Saturday, June 09, 2012

Could Russia be Syria's Savior?

With the news of the latest massacre to take place in Syria since UN observers began "observing" the failed implementation of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan, there's talk again about "what to do" - and, predictably, much speculation about how Russia and China might act if the Western allies unite to try and prevent a wide-scale Syrian civil war.

Russia and China are opposed to Western military intervention in Syria, but at the same time, they aren't being very helpful when it comes to efforts at ending the violence. Russia has much more to lose from a potential American/European military involvement in Syria, what with a Russian naval base on the country's Mediterranean coast and all. It is Russia, then, that should be determined to do something.

So, here's an idea: If Moscow truly desires the bloodshed in Syria to end, why doesn't Russia itself intervene, and impose its own form of regime change? I can't imagine Assad would be so stupid as to order his forces to take on Russian troops if the latter were to arrive and then surround his presidential palace with orders not to leave until the "Butcher of Damascus" steps down and goes into exile.

Russia could, then - with the blessings of the United Nations - oversee an orderly transition and the installment of new leadership that, we can assume, would still be on very good terms with Moscow. It would likely not be a democracy, but then, there was never any guarantee anyway that the Arab Spring would result in a bunch of Western-friendly democracies dotting North Africa and the Middle East.

Syria could, then, still receive shipments of arms from Russia. Russia's naval presence in Tartus wouldn't be threatened. Reform of a certain nature - say, a scaling down of the Alawite domination of the Syrian government - would probably be necessary, but with Russia keeping the peace - and/or dictating the terms - it isn't difficult to imagine the bloodshed ending and some sort of peace prevailing.

Such an intervention could be seen as a "humanitarian" action, as well as a signal to the West - and, we mustn't forget, China, too - that, whatever its faults and weaknesses, Russia still means business. Since the end of the Cold War, America has intervened in its "neighborhood" when "friendly" nations have gone too far off the reservation. Syria is in Russia's neighborhood, and all is definitely not well, there.

Moscow should take a cue from us.

Yes, an operation like this would be fraught with peril - it's not just "rebels" and "the government" in play. There are more shades of gray than I care to go into. And it is doubtful that with Russia's Chechen record, Syrian Islamists would welcome Moscow with open arms. But once civil war - the kind which could be sparked by Assad's intransigence - is averted, Russia could pull the troops back.

With further bloodshed averted and some respect gained, Russia could have increased leverage in all sorts of areas on the global stage. Russia might even, eventually, prod a post-Assad-but-still-in-Russia's-orbit Syria into making an agreement with Israel which sees the Jewish state comfortable with returning the Golan Heights to Damascus. That's a long shot, of course, but a man can dream, right?

Again, this scenario isn't the most ideal one overall for the U.S. and our allies at the moment, but there are fewer better options. We can't assume that a Western-led military intervention in Syria would lead to a repeat of the Libya scenario...especially with Hizbollah, Israel, et al, all likely playing a role in Assad's "doomsday scenario" calculations. But neither is sitting on our hands a worthy pursuit.

If they aren't, at least, even imagining or entertaining the possibility of this kind of military intervention by Russia within the walls of the Kremlin, then I'd be very surprised. If I could think of it, then they could think of it, too...and then not only think of it, but also do something with it. Tens of thousands have already been killed, and the UN has been as inactive about Syria as it is active about Israel. 

The UN won't do anything. 

Russia can.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Responsibility: Taking and Avoiding It


I am deeply disturbed that liberal bloggers were so quick to appropriate and exploit for political purposes this past weekend's shooting in Tucson of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a judge, and several other innocents (including a 9 year old girl), but here's the thing you'll find they're reluctant to talk about, and for good reason: I suspect they know, in their heart of hearts, that the toxic political atmosphere hasn't been helped in recent years by rhetoric from many on the Left, and Democrats...more specifically, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Leadership Committee.

For example, I submit to you Exhibit A - courtesy of the Democratic Leadership Committee (DLC).

Well, actually, perhaps I should call it Exhibit B, given the image at the top of this post, originally seen on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn way back in '00, when Dubya won the GOP presidential nomination.

For more info, go here: (post dates from late March 2010), but I'll quote you from the link:

"Granted these are bulls-eyes instead of gun-sights, and the targets are states not individual congressmen. But we’re really splitting hairs at this point. This map and the language it uses (Behind enemy lines!) are, if anything, more militant than what Palin used in her Facebook posting."

