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Changing How We Fight

Wednesday June 06, 2012

Countdown Vol. 10, No. 51

 

Another Set of Tuesday Primaries

Last night, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker survived a recall attempt, beating his opponent Tom Barrett by a larger-than-expected 6 point margin. Walker vastly outspent Barrett and raised millions of dollars from conservative groups across the country that were enthusiastic about his attempts to strip collective bargaining rights from labor unions in Wisconsin. In California, the ranking member on the House Foreign Relations Committee Howard Berman came in second behind fellow liberal Democrat Brad Sherman. However, California advances the two top primary candidates (regardless of party affiliation) to the General Election, so they will have another showdown in November. In New Jersey, a key Democratic primary pitted two long-time incumbents, Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell, against one another in a race that featured a prominent place for the thousands of Arab Americans that live in the newly-drawn district. Though some have vilified the political participation of Arab Americans, and tried to shame Rep. Pascrell for courting the Arab American vote, the community’s mobilization had an enormous effect on this key race, assisting in Pascrell’s crushing victory over Rothman.

Attention Arab Americans Entering Israe/Palestine

If you find TSA screenings at U.S. airports invasive, wait until you hear this: Arab Americans attempting to enter Israel or the Occupied Palestinian Territories are now frequently being forced to open up their emails so Israeli border security can go through their messages and chats. When 42-year old Palestinian American Sandra Tamari refused to log into her Gmail to let Israeli border police go through it, she was expelled from the country. This, of course, is but the latest development in a trend of discrimination and harassment that has affected Arab Americans at Israel’s borders for decades. And how does the U.S. government deal with this? Instead of aggressively defending its citizens’ right to travel without facing ethnic discrimination or invasive measures by a country that draws unprecedented support from the U.S., it has merely raised mild protests while cautioning Arab Americans (among others) that they should expect subpar treatment while traveling to Israel. This is really not good enough! Arab Americans are entitled to the full protections of U.S. citizenship and their government has a responsibility to stand up for them more forcefully.

Kissinger on Intervention in Syria

When McCain called for airstrikes back in March, he was the first high-ranking American official to advocate for direct military intervention in Syria. Since then, he’s described the lack of direct U.S. action as “embarrassing.” By contrast, the Obama administration cautioned that military involvement could make an already atrocious situation even worse. But when it came to Vietnam-invading, Iraq-war supporting, ultra-hawk Henry Kissinger, he predictably… cautioned against intervention in Syria? In a Washington Post op-ed, he asked some pointed questions about the nature of U.S. intervention post-Arab Spring: “Does America consider itself obliged to support every popular uprising against any non-democratic government…? Is, for example, Saudi Arabia an ally only until public demonstrations develop on its territory?” He also argued that Syria didn’t meet the two conditions required for successful intervention: consensus on governance after the overthrow of the status quo, and goal achievability within a domestically sustainable period (as though Iraq and Vietnam met those conditions). Interventionists could not have seen this defection from their ranks coming.

Obama's Cyber Warfare

Remember the Stuxnet computer virus that disrupted Iran’s nuclear development? For those who speculated it had to be the work of either the Israelis or Americans, you were wrong; it was in fact a joint effort. A New York Times report last week detailed the Obama administration’s deep involvement in the creation and use of the worm. Considering Obama’s eagerness to enhance his national security credentials, this effort will probably be an asset in his re-election campaign. However, there was a mishap when the virus escaped from the targeted Iranian machine onto the internet to wreak havoc across the Middle East. “It’s got to be the Israelis, they went too far,” Joe Biden “fumed,” after a presidential briefer blamed the leak on a possible Israeli modification to the worm. More concerning is the way the Flame virus, Stuxnet’s big mysterious cousin, has harvested personal information from computers across the entire Middle East. We may be the country that’s best at this sort of thing, but we’re also the country whose infrastructure is most dependent on computers, so we better be careful with this cyber front of warfare we’re expanding.

What About Palestine?

There are few occasions when a U.S. official can get away with excluding Palestine from a speech to the Arab and Muslim worlds, and Denis McDonough’s address at the U.S. Islamic World Forum was not one of them, especially in light of the timing. The Forum took place just before the 3-year anniversary of Obama’s epic Cairo speech. McDonough focused on areas in which change had taken place with respect to U.S. relations with Arab and Muslim countries over the past three years. He did not, however, mention Palestine once. Of course, the Administration can’t claim any success with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but to ignore the issue entirely shows the extent to which the Administration is out of touch with people in the region. When we polled in 2011, Arabs told us they were very unhappy with Obama, and that the one area the U.S. could be helpful was in brokering peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. But we’re not exactly surprised. The Administration seems to have put Palestine on the back-burner until Obama’s second term, so we’re expecting nothing anytime soon. However, if we’re expecting the region to take our declarations seriously, Palestine better get back on the agenda. 

Silliness in Politics

In everyday life, we tend to separate the dead-serious from the dead-hilarious. In politics, we’re plagued by the inability to extricate them from one another. On the funny front, you’ll be happy to know that former Republican frontrunner Herman “Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan” Cain will be getting his own radio show (awww, shucky ducky!). Maybe his first guest can be Donald “we don’t know we don’t know” Rumsfeld, so he can talk about how Obama played no meaningful role in the Bush Administration’s success in getting bin Laden (makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?). The show could also be the platform on which Donald Trump finally comes out as a secret supporter of President Obama. After all, he’s doing nothing but creating a headache for Romney and helping Obama fundraise with all this birther nonsense.

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