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Friday, July 28, 2006

Quotable

Former NBA rebounding great Charles Barkley:
"I was a Republican until they lost their minds,"
Barkley has long claimed an interest in running for governor of Alabama. However, in recent weeks, Barkley has clarified his party ID:
"What I've said is I'm rich like a Republican. But I'm not one."
Barkley as populist? He is certainly blunt about his home (red) state's quality of life:
"If it wasn't for Arkansas and Mississippi, we'd be dead last in everything," Barkley said. "I think we can do better."
This is perhaps something to watch.


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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Is the US winning in Iraq?

Is the US winning in Iraq? The LA Times, July 15:
During a Capitol Hill briefing for an audience mostly of congressional aides, [Gen. Peter J.] Schoomaker [the Army chief of staff] paused for more than 10 seconds after he was asked the question — lips pursed and brow furrowed — before venturing:

"I think I would answer that by telling you I don't think we're losing."
A few minutes later, he added:
"The challenge … is becoming more complex, and it's going to continue to be," Schoomaker mused. "That's why I'll tell you I think we're closer to the beginning than we are to the end of all this...

"I think we are making significant progress; I think the challenges continue to come," he concluded. "I do not believe that we are losing, but where I think we are on the scale of winning is very difficult, and time's going to tell."
Truthiness, eh?


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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Who owns your cable connection?

I learned something new and interesting in the July 21 Louisville Courier Journal. My cable TV company was purchased last year by the Carlyle Group:
Insight accepted a $710 million buyout offer last year from its co-founders and investment firm Carlyle Group, a move that took the company private.
Why is this interesting?

Well, newshounds might remember the publicity Carlyle received in fall 2001 when it was revealed that the multi-billion dollar company (apparently the "largest private equity firm in the world") included former President George H.W. Bush, his Secretary of State James Baker, and many other politicians among its Board of Directors and employees.

Moreover, Saudi members of Osama bin Laden's family were among the company's smaller investors -- at least until October 2001 when the connection was revealed. G.H.W. Bush reportedly twice visited the Bin Ladens in Saudi Arabia to represent the company's interests. Bush, however, apparently left the Board of Directors in fall 2003.

Some stories made it sound as if Carlyle was a sinister Republican profit-machine highly motivated to push a war agenda.

Bush and bin Laden, in cahoots, don't you see?

It was sometimes reported during the buildup to war in Afghanistan and Iraq that Carlyle is a defense contractor, but that is inaccurate. Rather, the equity firm owns controlling -- or sometimes partial -- interests in a number of defense contractors.

The always-controversial George Soros is also an investor. As I've noted before, these global elites tend to be networked together.

Indeed, if one reads some press reports about Carlyle, the journalists always come off like name-droppers. The company has hired former British Prime Minister John Major, AOL founder Steve Case, Colin Powell, Reagan-era defense secretary Frank Carlucci, etc.

Apparently, the Insight cable deal wasn't Carlyle's first move into media. A July 18 Business Wire press release summarized its activity:
The Carlyle Group is a global private equity firm with $41.9 billion under management. Carlyle invests in buyouts, venture & growth capital, real estate and leveraged finance in Asia, Europe and North America, focusing on telecommunications & media, industrial, automotive & transportation, aerospace, consumer & retail, energy & power, technology & business services and healthcare. Since 1987, the firm has invested $19.7 billion of equity in 500 transactions for a total purchase price of $79.7 billion. The Carlyle Group employs more than 670 people in 15 countries. In the aggregate, Carlyle portfolio companies have more than $46 billion in revenue and employ more than 184,000 people around the world. Significant telecom and media investments include Comhem, Insight, Taiwan Broadband, Willcom, PanAmSat, Hawai Telecom and VNU.
According to the Wikipedia article, over 30% of Carlyle's investments are in media and telecommunications.

As I've written before, much more needs to be explored about large corporate ownership of mass media.

Marshall McLuhan used to say that the "medium is the message." What message is Carlyle sending by acquiring so many media companies?

Is this just about profit?

Or, are media critics right? Large, private, corporate ownership of media reduces the number and variety of voices with access to the public sphere. This particularly limits audience access to local and minority perspectives. Ultimately, it also constricts competition and thereby reduces innovation and increases prices.

Maybe Carlyle's move into media explains why there doesn't seem to be as many negative stories about the firm as there were in 2001.


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Monday, July 24, 2006

Sam Myers, RIP

I first saw Sam Myers sing and play the blues on his harmonica back in 1988. It was a relatively small club in Mountain View, California, and Myers was the featured performer fronting Anson Funderburgh & the Rockets. If you ever saw the band, you'd remember.

