We stumbled upon this article, which appeared originally in an Israeli paper we don’t read and hardly ever quote because its view from the left annoys us, and found it interesting.
The shekel is in the news this week because its soaring value is proving to be a problem for Israel’s exporters. Reuters reports that the appreciation is forcing Israel’s foreign customers to pay more for the country’s exports. Some Israeli companies are moving operations overseas to shelter in countries with weak currencies.
Cheer up, I say. Writing from a country that is in the midst of a historic collapse of its currency, I have long since come to the view that a strong currency is better than a weak one. Even better is a currency that has readily exchangeable into gold (or silver) at a legally defined rate. Could it be that Israel is in circumstances in which it could lead the way back to such a system?
No doubt most economists would say no. After all, Israel’s economy, however healthy, is too small to play a leading role on the world stage. I’m less sure of that. It could well be that the relatively modest size of Israel’s economy could give it the agility to make a move where the giants are too timid to tread. It’s not as if the big economies have a lot of credibility left.
This, in my view, is a central lesson of our times. It has been coming into ever clearer view since 1971, when America defaulted on the dollar, closed the so-called gold window, and launched the world into the age of fiat money, meaning money that has no set value in terms of specie — gold or silver — but must be accepted as a matter of law because of governmental fiat. This was known as the Nixon shock.
Nixon brought to an end the international monetary system that has been set up at the end of World War II at Bretton Woods. That was the New Hampshire resort where the victors in the war set up a gold exchange standard. The Bretton Woods Treaty guaranteed the right of foreign governments to redeem their dollars in gold. The system crashed after America pursued a policy of both guns (Vietnam) and butter (the war on poverty),
The scale of the collapse since then has been breathtaking. A dollar that was fixed by law during the years of Bretton Woods at a 35th of an ounce of gold plunged in value to, a year or so back, but a 1,900th of an ounce of gold. It soared something like 46% since then, but is still valued at less than a 1,300th of an ounce of gold. The shekel, meantime, has soared something like 54% from its low in late 2012.
It has taken decades for the size of the catastrophe of fiat money to come into focus. But with the perspective of more than a generation we can see the impact. My own favorite statistic is that the average unemployment rate in America between the end of World War II and the end of Bretton Woods was 4.7%. Since the end of Bretton Woods, the average rate has been 6.4%.
This has been political hell for President Obama and the liberal politicians who think that they can fight unemployment by ballooning up the Federal Reserve’s balance sheets. Meantime, big American corporations are keeping more than $1 trillion overseas for fear of taxes and regulations at home. This is a trap into which Israel, whatever the Bank of Israel might fret, doesn’t want to fall.
Yet it is the trap that is brought to mind by reports like the one Reuters moved (and the New York Times published). The nub of it is that in an effort to dodge the gyrating shekel Israeli companies are moving operations overseas. Small so far, but not a good sign. It raises the question of whether Israel can use its prosperity and the boon that will come from its vast natural gas discoveries to begin laying in gold and silver specie in reserves?
Israel has eschewed such a strategy in the early decades of the modern state, but that’s no reason not to take the lead now.
So the effects on a small country of achieving a strong currency in the midst of world-wide recession are ambiguous. Is it more of an economic blessing or curse? We look forward to our readers’ comments.
In just five years, Barack Obama has succeeded in crippling the American economy and shattering the world order under the Pax Americana.
Americans feel the grave economic effects of his domestic policies more immediately and urgently, but it is the shattering of the world order that will ultimately change their lives for the worse.
President Vladimir Putin found that “he could annex Crimea without firing a single bullet”. He has good reason to think that “he will later be able to do the same with the rest of Ukraine”. But he will probably “wait until the situation worsens and the impotence of the United States and Europe becomes even more obvious”.
That is part of the picture of the crumbling world order, described here by Professor Guy Millière (of the University of Paris), at Gatestone.
[Putin] apparently considers that he has in front of him a weak and declining America. And the general demeanor of the present U.S. administration tends to prove him right. The United States seem in full retreat. U.S. military budgets continue to fall. For the last five years, Barack Obama spoke of “ending” the wars in which the U.S. was involved, and he depends on Russia’s cooperation for further negotiations with Iran, for dismantling chemical weapons in Syria, and for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Putin doubtless thinks that Obama will not enter into an open conflict with Russia. Sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States are insignificant, and Putin has every reason to think they will not increase. …
[He] evidently considers Europe even weaker than America. The way European leaders speak and act shows that he is not wrong. For decades, Western European countries relied on the U.S. defense umbrella; none of them today has an army capable of doing more than extremely limited operations. Their foreign policy positions converge with the Obama administration positions. They all have deep economic and financial links with Russia and cannot break these links. The UK needs the Russian capital invested in the City of London. France cannot cancel its Russian warship contract without having to close its shipyards in Saint Nazaire, and without being confronted with major social conflicts. Germany could not survive long without Russian oil and natural gas. Overall, Russia provides thirty percent of the natural gas consumed in Western Europe. Putin apparently thinks that Europe will not enter into an open conflict with Russia. …
Either the West will stand up to Putin, and it will have to do it fast, or Putin will win. Obviously, Europe will not stand up. Polls indicate that Americans are turning sharply toward isolationism.
Showing his view of the situation, Obama recently said that Russia is nothing but a “regional power”, acting “out of weakness”.
What is Russia’s “region”?
Russia covers ten time zones and has borders with Europe, the Muslim Middle East, China, North Korea, and Alaska.
Yes, Russia has a common border with the United States. The US is in its region.
If massing troops on the borders of Ukraine and annexing Crimea are signs of “weakness,” by its evident impotence, America appears even weaker.
Will Putin be content with annexing Crimea, or even the whole of Ukraine?
Several plebiscites have been held since 2006 in Transnistria, a strip of land between Ukraine and Moldova, and each of them has indicated a willingness to join Russia. Estonia includes a large Russian minority, and Russian leaders in Moscow speak of the need to “protect” the Russian population of Estonia.
