BigMo’s Blog

Politics and Economics in Israel

The New anti-Semitism

A day ago, a friend sent me an article from a Spanish writer named Sebastian Vilar Rodriguez that was published in a Spanish newspaper on Jan. 15, 2008. The argument that he puts forth isn’t exactly new; it’s been circulating for several years. It attempts to explain the anti-Semitic – thinly veiled as anti-Israel – policies that the European Left has been pushing.

Rodriguez central tenet is that in order to atone for the sin of the Holocaust, Europeans have thrown aside their own beliefs. That: “. . . under the pretense of tolerance, and because we wanted to prove to ourselves that we were cured of the disease of racism, we opened our gates to 20 million Muslims, who brought us stupidity and ignorance, religious extremism and lack of tolerance, crime and poverty, due to an unwillingness to work and support their families with pride.” Having sown these seeds, the only ‘logical’ course is to harvest the crop.

Thus, leftist European politicians routinely ignore acts of terrorism, murder and the wholesale distortion of history in order to appease their collective guilt. ‘If only we could give the Palestinians a state, then all would be forgiven.’ Of course, this state comes at a price: Israel. And so very slowly, they grind their bitter harvest.

It is beyond the scope of a mere blog posting to explain “traditional” pre-war European anti-Semitism. Several hundred books have been written on that subject. There are though, in my opinion, several factors beyond collective European guilt that explain “modern” European anti-Semitism. Briefly, these are as follows.

Israel attempts to define itself as a democratic Jewish state. Israel is saying in essence, our teleological path is complete without your history. In contrast, many European politicians (and most American ones) call out to their ‘Judeo-Christian’ heritage. Detractors claim that this is done solely to win ‘Jewish votes.” However, there really isn’t much of a ‘Jewish vote’ in most European countries these days, and the Muslims will outnumber Jews in America before the end of the decade. Does anyone see an American politician citing ‘Islamic-Christian’ values?

Not only has Israel defined itself as a Jewish democracy, it has been a tremendously successful one. At times, almost too tolerant. Only a few days ago, did Israeli legislators make it illegal to protest the founding of the State of Israel in Israel. What did they do? Legislation is now on the books that fines(!) municipalities and civic associations that budget funds for such activities. And those convicted of treason are no longer entitled to a state-funded pension.

Israel has absorbed millions of refugees and created a vibrant, diverse culture that recognizes and accepts several core political and social concepts. Wave upon wave of immigration has eroded the core values of European culture. The immigrants come from every corner of the world, are of every race. And while the immigrants Europe takes in also are from every corner of the world and are of every race, they shut themselves into self-imposed ghettos.

Israel’s economy and inventiveness have become synonymous with high tech, biotechnology, medicine and telecommunications. One can hardly say this of Greece, Ireland or Spain – where coincidentally some of the strongest proponents of the new anti-Semitism are to be found. Israel leads the world in patents per capita, percentage of GDP spent on civilian R&D, the number of books published per capita, and routinely has nominees for the Nobel Prize.

There is Israel’s military strength to be considered. Yes, Israel does purchase the best weapons it can. Then again, so do the Arab countries – purchasing tanks, helicopters, jets and missiles from the USSR (now Russia), China, Britain, France and even the US. Arab countries outspend Israel on military purchases. However, they would be wiser to just burn their petrodollars in a bonfire. Every time they attack, Israel wins.

How galling it must be for the European Left. To realize that a people that once were so dependent on whatever crumbs of sympathy they cared to let fall to the floor are now capable of taking care of themselves. And quite capably, too.

Now, Israel has proven energy reserves. Enough natural gas for the next twenty years at least. There is abundant oil shale, as well, made accessible for the first time with new recovery technologies.  What has the Prime Minister of Israel proposed doing with the royalties from this? Why, spend it on education, of course!

In summary, Israel’s democracy, economy, successful absorption of immigrants, technology and military prowess all stand in sharp relief to the malaise that hangs over Europe. To quote Rodriguez, “we have exchanged culture for fanatical hatred, creative skill for destructive skill, intelligence for backwardness and superstition.” The more the European Left is forced to look and the consequences of their policies, how these policies are ravaging Europe’s once-great cities, is it any wonder that they are embittered? Unfortunately, the European Left has deluded itself.

There are a few brave leaders remaining in Europe who are trying to address this. They have analyzed the situation, sorting fact from emotion, truth from distortion. It is a difficult undertaking, and they are beset on all sides by those with vested interests in seeing Europe destroy itself with misguided policies. Yet, they have come to the conclusion that the only right thing to do, the only thing that as Europeans they should do, is to support Israel.

