Monthly Archives: December 2008

Jonathan Alter is an Idiot

The Middle East sage tells us the main obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace is Yasser Arafat Continue reading

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Understanding Gaza


Soon enough, the bloody mess in Gaza will end in another cease-fire, having hardly changed the political equation in Gaza — much as the opposite might have been hoped for by the Bush Administration, the Israeli government and the regimes in Cairo and Ramallah who are quietly cheering Israel’s assault in the hope that it fatally weakens Hamas. The cease-fire, when it comes, will end rocket fire on Israel, but will also likely require the opening of the border crossings into Gaza (Hamas’ basic demand for a renewed truce). If so, that’s an outcome that could have been achieved without the killing of close to 400 people. And my money says that this cynical show of force by Barak and Tzipi Livni won’t even stop Bibi Netanyahu from winning Israel’s February election. The killing in Gaza, in other words, has been utterly senseless by even the most cynical measure. Continue reading

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Rambo III and the Mumbai Massacre

This from my latest in the National:

If Condoleezza Rice had been looking for some in-flight movies pertinent to her mission in South Asia over the past few days, she ought to have considered Rambo III. Or Pinocchio. Or Frankenstein. Aladdin, even.

All four could help explain the background to the Mumbai massacre that has brought India and Pakistan to the brink of confrontation. Pinocchio and Frankenstein, after all, are cautionary tales about how those who fabricate creatures to do their bidding are often forced to reckon with the often vindictive impulses of their creations. Aladdin unleashes a genie who has his own agenda. And Rambo III, in which Sylvester Stallone’s action-hero joins up with the Afghan mujahideen to fight the Soviets (just like a certain Mr Bin Laden) should serve as a timely reminder that support for holy warriors waging jihad had been an article of faith in Ronald Reagan’s Washington.

Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, had served as the conduit for Washington to use the Afghan mujahideen and the Arab volunteers who joined them, to wage a proxy war on the Soviets. And from the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 to the 9/11 attacks, the monster created by assembling an Islamist International for combat and training in Afghanistan turned on its erstwhile patron to deadly effect.

But after the US walked away when the Soviets limped out of Afghanistan, the Pakistanis used the proxy war model to pursue their own regional agenda.
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Mumbai Massacre May Sink Bush-Obama Strategy

Secretary of State Condi Rice, with the blessing of Barack Obama, has flown off to South Asia charged with the mission of preventing tensions between India and Pakistan from escalating in the wake of the Mumbai massacre. Both the current and the incoming U.S. Administrations consider that a matter of urgency in light of their shared Afghanistan outlook: Both are well aware that the key to stabilizing Afghanistan is not sending more Western troops (although both are committed to doing so anyway), but resolving the conflict between India and Pakistan, of which Afghanistan has lately emerged as a primary theater. And so, the U.S. is putting pressure on the Pakistani government to cooperate with India in investigating the Mumbai outrage that very probably originated on Pakistani soil. The problem is that the Pakistani government doesn’t control the Pakistani military, which doesn’t share the political leadership’s enthusiasm for the “war on terror” — or for making nice with India. Continue reading

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