Richard Nixon Sabotaged Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam Peace Talks

JohnsonLyndon1

Would people view President Johnson more favorably if they knew this story?

In spite of the Vietnam mess of which Johnson was obviously a major player, I think he was a great president and am disappointed in the low esteem in which many hold him. I despised Vietnam as a kid and still do, but there is more to a man than that disaster. How about civil rights, voting rights, fair housing, Medicare, anti-poverty legislation like Medicaid, Head Start, food stamps, and work study, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, the Public Broadcasting Service, promotion of science including our first trip to the moon (started by Kennedy, finished by Johnson), immigration reform/liberalization, massive aid for education, among others?

That’s quite a list.  However, this sordid tale of Nixon’s misdeeds makes Johnson even more appealing.

http://consortiumnews.com/2014/02/16/does-nixons-treason-boost-lbjs-legacy/

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Laurence Kant
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Peace Protesters Sentenced to Excessively Long Terms

ProtestersNuclear

I am certainly not a pacifist and would not agree with the protesters on several matters. This includes the notion that we can just unilaterally stop having nuclear weapons or that we should stop using drones.

Further, I expect protesters engaging in civil disobedience to be willing to accept reasonable punishment (which apparently these ones are). These sentences, however, seem retributive and excessive. How do we put individuals like this away for so long when we allow CEO bankers who have engaged in presumably criminal activity and thereby done infinitely more damage to millions of people and to the well-being of our nation and world to go scott-free? Not only do they have their freedom, but they even get to dine and schmooze with leading politicians, including the president, and other glitterati. There’s something wrong here.

Perhaps the government was simply embarrassed by their incompetent and ineffective security around the most powerful weapons in the world.

In any case, we apparently have a two-tiered society: one for the privileged, and one for the rest of us. This will have to change for us to meet our ideals.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/3-peace-activists-sentenced-for-breaking-into-nuclear-site/2014/02/18/13a6bb7a-9815-11e3-afce-3e7c922ef31e_story.html

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Laurence Kant
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Israeli Election: Western Media Doesn’t Get It

Most U.S. newspapers, like the New York Times article below, have never really gotten it and still don’t get it. This is NOT only about Netanyahu. And it’s NOT just “kitchen-table” issues, a patronizing phrase that smacks of elitism and intellectual snobbery.

This is about studio apartments that cost $500,000 dollars. This is about the Ultra-Orthodox who don’t serve in the IDF and the rest of the population that does. This is about welfare for corporations and for the ultra-Orthodox who live off the hard work of the middle class. This is about a government fixated on Iran while ignoring the economic plight of its own citizens. This is about unemployment and youth who have limited prospects. This is about religious bullying and extremism. This is about a minority of settlers who put at risk the majority of Israelis just trying to live their lives. This is about the vast majority of Israelis from left to right who believe that Palestinians have no interest in peace, but who still place hope above despair.

Israelis do care about serious issues. The issues above are serious. Just because Israelis are not only focused on borders and negotiations, as we are when it comes to the Middle East, does not mean that they are superficial or materialistic consumers. Israelis have a right to live their lives without others imposing their social, political, and religious preconceptions on them.

We in North America and Europe love to babble on (including me) about the prospects for peace, about the children of Abraham, about Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations, about the Bible, about oil, about democracy in the Middle East, and so much more. However, Israelis want to be able to have normal, healthy, fulfilling lives. This elections says to the Israeli government: you have to pay attention to the middle class and stop focusing on everyone and everything else but us. Without a middle class and without working people, there is no Israel. Peace starts at home.

Tepid Vote for Netanyahu in Israel Is Seen as Rebuke

By JODI RUDOREN – New York Times Online 1-23-13

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is likely to serve a third term, but voters gave a surprising second place to a centrist party founded by a celebrity who emphasized kitchen-table issues.

