Monday, June 25, 2007

Misinterpretating confusion for weakness?

Joshua Muravchik has written an op ed piece entitled "The Winds of War" in today's WSJ and I urge all to read. In it he recounts the various "victories" which Iran's leadership believes it has recently acheived and, accordingly, is beginning to "sow its oats" so to speak. Muravchik explains wars have begun when there has been a misreading of the mood of the adversary.

In essence it is quite possible the weakness displayed by the U.N., the EU, Olmert, the Democrats as well as George Bush, may actually be emboldening Iran and causing them to believe the West has lost and victory is at hand. This is why I have always urged it is unwise to show weakness in the face of the rage of mice.

It would be ironic, indeed, if the likes of Obama, Clinton, Murtha and Sheehan actually brought about a wider war because their message of defeat is sending the wrong impression to Ahmadinejad and he has concluded we are weak as opposed to confused.

As I wrote recently in a memo dealing with spine and spin, I noted Sen.Obama has some questionable skeletons in his closet. Lasky has brought one out and discussed him and sees Obama's failing to address the implications as a sign of weak moral character. Particularly in view of his "healing" message. (see 1 below.)

Mubarak shows the other side of his face and proves once again he cannot be trusted and his word is worthless but Olmert does not seem to comprehend. (See 2 and 6 below.)

And Eldar lays much of the blame for the recent turn of events at Israel's best friend - GW Bush. (See 3 below.)

A message for weak knee Democrats from al Qaeda's leader in Iraq. Are they listening? Certainly their top campaigners cannot afford to listen because it would ruin their support from the far-left of their Party. (See 4 below.)

Youssef Ibrahim suggests the Administration's bankrupt policies are worse than giving money to a child in a candy store and will perpetuate the Arab problem of immaturity.
(See 5 below.)

Steinitz urged Olmert not to go yesterday but he did and paid the price. Olmert loves being made a fool. (See 6 below.)


1) Obama and Moral Courage
By Ed Lasky

This past weekend, Barack Obama passed up two key opportunities to stand up and be counted when it comes to making good on his campaign themes of bringing people together, healing, and fighting cynicism. But instead of action to realize his proclaimed goals, all we got was slippery evasion and bland talk. If you think Obama can be a leader, examine his brhavior this past weekend and draw your own conclusions.


While many Christians, notably the evangelical community, are deeply supportive of Israel, the leaders of a few Christian church groups in America have issued anti-Israel resolutions over the last few years. These are often established groups that are politically liberal (and often have become so secular that they are suffering a decline in membership). The anti-Israel Resolutions are typically one-sided and blame Israel for the problems of the Palestinians.

These resolutions often encourage boycotts and divestment proposals. They rarely find any failing among the Palestinians. They are silent regarding the teaching of hate in Palestinian schools. They are either silent regarding Palestinian terrorism (including violence within Palestinian society) or serve as apologists for such violence. They ignore the many examples of Muslim oppression of Christians throughout the Arab world, and also ignore Israel's very highly regarded approach to its own Christian population.

Needless to say, these liberal Christian groups generally also ignore or do not emphasize much more severe severe human rights violations in a wide swath of nations (Zimbabwe, North Korea, Burma, Saudi Arabia, Iran and on and on). By obsessively focusing on Israel, they betray a certain perspective that has unsettled many, including many of their own parishioners.

Among these churches is one that does not fit the mold of established liberal Protestant groups: the United Church of Christ (UCC). The UCC, primarily an African-American denomination, has taken a pronounced lead in anti-Israel invective. So pronounced that a broad coalition of major Jewish groups has publicly rebuked (usually these types of disagreements are not aired publicly) the United Church of Christ for its unbalanced treatment of Israel. The coalition noted that the UCC failed to mention Israeli peace overtures, Palestinian rejection of those overtures, and the "brutal Palestinian campaigns of terror aimed at innocent Israeli children and families".

Obama's church and Obama's spiritual mentor

It so happens that aspiring Presidential candidate Barack Obama is a prominent - almost certainly the most prominent - member of the United Church of Christ. Obama has made political hay from emphasizing the role that his church and his faith have played in his life and career. He has credited his Pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, for being his inspiration and spiritual mentor.

But now that Obama is in the midst of his political campaign and raising money and support from prominent Jews among many others, he has tried to bury this relationship, because Wright's philosophy and teachings have a very pronounced anti-Israel bias and are divisive on the issue of black-white relations in America. These views of Obama's church would have significant political repercussions for Obama, if they were more widely known. Even Pastor Wright recognizes that this history would be a problem, noting that he has been temporarily shunted aside because his views and relationship with Obama would hurt Obama's image.

How has Obama, who wants to appeal to people of faith, responded? Has he faced the issues raised by his mentor's radical racialist rhetoric and hard line against Israel? No.

He has tried to burnish his image with the help of other ministers who have a less controversial past. Welcome to political theatre!

Obama has a problematic view toward the American-Israel relationship and questions about his commitment towards the alliance have dogged him throughout his campaign. He has had several opportunities to address the issue, but has tried to muddle through. He has apparently blown some prime opportunities to clarify his views, and he has missed what could have been his "Sister Souljah moment."

A missed opportunity

This past Saturday, Obama spoke to a group of 300 delegates at the United Church of Christ state convention in Iowa.

He delivered his usual bromides, including an attack on the "Christian Right." He did not mention Israel or the controversial anti-Israel positions that the United Church of Christ has taken. Not a word. Here is a man who preaches tolerance and the coming together of people, a man whose voice is a powerful instrument and can be used to heal wounds. He chose to remain silent about the bias within his own church.

Obama again had a chance to try to heal the rupture between the United Church of Christ and supporters of Israel when he addressed the important 26th annual synod of the United Church of Christ in Hartford, Connecticut. This event was attended by thousands of members and will help to set church policy in the years ahead (comparable to "platforms" established by political parties).

Did he bring up-did he even touch upon-the issue of the church's views towards Israel? Did he touch upon the church's silence regarding Palestinian Muslim violence against its own Christian community? Did he use his powerful voice to appeal to the church members to listen to the concerns of their fellow Americans who were so upset that they issued a public letter to express their sorrow that the church would so single-mindedly attack Israel-a nation besieged by enemies and threatened by an Iranian dictator with a genocidal dream? Did he use his gifts of oratory to ask the church to reconsider its positions and to reach out to those it has harmed-to help heal wounds? In a word, No.

Within his silence, there is a powerful message.

2) Sudden Egyptian decision to lift anti-Hamas blockade of Gaza, day after condemning Hamas Gaza takeover as illegal coup

President Hosni Mubarak’s astonishing U-turn renders pretty pointless the conference he convened in Sharm al Sheikh Monday, June 25, to discuss the Hamas takeover crisis. Only Saturday, he denounced Hamas for staging an illegal coup. Sunday, June 24, our exclusive intelligence sources report an official VIP convoy headed by Hamas’ interior minister Siad Sayam – who is believed to have masterminded the Hamas coup in Gaza - was allowed to drive out of Gaza with 15 senior Hamas commanders who led the military action against Fatah last week. Their cars bore official Palestinian government plates. Egyptian security units escorted the convoy from Rafah to Cairo international airport, where the Hamas delegation emplaned for Damascus.

Egyptian intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman then held a long telephone conversation with Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, who later made a speech declaring “resistance” (codeword for terror) was the only way forward for the Palestinian people.

Cairo’s action as a slap in the face for the three leaders he invited to the Sharm el-Sheikh conference, Jordan’s King Abdullah, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. He called the get-together in the first place to discuss ways of isolating Hamas into submission.

His reversal was also a message for Israel’s new defense minister Ehud Barak, who attended his first cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday. By helping the Hamas minister in charge of defense take off for military consultations with Syrian leaders, the Mubarak government was informing Israel that it would line up with Hamas against any Israeli military action ordered by Barak against the Islamist rulers of Gaza. Since the Hamas takeover, Qassam missiles and mortar attacks against Israel are a daily occurrence. One of the new defense minister’s tasks is to devise means of halting the attack.

3) With friends like these...
By Akiva Eldar

Heavy clouds will float over today's summit in sunny Sharm el-Sheikh. The Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza, Jordan and Egypt will be hovering above the four leaders participating in the talks, as will the zealots of worldwide jihad. Iran and Hezbollah will be with them on the other side, while the extreme right-wing national religious camp awaits in the corner. It is hard to say which of the leaders' chairs is shakiest and to guess where the next evil will come from - from Syria, which once again has remained on the outside; from Al-Qaida, which is rearing its head in Iraq and casting its eye on the horizon; or from the Egyptian opposition, which smells weakness in the leadership and is amassing power in anticipation of the inheritance battle.

And who isn't coming to this sad party? The United States, the superpower with the lion's share of responsibility for the deteriorating situation in the Middle East. Who stayed home? President George W. Bush, the one whose semi-hallucinatory dream of democratization has become a genuine reality of anarchy; whose adopted vision of two states - Israel and Palestine - has become during his tenure a distant dream. It is difficult to think of an American president who has caused more damage to Israeli interests than the president who is considered one of the friendliest to Israel of all time. No leader has done more than Bush - by commission as well as omission - to destroy the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas.

It was Bush who imposed the wretched elections on the Palestinians, despite Hamas' refusal to fulfill the terms of the Oslo II Accords concerning the participation of political parties in the democratic process. Bush gave his blessing to sacrificing the road map on the altar of unilateral disengagement, an act of charity toward the Palestinian "refusal front" and a death blow to the already damaged peace camp.

When Hamas was dragged into the unity government and the cease-fire agreement, with great effort, the Bush administration spared no effort to defeat the new alliance. And now, after cooking up the stew, Bush is leaving his "friends" to eat it alone, while exhorting the use of obsolete tricks to raise the dead, such as removing checkpoints in the West Bank and releasing Palestinian prisoners. The two-state vision will have to wait for the next president. What's the rush?

It's a good thing Bush wasn't around 30 years ago, when Egyptian president Anwar Sadat decided the time had come to end the war with Israel and regain the Sinai Peninsula. Bush would probably have recused himself, saying something like, "they can handle their own negotiations with Egypt. If the prime minister wants to negotiate with Egypt, he doesn't need me to mediate," as the leader of the free world said after his meeting last week with Ehud Olmert, with regard to the U.S. stance on promoting a peace process with Syria.

There is no way of knowing how Israel and the entire Middle East would look today had former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, considered problematic for Israel, sent Sadat off to work things out for himself with prime minister Menachem Begin instead of inviting them both to the peace summit at Camp David.

American intervention was one of the primary considerations leading to the Egyptian, Palestinian and Jordanian decision to reach a diplomatic settlement with Israel. Bashar Assad knocked on Bush's door and asked him to send a representative to talks with Israel, despite America's overt declarations concerning their special relationship with Israel and their commitment to its qualitative superiority. The U.S. president's shrugging off of responsibility for the peace process that began in Madrid in 1991, under his father's baton, ruined one of Israel's most important strategic assets: the belief, which bought a grace period from its neighbors, that the only place that was selling tickets to Washington and the right to enjoy its favors was in Jerusalem.

Officials in Olmert's government are sighing in great relief over the lowering of the American profile. To understand the depth of these leanings, one must go to Damascus. Vice President Farouk Shara interpreted Bush's statements using the following harsh, but accurate, words: "The American president does not want peace between Israel and Syria." Israeli intelligence officials are already warning that the opposite of peace is imminent war between Israel and Syria. This means that Bush is refusing to help prevent another round of blood-letting. What an outcry would erupt here were he to refuse to aid us by shipping a cannon or a helicopter over, and sending us out alone with the Arabs to handle the next war.

4) Al-Qaida leader urges Hamas to implement Islamic rule in Gaza

Al-Qaida's deputy leader called on Muslims around the world to back Hamas with weapons, money and attacks on U.S. and Israeli interests in a Web audiotape Monday, urging the Palestinian militant group to unite with Al-Qaida's holy warriors after its takeover of Gaza.

The message from Ayman Al-Zawahri, who is Osama Bin Laden's top deputy, marked a major shift by Al-Qaida, which in the past criticized Hamas for being in a government with the U.S.-supported Fatah faction.

The audiotape was clearly made after Hamas' takeover of Gaza earlier this month, marking a rapid response from Al-Qaida's top leadership to the events. Its authenticity could not be independently confirmed, but it was posted on a Web forum where Al-Zawahri has issued messages in the past.

Al-Zawahri urged Hamas to implement Islamic law in Gaza, telling it, Taking over power is not a goal but a means to implement God's word on earth.

"Unite with mujahedeen (holy warriors) in Palestine ... and with all mujahedeen in the world in the face of the upcoming attack where Egyptians and Saudis are expected to play part of it", he added, "suggesting that the two countries intend to attack Hamas to uproot its control of Gaza".

"Provide them (Hamas) with money, do your best to get it there, break the siege imposed on them by crusaders and Arab leaders traitors", Al-Zawahri said, addressing Muslims around the world. "Facilitate weapons smuggling from neighboring countries".

"We can support them by targeting the crusader and Zionist interest wherever we can", Al-Zawahri said.

In a Der Spiegel interview last week, Top Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar was asked if Hamas wants to establish an Islamic state in Gaza.

Zahar answered "of course", but then want on to say that "at the moment we can't establish an Islamic state because we Palestinians have no state. As long as we don't have a state, we will try to form an Islamic society."

5) Arabs losing faith in ‘the cause’
By Youssef M. Ibrahim

Why is America trying to pour new money and more weapons into Palestinian Arab hands barely days after the Gaza debacle? It is an ill-considered policy, both premature and useless. The only sure result will be that warring gangs in the West Bank will use every new weapon to continue the mayhem and that the millions paid out won't buy as much as a bottle of milk for Palestinian Arab civilians. Instead, the money will end up in the pockets and bank accounts of the same crooks who lost Gaza.

Indeed, why try to recreate a world that has just crumbled? America and Israel may want to wait for what may turn out to be a changing of the guard: Arab voices, both expert and popular, are rising in vociferous denunciations of the once sacrosanct Palestinian Arabs.

"It is idle to think that Gaza could be written off as a Hamas dominion while Fatah held its own in the towns of the West Bank," Fouad Ajami of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies noted in a sobering analysis published Tuesday in the New York Times. "The abdication and the anarchy have damaged both Palestinian realms. Nablus in the West Bank is no more amenable to reason than is Gaza; the writ of the pitiless preachers and gunmen is the norm in both places."

