How Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy De-Stabilized the World: Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, May 19, 2016— In 1939, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier warned Adolf Hitler that if the Third Reich invaded Poland, a European war would follow.
Israel’s Ephemeral Power: Jacob Shapiro, Maudlin Economics, May 2, 2016— There are four key regional powers in the Middle East: Turkey, Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.
The Post-Imperial Moment: Robert D. Kaplan, National Interest, Apr. 22, 2016— We are entering an age of what I call comparative anarchy, that is, a much higher level of anarchy compared to that of the Cold War and post–Cold War periods.
Mourning the Death of Gerry Weinstein – a True Community Leader: Mike Cohen, The Suburban, May 26, 2016 — Montreal, Quebec and Canada has lost a true community leader with the passing of Gerry Weinstein.
Thanks to Obama, the Terrorist Cancer is Growing: Marc A. Thiessen, Washington Post, May 23, 2016
Facing "Abnormal" Enemies: Louis René Beres, Arutz Sheva, May 8, 2016
Could Different Borders Have Saved the Middle East?: Nick Danforth, New York Times, May 14, 2016
Islam and Democracy After the Arab Spring: Carl Gershman, World Affairs, April, 2016
Victor Davis Hanson
National Review, May 19, 2016
In 1939, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier warned Adolf Hitler that if the Third Reich invaded Poland, a European war would follow. Both leaders insisted that they meant it. But Hitler thought that after getting away with militarizing the Rhineland, annexing Austria, and dismantling Czechoslovakia, the Allied appeasers were once again just bluffing. England and France declared war two days after Hitler entered Poland.
Once hard-won deterrence is lost, it is almost impossible to restore credibility without terrible costs and danger. Last week, Russian officials warned the Obama administration about the installation of a new anti-ballistic missile system in Romania and talked of a possible nuclear confrontation that would reduce the host country to “smoking ruins” and “neutralize” any American-sponsored missile system.
Such apocalyptic rhetoric follows months of Russian bullying of nearby neutral Sweden, harassment of U.S. ships and planes, warnings to NATO nations in Europe, and constant threats to the Baltic states and former Soviet republics. China just warned the U.S. to keep its ships and planes away from its new artificial island and military base in the Spratly archipelago — plopped down in the middle of the South China Sea to control international sea lanes. Iranian leaders routinely threaten to close down the key Strait of Hormuz. North Korea and the Islamic State are upping their usual unhinged bombast to new levels — from threatening nuclear strikes on the U.S. homeland to drawing up hit lists of Americans targeted for death.
All the saber-rattling of 2016 is beginning to sound a lot like the boasts and bullying of Fascist Italy, Imperial Japan, and Nazi Germany of the 1930s. But why so much tough talk — and why now? After the abject pullout from Iraq in 2011 and the subsequent collapse of the country eroded U.S. credibility, after the fake Syrian red lines, the failed reset with Russia, the Benghazi fiasco, and the slashing of the military, America has lost its old deterrence.
In a recent interview, President Obama claimed that his Syrian flip-flop was one of his prouder moments, and he disparaged some of our allies (presumably Britain and France among them) as unreliable, glory-hogging freeloaders. Israel has formed an alliance with some of its longtime enemies in the Persian Gulf based on their shared fears of Iran and their mutual distrust of American commitment. Israelis and Saudi Arabians alike are confused about whether the Obama administration naïvely appeased Iran with a nuclear deal or deliberately courted it as a new ally.
Japan and South Korea have hinted about going nuclear, prompted by their growing distrust of decades-old American pledges to protect them from neighborhood bullies such as China, North Korea, and Russia. In a recent New York Times Magazine interview, deputy national-security adviser and presidential speechwriter Ben Rhodes ridiculed the “Blob” — his derogatory term for the bipartisan Washington, D.C., foreign-policy establishment. He also bragged about deceiving journalists and policy wonks in order to ram through the Iran deal without Senate approval or public support. Rhodes, who wrote Obama’s mythological “Cairo Speech” and also the infamous Benghazi “talking points,” seemed to confirm accusations that this administration has contempt for traditional U.S. foreign policy. If we know how and when the U.S. lost its ability to deter enemies and protect friends, why is the world suddenly heating up in the last year of Obama’s presidency?