Estonia is a member of NATO. If Russia were to attack it, NATO, according to Article 5 of its charter, should defend it with prompt military action. But would it? NATO’s military power is America’s military power. Under Obama,what chance is there that America would go to war in Europe?
The world order built after the Second World War was shaped by America. For almost five decades, its goal was to contain Soviet expansion. In the late 1980s, the Soviet empire collapsed, and another phase began: an arrangement in which America would keep the peace and assure the survival of liberty.
America has apparently abrogated that responsibility.
And if Russia is not deterred, other powers will be encouraged to advance their interests abroad by force.
Rogue leaders around the world are watching and drawing their own conclusions.
[The Iranian Ayatollah] Khamenei sees no reason to stop saying that America is the “Great Satan” and that Israel has to be wiped off the map. China sees no reason to hide its intention to occupy the Senkaku/Diyaoyu Islands. Last week, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un fired six missiles into the sea of Japan. [President] Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela reaffirmed its alliance with Russia and positioned Russian missiles in Caracas.
Guy Millière predicts that the chaos will increase and speed up. He sees disaster coming fast.
If we do not see the Ukraine as a warning signal, we could quickly discover that life could now easily enter the state of nature in Hobbes’s Leviathan: [solitary, poor,] nasty, brutish and short.
A Palestinian Muslim spells out what is wrong with “the Kerry plan” for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It could not be clearer, but we don’t expect Secretary of State John Kerry to understand it. Even if he could and did, we doubt that he’d change or abandon his silly and evil plan, because – plain to see – the intention of Obama and his coven is to destroy the State of Israel.
This is from Gatestone, by Daoud Assaf:
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently warned that “the status quo between Israel and the Palestinians” cannot continue, noting that while there is prosperity and momentary security in Israel, it is “an illusion” that is bound to change if [peace] talks flounder. “The risks are very high for Israel,” Kerry said. “People are talking about boycott. That will intensify in the case of failure. We all have a strong interest in this conflict resolution.”
In short, Kerry is threatening Israel with a boycott and even security unrest if it does not accept the peace plan he says he will deliver in two weeks. Is Kerry actually endorsing the anti-Israeli boycott that delegitimizes America’s only stable and democratic ally in the region? Also, what is the peace plan Kerry is so determined to force on the Israelis and Palestinians?
Kerry’s talk of boycotting Israel comes at a time when the anti-Israeli boycott rhetoric is becoming shrill; one day after Kerry’s talk, two major European banks decided on actions against their Israeli counterparts. Sweden’s Nordea Bank, the largest in Scandinavia, asked for “clarifications” from Israel’s Bank Leumi and Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank regarding their activities in the West Bank. Also Denmark’s largest bank, Danske Bank, said on its website that it was boycotting Israel’s Bank Hapoalim for “legal and ethical” reasons, again in reference to its operations in the West Bank.
Recently, the $200 billion Dutch pension fund PGGM also decided to divest from the five largest Israeli banks, ostensibly because of their involvement in the West Bank.
Kerry’s comments were not only a stab in the back that any country would not expect from its closest ally; they also provided support to the enemies of Israel – such as the smiling, racist members of the European Union.
For decades, the EU and many European nations have been secretly funneling hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ euros to organizations that work towards overthrowing Israel. The EU also, despite mountains of evidence, could not even bring itself to declare Iran’s proxy organization, Hizballah, a terrorist group; and if Iran is legitimized, so probably will be Iran’s other proxy terrorist group, Hamas.
Joining this club of racists is the United Nations, whose record of one-sided anti-Israel hostility is so pronounced that even one of its own translators commented on it. This record not only includes the frequent resolutions condemning Israel, as opposed to any other nations that commit far worse human rights violations than those Israel is [falsely] accused of committing, but also the openly racist Durban Conferences, ostensibly organized to counter racism, but which, as anyone can see, in fact promote it.
The cumulative effect of this pile-on against Israel only provides approval for the enemies of Israel to intensify their attacks — including anti-Israeli boycott, divestment and sanctions [BDS] campaigns — even more.
Kerry, and many others in the West, understand perfectly well that boycotting Israel reduces job opportunities not only for Jews, but also for Palestinians who work for in Israeli factories, farms and settlements, inside Israel as well as in the West Bank. The Palestinians who work there often receive ten times the remuneration, as well as better working conditions, than they would find among their own people, as has been revealed recently by the workers at companies that have actually been building real bridges of peace such as SodaStream, rather than organizations that have been sanctimoniously blowing up the bridges for peace, as Oxfam has. As usual, the Europeans know what will happen if there are fewer ways for the Palestinians to earn a decent living, as they knew when they left all their colonies. … The Europeans evidently care more about flagellating Israel than helping Palestinians. …
The question then arises: Why do those in the West who claim such hand-wringing concern for the Palestinians seek to harm Israeli businesses that offer them jobs? Do they forget that the Arabs refused to accept a partition plan in 1948, and started all subsequent wars to prevent Israel’s existence? Do they think that if Israel just withdraws to the 1967 line that the Palestinians will disregard their Charters, which view Israel as one big settlement and which assume a Palestine “from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea”?
In our view, it is past time that Israel set its borders – and they should be from the river to the sea.
In other words, is the Arab-Israeli Conflict — which it is, far more than a Palestinian-Israeli Conflict — actually about territory, or about the existence of Jews who have come home to the land given to them by the Holy Qur’an, Sura 7 [Al-A'raf; "The Heights"] 137: ” And We made those who had been persecuted inherit the eastern and western lands which We had blessed. Thus your Lord’s gracious promise was fulfilled to the children of Israel, for they had endured with patience; and We destroyed all that Pharaoh and his people had wrought, and all that they had built.”
An interesting quotation that, of a sura that most Muslims seem to ignore.
Of course, even though we Muslims might prefer it if the Israelis were someplace else, as a Muslim, I must ask why are Israelis always found guilty for defending themselves? Could it be that the old, politically-incorrect anti-Semitism has now simply been replaced by a new, supposedly politically-correct anti-Israelism?