While Mr. Ajami's commentary is poised, there is no such thing:

"Palestinians today need to be left without a shred of a doubt" as to what other Arabs think of them, a widely read opinion commentator for the Saudi daily Asharq Al Awsat, Mamoun Fandy, thundered on Monday. "We need to tell them the only thing they have proven over 50 years is that they are adolescents who cannot and should not be trusted to run institutions of state or any other important matters."

While it could be argued that the overwhelming public outrage in Saudi Arabia reflects resentment over the collapse of the much-vaunted reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah — which was personally brokered by King Abdullah earlier this year in Mecca — the anger expressed across the Muslim Arab world reflects deep embarrassment at the discredit Hamas has brought, in the name of Islam, through its savagery against Fatah.

For its part, the Egyptian press has become unhinged, spewing vile denunciations of what is universally known as "the cause" — support for the Palestinian Arabs — and describing it as dead. Egypt's government pulled its embassy out of Gaza on Tuesday.

Kuwaitis, who have harbored contempt for Palestinian Arabs ever since they allied themselves with Saddam Hussein's occupation in 1990-91, also dropped all restraint. "Palestinians are neither a modernized nor a civilized people," Ahmad Al Bughdadi wrote Monday in Al Siyassah, an influential Kuwaiti daily. "They are not statesmen. If what happened in Gaza is what they do without a state, what then shall they do when they get one?"

If there could be an editorial coup de grace, it surely was delivered by no less than Abdelbari Atwan, undoubtedly the Palestinian Arabs most influential and respected journalist and a familiar face on both Western and Arab television.

Writing in the London-based Al Quds International, his painfully felt commentary, "Yes, We Have Lost the World's Respect," argued that "the cause" may have lost its legitimacy: "Many, myself among them, find it difficult to speak of Israeli crimes against our people in view of what we have now done," Mr. Atwan wrote. "I never thought the day would come when we would see Palestinians throwing other Palestinians from the tops of buildings to their death, Palestinians attacking other Palestinians to tear their bodies with knives, Palestinians stripping others naked to drag them through the streets."

All of which suggests letting this Arab storm run its course: It may be a purging of the Arab mindset that creates new realities and opportunities.

For instance, throughout the Arab Gulf region, starting with Al-Jazeera of Qatar and Al-Arabiya of Saudi Arabia, the press has long been controlled by Palestinian Arabs practiced in spewing anti-Western and anti-American propaganda. But the Gaza conundrum has left them stymied, opening space for "local sentiments," which differ markedly.

Instead of pouring good money after bad in the western part of the Arab world, it may be wiser for America to help foster the revolutionary new thinking unfolding in its East — perhaps by nudging along a propaganda purge among friendly Arab regimes.

6)Olmert, don't go: PM humiliated during previous Sharm summit, should reconsider this one
by Yuval Steinitz

Mr Olmert, I am calling on you again to reconsider your participation in the Sharm summit in Egypt. I am doing this after your participation in the previous meeting at the same location not only did not lead to any achievements, but rather, only brought needless humiliation. I believe the facts below will cool your enthusiasm for the summit and require you to reexamine the issue.

1. The US Congress decided over the weekend to undertake an unprecedented cut of $200 million from the defense aid to Egypt in light of its failure to crack down on the smuggling of arms and funds to Hamas in Gaza. By so doing, the Americans are signaling that they are fed up with Egypt's double standards regarding Hamas' rise to power in Gaza.

2. In addition, dozens of American senators recently signed an open letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, calling on her to press the Egyptians to honor their obligation to engage in an all-out war on arms and funds smuggling into the Strip (including their obligations in the framework of the "Philadelphi Agreement.")

3. I remind you that your predecessor, Ariel Sharon, had the courage to cancel his participation at the Sharm summit, despite President's Bush presence, by claiming that the venomous incitement against him in the Egyptian media and the refusal to release Azzam Azzam made it difficult for him to visit Sharm. A year later, Sharon received a royal reception in Sharm, while securing Azzam Azzam's release from prison and seeing a considerable decrease in the level of media incitement.

4. I remind you that several months ago you were warned by the undersigned, and many others, not to go to the previous Sharm summit without

proper preparation, without pre-conditions, and without a date for a reciprocal visit by Mubarak to Israel. All this was aimed at preventing you from being humiliated. As you remember, Mubarak used your visit to condemn, in your presence, IDF actions in the territories, announced he would allow the transfer of funds to Hamas, and even declared in your presence the initiation of a nuclear project in Egypt?

Mr Prime Minister, your visit to Egypt at this time may undermine the efforts of Israel's friends in Congress to press Egypt to fight the smuggling of arms and funds to the Strip, and even expose you to pressures and humiliation of the type you have already experienced.

Please, reconsider the matter.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Spine, take away e and you get spin and Hillary's makeover!

An intelligence report confirms Hamas' intent to exploit captured intelligence documents as reported earlier. Also, Olmert continues to act the fool by going to Egypt knowing full well Mubarak never lifted a finger to thwart Hamas and the inflow of arms and tunnel digging. (See 1 below.)

Fighting continues in Tripoli, between the Lebanese army and terrorists with casualties on both sides. Meanwhile, several Spanish troops along with other UNFIL forces, were also reported killed in Lebanon. Based on previous actions, I would look for Spain to put its tail between its legs, withdraw its forces and send them to Pamploma where they could gore defenseless bulls.

Spin,spin,spin. That's Olmert's plan to deflect attention from what all Israeli's know - That he has become boxed in by his weak friend (the U.S. president), a weaker secretary of State (Ms Rice) and his own utter incompetence. (See 2 below.)

Amazing if you add an e to spin you get spine. Politicians lacking spine resort to spin!

In our country Sen Hillary Clinton is cleverly re-making herself in order to blunt, early on, her sleeze and icy personality persona. Peggy Noonan writes about how Hillary is taking to wearing softer looking clothing, and becoming warm and fuzzy even to the point of selecting her campaign song. Talk about the "Making of The President." No one should deny the old girl is clever. If elected the nation will deserve what it gets - a calculating politician with no deep convictions but plenty of deep seated desires to exact retribution. Interestingly enough she could wind up being very tough in a use of force sense to prove that she is not weak but probably not resort to ground forces but rather air and off-shore naval strikes.

I would also expect, as her prospects brighten and Obama's fade, as they are, the markets will take a dive because her liberal tendencies will not bode well for wealth creation. It will be back to Welfare and Entitlements and expanded government.

I spoke with a physician friend this morning whose patient load consists primarily of those on Medicare and he said he no longer can break even giving flu shots and other type vaccines so he is no longer doing so. He is very discouraged about the trends in medicine, which have worsened according to him, and he is seriously thinking about quitting. He is a fabulous doctor, very caring and goes the extra mile for his patients and the politicians are driving him and many like him into retirement. But , that is what politicians do - I am from the government and I am here to help you

Then, more commentary about the Israeli government's spinelessness! The idea of fighting and winning is gone and the Israeli in the street is paying a heavy price which will only increase unless they force is a change in the attitude of their elected. But, under the Israeli electoral system it is hard to bring about change because politicians are not likely to vote to put themselves up for re-election preferring the prestige and comfort of their paid for cars and job security.(See 3 below.)

Amotz Asa-El, does a dance on Peres' head and issues some justifiable warnings in view of the new president's political and diplomatic history. (See 4 below.)

Charles Krauthammer must be an optimist because he believes Abbas has a last chance. Charles, wake up, Abbas is the walking dead! (See 5 below.)

Brackman and Romirowsky expose UNRWA and Palestinians Refugee Aid for what it is. An employment act for U.N. employees and American's are paying heavily for the cultivation and training of terrorists. (See 6 below.)

Hamas goes after the few remaining Christian institutions as well as the Christians themselves in Gaza. (See 7 and 8 below.)

Even the liberal Washington Post is getting its dander up over the administration's apeasement of N Korea. (See 9 below.)

Professor Larry Sabato, has a view of Hillary's continuing porblem - Iowa! (See 10 below.)


1)Hamas threatens suicide attack, reveals Egyptian and Palestinian intelligence knew all about arms smuggling tunnels

A week after assuming sole mastery of the Gaza Strip, Hamas is bent on further stoking military tensions ahead of the Sharm al-Sheikh conference Monday, June 25.

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has invited Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and the defeated Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to talk about the crisis created by the takeover which the Egyptian president angrily called “an illegal coup.”

The Islamist group is satisfied none of the four will resort to military action to upend its putsch. Cairo could have massed troops on its border with Gaza – with the silent encouragement of the US and Israel – and slapped down a 48-hour ultimatum for Hamas to hand over the usurped Palestinian ruling institutions, or else be forced out by Egyptian guns. But Hamas knows, just as Israel opted to keep its powder dry, so too has Cairo. Therefore, Hamas is pressing its advantage, taking a leaf out of Yasser Arafat’s manual whereby every diplomatic move - conference, peace effort or mediation - occasioned a campaign of terror against Israel.

More violence is therefore promised on top of Hamas’ daily Qassam missile and mortar attacks on Israeli civilians and border forces.

Fatah is now added to the list of targets, according to Hamas extremist Mahmoud a-Zahar in an interview with Der Spiegel Saturday, June 23.

Alongside the threat of violence, Hamas released Saturday a batch of documents captured in the Palestinian Authority’s intelligence archives in Gaza, which include complete maps in the hands of the Palestinian Preventive Security service and Egyptian intelligence of 22 gunrunning tunnels from Sinai to Gaza. Exes marked the points of ingress and exit under cover of buildings.

This incriminating expose attesting to the two governments’ deliberate inaction in preventing the Hamas military build-up is important on three counts:

1. Hamas is abreast of the secret information in the possession of Egyptian and Palestinian Authority intelligence, and can make the necessary adjustments for keeping the smuggling routes running.

2. Israel was talking to the wall when its ministers kept on appealing to the Mubarak government year after year to block the smuggling tunnels. It is clear Cairo never intended lifting a finger to stop the illicit weapons reaching Gaza and Hamas arsenals. Will Olmert keep up the charade at Sharm al-Sheikh?

3. Since Egyptian intelligence and Mahmoud Abbas’ security services had precise knowledge of 22 tunnels at least, how come this information was never obtained by Israeli intelligence?

2) A new agenda is needed
By Uzi Benziman

The "second Olmert government" is to be launched this week and the question is: Will the prime minister act like the platoon sergeant who tells his sweating soldiers longing for clean uniforms that today they will be changing clothes - every soldier will switch his underwear and socks with his neighbor. Or will he have a real message that will blow a fresh breeze into the limp sails of his cabinet?

There are signs that the image of a new era that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spin doctors are trying to give his upcoming cabinet changes is an empty one.

What new dawn is breaking over Israel if Roni Bar-On or Meir Sheetrit has the Finance portfolio instead of Abraham Hirchson? What new sun will rise if Ruhama Avraham Balila joins the cabinet deliberations? How will the country be saved from its troubles if Ephraim Sneh is replaced by Matan Vilnai or when Haim Ramon gets a room in the Prime Minister's Office as minister for special assignment.

The change that will be felt, for good or bad, with Ehud Barak's taking over the defense portfolio is not to be discounted. But that seems to be the extent of significant change to be expected in the cabinet's style and the atmosphere it projects. This is indeed the point: if there is change, it will take place in the cabinet's personal interactions, in its climate of etiquette, and not necessarily in its policies.

When the office of prime minister fell to Olmert, and more so after he was elected to that post, he appeared to be someone who sincerely wanted to bring about a revolution in the country. The convergence plan he devised was not mere lip service, and his call for a change of the national agenda was not a rhetorical trick. Olmert sounded like someone who had concluded that Israel must disengage from most of the territories and focus on dealing with its domestic problems. There was no reason to doubt that he saw his task as leading Israel toward this change and that he believed he could create a situation in which Israel would indeed be a fun country to live in. The close relationships in Olmert's family, the impact the family members have on each other and the dovish opinions of some of them were circumstantial evidence that his declared direction on the Palestinian issue was no deception.

Then the Second Lebanon War reshuffled the deck. The Qassam fire from Gaza did not help Olmert move ahead with his plan to withdraw from most of the West Bank. For a year he has been almost totally invested in maneuvers to ensure his political survival, which have nothing to do with the needs of the country. His original positions have been so eroded that he has not hesitated to say that his cabinet does not necessarily need an agenda; day-to-day management is enough. The life span of the "second Olmert government" cannot be known. Ehud Barak says that within a few months, by the final Winograd report, he will press for early elections. Even if the newly elected Labor Party leader does not make good on his promise, Olmert would be mistaken to act as if he has all the time in the world. He must imbue his office with a sense of urgency and redefine his government's agenda.

This change is also essential now because the country needs a good shake-up, because the political circumstances - a government that perceives itself as embarking on a new path - make it possible; because the public longs for it, and because Olmert, who has had a hard time since he took office, might come out the better. Ariel Sharon showed leadership when he suddenly changed the national agenda with the disengagement plan; as a result he profited politically and with the public. This is the model that should guide Olmert when his government turns over a new leaf and begins its term's second year.

3)Israeli "restraint" is both strategic folly and deep source of
Strategic Folly and Shame: Personal Reflections on a Visit to Beleaguered Sderot
by David M. Weinberg

With the Hamas now fully in control of Gaza, freely running guns and
missiles through the Egyptian border (negating the need for tunnels), the
missile barrages on southern Israel can be expected to increase.

Close to six months of Israeli "restraint" in the face of these attacks is
both strategic folly of the highest order and a deep source of shame.
Folly - because Israel has allowed a city of twenty-four thousand people to
wither away and empty out under enemy fire. Shame - because Israel has left
the forlorn people of Sderot, the most destitute, downtrodden, and drained
citizens of Israel in normal times, to take the hit.

All the praise for Israeli "self-discipline" and "resilience" in the face of
the missile attacks is dangerous and unfounded blather, predicated on a lie.
The disadvantaged people of Sderot are not resilient. They're just stuck.
They have been forgotten by Israeli society; abandoned to the gangs of the
so-called Palestinian "Authority." That is an unforgivable social (as well
as a political-military) sin that should shake Israelis to the very fiber of
their souls.

I recently spent a day in Sderot, visiting families to evaluate and
catalogue their needs for the "Lev Ehad" volunteer association. While ten
Kassam missiles fell in and around Sderot last week, walking out on the
streets was not scary. The bone-chilling part was inside Sderot homes. Here,
I discovered shame and suffering that runs far deeper than the
political-security challenge coming from Gaza.