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An Israeli Political Earthquake: Election 2013

I don’t know if you saw this, but there was an electoral earthquake in Israel yesterday. Netanyahu is in trouble, and the election at this time is a 60-60 tie in the Knesset between right and left. Yair Lapid (leader of centrist and economically focused Yesh Atid) is king-maker with 19 seats. Netanyahu may still remain as prime minister, but it will be a much more centrist political landscape than before.

It rarely has happened in recent Israeli history (once under a Sharon government in 2003, but there is a real chance now of a government without the ultra-Orthodox (who only constitute 10% of the total population), if Likud/Yisrael Beteinu, Yesh Atid, Labor, Hatnua, and Kadima (probably not Meretz) join to form a government. (Habayit Yehudi is also a possibility, as they are modern orthodox, but they’re also far-right nationalists). Since everyone hates each other, that may not occur, but the possibility itself is a significant development whatever mess may ensue.

What people in the U.S. don‘t realize is that Israelis do not vote solely (or even primarily) on peace/war issues, but economics and religion-state issues are just as important to them. When it comes to the Middle East, we may only care about foreign policy, but Israelis (like Americans, and Arabs too by the way) are worried about their economic futures and their freedoms. Lapid won because people are sick of the ultra-Orthodox military exemptions and the crushing of the middle class by corporations and government expenditures on the fanatically religious. No one predicted this would happen, but secular voters, increasing numbers of moderately religious, and young people showed up in unexpected quantities (sound familiar). The polls were wrong, because they only used landlines and missed the cell-phone youth vote.

I know I’m surprised–and relieved. A new generation is beginning to assert itself in Israel. We‘ll see if they can help to manage the pandemonium about to ensue.

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Superhero Charlatans


SuperheroCharlatans1

An excellent article that illustrates our penchant for glorifying Gatsbyesque charlatans:

http://nymag.com/news/frank-rich/david-petraeus-2012-12/#print

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Hacking the Human Brain

HackingBrain

A brave new world for the military and the humanity:

http://www.wired.com/opinion/2012/12/the-next-warfare-domain-is-your-brain/

 

Researchers are also looking into how to hack the brain for private data:

HackingBrainPrivateData1

 

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/08/brainwave-hacking/

 

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The Middle East and the Israeli Political Scene

THE MIDDLE EAST AND THE ISRAELI POLITICAL SCENE

Laurence H. Kant

Thomas Friedman is right on the mark in this recent New York Times article, “The Full Israeli Experience,” describing (on the one hand) the justifiable frustration Israelis have with left-wing Europeans who don’t understand what it’s like to live in the Middle East and (on the other hand) pointing out the depressing absence of significant political support for peace initiatives among Israeli parties and political leaders.

As Friedman explains, Israelis will not listen if you don’t demonstrate you have a clue as to what’s going on in the Middle East. In my view, most left-wing Europeans–and some left-wing Americans as well–haven’t got the foggiest idea. They just don’t. They live in la-la land without a meaningful sense of the history of the Middle East or of Jews (or of Arabs and Muslims for that matter). Further, their own self-confidence leads them to think that they are somehow exempt from the prejudice and antisemitism that so deeply inhabits their being. They are just too arrogant and self-righteous to see it.

I would add, however, that Israelis are themselves naive at times. They think the US religious right is on their side, and they’re wrong. As some have said, fundamentalist Christians may love Israel, but they don’t like Jews much. Or maybe they like Jews from the “Old Testament” (as they envision it), or if Jews look funny in black hats from another time. However, such Christians are not very comfortable with mainstream Jews (secular, Reform, Conservative, and some Modern Orthodox, among others) who participate in global society, wear modern clothing, and constitute the vast majority of worldwide Jewry. Many millennarian Christians are not that different from the Palestinians in an odd sort of way. The PLO and Hamas are ok with the state of Israel as long as it’s inhabited by Arabs and Muslims. These evangelicals just replace “Arabs” and “Muslims” with “Christians” (after Jews convert, and Israel becomes a Christian state in the millennial age). Other evangelicals just want all Jews to convert to Christianity. Nobody, it seems, can envision Israel as Jewish, or can see Jews as staying Jewish, much longer. Apparently that concept is verboten.

