Sunday, June 16, 2019

Yes Prime Minister On the Arabs and Israel

Nothing much has changed in 30 years. The USSR is no more, but British policy towards Israel remains as it used be. 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Bret Stephens: If Iran won’t change its behavior, we should sink its navy.


The Pirates of Tehran

If Iran won’t change its behavior, we should sink its navy.

June 14, 2019

On April 14, 1988, the U.S.S. Samuel B. Roberts, a frigate, hit an Iranian naval mine while sailing in the Persian Gulf. The explosion injured 10 of her crew and nearly sank the ship. Four days later, the U.S. Navy destroyed half the Iranian fleet in a matter of hours. Iran did not molest the Navy or international shipping for many years thereafter.

Now that’s changed. Iran’s piratical regime is back yet again to its piratical ways.

Or so it seems, based on a detailed timeline of Thursday’s attackson two tankers in the Gulf of Oman provided by the U.S. Central Command, including a surveillance video of one of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps patrol boats removing an unexploded limpet mine from the hull of one of the damaged tankers.

The Iranians categorically deny responsibility. And the Trump administration has credibility issues, to put it mildly, which is one reason why electing a compulsive prevaricator to the presidency is dangerous to national security.

In this case, however, the evidence against Iran is compelling. CentCom’s account notes that “a U.S. aircraft observed an IRGC Hendijan class patrol boat and multiple IRGC fast attack craft/fast inshore attack craft (FAC/FIAC) in the vicinity of the M/T Altair,” one of the damaged tankers. The Iranian boats are familiar to the U.S. Navy after decades of observing them at close range. And staging deniable attacks that fall just below the threshold of open warfare on the U.S. is an Iranian specialty.

Trump might be a liar, but the U.S. military isn’t. There are lingering questions about the types of munitions that hit the ships, and time should be given for a thorough investigation. But it would require a large dose of self-deception (or conspiracy theorizing) to pretend that Iran isn’t the likely culprit, or that its actions don’t represent a major escalation in the region.

That raises two questions, one minor, the other much more consequential.

The minor question is why the Iranians did it. There has been a pattern of heightened Iranian aggression for nearly two months, including highly sophisticated attacks on four oil tankers near the Emirati port of Fujairah on May 12.

This might be seen as a response to the resumption of major U.S. sanctions, which have had a punishing effect on Iran’s economy. Except that Tehran did nothing to moderate its behavior after the nuclear deal was signed, and most sanctions were lifted, in 2016.

It might also be seen as an effort by regime hard-liners to sabotage the possibility of a resumption of nuclear negotiations. It’s hard to believe it was just a coincidence that the attacks on the ships, one of which was Japanese, coincided with the visit to Tehran by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. Then again, the I.R.G.C. was a major economic beneficiary of the nuclear deal, so it’s not exactly clear why it would want to stop a new one.

The most likely explanation was offered by Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who suggested that Iran’s purpose was “to demonstrate that Trump is a Twitter Tiger.”

It’s not a bad guess. The Iranians know that vainglory and timidity often go hand in hand.

Trump went from apocalyptic to smitten with Kim Jong-un in a matter of weeks after concluding that the risks of a confrontation with North Korea just weren’t worth it. He’s delivered similar mixed messages toward Tehran. Driving a crisis in the Middle East so that the U.S. president can “solve” it with a fresh nuclear deal on even easier terms than Obama’s would be a canny Iranian gambit.

Which brings us to the consequential question: What’s the proper U.S. response?

It can’t be the usual Trumpian cycle of bluster and concession. Neither can it be the liberal counsel of feckless condemnation followed by inaction. Firing on unarmed ships in international waters is a direct assault on the rules-based international order in which liberals claim to believe. To allow it to go unpunished isn’t an option.

What is appropriate is a new set of rules — with swift consequences if Iran chooses to break them. The Trump administration ought to declare new rules of engagement to allow the Navy to engage and destroy Iranian ships or fast boats that harass or threaten any ship, military or commercial, operating in international waters. If Tehran fails to comply, the U.S. should threaten to sink any Iranian naval ship that leaves port.

If after that Iran still fails to comply, we would be right to sink its navy, in port or at sea. The world cannot tolerate freelance Somali pirates. Much less should it tolerate a pirate state seeking to hold the global economy hostage through multiplying acts of economic terrorism.