Olga (not her real name) is destitute. Her mentally-ill ex-husband left her
with enormous black-market debts, she has bouts of depression along with
heart trouble, and her daughter has chronic and severe asthma that has led
to lengthy hospitalizations. Loan sharks broke her front door two years
ago - it still doesn't close. The water and electricity have been cut off a
few times. She lost a brother to Chechen rebels back in the Commonwealth of
Independent States, where her kids would sleep under her bed during
night-time mortar attacks.

A Kassam missile landed in her daughter's Sderot schoolyard during class,
and the eight-year-old is traumatized. She won't leave her mother's side,
nor return to school. Once again, she sleeps under her mother's bed. "Just
like Chechnya," says Olga. Both mother and daughter have been diagnosed with
clinical post traumatic stress disorder and depression. Prior to the arrival
of my friend Dr. Mordechai and I, no one from central Israel or from the
Jewish Diaspora had spoken to them.

Similar stories repeated themselves in other homes. Rachamim has a
disability that prevents him from working, but his understanding of the
situation is keen. "We are imprisoned at home by fear of the missiles," he
says. "It's like having a guy coming at you from behind with a knife," he
explains. "You're constantly looking over your shoulder." His wife will not
let the kids walk to school, and Rachamim's social worker won't travel from
Beersheba to Sderot in order to treat him.

And so, Sderot is tragedy upon tragedy. The rockets of Hamas are a layer of
misery piled atop the misfortune and deprivation that already was the lot of
many residents. They are truly the forgotten people of Israel - now more
than ever.

Echoes of Amalek reverberate in me as I drive back to civilized, privileged,
central Israel: "(He) smote the hindmost of you, all that were feeble in
your rear, the faint and weary" (Deuteronomy 25:18). And I wonder: where is
our shame?

The ugly truth is that Israel is not mobilized to really defend or
significantly assist Sderot - because its residents are third-class Israelis
at best.

Had it been the upwardly-mobile, well-connected people of Ramat Hasharon,
Kochav Yair or Tel Aviv that had been targeted by Hamas for months of
unremitting bombardment - would Israel be doing so little? IDF tanks would
be rolling into Riyadh if necessary to halt the bombing; and every
government ministry, corporation, postal clerk, human rights, gay rights,
and animal rights organization would be marshaled to lend a helping hand to
the distressed people of Herzliya or Caesarea.

Fortunately, Israel's naked shame is being covered-up by the dozens of
idealistic youth from across the country, now volunteering in Sderot. The
day after receiving my visit report, they went to fix Olga's front door and
do schoolwork with her daughter. They also brought candies and chocolate,
along with medication for Olga from a non-profit dispensary. The electricity
bill was paid. They drove Rachamim's frightened teenager to and from school.
In the evening - in fact, every evening - they march through the city
streets, singing and dancing; spreading cheer and dispelling fear.

Sderot is Israel's frontline, socially as well as geo-politically. Its
neglect is a metaphor for the ebbing away of a caring Jewish-Zionist
society, and a symbol of the recklessness that passes for Israeli security
policy. It's time to take up arms, first and foremost, against our
indifference to Sderot's anguish. Then we can turn our attention to the
battle against Sderot's foreign foes.

4) Middle Israel: Open letter to President-elect Shimon Peres

Dear Mr. President-elect. One wonders what makes you happier these days: having finally won an election, or the hope that Middle Israelis will no longer have your unique crossbreed of Machiavelli, Sisyphus and Don Quixote to kick around.

True, it may not have been for the premiership, which you lost five times, nor for Labor's leadership, which you lost four times, just an election for the seemingly powerless presidency, which you had lost merely one time, yet the fact is you won. And since your defiance of biology is second only to Rip Van-Winkle's, just like the intrigues that have checkered your career were second only to Rasputin's, you must now be hoping for one last act of defiance, this time of diplomatic gravity, a defiance that will put to shame Churchill, Metternich and Kissinger put together.

Well, hold your horses.

Yes, you're a biological wonder. Where are Guy Mollet, with whom you gave Israel its first foreign ally; Mikhail Gorbachev, with whom you released Soviet Jewry; or John Paul II, with whom you mended Catholic-Jewish walls? Heck, even Fidel Castro - who is three years your junior and was still in exile when you cooked a war that involved two superpowers and enraged two others - is already half dead.

Yes, your half-century in the Knesset is one of the longest legislative careers ever, anywhere, and your four great-grandchildren will be a rarity among heads of state, not to mention your marriage to the same woman for the past 64 years. And yes, unlike others who have collected titles over the decades - scholars are at a loss to recall anyone who has been president, prime minister and opposition leader, as well as defense, foreign, finance, transportation and posts minister - you actually did things.

You won a place in history already in the 50s, when you built our military and aerospace industries and conceived our nuclear program. In the 70s you rehabilitated the beleaguered IDF, in the 80s you led us out of the worst economic crisis in our history and in the 90s you inspired the New Middle East vision.

Yet you also earned enemies.

GOLDA MEIR, the foreign minister you ignored while waltzing with France, was the first. Eshkol, on whom you imposed Moshe Dayan on the eve of the Six Day War, was the second. Rabin was the third. We haven't forgotten - as you have in your autobiography - the role you played in settling Samaria as a way to spite Yitzhak Rabin. We also didn't forget how your plausible idea of ceding the West Bank to Jordan ended up in history's dustbin because you promoted it in disregard of your own prime minister at the time, Yitzhak Shamir, whom you wanted unseated no less, maybe more, than you wanted peace.

It would be nice to let bygones be bygones now, but Middle Israelis can't help fearing that your past as an insubordinate visionary may soon bring with it, yet again, more curse than blessing. Forgive us for suspecting you already are planning a de ja vu all over again, maybe a conference with Bashar - "It had to be president-to-president," your aides will explain - or a visit to the Arab League's Cairo headquarters alongside Amr Moussa, or a royal tour of Saudi Arabia, or an initiative for a pan-Mideastern stock exchange in Beirut. Who knows?

We therefore beg you to consider the following as you twiddle your thumbs next month staring for the first time at the neatly piled letterheads on your new desk, bearing the Jewish state's insignia.

JUST LIKE some things you did nurtured our survival here, others threatened it.

The Jordanian vision you preached in the 80s was sound, and it's a great shame Shamir and the people around him, including Ehud Olmert, stabbed it in its infancy. Yet that did not justify your subsequent compromising of your own original insistence that land be ceded only to an existing and reliable government.

Middle Israelis, who originally backed your Oslo initiative, have since learned that peace can only be made with the truly repented. Striking fake deals with assorted impersonators, opportunists and double-talkers not only does not bring peace - it can destroy us. You, however, still refuse to declare Oslo a failure, one that killed thousands, disillusioned millions, cost billions and gave peace the bad name it now has here.

In this, Mr. President-elect, there is a yawning gap between you and us, even though we are all happy to finally see you bask in victory while your biggest humiliators, Moshe Katsav and Amir Peretz, shrink back to their natural sizes.

THE BEAUTY of your situation is that you no longer owe anyone anything, and you have seven years in which to do things that, if only properly chosen, will make your presidency worth everyone's while.

Should you promote peace? Of course, provided it generates peace and not what our enemies will misinterpret as weakness and design as traps. Should you do this behind the elected prime minister's back, as you have in the past, and as this particular government's limited gravitas so temptingly begs?

Don't be tempted, Mr. Peres. Great calamities might arise from this, as they already have, and there are better things you can do from the place where you have arrived.

You can, for instance, lead the war on the new anti-Semitism. You can demand to address those British academics who are trying to do to us what the medieval Church did to our ancestors. Go there and give them a piece of your mind; they will be shamed and Jewish history will be grateful.

You can also pick up from where Ben-Gurion left off, and inspire a political reform of the sort he championed, one that will supply us with more leaders like you, and fewer like your predecessor. You can also help de-radicalize Arab-Jewish relations within Israel. You can help the Left and the settlers treat each other with a little more respect, and you can encourage a better dialogue between ultra-Orthodoxy and Zionism.

You cannot, however, change the Middle East; no non-Muslim can, not at this stage of its development, whether by deploying soldiers, diplomats or entrepreneurs.

Yes, change will arrive here, it has to, just like it did in Eastern Europe, but it will only come when the Arabs crave it themselves - genuinely, organically and enthusiastically. Until then, Mr. President-elect, we must remain on the defensive and humbly concede that there are some very big forces at play here, forces that must be allowed to run their course, forces arguably as big as superpowers - forces even bigger than Shimon Peres's career.

5) Last chance for Abbas
By Charles Krauthammer

EDITOR'S NOTE: There is no sovereign state of "Palestine". The author, for reasons known only to him, has chosen to call territory won by Israel in a defensive war with this name.

Gaza is now run not by a conventional political party but by a movement that is revolutionary, Islamist and terrorist. Worse, Hamas is a client of Iran. Gaza now constitutes the farthest reach of the archipelago of Iranian proxies: Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Mahdi Army (among others) in Iraq and the Alawite regime of Syria.

This Islamist mini-replica of the Comintern is at war not just with Israel but with the moderate Arab states, who finally woke up to this threat last summer when they denounced Hezbollah for provoking the Lebanon war with Israel. The fall of Gaza is particularly terrifying to Egypt because Hamas is so closely affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, the chief Islamist threat to the secular-nationalist regime that has ruled Egypt since the revolution of 1952. Which is why Egypt has just invited Israeli, Jordanian and moderate Palestinian leaders to a summit next week — pointedly excluding and isolating Hamas.

The splitting of Palestine into two entities is nonetheless clarifying. Since Hamas won the parliamentary elections of January 2006, we've had to deal with the fiction of a supposedly unified Palestine ruled by an avowedly "unity" government of Fatah and Hamas. Now the muddle has undergone political hydrolysis, separating out the relatively pure elements: a Hamas-ruled Gaza and Fatah-ruled (for now) West Bank.

The policy implications are obvious. There is nothing to do with the self-proclaimed radical Islamist entity that is Gaza but to isolate it. No recognition, no aid (except humanitarian necessities through the United Nations), no diplomatic commerce.

Israel now has the opportunity to establish deterrence against unremitting rocket attacks from Gaza into Israeli villages. Israel failed to do that after it evacuated Gaza in 2005, permitting the development of an unprecedented parasitism by willingly supplying food, water, electricity and gasoline to a territory that was actively waging hostilities against it.

With Hamas now clearly in charge, Israel should declare that it will tolerate no more rocket fire — that the next Qassam will be answered with a cutoff of gasoline shipments. This should bring road traffic in Gaza to a halt within days and make it increasingly difficult to ferry around missiles and launchers.

If that fails to concentrate the mind, the next step should be to cut off electricity. When the world wails, Israel should ask, what other country on Earth is expected to supply the very means for a declared enemy to attack it?

Regarding the West Bank, policy should be equally clear. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas represents moderation and should be helped as he tries to demonstrate both authority and success in running his part of Palestine.

But let's remember who Abbas is. He appears well intentioned, but he is afflicted with near-disastrous weaknesses. He controls little. His troops in Gaza simply collapsed against the greatly outnumbered forces of Hamas. His authority in the West Bank is far from universal. He does not even control the various factions within Fatah.

But the greater liability is his character. He is weak and indecisive. When he was Yasser Arafat's deputy, Abbas was known to respond to being slapped down by his boss by simply disappearing for weeks in a sulk. During the battle for Gaza, he did not order his Fatah forces to return fire against the Hamas insurrection until the fight was essentially over. Remember, too, that after Arafat's death Abbas ran the Palestinian Authority without a Hamas presence for more than a year. Can you name a single thing he achieved in that time?

Moreover, his Fatah party is ideologically spent and widely discredited. Historian Michael Oren points out that the Palestinian Authority has received more per capita aid than did Europe under the Marshall Plan. This astonishing largess has disappeared into lavish villas for party bosses and guns for the multiple militias Arafat established.

The West is rushing to bolster Abbas. Israel will release hundreds of millions in tax revenue. The United States and the European Union will be pouring in aid. All praise Abbas as a cross between Anwar Sadat and Simón Bolívar. Fine. We have no choice but to support him. But before we give him the moon, we should insist upon reasonable benchmarks of both moderation and good governance — exactly what we failed to do during the Oslo process. Abbas needs to demonstrate his ability to run a clean administration and to engage Israel in day-to-day negotiations to alleviate the conditions of life on the ground.

Abbas is not Hamas. But despite the geographical advantages, he does not represent the second coming, either. We can prop him up only so much. In the end, the only one who can make a success of the West Bank is Abbas himself. This is his chance. His last chance.

6) Dubious refugee relief:
by Nicole Brackman and Asaf Romirowsky

Recent violent events in the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon, as well as the internecine Palestinian fighting raging in Gaza, are a stark reminder of the inherent instability of the current Palestinian political culture and the rise of extremism within the population.

Along with the explosion in Lebanon, there have been weeks of street fighting in Gaza between Hamas and Fatah activists. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called for resumed negotiations with Israel while Hamas has rejected this possibility. The inter-Palestinian violence also heralded a new barrage of Kassem rockets launched at Israel — more than 150 in the past weeks.

In Lebanon, it seems the refugee camps have been effectively taken over by a new al Qaeda-linked terrorist faction called Fatah al-Islam. Long an epicenter of factional extremism in Lebanon, the Palestinian camps are a hotbed for breeding and exporting terrorist activists. One common denominator between the refugee crisis in Lebanon and the violence in Gaza is the involvement of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Founded in 1949 after the passage of U.N. Resolution 194, the organization was to take over immediate relief and more long-term work projects designed to make the refugee communities self-sufficient, pending a political settlement.

This group is a unique body that has no other parallel in the U.N. system. Millions of refugees worldwide fall under the responsibility of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which aims to resettle and rehabilitate the refugees. But the relief group was created as a separate body whose jurisdiction is solely the Palestinians. UNRWA defines the term "refugee" in the broadest terms by including not only those Arabs who fled from territories held by Israel, but also those who stayed in their homes and lost their source of livelihood as a result of war. Today, this would include all third- and fourth-generation children of refugees, even those of just one Palestinian refugee parent.

Historically, UNRWA is the main vehicle for the perpetuation of the focus on the Arab-Israeli conflict in the United Nations. In contradistinction to the human-rights group, UNRWA is an apparatus that maintains the status quo; the office has no incentive to develop a resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem. As one of the largest employers in the host countries that have Palestinian refugee camps, UNRWA is staffed in situ mainly by local Palestinians — more than 23,000 of them, with only about 100 international U.N. professionals. The pattern of hiring within the served population is unique in the U.N. constellation — UNHCR considers hiring agency recipients a conflict of interest. The bureaucracy has created an infrastructure of dependency whereby Palestinian refugees rely on UNRWA services (medical assistance, jobs, education) but do not plan or implement any solutions that may endanger their livelihood by rendering themselves obsolete.