Funderburgh is a technically skilled Texas blues guitar player, and looks a little like a grownup Eddie Haskell from "Leave it to Beaver."

Myers, a traditional Mississippi bluesman, suffered from cataracts as a child and was nearly blind. Consequently, he wore dark sunglasses even while performing -- kind of like John Lee Hooker, only Myers would mostly stand throughout a show, belting out the blues and playing his harmonica. He added tremendous warmth to Funderburgh's cool playing.

That year, 1988, Myers won a W.C. Handy Award for best harmonica player, which many describe as the blues equivalent of a Grammy. Myers, Funderburgh & the Rockets won 8 or 9 Handy awards after they teamed up in 1986 (I've seen both figures reported).

In other words, when I first saw Myers and the band perform, he was a living legend. He had already been performing for more than two decades and had played with many of the most famous blues musicians.

Unfortunately, last Monday, Myers died of throat cancer at age 70.

Ultimately, I saw Myers, Funderburgh & the Rockets a number of times -- at the Kentucky State Fair and at another local venue that I cannot currently recall. As it happens, a friend roomed with someone who knew Funderburgh well. I never really got to meet anyone in the band, but the connection provided an extra reason to check out their local performances.

Anyway, I hope Myers rests in peace.



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Friday, July 21, 2006

Islamo-fascism

For some time, I've been meaning to post about the idea of "Islamo-fascism." As recently as June 9, President Bush referenced this threat in the context of the "war on terror."
it's really important for the American people to understand that al Qaeda has got an ideology and a strategy to impose that ideology. And part of the strategy is to create turmoil in moderate Muslim nations. And they want to overthrow moderate Muslim nations. They want to have their view of the world. I call it totalitarian, Islamo-fascism. Whatever you want to call it, it is extreme and it's real.
At various times, Bush uses this phrase as a synonym for Islamic radicalism (sometimes evil Islamic radicalism) and militant Jihadism.

According to Bush, Islamo-facism
exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision: the establishment by terrorism, subversion and insurgency of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom.
Clearly, Bush implicitly assumes that terrorist ideology and motives matter a great deal in world politics. Note that he does NOT say that these evil Jihadists have the power to accomplish their goals and implement their strategy.

For Bush and his followers, the radical ideas themselves serve as prima facie evidence of a threat.

I think this simplification explains why many on the left worry that the "war on terror" will resemble prior ideological struggles, used as a sledgehammer to pound domestic political enemies defined as soft on war. The enemy tries to be invisible, after all, which practically demands and obviously justifies absolute vigilence. Some dare call it treason when foes of the administration challenge its war strategies.

As I've noted elsewhere, both constructivist and realist scholars of international relations have argued that states cannot truly know the motives of other states. For this reason, realists argue that states have to focus on the material capabilities of potential foes.

The same standard should be applied to non-state actors as well. Joe Stalin once asked of the Pope: "How many divisions has he got?" Security analysts should demand the administration to answer a similar question about al Qaeda. Just how serious is the material threat?

Of course, President Bush claims that the war in Iraq is designed to keep Islamo-facists from acquiring a state base:
They want to use the vacuum that would be created by an American retreat to gain control of a country, to build a base from which to launch attacks on America and to conduct their war against non-radical Muslim governments.

Over the past few decades, radicals have specifically targeted Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and Jordan for potential takeovers. And for a time, they achieved their goal in Afghanistan, until they came face to face with the men and women of the United States military. (Applause.)

In Afghanistan, we put the terrorists on the run, and now they've set their sights on another country -- they're trying to turn Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban, a terrorist sanctuary from which they can plan and launch attacks against our people.
The question, however, is whether evil, radical, Islamic terrorists have the ability -- not merely the wish -- to capture a state, hold it, and use it not only as a training site, but also as a base of operations.

Consider me a strong skeptic. Conservatives spent years trumpeting the fact that the mighty US had defeated the powerful Soviet state and empire. The Soviets had an advanced industrial economy, millions of men under arms, 1000s of long-range ballistic missiles capable of inflicting tremendous nuclear destruction, and control over a ring of satellite states.

For the right to trumpet al Qaeda as any kind of similar threat is simply outrageous. Even the most hawkish counter-terror experts recognize that al Qaeda's forces are measured in the small number of thousands. It almost certainly does not have a nuclear arsenal and likely does not have a significant chemical or biological capability.