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March 29, 2011 Posted by | Middle East | , , , | Leave a comment

Intervention

There was a time when an “intervention” was something your friends carried out when your behavior became a little to extreme. Maybe you were drinking a little too much, doing too many drugs or getting fired from job after job. Carrying out an intervention wasn’t easy: it required directly confronting the problem.

Then, intervention evolved from a social to an international phenomenon. Nowadays, it involves removing dictators from power. Still, it involves confronting a destructive force and stopping it.  There are many opinions on the legality of this, as any person who bothers to read a newspaper knows.

Some hold the line that intervention is necessary when the dictator threatens the vital interests of a state or a group of states. The US intervened in Panama, and again in Grenada, because those regimes threatened to destabilize an area on America’s flanks. NATO intervened in Bosnia/Kosovo because the area was threatening to destabilize Europe. Thousands were being killed and tens of thousands were fleeing the region for safer parts of Europe, i.e., western Europe.

Another school of thought has it that intervention is allowed when there is a mandate from some higher supra-national body. Such is the case currently in Libya, where both the Arab League and the UN have sanctioned a no-fly zone and protection of civilians using military means.

Yet, a third school contends that intervention into another country’s affairs is illegal and/or immoral. National interests and international approval are irrelevant as far as this line of thinking goes. Since intervention has always required military force and results in casualties, it is akin to correcting one evil with another evil.

Another school asks, ‘If we intervene here, why not over there also?’ In other words, all dictatorships should be confronted and destroyed. Depending on how one defines “dictatorship,” this would involve military intervention in at one-third of the world.

And of course, there are many variations on these opinions.  To be truthful, we must state that in most instances there are multiple factors to consider.

Panama’s Noriega was more corrupt than brutal, but his brutality was nonetheless considerable.  This combination of brutality and corruption created a potential weakness for the US, which was – and still is – dependent on the Panama Canal to rapidly transfer naval forces. Noriega’s regime allowed drug traffickers safe haven, logistical support and banking services – all for a fee.  Illegal drugs impose a heavy social and financial price on the US. Thus, there were multiple reasons for the US to take action.

In the case of Bosnia/Kosovo, the disintegration of Yugoslavia into multiple state-lets involved the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. It triggered wars based on nationalism and religion that Europe thought it had already rid itself.  There was a perceived potential for similar conflicts to break-out between other states in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Finally, there was the moral dimension: civilians were being rounded up and slaughtered.

Today, there are economic, political, religious and moral factors at work in Libya.  Economies based on natural resources tend to be unbalanced, and create oligarchies that exploit the wealth that is created, furthering the gap between rich and poor. Politically, dictatorships tend to be mercurial in their alliances as their overwhelming concern is to remain in power. They are not wedded to a single political or philosophical goal other than the perpetuation of their rule.

Religious wars have torn at mankind since he discovered God. Or since He created man, depending on your view. In either case, it frees the individual to commit heinous acts against other human beings simply because they do not read from the same Book. Or because they read from the same Book, but choose to interpret it differently.  Regardless, the religious and moral constraints that a religion imposes on its adherents are often tossed aside when dealing with the “non-believer.”

We need to look closely at how the intervention in Libya is being conducted, both militarily and politically.  We need to realize that the various coalition partners have their own motivations in seeing Colonel Gadaffi removed from power.  For some, there are economic benefits to be gained.  For others, political benefits to be had.  And yet for others, this intervention is a holy duty imposed from on High.

In all likelihood, Colonel Gadaffi will be removed from power.  World citizens monitor the conduct of this intervention, both during and after.  They must hold the leaders participating in it accountable.  If there is accountability, Libyans will have a better probability of achieving stability, prosperity and realizing their rights as human beings.  If not, the situation in that country will more than likely resemble that of Afghanistan and Iraq.

March 25, 2011 Posted by | Middle East | Leave a comment

Possibilities and Limitations

Just a few short years ago the term “social media” was only known to a select few in hi-tech start-ups and venture capital firms. Today, it is difficult to tell where the “real world” ends and where cyberspace begins. And vice-versa: often events are planned in cyberspace using Twitter, Facebook and e-mail, the event happens, and it is digitized and uploaded to YouTube and other social networking sites.

Anti-government demonstrators in Iran, Egypt, Jordan and  Tunisia have used social media with varying degrees of success. The results are still uncertain in a number of these countries. Israeli supporters and Palestinian supporters regularly try to match digital wits on Facebook and similar sites. One thing caught my attention, and I bet you’ve noticed it to: people living under authoritarian and totalitarian regimes have used social media to great effect, whereas in liberal democracies its use is more restricted.

Authoritarian and totalitarian regimes control all of the “old school” media: newspapers, radio, television. They censor all of these. They also censor university curricula, limit or outlaw trade unions, co-opt professional unions and even coerce the support of religious institutions. Of course, none of this is news. It is exactly the reason that protesters use the new media: they have nothing else to use.