Nobody wants a war with Iran. But not wanting a war does not mean remaining supine in the face of its outrages. We sank Iran’s navy before. Tehran should be put on notice that we are prepared and able to do it again.

Bret L. Stephens has been an Opinion columnist with The Times since April 2017. He won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary at The Wall Street Journal in 2013 and was previously editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post. @BretStephensNYT 


My comment:    

I do not think that Trump's terms would be "even easier terms than Obama’s "  On the contrary.

Douglas Murray at his best - Israel & Nuclear Iran

The proposition being put before you tonight is that you have a choice between war and an Iran with the bomb.  You have a choice as has been said before, between war and dishonor – you will choose dishonor this evening and you will get war.  You have a choice between a war with a nuclear Iran, or a war at some point, with an Iran that is not nuclear which you stop from ever being nuclear, and hope that in stopping that regime  in embedding itself, you will give the Iranian people the best chance of overthrowing that regime. But as I say, thank God this does not rely on you or any Europeans. Because you’ve made the same mistake before and nobody should trust you to get it right this time.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

A deterrent strategy is aimed at a rational enemy

Albert Wohlstetter

The central issue: nuclear Iran

In “2019 is becoming Israel’s ‘lost year’” (May 31), Yaakov Katz writes: “There was no talk about the issues that Israelis really care about – social equality, matters of religion and state, the lack of civil marriage, education, health and more.” 

There was also no talk about the Iranian nuclear threat. Why do Israelis refuse to talk about the only topic the resolution of which is the precondition for all others to have meaning since matters of religion and state, the lack of civil marriage, education and health would be pointless in a rubble after an Iranian nuclear attack?

Are Israelis in collective denial? Netanyahu’s legal troubles or not, we all seem to forget what Albert Wohlstetter wrote in his 1958 paper “The Delicate Balance of Terror” – “A deterrent strategy is aimed at a rational enemy.”


Saturday, May 25, 2019

Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security: No Illusions, No Despair

A new national security plan says avoid risky diplomatic escapades and prepare for war.

At a much darker hour in Jewish history, prior to the UN vote in 1947, David Ben-Gurion said: “We hold no illusions, but do not despair. For us Jews, and particularly Zionists, two things are forbidden: easy optimism and sterile pessimism.”

That dictum, “no illusions, no despair,” is the headline of a national security policy plan for Israel’s new government that will be released next week by the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS).

At the basis of the plan’s 14 concrete policy recommendations is the assumption that Israel must be ready for war on three fronts against an Iranian-led coalition. This means preventing the emergence of an Iranian war machine in Syria and Iranian long-range missile bases in Iraq; presenting a credible capacity to strike Iranian nuclear targets and the ability to withstand an intense missile war; and preparing ground forces capable of swift maneuvers and attaining decisive outcomes (“mowing the grass”) in the two Palestinian arenas.

All this will test the cohesion of Israeli society, the strength of the IDF, and Israel’s diplomatic agility. Therefore, say JISS fellows, the new government must nurture a spirit of unity and national purpose by building a policy consensus as broad as possible.

Among other things, this means avoiding risky diplomatic escapades like unilateral withdrawals from parts of the West Bank, withdrawals that would unnecessarily and unjustifiably tear the country apart while feeding unrealistic Palestinian expectations – without any real diplomatic reward for Israel.

“Indefinitely managing the conflict with the Palestinians is not a cowardly choice by hapless political and military leaders, but a rational choice,” write the JISS fellows. “Especially when the Iranian challenge looms larger than ever on Israel’s horizons.”

To this I add: Judicious conflict management requires a steady hand at the helm of state, and self-confidence in the justice of Israel’s long-term interests. Most of all, it requires patience.

As for the extension of Israeli law to settlements in Judea and Samaria, here too the JISS plan urges restraint. “No action should be taken until the Trump administration peace initiative has been exhausted; and even then, Israeli moves should adhere to the contours of broad national consensus” (meaning the settlement blocs, the Jordan Valley and other key strategic areas).

The big exception to this rule is Jerusalem. Israel’s national security requires control over Jerusalem and its very broad environs. Reinforcing Jerusalem should be a high priority, with the government acting to bolster the Zionist majority in the city by massive building in the E-1 quadrant (despite Palestinian and European objections) and linking the city to Ma’aleh Adumim and eventually to the Jordan Valley.