Also, what is this peace plan Kerry is so determined to force on Israel?
Kerry’s plan, recently outlined in the media, includes: the division of Jerusalem; Israel’s withdrawal from most of the West Bank, while it would retain control over the largest Jewish settlements there; a land swap to compensate the Palestinians for the settlement bloc [one can only imagine the years of wrangling about what a "commensurate piece of land" would consist of in each instance, thereby perpetuating the conflict a few more millennia]; recognition by the Palestinians of Israel as a “Jewish state”, and compensation for Palestinian refugees who would no longer have a “right of return” to Israel.
But it does not include compensation for the Jews who were expelled from Arab lands or forced to flee, and had all their property confiscated.
In addition, the London-based newspaper, Al-Quds Al-Arabi, reported on January 8, 2014 that Kerry’s plan actually revolved around solving the Palestinian refugees’ problem through “settling them in Jordan under Jordan’s king and granting the king $55 billion for hosting the Palestinians for five decades.”
And where would they go after that, Mr Kerry?
Actually, that is where they belong. Jordan was created to be Arab Palestine by the British. They took some 80% of the Palestine region over which they were granted a mandate by the League of Nations after World War I, and handed it to Emir Abdullah, the Hashemite Sharif of Mecca, to be – as “the Emirate of Transjordan” – an Arab-only area in which no Jews would be allowed to live, although the explicit provision of the Balfour Declaration was that Jews should be “settled closely” on the the land. And it was for that purpose the League of Nations had given Britain the mandate.
A careful look at the [Kerry] plan, however, raises the following issues:
Palestinian Authority President Abbas has already said he would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state. But the real problem is that even if he did, he or his successor could easily change his mind and retract the recognition of Israel after it had already given back the West Bank … as in the time-honored tradition of Hudaibiyya which his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, repeatedly invoked in Arabic to justify signing the Oslo Accords.
“Hudaibiyya,” a footnote explains, “is the story of Mohammed’s promise to the tribe of the Qurayesh in Mecca not to attack for ten years; but after assembling a powerful army, Mohammed returned after three years, conquered the tribe, occupied the city and gave tribes’ members the choice of either becoming Muslims, or leaving their homes and going elsewhere.”
So much for treaties, as can presently also be seen in the ongoing Palestinian abrogations of UN Resolutions 242 and 838, as well as of bilateral agreements between the Palestinian Authority and Israel — again endorsed by Secretary Kerry.
Palestinians also say Abbas does not represent them because he has overstayed his four-year term by six years, and therefore has no legitimacy, or mandate, to sign anything. Abbas would undoubtedly also be regarded by many Palestinian hard-liners as a traitor — as was Egypt’s President, Anwar al Sadat — and almost certainly be assassinated. …
Kerry also wants Israelis, including those who live in settlements, to be surrounded by a Palestinian state. If I were a Jew, I would frankly not want to be living in a tiny country or a settlement surrounded by people who are incited day-in and day-out [by being told that] that their mission in life is to kill you, let alone that the entire country is regarded by many Arabs as one big settlement … It is bad enough when a country — now home to over a million Arabs, who have all the same opportunities as the Jews — is slandered in a lie that it is [an] apartheid [state], but for a new Palestinian state to be legally born [an] apartheid [state], officially free of Jews, after having had to listen to the international community unjustly hurl that word around all those years — seems both legally and morally indefensible.
Last of all, it is important not to forget that historically, whenever Israel gives land for “peace,” as in Egypt, southern Lebanon and Gaza, instead of rewards it gets concussions. …
Despite everything, the Israeli government has recently exhibited a willingness to accept Kerry’s plan.
As a tactic only, we hope.
The Palestinians have, as usual, rejected the plan: senior Palestinian Authority official Yasser Abed Rabbo called Kerry’s plan “Israeli ideas.” In addition, last month, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told an audience at a conference in Munich he could never agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
To this author, Kerry’s peace plan seems to be based on assumptions that are likely not to materialize or … The Palestinians have been offered a state many times since 1947; each time they have rejected the offer. It seems, looked at dispassionately, that they are less interested in having a Palestinian state than in destroying a Jewish state.
At the same time, Kerry’s boycott threats only embolden Israel’s many adversaries, including the Europeans, who seem to enjoy colluding with the Arabs, probably for the money, to launch new BDS campaigns, as they high-handedly compromise the interests and legitimacy of Israel, the only ally on which America can actually depend in the unstable Middle East.
We return to the subject of our yesterday’s post Curious and curiouser. Even our source, DebkaFile, now expresses puzzlement about the story. While it is certain that Israel did intercept and capture a ship carrying Iranian arms, there are things about the event and its aftermath that just don’t add up.
Our sources discount the overblown claims that this unquestioned IDF success in capturing dozens of Syrian-made 302mm rockets carried by the ship saved four million Israelis from attack.
For two years, the IDF refrained from cutting short the incessant stream of mobile Grad rockets and other weapons systems flooding into the Gaza Strip from Libya via Egypt. Those weapons had already imparted to Hamas, Jihad Islami and the al Qaeda affiliates in Sinai the ability to strike Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Rishon Lezion, an ability exhibited during Israel’s 2012 Gaza operation.
Two puzzling questions are raised by the Iranian missile ship episode suggesting that there was more to it than meets the eye.
The capture of a small merchant with a crew of 17 unarmed seamen scarcely warranted a naval commando force of the size employed, especially as it sailed without an Iranian naval escort; nor was there any sign of Iranian naval units based in Port Sudan coming to its rescue.
The original report indicated the size of the force, and the importance attached to the capture:
The operation was carried out under an air umbrella by hundreds of naval commandos without casualties.It was directly commanded by the IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz from high command headquarters and the Navy Chief Maj. Gen Ram Rottberg from a floating command post at sea.
