Fair Policy, Fair Discussion

October 26, 2009

Mitchell’s glitter wearing off?

Filed under: Washington's diplomacy — Helena Cobban @ 1:32 am

Today’s NYT had an interesting article noting that,

When President Obama named two marquee diplomats as his special emissaries to the Middle East and to Afghanistan and Pakistan last January, many here wondered whether they would eclipse Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Nine months later, the two envoys, Richard C. Holbrooke and George J. Mitchell, are the ones fighting to stay in the limelight.

The author of the piece, Mark Landler, included a great quote from Dan Kurtzer, who during the Clinton administration was US ambassador to Egypt, and from 2001 through 2005 was Pres. Bush’s ambassador to Israel:

“The problem is not merchandising or marketing, it’s the product,” said Mr. Kurtzer, who has advised Mr. Obama on Middle East issues. “If you don’t have a good policy, it doesn’t matter if you have a good envoy or not.”

Many people in the Middle East are still waiting for signs of that “good policy” from Washington.



  1. Helena

    Not a moment too soon. Haaretz this morning that Erdogan says Lieberman threatened to Nuke Gaza.

    Sweet suffering God. Who the hell are these people to think they can even think things like that? The boys and girls in Gaza were armed with AK47 and RPG and surrounded by thousands of noncombatants.


    Nuclear disarmament in the Middle east is right on the ball.

    Israeli government credibility just collapsed.

    Comment by Frank al Irlandi — October 26, 2009 @ 9:07 am | Reply

  2. Here is a major point on which I disagree with Professors Mearsheimer and Walt.

    They argue that the excessive influence of the Israel Lobby causes the US to make suboptimal foreign policy choices not in US best interest.

    Because this sort of subjective value judgment is intrinsic to the M&W analytic framework, the approach of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy is unhelpful to understanding what the Israel Lobby really does.

    Not only does the Israel Lobby work hard to ruin politicians or to prune presidential advisors that fail to meet the test of Zionist orthodoxy, e.g., Senator Charles Percy, Representative Paul Findley, Robert Malley, Chas Freeman, and Van Jones, but a lot of the basic information-providing functions of government and the media have even been subverted. For example, the GAO has yet to make a rational calculation of the cost of the US-Israel relationship. Because the total in constant 2000 dollars probably approaches $6-8 trillion, it is an important number for both the President and also the American public to know so that political debate over ME foreign policy can be rational.

    At present the Netherlands provides a particularly good window to observe Zionist political subversion in action: Wilders Columbia Song and Dance. (Check out the comments, too.) In particular, the transnational Zionist intelligentsia is attempting with the funding of hyperwealthy Zionists to demonize and to marginalize Dutch Muslims in order to make sure a block of potentially Israel- and Zionism-critical citizens cannot fully participate in Dutch political discussion. This Zionist project has a similar and even more advanced counterpart in the USA, where Zionist subversives have managed to send many Muslim American political and community leaders to jail on trumped political charges.

    Because Zionist subversion of the Dutch political process is still at a rather early stage in comparison with the situation in the USA, the Netherlands might respond to an intervention, which if successful might provide insights for salvaging current American politics and discourse.

    Comment by Joachim Martillo — October 26, 2009 @ 11:01 am | Reply

  3. Holbrooke has a vile history as a warmonger in eastern europe. He was never a good choice. In fact, he was sadly – horribly – typical of Obama’s very, very bad personnel choices. Somehow, Obama’s choices in personnel are now being used in his defense; his policy is bad because the bad people around him are pressuring him in the wrong direction (eg., the mean generals are forcing him to escalate in Afghanistan – no matter that he promoted them or kept them in place). That makes no sense, as a defense, when he was the one who chose those people.

    Mitchell may have been one of Obama’s few good choices, but the overarching choice of Clinton wiped out any good that might have come from that, and the extremely narrow brief given to Mitchell made matters worse.

    In essence, Obama’s dithering while Israel continued to oppress the Palestinians has virtually guaranteed a third intifada, which is precisely what Israel seems to want. Even if every Palestinian was Ghandi reincarnated, they would be virtually forced to fight back, especially in Gaza. How has the world managed to forget that Gaza is still UNDER SIEGE?!! The way Gaza is being treated is more medieval than water torture.

    Comment by philip — October 26, 2009 @ 2:31 pm | Reply

  4. Israeli government credibility just collapsed.

    Always the optimist, eh Frank?

    Comment by Shirin — October 26, 2009 @ 5:33 pm | Reply

  5. Hi Shirin

    Long time no speak.

    I watched Stormont disintegrate in a similar fashion to the Netanyahu government’s crackup during 1972 – 75.

