Category Archives: Democracy Promotion

Jewish Voice for Peace: Standing up for Darfur is “Hateful”

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[h/t Blue Truth]

Just when you thought the people at the tragicomically misnamed “Jewish Voice for Peace” couldn’t stoop any lower into the gutter, they have decided to embarrass themselves with a rant breathtaking in its ignorance. Cecilie Surasky, posting on their house organ Muzzlewatch , decided that a group of Jewish students and Darfurian refugees demonstrating in Geneva against the farcical UN human rights conference were actually “being used as part of a hateful effort” by “scary right wing group StandWithUs“. She goes on to deplore that there was tension between African and Arab delegates over Darfur (not that there would be any good reason to have tension over the wholesale slaughter of Africans by an Islamic regime). She must have been paying close attention to all those conspiracy websites that blame the evil Zionists for the conspiracy to save Darfur.

[read it all]

Democratiya 16 (Spring-Summer 2009)

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[Selections from the newest Democratiya. Looking forward to see what changes they make to the format and website this fall.]

Michael Walzer: Symposium: For the Two-State Solution

John Strawson: Symposium: Time to Compel the Parties?

Ghada Karmi: Symposium: For the One-State Solution

Donna Robinson Divine: Symposium: Beyond the Clash of Narratives

Martin Shaw: Symposium: Revisit ’48 as well as ’67

Alex Stein: Symposium: We Need More Imagination

Menachem Kellner: Symposium: Two States – Ultimately

Fred Siegel & Sol Stern: Symposium: There are no ‘solutions’ for now

Hazel Blears: Preventing Violent Extremism

Gina Khan: Reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali in Birmingham

Rashad Ali: Islam, Sharia, and the Far-Right

Eric Lee: Global Labour Notes / Jews, Gaza and the Unions

Susan Green: Archive: Debating World War Three

Thoughts on the Israel-Hamas Conflict

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I did not write much about the conflict in Gaza over the past few weeks. I provided a lot of links, perhaps too many, and generally avoided articulating what I think and feel about the situation. Part of this was due to concerns and fears. The fear that young friends in Israel will be called up for reserve duty and a concern about appealing callous to readers whose opinions I hold dear.

To be perfectly clear, I hoped and prayed for Israel’s overwhelming victory against Hamas. I doubted the political leadership of Israel was willing to go that far, but as others have pointed out, the primary means to achieve peace when one is at war with a totalitarian movement is overwhelming force against the enemy. A crushing blow is necessary.

Obviously, international opinion, especially in Europe, would be against Israel. The Muslim world would be calling for jihad. But isn’t this always the case? Hasn’t this been going on for decades? Whether Israel shows great restraint or not, its actions will be condemned by the “international community.” Every anti-terrorist operation conducted by Israel is condemned as some sort of “massacre” or “war-crime” by practically every country in the world except the U.S. while Palestinian terrorism is rationalized as “resistance”.

It does not surprise me that the radical/loony/leftover left supports Hamas just as they supported Hezbollah in 2006. At this point, “anti-imperialism” and above all, anti-Zionism, is their guiding ideology and raison d’être .

As with the previous conflict with Hezbollah,  some of my lefty friends and fellow bloggers strove to take a third position, pro-Israel and pro-Palestine. These good people—call them the sensible left (or perhaps the sensitive left?)—despise Hamas and everything it stands for, but they see the suffering of the elderly and children of Gaza and cannot bear it. They call for a cease-fire and more humanitarian aid (see Bob from Brockley, Flesh is Grass, and Modernity Blog. Also see Bob’s “Henry Siegman’s Lies” here and at Engage).

None of this is shocking. These are good folks, after all. What is surprising is many of these people support the broader war against Islamist totalitarianism, the Global War on Terror, or whatever you want to call it. As they know, this war requires positive action, not reactive self-defense.

Sometimes you have to take sides. Israel is on the front lines of the conflict and anti-totalitarians of the left, right or center should all be supporting Israel’s swift and total victory over Hamas. Not a cease-fire that allows Hamas to rearm and start this deadly game all over again. As Sultan Knish writes, “Israel must win by winning“:

Had Israel destroyed Hamas and Hizbullah, the criticism would quickly die down to an annoyed mutter. The fanatics would retire to raving in a corner. But Israel turned back from doing so, and so the hate will increase, the incitement will grow viler and the attacks will grow more dangerous. Because nothing emboldens the enemy like failure.

