Monday, December 31, 2007
I spent a large chunk of the day erasing all sorts of traces of my activity: e-mails, files, tons of paper. Things that were important enough to make their way into the archives are obviously still there, but the rest... all gone. Not the kind of thing you'd expect an archivist to do, admittedly, but I have always been a rather unusual archivist. Anyway, that's what I did, take it or leave it.
Well, since the peak of Palestinian violence in 2002, Israel has cut the number of it's casualties by half, each year. Including 2007, in which 7 Israeli civilians were killed, compared to 17 in 2006. Predictably, the number of dead Palestinians also fell significantly. (These numbers and others can be found in a B'tselem report cited here).
The moral of the story, as I've often told, is that violence is often best answered with superior violence. Especially in the cases where the original violence is fueled by animosities that cannot be made to go away except perhaps through abject surrender to the haters.
How should we read these numbers?
Killing people is never something to be joyous about. However, killing armed men who are members of organizations committed to destroying Israel, and who wish to kill Israeli citizens as the primary way to achieve their goal, seems pretty reasonable to me. Especially as the trend over the past five years has consistently shown that violence against violent Palestinians indeed reduces the overall violence. So that's alright.
Also understandable is that the longer an army (or any organization) has to work on a problem, the better it gets. The fact that Israel's ability to kill far fewer bystanders in 2007 than in 2002 is, unfortunately, natural. This may sound callous, but is simply the way of the world: practice makes good, and no army in history ever figured out how to do its job perfectly, even less so immediately. Especially as the tasks most often appear unannounced, and you have to devise a response while people are getting killed.
A careful reading, however, also tells a regrettable story: that it was a decision from the top that made a difference. So long as the commander of the Airforce was Dan Halutz, not enough care was taken not to kill Palestinian bystanders. (Some care was taken, but not enough). How do we know this? Because once Halutz was replaced by Eliezer Shkedi, and he made an issue of the matter, he also got results.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Saturday, December 29, 2007
The Hebrew word for rape is Ones, or La'anos. La'anos, however, can also be translated as coerce, a much more likely meaning for Landau to have intended. However, English is Landau's mother tongue, and it's probably what he used when addressing the American Secretary of State, especially this one who's Hebrew is probably rather poor given that she's a trained Sovietologist. How then to explain his use of the wrong English word? Is it possible he thinks in Hebrew? Especially when people who really know multiple languages generally think in whatever language they're talking in?
More likely, it seems to me, is that one of the Israelis present at the meeting heard the (English-language) exchange, and then leaked it in Hebrew, from which it then seeped back into English. This still doesn't explain why Landau is basically confirming what he said ("My words were quoted out of context" means, in Israeli parlance, yes, you've got me, but I need to appear as if I'm denying without outright lying in case some has it on tape), but perhaps he was confronted in Hebrew, too, and the whole incident has been mistranslated.
The essence, of course, remains, but I'm in a rush to some meeting and may or may not comment an that later this evening.
Friday, December 28, 2007
I've seen quite a bit of buzz on this over the past 24 hours (here's LGF, for example, linking onwards).
There's actually nothing particularly surprising in Landau's statement. He is part of a political camp that ultimately doesn't accept Israeli democracy or the will of the Israeli electorate, and is convinced that it knows better; they don't even pretend otherwise.
