Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler
Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Tuesday, March 5.
1) More on AIPAC
In addition to explaining how the two organizers put together the AIPAC conference, Tablet has a symposium, Do we still need a pro-Israel lobby?
Though there are some good responses, the presence of Rebecca
Vilkomerson and Alan Elsner as respondents is disappointing. Vilkomerson
is the executive director as Jewish Voices for Peace, a well known
anti-Israel group. Elsner works for J-Street. While Elsner is at least
somewhat deferential towards AIPAC, his group exists as a counterpoint
to AIPAC. In his contribution to the symposium, Noah Pollak explained
the problem with J-Street and groups like the NJDC:
But the bad news is that beneath the surface, especially
among the activists, the ground is shifting. Over the past two decades,
as poll after poll shows, the right has grown friendlier toward the
Jewish state and the left has grown more hostile; the right has pushed
its anti-Israel figures to the margins, while the left has often
embraced and promoted theirs.
The response of pro-Israel liberals? Too often it has been to pick a
fight with pro-Israel conservatives and groups like mine, the Emergency
Committee for Israel, by claiming we are “politicizing” support for
Israel or using it as a “wedge issue.”
They have it backwards. It is the self-styled progressives who have
“politicized” support for Israel by seeking to move liberal opinion and
Democratic Party policy in a hostile direction. Supporters of the
alliance have struck back against these attacks, and pro-Israel
liberals, caught in the crossfire, have largely but not exclusively
sided with the progressives—not by defending them, but by attacking
critics of progressives as themselves the danger to the U.S.-Israel
Confirming Pollak's analysis a recent poll shows that President’s support for Israel found wanting by many voters:
According to the latest Hill Poll, just 13 percent of
respondents say the president’s policy toward Israel is too supportive. A
full 39 percent said Obama is not supportive enough, the highest
percentage The Hill Poll has seen.
In a poll for The Hill conducted in May 2011, 27 percent of voters
said Obama was too supportive toward Israel, while 31 percent said he
was not supportive enough.
In September 2011, the proportion of voters who said Obama was too
supportive of Israel went down, and those insisting he was not
supportive enough increased slightly.
Unfortunately we still see that there are those who fault AIPAC getting their say from positions of prominence. Steven Walt recently addressed the State Department. And an anti-Israel activist, Josh Ruebner was given a column at The Hill to write 'Israel lobby' to push for aid despite sequestration cuts (h/t Meryl Yourish):
Yet, as thousands of “Israel-first” citizen lobbyists
descend on Capitol Hill tomorrow as part of the annual policy conference
of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) — the largest
and most influential of the many groups comprising the “Israel lobby” —
concern for these millions of Americans will not be on its legislative
Instead, AIPAC will be lobbying to avert the impact of
sequestration on record-breaking levels of U.S. military aid to Israel.
It will also be pushing for legislation to boost the U.S.-Israel
“strategic alliance” and green light an Israeli attack on Iran, measures
which will both inevitably entail demands for additional U.S.
taxpayer-funded weapons to Israel.
Israel stands to lose approximately $250 million of its $3.1 billion
military aid package from the United States under the terms of the
sequestration. The Jewish Week calls AIPAC’s gambit to exempt these cuts
a “very risky strategy at a time when millions of Americans will be
feeling the bite of the sequestration debacle,” which “could easily
backfire and damage Israel far more than any cuts in its very generous
grant aid program.”
Indeed, why should AIPAC seek to “single out Israel” and “hold it to
a different standard” — unfounded charges, ironically enough, leveled
by the “Israel lobby” at those who seek to hold Israel accountable to
universal standards of human rights and international law — by lobbying
for greater levels of U.S. taxpayer aid for Israel at this time?
Ruebner doesn't even try to hide his feelings, using the term
"Israel-first" to describe American supporters of Israel. In response to
the likes of Ruebner, Steven Rosen writes why the pro-Israel lobby is
Against all this, you ask, is a pro-Israel lobby needed? Is medicine needed against communicable disease?
