Staccato Notes
Published on: November 18, 2013
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  • John Burke

    Well, the White House staff didn’t think through the CW problem and they didn’t think through how flapping about Israel would affect the relationship. I suppose that’s because they were all too busy closely monitoring the rollout of Obamacare. No….wait….

    Can you provide a link to the Tablet article?

    Also, while I assume you are not an expert on military operations, do you have an opinion about whether Israel has the striking power to mount an effective attack on the Iran nuke facilities (with or without Saudi help, tacit or otherwise)?

    • Just type into your html slot and it’ll not be hard to find. I don’t have time now to find a link.

      As to your question, I have investigated this and spoken to lots of knowledgable people, and the answer is “no.” The Israeli Air Force is man-for-man and plane-for-plane perhaps the best in the world, but it’s a small force relative to the mission. The best Israel could do is degrade and delay; it can’t tank the program like it did with the Osirak reactor. So it doesn’t want to try; it wants the US to solve the problem one way or another. But if it has to, Israel will probably act anyway–and to the extent it thinks it has little left to lose from its decayed relationship with the US, the less inhibited it will feel.

    • Hi John, here it is:

      We’ll go back and update the old posts to reflect the link.


  • Anthony

    Regarding “what a country and what an administration”, it can be proffered that the democratic party has doubts about constituent desire for burdens of civic participation sans help/guidance. Perhaps, there exist an unspoken premise regarding capacity of some constituents to make wise decisions in their own interest. Further, the idea that freedom implies choice and participation carries responsibility may no longer be (if they ever were) first principles for either party. If one were to engage in satire, one could conclude that the democratic system has come full circle in United States and presents a parody of itself on the governmental level (Democrat and Republican).

  • Larry, San Francisco

    Adam, do you think if McCain had won in 2008 the Mideast would be better? Specifically, I was thinking that even though Bush screwed up significantly, by the end of his second term, events were looking up. The surge had worked and if we had successfully negotiated a Status of Forces agreement in Iraq perhaps we could have prevented Iraq’s drift to chaos and Iran. Also if we had run a more determined policy in Afghanistan perhaps that country would be in less of a mess now. I think that if the 2nd term Bush policies had been continued that we the Mideast would be in much better shape. Of course, that could just be fantasy and who knows if McCain would have continued that policy since he is such a loose cannon.

    • Well, you’re posing a counterfactual, so it’s impossible to answer definitively. But the answer anyway is, I doubt it. Iraq may have been in better shape with a Status of Forces arrangement, which Obama walked away from, but with a Shi’a government run by a man lacking democratic habits of the heart, I doubt that would have made much difference. The mistakes that allowed this outcome happened before McCain ran for President–a premature election and the wrong electoral system helped magnify sectarian divides. When I was in government I argued in vain for a different approach.

      As for Afghanistan, what was needed all along was not a more determined policy–which implies we should have done more–but a more appropriate policy–which means we should have had fewer ambitions and more coherence to what we really needed to do. Here too, the seeds of failure go back far before the 2008 election, in this case to the Bonn Conference of 2002.

      McCain, possibly, would have made wiser decisions as regards Israel and the Palestinians than Obama did in 2009–and maybe he would have better handled Egypt. But given his typical (for an American) obsession with democracy promotion and his typical (for an American) ignorance of the region, I doubt things would have been much or any better.

  • WigWag

    “Labeling anyone who dares to criticize them, or points to inconsistencies in their own behavior, as “warmongers” is really beyond the pale.” (Adam Garfinkle)

    Speaking of “beyond the pale.”

    Anyone looking for evidence that Adam Garfinkle might be on to something with the thesis that he outlines in his “Tablet” article need look no further than Tom Friedman’s column in today’s New York Times. The column can be found here,

    As anyone who reads the article can see, Friedman is continuing his quest to bestow respectability on the Walt/Mearsheimer thesis that the Jews are conspiring to control American foreign policy. Whether this represents full-bore anti-Semitism or merely an increasingly noxious form of Jewcentricity is open for debate. What’s not really debatable is the reality that the American left (including neoliberals like Friedman or whatever he is) is increasingly alienated from Israel and increasingly bold about promoting the ancient canard about the “dual loyalty” of Jews.