The plan also recommends that Arab parts of the city be governed more firmly and fairly. This means that resolute action needs to be taken against radical elements who seek to change the status quo on the Temple Mount, and against foreign elements (like Turkey and the European Union) who undermine Israel’s sovereignty in the Jewish people’s historical capital. At the same time, the government should encourage greater integration of eastern Jerusalem Arabs in Israeli life through investment in infrastructure and education.

JISS FELLOWS say that Israel should welcome the so-called “Deal of the Century” about to be unveiled by Washington and agree to negotiate on its basis. The reason for this is simple: Hopefully, the Trump plan will upend stale “common wisdom” regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and offer more realistic contours. (This is often termed EKP – the “Everybody Knows Paradigm” for Israeli-Palestinian peace, something like the “Clinton Parameters.”) In any case, Israel must be ready for a security deterioration if, as expected, Palestinian leadership rejects the American initiative.

Other diplomatic and defense recommendations in the JISS plan are to prioritize relations with Egypt and Jordan while seeking new partnerships in the Arab world; exact a price for Erdogan’s provocations and bolster alliances in the eastern Mediterranean; preserve bipartisan support for Israel in the US; maintain active dialogue and deconfliction channels with Russia; act boldly to find European anchors to negate hostile attitudes in Brussels; tread carefully amidst rising tensions in Asia; and enhance Israel’s diplomatic toolbox.

The latter point bears elaboration. JISS fellows give very high marks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for greatly expanding Israel’s global diplomatic standing, including enhanced ties with Russia, China, India, Eastern European countries and African and South American countries. But capitalizing on Israel’s opportunities in the international arena requires a strengthening of the professional Israeli foreign service.

This should include appointment of a full-time foreign minister; a return to the Foreign Ministry of professional units dispersed among other ministries; the allocation of additional budgets for diplomacy; the enhancement of MASHAV (Israel’s foreign aid agency) and the integration of Israeli (and Jewish) NGOs in aid projects overseas; and training cadres of professionals who can communicate with an increasingly attentive audience in the Arabic-speaking world.

The Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security was established in 2017 to express a realist strategic worldview. It promotes the Jewish people’s historical connection to the Land of Israel “as a central component of security and national identity,” and advances “pragmatic policies that keep Israel strong and will lead to stable diplomatic arrangements in the long term.”

Among its leaders are Prof. Efraim Inbar, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror (the Anne and Greg Rosshandler Senior Fellow), Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yair Golan, Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman, Mrs. Micky Aharonson, Dr. David Koren, Dr. Joshua Krasna, Dr. Yossi Mansharof, Dr. Emmanuel Navon, Dr. Uzi Rubin, Dr. Jonathan Spyer, myself and others.

My sense is that the Israeli public has long hankered for expert analysis that would validate its healthy conservative instincts in matters of war and peace. The Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security is the answer to this need. Thus, it is not surprising that the key word in the JISS national security plan is “caution.”

Israel is a strong country and its strategic position is better than ever. Nevertheless, it still faces significant security challenges, primarily from the Iranian regime and its proxies, alongside a violent and intractable conflict with the Palestinians. Therefore, the IDF must be geared for war. This is the ultimate test for Israeli society, too.

The writer is vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, His personal site is


My comment:

I am not sure if I fully agree with “JISS FELLOWS say that Israel should welcome the so-called “Deal of the Century” ”    As I wrote from my mamad three weeks ago, while I could hear the booms of the exploding scuds:

“So the real question is how does the Trump Peace Plan deal with the fact that the followers of Islamic ideology would always try to impose their Shari’a law on everyone else?”

I would wait for the “Deal of the Century” to be unveiled first.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Shadow Strike

The right book to read vis-à-vis US-Iran tension

Shadow Strike is immensely readable and although much of the info had percolated down to the general public during these last 12 years, it well describes the politics of the Bush administration’s reluctance to bomb the reactor themselves.

It shows how ignorant some members of the Bush administration were about Israel’s predicament and that is especially true of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Vice President Dick Cheney seems to have been the most supportive of Israel, but he could not convince President Bush to attack the reactor himself.  John Bolton comes out as the only one who sensed that Syria was interested in nuclear weapons. We should remind everyone how wrong Joe Biden had been in attacking Bolton on this issue.   

The book also demonstrates how obsessed both the American and Israeli side were with the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process – the desire to construct the political perpetuum mobile  without them first doing their homework on Islam as both a religion and an ideology. Not that much has changed in this regard since.

