Trump Looks Out the Window: Zalman Shoval, Israely Hayom, July 26, 2016— Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention last week was well delivered.
How the Clintons Got Rich Selling Influence While Decrying Greed: Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, July 26, 2016 — Most presidents, before and after holding office, are offered multifarious opportunities to get rich, most of them unimaginable to Americans without access to influential and wealthy concerns.
Lebanon 2006-2016: Deterrence is an Elusive Concept: Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, BESA, July 10, 2016— Never, it seems, has there been such dissonance between the media perception of a military operation and the reality a decade later as there is surrounding the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
The Crisis of Political Islam: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, July22, 2016— In 1999, a former mayor of Istanbul named Recep Tayyip Erdogan was imprisoned and banned from politics for life for reciting a poem.
Implications of US Disengagement from the Middle East: Prof. Efraim Inbar, BESA, July 26, 2016
Iran Says One of its Top Commanders Toured Israeli-Syrian Border: Stuart Winer, Times of Israel, July 27, 2016
Don’t Forget, or Deny, Hezbollah’s Brutal Crimes: Matthew Levitt, National Post, July 20, 2016
Israel's Interests and Options in Syria: Larry Hanauer, Rand Corporation, 2015
Israel Hayom, July 26, 2016
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention last week was well delivered. Just like FDR and Harry Truman, he used this occasion to attack his rivals using various rhetorical devices, including irony. Trump pounced on President Barack Obama's record during his speech and stressed America's decline in every possible metric. He also offered an alternative vision as president: making American great again. Judging from the public's reaction, the speech was successful. Instant polls conducted after he stepped down from the podium showed that 75% of viewers responded positively to what he had articulated; only 24 responded negatively.
National security and foreign policy were not supposed to be front and center in this election cycle. But the crisis in Syria, the rise of the Islamic State and Islamic fundamentalism as a whole, and Russia's newly asserted role in eastern Europe and the Middle East have catapulted those issues to the heart of the campaign — and Trump's acceptance speech.
Trump also sat down for an interview with The New York Times last week. Needless to say, there is not a lot of love lost between Trump and the Gray Lady, but he nevertheless turned to this publication to bolster his foreign policy credentials. Both this interview and his speech provide insight into the foreign policy his administration would pursue.
As mentioned, the overarching theme of this speech was "Making America Great Again," after eight years of America being humiliated under the Obama-Clinton administration. Trump drove home the message that his administration would follow the slogan "America First." This, and past statements, had many people worried that a Trump presidency would be a throwback to the 20th century, when isolationist Republicans vehemently opposed any U.S. intervention overseas, including coming to the help of Britain in World War II.
But a closer look at what Trump is saying points to the opposite direction. Trump may very well ask U.S. allies to pay their fair share when it comes to global security, but has also made it clear that he would abide by the international agreements the U.S. has signed or renegotiate them. He also told The New York Times that peace in Europe was also important for the security of the United States and spoke about the ongoing war on Islamic terrorism.
In his speech he elaborated on other aspects of his would-be foreign policy. He lambasted the Iran nuclear deal ("Iran is on the path to nuclear weapons") and was highly critical the conduct of Obama and Clinton in Syria and Libya, which he said inflicted major damage on America's prestige. He also called on the U.S. and its allies to destroy Islamic terrorism (Israel was one of the two allies he specifically mentioned his speech).
Yes, some of what he said has raised some eyebrows. This includes his apparent defense of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or his apparent view that economic considerations should dictate America's national security and economic interests. But as former Secretary of State James Baker recently noted, he would have to accept reality as it is, and he will be checked by the U.S. Constitution.
After party conventions, the nominee usually gets a bounce in the polls, and 2016 is no exception — Trump is now polling ahead of Clinton. But we must wait and see what effect the Democratic National Convention, held this week, will have on voters. What is clear beyond all doubt is that Clinton will have to work extra hard to defend her record as secretary of state. She will also have to find a way to reconcile her views with Obama's without appearing disloyal. But above all, she will have to convince the public that the path she wants to take is the right path and she has a better chance of making America great again.
Victor Davis Hanson
National Review, July 26, 2016
Most presidents, before and after holding office, are offered multifarious opportunities to get rich, most of them unimaginable to Americans without access to influential and wealthy concerns. But none have so flagrantly circumvented laws and ethical norms as have Bill and Hillary Clinton, a tandem who in little more than a decade went from self-described financial want to a net worth likely over $100 million, or even $150 million.