This world is a darker, more irrational place than we know. And these convulsions will surely continue.A sentence that has been true since forever, and will remain so, in spite of our fervent wishes otherwise.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
As I've explained in the past, I'm not much of a fan of international law as it's commonly used these days. This story, however, emphasizes the extent to which the name of international law is used in vain. Journalists, politicians and activists, mostly with no legal training, regularly pontificate on how many of Israel's actions are illegal according to international law, quite disregarding the fact that in any normal legal system what is or isn't legal is often disputed by lawyers and decided by courts, and the art of finding and closing loopholes is at the center of the legal practice. Here we have a bunch of lawyers arguing the case for their client (the IDF), and the only possible way to answer them is by using the same legal tools - which most pundits couldn't do if their life depended on it. Fortunately for them, their life doesn't depend on it, and not even their livelihood, since their editors and readers aren't interested in the legal aspects, only in the political ones. International law is cited because it sounds impressive, not because it's understood.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
On the one hand, you get all the usual boilerplate stuff about how this is what a Jewish State exists to do, and if there had been one back in 1937 think how much things would have been better, and so on. Which is actually all true, but not overwhelmingly convincing in this case. As one of the young Iranians who has been here for a while tells, there actually isn't much danger facing the Jews of Iran, which makes sense because the antisemitism of that regime is directed at us, not the tiny local minority (most of the time). You also have to ask who they are, those Iranian Jews, and what they're still doing there, almost 30 years after the rise to power of Homeini, and in spite of decades of the Mossad and others getting those out that need to leave. You also need to know that the Jewish Agency, once the effective government of the pre-State Yishuv, has been losing its way, its clout, its significance, and eventually even its justification to exist for decades already, and stories like this, even though true, aren't really enough to keep them relevant. Did you notice, by the way, how some of the new immigrants or their Israeli family members can't wait to reach the parking lot at the airport to start kvetching about the things they're not getting?
Finally, the comparison with Germany in the 1930s leaves me unconvinced. In this context, anyway. I suppose you could say that getting Jews out of Israel, where there are all these wars and such, is a rational thing... but I'm not going there.
This morning she put up an article titled "Why Men Hate Me", which turns out to be slightly misleading because it's mostly a wail about the fact that some of the men who comment on her articles aren't so nice. And she helpfully brings lots of examples, so we can judge for ourselves. (If this were really important we could of course go read the articles themselves and their comments, and decide for ourselves if Ms. Bindel is portraying things fairly, or not. I didn't feel it to be THAT important, sorry).
Why is this noteworthy, I hear you asking? Well, here are some reasons, and if I don't convince you, feel free to cancel your subscription to Ruminations.
1. Ms. Bindel proudly informs us that as a general rule, she doesn't read comments. Typical for a journalist to feel that the natural way of the world is that they should preach at us, but they don't listen to our opinion of them or their arguments.
2. Seen from the perspective of someone who regularly reads the comments on Guardian columns that deal with Israel, the things that rile her seem pretty tame.
3. Which may simply mean that each of us is sensitive to our own selves and subjects, and indifferent to the selves and subjects of others.
4. Someday, should I find the time, I'd like to write a book called "How to Recognize an Antisemite". Since the Guardian will be an important primary resource, I suppose I'll have to sort out this issue.
5. Of course it's possible that the readers of the Guardian are antisemites, and misogynists, and misanthropes, and Ms. Bindel is a misandrist. This would tell us something about the Guardian, wouldn't it? A newspaper that prides itself on being intellectual and serious.
Monday, December 24, 2007
This is a bit misleading, but indeed Israel does most of the damage to itself. There are hundreds of thousands of Israelis living in East Jerusalem, and tens of thousands in Ma'ale Adumim. There is no way they'll be moved, not even in the case of a peace agreement. This was acknowledged by Bill Clinton in his dictated directives for making peace, 7 years ago today, and it was even accepted by both sides of the Geneva Accord, who agreed that the largest Jewish settlements in the West Bank would remain in place and Israeli territory along Gaza and the southern West Bank would be transferred to the Palestinians instead. So if you want to be precise, Israel adding additional apartments to territories everyone knows will not be part of Palestine should not be such an obstacle to peace negotiations, and if they are this tells something about the sincerity of the Palestinian negotiators who are more interested in winning points than in winning peace.
In a separate development, an Israeli cabinet minister confirmed that Israel had new plans to build apartments in two settlements in East Jerusalem and in the occupied West Bank. The announcement brought quick condemnation from Palestinian leaders and presents a new obstacle to attempts to revive peace talks between the two sides.
Israel's construction ministry has budgeted plans to build 740 new settlement apartments next year: 500 in Har Homa, in East Jerusalem, and another 240 in Ma'ale Adumim.