UNRWA serves as a crucial tool of legitimacy for the Palestinian refugee issue — as long as the office is active, how could anyone question the Palestinian refugee problem? Thus an oxymoronic situation: Despite the Israeli disengagement from Gaza in 2005 and the creation in 1993 of a Palestinian Authority with jurisdiction over the Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza/West Bank, UNRWA remains the key social, medical, educational and professional service provider for Palestinians living in "refugee" camps. This runs contrary to every principle of normal territorial integrity and autonomy.

UNRWA's budget has been funded by many nations, of which the United States and other Western nations have been the largest contributors. By 2000, UNRWA's budget was $365 million. UNRWA is beset by bureaucratic difficulties and has not escaped the internal conflicts that have overwhelmed the Palestinian political landscape. More disturbing are the widespread reports of terrorism emanating from UNRWA-supervised facilities — including sniper attacks from UNRWA-run schools, bomb factories in UNRWA camps, transportation of terrorists to their target zones in UNRWA ambulances — even employees directly related in terrorist attacks on civilians.

All this should bother Americans because American funding makes up more than a third of the agency's budget — so American dollars are funding terrorist activities in a fairly direct way. And now, that terrorism isn't only about fighting against Israel. The infiltration of al Qaeda into the camps in Lebanon signals that such activity is almost certainly also going on elsewhere — in southern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and in Gaza and the West Bank. Combined with the other terrorist actors seeking to foment instability and gain influence (Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Fatah, etc.) at the expense of regional stability, the prospects for the exportation of terror are most alarming.

It is therefore not surprising that the Palestinian agenda — and sympathy for the Palestinian cause — has infiltrated every aperture at Turtle Bay. It has engendered Arab and Western support for the delegitimation of Israel. Fighting the war against terror entails clamping down on those institutions that perpetuate the ideology Islamist groups spread. UNRWA and the U.N. as a whole have transformed themselves into a propaganda machine for such thinking. America as a shareholder should take a very close look at where our money is being spent. It is crucial that the United States seek a true international body that represents the entire global community and not buy into the myths groups like UNRWA try to sell us.

7) Christian monastery attacked in Gaza
by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook

During the recent fighting in Gaza between Hamas and Fatah, the Christian community in Gaza was also targeted. The Palestinian paper Al-Ayyam reported that “Armed masked men… stole, destroyed and burned down a monastery and a church school in Gaza, after they bombed the main gate with RPG shells… they destroyed the main gate of the monastery with an RPG shell, and then entered the church and destroyed everything in the monastery: The crosses, the holy books, computers and photocopy machines." They appeared to be members of Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades, however, the Hamas has directed the blame at the Palestinian Authority police.

It should be noted that while this may have been a Hamas attack on the church, the Christian community has been suffering under Fatah rule as well. Ever since the West Bank cities were given over from Israel to the Palestinian Authority the Christian population has been living under very difficult conditions.

Palestinian writer Khaled Abu Toameh recently reported in The Jerusalem Post on the ruin of the Christian community of Bethlehem:

"The conditions of Christians in Bethlehem and its surroundings had deteriorated ever since the area was handed over [from Israel] to the PA in 1995…. 'Every day we hear of another Christian family that has immigrated to the US, Canada or Latin America… The Christians today make up less than 15 percent of the population'… "Samir Qumsiyeh [said]: "I believe that 15 years from now there will be no Christians left in Bethlehem."

When the West Bank was under Israeli administration the Christian population of Bethlehem was over 60%.

This attack on the Gaza church, though more aggressive than the actions in Bethlehem, seem to be part of a Palestinian pattern of marginalizing the Christian community.

The article from Al-Ayyam appears below. As the story of the Christian community in Bethlehem is important for the understanding of the Christian predicament under the Palestinian Authority, The Jerusalem Post article has likewise been reprinted below.

Al-Ayyam, June 18, 2007
Armed masked men, said to be part of Al-Qassam [Hamas] Operational Force, stole, destroyed and burned down a monastery and a church school in Gaza, after they bombed the main gate with RPG shells…

Father Manuel Muslem, the leader of the Latin community in Gaza, said that the armed men who carried all sorts of weapons, including machine guns and RPG launchers, burst in to the monastery and the Al-Wardiya Church school yesterday after they destroyed the main gate of the monastery with an RPG shell, and then entered the church and destroyed everything in the monastery: The crosses, the holy books, computers and photocopy machines… And he explained that the damage caused to the monastery, only on the inside, will require over 100,000 Jordanian Dinar to restore, all the more so the walls and the outer gates which were damaged by the shells and were entirely destroyed.

Muslem indicated that he got a phone call from President Mahmoud Abbas, who expressed his identification and his love for the people of the Christian community… similarly, President Abbas promised the church that the [Palestinian] Authority will be the faithful protector to its people, without differentiating between a Christian and a Muslim.

In a response to the blame directed at the [Hamas] Al-Qassam Brigades and the Operational Force… the spokesman of the Operational Force, Islam Shahwan, said that the events of theft, destruction and burning of some of the institutions are absolutely not part of the values and measures of our people…

[That] those who attacked the Al-Wardiya Church school wore the clothes of the Operational Force and bore symbols saying “Al-Qassam,” Shahwan explained that, concerning the Al-Qassam Brigades, since there was a agreement with them, and they completely left the street, only men of the Operational Force and of the Palestinian police stayed there. He denied [the claim] that this destructive way is the way of the Operational Force.

8) Bethlehem Christians claim persecution

A number of Christian families have finally decided to break their silence and talk openly about what they describe as Muslim persecution of the Christian minority in this city. The move comes as a result of increased attacks on Christians by Muslims over the past few months. The families said they wrote letters to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the Vatican, Church leaders and European governments complaining about the attacks, but their appeals have fallen on deaf ears. According to the families, many Christians have long been afraid to complain in public about the campaign of "intimidation" for fear of retaliation by their Muslim neighbors and being branded "collaborators" with Israel. But following an increase in attacks on Christian-owned property in the city over the past few months, some Christians are no longer afraid to talk about the ultra-sensitive issue. And they are talking openly about leaving the city.

"The situation is very dangerous," said Samir Qumsiyeh, owner of the Beit Sahur-based private Al-Mahd (Nativity) TV station. "I believe that 15 years from now there will be no Christians left in Bethlehem. Then you will need a torch to find a Christian here. This is a very sad situation." Qumsiyeh, one of the few Christians willing to speak about the harsh conditions of their community, has been the subject of numerous death threats. His house was recently attacked with fire-bombs, but no one was hurt.

Qumsiyeh said he has documented more than 160 incidents of attacks on Christians in the area in recent years. He said a monk was recently roughed up for trying to prevent a group of Muslim men from seizing lands owned by Christians in Beit Sahur.

Thieves have targeted the homes of many Christian families and a "land mafia" has succeeded in laying its hands on vast areas of land belonging to Christians, he added.

Fuad and Georgette Lama woke up one morning last September to discover that Muslims from a nearby village had fenced off their family's six-dunam plot in the Karkafa suburb south of Bethlehem.

"A lawyer and an official with the Palestinian Authority just came and took our land," said 69-year-old Georgette Lama.

The couple was later approached by senior PA security officers who offered to help them kick out the intruders from the land. "We paid them $1,000 so they could help us regain our land," she said, almost in tears.

"Instead of giving us back our land, they simply decided to keep it for themselves. They even destroyed all the olive trees and divided the land into small plots, apparently so that they could offer each for sale."

When her 72-year-old husband, Fuad, went to the land to ask the intruders to leave, he was severely beaten and threatened with guns. "My husband is after heart surgery and they still beat him," Georgette Lama said. "These people have no heart. We're afraid to go to our land because they will shoot at us. Ever since the beating, my husband is in a state of trauma and has difficulties talking."

The Lamas have since knocked on the doors of scores of PA officials in Bethlehem seeking their intervention, but to no avail. At one stage, they sent a letter to Abbas, who promised to launch an investigation. "We heard that President Mahmoud Abbas is taking our case very seriously," said Georgette Lama. "But until now he hasn't done anything to help us get our land back. We are very concerned because we're not the only ones suffering from this phenomenon. Most Christians are afraid to speak, but I don't care because we have nothing more to lose."

The couple's Christian neighbor, Edward Salama, said the problem in the city was the absence of law and order. "We are living in a state of chaos and lawlessness," he said. "The police are afraid of the thugs who are taking our lands." Salama expressed deep concern over the conditions of Christians in Bethlehem, noting that many were leaving the country as a result of the deterioration. "When I see what's happening to Christians here, I worry a lot for our future," he said. "They are targeting Christians, because we are seen as weak."

The Lamas said they decided to go public with the hope that the international community would intervene with the PA to halt the land-grab. "We will fight and fight until we recover our land," Fuad Lama said. "We will resort to the courts and to the public opinion for help.

"Unfortunately, Christian leaders and spokesmen are afraid to talk about the problems we are facing. We know of three other Christian families - Salameh, Kawwas and Asfour - whose lands were also illegally seized by Muslims."

A Christian businessman who asked not to be identified said the conditions of Christians in Bethlehem and its surroundings had deteriorated ever since the area was handed over to the PA in 1995. "Every day we hear of another Christian family that has immigrated to the US, Canada or Latin America," he said. "The Christians today make up less than 15 percent of the population."

People are running away because the Palestinian government isn't doing anything to protect them and their property against Muslim thugs. Of course not all the Muslims are responsible, but there is a general feeling that Christians have become easy prey."

9) Still Waiting on North Korea: The Bush administration is eager to believe that Kim Jong Il will -- for the first time -- fulfill his promises.

ONE HUNDRED thirty-one days ago North Korea committed itself to shutting down the plutonium-producing Yongbyon nuclear reactor within 60 days, readmitting international inspectors and discussing "a list of all its nuclear programs" in exchange for 50,000 tons of fuel oil and the beginning of a normalization of relations with the United States. Since then the Bush administration has made a string of concessions to Pyongyang, most of them unmentioned in the Feb. 13 accord. The regime of Kim Jong Il has done nothing, other than skillfully extract those favors.

Friday in Pyongyang, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher R. Hill predicted that the payoff for the United States and its negotiating partners was imminent. United Nations inspectors, he said, would visit the North this week, and the reactor would be shut down "the week after that, or two weeks after that." If so -- and we won't be holding our breath -- that will be good news. But the means of getting there ought to prompt more caution about a process that, even with a Yongbyon shutdown, will not have reached the point where North Korea's seriousness about denuclearization could be confirmed.

Mr. Hill's presence in Pyongyang was one of those extra concessions obtained by the North. In the past the Bush administration has resisted such one-on-one talks in favor of the six-party format; his was the first visit by a senior U.S. official in almost five years. While he was there, administration officials were anxiously awaiting confirmation of the return of $25 million in North Korean funds that had been frozen in a Macao bank because of a U.S. Treasury investigation. The United States promised a "resolution" of the investigation at the time of the Feb. 13 agreement; since then it has caved to the North's demands that it return all of the money -- not just that unconnected to criminal activities -- and transfer it through the U.S. Federal Reserve, thereby signaling Mr. Kim's restored access to the international banking system.

Though still waiting for the North's first step, Mr. Hill sounded almost euphoric on Friday. "I come away . . . buoyed by a sense that we are going to be able to achieve our full objectives, that is, complete denuclearization," he said in Seoul. As for the turning point defined by his boss, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- North Korean action to permanently disable Yongbyon, along with a complete disclosure of its nuclear programs -- "that's a few months down the road," Mr. Hill said.

Yongbyon's dismantlement would indeed be a breakthrough. But months already have passed since the North missed the initial deadline for suspending operations at the reactor, with no consequence other than additional U.S. sweeteners. Mr. Kim seems adept at exploiting American impatience for a breakthrough. During its last weeks the Clinton administration was drawn in by North Korean hints about a deal on its missile program, and it dispatched Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to Pyongyang for what became a grotesque propaganda windfall for Mr. Kim. The missile deal never came close to materializing.

Given the threat posed by a loathsome dictatorship apparently armed with nuclear weapons, the Bush administration is right to explore whether Mr. Kim's promises of disarmament are serious this time. But it should stop making one-sided concessions to a regime that has, as yet, not shown it will do more than pocket them.

10) The Hillary Dilemma
By Larry Sabato

Despite the breathless media reports about every jot and tittle of the Democratic contest for President, not all that much has changed in the last year. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) has consistently been the frontrunner in national surveys, sometimes by narrow spreads and frequently by sizeable margins. So far she has weathered the entry of Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), a far more charismatic and exciting candidate, and she has held off any sizeable gains by the other two major contenders, former Senator John Edwards (D-NC) and Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico (D-NM).

The main stumbling block for Clinton has been Iowa, where she continues to trail in the trial heats for the first caucus. But no one else is so well positioned to survive an initial defeat. Arguably, her strongest potential opponents, moderates Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) and former Governor Mark Warner (D-VA), decided against running, and the other formidable possible candidate, former Vice President Al Gore, is almost certainly not going to run. The other announced Democratic candidates show little sign of breaking out of the pack.

So it's smooth sailing for Hillary, right? No one questions her intelligence, abilities, policy aptitude, and experience (hey, this would be her third term!) And thanks to the deep unpopularity of President Bush and the Iraq War, won't any Democrat be favored in 2008? How can the Democrats blow this election, with all their built-in advantages?

Well, the sailing is going to get rough, and those built-in advantages are somewhat illusory. But everything depends on whether Democrats--and the country in general--consider the big picture prior to voting in January and then November. It's anybody's guess whether they will.

The Crystal Ball is the first to admit that Clinton is a substantial, maybe heavy early favorite for the nomination. Hillary has become the "woman candidate" in a party strongly influenced by women in its voting base (if not in public office). Her first-tier opponents are also hobbled in various ways. The inexperienced Obama is a relative novice at politics, and many Democrats--including African-American Dems--are worried that America isn't "ready" for a black President. (Why America would be ready for a woman and not an African American is a mystery to the Crystal Ball.) Edwards was an unimpressive Senator and nominee for Vice President in 2004 who has been unable to shake his image as a "pretty boy." Richardson has a better resume than all his rivals put together, but this unpolished performer has been unable to break through in fundraising or the debates.

