Archive for the ‘Council on Foreign Relations’ Category

Getting From Here to There– It’s Time to Engage in Common Sense Approaches to Public Policy

I usually try to keep my blog posts short. Today I have failed in this endeavor but urge you to please read through to the end of this important post. The current issue of Foreign Affairs Magazine features an excerpt from Leslie Gelb's new book, Power Rules: How Common Sense Can Rescue American Foreign Policy.  This essay is exceptionally good, and, in my view, Gelb's thesis should be applied to all forms of statecraft and to promote the resolution of both newly emerging and long stagnating public policy debates.

Gelb accurately diagnoses the "weakening fundamentals of the United States.  First among them is that the country's economy, infrastructure, public schools, and political system have been allowed to deteriorate.  The result has been diminished economic strength, a less vital democracy, and a mediocrity of spirit."

Several paragraphs in this powerful essay deserve highlighting:

"The bases of the United States' international power are the country's economic competitiveness and its political cohesion, and there should be little doubt at this point that both are in decline.  Many acknowledge and lament faltering parts here and there, but they avoid a frontal stare at the deteriorating whole.  It is too depressing to do so, too much for most people to bear. … The United States is now the biggest debtor nation in history, and no nation with a massive debt has ever remained a great power.  Its heavy industry has largely disappeared, having moved to foreign competitors, which has cut deeply into its ability to be independent in times of peril.  Its public-school students trail their peers in other industrialized countries in math and science. They cannot compete in the global economy.  Generations of adult Americans, shockingly, read at a grade-school level and know almost no history, not to mention no geography.  They are simply not being educated to become the guardians of a democracy.

These signals of decline have not inspired politicians to put the national good above partisan interests or problem solving above scoring points.  Republicans act like rabid attack dogs in and out of power and treat facts like trash.  Democrats seem to lack the decisiveness, clarity of vision, and toughness necessary to govern.  This tableau of domestic political stalemate begs for new leadership.  The nation that not so long ago outproduced the rest of the world in arms and consumer goods, the nation lionized and envied for its innovation, can-do spirit, and capacity to accomplish economic miracles, has become overwhelmed by the tasks it once performed competently and with relative ease."

This is the most succinct and gut-wrenching summary of our national predicament that I have read.  Gelb puts his finger directly on the jugular vein of America's innovation ecosystem and diagnoses the multiple layers of dysfunction that have launched our country into such a deep crisis.  I share his fear of a new global reality developing along the following lines:

Images-1"The real danger in this universe of primitivism and plenty is not new wars or explosions among major states, or a world war, or even a nuclear war.  It is the specter of nations drowning in a flood of terrorism, tribal and religious hatred, lawlessness, poverty, disease, environmental calamities, and governmental incompetence.  Many nations are going under because they are simply unable to cope, and they will drag others down with them."

 

Gelb closes this essay with an impassioned plea for action, and most important, he retains a strong sense of hope and pride in our country:

"Every great nation or empire ultimately rots from within.  One can already see the United States, that precious guarantor of liberty and security, beginning to decline in its leadership, institutions, and physical and human infrastructure, heading on the path to becoming just another great power, a nation barely worth fearing or following.  It is time to send up flares signaling that the United States is losing its way and its power, that it is in trouble. But it is even more important to reaffirm the belief that the United States is worth fighting for both across the oceans and at home.  There should be no doubt that the United States, alone among nations, can provide the leadership to solve the problems that will otherwise engulf the world.  And for all the country's faults, there should be no doubt that it remains the last best chance to create equal opportunity, hope, and freedom.  But to restore all that is good and special about the United States, to rescue its power to solve problems, will require something that has not happened in a long time: that pragmatists, realists, and moderates unite and fight for their country."

