What Obama’s Egypt Stance Really Means

Lies and diversions always pollute official explanations of state policy, and Obama’s talk on Egypt in the past few days is no different. For decades, U.S. policy toward Egypt has consistently supported dictatorship and hasn’t changed with the recent popular uprisings — despite rhetoric to the contrary.

The New York Times, in its usual fashion of regurgitating official lines, considers the reasons behind Obama’s ambiguity on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s fate:

President Obama’s decision to stop short, at least for now, of calling for Hosni Mubarak’s resignation was driven by the administration’s concern that it could lose all leverage over the Egyptian president, and because it feared creating a power vacuum inside the country, according to administration officials involved in the debate.

In recounting Saturday’s deliberations, they said Mr. Obama was acutely conscious of avoiding any perception that the United States was once again quietly engineering the ouster of a major Middle East leader.

First, the administration’s leverage over Mubarak relates primarily to his foreign policy towards Israel and other regional concerns, and not so much to how he treats the Egyptian people and responds to their demands for reform. The Obama administration is playing politics with this excuse, making it seem like their continued support of the Egyptian dictator is out of concern for the people.

Further, the administration’s fear of a “power vacuum” is code for anxiety that new leadership, which does not simply take its marching orders from Washington, might replace an obedient Mubarak. Since the end of the World War II, U.S. policy towards the Middle East has generally kept in power corruptible despots, who can be controlled and will do as we say. More democratic regimes carry the daunting prospect of actually putting the interests of their people before the interests of Washington.

That people in the Middle East may view a call from Washington for Mubarak to step down as yet another regime change in the region (as in Iraq) seems fallacious to me. If Obama didn’t want to be perceived as meddling in the affairs of Egypt, he would have cut off the billions of dollars we send to Mubarak annually. Yet he has been as staunch a supporter of the Mubarak dictatorship as his predecessor, and sent the last package of military aid to Egypt in late 2010. The Egyptian people know full well that the rubber bullets and tear gas being used against them in the streets were paid for by the American taxpayer, and a hypothetical call from Obama for Mubarak to step down would only serve to convince Egyptians that the U.S. cares about the rights of ordinary Egyptians.

The Obama administration has been cleverly ambiguous, at least rhetorically, about whether or not they support the cause of the Egyptian people or Mubarak’s continued tyranny, and it is possible that events will dictate an eventual concession to the reform movement (which is probably in our interest). But Americans should put this new approach in context and remember what U.S. policy on Egypt has been for over three decades.

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Historical Irony in Egypt

It is with considerable pathos that I found the following open letter of academics, led by Noam Chomsky, calling on Obama to come out unambiguously on the side of the Egyptian people against Mubarak.  Pathos, because this is a case where the lefties, even as they sound suspiciously like the more exuberant neocons, have more credibility than the realists.

Last Saturday, I attended a solidarity rally near the UN where I carried a sign given out by the Al-Awda Right of Return Coalition that read “Down with the Camp David Regime!  Long Live the Egyptian Intifada!”  The hysterical campaign in recent years to vilify the architect of the Camp David Regime, Jimmy Carter, as no better than an old-fashioned anti-Semite, need hardly be revisited here.  But it is because of that campaign that a mighty irony casts its pall over the events in Egypt.

For Jimmy Carter was the father of the reality we can identify under the umbrella term “Camp David Regime” – the massive foreign aid packages to both Israel and Egypt, that ultimately came to include Jordan, and whose logic led to America being pulled into the politics of the region as never before.  Indeed, the entire decades-long “peace process” and the maddening shibboleth that only “American leadership” can resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an extension of the Carter legacy.  Thus we have the truly pathetic sight of one of the most despised men to the Israel Lobby, Zbigniew Brezinski, as a rare figure on TV joining the Lobby in its open defense of Mubarak.