Really, look at some of the images on there. Sure, there's the one Dem map from earlier in the decade...but there's also map with bulls-eyes on them - targeting Republicans - that dates from within the past two years...prior to the Palin map in question. Below are links that take you directly to images that, suffice it to say, show that liberals' claim to a moral high is tenuous at best, outrageous (and then some) at worst.

What are those? Bulls-eyes?!

Mein Gott! A "targeted Republican"?!

Ah, OK...this makes everything better. No, doesn't.

Still not convinced that liberals have stuff to answer for? Still sure that only or primarily the Right is to blame for the highly-charged atmosphere in American political discourse today? Well, I'm sure Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos - hardly a staple of the Right - didn't actually mean he wanted certain politicians literally taken out when he said they should be targeted in 2008, but even so...there's this:

"Who to primary? Well, I'd argue that we can narrow the target list by looking at those Democrats who sold out the Constitution last week. I've bolded members of the Blue Dogs for added emphasis."

Note, there's a reference to a "target list" (I bolded it for ya) and you'll see Rep. Giffords' name is in bold on the page itself. For emphasis, according to the Kos-man himself). And mind you, that's from mid-2008. By a liberal blogger. Years before PalinPAC, etc.


From an anti-war rally, March 2008


Then, for good measure, I urge you to read these excellent observations from the UK's Telegraph:


And finally, with the following link you're able to see how some liberals made calling for Bush's death into an art form; I didn't see too much self-restraint (or remorse, in the years since) regarding this stuff. If you have the time, scroll down a fair bit, look at all the photos, and then with a straight face come to me and tell me that responsibility for nurturing the climate of hatred belongs to the Tea Party, the Right, and so on and so forth:

You can avoid looking at the above links and the images they lead to (I've included a few throughout this post), but that would be the equivalent of burying your head in the sand (and making the problem worse). Yes, all sides have a share of the blame...but you don't see liberals really taking any responsibility for their share, and when they do, it's often with qualifications.

We can play the blame game indefinitely - letting the problem fester - or we can just tackle the issue head-on, honestly.

Don't just put some of it out there...we need to put all of it out there (or as much of it as we can), however uncomfortable it makes people...whether they're on the Right or the Left, whether they identify as conservative, liberal, independent, moderate, libertarian, Republican, Democrat, etc. We need to clean the air, not just temporarily fan the smell away...know what I mean?

If this means conservatives entrenching themselves and liberals doing the same, so be it. That might actually be the best course of action: Two clearly-defined teams duking it out - civilly - rather than a mess of people making a muddle of discourse and, in the end, leaving things more or less where they started.

Mind you, what happened to Gabby Giffords probably wasn't directly caused by all the unfortunate rhetoric and imagery being spread around - after all, a loner, lunatic gunman probably doesn't have many direct influences aside from the voices in his head. But still...this tragedy - and the reminder of human frailty it stands for - presents an opportunity for us, as a Nation, to look at ourselves in the mirror...and clean up. We probably won't - but we should at least try.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Now Is Not the TIME to Cry "Wolf!"

Those who know me well know that when it comes to anti-Semitism, I don't generally keep my mouth shut. If I see or sense anti-Semitism, I respond to it, and openly. The "nice" thing about anti-Semites is that they are quite often direct and open, unless they are using criticism of Israel to mask their anti-Semitism, in which case their anti-Semitic views are subtle but still, generally, easily discerned.

So, today, when I read today in the Jerusalem Post intense criticism of an article published in a recent issue of TIME magazine, reportedly titled "Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace" and authored by one Karl Vick, based in Jerusalem. I was deeply disturbed and ready to join "the bandwagon of justice".

Or at least I was ready to saddle-up and join the justice posse until I found the article online, and reading the few short paragraphs available there, I saw in italics the following message at the end:

This is an abridged version of an article that appears in the Sept. 13, 2010, print and iPad editions of TIME magazine.

At that moment, when I saw that "disclaimer", I knew there was more to the story than just what people were gathering from the title on the cover and the relatively few paragraphs shown in the abridged version on I knew, instinctively, that my intense desire to post the article on Facebook would have to wait until I had the full story...literally.

Being in South Korea, I do not have easy access to print versions of TIME, but I do have an iPad. So on my lunch break, I went to a nearby cafe in Mokpo that offers free WiFi, downloaded the TIME app and made an in-app purchase ($4.99) of the issue in which the supposedly anti-Semitic article titled "Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace" appears.

And was immediately flummoxed.