It is time for opponents of the administration to stand up and demand a reality check. Otherwise, I fear that the world's democracies will veer aimlessly from one alert to another over the next months and years, wasting tremendous national resources, ignoring many more serious problems and (re)electing foolish hawks.


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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Duck snorts

Over at Duck of Minerva, I've somewhat quietly posted a couple of recent blog entries that might interest my readers:

July 14: "Mumbai" about the implications of the recent terror attacks in India on that state's relations with Pakistan.

July 17: "The ladder of escalation" about the prospect of world war growing out of the current crises in the Middle East and south Asia.



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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Outrageous fortune

From the Louisville Courier-Journal, July 14:
The University of Louisville joined college football's big spenders club yesterday. It now is paying its coach more than those at Oklahoma, Florida, Tennessee, Florida State and other national powers.

For that reason, U of L athletic director Tom Jurich said Bobby Petrino's new 10-year contract worth at least $25.5 million means more to the football program than simply having a better chance to hang on to one of the nation's hottest coaches.

"I think this says to the country and to everybody involved in college football that we're serious about being a major player," Jurich said. "A lot of people talk a good game. We've put our money where our mouth is.
Professors at Louisville get paid less than faculty members at Harvard, Yale and Columbia.

Wouldn't the Provost and Deans be saying, "we're serious about being a major academic institution" if they raised faculty salaries to a level above Harvard's?

Keep that $26 million figure in mind when you consider this fact: the entire College of Arts and Sciences budget at University of Louisville was $41 million (p. 39) in the fiscal year that just ended.

Here's another number to consider. The football stadium has 42,000 seats. Generously figure 7 home games per season over a 10 year period. Do the math and that's 2.94 million fans in attendance.

Petrino is going to be paid $8.67 per seat per game for the next decade, assuming they don't increase the size of the stadium (they want to do that, however).

One more number. I direct the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order, which gives away $200,000 annually. There are also awards in Psychology, Music, Education and Religion, all giving away the same amount, totaling $1 million annually.

Petrino will be pulling in more than two and a half times the total awards of all 50 Grawemeyer winners over the next decade.

That's good work if you can get it.


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Friday, July 14, 2006

Iraq: ethnic partition?

I've not been posting much here, nor at my other home, the Duck of Minerva group international relations blog. Never fear, however, as my colleagues at the Duck have been quite busy following world affairs.

Dan Nexon has been particularly innovative. He's video-blogging! Check out his latest discussion about the possible ethnic partitioning of Iraq.

Dan is against it, pointing out that most victims of civil war die as a result of displacement from their homes. They lose their jobs, property, and social networks and make themselves vulnerable to famine and disease. Most victims of civil conflict, in other words, are not directly killed by violence.

His 6 plus minutes are well worth your viewing.

Having just watched "Hotel Rwanda" in preparation for my fall film class, however, I wonder if his advice has universal applicability. In that case, it does seem as if nearly a million corpses were created from brutal violence at the hands of machete-wielding thugs.


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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Jewish barber's Closing Address

This fall, I'm teaching "Politics Through Film" for the first time (good seats are still available). My colleague who used to teach the course retired and I will focus the course on global politics.

While I'll be loading up on some of my favorite war movies, I'm also looking for a few great comedies to add -- especially those comedies that make a distinct political point.

Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" seems like a prime candidate.

Chaplin plays multiple roles in the film, including an ordinary Jewish Barber and the title character. The barber is eventually taken for the dictator and has an opportunity at the end of the film to give a speech that would have been delivered by the dictator. I'd encourage you to read the entire speech, but I'm going to include a couple of excerpts. This is the beginning:
I'm sorry, but I don't want to be an Emperor - that's not my business. I don't want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone, if possible -- Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another; human beings are like that. We want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery. We don't want to hate and despise one another. In this world there's room for everyone and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone.

The way of life can be free and beautiful.

But we have lost the way.
And this is towards the end:
Let us all unite!! Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie! They do not fulfill their promise; they never will. Dictators free themselves, but they enslave the people!! Now, let us fight to fulfill that promise!! Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men's happiness.
Readers: any film suggestions? I already have a pretty good list and may discuss the ones I select over the next few months.

Potential students: this is going to be a fun course and you will definitely see some great movies that may not be familiar to you. I'm really looking forward to the class and have no plans to deliver any lectures. Students will write some film criticism, but the workload should not be too onerous.