    Here’s what Friedman said,

    “…never have I seen more lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — more willing to take Israel’s side against their own president’s. I’m certain this comes less from any careful consideration of the facts and more from a growing tendency by many American lawmakers to do whatever the Israel lobby asks them to do in order to garner Jewish votes and campaign donations.”

    It’s hard to overstate Friedman’s mendacity; he’s “certain” he tells us, that the opposition to the Obama/Kerry strategy on Iran couldn’t possibly come from careful consideration of the facts but could only come from the reality that Senators and Congressmen need to genuflect to the Jews and their money. There was a time not that long ago, that this argument would have been considered “beyond the pale” but apparently no longer.

    Note that Friedman doesn’t even feel the need to hide his contempt for what he thinks is excess Jewish influence by referring to the Christian component of the “Israel lobby” (which as Walter Russell Mead keeps reminding us is far larger than the Jewish component). Nope, it’s the Jews who are pulling the strings of their congressional marionettes.

    Of couse, the idiocy of Friedman’s argument couldn’t be more obvious. Does he really think that Lindsey Graham vociferously opposes Obama’s Iran policy because he thinks that by currying favor with South Carolina’s 12 Jews he will be more likely to win reelection? How much Jewish money does Friedman think will be pouring in to Graham’s campaign coffers because of his willingness to oppose Obama? Here.’a a newsflash for the befuddled bloviator, far more Jewish political donors support Obama’s position on Iran than Graham’s.

    On the Democratic side of the aisle, does Friedman really think that Chuck Schumer has expressed reservations about Obama’s approach to Iran because he’s afraid of losing Jewish votes and campaign contributions? In his last election Schumer won by more than 30 percent. Does Friedman really think Schumer is worried that he will be abandoned by all of the Jews living on the Upper West Side, Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Forest Hills and Riverdale if he doesn’t oppose Obama?

    Give me a break.

    Can Friedman possibly believe that Schumer thinks Obama’s Iran strategy is the right one but that he is expressing reservations about it only to insure that the millions of dollars he raises on Wall Street dont dry up?

    These are only two examples; it would be easy to cite 50 more. The point is that despite the clearly flawed logic of Friedman’s argument; his thesis is, at best “Jewcentric” and at worst, even more odious than that. The fact that Friedman is willing and able to spew this nonsense in the pages of the New York Times is ample evidence that Adam is right; something is changing, especially on the American left. Accusing Jews of buying the American political system lock, stock and barrel is increasingly acceptable in polite company. In the long run, this may very well bode poorly for American support for Israel. It could even bode poorly for American Jews.

    On a final note, it is no wonder that Adam finds the whole topic so enervating. Friedman seems to be an Adam Garfinkle fan. The columnist is a rock star (and is about as smart as most rock stars). Friedman has recommended Adam’s work in his widely read column; this can only be good for sales.

    Friedman is right about Adam’s writing but he is wrong about the Jews.

    Actually he’s worse than wrong. He’s beyond the pale.

    • I’ll let you say this here, this time, but two short comments:

      1. This is not about my writing but Friedman’s: Start your own blog, please, and leave off free-riding on this one.
      2. It is improper, in my view, even to raise the notion that Tom Friedman is or might be “anti-Semitic”, which translates into “self-hating”, on the basis of a political disagreement. I wrote about this toxic habit at some length, and with no little heat, in Jewcentricity–maybe you missed that chapter. You seem to like the word outrageous? This sort of half-brick throwing with loaded language you have done in regard to Friedman is what, in my view, is outrageous. One can disagree with someone without going pandaemonic. Word to the would-be wise.

      • Pikami

        “Labeling anyone who dares to criticize them, or points to inconsistencies in their own behavior, as ‘warmongers’ is really beyond the pale.”

        I’m confused. Saying that the administration’s critics are eager for war is beyond the pale, but saying that they have mindlessly sold out to the all-powerful Jews is OK?

