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barstool philosopher,
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but never a Monday morning quarterback

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Saturday, April 13, 2002

QP Saturday

Will Vehrs
Congrats to "Rags," winner of the Ipse Dixit Caption Contest. Her winner was the kind of entry I wished I'd sent in. As I looked over all the submissions, those from The Refuge family were far and away the best. JulieC returned from her caption hiatus and Dan Dickinson looks like he's starting to find his voice.

We've had two winners in a row from The Refuge--let's keep the streak alive!

For the first time I can remember, I'm dreading Punditwatch. It will be wall to wall Mideast again, I'm sure, and another round of bitter recriminations. We are the mighty US--why are we so ineffectual with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Perhaps David Brooks said it all last night on The News Hour: "We're strong, but we're not Zeus."

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

A Wall Won't Work?
Better Tell Sharon!

Tony Adragna
Seems Sharon agrees with the idea of Israel Building Barriers to Keep Palestinians Out
What began piecemeal has fast become policy. In his [Monday] speech, Sharon said that once Israeli troops finish their task in the current offensive, now in its 12th day, they will pull back to "defined security zones" that "constitute a buffer between the Palestinian territories and our territories."

The threat of armed attack from Palestinians coming from the West Bank and Gaza supplies the rationale for what Israelis call "separation." Repeated terrorist attacks inside Israel have raised cries among the public for sealing off borders between Israel and the Palestinians.
Not everybody agrees
Some Israeli observers say unilateral separation is folly. "It's all fantasy," said Avishai Margolit, a political philosopher. He reckons that with all the twists and turns necessary to accommodate settlements, the total length of the border would be 10 times the 200-mile length of the original West Bank frontier limits.

"As if a fence would really shield us," he said.

Tom Savia, a former West Bank military commander, said: "The location of the settlements makes it impossible. All the stories of a double fence or wall or a ditch full of hungry alligators are all nonsense," he told a radio interviewer.
But, what about the people to whom the Israeli government has a duty vis-a-vis defense?
Still, Israelis living close to Palestinians have greeted the proposal with enthusiasm.

Bat Hefer is an Israeli bedroom community of 6,000 residents, inside Israel but near Tulkarm on the other side of the line. The town is a pioneer of separation. Bat Hefer first put up a wall in 1995 to keep Palestinians out. Lately, it extended and raised its wall, upgrading it with electrical wire and video. It is about a mile long. It cost almost $2 million. Residents say the wall has saved them from danger during the conflict. Bullets pass over the wall, not into the low-rise houses, they say.

"Without the wall, Palestinians would run freely here and do what we see on TV -- shooting, throwing stones, bombs," said Sharon Ezer, an aerobics instructor.[emphasis added]

Note, without all of the convolutions intended to bring settlements into Israel under a final settlement, you only have a 200 mile frontier. And what's the point of building more settlements out there in hostile territory?

At least it's looking like Israel may finally be on the right policy path: Until there's a settlement, which requires a Palestinian leadership that truly desires peace, there's going to have to be physical separation.

Tuesday, April 09, 2002
Andrew Sullivan, Unplugged
Will Vehrs
If you haven't checked it already, I recommend Andrew Sullivan's live web session on the Washington Post today. He doesn't do capitalization, but if you get past that, it's interesting to "see" him answering questions in real time, not writing set pieces. He took one of my mine--the one about Thomas Friedman and the Saudi peace plan.

Sunday, April 07, 2002
TV Punditwatch is Up

TV Punditwatch is now available--two hours late, thanks to Blogger dying on me ....