Moreover, the yearning among the public for the end of President Bush's reign is palpable, and it may simply be impossible to stop any Democratic ticket in November 2008. Put aside Democratic antipathy toward Bush; most Independents and many Republicans aren't listening to Bush anymore, and that's a big problem for him and his party. As political scientist Richard Neustadt wrote in 1960, the essential presidential power is "the power to persuade." A Chief Executive has no chance to persuade if few are paying attention. A President's party has little chance to win if the public is so soured on an administration that it seeks mainly to punish the incumbent in an election. To top it off, the GOP electorate appears deeply divided among four major candidates (Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson) and generally dissatisfied and unenthusiastic about their choices--another effect of the "Bush depression" among Republicans.

Yet Hillary Clinton has her own unique set of difficulties, and neither her party nor the general electorate has focused on them in a comprehensive way. Let's take a look:

* There is something about Hillary--the person, not the politician--that upsets and repels tens of millions of Americans. Fairly or not, she is seen as cold, calculating, and ruthless, an off-putting combination of characteristics. Is some of this sexist? Regrettably, you bet it is. We laugh whenever we hear Senator Clinton derided as overly ambitious. Which of her male rivals would not eagerly walk over both grandmothers laid end to end in order to make their way into the White House? Stomach-turning ambition is in the nature of the political beast. But with Mrs. Clinton, the public reaction is based on far more than this one quality. For example, almost every voter now has heard something about her leading role in covering up for her husband's serial infidelities over the decades. This is an unusual role for a spouse, even in the twisted world of politics. Most normal people cannot fathom it, except in the context of a supposed "corrupt bargain" between two power-hungry individuals.

* The result of the voters' harsh personal evaluation of Mrs. Clinton is obvious. In many surveys, Clinton runs 3-5 percentage points worse than the other widely known Democratic candidates, Obama and Gore, when matched up against the best-known Republican presidential candidates for November 2008. Incredibly, close to half of adult Americans already say they have an "unfavorable" opinion of her, and 43-46 percent of Americans say that they would not even consider voting for her--an extraordinarily high proportion this early in a campaign that leaves little room for error later on. Independents, moderates and swing voters are concentrated in this anti-Clinton group, not just Republicans. Again, maybe the toxic combination of Bush and Iraq will guarantee any Democrat's triumph, but should the GOP's toxicity lessen (perhaps by means of troop withdrawals by election day), Democrats will perhaps be taking an unnecessary chance of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory with Clinton as their standard-bearer.

* Compared to other candidates about whom the public knows much less, Clinton will have to live with the current public perceptions of her, for the most part. Too much water has gone under the bridge and over the dam since the Clintons burst on the national scene in 1992. Mrs. Clinton likes to say that she is the most famous person nobody knows, but in fact, most Americans think they have her number. Voters are uninformed about the details of politics and policy, but as the great political scientist V.O. Key once wrote, "Voters are not fools." The final several percent of swing voters needed to get Hillary Clinton over the top in the general election will vote for her only with the greatest reluctance, more as a way to stop a Republican than as an endorsement of her. That is a shaky way to start a Presidency.

* Let's suppose Mrs. Clinton wins in November 2008. Democrats would have to live with the consequences. There is simply no question that Senator Clinton would be the third deeply polarizing President in a row, following her husband's divisive and partially wasted tenure and George W. Bush's deeply disappointing turn at bat. We bet that she would have a short honeymoon and would be unable to convince her millions of critics and detractors that she had changed--or was different than they long ago concluded she was. At a time when the nation could use a unifier and a healer--to the extent that any President can perform those roles--partisan warfare would be at fever pitch from Day One.

* Republicans hope that Mrs. Clinton is the nominee because they believe she may be the easiest to beat. Circumstances may prove them right or wrong, but there is another reason why they should root for her. The inevitable controversies of the Presidency would erode her shaky support among swing voters faster than is usually the case. The midterm election of 2010 may not be the fiasco for Democrats that 1994 was-there were few historical parallels for Bill Clinton's electoral disaster in his first term-yet the GOP would almost certainly make a good start on the comeback trail for control of Congress, governorships, and the state legislatures (in the all-important redistricting election that will determine much of the legislative line-drawing for a full decade). Granted, it is virtually impossible to get partisans to think about their long-term interests, but in this respect, Democrats would probably pay a sizeable price throughout the 2010s for a Clinton victory in 2008.

* Democrats (and some Independents) have fallen back in love with Bill Clinton, and this has caused a case of mass amnesia about his (and her) many scandals from the 1990s. The muted reactions to the two new books on Hillary Clinton by Carl Bernstein and Jeff Gerth & Don Van Natta, Jr. suggest that voters have already absorbed the embarrassing fundamentals and factored the scandals into their fixed perceptions of the Clintons. But do leopards change their spots? Suppose the news media choose to break more recent (post-January 20, 2001) information about the former President? How much additional tolerance for a continuation of the tired Clinton soap opera is there in the American public? If this happens, Democrats will suffer--whether the revelations come before the nomination is decided or after the nominee (if Mrs. Clinton) is chosen. As First Gentleman, Bill Clinton will also be reasonably subject to the highest level of scrutiny for four or eight more years. Would the public ignore additional indiscretions as more of the same, or recoil anew and punish Democrats at the polls in future elections? One can argue this either way, though we think the latter outcome is much more likely.

Let's finish up this essay by broadening our critique, and offering a point that ought to concern all Americans. Every four years, observers pronounce the presidential contenders to be a "weak field," and that is as unfair as it is predictable.

A much more reasonable criticism is directly related to the dominating presence of Hillary Clinton in this election cycle. The population of the United States now exceeds 300 million, and the talent pool of the world's only superpower is deep and rich. How is it that the country is on the verge of filling its highest office for the sixth consecutive term from one of two families? That every President from 1989 to 2017 may be a Bush or a Clinton is a national disgrace. What has happened to the American Republic? How does it differ from a banana republic--where a couple of dominant families often run everything for generations? Have we driven the vast majority of the potentially best Presidents out of the contest because of the high personal and professional costs of running for office? Are we the voters responsible because we are too lazy to go beyond the simplistic attractions of familiarity and high name identification? Or, most disturbing of all, has our political system become ossified, so that we are too fearful of change to seek out the most outstanding leaders among us for the toughest job in the world?

We don't pretend to have the answers. But we are shocked and dismayed that more people aren't even bothering to ask the questions.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Our State Department loses another one!

Very bright friends of mine have written to Georgia's two Senators expressing their views on why the "failed" Immigration Bill is an abomination. (See 1 below.)

Lieberman returns from Iraq and tells it as he saw it. It must be discomforting to his defeatist Democrat friends. Barry Rubin, in today's WSJ, concurs with what I have been saying about those who mistakenly believed they could deal with the Palestinians whose continual love affair with hate and lies has finally become their own undoing. (See 2 below.)

Now on to The West Bank and a partial review of how matters came to be as they now are. GW's State Department loses another one.

Since the Palestinians have chosen to play with fire they now have been burned - no, incinerated by their own. (See 3 below.)

Robert Kaplan ask the same questions I have been posing. (See 4 below.)

Caroline Glick reminds us, in their own words, how wrong our politicians have been vis a vis their advice and stratgey towards the Palestiniains. (See 5 below.)

Barak, who was willing to do Clinton's bidding, is now Defense Minister. Barak doesn't even look good in a uniform - sloppy at best. (See 6 below.)

Off on another week trip so no memos and a Happy Father's Day to all the fathers who aren't terrorists and are not trying to kill the world's children and peoples!


1)Re: Immigration Reform Bill

Dear Saxby and Johnny:
We are writing a joint letter to you, because we know that you both
want to do what is best for the United States, and we know that you listen
to your constituents. We have called your offices, and have now had a
chance to review the bill that the Senate is working on. This bill
does not adhere to basic American principles. You need to restart with a
blank piece of paper.

When you restart, please start with some basic principles in mind:

1. A New Bill Should Support the Rule of Law. Paul Coverdell would
not have supported a bill that undermined the rule of law. This bill does
that in multiple ways - it gives lawbreakers a way out, it undermines
the efforts of those who are investigating crime and enforcing the law,
and it punishes the multitudes of potential immigrants - many
high-skilled - who are waiting for the opportunity to enter our
national experience legally. The Constitution and all laws depend upon an
underpinning of a strong respect for the rule of law.

2. A New Bill Should Protect Our National Security. No one wants a
bill that offers any immunity to the hard-core criminals and gang
members and terrorists who have slipped into our country illegally.
How have we come to one that makes this offer? What happened to the
"fence" and why does this bill cut that in half?

3. A New Bill Should Meet Our Nation's Need for High-Skilled Workers.
We should be selective as to the Americans we want for the 21st
century. Low skilled workers add to the burden of all Americans in an
information age, and will add to the Social Security crisis by depleting government
reserves through transfer payments. The evidence suggests that this is
not the fix for Social Security that anyone thinks it could be, but a
costly infusion of a new underclass.

4. A New Bill Should Not Create Second-Class Citizens. The original
Constitution had but one flaw - it created a class of persons with
unequal rights - slaves counted for three-fifths. It took over two
centuries to work out how we would integrate slaves as equal citizens,
and the Republican Party was begotten from that effort.

This bill does not even purport to try to work out what will happen
with immigrants who don't become citizens. They can remain "temporary"
until they die - never pledging allegiance. This is not consistent with our
current Constitution or American ideals, much less the ideals that
informed the Republican Party.

5. A New Bill Should Not Enrich Trial Lawyers. This bill has too many
points for redress to the courts, with attorneys fees paid. It is a
trial lawyers' enrichment bill. It is capable of comprehension now,
but it won't be once the courts start interpreting the new rights that the
bill contains.

Congress and the President could pass Simpson-Mazolli in 1986, because
they had credibility on enforcement issues - the American people
actually believed the bill would be enforced. Now, it is unfortunately
but abundantly obvious that Congress and this President lack the trust
of an overwhelming majority on this issue.

The Republican Party has lost its way on this bill. The Democrats
would not support a bill unless it carried the "bi-partisan" imprimatur; it
would be a death trap for them in 2008. This is a political trap for
the Republican Party. Please start over with the basic principles
outlined above in mind.

2)What I Saw in Iraq: Iran remains a problem, but Anbar has joined the fight against terror.

I recently returned from Iraq and four other countries in the Middle East, my first trip to the region since December. In the intervening five months, almost everything about the American war effort in Baghdad has changed, with a new coalition military commander, Gen. David Petraeus; a new U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker; the introduction, at last, of new troops; and most important of all, a bold, new counterinsurgency strategy.

The question of course is--is it working? Here in Washington, advocates of retreat insist with absolute certainty that it is not, seizing upon every suicide bombing and American casualty as proof positive that the U.S. has failed in Iraq, and that it is time to get out.

In Baghdad, however, discussions with the talented Americans responsible for leading this fight are more balanced, more hopeful and, above all, more strategic in their focus--fixated not just on the headline or loss of the day, but on the larger stakes in this struggle, beginning with who our enemies are in Iraq. The officials I met in Baghdad said that 90% of suicide bombings in Iraq today are the work of non-Iraqi, al Qaeda terrorists. In fact, al Qaeda's leaders have repeatedly said that Iraq is the central front of their global war against us. That is why it is nonsensical for anyone to claim that the war in Iraq can be separated from the war against al Qaeda--and why a U.S. pullout, under fire, would represent an epic victory for al Qaeda, as significant as their attacks on 9/11.

Some of my colleagues in Washington claim we can fight al Qaeda in Iraq while disengaging from the sectarian violence there. Not so, say our commanders in Baghdad, who point out that the crux of al Qaeda's strategy is to spark Iraqi civil war.

Al Qaeda is launching spectacular terrorist bombings in Iraq, such as the despicable attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra this week, to try to provoke sectarian violence. Its obvious aim is to use Sunni-Shia bloodshed to collapse the Iraqi government and create a failed state in the heart of the Middle East, radicalizing the region and providing a base from which to launch terrorist attacks against the West.

Facts on the ground also compel us to recognize that Iran is doing everything in its power to drive us out of Iraq, including providing substantive support, training and sophisticated explosive devices to insurgents who are murdering American soldiers. Iran has initiated a deadly military confrontation with us, from bases in Iran, which we ignore at our peril, and at the peril of our allies throughout the Middle East.

The precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces would not only throw open large parts of Iraq to domination by the radical regime in Tehran, it would also send an unmistakable message to the entire Middle East--from Lebanon to Gaza to the Persian Gulf where Iranian agents are threatening our allies--that Iran is ascendant there, and America is in retreat. One Arab leader told me during my trip that he is extremely concerned about Tehran's nuclear ambitions, but that he doubted America's staying power in the region and our political will to protect his country from Iranian retaliation over the long term. Abandoning Iraq now would substantiate precisely these gathering fears across the Middle East that the U.S. is becoming an unreliable ally.

That is why--as terrible as the continuing human cost of fighting this war in Iraq is--the human cost of losing it would be even greater.

Gen. Petraeus and other U.S. officials in Iraq emphasize that it is still too soon to draw hard judgments about the success of our new security strategy--but during my visit I saw hopeful signs of progress. Consider Anbar province, Iraq's heart of darkness for most of the past four years. When I last visited Anbar in December, the U.S. military would not allow me to visit the provincial capital, Ramadi, because it was too dangerous. Anbar was one of al Qaeda's major strongholds in Iraq and the region where the majority of American casualties were occurring. A few months earlier, the Marine Corps chief of intelligence in Iraq had written off the entire province as "lost," while the Iraq Study Group described the situation there as "deteriorating."

When I returned to Anbar on this trip, however, the security environment had undergone a dramatic reversal. Attacks on U.S. troops there have dropped from an average of 30 to 35 a day a few months ago to less than one a day now, according to Col. John Charlton, commander of the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, headquartered in Ramadi. Whereas six months ago only half of Ramadi's 23 tribes were cooperating with the coalition, all have now been persuaded to join an anti-al Qaeda alliance. One of Ramadi's leading sheikhs told me: "A rifle pointed at an American soldier is a rifle pointed at an Iraqi."

The recent U.S. experience in Anbar also rebuts the bromide that the new security plan is doomed to fail because there is no "military" solution for Iraq. In fact, no one believes there is a purely "military" solution for Iraq. But the presence of U.S. forces is critical not just to ensuring basic security, but to a much broader spectrum of diplomatic, political and economic missions--which are being carried out today in Iraq under Gen. Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy.

