Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hilary Clinton's Congressional Testimony Shows What's Wrong with U.S. Foreign Policy

Barry Rubin

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton explains to the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee that the Obama Administration needed to spend 13 months trying to engage Iran's dictatorship because that's helped its effort to line up world support for new sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program.

Let me get this straight. Russia and China still oppose sanctions. Some European countries and European Union leaders are holding up approval of sanctions. So I challenge Hilary Clinton: Name one country which opposed sanctions a year ago but now has become an energetic supporter because the United States spent a year giving Iran every chance to make a deal. Name one. She next asserted that Iran's opposition supports Obama’s policy: "They actually think President Obama has struck exactly the right tone and approach, to give heart to the people who are putting their lives on the line, who know that we support their efforts, but also recognize that they've got a long hard road ahead.”

It is possible oppositionists privately flattered the administration by such statements but every public statement I’ve seen says the opposite. It is not exactly a secret that the administration refused to condemn the Iranian regime at the critical moment just after the stolen election, when the opposition's chances of building momentum were best.

And here, too, in Clinton's formulation, is the implication that popularity proves that a strategy is correct, a fundamental mantra of this administration. In fact, although it is only gradually starting to seep out in the media, many U.S. allies and supporters abroad are horrified by what's happening (as shown by dozens of articles on this blog).

Then she added one of those little sentences that passes unnoticed but is quite important in its implications (that’s why you read this blog to see things like this that everyone else is missing): “What we're trying to do is to get international opinion that will force the Iranian regime to change its calculations."

International opinion? I can understand why President Barack Obama thinks the United States should not be the world’s policeman but he seems to believe that instead it should be the world’s community organizer.

Contemplate this. You're leader of Iran’s regime. You believe the divine being fully supports everything you do. You've effectively defeated the opposition. You're doing well with international Muslim opinion, which is all you care about. You're making rapid strides toward nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. You have allies like Syria, Hizballah, Hamas, and the Iraqi insurgents. Turkey is moving in your direction. You continue trading profitably with Europe, Russia, and China. Things are going pretty well.

And you're going to be scared by “international opinion?”

Of course, Clinton’s arguments about persuading people by going slow and chatting up Iran--which give the appearance that this avoids conflict and problems--are intended for an American domestic audience, not Iran. It is legitimate and inevitable that governments focus a lot on looking good at home. But that should never inhibit at the same time having a good policy that actually deals with the international issues at stake.

And how about those Syrians? A lot of people are confused. The United States made a big concession by announcing the return of its ambassador and then Syrian dictator Bashar al-Asad slaps it in the face (or as a Lebanese friend put it, bashing it in the teeth) by inviting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad plus Hizballah leader Hasan Nasrallah to Damascus. Then, in their presence, Asad boasts he is Iran's best buddy, calls for Israel’s destruction, and urges the expulsion of U.S. influence from the region.

Simple. Because he can do it and know that the current U.S. government won’t do anything to him. Indeed, the more trouble Syria causes, the rulers in Damascus think--since they view Syria as the region's key factor and are very arrogant--the more concessions he will get from the United States.

And where could he have gotten such an idea? From everything the Obama Administration has done so far. Sure it talks tough but never does anything, making itself look ridiculous to the really tough bad guys.

Clinton told the congressional hearing: "I think because we were willing to engage, we have a much more receptive audience than we might have had otherwise,"

But, ladies and gentlemen, we have the proper answer to Clinton’s question as to what engagement has achieved: it has demoralized America’s friends and encouraged its enemies to believe that the United States is a cream puff, a pitiful helpless giant, a paper tiger. And are they wrong?

[Incidentally, the same thing seems to be happening--but receiving far less attention--regarding the administration's engagement effort with Cuba]

[Above is the serious political analysis part. Here begins the elective part of the article which you don’t have to read unless you want to.]

And so, if you will permit me some cultural analogies, while Clinton tells us that the Obama Administration is doing a rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “I did It My Way,” this week Ahmadinejad, Asad, and Nasrallah got together as a trio to do Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made for Walking.”

Their version goes something like this:

“You keep saying you'll do something to us.
to show your influence, but we just sneer at you.
You show us you’re more likely just to retreat
And you’ve failed the test we gave you that's quite true.

“These nukes are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do
one of these days these nukes are gonna walk all over you.

“You keep making threats but you’re a weakling,
All you want to do is just engage
You think you can make us do your bidding
But our answer is to escalate our rage

“These nukes are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do
one of these days these nukes are gonna walk all over you.

Are you ready nukes? Start walkin'!”

The Obama-American Public Disconnect on Israel

Jerusalem Post, February 28, 2010

Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, Executive Director of "Second Thought"

The findings of the February 19, 2010 Gallup poll put President Obama at odds with the US public, when it comes to attitudes toward the Jewish State, the Arab-Israeli conflict, Arabs, Muslims and Islamic terrorism. For example, Israel maintains its traditional spot among the five most favored nations by 67% of the US public, despite Obama's moral-equivalence and even-handedness toward the Arab-Israeli conflict, in spite of his attempts to force Israel into sweeping concessions, and in defiance of the US "elite" media and academia. On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority is ranked – along with Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan – at the bottom of the list, favored by only 20% of the US public.

According to an August 10, 2009 Rasmussen poll, Israel is ranked as the third most favorable ally (70%), preceded only by Canada and Britain. The low regard toward Egypt (39%) and Saudi Arabia (23%) demonstrates that Americans remain skeptical – at least since 9/11 - of Arabs and Muslims, even when they are portrayed by the media and the Administration as supposedly moderate and pro-American. Moreover, only 21% of adult Americans expect that the US relationship with the Muslim world will improve in a year, while 25% expect that it will get worse.

Apparently, US public attitude towards Arabs and Muslims has hardly been impacted by President Obama's highly-publicized outreach to Muslims, as demonstrated by his apologetic speeches at Turkey's National Assembly ("…the Islamic faith has done so much to shape the world, including my own country…"), at Cairo University ("Islam has always been a part of America's story…") and at the UN ("America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others…").

Historically, most Americans have been suspicious of Arabs and Islam, while identifying with Judeo-Christian values, Judaism and the Jewish State, as documented by a June 3, 2009 Gallup poll. By an overwhelming 80%:13% ratio, Americans believe that Muslims are hostile toward the USA. They subscribe to Samuel Huntington's "War of Civilizations," much more that Obama's June 4, 2009 statement, made at Cairo University: "America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam." Apparently, Obama's efforts have failed to uproot the legacy of the Islamic threat since the early 19th century war against Muslim pirates, through the 1983 detonation of the US embassy and the truck bombing of the Marine Headquarters in Beirut, the 1998 bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, 9/11, the December 2009 Ft. Hood, Texas massacre and the Muslim terrorist attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner.

Since, at least 9/11, most Americans have held the Palestinian Authority in disfavor, 15% support and 73% opposed, according to a March 3, 2009 Gallup poll. A definite connection has been established between the Palestinian Authority and terrorism, pro-Saddam Hussein and Bin-Laden sentiments and anti-US sentiments. In contrast, support of Israel has remained steady at 63% with only 23% opposing.

Israel's good standing has recently been reflected on Capitol Hill. For instance, 344 House Representatives (79%) signed a November 4, 2009 letter, supporting Israel and condemning the Goldstone Report. On the other hand, only 54 House Representatives (12%) signed a January 27, 2010 letter, criticizing Israel and supporting Hamas.

Unlike dictatorships, which manipulate results of public opinion polls, democracies are shaped, to a large extent, by public opinion. Public opinion is especially critical in the US democracy, which features the constituent as its centerpiece. Therefore, US legislators are more attentive to voters than are other Western legislators. They take seriously the electoral battle cry: "We shall remember in November!" Hence, the sustained support of the Jewish State on Capitol Hill, which reflects the will of the American People, in addition to the role played by shared-values, mutual-threats and joint-interests in shaping the unique covenant between the US, the Jewish People and the Jewish State.

Ahmadinejad Maneuvering Hizbullah and Israel into War?

Hana Levi Julian
A7 News

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is reportedly angling to start another war between Israel and the Lebanese Hizbullah terrorist group in order to deflect attention away from his own lack of popularity at home. Ahmadinejad has faced constant friction from grassroots opposition movements since last June, when lopsided election results re-electing the president raised red flags among suspicious voters, who suspected the government had rigged the polls. “As Israel is beating the war drums four years after its humiliating military defeat against Hizbullah, many believe that Ahmadinejad might exploit another conflict between Israel and the militant group as a way of resolving his own lack of legitimacy inside Iran,” wrote Iran's Green Voice newspaper.

The publication, which represents the “green” anti-government protest movement in Iran, noted that many Hizbullah terrorists were involved in the violent post-presidential election crackdowns on protestors who demonstrated for weeks against the results.

The newspaper identified as one example Hossein Manif Ashmar, a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard force that attacked the northern Tehran campaign office of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi on election day, June 12, 2009. The paper said Ashmar, who has been living in the country since the mid-1990s, also works at Hizbullah headquarters in Iran. Two of his brothers died as “shaheeds” (martyrs) – both as members of the Hizbullah terrorist group.

Infusion of Funds for Hizbullah Terrorists

The report also alleged that Hizbullah was the beneficiary of a gift of $400 million from its Iranian handlers last month during “Iran-Lebanon Friendship Week.”

The transaction allegedly took place through the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, according to Green Voice, which reported that the cultural event provided the cover for the funds transfer.