HOWEVER... this would all be acceptable if Israel was building only in those few areas it's clear she's not leaving and might even pay for with alternate territory. Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of building activity in settlements we all know are eventually going to be disbanded, not to mention the ongoing construction of brand new settlements. This is a waste of money, to say the least, and it's also bad tactics, bad strategy, and generally a bad idea. Why do we persist? Mostly because the settlers have figured out how to manipulate the system, but that's a rather feeble excuse. A solid majority of Israelis know we're never going to stay in most of the West Bank, and most of the far-flung small settlements aren't going to stay there. Since we know this, we should find a way to have our government act accordingly.
It is increasingly clear that Israel's policy in Gaza is not simply to halt the rocket fire but also to depose the Hamas movement. Yesterday Haim Ramon, Israel's deputy prime minister, confirmed that his government wanted to topple Hamas.
"We are fighting Hamas and are seeking to weaken its control of Gaza, and bring about the end of its reign there. Hamas should hand over control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority," he said.
A number of comments to this:
1. I can understand a principled position whereby violence is always an unacceptable tool of politics. People with this position should be called upon to condemn the Palestinian insistence on using violence to promote their goals at least as much as they condemn the Israelis, with no ifs and buts. I would disagree with them, alas, but on grounds of realpolitik. In a perfect world, I'd agree with them fully. (Actually, in a perfect world we'd never have to have the discussion at all...).2. The Guardian folks aren't principled in that way. Not even in this article, which isn't bad by Guardian standards. Israel, we're told, is not interested merely in a cessation of attacks ("by makeshift rockets"); not a word about the Palestinian insistence on shooting the rockets in the first place.
3. Having had my swipe at the Guardian (yes, it makes me feel better) it does need to be noted that the Israeli gamble here is a bit fraught. At the moment we vaguely feel we're winning. In a series of successful attacks on Palestinian "militants", we have managed to kill only terrorists or fighters, and no civilians. The leaders of the militants or fighters are beginning to feel the heat, and may be suing for a reprieve; if by not giving it to them we can drive them further underground, perhaps even force them out of their positions in Gaza - well, that's certainly a legitimate goal of war, and we should stay the course. But what happens if anytime soon we accidentally kill 12 civilians, and then have to desist from our pressure with the rockets still raining in, what then? Or what if the Palestinians figure out a way to tilt the balance back in their favor: wouldn't it have been better to stop now in return for a lull that won't be offered then?
4. All the fools who endlessly preach about how violence can never bring any positive results should kindly note that the facts say otherwise. Violence will never make the Palestinians love us. It will also never convince the Israelis to move "back to Russia", as Dr. Rantisi once suggested to Ariel Sharon before Sharon had him killed. But sometimes one goes to war for less than total victory. Actually, for as long as humans have been doing history, violence and wars have been bringing results. The tricky part is making certain that it's the results you want and not the ones the other side wants.
5. Using force to get rid of the Hamas control over Gaza is a legitimate goal to strive for. True, they were elected in democratic elections (and then helped themselves along with a wee bit of violence, which brought them what they wanted, see previous comment). But that's just the point. The Palestinians are free to make their own choices... and to pay the price for them, too. If having a Hamas government is painful and they decide they still want to have it, fine. The fact that the Palestinians want a government that wants Israel to disappear doesn't have to mean that Israel must disappear.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Except that Shlomo, the other guy's son, has figured a way to turn the tables on his commanders. He never stands in the Cheit, no matter what they tell him. He stands in a Kaf.
If you don't read Hebrew, this chart may be helpful.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Not very modern (actually, it's about 2000 years prior to modernity), but interesting.
This thread began here.
If I were to postulate what a slow winding down of a brutal and fiendishly complex civil war might look like, this could be it. (In The Guardian!). And this is what you'd expect from someone who has invested his ideological fervor in hoping for an American defeat. (The bottom third is especially helpful). And yes, this is what you'd expect from someone who always supported the war.
There is an ancient Jewish saying whereby "since the destruction of the Temple, prophecy has been given only to the fools".
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
You also might want to notice the numbers of rockets and mortars launched against Israel since Israeli forces left Gaza, compared to their numbers while Israel was still there. The numbers are at the very end of the report.