Then there is the second puzzling question, the answer to which would probably explain the first:
It is also strange that, in their comments on the operation, neither Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon nor any Israeli general offered a word of thanks to Washington for its cooperation, after the White House spokesman Jay Carney described how the US military and intelligence had worked with Israel to track the missile ship and were even under orders to arrange its interception, should the Israeli Navy for some reason opt out.
Is this a sign that US cooperation was inconsequential – or even conjured up post factum?
We think it was made up after the event. What we cannot work out is why.
What sense can be made of this story?
Syria flies rockets to Iran: Iran loads them on a ship and sends it sailing down the Gulf, south-west on the Arabian Sea, and north up the Red Sea.
Israel intercepts the ship, commandos board it, find the rockets, re-route the vessel to the Israeli port of Eilat.
Where was it bound for? For whom were the rockets intended? Gaza? How the hell would they get there?
Look at the map showing the path of the arms to the point of interception, search and capture:
Next we are told that the Israelis didn’t accomplish the whole feat alone – gathering the intelligence, setting up the capture. No, suddenly Jay Carney claims that it was a US-Israeli joint venture.
In an unusually frank disclosure, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday night, March 5, that US intelligence services and military had worked with Israel to track the Iranian Panama-flagged ship KLOS C, which was apprehended by Israeli naval commandos on the Red Sea earlier that day carrying missiles for Gaza via Sudan. The ship was boarded by the Israeli elite Shayetet 13 (Flotilla 13) and found to be carrying dozens of 302mm rockets with a range of 150 km made in Syria. It is now on its way to Eilat.
Just how would they get from Port Sudan to Gaza? Through Sinai? Then through tunnels? Isn’t the Egyptian army patrolling Sinai? Hasn’t Egypt closed the arms-smuggling tunnels? Why would Egypt allow arms to reach Hamas, the rulers of Gaza and a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood when the MB is the present Egyptian government’s enemy?
And even more curious, why would Obama suddenly co-operate with Israel against Iran when his whole policy towards those two countries for at least the last four years has been to co-operate with Iran against Israel?
Has he had a sudden change of heart and mind? If so, what will his party, his base, his hurrah-chorus the mainstream media, say to this 180 degree turnabout?
It’s really very hard to believe.
The White House spokesman said that Washington worked with Israeli through intelligence and military channels, and at the national security adviser level, as soon as it knew the shipment was on the move. He said that President Barack Obama also directed the US military to work out contingencies in case it became necessary to intercept the vessel (therebysanctioning military action).
Obama? Military action?
“Our Israeli counterparts ultimately chose to take the lead in interdicting the shipment of illicit arms,” Jay Carney said. …
This was the first time in four years that the US and Israel have collaborated in an operation against Iran – ever since the Stuxnet virus attack in 2010 on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Until now, the Obama administration steadfastly refused to act against Iran for fear of jeopardizing the international diplomatic track for curbing its nuclear program.
The unusual frankness with which the Obama administration announced its coordination with Israel is both dramatic in itself and a road sign pointing the way to a radical change in its Iran policy.
The US and Israel appear to be lining up – in their military policies as well – against the Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah bloc.
This radical turnabout was most probably the high point of the conversation between the US president and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the White House Monday, March 3, after which Netanyahu raised comment by showering Obama with praise during his speech to the AIPAC conference in Washington the next day. …
Whereas Obama had shown impatience, irritation, and antipathy towards Netanyahu in an interview just one day before the meeting.
US and Israeli intelligence sources report that both countries are braced for a swift and stinging response from Tehran … As Carney put it: “We will continue to stand up to Iran’s support for destabilizing activities in the region in coordination with our partners and allies.These illicit acts are unacceptable to the international community and in gross violation of Iran’s Security Council obligations.”
Israel’s elite Shayetet 13 (Flotilla 13) early Wednesday, March 5, boarded [the] Iranian Panama-registered cargo vessel KLOS C. Concealed in its hold under sacks of cement were dozens of 302mm rockets with a range of 150 kms, manufactured in Syria and destined by Iran for the Gaza Strip after being offloaded in Sudan.
The Israeli commandos seized the vessel in open sea on the maritime border of Sudan and Eritrea, 1500 km south of Israel, and have set it on course for Eilat.
Sudan has [become] in the last two years … a major Iranian weapons manufacturing and logistic depot, which supplies Syria, Hizballah and Hamas. Port Sudan is the hub for the smuggling of Iranian arms to various Middle East locations.
The IDF [Israeli Defense Force] said the Iranian missile cargo was destined for the Palestinian Hamas which rules the Gaza Strip. If this is so, it would mean that Iran had gone back to arming Hamas with missiles and rockets after a two-year pause during which the Palestinian extremists were cold-shouldered by Tehran for their animosity to Syria’s Bashar Assad. …
[But] it is hard to believe the Assad would consent to relay Syrian-made missiles to this antagonist.
Some Middle East military sources believe the shipment was not destined for Palestinian terrorists for use against Israel, but rather for Muslim Brotherhood activists fighting the Egyptian army from their forward base in the Gaza Strip.
They don’t rule out the possibility of Al Qaeda affiliates fighting in Sinai as being the address. Western intelligence has recorded instances of Iran entering into ad hoc operational collaboration with al Qaeda elements when it suits Tehran’s book. …
The rockets were flown from Syria to Iran, then loaded on [the] ship where they were concealed under sacks of cement inside containers. From the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, the ship headed into the Red Sea bound for Sudan where it was intercepted by Israeli commandos.
The Iranian arms ship’s progress was tracked all the way.
By Israel, apparently. By the US, easily if that’s what Obama wanted. But why suddenly does he want to “jeopardize the international diplomatic track for curbing Iran’s nuclear program“?
Will Jay Carney, standing there among the flying pigs, do something he has never done before – tell the truth and explain everything?
That’s not very likely, but then much is not very likely in these bizarre events.
We are in principle against intervention in the internal affairs of other countries. But we are not for isolationism or pacifism – we regard either philosophy as a formula for national suicide. If other countries become belligerent, build up their armed strength, send their warships towards our shores, establish bases in countries on our borders, and declare their aggressive intentions towards us, the politics of those countries become our business. That is happening now. We are under threat – because Obama is deliberately weakening America. And his reaction to the result is to weaken America even more.