Mehrdad Bazrpash, adviser to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was the agent who carried out the transaction. Prior funds transfers to the terrorist group had apparently been sent through Iran's Saderat bank. According to the report, however, international sanctions have now blocked that channel – hence the personal trip by Bazrpash to the embassy in Lebanon.

Our National Destruction (G-d forbid) continues unabated

Charles Krauthammer
The Palm Beach Post, February 17, 2010 (first post)

“We have an agreement - until 2012 that Russia will, be responsible for this,” says Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian space agency, about ferrying astronauts from other countries into low-Earth orbit. “But after that? Excuse me, but the prices should be absolutely different then!” The Russians may be new at capitalism, but they know how it works. When you have a monopoly, you charge monopoly prices. Within months, Russia will have a monopoly on rides into space. By the end of this year, there will be no shuttle, no US - manned space program, no way for us to get into space. We’re not talking about Mars or the moon here. We are talking about low Earth orbit, which the U.S. has dominated for nearly half a century and from which it is now retiring with nary a whimper.

Our absence from low-Earth orbit was meant to last a few years, the interval between the retirement of the fatally fragile space shuttle and its replacement with the Constellation program (Ares booster, Orion capsule, Altair lunar lander) to take astronauts more cheaply and safely back to space. But, the Obama 2011 budget kills Constellation Instead, for the first time since John Glenn flew in 1962; the US will have no access of its own for humans into space — and no prospect of getting there in the foreseeable future. Of course, the administration presents the abdication as a great leap: Launching humans will now be turned over to the private sector, while NASA’S efforts will be directed toward landing on Mars.

This is nonsense. It would be swell for private companies to take over launching astronauts. But, they cannot do it. It’s too expensive. It’s too experimental. In addition, the safety standards for actually getting people up and down reliably are just unreachably high.

Sure, decades from now, there will be a robust private space-travel industry but that is a long time. In the interim, space will be owned by Russia and then China. The president waxes seriously nationalist at the thought of China or India surpassing us in speculative “clean energy.” Yet, he is quite prepared to gratuitously give up our spectacular lead in human space exploration.

As for Mars - more nonsense. If we can’t afford an Ares rocket to get us into orbit and to the moon, how long will it lake to develop a revolutionary propulsion system that will take us not a quarter-million miles but 35. million miles? To say nothing of the effects of long-term weightlessness, of long-term cosmic ray exposure, and of the intolerable risk to astronaut safety involved in any Mars trip — six months of contingencies vs. three days for a moon trip.

Of course, the whole Mars project as substitute for the moon is simply a ruse. It’s like the classic bait-and-switch for high-tech military spending: A classic example is the B-1 bomber, which was canceled in the 1970s in favor of the over-the-horizon B-2 stealth bomber, which was then killed in the 1990s after a production run of only 21 (instead of 132) in the name of post-Cold War obsolescence.

Moreover, there is the question of seriousness. When John F Kennedy pledged to go to the moon, he had an intense personal commitment. He delivered speeches remembered to this day. He dedicated astronomical sums to make it happen. At the peak of the Apollo program, NASA was consuming almost 4 percent of the federal budget, which in terms of the 2011 budget is about $150 billion. Today the manned space program will die for want of $3 billion a year — 1/300th of last year’s stimulus package with its endless make-work projects that will leave not a trace on the national consciousness.

As for President Obama’s commitment to beyond-lunar space: Has he given a single speech, devoted an iota of political capital to it? Mr. Obama’s NASA budget perfectly captures the difference in spirit between Mr. Kennedy’s liberalism and Mr. Obama’s. Mr. Kennedy’s was an expansive, bold, out- -ward-looking summons. Mr. Obama’s is a constricted inward-looking call to retreat. Fifty years ago, Mr. Kennedy opened the New Frontier. Mr. Obama has just shut it.

Charles Krauthammer’s e-mail address is

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Will Obama Have an Iraq Crisis?

Barry Rubin

If—and I repeat, if--this story is true it is going to be a very big development that may, as they like to see in the television promos, change the Obama administration forever. According to Thomas Ricks, the former Washington Post military correspondent, General Raymond Odierno, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, is asking for an additional combat brigade to be put into Kirkuk and to stay beyond Obama’s August 2010 withdrawal deadline for all combat forces. Reportedly, Odierno is worried about Kurdish-Arab-Turkoman conflict in the city, which would be a reason why an Iraqi brigade of Arab soldiers might further inflame the situation. Such a request makes the administration very uncomfortable. We saw how it took three months to make a decision over military strategy in Afghanistan which resulted in a highly politicized strategy designed to please all.

Ricks concludes: “I expect that Obama actually is going to have to break his promises on Iraq and keep a fairly large force in Iraq,” He knows better than I do about such things but I wonder if that’s true. I’d expect that for political reasons—and especially just before the critical congressional elections in November—Obama’s team will go for political profit rather than strategic safety.

By the way, this story clears up a mysterious detail that hints the U.S. military is thinking along these lines. The Defense Department’s Quadrennial Defense Review Report for 2010 says: “The United States will…manage a responsible force drawdown in Iraq and support an orderly transition to a more normal diplomatic and civilian presence.” The word “drawdown” means fewer troops, not complete withdrawal. This suggests the Defense Department wants to keep serious forces in Iraq.

Ricks mentions that he heard the story from three different sources, which not only attests to its likely accuracy but also implies that a number of people in the army feel this is something really important to push with the White House.

So the Obama administration might have an unpalatable choice coming up:

Keep the commitment of getting out all the combat forces, say "no" to the commnder on the scene, thus appearing to sacrifice the safety of troops and endanger an important place for political expediency and public relations’ points.

Or break his promise, anger some of his constituency, and possibly create more electoral problems for his party.

This might not happen but a few hours ago such a potential crisis wasn’t even on the horizon.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; and The Muslim Brotherhood

New National Security and Military Strategy

Paul E. Vallely

Why does the United States and its military/political leaders and strategists still languish in failed strategies from World War II to the present? Fact: Jihadists with small arms and IEDS in faraway places cannot harm the United States so there is no reason to order massive armies that require large and extensive bases and massive logistical support to fight them on their home turf. But that is the essence of failed "counterinsurgency" (COIN) strategies that have bewitched US military political leaders. Yes, we have made great and innovative technological
advances in weapons systems in the air, sea and ground, communications,
advanced intelligence systems and command and control systems. Yes, we have
operational war planners at all levels of command, senior policy and
politicos in the White House and Department of Defense, a National Security
Team and a multitude of military commands positioned around the globe to
guide and lead us in national security. But where are the common sense and
rational senior General and Admiral Strategists that we have trained and
schooled to be innovative, aggressive and win our nation's wars quickly and
decisively. I rarely hear any of them talking about the valued Principles of
War that successful combat leaders in the past have used to achieve success
and victory. They cannot even talk in terms of victory, winning and bringing
the troops home. Or maybe, they do not want to for politically correct
reasons at home.
Unfortunately, American leaders are increasingly trying to transform this
force into one optimized for counterinsurgency missions (when, in fact, we
are not, in my opinion, fighting insurgencies but a global Caliphate) and
conventional war followed on by long-term military occupations. Track back
if you will to Korea, Vietnam, and now Iraq, and Afghanistan. It is true
that not all political goals are achievable through the use of military
power. However, "victory" in war is appears lost in the world of political
correctness and appeasement. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan - often
seen as proving the necessity for COIN-capable forces as well as a
commitment to nation-building - demonstrate in reality that the vast
majority of goals can be accomplished through quick, decisive joint military
operations. Not all political goals are achievable this way, but most are
and those that cannot be achieved through conventional operations likely
cannot be achieved by the application of even the most sophisticated
counterinsurgency doctrine either. We cannot seem to be able to discern
between the differences in conventional and non-conventional warfare. The
war against radical Islam forces and a sick ideology has been and will
continue to be one requiring unconventional solutions. This is a point that
the White and the Pentagon fear to call this war against a pronounced
ideology. It is not a war on terror as we first analyzed; it is a war
against an ideology and an ideology that has evil global intentions as much
as the Nazis and Third Reich.
Why can we not understand that our military is for national security,
defending our country and defeating our enemies before they bring havoc and
harm to our citizens. Why can we not understand how important our resources
are in terms of our trained Armed Forces and assets of our country and not
to drain them across the globe in futile nation building operations but to
leverage the military to counter threats to our country. And, as well, to
realize and understand in a profound way that you cannot Nation Build in an
area of conflict until the enemy is defeated. The COIN principle is not
based on winning; it is based on political whims and is not a true tenet of
warfare. Warfare is, and always should be, about WINNING. Once the war is
won, then, like Japan after WWII, real and substantive changes can be
enforced. We were able to change Germany and Japan from tyrannical forms of
government into thriving democracies with a real constitution and a real
change in thinking of the indigenous peoples.
A fundamental challenge in devising a strategy for the use of future
American military power is that the world has literally never seen anything
like our capability. The U.S. today has military capabilities at least equal
to the rest of the world combined. There is virtually no spot on the globe
that could not be targeted by American forces, and at most a small handful
of countries that could thwart a determined U.S. effort at regime change -
and some of those only by virtue of their possession of nuclear weapons.
This is the driving point; why are we so worried about what others think?
Did these so-called allies not have to be bailed out numerous times for
their failed thinking? Why do we want to kowtow to the same intellectual
vacuity that caused the greatest conflicts on earth?
As a consequence, the U.S. must adopt a national military strategy that
heavily leverages the core capability to break enemy states, target and
destroy and destroy the enemy's capability to bring harm to America. Such a
strategy could defeat and disrupt most potential threats the U.S. faces. I
will discuss in detail in later follow-up articles where the strategy of
joint strike operations and the unheralded "Global Lily Pad" strategy prove
to be the best method for success. While America's adversaries today may
prefer to engage the U.S. using proxies and develop radical Islamist
organizations and jihadists, there is no rationale in declaring to the
people of the United States that we are in a long war and accept that as a
reason to not achieve quick and decisive victory. It appears we fight more
in agreement with the so called the United Nations, allies and the likes of
China and Russia than to stand up for own sovereignty. It is time to
relegate these so-called allies to the sidelines. Let them wail and whimper
as we achieve the success that is necessary; wiping out and neutralizing
radical Islamism and nation states that support it...
Because our capability is so novel, American strategists lack a clear
framework to guide the utilization of this force. They have sought to match
capabilities to conceptions of the use of force from a different era, one in
which the Cold War made regime change unpalatable due to the risk of
escalation and that tended to make localized setbacks appear as loses in a
perceived zero-sum competition with the Soviets. Like Reagan, it is time to
call their bluff. They know we hold the big cards, so why are we so timid?
This only fosters eastern thought that placation is a sign of weakness. A
weakness they will turn into an asset and a political card to play to the
uneducated masses they control.
Phrasing it another way, insurgents with small arms and homemade explosives
(IEDS) in faraway places cannot harm the U.S. and there is no reason to
fight them directly. Based on superb intelligence, we can launch required
strike operations from any number of secure global sites and bases. True,
these radical Islamic forces pose a major terror threat abroad and at home
but we can defeat those efforts as well. The American experience in Iraq and
Afghanistan - where insurgents have been able to build and deploy more than
80,000 IEDs while under occupation - calls into question the ability of
occupying forces to root out terror networks without hitting the sources and
sanctuaries that supply them like Iran. Many describe our efforts as helping
to recruit more fighters and more ideologues. This is no way to stop the
threat to our homeland. The only true way to stop that threat is to give
them what they respect; pure force of arms and will. Otherwise, they sit in
their sanctuaries and count up the moral victories they have achieved, and
embolden future efforts. However, significant threats to the U.S., ranging
from the military capacity of regional powers to weapons of mass destruction
development programs to significant terrorist infrastructures, can be
targeted and destroyed by conventional and unconventional military
capabilities. Again, we must stop thinking like westerners, and understand
the way our enemy thinks. A lily pad is much more preferable because it
gives them no moral high ground to propagandize, but at the same time
instills sheer terror in their hearts as they guess at what is coming next.
Force of will and resolve is required by our leaders that our enemies
indeed respect and understand.
MG Paul E. Vallely, US Army Retired, is the Chairman of Stand Up America
and co-author of "Endgame " and "Operation Sucker Punch"