The Middle East climate is rough right now, with the Arab/Muslim world in a whirlwind of tumult. In the midst of that, Israeli politics is more confused and chaotic than usual, an environment that is, to put it simply, a crazy mess (a mischigoss, balagan).

The main thing Bibi Netanyahu seems to care about is winning elections, while Avigdor Lieberman and his party, Yisrael Beteinu, is racist and authoritarian (though Lieberman is progressive on reducing the power of the religious). Lieberman and Netanyahu especially use the settlers (who constitute about 10% of the total Israeli vote) to drive their foreign policy and keep them in power, because in the fragmented Israeli system relatively modest numbers can drive your vote numbers high enough to win a lot of seats.  Moshe Kahlon threatened a breakaway party that would espouse a challenge to corporate interests in Israel, but he decided to stay with Likud and not run this year. Recently emerging further on the right is Habayit Yehudi (The Jewish Home),  a coalition of the National Relgious Party and the National Union, which are further to the right of Israel Beteinu, but represent a religious Zionist approach (in contrast to Likud/Israel Beteinu, which is secular). Led by Naphtali Bennett, this party is a settlers’ movement (closely associated with the West Bank settler’s council, Yesha) that envisions a greater Israel including the West Bank, opposes a two-state solution (in a wierd way, aligning with Hamas),  and takes away votes from Likud/Israel Beteinu.

The religious parties (who represent the ultra-Orthodox Haredi), besides bent on discriminating against women, primarily want welfare for themselves and military exemptions. They are not Zionist or genuine supporters of the Israeli political system. These include primarily Shas (representing the ultra-Orthodox Sephardim, led byEli Yishai) and United Torah Judaism (UTJ, representing the ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi). They rely on the weakness of the Israeli political system to essentially shakedown whatever government (right or left) is in power. Despite the portrayals of them in Western media, these groups have very little interest in, or influence over, the debate on Palestinian statehood or on West Bank settlements.

The center- and left-wings of Israeli politics are splintered and in tatters, filled with narcissists and limelight seekers (there are plenty of them on the right also, but there are more constraints on them at the moment). Friedman’s favorite centrist, Ehud Barak just sold his Tel-Aviv apartment for 26.5 million shekels or 6.5 million dollars–now there’s a real man of the people at a time when many Israelis cannot make ends meet. Beside his fondness for intrigue and drama, Barak also badly misjudged negotiating tactics in the Camp David discussions with the Palestinians in 2000.  Tzipi Livni has added former Labor Party leader, Amir Peretz, to her new party (Hatnua) list so that we have two leaders whom many Israelis perceive as having failed miserably during the 2006 Lebanese war. Most Israelis naturally don’t want them in leadership. Shaul Mofaz, the current leader of Kadima, is not a popular leader, lacking charisma and political skills. Some have floated the name of Shimon Peres. While he’s been quite a statesman and leader (the man partly responsible for Israel’s nuclear program), he’s not at the right age to reenter politics at 89, and, though popular now, he did not inspire confidence in Israelis when he was in power as a Labor Party politician. Ehud Olmert has serious legal problems and his own political baggage. Shelly Yacimovich, the Labor Party leader, who is growing in popularity, has virtually no foreign policy or security experience. Yair Lapid, head of the new party, Yesh Atid, advocates for a secular society and for women’s rights in explicit opposition to the religious, but his platform is probably too narrow to attract enough  votes to make him a significant player. The left-wing party, Meretz, describes itself as the peace party and as socialist, but most Israelis view it as too idealistic and unrealistic.

Overall, most Israelis don’t particularly like Netanyahu, but at least he’s competent in their view.