The conditions for major war develop much more easily when the U.S. is too weak. They are developing as we speak.
To a meaningful extent, the significant increase we’ve seen in unrest around the globe since 2010 has been made possible, and inevitable, by the retraction of American power. Even where we still have power in place, it has become increasingly obvious that we aren’t going to use it.
We quote from a website interestingly named Liberty Unyielding. The article on the extreme folly of the Obama administration’s moves to weaken America is by Commander Jennifer Dyer, now retired from the US navy. (Her own blog is at Theoptimisticconservative.wordpress.com):
The collapse of order in the Arab nations in 2011 was the first significant stage of the process. The perception that the United States would do nothing about a Hezbollah coup in Lebanon was tested in January of that year. The perception proved to be true, and when protests erupted in Tunisia and Egypt, for causes both natural and manufactured, a set of radical Islamist actors – the “establishment” Muslim Brotherhood, Sunni jihadists, Iran – saw an opportunity. The establishment Muslim Brotherhood has largely won out in Tunisia, but the battle still rages among these radical actors for Egypt, Syria, and now Iraq. Lebanon is being incrementally sucked into the maelstrom as well.
In multiple venues, Russia has watched the U.S. and the West effectively back Islamists in Russia’s “near abroad”: in Turkey (with support for the now struggling Erdogan government); in the Balkans, especially Bosnia and Kosovo; and in Syria. …
There was a time when the implicit determination of the U.S. to enforce the “Pax Americana” order – the post-World War II alignments of the region – held Russia in check. The Russians still derived some security benefit from that order, after all … It appears to me, however, that 2014 will be the year in which it becomes clear that, according to Russians’ perception, they no longer benefit from the old order. If we’re not going to enforce it, Russia will do what she thinks she has to.
In fact, Moscow’s pushback against the plan for Ukraine to affiliate with the EU constitutes just such a blow for perceived Russian interests. It is of supreme importance for Westerners to not misread the recent developments. The EU and the U.S. did back down when Russia pushed hard last fall. The only ones who didn’t back down were the Ukrainian opposition. I predict Vladimir Putin will try to handle the opposition factions cleverly, as much as he can, and avoid a pitched battle with them if possible. He respects what they are willing to do. But he has no reason to respect Brussels or Washington.
And that means he has more latitude, not less, for going after the regional props to the old order, one by one. As always, Russia’s inevitable competition with China is a major driver, along with Russia’s concern about Islamism on her southern border. The whole Great Crossroads – Southwest Asia, Southeast Europe, Northeast Africa, the waterways that snake through the region – is, if not up for grabs, at least in ferment. Look wherever you like: there are almost no nations where there is not a very present menace from radicalism, or where governments and even borders are not gravely imperiled by internal dissent.
Israel is the chief standout for politically sustainable stability and continuity. Romania and Turkey seem likely to at least retain their constitutional order in the foreseeable future, but Turkey’s geopolitical orientation, in particular, is less certain. Greece and Kosovo – even Bosnia – have serious internal problems. Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia all remain in crisis at various levels. Jordan and Saudi Arabia are relatively stable, and the Arab Persian Gulf states relatively so as well. But their neighborhood is going downhill fast. Iran is riding a wave of radical confidence, and the Taliban are resurgent in Afghanistan.
In this tumultuous region, it’s actually a little funny that Pakistan looks stable and staid compared to Iran, Afghanistan, and neighbors west. We can hope that Islamabad’s perceived need to maintain a symmetrical stance against India will keep Pakistan’s loose federation of intransigents federated, and the nukes under central control. But as we move across South Asia, we near another boiling pot. Thailand – long an American ally and pillar of stability in the region – has been rocked in recent months by national unrest of a kind not seen in Southeast Asia for decades. Islamist radicalism is a growing threat in Indonesia, and an unpacified one in the Philippines, after more than a decade of U.S.-Philippines collaboration in fighting it.
And, of course, China is making real, transformative moves against regional security with her proclamations about air space and maritime rights off her southeast coast.
This disruptive process, like the battles for many of the Arab nations, is already underway. We’re not waiting for something to happen; it’s started.
China assumes, quite correctly, that there will be no effective pushback from the United States. But two other nations with power and means will regard it as intolerable for China to dictate conditions in Southeast Asia: Japan and Russia. The dance of realignment among these nations has implications for everyone in Central Asia and the Far East. The day may be on the horizon sooner than we think when maintaining a divided Korea no longer makes sense to at least one of the major players. The day is already here when Chinese activities in Central Asia are alarming the whole neighborhood, just as Chinese actions are in the South China Sea. …
Russia and Iran are advancing on the US through Central America:
It’s no accident that as radical leftism creeps across Central America (falsely laying claim to a noble “Bolivarian” political mantle), the maritime dispute between Nicaragua and American ally Colombia heats up – and Russia shows up to back Nicaragua and Venezuela – and so does Iran – and unrest turns into shooting and government brutality and violence in Venezuela – and Hezbollah shows up there to openly support the radical, repressive Maduro government.
Now Iran has a naval supply ship headed for Central America, very possibly with a cargo of arms that are not only prohibited by UN sanction, but capable of reaching the United States if launched from a Central American nation or Cuba.
We’re not still waiting for the shocks to start to the old order. They’ve already started. I haven’t surveyed even the half of what there is to talk about …
She looks at the latest defense cuts with dismay and considers what the consequences will be:
This is the world in which the United States plans to reduce our army to its lowest level since before World War II, and eliminate or put in storage much of its capabilities for heavy operations abroad (e.g., getting rid of the A-10 Warthogs, moving Blackhawk helicopters into the National Guard). It’s in this world that DOD proposes to cease operating half of our Navy cruisers, while delaying delivery of the carrier-based F-35 strike-fighter to the Navy and Marine Corps. These cutbacks come on top of cuts already made to training and maintenance expenditures in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force that will affect unit readiness for years to come. …
Then comes what should be a shocking observation:
By cutting back on defense so drastically, America is deciding, in essence, to “fight fair”: to give whatever opponents emerge more of a chance to kill our soldiers, damage our interests, and drag out conflicts. …
That would be hard to believe of any American leadership – until now. It is ludicrous. Worse, it is lunatic. But Obama has never concealed or disguised his wish to weaken America’s military capacity.