Paul E. Vallely
Chairman - Stand Up America US - Save Our Democracy

China faces balancing act in Iran nuclear issue

The Associated Press
Thursday, February 25, 2010 (first post)

BEIJING -- Renewed calls for sanctions against Iran for its nuclear ambitions have forced China to engage in a tough balancing act between appeasing its close trading partner and supporting international efforts to isolate Tehran. The arrival of an Israeli government delegation in Beijing on Thursday underscored the important role China plays as one of the five U.N. Security Council members that could veto sanctions for Iran. An Israeli spokesman singled out Iran as a topic for discussion. The group, led by Moshe Yaalon, the Israeli minister in charge of strategic affairs, will meet with China's senior foreign policy adviser Dai Bingguo during the two-day visit.

The U.S., Israel and others believe Iran is hiding nuclear weapons development under the guise of a civilian energy program. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, also says it's worried Iran may be working on a nuclear warhead.

But Beijing has resisted a fourth round of U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran following its recent announcement that it would press ahead with plans to enrich uranium to higher levels.

China - a permanent member of the Security Council along with the U.S., Russia, Britain and France - maintains that negotiation is the best way to handle the situation.

Along with Russia, China is usually a holdout on sanctions for Iran - only voting in favor after maneuvering to get the measures so watered down that they don't have the desired impact, said Willem van Kemenade, an independent China analyst who studies the country's relationship with Iran.

Efforts to get China on board this round may be further complicated by disputes with Washington, including U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and President Obama's meeting last week with the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader Beijing reviles as a separatist.

And Beijing has a particular interest in keeping Tehran close: China depends on oil- and gas-rich Iran for 11 percent of its energy needs and last year became Tehran's biggest trading partner, according to Iranian figures. Trade volume reached at least $36.5 billion, the Iran-China Chamber of Commerce reported, with Iran mainly importing consumer goods and machinery from China and exporting oil, gas and petrochemicals.

Chinese companies also have major investments in Iranian energy extraction and the construction of roads, bridges and power plants.

"China doesn't have any enemies in the Middle East and doesn't intend to create any enemies in the Middle East," said Yin Gang, an expert on the region at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Israel, meanwhile, considers Iran to be its greatest threat, citing Tehran's support for Arab militants, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's threats to destroy Israel and Iran's nuclear program. Israel has said it may launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran should diplomatic solutions fail, a scenario that would have disastrous repercussions for the Middle East.

Israeli officials have been visiting foreign capitals in recent weeks in a bid to raise support for new sanctions. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for "sanctions that have teeth" during a visit earlier this month to Russia.
Support for sanctions could be gathering momentum: Moscow has shown increasing frustration as Iran proceeds with uranium enrichment despite international pressure.

Curbing Iran's nuclear program is a leading foreign policy priority for the Obama administration. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton struck a positive tone this week, acknowledging that while some countries like China were still not ready to support new U.N. sanctions, "I think we've made a lot of progress" toward gaining Beijing's backing.

"Our very clear commitment to engagement has created space for a lot of these countries to now consider supporting sanctions that they might not have otherwise, because we have demonstrated the strategic patience to exhaust the international efforts of convincing Iran to do the right thing without sanctions," she said.

Still, Yao Jide, an Iran expert at Yunnan University's School of International Relations, said China will have to consider its own needs before committing to new measures.

"China will not deal with this issue purely based on American rules because China has its own national interests to consider," Yao said. "But if Iran stated that it wanted to develop nuclear weapons, then China would definitely oppose that."

Iran, of course, has done no such thing, insisting its intentions are peaceful, though it continues to enrich uranium in defiance of the Security Council.

Clinton said she hoped to see a new U.N. sanctions resolution in the next 30 to 60 days.

Van Kemenade said he does not expect a decision anytime soon.

"This whole diplomatic showdown will go on for the next few months. ... You never know what will happen in the meantime," he said.

Gov't Organizing Radicals In Our Schools

IBD Editorials Viewpoint


President Obama's budget has added more than $100 billion in federal taxpayers' money to what is called "education," so that means it will be spent by alumni of the Saul Alinsky school of radical community organizing and/or the Chicago Democratic machine. We're indebted to Pamela Geller of for exposing the shocking use of some of these funds. Obama is using the public schools to recruit a private army of high-schoolers to "build on the movement that elected President Obama by empowering students across the country to help us bring about our agenda." We now know Obama's "agenda" is to move the U.S. into European-style socialism.

Obama's Internet outreach during his campaign, Obama for America, has been renamed Organizing for America (OFA) in order to recruit students to join a cult of Obama and become activists for his goals.

Stirring It Up

Geller discovered that the teacher of an 11th-grade government class in Massillon, Ohio, passed out the sign-up sheet, headed with Obama's "O" logo, asking students to become interns for Organizing for America.

These interns will get an intensive nine-week training course using comprehensive lesson plans. Assigned readings include Saul Alinsky's notorious "Rules for Radicals," "Stir It Up: Lessons From Community Organizing and Advocacy" by left-wing activist Rinku Sen, and parts of "Dreams From My Father" dealing with Obama's days as a Chicago community organizer.

Republican students will be filtered out of the intern program by requiring applicants to answer questions that reveal their politics. One example: "What one issue facing our country is important to you and why?"

Geller said the purpose of this training to become Alinsky-style community organizers is, "of course, to elect more Democrats." The program is specifically geared to get the kids working in the 2010 elections.

Change Agenda

The sign-up sheet for Organizing for America starts with this instruction: "Organizing for America, the successor organization to Obama for America, is building on the movement that elected President Obama by empowering students across the country to help us bring about our agenda of change."

The application explains that this national internship program is "working to make the change we fought so hard for in 2008 a reality in 2010 and beyond."

This is not the first time Obama has tried to enlist schoolchildren into an Obama cult.

Last fall, the instructions mailed to every school by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan added a very political dimension to Obama's speech that was broadcast to public school children on Sept. 8.

Geller explained the extensive political dimension of the intern program. The OFA student interns will be trained in the goals and language of the left: "anti-war agitation, anti-capitalism, Marx, Lenin, (Bill) Ayers, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) agenda promotion, global warming, soft-on-jihad and illegal immigration."

Also on OFA's reading list is "The New Organizers" by Zack Exley. It brags about "an insurgent generation of organizers" inside the Obama campaign that has "almost without anyone noticing ... built the Progressive movement a brand new and potentially durable people's organization, in a dozen states, rooted at the neighborhood level."

The 10-page "National Intern Organizer Curriculum" is very specific in describing the tactics that interns will be taught. It includes these components: "Using Story as an Organizing Tool, Building Relationships and Building Teams, Mobilizing to Win on the Issues (issue advocacy), Health Care Service Project."