Looking through the contents of the Sept. 13 issue, I couldn't find the article. I know that a story's title on the cover isn't always the same within the pages of a magazine itself, but...I was kind of annoyed. Of course, this was because I was looking at the images for a Star of David or something like that, and not the subject listed underneath ("Israel")...but setting aside a discussion of my more vacant moments for another day, what I ended up doing was going back to the cover, tapping in the middle of the Star-of-David-of-Daisies, right on"Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace"...

Et voilĂ ...

A funny thing happened, though, at that moment: The article it took me to was titled as "The Good Life and Its Dangers". Nothing particularly anti-Semitic about it. Nor could it be surmised that familiar anti-Semitic tropes would be found in an article whose blurb appears (under the title) as follows: "Israelis feel prosperous, secure - and disengaged from the peace process. Is that wise?" On first glance, not particularly...anti-Semitic on the part of TIME. Or wise, on the part of my fellow Israelis.

What followed, in the article itself, were - by my count - twenty-four paragraphs to judge it by. And the more I read of it, the easier it was to discern that people - the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) included - were apparently judging the article not by the 24 paragraphs seen in the print or iPad editions, but the mere five (yes, "5") that can be seen on I'm no mathematician, but 5 is a lot less than 24, any which way you look at it.

Undoubtedly, the article's title as it appears on the cover was unfortunately named, ill-conceived, insensitive, and quite possibly deliberately designed to portray Israel in a negative light. Based on that alone, as I began reading I steeled myself for an anti-Semitic blow...that never came. Ultimately, the most anti-Semitic thing about the article was, in my estimation, the title as it appears on the cover...but not in the magazine itself.

At the end of this post, you will find several images posted - eachtaken from my iPad this afternoon, images of the full article. I want you to look at both the abridged version, as it appears on, and the unabridged version, available both in print and on...well, my iPad. When you have time, if you have time, I want you to read both versions of the article and decide for yourself: Is it anti-Semitic? Was it meant to be? Or is this all much ado about nothing - or, at least, nothing like what so many think it's about?

I will leave it to you to decide for yourselves if the article merits the following criticism from ADL head Abraham Foxman, who said of it, "The insidious subtext of Israeli Jews being obsessed with money echoes the age-old anti-Semitic falsehood that Jews care about money above any other interest, in this case achieving peace with the Palestinian...At the same time, Time ignores the very real sacrifices made by Israel and its people in the pursuit of peace and the efforts by successive Israeli governments of reconciliation.”

I, for one, disagree that this is the subtext of the article. Then again, I read the whole thing.

I will leave it to you to decide for yourselves if the article merits this observation from American Jewish Committee acting Director Ed Rettig: “Leaving aside the libelous nature of the article (what awful people don’t care about peace?), its internalization by decision-makers would be catastrophic...The false belief that Israelis are indifferent to peace will prevent them perceiving the conflict as it really is, and cause a misreading of developments.”

I disagree that the article is libelous, and I disagree that Israelis are indifferent to peace. Again, the impression that this is what the article is asserting is left in part by the title on the cover, but isn't borne out in the text of the article itself (in my honest opinion).

And I will leave it to you to decide for yourselves if the article merits the following hits from "Yet, unbelievably, Time Magazine paints a picture of crass, wealthy Jews so busy with buying and selling that they have no real desire to make peace with the Palestinians,"and "In the case of the Time Magazine article, the straw man so painstakingly described are a couple of shallow-sounding Israelis who care only about money, say they don’t care about anything else, and even imply that they might be dishonest in their business dealings."

Considering that more than just "a couple of shallow-sounding Israelis" were interviewed for the article, I think this criticism is way off. Again, it seems blatantly obvious that the only basis for such criticism is a reliance on the abridged article (five paragraphs long) rather than the unabridged article (twenty-four paragraphs long).

Anyway...I know I'm asking of you a significant investment of your time and thought processes, but please...oblige me. Israel is undoubtedly and undeniably the subject of a perpetual anti-Semitic smear campaign by various media outlets, politicians, and countries throughout the world. This article, however, is not representative of that, and making it out to be will only distract people when truly abhorrent examples once again show themselves.

Furthermore, as the imbroglio over former White House correspondent Helen Thomas's comments regarding Jews a few months back showed, being charged with anti-Semitism can cost people their jobs. This is, I think, overall a good thing...but only when people who are actually anti-Semitic are the ones finding their positions threatened. Knowing our "power," in this respect, we should use it wisely ... sparingly ... responsibly.

On some websites I've seen people posting the address of TIME magazine, so offended Jews can write and complain.

I'd urge them to read the full article (posted below) first, not the abridged version.