Also see the Sultan’s, “America and Israel Declare a Unilateral Ceasefile Against Terrorism.”

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[Negotiate with me?]

More on Georgia and Russia (and a bit re: Poland)

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Since I last posted about Russia’s invasion of Georgia the conflict escalated from South Ossetia to Abkhazia and into central Georgia. Russia has agreed to a cease-fire but the specifics are sketchy at this time. Here are some selections from the web:

Max Boot (Contentions)

I am relieved to hear the Russia has called off its invasion of Georgia, although whether actions on the ground will match the words emanating from Moscow remains to be seen. But I am very, very depressed at the pusillanimous reaction to Russian aggression in what used to be called the Free World. Far too many are rushing to blame the victims. A perfect example of this mindset is this column by Newsweek’s Michael Hirsch. He begins, “There is no excusing Vladimir Putin’s bloody invasion of Georgia,” but then he proceeds to offer one excuse after another. “Since the cold war ended,” he writes, “the United States has been pushing the buttons of Russian frustration and paranoia by moving ever further into Moscow’s former sphere of influence. And we have rarely stopped to consider whether we were overreaching, even as evidence mounted that the patience of a wealthier and more assertive Russia was wearing very thin.”

and more here.

Abe Greenwald (Contentions): What are friends for?:

Georgia has our attention (or is sharing it with John Edwards). John McCain, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush have issued assorted statements on the matter, French president Nicolas Sarkozy has dashed through the motions of European diplomacy, and President Bush has sent Condoleezza Rice dashing after him. Additionally, American Navy vessels are heading toward the Black Sea–to deliver aid. But a week after Russian tanks and jets set Georgia ablaze–and three days since the announcement of a ceasefire–Russian troops patrol Georgian cities with virtual impunity. No nation has defended Georgia and no Georgian ally has even given her the means to defend herself. Moreover, no agreements have been drafted explicitly securing Georgia’s territorial integrity. In this way, Saakashvili got the West dead wrong.

Victim status doesn’t get you what it used to. There was a time when an American friend or a strategically critical state under attack got more than color commentary from the White House and a boat full of Ace bandages. When Russia rolled into Afghanistan in 1979 we didn’t give Afghans our sympathy; we gave them guns–big ones. When Saddam tried to annex Kuwait, we went in and sent him back home. Today a real invasion will get a symbolic vote, a high profile condemnation, and a Facebook group.

Bob from Brockley has a nice set of links here. Bob takes a critical approach to reports in the Western media here:

Western media is not simply accepting Georgian lies, but accepting lies from both sides, to satisfy our thirst for news, in the context of a lack of decent coverage on the ground.

I agree with Bob but isn’t this the case in every conflict where reporters on the ground are scare? Western newspapers rely on government reports, interviews with officials, interviews with the opposition, etc. Look at Darfur. There are not many western reporters there. Newspapers report what the government in Khartum claims and what those resisting the government claim and what human rights organizations/NGOs claim. Same with Zimbabwe. We know what we know about these conflicts largely based on propaganda. Even in wars we today consider rather clear-cut, like World War II, most of the information produced by Western media was propaganda.

I also think it is important to make a distinction between “accepting lies” and reporting the position of an official of a government or political movement. If a media outlet notes, “according to Georgian officials 2,000 Georgian civilians were killed” and “according to Russian officials, 2,000 Russian civilians were killed” that is different than claiming “2,000 Georgian civilians and 2,000 Russian civilians were killed.” All of the MSM reports I have read are careful to point out which side is making a particular claim so I do not agree that reporters are accepting the lies of either side.

Pundits (and most bloggers) are a different case. Unless they are reporting facts on the ground (for example, the number and type of military units involved in a particular skirmish) I expect them to have an ideological interpretation of the conflict and communicate that in their opinions.