Passage of ObamaCare is one of this intern project's major goals. The curriculum promises to provide "insight on the strategy and plan behind the health care campaign" and "further motivate them to work on the issue."

The sign-up sheet states that the "purpose" of training these students is "to build community" among the interns and teach them "to be leaders in OFA's organizing work." After all, Barack Obama knows a great deal about being a community organizer — that was his only real job before he got into politics.

Acorn Support

Job prospects may be bleak for many Americans, but they will be rosy for alumni of Obama's intern program.

After the students have been fully trained as Alinsky-style community organizers, they will be eligible for jobs in Senior Corps, AmeriCorps or Learn and Serve America.

Those three so-called "service" organizations, which annually dole out millions of dollars to left-wing groups, are overseen by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

The U.S. Senate just confirmed this corporation's new chief executive, Patrick Corvington, who was a senior official of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which has given over a million and a half dollars to the Acorn network of organizations.

Other sites discussing this:

Here is a bit from the “National Intern Organizer Curriculum: Introductory Training:”

Events aid our organizing efforts by expanding our volunteer universe, converting potential supporters, and generating positive press. Events require assistance from organizers at all stages of the process but also require the cooperation and collaboration of every department within an organization in order to make the event as successful as possible.

By the end of Week 6, Intern should have a keen understanding of their critical role throughout all three stages of an event.

Intern will understand:
What takes place Pre-event, during the event, Post-event
The differences between Tier 1 and Tier 2 Events
Various responsibilities throughout the planning and execution process

You just found out that Vice President Biden is coming to your turf in one week to do a healthcare-focused town hall event. What role would the following departments plan and what actions would they need to take in order to fulfill their responsibilities, keeping in mind all three components of a successful event (pre, during, and post).

Field (Your role)
New Media

Begin preparation for Week 7 Brown Bag Lunch:

Find location
Begin invitation process (via phone)
Plan any initial logistics
Recruit 2+ volunteers to assist you.

Which lead me to this:

Check out the recommended reading list page 4:

* Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky
* The New Organizers, Zack Exley
* Stir It Up: Lessons from Community Organizing and Advocacy, Rinku Sen
* Obama Field Organizers Plot a Miracle, Zack Exley, Huffington Post
* Dreams of My Father Chicago Chapters, Barack Hussein Obama

Which led me to Obama’s children’s book. At that point, I gave up gagging.

Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope

Guest Comment: Here is another example of the change we have been waiting for. It is also implementation of Obama's inaugural speech and promise to "transform this country." This is the secret of the change that he did not reveal during his campaign and the hope that was not questioned. Now it is all too clear that he is using government funds to indoctrinate our youth and converting their thinking into Marxism by "recommending" the reading of Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky and his children's book: Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope .

Hizballah top dog dines with Iran's Thug-In-Chief and Syria's Assad in Damascus, discusses "Zionist threats against Lebanon and Syria"

Note yet again the projection, self-righteousness, and total absence of any sense of responsibility -- these are always the hallmarks of Islamic supremacist rhetoric. "Hezbollah chief Nasrallah meets Ahmadinejad in Syria," from the BBC, February 26 (thanks to all who sent this in):The head of the Lebanese Shia Islamist movement Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, has made a rare public appearance in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Sheikh Nasrallah attended a dinner with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

He is under an Israeli death threat and makes very few appearances in public. When he addresses Hezbollah, he does so by video from a secret location.

Both Syria and Iran provide the group with financial and military support....

Since 2006, the Hezbollah leader has made few public appearances in Lebanon, even avoiding key religious and political occasions....

Before Thursday's dinner, Sheikh Nasrallah and President Ahmadinejad discussed "the latest developments in the region, and Zionist threats against Lebanon and Syria", Hezbollah's al-Manar television reported.

"If the Zionist regime decides to repeat its past mistakes, the region will finish it off," al-Manar quoted the Iranian leader as saying.

After bilateral talks on Thursday, President Assad said Syria and Iran were working together to confront "Israeli terrorism".

Both leaders dismissed US calls for Syria to distance itself from Iran, emphasising their "deep and brotherly" ties.
The meeting came a week after the US signalled an attempt to improve ties with Syria, sending a senior official to Damascus for talks and nominating a new ambassador after the withdrawal of his predecessor five years ago.
Thanks Jihad Watch

Iran Forces Down Airliner and Abducts Passenger, Where's the Condemnation?

JINSA Report #966
February 26, 2010

On February 23, a Kyrgyzstan Airways flight from Dubai bound for Bishkek was ordered by the Iranian government to land in Iran and a passenger, Abdol Malik Rigi, was taken off in handcuffs. Have you seen it in the newspapers? Is there an emergency session of the UN General Assembly? Are the British or the French or the Australians complaining?No, they're too busy beating Israel over the head about the dispatch of a man for whom a violent end should not have been a surprise. But emerging information about the death of Mohammad al Mabouh in Dubai makes the theory that the Mossad was behind al Mabouh's death less credible every day, and should be making people wonder what's going on.

First, the emerging information: According to Dubai authorities, more than 20 people were involved in the killing; all of them primped in front of the ubiquitous security cameras; Mabouh appears to have been tortured and left; two of the conspirators left Dubai for Iran (hardly the destination of choice for Israeli agents); and British passports were matched with American credit cards-all very sloppy and un-Mossad-like. Immediately afterward, Jordan extradited two Fatah-related Palestinians to Dubai, where they seem to have disappeared.

But never mind. The Australians summoned the Israeli ambassador to explain why three Australian passports were used. The British are considering suspending intelligence cooperation with Israel (which one do you think will suffer?), and Germany, France and Ireland are demanding answers. And journalists-including Israeli journalists-are feeding the frenzy, denouncing Mossad and insisting without evidence that Israel is behaving as a rogue nation.

In the meantime, a real rogue nation hijacks an airliner and removes a passenger.

Abdul Malik Rigi is the leader of Jundullah, a Sunni group that claims to provide protection to Iran's Baluch minority; Iran calls it a terrorist organization and accuses Rigi of masterminding a series of bombings, including one that killed 42 people, including six Revolutionary Guard commanders. The Iranians also claim Rigi is an agent of the CIA, to which Rigi attested in a videotaped "confession" shortly after his arrest. The BBC aired the tape, claiming not to know whether the "confession" was "coerced." You decide:

Rigi claimed to have been contacted shortly after the 2008 election. "The Americans said... that we don't have a problem with al Qaeda or the Taliban, but the problem is Iran and we don't have a military program against Iran." He further claimed that he was promised U.S. support to launch attacks on Iran in return for the release of Jundullah prisoners. "They [Americans] promised to help us and they said that they would co-operate with us, free our prisoners and would give us [Jundullah] military equipment, bombs, machine guns, and they would give us a base."

Somebody was slick here, and it wasn't the Mossad. Western intelligence agencies-the heart of the battle against violent Islamic radicalism-are being slimed with the active assistance of Western governments and journalists, and Iran forces down an airliner and abducts a passenger off the plane without a whisper of criticism.


Targeting Israeli Civilians an Integral Part of Hamas Strategy

Hamas has embarked on a dubious public-relations campaign to show that it did not deliberately attack civilians during the December 2008/January 2009 war with Israel.

Earlier this month, Hamas claimed the killing and wounding of Israeli civilians during the conflict (which it calls the "Battle of al-Furqan") was unintentional. The terror group later denied having apologized for Israeli civilian deaths and casualties. Careful analysis of Hamas' behavior shows that targeting civilians is an integral component of its struggle against Israel. Jeffrey White, a defense fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, writes that Hamas internal publications and propaganda aimed at Arab audiences have long applauded the killing of Israeli civilians.

For example, an Arabic-language article on the website of the Qassam Brigades (Hamas' military wing) discussed rocket operations during the al-Furqan battle and cites the heroism of the Qassam Brigades personnel who conducted the attacks.

During the Gaza war, the Qassam Brigades "launched some 600 rockets against Israel. This was high-trajectory fire by inherently inaccurate weapons, covering a broad swath of southern Israel," White wrote. "Targets included the major cities of Ashdod, Ashqelon, and Beersheba (combined population 850,000) as well as numerous smaller towns and settlements."

White quotes from Hamas's own chronology of rocket attacks directed at southern Israeli towns and settlements, which makes no distinction between civilian and military targets. They include entries like this one for January 2, 2009: "Al Qassam Brigades and resistance groups bombard Ashqelon and other Zionist towns and settlements, which led to the wounding of four Zionists."

Senior Hamas officials like Khaled Meshaal frequently cite "resistance" as a principal means of achieving the organization's goals. In a January 22, 2010 speech, Meshaal declared that Hamas would "refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the Zionist entity" and would focus on "building and developing the resistance."

Many observers dismiss such statements as empty rhetoric. But White says that would be a mistake.

"Resistance and jihad are mutually reinforcing concepts, and Hamas uses them to legitimize acts of violence against civilian occupiers, including rocket attacks and terrorism. These are essentially offensive, not defensive concepts - the usurped land must be fought for, and the usurpers driven from it," according to White. "Hamas views attacks on civilians as legitimate, appropriate, effective, and even heroic. Such strikes are fundamental to its operations - part of the Hamas way of war."

The Investigative Project on Terrorism

EC: Paul Ryan: Obamacare Will Raise Medical Costs

Dave Eberhart

If the Democrat-backed healthcare bills are signed into law, medical care in the United States is going to skyrocket along with the deficit, says one of the GOP’s leading experts on the subject.

