Recent Posts by Robert Lieber

New York Times Art Critic Attacks Israel-Sponsored Exhibit on Eichmann Trial

The problems: apparently it is just too clear morally, too focused on Eichmann’s capture

Such obvious failings. It’s hard to believe the Israelis missed these subtle points.

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Ira Stoll, writing for Algemeiner, excoriates the moral vacuousness of the New York Times (link here to Stoll article);

Just when you may have thought that the New York Times couldn’t possibly sink any lower when it comes to Israel or Jewish issues, along comes one Jason Farago, an art critic for the newspaper, who manages to review an exhibit about the murderous Nazi Adolf Eichmann and fault it for being, of all things, insufficiently sympathetic to Eichmann.

Farago complains: “The trial was transformative, but whether it was entirely just is not a question raised by this exhibition, which prefers the relics of James Bond-like spycraft to moral and legal dilemmas.”

Perhaps the reason the exhibit doesn’t dwell on these so-called “moral and legal dilemmas” is because they weren’t truly dilemmas at all. –Ira Stoll, in Algemeiner

The Times article is here. The key quote:

The show goes longer on spy thrills than on moral and legal perplexities, though that may have been inevitable given its co-organizer: none other than the Mossad, the intelligence service that is Israel’s equivalent of the C.I.A. –Jason Farago, in the New York Times

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Robert Lieber comments on “the NYT’s intellectual bankruptcy”:

The Holocaust and the deliberate, ruthlessly organized and meticulous extermination of six million Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II constitutes a uniquely appalling crime in the history of the modern world.

One of its foremost architects, Adolph Eichmann was captured, tried and executed by Israel in an event that held the attention of the world.

Now, more than a half-century later, the New York Times, ever ready to break new frontiers in its moral transgressiveness reviews an Israeli-government-sponsored exhibit in New York that documents the case.

Leave it to the NYT to focus not on the unique evil, the indifference, fecklessness or complicity of so much of the world while the helpless Jews of Europe were being oppressed and slaughtered, but instead on the alleged absence of moral ambiguity in the exhibition.

The NYT was once a great newspaper and the journal of record. This has long-since ceased to be the case in a newspaper where the editorializing begins on the front page.

This current story is but the latest illustration of the New York Times‘ intellectual bankruptcy.

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Robert Lieber, a professor at Georgetown, is one of the country’s leading analysts of US foreign policy, with special interests in the Middle East, Europe, and energy.

His most recent book is Retreat and Its Consequences: American Foreign Policy and the Problem of World Order (Cambridge University Press).

Important new book: How Pakistan and Iran supported Bin Laden and Al Qaeda

 Documenting how some states helped Al Qaeda

Pakistan has long been known to have supported the Taliban and to have had links with al-Qaeda.  A new book by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, and reviewed here by one of America’s premier terrorism experts, Bruce Hoffman, documents not only how extensive the ties were, but also the important complicity of Iran.

The authors detail Pakistan’s harboring of Osama bin-Laden. 

Yet, due to the Afghan War and its difficult logistics requirements, the Bush administration was ineffective in pressuring the Pakistani regime to take a firmer line toward its own ISI military intelligence service and the refuge they provided.

In turn the Obama administration walked a delicate line with Iran in the hope not only of reaching the nuclear agreement, but of establishing rapport with Tehran.

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Bruce Hoffman’s Very Positive Review of Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy’s The Exile

 Hoffman reviews the book at the War on the Rocks blog (link)

The book’s main argument is that neither bin Laden nor the movement he created could have survived without the active support of persons at the apex of both Pakistan’s and especially Iran’s intelligence services. The critical roles played by both countries in sheltering and protecting key al-Qaeda leaders and their families has of course long been known. But no other publicly available source comes as close to The Exile in presenting this familiar story either in as much detail or from the first-hand perspective of the key dramatis personae. New York Times reporter Carlotta Gall’s 2014 book, The Wrong Enemy, for example, had forcefully advanced the same claim regarding Pakistan’s complicity. The Exile goes considerably further: both in fleshing out the story and providing additional substantiation through the new information from multiple first-hand perspectives that Scott-Clark and Levy rely on. –Bruce Hoffman review of Scott-Clark and Levy’s The Exile

Hoffman concludes

The Exile’s main value . . . is in the new light that it sheds on the day-to-day Herculean efforts required simultaneously to protect bin Laden and his family while maintaining open lines of communications to his deputies, acolytes, financiers, and factotums dispersed across Pakistan, Iran, and more distant battlefields.

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Robert Lieber, a professor at Georgetown, is one of the country’s leading analysts of US foreign policy, with special interests in the Middle East, Europe, and energy.

His most recent book is Retreat and Its Consequences: American Foreign Policy and the Problem of World Order (Cambridge University Press).

