July 7, 2009

The Real Quagmire in the Middle East

The Middle East is a hard place for idealists, especially for the Western liberal variety. My feelings of optimism for the region have been ground down over time like rocks under slow-moving glacial ice.

Last time I visited Israel, at the end of the Gaza war this past January, I met Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh. He sounded no less despondent than the Israelis I spoke to. “Listen,” he said. “We must stop dreaming about the New Middle East and coexistence and harmony and turning this area into Hong Kong and Singapore...I don't see a real peace emerging over here. We should stop talking about it.”

That’s what I hear from almost everyone I speak to over there now, whether they’re Muslims, Christians, Jews, or whatever. Arabs, Israelis, Kurds – most seem to have a dim view of the future. Optimists, for the most part, parachute in for a brief time and leave. I hate it. It depresses me. But that’s how it is.

Some writers and analysts are slightly less gloomy, and I frequently ask them to cheer me up and hope their relative optimism isn’t fantasy. Jeffrey Goldberg’s work at The Atlantic occasionally qualifies as less pessimistic than mine. His outstanding book Prisoners strikes just the right balance between world-weary pessimism and hope. He’s an American Jew weaned on Socialist Zionism who became an idealistic Israeli as a young adult. He sought out friendships with individual Palestinians with whom he could forge his own separate peace, if for no other reason than to prove to himself that peace was possible. It was much harder than he expected. But he managed, with some difficultly, when he worked as an IDF prison guard at Ketziot during the first intifada to kindle a rocky but enduring friendship with his prisoner Rafiq Hijazi.

I spoke with him a few weeks ago in Washington D.C.

Jeffrey Goldberg.jpg
Jeffrey Goldberg

MJT: You don’t seem particularly optimistic that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be resolved any time soon, but I notice from reading your work that you seem slightly less pessimistic than me.

Goldberg: (Laughs.)

MJT: My view is pretty bleak and yours is slightly less so. And I’m wondering if you can map a way out that’s realistic.

Goldberg: I think there’s a great opportunity right now for a Sunni-Jewish convergence. The Sunni Arab states and Israel have, for the first time, a common adversary. There’s some promise in that. If the Israelis are smart, they’ll exploit Arab fears of Iran. And if the Arabs are smart, they’ll exploit Israeli fears of Iran. The common fear of Iran might produce some more flexibility on both sides, even flexibility on the part of Saudi Arabia.

MJT: That’s true at the state level, but not at the street level.

Goldberg: That’s true at the state level, yes. The people of the Middle East aren’t the ones who make the decisions. But you need the people ultimately, right?

This is the central question. The settlements aren’t the central question. They’re a tragedy in part because they obscure the central question of this conflict. The only question is: can the world of Arab Islam accept the idea of Jewish national equality? That’s the question, and I don’t know the answer to that.

Naturally, I shade toward pessimism on that question. I’m recalling, among other things, that the Six Day War wasn’t started because of the settlements. If you study the history of the last one hundred years, you’ll see that this is the central animating cause of the conflict. And I don’t see much evidence that Arab Islam can assimilate this idea right now.

On the other hand, actions can create new realities. So I’m not totally immune to the idea that Israeli concessions on certain points can create a positive cycle rather than a negative cycle.

The question of Israel is the question of what happens to all minorities in the Middle East. The Arab Muslim Middle East has 300 million people. It has a very hard time treating Coptic Christians with equality, treating Maronites in Lebanon with equality, treating Southern Sudanese in an equal way, treating Kurds in an equal way, and dealing with Jews – not only in their national expression, but even as minorities within their own countries. There was never a golden era for Jews who lived in Arab countries. It wasn’t as bad as living in Poland, but that’s no great shakes.

MJT: You have talked to Hamas people. Should the Israelis or Americans talk to them?

Goldberg: I don’t know what they’d get out of it.

MJT: What did you get out of it when you did it?

Goldberg: A first-hand understanding of how they think. People in the United States find it hard to understand how people in Hamas and Hezbollah think. It’s alien. It’s alien to us. The feverish racism and conspiracy mongering, the obscurantism, the apocalyptic thinking – we can’t relate to that. Every so often, there’s an eruption of that in a place like Waco, Texas, but we’re not talking about 90 people in a compound. We’re talking about whole societies that are captive to this kind of absurdity.

So it’s very important – and you know this better than almost anyone – to go over there yourself and tape it, get it down on paper, and say “this is what they actually say.”

God Bless Hitler.jpg

MJT: It’s shocking to hear.

Goldberg: Of course it’s shocking to hear.

MJT: Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if they really even believe it or if they’re just saying it.

Goldberg: I was in Afghanistan in 1998, a week after the first fatwa to “kill all the Jews and Crusaders” came out. I was with a bunch of Americans. They were making light of it because it seemed so ridiculous. They were making light of it, I suppose, partly as a psychological mechanism to allow us to continue staying in Afghanistan.

MJT: (Laughs.) Yeah.

Goldberg: People also made fun of it because it seemed so ridiculous. But it’s not ridiculous. Just because a belief sounds ridiculous to you doesn’t mean it’s not sincerely held.

MJT: Yeah. I know it.

Goldberg: So I think it’s best to err on the side of taking people at their word. That doesn’t mean you can’t analyze it and break it down on the politics, break it down on the psychology, and break it down on the religion. But take them at their word. I believe Hamas when it says it wants to eradicate Israel. Why shouldn’t I believe them?

MJT: They act as though they’re serious.

Goldberg: Yeah. I understand their world view. I obviously don’t accept it, but I understand it. In their world view, this makes perfect sense. So, why not?

Palestinians, over the years, have proven that they’re willing to sacrifice generations of people to achieve their goal of a Jewish-free Palestine.

Gaza children.jpg
Children in Gaza

I understand that. I don’t agree with the goal. It’s extremist and self-defeating and racist and everything else, but I try to put myself in their shoes, and I can understand their arguments.

There’s two stages. One, collect the documentary evidence. That’s why I hung out at Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV station for a couple of days and just listened. There’s nothing insincere about their goals and their desires. I don’t think they’re motivated by poverty. If poverty were the motivation, Zambia would be the world headquarters of terrorism. So why not believe them?

It doesn’t mean that nothing changes. I think it’s true that a moderated Hamas would no longer be Hamas. If you’re a Muslim Brotherhood organization, or if you’re Hezbollah, if you’re an arm of the Iranian Islamic Revolution, and you begin to accept the idea of the presence of Israel in the Middle East, you’re no longer a part of that movement. So I don’t think the organizations are capable of changing, but individuals are capable of changing.

MJT: What percentage of the Palestinian population do you suppose might be flexible enough to change in the way you just described?

Goldberg: I assume it’s fluid like everything else. That’s what I meant when I said that new realities on the ground can shape public opinion.

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Graffiti in Tel Aviv, April, 2006

MJT: We have seen some who have changed their views, and there will always be hardliners who won’t until they die.

Goldberg: Look. Another thing people here don’t understand is that it’s a hot region. It’s an emotionally hot region. Israel, too. The amount of yelling in Israel over things that don’t have to be yelled about is extraordinary. Blood runs hot. Maybe it’s the desert. I don’t know. People are governed by their emotions.

In my book, I trace this relationship I had with one particular Palestinian. When things were going relatively well during the peace process, he was against suicide bombing. When things weren’t going well, he was for suicide bombing. This is the reality.

Prisoners Cover.JPG

That’s why I think there was a missed opportunity around the time of the Gaza withdrawal. To buttress the Palestinian moderates – moderates being a relative term – maybe Israel should have given them something so they’d have greater sway among the population. My point is that I don’t think we’re dealing with entirely immutable forces.

MJT: I don’t either, but it often looks that way with Hamas.

Goldberg: Yeah. (Sighs.) Do all Palestinians wish for the disappearance of Israel? Probably. But it doesn’t matter what you wish. It matters what you do.

MJT: There is a difference between wishing Israel would just go away and actively working to destroy it.

Goldberg: I have a lot of wishes, too, that I don’t act on.

MJT: A lot of Israelis wish the Palestinians would just go away.

Goldberg: Of course. Why would you want people who hate you around you? That’s fine. It’s all about what you do. And it’s about creating conditions so that people who have negative and violent impulses will be reined in.

MJT: Here, I think, is the big question: what should be done about Iran’s nuclear weapons? Would it be better to use military action – whether it’s American, Israeli, or both – or learn to live with the Iranian bomb?

Goldberg: I suspect we are going to be learning to live with the Iranian bomb.

MJT: Is that a good idea?

Goldberg: No. It’s terrible. But also striking Iran would be terrible.

This is an interesting question right now, at this moment in history. This might be a place where American interests and Israeli interests diverge somewhat. I think the Iranian nuclear weapons program does pose an existential threat to Israel. It doesn’t pose an existential threat to America. It poses a unique set of terrible challenges for America, but it doesn’t mean our existence here is in peril. So it might not be in America’s best interests right now to strike militarily – for any number of reasons, including the fact that it might not work. And if it does work, it would almost seem to justify, in a way, Iran seeking nuclear weapons. And the program might continue.

The thing we hope for is that Iran moderates itself, that the people of Iran who are more moderate than its leaders figure out a way to moderate this. The problem isn’t whether or not Iran has the bomb, it’s whether or not the mullahs have the bomb.

MJT: Sure.

Goldberg: As I wrote in a New York Times op-ed a few weeks ago, there are two Israeli strategic doctrines in confrontation right now. The first is: never do anything that harms the strategic relationship with the United States of America. The second is: prevent, at all costs, the possibility of a Second Holocaust. What if these two things come into conflict?

I tend to think that [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu understands better than almost anyone else the imperative of maintaining a strong strategic relationship with the United States of America. But I also think he’s governed by his understanding of Jewish history.

If you are the de-facto leader of the Jews in a post-Holocaust world, what is the absolute worst thing you could do? Allow the formation of an existential threat to half the world’s remaining Jews. It’s a hard job.

MJT: It is. Sometimes I wonder if there’s an agreement that we’ll never hear about between the U.S. and Israel, that Israel can go ahead and take out Iran’s nuclear weapons and we’ll pretend to be upset about it. Because look: Iran can retaliate against the United States inside Iraq and Afghanistan.

Goldberg: That’s the problem.

MJT: And it’s not in our national interests to provoke that. We have over 100,000 guys in Iraq and Afghanistan who can be retaliated against.

Goldberg: And here’s the thing. Netanyahu doesn’t want to endanger the lives of American soldiers. Not because he’s so great or moral or whatever, but because he knows that’s disastrous.

MJT: It could threaten the entire American project in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Goldberg: Yes. Exactly.

I imagine that if this situation gets more dire, America will say to the Iranians, secretly, in no uncertain terms, that “if you do anything to Israel, we will destroy you.” That just seems prudent to do. “Go ahead and have your dreams and desires, but don’t even think about transferring your nuclear technology to attack Israel in some way, because we will wipe you out.”

MJT: Do you think the U.S. would actually do that?

Goldberg: It depends on the president.

MJT: I can’t see Barack Obama nuking Tehran.

Goldberg: I didn’t say he has to nuke it, I said he has to threaten to nuke it.

MJT: Sure, but the threat has to be credible.

Goldberg: Right. So you make it credible.

MJT: Bush could have done that.

Goldberg: Bring the Iranian ambassador to the Strategic Air Command and show him all the missiles that are pointing at Iran. “This one is going to go here, and this one is going to go there. You’re wiped out. You’re finished. You’re done. You are exterminated.”

Obama doesn’t have to actually do it.

We’re getting into the realm of insanity here, but if Israel is ever attacked with nuclear weapons, I think there would be quite a demand from Americans as a whole to retaliate for it.

MJT: Probably.

Goldberg: It wouldn’t really matter, though, because the Israelis would already be dead.

MJT: They can retaliate themselves anyway. They have nuclear weapons in submarines out in the Mediterranean.

Israeli Submarine.jpg
Israeli submarine

Goldberg: And in the Persian Gulf. They’re German subs. History is great that way, isn’t it?

MJT: (Laughs.)

Goldberg: Jews are floating around in the Persian Gulf with nuclear weapons in German subs that are aimed at the new Hitler. If you step away from your personal feelings about it, it’s just fascinating.

MJT: Can you imagine the Israeli relationship with Palestinians evolving that much over the next 50 or 60 years?

Goldberg: If I were a Palestinian right now, I’d just wait. I’d keep the pressure up and not agree to a rump state. I’d just keep up the pressure for another few generations. They might eventually achieve it that way.

MJT: But look at how much things can change in a few generations.

Goldberg: All the leaders are ego maniacs by definition. All of them are soaked in history. Yasser Arafat wanted to be Salah ad-Din. Bibi Netanyahu wants to be Judah Maccabee. There is so much history there to exploit. These people are all measuring themselves against historical role models. And when you’re measuring yourself against a historical role model like Salah ad-Din, you wait, and you keep trying to devise new strategies to make the Jews leave, or to kill enough of them that the survivors leave.

Khaled Meshaal.jpg
Khaled Meshaal, Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

MJT: Waiting is tricky, though. Imagine if Hitler had decided to wait a few generations to go after the Jews. Europe has changed. Hitlerism won’t fly in the Europe of 2009.

Goldberg: Now we’re really getting into the realm of hyper-speculation.

MJT: I wonder, though, if Palestinian society is really capable of evolving the way European society has in the last 60 years.

Goldberg: I don’t know. The argument is that Arab society is somewhat stagnant.

MJT: It is stagnant compared with Europe.

Coexist sticker.jpg

Goldberg: It’s more static. It’s a region of the world that lags on a lot of the usual indicators for success and progress. But hell if I know. The whole idea is just so improbable. But so was the idea that the Jews, after 2,000 years, could reclaim their ancient homeland. There was nothing in history that suggested that would be possible.

And going back to the destruction of Israel – Arabs are misreading history if they believe Israel is a temporary phenomenon. Nothing like this has ever happened in history. A dead tribe came back and seized the land it had, and did so after a devastating tragedy. Jews are also good at waiting, apparently. They’re a small group, but there’s a survival impulse that’s embedded in many Jews, and certainly in the Jews of Israel today. It says: “You want to wait? We’ll wait, too.” Jews were an ancient people already when Mohammad appeared on the Arabian peninsula.

I wonder all the time if two people just like us will be having the same conversation a hundred years from now. “Well, what do you think? Will Israel make it?”

MJT: It’s possible.

Goldberg: Anything’s possible. Anyone who acts like they’ve figured out the entire Middle East doesn’t know anything.

MJT: Yeah. It’s a humbling place.

Goldberg: People who tell you they understand and know the answer? Demagogues. They’re either idiots or demagogues. Nobody can understand this. You can’t apply rationality to it either.