In Anbar, for example, the U.S. military has been essential to the formation and survival of the tribal alliance against al Qaeda, simultaneously holding together an otherwise fractious group of Sunni Arab leaders through deft diplomacy, while establishing a political bridge between them and the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad. "This is a continuous effort," Col. Charlton said. "We meet with the sheikhs every single day and at every single level."

In Baghdad, U.S. forces have cut in half the number of Iraqi deaths from sectarian violence since the surge began in February. They have also been making critical improvements in governance, basic services and commercial activity at the grassroots level.

On Haifa Street, for instance, where there was bloody fighting not so long ago, the 2nd "Black Jack" Brigade of our First Cavalry Division, under the command of a typically impressive American colonel, Bryan Roberts, has not only retaken the neighborhood from insurgents, but is working with the local population to revamp the electrical grid and sewer system, renovate schools and clinics, and create an "economic safe zone" where businesses can reopen. Indeed, of the brigade's five "lines of operations," only one is strictly military. That Iraq reality makes pure fiction of the argument heard in Washington that the surge will fail because it is only "military."

Some argue that the new strategy is failing because, despite gains in Baghdad and Anbar, violence has increased elsewhere in the country, such as Diyala province. This gets things backwards: Our troops have succeeded in improving security conditions in precisely those parts of Iraq where the "surge" has focused. Al Qaeda has shifted its operations to places like Diyala in large measure because we have made progress in pushing them out of Anbar and Baghdad. The question now is, do we consolidate and build on the successes that the new strategy has achieved, keeping al Qaeda on the run, or do we abandon them?

To be sure, there are still daunting challenges ahead. Iraqi political leaders, in particular, need to step forward and urgently work through difficult political questions, whose resolution is necessary for national reconciliation and, as I told them, continuing American support.

These necessary legislative compromises would be difficult to accomplish in any political system, including peaceful, long-established democracies--as the recent performance of our own Congress reminds us. Nonetheless, Iraqi leaders are struggling against enormous odds to make progress, and told me they expect to pass at least some of the key benchmark bills this summer. It is critical that they do so.

Here, too, however, a little perspective is useful. While benchmarks are critically important, American soldiers are not fighting in Iraq today only so that Iraqis can pass a law to share oil revenues. They are fighting because a failed state in the heart of the Middle East, overrun by al Qaeda and Iran, would be a catastrophe for American national security and our safety here at home. They are fighting al Qaeda and agents of Iran in order to create the stability in Iraq that will allow its government to take over, to achieve the national reconciliation that will enable them to pass the oil law and other benchmark legislation.

I returned from Iraq grateful for the progress I saw and painfully aware of the difficult problems that remain ahead. But I also returned with a renewed understanding of how important it is that we not abandon Iraq to al Qaeda and Iran, so long as victory there is still possible.

And I conclude from my visit that victory is still possible in Iraq--thanks to the Iraqi majority that desperately wants a better life, and because of the courage, compassion and competence of the extraordinary soldiers and statesmen who are carrying the fight there, starting with Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. The question now is, will we politicians in Washington rise to match their leadership, sacrifices and understanding of what is on the line for us in Iraq--or will we betray them, and along with them, America's future security?

3) Hamas Poised to Convert Captured Gaza Strip into Islamist Enclave: Abbas' Presidential Guardsmen surrender to Hamas

Hamas seizes control of strategic Philadelphi enclave on Egyptian border and all Gaza’s border crossings with Egypt and Israel. At least 35 people died in the fighting Wednesday. Any international force in Gaza will be resisted in the same way as an Israeli occupation army, said a Hamas spokesman.

Senior Israeli officers described the Hamas victory as a greater misfortune for Israel than its Lebanon War setbacks. There, Hizballah was forced by Israeli military action to accept a UN ceasefire and international peacekeepers.

Hamas has no such incentive. In the case of Gaza, the winner takes all and can dictate terms. A radical Islamic enclave with a dominant Iranian-Syrian military presence has sprung up unopposed as a hostile reality on Israel’s southwestern border. It has made the Israeli-Middle East Quartet’s boycott an irrelevance.

The Hamas Executive Force completed the seizure of all pro-Fatah Presidential Guard border positions, including the Karni goods crossing and the Sufa, Kerem Shalom and Rafah transit points, after midnight Wednesday night, June 14. Their commander Col. Musbah Basichi and his 60 officers fled to Egypt. At least 35 Palestinians were killed in fighting Wednesday.

Hamas pounced as Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert held a belated conversation with the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the deployment of an international force on the Philadelphi route. Hamas leaders flushed with victory will hardly accept such hindrance to the free flow of smuggled arms, missiles and explosives into the Gaza Strip.

Israeli military and security personnel administering the crossings on the Israeli side will have to work cheek by jowl with Hamas operators. The Israeli government, which decided to stay out of the Hamas-Fatah conflict, must now decide whether to break off ties with Hamas-controlled Gaza and seal the crossings, or interact with the new masters in order to admit emergency supplies for 1.4 million Gazans.

Overnight, thousands of Palestinian security officers loyal to Fatah were under Hamas siege at their last bastions – Gaza City’s Presidential Guard compound and the General Security command.

They are running out of food, water and ammunition. Hamas and its Executive Force had overrun some 80 percent of the Gaza Strip, while loyalists of Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah, including complete clans, surrendered and turned in their weapons. Hamas has set up large prisoner camps, some on the rubble of the Gush Katif villages. Wednesday afternoon, a desperate Abbas appealed to Israel to permit arms and ammunition to be transferred from the West Bank. Israeli officers said it was too late. Fatah is a lost case and any arms crossing into Gaza will be seized at once by Hamas.

Prime minister Ehud Olmert led the cabinet in a decision Tuesday night, June 12, to avoid “fighting on the side of the pragmatists against the extremists.” Olmert said an international force is worth considering for securing the Philadelphi border enclave of the Gaza Strip against further arms smuggling. This would replicate the situation in South Lebanon where UNIFIL troops have been helpless to halt illegal gunrunning to the Hizballah from Syria. The UN Security voiced concern over this traffic only Tuesday, June 12.

By borrowing this Israeli tactic for bisecting the territory to contain terrorists, Hamas shut in Mahmoud Abbas’s Presidential Guard, which has not yet been thrown into battle, and choked off ammunition re-supply routes to Fatah fighters. To tighten their control, Hamas units also commandeered high rise rooftops.

Hamas then gave Fatah till Friday noon to surrender their arms or become wanted men under sentence of death. Abbas called the situation “madness.”

UNWRA has cut down its personnel in Gaza after two aid workers were killed.

Hamas’ planning and combat tactics clearly betray the professional hands of Syrian and Hizballah officers who have set up a command center in the Gaza Strip.

Iran and Syria are the winners of Hamas’ military coup against Fatah in Gaza Strip

It was the second triumph in a week for a Palestinian force backed by Iran and Syria, after the Lebanese army failed in four weeks’ combat to crush the pro-Syrian factions’ barricaded in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian camp near Tripoli.

Fatah's ejection from the Gaza Strip effectively severs Palestinian rule between Ramallah, where Fatah will have to fight to retain control of the West Bank and Gaza, dominated now by an Islamist Palestinian force manipulated from Tehran and Damascus.

The Iran-Syrian alliance has acquired by brute force two Mediterranean coastal enclaves in northern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

Its momentum, launched a month ago in both sectors was unchecked. The Fouad Siniora government’s troops failed to break through to the Palestinian camp and crush the pro-Syrian uprising. The Olmert government stood by unmoved as the most radical elements in the Middle East snatched the Gaza Strip on Israel’s southwestern border.

The Bush administration is finding itself forced out of key Middle East positions, its main assets Siniora and Mahmoud Abbas trounced on the battlefield.

Israel’s technological feat of placing the Ofeq-7 surveillance satellite in orbit Monday quickly proved ineffective against the sort of tactics Tehran and Syria employ: mobile, suicidal Palestinian terrorists, heavily and cheaply armed with primitive weapons, who are winning the first round of the Summer 2007 war and preparing for the next.
The brutal civil strife has brought the fragile Hamas-Fatah unity government to closure. The War Crimes Prosecution Watch has condemned rival Palestinian factions fighting in Gaza for attacking civilians, prisoners and hospitals.

Senior Palestinian politician Saab Erikat warned the “Mogadishu syndrome” is overtaking Palestinian Gaza. “If war and lawlessness are not extinguished, the fire will burn us all”

The outcome generated by the civil war is the separation of Palestinian rule between Hamas-controlled Gaza and the Fatah-led West Bank.

4)Some truths are so obvious that to mention them in polite company seems either pointless or rude. What is left unstated, however, can with time be forgotten. Both of these observations apply today to the American way of war. It is obvious that a military can only fight well on behalf of a society in which it believes, and that a society which believes little is worth fighting for cannot, in the end, field an effective military. Obvious as this is, we seem to have forgotten it.

Remembering will help us in several ways. First, it will show us that the greatest asymmetry in our struggle with radical Islam is not one of arms or organization or even of ideology in any simple sense, but one of morale in the deepest sense. Second, it will provide an insight into the state of civil-military relations in our own country, which is a growing problem many of us refuse to acknowledge. And third, it will show us why some kinds of wars—“in-between” wars, I call them—have become inherently difficult for the United States to fight and win.

If a glimpse of the future is possible, it must come from an intimacy with the present clarified by the great works of the past. For over four years now I have been traveling much of the world in the company of U.S. soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen. Upon a halt in my travels, I re-read both The Art of War by the 6th-century BCE Chinese court minister Sun-Tzu and On War by the early 19th-century Prussian General Carl von Clausewitz. What struck me straight away, thanks to my recent travels-in-arms, was not what either author said, but what both assumed. Both Sun-Tzu and Clausewitz believe—in their states, their sovereigns, their homelands. Because they believe, they are willing to fight. This is so clear that they never need to state it, and they never do.

What is obvious, however, is left unstated not because it is insignificant, but because it is too significant: War is a fact of the human social condition neither man wishes were so. Sun-Tzu, concerned with war on the highest strategic level, affirms that the greatest warrior is one who calculates so well that he never needs to fight. Clausewitz, interested more in the operational level, allows that war takes precedence only after other forms of politics have failed. Both oppose militarism, but accept the reality of war, and from that acceptance reason that any policy lacking martial vigor—any policy that fails to communicate a warrior spirit—only makes war more likely. That is why Sun-Tzu only respects a leader “who plans and calculates like a hungry man”, who sanctions every manner of deceit provided it is necessary to gain strategic advantage, who is never swayed by public opinion, and “who advances without any thought of winning personal fame and withdraws in spite of certain punishment” if he judges it to be in the interest of his army and his state.11. See The Book of War, comprising Sun-Tzu’s The Art of War, translated by Roger T. Ames (1993), and Carl von Clausewitz’s On War, translated by O.J. Matthijs Jolles (1943) (Modern Library, 2000). See also, Robert D. Kaplan, Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos (Random House, 2001), Chapter IV. Clausewitz is no less committed:
In affairs so dangerous as war, false ideas proceeding from kindness of heart are precisely the worst. . . . The fact that slaughter is a horrifying spectacle must make us take war more seriously, but not provide an excuse for gradually blunting our swords in the name of humanity. Sooner or later someone will come along with a sharp sword and hack off our arms.

The logic of both men is grounded in patriotic commitment and the personal experience of what that commitment does to men and nations. Sun-Tzu was likely a court minister during the chaos of the Warring States 2,300 years ago, prior to the relative stability of Han rule. (Sun-Tzu may never have existed, however, and his book may represent the accumulated wisdom of many people.) Clausewitz was a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars who served with both the Prussian and Russian armies against the French. What stands out in The Art of War and On War, even more than the incisiveness of their analyses, is the character of the writers themselves: Both would avoid war if they could, but become warriors because they cannot.

Sun-Tzu and Clausewitz could rise to the level of theory only because they had absorbed practice. So I could only grasp their meaning after living beside junior officers and senior NCOs whose logic, like theirs, flowed from patriotism and personal commitment. Now, patriotism, we have heard, is the last refuge of the scoundrel. It can be that when patriotism is misappropriated by those who have little loyalty to place, and who therefore lack any accountability for their words or their views. It is easy, after all, to be in favor of this or that cause, or against some other ones, if one has no real stake in the outcome. But while some patriots are scoundrels, the vast majority are more trustworthy than those who are not, precisely because they do accept a stake in outcomes. And they do so most often because patriotism overlaps with what, for lack of a better phrase, is a kind of moral hardiness, by which I mean an attitude of serious engagement concerning right and wrong behavior. I saw this in one American soldier, marine, sailor and airman after another. Two of Joseph Conrad’s characters best illustrate such moral hardiness and its opposite.

Captain MacWhirr is the protagonist in Conrad’s 1902 short story “Typhoon.” The son of a Belfast grocer, MacWhirr is a man of few words and little imagination, a man so taciturn that his chief mate says of him: “There are feelings that this man simply hasn’t got. . . . You might just as well try to make a bedpost understand.” As Captain MacWhirr’s steamer, Nan-Shan, sets out for the coast of China to return Chinese coolies to their homes, a great storm is brewing in the Formosa Channel. But what would terrify most other men, MacWhirr accepts matter-of-factly.

A few hours into the voyage, his ship is in chaos. The wind alone has such a “disintegrating” force, Conrad writes, that it “isolates” every man on board from every other. The mates panic, the coolies riot, and the Nan-Shan nearly splits apart. As for MacWhirr, rather than sail miles off course to get around the storm, he quietly decides to plow straight into it, like a platoon leader charging straight into an ambush. “Facing it—always facing it”, he mumbles, “that’s the way to get through.” So it is that this ordinary, yet still very extraordinary man saves the ship because, as Conrad strongly suggests, he believes deeply in his moral duty to the shipping company and to the men serving under him. Once the storm is past, rather than sleep or even remove his boots, he makes sure that every Chinese coolie gets his proper wages. MacWhirr is not clever. He is not even minimally well-spoken. But his abiding faith results in an iron certainty about himself for which words are quite beside the point.

As MacWhirr is not the type to be afraid, so too during the worst of times in Iraq, one officer after another, commissioned and non-commissioned, communicated to me a fierce conviction. Take the MacWhirr-like Sgt. Major Dennis Zavodsky of Mapleton, Oregon, who remarked at a Thanksgiving service in Mosul that the Pilgrims during their first winter in the New World experienced a casualty rate that would render any combat unit ineffective. “This country isn’t a quitter”, he said. “It doesn’t withdraw. It doesn’t give in.” Stubbornness, inspired by faith, was the rule among those I was privileged to accompany. And I do not mean just or even mainly conventional religious faith. Quite a few of those I met despised “the Bible thumpers.” I mean simply the moral stamina of a MacWhirr—a quality of character that tends to march with the bumps and bruises of an often dangerous, usually uncertain working-class existence.