So the discussion rages, the rockets land, and this week the IDF escalated, mostly, at this stage, by hunting down the Jihad men. The BBC reports this morning, and I quote: "The attack [on Harazin's] car killed an Islamic Jihad associate". Harazin himself, we're to understand, was a senior associate.
Having said that, here's an introduction to an intelligent blog that could easily be worth your time. It's written by Norman Geras, a retired professor from London who knows all about Karl Marx, and a lot about lots of other stuff. He reads, reflects, writes... just like I'd like to do here, assuming I continue to have the time. He reads the Guardian, probably out of conviction, so we disagree on that, and he supports Human Rights Watch, which may mean we disagree on that, too. He supports Zionism - we agree on that. And he seems to feel that thinking rationally takes precedence over one's political positions. We can certainly agree on that, in a world where many don't.
And today he has a post pondering the question of the benefit of the Internet for encouraging cross-pollinating of contradicting positions. I'm all in favor of that sort of thing, which is why I link to the Guardian and Good Old Juan more than to, say, LGF.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Sunday, December 16, 2007
None of this is particularly modern, as witnessed by this morning's Daf Yomi, which dealt extensively with the budget of the Temple: which expenses can be written on which budget line, what can be done with surplus funds and how they can or cannot be invested - that sort of thing. As Yogi Berra said: deja vu all over again.
Ketubot 106a and b.
This thread began here.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
The first tells of a fascinating recently declassified KGB document, created in 1973 after Leonid Brezhnev had the agency find out which Jews were trying to leave the Soviet Union. Surprisingly to the authors of the report and its readers, the educated intelligentsia in Moscow and Leningrad weren't leaving, while the less educated ones from Georgia and the Baltic states, were. (We knew this back at the time, but had no connections to the KGB so as to inform them).
(Also, it's interesting to note that even the top brass of the USSR felt that facts were important to policy making. As regular readers will know, not everyone these days is so enlightened).
On a seemingly totally different topic, the American Jewish Yearbook attempts to understand the long-term impact of intermarriage on Jewish identity. I really don't mean to compare the American Jewish Yearbook with the KGB. Honestly. On the other hand, what can I say? The article seems to say nothing to assuage my suspicion that the further removed Jews are from a meaningfully Jewish life, the further away they are. However you might define "meaningful Jewish life", and there must be many definitions.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Is there such a word: propunders?
But memories linger. Two young American tourists in the lobby of the hotel were saying to each other that it's incredible that this is what a hotel in Warsaw looks like.
Here's a collection of pictures of many buildings in the genre, all awful, some ghastly; in it there is at least one picture of the Warsaw one, called the Palace of Culture and Science. Orwell's Ministries of Truth, Peace and Whatever in 1984 were referring to these things, as one glance will confirm.
This afternoon I was in a car with some Polish fellows and we drove by the edifice (it's hard not to what with it's being at an intersection of various main roads). My hosts confirmed that it had been presented as "Stalin's Gift to the Polish Nation"; when I asked why somebody doesn't simply tear it down and build something else (the area is full of brand new 30-40-story buildings all built since the end of Communism), they told me that actually there are plans to somehow retool the exterior of the building, so as to make it look like something else. Perhaps.
Anyway, my hotel is sort of at the back of the thing. We drove by the front. On its steps is a large Christmas tree, which is fine, and about 30 meters in front of it is... a Hannukia, all lit up. More or less precisely where the south-eastern corner of the Warsaw Ghetto was, if you'll pardon my being morbid.
My guess is that the local Lubavitchers put it there, with the agreement of the mayor, one has to assume. How do I know there are local Lubavitchers? Because of the Hannukia, obviously.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Tonight I'm in Warsaw. It's late evening, cold and wet, but the hotel I've just checked into is a modern tower with all the amenities and gadgets. Across the street is the Stalinistic tower presented to the Poles in the 1950s. It takes up a large city block, which was empty at the time, just like the site of this hotel, because all its original buildings had been destroyed in 1943, when the ghetto uprising was put down by systematically razing every single structure. There's something unhealthy, if inevitable, about how I check into a luxury hotel while noting its address in relation to the Shoah, but there it is.