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Monday, July 10, 2006

Catching up on the news

Well, I'm back from a long vacation. It was hotter than expected out west, but we found ways to cool off. The only rain of any significance came on the day we tried to take in a baseball game. Oh, it also rained a little while we waited for Old Faithful to erupt.

I want to thank Avery for filling in here.

Who knew I'd miss so much?

North Korea fired 6 (or 7?) missiles on the 4th of July. Thankfully, the long-range missile failed about 40 seconds into its flight. Others have made fun of the right for using this test to scare Americans; I was reminded of the failed US Vanguard test on December 6, 1957, which was launched in response to the Soviet Sputnik. A dud is a dud, regardless of how "evil" the state launching it.

Mexico had an election that very nearly ended in a tie. The apparent president-elect may be a conservative...but his stance on immigration isn't going to endear him to Republicans.

The "war on terror" took some prisoners -- and casualties. Once again, thankfully, the US arrested suspects who had no weapons or concrete plans -- reflecting solid police and intelligence work, not post-9/11 thinking.

In sports, the World Cup ended and Italy won -- though not without some controversy, of course. Hey, the US tied the Italians 1-1 a couple of weeks ago and therefore must be as good, eh?

The All Star game rosters were announced and KC's representative is Mark Redman, a 32-year old journeyman pitcher who will hopefully be traded before season's end. This was an odd selection, especially since KC actually has a deserving player -- a centerfielder with an OPS of .881. Well, he was a centerfielder until KC traded for Otix Nixon reincarnate.



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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

National aspirations

Avery guest-blogging for Rodger

Believe it or not, my world cup post and my two posts on the Israeli-Palestinian situation are connected in an important way.

They give little (actually, no) weight to national identification or aspirations as a legitimate source of motivations. My world cup rooting rules are explicitly anti-patriotic, and reject team loyalty from one game to the next. It all depends on single-game matchups. This seems to me to be the right attitude; whether I could sustain it in the event that Canada were playing, I'm not quite sure, but that's a question about moral motivation, not about moral rightness. (I deny, as should you, that the two are related in a simple way.)

Similarly, my first post on Israel supported the Palestinians' national aspirations on grounds that the Palestinians are living under the Occupation, not because national aspirations are in themselves worthy of respect. This approach, again, meshes with what I take to be the right motivation in each case; I argued for this in an article (pdf behind a paywall) published in the Journal of Political Philosophy last year.

But having just passed Canada Day and US Independence Day, and especially given that throughout those two long posts I said nothing about Israelis' putative right to their own national homeland, I thought I owed some explanation of my views on national aspirations.

I grew up simply assuming the rightness of the Israeli cause, broadly speaking. My mother is Israeli and traces her roots there back to the expulsion from Spain in 1492. Pretty much her whole family is still there; she left in 1966 and I was born in Canada in 1972. We were not hardcore, but I do remember, as a kid, sending my cousin little drawings of maps of Israel with her house in Haifa on the map, and the maps always included the West Bank and Gaza as though they were unproblematically part of Israel. When I went to camp in 1984 it was a camp run by Hashomer Hatzair, the Young Guard, a leftist Zionist youth group. In my high school newspaper, in 1991, I published an article called "Can Israel's position be justified?" in which I tried to justify Israel's response to the First Intifada by going through some Whiggish history of the previous century. In college I was part of the Progressive Zionist Caucus and even co-chaired the Campus Israel Coalition one year. While studying in Cairo in 1994 I got into a heated argument on the subway with one of my peers regarding whether Zionism was dead. (I was arguing the negative.) Another friend of ours got very stern and said, "there are some things you just don't talk about in public here." I was in the process of a long evolution.

I always considered myself a Zionist, though in recent years I endorsed only the weak sense--the idea that the national aspirations of the Jewish people are no less legitimate than those of other nations, and hence the State of Israel has a right to exist. Zionism in this sense does not seem to me to entail chauvinism. To the contrary, I have long thought that any defensible form of Zionism is compatible with--indeed, under the current circumstances, requires--commitment to a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the establishment of two coequal states on the land of the 1947 partition.

Eventually, I ceased to believe in the viability of the two-state solution. Part of this had to do with genuine revulsion at Israeli policy ever since the beginning of the Second Intifada. Former Prime Ministers Barak and Sharon made Israel very hard to love, even for those of us for whom love for Israel is second nature. (Half of us have gone into denial, the other half into guilt. The third half have just stopped identifying.)