This is why I’m negative about the intentions of Palestinians. If their goal were statehood, they could have had statehood. Therefore, you have to give serious credence to the idea that their goal is not statehood, that it’s more important to rid the Arab world of Jewish nationalism than it is to have a Palestinian state that would improve the lives of individual Palestinians now.

MJT: Lots of them say that explicitly. They aren’t demanding a state in the West Bank and Gaza. They want to liberate all of Palestine, so to speak, “from the river to the sea.”

Goldberg: But just because they want that doesn’t mean it can happen.

MJT: Right. But it’s clear that some of them want the whole thing and won’t accept a state in the West Bank and Gaza. From their point of view, it’s like Israel being offered Tel Aviv and the beach. It isn’t enough.

Goldberg: Ben-Gurion was smart. He took what they offered him and hoped for better. He hoped for Arab mistakes that would allow him to get more territory. The Arabs provided the mistakes, and he took the territory.

Don’t you find this debilitating after a while?

MJT: Yeah.

Goldberg: The reality in Israel is that it’s a fun place, a great place. It’s a vibrant society.

MJT: I like being there.

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Tel Aviv, Israel

Goldberg: It’s not all as dreary as this. Maybe this is a story about individualism. The demand of the collective on the Palestinian side is such that it ruins the lives of millions spread over several generations.

MJT: You wrote during the Gaza war that Operation Cast Lead would probably work, but that nothing in the Middle East seems to work for very long. Why do you suppose that is? It seems to be true, but I’m not exactly sure why.

Gaza City Wikipedia.jpg
Gaza City several years ago

Goldberg: I don’t know.

MJT: We’ll see progress for a while, but then the progress gets erased.

Goldberg: That’s progress by our definition of progress, by people who understand the world differently.

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Gaza City from Sderot, Israel, at the end of Operation Cast Lead

I think there’s a long strategy. And the long strategy of some Arabs is impervious to short term interventions. Short of packing up Palestinians and bussing them to Egypt, the impulse to defeat the Jews will remain there.

The reason American minds can’t really grasp the Middle East is because our minds are trained for concepts that are at variance with the mindset of Middle Eastern fundamentalists – and by that I mean both Muslims and Jews. The importance of today, the importance of pleasure, the importance of compromise, the importance of pragmatism, the relative unimportance of land. We have a house, we sell it, and then we move to another house. We don’t build our houses on top of our fathers’ houses.

As a sort of aside, you see how settlers talk about settlement freezes. There’s a kind of Middle Easterness to it. Part of it is manipulation. “If we aren’t allowed to add to our house, our children will have to move to Tel Aviv.” They’re telling me that it’s a punishment to have to move to Israel? It’s a tiny place. Their kids will be an hour away. Or a half hour.

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Maale Adumim settlement, West Bank

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Jewish Quarter, Jerusalem, an area considered a "settlement" by the United States government

But there’s also a sincere Middle Easterness to it. According to them, it really is a sin to force their children move a half hour away when they could live right next door or in the same house. It’s as if they have imbibed the Arab love for the place of their father and their father’s father. There are so many concepts we just can’t relate to because we’re Americans. It’s a barrier to understanding.

MJT: It is. Americans also believe there is a solution to every problem.

Goldberg: Yeah. Solutionism is an American religion. That’s the most dangerous one. The other aspects of this are the misunderstandings. We can’t understand why a Palestinian would want his son to become a suicide bomber.

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Hamas

It’s because his son is not an individual in the same way Americans are. He’s a valuable instrument in the deliverance of salvation for his people. His desires, dreams, and goals are all selfishness. That’s just Western selfishness. I don’t know. I’ve been trying to work these things through for years.

There’s something admirable about Palestinian steadfastness.

MJT: We don’t have that sort of steadfastness.

Goldberg: No, we don’t.

MJT: But our society is better off without it.

Goldberg: Of course, it is! (Laughs.) What are they getting out of it? But our categories of success and failure are not their categories of success and failure.

It leads to the immorality of narcissism, that their collective need is so important that they can kill children with moral impunity. That’s one place it leads. The importance of remaining steadfast to the cause gives them license to do anything. Man, but when you’re licensed to do anything, it gives you power.

When I talk this way, when we think about it this way, I have a hard time seeing a Western-style state flourishing there over the long term in that climate.

Allah Will Destroy Sign.jpg

MJT: There’s only one that exists. Israel is the only one. None of the Arab states are. We’re over there in Iraq trying to help them build one, but I have my doubts that it’s going to happen. Lebanon is a hybrid. It’s only partly a Western-style state.

What do you think about Lebanon? The 2006 war was a disaster for everybody involved. But what if Hezbollah starts firing rockets again? What should the Israelis do? What would you do if you were prime minister?

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Hezbollah fires Katyusha rockets at Israel, July, 2006

Goldberg: If you’re the Israeli prime minister, or the leader of any country, you can’t accept conditions in which your enemy forces the depopulation of a third of your country. It’s not acceptable. It’s national suicide. And while there’s a record of national suicide in Jewish history, I don’t think the current Israeli leadership is going to acquiesce to that. So you do what you have to do.

Is that helpful? No. It will cause a lot of people in London to go demonstrate on behalf of Hezbollah. It will anger the United Nations. But what’s the choice? You’re not a serious country if you allow an enemy to fire rockets at your civilians and cause the depopulation of your territory. If you allow that to happen, you’re ceding sovereignty over whole chunks of your country.

Having Hezbollah in the Lebanese politcal process has some kind of utility in this regard. It knows full well that if it does launch some new adventure against Israel that Israel will retaliate against Lebanon as a whole. That won’t help Hezbollah’s position in Lebanese society.

But I’m not a military strategist. I don’t know how to stop the rockets.

MJT: There has been talk of shooting back at Syria instead of Lebanon. Syria has a return address. It’s a state and is therefore accountable.

Goldberg: This brings up an interesting strategic shift that might be coming in Israeli thinking, which is: forget the proxies. What is Hamas without its weapons suppliers?

MJT: Not much. And the same goes for Hezbollah.

Goldberg: So Israel says to the two states that supply Hamas and Hezbollah: “If you support these proxies, and if Hezbollah fires rockets at Haifa, we’re not going to attack Hezbollah. We’re going to attack Damascus.”

MJT: That’s what I thought they should have done back in 2006.

Goldberg: They can say “You’re the sponsors. So you either stop this or we’re going to destroy your military infrastructure.” Why have a proxy war? What do proxy wars get you other than bad publicity?

MJT: A bunch of dead people.

Goldberg: Were you there during the 2006 war?

MJT: Yeah.

Goldberg: There were a lot of dead bodies from Israeli air strikes, right?

MJT: I didn’t see any dead bodies. I was on the Israeli side of the border.

Goldberg: Right. I’m surprised we didn’t meet. I was there, too, traveling with Noah Pollak.

MJT: I was there with Noah Pollak, too, just on different days.

Goldberg: I was also there with Michael Oren.

MJT: Yep, so was I. On different days. We must have just barely missed each other.

Michael Oren x.jpg
Michael Oren, Israeli Ambassador to the United States, author, historian, and former Israel Defense Forces Spokesman

Goldberg: Hezbollah is a proxy army of Syria and Iran. So why aren’t Israelis fighting back against Syria and Iran?

MJT: That’s what Michael Oren thought, too, after he was no longer working as a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces. I talked to him about this during his book tour when he could say what he really believed.

You can’t defeat a guerilla army in six weeks with an air force. It’s absurd.

Goldberg: You can destroy its ability to fight.

MJT: Except the Israelis didn’t.

Goldberg: I mean, you can destroy its ability to fight by denying its weapons supplies.

MJT: Right.

Goldberg: Hezbollah can’t fight Israel without its rockets, right?

MJT: Right. I mean, they could fashion together home-made pieces of crap like Hamas used to. Hezbollah’s Katyusha rockets are much more formidable.

Goldberg: I think this is getting better now that Egypt understands the threat of Shia radicalism. And Israel can say “stop this smuggling completely, or we’ll have to do it ourselves on your territory. We won’t attack you, but you’re allowing your territory to be used as a launching pad for people who want to kill our citizens.”

I think the doctrine needs to be rewritten. Every time a rocket comes into Israel from Hamas, Israel should figure out who’s helping Hamas and deal with them.

MJT: But if Iran gets the bomb…

Goldberg: …everything changes.

-

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Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 7, 2009 1:47 AM
Comments

The question of Israel is the question of what happens to all minorities in the Middle East. The Arab Muslim Middle East has 300 million people. It has a very hard time treating Coptic Christians with equality, treating Maronites in Lebanon with equality, treating Southern Sudanese in an equal way, treating Kurds in an equal way, and dealing with Jews – not only in their national expression, but even as minorities within their own countries. There was never a golden era for Jews who lived in Arab countries.

This is the most important statement I've seen anywhere in a long time.

Good work, again, MJT. You do nice interviews.

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 8:31 AM

I agree, great interviews!

They can say “You’re the sponsors. So you either stop this or we’re going to destroy your military infrastructure.” Why have a proxy war? What do proxy wars get you other than bad publicity?

Brilliant idea, I hope it catches on.

Of course, it's worth noting that Saudi Arabia also supports Hamas.

And Iran is a proxy for Russia.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 9:11 AM

The question of Israel is the question of what happens to all minorities in the Middle East...There was never a golden era for Jews who lived in Arab countries.

Goldberg engages in some intellectual daydreaming here. He's trying to extrapolate the question of Israel into his preferred narrative (Arab racism is the root of all problems) but his argument is faulty at its core.

There's nothing uniquely bad about the way Arab Muslims treat their minorities. Minorities are mistreated all over the world by majorities.

There's also little difference between fighting over real estate in the mideast and doing so in Europe. Land remains the main point of contention between Arabs and Jews--not religion or ethnicity, as Goldberg implies. Dragging other minorities (e.g. Coptic Christians) is silly because they are in no way comparable to Jews living in Israel.

...you have to give serious credence to the idea that their goal is not statehood, that it’s more important to rid the Arab world of Jewish nationalism than it is to have a Palestinian state..."

Here I think Goldberg doesn't believe his own words. Does he seriously think that the Palestinians would rather destroy "Jewish nationalism" in the abstract sense than conquer territory they believe to be theirs?

My guess is no.

It would even be a stretch to say the larger Arab world would rather destroy "Jewish Nationalism" than see a Palestinian state arise. But the Palestinians themselves preferring to live in refugee camps rather than see Jews have their own state anywhere in the middle east?

It's absurd.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 9:20 AM

Thanks for the interview MJT, excellent as always...

To Edgar:
"...you have to give serious credence to the idea that their goal is not statehood, that it’s more important to rid the Arab world of Jewish nationalism than it is to have a Palestinian state..."

...

But the Palestinians themselves preferring to live in refugee camps rather than see Jews have their own state anywhere in the middle east?

It's absurd.

I think you missed a big chunk of the interview, right near the beginning. MJT and Goldberg make it quite clear that it IS absurd, to the Western point of view and mentality.

But when you factor together the realities of the region, the history of the last century, and the very things that Palestinian/Arab spokespeople say to their own societies, you are left with the glaring possibility that despite everything, this really is what they believe.

I also think this is why the propaganda of these terror groups are so successful in convincing others of their narrative. We in the west simply find it too hard to imagine ourselves in their position... rejecting every workable peace plan for the sake of one day having a go at destroying their enemies.

Posted by: jooliz Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 10:18 AM

jooliz: But when you factor together the realities of the region, the history of the last century, and the very things that Palestinian/Arab spokespeople say to their own societies, you are left with the glaring possibility that despite everything, this really is what they believe.

I've heard the `Pals don't want a state' argument before. The reason I find it silly is that it dodges the question of what kind of state they don't want.

It's possibly true that most Palestians would like to go on fighting indefinitely rather than have a state in 90% of the West Bank and Gaza (the maximum they'll likely get from Israel).

That doesn't mean they wouldn't want ALL of historic Palestine as a state. The key thing is not that they hate Jews and their nationalism, it's that Arabs don't want to live under Jewish rule in a country they see as rightfully theirs. As long as Israel exists, it will completely dominate a Palestinian mini-state beside it. The Pals don't want that, and they've said so on many occasions (e.g. the debate on "demilitarizing" a future Pal state).

So why not tell it like it is:

The Palestinians would rather destroy Israel than have a demilitarized state in 90% of the West Bank and Gaza in which Israel controls its airspace and shoreline.

Ok, now I agree.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 10:42 AM

Michael,
When you are sad about things think of this: humanity advances, it is what we do.

Those sub-parts that don't advance fade away, usually quietly but sometimes with a big bang of destruction and chaos.

This isn't the first unsolvable black hole we have fallen into, but someone always, eventually, steps up and leads us out.

I consider regions of the world like the middle-easy and Korea to be kind of 'test subjects'. Where humanity tries out radical social ideas to see what works and what doesn't.

At the end of the day, the species will continue, but it is up to us to guide it along the path we consider the most moral. Just because we can :)

Posted by: milllo Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 12:30 PM

Palestinians, over the years, have proven that they’re willing to sacrifice generations of people to achieve their goal of a Jewish-free Palestine

Just as the Arabs of Palestine weren't always referred to as "Palestinians", so it was that they didn't always believe in child sacrifice. In my opinion, the greatest incentive to do so has been economic: the fantastically huge amounts of economic "aid" Palestinians receive which massively distorts normal human affairs. Large families are rewarded with higher welfare payments, beggarly migrants to the area are encouraged by these programs, generations are raised and miseducated to believe that they are owed something by the rest of the world, and that rewards are increased for aggressive and abusive welfare-controlling behavior.

In the past, controlling such situations was brutal: the uncontrollable city or region was surrounded and cut off, and the population would either starve or comply with the new reality. In the long run, would the Palestinians be better off if they experienced such an attitude adjustment today?

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 1:32 PM

There is something in the DNA of people from the Middle East. I have a friend who has lived here for 40 years and goers back to Egypt once every couple of years for a visit, usually a vacation on the Red Sea. He is Coptic Christian and hates Jews and Israel.

There is just no explaining it.

Posted by: Mike K Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:08 PM

Michael,

Of course there is not going to be peace in the Middle East as long as people on both sides continue to think the use of violence is going to solve their problems. That includes people like you that support violent actions for your team. For every one of you, there is someone on the other side advocating the exact same thing, that his side use violence against your side.

Frankly, I don't know why you're surprised there hasn't been any progress toward peace during these past ten years. It's nor surprising to me at all. The more people like you advocate for the use of violence against your enemies, the further away in the future peace will be.

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:12 PM

Good Democrat,

I have argued, and will continue to argue, that Israel has the right to fight back when Hamas fires missiles at its civilians. Israel does not have the right to shoot Palestinians just for the fuck of it.