Welcome News: German TV will finally air a documentary on Anti-Semitism in Europe. It had been withheld

 Good News: Germany’s widely respected public television broadcaster, WDR, will finally telecast this documentary on Wednesday night.

The film, entitled, “Chosen and Excluded – The Hate for Jews in Europe” had been withheld, allegedly on the grounds that it was factually incorrect or not up to professional standards.

It had been commissioned by ARD and the French-German ARTE.

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Why Was the Documentary Withheld?

 The official grounds for withholding–that the film was inaccurate and unprofessional–do not hold water.

The more plausible explanation was the kind of fear of stemming from the terrorist massacre at Charlie Hebdo and other radical Islamist attacks on outspoken journalists in Denmark, the Netherlands, and elsewhere.

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Short article on the controversy at the Jerusalem Post (link here) 

The JPost includes this important comment from Volker Beck, a Green Party deputy in the Bundestag:

Beck also said that on Wednesday, the Bundestag will discuss a report on antisemitism from an independent expert commission that revealed that “40% of Germans hold modern anti-Israel, antisemitic views. We must face this problem.” –Volker Beck, German Green Party, quoted in the Jerusalem Post

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Robert Lieber, a professor at Georgetown, is one of the country’s leading analysts of US foreign policy, with special interests in the Middle East, Europe, and energy.

His most recent book is Retreat and Its Consequences: American Foreign Policy and the Problem of World Order (Cambridge University Press).

The “Game of Camps” Revisited: Why Qatar? Why Now?

Brief background on Qatar

Until recently, Qatar has managed to play a complex role in the Gulf as a small, very rich, Sunni-Arab sheikdom, with a citizen population of just 250,000-300,000 plus some two million “ex-pats” (the majority workers from South Asia on term contracts).

Qatar, ruled by its monarchy, has until recently managed to navigate in such a way that it worked both sides of the geopolitical street. 

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Between Two Worlds, Playing a Double Game

 On the one hand it takes part in the modern, Western-oriented, liberal world order.

It hosts a vast U.S. airbase and related anti-terrorism facilities.

It has created and funded Education City, an enclave for a half-dozen major American universities.

Its national airline, Qatar Airways, has become one of the Gulf giants, challenging the legacy carriers of the US and Europe.

And it continues to export vast quantities of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from its huge reserves — the largest of which it shares with Iran.

  On the other hand, it

  • Has long supported the Muslim Brotherhood, which other Sunni regimes see as a threat.
  • Maintains very close working relations with Iran.
  • Is widely alleged to be the source of funding for terrorism.
  • Hosts and funds Al-Jazeera, whose programming Egypt and Saudi Arabia see as a threat, and
  • Hosts Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a highly-influential militant Muslim scholar whose program on Al-Jazeera has a wide audience throughout the region, and who has justified suicide terrorism (“heroic martyrdom operations”), and justified domestic violence against women as well as female genital mutilation.

For more on Sheikh Yush Al-Qaradawi, see this profile at the Investigative Project (link here).

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Why Are the Saudis, Egyptians, and Emirates taking on Qatar now?

In an increasingly fraught Middle East, with Iran increasingly seen as the predominant regional threat, Qatar’s big neighbor, Saudi Arabia, along with Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain, and other Sunni states now have found this an opportune time to rein in their troublesome Gulf neighbor.

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 Additional Readings, setting the Qatar Crisis in the context 

Eran Lerman’s essay (link here) provides an incisive treatment of this issue.  It is up-to-date and deeply-informed. (BESA, the Begin-Sadat Institute, Bar-Ilan University, Israel)

The Qataris have been playing a dangerous game for years. They have provocatively supported the Muslim Brotherhood and actively promoted the destabilization of existing regimes, using huge sums of money as well as the pernicious influence of Al Jazeera TV. The dramatic steps taken against them over the past few days are thus hardly surprising, but they shed some light on the present stage in the struggle for regional hegemony. –Eran Lerman

 Yaakov Amidror writes a complementary essay (link here, also at BESA) arguing the Qatar crisis is a sign of weakness in the Sunni Arab world.

The fact that the Sunni Arab world was unable to impose its basic approach on a small peninsular emirate is indicative of the deep crisis brewing in the Gulf over the lack of real leadership in the Sunni world.

Sunnis are the vast majority in the Muslim world, making up some 85% of Muslims – and yet somehow, the Iran-led Shiite minority is the driving force behind the processes moving the Middle East. –Yaakov Amidror

 Michael Rubin, writing at Commentary, urges the US to “Support the Anti-Qatari Coalition: A Long-Overdue Epiphany on Terrorism

The simple fact is that Qatar supports destablizing, radical movements across the region. –Michael Rubin

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Robert Lieber, a professor at Georgetown, is one of the country’s leading analysts of US foreign policy, with special interests in the Middle East, Europe, and energy.

His most recent book is Retreat and Its Consequences: American Foreign Policy and the Problem of World Order (Cambridge University Press).