2) Kerry of Arabia
Secretary of State John Kerry visited Saudi Arabia. The AP's Matt Lee reported U.S., Saudi, present united front on Syria, Iran (via memeorandum):
After a series of meetings in the Riyadh, U.S. Secretary of
State John Kerry and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told
reporters at a joint news conference that Assad must understand that
recent scud missile attacks on regime foes in the city of Aleppo would
not be tolerated by the international community and that he had lost all
claim to be Syria's legitimate leader.
That meeting ended in an agreement for further expert-level discussions
between the sides and both Saud and Kerry said it was critical for Iran
to accept offers made by the so-called "P5+1" group quickly. Kerry
reminded the Iranians that President Barack Obama has vowed not to allow
Iran to get a nuclear weapon and that he has kept all options,
including military options, on the table to prevent that from happening.
The WINDOW of opportunity for a diplomatic solution "cannot by
definition remain open indefinitely," Kerry said. "There is time to
resolve this issue providing the Iranians are prepared to engage
seriously on the P5+1 proposal. But talks will not go on for the sake of
talks and talks cannot become an instrument for delay that will make
the situation more dangerous," he said.
The Washington Post however played up the differences, reporting U.S. Saudis paper over differences on Syria and Iran during Kerry visit:
Saudi Arabia is believed to be sending small arms and
perhaps other weapons to Syrian rebel fighters. Saud’s brother, former
Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal, called in January for
sending heavy arms such as antitank and antiaircraft weapons.
The Obama administration and the European Union have refused to provide
weapons, but they agreed last week to begin sending some direct
battlefield support to the rebels, who are fighting the government of
President Bashar al-Assad.
The United States will provide only food and medicine for now, arguing
that weapons could too easily be diverted to Islamist militants working
alongside what Kerry on Monday called the “moderate, legitimate
3) Why we need drones to fight
At the Volokh Conspiracy, Kenneth Anderson has an extensive post on
the drone support the United States is providing to France in Mali.
Anderson also deals with the issue of increasingly automated weapons -
including drones. While the science fiction aspect of the discussion is
fun, here's the reason Anderson writes about it:
But here’s the basic problem for conducting operations
in Mali. The territory is vast, and much of it desert or difficult
mountains. There are many places for militants of Al Queda in the
Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to hide and that’s exactly what they are doing.
France has neither the forces nor the political will to engage this
territory from the ground over the long term; what it can supply is air
power and coordination with ground forces from Mali (and other places).
But to know where to strike in a terrain a vast as this can only be done
with an elaborate intelligence operation, both from the ground and in
the air. Whether the French or the Mali government can create the
on-ground intelligence is hard to say, but it can be said that without
drones, the air surveillance part of it is staggeringly difficult.
The use of drones at this point is part of the tactical conflict; US
drones identify targets and French jets strike. But as an experienced
observer of the Libyan conflict told me, just as there was a reason why
NATO’s commander made an urgent appeal to the US for surveillance drones
there, there is also a reason why, over time, those surveillance drones
turn into attack drones. First, in a tactical battlefield setting, as
in Libya, the time gap (between surveillance drones identifying a target
and manned aircraft reaching it) is often too great. The target might
well have moved, in a very short amount of time. Second, attack aircraft
are very often not as precise and not capable of being as precise as a
drone in terms of collateral damage. The drone is able to pick its
moment to fire far more carefully, with greater loiter time and ability
to track the target; the limited time frame for manned aircraft does not
allow for this. Surveillance drones in Mali ought to turn into
weapons-firing drones, for exactly these reasons. It is often more
effective than trying to coordinate drone surveillance and manned
airstrikes, and it is also generally more precise in the use of force.
Labels: AIPAC, drone, France, John Kerry, Mali, Middle East Media Sampler, our friends the Saudis, Soccer Dad