The media had been critical of former president Jerry Ford’s schmoozing with Southern California elites, with Ronald Reagan’s brief but lucrative post-presidential speaking, and with George W. Bush’s youthful and pre-presidential windfall profits from his association with the Texas Rangers. And all presidents emeriti glad-hand and lobby the rich to donate to their presidential libraries, but with important distinctions. One can argue that Jimmy Carter sought donations to his nonprofit Carter Library and Center out of either ego or a sincere belief in doing good works. The same holds true of the libraries of the Bushes and Reagan. No president, however, sought to create a surrogate nonprofit organization to provide free private-jet travel for the former first family while offering sinecures to veteran operatives between campaigns. The worth of both the Clinton family and the Clinton Foundation (augmented by a recent ten-month drive to raise $250 million for the foundation’s endowment) is truly staggering, and to a great extent accrued from non-transparent pay-for-play aggrandizement.
What, then, makes the Clintons in general, and Hillary in particular, so avaricious, given that as lifelong public officials with generous pensions and paid expenses they nevertheless labored so hard to accumulate millions in ways that sometimes bothered even friends and supporters? Wall Street profiteering aside, why, while decrying soaring tuition and student indebtedness, would Hillary Clinton charge the underfunded University of California, Los Angeles, a reported $300,000 — rather than, say, $50,000 — for a 30-minute chat?
Some have suggested that Bill Clinton’s impoverished upbringing accounts for his near-feral ambition to get rich. But he also seized a unique moment in which to do so. Globalization of the early 21st century and a rather new phenomenon of progressive Silicon Valley and Wall Street families’ having fabulous fortunes certainly made the idea of being a multimillionaire many times over hardly embarrassing in the fashion of the old caricatures of the robber barons in the days of J. P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller. Banking, investment, and high technology seemed a less grubby route to elite financial status than did the old pathways of oil, minerals, agriculture, railroads, steel, and construction. The Clintons discovered that one could become very rich from a host of sources and still be considered quite progressive; indeed, liberal pieties both assuaged any guilt about one’s privilege and in a more public manner provided exemption from the logical ramifications of one’s own redistributionist rhetoric.
After a decade of loud liberal pronouncements, a Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, George Soros, Mark Zuckerberg, or Steyer brother is likely to be seen as coolly progressive rather than inordinately wealthy and exploitative. So the Clintons had unprecedented opportunities to shoulder-rub with liberal financial titans without suffering the class invective reserved for the Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson. Former vice president Al Gore is emblematic of the progressive contradictions in leveraging politics to get rich. After winning the popular vote in 2000 and losing the presidency, he discovered that the road to multimillionaire status was to mouth green and progressive pieties while monetizing his political contacts and celebrity among new networks of the global liberal rich. Fearing that new capital-gains taxes of the sort he supported would kick in, Gore then rushed to sell a failed cable station to the often anti-Semitic Al Jazeera, a Middle East media conglomerate funded from the carbon-exporting wealth of the right-wing royal autocracy in Qatar.
But Clinton greed was empowered not just by the unique opportunity of being both a former president and a liberal operator in the age of progressive billionaires who sought access and influence. More important, unlike other presidents, Bill Clinton never quite entered emeritus status. Hillary Clinton was no Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan, or Barbara or Laura Bush but, while her husband was still in office, sought a U.S. Senate seat from New York in an undisguised trajectory designed for the 2008 presidential campaign and predicated on the idea that a mature Bill would de facto be back in the Oval Office as well. Indeed, well before Hillary Clinton’s failure in the Democratic primaries in 2008 and her subsequent appointment as secretary of state, the Clintons had found a way to exploit the idea that both of them would return to the White House. That reality gave them access to quid pro quo opportunities, often funneled through a philanthropic foundation, of a sort unknown to any past American president. Most important, the Clintons had long since discovered that public outrage at their impropriety could be dismissed as the empty and vindictive charges of a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” be they allegations of sexual assault or criticisms of Bill’s becoming the highest-paid “chancellor” in the history of higher education, hired by private for-profit Laureate University at some $4 million a year…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror
BESA, July 10, 2016
Never, it seems, has there been such dissonance between the media perception of a military operation and the reality a decade later as there is surrounding the 2006 Second Lebanon War. The public was left with a bitter aftertaste once the campaign ended, and media pundits tried to outdo each other with criticisms of the military's performance, the outcome of the war, and government policies, all while marveling at the sophistication shown by Hezbollah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah.
This notorious campaign, however, has given Israel unprecedented calm on the northern border. Over the last 10 years, residents of the area have enjoyed peace and quiet. So what caused such a big gap between perceptions of the campaign and the results on the ground? The first, and perhaps most important, reason stems from the media, which evaluated the campaign's success according to its own expectations rather than according to the campaign’s effect on the enemy. These two worldviews were miles apart, especially when you consider Nasrallah's own admission that "had we known this would be the result of the abduction [of Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev], we wouldn't have done it."