As for more principled realists, Steve Walt has a typically good piece but which is marred by strangely denying certain facts on the ground.  After thirty years of generous American aid, Egypt has the tenth-largest military in the world with a navy twice the size of the Israeli navy.  This too, is a legacy of Jimmy Carter, and because this military will pose a grave threat to Israel, whose amen corner Carter by all accounts very bitterly blames for his loss to Reagan, Carter may yet have the last laugh.

Walt, among others, insist that even a Muslim Brotherhood government would not likely withdraw from the peace treaty with Israel.  But a formal abrogation of the treaty would be superfluous, as the simple halting of military cooperation, first and foremost in Gaza, will be the bare minimum necessary for a new government to satisfy the demands of the Egyptian people.  Even a limited armed confrontation over Gaza could have enormous ramifications, and would certainly lead to the fall of Netanyahu’s government and clear the way for a negotiated end to Israeli apartheid.

The times, they are a-changin’.  And there can be no surer sign of this than today’s column on Egypt by Ross Douthat:

As the world ponders the fate of Egypt after Hosni Mubarak, Americans should ponder this: It’s quite possible that if Mubarak had not ruled Egypt as a dictator for the last 30 years, the World Trade Center would still be standing.

This is true even though Mubarak’s regime has been a steadfast U.S. ally, a partner in our counterterrorism efforts and a foe of Islamic radicalism. Or, more aptly, it’s true because his regime has been all of these things.

Can you believe that these words were written by the most widely read conservative columnist in America?  Whose predecessor in that post was none other than Bill Kristol, whose successor before the hiring of Douthat was widely believed to be David Frum?  The gods hath fallen.

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The King’s Speech and the Cult of Churchill

Reviewing The King’s Speech, Nick Greenslade writes:

In the United States, [Churchill’s] wartime leadership was regularly cited as an inspiration and example by those leading “The War on Terror”. George Bush, we were informed after 9/11, kept a bust of him in the Oval Office. It’s almost as if the film-makers have ticked off all the usual stuff the Yanks like to see in a film of this genre – the pageantry, the stiff upper lip, the picturesque shots of Thirties London and royal estates – and then thought: How can we push the envelope that bit more? Hey, let’s give them a bit of Churchillian bombast!

In the 1930s, there were two British threats to constitutionality and, via Britain’s role in the world, to international stability. One came from an unreliable, opportunistic, highly affected and contrived, anti-Semitic, white supremacist, Eurofederalist demagogue who admired Mussolini, heaped praise on Hitler, had no need to work for a living, had an overwhelming sense of his own entitlement, profoundly hated democracy, and had a callous disregard for the lives of the lower orders and the lesser breeds. So did the other one. Far more than background united Churchill and Mosley, originator in English of the currently modish concept of a Union of the Mediterranean.

In Great Contemporaries, published in 1937, two years after he had called Hitler’s achievements “among the most remarkable in the whole history of the world”, Churchill wrote that: “Those who have met Herr Hitler face to face in public business or on social terms have found a highly competent, cool, well-informed, functionary with an agreeable manner, a disarming smile, and few have been unaffected by a subtle personal magnetism.” That passage was not removed from the book’s reprint in 1941. In May 1940, Churchill had been all ready to give Gibraltar, Malta, Suez, Somaliland, Kenya and Uganda to Mussolini.

All sorts of things about Churchill are simply ignored. Gallipoli. The miners. The Suffragettes. The refusal to bomb the railway lines to Auschwitz. His dishonest and self-serving memoirs. The truth about the catastrophic humiliation at Dunkirk. The other one, at Singapore, which as much as anything else has been an inspiration to the vociferous anti-monarchist minority in Australia ever since: “Why should we bother with them after that?” The Lancastria. The men left behind in France. Both the fact and the sheer scale of his 1945 defeat while the War in the Far East was still going on, when Labour won half of his newly divided seat, and an Independent did very well in the other half after Labour and the Liberals had disgracefully refused to field candidates against him. His removal as a parliamentary candidate by his local Conservative Association just before he died. And not least, his carve-up of Eastern Europe with Stalin, so very reminiscent of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

But the electorate was under no illusions while he was still alive. His image was booed and hissed when it appeared on newsreels. He led the Conservative Party into three General Elections, he lost the first two of them – the first, I say again, while the War was still going on – and he only returned to office on the third occasion with the support of the National Liberals, having lost the popular vote. In the course of that Parliament, he had to be removed by his own party. It went on to win comfortably the subsequent General Election, just as it was to do in 1992 after it had removed Thatcher.

