Dear readers,

This is not something I do very often. The discourse, everywhere I look, surrounding Ukraine is so remarkably one-sided and shallow. I see this among supporters of current US/EU policy and critics. So, when I find an article that is reasonably sensible and useful, I feel a need to spread the word.

This piece, surprisingly enough, was in Foreign Affairs. It comes from an approach I don’t share, and the recommendations and point of view of it do not entirely reflect mine, though I agree with a good chunk of it. But understanding that a lot of what is happening in Ukraine is, in the last analysis, Ukrainian is a point that is routinely lost in the media, among policymakers and among both supporters and critics of US/EU/NATO or Russian policy. Thus I am sharing a link to the article, by Keith Darden. You needn’t agree with his worldview or conclusions to learn a lot from it. Please check it out.

UPDATE: The New York Times kindly demonstrates precisely what I’m talking about with this atrocious piece of drivel passing for “coverage” of today’s events in Eastern Ukraine. No consciousness whatsoever that there is a real split among Ukrainians, a country that has always had serious nationalist divides. No, it’s all about Russian meddling, which, though certainly real, has been balanced all along by meddling from NATO, the EU and US. In both cases, however, the outside meddling is far from the whole story, or even the root cause. That is native Ukrainian.

Perhaps the most pathetic part of the Times’ blatant propagandizing is this: “(The Ukrainian army) faced not only the civilians, but behind them a force of well-armed men in unmarked green uniforms who Western governments said are either Russian soldiers or Russian-equipped militants. These soldiers were well-armed. They carried radios and ammunition pouches. Some had rocket-propelled grenade launchers slung over their soldiers.” (emphasis mine)

Leaving aside how poorly written that paragraph is, the propagandizing here is just so shameless. Radios? Ammunition pouches? This is supposed to be the hi-tech equipment that proves the militants are Russian-backed? Hell, would we even want to think about how many grenade launchers are in private hands in the more remote areas of Montana or Texas? Please.

I wonder if this is what it was like to read about Russian issues in the 1950s. McCarthy would surely have been pleased in any case.


Some immediate thoughts in response to the shootings in Overland Park, KS. At LobeLog.


My latest at LobeLog reviewing John Kerry’s recent testimony before Congress and the ripples on the Israeli right in response to the collapse of the talks, at least for now.

Also, Dimi Reider has a piece up at 972 Magazine which goes well with mine.


Just what was it that sent the US and Israel into apoplectic fits last week? What egregious sin did the Palestinians commit to re-ignite American threats to cut of funding to the PA and Israeli ones to once again start pocketing for themselves the Palestinian tax monies they collect? Why, they are trying to sign on to human rights commitments. The temerity! The US has sent a clear message: Israel is to be coddled or even rewarded for breaking its commitments to the US, by reneging on its prisoner release deal, and to international law by expanding settlements; but the Palestinians must be punished for joning international human rights conventions. I explain and explore at LobeLog today.


A slightly edited version of this article originally appeared at LobeLog, where I and many other foreign policy experts regularly

Photo: US Secretary of State John Kerry leaves the US Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, behind as he concludes his failed trip to Israel on April 1, 2014. Credit: State Department

Photo: US Secretary of State John Kerry leaves the US Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, behind as he concludes his failed trip to Israel on April 1, 2014. Credit: State Department

publish. I’d recommend the site just as strongly even if they didn’t publish my stuff. 

There are many false clichés about the Israel-Palestine conflict. There are also some very true ones, though these are heard less frequently. Perhaps the most profound of these was proven once again this week: the United States is incapable of playing a positive role in this arena.

There is nothing about that statement that should be controversial. A decades-long line of U.S. politicians and diplomats have spoken of the need to resolve this conflict. In recent years, these statements have often been accompanied by an acknowledgment of the need for “Palestinian self-determination.” But Israel is the one country, among all of the world’s nations, of whom those very same leaders speak in terms of an “unbreakable bond,” a country between whose policies and ours there “is no daylight.”

Let’s say my brother gets in a dispute with someone else, perhaps even someone I am acquainted with. Would anyone think that I would be the appropriate person to mediate that conflict? If my brother also had a lot more money and influence in the conflict, and therefore a fair mediation needed a broker who was willing to pressure my brother into compromise because, right or wrong, he does not have incentive to do so. Am I the person to be expected to level that playing field? Continue Reading »


This article originally appeared at LobeLog, one of the very best sites for foreign policy analysis, and of which I am proud to be a part. Please check it out.

Chris Christie addressing the 2014 CPAC convention. Credit: Gage Skidmore

Chris Christie addressing the 2014 CPAC convention. Credit: Gage Skidmore

The absurdity of political campaigns in the United States added another chapter recently when New Jersey governor Chris Christie made the “Republican hajj” to Las Vegas. Ostensibly, he was going to speak to the Republican Jewish Coalition, but the real pilgrimage was to grovel at the feet of billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson in the hope of getting the kind of fat contribution that Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich availed themselves of in 2012.

During his RJC speech, Christie made the grave mistake of using a clear fact that was unacceptable to the RJC and even more so to Adelson. He called the West Bank “the Occupied Territories.” Gasps were heard nationwide. Christie was forced to ramp his groveling up to supersonic levels as he moved to apologize to Adelson for this nearly unforgivable blunder.

Such is the role of truth when it comes to Israel in the bizarre world of Republican pro-Israel politics. And it’s not just confined to the GOP. The Democrats have also dodged this very simple fact, and it has created a political climate where the US media also rarely refers to the Occupied Territories as “occupied territories.” The politically correct term for moderates is “disputed territories.” On the right, it’s the biblical designation, “Judea and Samaria.” Nowhere else but in the United States, not even in Israel, is it this controversial to call the West Bank “occupied territory.” Continue Reading »


There is a word in Hebrew that marvelously describes what Benjamin Netanyahu has turned both the Palestinian Authority and the

John Kerry meets US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro in Tel Aviv, March 31, 2014.

John Kerry meets US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro in Tel Aviv, March 31, 2014.

Obama Administration into. That word is “frier.” Not as in a vat of oil to make chips, but as in what would be most closely translated as “sucker,” a person who is easily scammed, who buys the Brooklyn Bridge with their life savings.

The deal which, according to the New York Times, US Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to sell today to the Palestinians exemplifies everything that is wrong with the American-brokered Oslo process. The deal itself was hammered out only between Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It reflects the absence of the Palestinians in the discussions, because it offers them nothing but the opportunity to capitulate again to American and Israeli power.

Under the terms of the deal, the United States would release Jonathan Pollard, the Jewish American who was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for spying for Israel. Pollard has been a cause celebre for the right wings of both the American-Jewish and Israeli communities for years, but no president has ever seriously considered releasing him before. Israel would, essentially, concede nothing in exchange.

The Israelis would agree to “show restraint” in expanding settlements in the West Bank. That is a vague and meaningless wording which, given the amount of construction Israel has undertaken when they’ve actually agreed to what they call a “freeze” cannot possibly have any real impact. Continue Reading »

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