But part of it was based on longer-term considerations. On the one hand, the non-contiguity of the two Palestinian territories is a concern, but may not be as serious as some people think. Part of it is water, which is already a major problem and does not seem to have much prospect of getting simpler, although maybe large-scale desalination really would be viable. Part of it is the settlers. I kind of think that they shouldn't be forced to move, that if they want to be a minority in Palestine they should be allowed to stay as a minority. Of course things would change around them; but no state, including Palestine, has a right to be ethnically pure. (Indeed, one often hears a parallel drawn between Israel and apartheid South Africa; without commenting on the analogy, I would just observe that, once free, South Africa did not evict all the white people, and would have been wrong to try.) Nor do the settlers have a right to live under the jurisdiction of the Israeli government if they are residents of another state. Finally, part of it is Jerusalem. If Jerusalem has to be under shared sovereignty, then clearly shared sovereignty is possible; so there's no need to pretend that exclusivity is a necessary condition.

But for the most part it's the demographics that do it for me, and the fact that the demographics threaten to undermine Zionism anyway. The so-called "demographic time bomb" that Israel faces is that given birth rates, Palestinians will outnumber Jewish Israelis within a generation. But it is even possible that within several generations Israel proper will have more Palestinians than Jews--especially if Palestinian refugees return to their ancestral homes after a permanent peace deal. At that time, Israel will face a dilemma. It must either adopt a written constitution that gives special status to Jews--the Fiji option--or accept that the Jews no longer have a state in the sense that Zionism intended--the "liberal utopia". The liberal utopia obviously means the end of Zionism, even in the weak sense. What of the Fiji option? Even though Joseph Carens' book convinced me that this might be justifiable, it is not much better. For under the Fiji option, Israel would be a state where Jews were a specially protected minority. Again, the exact situation from which Jews hoped Zionism would deliver them.

At any rate, the demography is going to force Israelis to start thinking existentially about the nature of the relationship between the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Given that they're thinking existentially anyway, here's a solution they should consider.(Please take what follows as a thought-in-progress. Note that in its general outlines it's not original with me.)

I think the best bet is a confederation covering all the land partitioned in 1947. Some of the provinces might be explicitly religious or ethnic in orientation, whether Muslim, Palestinian, Jewish, Mizrahi, etc.; some would be undifferentiated. The national government would be constitutionally committed to the principle that the state has two coequal founding peoples, but at the same time would permit special treatment, within bounds, in particular provinces. How to arrange this specifically is not simple. But it could avoid many of the problems raised earlier--water would be a domestic concern rather than an international one; demographic shifts over the generations would not force a choice between democracy and a Jewish national homeland; Jewish settlers would not have to be removed from settlements and the settlements would not have to be destroyed; Jews would not need to fear a Palestinian right of return. On the other side, Palestinians would be equal participants in a state on their own territory. They would give up no more, and perhaps less, than they propose to give up under a two-state solution.

At any rate, if you don't get bogged down in the identity politics--the fact that, under this proposal, there would not be a unitary state of Israel controlled exclusively by Jews, or of Palestine controlled exclusively by Palestinians--this solution seems to me to respect and uphold the national aspirations of the Jewish people and so to be Zionist in that sense.

Does this mean that I really think national aspirations are okay? Would I have rooted for Israel in the World Cup? It should now be clear where the two issues differ. I don't endorse national aspirations, but unlike "liberal utopians," I don't want to pretend that they'll just go away if you wish hard enough. And the fact that a just solution accommodates national aspirations that aren't about to go away--for instance, by giving people someone to cheer for at the World Cup--is not in itself a reason to reject that solution.

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Enron and PUD update

My friend Eric Christensen is in the news again. Enron, already stung by the guilty verdicts handed down to its former leadership, isn't going to be collecting more cash from the Snohomish PUD of Washington:
Snohomish County electricity users got a hard-won break Wednesday when a federal agency excused their utility from paying millions in contract penalties to bankrupt energy giant Enron Corp.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission determined that Snohomish County Public Utility District need not pay termination fees on a contract it broke with Enron, because Enron used financial fraud to induce the utility to enter the contract.

With interest, the penalty could have topped $120 million.
Eric is the assistant general counsel for the Seattle-area PUD and is the guy who unearthed "Grandma Millie" and other famous lines from the infamous Enron tapes.

Eric is quoted in the article and the tapes are mentioned, but one has to dig back a bit in the local news to find the extensive coverage praising Eric's hard work. I've blogged about my pal and the tapes several times -- just follow the links included in that last article.