Self-defense is a human right. You are marinated in pacifism, but you wouldn't be if someone held your head under water.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:17 PM

Secondly, I'm just reading through your interview with Mr. Goldberg and I'm trying to see how I would view it were I an Iranian or a Palestinian, and the arrogance, and the ease with which the two of you talk about the uses of nuclear weaponry, or of killing masses of Arabs is astounding. You two are pretty fucked up people, that after all that has happened, you still talk so easily of death and destruction in the Middle East, as if you've learned NOTHING at all about what has already occurred.

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:20 PM

Good Democrat: the ease with which the two of you talk about the uses of nuclear weaponry, or of killing masses of Arabs is astounding.

It's a good thing for you that I'm not your English teacher, because you would get an "F" in reading comprehension.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:23 PM

Michael,

Self defense is a human right, but Palestinians can argue for self defense too, and you're right back into the cycle of violence, death, and destruction. You truly have not learned anything right in your excursions in the Middle East. Can you not see why you cannot see peace in the future? You still think Israel is right to constantly kill Palestinians. Can you not see that this is just not working out for them? That it backfires on them? That it eats at their lives and civilization? Can you not see this? What will be left of Israel when they have finally killed off every Palestinian who claims to be Hamas? What soul will they have?

I'm not a pacifist. But I know when it is counterproductive to kill people. And right now, it is counterproductive to kill people in the Middle East. You yourself state it is a hot region, full of high emotion. Why would you even advocate pouring more gasoline on that fire? Seriously! It is a stupid idea. The best course of action is to get between Israel and Palestinians and let them cool off. Not advocate that one shoot more at the other, and vice versa.

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:24 PM

Michael,

Must I use quotes and refer to actual parts of your interview?

MJT: I can’t see Barack Obama nuking Tehran.

Goldberg: I didn’t say he has to nuke it, I said he has to threaten to nuke it.

MJT: Sure, but the threat has to be credible.

Goldberg: Right. So you make it credible.

MJT: Bush could have done that.

Those are your words right? You say you can't see Obama "nuking" Tehran, but "Bush could have done that." How is my reading comprehension wrong, Michael? It seems spot on to me. You talk about the uses of the nuclear bomb on Middle Eastern countries. You say one president couldn't do it, but another could. That's talking quite easily about the uses of nuclear bombs.

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:27 PM

"The Palestinians would rather destroy Israel than have a demilitarized state in 90% of the West Bank and Gaza in which Israel controls its airspace and shoreline.

Ok, now I agree."

Gee, Edgar. Then how about the take away lesson for future people be this: if you fail to accept a peaceful solution to an issue (such as the 1948 partition of Palestine), you won't get a country. And you don't get to demand things like the right to arm yourself to the teeth against your neighbor that DID accept the solution.

Posted by: TC Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:29 PM

Good Democrat: You still think Israel is right to constantly kill Palestinians.

This conversation is over. There is no point talking to you because you cannot read.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:29 PM

"He is Coptic Christian and hates Jews and Israel. There is just no explaining it."

Hating Israel is safe: no one is going to blast your head off for doing so. You can dump all the hatred you feel for all the oppression you've experienced from others - things you can't do anything about without risk of getting imprisoned, shot, or thrown of a rooftop - into Jew-hatred and if you can convince yourself to believe it that will salve your bruised ego. Psychologists call this displacement.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:32 PM

Good Democrat: You say you can't see Obama "nuking" Tehran, but "Bush could have done that."

See? You can't read. I didn't say Bush could have nuked Iran. Nor did Jeffrey Goldberg say Obama or anyone else should nuke Iran.

Nobody should nuke anybody. For God's sake, man. This is hard for you to understand?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:32 PM

I can read just fine. But you're right about one thing. This conversation is over, because you refuse to be challenged in your views. Go on, think Israel is right to kill Palestinians. You will constantly be surprised that there is no peace between Israel and her neighbors. But let me tell you, you are not a friend of Israel if you advocate them taking violent action against her enemies in the Middle East. Israel needs to cool things down, not heat them even more. Anyone who advocates that Israel keep things hot, is not looking out for the best interests of the state of Israel.

But I'll let you remain in your bubble with your like-minded choir of thinkers. If you wish a challenge, get back to me.

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:32 PM

Good Democrat: If you wish a challenge, get back to me.

Best be on your way. You will only be able to challenge me after you first understand what I have actually written and said.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:36 PM

Regarding a nuclear Iran, I don't see any other future except where every country that wants nuclear weapons will eventually have nuclear weapons. However, I am not particularly disturbed by the notion of stable democracies having the bomb.

So, to me, the problem with Iran getting the bomb is not the bomb itself, but the...what kind of government does Iran have anyway? Is Mullahcracy a real word?

This is the reason why I will never forgive Obama if he lets this opportunity in Iran get away. I understand that much of what he must do he must do covertly and so we won't know about it until later, but he'd better be doing it.

Posted by: tim maguire Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:37 PM

Michael,

See? You can't read. I didn't say Bush could have nuked Iran. Nor did Jeffrey Goldberg say Obama or anyone else should nuke Iran.

Then what the hell did you say? Here is more from that segment, to get more context:

MJT: It could threaten the entire American project in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Goldberg: Yes. Exactly.

I imagine that if this situation gets more dire, America will say to the Iranians, secretly, in no uncertain terms, that “if you do anything to Israel, we will destroy you.” That just seems prudent to do. “Go ahead and have your dreams and desires, but don’t even think about transferring your nuclear technology to attack Israel in some way, because we will wipe you out.”

MJT: Do you think the U.S. would actually do that?

Goldberg: It depends on the president.

MJT: I can’t see Barack Obama nuking Tehran.

Goldberg: I didn’t say he has to nuke it, I said he has to threaten to nuke it.

MJT: Sure, but the threat has to be credible.

Goldberg: Right. So you make it credible.

MJT: Bush could have done that.

Goldberg: Bring the Iranian ambassador to the Strategic Air Command and show him all the missiles that are pointing at Iran. “This one is going to go here, and this one is going to go there. You’re wiped out. You’re finished. You’re done. You are exterminated.”

Obama doesn’t have to actually do it.

We’re getting into the realm of insanity here, but if Israel is ever attacked with nuclear weapons, I think there would be quite a demand from Americans as a whole to retaliate for it.

MJT: Probably.

Look, Michael, you and Mr. Goldberg are debating a hypothetical. Mr. Goldberg is saying that America will somehow go to Iran and tell them if they do anything to Israel, Iran will be wiped out. This hypothetical is of course rooted in the "realm of insanity" as Mr. Goldberg later admits. First of all, America has no relations at all with Iran, so who exactly will be going to Iran to tell them this? Secondly, when he says America will "wipe them out" what does that mean? When you say to a country, if you threaten our friends we will wipe you out, are you not implying that you will use your nuclear force to kill most if not all the 60 million Iranians?

Then you ask if the US would actually do that, and Mr. Goldberg says "it depends on the president." Then you say, "I can't see Obama nuking Tehran." Clearly the two of you are thinking that "wiping Iran" off the map means the use of nukes.

Then Mr. Goldberg says that Obama doesn't have to actually nuke the country, just threaten to nuke it. Then you say, "but the threat has to be credible," implying that you don't think Obama's threat of nuclear warfare is credible. Goldberg says, then you make it credible, and then you say, "Bush could have done that," implying Bush could have made the threat of nuclear war against Iran credible. How exactly? Has Bush used the nuclear bomb somewhere that I hadn't heard about? How would Bush's actions make him more credible a threat to use nuclear bombs on Iran?

Then Mr. Goldberg continues the realm of insanity by claiming the US would actually bring an Iranian agent into a strategic command center, point to actual locations of US missiles and say, "this one is going to hit here, and that one is going to hit there, you're wiped out." Is he talking about Patriot missiles? Or nukes?

How's my comprehension now?

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:42 PM

In case I need to clear this up for anyone else -- in my view, Israelis and Palestinians should restrict their uses of violence to self-defense only. The war will be over the minute both sides agree to this basic principle.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:42 PM

So to get back to this earlier statement of yours:

Nobody should nuke anybody. For God's sake, man. This is hard for you to understand?

Then why didn't you say this to Mr. Goldberg when the two of you were talking about nuking Tehran?

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:44 PM

Michael,

In case I need to clear this up for anyone else -- in my view, Israelis and Palestinians should restrict their uses of violence to self-defense only. The war will be over the minute both sides agree to this basic principle.

An admirable position, the same one the UN takes actually. Now, who's gonna hold Israel and Palestine to this standard? Anyone gonna get between them to help them keep to this standard?

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:46 PM

Good Democrat,

The point isn't that the US or anyone else should nuke Iran. The point is that the fear of Mutually Assured Destruction prevents nuclear wars and should therefore be put into place.

This is the standard liberal position on Iran and nuclear weapons. If you can't handle it, go play with Ralph Nader.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:47 PM

Michael,

If you are advocating MAD, then surely you will tone down your threats against Iran, and surely you will speak strongly to Israel to tone down its threats of attacks on Iran's nuclear facilities. Saying such threats undermines the use of MAD, because the side that issues the threats is basically telling the other side that it does not trust the other side to not act suicidally. In other words, when it comes to Israel and Iran, both sides think the other is maniacal and suicidal enough to actually use nukes on the other, even if it means millions of their own are killed. In such a hot region, why would ANYONE think it is a safe thing to even be talking about scenarios with the use of a nuclear weapon?

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:51 PM

I don't think anyone should get in the middle of them.

One of the biggest fallacies people believe is that America's relationship with Israel protects it (Israel) from annihilation. In reality, America has done just as much to prevent Israel from inflicting knock out blows to its enemies. It stopped them from rolling through Egypt and Syria in 1967 (and again in 1973), and it prevents escalations currently.

So yes, Good Democrat, let's step back and let the chips fall where they may. A decisive victory or defeat will go a long way. Or not. Who knows in this part of the world.

Posted by: TC Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:52 PM

Good Democrat: If you are advocating MAD, then surely you will tone down your threats against Iran

Sigh. MAD won't work if it looks like a bluff.

Then why didn't you say this to Mr. Goldberg when the two of you were talking about nuking Tehran?

Because it wasn't effing necessary. I know damn well that Jeffrey doesn't want to nuke Iran. So far 9,000 people have read this interview, and you're the only one who seems to have difficulty understanding this.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:55 PM

TC,

That's a great idea. I'm all for the United States getting out of the way. That includes pulling out the hundreds of billions of dollars we give Israel to prop it up. Let the chips fall where they may. Let Israel stand on its own

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 2:56 PM

Michael,

Sigh. MAD won't work if it looks like a bluff.

How will it look like a bluff? What, should both sides be testing nukes on deserted islands to prove their huff? Seriously, why exactly did the use of MAD work during the Cold War? Neither side had used the bomb on the other, and if the use of the bomb is the only reason why MAD works, then it shouldn't have worked during the Cold War because the Soviets never used it in a war. The United States should have won that blinking war in the 50s. Yet the threat was real, SOLELY because both sides had nukes pointed at the other.

Because it wasn't effing necessary. I know damn well that Jeffrey doesn't want to nuke Iran. So far 9,000 people have read this interview, and you're the only one who seems to have difficulty understanding this.

Sadly Michael, that's because your blog has migrated away from any interest from those who disagree with you. It is one of the problems of Internet forums and blogs. We're all preaching to our own choirs now, afraid to step out and face a challenge. Well, I'll tell you now Michael, there are millions of Americans who disagree with you.

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 3:00 PM

The Good Democrat: the discussion is about nuclear deterrence, and that always involves the threat to respond to the use of nuclear weapons with nuclear weapons. The whole discussion is about deterring Iran if it goes nuclear.

In the face of Palestinian terrorism, Israel has a series of bad choices. The notion that not-responding will improve matters is, in effect, telling Israelis they should not value Israeli lives. The wall was, after all, a non-violent but effective response, hence the shift to Hamas using rockets. Appearing weak is likely far more dangerous than responding.

One of the most striking things about Palestinian politics is how nothing changes. Back in the 1930s, the Mufti fought the Nabasbendi over whether to simply oppose the Jews or whether to reach some accommodation with the people who were bringing capital and skills to a very depressed area, raising wages--which itself threatened the power of the landlord class the Mufti represented. The upshot of the intra-Arab killing was the Mufti/rejectionist side won. 70 years later, Hamas and Fatah are killing each other over exactly the same argument, but from the rather worse situation 70 years of rejectionism has got them. They have studiously refused to learn from the successes of Zionism and are still lost in the politics of killing, far more than the Israelis.

Posted by: Lorenzo Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 3:04 PM

Lorenzo,

on nuclear deterrence. China has a "no first strike" policy with its nuclear weapons, and it seems to work just fine for them. No one threatens them, and they threaten no one. You don't have to be belligerent like the United States to be at peace with your neighbors. It would be better for Israel to learn from the Chinese on how to deal with erratic, hateful neighbors rather than the US. The US is teaching them all the wrong lessons.

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 3:07 PM

Good Democrat: I'll tell you now Michael, there are millions of Americans who disagree with you.

Of course. But they don't disagree with me that it would be bad to nuke Iran or any other country. Of course it's bad. It's so obviously bad that I shouldn't have to come out and explicitly say so, especially not to someone like Jeffrey who wrote a book about making peace with the enemy.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 3:07 PM

"Israelis and Palestinians should restrict their uses of violence to self-defense only. The war will be over the minute both sides agree to this basic principle."

Despite what President Obama said, the reason why Israel came into existence as a separate state rather than a mere Jewish homeland was because Jews had to defend themselves from oppressive and murderous Arabs, and establishing a separate state - with a system of justice that wouldn't let violence-seeking Arabs who snuck into Jewish villages for some fun thieving, raping, and killing off the hook - was the best way of doing so.

Why, then, would such Arabs accept "this basic principle" unless they are also willing to accept Israel as a separate state as well? It's a form of circular logic that even Arabs recognize. I suppose that is why, although Hezbollah pays lip service to self-defense, Hamas and Fatah never do; to them, it's all about conquest and genocide.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 3:08 PM

Michael,

It's so obviously bad that I shouldn't have to come out and explicitly say so, especially not to someone like Jeffrey who wrote a book about making peace with the enemy.

Hey, I'm not the one who discussed theoretical ways to "wipe" Iran off the map. That would be you and Mr. "I'm making peace with the enemy" Goldberg. The two of you really need to rethink how you are making peace with your enemies when you so easily discuss nuking them.

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 3:09 PM

Solomon,

because Jews had to defend themselves from oppressive and murderous Arabs

Right, because Israel didn't resort to terrorism to form their state. They didn't kill innocent people back in the 40s...nope, not Israel. Please, dude, Israel is no white knight in this. Neither of course are the Palestinians, who are so stupid for constantly relying on violence.