ImagesI've been sending out flares to other realistic moderate pragmatists on this and other topics that demand a "common sense" approach for years.  Through groups such as the Council on Foreign Relations, the Aspen Institute's Socrates Society, the Working Group on Director Accountability and Board Effectiveness, and, most recently, the Security Innovation Network, I have joined and helped forge communities of interest bound together by empowered individuals who are thoughtful and constructive agents of change.  As Gelb points out, we have a lot of wood to cut, but I remain energized and, most importantly, hopeful that we can make a difference because we have to.  Given where America stands today, fomenting pragmatic and realistic change is not an option, it is a requirement.

  

 

Don’t Forget What Makes America Great– Our Diversity

As we celebrate this Memorial Day weekend and remember those who have died for our country in military service, let’s not forget that our young men and women continue to fight to preserve our democratic society and the personal freedoms that define our way of life.

In his new book, The Post-American World, Council on Foreign Relations member Fareed Zakaria reflects on many of the challenges that we face as a country in the 21st century. He also reflects on the strengths that make America unique.

When I describe what makes the Silicon Valley eco-system for entrepreneurs unique and, in my view, exceedingly difficult to duplicate, my description mirrors what Zakaria describes as America’s core strength:

” Per capita, it turns out, the United States trains more engineers than either of the Asian giants. … America’s hidden secret is that most of these engineers are immigrants. Foreign students and immigrants account for almost 50 percent of all science researchers in the country. . . . Half of all Silicon Valley start-ups have one founder who is an immigrant or first generation American. The potential for a new burst of American productivity depends not on our education system or R&D spending, but on our immigration policies. If these people are allowed and encouraged to stay, then innovation will happen here. If they leave, they’ll take it with them. More broadly, this is America’s great– and potentially insurmountable– strength. It remains the most open, flexible society in the world, able to absorb other people, cultures, ideas, goods, and services. The country thrives on the hunger and energy of poor immigrants.”

I am a first generation American who, by the good fortune of being born and raised and Puerto Rico, was an American citizen before my immigrant parents were naturalized. But for the ultimate sacrifices made by American soldiers against the Nazis in World War II, I would not be here.

This Memorial Day, let’s also not forget that the lifeblood of innovation and entrepreneurship comes from many places, but it has found a uniquely fertile soil in an America that embraces and celebrates diversity.

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Democracy in America Revisited– The Rise of Authoritarian Capitalism [Sixth of a Series]

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I haven’t found anyone who will argue vigorously against the notion that China and Russia have thoroughly abandoned their Communist roots- but the elites who wield power in these countries certainly continue to embrace authoritarianism, only now under ‘freewheeling’ if not free market capitalism. Authoritarian behavior can be contagious. Consider the U.S. policy of unilateral military interventionism that has been in place for over five years since the Iraq invasion—does that feel a little authoritarian to you?

Authoritarian capitalism is an attempt to solve the crisis created by inadequate political institutions that have failed to forge a national citizenry. In a socio-political environment where America’s leaders define the nation’s political agenda through the fear of terrorism and consequent social disorder, convenient excuses (another terrorist attack on American soil) could easily lead to the loss of civil liberties and the rise of authoritarianism in America. Authoritarian Capitalism appears to currently be the default regime of choice for societies lacking the political will and the political institutions to empower marginalized socio-economic groups by allowing the expression of dissent.

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“We are Robbing Posterity to Live Today.”

Header_aspenlogo_subpage I am at the Aspen Institute to attend a Socrates Society seminar this President’s weekend, and the headline for this post is a quote by Zeke Emanuel, Chair of the Department of Bioethics at The Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health, who is moderating a session on "Resolving Bioethical Dilemmas" (believe it or not, his session is exclusively for teenagers– see Teen Socrates).

Zeke made this comment during our opening dinner panel discussion in the context of answering the following:

"What is a key question that you believe the next President of the United States should consider upon taking office?"

This simple statement is a profound and concise rendering of the American malady.  Think about it– American society has devolved to the point where virtually everything we experience is driven by a lust for instant gratification– from the mainstreaming of pornography to celebrity-seeking reality TV shows; from hasty tax stimulus packages to hedge funds; from inscrutable financial derivatives to ignorant day traders.

