How Trump, Netanyahu, and the Gulf states plan to fight Iran

Adam Entous writes:

On the afternoon of December 14, 2016, Ron Dermer, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, rode from his Embassy to the White House to attend a Hanukkah party. The Obama Administration was in its final days, and among the guests were some of the President’s most ardent Jewish supporters, who were there to bid him farewell. But Dermer, like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, did not share their sense of loss. For the Israeli leadership, the Trump Presidency could not come soon enough.

Netanyahu believed that Barack Obama had “no special feeling” for the Jewish state, as one of his aides once put it, and he resented Obama’s argument that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians was a violation of basic human rights and an obstacle to security, not least for Israel itself. He also believed that Obama’s attempt to foster a kind of balance of power between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Middle East was naïve, and that it underestimated the depth of Iran’s malign intentions throughout the region.

Obama was hardly anti-Israel. His Administration had provided the country with immense military and intelligence support. He had also protected Netanyahu in the United Nations Security Council, when, in 2011, he issued his only veto, blocking a resolution condemning Jewish settlement building. And Obama opposed efforts by the Palestinians to join the International Criminal Court, after Netanyahu shouted over the telephone to the President’s advisers that “this is a nuclear warhead aimed at my crotch!” (Netanyahu’s office disputes the American account of the call.)

Some of Netanyahu’s supporters believed that the Prime Minister bore comparison to Richard Nixon, whose anti-Communist credentials gave him the political capacity to open the door to diplomatic relations with China. Dennis Ross, an adviser on Middle Eastern affairs during Obama’s first term, frequently told the President and members of the national-security team that there were two Netanyahus—the “strategic Bibi,” who was willing to make concessions, and the “political Bibi,” who pursued his immediate electoral interest. Ross made the point so often that, during one exchange in the Oval Office, Obama stopped him with a palm in front of his face: he had heard enough.

Over time, Obama and his advisers came to believe that Netanyahu had been playing them, occasionally feigning interest in a two-state solution while expanding settlements in the West Bank, thus making the creation of a viable Palestinian state increasingly difficult to conceive. By Obama’s second term, his aides no longer bothered to mask their frustration with the Israelis. “They were never sincere in their commitment to peace,” Benjamin Rhodes, one of Obama’s closest foreign-policy advisers, told me. “They used us as cover, to make it look like they were in a peace process. They were running a play, killing time, waiting out the Administration.” [Continue reading…]

Americans make up 4% of global population while owning 40% of the world’s firearms

AFP reports:

Americans make up only four percent of the global population but they own 40 percent of the world’s firearms, a new study said Monday.

There are more than one billion firearms in the world but 85 percent of those are in the hands of civilians, with the remainder held by law enforcement and the military, according to the Small Arms Survey.

The survey, produced by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, says it bases its estimates based on multiple sources, including civilian firearms registration data from 133 countries and territories and survey results in 56 countries.

Of the 857 million guns owned by civilians, 393 million are in the United States – more than all of the firearms held by ordinary citizens in the other top 25 countries combined. [Continue reading…]

It can happen here

Cass R. Sunstein writes:

Liberal democracy has enjoyed much better days. Vladimir Putin has entrenched authoritarian rule and is firmly in charge of a resurgent Russia. In global influence, China may have surpassed the United States, and Chinese president Xi Jinping is now empowered to remain in office indefinitely. In light of recent turns toward authoritarianism in Turkey, Poland, Hungary, and the Philippines, there is widespread talk of a “democratic recession.” In the United States, President Donald Trump may not be sufficiently committed to constitutional principles of democratic government.

In such a time, we might be tempted to try to learn something from earlier turns toward authoritarianism, particularly the triumphant rise of the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s. The problem is that Nazism was so horrifying and so barbaric that for many people in nations where authoritarianism is now achieving a foothold, it is hard to see parallels between Hitler’s regime and their own governments. Many accounts of the Nazi period depict a barely imaginable series of events, a nation gone mad. That makes it easy to take comfort in the thought that it can’t happen again.

