Foreign Policy

Iraq II: Bush, Obama and The Republic of Rhetoric. Just say no.

Watching the Senate hearings on C-SPAN yesterday brought the odd, almost surreal impression that I was watching an old black-and-white movie on the Ted Turner station, not with John Kerry and John McCain but with Lionel Barrymore and Claude Rains.

Kerry has been with us so long and looks so odd and structured as an old man, and the same could be said for McCain. Their complete self-assurance gave them character. They had become the uniform and there was nothing inside that we had not seen before so many times, back some 45 years now. 

That we have sent our trust again to these men for so long without investigation is an astonishing condemnation of the image-driven, post-war democratic temperament. Both came to us as distinguished men of war in a war that we did not win. And they are here to advise us again on yet another war we will not win.

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Iran elects a new president

The recent election of Hassan Rowhani to be the next president if Iran may create a window of opportunity to seek diplomatic solutions to the always-controversial matters between the United States and Iran.

Rowhani campaigned as a pragmatist urging Iranian voters to choose a moderation and pragmatism that can lead to improvements in the economic lives of Iranians and move Iran in the direction of reconciliation at home and abroad.

It remains to be seen how far Rowhani will seek to move, and be able to move, in these directions. Make no mistake, the ultimate power in Iran is held by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, and power centers that follow his lead.

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Thomas Pickering on the chain of command: Ambassador to secretary of State

At the start of the Obama administration, when I was writing about the rookie president’s appalling continuation of the tradition of appointing bundlers/donors to the most glamorous embassies, I called Thomas Pickering. The professional diplomat, or “career officer,” as he called himself (he joined the Foreign Service in 1959), is being treated by a growing number of Republicans as if he’s some hack or patronage toady who’s looking to be secretary of State in the Hillary Rodham Clinton administration to come.

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Has America finally lost patience with the Clintons?

It would have been impossible for Watergate to have occurred in the years before it did. Somewhere therein a sea change had occurred and we, the Americans, were determined to rescue ourselves from a million small and debilitating affronts that were destroying our moral fabric and perhaps our sanity.

The original wrong at Watergate — the break-in — is almost forgotten. Benghazi will not be. In Benghazi, the Clinton State Department became a popular front doing the talking for al Qaeda.

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GOP Benghazi hearings a partisan disgrace

Perhaps during his next partisan exploitation of the tragic death of Americans at Benghazi, Libya, in political hearings paid for by American taxpayers, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) can replay then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warning him, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and other Republicans that their efforts to cut diplomatic security spending will endanger American lives. 

Then House Republicans can testify en masse and offer a group apology for mocking and ignoring Clinton's warning. 

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The UN doesn't like Israel very much

According to recent reports, since 2006 the United Nation’s Human Rights Council has condemned Israel 32 times by resolutions, amounting to 48 percent of that body's resolutions. Compare that with Sudan’s human-rights abuses, about which it has expressed "deep concern" but no condemnation. Former Secretary-General Kofi Annan admitted that the council's actions created a "credibility deficit."

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The year of the settler: Israel, before the revolution

A day of destiny approaches in Israel: Jan. 22, when the Knesset reforms to new cultural contours. A critical article by Lisa Goldman and Mairav Zonszein reveals the ascending paradigm: “The settlement movement registered major victories this year on various fronts. Its representatives are reaching new heights in politics, the judiciary and the media. One out of five residents east of the Green Line is a settler. The expansion of settlements continues unabated, and – most importantly – settlers are in full control of the Israel national narrative. In 2012, as more and more observers declared the death of the two-state solution, the settler became the new normal.”

Unless Bibi falls — and Israeli pundits say he is weakening — it may go unnoticed in America and in the MSM that a systemic change is occurring in Israel.


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Obama and the politics of anger at the UN

I thought that was a pretty effective and well-crafted speech that President Obama delivered just now to the U.N. General Assembly on the perils of political extremism.

In the middle of the presidential campaign, it wasn’t a campaign speech, apart from the strong words on Iran, whose leadership was warned that time is “not unlimited” and that the United States will “do what we must” to stop Iran gaining a nuclear weapon.

But on the “politics of anger,” it was an interesting plea for tolerance. He won’t have done himself any favors with his Republican rival for invoking Gandhi.

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