My own family had left by then. One set of my great grandparents - educated, modern, members of a Reform congregation - left Warsaw more than 100 years ago, in 1903 or 1904. They were probably in their 30s, and already had a large family of children, but whatever it was they understood, they picked up and left, thereby saving their lives and enabling the lives of all their descendants. I must be the first family member to light Hannuka candles in Warsaw in 103 years.
What can I say? People are interesting.
Monday, December 10, 2007
No sooner had I said that, Michael Massing went to read some of the war literature the folks at Radcliffe may not be reading. He poses a serious challenge to the part of American society willing to take the present war seriously enough as to read books about it.
One could of course nitpick his article. He uses the Beauchamp episode at The New Republic in a way hardly warranted anymore even by TNR's own editors. He chooses which books to read, which ones of those he'll report on, and it's far from clear to me if his rendering of their themes are quite what the authors intended.
One could argue against his thesis from his own findings. At one point he leads us to believe that a unit of marines has just opened fire at Iraqi soldiers hiding behind Iraqi women, only to tell us later that in the entire campaign that unit only killed three Iraqis with direct fire: something smells of creative editing to me. Or he'll tell of American war crimes and in the following paragraph he'll tell of Iraqi civilians clamoring for aid from the same soldiers - again, not a coherent description.
One could argue about his use of history. He sort of implies that American troops in previous wars were better, but then again, in his haste to say that war is always bad he taps away at the myths of the 2nd World War, reminding us (thru the words of one of his authors) that Kurt Vonnegut, Norman mailer and Joseph Heller were all anti-war.
And yet, I don't think any of these methods are to be recommended, because his thesis will withstand them all. The power of his thesis is not in the various sleight of hand tricks he uses but in its simplicity: War is evil, and the waging of it is wrong. Period.
I have responded to this elsewhere. There's an article over here, and an entire book here. The book, however, deals mostly with Israel, and ironically, although Massing almost certainly didn't intend this, his article largely exonerates Israel's actions at war, because most of what the American forces are indited of, Israeli's try not to do.
There are two points to this post. First, it's part of an attempt to tell things as they are, in the assumption that rational discourse cannot shy away from relevant facts. The second is to say that while to my mind the American's can mostly respond to this ideology whereby waging war is wrong, period, it needs to be done; moreover, the responding needs to take as its starting point precisely the facts presented in these accounts.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Sound's like a done thing, doesn't it?
(The link will show different results if you use it later than this afternoon).
The Haredi community is probably the only one anywhere that can comfortably give the Palestinians of Gaza a good run for their money in matters of fertility (and maybe even win), so this whole section of town is always teeming, mostly with young people, young people with children, children with baby siblings and so on. It's a poor area, by definition, because those of the community who can afford to do so, move elsewhere, often to small towns that they're filling up such as Beit Shemesh, or Beitar, or Kiryat Sefer, or others.
So it's teeming, and it's poor. Also, most people here are very highly educated, yes, but in the things they're interested in. So, not the things you'd recognize in a neighborhood of highly educated people. Lot's of bookstores, for example, but no titles that can be found on Amazon, and hardly any titles that can be found in the bookstores in the center of town, a mere half mile to the south.
Ovadia St. is named after the last of the prophets, but to be honest, it doesn't give him that much to be happy about, if he's looking down on us. Dingy. Ugly. A scraggly tree or two. The stores are all small, cluttered, and unappealing. About half a block off the main road, on the left, is a hole in the wall that calls itself a pizzeria, with a counter, three stools, two small tables, all behind a dusty windowpane and illuminated by a few rather forlorn fluorescent bulbs. For some unfathomable reason, given the surroundings, the owner has chosen to name himself after an American president, and to make his point, has even done so in English:
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Hard to conceive of a university administrator or scholar expressing quite these sentiments these days, isn't it? Too bad, actually.
(Charles Berlin, Harvard Judaica, Harvard College Library, Cambridge MS 2004, page 14)
Thursday, December 6, 2007
(I'll bet some fools will be found who will now claim that the NIE has proved there is no antisemitism in Iran.)