In Tunisia, the country’s president was forced to flee after ruling for more than two decades. Egypt’s president dismissed his cabinet just hours before I sat down to write this. Jordan’s king is considering dismissing his cabinet. While we still do not know how these events will end.  If new governments are formed, we cannot know whether they will be more responsive to their citizens. Thus, we cannot say with certainty that “social media” are “good” in and of themselves, only that in these instances they were useful.

One must also remember that Iran successfully crushed a pro-democracy movement that was fueled by the social media. It is actually not clear if the demonstrators were pro-democracy or just anti-Ahmadinejad. Apparently, tear gas, bullets and truncheons still have the same affect in “meat space,” regardless of how many friends one has or how many pages one has clicked “Like.” When a regime is dedicated to waging and winning the battle on the streets, social media are as useful as “teats on a bull,” as my Great Grandfather, farmer that he was, used to say.

Liberal democracies by definition have an independent press, judiciary, robust opposition and rule of law. Citizens in liberal democracies are able to choose from a wide range of domestic and foreign news sources, take advantage of a wide-range of civic and political associations. They are able to meet and interact with their elected leaders – and with opposition leaders – freely.

People also have an almost bewildering amount of business, cultural and social choices presented to them via social media. In other words, the political has to compete with the economic, cultural and social. In Israel, the turn-out in the last general election was 65%; three years earlier it was just over 70%; three years before that it was almost 80%. Social media are not responsible for this voter apathy; the blame for that can be laid squarely at the doorstep of Israel’s political parties and their machinations.

Can social media be used to re-kindle interest in the institutions of democracy in a liberal democracy? Many people will no doubt will claim that the “Tea Party” in the US has done just that. However, in addition to there being several socioeconomic factors at work in its formation, the “Tea Party” movement has also benefited great from the coverage given to it by the old media. It has also received begrudging support from the Republican establishment. Thus, the jury is still out.

January 29, 2011 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , | Leave a comment

Floundering

Basically, everyone in the Middle East is floundering right now. Israel has been tarred and feathered for the action of Ehud Olmert & Co. Unfortunately, only Mr. Olmert is currently in the dock – and not for his foreign policy or military blunders. Turns out, in addition to being inept in those two matters, he was a common thief, as well. Unfortunately, his two co-conspirators – the millionaire kibbutznik Ehud Barak and Tzipi “I want to be Prime Minister” Livni – aren’t in the dock with Olmert. These twins of disaster have convinced everyone, everyone except the Israeli electorate, that they are the champions of peace. Meanwhile, Bibi muddles on.

His nemesis in Washington, the cultural Muslim Barack Hussein Obama, has no clue how to get out of the whole he has dug for himself. Lacking any semblance of a coherent policy, he continues to dig deeper. The problem being that the deeper he digs, the harder it is to get out of the whole. In another two years, he will be joining Jimmy Carter on the Wal Mart book tour. In the mean time, George Mitchell seems to be on the way out (health reasons, no doubt – he’s sick of the stupidity at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue) and Dennis Ross will soon be replacing him. Ross wrote a book on the peace process, so no doubt he will be assigning it to all concerned as homework.

And the Palestinians? Hopelessly are hopelessly divided. Abbas bought into Obama’s “get tough with Israel” policy only to discover that Obama really can’t get tough with anyone. Most of the West Bank is for Abbas a no-go zone. He has in effect become his predecessor, holed up in the Muqtada in Ramallah, escaping only long enough to lay cornerstones and Palestinian “embassies” that will never be built in his lifetime. His Gaza-based nemesis is Hamas. They have discovered the joys of capitalism and  malls are springing up everywhere.

There is no movement in sight, nor is there likely to be.  No one is strong enough politically to take on all the other players.  Israel is strong enough militarily to whip the Hamas-Hezbollah-Syria-Iran coalition, but Mr. Netanyahu has found his hands tied by Barack & Livni’s past failures. In all likelihood, he will call for early elections this winter. Obama will see three months lost due to that, followed by another month (at least) during the coalition building. At that point, he will be mired in his own re-election campaign.

January 11, 2011 Posted by | Middle East | Leave a comment

Stuxnet II?

A thought occurred to me, and it must be occurring to the Iranians right now, as well. Siemens developed many of the control systems for the Iranian’s nuclear industry. The same Siemens that has R&D centers in Israel and has acquired Israeli companies.

Could the virus running rampant through Iran’s nuclear industry have been implanted with the knowledge of regional and/or global Siemen’s executives?

Did the teams that wrote the original programming include Israelis? Or was some of the programming outsourced to Israeli companies?