I detect a certain positive bias towards the main protagonists Olmert, Barak, Peretz, Livni, Dagan, Ashkenazi, Yadlin and Halevy while the gibe is against Netanyahu for having two weeks after the strike congratulated Olmert on the successful strike and disclosed that Israel had done it.  In addition, Katz seems to take Meir Dagan and Gabi Ashkenazi’s side when they blocked Netanyahu and Barak’s order of placing the IDF on high alert and ready for the imminent attack on Iranian nuclear sites, a decision the consequences of which are still felt today with Secretary of State Pompeo cancelling his visit to Greenland and the cover of The Economist showing a photo of USS Abraham Lincoln and the headline “Collision course”

I learned about the balagan Israel is capable of.  

“On the plane [from Pyongyang], Halevy was surprised to run into Eytan Bentsur, the director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry who had just wrapped his own visit to Pyongyang for talks with the North Koreans  on a similar topic .

It was a classic case of uncoordinated Israeli bureaucracy”

And what about Iran?

Yaakov Katz writes: “The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, for example, has a significant nuclear arsenal but Israel does not consider the possibility of launching an attack there. Why?

Meridor, one of the participants in the fateful 2010 Security Cabinet meeting, told me that for Israel to consider preemptive action against another country’s nuclear program, two criteria have to be met: the country has to be one of Israel’s enemies  and also have the potential to one day consider using a nuclear weapon against it . Syria fit both. Pakistan does not.”

Iran fits both too. Perhaps Meridor should be reminded what Bernard Lewis said:

 “In this context, the deterrent that worked so well during the Cold War, namely M.A.D. (Mutual Assured Destruction), would have no meaning.  At the End of Time, there will be general destruction anyway.  What will matter is the final destination of the dead-- hell for the infidels, and the delights of heaven for the believers. For people with this mindset, M.A.D. is not a constraint; it is an inducement...”

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Collision course - MAD as Albert Wohlstetter put it in 1958

Secretary of State Pompeo cancelled his visit to Greenland and the cover of The Economist says Collision course. Time to reread Albert Wohlstetter: The Delicate Balance of Terror


"On the whole, I think the burden of the criticism of deterrence has been the inadequacy of a thermonuclear capability and frequently of, what is not really deterrence at all, the threat to strike first. But it would be a fatal mistake to confuse the inadequacy of strategic deterrence with its dispensability. Deterrence is not dispensable. If the picture of the world I have drawn is rather bleak, it could nonetheless be cataclysmically worse. Suppose both the United States and the Soviet Union had the power to destroy each others' retaliatory forces and society, given the opportunity to administer the opening blow. In this case, the situation would be something like the old-fashioned Western gun duel. It would be extraordinarily risky for one side not to attempt to destroy the other, or to delay doing so. Not only can it emerge unscathed by striking first; this is the only way it can have a reasonable hope of emerging at all. Such a situation is clearly extremely unstable. On the other hand, if it is clear that the aggressor too will suffer catastrophic damage in the event of his aggression, he then has strong reason not to attack, even though he can administer great damage. A protected retaliatory capability has a stabilizing influence not only in deterring rational attack, but also in offering every inducement to both powers to reduce the chance of accidental detonation of war. Our own interest in "fail-safe" responses for our retaliatory forces illustrates this. A protected power to strike back does not come automatically, but it can hardly be stressed too much that it is worth the effort."

"A deterrent strategy is aimed at a rational enemy."

Monday, May 6, 2019

Why is only Austria's Parliament discussing the Iranian threat? What about the Knesset?

The Jerusalem Post


Bassam Tibi

"If there is going to be a repeat of the Holocaust, it will not be in Europe - here people have matured - but in the Middle East."

The prominent German-Syrian Islam expert Bassam Tibi warned Austria’s Parliament on Friday that the Islamic Republic of Iran may carry out a second Holocaust against Jews in Israel.

During a memorial for the victims of Nazism, Tibi said: “When an atomic bomb is planned from Iran in the direction of Israel, that is a Holocaust. And who denies that must be penalized like every Holocaust denier.”

Tibi told Austria’s political class, including Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, “If there is going to be a repeat of the Holocaust, it will not be in Europe – here people have matured – but in the Middle East.”