And we have not forgotten the truth about him in the old mining areas. Nor have they in the places that he signed away to Stalin, including the country for whose freedom the War was fought, making it a failure in its own terms. We condemn genocidal terrorism against Slavs and Balts no less than genocidal terrorism against Arabs, or the blowing up of British Jews going about their business as civil servants, or the photographed hanging of teenage British conscripts with barbed wire.

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The Neocons Have Lost It

Since I triumphantly declared that at last, the neocon Hitler-Stalin pact moment had arrived, the neocons have rushed headlong into insisting that the global democratic revolution lives.  Each example is just such a spectacle to behold in itself that they must be listed one by one:

  • Max Boot: “We’re all neocons now.” One is left speechless.  Is the idea that a Straussian divination of the speeches of Hassan al-Banna shows his secret purpose to have been to promulgate the wit and wisdom of Partisan Review?

The bizarre irony of Obama’s global multiculturalism is that it has had the effect of aligning America with regimes and against peoples. This was the case with our response to the Iranian rebellion in 2009, and it was the case with our response to the Egyptian opposition until a few hours ago. The striking thing about Barack Obama’s “extended hand” is how utterly irrelevant it is to the epochal events in Egypt, and Tunisia, and Iran, and elsewhere.

Apparently, the United States had never once been engaged in propping up an unpopular autocrat against the wishes of his subjects before January 20, 2009.  The very man who famously boasted of his magazine with respect to pro-Israel orthodoxy in American liberal opinion that “we’re the cops”, blames Obama for the consequences of the disastrous American policies of generations which he takes such pride in his large role in enforcing uncritical allegiance to.

But what else to expect from Wieseltier, who is now an island unto himself with even Marty Peretz out of the picture as the revolution unfolds which undoubtedly will mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state.  And exactly who are the “American liberals” Wieseltier is righteously lashing out at for being apologists of Mubarak?  The only one who comes to mind is Chris Matthews, who clearly has stopped caring whether or not anyone takes him seriously, being the only one on cable news to have a guest giving the strait-up AIPAC line, a sad task falling to B-lister Marc Ginsburg.

This development is highly significant in itself.  Amazingly, Marty Peretz ran off to find redemption exactly in the nick of time, leaving Leon completely high and dry among those who actually care about Israel in facing the Egyptian uprising.  For one can only conclude that the Israel Lobby is imploding when even the neocons can’t be counted on to try and save the Camp David regime, instead putting to undying shame Condoleezza Rice’s infamous pronouncement of the birth pangs of a new Middle East.

To be sure, one can yet find the expected ominous foreboding against the Muslim Brotherhood – Thomas Joscelyn of the Friends of Democracy Foundation for the Defense of Democracies leads the pack, with Jeffrey Goldberg also reliably in tow.   But while it was one thing for the neocons to rush headlong into their “abandonment of democracy” line during the Iran uprising, when it was so clearly cynical, it is beyond shocking to see the degree to which they have started breaking out into The Internationale with no regard at all for the implications for Israel.

My father, who knew several of the neocon standard bearers at Harvard, always insisted to me that, with such obvious exceptions as Marty Peretz and Ruth Wisse, the neocons were ultimately not so deeply committed to Israel but rather simply saw it as a means to an end.  I understood his argument academically, but never quite bought into it until the last couple of years.  The first time I realized he was right was when I attended the J Street Conference in October 2009, where I had the most emotionally draining experience of actually encountering people who were deeply committed to the point of emotional investment in saving Israel as a Jewish state, only to behold the untrammeled fury set against them by the neocons.