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 3:11 PM

Good Democrat: You don't have to be belligerent like the United States to be at peace with your neighbors.

If you think even one reason Canada doesn't attack the United States is Barack Obama's "belligerence," I can think of several Web sites where you'll fit in a bit better.

It would be better for Israel to learn from the Chinese on how to deal with erratic, hateful neighbors rather than the US.

Have you ever heard of a place called Tibet? How about Taiwan? My wife used to live there, and she has a very different take on China's relationship with its neighbors than you do.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 3:14 PM

Good Democrat: I'm not the one who discussed theoretical ways to "wipe" Iran off the map.

We're done here.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 3:15 PM

Michael,

Consider for a moment two semi-influential Iranian bloggers conversing about the following:

Ali Baba: It could threaten the entire Iranian project in Lebanon and Palestine. Hussein: Yes. Exactly.

I imagine that if this situation gets more dire, Iran will say to the Israelis, secretly, in no uncertain terms, that “if you do anything to the Palestinians, we will destroy you.” That just seems prudent to do. “Go ahead and have your dreams and desires, but don’t even think about transferring your nuclear technology to attack the Palestinians in some way, because we will wipe you out.”

Ali Baba: Do you think Iran would actually do that?

Hussein: It depends on the president.

Ali Baba: I can’t see Mousavi nuking Tehran.

Hussein: I didn’t say he has to nuke it, I said he has to threaten to nuke it.

Ali Baba: Sure, but the threat has to be credible.

Hussein: Right. So you make it credible.

Ali Baba: Ahmadinejad could have done that.

Hussein: Bring the Israeli ambassador to the Strategic Air Command and show him all the missiles that are pointing at Israel. “This one is going to go here, and this one is going to go there. You’re wiped out. You’re finished. You’re done. You are exterminated.”

Mousavi doesn’t have to actually do it.

We’re getting into the realm of insanity here, but if the Palestinians are ever attacked with nuclear weapons, I think there would be quite a demand from Iranians as a whole to retaliate for it.

Ali Baba: Probably.

Can you imagine that? What's the difference between you and Mr. Goldberg saying this and two Iranians saying essentially the same things about Israel? Very little. However, lots of similarities. Both sides still think the use of violence will get their way, when the opposite is the case: the use of violence brings about more destruction on both sides.

Now, if you were a man of peace, Mr. Totten, then I would see from you instances of where the two sides attempted to meet together and communicate better. I don't see that.

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 3:47 PM

You can't reason with people like the good democrat because they are not reasonable. They use logic yes but only to win a point. If you counterpoint they do not acknowledge it they just move on to the next one, twisting your words if necessary to win.

To them the goal is not to advance anything, it is just to win.

The two best ways to respond are either say something non-committal like "interesting" or no response at all. Trying to defend is pointless. Your article is well written and very clear, no need to explain further.

Posted by: milllo Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 3:52 PM

Goldberg:

"Bring the Iranian ambassador to the Strategic Air Command and show him all the missiles that are pointing at Iran. “This one is going to go here, and this one is going to go there. You’re wiped out. You’re finished. You’re done. You are exterminated.”

anyone remember a time when preventing any kind of casualties was a factor for muslims?

Saddam used children to walk the fields to detonate land mines

the PA/Hamas use children, the mentally disabled and raped/dishonored women as human bombs

and I read somewhere (Africa?) muslims were buying orphaned children to use

it is very dangerous for well meaning people, to project their understanding of the world-onto a people whose whole islamic world is anathema to ours

Posted by: austin Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 4:29 PM

Michael Totten..

I share your pessimism about the Middle East ever attaining stable acceptance of Israel. I'm one of those also who, as an American, is wired differently from an Israeli or an Arab. Maybe that's the reason for my pessimism.
But, here's the thing..."The reason American minds can’t really grasp the Middle East is because our minds are trained for concepts that are at variance with the mindset of Middle Eastern fundamentalists – and by that I mean both Muslims and Jews. The local "Hotness" factor.
The key word here is "concepts". And, here's another bit of reality that the present day Arabs simply aren't wired to accept: Judaism and the Hebrews were long, long established on the scene before Mohammad appeared, as you or Mr.Goldberg mentioned above.
So, my American mind-set wants to knock some Arab heads together so they can to see the reality of their very own history, where both sides once did live together.
I'd make a terrible American Ambassador to any Arab country.
[...terrific interview, MJT...thanks...can you snag Dennis Ross?....man, what an interview that'd be....]

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 5:08 PM

Michael Totten....
...there's always an afterthought...but this one is key, and I shouldn't have omitted it...the added complication in our own modern era of the rise of Nationalism. A major addition to this smoking stew with the collapse of Colonialism and the Ottoman Empire with the First world war.
How can one not be pessimistic about the Middle east?

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 5:30 PM

My hope has been growing ever since the success of the Iraqi "surge". The fewer powerless Arabs in the world, the less likely they will be to take out their frustrations on Israel - or the U.S.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 5:30 PM

For: Solomon2

I disagree with you.
There will never be "fewer powerless Arabs in the world"...They're breeding like fish. Also, while the "surge" seems to have been successful, so far, it was accomplished by our alien and massive superiority in armament. Just by being alien, our local temporary gains will be eventually absorbed by the Asian landmass and population. Our Americans' earnest efforts will be rejected ultimately just as tissue is rejected by unsuitable skin-graft.
I can't shake my pessimism...and our smilin' Obama is way, way out of his depth...see what I mean by pessimism?

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 6:05 PM

I don't see the reason for pessimism from an Israeli perspective. Israeli deaths from terrorism are way down this year, which may show that if Israel is merciless a little more often, it can quell terrorism to acceptable levels and in the meantime continue to entrench more and more in the West Bank. Any country with the ability to obtain desirable land to which a portion of its population feels entitled would do so if the cost were low enough.

Posted by: Big Jilm Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 6:09 PM

MJT: Sometimes I wonder if there’s an agreement that we’ll never hear about between the U.S. and Israel, that Israel can go ahead and take out Iran’s nuclear weapons and we’ll pretend to be upset about it.

How ironic that this interview came out days after the U.S. publicly announced just that!

Great interview as always Michael. But as an American Israeli I do see a point where Michael Golberg and I disagree.

MJT: I wonder, though, if Palestinian society is really capable of evolving the way European society has in the last 60 years.

Goldberg: I don’t know. The argument is that Arab society is somewhat stagnant.

MJT: It is stagnant compared with Europe.

One must realize that not all Palestinians are living within the West Bank and Gaza and that there's many Palestinians in Western countries and other Middle Eastern countries, and many of these Palestinians are, as you would say, completely "Westernized" (or as I prefer to say, modernized). If there's anything that's affecting the modernization of Palestinian society it's Israeli blockades, bombings, and other things which cause the Palestinians to live in fear and poverty. So I think this argument is ultimately irrelevant.

I also agree with Edgar and The Good Democrat. I didn't read the whole argument but I do agree with the initial points that Palestinians do want a state. Of course the Palestinians would be disappointed to proclaim Gaza and West Bank as their state (since the two pieces aren't even connected!), but this is only natural. And how can we criticize the fact that some Palestinians are unhappy with this when we have Jews in Israel who themselves consider the West Bank to be Israel's land? Avigdor Lieberman is in office now in Israel!

Maybe the Palestinians in Gaza and West Bank aren't completely modernized now (though many are) but with a more free society the possibilities of this increase, and not decrease, which is one of the reason I support the removal of settlements and Obama's current policy towards Israel. Abbas himself even recently said that once the WB becomes a Palestinian state that Jews would be allowed to live there the same way Israeli Palestinians are allowed to be a part of Israeli society. That's a far cry from the extremism that many paint Palestinians to be.

In the end, in the best scenario, we'll have two states side by side with peoples from one state being able to freely visit the other. This way Jews and Palestinians could share the land. No one side is going to get 100% here, this is going to be a situation of compromise and learning to live side by side.

Posted by: beeaar Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 6:15 PM

For Big Jilm....
Thanks, as I'm not close enough to see from your windows. I want your viewpoint to be accurate..and well established....and flourishing.
But, remember all of that breeding going on as we write these things.

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 6:27 PM

"So it’s very important . . . to go over there yourself and tape it, get it down on paper, and say 'this is what they actually say.'”

Why bother? We could hear and read what they're saying for 20 years and we still demonized George Bush for overthrowing Saddam and trying to bring self-determination to Iraq because "everybody knows that Muslims can't handle democracy."

By all rights, the Iranian Revolution should be considered an offense to all Muslims, who are supposedly equal under the Quran. How does one scholar become the Supreme Leader by virtue of his personal holiness then send thugs to beat up and kill protesters? Nothing I have read about Islam supports the Mullahs or the Muslim Brotherhood. I don't believe they understand logic, at least in the same sense that they transmitted it to the West after the Dark Ages. The Muslim world is in its own dark age, and anybody who recognizes it and isn't part of the ruling classes gets out and comes to the West.

Posted by: ast Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 6:38 PM

Morningside, I share most of your concerns. It's just that my pessimism starts from a much lower level than yours! :)

In one respect, however, I think you are wrong. Nationalism is not necessarily a bad thing. The Turks substituted nationalism for imperialism and thus ceased to be an expansionist power. "Arab Nationalism", however, is the scarcely-veiled euphemism for Arab Imperialism, the desire to put all nationalities everywhere Arabs live under the Arab boot. Naturally, that kind of "nationalism" must be opposed.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 7:29 PM

It's true that there is a significant medium/long-term demographic hurdle. There does not seem to be a clear plan on Israel's part to ensure that it has all the land it wants while there are so many Palestinians living there. I doubt Israel would be willing to risk the international outcry that would come with a full-scale ethnic cleansing to remove the Palestinians from Eretz Israel permanently so the end result will probably be some kind of Bantustan-type situation.

Posted by: Big Jilm Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 8:30 PM

Big Jilm: I doubt Israel would be willing to risk the international outcry that would come with a full-scale ethnic cleansing...

Not only that. Jewish morality forbids it. I've met some pretty hard-core Israeli right-wingers who absolutely refuse to entertain that idea.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 9:56 PM

"Abbas himself even recently said that once the WB becomes a Palestinian state that Jews would be allowed to live there the same way Israeli Palestinians are allowed to be a part of Israeli society. That's a far cry from the extremism that many paint Palestinians to be."

I've never met a pro-Palestinian supporter who took the Israeli government at its word. Why should anyone react to what Abbas says any differently? Besides, one just has to see how miserably the Palestinians treat their own Christians to understand how empty a promise this is.

Posted by: johnchen Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 11:02 PM

Good Democrat, I have met few people with manners as poor as yours. Say what you mean, but speak obligingly. Many people, including MJT, might agree with a lot that you say. But if you don't express yourself with respect for them, they won't understand you.

I am amazed by your stunning ignorance displayed here: "on nuclear deterrence. China has a "no first strike" policy with its nuclear weapons, and it seems to work just fine for them. No one threatens them, and they threaten no one. You don't have to be belligerent like the United States to be at peace with your neighbors. It would be better for Israel to learn from the Chinese on how to deal with erratic, hateful neighbors rather than the US." Between 1964 and 1974, India lived under fear of Chinese Nuclear annihilation. India was deeply scared during the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan that China would nuke them. South Korea lived under the fear of the Chinese nuclear bomb. In fact South Korea insisted on its own nuclear bomb for precisely this reason. Only threats from Nixon, Ford and Carter persuaded South Korea not to do it. Similarly, Vietnam was deeply afraid that China would nuke them. Japan was afraid of the Chinese nuclear bomb.

China has become much less belligerent and a much more responsible contributor to global welfare in recent years. Today China is very positive force in the world. But it wasn't always like that. China under Mao scared the bejeezus out of many countries. China invaded other countries. In what way has the US been worse than China?

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 11:57 PM

"Posted by: ast Author Profile Page at July 7, 2009 6:38 PM"

"I don't believe they understand logic, at least in the same sense that they transmitted it to the West after the Dark Ages. The Muslim world is in its own dark age, and anybody who recognizes it and isn't part of the ruling classes gets out and comes to the West."

I am deeply offended by your comment. Do your comments apply at all to Indonesian, Malaysian and Indian muslims? Do you realize that 80% of muslims aren't arab? By the way, many Arabs dream of moving to the booming economies of Dubai, China, India, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, and Korea. Many Arabs would rather move to these booming economies than stagnant and regressing western Europe.

How can you assert that Arab muslims don't understand logic? Well lets cut to the chase. Do you think that the warriors of the 1st Iraqi Army division that won the war in Ramadhi, Falluja and Al Anbar don't get logic? Do the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (which are probably better quality than the Israeli special forces) get logic? Would you dare shoot your mouth off like this in front of LTG Othman, commanding general of the 8th Iraqi Army division? Are you mentally retarded?

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 12:21 AM

The idea of going after the sponsors of a proxy war sounds appealing. It sounds like a good idea that I can support. But I don't have to look far to see a slippery slope. Proxy wars tend to be small wars. It doesn't seem like it would take much to start a cascade of events that would turn one of those small wars into quite a big one. Also, Israel is not the only country that could use such justification to declare war on a third party. And especially in a region where people are so fond of embracing sketchy conspiracy theories, in other cases the evidence of sponsoring a proxy may be completely fabricated. Still, the idea of holding the sponsors of a proxy war in some way accountable for it does seem appealing.

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 1:12 AM

Good Democrat, you seriously can't read. For real. You even provided the context that clearly showed they were talking about a credible nuclear deterrent against Iran's potential use of nuclear weapons against Israel, and you still somehow thought that was MJT and Goldberg urging the US to nuke Iran.

Maybe you should change your name to Illiterate Democrat?

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 1:27 AM

Criag, maybe "Good Democrat" is a Republican trying to discredit Democrats by making up a ridiculous over the top ultra liberal caricature.

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 1:31 AM

Michael J.Totten - Not only that. Jewish morality forbids it. I've met some pretty hard-core Israeli right-wingers who absolutely refuse to entertain that idea.

I am curious as to the logic or morality that forbids ethnic cleansing. Is it one of those arbitrary commandments from God like the ones that prohibit eating pork or shellfish?

To be honest, as one of those solution addicted Americans, I really don't see any other way that the Palestinians will ever stop hating Jews more than they love their children except to move them some place else where they will hate their new neighbors and try to kill them instead. Mr.Goldberg's facetious suggestion of busing the population of Gaza into Egypt is a non starter because Egypt doesn't want them and will go to war in order to stop the process. Somalia, on the other hand doesn't have a government to object and and they probably would not even notice if another few million homicidal lunatics were moved in.

Posted by: Mark_in_Texas Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 4:39 AM

Anand,

China invaded other countries. In what way has the US been worse than China?