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the ranking member on the House Budget Committee, told Newsmax.TV’s Ashley Martella that both the House and the Senate bills passed by the Democrat-controlled Congress are full of “smoke-and-mirror” regulations that will stymie hospitals and doctors' attempts to enact cost-cutting measures. He gives several examples:

* “This year, doctors in Medicare are going to get cut 21 percent in their fees. Everyone is trying to fix that. That’s $371 billion. What did the Democrats do — they took it out of this legislation and are moving it as a separate piece of legislation. So they have hidden $371 billion of spending right there.
* “Here is a second thing they are doing, which CBO [Congressional Budget Office] has no control over, 10 years of tax increases and Medicare cuts to pay for six years of spending. They can manipulate a score anyway they want to to make it appear as if it's not a deficit, but if you actually take away all the smoke and mirrors, all the gimmicks, the bill from our estimation costs about $460 billion in deficits in the first 10 years and about 1.4 trillion in deficits in the second 10 years.”
* “If you use real world economics and reality-based scoring, not the spreadsheets they cooked up to manipulate a score, this thing represents a big deficit increase and it makes healthcare costs go up, not down and that is not my opinion, that's the opinion of the chief actuary of Medicare/Medicaid,” he contends.

Ryan, the author of the House bill entitled “Roadmap for America's Future Act of 2008,” which deals head-on with entitlement issues, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, is wary of Majority Leader Harry Reid’s potential end run to ram Obamacare through the Senate with the simple majority reconciliation tactic.

But under reconciliation, the original Senate bill would have to pass the House — a feat that Ryan doesn’t believe will happen, he told Martella.

“Once you decide to reconcile, and I’ve been told Democrats have decided to do this, they know they can pass it through the Senate, but I don't know about the House,” he said. “By our best guess, we think they're down anywhere from two to 10 votes in the House. So right now, they don't have the votes to pass this through the House. Remember, it was a razor-thin majority the last time, they lost two Democrats since then and the sole Republican that had voted for it before is now opposed to.”

What’s more, he said, the president's bill funds abortions and that means pro-life Democrats “Art Stupak and nine or 10 others are probably going to vote no against this bill. But you can never count them out. Cap-and-trade – they were down 24 votes the night before. They brought a 400-page amendment, porking the bill up, promising all these things — and they won by eight votes.

“So, you know, the speaker has shown that she's a worthy adversary on these ideas, and she knows how to muscle these things through.”

Ryan declares that right now, Democrats don't have the votes to jam through their government takeover of healthcare because the American people have rebelled.

One of the biggest controversies in the Democrats’ heathcare reform legislation was a half-trillion-dollar cut in Medicare benefits. Ryan has strong opinions on this score.

“What the Democrats are doing is taking a half-trillion dollars out of Medicare from today's seniors, and they’re not using it to shore up Medicare, they are using it as a piggy bank to create a whole new government program — new entitlement program.

“And if you take a look at what they are doing, the sort of indiscriminate cuts to the program, according to the chief actuary in Medicare, will cause one in five providers to either go bankrupt or drop covering Medicare beneficiaries.

“It will cost 64 percent of people on Medicare Advantage to lose their plan,” Ryan said. “What I propose in my 'Roadmap for America's Future' is, look, Medicare is going bankrupt; it’s got $30 trillion of unfunded liability, but if we act now, we can guarantee the program works for today's seniors.

“So, if you're above 55, there are no changes that occur, but below 55, we already know the program is not going to be there for us, so I reform in a way that looks like the kind of system I have as a congressman.

“I get a payment, I get to pick among a whole list of private plans that compete against each other for my business – and that’s how I get my health insurance.

“I’m proposing to do basically the same thing – the same type of plan I have in Congress for younger people under 55, with three basic changes: more assistance for people with lower incomes and with high health costs, and not as much assistance for people who are wealthy.

“If you do this, according to Medicare itself and the Congressional Budget Office, that makes the program permanently solvent, pays off that unfunded liability, and it is a key part of my plan to literally pay off our national debt.”
Ryan says that what he is proposing is the antithesis the Obama government takeover of healthcare.

“What I am proposing is a patient-centered system — a system of a healthcare market in which the individual, the patient, and doctor are the nucleus of the healthcare system, not the government.

“One of the problems we have in healthcare today is that those basic free market elements are missing in healthcare. I want to reintroduce them. What I'm saying is, number one, let’s end the tax discrimination against people in healthcare who don’t get healthcare from their jobs and equalize it so that everybody gets the same tax benefit, it is portable, and it’s attached to them instead of their job.”

Fitting under a general No. 2 are a lot of ideas, he says: “interstate shopping, more transparency in price and quality — to give individuals more power and more resources to have competition — competition among doctors, hospitals, insurers to compete against each other for the individuals business.

“A patient-centered system that involves no new taxes, doesn’t involve all this new spending we’re talking about, but takes the money we already spend on healthcare, which is already two and a half times more per person than any other country, and spends it more efficiently, more effectively by spending through the individual versus coming from the government.

On another subject, the Senate just passed a $15 billion jobs bill that Reid drastically watered down from its original version. Newsmax asked Ryan whether it will get by the House.

“My guess is yes, they will bill passes the House,” Ryan opined. “I don’t think you’ll see Republican support for this bill — we just don’t think borrowing and spending is the key to prosperity. But the speaker has been doing a very good job at muscling the votes she needs to get the bills passed she wants to pass.

On a subject near and dear to Ryan, Newsmax asked about a ubiquitous political third rail: tax reform.

“What I am saying is, look, if you like this current tax code with all the bells and whistles loopholes and complexity that’s your choice," Ryan said. "But if you want a very simple flat tax system that literally fits on a postcard — 10 percent on the first hundred thousand dollars for families, 25 percent above that; generous family and personal exemptions and that's about it.

The government would get its traditional amount under the plan, which also "gets the IRS out of your affairs to give you a very simple system… A family of four earning $39,000 wouldn’t pay taxes until after that amount under this system.

“Tax reform, entitlement reform, spending cuts are actually going to help our economy — showing the world in the credit markets we are going to get our debt under control, spending under control, and releasing the entrepreneur — releasing the genius of America the risk taker the innovator by not taxing them so much is what’s going to get our economy growing again making us more competitive.

“We won’t be able to pass an agenda like that with the people running Washington right now,” he concludes.

Regarding the midterm elections in November, Ryan said, “I think there is a very realistic chance [for Republicans] to retake the House. I’ve never seen anything like this. I represent a swing district in Wisconsin, and I've never seen a public uprising like this ever before; it's great to see. You know, we have a founding principle in this country which is we want government by consent of the governed.

“You’ve seen this healthcare generally run through when the public clearly is out of favor of it," he said. "I really believe this is not a fleeting moment but a building moment.”

Friday, February 26, 2010

When rhetoric rules the roost


To avoid Europe’s encroaching fate, Israel must abandon its current course.

There is something pathetic about what passes as European foreign policy these days. Quite simply, more often than not, the concerted positions of the EU member nations have nothing to do with any of their national interests.Take the EU’s initial response to the killing of Hamas terror-master Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai on January 19. A senior terrorist engaging in the illegal purchase of illicit arms from Iran for Hamas-controlled Gaza is killed in his hotel room. The same Dubai authorities who had no problem with hosting a wanted international terrorist worked themselves into a frenzy condemning his killing. And of course, despite the fact that any number of governments, (Egypt and Jordan come to mind), and rival terrorist organizations, (Fatah, anyone?) had ample reason to wish to see Mabhouh dead, Dubai’s police chief Lt.-Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim blamed Israel.

Not only did he blame Israel, to substantiate his claims, Tamim released what he said was video footage of alleged Mossad operatives who entered Dubai with European and Australian passports.

Relying only on Tamim’s allegations, EU leaders went into high dudgeon. Ignoring the nature of the operation, the basic lack of credibility of the source of information, and the interests of Europe in defeating jihadist terrorism in the Middle East and worldwide, the chanceries of Europe squawked indignantly and threatened to cut off intelligence cooperation with Israel.

In Britain for instance, Foreign Office sources told the Daily Telegraph, “If the Israelis were responsible for the assassination in Dubai, they are seriously jeopardizing the important intelligence-sharing arrangement that currently exists between Britain and Israel.”

It reportedly took the intervention of the highest echelons of Europe’s intelligence agencies to get their hysterical politicians and diplomats to stop blaming and threatening Israel. After being dressed down, on Monday, the chastened EU foreign ministers abstained from mentioning Israel by name in their joint condemnation of the alleged use of European passports by the alleged operatives who allegedly killed the terrorist Mabhouh.

And lucky they held their tongues. Because on Tuesday, Tamim claimed that after the hit, at least two of the alleged members of the alleged assassination team departed Dubai for Iran. It’s hard to imagine Mossad officers feeling safer in Iran than in Dubai at any time and certainly it is hard to see why they would flee to Iran after killing an Iranian-sponsored terrorist.

What the initial European reaction to Tamim’s allegations shows is that blaming Israel has become Europe’s default foreign policy. It apparently never occurred to the Europeans that Israel might not be responsible for the hit. And it certainly never occurred to them that cutting off intelligence ties with Israel will harm them more than Israel.

They didn’t think of the latter, of course, because Europe has no idea of what its interests are. All it knows is how to sound off authoritatively.

THIS HAS not always been the case. It was after all Europe that brought the world the art of rational statecraft. Once upon a time, Europe’s leaders understood that a nation’s foreign policy was supposed to be based on its national interests. To advance their nation’s interests, governments would adopt certain policies. And to facilitate the success of those policies they developed rhetorical arguments to explain and defend them.