Kellie Strom (Air Force Amazons): They’re all the bloody same over there:

I’m a lousy chess player, but from what I read it looks to me as though Russia has been advancing its pawns in the hope that one of them would be taken, allowing its main force to attack. Georgia was facing losses either way, whether at the hands of the advancing pawns, or in risking confrontation with the main Russian forces. I’m not yet convinced that Georgian actions were wholly unreasonable. If they hadn’t responded, the Russian reaction to weakness would have undoubtedly have been an even greater buildup of their forces within the contested areas, and a continuation, if not escalation, of actions by its proxy separatist forces.

Sultan Knish: Pat Buchanan, the Kremlin’s New Whore

Lastly, within days of Russia’s invasion of Georgia, Poland agreed to serve as a base for a U.S. anti-ballistic missile system. Do you blame them?

Good News from Basra

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[This is from the Times Online (UK)]

Barney White-Spunner writes:

There is an interesting piece of graffiti on a bridge near Basra. A fleeing militiaman has scrawled “We’ll be back”; underneath an Iraqi soldier has scribbled in reply “And we’ll be waiting for you”.

The Shia militias, the Jaish al- Mahdi, who controlled large parts of Basra until March this year, has now gone and instead the city is firmly under the grip of Iraq’s new security forces, in whom the coalition has invested so much training. They re-established control in April, in an operation romantically named “The Charge of the Knights”, systematically clearing the city with British and American support, confiscating illegal weapons and arresting the violent gangs whose combination of criminality and vicious extremism was making life a misery for so many of Basra’s people.

Around the city the posters of religious leaders are being replaced with billboards advertising cars and mobile phones and photographs of Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, who is rightly credited with being the driving force behind the army’s crackdown. You see the symbol of The Charge of the Knights everywhere, a black horse carrying the flag of Iraq trampling the gangsters underfoot.

This improvement in security has made Basrawis more confident of their future than at any time since 2003. A recent poll showed that only 8 per cent now regard security as their main concern; 80 per cent have confidence in the Iraqi security forces to protect them. Women are free to walk the streets uncovered and to wear Western dress should they so choose.

Yet what also makes people here so confident is that they know that they live in what is potentially one of the richest cities in the Middle East…

[read it all]

James K. Glassman: Winning the War of Ideas

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[H/t NY Sun]

My subscription to the NY Sun lapsed some weeks ago. I intend to resub but have not managed to send in my check yet. I used to look forward to reading the paper on the subway during my commute. I’m really starting to miss it. My wife subscribes to the NYT weekend addition and her good friend has been dumping her old copies of the Nation and New Yorker on the weekends (per my wife’s request). Needless to say the household is in need of some balance. Commentary once a month is not enough.

So I went to the Sun’s website to see what I’ve been missing. This op-ed penned by under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs James K. Glassman was encouraging.

Winning the War of Ideas

During my confirmation hearings, Senator Lieberman called me “the supreme allied commander in the war of ideas.” I like the ring of that — even though I haven’t asked our allies if they agree. While the under secretary of state for public diplomacy has a big portfolio, the war of ideas will be my focus.

Unless we get the war of ideas right, we will never succeed in meeting the most significant threat of our time. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates put it well in a speech on July 16: “Over the long term, we cannot kill or capture our way to victory. Non-military efforts — these tools of persuasion and inspiration — were indispensable to the outcome of the defining ideological struggle of the 20th century. They are just as indispensable in the 21st century — and perhaps even more so.”

During the Cold War, after a slow start, we became good at public diplomacy, with such institutions as the Congress of Cultural Freedom and Radio Free Europe. But starting in the early 1990s, America, in bipartisan fashion, began to dismantle this arsenal of influence. In its 2003 report, the Djerejian Group, a commission of which I was a member, would call, in desperation, for “a new strategic direction — informed by a seriousness and commitment that matches the gravity of our approach to national defense and traditional state-to-state diplomacy.”

Today, the environment has changed. Budgets have risen. Backing is bipartisan. There’s a lot of talk — as usual in Washington — about restructuring public diplomacy. Structure is important, but two things are far more important: will and strategy.

[read it all]

Under secretary Glassman’s perspective is definitely a step in the right direction. The U.S. needs to do much more in this arena. However, when the author writes:

Our priority is not to promote our brand but to help destroy theirs. We do that by showing foreign populations that the ideology and actions of the violent extremists are not in the best interests of those populations.