HBO or Showtime could easily serialize Israeli politics into a weekly evening soap opera, with wild twists and turns, intrigues, plots and counter-plots, jam-packed with drama-kings and drama-queens.

At the same time, one can trace the currently disturbed state of Israeli politics back to the 1995 assassination of Yitzhaq Rabin by a right-wing settler (Yigal Amir) who was himself goaded by the inflammatory rhetoric of settler leaders, politicians, and rabbis. Many Israelis (and diaspora Jews as well) are still stunned by the idea that a Jew would murder the Jewish leader of a Jewish state. Just as it took the US a long time to recover from the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, it may take Israel a long time to find its political way after this traumatic event. The incapacitating stroke of Ariel Sharon in 2006 just after he had successfully led Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza further exacerbated the political trauma and left Israel without another of its seminal leaders. Rabin and Sharon may not have seen eye to eye, but they were powerful leaders who had a vision for Israel and its place in the Middle East. They had obvious military credentials, were tough individuals with strong egos, and possessed a willingness to fight in the political underbrush. They also believed in seeking peace through strength, taking measures to demonstrate both their toughness and their openness to reconciliation. Their loss has had a deeply depressive effect on the Israeli body politic. We should not forget this.

Of course, the structure of the Israeli political system is flawed, allowing for the proliferation of smaller parties some of which wield power well beyond the numbers of their supporters. It makes coherence, consensus, and political stability more difficult to achieve than it should be. What we end up with is an already fragmented electorate even more fragmented.

Israelis are particularly bleak at the moment about the Arab world and about Palestinian society. All you have to do is take a look at the recent statement of Hamas leader, Khalid Meshal, about Israel: “Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on any inch of the land.” How do you have a rational discussion with a group that openly states that it wishes to annihilate you? Plus, Israelis have their own internal problems with an outrageous cost of living and enormous divisions between the secular and the religious.

Yet, in the final analysis, most Israelis want peace and will go a long way out of their comfort zone to make peace. Eventually the political culture will reflect that. Unfortunately, it may take more time. Given the situation in the Arab world and the lack of acceptance of a Jewish state, Israel’s neighbors are clearly in no mood to recognize a Jewish Israel. And, given Israel’s own divisions, Israelis find it difficult to harness a unified vision and national identity.

Things never move as quickly as we would like, but still they’re moving, however slowly. For example, attempts to bring Israeli Jews and Palestinians together are flourishing in all sorts of unlikely places in Israel and the West Bank. Within Israel we are seeing attempts from all sides of the political spectrum to lower the cost of living and help disadvantaged Israelis. And there are movements now to bridge the divide between the secular and religious in Israel.

Further, while the so-called Arab Spring could devolve into chaos or produce fanatic Muslim fundamentalist governments (see Iran, but this time potentially mostly Sunni rather than Shiite), it also presents the only real possibility for change in the Arab/Muslim world. The risks are enormous, but the previous corrupt, repressive governments of the Middle East (some of which still exist, with a few more barely holding on to power) would never have been able to bring about peace with Israel or democratic prosperity at home. Realistically, as dangerous and as anxiety-provoking as possible outcomes are, this change is the best hope Israel has for peace.

Part of the problem is that we can visualize peace, and that makes it seem closer than it actually is, but in reality peace is there on the horizon, just further out than we would like. Sometimes hope (as Pema Chodron says) holds us back and pushes us to do things which we should not. What we really need is neither hope nor despair, but an honest, clear-headed view of what’s in front of us, supported and nurtured by a fundamental trust in the universe (which is, after all, the Jewish way).