The popular media is consumed with the NOW.  The basic concept of long-term stewardship in public policy, of the obligation that we have as a society to bear responsibility for our children and their children, is a novelty.  Many people debating the impact of accelerating rates of climate change on the future of the world are missing the point– it’s all about posterity.  Have we truly forgotten that we are here on earth for something more than just our brief and individually insignificant moments of existence in time? 

I come to the Aspen Institute, where I currently co-chair the Socrates Society Advisory Board with Laura Lauder, for the luxury of being able to learn, for the gift of being able to step outside the narrow hallway of thinking that governs my everyday business life.  I come to the Aspen Institute to be able to hear truly insightful observations from brilliant people like Zeke Emanuel.

Tonight, 65 of us who are participating in four different seminars were fortunate to be able to hear other answers to this question from former CIA Director Jim Woolsey, senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations Isobel Coleman, former Republican congressman from Oklahoma Mickey Edwards,  and Princeton University Professor of History Sean Wilentz

Now what are we going to do to get more people who can impact the future to remember that posterity matters?

Why We Should Take Draconian Energy Conservation Measures Now

A recent Council on Foreign Relations Independent Task Force Report, "National Security Consequences of U.S. Oil Dependency", makes a concise case for policy changes from the current U.S. Administration’s weak public acknowledgement that  the U.S. is "addicted to oil".

The report debunks several oil myths (some selected myths below):

(1) Who really controls oil supplies and prices? It’s the state run National Oil Companies, such as Russia, Mexico, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil– not ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, and Chevron;

(2) Cutting oil imports will NOT lower fuel prices.

(3) There’s plenty of low cost oil ready to be tapped– NO, there isn’t.

It also makes a series of recommendations for domestic and foreign policy initiatives designed to cure that oil addiction and to positively impact U.S. foreign policy in the process (eg. repeal the imported ethanol tax of $0.54 per gallon; use more nuclear power; spend more on research and development on battery technology).

The report is useful and informative, but it does not go far enough.  The task force that produced this report was co-chaired by John Deutch of MIT and James Schlesinger of Lehman Brothers. Twenty four other prominent experts in this field participated in this important project.  Two members of the task force, David Goldwyn of Goldwyn International Strategies and Michael Granoff of Pomona Capital, share my view and wrote an addendum that is included in the report making the following assertion:

"We subscribe to the report’s analyis and recommendations, but the report understates the gravity of the threat that energy dependence poses to U.S. national security. . . . Global dependence on oil is rapidly eroding U.S. power and influence because oil is a strategic commodity largely controlled by regressive governments and a cartel that raises prices and multiplies the rents that flow to oil producers. . . . Most gravely, oil consumers are in effect financing both sides of the war on terrorism. . . ."

What they recommend:

(1) The integration of U.S. energy and foreign policy– for example, by engaging China and India at a presidential level on the impact of their investment practices on regional stability and on the shared interest between the U.S., China, and india in a free market for energy;

(2) Expand and deepen the U.S. collective energy security system through the inclusion of China and India in the International Energy Agency.

(3) The U.S. should actively use its economic power as a component of its energy strategy.

They conclude, and I agree, that "an incremental approach to the challenge . . . will not be adequate."

In my own reading of the report, I was struck by the following statistics:

68% of the oil used in the United States is for transportation, and oil fuels 96% of transportation needs.

If the United States were to lower its oil consumption by 10% (2.5% of world demand), the effect in current tight oil markets could be a temporary decline in global prices (about 12% to 25%) and a lowering of the anticipated rate of future increases.

OK.  We can cut consumption by 10%– we can cut anything by 10% if we put our minds to it!

Why can’t our President deliver a speech next week challenging oil consumers to reduce transportation consumption by 10% before December 2008?  Why can’t we all carpool to work for a year and change our behavior on the roads by driving less, leaving the gas guzzler in the garage, and making sacrifices?  Why doesn’t our government provide aggressive tax incentives now to induce consumers to change behavior?  We can do it, we only lack the collective national will to do so because we don’t have bold leaders ready to carry the torch.

