Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Walt on "The Treason of Hawks"

What is Benjamin Netanyahu Thinking? | Stephen M. Walt

I am substantially more sympathetic to international relations realists than I used to be, especially of the defensive variety. Contrary to the psychotic image of them encouraged by the likes of Henry Kissinger, nearly all of the them came out against the Iraq invasion, before it was politically expedient.

Walt has an interesting take on the pitfalls of single-minded hawkishness in the context of Netanhayu and the two-state solution:
After pointing out that "treason" is a word that carries especially harsh moral connotations, Ikle noted:
[T]he English language is without a word of equally strong opprobrium to designate acts that can lead to the destruction of one’s government and one’s country, not by giving aid and comfort to the enemy, but by making enemies, not by fighting too little, but by fighting too much and too long. 'Adventurism' -- much too weak a word -- is perhaps the best term to describe this 'treason of the hawks.' ... Treason can help our enemies destroy our country by making them stronger; adventurism can destroy our country by making our enemies more numerous."
I was reminded of IklĂ©’s insights when I read about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ideas for resuming the peace process with the Palestinians. Netanyahu clearly wants to avoid an open rift with the Obama administration, which has forcefully reiterated its commitment to negotiating a two-state solution. To do that, he has to pay lip service to the peace process. But because Netanyahu has long opposed the creation of a viable Palestinian state and instead wants to extend Israel's control of the West Bank, he has to lay out a set of demands that will endlessly delay the process and make it hard for Obama to put meaningful pressure on him.
According to Ha'aretz, Netanyahu will insist that the Palestinians go beyond their prior recognition of Israel's right to exist (as expressed in the 1993 Oslo Accord) and explicitly recognize Israel as a "Jewish state." Furthermore, he wants the United States to agree that a future Palestinian state be barred from possessing its own army and forbidden from making alliances with other countries, while Israel is permitted to monitor its borders, its airspace, and its use of the electromagnetic spectrum, presumably in perpetuity. In the meantime, the expansion of Israeli settlements will surely continue, and in ways that will soon preclude any possibility of a territorially contiguous state on the West Bank. Lastly, Netanyahu wants to link progress toward a two-state solution with an end to Iran's nuclear program. As I've noted before, this condition would allow Tehran -- purposely or inadvertently -- to derail a two-state solution by stonewalling on the nuclear issue. Ironically, this outcome might suit Iran and Netanyahu alike: Israel could keep expanding settlements and the Islamic Republic could continue to play the Palestine card against its Arab rivals.

My question is this: What is Netanyahu thinking? Doesn't he realize that time has nearly run out for the two-state solution, and that failure to achieve it is by far the most serious threat facing Israel? The prime minister and his allies keep harping about an "existential" threat from Iran, but this bogeyman is mostly nonsense. Iran has zero -- repeat, zero -- nuclear weapons today, and even if it were to acquire a few at some point in the future, it could not use them against nuclear-armed Israel without committing national suicide. Let me say that again: national suicide.
It is just refreshing to read someone who treat Iranians and Palestinians like actual people.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The New Depeche Mode is Good

Some have said it's the best thing they have done since Violator. I'm still not sure if it's better than Playing the Angel, but it took me a little while to start liking that album.

If you like synthpop, get it.

AMG Review

Monday, April 20, 2009

Harold Koh and Conservative Misinformation

Good post.

This whole uproar over citing international legal authority is mind-bogglingly stupid. It amounts to insisting that courts aren't allowed to be persuaded by international sources. That's utter bullshit. Persuasion depends on the validity and soundness of the reasoning and there's no reason that U.S. courts can't look to foreign jurisdictions to see what works any more than sovereign state courts can't look to other state courts to see what rules they have adopted. No one is suggesting that foreign law is binding on U.S. courts and the people who are defaming Koh probably know that.

Koh’s unremarkable position is that rulings by non-American courts should be considered, when applicable, as persuasive authority in deciding an issue before an American court. Unless required by treaty, American courts would have no obligation to follow the decisions of any foreign courts. They should merely consider how they addressed the same issue. Not only is this not controversial, it is also common sense.

For example, if Philadelphia’s City Council is considering the effect a smoking ban will have on local businesses, it would be foolish not to look at how similar bans affected business in New York or London. Similarly, if a court is considering whether mentally retarded defendants should be sentenced to death, it might want to see how other democracies with similar values have addressed the issue.

This is little different than a Pennsylvania court citing the opinion of a New Jersey court in support of its decision. To do otherwise would be to ignore the world around us and deprive courts of a valuable tool in understanding the consequences of their decisions. Unless you believe that judges should pay no attention to the results of their actions, Koh’s position should not alarm you.