Contemporary European statecraft stands this traditional foreign policy model on its head. Today, rhetoric rules the roost. If actions are taken at all, they are adopted in the service of rhetoric. As for national interests, well, the Lisbon Treaty that effectively bars EU member states from adopting independent foreign policies took care of those.

With national interests subordinated to the whims of bureaucrats in Brussels, Europe does little of value in the international arena. As for its rhetoric, as the EU’s rush to threaten Israel for allegedly killing a terrorist shows, it is cowardly, ineffectual and self-defeating.

If the Mossad did in fact kill Mabhouh, then the operation was an instance in which Israel distinguished itself from its European detractors by acting, rather than preening.

Unfortunately, such instances are increasingly the exception rather than the rule. Over the past 16 years or so, Israel largely descended into the European statecraft abyss. Rather than use rhetoric to explain policies adopted to advance its national interests, successive Israeli governments have adopted policies geared toward strengthening their rhetoric that itself stands in opposition to Israel’s national interests.

Take Israel’s positions on Iran and the Palestinians, for instance. Regarding the Iranians, Israel’s national interest is to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Today, the only way to secure this interest is to use force to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations.

Given Iran’s leaders’ absolute commitment to developing nuclear weapons, no sanctions – regardless of how “crippling” they are supposed to be – will convince them to curtail their efforts to build and deploy their nuclear arsenal.

Beyond that, and far less important, the Russians and the Chinese will refuse to implement “crippling sanctions,” against Iran.

IN LIGHT of these facts, it is distressing that Israel’s leaders have made building an international coalition in support of “crippling” sanctions against Iran their chief aim. And this is not merely a rhetorical flourish. Over the past several weeks and months, Israel’s top leaders have devoted themselves to lobbying foreign governments to support sanctions against Iran.

Last week Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu went to Moscow to gin up support for sanctions from the Russian government. This week, Defense Minister Ehud Barak traveled to the UN and the State Department and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon flew off to Beijing just to lobby senior officials to support sanctions.

It isn’t simply that this behavior doesn’t contribute anything to Israel’s ability to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations. It harms Israel’s ability to do so, if only by diverting our leaders’ focus from where it should be: preparing the IDF to strike and preparing the country to withstand whatever the aftereffects of such a strike would be. Moreover, by calling for sanctions, Israel contributes to the delusion that sanctions are sufficient to block Iran’s race to the nuclear finish line.

As for the Palestinian issue, it is fairly clear that at a minimum, Israel’s interest is to secure its control over the areas of Judea and Samaria that it requires to protect its Jewish heritage and its national security. But it is hard to think of anything the government has done in its year in office to advance that basic interest.

It is argued that Israel’s interest in maintaining good relations with the US administration trumps its interest in strengthening its control over areas in Judea and Samaria that it deems vital. The problem with this argument is that it takes for granted that Israel can determine the status of its relations with the US administration. In the case of the Obama administration, it is abundantly clear that this is not the case.

President Barack Obama and his senior advisers have demonstrated repeatedly that they are interested in weakening – not strengthening – the US alliance with Israel. This week the administration condemned Israel for defining the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem as national heritage sites. The fact that they are national heritage sites is so obvious that even President Shimon Peres defended the move.

Moreover, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, reiterated for the millionth time this week that he opposes military strikes against Iran’s nuclear installations. That is, for the millionth time, the top US military officer effectively said that he prefers a nuclear armed Iran to an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear installations.

In the interest of strengthening Israel’s ties with a hostile administration, the Netanyahu government has adopted rhetoric on the Palestinian issue that is harmful to Israel’s national interests. It declared its support for a Palestinian state, despite the fact that such a state will define itself through its devotion to Israel’s destruction.

It has outlawed Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria, despite the fact that the move simply legitimizes the Palestinians’ bigoted demand that Jews be barred from living in Judea and Samaria.

And it has advocated on behalf of Palestinian leaders like Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad who refuse to accept Israel’s right to exist.

Indeed, if Israel were to reject the current European model and craft a foreign policy that advanced its national interests, one of its first acts would be to point out that the unelected Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad is not a man of peace.

Just this week, Fayyad threatened to respond with a religious war to Israel’s classification of the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb as national heritage sites. Last Friday he joined rioters at Bil’in to attack Israel’s security fence. Fayyad has taken a lead role in the campaign to implement an international boycott of Israeli products. Over the past couple of years he has sought to take control over the PA’s security forces not to fight terror, but to prevent Israel from fighting terror. Finally, since the Hamas victory in the PA legislative elections in 2006, he has overseen the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars to Hamas.

In short, Fayyad, a former World Bank employee, is not a “moderate,” as his supporters in the US and Europe claim. He is a fiscally sound terror financier and sponsor, actively waging war against Israel.

RECENT REPORTS indicate that IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi – who strangely received a nice medal from Mullen two years ago – is the main opponent of an Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear installations. If this is true, then Ashkenazi must either be forced to change his position or lose his job. The Iranian threat is too great to place in the hands of a commander the US reportedly views as its “friend” in Israel’s decision-making circles.

As for the Palestinians, the situation will not be remedied simply by firing a few incompetent office holders. For 16 years, in the interest of enhancing the country’s ties with Europe, and to a lesser degree with the US, successive Israeli governments have ignored Israel’s vital national interest in maintaining its control over Judea and Samaria. Indeed, they have preferred Euro-friendly, and Israel-unfriendly rhetoric to the sober-minded pursuit of Israel’s national interest.

Yet as Europe’s immediate response to the Dubai operation makes clear, Europe itself has abandoned the sober-minded pursuit of its own interests, in favor of cowardly, feckless, self-defeating rhetoric. Obviously Europe should favor Israel over a Hamas terrorist. But in its current state of strategic imbecility, no European leader can acknowledge this basic fact. Consequently, Europe may well be doomed.

To avoid Europe’s encroaching fate, Israel must abandon its current course. The purpose of rhetoric is to support policies adopted in the pursuit of a nation’s interests. And Israel has interests in need of urgent advancement.

The Real Arab Stuff: Hussain Abdul Hussain Explains It All To You

Barry Rubin

Hussain Abdul Hussain gets it. He’s one of the most interesting Arab journalists and he also writes in English. His latest article—published in the “Huffington Post"—entitled “Lonely Obama vs. Popular Iran” [but you don't have to use the link as I quoted practically all of it] he points out what the most realistic people and more moderate rulers in the Arabic-speaking world are thinking.

He explains what I’ve been telling you but since he has “Abdul” in his name perhaps you’ll believe it when he says it. Theme one: Popularity isn’t so important in the Middle East:

“A common perception is that under President Barack Obama, America's image has improved, and perhaps its friends have increased. But such claims are unfounded, as the opposite proves to be true.

“International relations, however, are about interests, not sweet talk. As Bush went out recruiting allies, and making enemies, Obama lost America's friends while failing to win over enemies.

Theme two: What is important is that allies believe you will support and protect them. Obama isn’t doing that:

Example A, Iraq: “After losing more than 4,300 troops in battle and spending $700 billion [it says trillion but I assume that’s a typo] since 2003, America today cannot find a single politician or group that would express gratitude to Americans for ridding Iraq of its ruthless tyrant Saddam Hussein, and allowing these politicians to speak out freely.

“On the contrary, shy of making their excellent backdoor ties with Washington known since they fear Obama will depart Iraq and never look back, Iraqi politicians started expressing dissatisfaction with the United States in public.”

Example B, Lebanon, before Obama took office, more than one-third of the entire population—most of them Sunni Muslims-- demonstrated against Hizballah and Syrian occupation. And the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said on television “that he was proud to be part of America's plan to spread democracy in the Middle East.” Now Jumblatt has practically gone over to Hizballah or, at least, is heavily hedging his bets because he fears Iran and Syria more than he has faith in Obama's policy. And so:

“By the time Obama had made it to the White House, support of America's allies in Lebanon waned since Obama was determined to appease their foes in Syria and Iran. Hariri and Jumblatt were forced to abandon their fight for Lebanon's democracy and freedom as Hariri rushed to Damascus to ask his former enemies for forgiveness, while Jumblatt is still begging for audience with Syria's dictator Bashar Assad.

Example C, Iran: “The people revolted against their autocratic regime and took to the streets shouting death to the nation's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in what came to be known as the Green Revolution.

“But Obama's Washington was busy sending one letter of appeasement after another to Iran's tyrants, and accordingly failed to take the side of the Green Revolution for democracy and freedom. When Obama did show support for the Green Movement, it was too little and too late.”

You can add in Israel here, and Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia; the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait; Oman and Bahrain; Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria; along with most of Lebanon and those Turks who don't want Islamism.

Theme three: Iran helps its allies. Hence, Iran has more allies while the United States has fewer. Iran is going up; the United States is going down:

“Now compare America's friends around the Middle East to Iran's cronies, and you can immediately understand why Washington is in trouble, both diplomatically and on a popular level, while Iran is confident as it marches toward producing a nuclear weapon and expanding its influence across the Middle East.”

A good example of the ridiculous weakness of the U.S. response is this statement by State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley: "It is not our intent to have crippling sanctions that have...a significant impact on the Iranian people. Our actual intent find ways to pressure the government while protecting the people." Get it? Sanctions that don't really damage the economy and that hardly anyone feels! And that's what the White House is proposing before the Russians, Chinese, and Europeans start whittling it down to even less!