But some depictions of Hitler’s rise are more intimate and personal. They focus less on well-known leaders, significant events, state propaganda, murders, and war, and more on the details of individual lives. They help explain how people can not only participate in dreadful things but also stand by quietly and live fairly ordinary days in the midst of them. They offer lessons for people who now live with genuine horrors, and also for those to whom horrors may never come but who live in nations where democratic practices and norms are under severe pressure. [Continue reading…]

What’s happening in Trump’s America is as evil and criminal as what happened to me and my siblings in Nazi Europe

Yoka Verdoner writes:

The events occurring now on our border with Mexico, where children are being removed from the arms of their mothers and fathers and sent to foster families or “shelters”, make me weep and gnash my teeth with sadness and rage. I know what they are going through. When we were children, my two siblings and I were also taken from our parents. And the problems we’ve experienced since then portend the terrible things that many of these children are bound to suffer.

My family was Jewish, living in 1942 in the Netherlands when the country was occupied by the Nazis. We children were sent into hiding, with foster families who risked arrest and death by taking us in. They protected us, they loved us, and we were extremely lucky to have survived the war and been well cared for.

Yet the lasting damage inflicted by that separation reverberates to this day, decades hence.

Have you heard the screams and seen the panic of a three-year-old when it has lost sight of its mother in a supermarket? That scream subsides when mother reappears around the end of the aisle.

This is my brother writing in recent years. He tries to deal with his lasting pain through memoir. It’s been 76 years, yet he revisits the separation obsessively. He still writes about it in the present tense:

In the first home I scream for six weeks. Then I am moved to another family, and I stop screaming. I give up. Nothing around me is known to me. All those around me are strangers. I have no past. I have no future. I have no identity. I am nowhere. I am frozen in fear. It is the only emotion I possess now. As a three-year-old child, I believe that I must have made some terrible mistake to have caused my known world to disappear. I spend the rest of my life trying desperately not to make another mistake. [Continue reading…]

For Trump, ‘space is a war-fighting domain’

Peter Wismer writes:

President Trump is fond of suggesting that the five branches of the U.S. armed forces are not enough. On Monday, he directed the Defense Department to create a Space Force as the sixth branch of the U.S. military, saying “We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal.” This follows a statement the president made in March while address the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, in which he said, “Space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air and sea.”

This is a horrible proposition.

In making these statements, Trump is parroting lines from people who know a lot about war and nothing about space. First of all, space is considered a “province of mankind,” according to the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 — which the United States and more than 100 other countries are parties to. This treaty lays out the principle that space is a domain that belongs to us all, not just to some states.

Second, war in space is particularly dangerous because it is a uniquely pollutable domain. The more space pollution there is, the more difficult it is for any of us to use space. [Continue reading…]

Until Americans have to pay for war, they won’t demand peace

Sarah Kreps writes:

Crises and controversies involving Iran and North Korea have dominated the foreign affairs news recently, so it is all too easy to forget that the United States remains involved in the two longest — and costliest — wars of its history: Afghanistan and Iraq.

The war in Afghanistan started in 2001 and continues to this day. The Iraq War, begun in 2003, still involves between 5,000 and 9,000 American troops. Those conflicts have cost a combined $2 trillion, or by some estimates more than $5 trillion, which would make them the most expensive wars in American history, except for possibly World War II.

What explains the American tolerance for such open-ended, seemingly never-ending wars?

One view is that the light footprint of modern warfare — drones, small numbers of special forces, and cyber, as opposed to large deployments of troops — is a chief culprit. This approach to conflict removes a barrier to war because it does not inflict casualties on American troops that would draw attention to and drain support for the enterprise.