As it turns out, the Israel Defense Forces inflicted massive damage on Hezbollah. Nasrallah found himself in a highly precarious situation in which his men were a hair's breadth from their breaking point. Many in Israel have failed to understand that it was not, in fact, Hezbollah's sophisticated tactics that spared them, but Israel's hesitancy and the disappointing performance of several IDF senior commanders on the ground. The criticism of the military was justified, but as Nasrallah learned the hard way, the IDF has the upper hand in any clash between itself and Hezbollah. Nasrallah understood he was on the verge of a crushing defeat, one he could not spin into a "divine victory". The crippling blows Hezbollah suffered, particularly at the hands of the Israeli Air Force, also explain why the Shiite terrorist group has been focusing considerable effort on building up its air defenses.
The second reason for the misperception is that Israeli pundits failed to account for Iranian interests. Iran formed Hezbollah as its regional proxy, a long strategic arm to be used to generate deterrence and retaliate for major events. And there the group was, wasting its resources on a minor move like the abduction of two Israeli soldiers, for which it was made to pay dearly. Already anxious about its strategic asset, Iran responded to Hezbollah’s gambit by deciding it needed to supervise the group far more strictly, as it had to be kept from making such costly mistakes. So, following the 2006 campaign, Iran imposed restrictions on Hezbollah's aggression.
Since 2012, another restriction has been curtailing Hezbollah's activity, one no one could have foreseen in 2006. Four years ago, Hezbollah became an active participant in the Syrian civil war, fighting alongside President Bashar Assad's army. It is now embroiled in a life-or-death battle in Syria, making the launch of another battle against Israel in southern Lebanon very challenging. Still, while Hezbollah may be cautious in its dealings with Israel, it has been gaining valuable experience on the Syrian battlefield that will come into play in the next confrontation.
For Hezbollah, the preservation of Assad's regime in Syria is a must if it is to maintain its iron grip on Lebanon, successfully deal with internal and external Sunni pressure, including by Islamic State, and continue its armament efforts. Assad's Syria is Hezbollah's strategic home front and part of its link to Iran. This is why Hezbollah has prioritized Syria over Israel, and as long as the civil war in Syria continues to rage, that order of priorities will remain.
The past decade of calm on the northern border may not have been solely the result of the 2006 war, but it is doubtful that any cease-fire would have held up as long as it has without it.
The nature of the military campaign itself has been misunderstood by many. The public failed to internalize that when dealing with non-state entities such as Hezbollah, which pose a considerable threat to the Israeli home front but not to the country's existence, Israel launches "campaigns," rather than wars that achieve a decisive result. Many expected something along the lines of the unequivocal victory of the 1967 Six-Day War and wanted to see Hezbollah raise a white flag, which of course did not happen.
One must remember that the impressive victory of 1967 was immediately followed by the War of Attrition, and six years after that the devastating Yom Kippur War. The lesson is clear: Israel must win its wars, but cannot expect victory to result in its enemies' disappearance or even to guarantee longer intervals between conflicts, let alone peace. Victory on the battlefield is a necessary condition, but it is not enough. Deterrence is an elusive concept, one difficult to predict and apply, even in the context of successful military campaigns.
As Israel must continue to fight organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas, it is best if certain things, underscored by the 2006 campaign, are made clear. Non-state organizations can be defeated militarily, but while it is possible to destroy their operational abilities, one should not aspire to annihilate them through extreme measures (although doing so is possible under certain circumstances). The real question is not whether they should be vanquished, but rather how beneficial vanquishing them would be, compared to the price of achieving victory and maintaining the new situation.
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Wall Street Journal, July 22, 2016
In 1999, a former mayor of Istanbul named Recep Tayyip Erdogan was imprisoned and banned from politics for life for reciting a poem. “Our minarets are our bayonets, our domes are our helmets, our mosques are our barracks,” the incriminating lines went. “My reference is Islam. If I am not able to speak of this, what is the use of living?” The ban on Mr. Erdogan didn’t stick. Now Turkey’s president (and prime minister for 11 years before that), he is presiding over a nationwide purge of suspected enemies after the failure last week of a military coup against his government.
For decades, in much of the Middle East, Islamist politicians like Mr. Erdogan weren’t able to speak out—and, when they did, they frequently faced a prison cell or a hangman’s noose. From Algeria to Egypt to Turkey, the apparatus of the state repeatedly unleashed repression—of varying degrees of harshness—to marginalize political Islam, crushing democratic freedoms while offering the excuse of preserving secular values. The West, preferring the autocratic devils it knew over the Islamists it didn’t, often concurred.