And who is trying to “fix” the problem? More engineers from Siemens, of course! And fixing the problem gives them access to more of the Iranian’s systems.

Perhaps Stuxnet is simply a Red Herring, allowing the installation of an even more powerful virus?

October 1, 2010 Posted by | Middle East | Leave a comment

The Palestinian Price Tag

For several years now, since the first sanctions were imposed on Iran for defying the International Atomic Energy Association’s rules, there has been an on-going discussion of military action. A variety of scenarios have been circulated regarding American and/or Israeli air strikes. Some analysts contend that Iran’s nuclear program is too advanced and too far-flung to destroy. Others contend that it hinges on just a few critical sites. Regardless of the level of success, pundits agree that if Israel attacks Iran, Iran will strike at Israel in response.

If the US is seen as involved, the Iranian response will include the various Gulf kingdoms aligned with the US using missiles, possibly armed with chemical or biological weapons. Others predict that Iran will unleash its puppets, Hamas and Hizbullah, and their arsenals of short-range missile. A regional war involving several countries has been forecast, as well as a global wave of terror. Any combination of these is also possible. The Iranian response will undoubtedly be violent, but it will be brief as it is ineffective.

Any solid military analysis of the situation leads to the conclusion that Israel, acting alone, is capable of inflicting enormous damage on Iran. Using just conventionally armed aircraft and missiles, Israel would be able to destroy at least six critical Iranian nuclear facilities in one blow. It could also inflict heavy damage of Iranian petroleum facilities, further delaying an Iranian rebuilding effort.

Having clearly demonstrated that it is militarily superior to every country in the region, and having destroyed the single existential threat that (currently) exists, Israeli leaders would be hard-pressed to claim any additional security concerns. The price tag of success will be a Palestinian state. And there will be intense international pressure for this to occur immediately.

Without American support, Israel would be diplomatically isolated. Traditionally anti-Israel bodies, such as the UNHRC, would be mobilized to condemn Israel. Claims would be brought to the International Court of Justice. UN Security Council resolution would pile up fast. Various treaties and pacts currently under discussion between Isreal and a host of nations would be shelved, if not scrapped outright. If Israel acts alone, it will need to have the diplomatic muscle of the United States behind it in order to deal with the aftermath.

The US and EU would not be overly concerned with the long-term consequences of either a Palestinian state or how such diplomatic pressure might effect Israel’s geo-strategic psychology. The conflict will have sent oil prices to the $150/barrel range – or higher. Energy shortages will cripple the already sluggish global economy. World financial markets will be in turmoil. The US and EU will act hastily to prevent further economic damage. It will not be a time to worry about demographics, Riparian water rights or political stability (Palestinian).

NATO, perhaps with a token Russian presence, would deploy troops over most of the West Bank as an interim measure, probably within a month of the UNSC imposing a ceasefire on all the belligerents. Israel would withdraw the bulk of its forces, probably over a period of 3 – 6 months. The smaller settlements would be dismantled and their occupants transferred to Israel proper or the so-called large settlement blocs. There may be a token exchange of territories and populations between Israel and the nascent Palestinian state.

What would happen to Jerusalem? That depends on how quickly and quietly Israeli leaders agree to the deployment of NATO troops, removal of settlements and the re-drawing of boundaries. Quick accession to these demands might assure continued Israeli sovereignty over most of Jerusalem, with a minimal international presence with very limited authority. Israeli delay could result in Jerusalem being partitioned.

Israeli leaders face an excruciating dilemma. It is universally agreed that sanctions will not dissuade the Iranians from developing a nuclear capability. Unless publicly forced to face the clearest evidence of Iranian intentions, the Obama administration will not act militarily. Thus, Israel must act on her own.
However, military success will also result in the creation of a Palestinian state that is economically and politically unstable, as well as violent. This is likely to remain the situation for at least a decade, meaning that there will be no “peace dividend” for Israel. The question now becomes, not will Israel act, but when? And have Israeli leaders considered how they – and the citizens of Israel – will contend with the aftermath?

October 1, 2010 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Liberal Thought

Languages are made up of words, and words have meanings. This fact is so obvious that we seldom pay attention to it. Parents are filled with joy when a toddler makes the connection between the sound of a word and the meaning of a word. “Blue” is not just a sound, but also a color, an attribute of something. Yet when they go to work or turn on the television, these same parents are oblivious to the way the meanings of words are shifted and changed. It happens at their place of work, it happens on the radio and television, it happens in the so-called “corridors of power” in which decisions are made affecting their lives and their children’s lives.

If some scholar where to study this issue, no doubt he would discover that those who hold political power (let’s call them “politicians” for lack of a better word) were the first to do this. For most of human history it did not matter whether a politician called said that blue meant red and that red meant blue. The vast majority of people were common laborers, scratching out a living on some small scrap of land. Only with the liberalization politics did the importance of what politicians said and what they meant become significant to the common man.