    It is high time for Netanyahu to realize that his worldview is in need of a total overhaul. He is behaving like the tired driver in the joke who, entering the highway, turns on the radio. Suddenly there is an announcement: “Warning, there is a car driving on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway in the wrong direction.” He looks around and says. “What are they talking about? There are hundreds of cars driving in the wrong direction.”

    If Netanyahu is so convinced that Israel represents the Western world, how come the whole Free World (a better term than “West” to denote the countries committed to liberal democracy) thinks otherwise? Could it be that not the Free World is headed in the wrong direction, but that Netanyahu is? And could it be that this is why the world doesn’t take it well, when he lectures them on the forces of civilization and the powers of darkness?

    But the Economist giving the dreadful Blair evens as odds on being anointed President of Europe has really soured my day.

    Comment by Frank al Irlandi — October 26, 2009 @ 8:21 pm | Reply

    • But Frank, you know as well as I do that the problem is not with Netanyahu and his world view. Israel’s government has been driving consistently in the wrong direction, at some times less brazenly than at others, since before statehood, and yet it has somehow managed to avoid losing “credibility” all this time. And this is not exactly the first time Netanyahu has been at the wheel. So, why believe that suddenly all that has changed now? What is so different this time?

      Comment by Shirin — October 27, 2009 @ 6:09 am | Reply

  6. Frank, who were you quoting?

    By the way, the odds on Blair being selected as President of Europe have lengthened in the last few days. Europeans say that Iraq is not a problem (horrors!), but that his lack of commitment to Europe is serious – his refusal to take part in the Euro, for example. How can someone opposed to the Euro be pres of Europe?

    Comment by Alexno — October 26, 2009 @ 10:18 pm | Reply

  7. Re 2 Martillo

    I don’t understand clearly where you disagree with Mearsheimer and Walt. Do I understand correctly thazt you think they don’t go far enough?

    The fact is that Israel and its allies in the Jewish community practise what used to be called in Britain ‘entryism’, that is worming your way into existing political powers in order to dominate them for your own interest. ‘Entryism’ as a term was invented to describe the actions of a Trotskyist (?) group called the Militant Tendency who wanted to gain power in the British Labour Party, by inserting itself into the existing power structures.

    Actually I don’t think tha

    Comment by Alexno — October 26, 2009 @ 10:58 pm | Reply

  8. Actually I don’t think that Mitchell has necessarily failed. His work in Northern Ireland was subtle and slow.

    It depends on whether he is supported from Washington, which may not be the case. If he is not, and if I were in his position, I would resign. He is not like Tony Blair, he has a reputation to maintain.

    Comment by Alexno — October 26, 2009 @ 11:04 pm | Reply

  9. The differences between Northern Ireland and Palestine are many. One of them being that the IRA neotiators were not in the pockets of the British government. Nor is Hamas in the pockets if Israel which is why they need to be talked to. Until they are, Mitchell’s mission is nothing more than a time wasting exercise. Which is probably what it is designed to be.
    Frank is right though: the tide is turning very rapidly, It may be that time wasting benefits the Palestinians, now, rather than the likudniks. That is the thing about fascists: they have no sense of history. They think only of force and trickery. Only criminal methods work in their view; while public opinion, vox populi, is something they have no conception of

    Comment by bevin — October 27, 2009 @ 2:57 am | Reply

  10. Alexno

    I was quoting Haaretz on a 60th Birthday Present for Netanyahu.


    You might enjoy this. It is a good giggle.


    Once the government becomes an item of satire (it is a pity they don’t have something like Spitting Image the UK satirical puppet show in Israel) it is sunk.

    Comment by Frank al Irlandi — October 27, 2009 @ 4:10 am | Reply

  11. Here are my two fundamental differences with Mearsheimer & Walt:

    Mearsheimer and Walt focus on outcomes not process, and they consider the Israel Lobby to be nothing more than a highly effective lobby.

    I discuss my view of the Israel Lobby in Judonia Rising: Part I, Part 1: “The Politics of Israel without the Distraction of Israeli Politics.”

    Unfortunately, this document is a fairly rough draft, and I need to be more careful about stating my thesis before I begin explaining it.

    Comment by Joachim Martillo — October 27, 2009 @ 10:39 am | Reply

  12. Sorry about the bad formatting of my previous comment! (WordPress really needs a preview capability.)

    Here are my two fundamental differences with Mearsheimer & Walt:

    Mearsheimer and Walt focus on outcomes not process, and they consider the Israel Lobby to be nothing more than a highly effective lobby.