But there are also the Martin Decouds of this world, the brilliant sneerers who analyze everything into oblivion. Martin Decoud is a character in Nostromo, Conrad’s 1904 novel about an imaginary Latin American country, Costaguana, in the throes of upheaval. Decoud has studied law in Paris, dabbles in literature, writes political commentary and all-in-all, as Conrad explains, is an “idle boulevardier.” Decoud speaks much, but acts only when he is faced with a political crisis that impinges on his own welfare. Yet when he finds himself alone on an island off Costaguana, he gives in to despair, even though he has been assured of rescue. The “brilliant” journalist Decoud, the “spoiled darling” of his family, “was not fit to grapple with himself single-handed.” Despite Decoud’s virtuoso conversation and commentary, in a crisis, Conrad tells us, he “believed in nothing.” Decoud doesn’t represent any particular philosophical position or point of view; he is there to remind us that cleverness should not be confused with character.

Alas, in the unpredictable fog and Clausewitzian “friction” of war, to believe in something is more important than to be blessed by mere logic, or to have the ability for talented argument—even more important than the marvelous gear one carries. “Faith is the great strategic factor that unbelieving faculties and bureaucracies ignore”, retired Army Lt. Colonel Ralph Peters wrote in the Weekly Standard in February 2006. This is not a new idea, of course, just an obvious but too often forgotten one. It suggests particularly that we have forgotten Dostoyevsky, who wrote in The Brothers Karamazov that the signal flaw of the upper classes is that they “want to base justice on reason alone”, not on any deeper belief system absent which everything can be rationalized, so that the will of a society to fight and survive withers away.

Peters fears that Islamic revolutionaries believe in themselves more than we believe in ourselves. Terrorists do not fear the Pentagon’s much touted “network-centric warfare”, he writes, because they have mastered it for a fraction of a cent on the dollar, “achieving greater relative effects with the Internet, cell phones, and cheap airline tickets” than have all of our military technologies. Our trillion-dollar arsenal, he notes, cannot produce an instrument of war as effective as the suicide bomber—“the breakthrough weapon of our time.” If not Dostoyevsky, Kipling would have understood this. In the poem “Arithmetic on the Frontier” Kipling writes that as the hillsides of eastern Afghanistan teem with “home-bred” troops brought from England at “vast expense of time and steam”, the odds remain “on the cheaper man”, the native fighter. The suicide bomber is Kipling’s “cheaper man” incarnate.

This breakthrough weapon is a product of fanatical belief—of a different sort than Captain MacWhirr’s, but of belief nonetheless. Jihad as practiced, not as theorized, places more emphasis on the “mystical dimension” of sacrifice than on any tactical or strategic objective. Jihad is most often an act of individual exultation rather than of collective action, observes Olivier Roy in The Failure of Political Islam (1994). It is “an affair between the believer and God and not between the believer and his enemy. There is no obligation to obtain a result. Hence the demonstrative, even exhibitionist, aspects of the attacks.”

The suicide bomber is the distilled essence of jihad, the result of an age when the electronic media provides an unprecedented platform for exhibitionism. Clausewitz’s rules of war do not apply here, for he could not have conceived of the modern media, whose members tend to be as avowedly secular as suicide bombers are devout. Without any evident stabilizing belief system, the global media’s spiritual void has been partially filled by a resentment against the United States—the embodiment of unruly modernization and raw political and military power that the global citizens of the media detest. And so it is that the video camera—“that insatiable accomplice of the terrorist”, in Peters’ words—becomes the “cheap negation” of American military technology.

Even as we narrow our own view of warfare’s acceptable parameters, trying to harm as few civilians as possible in successful operations, our enemies amplify the concept of total war: They kill tens, or hundreds, or occasionally thousands of civilians in order to undermine the morale of millions. The killing of 3,000 civilians on September 11, 2001 might have temporarily awakened a warrior spirit in American democracy, but such a spirit is hard to sustain in the crucible of an ambiguous conflict. In Iraq, a country of 26 million people through which more than a million American troops have passed, the loss of a few Americans and three dozen-or-so Iraqis daily in suicide bombs is enough to demoralize a homefront 7,000 miles away. A non-warrior democracy with a limited appetite for casualties is probably a good thing in terms of putting the breaks on a directionless war strategy. That does not change the fact, however, that Americans as a people are ever further removed from any semblance of a warrior spirit as we grow increasingly prosperous and our political elite grows increasingly secular.

Holding or not holding a place for warriors in our midst is not just a matter of faith as we normally think of it, or even moral hardiness as I have described it. It is also a matter of collective self-regard or, put more conventionally, where and how solidly the boundaries of political community are drawn. It is about nationalism—nationalism of a kind that is going out of fashion among the American elite.

In Fire in the East (1999), an analysis of the dawning of the “second nuclear age”, Yale University professor Paul Bracken has drawn attention to the ascent of blood-and-soil nationalism in Asia. In discussing the acquisition of nuclear technology by China, Iran, India, Pakistan and other powers on the Asian continent, he writes:

The link to nationalism makes the second nuclear age even harder for the West to comprehend. Nationalism is not viewed kindly in the West these days. It is seen as nonsensical, a throwback, and, it is hoped, a dying force in the world. The notion that the Chinese or Indians could conduct foreign policy on the assumption of their own national superiority goes against nearly every important trend in American and West European thought.

Bracken observes that successful nuclear tests in places like India and Pakistan “set off public euphoria—literally, people danced in the streets.” It was an “emotional embrace of a technology Westerners have been taught to loathe and abhor.” Americans forget how in the 1950s the atomic bomb “was an important source of American pride”, so we should not “be surprised that Asian countries today feel the same way.” Bracken thus warns:

In focusing on whether the West can keep its lead in technology, the United States is asking the wrong question. It overlooks the military advantages that accrue to societies with a less fastidious approach to violence.

In such a world, the real threat to our national security may be our own lack of faith in ourselves, meaning not just faith in a God who has a special care for America, but faith in the American national enterprise itself, in whatever form. This lack of faith in turn leads to an overdependence on ever more antiseptic military technology. But our near obsession with finding ways to kill others at no risk to our own troops is a sign of strength in our eyes alone. To faithful or merely nationalist enemies, it is a sign of weakness, even cowardice.

Never-say-die faith, accompanied by old-fashioned nationalism, is alive in America. It is a match for the most fanatical suicide bombers anywhere, but with few exceptions, that faith is confined to our finest combat infantry units—and to specific sections of the country and socio-economic strata from which these “warriors” (as they like to call themselves) hail. They are not characteristic of a country in many ways hurtling rapidly in the opposite direction. This is not the 1950s, when Americans felt a certain relief in possessing “the bomb.” Fifty years later, most Americans feel a certain relief in never having to even hear about “the bomb.”

Faith is about struggle, about having confidence precisely when the odds are the worst. Faith is the capacity to believe in what is simultaneously necessary but improbable. That kind of faith is receding in America among a social and economic class increasingly motivated by universal values: caring, for example, about the suffering of famine victims abroad as much as for hurricane victims at home. Universal values are a good in and of themselves, and they are not the opposite of faith. But they should never be confused with it. You may care to the point of tears about suffering humankind without having the will to actually fight (let alone inconvenience yourself) for those concerns. Thus, universal values may pose an existential challenge to national security when accompanied by a loss of faith in one’s own political values and projects.

The loss of a warrior mentality and the rise of universal values seem to be features of all stable, Western-style middle-class democracies. Witness our situation. The Army Reserve is desperate for officers, yet there is little urge among American elites to volunteer. Thus our military takes on more of a regional caste. The British Army may have been drawn from the dregs of society, but its officers were the country’s political elite. Not so ours, which has little to do with the business of soldiering and is socially disconnected from what guards us in our sleep. According to Marine Maj. General Michael Lehnert, nine Princeton graduates in the class of 2006 entered the military, compared to 400 in 1956, when there was a draft. Some Ivy League schools had no one enter the military last year. Only one member of the Stanford graduating class had a parent in the military.

Nor do our top schools encourage recruitment. In fact, they often actively discourage it, as may be reckoned by the number of elite campuses from which ROTC is banned. Many people, especially academics and intellectuals, have a visceral distrust of units like Army Special Forces. They are more comfortable with regular citizen armies that seem to better represent democracy. But other than a professional warrior class or a reinstituted draft, what is available to a democracy whose upper stratum has a constantly diminishing commitment to military values?

Here is the crux of our civil-military divide: As American society grows more socially distant from its own military, American warrior consciousness is further intensifying within the combat arms community itself. The identities of each of the four armed services gradually grow less distinct. Rather than Army green, Air Force blue or Navy khaki, the slow but inexorable trend is toward purple, the color of jointness. The services have not yet lost their individual cultures, but operations both big and small are more and more integrated affairs. As each year goes by, interaction between the services deepens. The Air Force, with its once cushy, corporate ways, is becoming more hardened and austere like the Army, even as the Big Army becomes more small-unit oriented like the Marine Corps. The Big Navy, with its new emphasis on small ships to meet the demands of littoral combat, is becoming more unconventional and powered-down, also like the Marines.

Without a draft or a revitalized Reserve and National Guard that ties the military closer to civilian society, in the decades ahead American troops may become less soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen, and more purple warriors—in essence a guild in which the profession of combat-arms is passed down from father to son. It is striking how many troops I know whose parents and other relatives had also been in the service, especially among the units whose members face the highest level of personal risk. Contrast this with the fact that, at the 2006 Stanford commencement ceremony, Maj. General Lehnert, whose son was the lone graduating student from a military family, was struck by how many of the other parents had never even met a member of the military before he introduced himself.

Army-Marine Corps joint sniper training in Djibouti

A citizen army is composed of conscripts from all classes and parts of the country in roughly equal proportion. But a volunteer military is necessarily dominated by those regions with an old-fashioned fighting ethos: the South and the adjacent Bible Belts of the southern Midwest and Great Plains. Marine and Army infantry units, and in particular Army Special Forces A-teams, manifest a proclivity for volunteers from the states of the former Confederacy, as well as Irish and Hispanics from poorer, more culturally conservative sections of coastal cities. In sum, the American military has become in some respects a higher-quality version of what it was on the eve of World War II. The Greatest Generation may have come from all walks of life and all regions of the country, but when it got to boot camp its trainers were professional soldiers, often with Southern accents, intent on doing their thirty years.

The Southern soldier of today is different, even if they have strikingly similar names. Take Army Special Forces Major Robert E. Lee, Jr., of Mobile, Alabama, whom I met in the Philippines in 2003. Major Lee named his son “Stonewall”, but he also worked as a church-based volunteer in a poor, African-American section of Wichita, Kansas. “It was my first real exposure to blacks, I mean not from afar”, he told me. “It was a year of learning, day after day, that folks are just folks.” He is not unusual. It is a commonplace among observers of the American military that race relations in the barracks are better than in American society at large.

Yet even such an encouraging evolution constitutes another sign of the emergence of a separate American warrior caste. It is not just in war zones that soldiers bond with one another. They do so at bases within the United States, too, where troops and their families usually live separately from civilian communities close-by, and the short-duty rotation makes it hard for the inhabitants of the base to develop ties outside it. Spending months upon months with American troops, I entered a social world where friendships stretched across units and racial lines more than across military-civilian ones, and homefront references were to forts and bases, not cities, towns or states.

Liberal democratic societies have commonly been defended by conservative military establishments whose members may lack the social graces of the cosmopolitan classes they protect. Such a conservative American military now has a particularly thankless task, however. Much of what it does abroad is guarding sea lanes and training troops of fledgling democracies, helping essentially to provide the security armature for an emerging global civilization. But the more that civilization evolves—with its own mass media, non-governmental organizations and professional class—the less credit and sympathy it grants to the American troops who at times risk their lives for it. Irony is stock-and-trade for sophisticated wit, of course. But it cannot forever obscure the contradiction between the functions of an effective warrior class and the unwillingness of those functions’ beneficiaries to support its warriors. I cannot remember how many times a soldier or marine told me that we don’t want to be pitied as victims, but respected as fighters. That respect is not abundant, which brings us to an especially sharp practical edge of what our forgetfulness has wrought.
Fighting “In-Between”

The military historian James Stokesbury’s A Short History of the Korean War argues that middle-class democracies fight two kinds of wars well: little wars fought by professional warriors that garner little media attention, and big wars that may rouse the whole country, in spite of itself, into a patriotic fervor. The small footprint deployments I have covered in recent years are a variation of these little wars, as are the many discreet intelligence operations and raids that various branches of the U.S. national security apparatus continue to carry out around the globe. A very big war we have not experienced lately, which is all to the good, even if—perhaps especially if—you truly follow Sun-Tzu and Clausewitz.

The problem, as Stokesbury explains, arises not with little or big wars, but with middle-sized ones, of which the public is very much aware thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, but is nevertheless confused as to its goals. These “in-between” wars are bloody affairs in which we are forced to place a high value on the individual because of our universal values, even as the enemy does not. Abu Ghraib, which showed America at its worst, does not register in terms of barbarity compared to what the enemy was doing on a daily basis in Iraq at the very same time. But because “in-between” wars lack the context provided by clear stakes and personal commitment, the average citizen is more easily knocked off a moral balance by a media culture whose avocation is not to inform but to win market share.

In big, good-versus-evil wars, on the other hand, the homefront feels itself a part of the fighting machine. In little wars it does not, but in those cases it doesn’t matter that the public doesn’t feel itself to be at war, because it is largely ignorant of such military operations in the first place. It is the “in between” war that creates the worst combination for a non-warrior democracy: one in which the public is keenly aware of the worst details, yet has no context in which to assimilate them and is otherwise unaffected.

Stokesbury’s example of a middle-sized war is Korea, but his point also applies to Vietnam and Iraq. The Powell Doctrine, in which then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Colin Powell advised that the United States should not get involved in a war without overwhelming force, a near-certainty of victory and a clear exit strategy, seems overly self-constraining to many. But if one views the Powell Doctrine as a way to avoid middle-sized wars (or little wars that through miscalculation can become middle-sized ones), it makes very good sense for the needs of a non-warrior democracy like ours. Powell understood that in these wars the lack of a broad-based warrior mentality is clearly a disadvantage.