Liberal politics, in its broadest sense, began to take root in the late seventeenth century. Over the course of two hundred years constitutions were written, the rule of law was established, the franchise was extended to every adult, and various rights – such as freedom of speech, assembly and religion – were guaranteed. Every liberal gain meant the defeat of aristocratic, racial, religious and sexist forms of government. In most of North America, Europe and a scattering of republics throughout the rest of the globe, we take now take liberal government for granted. So much so, in fact, that we willingly allow it to be questioned, willingly allow it to be eroded from under our feet.

How is this possible? It happens because the liberal democracies have willingly ceded their birthright. In exchange for one commodity or another – oil, gold, wheat, bandwidth, the inviolability of corporate logos, votes – liberal democracies (or at least their leading politicians) have allowed the most illiberal political philosophies to gain a foothold in our language. Astonishingly enough, the very people elected to uphold, preserve and protect democracy are often the first to put out the “For Sale” sign. In order to hide what amounts to a betrayal of freedom, politicians shift and change the meanings of words.

Politicians tell us that “our democracy is strong enough to survive any challenge.” Whether the language is Dutch, English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese or Spanish, the same sentenced is uttered over and over again. With this logic in hand, it is easy to say that new citizens who have immigrated from a non-democratic society must be given “the right” to maintain their cultural identity. Of course, those awaiting citizenship must be given the same rights as those who already have attained it by birth or naturalization. And so it goes on and on, with rights and liberties being handed out as if they were peanuts.

What are your responsibilities? What responsibilities do you, as a citizen of a liberal democracy, have to uphold and sustain? Perhaps, first and foremost, is defending the language – the words – of democracy. If this battle is lost, concepts dear to us such as truth, justice, life and liberty will become only so much gibberish.

August 16, 2010 Posted by | Middle East | , , | 1 Comment

The Burden of Power

27 June 2010
Rehovot, Israel

Even as it contends with an economy is recession, a staggering national debt, two active wars and myriad social problems, the United States remains the one country that the world looks to for leadership. America is undoubtedly still the world’s superpower. Of course, such a position has obvious drawbacks. When entering a conflict, be it economic or military, the US is compelled to play the role of referee. It attempts to find the “golden mean” and resolve the dispute as equitably as possible (in most instances). Just as typically, however, neither party to the issue is completely satisfied with the resolution.

So, why does the US bother with these problems? Doesn’t it have enough of its own? Does it really have to go looking for new challenges, especially when the parties to the conflict are not likely to appreciate American interference? There are many reasons that the US involves itself in disputes that seemingly have no relevance to the average American (or average Frenchman, average Indonesian or average Brazilian).

First, as the world’s only superpower, the US is required to involve itself simply in order to prevent other would-be superpowers from stepping up and replacing it. Many would argue that there is no possibility of this. Bear in mind, however, that the US simply did not wake up one morning and to discover that it was a superpower. It was a process that took nearly fifty years. Thus, rather than risk a resurgence of Britain, France or Russia, or risk the emergence of a new “superpower” like Brazil, China, India or Iran, the US is drawn into conflicts not of its making.

Second, after seventy years of superpower status, there are few problems in this world in which the US is not complicit. At one time or another it is has sided either with or against practically every country or region of consequence. It has devoted enormous amounts of diplomatic effort, moral suasion, financial and military support to conflicts in the Europe, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Central America. To be sure, this involvement has not been continuous or consistent. It could easily be stated that it has not even been relatively affective. However, wherever this “Gentle Giant” treads, it has left an indelible mark.

Third, accounting for practically one-quarter of all global economic activity, there are few conflicts that do not have a price tag denominated in dollars. There is not a sector of the American economy that does not touch some distant shore or is touched by it. Even when the proverbial Mom & Pop hardware store faces ruin at the hands of Wal Mart, tool makers from South Korea to Sweden are involved, along with international shipping companies, banks and a host of middlemen, both foreign and domestic.

Fourth, the US has inherited the mantle of “civilization.” When American diplomats and politicians say the word “civilization,” implicit is the concept of “Western Civilization.” Passed down through the centuries from the Greeks, to the Romans, to the European empires, America now bears this burden. “Western Civilization,” at times replaced by the geographically neutral “Free World,” embodies in two simple words a host of cultural, ethnic, economic, moral, political, religious and philosophical assumptions.

These assumptions have informed and guided American foreign policy for over two hundred years, because America is the (now well grown) child of Western Civilization. These are also assumptions that 80% of the world’s people know nothing about, don’t care about, contest and/or despise.