Iranian ally A, Hizballah [my preferred transliteration]:

“Since 1981, Iran has been funding its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, never defaulting on any of its pledged payments. Hezbollah went from an embryonic group into a state within a state, boasting a membership of several thousands and maintaining a private army, schools, hospitals, orphanages, satellite TV and a number of other facilities that have won it the hearts of Lebanon's Shiites, and have given Hezbollah an absolute command over them.

Iranian ally B, Syria:

“Iran has maintained a flow of cash and political support toward Syria for a similar amount of time. Obama has been begging Syria to switch sides and abandon Iran. Judging by the mishaps that always seem to befall America's friends with time, Syria does not seem likely to change, but is rather playing an Obama administration desperate for whatever it can claim as success in its foreign policy."

As if to prove the point, immediately after a big American delegation visited Damascus to restore full relations and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Congress that U.S. policy is seeking to detach Syria from its alliance with Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Syria and the two leaders made strong anti-American statements while pledging eternal partnership. Here's the headline in the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat: "Syria and Iran defy Clinton in show of unity."

Iranian ally C, Iraqi insurgents:
“In Iraq, Iran does not only fund and train militias and violent groups, but they also fund electoral campaigns of Iraqi politicians, loyal media groups and political parties, thus expanding their influence over Iraq exponentially. Spending billions more than Iran in Iraq, America has seen its money spent to no or little effect.”

And here’s the bottom line:

“The comparison between Iran and Obama's America is simple.

“While Tehran never let down an ally, offering them consistent financial and political support, Washington's support of its allies around the world has always been intermittent, due to changes with administrations and an ever swinging mood among American voters, pundits and analysts.

“So while Iran has created a mini-Islamic republic in Lebanon, and is on its way to doing the same in Iraq, America has failed in keeping friends or maintaining influence both in Lebanon and in Iraq.

“And while Tehran brutally suppressed a growing peaceful revolution for change inside Iran, Washington's pacifism did not win any favors with the Iranian regime, or with its opponents in the Green Revolution.

“While Iran knows how to make friends, Obama's America has become an expert in losing them.”

Yes! That’s what it’s all about. You know, it’s an interesting point. Obama and company says we should listen to Muslim and Arab voices.

Ok, but which ones? Not, as they are doing, to the apologists for radicalism and the purveyors of conventional nonsense (all that matters is the Arab-Israeli conflict, America should just make concessions, you need to understand how Islamism isn’t a threat). If you want to know what a dozen Arab governments think and fear--and Israelis, too--plus Muslims horrified by the extremist faction in the religion and liberal or moderate intellectuals this is the real stuff.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; and The Muslim Brotherhood.

US Rep. Myrick meets NC Muslims, warns of dangers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- After months of warning that Islamic radicals are infiltrating mainstream groups, U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick was to meet Thursday with Muslim constituents to explain her position.

Myrick, R-N.C., has said Islamic extremists are working their way into U.S. Muslim communities, infiltrating government institutions and influencing American citizens to attack their own country, The Charlotte Observer reported.

"I want people to be aware of the fact that it does exist and it is a threat to our national security," said Myrick, who serves on the House Intelligence Committee. "It could be an American citizen that could be radicalized by one way or another." Jibril Hough, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Charlotte, said he hopes Thursday night's town hall meeting is the first of many between Myrick and the Muslim community.

Myrick said she wants constituents to understand that her concerns aren't about the rising visibility of the Islamic faith.

"We live in the United States of America, where we have freedom of religion for everybody," Myrick said.

Instead, the former Charlotte mayor said her view was strengthened by top-secret briefings from U.S. intelligence officials that she said she could not discuss.

"There's a threat out there to our security," Myrick said. "It's worse than I thought."

She has proposed fighting Islamic radicalization by cutting off exchange programs and weapons sales with Saudi Arabia, passing legislation that would make it a treasonous offense to call for the death of American citizens and investigating the selection of Arabic translators.

Some conservatives have applauded her views, but some Muslims said they fear Myrick's tone endangers their community.

"It's looking like she's taking on a tinge of McCarthyism, and this is dangerous," said state Sen. Larry Shaw, D-Cumberland. "She's becoming a hatemonger. And that's sad. This is an intelligent woman, and I think she's a good woman."

Shaw is national chairman for the Council of American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights group Myrick has accused of planting spies on Capitol Hill by trying to get Muslim interns hired in congressional offices.

Last fall she wrote the foreword to a new book, "Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That's Seeking to Islamize America," which accuses CAIR of conspiring to support international jihad against the United States.

Myrick has said her fears about infiltration were realized in November, when Army Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas. Hasan, a psychiatrist, had trained colleagues on how to handle Muslims in the military. The FBI had been monitoring contact between Hasan and a radical Yemeni-American cleric.

Some experts disagree with Myrick's view that radicalized Islamic Americans present a growing terrorism threat. A study released last month by researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found 139 Muslim-Americans involved in alleged or confirmed terrorism incidents since Sept. 11, 2001, out of a national Muslim-American population of more than 3 million.

"We have a problem," said David Schanzer, lead author of the study and director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. "It's important to keep it in perspective in its size and dangerousness, which I think are generally overblown."

Someone Needs to Tell the President His Health Care Plan is Dead

Heritage Foundation

The day before yesterday's White House health care summit, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) told reporters: "The only way this works is for the House to pass the Senate bill and then, depending on what the package is, the reconciliation provision that moves first through the House and then comes here." When Conrad was reminded that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has repeatedly insisted that the House will not pass the Senate bill until the Senate passes a second bill that fixes the first, Conrad replied: "Fine, then it's dead." This was the dynamic that President Barack Obama was trying to alter with his eventually-seven-hour meeting. And judging by pretty much every major news outlet, he completely failed. Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA), who is one of the 39 House Democrats that the White House needs to switch from a "no" the first time around to a "yes" this time, told The New York Times: "I don’t see very many at all who voted no who are going to switch their votes unless there are substantial changes in the bill."

And that reality is already spreading throughout Capitol Hill. Politico reports that while Democrats were hoping to pass Obamacare by Easter, "there were signs Thursday night that the schedule was slipping. One Democratic lawmaker involved in the negotiations, who asked not to be identified to speak candidly of the process, said the party would not, in fact, start down the path of reconciliation next week."

That is some rare great news for the American people. As Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) ably explained yesterday, Americans do not want Washington dictating their health care decisions to them, and that is exactly what Obamacare would do:

The difference is this: We don't think all the answers lie in Washington regulating all of this. ... if the National Restaurant Association or the National Federation of Independent Business, on behalf of their members, wants to set up an association health plan, we think they'll probably do a good job on behalf of their members. Let them decide to do that instead of restricting insurance competition by federalizing the regulation of insurance, and by mandating exactly how it will work, you make it more expensive and you reduce the competition among insurers for people's business. We want to decentralize the system, give more power to small businesses, more power to individuals, and make insurers compete more. But if you federalize it and standardize it and mandate it, you do not achieve that. And that's the big difference we have.

President Obama bristled at this analysis, responding: "Can I just say that, at this point, any time that a question is phrased as, "Does Washington know better," I think we're kind of tipping the scales a little bit there since we all know that everybody is angry at Washington right now."

The President seems to understand that the American people do not want bureaucrats in Washington controlling their health care decisions, but then he seems completely oblivious to the fact that increasing bureaucratic control at the expense of every American's ability to make their own choices is exactly what his plan does.

The American people know this. That is why support for the President's health care plan has been steadily declining. That is why the most recent CBS News/New York Times Poll shows 53% of Americans say the United States cannot afford to fix health care at this time. It is why 52% of Americans tell Gallup they do not want to see Obamacare pass with only 50 Senators in support (Vice President Joe Biden casting the 51st vote). That is why 59% of registered voters tell Fox News they want the President to start over.

And he should. If the President truly wants to enact historic bipartisan and lasting health care reform, he needs to admit this version of Obamacare is dead. In 2011, when there is likely to be a more centrist Congress in place, then Obama should come back and start again.

How to Stifle Speech

Clifford May

Lessons from the Netherlands, the University of California, and Yale.

There’s an old Soviet joke in which an American tells a Russian: “In my country we have freedom of speech. I can stand in front of the White House and yell, ‘Nixon is an idiot!’ and nothing will happen to me.” The Russian replies: “In my country, we have the same freedom. I can stand in front of the Kremlin and yell, ‘Nixon is an idiot!’ and nothing will happen to me either.”

Updated for the 21st century, the joke might go like this: A Christian tells a Muslim: “In the West, we have freedom of speech. I can go to the Vatican and yell, ‘Christianity is a crock!’ and nothing will happen to me.” The Muslim replies: “We have just as much freedom in the Muslim world. I can go to Mecca and yell, ‘Christianity is a crock!’ and nothing will happen to me either.”. The fact is very few Muslim-majority countries are free countries. A Muslim who wants to speak his mind without fear, practice his religion as he chooses, and vote for or against politicians in fair elections is better off living in the West than in any of the more than four dozen nations that hold membership in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

But even in the West, freedom is an endowment, not an entitlement. Generation after generation must have the courage to defend what we used to call, without embarrassment, “the blessings of liberty.”

That means recognizing that a war is being waged against what we used to call, also without embarrassment, the Free World. This war is being waged by an enemy many are reluctant to name: Islamists. They are fighting not only with AK-47s and I.E.D.s in such places as Afghanistan and Somalia. They also are fighting with actions, ideas, and laws in such places as Europe and America. They are fighting a pitched battle against freedom of speech — the right without which other rights cannot be protected.