Happy New Year! 

Global Power Barometer is Coming to PostGlobal.com

Foreign policy junkies and media spin doctors– get ready for the unveiling of the Global Power Barometer– you may become addicted to this latest news analysis feature coming to the leading edge PostGlobal news blog  within WashingtonPost.com.

Visualize a chart with dynamic arrows indicating on a daily basis whether a country’s, or a movement’s, power to influence world events is increasing or decreasing. Are you interested in whether Islamist influence is on the upswing or if Israel and the United States are perceived to be in decline? You will be able to see this, and more, every day starting in late November.

The Global Power Barometer is the branchild of Charles McLean of the Denver Research Group. He has developed this tool with the benefit of decades of private research that DRGI has completed for Fortune 200 companies. The PostGlobal version is the result of a collaboration with David Ignatius and Fareed Zakaria, who moderate the content for PostGlobal’s collection of 30 journalist bloggers from around the globe.

In my view, this important media sentiment sensor will wake people up to critically important current trends that many suspect but can’t quite pin down.. Intrigued? You can even dive into the supporting material behind the ominously drifting arrows.

Stay tuned for more on the actual launch date– but you will have digested your turkey leftovers when the Global Power Barometer goes live.

Moushumi Khan on Muhammad Yunus

Moushumi Khan has written an excellent personal chronicle, which was published on November 1 in India Currents, about the extraordinary impact that Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank have had on her personal convictions and her professional life.

Mou and I met in 2005 through the Socrates Society at the Aspen Institute and are currently collaborating on new interfaith initiatives to promote greater tolerance and understanding in the United States and Europe between Muslims, Christians, and Jews.

I have reprinted her conclusion from the article below and encourage readers to read the full story:

The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank has wide-ranging significance. It is not only a victory for Yunus as an individual and for his visionary institution, it is a vote of confidence for a nation in desperate need of such international recognition. It is also an acknowledgement that the Muslim world has something valuable to offer. Bangladesh is at a critical juncture in its socio-political development while the Muslim world is more often feared than revered. The power of this award is heightened by the combination of micro-enterprise as a tool of economic empowerment, and the fact that it was innovated in a developing Muslim nation.

Perhaps the Nobel award for peace rather than for economics makes this point best. Not only has the Grameen Bank financed small business enterprises, it has demonstrated that the poor have the ability to improve their own lives, thus addressing one of the major sources of global conflict—economic disparities.

Yunus has given people hope, some through loans to fund their enterprises, others to believe that they can make a difference. He has demonstrated that we all have a stake in the world, that all people are creditworthy. He taught an idealistic girl, who thought that she had to be prime minister of Bangladesh to fix its problems, the practical lesson that we can all make a difference. He has taught the world that capitalism works when we all have a fair chance to access capital.

The example of Grameen’s success should not be lost on those who persist in arguing that promoting interfaith dialogue and reconciliation through economic empowerment is a pipe dream.

The example of Saudi Arabia shows us that affluence does not mean  individuals will not become radicalized and that education does not mean  frustrated people will not turn to terrorism.  But upward mobility at least means that violence and nihilism will not be their first or only choice when they choose to assert themselves as individuals.

Terrorists need to be marginalized, not mainstreamed.

I continue to believe that the economic empowerment of individuals– especially through promoting entrepreneurship for those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, can make a material and positive difference for peaceful social relations in the world.  Muhammad Yunus is showing the way– hopefully more countries will follow his beacon.   

Insights on Religion and Islam from Vali Nasr and Nick Kristof

I’ve been reading Vali Nasr’s outstanding book, The Shia Revival, and was struck by a comment he makes in the introduction that ties directly into Nick Kristof’s opinion piece in today’s New York Times, "Looking for Islam’s Luthers".