Herein lays the challenge, obviously, for any American president. Equally, this is a challenge for foreign leaders. No matter how close the relationship, no other state has objectives and motivations equivalent to those of the United States. As a consequence, differences over objectives and the means to those objectives are likely to appear now and again, even with allies. When a new American president comes into office with a mandate from the American people for “change,” old alliances and partnerships are tested, even strained.

President Obama has concluded that Americans have tired of bearing the burden of being the world’s policeman (Reason #1, above). To this end, he has attempted to rebuild coalitions that frayed during the Bush presidency and draw regional players into new coalitions. He has also attempted, with limited success, to address some of the grievances that smaller states and (competing) civilizations feel they have suffered (Reason #2, above). The President’s economic program, (Reason #3, above) is an attempt not just to stabilize America, but to stabilize the world. When America sneezes, the world gets pneumonia.

Finally, there is the issue of Barack Hussein Obama himself. His very name is a challenge to the image Americans have held of their country and its role for over two hundred years (Reason #4, above). Many Americans were, and are to this day, disturbed by his early years of schooling. Many Americans were, and are to this day, disturbed by the fact that he could attend a church that preached against America. Many Americans were, and are to this day, suspicious of his New Left agenda. Thus, they rejoiced at his election – not because he overcame their doubts – but, because it proved that the bedrock values of democracy, tolerance and freedom of speech were alive and well.

His name has been a siren’s song for Westernizing elites in developing nations around the world. And therein lays the paradox. Only America could produce a “Barack Hussein Obama,” and non-Western civilizations (Africa, China, Islam and others) recognize this. To acclaim his presidency would be a tacit admission that their civilizations are secondary, if not inferior, to Western Civilization. Thus, despite his best efforts to restore America’s standing in their eyes, his efforts have been rebuffed.

For Obama himself, this must be a great disappointment. Certainly, the professional bureaucrats that toil under one president after another – particularly in the State Department and Defense Department – are frustrated. Obama needs to stick to the fundamentals of ensuring American leadership, revitalizing the American economy, and using American military power sparingly, but overwhelmingly, if need be. Five centuries of European dominance, including the last seventy by America are not going to be forgotten by reverent chanting of “Yes, We Can!”

This posting is a follow-up, of sorts, to “Iran – the next 6 months” that can be viewed at:

https://themiddleeasthotspot.wordpress.com/2010/06/26/iran-the-next-6-months/

I highly recommend you read both postings in conjunction. Thank you!

June 27, 2010 Posted by | Middle East | Leave a comment

Iran – the next 6 months

26 June 2010
Rehovot, Israel

What are the next six months going to bring on the question of Iran’s nuclear development? This brief essay attempts to answer this question from an American geopolitical perspective.

After seven months of painstaking effort, the US built the most tenuous of coalitions and succeeded in passing yet another round of sanctions against Iran. Critics have decried these sanctions as meaningless because they did not target the main source of Iran’s economic power: oil. Having invested the time and effort in building this coalition, the US is not about to undertake any military action, unilaterally or with Israel. Neither is it going to “green-light” independent Israeli action. All other things being equal, the US will work to solidify and strengthen the new sanctions regime. The next six months will see the “Iranian question” pass with relative quiet.

President Obama was not able to build consensus around sanctions targeting the Iranian petroleum industry because tampering with the world’s oil-based economy would have resulted in a tremendous setback to the world economy. This would be more a result of psychological over-reaction in the markets, rather than economic reality. Iran is becoming a progressively weaker player in the global petroleum industry, due to the cumulative affect of previous rounds of sanctions.

However, the US and Europe are still struggling to emerge from the recession that has gripped them since late 2008. Although Iranian oil and natural gas exports (and imports) are a mere fraction of the global petroleum trade, the psychological affect on Western economies would have been severe. In addition, the US (and to a lesser extent, Europe) have non-economic stakes in not pushing the Iranians into a corner too quickly.

The US wants as smooth as exit from Iraq in August, just two months from now, as possible. Sanctions with any more teeth would in all likelihood have prompted the Iranians to activate its proxies in Iraq, making the US withdrawal bloody and domestically disastrous for the Obama administration. With Congressional mid-term elections in November – and the Republicans already likely to win at least one house of congress – a foreign policy debacle in Iraq needed to be avoided.

Likewise, the US and NATO need time to deploy additional forces to Afghanistan and implement new policies there. The resignation of General McChrystal notwithstanding, these policies will take time. Again, if pushed to the wall too soon, Iran would be prompted to up its support for Al Qaeda and Taliban forces. Although these Sunni fundamentalist movements are anathema to the Shi’ite regime in Tehran, the old dictum, “My enemy’s enemy is my friend,” applies.