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/09/opinion/sunday/friedman-the-full-israeli-experience.html (Thanks to Nelson French! for this article)

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General Boykin and Christian Dominionism

Former General William “Jerry” Boykin is busy promoting Christian dominionism, targeting Islam, and promoting “Christian warriors.” This is one wierd world. George Bernard Shaw was right when he said that “earth is the insane asylum of the universe.” I guess General Boykin and his allies are not very familiar with cultures and traditions other than his own. Just living in his own little isolation chamber, I guess
http://coloradoindependent.com/85808/palin-to-honor-troops-in-colorado-with-christian-military-crusader-boykin

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Secret Mercenary Force Set Up by Blackwater Founder for UAE

Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater (now XE) is now working on building a mercenary force of mostly Latin American soldiers that will work on behalf of the UAE in order to put down internal revolts, defend pipelines, and combat terrorism. No Muslims need apply, because the leadership and Prince is convinced that Muslim soldiers will not shoot other Muslims.  Prince is also associated with Christian dominionism. Meanwhile, is this legal? Can an American citizen hire out a mercenary force on behalf of a foreign nation without permission of the U.S. government? At the least, this will not make the United States look very good to the Arab/Muslim world.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/15/world/middleeast/15prince.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

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Kidnapped Reporter Calls to Say Good-Bye

Here is the harrowing, deeply moving story of Melissa Fung’s kidnapping in Afghanistan:
http://www.thestar.com/printarticle/986850

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Torture is always Wrong

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Healing Severe Battlefield Injuries

A moving description of military trauma medicine in the setting of the Naval Medical Center of San Diego.
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0507-marine-injury-20110507,0,2209855,full.story

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Chris Hondros’ Photo that Screamed Pain

A sad story about the trauma of war and the power of photographs: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/07/world/middleeast/07photo.html?hp=&pagewanted=all

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U.S. Ready for Fight with Pakistanis in Bin Laden Raid

Hmm…It’s possible, but unlikely given the deal between the two countries. Still one has to plan for every contingency:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/10/world/asia/10intel.html

http://mysticscholar.org/2011/05/09/secret-deal-between-pakistan-and-u-s-on-bin-laden/

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Bin Laden Dead: Keith Olbermann Chronicle

This is a humorous account of a very serious event, including local twitter updates:
http://foknewschannel.com/bin-laden-dead/

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Israel and the U.S. Are Ultimate Allies

This is an excellent analysis and survey by U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Michael Oren: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/04/25/the_ultimate_ally?page=full

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Big Corporations and Big Government

An analysis of how big government and big corporations work hand in glove:
http://www.truthdig.com/report/print/the_new_corporate_world_order_20110419/

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IDF Adapts to Goldstone Report

The IDF (Israeli Defense Force) has learned from the Goldstone Report in spite of the report’s failings. The IDF emphasizes the participation of legal advisors in military operations, media relations, and cooperation with legitimate human rights groups.
http://www.jta.org/news/article/2011/04/11/3086821/pushed-by-goldstone-idf-embraces-new-smart-warfare

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The Unconstitutional Mistreatment of Bradley Manning

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Afghanistan Kill Teams

Given the inherently dehumanizing character of war, especially in the long-term and without a clear sense of impending victory, this is not surprising. Because we are in this war in part to promote freedom, however, the US needs to constantly monitor the behavior of its soldiers. We failed here, and that is a deep disappointment.  Even worse the military tried to suppress the story, which only made the resultant perceptions even more negative. We need to redouble our efforts and focus on ethics and morality as a fundamental part of military training and leadership.

http://www.rollingstone.com/kill-team

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Syria’s Nuclear Plans

More evidence has emerged of Syria’s nuclear facilities, which Israel destroyed.  What Israel did here prevented a catastrophe.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703842004576163082774601552.html?mod=rss_middle_east_news

At the same time, Syria seems to have more nuclear plans:

http://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/satellite-image-shows-suspected-uranium-conversion-plant-in-syria1/


http://www.jpost.com/Defense/Article.aspx?id=209812

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Drones and Our Israel Op-Ed

Apparently drones bring forth a lot of emotion and strong opinion.   Here is my response to some of those who have questioned the drone example in the Lexington Herald-Leader op-ed.