    I discuss my view of the Israel Lobby in Judonia Rising: Part I, Part 1: “The Politics of Israel without the Distraction of Israeli Politics.”

    Unfortunately, this document is a fairly rough draft, and I need to be more careful about stating my thesis before I begin explaining it.

    Comment by Joachim Martillo — October 27, 2009 @ 10:40 am | Reply

  13. Waiting for a good policy indeed.


    Obama’s crew are behaving like foreign policy novices.

    Regarding Liebermann and Gaza: Liebermann is a loud-talking idiot. He says a lot of stupid things, and Israel of course does none of them.

    @bevin: The key differences between NI and Israel/Palestinians are that the IRA never had the destruction of the UK and the slaughter of its people as its chartered objective, that the Israelis withdrew from Gaza, whereas the British never withdrew from NI and that the mainstream IRA had largely abandoned trying to kill Brits – and was phoning in warning calls to allow people to clear buildings – well before Mitchell became involved. Hamas’s goal is the slaughter of Israel’s Jews; it controls Gaza with an iron grip, something the IRA never did; and it continues to try to kill Jews.

    Comment by Howard — October 27, 2009 @ 11:56 am | Reply

    • Howard is intellectually dishonest in his attempt to minimize the importance of Lieberman as an indication of the real values and attitudes of an import segment of the Jewish Zionist population.

      He is a major political figure in the State of Israel with a lot of support even among those that don’t vote for him.

      As for the rant about Hamas, Howard is engaging in a form of psychological projection that we call antigoyizm in Yiddish.

      Jewish hatred for non-Jews is longstanding and traceable back in Yiddish or Hebrew literature for centuries and will doubtlessly continue even if Palestinians and Zionists reach some sort of settlement.

      In contrast, the members of Hamas would hardly even think about Jews if the Zionist movement had not stolen Palestine and ethnically cleansed the native population.

      Zionists in Palestine have a history of routine terrorism and targeted assassination directed toward the native population at least as far back as the 19-naughts.

      Eastern European ethnic Ashkenazim have a history of revolutionary terrorism and targeted assassination starting during the period from 1850-1870. Jews took the lead in planning the three defining of assassination operations of modern Russian history:

      1. Alexander II

      2. Pyotr Stolypin

      3. Nicholas II & family.

      In contrast to history of Jewish violence, all major news sources in the USA and Israel as well as the Goldstone Report all state that Hamas honored the Tahdiya.

      An honest discussion of national interest would ask whether the US receives any benefit from the continued presence of Zionists in Stolen and Occupied Palestine: Why not Remove Zionist Interlopers?

      I have no doubt that the Israel Lobby is harming the American political system: Scaremongering Muslim Interns, Undermining Democracy.

      If the USA returned Palestine to the native population and set up Nuremberg-style tribunals to try the Zionist leadership in the USA and in the State of Israel, America could restore its moral stature.

      Comment by Joachim Martillo — October 28, 2009 @ 12:36 pm | Reply

    • Howard has been reading too many hasbara websites. Hamas never called for the genocide of Jews. I’ve read the Arabic. We discussed this a couple of months ago on JWN.

      It’s not surprising. Arabs don’t want to genocide other people. Only Israelis want us to believe it.

      Comment by Alexno — October 28, 2009 @ 9:39 pm | Reply

  14. Howard … yes it has been v interesting to observe Iran’s same- old, same-old manouvrings. What also has changed, of course, is that the Iran regime has exposed itself beyond all doubt as totalitarian, extremeist fundamentalists. On top of that the old pro-Iranian lobby has been confounded by their friends, relatives and contacts in Iran now living in daily fear of arrest, torture, show trials and show confessions.

    But I don’t think there will be much discussion of their situation here!

    Comment by bb — October 27, 2009 @ 10:52 pm | Reply

  15. Diddums all see


    In a productive meeting, Mr Lewis made clear the UK’s continuing concerns about Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They also discussed the need for Israel to initiate an independent investigation into the allegations of abuses during the Gaza conflict.

    Ivan Lewis reiterated the UK’s desire for Israel to join the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapons state. Both Ministers agreed on the need to make progress towards a two-state solution and Mr Lewis reiterated the UK government’s commitment to opposing boycott campaigns against Israel

    Comment by Frank al Irlandi — October 28, 2009 @ 12:49 pm | Reply

  16. “I watched Stormont disintegrate in a similar fashion to the Netanyahu government’s crackup during 1972 – 75.”
    I am not sure how you managed to do this watching, as the Stormont government was abolished in 1972.

