This image has been posted with express written permission. This cartoon was originally published at Town Hall.

GOP Nominating Process

March 23, 2012

Via AJC

Foreign Policy:

Several years after leaving government, I wrote a piece in the Washington Post titled “Israel’s Lawyer.” The article was an honest effort to explain how several senior officials in U.S. President Bill Clinton’s administration (myself included) had a strong inclination to see the Arab-Israeli negotiations through a pro-Israel lens. That filter played a role — though hardly the primary one — in the failure of endgame diplomacy, particularly at the ill-fated Camp David summit in July 2000.

Unsurprisingly, the piece was hijacked in the service of any number of agendas, especially by critics of Israel only too eager to use my narrow point about the Clinton years to make their broader one: America had long compromised its own values and interests in the Middle East by its blind and sordid obeisance to the Jewish state and its pro-Israeli supporters in the United States.

Here we go again. Election years seem to bring out the worst — not only in politicians, but in advocates, analysts, and intellectuals too. Nowhere are the leaps and lapses of logic and rationality greater than in the discussion of Israel, the Jews, domestic U.S. politics, and the Middle East. Once again, we’re hearing that a U.S. president is being dragged to war with Iran by a trigger-happy Israeli prime minister and his loyal acolytes in America.

Before we lose our collective minds (again), it might be useful to review some of the myths and misconceptions about domestic U.S. politics and America’s Middle East policies that still circulate all too widely in Europe and the Arab world — and sadly in the United States too. Here are a half-dozen of the worst ones.

1. The White House is Israeli-occupied territory.

The idea that American Jews in collusion with the Israeli government (and, for some time now, evangelical Christians) hold U.S. foreign policy hostage is not only wrong and misleading but a dangerous, dark trope. It coexists with other hateful — and, yes, anti-Semitic — canards about how Jews control the media and the banks, and the world as well. It’s reality distortion in the extreme, with little basis in fact. The historical record just doesn’t support it. Strong, willful presidents who have real opportunities (and smart strategies to exploit them) to promote U.S. interests almost always win out and trump domestic lobbies.

Indeed, when it counts and national interests demand it, presidents who know what they’re doing move forward in the face of domestic pressures and usually prevail. Whether it’s arms sales to the Arabs (advanced fighter jets to Egyptians or AWACS to Saudis) or taking tough positions on Arab-Israeli negotiating issues in the service of agreements (see: Henry Kissinger and the 1973-1975 disengagement agreements with Israel, Egypt, and Syria; President Jimmy Carter, Camp David, and the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in 1978 and 1979; and Secretary of State James Baker and the 1991 Madrid peace conference), administrations have their way. The fights can be messy and politically costly, but that doesn’t preclude policymakers from having them.

No U.S. president would pick a fight with a close ally, particularly one that had strong domestic support, without good reason and a clear purpose. To wit, President George H.W. Bush and Baker’s decision to deny the Israelis billions of dollars in housing-loan guarantees because of settlement construction on the eve of the Madrid conference made sense. It sent a powerful signal to the Israelis and Arabs at a critical moment that America meant business. President Barack Obama’s war with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over a settlement freeze didn’t: One was a productive fight with a purpose, and the other was an unproductive one with no strategy. At the end of the day, Obama got the worst of all outcomes: He pissed off the Israelis and the Palestinians, and he got no negotiations and no freeze. That Obama was seen to have backed down in the end only made matters worse, making it appear that he lost his nerve with Netanyahu. Even so, none of this means the Israelis run the White House. Obama’s failure was much a result of a self-inflicted wound.

2. The U.S.-Israel relationship rests on shared values alone.

Israel’s critics believe that without domestic politics, there would be little to the U.S.-Israel special relationship. Israel’s supporters, meanwhile, like to believe that politics has little to do with it. Neither is right. The U.S.-Israel relationship is a curious marriage of shared values, national interests, and domestic politics.

Sure, common values are at the top of the list. There’s no way the bond between Washington and Jerusalem would be as strong and as durable these many years without broad public belief that it was in America’s national interest to support a fellow democracy. These shared values more than anything else — not Israel’s importance as an strategic ally — is the foundation of the bond.

Since 1950, only 22 countries have maintained their democratic character continuously — and Israel’s one of them. That the Jewish people have a very dark history of persecution and genocide and that millions of Americans have powerful religious connections to Israel and the Holy Land has only made the sell easier and the bond stronger.

But let’s not kid ourselves — and activists at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and other Jewish organizations don’t. Without the strong vocal support of a unified American Jewish community that brings pressure to bear in Congress, assistance levels to Israel would not be nearly as high as they have been for so long. AIPAC not only assiduously guards the pre-existing pro-Israeli tilt among the American public, but it also defines for much of the Jewish and political establishment what it means to be pro-Israel in America today. Its clout on Capitol Hill sends a powerful message to elected officials, many of whom already share general sympathy with Israel and who have no desire to cross swords with a powerful lobby that might jeopardize what they’ve come to Washington to do: advance their constituents’ interests…

Read it all.