Which countries has China invaded? Please, provide a list. And in terms of both South Korea and India, can you please share here credible evidence that they could not trust China's "no first strike" policy?

One last point to Michael, note most of the comments other than mine are pretty much a sounding board. You preach to a choir. They hear your words and say "Amen!"

Why don't you interview someone who vehemently disagrees with your Middle East regional view? Say, pick someone from Hezbollah and discuss with him the future of the Middle East. Stop talking to like-minded people who are doing you a major disservice.

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 4:49 AM

Craig,

You even provided the context that clearly showed they were talking about a credible nuclear deterrent against Iran's potential use of nuclear weapons against Israel, and you still somehow thought that was MJT and Goldberg urging the US to nuke Iran.

It seems you can't read either. MJT asked how one makes a threat credible beyond simply pointing nukes at your enemy. He then states that he cannot see Obama "nuking Tehran." Thus, in MJT's eyes, Obama's nuclear deterrent is not credible. But in MJT's eyes, Bush's nuclear deterrent is credible, for unspecified reasons. Who knows the reasons, because I don't. Bush hasn't used a nuclear weapon. What makes him more credible a threat to use a nuclear weapon against Iran than Obama? What, because he's white? Because he's from Texas? Because he's got swagger? What makes Bush have a more "credible nuclear deterrent" than Obama? MJT doesn't state, but my guess, because he doesn't state it I have to guess, my guess is that it is because MJT actually thinks Bush would actually use a nuke on Iran and Obama wouldn't. In MJT's eyes, Bush looks and acts crazy enough to actually launch a nuke at Iran, thus Bush has a more "credible nuclear deterrent" than Obama. Obama is too cool, too undeterred, too calm to use a nuke, thus Obama's "nuclear deterrent" is not credible. Because only crazy people are credible when they threaten nuclear annihilation. Do you realize how bat-shit crazy this is? And you think I should be respectful to such crazy thinking? Hell, it's not just me who thinks this is insane, Mr. "I make friends with the enemy" Goldberg SAID SO HIMSELF! They are entering the "realm of insanity" here!

So, for clarification's sake, what makes Bush's nuclear deterrent more credible than Obama's? Because right now, I think MJT thinks it is because Bush is crazier and less stable than Obama is, thus will be more quick to press the magic button. Can you prove this wrong?

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 4:57 AM

Mark_in_Texas: I am curious as to the logic or morality that forbids ethnic cleansing. Is it one of those arbitrary commandments from God like the ones that prohibit eating pork or shellfish?

I think MJT is referring to what modern Israeli Jews see as moral. You can find plenty of approval of ethnic cleansing in traditional Jewish law:

e.g.

- Not to keep alive any individual of the seven Canaanite nations (Deut. 20:16)
- To exterminate the seven Canaanite nations from the land of Israel (Deut. 20:17)

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 5:56 AM

The Annoying Democrat: But in MJT's eyes, Bush's nuclear deterrent is credible, for unspecified reasons.

It's a matter of availability. You don't need a permit or have to go through a background check to purchase nuclear missiles in Texas. Bush simply has access to more firepower than Obama.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 6:08 AM

Terrorism, like piracy in the 16th century, is currently an essential tool of statecraft. In the 16th century, nations quietly sponsored 'privateers', who stole from and harassed enemy nations. In those days, one man's privateer with letters of marque was another man's pirate.

Now, nations fight their wars through the indirect manipulation of terrorist proxies. Pakistan keeps India and various ethnic groups in line by supporting and training the Taliban. Syria maintains its status by manipulating various terror groups. Russia supports Iran and we have our good friends, al Qaeda’s supporters in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia supports a wide variety of terrorist groups worldwide, we know they're doing this and yet we call them our friends. It's a lousy, self destructive and stupid way to fight a war, but most people believe that it's safer than MAD or nukes.

In the 16th century, they probably thought that the use of pirate proxies was safer than the use of cannons and big fiery ship battles, but in the end, they realized that pirates caused more trouble and damage than conventional wars, because they were not restricted by any reasonable checks and balances and they had access to advanced weaponry. At this point in time, we may be coming to the same realization.

Like the rulers of the 16th century, rabid political partisans also use terrorist proxies for their little ideological wars. Extreme pacifist/leftists like the Annoying Democrat use the situation in the Middle East to make lunatic accusations against anyone who (in his view) isn't sufficiently pacifist or leftist. He loudly objects to any threat against Ahmadinejad, but he raises no objections when Ahmadinejad threatens Israel. In Good Democrat's worldview, Ahmadinejad is the freedom fighter, the privateer who will harass and do damage to the 'enemy' (non pacifists, republicans, Israel). He ignores the clear signs that A-jad, his mullah mob and his Russian supporters can do more damage to the world than Bush, Cheney and Sarah Palin combined.

As Goldberg wisely said, it's time to stop the use of terrorist proxies in our little wars. It's a stupid way to fight.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 6:24 AM

Solomon2:

It is simplifying to say that middle-eastern people just hate Israel. They hate the other tribe, the other religious sect, the other ethnic group, and on and on. The grievances are multi layered and aimed in many directions at once.

Good Democrat;

You might want to ask yourself why Israelis focus on targeting militants whereas the Palestinians focus on bombing Israeli civilians. Your self-defense argument would hold more water if the Palestinians lobbed their bombs at the Israeli military.

China has invaded Tibet and Vietnam. It also seized a piece of the Kashmir.

Posted by: Boojum Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 7:14 AM

Great interview, Michael. However, I strongly disagreed with Goldberg's assertion that solutionism is an American religion. It's an American concept and a very good, necessary one. But a religion? No.

Posted by: Bobby's Brain Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 7:47 AM

An interesting interview.
The concept of what type of state the Palestinians want is interesting. Before 1967, they seemed not to want their own country but were content to live as part of Jordan and Egypt. And when they thought of taking over Israel it was in the context not of a separate state but simply one that would merge with those states already present.
Even before 1948, Palestinian nationalism was largely aimed in a pan-Arab direction. Many Arabs living in Mandatory Palestine regarded themselves as Syrians rather than Palestinians. And certainly the Syrians felt that way too. I have always believed that had the Jews been defeated in 1948, there would never have been any talk of a "Palestine". The Mandatory area would have been carved up like a turkey dinner amongst the Arab countries, peacefully or not. And that would have been that!
Even now it is hard to believe that a Palestinian state would last all that long. One could easily see similar Syrian machinations in such a state that they have exercised in Lebanon. and of course the populace would at one point "vote" for union with Syria (and Lebanon).
I'm sure they would love to include Israel in that union as well, once the Jews were gone and/or no longer in control.
Edgar is correct in saying that they want ALL of historic Palestine (I assume he means Mandatory Palestine which includes Jordan). But why stop there; why not the entire Ottoman Empire? Believe me, there are many who have this dream!
The Arab don't want to live in a country or state or region run by Jews even if they have equal rights... not because they consider it rightfully their own, a concept that is mythology; but because they believe Islam to be THE dominant force in the world and everything else inferior to it. Thus Israel is a daily insult to Islam and its values. Unfortunately this attitude is one shared by many israeli Arabs.
To the mindset of the mullahs, Islam is everything, religion, morality, government etc. etc. And it determines behaviour.
Goldberg skirted around the issue but its important to understand that the Islamic mindset, "moderate" or radical is the same. There is only an issue of degree.
But its impossible to understand in 21st century terms and impossible to deal with a mindset stuck in the Middle Ages or even the Dark Ages.
And what is even more pessimistic is that we in the West will never be able to understand and deal on an equal level until those Islamic societies undergo their own Reformation and the social, philosophical and liberal revolutions of the 18th -19th century.

Posted by: JB Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 9:11 AM

JB, I don't agree with you. Your description does not explain Turkey's success. Malaysia is an example of a successful plural country that is 53% muslim. Indonesia is a plural free muslim country.

What does "Muslims" reformation mean? Arabs need freedom and pluralism, but this is not the same as "Muslim" reformation.

Muslims honor the great Jewish prophets. Respect for Jews is consistent with Islam. Part of the issue is Arab culture, which is very different from Islam.

I also think that most Palestinians see Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as enemies that terribly treat Palestinians. Palestinians don't want anything to do with Syria, as you imply. Palestinians are consistently kicked around by Israelis and their Arab neighbors. Don't confuse Palestinians with their Arab neighbors.

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 10:11 AM

Mark in Texas: Is it one of those arbitrary commandments from God like the ones that prohibit eating pork or shellfish?

Is that a serious question? Do you know what ethnic cleansing looks like? Bosnia. Slobodan Milosevic was't put on trial in The Hague for the moral equivalent of eating bacon with his pancakes.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 10:13 AM

Good Democrat: Why don't you interview someone who vehemently disagrees with your Middle East regional view? Say, pick someone from Hezbollah and discuss with him the future of the Middle East.

Hezbollah threatened me with violence and then blacklisted me for cracking a joke about them on my blog. So, no. Can't do it. Sorry.

I have, however, interviewed Hezbollah supporters. I would give you the link, but you need to be less of a dick first.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 10:17 AM

Anyway, GD, I interview Tom Ricks recently who disagrees quite a bit with my Middle East view. I also recommended his books. You can find that interview by using Google.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 10:19 AM

Boojum: China has invaded Tibet and Vietnam. It also seized a piece of the Kashmir.

Also East Turkestan, where they are currently cracking the heads of Uighur Muslims. China is no model for the United States, as Good Democrat insists.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 10:33 AM

JB: Goldberg skirted around the issue but its important to understand that the Islamic mindset, "moderate" or radical is the same. There is only an issue of degree.

Goldbert "skirted around" the issue because it's relevance is questionable. The PLO is and has always been secular. Not moderate, but atheist. And plenty of religious but non-Arab Muslims have no beef with Israel.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 10:37 AM

Anand,
There are a few points I'd like to make.
Firstly, the success (I assume economic success) often is due to the actions of one or a few individuals and Ataturk's legacy has served that country well. However, the current government is slowly slipping away from a division of religion and secularism into a mindset of Islam as the controlling force in society. It is only the military that seems to maintain a balance, fortunately or not.
Malaysia and Indonesia have large non-Muslim populations who are economically vibrant such as the Chinese and no doubt they have had a meaningful effect on the economic success of those countries as has rubber and oil.
In terms of reformation, I mean a wide spread movement which questions and challenges the basic tenets of Islam. Just as the reformation and other movements (ie Martin Luther0 questioned challenged and ultimately rebelled against the Catholic Church; I believe that a similar movement is required in Islam to challenge its monolithic significance among Muslims. a few scattered individuals are insufficient.
I do not think that freedom and pluralism can be achieved on a widespread basis until that happens.
As far as the future of a Palestinian state is concerned, one must distinguish between the population who may indeed hate their Arab neighbours and their leaders who who control their governance and may impose harsh and punitive measures to ensure that no disagreement with their policies is ever undertaken. One need only look at Iran.

Posted by: JB Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 10:53 AM

Michael,
Certainly the PLO started out that way, probably owing more to Marx than Mohammed. But it, itself has become more and more irrelevant as it is being supplanted by other groups who are most definitely NOT secular.
As far as your second point, I agree. Perhaps their leaders have found a way to accommodating Islam to the modern world.
Thanks for an interesting topic and interview

Posted by: JB Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 11:32 AM

"Which countries has China invaded? Please, provide a list. And in terms of both South Korea and India, can you please share here credible evidence that they could not trust China's "no first strike" policy?" I can't believe that someone would ask a question like this. China invaded India in 1962. China almost invaded India in 1965 and 1971 to help Pakistan. Both times, the war ended one or two days before the planned Chinese attack on India. Do you really think Indians were incorrect to fear the Chinese nuclear arsenal?

Talk to some Vietnamese sometime about China. When you talk about the "war," they sometimes think you are referring to the Chinese invasion of 1979. Have you heard about the metal wires that penetrated many Vietnamese in a line? What were Vietnamese suppose to think that Deng Xiaoping meant when he talked about "teaching a lesson"? On the topic of Vietnam, I assume you know that China maintained a troop presence of 130,000 in North Vietnam, freeing up NVA to go south. This means that many times that many Chinese soldiers served in North Vietnam because of troop rotations. In the 1960s, the "North Vietnamese air force" was largely flown by Chinese pilots. Much of North Vietnam's air defense was run by China. How could South Vietnam be sure that the Chinese nuclear option was off the table? The South Vietnamese and ARVN begged America for the right to invade North Vietnam to defend their country. A big reason LBJ and Nixon didn't let them was the implied Chinese nuclear threat.

If you don't think that South Korea feared the Chinese nuclear arsenal, then why were they so insistent on getting their own nuclear weapons in the 1960s and 1970s? The South Korean military and the 8th US Army wargamed a war against North Korea and China. The South Korean military was in large part aimed at China.

Do you remember the large conventional war China and the USSR fought in 1971? Do you remember all the Soviets and Chinese who died in that war? Do you think the Soviets really thought that the Chinese nuclear arsenal was off the table?

If you think Japan didn't have a reason to fear China's nuclear arsenal, then may I suggest some medical clinics that can help you?

Part of your confusion is that you don't understand how much China has improved in recent years. Chinese diplomats use to emotionally scream and get angry at conferences. China use to be very different than it now is. Today, when China sends its navy to fight the pirates in Somalia, it is welcomed around the world. Today China is Japan's, South Korea's, Thailand's, Russia's, Malaysia's, Hong Kong's, Singapore's, Malaysia's, Taiwan's, Australia's and Indonesia's largest trading and investment partner. It will soon be India's and America's largest trading and collaboration partner as well. Today, China is working collaboratively with others to solve global problems.

"Democrat" (still not sure you aren't a spoof since you are unlike Democrats that I know), what countries does America threaten that are not in the middle east? With what countries is America belligerent with that are not from the middle east? America isn't really belligerent with Cuba and Venezuela; it ignores them more than anything else. Remember that several op ed columns ran in the Wall Street Journal endorsing Chavez' reelection because he was pro business. I have met business people in conferences who thought that Chavez was pro business.

Why is the US worse than China in how it conducts international relations? I would assert that in recent years the US and China increasingly conduct policy in similar ways. Neither is "better" than the other.

JB, I disagree with you on Turkey. The current government is the most pro business in Turkey's history. Oil and Rubber aren't responsible for Malaysia's and Indonesia's economic success before the recent global downturn. Rather its free markets and a booming tech sector. Majority muslim Malaysia welcomes immigrants and treats minorities well (a lot like the US), which greatly benefits the Malaysian economy.