    Comment by decent interval — October 30, 2009 @ 8:50 am | Reply

  17. @Joachim

    Lieberman: Lieberman is a minority coalition partner. His party has almost certainly passed its peak of popularity in Israel after showing itself to be both hypocritical and ineffective. They may retain support among Russian speakers, but their popularity among others has waned sharply and will likely continue to do so. As for Lieberman, the man has a big mouth and has repeatedly embarrassed himself. He is one of the less effective foreign ministers in Israel’s history. On critical foreign policy matters, Netanyahu is running foreign policy himself rather than trusting Lieberman’s assessments or Lieberman’s mouth. Egypt won’t talk to Lieberman because Lieberman insulted Mubarak. The Jordanians won’t talk to Lieberman either. The Palestinians won’t. There is little interest on the American side in dealing with him. And although Lieberman tried to promote the idea that Russia was a great friend and an alternative to the US, the Russians smiled and then set him aside. When it mattered, Netanyahu flew to Russia personally and in secret, without Lieberman. What, exactly, has Lieberman accomplished in his tenure as foreign minister and junior coalition partner?

    Lieberman’s foolish rants mean nothing; as foreign minister he has no authority over the military whatsoever, and Netanyahu is plainly sidelining him. Thank God. The man is a bigot and a screw-up.

    As for your subsequent rant – wow. Just wow.

    Joachim, the term “anti-goyism” is not Yiddish, and I’m fairly certain that you know that. The term is a very recent invention of neo-Nazi fringe groups. Your rant about “Jewish hatred for non-Jews” being “long-standing” is an example of serious, full-on anti-Semitic bigotry. I honestly thought you were smarter than to buy into that kind of garbage. If you were to say “Christian hatred for non-Christians is long-standing” or “Muslim hatred for non-Muslims is long-standing,” etc. then you would rightly be condemned as a Christophobe or an Islamophobe. If you said it about Blacks you would be rightly condemned as a racist. Such blanket statements about “the Evil Jews” are anti-Semitic drivel. Ad hominem attacks on me and all, I still thought you were better than THIS.

    You position Hamas as a peace-loving group and say that if the Jews would simply disappear, then Hamas would have no hatred of them and all would be well; sorry, that’s too bad. Israel exists and Jews are there, including millions ethnically cleansed from the Arab world.

    Hamas leaders are adults. Stop patronizing them. Like every other adult in a position of responsibility over millions of people, they must govern their rages and their thirst for vengeance and deal with the modern world, in the name of their people’s welfare. The welfare of Gazans demands that Hamas put aside its genocidal delusions and make peace. Gaza’s border with Israel is, in fact, the border that the Arab Peace Plan proposes for Gaza. Hamas could declare victory any day, in the name of the Arab world, fix that border and seal a permanent peace on that border. But Hamas refuses to declare the war over on that border, and this is because Hamas does not care about building a Palestinian state; Hamas cares about violently destroying the Jews. It’s all about revenge on anyone who Hamas perceives to have “humiliated” Arabs in the past, regardless of the truth of that perception.

    Hamas is not a peace-loving group. If Israel did not exist, it would still be the same violent group that it is, but it would be fighting other Arabs. Its leaders do not govern their rages except when they fear for their own lives and power. Its violent rampages against its former coalition partners, its shooting up of mosques, its bloody-handed repression of political dissent in Gaza and manner in which its military forces are controlled by unelected terrorists living in totalitarian Syria demonstrate exactly what kind of organization Hamas is. It is just another group of would-be genocidal control freaks whose mission in life is not so much to build its own state as it is to destroy Fatah, destroy Israel and then overthrow the governments of Egypt and Jordan on the way to creating a regional Islamist dictatorship. Such a NICE bunch, Hamas.

    Hamas is not the people of Gaza. The people of Gaza deserve BETTER than that.

    Russia/etc.: You’re also repeating Nazi-era propaganda again. Yawn.

    And you’re down to the brass tacks on Israel & Gaza too: it’s “Jewish violence”, is it? Sir, you’re assigning traits to a whole religion again. If someone was talking about “Muslim violence”, you would blow a fuse, wouldn’t you?

    Hamas’ tadiyah was a fraud. Hamas operatives continued to launch rockets; they simply claimed responsibility under a different name: the People’s Resistance Committees. Many western media outlets simply don’t bother to probe the details, such as who are the members of which armed Gazan groups. Israel allowed the Hamas fraud to continue because the number of attacks did, in fact, drop and because Israel had other issues to deal with at the time. Finally, each Hamas truce occurred shortly after Israel started assassinating Hamas leaders and shortly after Israel struck Hamas hard militarily. Such a public-spirited gang, Hamas.