The decision “to further limit our capabilities to use power in politically relevant ways” will result in “even more global unrest: more conflict, more shooting, more blood, more extortion and political thuggery menacing civil life in the world’s poorer and more vulnerable nations”, and that cannot be good for America. The point is that -
These unpleasant trends will spill over into civil life in the wealthier nations soon enough …
As it has, she points out, in Ukraine, Thailand, and Venezuela, “whether directly or through second-order consequences”.
Peace and freedom have to be tended constantly; they are not the natural state of geopolitical indiscipline, but its antithesis. …
We’re extraordinarily unprepared for the world that is shaping up around us. …
[And] a world that doesn’t want quiescent trade conditions, tolerance of dissent, the open flow of ideas, and mutual agreements, peacefully arrived at, will not have them.
That’s the world we are sentencing ourselves, for now, to live in. Perhaps we will learn from the consequences how to think again: about what it takes to guard freedom, and indeed, about what freedom actually is.
It is Obama who needs to think again, but there is no reason to hope that he will. It could hardly be more obvious that he does not care for freedom.
Have you wondered why Muslim terrorists in Nigeria, calling themselves Boko Haram (which means “book-learning, ie Western education, is against the will of Allah and so is forbidden”), are slaughtering Christians, hacking them to death with machetes, gunning them down, throwing their children on to bonfires, by the hundred, by the thousand, and – they intend – by the million?
The explanation is given in an article by Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch:
Jama’atu Ahlus Sunnati Lidda’awati Wal Jihad [the official name of Boko Haram] means “the Party of the People of the Sunnah for Dawah and Jihad”.
[It's leader] Shekau clearly is motivated entirely by Islamic principles, and he thinks shedding Infidel blood is a pleasure, that democracy is incompatible with Islam, and that he and his group must commit murder until Islamic law is established in Nigeria.
Where did he get these ideas? What programs do mosques and Islamic schools in the West have in place to teach against this understanding of Islam they ostensibly reject? Why, none. Now, why is that?
Spencer quotes Ameh Comrade Godwin’s transcription from a video, at the Daily Post:
Leader of the Jama’atu Ahlus Sunnati Lidda’awati Wal Jihad (otherwise known as Boko Haram), Abubakar Shekau, has vowed to launch more attacks on Nigeria and Nigerians.
This is coming barely 73 hours after its members wasted lives in renewed attacks in Adamawa and Borno States.
He said the state of emergency currently imposed on Adamawa, Borno and Yobe State would not prevent them from carrying out their attacks.
Shekau called on his members in other states, particularly Kano, to attack civilians and government institutions.
The full text of his 28-minute video, delivered in Hausa, reads thus:
My brethren, you should hold on to your weapons and continue fighting. Let them understand that our work is not confined to Yobe, Borno and Adamawa [states]. Make them understand that we are not restricted by emergency rule. They should understand we are under the canopy of Allah. This is the beginning. Yes, this is the beginning. We, Jama’atu Ahlus sunnati Lidda’awati Wal Jihad, are fighting Christians wherever we meet them and those who believe in democracy, those who pursue Western education wherever we meet them. By Allah, we will kill whoever practices Democracy. And you the infidels of Rivers state, Niger (Delta), the town of [President Goodluck] Jonathan, Shekau is talking to you. Shekau is talking to you, that small boy that has become the nightmare of infidels is talking to you. Oh you the leader of the Niger Delta, you will soon see your refinery destroyed. You will in the incoming days see your refinery you are boasting about bombed. Our refinery is Allah. Niger-Delta you are in trouble. Jonathan you are in trouble. Banki Moon [Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the UN] you are in trouble. Benjamin Natanyahu you are in trouble. Queen Elizabeth, you are in trouble. Babangida, Kwankwaso, Shekarau, Kashim, Buhari, you are in trouble. Yahaya Jingir, the cleric of Jos, the advocate of ‘Boko Halal’ ['Book-learning is blessed and permitted'], right? We are Boko Haram, you are Boko Halal. You will see, bastard. We killed Albani of Zaria. We killed Albani of Zaria. Shekau killed Albani of Zaria.Tomorrow he will kill Jingir, the day after tomorrow he will kill Dapchia, the next day he will kill Wapchama, next he will kill Shehu of Borno, Ado Bayero. We rebel against you, between us and you is enmity and rancor until you believe only in Allah. This is from the Qur’an, in which Abraham says to his pagan relatives: “We have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred for ever, unless ye believe in Allah and Him alone” (60:4). The reason why I will kill you is you are infidels, you follow Democracy. Whoever follows Democracy is an infidel. This is Shekau, this is why I’m in enmity with you. Buhari is an infidel, Babangida is an infidel, Atiku is an infidel, late Yar’adua was an infidel, Shehu of Borno is an infidel. You are all infidels. What makes you infidels is Democracy and constitution and western education. I therefore call on brethren in Kano to rise up and replicate the Baga attack. All these infidels we are the ones killing them. We enjoy shedding their blood. The Koran must be supreme, we must establish Islam in this country, not only in Borno. We will henceforth destroy any schools wherever we see them.
You see now? Perfectly clear, isn’t it? It’s because of the religion.
Islam requires literacy to be stamped out. The world will then be the good place Allah wants it to be.
So stop carping about those dismembered bodies, those burnt babies, the pools of blood in those churches and villages.
Or are you – ugh! – an Islamophobe?
News just in Wednesday 2/26/2014 – Reuters reporting :
Gunmen from Islamist group Boko Haram shot or burned to death 59 pupils in a boarding school in northeast Nigeria overnight, a hospital official and security forces said on Tuesday.