I don't agree with you regarding Islam. You might want to read the holy Koran. The Sahih Hadith states that God has sent over 124,000 prophets all over the world, representing multiple faiths. The Korean also states that there can be no compulsion in religion, and that people have the right to follow faiths without divine ordination. Islam is consistent with respecting other faiths. The fact that there are bigots who claim to be muslims is more a reflection of the bigots than it is a reflection of islam.

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 12:16 PM

Unfortunately Anand, it seems that the "Muslim bigots" hold sway in many countries these days.
If they thought like you the world would likely be a better place.
The economic success of Malaysia and Indonesia did in fact begin with rubber and oil. I suggest you look back a little farther than 20 years. The high-tech boom is comparatively new.
As far as treating immigrants well, I hope that is the case nowadays in Malaysia. I was there in 1969 a year after about 3000 Chinese were slaughtered in ethnic riots.
Even now, I would prefer Singapore which has become amazingly prosperous, has 4 official languages and a very mixed population and either has no official religion or many which in practical terms is the same thing.
And by the way, I have read quite a bit of the Q'ran although haven't memorized it :-) and although there is a great deal to be admired, its practise over the centuries has been less admirable.

Posted by: JB Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 12:38 PM

Malaysians are deeply embarrassed about the 1969 riots. The fact Malaysia has progressed from being a poor disaster in 1969 to being a prosperous free democracy that treats minorities and immigrants well is an amazing achievement.

I agree with you that Singapore is awesome! Malaysians are very self critical and describe how much they need to catch up with Singapore. However, I don't see it the same way as Malays. I admire how far Malaysians have improved since 1969. I also admire how determined Malaysians are to improve themselves through their own efforts. A real world example of the "Man in the Mirror" spirit.

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 1:00 PM

"democrat," what do you think Israel should do if there is a nuclear attack against it? What should the US do? Should the US commit itself to defending Israel in the event of a nuclear attack?

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 1:26 PM

The Good Democrat: Why don't you interview someone who vehemently disagrees with your Middle East regional view? Say, pick someone from Hezbollah and discuss with him the future of the Middle East.

Seven months ago during Israel's invasion of Gaza, I was on the Huffington Post comments sections defending Israel against people who were actively expressing support for Hamas as a legitimate, democratic institution. I tried to argue that Hamas is a proxy of the Iranian regime, and that Kargozaran, a reformist Iranian newspaper, was forcibly shut down after publishing an editorial blaming Hamas for the war.

I doubt my comments made any impact, but six months later, with the whole Iranian election fiasco, you won't find a single person on HuffPost taking the side of the regime against the reformists. My point here is that the whole "every side in the Middle East is worth equal time and consideration" argument has been unfashionable even within left-wing/Democratic circles for some time now.

Posted by: johnchen Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 1:42 PM

Anand;

Islam may theoretically be consistent with respecting other faiths, but bear in mind that the Muslims of the time of Mohammad gave the pagans of Arabia two choices, Islam or death. That was the original attitude for those not of “the Book”.

Posted by: Boojum Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 1:51 PM

Michael,

China is no model for the United States, as Good Democrat insists.

Now you're having trouble reading. I didn't say China was a role model for the United States, rather for the Israelis. Unless you think Israel is part of the United States. Sometimes our foreign policy is hijacked by Zionists so that one couldn't tell the difference between the two.

Thanks for informing me that you had interviewed people who disagreed with you, and I'll google that interview with you and Tom Ricks. I follow his blog at Foreign Policy. He's a fairly smart guy, but he, too, trusts the military far too much. But that's a minor grievance with him.

As far as being a dick, I'm a dick to people who talk about nuking other countries. I think such people are reprehensible and undermine the security and safety of the United States, and of our allies, including Israel. You want to show me where you put effort at making peace between Israel and her neighbors? Because right now, whenever I check your blog, it's always about war war war. Show me where you discuss how Israel and the Palestinians can bridge their differences, or at least communicate better. Show me where you do that with Israel and the Iranians. There honestly should be no reason for Jews and Persians to hate each other, at least not historically. Maybe I'm wrong, but I cannot think of a reason why Jews and Persians would hate each other like this. I can see why Jews and Sunnis might hate each other, and even Jews and Shi'ites. But Persians? Persians aren't even Semitic.

Anyways, I'll let you get back to your choir. Can't be having dissonance here.

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 2:02 PM

I do not know which is more depressing, the reality this piece may reflect or the fact the comment section is a microcosm of the bigger picture.

Posted by: Oobs Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 2:12 PM

Good Democrat: I'm a dick to people who talk about nuking other countries.

I didn't talk about nuking other countries. Neither did Jeffrey. We talked about MAD, which everyone here but you understands.

The Obama Administration has also publily discussed putting Israel under the U.S. nuclear umbrella. I'm sorry if Barack Obama's bloodthirty insanity bothers you, but it's not my fault that the Middle East, indeed the world, isn't made up of bunnies and unicorns.

Show me where you do that with Israel and the Iranians.

I have "done that," but I don't owe it to you to give you the links. I only feel obligated to help people fish around in my archives if they ask nicely. You can do your own homework if you decide you're actually interested.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 2:27 PM

The Good Democrat: There honestly should be no reason for Jews and Persians to hate each other, at least not historically.

There was no historical reason for Americans and Russians to hate each other, either. Yet, there we were. Conflicts are borne from geopolitical realities. If you're a regular reader of Thomas Ricks as you say, then you would know that this is a point he comes back to again and again.

By the way, I just took a look at your blog. Your recurring "The Stupidity of Conservatives" posts are objectively far more shrill and closed-minded than anything MJT has ever said.

Posted by: johnchen Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 2:35 PM

johnchen, I am strongly critical of Israeli actions during the Gaza war.

Good Democrat, do you know that the Democrats are closer to Israel than the Republicans? It isn't your opinions that are so offensive, it is how you choose to express them. Why insult MJT and the other commentators you disagree with? I disagree with you that MJT has a choir. Am I a part of this choir?

Maybe you can share your plan for facilitating greater understanding and peace in the middle east. How would you make peace between Persians and Israelis? MJT mostly reports what he observes on trips, or interviews he conducts. He usually doesn't do commentary. If you want his opinion, "politely" ask him.

"He's a fairly smart guy, but he, too, trusts the military far too much." Tom Ricks trusts the military too much? :LOL: :LOL: :LOL: I'm sorry. Just lost it there. Who do you trust "democrat"? Our elected members of Congress? CIA? State Department types? My observation is that you can trust the uniformed military much more than almost any other part of the government.

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 2:36 PM

Anand: Why insult MJT and the other commentators you disagree with? I disagree with you that MJT has a choir. Am I a part of this choir?

Indeed.

Good Democrat, Anand argues with me on a regular basis, and always politely. It really is not very difficult.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 2:54 PM

there is not going to be peace in the Middle East as long as people on both sides continue to think the use of violence is going to solve their problems.

Good Democrat, you're either a poor student of history, or you're intentionally distorting it.

Israel has repeatedly chosen negotiations as the way to peace. We have negotiated peace agreements with EVERY SINGLE ONE of our five neighbors (including the Palestinian Authority), and signed agreements with three of them.

The Hamas, on the other hand, have a Charter which expressly forbids peace negotiations, and they stick to it.

So, before you babble any more about both sides giving up the use of violence to promote peace, you need to show how Hamas and the other radical Palestinian groups who control Gaza and threaten to violently overthrow the PA in the West Bank are on the same page. Otherwise, you're just advocating for Israeli surrender. And that won't happen.

Posted by: JonathanInTelAviv Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 2:56 PM

Michael, Thanks for a great interview. One of these days I hope you'll also write up an interview with Khaled Abu Toameh, if you haven't already done so. I heard Khaled speak in Jerusalem a couple of months ago about his experiences on university campuses in the USA, and they sounded scarier than a nuclear-armed Iran, most especially from the extreme left-wing Jewish students' accusing him of collaboration with Israel.

A key point that may explain the huge communication gap between modern (i.e. Western) people and the majority of Middle East residents is the comment Jeffrey Goldberg made about individualism vs. collectivism here. Carl Jung proposed the concept of the collective unconscious as an unacknowledged psychological influence in modern societies. The collective conscious is a political-religious phenomenon in the Middle East, and is an indication of its pre-modernism. The most fascinating and frustrating thing about living in Israel is its simultaneous individualism and tribal (not kibbutz) collectivism.

Posted by: Savtadotty Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 3:08 PM

Not only that. Jewish morality forbids it. I've met some pretty hard-core Israeli right-wingers who absolutely refuse to entertain that idea.

I am skeptical that vague notions of morality will prevent any state from taking actions that serve its concrete interests. "Morality" has rarely done much to prevent instances of ethnic cleansing, and there are examples of such failures within Israel's own history. I think you might be surprised to learn the notions that people will entertain when the stakes are immediate and obvious rather than distant and abstract.

Posted by: Big Jilm Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 5:33 PM

"No one threatens them, and they threaten no one."

Are you seriously on crack? Why don't you say that to the Tibetans and see what kind of reaction you get. Or the Taiwanese? Or the Vietnamese and Filipinos in contention over the Canary Islands.

Don't make up facts. Your credibility evaporates when you do that.

Posted by: ElMondo Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 6:41 PM

Big Jilm: I am skeptical that vague notions of morality will prevent any state from taking actions that serve its concrete interests.

It's not so far-fetched when that state has a stable democracy and a free press. Yes, Jews massacred Muslims during an era of civic unrest. And yes, there are still Rabbi Kahane supporters out there today. But Jewish leaders have always condemned terrorism committed by their own side, and 300,000 Israelis marched in protest against the Sabra and Shatila massacre. They are and always will be representative of the Israeli mainstream. Israel today is no more likely to support the ethnic cleansing of Muslims than the US is to revive its Indian Wars.

Posted by: johnchen Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 7:09 PM

A stable democracy and a free press have little to do with it. The United States had both yet it nevertheless worked out rather poorly for the Native Americans.

If a state wants land, and that land is inhabited by people not belonging to that state with little power to resist, the state will generally take the land one way or another. Sabra and Shatila are in Lebanon. Israel does not want Lebanon. It does want the West Bank, or at least most of it, and, of course, all of Jerusalem.

As I said, a mass ethnic cleansing is improbable. Israel has adopted an incrementalist approach and a Bantustan-esque situation seems the most likely outcome.

Posted by: Big Jilm Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 7:33 PM

Blah... Correction to my post above: Spratly Islands. Not Canary.

Posted by: ElMondo Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 8:52 PM

The Good Democrat,

"Michael,

Must I use quotes and refer to actual parts of your interview?

MJT: I can’t see Barack Obama nuking Tehran.

Goldberg: I didn’t say he has to nuke it, I said he has to threaten to nuke it.

MJT: Sure, but the threat has to be credible.

Goldberg: Right. So you make it credible.
MJT: Bush could have done that.

Those are your words right? You say you can't see Obama "nuking" Tehran, but "Bush could have done that." How is my reading comprehension wrong"

You are thinking about nuking while they are discussing making credible threat.

I hope it helps.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 9:36 PM

I am probably in minority, but I believe 2006 Lebanese war and 2008/2009 Gaza operation both were a success for Israelis.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 10:01 PM

The United States had both yet it nevertheless worked out rather poorly for the Native Americans.

Okay, but we were speaking about the present world, with its modern understanding of human rights. I'm simply trying to divest you of the notion that Israel avoids ethnic cleansing solely to prevent international outrage, rather than out of their own sense of morality.

Posted by: johnchen Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 10:20 PM

Actually, in the days of ethnic cleansing of the Native Americans, the United States did not have what we'd call a "stable democracy and free press". For the much of this genocide (intentional smallpox, ect.) there did not exist a United States

Posted by: A-Squared Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 11:31 PM

Point to ponder:

People seem to forget that almost all of the borders of today's middle-eastern states were created arbitrarily by the European colonial powers that took control after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It's quite funny to hear any Middle Eastern king, dictator or president-for-life-and-then-my-son-after-me talk about the ancient and inviolable borders of their states, when in fact those borders were drawn quite recently and completely arbitrarily by a few British and French bureaucrats sitting in offices in London and Paris.

A short 100 years ago, the middle east was a chaotic place of warring tribes and sects. After the Europeans drew the borders, they then orchestrated the creation of states and decided (not arbitrarily, but based on their own strategic interests that) Saudi Arabia would go to this tribe, Iraq would go to that one, Syria would go to this one and that Palestine would be split down the Jordan River, with 75% on the East Bank going to the Hashemite tribe, and the remaining 25% on the West Bank (i.e. Israel) going to the Jews.

The end result is that few sovereign countries in the modern middle east can claim that their borders are "legitimate", as the borders were drawn arbitrarily by Europeans. Nor can they claim that their right to rule is based on ancient settlement since the Europeans decided who and where various tribes would be living.

That's why it's downright silly for an Arab state to call Israel's borders illegitimate. How can they do so when their own borders were created an equally arbitrary way?

Posted by: eric Author Profile Page at July 8, 2009 11:55 PM

Another point to ponder:

I'm getting up there in years, and I find that as I get older, I can view the past with a wider perspective and with greater clarity. I guess that's one of the perks of old-age.

Anyway, seeing how today's modern arab states all clamor for the creation of a Palestinian state appears to be a miraculous development in my eyes.

I remember the old days, about 50 years ago, when the the seat of Pan-Arab Nationalism was in Egypt under the leadership of Abdul Gammal Nasser. Back then, Egypt truly believed that Palestine was theirs. Egypt invaded Israel in 1948, took control of Gaza, and during the 19 years that they held it, they used it more as a base for aquiring the nascent Jewish state for themselves and less as a means of creating a state for Palestinians.

Ditto for the Hashemites on the East Bank of the Jordan River. Their goal was to reunify all of Palestine under their flag, to repair the split that the British created when they gave the West Bank to the Jews.

At the same time, Syria believed with all it's heart and soul that all of Palestine belonged to Syria, so much so that they referred to the territory as "Southern Syria", and here we are talking about all of Palestine, the East Bank and the West Bank together.

Now, 50 years is both a long time and a short time, and look at how things have changed!

Egypts star has dimmed, they are no longer the regional super-power that they once were, the power has shifted completely to the Persians in the East, and I am convinced that Egypt no longer dreams of incorporating Israel into the greater Sinai district of Egypt.

Now let's look at Jordan - they have failed so miserably to thrive, they have just rolled over and played dead. No danger there anymore, except that 80% of the population are Palestinians who are lorded over by the 20% minority of Hashemites, so it's only a matter of time until that whole formula explodes.

Syria is still a roaring lion in the region, although a hungry one that eats only thanks to the beneficence of it's Persian masters. Syria does a lot of talking about Palestine for the Palestinians, but this is laughable considering that 40 years ago they rolled into Lebanon and still consider it theirs. How about Lebanon for the Lebanese? What do the world powers have to give to Syria in order to get it to drop it's lust for the territories of Lebanon and Palestine?