    Comment by Howard — October 30, 2009 @ 11:40 am | Reply

  18. @alexno: Then you need to read it again. Also you need to watch Hamas TV and listen to what they say to each other when they’re not talking to credulous westerners.

    And no, “Arabs” as a whole DON’T want to commit genocide; blanket statements like that about entire ethnic or cultural groups are BS. But Hamas is devoted to genocidal delusions about killing the Jews and taking everything away from them.

    @bb Yeah. It’s a tragedy. Iranian society has so much going for it, so much beauty and so many strengths. The Islamic Revolution is amputating one limb after another of that vibrant society.

    Comment by Howard — October 30, 2009 @ 11:53 am | Reply

    • Then you need to read it again.

      Howard, Alex has read the original – in Arabic – not some hasbaristic interpretation of it.

      you need to watch Hamas TV and listen to what they say to each other when they’re not talking to credulous westerners.

      LOOOOOOOOOOL! This is funny. As if you would understand what they are saying on “Hamas TV”, and as if they are stupid enough to believe that what they say on “Hamas TV” is a private conversation strictly between them, and something no “westerner” could possibly be listening in on. Oh wait, I know! You have been looking at MEMRI “translations” of “what they say to each other” when you think they think no one else is listening/

      Comment by Shirin — October 30, 2009 @ 6:02 pm | Reply

  19. While Northern Ireland Executive ran the place they still tried to run the place from Stormont.

    It all collapsed in 1974.


    Car bombs in Dublin and Monaghan on 17 May 1974, killed 33 people, raising the tension in Northern Ireland. The bombs were the work of loyalist paramilitaries. The death toll in the bombs remains the highest to occur during any single day of the Troubles. In an attempt to resolve the strike the Northern Ireland Executive agreed to postpone certain sections of the Sunningdale Agreement until 1977 and to reduce the size of the Council of Ireland. These proposals were rejected by leaders of the Ulster Workers’ Council. The British government repeated their stance on not negotiating with the UWC. Harold Wilson, the then British Prime Minister, made a broadcast on television. Wilson controversially referred to unionists as “spongers”.[3]

    On 20 May , the sixth day of the strike, the British government sent an extra 500 troops to Northern Ireland. Meanwhile an advertisement was placed in the Belfast Newsletter by Unionist politicians in support of the strike. The following day, the Trade Unions Congress attempted to lead a back to work march, but this attracted only 200 people and several of those attending were assaulted [2]

    On 24 May 1974, Sean Byrne (54) and his brother, Brendan Byrne (45), both Catholic civilians, were shot dead by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) at their bar, The Wayside Halt, Tannaghmore, near Ballymena, County Antrim for staying open during the Ulster Workers’ Council strike. (see The Troubles in Ballymena).

    The crisis came to a head. Brian Faulkner resigned as Chief Executive following a refusal by Merlyn Rees to meet with representatives from the UWC. Faulkner’s unionist colleagues also resigned. This effectively marked the end of the Northern Ireland Executive.

    Farmers in tractors blocked the entrance to the Stormont parliament buildings and also much of the Upper Newtownards Road. The collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive spread to the protestors and celebrations took place in unionist areas across the region. The successful Ulster Workers’ strike in 1974, (which was directed by Glenn Barr, an Ulster Vanguard Assemblyman and UDA member), was later described by the British minister Merlyn Rees as an “outbreak of Ulster nationalism”.

    Comment by Frank al Irlandi — October 30, 2009 @ 1:54 pm | Reply

  20. @Joachim

    Based on your recent, openly anti-Semitic comments, I have no interest in hanging out on your blog.

    Whoever reads my comments here is welcome to assess them on their merits. If they agree with me, that’s wonderful. If they disagree with me, that’s fine; I may still learn something interesting from them, or maybe they’ll learn something interesting from me, or maybe we’ll just disagree. The world would be dull if everyone had the same perspective.

    If someone feels the need to personally insult me, call me a liar, or whatever, then that’s their affair. I suppose that some people have a hard time restraining their animosity toward people who don’t toe their line, but to be honest, it does not make me respect them more.

    However, if someone feels the need to spew long-debunked conspiracy theories about Jews, and to throw in other bigoted nonsense, well… .

    Comment by Howard — November 2, 2009 @ 11:30 am | Reply

  21. BTW, [WSJ] Secret Mission Rescues Yemen’s Jews says a lot about the racist Jewish priorities of the Zionists dominating the US State Department.

    I have a related blog entry: Holocaust: Gentile Deaths Don’t Count.

    Comment by Joachim Martillo — November 2, 2009 @ 12:02 pm | Reply

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