Many drones are used for surveillance purposes, but drones are also used for attacks:  e.g. General Atomics MQ-1 Predators with Hellfire missiles (which have successfully killed a number of al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives, among others); and now the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper.  I think that these weapons are just the beginning, and war will be fought increasingly virtually.  No question that this presents moral problems, but we cannot avoid questions by just saying “No.”  That’s not going to happen, nor should it.  In my view, drones save lives.  Strategic, tactical, and fighter bombers have a much greater likelihood of dropping their loads in the wrong places (in spite of major improvements in accuracy).  Ballistic missiles and artillery are not better.  Infantry operations can be even more dangerous for civilians.

The larger question is:  When military action is necessary, how do we have successful operations and minimize the killing of civilians?  The emotions that drones induce have more do with symbolism and PR than with actual facts on the ground.

I believe that drone technology is helpful overall, because it saves US and Coalition lives and because killing of civilians is less likely (even though it still tragically occurs). War has always been characterized by awful, hideous events.  Drones are not the reason they happen.  Nor do drones fuel insurgencies in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen.  Problems existed in those countries long before drones.  Americans seem to think that we have this great influence on the world and that we are the main drivers of events–it’s a kind of imperialism that exists on both the right and the left.  But people all over the world have their own motivations and reasons for doing what they do that have nothing to do with the US or with Israel.  There are independent actors, and we don’t pull everybody’s strings.

Drone technology is simply one concrete illustration of military cooperation and research.  However, one could also pint to other military items that the Israelis have developed (or helped to develop) that the US employs:  Python missiles, Gabriel missiles, SMAW anti-tank guided missiles, Simon breach grenades, Samson Remote Control Weapons Stations, etc.  Of course, Israel also uses US weapons:  F15s and F16s, transport planes, Apache attack helicopters, transport helicopters, howitzers, missiles (including Hellfire, Maverick, Sidewinder, and Stinger) and now the Arrow Missile Defense System, among others.  The US military clearly understands Israeli weapons research as a major strategic advantage for the US, and the Israelis naturally know the importance of US weapons for them.  The relationship is symbiotic and a part of our economy–even though I would love to see a time when the need for this is greatly reduced.

The question is not drones.  The question is military action in general.  I agree that not every time is a military option the best option.  In my view, both the US and Israel have sometimes forgotten this.  Still military elements are a crucial part of self-defense.  Without them, Israel would be annihilated and Jews slaughtered. In other locations, projecting military strength is required (even though the US might sometimes overplay its hand).  Having weapons is often more powerful than using them, but that is only the case when at least occasionally we do use them.

UPDATE:  On March 1, 2011, the IDF employed a new, defensive weapon, called the Trophy active protection system, designed to protect tanks from missiles.   This is a significant upgrade for tank and armored car protection.  During the Lebanon war, Israeli tanks suffered damage from hand-held, rocket-propelled grenades.  The Israelis designed this system, and it will undoubtedly become important for the U.S. military as well.  There is further similar technology in the pipeline as well.

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Editorials/Article.aspx?id=210540

See our op-ed: http://mysticscholar.org/2011/02/22/aid-to-israel-protects-us-interests/

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Aid to Israel Protects US Interests

AID TO ISRAEL PROTECTS US INTERESTS

Lexington Herald Leader Op-Ed

By Linda Ravvin, Laurence H. Kant and Mike Grossman

Posted: 12:00am on Feb 18, 2011; Modified: 7:45am on Feb 18, 2011

Sen. Rand Paul recently stated that not only does he advocate cutting off U.S. aid to Israel, but he sees that aid as fueling a Middle Eastern arms race.

As a proportion of the total budget, aid to Israel is negligible. The Israeli military has been purchasing American military hardware for many years, and an elimination of this money would cost the U.S. many manufacturing jobs.

