NEWS & VIEWS ROUNDUP: May 12

A recognition Israel doesn’t need

Here is a statement you will not hear today from Jerusalem: “I wish to declare that the government of Israel will not ask any nation, be it near or far, mighty or small, to recognize our right to exist.”

But it is a statement that was made in June 1977 by then-prime minister Menachem Begin. A sentimental nationalist of the highest order, Begin was nevertheless able to identify the only kind of recognition that Israel should require: “I re-emphasize that we do not expect anyone to request, on our behalf, that our right to exist in the land of our fathers, be recognized. It is a different recognition which is required between us and our neighbors: recognition of sovereignty and of the mutual need for a life of peace and understanding.”

A generation later, successive Israeli leaders have ignored Begin’s instruction and demanded, first, that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist (which the P.L.O. did, in 1993) and, more recently, that they recognize Israel as a Jewish state. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — Yonatan Touval’s conclusion that for Israel to seek Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state risks letting the other define who you are, seems a somewhat implausible risk. After all, he’s already acknowledged that the demand is one which the Palestinians will not accept. And really that’s the point. This is not a recognition that Israelis in their wisdom would see they do not need; it is a demand whose very purpose is that it be refused.

Obama breaks with Gates, cancels nuke program

Obama’s new budget plan includes a little-noted sea change in U.S. nuclear policy, and a step towards his vision of a denuclearized world. It provides no funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, created to design a new generation of long-lasting nuclear weapons that don’t need to be tested. (The military is worried that a nuclear test moratorium in effect since 1992 might endanger the reliability of an aging US arsenal.) But this spring Obama issued a bold call for a world free of nuclear weapons, and part of that vision entails leading by example. That means halting programs that expand the American nuclear stockpile. For the past two budget years the Democratic Congress has refused to fund the Bush-era program. But Obama’s budget kills the National Nuclear Security Administration program once and for all.

“My colleagues just stared at that line,” says Joe Cirincione, a longtime nonproliferation expert and president of the Ploughshares Fund. “They had never seen anything like that.” Killing the program, he said, was “the first programmatic impact of the new [zero nukes] policy. People have said they want to see more than words, this is the very first action.” [continued…]

Chain reaction

Most of my nonproliferation colleagues think that having the United States help build a nuclear power reactor for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a great idea. I think it is a big mistake.

The U.S.-UAE civilian nuclear cooperation agreement was signed in the closing days of the George W. Bush administration and praised by advocates as a “model” for future agreements with Algeria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and other states. President Barack Obama will have to decide in the next few weeks whether to send the deal to Congress for final approval. Wary of a repeat of the Dubai Ports World fiasco, the emirates have launched a $1.6 million lobbying campaign to bring U.S. lawmakers on board. They’ve enlisted many of my friends in the effort.

One former colleague, now a consultant for the UAE, sends me regular updates filled with good news about this multibillion-dollar deal. Her latest e-mail quotes an op-ed by Elliott Abrams, deputy national security advisor during the Bush administration, promising that the deal “will show the way forward in responsible, transparent uses of nuclear energy — at the very moment when the world must confront Iran’s defiance.” I remember Abrams’s assurances about the invasion of Iraq and cringe.

Maybe I’m wrong. It may well be that the leaders of a country the size of Maine that holds 4.8 million people and 98 billion barrels of oil (the fifth-largest reserves in the world and projected to last another 100 years) are truly interested in diversifying energy production. But 10, 20, or 30 years from now will they, or the governments that replace them, still honor their promises not to engage in any nuclear-weapon-related activities, including producing reactor fuel? Or, after they have developed nuclear technologies, trained nuclear scientists and engineers, and plugged into global nuclear markets, will they go one step further and build uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing plants that could be used to make fuel — or bombs? [continued…]

Blue gold, Turkmen bashes, and Asian grids

As Barack Obama heads into his second hundred days in office, let’s head for the big picture ourselves, the ultimate global plot line, the tumultuous rush towards a new, polycentric world order. In its first hundred days, the Obama presidency introduced us to a brand new acronym, OCO for Overseas Contingency Operations, formerly known as GWOT (as in Global War on Terror). Use either name, or anything else you want, and what you’re really talking about is what’s happening on the immense energy battlefield that extends from Iran to the Pacific Ocean. It’s there that the Liquid War for the control of Eurasia takes place.

Yep, it all comes down to black gold and “blue gold” (natural gas), hydrocarbon wealth beyond compare, and so it’s time to trek back to that ever-flowing wonderland — Pipelineistan. It’s time to dust off the acronyms, especially the SCO or Shanghai Cooperative Organization, the Asian response to NATO, and learn a few new ones like IPI and TAPI. Above all, it’s time to check out the most recent moves on the giant chessboard of Eurasia, where Washington wants to be a crucial, if not dominant, player.

We’ve already seen Pipelineistan wars in Kosovo and Georgia, and we’ve followed Washington’s favorite pipeline, the BTC, which was supposed to tilt the flow of energy westward, sending oil coursing past both Iran and Russia. Things didn’t quite turn out that way, but we’ve got to move on, the New Great Game never stops. Now, it’s time to grasp just what the Asian Energy Security Grid is all about, visit a surreal natural gas republic, and understand why that Grid is so deeply implicated in the Af-Pak war. [continued…]

It’s Obama’s war now

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced this afternoon that he has “asked for the resignation” of Gen. David McKiernan, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, and that he plans to replace him with Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

This is a very big deal.

McKiernan’s ouster signals a dramatic shift in U.S. strategy for the war in Afghanistan. And it means that the war is now, unequivocally, “Obama’s war.” The president has decided to set a new course, not merely to muddle through the next six months or so.

First, let’s clarify a few things. When a Cabinet officer asks for a subordinate’s resignation, it means that he’s firing the guy. This doesn’t happen very often in the U.S. military. McKiernan had another year to go as commander. (When Gen. George Casey’s strategy clearly wasn’t working in Iraq, President George W. Bush let him serve out his term, then promoted him to Army chief of staff.) Gates also made it clear he wasn’t acting on a personal whim. He said that he took the step after consulting with Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command; Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and President Barack Obama. According to one senior official, Gates went over to Afghanistan last week for the sole purpose of giving McKiernan the news face-to-face. [continued…]

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1 thought on “NEWS & VIEWS ROUNDUP: May 12

  1. DE Teodoru

    A 60 y/o fetus on an engorged American $$ placenta in not asking for its right to exist. It is demanding that it be allowed to be a Madoff without limits or reproach. It wants more because it needs more because it wastes so much in corrupt practices. Yet it kills its youth and Palestinians as if nothing matters but the here and now of its shyster elite. Little wonder that the Holocaust is repeatedly invoked. What other madness of hate could justify this madness of hate?

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