I'm all in favor of people looking at facts, listening to interpretations of them, and making up their own minds, including inventing new insights of their own. It's when the pundits begin to mis-state facts, not inadvertently but as a system, that you begin to wonder - first, about them, then about their positions. Well argued positions should withstand fact-checking. Without them, we're sliding out of rational discussion.
The report has been published as Working paper #1 of the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism - also a website worth a visit.
Finally, should you be in the mood for some authentic, raw antisemitism, have a look over here. Yossie Alpher has written an article which totally disregards the platform on which it's being published (one wonders if this wasn't a manipulation of the editors of the Guardian: "let's give space to an Israeli who can be relied upon to make Israelis look like the bloodthirsty war-mongers we know them to be"). Sure enough, the comments are full of what you'd expect from the readers of The Guardian. This is significant, because it gives us an idea of what many of the readers of this intelligentsia-minded newspaper think; and keep in mind that comments at the Guardian are monitored. You can't just write your ire and publish it there.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
When I was a wee lad, the grim joke was that the way to make a small fortune in Israel was to bring a large one. This has dramatically changed over the years, and these days there is a brand of Zionists out there who are not Jews, aren't interested in biblical prophecies coming true, greening of deserts or anything else. They're interested in seeing impressive returns on their $, and have figured out that Israel can be a fine place for that.
This in spite of wars, terrorism, regional instability, and all the other things that the texts describe as automatic business killers.
Ominously, whereas the Los Angeles Times leads this story with "Iran has no nuke program, U.S. intel says," the hawkish Washington Postleads with "Iran Is Judged 10 Years From Nuclear Bomb." The WaPo diction (for which poor Dafna Linzer is almost certainly not responsible) implies facts not in evidence. Iran cannot be 10 years away from a bomb if it has no weapons program. It would have to constitute a weapons program and then it would be X years from having a bomb. But the WaPo way of putting it is going to dominate the debate from here on in. Cheney may yet have his way, down the road, by inspiring younger hawks.And here's the NIE (page 7):
D. Iranian entities are continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could
be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so. For example,
Iran’s civilian uranium enrichment program is continuing. We also assess with high
confidence that since fall 2003, Iran has been conducting research and development
projects with commercial and conventional military applications—some of which would
also be of limited use for nuclear weapons.
E. We do not have sufficient intelligence to judge confidently whether Tehran is willing
to maintain the halt of its nuclear weapons program indefinitely while it weighs its
options, or whether it will or already has set specific deadlines or criteria that will prompt
it to restart the program.
My suggestion is that people read the damn thing, for crying out loud. Here, I'll link to it again. It's all of nine (9) pages long, the first one with ten words. You can read it in ten minutes, and many of the commentators either haven't, or they know we won't, or they're fools, or all of the above.
Top quality military intelligence enables its owner to destroy all the air forces of it's enemies, on the ground, in one swoop, while not bombing the decoy planes parked on the same runways. Top quality military intelligence enables its owners to kill or arrest almost the entire command structure of terrorist organizations deeply embedded in their society, and to do so uninterrupted for a number of years, so that each time a commander disappears the life expectancy of his replacement is weeks, no more, until finally the violence dies down and lives are saved on all sides. Top quality military intelligence enables its owners to destroy an entire mid-range ballistic missile system aimed at civilians in one attack. That's what top quality military intelligence can do.
Now, go read the NIE (it's right here), and weep:
We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weaponsNo-where does the document say anything along the line of "This is what we know for fact". The whole thing is an exercise in obfuscation of the simple fact that it's authors don't know what they're talking about. They don't really know, so they're guessing. On the one hand, they're trying to guess intelligently, on the other they don't want any politicians to be able to cite them as having irrefutably said anything.
program1; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is
keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons. We judge with high confidence
that the halt, and Tehran’s announcement of its decision to suspend its declared uranium
enrichment program and sign an Additional Protocol to its Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty Safeguards Agreement, was directed primarily in response to increasing
international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran’s previously
undeclared nuclear work.
• We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were
working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons.
• We judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years. (Because of
intelligence gaps discussed elsewhere in this Estimate, however, DOE and the NIC
assess with only moderate confidence that the halt to those activities represents a halt
to Iran's entire nuclear weapons program.)
