Things to read while I’m away
My kids are at summer camp this week, so my wife and I are sneaking away for a couple of days of R & R. I love my kids, but I am looking forward to what an IR theorist might call “the tranquility of a bipolar world” (and I mean “bipolar” in the structural realist ...
My kids are at summer camp this week, so my wife and I are sneaking away for a couple of days of R & R. I love my kids, but I am looking forward to what an IR theorist might call “the tranquility of a bipolar world” (and I mean “bipolar” in the structural realist sense, not as a synonym for manic depression). There’ll be at least one guest blogger while I’m gone, and I may chime in a bit if time and internet access permits. But mostly I’m going to hike, paddle a kayak, enjoy my wife’s company, and reflect on how lucky I am that she married me.
In the meantime, here are a few things you might want to read, focused mostly on the always-cheerful situation in the Middle East.
1. On the growing influence of orthodox and ultra-Orthodox in Israel, see the sobering report by the International Crisis Group here.
2. On how private donations to Nefesh B’Nefesh (an organization that helps people seeking to making aliyah) are helping subsidize the expansion of settlements in the West Bank — even as President Obama tries to get Israel to halt this process — see Mairev Zonszein’s piece from The Nation here.
3. For the new Israeli government report that concluding that the IDF did not commit war crimes in the Gaza war, see here. But because most organizations are not very good at evaluating or judging their own conduct (for reasons that Aaron Wildavsky laid out a long time ago), I’d wait until the UN commission chaired by South African jurist Richard Goldstone issues its report before drawing a firm conclusion.
5. Speaking of the Times, Tom Friedman comes out clearly against the settlements project in his op-ed column, and even says that the “pro-Israel lobby” has been foolishly defending Israel’s folly for years. Gee, where have I heard that before? Welcome aboard, Tom!
6. The Wall Street Journal’s recent report on an interview with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal is a must-read, though it hardly marks a breakthrough and is (as one would expect) susceptible to multiple interpretations. Although it doesn’t meet the conditions the U.S. has established as requisite for direct negotiations, it sounds to me like there’s some flexibility there worth exploring back-channel.
7. If you want to be depressed about the magnitude of the task we face in Afghanistan, read Anthony Cordesman’s press briefing here, reporting on his impressions after a recent trip. When we are still bogged down there five years from now, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
8. Katja Favretto (a recent Ph.D. from UCLA whom I don’t know) has an interesting article in the latest issue of the American Political Science Review, entitled “Should Peacemakers Take Sides? Major Power Mediation, Coercion, and Bias.” It’s a formal analysis that draws on evidence from the Bosnian crisis, and I’m pondering what it implies for the U.S. role as an “evenhanded” mediator in the Middle East. More on this when I get back and have a chance to re-read it.
9. If you want additional evidence that the National Review has abandoned any commitment to reality-based commentary, check out the goofy interview with supply-side economics guru George Gilder here. Gilder apparently believes that “anti-Semitism is essentially hatred of capitalism,” (a statement that unwittingly echoes traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews and money), and declares “the Palestinian Arabs have benefited more from Israel than any other people,” (if you leave out the Nakba, the Gaza War, and the confiscation of thousands of acres of land, of course). He also thinks Benjamin Netanyahu is “the most visionary leader in the world today,” a view that few Israelis would endorse. Overall, this interview may have the highest ratio of howlers per paragraph of anything I’ve read in the last five years. And given that I’ve also read John Hagee’s Jerusalem Countdown, that is saying something.
That ought to keep everyone busy while I’m away. And stay tuned for two forthcoming books: Campbell Craig and Fredrik Logevall’s America’s Cold War and John Mueller’s Atomic Obsession, which I recently read in galleys or in draft. Both are excellent, and I’ll have more to say about each when they’re published.
Stephen M. Walt is a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University. Twitter: @stephenwalt
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