emphasize the importance of non-violence, democratic freedoms, and the rights of women and minorities in such contacts." Whaddya think, will this be as successful as our outreach to Iran?

Somehow I doubt we can influence the thinking of the man rumored to be the Brotherhood's secret candidate for president, Mohamed Selim al-Awa. He's reportedly close to Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the famous 'spiritual' leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who prayed in Tahrir Square for Muslims to reconquer Jerusalem. But, hey, maybe we can persuade him to break off ties with Hamas. Al-Awa has also claimed that the Egyptian Copts are storing weapons in their monasteries to use against the Muslims, so he'd be equally good at restoring inter-religious amity within Egypt. How open do you think he'd be to guaranteeing the rights of minorities?

-- Israel has been added to our list of 36 specially designated countries believed to "have shown a tendency to promote, produce, or protect terrorist organizations or their members." What does this mean? Israelis will now be subjected to a special security screening if they are detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the division of the Department of Homeland Security responsible for enforcing the immigration laws. I don't know how many Israelis are usually detained by ICE, but I'm glad to know we're safe now. And I wonder if CAIR, ISNA, or other U.S. groups linked to the Muslim Brotherhood had any influence on this decision.

Seriously, I can understand the need to have contact with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, especially if they are among the winners in the September elections. But I'm willing to bet that our "limited contacts" will only serve to enhance their credibility, while bringing us nothing.

Indeed, we'll be boosting the group seen by the 'good guys' - secularists, democrats, all those young people you saw demonstrating - as the biggest threat. According to one of the Youth Coalition's leaders: "The Brotherhood is tyrannical in its opinions and views, and I think they will take the side of the Islamist businessmen who fund it and have strict Islamic ideologies ... Whatever constitution they might form would not fulfill the demands of Egyptians for civil rights and democracy."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dershowitz nails Gates

American lawyer, jurist and political commentator Alan Dershowitz takes issue with the assertion that Defense Secretary Robert Gates did the right thing by making sure that the United States did not go to war with Iran on his watch. Instead, "History will not be kind to Gates. Despite some noteworthy accomplishments, he will be remembered as the single most important facilitator of an Iranian regime with nuclear weapons."

Gates' policy toward Iran, Dershowitz argues, is like that of Neville Chamberlain toward Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Like Chamberlain, he took the "military option" off the table, and in so doing emboldened the enemy. Chamberlain though he could contain the Nazis, and Gates apparently thought he could the same with the Iranians. However, "[t]his alleged policy of containment is no policy at all; it is an admission of failure."

As for me, I was amazed that Gates remained in his post after he publicly opposed destroying Libyan air defenses as an act of war and was then then overruled by President Obama. Or when his lawyers were overruled by White House and State Department lawyers as to whether, yet again, what we're doing in Libya constitutes hostilities. I guess I'm naive.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wilders acquitted

Dutch politician Geert Wilders has been acquitted of all charges of inciting hatred and discrimination after a lengthy trial. Commentator Mark Steyn terms the proceedings a "show trial." He certainly has a point; even the public prosecutor had already called for an acquittal.

If there was no case against him, why was Wilders on trial? In addition to domestic pressures, Wilders was the target of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the international organization comprising over 50 Muslim countries. The OIC leaned hard on the Dutch government to punish Wilders; let's see what it does now.

Who are the Libyan rebels?

John Rosenthal reports here that two French think tanks who sent a 6-person expert mission to Libya this spring have produced a study with some very unsettling conclusions. Among them:

-- Islamists play a predominant role in the eastern Libyan rebellion.

-- the justifications given for Western military intervention are largely based on media exaggerations and outright disinformation.

-- current NATO actions "risk destabilizing all of North Africa, the Sahel, and the Middle East and favoring the emergence of a new regional base for radical Islam and terrorism."

-- "Benghazi has become over the last 15 years the epicenter of African migration to Europe. This traffic in human beings has been transformed into a veritable industry, generating billions of dollars. Parallel mafia structures have developed in the city, where the traffic is firmly implanted and employs thousands of people, while corrupting police and civil servants. It was only a year ago that the Libyan government, with the help of Italy, managed to bring this cancer under control . . . Following the disappearance of its main source of revenue and the arrest of a number of its bosses, the local mafia took the lead in financing and supporting the Libyan rebellion."

This is a very disturbing report; if you read Rosenthal's article, you'll find lots more detail. I don't know these think tanks and so can't vouch for them, but I suspect we'll look back on the Libyan operation and wonder how we got ourselves into such a mess.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Yale gets the antisemitism center it wants

Down with YIISA, long live the new Yale Program for Antisemitism. YIISA director Charles Small will be replaced by Maurice Samuels, an expert in 19th century French antisemitism.

Perhaps the new center will do pretty much what the old one did. But I sincerely doubt it.

There's no political difficulty in studying 19th century, or 12th century, or 20th century antisemitism - at least much of the 20th century. But I doubt that the new program will explore Muslim or left-wing antisemitism. That would probably be denounced as 'advocacy' - although just what anyone is advocating is still a mystery to me.

More precisely, those topics are forbidden because any respectable scholar soon uncovers the genocidal ideology behind groups like the PLO and Hamas that requires exterminating the Jews (not just the Israelis). The scholar will also discover that those views are shared, across the famed Sunni-Shiite divide, by the rulers of Iran.

Charles Small thought this problem was critical and worthy of scholarly examination; we shall see if Maurice Samuels agrees with him. Or, to be more precise, if Yale lets him do so. And we'll see if the donors who supported YIISA will contribute to the new center.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


On June 1, Yale University decided not to renew the contract for the Yale Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA) which was established in 2006. Since then, several reasons have been advanced for this decision, among them that YIISA produced too few peer-reviewed publications, that it attracted too few faculty members and students, and that it was too often political rather than academic in its approach.

The latter criticism, I think, is telling - as a mirror image of what was really going on. For example, one Yale professor reportedly criticized the August 2010 conference hosted by YIISA, saying that too many of the speakers used antisemitism as an excuse to dismiss public concerns with the Israeli government’s behavior. So .... let's see. That means that the only way to discuss antisemitism is to spend most of your time criticizing the Israeli government. Speaking of rank politicization!

I attended a number of YIISA lectures and participated in the 2010 conference; at all these events there were indeed relatively few Yale students. At the time, I assumed that antisemitism could hardly compete with subjects like global warming or gay rights. Especially when, to be at all honest intellectually, you must admit (as did numerous conference participants) that Muslim antisemitism is an important and dangerous factor today. That observation, alas, brands you as a 'right-wing extremist' on an American campus.

I don't think this story is over yet; YIISA may morph into some other form and migrate to another university or think tank. Let's hope so.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Gates on NATO

You've probably heard about the speech last Friday by outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in which he warned the Allies that they were contributing so little that the future of NATO was endangered.

That's all true, but as Joe has pointed out to me, that's not the worst of it. No, the worst of it is that the contortions underlying the decision to intervene in Libya have caused NATO to engage in widespread lying about its intentions and its actions.

The United States, of course, has contributed significantly to this problem. For example, I defy you to tell me just what U.S. goals are in Libya: regime change? protecting civilians? advancing democracy? supporting Islamists? And, by the way, since when is NATO something separate from the United States, as it appears to be in President Obama's mind?

I have felt for years that NATO could not survive the sharp drop in European military capabilities after the end of the Cold War. Now, with the pressure of the Libyan operation added to that of the one in Afghanistan, we may be approaching a point of no return. And we're doing so in the worst possible way: we've let ourselves be sucked into an operation that is not in our national interest, only to discover that our Allies want us to do their heavy lifting.