This is surely a contributing factor. But I argue that the most crucial difference between these wars and those of the past is how they have been financed. Contemporary wars are all put on the nation’s credit card, and that eliminates a critical accountability link between the populace and the conduct of war. [Continue reading…]

Thousands of children are imprisoned across Africa. They need justice

Graça Machel writes:

The legendary editor of the Guardian newspaper CP Scott famously declared in 1921 that “Comment is free, but facts are sacred”. Unfortunately, when it comes to hard evidence on how many children are locked up in prisons, detention centres, migrant and refugee camps, rehabilitation units or other institutions across the world, the facts are more scarce than sacred.

There is no single source of accurate data for these figures and estimates vary widely between 15,000 and 28,000 in Africa alone, but common sense dictates that the numbers are likely to be worse than even the highest approximations.

The UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty – due to be presented to the general assembly this September – aims to address this data gap.

Whatever the numbers, no child should be kept in prison. Detention should only ever be used as a last resort, and then only for the shortest possible time. [Continue reading…]

Music: Lars Danielsson ft. Hussam Aliwat — ‘Taksim By Night’

 

The press needs to sandwich Trump’s lies between thick slices of reality

Margaret Sullivan writes:

Last week was a particularly rough one for journalists and truth-seeking citizens.

President Trump declared the news media the nation’s worst enemy. And time after shocking time, his acolytes demeaned or threatened reporters for doing one of their most basic jobs: asking questions of those in power.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a reporter in North Korea that it was “insulting and ridiculous and ludicrous” for him to be asked about details of the verification process for the vaunted denuclearization.

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale suggested taking a CNN reporter’s credentials away after he shouted a question at the president.

It was ugly. Even uglier than usual.

And the president’s anti-media campaign is convincing at least some citizens that journalists have no worth.

Enter George Lakoff. An author, cognitive scientist and linguist who has long studied how propaganda works, he believes it’s long past time for the reality-based news media to stop kowtowing to the emperor.

“Trump needs the media, and the media help him by repeating what he says,” Lakoff said.

That would be okay under normal circumstances, he told me, but “this situation is not normal — you have a sustained attack on the democracy and the news media.”

Unlike those who insist that what the president says is news and therefore must be reported, Lakoff proposes a radical reimagining of how the news media reports on Trump.

Instead of treating the president’s every tweet and utterance — true or false — as newsworthy (and then perhaps fact-checking it later), Lakoff urges the use of what he calls a “truth sandwich.” [Continue reading…]

What’s going on at the border is horrifying, but we can’t go numb and turn away

Dahlia Lithwick writes:

As a purely descriptive matter, it’s surely true: We are all going numb. As Donald Trump makes war with Canada and peace with dictators and human rights abusers, the narrative is that everyone’s lost all feeling. Polls show the public believes that Trump paid off a porn star, and they don’t care. They believe that he lies habitually, and they also don’t care. A Pew poll released last week showed that nearly 7 in 10 Americans “feel worn out by the amount of news there is these days,” which is how we end up with real journalists like Chuck Todd pushing a humorous pharmaceutical solution to the problem of constant breaking news destroying our minds.

On Monday alone, we learned that the Trump administration is planning to denaturalize U.S. citizens who—it claims—fraudulently obtained citizenship. Also on Monday, America witnessed a change in immigration policy that will deny asylum to women fleeing domestic abuse, on the grounds that it’s a “private” harm. We witnessed a ramping up and coordinated defense of a Trump administration policy of separating families seeking asylum. That policy is resulting in children being warehoused in cages and ripped away from their parents, as their mothers are told they are bathing. Their. Mothers. Are. Told. They. Are. Bathing. A Honduran father seeking asylum hanged himself in a Texas jail after his wife and 3-year-old were separated from him at the border.

Jeff Sessions tells a horrified Hugh Hewitt that this forced separation policy is purely instrumental because we must “send a message” to future asylum-seekers that “if people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them. We’ve got to get this message out.” As Jessica Winter observes, this is the “I only beat her because she made me do it” logic that domestic abusers use to blame their victims. [Continue reading…]