The American:

Professor Stanley Fish recently published an op-ed in the New York Times entitled “Two Cheers for Double Standards.” Fish begins by explaining that a double standard is “when you condemn an opponent for doing or saying something you would approve or excuse if it were said or done by one of your buddies.” A classic example of a double standard is when a married woman is condemned for having a sexual affair with another man, while her philandering husband is given a free ride—after all, he’s just a man. But this is not the double standard that Fish is cheering for. (Just imagine reading a New York Times op-ed that cheered for that particular double standard!)

No, the double standard Professor Fish has in mind stems from the furor over Rush Limbaugh’s despicable and gratuitous attack on Sandra Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute.” Fish notes that “Limbaugh has not had many defenders,” a fact that might be interpreted to the credit of conservatives, who, in this case at least, put public civility above blind partisanship. But Fish draws no such conclusion, since the target of his polemic is those conservatives who, according to Fish, “have cried ‘double standard’ because Ed Schultz was only mildly criticized … for characterizing Laura Ingraham as a ‘right-wing slut,’ and Bill Maher emerged relatively unscathed as he referred to Michele Bachmann as a ‘bimbo’ and labeled Sarah Palin with words I can’t mention in this newspaper.”

Fish observes that “some left-wing commentators have argued that there is a principled way of slamming Limbaugh while letting the other two [Schultz and Maher] off the hook, because he went after a private citizen while they were defaming public figures.” But Fish rejects this feeble attempt by the liberal Left to wiggle out of the charge of a double standard, because the double standard, Fish maintains, is just what our nation needs.

True, as Fish acknowledges, many of us have been brought up to think of double standards as wrong. This is because we “have been schooled in the political philosophy of enlightenment liberalism … Basically this is the transposition into the political realm of the Golden Rule: do unto others what you would have them do unto you. Don’t give your friends a pass you wouldn’t give to your enemies.”

But not everyone has been schooled in this political philosophy. Fish recounts a scene in the classic Western film The Wild Bunch, in which two outlaws discuss the thorny issue of who deserves your loyalty. The moral of the scene is summed up by Fish as: “What counts is who your friends and allies are. You keep your word to them and not just to anybody. Your loyalty is to particular people, and not to an abstraction.”

Fish could have easily chosen other examples besides picturesque outlaws to prove the same point. The fundamental principle of Nazism was to put loyalty to a whole people, namely fellow Aryans, above loyalty to abstractions such as enlightenment liberalism and the rule of law. The KKK put loyalty to white Christians above the principle of common decency. Both the Nazis and the KKK observed a rigorous double standard: Do good to our friends and evil to our enemies. But is this really the kind of thing that Stanley Fish is cheering for?

Fish observes that “some left-wing commentators have argued that there is a principled way of slamming Limbaugh while letting the other two [Schultz and Maher] off the hook, because he went after a private citizen while they were defaming public figures.” But Fish rejects this feeble attempt by the liberal Left to wiggle out of the charge of a double standard, because the double standard, Fish maintains, is just what our nation needs.

True, as Fish acknowledges, many of us have been brought up to think of double standards as wrong. This is because we “have been schooled in the political philosophy of enlightenment liberalism … Basically this is the transposition into the political realm of the Golden Rule: do unto others what you would have them do unto you. Don’t give your friends a pass you wouldn’t give to your enemies.”

But not everyone has been schooled in this political philosophy. Fish recounts a scene in the classic Western film The Wild Bunch, in which two outlaws discuss the thorny issue of who deserves your loyalty. The moral of the scene is summed up by Fish as: “What counts is who your friends and allies are. You keep your word to them and not just to anybody. Your loyalty is to particular people, and not to an abstraction.”

Fish could have easily chosen other examples besides picturesque outlaws to prove the same point. The fundamental principle of Nazism was to put loyalty to a whole people, namely fellow Aryans, above loyalty to abstractions such as enlightenment liberalism and the rule of law. The KKK put loyalty to white Christians above the principle of common decency. Both the Nazis and the KKK observed a rigorous double standard: Do good to our friends and evil to our enemies. But is this really the kind of thing that Stanley Fish is cheering for?…

Read it all.

Defining Ideas:

Cyberspace is awash in vulnerabilities. Actors in the cyber domain are wise to protect against crime, espionage, and hacktivist intrusions. But while those vulnerabilities are all too real, they are not driving the policy debate today in Washington. Instead, what seems to have seized the imagination of so many is the prospect of a true cyberwar.

But we’ve never had a real cyberwar (though the Russian attack on Georgia comes close), so there is no solid data on the threats that exist. We can only assess the potential for cyberwar by measuring the capabilities or our possible adversaries, and then only by educated guess work. We have no clear sense of true intent. As a result we lack a solid quantifiable risk assessment of the cyber threat to national security and this leaves policy makers only with speculation as to the extent of our risk from a cyber attack by a willful cyber opponent.

