Belmont Club

Cause it's getting better

In yet  another blow to the ‘Arab Spring’,  Egyptian liberals have walked out of the constitution drafting process saying “they were not given the opportunity to discuss articles and their suggestions were being ignored.”

The departure of at least 12 liberals from the 100 member assembly follows the resignation of five Christian delegates – as well eight out of 10 members of a advisory committee providing technical assistance – over similar complaints.

As the regime in Cairo evolves towards an uncertain form,  the Obama administration despite saying earlier that it would stand with Israel has sent a clear message to Jerusalem that it would not favor a ground incursion. The New York Times reports, “the Obama administration is increasingly concerned about the escalating violence in Gaza, believing that a ground incursion by Israel there could lead to increased civilian casualties, play into the hands of the militant Palestinian group Hamas and inflict further damage to Israel’s standing in the region at an already tumultuous time.”

Bryan Preston notes that this “two channel” mode of discourse is alive and well.  “A new CNN poll finds that a majority of Democrats are out of touch with a majority of Americans on Israel’s actions against Hamas. A solid majority of Americans — 59% — supports Israel. But: ‘Only four in ten Democrats think the Israeli actions in Gaza are justified, compared to 74% of Republicans and 59% of independents. The solution is simple: say one thing to the public and another to your base.

Has Hamas been granted sanctuary by Washington? The president is following his normal practice of saying one thing in public and another in private. The NYT continues:

Though President Obama uttered immediate and firm public and private assurances that Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks emanating from Gaza, administration officials have been privately urging Israeli officials not to extend the conflict, a move that many American officials believe could benefit Hamas. …

Mr. Obama telephoned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Friday for the second time this week, and officials at the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department have been on the phone with their Israeli counterparts since then.

There is “do not cross line” around Gaza. But is there a red line around Iran? Dr. Henry Kissinger, writing in the Washington Post argues that the administration has been drawing red lines that can’t be kept.  Kissinger argues that “Iran must be President Obama’s immediate priority” .  But the boundary the president has ostensibly set for it — a few inches short of the finish line — is unrealistic. Dr. Kissinger argues that once you give it a surfeit of material for the Bomb, the Bomb follows.

Its enrichment capacity … exceeds any reasonable definition of peaceful uses authorized by the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The inevitable culmination is a nuclear weapon …

To draw the line at proscribing an Iranian nuclear weapon — as some argue — would prove unmanageable. Once the requisite amount of fissile material has been produced, constructing and equipping a warhead is a relatively short and technologically straightforward process, almost certainly impossible to detect in a timely fashion.

If so ineffectual a red line were to emerge from a decade of diplomacy by the permanent members of the Security Council, the result would be an essentially uncontrollable military nuclear proliferation throughout a region roiled by revolution and sectarian blood-feuds.

Once you let Hamas keep its rockets then perhaps it also follows that the rockets will continue to be used.  The question with respect to both Gaza and Iran is that if the president has not been able to draw a firm line around either in the past then why he should be expected to do so in the future. However that may be, Dr. Kissinger argues that the ultimate consequence of Obama’s elastic policies will be Middle East armed to the teeth and at daggers drawn.

The reformist tendencies in the Arab Spring — already under severe pressure — would be submerged by this process. The president’s vision of progress toward a global reduction of nuclear weapons would suffer a blow, perhaps a fatal one.

But it is the appearance of things rather than their actuality that has historically concerned the administration. Whether it is the chimerical job numbers, a wonderously provocative video in Benghazi, the stinted unstinting support for Israel, talking points that miraculously rewrite themselves on the page, or containing the nuclear genie while not containing it, what matters is the headline in the New York Times, not the reality on the ground.

The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99

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