Recent interviews with the president and his advisers might confirm the impression abroad that the global order is, for a rare moment, up for grabs, as a lame-duck administration retreats from America’s role of world leader. And given that there are only eight months left to take advantage of this global void, Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and Islamic terrorists are beginning to believe that the U.S. will not do anything to stop their aggressions once they change global realities by force.
South Korea, Estonia, Japan, Romania, the Czech Republic, Poland, the Philippines, and much of Europe all expect provocations — and fear the U.S. might issue more red lines, deadlines, and step-over lines rather than come to their aid. Aggressors are not sure whether Hillary Clinton, if elected, will govern more like a traditional Democratic president committed to leading the Western alliance. And if Donald Trump were to be elected, no aggressor would know exactly why, when, or how he might strike back at them. Given those uncertainties, it may seem wise in the waning months of 2016 for aggressors to go for broke against the predictable Obama administration before the game is declared over in 2017. For that reason, the next few months may prove the most dangerous since World War II.
Mauldin Economics, May 2, 2016
There are four key regional powers in the Middle East: Turkey, Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Within this group, however, there is a distinct division. Turkey and Iran are potential hegemons—they represent the heirs of the Ottoman and Persian empires. Israel and Saudi Arabia are key players, but they share a critical limitation: their strategic needs outweigh their capabilities, and they are limited in how much they can shape events in the region. We have studied in depth the weaknesses inherent in the Saudi kingdom and how its power will wane with the diminution of its oil wealth. Israel, for different reasons than Saudi Arabia, also faces a gravely dangerous future. The danger is a ways off, but the eventual challenge Israel will face is no less potent.
Israel has never been stronger than it is today. On all of its borders, it is in a reasonably secure position. To the south, the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty remains firmly in place. That the treaty has held for 37 years can dull our sense of just how transformative it has been. From Israel’s founding in 1948 until 1979, Egypt was a mortal enemy. Today, relations between Egypt and Israel are so cooperative that as recently as 2014, Israel allowed Egypt to deploy infantry battalions and various attack aircraft in the Sinai Peninsula to fight radical elements operating there.
To the east, Israel has maintained de facto security control over the West Bank since 1967, and in 1994, Israel signed a peace treaty with Jordan. The acquisition of the West Bank dramatically improved Israel’s security. Before 1967, Jordanian forces held the high ground. From Qalqilya, they stood within reach of roughly 40 percent of Israel’s population, concentrated then, as today, in the greater Tel Aviv metropolitan area. From Tulkarm, Jordanian forces needed to advance only 10 miles to reach the coast and, in effect, cut Israel in half. Today, the Israelis cooperate with the Jordanians as much if not more than they do with the Egyptians, and there is no military force on the west bank of the Jordan River that poses a meaningful threat to Israeli security. Any attacking force would have to cross the Jordan River and fight through hilly, difficult terrain to reach Israel’s core.
To the northeast, Syria’s civil war has left another historical enemy in complete disarray. Since 1967, the Israelis have controlled the bulk of the Golan Heights, and Syria’s various factions are so distracted with fighting each other that they do not have the time or the resources to threaten Israel in any meaningful way, nor will they for years to come. Israeli military planners consider their greatest threat to be Hezbollah operating out of Lebanon. But Hezbollah has thrown its forces into the Syrian conflict to back Bashar al-Assad’s regime and its Iranian allies. Hezbollah still has missiles that it could use to make life in the north very difficult for Israel, but it has neither the will nor the appetite for conflict now. Even if it did, it would eventually run out of rockets, and Israel has the capability to go in on the ground and cripple Hezbollah.