The Shia Revival is required reading for anyone who wants to understood the roots of the centuries-old blood feud between Sunnis and Shiites.  It is particularly relevant in providing historical context for the current power struggle between these Arab ethnic groups inside Iraq.  Nasr writes eloquently and develops an insightful thesis into the motivation and tactics driving the Iranian theocracy’s strategic manipulation of the Iraqi, Syrian, and Lebanese players in the region (not to mention the U.S.) in the region.

In the introduction, page 23, Nasr makes a very important statement that may be lost to rationalists like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins:

"Religion is not just about God and salvation; it decides the boundaries of communities. Different readings of history, theology, and religious law perform the same role as language or race in defining what makes each identity unique in saying who belongs to it and who does not."

Kristof’s column today makes a very important point in relating the ascendancy of religion in our time to social alienation:

"Islam is on the rise for many of the same reasons evangelical Christianity is surging: they provide a firm moral code, spiritual reassurance and orderliness to people vexed by chaos and immorality aorund them, and they offer dignity to the poor."

I would add to this that social fragmentation has been accelerated by the rapid pace of technological change since the beginning of the Internet age ten years ago. In the globalized Internet era, which is the breeding ground for the alienated, super-empowered individual, this quest for order and meaning becomes more and more urgent.  Anger and frustration can play out through nihilism, or they can lead to reform.

Kristof’s column focuses on Islamic feminism as a harbinger of reformist thinking in this religion. He concludes on an optimistic note:

"All this underscores that Islam is much more complex than the headlines might suggest.  The violence and fundamentalism gets the attention– and should be more loudly condemned by ordinary Muslims– but we would be close-minded ourselves if we ignored the more hopeful rumblings that are also taking place within the vast Islamic world. . . including, perhaps, steps toward a Muslim Reformation."

Like Nick Kristof, I am anxious to hear moderate voices reclaiming control of the Islamic, Christian, and Jewish faiths. 

 

   

Muslim Offense vs Catholic Defense

Bring on the Pope!  Muslims ranging from the Pakistan legislature, heads of the moderate Islamist Turkish government, and the leading Lebanese Shiite cleric have joined to condemn indelicate remarks about Islam and the Prophet by Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI.  At a speech in Germany earlier this week, the Pope had the temerity to quote an obscure 14th Century text by Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaelogous which raises the advocacy of violence by certain proponents of the Islamic faith in the context of the conflict between faith and reason. 

The Council on Foreign Relations has posted a thorough analysis of the Pope’s faux pas and the quote– click here to get to the CFR link

But where are the massive denunciations of comments such as the one published in the Egyptian Government daily newspaper, Al Ahram, on August 18, 2006 by the Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh ‘Ali Gum’a:

Translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute

"Anyone who follows the news will discover that the Hebrew entity has turned into a [source] of [empty] talk, while the Arab discourse, which was characterized in the sixties [as empty talk], has developed significantly. [The Arabs] have learned a lesson and have moved from talk to action, and from the fostering of illusions to honesty, transparency, realistic goal-setting and ability to change. The Israeli discourse, [on the other hand], has turned to false declarations based on illusions, with wishful thinking taking precedence over facts.

These lies have exposed the true and hideous face of the blood-suckers who were described by Filmange in his book The Treasure Hidden in the Talmudic Laws [sic], which tells how [the Jews] planned [to prepare] a matzo [unleavened Passover bread] using human blood. [2] If we follow events, the most important thing [that we discover], in my opinion, is that the war going on [today] plants hatred in the next generations, as though one of its goals is to perpetuate the conflict for many years to come.

Jews speak out against lies and anti-Semitism through organizations such as the Anti Defamation League.  But the steady and increasing torrent of anti-Semitic literature, speeches, and government sponsored propaganda that come out of the Muslim world is largely ignored by the mainstream global media because it isn’t "news" anymore, it is a fact of life if you are Jewish.

It is not OK for the Pope to make disparaging comments about Islam.  It is not OK for the Mufti of Egypt to say that Jews make Passover matzo from human blood.

I see a growing asymmetry in this latest Muslim reaction of outrage that is very troubling.  Do you?   