Iran could certainly attempt to apply pressure elsewhere in the Middle East. It is allied with Syria, and has proxy forces in Lebanon (Hizbullah) and Gaza (Hamas). However, none of these regional players are likely to respond to an Iranian call-to-arms, if pressed by the US. The facts are simple.

• Hizbullah was bloodied by Israel in 2006, although politically the war was seen as a “loss” in wide segments of the Israeli public. In fact, the northern border with Lebanon has been quiet for four years now.

• Hamas was bloodied by Israel over a year ago. Although Israel is still fighting the diplomatic repercussions, it is clear that Operation Cast Lead was an Israeli military victory.

• The conventional thinking on Syria is that if faced with the inevitability of an Iranian defeat at the hands of the US, it too will sit on the sidelines. Noisily, yes, but as long as Israel does not take any action to disturb the status quo the Syrians will loudly decry “American imperialism” in the UN, then hunker down in Damascus.

This brings us to the end of the year. President Obama will be preparing for the 2011 State of the Union address. He will face a Congress whose Republican ranks will have swollen. The applause will be decidedly less deafening than during 2010’s address.

The US will have exited Iraq, although the future there will still be in doubt. More American troops forces will be engaged more deeply in Afghanistan than ever before. The economy will still be in neutral, at best. In January 2011, President Obama will have a choice in front of him. He will either ask the American people (i.e. the business community and Congress) for more time to allow sanctions against Iran to work or tell the American people that they must prepare for a third war in ten years in the Muslim world.