Anyway, people are silly when they blame everything on the Jews. Is the central conflict in the world today really an Arab-Jewish one? Is it really about Jews building apartment buildings in "settlements" that are a 20-minute drive from Tel-Aviv?

I think not.

I think that the Arab world uses the Jews just to cover up their own very complex problems, and the real injustice is that the rest of the world let's them get away with it.

Posted by: eric Author Profile Page at July 9, 2009 12:39 AM

The irony of Jewish "settlement" in Israel:

It's hard to believe that people can talk so much about a place that is so tiny.

People get themselves so worked up about Israel, and too frequently it is obvious that it comes from a starting point that is terribly ignorant and/or naive. I wish that people would be required to obtain a license before being allowed to spew opinions on the matter, just to prove that they have at least a minimal understanding of the big picture, going back at least to the year 1900, and the further back the better.

So let's talk about how tiny Israel is. When you ask people on the street how big Israel is, they tell you that if it's not as big the USA, then at least the size of England or France! Well, Gaza is about 360 square miles, much smaller than Monmouth County, NJ where I come from. When we talk about two-states for two-peoples, let's be honest: We should really be saying two-mini-states for two-people.

I'm sure people would be surprised to know that the distance from the Mediterranean coast to the Jordan River spans an average of about 40 miles.

In 1948, a number Arab armies joined forces and crossed over the Jordan River, pushing the Jews into a narrow 10-mile strip between the Sea and the Samarian Mountain range (which for some reason acquired the name "The West Bank", even though ALL of Israel is the West Bank of the Jordan River, but that's a topic for a different time).

Now, 60 years later, that narrow 10-mile strip holds 60% of the Jewish population of Israel. Despite this, the Jews somehow managed to build a thriving, open, democratic society and despite having no oil or other natural resources, have developed their tiny, tiny country into an economic powerhouse with a GDP that is larger than all of it's neighbors combined (excluding oil-income).

People call Jewish "settlements" a crime against humanity, an obstacle to peace etc. Let's look at what's going on.

The Arabs forced millions of Jews to live in a narrow 10-mile strip of land along the Mediterranean. The Jews use this 10-mile strip to build homes, roads, industry, employment for millions of people. Today, this 10-mile strip has become completely developed and the population has doubled - fly a helicopter over it and you see that there is just no more room.

There are no viable options to entice large numbers of people to relocate to the Galilee or to the Southern Desert because there are no jobs there, no industry. So, when faced with a shortage of land for building homes, and a need for those homes to be located commuting distance to the jobs in the economic and industrial employment center of the country, Israeli Jews get into their cars, drive approximately 20-minutes east of Tel-Aviv, stick a shovel in the ground and build houses.

Then, the entire world calls those houses a crime against humanity and a threat to world peace.

The real irony is that it the Arabs created the whole situation in the first place by sending in invading armies and causing 60% of the Jewish population to be crammed into a narrow 10-mile strip of land in the first place!

When I look at the vastness of the Middle East, it seems silly to condemn a Jew for building a house that is convenient driving distance to his job. The Jew has no choice. The Arab took that choice away when their military invasion caused the Jewish employment center to be located where it is, and caused the Jews to outgrow the 10-mile strip that they were fortunate enough to hold on to in 1948.

You think we can make Obama understand this? Maybe he'll agree to invest $250 Billion to build cities and desalination plants so we can transfer a few million Jews down to the desert in the south, where they won't cause any trouble.

You think the Arab cry-babies would stop their whining then?

Posted by: eric Author Profile Page at July 9, 2009 1:55 AM

My personal "Nuclear Doomsday Scenario".

Well, the secret's been out for a long time and today everyone knows that Israel has a powerful nuclear arsenal estimated at 200 nuclear warheads.

They are buried deep in silos atop Israeli built Jericho II missiles, they are carried in the bellies of Israeli bombers ready to take off on a moment's notice, and are carried on cruise missiles submerged undetectably under the waters of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea and Persian Gulf.

Israeli Jews live with the reality that Israel is so tiny, that just a single nuclear explosion over the center of the country would wipe out the entire population, eliminating 50% of world Jewry in an instant (an orgasmic moment for Nazis and many others I'm sure).

The question is, how does Israel prevent that from happening? As you have discussed above, you could use the principal of Mutually Assured Destruction.

But maybe the Arabs really believe that they can do the job by getting just a single nuclear missile off the ground, and that by some miracle an Israeli second-strike will fail. And they certainly don't believe that the US will provide a second-strike: What could the US possibly gain by such a thing? The Arabs control the US oil-supply.

I now sadly present my own Doomsday Scenario: All you need is 10 nuclear missiles to destroy the entire world as we know it.

How?

You don't target Teheran dummy!

You simply nuke the 10-major oil loading terminals in the Middle East.

The moment that you do that, the whole world comes literally to a halt. Europe and the United States would quickly run out of oil, and there would be no way to turn the spigots back on.

The US Strategic Petroleum Reserve contains enough oil to sustain consumption for only 3 months, but it would take years to get the world's oil supplies flowing again.

What would have to happen in the meantime?

Martial Law would be declared in the US. No fuel would be available for any personal driving. All Oil resources would be dedicated to the military, and to keep the electricity turned on, although electricity consumption would be severely rationed in order to conserve precious reserves. All other energy would be channeled into agriculture and the transportation needed to get food to the people.

In the meantime, with no way to travel, all North Americans will be trapped as prisoners in their own homes, unemployed, just sitting and waiting for the food trucks to deliver basic staples of bread and vegetables. You can just picture a lot of North Americans getting skinny and being really bored. When the winter comes, 100's of millions of Americans and Canadians risk freezing to death with no fuel to heat their homes, so they will all move down South where it's warm, overwhelming the region with mind-boggling large refugee tent cities. The rule of law and order in such a world will be severely tested, as people seek ways simply stay alive.

Take a moment and figure out for yourself, if you were President of the USA, and you lost 75% or more of your oil Supply, what would you have to do in order to keep people alive?

How would you get the oil flowing again when you would need massive amounts of energy that you don't have in order to rebuild the oil delivery infrastructure. If you are optimistic, it could take 5 years to get the oil flowing again, but it's realistically somewhere between 10 and 20 years.

Now picture 400 million North Americans sitting hungry and bored for that long! Then add to the picture all of the Europeans, Chinese, South Americans and the rest of the population of the planet! All of them will be competing for the same preciously scarce energy resources.

Do you think that the US, Europe, China and Russia will all come together in the spirit of brotherly love, and use teamwork to get the problem solved together for the benefit of all mankind?

I think not.

I think that it would be the end of the world as we know it.

So if Israel wants to prevent it's destruction by nuclear missile, instead of threatening a second-strike of Teheran, which wouldn't really accomplish a whole lot, it needs to tell the entire world that if Israel goes, the rest of the world is going down with it.

Israel could publicly state that it is aiming it's arsenal of 200 nuclear missiles to take out just 10 targets - the 10 major oil loading terminals of the Middle East.

If Israel ever feels that it's existence is threatened, they would then have real leverage to get the rest of the world on it's side.

Of course, it goes without saying that Israel would never actually have to carry out this plan. They just need to tell the world about it.

It's so simple, I'm sure even Dr. Strangelove would approve!

Posted by: eric Author Profile Page at July 9, 2009 2:59 AM

Eric,
Its nice to know some people actually do read history books and are capable of critical analysis as well as having a creative imagination (something sorely needed).
Certainly the MSM lack such ability in spades.
You've put into a synopsis what many people including myself do realize about the ME.
Unfortunately most of the discussion regarding the ME as well as many other topics suffer from a general lowering of the bar in a very protean way through society. Basic abilities to read, write, think, analyse and speak clearly have all declined and reset at a lowest common denominator.
Polemics and political ideology, emotion and bias trump common sense and truth. Combine all that with a lack of personal responsibility and the result is a dangerous situation in which we are relegated to believe that ass-kissing will solve all our problems. Perhaps its a bit of an overstatement, but not by much.
Your comments which echo my own sentiments help put things into perspective. I enjoyed reading them.

Posted by: JB Author Profile Page at July 9, 2009 6:43 AM

Okay, but we were speaking about the present world, with its modern understanding of human rights.

You initially said free press and stable democracy, to which my point was responsive. Of course, the United States government also mouthed platitudes about human rights while it was cleansing the Indians and dropping atomic bombs on civilian populations. The point is, feel-good rhetoric about human rights will rarely, if ever, restrain a state from action it thinks will further more concrete interests, such as acquiring land and resources. Just see Eric's comments in this thread to see how expansionism can be rationalized via, e.g., notions of collective fault.

The reason the Indian Wars are unlikely to be revived is because the indians no longer have any land of significant value to the United States. Not so the West Bank and Israel.

I'm simply trying to divest you of the notion that Israel avoids ethnic cleansing solely to prevent international outrage, rather than out of their own sense of morality.

And I'm simply trying to divest you of the notion that states are actually restrained by a sense of morality when it conflicts with their other interests.

Actually, in the days of ethnic cleansing of the Native Americans, the United States did not have what we'd call a "stable democracy and free press". For the much of this genocide (intentional smallpox, ect.) there did not exist a United States.

Actually, the ethnic cleansing of the Indians extended well beyond the date the Constitution was ratified. The Indian Removal Act, for example, was enacted in 1830.

Posted by: Big Jilm Author Profile Page at July 9, 2009 8:49 AM

I listed stable democracy and free press in response to this statement:

I am skeptical that vague notions of morality will prevent any state from taking actions that serve its concrete interests.

You said "will," not "would," implying a future hypothetical. And I'm not just arguing semantics here. Distant historical events simply can't be used as models in this situation, and thus your example is irrelevant.

The reason the Indian Wars are unlikely to be revived is because the indians no longer have any land of significant value to the United States. Not so the West Bank and Israel.

Again, you keep insinuating that Israel would otherwise happily commit genocide. Look, this is a country where even simply asking its Arab citizens to take a loyalty test is considered an extremist and racist position.

And I'm simply trying to divest you of the notion that states are actually restrained by a sense of morality when it conflicts with their other interests.

When a modern state has a stable democracy and a free press, then acting morally IS in its best interests.

And I can't defend A-Squared's comment since I don't agree with it either.

Posted by: johnchen Author Profile Page at July 9, 2009 11:35 AM

You said "will," not "would," implying a future hypothetical. And I'm not just arguing semantics here. Distant historical events simply can't be used as models in this situation, and thus your example is irrelevant.

Historical events, even those 100-150 years old, while imperfect, are a much more relevant clue to how states will act than unfounded wishful thinking about morality. The historical record supports my position, not yours. If you have any actual evidence that Israel is somehow different in this regard, please provide it.

Again, you keep insinuating that Israel would otherwise happily commit genocide. Look, this is a country where even simply asking its Arab citizens to take a loyalty test is considered an extremist and racist position.

Apparently not by enough people to keep the current Minister of Foreign Affairs from suggesting it, or to make him pay a political price for so doing.

I'm insinuating (or, rather, plainly stating) that Israel, like any other state, puts considerations like access to desirable land and resources far above any consideration for the rights of non-citizens. Israel has the ability to remove Palestinians from the desired territory by incremental means, but if for some reason it became necessary for the pace of displacement to increase dramatically, I see little that would prevent it aside from international pressure.

When a modern state has a stable democracy and a free press, then acting morally IS in its best interests.

This is often asserted but never demonstrated.

And I can't defend A-Squared's comment since I don't agree with it either.

I didn't mean to suggest you should. I was just replying to both of you in one comment.

Posted by: Big Jilm Author Profile Page at July 9, 2009 12:28 PM

yes is nice interview that i never read in in my life since they start of conflict in middle eastern countries am from southern sudan resident in israel back to point am happy for reality of the conversation of two guy on this website it so interesting to hear they reality of the stuation it self on ground from holyland to others conuntries in they meddle eastern conuntry or islamic conuntries as regimme of say it but no metions of others enthnic minority like southern sudanese or coptic christian in regions is not some new to those watch it closely what is they going to be solution in they future no one know GOD save as from this stuation

thank so much two friend who share they reality of this part of world

Posted by: simon Author Profile Page at July 9, 2009 2:43 PM

The historical record supports my position, not yours. If you have any actual evidence that Israel is somehow different in this regard, please provide it.

Modern advances in technology and human rights place us at a unique turning point, and thus the historical record is a poor indicator. One could just as easily argue that history proves the necessity of slavery, for example. I am not just saying Israel is different, I am saying the whole world is different now.

But if you really want specific examples:
The return of Sinai
The return of Gaza
Waqf control over the Temple Mount
Full rights for Israeli Arab citizens
Arabs in the Knesset
2000 Camp David Summit
B'Tselem and other Israeli human rights groups
...and so on.

Apparently not by enough people to keep the current Minister of Foreign Affairs from suggesting it, or to make him pay a political price for so doing.

True, but you haven't refuted my point. It's not Kristallnacht or the Hama massacre.

Israel, like any other state, puts considerations like access to desirable land and resources far above any consideration for the rights of non-citizens.

I don't disagree with your basic point, I disagree with your moral equivalence. Syria would behave differently in Israel's shoes, as would we in China's.

This is often asserted but never demonstrated.

How can it ever be demonstrated according to your standards, when internal pressure is always accompanied by external pressure?

Posted by: johnchen Author Profile Page at July 9, 2009 3:29 PM

Sabra and Shatila are in Lebanon. Israel does not want Lebanon. It does want the West Bank, or at least most of it, and, of course, all of Jerusalem.

Just noticed this... I brought up Sabra and Shatila as an example of Israeli outrage to the violence itself, completely unrelated to any issues about land. Either you honestly believe the Israelis would have reacted differently had it occurred on land that they want (that is, the West Bank), or you're confusing two separate arguments here.

Posted by: johnchen Author Profile Page at July 9, 2009 3:40 PM

Michael J.Totten - Is that a serious question? Do you know what ethnic cleansing looks like? Bosnia. Slobodan Milosevic was't put on trial in The Hague for the moral equivalent of eating bacon with his pancakes.

Ethnic cleansing can look like the Slobodan Milosevic version with mass graves full of innocent people or it can look like the forced removal of Jewish settlers from Gaza when the area was handed over to the Palestinians in 2005.

I suspect that if Milosevic had limited the violence to the level used by the Israelis to ethnically cleans Gaza of Jews, he would probably have been allowed to rearrange the ethnic makeup of his country without provoking intervention by the United States or anybody else.

Posted by: Mark_in_Texas Author Profile Page at July 9, 2009 5:44 PM

Mark in Texas: Ethnic cleansing can look like the Slobodan Milosevic version with mass graves full of innocent people or it can look like the forced removal of Jewish settlers from Gaza when the area was handed over to the Palestinians in 2005.