Tibi, who was born in Damascus in 1944, relocated to Germany in 1962, and studied in Frankfurt with two leading German-Jewish philosophers, Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, he said in his speech “Adorno and Horkheimer changed my life.” He said later he had to flee the brutal Hafez al-Assad dictatorship in Syria.

A political scientist, Tibi has taught at Harvard University, Cornell University and the University of Göttingen.

He told the audience that whoever is against antisemitism must be “against all forms of antisemtism,” and that “today’s antisemitism not only comes from the Nazi corner but also comes much more from the Arab region as immigrant antisemitism in European Islamic communities.”

Tibi said contemporary antisemitism “often appears as criticism of Israel, which is personified as the ‘world Jew’ that needs to be wiped out.”

“We must fight Islamic antisemitism,” he continued. Tibi criticized the parallel between Islamophobia and antisemitism, declaring it “pure ideology,” and lamented that if one speaks about Islamic antisemitism, “You run risk of being labeled an Islamophobe.”

Tibi, who has written extensively about modern antisemitism, said “Jewish life is in danger in Europe,” adding “Many Jews are leaving France because they say it is more secure in Israel.”

In addition to highlighting the rise of Islamic antisemitism, Tibi noted growing left-wing antisemitism, citing the ongoing Jew-hatred scandals within Britain’s Labour Party.

Tibi also said the Muslim Brotherhood is a highly dangerous organization, noting that its Egyptian founder “Hassan al-Banna was  calling for the destruction of the Jews in the 1930s. That is terrorism.”

Tibi stressed that one must differentiate between Islam and Islamism.

On a side note, Tibi mentioned that in the US he met the late Middle East historian Bernard Lewis, commenting that “the Jewish historian was my mentor and friend,” and terming Lewis the “greatest historian of Islam.”

He credited Lewis’s book “The Jews of Islam” as a critical work for his knowledge about the Middle East. While in the US, he said he felt most at home with the American Jewish community.

Austria along with the European Union has refused to join US sanctions against Iran’s regime. The United States government classifies the Islamic Republic of Iran as the top state-sponsor of terrorism. Austria has also refused to outlaw the terrorist entity Hezbollah’s military wing. Hezbollah’s aim is the destruction of Israel.

John Bolton's clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime

Statement from the National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton

 Issued on: May 5, 2019

In response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings, the United States is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.  The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Be’er Sheva under rocket attack, n+1st time!

How long will this go on for? How many years must we go through this? 2008, 2009, 2012, 2014, 2018, now yet again!?  

I am fed up!  I am fed up with everyone's lack of courage to say the truth about Islamic ideology and their followers whom Ayaan Hirsi Ali calls “Medina Muslims” (who “see the forcible imposition of Shari’a as their religious duty”), as opposed to “Mecca Muslims” (i.e., “Muslims who are loyal to the core creed and worship devoutly, but are not inclined to practice violence”).

For centuries many have been trying to construct the perpetuum mobile - the perpetual motion machine - but without any success. Why have they all failed? Because the perpetual motion machine would violate the laws of thermodynamics.    

For decades many have been trying to come up with a Middle East peace plan. Why have they all failed? Because Middle East Peace, as defined by Western democracies, would violate one of the basic tenets of Islamic ideology – jihad. Islam is not only a religion but a political ideology as well. After all, Ayatollah Khomeini said: “Islam is politics or it is nothing.” 

So the real question is how does the Trump Peace Plan deal with the fact that the followers of Islamic ideology would always try to impose their Shari’a law on everyone else?

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Mikhail Gorbachev: The Madness of Nuclear Deterrence

The dangers have only become more acute in the decades since I tried to convince Thatcher.


By  Mikhail Gorbachev


‘Deterrence cannot protect the world from a nuclear blunder or nuclear terrorism,” George Shultz, William Perry and Sam Nunn recently wrote. “Both become more likely when there is no sustained, meaningful dialogue between Washington and Moscow.” I agree with them about the urgent need for strategic engagement between the U.S. and Russia. I am also convinced that nuclear deterrence, instead of protecting the world, is keeping it in constant jeopardy.

I recall my heated discussions of this issue with Margaret Thatcher. We argued about many things and often found common ground, but on this question she fought to the last. Nuclear weapons, she insisted, prevented World War III.