   

An Important Letter From Jerusalem

I received a letter today written by Shimshon Zelnicker, Director of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, which summarizes his current personal perspective on the Lebanese war, which Israelis now refer to as "Lebanon II" .  In my view, this is an important letter.  If you are not familiar with the Van Leer Institute and wish to learn more, click here for a link to the website. A short summary of the Institute’s mission from the website:

The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute is a leading intellectual center for the interdisciplinary study and discussion of issues related to philosophy, society, culture and education. The Institute gives expression to the wide range of opinions in Israel, and takes particular pride in its role as an incubator and creative home for many of the most important civil society efforts to enhance and deepen Israeli democracy.

Founded in 1959 by the Van Leer family from the Netherlands, the Institute and its mission are based on the Van Leers’ vision of Israel as both a homeland for the Jewish people and a democratic society, predicated on justice, fairness and equality for all its residents.

The Van Leer Institute is a strong supporter of the Hand in Hand Center for Jewish Arab Education in Israel, with which I have been associated for several years.

Letter from Jerusalem

I happened to mention to a very dear friend of mine that the war now raging in the North of Israel and Lebanon is the 7th war that I’ve lived through (or fought in) as an Israeli. If I count World War II – which I experienced as a small boy in pre-1948 Israel – this is my 8th war. While we were both rather shocked by the figures, I came away from the conversation unsure of whether this extensive exposure to organized violence qualifies me, or anyone else for that matter, as an expert on war. I do feel, however, that my observer-participant role in these 7 wars allows me some comparative insights that may help shed light on this latest case.

With this minimal claim on expertise let me point out that Lebanon II (as this war has come to be described in Israel) is one of the first modern cases of a totally "privatized war”. It is a war outsourced by Iran and Syria, and carried out by Hezbollah as an independent sub-contractor. This is a pernicious aspect of Globalization that has been poorly perceived and poorly presented by the media, and one that is lost on the majority of Western liberal observers and critics of the war.

Going back to Hezbollah as a sub-contractor, it should be pointed out that it functions not as part of the nationalist (liberation) struggle of the Palestinians, but as the armed militia of the revolutionary Pan Islamist movement. It supports Hamas for its Islamist commitments and not for its contribution to Palestinian Nationalist aspirations.

The abduction of the two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah was presented by that Organization – and accepted by many Western observers – as evidence of the affinity and mutual commitment between Hezbollah and the Palestinians. In effect, Hezbollah supports Hamas’ brand of Islamic radicalism and not the milder political – and largely secular – aspirations of Palestinian Nationalism. Unlike the Fatah (and other constituent parts of the PLO), Hezbollah is not motivated by a desire for political solutions and has never offered a blue print for one. Like Hamas and the revolutionary regime in Iran it is concerned with The Truth and not with expedience.

This is fully understood by the Saudi-Egyptian-Jordanian anti-Hezbollah coalition which is predicated on the view that Hezbollah, Iran and the rest of the radical Islamic Movement (of which Syria is not a part) are not in the business of conflict containment. All three Regimes understand that for all of its nationalist rhetoric, Hezbollah and its masters are fighting Israel but are targeting the existing regional order in the Middle East and beyond.

These critical elements of the current war have been obscured in media coverage and analyses and skew our understanding of it. Among the immediate "casualties" of this partial and skewed (media) representation of the war and its underlying realities is the situation on the Israeli-Gaza border. The continuous cycle of IDF intrusion-retreat from the entire Gaza strip is hardly noticed as is the fact that Hamas after only 7 months in power has brought Palestinian society and national aspiration to the brink of total disaster.

The rift between Hamas and Fatah is deeper than ever before, and the total dependence of the Hamas Prime Minister and his Cabinet on the exile leadership in Damascus stymies any and all efforts to stop the hostilities and solve the internal crisis. Worse yet, there is the clear danger that the rift between (Hamas) Islamists and (Fatah) Nationalists may undermine the Two State Solution which is the only realistic political program in sight. This is a bleak prospect which is the result of Hezbollah strategic prompting and not of the war itself.