Why the Six Day War Remains So Important . . . and Why the Media Get it Wrong. Remembering Israel’s victory on its 50th Anniversary

 A War for Survival

Fifty years ago this week, Israel, with its survival at stake, overcame daunting odds to defeat its Arab adversaries in the Six Day War.

The consequences of that epic victory can be found in Israel’s continuing control of the West Bank with its largely Palestinian population. 

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Getting It Wrong

For the MSM, it’s all about the “Occupation”

 To mark the anniversary, The New York Times, Washington Post, and the Economist have all published multi-page sections on the “Occupation,” primarily from the standpoint of the Palestinians.

In the process, they gloss over the reasons why, after half a century, it has been impossible to achieve a peaceful end to the conflict.

These news outlets–and many more–consistently portray Israel as the dominant and more intransigent partner.

Although the Palestinians are not held blameless, the analyses pin the blame mainly on Israel, particularly its settlements. The Jewish State, they say, is the primary obstacle to peace.

Their proposed solution follows from that perspective.

To break this impasse Israel, as the stronger party, must make far-sighted concessions to achieve peace.

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Getting It Right

Valuable Essays by Bret Stephens and Michael Mandelbaum

 The most fitting corrective to this reductive treatment can be found in concise, instructive essays by Bret Stephens and Michael Mandelbaum.

Stephens, writing in the New York Times, criticizes widespread “ahistoric nonsense” and fittingly summarizes the record of Arab intransigence which in the Palestinian case has no end in sight.

On June 19, 1967 — nine days after the end of the war — the Israeli cabinet decided it would offer the return of territories conquered from Egypt and Syria in exchange for peace, security and recognition. The Arab League categorically rejected peace with Israel at its summit in Khartoum later that year.

In 1973 Egypt and Syria unleashed a devastating surprise attack on Israel, puncturing the myth of Israeli invulnerability.

It took a decade after 1967 for the Egyptian government of Anwar Sadat finally to accept Israel’s legitimacy. When he did he recovered every inch of Sinai — from Menachem Begin, Israel’s right-wing prime minister. Syria remains unreconciled.

It took another decade for Yasir Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization to recognize Israel and formally forswear terrorism. But its pledges were insincere. –Bret Stephens, column in the New York Times

Stephens’ concludes the essay powerfully, with a reference to a true peacemaker, Egypt’s Anwar Sadat:

In 1967 Israel was forced into a war against enemies who then begrudged it the peace. Egypt, at least, found its Sadat. The drama of the Six-Day War will close when Palestinians find theirs. –Bret Stephens

Mandelbaum, writing in Commentary, offers an equally insightful analysis:. The whole article is worth reading, but he summarizes his analysis in a single, astute sentence,

In fact, each side has wanted the conflict to end, but in radically different and indeed incompatible ways that have made a settlement impossible: The Israelis have wanted peace; the Palestinians have wanted the destruction of Israel–Michael Mandelbaum

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PHOTOGRAPHS: Before and After the Six Day War

Captions by Charles Lipson

 

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UPDATE: The article has been updated to correct the publication where Michael Mandelbaum’s analysis and quote appear. His article is in Commentary. magazine, not The American Interest, where he published an article on a related topic. The link has been updated to reflect the change.

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Robert Lieber, a professor at Georgetown, is one of the country’s leading analysts of US foreign policy, with special interests in the Middle East, Europe, and energy.

His most recent book is Retreat and Its Consequences: American Foreign Policy and the Problem of World Order (Cambridge University Press).

Why those who see Europe going it alone are wrong

[This post responds to an interesting opinion piece by Prof. Henry Ferrell in the Washington Post.]

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◆  Those who foresee a European reacting to the Trump presidency by moving to go it alone are wrong.

Their error may come from wishful thinking or foreboding. But the real problem is one of collective action. That’s been true for a long time, and it still is.

 

In the absence of true federal statehood –which will not happen — Europeans lack the capacity, the coherence, and the consensus that would enable them to act as a serious great world power.

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The EU is big and important, but it is still weak in crucial ways

The European Union (EU) encompasses 28 countries and 500 million people, but on the key dimensions of national security, national sovereignty, fiscal union (i.e., a genuine federal budget), and national identity, it remains 28 separate countries.

Moreover, Germany, though seen as the natural leader by dint of population and economic strength, spends just 1.2 % of GDP on defense.

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The Bottom Line

In the absence of true federal statehood –which will not happen — Europeans lack the capacity, the coherence, and the consensus that would enable them to act as a serious great world power.

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Robert Lieber, a professor at Georgetown, is one of the country’s leading analysts of US foreign policy, with special interests in the Middle East, Europe, and energy.

His most recent book is Retreat and Its Consequences: American Foreign Policy and the Problem of World Order (Cambridge University Press).

Recent Comments by Robert Lieber