I wonder if this is possible for outsiders to accomplish. I suspect it is not. The people living in these places are going to have to do that vital political work. Unfortunately, in many places, the majority does support violence against the “infidel.” Even in the United Kingdom, close to 25% of the Muslim population felt the terrorist attacks of June 7, 2005 were justified.

Political Alignment and Identity: Pro-Western Versus Anti-Western Now More Important than Left Versus Right?

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[Political Diagram by Marko Attila Hoare. Click for larger, legible, viewing.]

Thanks to Contentious Centrist and Bob for pointing me to this Ignoblus post which is commenting on a post by Marko Attila Hoare. To summarize, Hoare provided a diagram of contemporary political alignments (above). These alignments have less to do with left versus right (a dated but not entirely irrelevant paradigm) then pro-Western versus anti-Western.

Hoare writes:

The triumph of the centrist political model has led to one section of the Left and one section of the Right breaking away from their respective comrades and joining up in opposition to this model: this ultimately takes the form of a Red-Brown coalition. Conversely, a second section of the Left and a second section of the Right have likewise broken away from the first sections and come together in support of extending this model globally. This, then, is the principal ideological division in global politics today: pro-Western vs anti-Western; globalist vs anti-globalist; the democratic centre vs the Red-Brown coalition.

The essence of the division is that the pro-Westerners support the extension of the liberal-democratic order across the globe, through the politics of human rights, promotion of democracy, universal values and interventionism (not necessarily always military). The anti-Westerners oppose the liberal-democratic model, at least as a universal model; they admire or support movements or regimes that stand in opposition to the Western alliance or to Western values – all of which uphold religious fundamentalism or nativist nationalism, sometimes combined with a ’socialist’ veneer, as an alternative to liberal democracy.

Ignoblus’ post focuses on cultural codes and anti-Zionism. is on to something in connecting anti-Western sentiment and anti-Zionism. Anti-Zionism is a huge part of the contemporary radical left’s political identity, But this anti-Zionism should be examined within the context of a broader “anti-imperialism.” Hoare advocated a similar perspective in his review of Buruma and Margalit’s Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of its Enemies for Democratiya. Here is an excerpt:

In simplest terms, ‘imperialism’ can be defined as a state’s pursuit of empire or the expansion of its power, through acquiring territory from, or power over, other states or peoples. No reasonable person would not oppose this, but ‘anti-imperialism’ today means something other than opposition to imperialism. ‘Imperialism’, in the eyes of the average ‘anti-imperialist’, is coterminous with ‘the West’, i.e. with the US and its West European and Israeli allies. As such, it is used to refer to the bloc of states that dominates the world today, and there is undoubtedly something emotionally appealing to the individual ‘radical’ in apparently fighting that which is all-powerful. As an eighteen-year old Trotskyist and ‘anti-imperialist’ at the time of the 1991 Gulf War, I can testify to the empowering sense of self-righteousness I felt as I demonstrated against the US and its allies, in the course of which my views became increasingly extreme: I fervently believed that the US-led intervention was by far a greater evil than Saddam’s occupation of Kuwait; that it would be a blessing for humanity if the US and its allies were defeated; that such a defeat would trigger revolutionary outbreaks across the Middle East and even in the West.

[read it all here]

I agree that it useful to analyze contemporary conlficts as between the forces supporting economic and political liberalization and those opposed to this opening. However, like Ignoblus, I am rather uncomfortable being lumped in with president George W. Bush. My political opponents on the radical left have often reduced my nuanced centrist position to that of neo-conservatism but there is no need for Hoare to fall into the same trap. After all, part of the appeal of the Euston Manifesto among self-described leftists was it provided an opportunity to be robustly anti-totalitarian (i.e. “decent”) without being right-wing or conservative. Hoare also ignores the existence of ultra-leftists, anarchists, and other self-styled revolutionaries who advocate a third perspective that is classically “anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist” while also critical of Jihadist terrorism. I’m refering here to Three Way Fight, World War 4 Report, etc.

All in all, I find much affinity with what Hoare is writing on these issues and this diagram is a good first attempt at describing political alignments in the post September 11, 2001 era. I’m very interested in seeing Hoare and others develop these ideas further. For example, if muscular liberals are lumped in with neo-conservatives into some sort of political coalition, where does Hoare see the potential for political cleavages developing between these two groups?