June 26, 2010 Posted by | Middle East | Leave a comment

הדעה המקובלת על איראן

רחובות

צוותי חשיבה, עיתונאים, עורכי עיתונים, אנשי תקשורת אלקטרונית, ואפילו פוליטיקאים, לתרום ליצירת חוכמה המשותף. לעתים קרובות הם בעלי גישה למידע נוסף, מידע טוב יותר, יועצים כדי לנפות את כל זה, אבל רק לעתים קרובות הם בסופו של דבר לייצר את אותה תוצאה. למה זה? זה משום שהם כפופים אותם גורמים שלושה להגביל כי כולנו כפופים.
“החוכמה המקובלת” הוא מונח המשמש לתאר רעיונות או הסברים כי הם מקובלים בתור אמת על ידי הציבור או על ידי מומחים בתחום. למרות שאנו חיים בעידן המידע, קיימים מספר גורמים מחברים כי למעשה מגבילים את מה שאנחנו יודעים על נושא מסוים. בעוד מומחים אולי פקודה יותר של העובדות בנושא מסוים, מומחים אלה חייבים להתמודד עם הגורמים המגבילים אותו.
ראשית, יש נפח עצום של רעיונות, עובדות ודעות על כל נושא שצריך למיין. שנית, אין את הזמן הדרוש כדי למיין את המסה הזו ולאחר מכן להפוך אותו למוצר שימושי. שלישית, ישנם פערים בידע שלנו.
לשעבר שר ההגנה האמריקאי מזוקקים שלושת הגורמים הללו תוך הצהרה תמציתי ב -12 בפברואר 2002, כאשר הוא אמר בתשובה לשאלות על התוהו ובוהו של הכיבוש האמריקני של אפגניסטן:
“יש ידועים. אלה דברים שאנחנו יודעים שאנחנו יודעים. יש ידועים לא ידועים. כלומר, יש דברים שאנחנו כבר יודעים שאנחנו לא יודעים. אבל יש גם לא ידועים לא ידוע. אלה דברים שאנחנו לא יודעים שאנחנו לא יודעים.”
בנוסף קיים גורם רביעי: מה הם לא יכולים להגיד לנו! הנה מה הפוליטיקאים לומר לך – הדעה הרווחת – לגבי השביתה מנע ישראלית על תוכנית הגרעין של איראן, ולמה זה לא בסדר!
חוכמה קונבנציונאלית:
• התקפה ישראלית על תוכנית הגרעין של איראן הוא מסוכן, והוא יכול רק להגדיר בחזרה את מאמציה של איראן בכמה שנים.
האמת:
• ישראל מחזיק בכמות מספקת של יריחו 3 טילים כדי לפגוע לפחות שישה או שבעה מתקני הגרעין של איראן. וזה היה לפגוע קשות בכל אחד מהם, הגדרת התוכנית האיראנית חזרה יותר כמה שנים.
• ישראל גם מחזיק בכמות מספקת של יריחו 3 טילים כדי לפגוע ולהרוס כל שמונה בתי זיקוק נפט באיראן. בלי אלה, האיראנים לא היו קרנות לשקם את מתקני הגרעין שלהם לפחות עשר שנים.
• ישראל היתה גם ההשקה גל של טילי שיוט מצוללות שלה. אלה טילי שיוט היה היעד הפקודה מפתח מרכזי מלאה במשרדי הממשלה, גורמת לבלבול לשבור את התקשורת בתוך איראן.
חוכמה קונבנציונאלית:
• איראן תגיב על התקפה ישראלית בשיגור מאות טילים לעבר ישראל.
האמת:
• יש לאיראן כ 200 טילים, אך רק מחצית אלה המסוגלים להגיע לישראל. בעוד האיראנים כבר פועלים בהתמדה כדי לשפר את הדיוק של הטילים האלה, הם לא מדויקים כמו יריחו 3, ו משיקה נכשלו רבות נצפו על ידי סוכנויות הביון המערביות.
• ישראל יש מערכת נגד טילים המתקדמות ביותר בעולם, מסוגל מיגון המדינה כולה ואת ליירט את מרבית הטילים נכנסות.
• כמו כן, האיראנים חוסר פקודה מלאה מספיק כדי להפעיל בו זמנית את כל אלה טילים, אשר יהיה מרכיב מרכזי בהתקפה נגדית.
חוכמה קונבנציונאלית:
• איראן תפעל לסגור הספנות במפרץ הורמוז, ובכך לגרום מחסור בנפט ברחבי העולם, הכלכלות המערביות משתק.
האמת:
• כן, האיראנים ינסו לעשות את זה. עם זאת, לארה”ב יש מספיק כוח הצי המוצבים כבר באזור לחסל את הצי האיראני בתוך 48 שעות.
• האמריקני ורגולטורים באירופה יכולה להוציא צווי סגירת ספקולציות מוצרי נפט בתוך שעות של תחילת העימות. ללא בשווקים האמריקאי והאירופי, מחירי הנפט יישארו יציבים יחסית.
• סין תסבול נזק כלכלי גדול, כמו זה יש מספר חוזי אספקה ארוכי טווח עבור הנפט האיראני וגז טבעי.
חוכמה קונבנציונאלית:
• בריתו האיראני (סוריה, חמאס, חיזבאללה) היה לפגוע במטרות אמריקאית ישראלית ברחבי העולם.
האמת:
• התקפה מן הסוג שתואר לעיל, שבו מתקני הגרעין של איראן, בתי זיקוק נפט במוסדות המשטר הותקפו בהצלחה, ישלח מסר חזק מאוד לכל בעלי בריתה של איראן. בנוסף, כדאי לשקול את העובדה כי סוג כזה של התקפה יהיה על פחות מ 30 דקות: בשאר אל אסד ילמד ההתקפה המוצלחת מבית וולף בליצר ב CNN!
• נחלש איראן לא תהיה מסוגלת לספק את המנהיגות כי סוריה, חמאס וחיזבאללה דורשים לפעול ביעילות. כל שלושת תפעל כדי לשמר את עצמם. כמה עשרות רקטות קצרות טווח עלול להיות שנורו לעבר ישראל, אבל תגובה ישראלית חזקה צריך לסיים את ההתקפות האלו במהירות בלי עימות אזורי פיתוח.
• אם לא הבחין בכך, הטרור בצורה המודרנית שלו נמשך כבר למעלה מארבעים שנה. זה צפוי להימשך עוד ארבעים שנה. היו כמעט 190 פיגועים בשנה זו בלבד, 70% היו מעורבות רדיקלים האסלאמית.
חוכמה קונבנציונאלית:
• העולם הערבי והמוסלמי תאמין שאמריקה ידעה על הפיגוע מראש, זה יהיה להגדיר את גב היחסים בין העולם הערבי והמוסלמי ובין ארה”ב.
האמת:
• למרות מיטב המאמצים של ברק אובמה, את המאמץ של ארה”ב להשפיע על העולם הערבי והמוסלמי נפל ישר על הפנים שלה!
• איראן דחתה את כל ההצעות האמריקאי לנהל משא ומתן בתום לב. איראן שולטת בלבנון באמצעות סוריה וחיזבאללה. איראן ממשיכה לחמש את חיזבאללה וחמאס.
• עיראקי שיעי מוסלמים עיראקים סונים להמשיך לשחוט אחד אחר.
• הצבא האמריקני הוא עמוק יותר מעורבים באפגניסטן היום יותר מאי פעם, ויש לו רק תוצאות דלות להראות עבור כל המאמצים.
• בסודן ממשיך לנהל מלחמת השמד נגד הנוצרים בדרום סודאן.
• מינהל ברק אובמה הפחיתה ב -50% את כמות המימון שהוא מעניק לקבוצות הדמוקרטיה במצרים – לבקשת ממשלת מצרים!

May 14, 2010 Posted by | Middle East | Leave a comment