And, at this moment, the West is putting up a feeble defense. We are accepting government prohibitions on the thoughts we may express, we are allowing extremists to shout us down and shut us up, and we are self-censoring out of fear or faux-sensitivity. A few examples?

Start with the Dutch government’s prosecution of Geert Wilders, a member of parliament who has expressed unfavorable opinions of the Islamic faith and the Koran. Such views may cause offense. But they cannot be criminalized in any country that values freedom.

Would anyone consider prosecuting a Muslim or an atheist for making hostile comments about Christianity or Jesus or the Bible? In 1987, Andres Serrano offended many people with “Piss Christ,” his photograph of a crucifix submerged in a container of urine. Not only was he not prosecuted, he was awarded a prize in a contest sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts (which speaks volumes not only about American freedom but also about the tastes of the “arts community”).

And when Louis Farrakhan, after a visit to Libya, called Judaism a “gutter religion,” was there anyone — no matter how outraged — who proposed sending the Nation of Islam leader to prison?

Those who defend the prosecution of Wilders contend that his statements amount to “hate speech.” And that, they assert, is dangerous and therefore must be outlawed. They point to the existence of “hate crimes” in the United States and say it’s more or less the same thing.

But it’s not. The idea behind “hate crimes” is that the law should differentiate between someone who hits you on the head because he wants your wallet and someone who hits you on the head because you’re black, Jewish, Muslim, or homosexual. The latter, it is argued, is worse than the former and so merits additional punishment. I have always been doubtful about that proposition. But more to the point: There has been from the start the concern that hate crimes would lead where they have led in the Netherlands and elsewhere: to justifying the criminalization of thought and expression — even in the absence of any act of violence.

Meanwhile, as Mark Steyn notes, a film titled The Assassination of Geert Wilders has been produced and promoted — by a Dutch government-funded radio station. No one is being prosecuted for hate speech as a result of that.

Another battle against free speech was called to my attention by Ali H. Alyami, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia. He sent me a video of Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., at the University of California, Irvine. Alyami suggested I watch it because, he said, it represents a “threat to our freedom of expression.”

It shows a lecture hall in which Oren is to give a talk. Several students, many but not all foreign and Muslim, have taken seats around the hall. Every few seconds one rises and begins to shout at Oren. Guards lead that individual out. Oren begins again — and another individual stands up, shouts, and is led out. The goal is to prevent Oren from completing a single thought — and to prevent the audience from hearing what he has to say.

University officials insist such behavior is intolerable — but do you think they’ll actually take the tough measures necessary to prevent such brown-shirt tactics in the future? And what do such episodes say about the values the students are learning from their professors? Is there any reason to believe they — the students or their professors — understand anything about the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights?

One more battle to consider before I let you go: Last year, Yale University Press published The Cartoons that Shook the World, a book about the controversy over the twelve drawings ridiculing Islamist terrorism which were published in a Danish newspaper, the Jyllands-Posten, in 2005.

Soon after, the OIC demanded that the United Nations impose international sanctions on Denmark, and it circulated a dossier that contained not just the cartoons but examples of other European insults — most of which were fabricated. Especially memorable was a picture of a man wearing a pig mask, captioned: “Here is the real image of Mohammed.” It was eventually revealed that this was a photo of a Frenchman at a pig-squealing contest; nothing to do with Mohammed. Nevertheless, coupled with the cartoons, it enraged Muslims in many countries, some of whom took to the streets, rioting, setting fires, and assaulting anyone who looked European. More than 100 people were killed.

With this as backdrop, Yale decided to exclude the cartoons from the book on the cartoons, and to omit, as well, any images of Mohammed, including those by the 19th-century French artist Paul Gustave Doré and the 20th-century Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dalí. Was that because Yale’s executives feared violence? Or, as Roger Kimball has suggested, was it out of deference to Saudi Arabian donors? Either way, it’s hard not to view Yale’s decision as an act of preemptive surrender.

The OIC, in its 1990 “Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam,” declares that “Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely” — but then adds: “in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Sharia,” which is to say Islamic law as interpreted by Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and other despotic members of this international religious/political alliance.

Theirs is not a different view of freedom of speech: It is a death sentence for freedom of speech. And it is what they intend not only for the lands they now rule but globally. What does it tell us that they are finding so many people in the West willing — indeed, eager — to assist them?

— Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism and Islamism.

Religious Zionism - When Crisis Becomes Opportunity

Feb. 26, 2010

Religious Zionism is in crisis ... again. Or so we are being told. In the aftermath of the tragic allegations concerning Rabbi Mordechai (Motti) Elon, religious Zionists are bemoaning yet another crisis in the movement. It's a crisis of trust in charismatic rabbinic leadership, some are saying. Others are asking whether the movement holds its leaders up to standards of such perfection that it is virtually impossible for any high-profile person to acknowledge misdeeds and to ask for help. Still others focus on what this latest round may do to the image of religious Zionism among rank-and-file Israelis.Important though these issues are, they are not the real crisis. The true crisis, which is wholly unrelated to Rabbi Elon, is that religious Zionism has long since had very little of importance to say to Israel at large. Sadly, the Elon storm is but a tempest in an increasingly irrelevant teapot.

Religious Zionism irrelevant? "How could one possibly say that?" its adherents will ask. True, "irrelevant" is a strong word, possibly too strong. But it is hard to deny that religious Zionism has not lived up to the huge opportunities of religious creativity that the State of Israel has made possible.

After all, the world in which we in the religious Zionist camp are raising our children is a radically different world from the social, political, cultural and security realities of Eastern Europe before World War II. Our children are part of the majority culture, not an oppressed minority. While we still face threats from the outside, our children are growing up with a sense of day-to-day security that the Jews who sent their sons to the Yeshiva of Volozhin could not have even imagined. No longer do we fear the stranger on the street, a gentile government or pervasive anti-Semitism among our immediate neighbors. Nor do we confront the fear of assimilation that so deeply defines the contours of much of American Judaism.

THE MIRACLE of the State of Israel is that it has changed the very existential condition of what it means to be a Jew. Given this radical change in the condition of the Israeli Jew, it's astonishing that for all intents and purposes, the curriculum of Israel's great yeshivot is not all that different from what was taught in the yeshivot of Europe before the Shoah. Yes, Israeli yeshiva students probably learn a bit more Bible than did yeshiva students before the war, and yes, the methodologies of Talmud study differ from place to place. But the guts of what a yeshiva education is all about have changed scarcely at all, even though the world for which we are educating our children is radically different.

The true disappointment of post-independence religious Zionism is that it hasn't produced any creative religious thinkers of the likes of Abraham Joshua Heschel, Abraham Isaac Kook or Joseph Dov Soloveitchik, to name but three. Each of those three, radically different from each other, bequeathed to their followers a radically new way of seeing the enterprise of what it meant to be a Jew. From Heschel, we inherited the notion of a dynamic, deeply personal relationship with God that could be achieved through a critical but loving read of Judaism's canonical texts. With Kook, we got the first serious sense that the return to Zion might actually be the beginning of redemption, but Kook died 13 years before the state was created. And from Soloveitchik, in whose giant shadow much of the very best of modern Orthodoxy still learns and labors, we got a sense of the profundity possible when exacting Jewish learning and the demands of Jewish law are coupled to the rigors of Western philosophy.

But where are the Heschels, Kooks and Soloveitchiks of our day? Who are the brightly shining stars of post-independence Israeli religious Zionism who are equipping us with courageous, out-of-the-box, revolutionary ways of thinking about the tasks before us?

After all, for religious Zionism to really matter, it must produce the next generation of religious leaders for Israel, people who must have something to say not only to the yeshiva world, but to the Jewish, democratic society that is Israel. What might happen, for example, if the great yeshivot studied John Locke's Two Treatises of Civil Government or A Letter Concerning Toleration (or Michael Walzer's much more recent On Toleration, for that matter) alongside the tractate Sanhedrin, or Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan alongside Maimonides's Laws of Kings and Wars? What does one need to know, and how does one need to learn to study and think, in this new, uncharted and exciting era of Jewish independence? And who in the world of religious Zionism is asking those questions?

GONE ARE the days when religious leaders can conceive of themselves as offering spiritual insight and guidance to people only in their own narrowly defined religious community. Like it or not, genuine religious leadership in the now independent State of Israel requires people who have what to say to secular Jews as well, who know how to expose them, no less than their natural "flock," to the profundity and richness of the Jewish tradition. Secular Jews, after all, are also searching for meaning. Today's Israeli religious leadership has effectively convinced them that the place to search for genuine spiritual depth is in India, or in Nepal. Could there be a more devastating indictment of the lack of creative discourse that is today's religious Zionism? How seriously do today's yeshivot take that responsibility?

In addition to everything else that it is, the State of Israel is an enormous religious and spiritual opportunity. It is the moment in which we might conceive of a Judaism born not out of fear, but of confidence. It is our chance to conceive of the outside world not as a challenge, but as a complementary source of wisdom. It is our moment for speaking to Jews across the spectrum, not only those who happen to register in our yeshivot.

The Chinese, in their wisdom, use the same symbols for "crisis" and for "opportunity." We face both. The personal tragedy unfolding in religious Zionism today has healthfully restored a sense of doubt to this essential community. We'll have made the most of this crisis, and of this opportunity, if we look far beyond the personalities involved, and ask ourselves what we would like our community to bequeath to the Jewish people, given the unprecedented richness of Jewish experience that the State of Israel now makes possible.