I asked her: “Are you really comfortable sitting on a nuclear powder keg?” I showed her a diagram representing the world’s nuclear arsenals, grouped into hundreds of squares. Each square, I told her, is enough to eliminate human civilization as we know it. I was unable to persuade Margaret Thatcher. We hear the same arguments today, including in the U.S. and Russia.

Yet nuclear weapons are like a rifle hanging on the wall in a play written and staged by a person unknown. We do not know the playwright’s intent. Nuclear weapons could go off because of a technical failure, human error or computer error. The last alarms me the most. Computer systems are now used everywhere. And how many times have computers and electronics failed—in aviation, in industry, in various control systems?

Nuclear weapons might also be launched in response to a false alarm. If the flight time of the missiles is reduced, leaving less time to detect a false alarm, the probability of a mistaken retaliatory launch is bound to rise.

Nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists. And who knows what other “surprises” these weapons have in store for us?

Those who believe nuclear weapons can save the world from war should recall the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. A dispute over the placement of Soviet nuclear weapons put the world on the brink of war. Recently published documents show how close the world came to the fateful line. It was not nuclear weapons that saved the world, but the sobering up of the two countries’ leaders, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev. I am sure they thought long and hard, then and afterward, and their perception of nuclear weapons changed a great deal.

What’s more, they reached agreement on ending nuclear tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water, thus slowing the qualitative weapons race as well as protecting the air from the deadly products of nuclear explosions.

The opportunity to continue progress in nuclear arms control was then squandered. The military-industrial complex won out over common sense. Only much later, toward the end of the 1980s, were we able to stop the arms race. Today, the U.S. and Russia are at a perilous crossroads. They must stop and think. The veterans of the Cold War have spoken. It is now up to our nations’ leaders to act.

Mr. Gorbachev is former president of the Soviet Union.



Sunday, April 28, 2019

US thinking ‘out of the box’

Regarding “Friedman to ‘Post’: US thinking ‘out of the box’” (April 25), US Ambassador David Friedman told The Jerusalem Post the Trump administration peace plan is an effort to “think out of the box and capture the imagination and hopes of both sides for a better life.” 

The problem with this statement is that Islam, in addition to being a religion, is also a political ideology, and “hopes for a better life” for the followers of Islamic ideology will never, ever, find common ground with the hopes of the adherents to a liberal Western democracy.    


Saturday, April 27, 2019

Victor Davis Hanson: The Case for Trump

I abstained from voting in the 2016 presidential elections. I could not vote for the corrupt Hillary Clinton who would have continued with the absurd and dangerous Iran Deal, nor could I trust the apparently unpredictable Donald Trump.

Apart from a few, most of my friends would cringe if I were to recommend them this book by Victor Davis Hanson.   But I am doing precisely that.  VDH clearly explains how Trump won:

“As it turned out, Trump would win three key swing states once deemed irrevocably blue: Michigan (by a 0.2 percent margin), Pennsylvania (0.7 percent), and Wisconsin (0.8 percent). Or in other words, Trump won the election because about eighty thousand voters in just three states swung his way”

And he explains why they supported him:

“Apparently, a third of the voters saw him as something analogous to chemotherapy, which after all is used to combat something far worse than itself. Such toxicity was felt to be needed to kill the cancer  (i.e. , the politics and bureaucracy of the proverbial deep state ), even as the dosage might nearly kill the patient ( the Trump voter) during the taxing therapy ( the 24/7 media obsession with all things Trump).”

Victor Davis Hanson’s book is a must for anybody who wants to understand what has been happening in the US.  I believe VDH  in this book gives a better insight into the Trump phenomenon than  Never Trumper  Bret Stephens has done in his anti-Trump articles .  Stephens with all his excellent analyses of  Israel related issues here and here, was somewhat blinded by his dislike of Trump. It was not Stephens’s only blind spot.

For me, the greatest move Trump has so far accomplished is the US withdrawal from the Iran deal.

As I put it in my post:

Thank you President Trump for withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. Finally someone found the guts to stand up to the spineless Europeans and show that the Iran deal’s sunset clause was so absurd that it alone justified quitting the deal. Now the US and Israel have to educate the rest of the world and quote Bernard Lewis’s warning “For people with this mindset, Mutually Assured Destruction is not a constraint; it is an inducement...”     

The good news is that Trump has now Michael Pompeo as his Secretary of State and John Bolton as his National Security Advisor.