The Palestinians, meanwhile, have never represented an existential military threat to Israel and are arguably more politically fractured today than they have ever been. Israel maintains a blockade around the Gaza Strip, and Egypt is as invested in keeping Gaza quiet as Israel is. There are occasional conflicts with Hamas—including four major spasms in the last decade. These are horrible events for Israelis living in the cities around Gaza, but they do not threaten Israel’s security. Meanwhile, Mahmoud Abbas runs the Palestinian Authority from the West Bank and is weak politically. The recent spate of stabbings pales in comparison to the first and second intifadas, but even a third intifada would not change Israel’s overwhelming military supremacy on the ground. On none of its borders does Israel face a force that can project an existential threat—Syria’s civil war removed the last potential contender for that title.
From a regional perspective three challenges loom for Israel: Iran, the Islamic State, and Turkey. Each of these challenges demonstrates how Israel is secure in the short term but in the long term cannot guarantee its own security.
Iran is the challenge most often mentioned, largely due to the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has built his political career around the notion that he is the only Israeli leader sufficiently aware of and capable of dealing with the threat Iran poses. That strategy has worked well so far for Netanyahu—he is the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history, besides founding father David Ben-Gurion. In the short term, however, Iran cannot be said to pose a meaningful threat to Israel. In 2010, Iran was building an arc of Shiite influence that extended from Tehran all the way to the Mediterranean Sea via Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Iraq is now in shambles, Syria is in a state of civil war, and pro-Iranian forces in Lebanon have been cut off from their direct link to Iran and are engaged in Syria. Iran is 1,000 miles away from Israel, and rhetoric aside, it faces an existential crisis in the battle for influence in Baghdad and, to a lesser degree, in its fight to prop up Assad’s regime in Syria.
The key outlier here, of course, is nuclear weapons, and herein lies Israel’s fundamental weakness. Our view has always been that Iran did not want to develop nuclear weapons so much as it wanted others to believe it was developing them so they could be used as a bargaining chip. But Israel cannot make such assumptions. It has long viewed an Iranian nuclear program as a threat yet has been powerless to do anything about it. In 1981, Israel struck and destroyed a nuclear reactor in Iraq in what was called Operation Opera. In 2012, Israel destroyed a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria in Operation Orchard. Iran poses a much more difficult challenge. It is too far away for the Israeli air force to attack without forward deploying (and thereby alerting the Iranians). Israel lacks the weapons necessary to attack underground sites, and gaining intelligence on where the facilities are and whether strikes have been successful would be extremely difficult. In sum, if Israel were capable of destroying the Iranian nuclear program, it would have done so. Every time it has threatened to do so, it was bluffing.
The Islamic State is another potential threat that does not get enough attention. The media is fixated on the fact that IS has lost territory in recent months. We, however, see a sophisticated fighting force that has again retreated to more favorable ground and is defending a core territory. In the short term, IS works in Israel’s interests. It has crippled a mortal enemy in Assad and is not in a position to threaten Israel directly. But if IS or some other entity rises from the Syrian civil war able to unite Arab power, effecting a rebirth of the United Arab Republic that the founder of modern Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser sought to build in the 1950s, that alliance would represent a fundamental threat to Israel’s interests. This is an unlikely scenario but not an impossible one, and Israel does not have the luxury of discounting the unlikely.
Israel has thus far stayed out of the Syrian civil war because chaos in Syria works directly in Israel’s interest—but also because Israel does not have the capability to shape the conflict. Israel’s military is well equipped and trained, but it cannot manage a protracted conflict in which it must fight over extended supply lines. Such a conflict would cripple the Israeli economy and put the military at risk of casualties it cannot afford. Though the Syrian civil war may continue for years, it will eventually end. And then Israel will face to the northeast a new reality that it cannot define and that will thrust new challenges on Israel’s security establishment. Israel benefits from Syria’s chaos, but Israel was not the architect of Syria’s situation and cannot control Syria’s future.
