Articles, Haaretz »

Haaretz: My students are considering boycotting Israel. That would be a serious mistake.

September 17, 2014 | post a comment | Peter Beinart

By day, I’m a professor: I teach graduate students at the City University of New York (CUNY). Last Friday night, those students – via the Doctoral Students Council that represents them – almost voted to boycott universities in Israel.

It’s worth reading the boycott resolution. Paragraph fifteen says the Doctoral Students Council opposes “ethnic or religious discrimination.” How reassuring. For the Council, evidently, holding a debate on boycotting Israeli universities over Shabbat doesn’t constitute “religious discrimination.” (Last Friday in New York City, Shabbat began at 6:51pm. The debate lasted until 9:30pm). Nor, presumably, would holding a debate on disability rights on the seventh floor of a building with no elevator.

Thankfully, the resolution’s opponents – those of whom who weren’t at home or synagogue observing Shabbat – convinced the audience on Friday night to postpone the vote.

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American Politics »

The Atlantic: How Serious a Threat Is ISIS?

September 11, 2014 | post a comment | Peter Beinart

It wasn’t much fun to be a journalist in the aftermath of the Iraq War. When it became clear that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, many Americans, rightly, lambasted the media for not asking tougher questions about the Bush administration’s pre-war claims. In the fevered run-up to war, many in the press had taken it as self-evident that Saddam Hussein had the capacity and desire to threaten the United States. Once the war went south, it didn’t look so self-evident after all.

It’s important to remember that moment now, amid our current bout of war fever. It may be worth attacking the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria for purely humanitarian reasons. After all, the United States launched air wars against Serbia (twice) and Libya without claiming that their regimes posed a national-security threat, and ISIS is more savage than either Slobodan Milosevic or Muammer al-Qaddafi. It may be worth attacking ISIS because of the threat it poses to our allies in the Middle East. If unchecked, the group could destabilize not only Iraq and Syria, but potentially Jordan and Saudi Arabia too. (Judging by social media, ISIS has a lot of fans in the kingdom of Saud.)

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Articles, Haaretz, Israel »

Haaretz: 2Statewashing: How American Jews sanitize Netanyahu’s rejectionism

September 10, 2014 | post a comment | Peter Beinart

“You’re more polite than us,” an Israeli friend once told me about American Jews. “But less honest.”

The last couple of months illustrate his point. A few days after the launch of Operation Protective Edge, Benjamin Netanyahu said that to ensure that “we don’t get another Gaza in Judea and Samaria,” Israel could never allow “a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.” In other words, the West Bank.

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American Politics »

The Atlantic: 2014 Is Not 1931

September 8, 2014 | post a comment | Peter Beinart

Everyone has—or should have—a list of the commentators they disagree with fundamentally but nonetheless admire. When it comes to foreign policy, Robert Kagan tops mine. First, because Kagan knows the difference between being a hawk and being a Republican. His worldview is consistent but his view of the two parties is not. In the mid-1990s, for instance, he supported Bill Clinton’s war in Bosnia and harshly criticized the GOP Congress for not offering more support. Second, because Kagan knows far more American history than your average Beltway pundit. Several years back, he even took a semi-sabbatical from current affairs to get a Ph.D.

But Kagan’s essay for The Wall Street Journal this weekend illustrates the danger of being so entranced by historical example that it blinds you to contemporary reality. Kagan’s basic point is that today, as after World War I, the West’s war fatigue is leading it to appease dangerous adversaries. “As we head deeper into our version of the 1930s,” he writes, “we may be quite shocked, just as our forebears were, at how quickly things fall apart.”

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Uncategorized »

Peter on CNN: Is ISIS a Threat to the U.S.?

September 7, 2014 | post a comment | Peter Beinart

Watch the video here

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Media, Podcasts »

Peter on Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon

September 7, 2014 | post a comment | Peter Beinart

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American Politics, Foreign Policy »

The Atlantic: Pursuing ISIS to the Gates of Hell

September 4, 2014 | post a comment | Peter Beinart

Over the past two weeks, the American foreign-policy debate has dramatically changed. The key to understanding why lies in a book.

The book is called Special Providence. Published 13 years ago by Walter Russell Mead, it remains, for my money, the best analysis of American foreign policy written in our time. Mead argues that America has four foreign-policy traditions. He calls the first “Wilsonianism.” It represents America’s missionary desire to spread civilization across the globe. Once upon a time, spreading “civilization” meant spreading Christianity. Now it means spreading democracy and human rights. Samantha Power is a Wilsonian.

The second tradition is “Hamiltonianism.” It refers to the belief that America, as a trading nation separated from our largest markets by vast oceans, must make the world safe for American commerce. For our domestic prosperity, we must maintain an economically open, politically stable world order. George H.W. Bush is a Hamiltonian.

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Articles, Haaretz, Israel »

Haaretz: Keeping them down: The U.S. Jewish establishment’s selective principles on Palestine

September 3, 2014 | post a comment | Peter Beinart

According to press reports, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will this week demand that Israel set a date for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. If not, he’ll ask the International Criminal Court to make Palestine a member, which could allow it to sue Israel for war crimes.

Any minute now, American Jewish groups will express their outrage. How do I know? Because that’s how they’ve reacted when Abbas has tried similar moves in the past. In 2011, he tried, but failed, to get the Security Council to endorse Palestinian membership at the UN. In 2012, at his urging, the UN General Assembly declared Palestine a non-member observer state. This April, Palestine joined 15 different UN bodies.

Each time, establishment American Jewish groups denounced Abbas’ initiatives as an assault against peace.

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American Politics, Foreign Policy »

The Atlantic: Actually, Obama Does Have a Strategy in the Middle East

August 29, 2014 | post a comment | Peter Beinart

President Obama’s critics often claim he doesn’t have a strategy in the greater Middle East. That’s wrong. Like it or loathe it, he does, and he’s beginning to implement it against ISIS. To understand what it is, it’s worth going back seven summers.

In July 2007, at a debate sponsored by CNN and YouTube, Obama said that if elected president, he’d talk directly to the leaders of Iran, Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela. Hillary Clinton derided his answer as “irresponsible and frankly naïve.” The altercation fit the larger narrative the media had developed about the two Democratic frontrunners: Obama—who had opposed the Iraq War—was the dove. Hillary—who had supported it—was the hawk.

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Haaretz, Israel »

Haaretz: The next step for liberal Zionists after Gaza: a Freedom Summer with Palestinians

August 28, 2014 | post a comment | Peter Beinart

The third Gaza war in less than six years now seems to be over. On the surface, despite the horrifying destruction, it doesn’t appear to have ended much differently than its two predecessors. But if you think of each war as a snapshot in political time, you can see how the picture has changed.

With each war, the prospects of an American-brokered two state solution have dimmed. In late 2008, when Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, its prime minister supported a Palestinian state free of Israeli troops on almost 95 percent of the West Bank. Today, Israel’s prime minister has essentially ruled that out. In 2008, the United States had just elected a president eager to put Israeli-Palestinian peace near the center of his foreign policy agenda. Now that American president has given up. In 2008, it was rare and exotic to hear intellectuals propose alternatives to the two state solution. Now the New York Times publishes them all the time.

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