Unfortunately, the rhetoric issuing from Jerusalem – and the clumsy handling of the military operations themselves – only add to and exacerbate the general confusion and help divert media attention from the long term strategic meaning of the war to the humanitarian collateral aspects of the fighting. The deflection of focus is beginning to affect Israeli reactions as well. There is a growing criticism of what is seen as disproportional retaliation against civilians and civilian infra-structure in Lebanon. In addition, there are many (me included) who criticize the Olmert government (and the IDF) of imprudence and insufficient planning before entering the war.

But, as of today, there is still an overwhelming majority support of the view that self restraint and moderation are not the language that will move Hezbollah, or Hamas, to the negotiating table. I want to end my note with several points that may be particularly pertinent to observers of the Middle East who reside outside the region:

1. Hezbollah is not an existential threat to Israel although it is the immediate cause of the current fighting. The main threat is Iran, who continues to support the Hezbollah financially, to train it and to supply it with the type of destructive capacity that is designed to inflict damage on civilian populations and civilian targets. A nuclear Iran will fundamentally change the strategic realities in the region and in Europe. It is no coincidence that the abduction of the two soldiers and the shelling of Israel took place a day before the UN ultimatum to Iran has expired.

2. The displeasure with the Bush Administration and the criticism of its Iraq policies should NOT color one’s perceptions of what is happening in Lebanon. Nor should the unfortunate mistakes – or reckless conduct of the IDF that resulted in the tragic death of so many civilians – steer us away from the fact that Israel has endured 6 years of Hezbollah shelling without much, or any, response.

3. The media pre-occupation with the recent and earlier tragedies in Lebanon should not blind us to the fact that nearly one million Israelis (twice as many as Lebanese) have left their homes in Haifa and the Galilee to find shelter from the daily barrage of 100 to 200 missile fired by Hezbollah against Israel.

4. Israeli suffering, like the original and real causes of the conflict, is obscured by the media and by our humane and understandable desire to put an immediate stop to the fighting.

But will the short term gain of an early ceasefire – or even the promise of an international intervention force – help regain stability and security for Lebanese and Israeli civilian populations? I wonder.

Shimshon Zelniker

August 2006

I largely agree with the points made in this letter, but I want to point out that, in the United States, bi-partisan foreign policy experts do clearly understand that Lebanon II is a sub-contracted proxy war and that it is, indeed, Iran’s war.

As a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, www.cfr.org, I refer interested readers to the Council’s website as an excellent resource.  It is available to the public and contains links to other publications, as well as blogs, that provide informed current analyses of this subject.

Having said that, I agree that the mainstream U.S. media in general is obscuring the implications of key elements of the political alliances and pan-Islamic undercurrents of the Lebanese conflict in its reporting.   Focus on Hezbollah’s staying power and equating the lack of their obliteration in three and a half weeks with victory misses a much larger point.  Dwelling on the human suffering and the surface asymmetry between the Israeli force and Hezbollah ignores the fundamental dislocation to the region being actively promoted and driven by the incipient nuclear-armed Iranian regime.   

I do give Anderson Cooper credit, however, for asserting on his CNN report the other night that Nasrallah and Hezbollah are "Islamic Fascists".  That is not only correct, but they are Islamic Fascists looking forward to bringing their view of "the Truth" and imposing it forcibly in the United States of America as soon as possible.

If anyone doubts that there is a much larger agenda behind Lebanon II or doubts that the radical fundamentalist Islamists have a primary goal of killing every Jew in the world on their way to global Islamic domination, I recommend that you start reading the daily translations of their public statements in their own domestic media and in their own language– this material is available from the Middle East Media Research Institute, MEMRI, at www.memri.org.

Mr. Zelniker’s insightful letter is written by a recognized, credible advocate of interfaith dialogue, tolerance, and religious pluralism.  More moderate people need to recognize that, if your erstwhile counterpart only wants you dead, there isn’t a lot of that you can do to make that interaction more positive for yourself by talking.