“Some of the students’ bodies were burned to ashes,” Police Commissioner Sanusi Rufai said of the attack on the Federal Government college of Buni Yadi, a secondary school in Yobe state, near the state’s capital city of Damaturu.
Schoolboys, all of them.
You may find it hard to believe this, but Secretary of State John Kerry’s ”peace talks” for Syria have failed.
This is from the (Kerry-sympathetic) New York Times:
The first round of the Syria peace talks ended on Friday without achieving even its most modest goal: easing the Syrian government’s blockade on the delivery of food and medicine to besieged communities.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia raised expectations in January at a joint news conference in Paris that a way would be found to open humanitarian aid corridors and possibly establish local cease-fires in Aleppo and other cities and towns.
But to the dismay of the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations, even those basic steps proved elusive.
What a surprise!
Now what? Can anything at all be done for non-combatant victims of the Syrian civil war?
There is this:
Physicians for Human Rights urges Israel to allow wounded Syrian refugees to stay for continued care.
Wounded Syrians are treated at this Israeli field hospital on the Golan Heights. Photo: REUTERS
Humanitarian help pleaded for from the “Nazi-like”, “apartheid state” of Israel?
This is from the Jerusalem Post:
With the collapse of peace talks on Friday between President Bashar Assad’s regime and the opposition, the prospect of more wounded Syrians seeking treatment and refuge in Israel will continue to rise.
UN special representative Lakhdar Brahimi delivered a harsh verdict for Syrian civilians confronted with spectacular levels of violence: “We’ve had just eight days of negotiations in Geneva…. I’m sorry to report there was no progress.”
The Jerusalem Post obtained Israel Health Ministry correspondence showing the tensions and dilemmas among medical professionals and advocates for the refugees.
In one letter from the ministry, the agency defended its care of Syrians, but added that “the medical establishment does not have the tools to ensure continuity of care after discharge, nor to protect patient from risk to his life.”
The NGO Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)-Israel has urged Israeli governmental agencies to ensure “availability of continuity of care” following the discharge of hospitalized Syrians.
Israeli medical centers, including a military field hospital in the North, have provided healthcare services to roughly 700 refugees since 2013. The Post reported last week the first known case of a Syrian – a 17-year-old female – requesting asylum. The High Court of Justice rejected her petition and sent her back to Syria in late January. All of this helps to explain the growing involvement of Israel’s legal and medical personnel on the edges of the Syrian civil war.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 136,227 people have been killed since protests broke out against Assad in 2011. More than 2.4 million Syrians are defined as refugees.
Yossi Melman, a leading national security analyst who has written extensively about Syria, told the Post, “Zionism would not collapse if we accept 200 refugees. Why not?’”
Only 200? And then stop? The population of Syria is about 22 million.
Hadas Ziv, public outreach director for PHR-Israel, told the Post last week that Israel should press the UN to set up a safe haven in Syria, near the Israeli border, to create a humanitarian escape corridor.
Gerald Steinberg, a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, told the Post that the Syrian refugee crisis is “another example of the bankruptcy of the international humanitarian system.” There is “no UN mechanism” to address the problem, he stressed. The UN is “entirely politicized and has nothing to offer.”
Steinberg, who has an expertise in the inner workings of NGOs in the Middle East, said the Syrian refugee situation “leaves Israel completely on its own without the capacity to deal with the issues in a coherent manner. Israel would not get international assistance [even] if it would increase aid.”
Israel is in a “very complex position,” because it is technically in a state of war with Syria and the potent presence of al-Qaida there has added another threat, he said.
Well, maybe John Kerry will come up with a solution.
The war 5
Among the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls there is one titled The War of the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness.
It is a perpetual war: Good against Evil.
It is fought in most of the world’s mythologies, and in almost all of them Good will win in the end. (The exception is that of the Norsemen. They foresaw the triumph of Evil.)
Dennis Prager, writing at Townhall, describes how the two sides of the conflict appear to him now:
In both personal and public life, you can know a great deal about a person or a group if you know what most bothers them – and what doesn’t bother them.
A news item this past week made this point with glaring clarity. It reported a meeting that the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights had on Friday. Before revealing the subject of that meeting, let’s review for a moment what is happening in the world …
North Korea continues to be an affront to the human species. That North Korea, whether or not it had nuclear weapons, is not a central concern is an indictment of humanity.
That the West, with the noble exception of Canada under Stephen Harper, is appeasing the dictators of Iran, is an indictment of the West.
Add to this list the U.N.’s and the world’s ignoring of the Chinese government’s continuing suppression of all dissent and its decades-long violent eradication of Tibet’s unique and ancient culture.
Then add the slaughter of millions in Congo over the last decade, the 100,000-plus killed in Syria just last year, most of them civilians killed by their own government, and the blowing up, burning alive, and throat-cutting of untold numbers of innocent people by violent Islamists on a daily basis.
In other words, if what bothers you most is evil – the deliberate infliction of cruelty on people by people – North Korea, Congo, China, Syria and radical Islam will bother you more than anything else on the world scene.
So, then, what was the subject of the meeting convened Friday by the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights?
The alleged racism of the name of the National Football League’s Washington team, the Redskins.
That’s right. All these horrific evils are happening as you read this, and … the United Nations had a meeting about the name Washington Redskins.
The U.N. is not alone in paying undue attention to the Redskins’ name. The left in the United States is nearly obsessed with it. President Barack Obama has spoken out against it. The Washington Post editorial board has demanded that the team drop the name. In the herd-like way that governs media, innumerable columnists and sports writers have written passionate columns against the name, and increasing numbers of sports writers have vowed to never again write or speak the name.
This left-wing obsession with a non-evil exemplifies the left’s moral universe. That universe is preoccupied with lesser evils while nearly always ignoring the greatest evils.
Preoccupation with real evil is the greatest difference between right and left. The right was preoccupied with fighting Communism while the left … was preoccupied with fighting anti-Communists.