Additionally, Israel has been at the forefront of developing military technology, and U.S. military aid funds joint projects that the American military has taken advantage of in Iraq and Afghanistan. This includes drone technology, which has saved countless American and coalition lives.

It is safe to say that Israeli technological achievements (which are at least partially funded by U.S. military aid) have helped keep American troops safer.

Israel is the only full-fledged democracy in the region. Tiny as it is, with only 7 million people, its presence serves as a model for the development of other democracies and free-market societies in the region.

Its own Arab population (including Muslims, Christians and Druze) has more freedom, legal rights, social mobility and economic opportunity than the vast majority of Arabs elsewhere in the Middle East. Many Arabs (Palestinians and others) seek to enter Israel because of the work opportunities afforded by its vibrant, high-tech economy.

Per capita, Israel has the highest level of technological entrepreneurship in the world, supported by a deep commitment to education. U.S. military aid to Israel allows Israel to continue its leadership in this (in spite of Israel’s own large military budget) and work as a partner with the U.S. in creating a global high tech economy. This means jobs for U.S. citizens as well.

Israel’s neighbors dwarf it in both population and geographical size. Many of these neighbors are sworn to Israel’s destruction. While Israel will never have a quantitative edge militarily, Israel does have a qualitative edge, and it is this edge (partially due to U.S. military aid) that has prevented its destruction.

If Israel were to lose that qualitative edge, its enemies would certainly become emboldened, and the likelihood of a new and destructive war in the Middle East would substantially increase. Given our continued dependence on oil and our other strategic interests, this would almost certainly mean a much heavier financial and military U.S. investment in the Middle East than currently exists.

U.S. military support for Israel actually increases the likelihood for peace. Israel’s qualitative military advantage makes it significantly more likely that it will take the risks necessary for a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians (and the Syrians as well). Should Israel lose U.S. military support, it would certainly not be willing to withdraw from any militarily strategic positions it currently controls, negating the land-for-peace formula of United Nations resolutions.

The main backer of state terrorism and global jihad is Iran, and a decrease in Israel’s military advantage (which would certainly occur should aid be reduced) would cause Iran to further fund anti-Israel and anti-American militias throughout the region.

Israel has been on the front line of the global war on terror for many years. Unfortunately, it appears that Israel will be forced to fight this war for many years to come.

Given the burgeoning grass-roots movements for freedom and democracy in the Arab/Muslim world (especially in Tunisia and Egypt), U.S. involvement in the Middle East and commitment to Israel are more important than ever. When a region reaches a turning point that has profound implications for the world and for America’s own interests, the U.S. should not retreat, but stay engaged.

Nobody disputes that fiscal responsibility is a vitally important goal for our nation and that we will have to make painful budgetary sacrifices. Aid to Israel is in the interest of the U.S. from a financial, strategic and moral standpoint. We encourage Paul to reconsider his stance on this issue and to support fully funding our commitments to Israel.

Linda Ravvin is president of the Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass; Laurence H. Kant is chair and Mike Grossman is co-chair of the Jewish Community Relations Committee.

http://www.kentucky.com/2011/02/18/1640058/aid-to-israel-protects-us-interests.html#more

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Criticism of Bill Keller on Assange and WikiLeaks

I happen to support the idea of transparent governance as a whole.  Transparency is what the Internet is all about:  while closed, proprietary platforms decline, open source platforms are increasingly flourishing.  This is affecting our politics, particularly in the case of WikiLeaks.  While I recognize the value of secrets for diplomacy, most stuff that is labeled secret should not be.  WikiLeaks has unveiled documents that we have a right to know about and, for that reason, I am glad that we have access to this trove of materials.  Citizens of the US and others need to grow up and understand what’s going on in their home countries and in the world.