The country that can dictate Syria’s future is Turkey. Turkey is the strongest of the region’s powers, and however much it does not want to intervene in the conflicts raging around it, Ankara cannot permanently accept ongoing chaos along its southern border. In terms of GDP, Turkey already has the largest economy in the region, and it also has the largest military force. By the end of the 1960s, Israel and Turkey were in the US camp in the Cold War, and despite the recent strain in relations dating back to 2010, cooperation has continued behind the scenes. But we believe the most likely scenario for the Middle East in the next 20 years is that Turkey will be forced to take a deep interest in Syria and will have to insert itself into the conflict to prevent the rise of potentially hostile states.
Here again is a strategic challenge the Israelis cannot predict or shape. If Turkey decides that projecting power into the Levant is in its interest, Israel can do nothing to stop it. If Turkey decides it wants nuclear weapons, Israel can do nothing to stop it. There is no telling how Turkey’s rise will affect the future of Israeli–Egyptian or Israeli–Jordanian relations. The Middle East today is in a state of chaos, and such chaos serves Israel’s interests. This chaos, however, will not be interminable. Order will eventually return in the form of a strong Turkey, a united Arab entity, an overachieving Iran, or some other as yet unimagined scenario. And in that future world, Israel’s relative power and security will quickly evaporate…
Robert D. Kaplan
National Interest, Apr. 22, 2016
We are entering an age of what I call comparative anarchy, that is, a much higher level of anarchy compared to that of the Cold War and post–Cold War periods.
After all, globalization and the communications revolution have reinforced, rather than negated, geopolitics. The world map is now smaller and more claustrophobic, so that territory is more ferociously contested, and every regional conflict interacts with every other as never before. A war in Syria is inextricable from a terrorist outrage in Europe, even as Russia’s intervention in Syria affects Europe’s and America’s policy toward Ukraine. This happens at a moment when, as I’ve said, multinational empires are gone, as are most totalitarian regimes in contrived states where official borders do not conform with ethnic and sectarian ones. The upshot is a maelstrom of national and subnational groups in violent competition. And so, geopolitics—the battle for space and power—now occurs within states as well as between them. Cultural and religious differences are particularly exacerbated: as group differences melt down in the crucible of globalization, they have to be reforged in a blunter and more ideological form. It isn’t the clash of civilizations so much as the clash of artificially reconstructed civilizations that is taking place. Witness the Islamic State, which does not represent Islam per se, but Islam combusting with the tyrannical conformity and mass hysteria of the Internet and social media. The postmodern reinvention of identities only hardens geopolitical divides.
In the course of all this, technology is not erasing geography—it is sharpening it. Just look at China and India. For most of history, with exceptions like the spread of Buddhism in antiquity and the nineteenth-century Opium Wars, China and India had relatively little to do with each other, emerging as two civilizations separated by the Himalayas. But technological advances have collapsed distance. Indian intercontinental ballistic missiles can hit Chinese cities and Chinese fighter jets can pierce the Indian Subcontinent’s airspace. Indian warships have deployed to the South China Sea and Chinese warships have maneuvered throughout the Indian Ocean. A new strategic geography of rivalry now exists between China and India. Geopolitics, rather than a vestige of previous centuries, is a more tightly woven feature of the globe than ever. India seeks new allies in Vietnam and Japan; China seeks closer links with Russia and Iran.
In fact, there are no purely regional problems anymore, since local hegemons like Russia, China and Iran have engaged in cyber attacks and terrorism worldwide. Thus, crises are both regional and global at the same time. And as wars and state collapses persist, the fear we should harbor should be less that of appeasement and more that of hard landings for the troubled regimes in question. We know that soft landings for totalitarian regimes in Iraq and Syria have been impossible to achieve. The United States invaded Iraq, yet stood aside in Syria; the result was virtually the same, with hundreds of thousands of people killed in each country and extremist groups filling the void.