We Don't Need the Stinking Arabs?
Tony Adragna
When we get to going after Saddam, we get some instruction from Barbara Lerner on War & Arabs on National Review Online:
Polls show Americans are clear about the need to strike Saddam Hussein before he attacks us with weapons of mass destruction. But when it comes to means, clarity vanishes in the fog of "conventional wisdom" endlessly recycled by Western pack journalists. That wisdom is summed up in the self-defeating non sequitur that could be heard, hourly, on every newscast in America as Vice President Cheney toured the Middle East: To make war on Iraq — repeat after me — "We need Arab allies." There are two main problems with this journalistic cliché: first that it isn't true, and second that it's against our interests. Pack journalists offer four reasons for it: because without Arab allies, we'd be at war with the whole Muslim world; because we need military bases in Arab lands; "stability in the Middle East"; and Arab oil.All four are false.
Let's examine the "military bases" reasoning, and see what's "false". Barbara offers up Turkey as an alternative to the Arab world, cites our common interest against terrorism, the Gulf War precedent, etc., and concludes:
That's why Turkey joined us in the Gulf War and lent us Incirlik air base. It's why she'll help again, without making us compromise our interests or our principles. She has only three reasonable requirements: this time, finish the job; make no deals with Iraqi Kurds that might reignite Kurdish separatism; and please, make this war less damaging to the Turkish economy than Gulf War I was.
Sounds like a done deal, right? Wrong! As recently as March 7 of this year Mr. Ecevit stated Turkey's views, and those views present some hurdles. Yes, Turkey let us launch airstrikes from Incirlik during the Gulf War, but it took some persuasion on that occasion, and it's going to take even more persuasion this time around, because we're going to need more than just an airbase.

Sure, Turkey will relent in again letting us use Incirlik to launch airstrikes, but will Turkey allow us to stage how ever many troops -- the were 1/2 a million last time -- we're going to need to prosecute a war on Iraq?

And don't discount any linkage to the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. Despite the Arab League's pressure to change stance on Israel, Turkey has made clear her desire to maintain the strategic relationship. But, Turkey has also made clear her committment to the Palestinians, who have always been given equal weight in Turkey's views on that conflict. Mr. Ecevit was very clear when he said, "Rather than opening an unnecessary war against Iraq, the rapidly escalating war between Israel and Palestine should be ended[...]"

If we're going to convince Turkey, she's going to want something in return - along with the items Lerner says that Turkey wants (and she's right on each one), you can add an end to the "rapidly escalating war between Israel and Palestine".

Having made her case for using Turkey, Lerner then asks, "Why, if this good news is true, do we hear nothing of it? Why does our press ignore Turks?" I suggest that if it were "true", then we would have heard about it by now -- from DoD. I'm very sure that military planners have considered that option, and if they concluded that it was sufficient to our needs, then I'm sure that the press would have gotten a whiff.

Lerner turns to Israel next, and basically says: Screw the Arabs, Israel is our ally and a natural base of operations. Very true! But, how do we launch strikes out of Israel without at least some Arab cooperation? Look at a map of the Middle East and the problem becomes obvious - airstrikes will require overflights of Arab airspace and troop movements would have to be through Arab territory (through Jordan would be the shortest route for both purposes). Without permission those acts are normally considered casus belli - do we want to go there?

Paraphrasing Barbara Lerner, the answer is: Yes, we do want to go there. Let's show all of those despots the "manifest superiority of the Turkish model for all Muslim nations — without Arab blessings." Forget the fact that Turkey isn't a "Muslim nation", but a secular republic, there's still truth to Lerner's statement: Turkey is manifestly superior to the regimes of the Arab world. But, let's look at what happens to some of those regimes -- specifically, Egypt and Jordan -- if we go down that path. There is a precedent - Iran.

That's right, folks - the path is just as likely to lead to greater instability as it is to bring about democratic reform. Lerner doesn't quite get it when she says, "Far better, for us, to see the Arab world destabilized than to stand helplessly by and watch Arabs destabilize the rest of the world, as they do today." But the Arab world is already unstable -- that's the source of the threat -- and increased instability there is likely to leave "the rest of the world" facing a much larger problem, especially if we lose the only two Westward looking governemtns in the Arab world - Egypt and Jordan.(Imagine what that does to Israel's position)

I understand everybody's frustration and anger at the Arab world right now -- I'm there, too. But, taking a write-off on the Arab world isn't going to solve our problem.