        • I agree with you: You are confused. First, I never associated myself with any statement claiming that administration’s critics have mindlessly sold themselves out to anyone; I said that raising accusations of anti-Semitism or self-hatred on the basis of POLITICAL views and disagreements is outrageous. If you cannot distinguish between these points you are indeed confused, at the very least. Second, there is a difference between the responsibilities government officials have for what comes out of their mouths and the responsibilities of individual citizens, even journalists. What Kerry said was unseemly; what Friedman wrote was right or wrong or something in between, depending on one’s point of view. A Secretary of State should never let emotions drive public statements; it is unprofessional as well as unseemly. Again, if you cannot distinguish the difference, you are confused. Finally, you can usually tell when someone is afflicted with a shallow politicized version of Jewish identity in America if that persons lights up more emotionally hating Tom Friedman than detesting Ismail Haniyeh. And in that instance, who exactly is the Jew doing the hating, huh?

          • Pikami

            “I said that raising accusations of anti-Semitism or self-hatred on the basis of POLITICAL views and disagreements is outrageous.”

            Absolutely. I’m in full agreement. But in this case, the ad hominem started in the other direction. Friedman explicitly attributed his POLITICAL opponents’ disagreement not to a good-faith consideration of the facts (even if gravely mistaken), but rather to their being willing to do whatever is necessary in order to curry favor with the Jews. I find it highly doubtful that Friedman hates Jews (and definitely not the one who looks at him in the mirror), but that particular passage of his strikes me as significantly more outrageous than WigWag’s acerbic reply. (And anyhow, surely you would agree that a respected columnist in the “paper of record” has a responsibility to be more careful about what he writes than a mere writer of blog comments? 🙂 )

            “lights up more emotionally hating Tom Friedman than detesting Ismail Haniyeh”

            You spend much more time on this blog criticizing this Administration than criticizing Bashar Assad himself. Should I fling insults about that, or should I recognize that there is sound reason for your focus?

          • Again, I was not associating myself with Friedman’s views, about which he is so “certain.” And it doesn’t matter to me on this point who started what; this has been going back and forth for eons. I was just trying to point out–and you agree, apparently–that Jews should not go around flinging such accusations about other Jews. This is, according to the Rabbis, what destroyed the Second Temple–it is the story of Kamtza and Bar-Kamtza. I wish more Jews knew what I am talking about, but obsessing about politics seems to have displaced the study of Talmud. Whatever Friedman’s misjudgments, he didn’t call anyone an anti-Semite.

            As to your point about choices of emphases, point taken. But when the Obama Administration does something right–like refusing to use the “c”-word after July 3 concerning events in Egypt, and several other cases I can recall–I give credit where I think it is due. I don’t hate the President or the Administration. There is a difference, I think.

  • danberg

    “They never say better for what or for whom”; “for what”: a more immediate, unrehearsed, un-polished, un-peer reviewed response; often containing not-quite-right phrases that lead to mis-understanding; quick responses with a little heat; like life.For whom? For me (us, we the readers)

    • Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. What I was trying to imply is that there are opportunity costs involved. What you want and what I need responsibly to do with my time do not completely overlap. Nor is it clear to me that you and others benefit much from shoot from the hip fare–it may be entertaining, yes, but entertainment is vastly overrated. I do not see myself as primarily an entertainer–or the “court jester”, as my friend Foaud Ajami once described his relationship to the rich and famous who once solicited his presence. I don’t break my brain over this stuff for chuckles.

      Hence: Next month, just so everyone knows, TAI will erect a paywall. It will be selectively porous, but a lot of what is free now won’t be. My blog, for the most part, won’t be. Unlike a lot of celebrity Silicon Valley companies, TAI needs a revenue steam or it cannot continue to exist. If newsstand sales are collapsing for everyone, and they pretty much are since newsstands themselves are going away, we need new ways to satisfy that need. So we’ll soon learn how much you, and others, cherish this entertainment, by finding out if you’re willing to pay for it.

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