Another thing: Remember that globalization is not necessarily associated with growth or stability, but only with vast economic and cultural linkages. These can amplify geopolitical disorder in the event of an economic slowdown. That’s what we are seeing now. Take Africa, which has had years of steady economic growth thanks less to the development of a manufacturing sector and more to a rise in commodity prices. Commodity prices are now falling, along with Chinese infrastructure investment in Africa, as China itself experiences a dramatic decrease in GDP growth. Thus, economic changes in Asia imperil African stability, to the degree that it exists. Then there are the various radical Islamic movements rampaging across Sahelian Africa. This is actually the latest phase of African anarchy—in which the communications revolution brings millenarian Islam to weak and failed states. Obviously, the United States holds little sway over any of this.
In sum, everything is interlinked as never before, even as there is less and less of a night watchman to keep the peace worldwide. Hierarchies everywhere are breaking down. Just look at the presidential primaries in the United States—an upheaval from below for which the political establishment has no answer. Meanwhile, like “the brassiness of marches” and “the heavy stomp of peasant dances” that composer Gustav Mahler employed as he invaded “the well-ordered house of classical music” in the waning decades of the Habsburg Empire (to quote the late Princeton Professor Carl E. Schorske), vulgar, populist anarchy that elites at places like Aspen and Davos will struggle to influence or even comprehend will help define the twenty-first century. The multinational empires of the early-modern and modern past, as well as the ideological divisions of the Cold War, will then be viewed almost as much with nostalgia as with disdain.
the Suburban, May 24, 2016
Montreal, Quebec and Canada has lost a true community leader with the passing of Gerry Weinstein. Gerry was a true community activist. Although he had many accomplishments to be proud about, it was the B`nai Brith House, a large social housing development in Côte Saint-Luc, which brought the biggest smile to his face. He engineered its creation and spearheaded the fundraising for the $13 million project…
Chateau B’nai Brith will be constructed right next to the IGA on Côte Saint-Luc Road. It is so sad that Gerry will not live to see it. I have been told that the Quebec board recently unanimously approved a motion submitted by former president Eric Bissell to name the current Residence B'nai Brith House to two very worthy individuals, and the sign naming Gerry Weinstien and B'nai Brith leader Ted Greenfield is now proudly displayed above the entrance."…
In 2005 Gerry became the national president of B`nai Brith Canada. This occurred a short time after he underwent a lifesaving kidney transplant. “As a person with limited sight, and having dealt with kidney disease and a transplant, he has more vision than many sighted people and always maintains a positive outlook on things,” Greenfield told me at the time of Gerry's installation. “He has been, and continues to be, involved in a number of different community organizations and has served in leadership capacities in each one. I am proud to be called a friend by Gerry Weinstein. He is a modest man and a team player who uses his stature and energy for the benefit of others, rather than himself.”…
Funeral service will take place at Paperman & Sons, 3888 Jean Talon St. W., on Wednesday, May 25 at 1:00 p.m.
CIJR mourns the passing of Gerry Weinstein, a great philanthropist and friend of the community—Ed.
Thanks to Obama, the Terrorist Cancer is Growing: Marc A. Thiessen, Washington Post, May 23, 2016—We still do not know who or what is responsible for the crash of EgyptAir Flight 804, but we know this much for certain: The terrorist danger is growing, and it won’t be contained to the Mediterranean.
Facing "Abnormal" Enemies: Louis René Beres, Arutz Sheva, May 8, 2016—"Do you know what it means to find yourselves face to face with a madman?" inquires Luigi Pirandello's, Henry IV. "Madmen, lucky folk, construct without logic, or rather with a logic that flies like a feather."
Could Different Borders Have Saved the Middle East?: Nick Danforth, New York Times, May 14, 2016—THERE probably aren’t many things that the Islamic State, Jon Stewart and the president of Iraqi Kurdistan agree on, but there is one: the pernicious influence of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, a secret plan for dividing up the Middle East signed by France and Britain, 100 years ago this week. It has become conventional wisdom to argue, as Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. recently did, that the Middle East’s problems stem from “artificial lines, creating artificial states made up of totally distinct ethnic, religious, cultural groups.”
Islam and Democracy After the Arab Spring: Carl Gershman, World Affairs, April, 2016 —Since the uprisings of the Arab Spring in 2011, an Arab Winter of authoritarian backlash has swept across the Middle East.