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The Israeli invasion of Gaza

Avery guest-blogging for Rodger

My overlong post on Reuven Kaminer the other day suddenly seems like a case of denial. Currently, the Israeli military (Israel Defense Force, or IDF) is engaged in an incursion into Gaza that has knocked out power, terrorized the population, and created a serious risk of a humanitarian catastrophe as water cannot be purified.

Counterpunch has one take; the New York Times (login required) has another in the Sunday paper. The Observer reports that a deal is near.

Which raises the question, a deal on what? As readers probably know, this incursion--which has included attacks on the offices of (Hamas) Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and the capture of Hamas MPs--is ostensibly about freeing a single captured Israeli soldier.

It's possible that this is true. Ron Arad, an Israeli pilot captured in Lebanon in 1986, became a household name. Like the US right wing, the Israeli right needs to perceive itself as holding the moral high ground, and the willingness to sacrifice greatly to rescue a single Israeli captive feeds this need. Prisoner exchanges of years past involved hundreds of Palestinians for one or two Israelis, and rather than ask themselves why they were holding hundreds of Palestinians whom they were willing to free for such strategically trivial reasons, Israelis (and Zionists elsewhere, such as Canada, where I grew up) congratulated themselves on their respect for human life (in contrast to the Palestinians', of course). It looks like the same sort of trade is in the offing this time, and no doubt Israel and its allies will congratulate themselves again.

The likelihood that this is the real motivation would be enhanced if there were growing internal dissension in the IDF. This is very possible. The refusenik movement, which I mentioned in the Kaminer post, is growing--albeit mostly under the radar due to convenient overuse of psychiatric discharges and other administrative tricks, rather than courts-martial, for anyone who refuses to support the Occupation. On the other side, IDF members know that, should the settlements ever be abandoned, the IDF will be the ones quite literally dragging settlers kicking and screaming from their homes in the West Bank. So if political and moral opposition to the Occupation, on one side, combined with political and moral opposition to ending the Occupation, on the other, now has added to it genuine fear of capture and possibly torture in Hamas's hands, the IDF might be afraid of losing the capacity to act at all.

So it is, then, possible that Israel is doing this for the very reason it claims; that this is a mess of its own making is just a bitter irony for which the people of Gaza are suffering.

Nonetheless, I think that freeing the captive is at most a secondary aim. What I'm about to suggest is conjecture; judge it with that in mind.

The Times article quotes, without comment, a Palestinian who claims that Israel's real reasons are to make Palestinians blame their own government and return to the Fatah fold. The person quoted to this effect, Omar Areny, says that this is backfiring, because Palestinians are supporting Hamas against this attack. So the Israelis are dense; as the Times paraphrases,
Even after so many years of fighting, Mr. Areny said, Israel had again misunderstood the Palestinian mind.

This strikes me as actually self-serving and, if anything, evidence that both The Times and Omar Areny have gotten Israel's real motivations completely backward in a way that makes Israel's motives look better than they are.

The Times-Areny explanation supposes that Israel wants to strengthen Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas against Hamas, perhaps so that Israel can have a negotiating partner for the next stages of the peace process. But the Olmert government has given no real indication that it wants a negotiating partner. To the contrary, Olmert is committed to a position of unilateralism if necessary, negotiation if possible. If he can ensure that negotiation is impossible, then he can act unilaterally.

Why would Olmert want to act unilaterally?

If there is no negotiating partner, Israel sets its own boundaries.
If there is no negotiating partner, Israel withdraws how it wants, when it wants, and from where it wants, leaving and destroying what it wants.
If there is no negotiating partner, Jerusalem doesn't get divided and the Palestinian right of return is never acknowledged or recognized. Refugees can be told to shove off.

If there is no negotiating partner, in other words, Israel gets to torpedo every single one of the 3 fundamental aspects of any viable solution, as laid out by Reuven Kaminer--return of all the land captured from Jordan and Egypt in 1967 (except by swap), shared capital in Jerusalem, and some improvement in the condition of the refugees. And it does so in a way that will convince most Israeli citizens and, perhaps more importantly, most Americans, that Israel has been the only reasonable "partner for peace" in the region. If Palestine becomes a failed state, that will just provide that much more opportunity for self-congratulation and crocodile tears from Israel and its allies.

Kaminer suggested that the Occupation will destroy Israel if it continues. Facing this prospect of destruction, Israel and its allies can choose either of two ways ahead. I fear the Gaza invasion indicates which way Olmert has chosen. I'm pessimistic that he can be forced back off this road and onto the path of negotiation. Indeed, it may well have been Hamas's incipient willingness to recognize Israel and come to the table that spurred this invasion in the first place.

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