Yet the rush to convince themselves and the world that all is well, and this is all the fire in the minds of men proclaimed by George W. Bush, is the most stunning proof one could hope for of this surprising truth about the neocons.  One could simply reduce it to delusions arising from the shock that they have finally reaped what they have sown, but I believe there is a more abiding pathology at work.

I have written elsewhere of the Jewish self-hate at the heart of neoconservatism.  But its actually worse than that, for at the end of the day what we’re dealing with here is a simple case of liberal white guilt gone off the rails.  That is to say, like the white liberal pathologically determined to deny how he or she really feels about the “people of color”, the neocons are pathologically determined, in a remarkable homage to their Trotskyist roots, to insist that they remain true internationalists and deny that they share with Marty Peretz and the more unreconstructed Zionists any contempt for the brown people.  So what else is to be expected when the uprising of scary brown people to end all uprisings of the same is shaking the world?

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Gorbachev, not Bush

Many readers no doubt saw my contribution to the TAC symposium on the State of the Union, which included this Daily Show dialogue on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall that cannot be repeated often enough:

Jon Stewart: Could something like this happen again?

John Oliver: No Jon, this was a completely unique set of circumstances, a perfect storm unlikely to be repeated.  Their economy was in tatters, looking abroad they had very few real friends left in the world. But even those would have amounted to very little were it not for their disastrous decision to invade and occupy Afghanistan.

Stewart: But the Soviet Union at that time had an inexperienced, charismatic leader, who promised change and reform . . .

Oliver: He even won the Nobel Peace Prize.

I have always been highly critical of the notion, all his failings aside, that Barack Obama is “Bush-lite” or even worse than Bush.  A particularly severe judgment in this connection came in an otherwise excellent roundup of the revolutionary wave in the Middle East by Helena Cobban:

I mean, how unfair is it that he gets to be the president who has to preside over a retraction of US power spurred to a large degree by the decision his predecessor made in 2002-03 to launch a war that Obama himself clearly opposed at that time?  On the other hand, Obama did not have to continue and indeed intensify the clear pro-Zionist partisanship that GWB (and before him, Clinton) had manifested– which is what he did. That was a choice Obama made.  He could have made different– and much, much wiser– choices on the core issues regarding the Palestine Question.  He could have reframed the issue from the beginning as one of fairness, decency, human rights, and international law– and he could have spoken seriously and directly to the American people, using the unique “bully pulpit” that the presidency provides, about the need for our country to pursue a policy based on these important values.  But no.

I have said previously that intentionally or not, Obama is giving Israel the rope to hang itself, and if, as I believe to be more likely than not, it is intentional, it is because it was simply the least bad of the options before Obama when he came into office.  What would getting serious about the two-state solution have accomplished in the immediate aftermath of the siege of the Warsaw Ghetto Gaza?  Abbas had already lost whatever legitimacy he ever had with the Palestinians long before.  An earnest effort by the US to strengthen the hand of the Palestinian Authority vis-a-vis Israel in negotiating a genuine two-state solution, in the year 2009, would have led to just as much blowback for the US as the alternative.

The larger issue here is that the effort by pro-Palestinian activists to frame this as a question of “human rights and international law” is both counterproductive and counterintuitive.  After all, we are talking about the same international law by which Israel justifies its very existence, by which Bush justified the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and by which all manner of dangerous nonsense is presently justified toward Iran.

Mike Dougherty’s excellent piece on the situation makes the bold claim that El Baradei is another Chalabi waiting to happen.  I expressed my qualified skepticism on the messageboard, in any event I have seen enough reports of Muslim Brotherhood rank-and-filers feeling the same way.  I assume El Baradei is shrewd enough to have calculated that he can succeed as the pleasant face of a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government to the international community, but if he fails it will be because he is too much a creature of that community in which so much of the solidarity movement for Arab freedom is far too deeply invested.