In response, many of the Islamist movements that sprang up under the influence of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood—groups that include Mr. Erdogan’s party—have gradually embraced the language of pluralism and the idea of democratic politics and elections. Crucially, however, these modern Islamists have often viewed democracy not as a value in itself but merely as a tactic to bring about a “true” Islamic order. To them, the voting booth was simply the most feasible way to dismantle the postcolonial, secular systems that, in the eyes of their followers, had failed to bring justice or development to ordinary Muslims.
In 2005, Mr. Erdogan—then serving as Turkey’s prime minister and acclaimed for improving the country’s human-rights record and pushing forward its bid for membership in the European Union—let slip on a trip to Australia that he viewed democracy just as “a vehicle.”
In the subsequent decade, Mr. Erdogan has extinguished major centers of opposition in Turkey’s bureaucracy, media, military and judiciary. In the wake of the failed coup—itself a vivid confirmation that his suspicions weren’t unfounded—he has launched a crackdown on tens of thousands of potential opponents, including detaining nearly 9,000 people since the collapse of the plot. “All the checks and balances have now been eliminated,” said Soner Cagaptay, a Turkey expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
In Egypt, hopes for democracy were high in the wake of the 2011 demonstrations in Tahrir Square that helped to topple longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. But the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, took just a few months after being elected in 2012 to start ominously consolidating his rule, granting himself immunity from judicial oversight. His power grab was cut short by a successful military coup the following year, which installed the country’s current strongman, Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. His regime has quickly proven more repressive even than Mr. Mubarak’s.
This cycle of conflict—between the entrenched “deep state,” dominated by a country’s military and security establishments, and Islamist parties eager to grab as much power as possible whenever elected due to their wholly legitimate fears that they won’t otherwise be allowed to govern—has been a major reason why democracy has failed to take root in the Middle East.
Tainted by their associations with the West or the autocratic regimes long in power, liberal and secular parties have struggled to emerge as a third option in much of the region. And democracy, after all, is a tough proposition when neither of the two major forces now shaping the Middle East’s politics—the old-guard autocrats and the Islamist movements—truly believes in it.
The democratic exception to this rule is Tunisia, the one Arab democracy to emerge from the Arab revolutions of 2011. It is the only country now rated as “free” by Freedom House, a U.S. organization that analyzes civil liberties and political rights, out of the 17 Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East and North Africa. That’s the worst record for any region. “There is a lot to be done before democracy has a chance. Education, pluralistic ideas and consensus-building are in short supply in many of these countries,” said Hassan Hassan, a fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in Washington, D.C.
This democracy problem is linked not so much with Islam, an ancient religion, as with political Islam—a modern ideology developed in 20th-century Egypt, in part, to redress the Middle East’s backwardness compared with the West. Its founding fathers in the Muslim Brotherhood met violent deaths— Hassan al-Banna was gunned down in 1949, Sayyid Qutb was hanged by the Egyptian government in 1966—but their ideas took root throughout the Middle East after the repeated failures of autocratic regimes that preached the rival ideas of socialism and Arab nationalism. Offshoots of the Brotherhood now represent the dominant political movements from Morocco to Turkey to the Gaza Strip…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Implications of US Disengagement from the Middle East: Prof. Efraim Inbar, BESA, July 26, 2016—The United States is retreating from the Middle East. The adverse implications of this policy shift are manifold, including: the acceleration of Tehran’s drive to regional hegemony, the palpable risk of regional nuclear proliferation following the JCPOA, the spread of jihadist Islam, and Russia’s growing penetration of the region. Manifest US weakness is also bound to have ripple effects far beyond the Middle East, as global players question the value of partnership with an irresolute Washington.
Iran Says One of its Top Commanders Toured Israeli-Syrian Border: Stuart Winer, Times of Israel, July 27, 2016— The commander of a key Iranian military force recently visited the border between Israel and Syria, Iran said
Don’t Forget, or Deny, Hezbollah’s Brutal Crimes: Matthew Levitt, National Post, July 20, 2016— For the victims of Hezbollah terrorism, this week is a painful one. While the world was focused on horrifying attacks in France, Germany and across the Middle East, a grim anniversary on July 18th went little noticed.
Israel's Interests and Options in Syria: Larry Hanauer, Rand Corporation, 2015—With little ability to affect the outcome of the Syrian civil war, and with limited interest in intervening in the conflict other than to pre-empt or respond to attacks on its territory, Israel seems to have been a passive actor in recent events shaping the Levant.