Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler
Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Thursday, February 14.
1) Decline and its consequences
In October, 2009, Charles Krauthammer wrote, Decline is a choice:
The president then denounced the idea of elevating any group of
nations above others--which takes care, I suppose, of the Security
Council, the G-20, and the Western alliance. And just to make the point
unmistakable, he denounced "alignments of nations rooted in the
cleavages of a long-gone Cold War" as making "no sense in an
interconnected world." What does that say about NATO? Of our alliances
with Japan and South Korea? Or even of the European Union?
This is nonsense. But it is not harmless nonsense. It's nonsense with a
point. It reflects a fundamental view that the only legitimate authority
in the international system is that which emanates from "the community
of nations" as a whole. Which means, I suppose, acting through its most
universal organs such as, again I suppose, the U.N. and its various
agencies. Which is why when Obama said that those who doubt "the
character and cause" of his own country should see what this new
America--the America of the liberal ascendancy--had done in the last
nine months, he listed among these restorative and relegitimizing
initiatives paying up U.N. dues, renewing actions on various wholly
vacuous universalist declarations and agreements, and joining such
Orwellian U.N. bodies as the Human Rights Council.
These gestures have not gone unnoticed abroad. The Nobel Committee
effused about Obama's radical reorientation of U.S. foreign policy. Its
citation awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize lauded him for having
"created a new climate" in international relations in which
"multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis
on the role that the United Nations and other institutions can play."
So what are the consequences of President Obama's choices? Richard Cohen answers in The Obama Doctrine - look the other way:
Obama, of course, has been asked about his policy. The answer he
provided the New Republic recently is troubling: “How do I weigh tens of
thousands who’ve been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands who
are currently being killed in the Congo?” The statement is disingenuous,
suggesting that the inability to do everything excuses the
unwillingness to do anything. It also prompts the question of why he
militarily intervened in Libya, the Congo civil war notwithstanding.
Obama’s reason for inaction in Syria is so unconvincing that it suggests
the election is what prompted him to play it safe. Here, after all, was
a president seeking reelection on what amounted to a peace platform: He
had ended U.S. combat involvement in Iraq and was winding things down
in Afghanistan. How could he justify intervention in Syria? Maybe by
saying that the region was about to blow up, that Syria was lousy with
chemical weapons, that the Kurds might break away (Kurdistan is the next
Palestine), that a sectarian blood bath loomed and that thousands of
civilians were in mortal danger. By now, more than 70,000 of them have
The point that Cohen missed is that the the difference in Libya was that someone else was leading.
One other interesting note on this topic comes from Barry Rubin's analysis of the recent State of Union address:
It is true that U.S. forces are largely out of Iraq, yet this was
inevitable, with one key reservation. There was no likelihood they would
be there in a large combat role forever. Whatever one thinks of the
invasion of Iraq, the American forces were staying for an interim period
until the Iraqi army was ready. Any successor to George W. Bush would
have pulled out the combat forces.
The reservation, of course, is that it was the success of the surge —
which Obama opposed and his new secretary of defense (yes, he will be
confirmed) Chuck Hagel opposed. So he is taking credit for a policy that
was inevitable and that was made possible by a success that he was
Lest you think that assessment is unfair to Obama, consider this: he did
absolutely nothing to make this outcome happen. No policy or strategy
of his administration made the withdrawal faster or more certain.
President Obama will take credit for foreign policy successes (as he defines them) even if they occur despite him.
2) More Prisoner X fallout
Honest Reporting carries a summary of the most recent revelations about the Prisoner X story. Shmuel Rosner explains, in general terms, how the story (and similar ones) got promoted.
One should know that in stories of this sort people usually play the
roles they are used to playing. Without naming names or giving too much
detail I believe I could comfortably say that:
Security officials tend to try to keep things secret where it's
necessary but also where it's not. They also try to keep things secret
where they have a realistic chance of succeeding but also where they
The courts tend to be slow in understanding what they can and can't
control by way of censoring public debate and limiting public knowledge.
The Israeli press is of two minds: it wants to be kept in the loop – but
also wants to hype the scandal. Scandals are good for ratings, and
fighting the evil forces of censorship is good for journalistic morale.
The foreign press is the great laundry factory through which stories are disseminated – some true, some half-true, some false.
As we all know, junior politicians would use anything to draw attention,
and with such stories there are two ways of doing this: One is leaking,
hinting, provoking, and wearing the mantle of 'Knights of
human-rights'; the other is denouncing and inciting against those
knights and wearing the mantle of patriotic 'Knights of
Senior politicians just want to distance themselves from the story.
There's nothing they can benefit from being associated with it.