But lest anyone get the idea that Obama has in any meaningful way “intensified” cravenness to Israel, to say nothing of Zionist partisanship, let us remember that John McCain said in the presidential debates that America was duty-bound to prevent another holocaust – that is, obligated to declare war on Iran to prevent or avenge “crimes against the Jewish people”.  He would have surrounded himself with men and women committed to this odious lie.

Anyone who believes Obama would do the same is deluding themself.  If not because of Obama’s inherent goodness, because he is a realist who does not have the pathologies that McCain or Hillary would have brought into the White House.  If Obama would have ideally liked to reform rather than dismantle the imperium like Gorbachev and Dubcek before him, like Gorbachev he knows that even if he wanted to he simply does not have either the military nor financial resources to do so.  That it is difficult to conceive of exactly what a McCain/Palin administration would be doing differently, to say nothing of Brezhnev or someone like him in 1989, only makes the possibilities more ominous.

Undoubtedly, if and when Egypt and Jordan are governed by the Muslim Brotherhood, there will be enormous domestic pressure for Obama to give Israel a war guarantee.  And yes, it is difficult to imagine how Obama could resist this other than by simply fudging the issue.  Yet even under these circumstances facts on the ground may already be such that Israel is forced to begin a South Africa style transition whether the US and AIPAC like it or not.

Let me be clear – for Obama to be in this role is nothing to be proud of.  And yes, for the American empire to be finally getting its comeuppance is a tragedy.  But still, we are so far along at this point that our attitude should only be one of good riddance.

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The opposite of true democrats

The Forward has a symposium on the legacy of Joe Lieberman now that he’s leaving office, with a contribution by Josh Muravchik of AEI, lamenting the passing from the scene of the last “true Democrat”.  There is probably no one more plainly unqualified to identify a true democrat, small d or large, than Josh Muravchik.

As for the large, Muravchik’s career as a professional neocon goes all the way back to the founding of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority, with its insipid paraphrase on McGovern’s call for America to come home, “Come Home Democrats”, oblivious to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, they would at last return home to Jefferson and Bryan.

But its the small, of course that is really in the news right now.  For Muravchik has also had the sad duty since the election of Obama to be the leading advocate for the would be Ahmed Chalabis of the Arab world presently in revolt against American hegemony.  His role in the neoconservative epoch therefore is thus doomed to be that of whatever poor soul was Gus Hall‘s best ally in the Politburo in the 1980s.

Yet Muravchik will have made at least one small positive contribution to mankind:  It is to him that I owe having ever first heard of the subject of my forthcoming book.

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The Neocon Hitler-Stalin Pact Moment, continued

No sooner do I call it out than both the Weekly Standard and National Review abruptly abandon their democratic revolutionism and go far beyond the old dictatorships-and-double-standards standby, sounding an awful lot like Edmund Burke, if not Joseph de Maistre, in warning ominously about the dangers of the mob.  But the news comes today that Mohammed el Baradei is taking charge, signifying that he will be there to lead the national unity government that the protesters are demanding.  This, in short, is the very Burkean outcome which has been ideal all along.

While we’re on the subject of what Burke would say about the events in the Middle East, we can also take heart in the fact that there is an even greater prospect for a constiutional process in bringing to power the opposition in Yemen.  And nowhere is deference for the existing institutions and mores more visible than Lebanon.  So therefore let me take this opportunity to reiterate some important blunt truths about Lebanon:

  1. Lebanon is a democracy, albeit with peculiar features.  Like most Latin American countries historically, it is a democracy rigged against the popular will.  What would please Edmund Burke more than to see this corrected for by peaceful constitutional means, insofar as the inclusion of Hezbollah in the new government serves this purpose?
  2. Like Hamas, Hezbollah is not at war with the United States, and it is pernicious in the extreme to suggest that because they are at war with Israel they are ipso facto at war with the United States.
  3. Like Hamas, Hezbollah is a rational actor, and as is so often the case with Israel the insistence that its enemies are not rational actors is a bald case of projection.  In both cases, but particularly in the case of Hezbollah, this is vitally important in recognizing that they can be worked with in a peaceful and democratic process.
  4. Neither Syria nor Iran is a threat to Lebanese sovereignty.  The real threat to Lebanese sovereignty is the hubristic “international” tribunal that presumes to have the authority of law over the sovereign nation of Lebanon.