• We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons
program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop
• We continue to assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Iran does not currently
have a nuclear weapon.
• Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined
to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment
that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure
suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged
B. We continue to assess with low confidence that Iran probably has imported at least
some weapons-usable fissile material, but still judge with moderate-to-high confidence it
has not obtained enough for a nuclear weapon. We cannot rule out that Iran has acquired
from abroad—or will acquire in the future—a nuclear weapon or enough fissile material
for a weapon. Barring such acquisitions, if Iran wants to have nuclear weapons it would
need to produce sufficient amounts of fissile material indigenously—which we judge
with high confidence it has not yet done.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Some of the uncertainty stems from the foibles of human memory, and I'm willing to accept that this indeed played a role in the debacle. But a debacle it was, because Beauchamp's stories were published not as rumours from a far away war, but rather as an Iraqi re-run of horror stories told about American troops in Vietnam all those years ago. On that level, Foer's report, since it deals with the minutiae of reporting, obfuscates the greater truth which is that one cannot plausibly pin on America's troops in this war any of the stories of that war. That seems to me a very important statement, one that Foer doesn't make.
It turns out that one actually can peer through the fog of war and discern the outlines of the large picture. In our age of post-modern undermining of truth, that's an important statement.
If, after all this, you want an example of English stoicism, here's the reaction of John's father, now 90 years old:
Told of his son's sudden reappearance, 90-year-old Ronald Darwin, of Blackhall Colliery, Co Durham, said: "I always thought he would turn up. It didn't seem right," he said. "I said to the police that it might have something to do with his work as a prison officer, I always wondered whether that had something to do with it."
Monday, December 3, 2007
Some popular authors, such as Robert Ludlum and V.C. Andrews, even continue writing books after they’re dead, thanks to the help of hired ghosts.Something tells me I'm doing this wrong. I have the outlines of seven or eight books in my head, but so far have published only two. Any ghosts around who might want to help me here?
The honor of the men, mind you. The way they see it, they're the victims. That's the mechanism.
The most famous case in recent years has been the serial murder of the women of the Abu Ghanem (pronounced Abu-Ranem, with a deep R) clan of the violent neighborhood of Jouarish, in Ramle (not Ramallah. Ramle is in Israel, about ten minutes from the Ben Gurion airport). After the eighth murder, in January this year, some of the women of the family broke the rules, went to the police, and told everything they know. Which means that a mother and her daughters and nieces testified to put the son/brother/cousin into jail for the next 20-25 years. And then their fears overcame some of them, and they began backtracking; one of them hasn't been seen for quite a while and may already be dead. Yesterday, however, the mother and a cousin testified before the courts. It is now irrevocable.
Yet to be seen is if this case will manage to prove a significant turning point in eradicating the entire phenomenon among Israel's Arabs, or merely an isolated case, or perhaps even less than that. Clearly it's an extremely dramatic case, about love, hate, tradition vs. law, fear, violence, heroism. No doubt it's only a matter of time before Hollywood makes a major film out of it.
No? Hollywood won't?
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Btw, the whole issue is an American vs. Israeli one. In America, the surrounding society doesn't have Shabbat, so observing it at its extremes causes problems, hence the need to tinker with its schedules. In Israel, whether you're orthodox or not is irrelevant: The Shabbat starts according to sunset. Just to give an example: an army unit sending its soldiers home for Shabbat has to allow them to get there before sundown, be that 4pm or 8pm, and even if all the soldiers in the unit are Druze.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
What, then, makes these solutions so popular in Europe? It seems that European polite society is finding it hard to let go of its old colonial instincts. The various plans now circulating in Europe are not based on inquiring what the natives (Jews and Arabs) want or need, but on what the West knows they should want. In other words, Europe is once again ready to shoulder the White Man’s Burden, and teach the natives what the right form of self-determination should be. It would be a good idea to remember that the price of this pedagogical enterprise, if implemented, is likely to be a chronic civil war. And it may also be wise to recall that the colonial presumption to know better than the natives what is good for them has repeatedly fallen short of success.Ouch!
What these young men are dealing with is no game.