I happen to support a robust foreign policy and am not against our Iraq policy, although I recognize the ignorance, cynicism, unnecessary violence, and corruption that drove our policy there.  Nevertheless, I am glad that we have, for example, the WikiLeaks expose of soldiers indiscriminately killing Iraqi civilians.  This is war, and this is what unfortunately and tragically happens in war.  Do we naively believe that war is clean and neat and that soldiers always behave appropriately under incredibly stressful conditions?  War is filled with horror, moral degradation, and murderous rampages (we can read about that as far back as Homer’s Iliad and the Hebrew Bible).  This does not mean that we should never engage in war, although it should be a last resort, but it does mean that we need to acknowledge and recognize what actually does happen in war.  However, it will mean that citizens will have to be grown-up and adult about it.  They will have to have their eyes open before deciding to embark on a war.  That’s what Assange and WikiLeaks force us to be.

At the same time, I don’t think that this is a fair article.  Coleen Rowley criticizes Keller for his views on Iraq, not primarily for his portrayal of Assange in Keller’s recent New York Times piece. I don’t think that Keller’s views on Iraq automatically prejudice him in the case of Assange.  In spite of its massive flaws, I support our policy in Iraq, and yet I am glad for what Assange has done.  Keller was simply pointing out Assange’s strange personality and behavior.  Given the significance of WikiLeaks, Keller’s comments here are newsworthy.  Assange is part of the story.  That does not nullify or diminish the importance of what Assange has done.

http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mike-friends-blog/nyts-keller-disparages

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Foreclosing on On-Duty Soldiers

This is just another example of how many large corporate institutions have lost their moral compass.   Over the past several years, large banks frequently subject soldiers called to duty to unlawful foreclosures.  This is precisely why some regulation is necessary if we want to preserve a healthy, functional free market.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/27/business/27foreclose.html?_r=2&hp=&adxnnl=1&pagewanted=all&adxnnlx=1296353099-/N1TWrh0XYHJWyudn8MalA

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Mindfulness Training in the US Military

Because of the massive information overload that affects soldiers in the US military due to a heavy emphasis on sophisticated technology and multi-tasking, there is greater need than ever for awareness and grounding.  This article shows the unstated influence of Buddhist meditation, with its ubiquitous focus on mindfulness–an intriguing development.  (via Dianne Bazell)

http://nyti.ms/eEa6dV

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The US Military Green Revolution

The military is leading the way on environmental inititatives. I hope the rest of the country will follow:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/19/opinion/19friedman.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=a212 (via Dianne Bazell)

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American Heroes: Those Who Ended Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

One of my favorite Martin Luther King quotes: “The arc of the moral universe is is long, but it bends toward justice”
http://www.hillmanfoundation.org/blog/american-heroes

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Great Warriors

Great warriors stand their ground; they do not initiate conflict.

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Last words of a Hero: General Hermann Henning von Tresckow

These are the last words of German General Hermann Henning von Tresckow, spoken on July 21, 1944, when he learned in Bialystock that the plot to assassinate Hitler had failed. He committed suicide immediately afterward.

“The whole world will vilify us now, but I am still totally convinced that we did the right thing. Hitler is the archenemy not only of Germany but of the world. When, in few hours’ time, I go before God to account for what I have done and left undone, I know I will be able to justify what I did in the struggle against Hitler. God promised Abraham that He would not destroy Sodom if just ten righteous men could be found in the city, and so I hope that for our sake God will not destroy Germany. No one among us can complain about his death, for whoever joined our ranks put on the shirt of Nessus. A man’s moral worth is established only at the point where he is ready to give up his life in defense of his convictions.”

In Greek mythology the Shirt of Nessus refers to a poisonous shirt that killed Hercules.

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Duck and Cover

http://www.wimp.com/duckcover/
What to do in a nuclear attack according to “experts” in 1951: Hilarious, naive, and sobering (via Nelson French).

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D-Day

http://www.army.mil/d-day/

“The U.S. Army remembers June 6, 1944: D-Day in Normandy, France. Video, audio, photos, posters, and maps tell the story.” A great moment.

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