How can the removal of settlers from Gaza be considered "ethnic cleansing"? They weren't driven out because they were Jewish. They were removed because they were Israeli nationals living in an occupied territory Israel planned to cede to the Palestinians for a state.

This is not the first time I've heard this argument, of course. Actually, I often come across an even worse misuse of terminology by settlers and their supporters: words with Nazi themes.

"Why should the West Bank be judenrein?" their supporters will howl.

Again, it has nothing to do with them being Jewish. They are living in a territory with ambiguous legal status (not part of Israel proper) that has been accorded de facto recognition by the Israeli government as Palestinian land.

If a Palestinian state is established, they'll have to be evacuated, at least temporarily, as they will need to become Palestinian permanent residents/citizens to settle there for good.

Personally, I'm against establishing a Palestinian state until the Pals completely eradicate terrorism, which isn't likely to happen soon, if ever. But if they somehow manage to do so and get sovereignty over the WB, it's completely unreasonable to ask them to host foreign citizens who are subject only to Israeli law and governance, which is what I assume the settlers want.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at July 9, 2009 10:26 PM

"Personally, I'm against establishing a Palestinian state until the Pals completely eradicate terrorism, which isn't likely to happen soon, if ever." You are assuming that most Palestinians like terrorists who mass murder large numbers of civilians. Can you prove this?

Personally, I think the Palestinians need their own state and their own capable army and police so that they can go after the terrorists.

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at July 9, 2009 11:30 PM

"How can the removal of settlers from Gaza be considered "ethnic cleansing"? They weren't driven out because they were Jewish. They were removed because they were Israeli nationals living in an occupied territory Israel planned to cede to the Palestinians for a state."

Actually, those settlers potentially could've become "Palestinian" nationals had the state materialized. Arabs of Judea/Samaria and Gaza demand Judenrein and are willing to achieve it one way or the other. So, I disagree. I'd call it ethnic cleaning.

"Why should the West Bank be judenrein?"

Yes, why?

"If a Palestinian state is established, they[Jews]'ll have to be evacuated, at least temporarily, as they will need to become Palestinian permanent residents/citizens to settle there for good."

Should Arabs be evacuated too? Or is it "Palestine for Arabs"?

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at July 10, 2009 5:24 AM

Edgar

Obviously the term "Ethnic Cleansing" carries a lot of baggage. How about "forced removal"?

The Palestinians voted for Hamas when given the opportunity. Hamas is the de facto government of Gaza. Hamas has committed itself to war with Israel that will only end with the destruction of Israel and they have acted upon this commitment by shooting rockets into Israel and obtaining more rockets to kill more Israelis.

In my opinion, Israel would be compliant with international law if it recognized the sovereignty of Gaza with Hamas as its government, cited the rocket attacks as casus beli, went to war with Gaza, invaded and deported the entire population to Somalia. For legal precedent see the removal of the Anatolian Greeks (and reciprocal removal of ethnic Turks from Greece) in the 1920s and the deportation of ethnic Germans from eastern Europe in 1945.

Some people just don't seem to be able to live together in peace. Perhaps separating them from each other might work out better in the long run for everybody.

Posted by: Mark_in_Texas Author Profile Page at July 10, 2009 6:39 AM

Modern advances in technology and human rights place us at a unique turning point, and thus the historical record is a poor indicator.

This would be nice to believe. I don't see any evidence of it, however.

But if you really want specific examples:
The return of Sinai
The return of Gaza

Israle has no historical claim to the Sinai and it would have been more difficult to hold than it is worth. And Gaza is some of the least-desirable land in the region. Not so the West Bank, which is why Israel continues to try to take it.

Full rights for Israeli Arab citizens.

Not so. Arabs are routinely discriminated against. See the Or Commission report or the 2004 State Deparment report.

Arabs in the Knesset

How many coalition governments have included an Arab party?

2000 Camp David Summit

What?

B'Tselem and other Israeli human rights groups
...and so on.

What? Are you arguing that because some Israelis recognize that Palestinians have human rights the state will recognize them when push comes to shove?

In any event, these are all beside the point. None of these are in any way inconsistent with Israel's desire to control the bulk of the West Bank. It's one thing to grant symbolic concessions to the human rights of the Other. Quite another to give up something valuable to which you feel entitled.

True, but you haven't refuted my point. It's not Kristallnacht or the Hama massacre.

So? It isn't Deir Yassin either, but it still shows that Arab-hatred is an acceptable political position in Israel. That is an inevitable consequence of an ethnocracy.

I don't disagree with your basic point, I disagree with your moral equivalence. Syria would behave differently in Israel's shoes, as would we in China's.

It certainly makes us and Israelis feel good to believe these things, but I don't see any other reason to.

Either you honestly believe the Israelis would have reacted differently had it occurred on land that they want (that is, the West Bank), or you're confusing two separate arguments here.

My point is that the reaction to those incidents doesn't say much about what the reaction would be if there were a push to expel the Palestinians from the West Bank. If there were to be a wide-scale ethnic cleansing it would occur the way these things always do: some violent incident around a settlement would result in an Israeli offensive to clear a neighboring Palestinian community, the violence resulting from that would provide a pretext for Israel to clear additional territory, and so on until Eretz Israel is achieved. And the Isreali population at large would have little problem with it.

Posted by: Big Jilm Author Profile Page at July 10, 2009 7:47 AM

"The violence resulting from that would provide a pretext for Israel to clear additional territory, and so on until Eretz Israel is achieved. And the Israeli population at large would have little problem with it." ---Big Jilm

And if Iran were to succeed in nuking Israel off the map? Arabs and the Muslim world at large would have little problem with it.

Second, name one Arab country where Jew-hatred is an UNacceptable political position. After all, that's the inevitable consequence of an ethnocracy.

Posted by: Harold Author Profile Page at July 10, 2009 9:49 AM

Mark in Texas: In my opinion, Israel would be compliant with international law if it recognized the sovereignty of Gaza with Hamas as its government, cited the rocket attacks as casus beli, went to war with Gaza, invaded and deported the entire population to Somalia.

That absolutely would not be in compliance with international law. I'm not a lawyer, international or otherwise, but I have studied this somewhat and written about it. Ethnic cleansing is a serious war crime, and Israelis are not going to do it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 10, 2009 10:13 AM

Big Jilm: If there were to be a wide-scale ethnic cleansing it would occur the way these things always do: some violent incident around a settlement would result in an Israeli offensive to clear a neighboring Palestinian community, the violence resulting from that would provide a pretext for Israel to clear additional territory, and so on until Eretz Israel is achieved. And the Isreali population at large would have little problem with it.

Sorry, but that's just b.s. You're basing this on what, exactly? Hatred of Israel?

Some Israelis want to keep the West Bank forever. Most no longer do. The only reason they haven't left the West Bank by now, as they've left Gaza and Lebanon, is because they can't afford to be attacked after the security forces withdraw. Everybody in Israel knows this.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 10, 2009 10:18 AM

Michael J.Totten - That absolutely would not be in compliance with international law. I'm not a lawyer, international or otherwise, but I have studied this somewhat and written about it. Ethnic cleansing is a serious war crime, and Israelis are not going to do it.

Well, if that is what Israelis believe, then I agree with you that there is never going to be peace in that part of the world. For what it's worth, I think that not only would the Palestinians be better off in Somalia but I think that they would probably make Somalia a more stable place.

Posted by: Mark_in_Texas Author Profile Page at July 10, 2009 12:11 PM

And if Iran were to succeed in nuking Israel off the map? Arabs and the Muslim world at large would have little problem with it.

Quite so. Glad to see at least one other person here is not invested in fantasies about the fundamental goodness of humanity.

Some Israelis want to keep the West Bank forever. Most no longer do.

That is, of course, not dispositive. The ones who do care much more about it than the ones who don't. Thus the colonies continue to expand.

The only reason they haven't left the West Bank by now, as they've left Gaza and Lebanon, is because they can't afford to be attacked after the security forces withdraw. Everybody in Israel knows this.

If by "everyone" you mean "charmingly naive slavishly pro-Israel Americans," and by "knows" you mean "is emotionally committed to believing," then we agree.

Posted by: Big Jilm Author Profile Page at July 10, 2009 12:36 PM

"If by 'everyone' you mean 'charmingly naive slavishly pro-Israel Americans,' and by 'knows' you mean 'is emotionally committed to believing,' then we agree." -- Big Jilm

Maybe some day, Big Jilm, you'll present actual facts to back up your assertions rather than resorting to slavish, emotionally-committed name-calling.

Posted by: Harold Author Profile Page at July 10, 2009 3:01 PM

"I think that not only would the Palestinians be better off in Somalia but I think that they would probably make Somalia a more stable place."

Oh my God! Listen to yourself some time. Somalia is one of the poorest countries on earth, and the only place on earth (excluding the question of Pakistan) where AQ linked networks control a state. How would a Palestinian like to hear bigotry like this?

"And if Iran were to succeed in nuking Israel off the map? Arabs and the Muslim world at large would have little problem with it."
I couldn't disagree more. 23% of Israeli citizens are Palestinians. Moreover, any nuclear attack on Israel would also devastate the West Bank and Gaza.

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at July 10, 2009 3:15 PM

I think it is offensive to suggest that 1.5 billion muslims around the world (including 220 million Indonesian muslims, 160 million Indian muslims, 130 million Bangladeshi muslims, 60 million Chinese muslims, 12 million Malaysian muslims, 60 million Turkish muslims, 20 million Russian muslims) would be anything other than devastated by a nuclear attack on the holy lands.

Remember how much Muslims revere Musa (Moses), people of the book, and the holy city of Jerusalem.

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at July 10, 2009 3:35 PM

Anand,
Big Jilm said that most Israelis would have little problem with the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the West Bank, and I don't see you expressing indignation over that outrageous statement.
Harold

Posted by: Harold Author Profile Page at July 10, 2009 6:24 PM

Anand, you say that Arabs and Muslims around the world would be devastated by a nuclear attack on Israel because 23% of the population in Israel is Arab, and also because a nuclear attack would also wipe out the West Bank and Gaza. You're implying, then, that the Muslim world opposes such an attack because it would end up killing Arabs & Muslims, right?

Posted by: Harold Author Profile Page at July 10, 2009 6:33 PM

"There has been talk of shooting back at Syria instead of Lebanon. Syria has a return address. It’s a state and is therefore accountable."

I think that is one thing Israel is telling Assad in Baku. Hamas and Hizb'Allah must become even more of a liability for Assad.

Unfortunately I do not think the administration will redeploy troops in Iraq to the Syrian and Iranian borders, taking away some of their ability to "meddle".

Posted by: maxtrue Author Profile Page at July 10, 2009 7:12 PM

I am curious Michael what you think the red lines are for Israel using "clean" nukes or neutron bombs in a strike against Iran. Rumor has it Israel suggested to the US they could provide them for use against Saddam's hardened targets.

Posted by: maxtrue Author Profile Page at July 10, 2009 7:18 PM

"Big Jilm said that most Israelis would have little problem with the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the West Bank, and I don't see you expressing indignation over that outrageous statement."

Of course he doesn't, Harold, because anand despises Jews and desires the annihilation of Israel. He repeatedly expresses his admiration for groups that share these beliefs such as Hamas, Hezbollah and the tyrannical mullahs of Iran.

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at July 11, 2009 12:55 AM

"I couldn't disagree more. 23% of Israeli citizens are Palestinians. Moreover, any nuclear attack on Israel would also devastate the West Bank and Gaza."

Your idols the mullahs, including the "moderate" Rafsanjani, have expressed out loud that that would be an acceptable price for annihilating Jews and Israel. You're just lying to cover for them, anand.

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at July 11, 2009 12:58 AM

Eric,
Your "The irony of Jewish "settlement" in Israel" is one of the best summarizations I have read.

Posted by: kreplach Author Profile Page at July 11, 2009 9:25 AM

anand - Oh my God! Listen to yourself some time. Somalia is one of the poorest countries on earth, and the only place on earth (excluding the question of Pakistan) where AQ linked networks control a state. How would a Palestinian like to hear bigotry like this?

AQ networks in Somalia do not control a state because there is no government in Somalia to control. It has been that way for several decades.

That anarchy, by the way, is why Somalia is one of the poorest places on earth. If the residents of Gaza were to be transported to a 21st century Botony Bay in Somalia, I believe that they would probably employ their considerable talents in more productive pursuits than they do now. The ability to dig and operate smuggling tunnels as well as the ability to manufacture functioning rockets that have killed people miles outside of Gaza indicates a certain ingenuity, persistence and ability to organize that would probably make them quite successful in a different neighborhood.

Hong Kong and Singapore are quite successful despite their lack of natural resources. The Palestinians could probably be just as successful if they didn't spend all their time and energy trying to kill Jews. Moving them to some place without the temptation of Jews nearby would give the Palestinians an opportunity for a more normal national development.

Posted by: Mark_in_Texas Author Profile Page at July 11, 2009 11:27 AM

"Hong Kong and Singapore are quite successful despite their lack of natural resources. The Palestinians could probably be just as successful if they didn't spend all their time and energy trying to kill Jews. Moving them to some place without the temptation of Jews nearby would give the Palestinians an opportunity for a more normal national development."

I wish I could share your optimism. I suspect they will dig tunnel from Somalia to Israel and that will be the complete extent of their ingenuity and resourcefulness.

Palestinian society never provided for itself. Never tried to achieve anything of real value. Why would you feel they will fair any better elsewhere?

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at July 11, 2009 3:17 PM

Maybe some day, Big Jilm, you'll present actual facts to back up your assertions rather than resorting to slavish, emotionally-committed name-calling.

I believe the Israeli phrase for the facts supporting my assertions is "facts on the ground." Since you appear to have taken up Michael Totten's brief on behalf of Israeli saintliness, perhaps you'd like to offer a fact or two in support of that position.

Posted by: Big Jilm Author Profile Page at July 13, 2009 7:59 AM

Show me where I'm taking up anybody's saintliness.

Posted by: Harold Author Profile Page at July 13, 2009 10:51 AM

Leo

Somalia is more than 1200 miles from Israel and on the other side of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. That would be one spectacular tunnel.

I suspect that Palestinians in Somalia would have more pressing business to attend to than indulging in their Jew hatred. In the long run, that more pressing business would result in a better live for the Palestinians and their children, not to mention an island of stability in the sea of anarchy that is Somalia.

Posted by: Mark_in_Texas Author Profile Page at July 14, 2009 3:13 AM

"That would be one spectacular tunnel."

Agree. Arabs of Judea/Samaria & Gaza are spectacular people. BTW, tunnel from Arabian Peninsula would've been much shorter.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at July 14, 2009 4:37 AM
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