So as the momentum seems to ever more clearly build to neoconservatism’s 1989, I shall conclude with the words of that great admirer of Edmund Burke Murray Rothbard:

Our enemies accuse us, in horror and astonishment, of wanting to repeal the 20th century. Heaven forfend! Who would want to repeal the century of horror, the century of collectivism, the century of mass destruction and genocide, who would want to repeal that! Well, we propose to do just that. When I was growing up, the main argument for communism was inevitability – ‘you can’t turn back the clock’ they chanted – but the clock of the once mighty Soviet Union is not only turned back, but lies dead and broken forever. And just as they, over there, broke the clock of Bolshevism, so too we, over here, shall break the clock of Menshevism. We shall break the clock of social democracy. We shall break the clock of the New Deal. We shall break the clock of perpetual war. We shall repeal the 20th century.

All praise is due to Allah for the breaking of the clocks.

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The Neocon Hitler-Stalin Pact Moment

As of 11 AM Eastern Standard Time, the only item on the Commentary blog since 7 PM last night is about Amy Chua.  The preceding item is a lament for Lebanon by the odd gentile Eustonite Michael Totten.  The Weekly Standard only showed last night’s Brett Baier panel discussion on the events in the Middle East, which stayed comfortably at the level of nonsensically arguing that this vindicates the Bush democracy agenda.  There is plenty of hysteria to go around about Hezbollah, to be sure, but with that revealing exception the silence of the neocons on the transnational mob that threatens to overthrow all of their pet dictators is deafening.

After the announcement of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, the Daily Worker infamously suspended publication for nearly a week before they could get the party line strait.  There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that when Hitler invaded Russia two years later, a Communist speaker in Union Square had the news whispered in his ear that forced a 180 degree turn in the tone and substance of his speech.

The neocons, over lo these many decades, have had innumerable twists and turns in their party line to put the Comintern to shame.  But this may finally, at long last, be their Hitler-Stalin Pact moment, to completely turn their world upside-down.  The weakly articulated wistfulness for George W. Bush giving them that old Shachtmanism signals a knowledge that liberty in the Arab world must ultimately mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state, and therefore if they say much more at all it is to shriek about Hezbollah.

So sure enough, in the course of writing this the Commentary blog sent out its reliable shabbos goy John Steele Gordon to assure the restive cadres that the People’s Democracy is in fact still on the march.

This video of the greatest song ever written about international relations and political commitment says it all.

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Trade Unionism and the Arab Revolt

Events in Egypt and elsewhere continue to proceed too rapidly to keep pace.  I continue to highly recommend Mondoweiss, which whatever my criticisms of its editorial line has always been second to none in breaking coverage of major stories.  There is yet more breaking news here, here, and here.  Even so establishment an outfit as Foreign Policy magazine is crediting Julian Assange for doing far more for the cause of Muslim liberty than the State Department ever could.  There’s something happening here . . . .

Steve Walt gives a more circumspect view in which he slightly walks back from his earlier pessimism about Tunisia, and I can’t substantively disagree with any of his points.  So whatever happens, one aspect of the revolt that has not been given its due is the prominent role of the trade union movement in the events in Egypt and Tunisia.  Not only is this a crucial component to the echo of the fall of Communism, but it brings up some very awkward and uncomfortable history for the neocons.