The problem, though, is that it often isn’t clear what will become a middle-sized war and what won’t. The Powell Doctrine was used by many a realist as an argument not to get involved in Bosnia in the 1990s. But we inserted troops anyway, and it did not turn out to be a messy, bloody “in-between” war. The gradual stabilization of the former Yugoslavia and the expansion of NATO to the Black Sea suggest that the Balkan interventions of 1995 and 1999 were in the nation’s interest. On the other hand, few if any of those who supported the March 2003 invasion of Iraq expected it to become a middle-sized war that would go on for years. Simply never to get involved anywhere, except in the smallest deployments, or in bigger ones without the absolute certainty of a clean victory, invites defeat by an abdication from the responsibility that comes with power. Alas, the Powell Doctrine is wise for some important purposes, but unavailing for others.

One way to parse the problems of “in-between” wars is to get help from others. Great Britain employed others to help it fight Napoleon, and it maintained an elite navy rather than a vast and financially debilitating national army. We do this, too, after a fashion. Our training missions around the world are designed to bring indigenous forces up to the level where they can fight on their own. The U.S. Pacific Command, among other combatant commands, is obsessed with military multilateralism. Even such a primacist as President Bush attempted to build a military coalition of major nations for invading Iraq before he did so with the palpable help of only Great Britain.

And Iraq was the exception. The American way of war is, by and large, one of coalitions. This is even true, or will become true, for sea power. For more than six decades we have been the near-hegemonic successor to the Royal Navy, but in coming decades we will likely have no choice but to gradually cede oceanic space to the rising Indian and Chinese navies with whom, more often than not, we will hope to cooperate. We may still have to fight middle-sized wars, and we may need larger, more lethal and more flexible forces with which to do so. But we will strive, above all, not to fight such wars alone and far from home at a time when American military dominance is almost certain to erode, if only because the balance of interests—not to speak of faith and nationalism—is at least as important as the balance of power.

Despite globalization, national militaries will not diminish in importance, at least for some decades. On the contrary, they could in some cases grow in significance compared to other forms of human organization. The “technologies of wealth and war have always been closely connected”, Bracken warns. “Missile and bomb tests . . . biological warfare programs, and . . . chemical weapons” have been to a significant degree since the early 1990s “the products of a prosperous, liberalizing Asia.”

Indeed, the political-military map of Eurasia—one third of the earth’s landmass—is changing radically. Europe is decreasingly a serious military power. Its own peoples see their respective militaries not as defenders of their homelands, but as civil servants in uniforms. A revitalized, more expeditionary NATO might mitigate this situation, but the overall trend will more likely see Europe devote itself to peacekeeping and disaster-response roles.

While Europe slowly recedes as a military factor, a chain of Asian countries—Israel, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, India, China and North Korea, to name a few—have assembled nuclear or chemical stockpiles, aided by ballistic missile delivery systems in more and more cases. The key element in judging the future of national militaries, however, will not be their order of battle or their weaponry. It will be the civilian-military relationship in each particular country. As we have seen, the rise of non-Western militaries will be sustained by the rise of non-Western nationalisms and beliefs. As for the West, it is divided. European civilians take little pride in their standing armies; in America, however, civilians still do. Iraq, in this respect, has not been like Vietnam. While Americans may have turned against the Iraq war, they have not turned against the troops there. If anything, in recent years, they have grown more appreciative of them. The upshot is that America has a first-class, professional military that is respected even if it is not reflective of society.

But to see that America’s circumstances are not as bad as those of the European Union is not the point. The point is to remember what we have forgotten. A military will not continue to fight and fight well for a society that could be losing faith in itself, even if that society doffs its cap now and again to its warrior class.

One man who has not forgotten is Air Force Colonel Robert Wheeler, a combat pilot I met with his B-2 squadron on Guam. Wheeler exemplifies the modern American officer: a Midwesterner with an engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin and post-graduate degrees, including a master of arts in strategic studies from the Naval War College. Wheeler, who has participated in several wars over the course of three administrations and also served as senior adviser to the U.S. Mission for the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, put the matter like this: “Decadence” is the essential condition of “a society which believes it has evolved to the point where it will never have to go to war.” By eliminating war as a possibility, “it has nothing left to fight and sacrifice for, and thus no longer wants to make a difference.”

It is in precisely such a situation that historical memory becomes lost, and forgetfulness obscures the obvious. When pleasure and convenience become values in and of themselves, false ends displace necessary means. It is as Sun-Tzu and Clausewitz said: While a good society should certainly never want to go to war, it must always be prepared to do so. But a society will not fight for what it believes, if all it believes is that it should never have to fight.

The United States is still far from being a decadent country. And you cannot blame the American public from becoming disenchanted with a war that has gone on for so long and been so badly handled. The question is, in what direction—relative to our current and future adversaries—are we headed? Argue the question as we may, one thing is clear: We’re fated to find out.

5) Column One: The president speaks

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's meeting with US President George W. Bush next week is supposed to serve as a preparatory stage ahead of a planned presidential address on the Palestinian conflict with Israel. According to media reports, Bush believes that five years after his last speech on the subject on June 24, 2002, the time has come for an updated assessment of the situation.

A lot has happened in the last five years both in Israel and in Palestinian society. A good way to understand our present circumstances is to recall that last speech, where Bush laid out his "vision" to bring peace to the Middle East by establishing an independent, democratic Palestinian state next to Israel on the west bank of the Jordan River on land that the League of Nations mandated in 1922 was to be reserved for the Jewish homeland.

Indeed, the president's words speak for themselves. Addressing the Palestinians, Bush said: "Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership, so that a Palestinian state can be born.

"I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror. I call upon them to build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty."

"A Palestinian state will never be created by terror - it will be built through reform. And reform must be more than cosmetic change, or veiled attempts to preserve the status quo."

"The United States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state until its leaders engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure."

Addressing the Arab states and the Palestinians, Bush said: "To be counted on the side of peace, nations must act. Every leader actually committed to peace will end incitement to violence in official media, and publicly denounce homicide bombings. Every nation actually committed to peace will stop the flow of money, equipment and recruits to terrorist groups seeking the destruction of Israel - including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah. Every nation actually committed to peace must block the shipment of Iranian supplies to these groups, and oppose regimes that promote terror, like Iraq. And Syria must choose the right side in the war on terror by closing terrorist camps and expelling terrorist organizations."

Addressing Israel, the president said, "Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories must stop."

Bush concluded, "This moment is both an opportunity and a test for all parties in the Middle East: an opportunity to lay the foundations for future peace; a test to show who is serious about peace and who is not."

ISRAEL RESPONDED enthusiastically to the president's challenge. Successive governments froze expansion of Jewish communities beyond the 1949 armistice lines. The limitations placed on Jewish building are so draconian that even in cities like Ariel and Ma'aleh Adumim, people cannot receive building permits.

Not only did Israel freeze building in Judea and Samaria, Israel expelled all Israeli residents of Gaza and northern Samaria in order to render the areas Jew-free to the Palestinians. The people of Israel elected leaders who endorsed Bush's vision of denying the rights of of Jews to live in the territories he has set aside for a prospective Palestinian state.

For their part, the Palestinians held open and free elections in January 2006. They chose to deny parliamentary representation to non-terrorists, and placed Hamas at the head of the Palestinian Authority. They turned newly Jew-free Gush Katif, which Israel surrendered unconditionally, into terror training camps. They turned the ruins of the communities of northern Gaza into launch pads for missile and rocket attacks against Ashkelon and Sderot. They turned the abandoned international border between Gaza and the Sinai into a global jihadist highway through which terrorists from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hizbullah, Hamas and al-Qaida, as well as massive quantities of armaments have flooded into Gaza.

For the residents of Gaza, who overwhelmingly support Hamas, the situation has become particularly dire. Since foreign correspondents have abandoned the area, no one seems to notice or care about the fact that in Gaza today, children are murdered in front of their parents, passengers are removed from cars and shot in the streets, and doctors are murdered in hospitals as patients are violently removed from life support systems and taken out of operating rooms. No one bats a lash as jihadists bomb pubs and Internet cafes. No one hears as Gazans pray for a return of the so-called "occupation."

Egypt serves as a principal support base for the Palestinian terror networks by enabling the flow of terrorists and arms into Gaza and by acting as a central hub of annihilationist anti-Semitic propaganda. Saudi Arabia oversaw the establishment of the Palestinian unity government, which transformed Fatah into a junior partner in the Hamas government that carries out terrorism and enjoys the financial support of the Saudis and the Iranians (and Norwegians).

Iran and its client state Syria call the shots for the Palestinians today. As last summer's war demonstrated, in the wake of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, the Iranians were able to unify the Palestinian and Lebanese fronts in the global jihad. Iran manages both fronts while it proceeds unfettered in its quest for atomic bombs. Syria daily issues threats of war. And both countries oversee the insurgency in Iraq.

So of all the components of Bush's vision for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the only one that has been implemented is his demand that Israel freeze building activities in Israeli communities beyond the 1949 armistice lines.

WERE OLMERT to devote his meeting with Bush to reciting a summary of these cold, hard facts, he would be doing an important, even vital service to the country. Were the president to receive and accept a credible report on the situation on the ground from Israel's prime minister, Bush's next speech would have to look something like this:

Five years ago, I set out my vision for peace between the Arab world, and particularly the Palestinian people and Israel. I still believe in my vision of a new democratic, antiterrorist state of Palestine committed to the rule of law and human rights and living side by side in peace with the existing democratic, antiterrorist, human-rights respecting, law-abiding State of Israel.

Tragically, developments over the past five years demonstrate that today, it is impossible to realize this vision and, therefore, the time has come to set it aside.

Although the Palestinians have received more foreign aid per capital than the nations of Europe under the Marshall Plan, rather than use the international community's support to embrace liberty and build a working democracy, the Palestinians have built legions of terror.

With US support, the Palestinians held free elections in January 2006. Rather than choose leaders not compromised by terror, the Palestinians preferred to choose the Hamas and other terrorist organizations to lead them. By so choosing, the Palestinians showed the world that they reject peace and have chosen the path of terror and war.

While Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has publicly condemned acts of terror and murder, in spite of the generous support he has received from the United States and Israel, to date he has opted not to effectively combat terror. Rather than educate his nation to embrace peace and tolerance, Abbas has overseen the Palestinian Authority school system, which teaches the children of Palestine to choose death over life and to seek Israel's destruction rather than the establishment of a free, democratic state that would live at peace with Israel.

This past June, Abbas decided to form a unity government with Hamas. By doing so, Abbas effectively abandoned peace as a strategy.

Five years ago I said, "The United States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state until its leaders engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure."

Since none of the Palestinian leaders are engaging in a sustained fight against terrorists, the United States recognizes that today Israel has no partner for peace. I am left with no choice but to withdraw American support for Palestinian statehood at this time.

Since Israel has no peace partner, it is clear that the Israelis must take the necessary steps to protect themselves. Since Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Gaza's international border with Egypt has turned into a thoroughfare for global terror with arms and personnel coming in from Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and beyond. I am disappointed with the fact that to date, Egypt has taken no effective action to block the terror traffic from its territory into the Palestinian Authority.

The United States looks with worry on the emerging situation in Gaza. I view the transformation of Gaza into a base for global terror not simply as a threat to Israel, but as a threat to international security. As a result, the United States will understand and support an Israeli operation aimed at restoring Israeli control over the international border.

Furthermore, Israelis have the right to live free of fear of missile and rocket attacks on their towns and villages. Today's situation, where Israeli communities bordering Gaza are exposed to daily barrages of mortars and rockets launched by terrorists in Gaza, is unacceptable and intolerable.

Over the past two years since Israel withdrew from Gaza, I have come to recognize a flaw in the two-state model. Until now, one of the guiding assumptions of the two-state model is that the Israeli settlements located beyond the 1949 armistice lines constitute an obstacle to peace. But we see that the evacuation of the settlements in Gaza and the northern West Bank only caused a further radicalization of Palestinian society.

Aside from that, it is time to recognize that the Palestinian demand to establish a state on land emptied of all Jewish presence is an immoral demand. It is impossible to expect that the Palestinians will conduct internal reforms when the international community gives them the legitimacy to base their nationalism on ethnic cleansing and the rejection of the humanity and moral rights of the Jewish nation. As a result, and without prejudicing future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, today the United States recognizes the right of Israelis and Palestinians to build their communities in a manner that provides for the natural growth of their populations.

The forces in the Palestinian Authority who fight Israel, and who educate their children to seek death by terror, are supported by the same states that support Hizbullah in Lebanon and the insurgents in Iraq. Iran and Syria cannot expect that their support for terror in Israel, Lebanon and Iraq will go unnoticed. While Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issues near daily threats to wipe Israel off the map, and Syria threatens Israel with war, they both must understand that Israel is an ally and a friend of the United States. We support Israel and its right to defend itself.

We hope that the day will finally come when the Palestinian people reject terror and hatred and embrace democracy and peace. On that day, the American people will be proud to look to the Palestinians to join the people of Israel and so many other nations of the world as our allies and friends.

6) Olmert appoints Barak defense minister
by Ronny Sofer
Government approves of appointment of Labor Chairman Ehud Barak as defense minister, former Defense Minister Amir Peretz hands in resignation, will no longer be part of government as of Monday.

The government unanimously approved the appointment of newly elected Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak as Israel's next defense minister on Friday.

Former Defense Minister Amir Peretz handed in his resignation and will no longer be part of the government as of Monday evening.

Olmert decided on the appointment in his meeting with Barak Friday morning.

During the meeting, Olmert said he wished to rush the appointment in light of the tense security situation and the collapse of the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip.

Barak responded to Olmert's request, and is expected to enter his new role upon being sworn into Knesset on Monday.

Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, who was also a candidate for the position, expressed satisfaction with Olmert's decision.

So far, Olmert has received the approval of Chairman of the Pensioners Party Raffie Eitan, Yisrael Beitenu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman, and Shas head Minister Eliyahu Yishai.

In an attempt to put things in order following recent changes in government roles, Olmert plans to leave the Finance Ministry in the hands of a Kadima minister, the main candidate being Internal Affairs Minister Ronnie Bar-On.

The Broadcasting Authority portfolio, left behind by resigning Labor Minister Eitan Cabel, remains available, as does the Development of the Negev and Galilee portfolio, which has been left behind by newly elected President Shimon Peres.

The role of vice premier, and Peres' seat at the cabinet table are also available.

During his reshuffle, Olmert also plans to announce a new Kadima chairman to take the place of Tzachi Hangebi, who retired. In the meantime, the role is being filled by MK Yoel Hasson.