The uncertainty does not, however, prevent us from thinking about the problem. We struggle today with two inter-related questions: Who are we likely to fight? And how are we going to fight them?

China Rising

American military strategists see China as the most likely peer opponent in cyberspace. As the Department of Defense’s (DoD) 2010 report to Congress,  Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, concluded:

numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. government, continued to be the target of intrusions that appear to have originated within the [People’s Republic of China]. These intrusions focused on exfiltratring information, some of which could be of strategic or of military utility. The accesses and skills required for these intrusions are similar to those necessary to conduct computer network attacks. It remains unclear if these intrusions were conducted by, or with the endorsement of, the [People’s Liberation Army] or other elements of the [People’s Republic of China] government. However, developing capabilities for cyberwarfare is consistent with authoritative [People’s Liberation Army] military writings.

Likewise, China sees the United States as its principal cyber-competitor. A recent report in the Chinese-language, Liberation Army Daily (an unofficial but well-vetted source) put it this way:

The U.S. military is hastening to seize the commanding military heights on the Internet, and another Internet war is being pushed to a stormy peak. . . . Their actions remind us that to protect the nation’s Internet security, we must accelerate Internet defense development and accelerate steps to make a strong Internet army. . . . Although our country has developed into an Internet great power, our Internet security defenses are still very weak. So we must accelerate development of Internet battle technology and armament.

China has demonstrated significant cyber capabilities in recent years. One of the most notable events was Operation Aurora. In early 2010, Google announced that it had been the subject of a “highly sophisticated and targeted attack” that had originated in China, resulting in the “theft of intellectual property” from Google. The attacks seemed to be targeted at Chinese human rights activists. And Google was not alone—at least twenty other major companies spanning sectors including internet, finance, and the chemical industry were also targeted. At its core, the attack apparently attempted to corrupt some of Google’s source code.

China, naturally, denied responsibility for the attacks and even claimed that evidence of their complicity had been falsified. But, according to one classified State Department cable (released by WikiLeaks) the operation was authorized by the Politburo Standing Committee, the rough equivalent in authority of the U.S. National Security Council. And later analysis by Google (assisted by NSA) traced the source of Internet Protocol addresses and servers used to facilitate the exploitation to a single foreign entity consisting either of “agents of the Chinese state or proxies thereof.”

American military strategists see China as the most likely peer opponent in cyberspace.

Another display of Chinese capabilities occurred in April 2010, when the internet was hijacked. Traffic on the internet is, typically, routed through the most efficient route. Servers calculate that route based upon a “call-and-response” interaction with other servers—in effect, downstream servers advertise their own carrying capacity and current load, soliciting traffic.

On April 8, 2010, China Telecom began broadcasting erroneous network traffic routes. As a result, American and other foreign servers were instructed to send internet traffic through Chinese servers. In the end, according to the United States China Economic and Security Review Commission, roughly 15 percent of the world’s traffic was routed to China. This included official US government traffic, as well as the traffic from any number of commercial websites.

Even more chillingly, some reports have suggested that our electronic grid and telecommunications systems have already been infiltrated by logic bombs (malicious code inserted in a system that will be set off only upon instruction or when certain conditions are met). In 2009, the Wall Street Journal reported that software had been placed into our system, so that it could be “detonated” at a later date, presumably in a time of war. Doing so could cripple our economy and military capabilities at a time of crisis. Richard Clarke, the former cybersecurity czar, likens these cyber logic bombs to mines, and blames China for their placement.

And, recently, the security firm RSA (which manufactures the security tokens that many companies use to control access to secure systems) was penetrated by an intrusion that compromised the company’s SecureID system. Just a few weeks later, Lockheed Martin was attacked by someone using the stolen RSA data. The focus on a defense contractor, rather than on a bank, seems a clear indication that the RSA hack was done by a sovereign peer competitor, not by cyber criminals who would have used the data to break into bank accounts instead. Again, China denied any responsibility for the attack but, as Clarke said, “this attack [has] all the hallmarks of Chinese government operations.”

In the end, just as the United States has begun to prepare for a cyber war (through the organization of US Cyber Command) China, too, is preparing for one. Last May, China announced the formation of a cyber “Blue Army,” with two stated purposes: defending the nation against cyber attacks and leading cyber offensives in case of war. That’s the same mission that US Cyber Command has. Though a full cyberwar has yet to be fought, both sides are preparing for the worst.

What Is A Cyber War?

We know what war looks like in the real world—generals marshal armies and launch attacks, things get blown up, and people die. But what would be an “act of war” in cyberspace? Consider the following hypotheticals (all of which are reasonably realistic). An adversary…

Read it all.

View From The Left

March 23, 2012

Via About

View From The Right

March 23, 2012

This image has been posted with express written permission. This cartoon was originally published at Town Hall.

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