In one of my earlier blogs on the revolutionary wave some readers may have found rather cryptic my reference to the late Tom Kahn, the AFL-CIO point man in supporting Solidarnosc in the 80s.  Kahn may have been a deeply unpleasant individual, he was, with the likely exception of this guy, the last unreconstructed Shachtmanite.  But no matter the extenuating circumstances, his was a heroic role in bringing about the fall of Communism.  And even many neocons were uncomfortable with this at the time.  Norman Podhoretz denounced Kahn to his face at a public event for his lack of realism in backing Solidarnosc – yes, realism, in the same year he denounced Reagan’s withdrawal from Lebanon as “appeasement by any other name”.

Tom Kahn died in 1992, and was probably fortunate to die on the highest of notes for a Trotskyist romantic of having personally had a large hand in the workers revolution that overthrew Stalinism, long before the marriage of the neocons to George W. Bush.  If Kahn’s instincts would have led him to be a Blairite, on the other hand he would have undoubtedly been aghast to see the anchor of Blair and Rumsfeld’s vaunted “new Europe” in the mercifully brief return of the former Stalinist ruling party to power in Poland, a phenomenon that got scandalously little attention.

What, then, to make of the horror of his former comrades at the leadership of the labor movement, even at the expense of the Muslim Brotherhood, of this protean revolution?  Yes, Israel accounts for much if not most of it, but nevertheless this surprising return of trade unionism to the stage of history should remind us all that there was a time when many of the neocon comrades were actually motivated by their principles, however strange and delirious, and the justice that those principles are now coming back to haunt them.

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Obama and the Palestine Papers

Long time readers should be familiar with my view that Obama never seriously believed he could dismantle settlements, that it was only a smoke screen to buy time for the inevitable.  That inevitable is of course now fast approaching, not just with Israel but across the whole region.  And to be sure, the Administration flails about clueless in its response.

But I do feel strongly that if anything, the release of the Palestine Papers supports the view that I’ve stated previously, that Obama is very slowly killing the two-state solution just because its his least bad option.  To have so narrowly focused on the settlements question is consistent with this, as it aimed directly at the heart of Israeli intransigence on just the minimum required to bring about a two-state solution.  No one can deny that in upending the Israeli position on this score Obama has succeeded, though to repeat, he has been ill prepared for the consequences of this action.

Which is why its disappointing to see this piece by Ali Abunimah, who apparently is more interested in trying to prove that Obama is more craven to Israel than Bush than the potential for the feckless Abbas regime to finally be brought down.  His efforts to divine this out of the bizarre legalese back-and-forth between George Mitchell and Saeb Erekat bring nothing to mind so much as the effort of Arthur Goldberg to explain why the UN Resolution calling for a two-state solution, which he himself largely wrote, did not mean what it plainly said – almost literally on the basis of what the definition of is is.

Even more disturbing is that Abunimah invokes the self-determination principle of Versailles in his argument.  It was one thing for Arafat to invoke Versailles in 1974, but frankly someone as smart as Abunimah should know better than to try to engage the Israelis on their turf – a weird obsession with international law as the basis for justifying their very existence.  Indeed the Israelis have liked nothing better than for the Palestinians to be engaged in “nation building” to mirror their own.  Is this fatuous template not the very thing that we seek to cast off in bringing down the Abbas regime, and the two-state solution with it?

It has been strange and disappointing enough to see folks like Steve Walt and Steve Clemons want to save the two-state solution more than Obama, but to now be seeing it from Ali Abunimah, and perhaps even Philip Giraldi, is shocking to say the least.  Even if one does not wish to credit Obama for his role in bringing about this pass, surely this much can be agreed on:

At the talk of Peter Beinart I attended last month, he very aptly stated that the best way for what the Jewish establishment likes to call “deligitimization” to become more mainstream is for said establishment to keep doing what its doing.  Intentionally or not, Israel and its American amen corner has had no better source for the rope to hang themselves than Barack Obama.

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