Israelly Cool got New York Times reporter, Jodi Rudoren, to acknowledge on Facebook:
Jodi Rudoren: To Brian John Thomas and others who have questioned my
inclusion of Richard Silverstein’s reporting. I didn’t quote him as an
authority, but simply referred to him because of his role in the
development of the news story. Until yesterday, some people thought the
prisoner was Iranian, which was based on his report. We needed to say
that, and then of course needed to say he had acknowledged he was wrong.
Including this does not indicate some kind of endorsement of his
writing or viewpoints.
While it's a start, it's not enough. Rudoren needed to include a
sentence in her report saying that Silverstein regularly passes off
unsourced and unverifiable information as "scoops."
3) Saudi education dollars
In March, 1995 the New York Times featured an editorial, Yale and Mr. Bass's $20 million gift
At issue was a gift to Yale by Lee Bass to fund a curriculum in Western
civilization. Yale rejected the gift, and the Times applauded that
Universities must also resist the temptation to solicit and accept
gifts from donors with a strong political agenda. No doubt this is a
particularly difficult thing to ask of a place like Yale, which is big,
expensive to run and sorely in need of funds. But the Bass case proves
that it does not pay to pander to a donor's political quirks in the hope
of finding a way around his intent.
That was then.
Now Susan Schmidt reports, Saudi Money Shaping U.S. Research (h/t Daily Alert):
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology opened its doors
in 2009 and already has lavished more than $200 million on top U.S.
university scientists. Stanford, Cornell, Texas A&M, UC Berkeley,
CalTech, Georgia Tech—all are awash in new millions of Saudi cash for
research directed at advancing solutions for Saudi energy and water
needs. The new university, known as KAUST, has similar partnerships with
scientists at Peking University and Oxford.
Many American universities and their scientists, lured by research
grants of as much as $25 million, have jumped at the chance to partner
with KAUST. Some of those scientists do research at their universities
here and spend a small part of their time in Saudi Arabia creating
The arrangement with KAUST raises novel and largely unaddressed issues
for American universities. With the United States determined to become
energy self-sufficient, what are the ramifications of having scientists
at top university labs—many of them recipients of U.S. government
research dollars—devoting their efforts to energy pursuits selected by
If there's been a New York Times editorial decrying the spectacle of a
foreign country dictating research priorities to American universities, I
haven't seen it.
There are other costs to these partnerships. Charlotte Allen wrote in 2008:
U.S. universities pride themselves on their tolerance - religious,
ethnic, gender-based, sexual orientation-based, whatever. But when it
comes to lucrative consulting fees for partnering with universities in
Mideastern countries where none of the above categories of toleration
seems to exist, the campus open-mindedness apparently evaporates, and a
strange variety of mulitculturalism takes over. Case in point: the
California Polytechnic Institute, a highly regarded state-funded
university in San Luis Obpispo, Calif., that prides itself on its
21-year-old Women's Engineering Program, designed to encourage female
students to enter an overwhelmingly male-dominated field.
All well and good - except that Cal Poly is in the process of
negotiating a $6 million consulting deal in which its faculty would
develop an engineering program at Jubail University in Saudi Arabia.
Since the Saudi government forbids co-education, the program would be
male-only, at least at the beginning. Later maybe, women might also be
able to study engineering at Jubail, but only if the campus hires an
all-female faculty to teach them, for Saudi law also prohibits academic
instruction of students by members of the opposite sex. Jubail currently
enrolls women students, but in separate classes taught by female
This sort of compromise, in which colleges seem willing to abandon
vaunted principles of equality in exchange for lucrative partnerships
with Mideast institutions, is surprisingly common on U.S campuses. The
University of California at Berkeley, for example, is currently in
confidential negotiations with another Saudi university, the King
Abdullah University of Science and Technology (known by the acronym
Kaust), in which UC-Berkeley professors would collaborate on research
projects and help King Abdullah hire faculty for its mechanical
engineering program. Stanford University and the University of Texas at
Austin are in the process of negotiating similar arrangements with Kaust
to consult in engineering departments - deals that total a reported $25
million for each. Kaust also has partnerships with the Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and an array of foreign
universities. Although the yet-to-open Kaust, set up with a $10 billion
endowment and aiming to turn itself into a world-class research
facility, has said that it will not be subject to the usual Saudi sex
restrictions, it remains unclear whether and how women will participate.
Even more ominously, the New York Times has reported that no Israelis
would be allowed to join the Kaust faculty - a prohibition that probably
applies to Jubail as well.
The New York Times applauded Yale when it rejected a gift that would
teach the historical underpinnings of our society. However it is silent
when many of the academic and cultural values one would expect the Times
to hold dear are compromised in the name of Saudi oil money.
Labels: Barack Hussein Obama, degrading US military capabilities, Middle East Media Sampler, Mossad, New York Times, our friends the Saudis, Soccer Dad, Yale University