“The addition of both the hawkish Pompeo and Bolton in early 2018 allowed Trump to switch from his prior “bad cop” role of threatening fire and fury and scarcely being restrained by his sober and judicious advisors.  Not now. Trump would talk more like “good cop” who warned foreign leaders that he might have to reign some of his team like Bolton and Pompeo, who wanted stronger reactions to perceived foreign   acts”.

I found Victor Davis Hanson’s characterization of Trump as the Tragic Hero fascinating .  He compares Trump to General George S. Patton,  General Curtis  LeMay,  architect  of the low-level  B-29 raids over Japan,  even to Achilles in Homer’s Illiad  and to Clint Eastwood’s Inspector  “Dirty”  Harry Callahan.

“What makes such men and women both tragic and heroic is their knowledge that the natural expression of their personas can lead only to their own destruction or ostracism from an advancing civilization that they seek to protect” 

VDH concludes his book with:  

“In sum, the Trump paradox remained as much a mystery to his progressive critics as it always had – and perhaps always will”.

And not only to progressives.  I remain skeptical about Trump’s grasp of the Middle East.  The answer I got from Rudy Giuliani about Trump’s proclaimed neutrality in the Israel-Palestinian conflict is a good illustration: “Rudy Giuliani answered (the exact wording I cannot recall)  that he had  known Donald Trump for many years and that Trump had this incredible tendency to say stupid things before he thinks. Trump had made an unfortunate comment but that he is a friend of Israel.

We have yet to see what Trump’s peace plan will look like. 

Friday, April 19, 2019

A surprise in Prague

Having spent as a foreign student 6 years in the USSR, not much in the history of Communism should come as a surprise to me. Yet I was completely shocked by the size of this monument to Stalin I had never heard of, the photo of which is displayed in Prague’s Museum of Communism.  The actual monument was unveiled in 1955 and destroyed in 1962.

Although Czechoslovakia was under the Nazis from March 1939 till the end of WWll, and under Soviet domination from 1948 till the Velvet Revolution of 1989, it has been free (as the Czech Republic since 1993) for the last 30 years! So all this is now history.  All the youth I saw in the Museum of Communism and the Cold War Museum have been born in freedom. I have become a dinosaur! I remember August 21, 1968, the day of the invasion!  

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Why I voted Bibi

They say that this election is not about issues but a referendum on Bibi.   

But issues do matter and in my mind there is only one issue to which all other issues are dependent on. Israel has to protect itself from an Iranian nuclear attack.  The issues of education, housing and corruption would be irrelevant in the rubble after a nuclear exchange.  

Iran hardly figured in the pre-election discussion. So it is not the obvious “Bibi fatigue” that is prevalent but the “Iranian nuclear threat fatigue” that dominates. However, Iran has not vanished and we were just reminded of it by president Trump last night when he designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist group. Isn’t it odd that the US is more concerned about Iran than Israel?

Out of the 4 leaders of Blue and White, Lapid and Gantz supported Obama's deal which was a disaster. Ya'alon changed his mind and now says that at this point, and in the foreseeable future, there is no existential threat facing Israel.  Gabi Ashkenazi along with Meir Dagan prevented Bibi and Barak from attacking Iranian nuclear sites in 2010. Then the breakout time was 6 months, now it is 3 months. By the time the Iran Deal expires the breakout time will be 0.

So the referendum should be on the person who is best prepared to preempt Iran if Iran goes for breakout.  The leader(s) who prevented Netanyahu in 2010 from attacking the Iranian nuclear sites, or Netanyahu who already proved that he can make a decision of this importance?  Take your pick.  I have.

Why is it so crucial to stop Iran from ever getting the bomb?  Norman Podhoretz explains

“Now I will give you my answer to this. That's' Bernard's answer to the question.   My answer to the question is to imagine a scenario which most people are horrified. I've tried this in speeches all the time, people shy away from it. Imagine that Iran gets the bomb. OK and the Israelis are sitting there and asking  themselves, do we wait for them to hit us and then retaliate out of the rubble or do we preempt it first?   The Iranians are asking themselves the same question. Do we wait for the Israelis to hit us or do we hit them first. We've never had a hair trigger situation like that since the invention of nuclear weapons. If you just imagine the rulers of Iran asking  themselves  that question. Somebody is gonna beat the other to the punch. And I can't see that unstable situation lasting for very long, maybe even as along as a few weeks or months”