International Affairs

International Affairs

July 4: Before the Anglo-American revolution

The Washington Post’s offering on the Fourth, which is three days away from Canada Day, is an essay by Paul Pirie declaring “The American Revolution was a Flop.” Pirie is, the byline says, “a former historian” in Ontario. As far as the “pursuit of happiness” goes, he says, Americans are unlikely to find it, “provided that they are not rotting in jail.”  

Are Canadians happier than Americans? Possibly Canadian comics are, and approximately 1 in 3 Canadians not rotting in jail is a stand up comic. They, as representative Canadians, seem happy. Canada is rising, and we have been flailing at least since Bush II, probably Clinton I. But the American Revolution was not a flop. As the British journalist John Browne has said, it was the American Revolution that democratized England (and therefore Canada).


Tahrir Square, July 3, 2013

As I write these words early in the afternoon of July 3, and America prepares to celebrate our independence on July 4, countless millions of Egyptians have renewed their campaign to restore hope to Egypt, people around the world honor and pray for Nelson Mandela, and Secretary of State John Kerry is attempting a noble and Herculean effort to bring a two-state solution and peace and prosperity to Israel and Palestine. 

These are big issues. These are big events. These are big moments in history. Let me repeat here a proposal I offered some time ago.


Impressions from Dubrovnik

On Monday, Croatia became the 28th country to join the European Union. While its accession may not appear that significant — it is home to only 4.5 million people and is not even as large as West Virginia — it demonstrates the ongoing attraction of joining a powerful bloc. 

The New York Times reports that “the incentive of joining the union pushed it to revamp a statist post-Communist economy, pass more than 350 laws and arrest more than a dozen Croatian and Bosnian-Croat war criminals.”

Given current conditions in Croatia — unemployment is close to 20 percent, youth unemployment is over 50 percent and the country’s credit rating has been “junk” as of this past December — some Croats believe that they can only benefit by integrating into the EU. 

That judgment, however, is far from universal. In the coastal city of Dubrovnik, a UNESCO world heritage site where my family and I have been visiting the past few days, virtually all of the people I’ve spoken with — young and old, occupying a wide range of professions — were either indifferent or opposed to the move. In fact, despite (or perhaps because of) the heightened scrutiny that’s being foisted on Croatia, many of them sounded like they wanted nothing more than to be left alone.


Selective umbrage

I see in press notes that R&B singer Alicia Keys has been criticized by artists such as Alice Walker for planning to perform in Tel Aviv, Israel, on July 4.

Walker doesn’t know Keys but nonetheless advised the singer that it grieved her to learn Keys was performing in an “apartheid” country and thus putting herself in "soul danger" by resisting a rising tide of resistance to Israel's policies toward Palestinians. Stephen Hawking also canceled a scientific conference when challenged to do so by Palestinian organizations on the same grounds. The phenomenon is not unique in recent history.


Netanyahu bars Israeli MK Feiglin from Temple Mount

The Jerusalem Post reports Monday that Knesset Member Moshe Feiglin (Likud) was barred from the Temple Mount holy site by an order from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

As Feiglin does on the 19th of every Hebrew month, he planned to pray at Temple Mount. He has been doing so monthly for the past 10 years. 


Weaponizing a nuclear device

I find it fascinating that every time North Korea or the Iranians continue to make progress on weaponizing a nuclear device, our leaders say, “Yeh, but they’re still years away from developing a bomb …”

Like that’s supposed to make me feel better? Pretty soon, the future becomes the present, and then what do we do? What’s with this attitude that something (or someone) will take care of our enemies’ hatred?


Egyptian president must make real amends to end the unrest

These are dangerous times in Egypt.

I was in Cairo’s Tahrir Square last week for the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution that ended the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak.

On the square, the opposition demonstrators were shouting the same slogans that brought down Mubarak: “The people want the downfall of the regime.” I don’t think that Egypt’s Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, who was democratically elected only seven months ago, will suffer the same fate as Mubarak, whose rule was marked by corruption and nepotism.


Israel's ‘counter revolution’ — and America’s

Briefly: The big surprise in the Israeli election was the sudden rise of Yair Lapid, a handsome and photogenic MSM celebrity “known for his chic, casual black clothing,” as The New York Times wrote, seemingly out of nowhere. But in politics, nothing comes out of nowhere and spontaneous awakenings like Lapid’s come in reaction to something else. Israel has recently been through a critical sequence: In October, Benjamin Netanyahu called for early elections to maximize his chances of reelection. Rockets fired from Gaza in mid-November attempted to intimidate the Israeli electorate. They did just the opposite and awakened a warrior instinct. Suddenly Israel then began to hear about the young Naftali Bennett, “the Zionist pin-up blazing a trail,” and his equally young colleague Ayelet Shaked, who rose to the Knesset in the Jewish Home Party with a determination to defend Israel.


The heart of Israel: The Second Zionist Revolution

"It makes no difference who is sitting on the throne," Moshe Feiglin writes from Jerusalem this week in his commentary on Torah. “What really matters is where the heart of the nation resides." Feiglin is writing about how Pharaoh sees the great power he is, a power telling him he is god the river, and god the creator of all that is, as it disintegrates around him and the world awaken again from the wreckage with Aaron and Moses. It is a fully appropriate reading for this week as Israelis prepare to go to the polls. The creations of Pharaoh appear on the verge of falling into the river, and Israel on the verge of finding its heart.
The questions we have asked here since Sandy, the storm, and Sandy Hook — guns, federal aid, psychotic movies passing as high culture, fascist computer games — suggest symptoms. Mentioned here recently, China has stepped away. Germany recalls its gold from the world. And on Jan. 22, Israel steps away from America.


US should stop dithering on Mali

The Obama administration is weighing what kind of military support it can provide to France, which has launched an airborne and ground-based offensive in Mali against Islamist rebels linked to al Qaeda.

What is under discussion is the likelihood of a direct threat against the U.S. homeland, and therefore whether vital U.S. interests are engaged. The same considerations caused President Obama to “lead from behind” on Libya. Yet so far, on Mali, the U.S. response is even more timid. And while the policy discussions continue in Washington, North Africa is in flames.