The right today is preoccupied with fighting Islamism; the left is preoccupied with fighting “Islamophobia.”
One way of putting it is that the right is preoccupied with fighting evil and the left is preoccupied with fighting those who fight evil.
The right is preoccupied with defending Israel against those who wish to annihilate it. The left is preoccupied with Israeli apartments on the West Bank.
This difference was made manifest last week in the address given by the one world leader to exemplify the right’s preoccupation with evil, Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper. Talking about all the condemnations of Israel, Harper said:
“Think about the twisted logic and outright malice behind that: a state, based on freedom, democracy and the rule of law, that was founded so Jews can flourish as Jews, and seek shelter from the shadow of the worst racist experiment in history, that is condemned, and that condemnation is masked in the language of anti-racism. It is nothing short of sickening.”
Yes, but the writer does not go nearly far enough. The Left is not merely preoccupied with fighting those who fight evil, it is occupied with doing evil. The Left is in alliance with Islam. Its (bewilderingly unintelligent) intelligentsia invent a fake need to “save the planet” from “climate change” as an excuse to advance their own tyrannical rule, reduce population, and impoverish and destroy civilization.
And where are our warriors of the Right to stop them? Let’s see: there’s Stephen Harper and … Well, a few more names may spring to mind. And we do have the immense power of Reason on our side.
Which side is winning, would you say?
“Racism” – an infinitely elastic term – is by far the very worst crime any human being can commit according to the Left.
There is one exception, however. Essential as it is to strive (hopelessly if you’re a white person, not too hard if you’re anything else) not to be racist, it is compulsory to hate Jews. Though you mustn’t call them that. You must call them Israelis or Zionists. And hating them isn’t enough. You must work actively for their destruction.
Why, you ask? Isn’t it obvious? Because Israel is an apartheid state, Israelis are Nazis who colonized the long-established independent state of Palestine, and Jews are carrying out savage acts of terrorism on every inhabited continent, and threatening to take over Europe and the world. While the Muslims – pacific and tolerant even though they’ve been horrifically persecuted for hundreds of years – are making huge contributions to humanity, especially through Science, so winning Nobel Prizes out of all proportion to their tiny number.
This is from Front Page, by Caroline Glick:
The main foreign policy issue that galvanizes the passions and energies of the committed American Left is the movement to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist.
This week has been a big one for the anti-Israel movement. In the space of a few days, two quasi academic organizations – the American Studies Association [ASA] and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association – have launched boycotts against Israeli universities. Their boycotts follow a similar one announced in April by the Asian Studies Association.
These groups’ actions have not taken place in isolation. They are of a piece with ever-escalating acts of anti-Israel agitation in college campuses throughout the United States.
Between the growth of Israel Apartheid Day (or Week, or Month) from a fringe exercise on isolated campuses to a staple of the academic calendar in universities throughout the US and Canada, and the rise of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement to wage economic war against the Jewish state, anti-Israel activism has become the focal point of Leftist foreign policy activism in the US and throughout the Western world.
Every week brings a wealth of stories about new cases of aggressive anti-Israel activism. At the University of Michigan last week, thousands of students were sent fake eviction notices from the university’s housing office. A pro-Palestinian group distributed them in dorms across campus to disseminate the blood libel that Israel is carrying out mass expulsions of Palestinians.
At Swarthmore College, leftist anti-Israel Jewish students who control Hillel are insisting on using Hillel’s good offices to disseminate and legitimate anti-Israel slanders.
And the Left’s doctrinaire insistence that Israel is the root of all evil is not limited to campuses.
At New York’s 92nd Street Y, Commentary editor John Podhoretz was booed and hissed by the audience for trying to explain why the ASA’s just-announced boycott of Israel was an obscene act of bigotry.
Many commentators have rightly pointed out that the ASA and the NAISA are fringe groups. They represent doctorate holders who chose to devote their careers to disciplines predicated not on scholarship, but on political activism cloaked in academic regalia whose goal is to discredit American power. The ASA has only 5,000 members, and only 1,200 of them voted on the Israel- boycott resolution. The NAISA has even fewer members. It would be wrong, however, to use the paltry number of these fringe groups’ members as means to dismiss the phenomenon that they represent. They are very much in line with the general drift of the Left. … While the ASA and its comrades are on the fringes of academia, they are not fringe voices on the Left. The Left has embraced the cause of Israel’s destruction.
Rejecting Israel’s right to exist has become part of the Left’s dogma. It is a part of the catechism. Holding a negative view of the Jewish state is a condition for membership in the ideological camp. It is an article of faith …
Consider the background of the president of the ASA. Curtis Marez is an associate professor in the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of California, San Diego. His area of expertise is Chicano Film and Media Studies. He doesn’t know anything about Israel. He just knows that he’s a Leftist. And today, Leftists demonize Israel. Their actions have nothing to do with anything Israel does or has ever done. They have nothing to do with human rights. Hating Israel, slandering Israel and supporting the destruction of Israel are just things that good Leftists do.
And Marez was not out of step with his fellow Leftists who rule the roost at UCSD. This past March the student council passed a resolution calling for the university to divest from companies that do business with Israel. Why? Because hating Israel is what Leftists do. …
Challenging the likes of Marez, or the Swarthmore students … to a reasoned debate is an exercise in futility. They do not care about human rights. They do not care that Israel is the only human rights-respecting democracy in the Middle East. … Being hypocrites doesn’t bother them either.
You can talk until you’re blue in the face about the civilian victims of the Syrian civil war, or the gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia and the absence of religious freedom throughout the Muslim world. But they don’t care. They aren’t trying to make the world a better place.
Facts cannot compete with their faith. Reason has no place in their closed intellectual universe. To accept reason and facts would be an act of heresy.
The religion of Christianity began by plundering and anathematizing the religion of Judaism, and became a menace to the Jews. The religions of Islam and Socialism plundered and anathematized both, and menace all of us.
Religion is a self-imposed curse on humankind.