Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Book of Jonah and the Battles in Iraq

1, This appeared in the Wall St Journal, just before Yom Kippur:

Jonah's Dilemma

September 21, 2007; Page A14

This year, as on every Yom Kippur, Jews throughout the world will recite
Book of Jonah, one of the Hebrew Bible's shortest and most enigmatic
Jonah is the only Israelite prophet to preach to Gentiles, and the only
prophet who clearly hates his job. And yet Jews read the book on their
holiest day of the year because of its message of atonement and
But Jonah also conveys crucial lessons for all Americans as they grapple
with crises in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East and yearn for
far-sighted leadership.

"Go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it," God commands Jonah,
explaining that the Assyrians must repent for their sins or face
divinely-unleashed destruction. The task seems straightforward, yet Jonah
balks. He tries to flee, first to sea and later to the desert. If Nineveh
heeds his warnings and is spared, its citizens will later question whether
the city was really ever in danger and assail Jonah for forcing them to
needless sacrifices. But if Nineveh ignores his exhortations and is
destroyed, then Jonah has failed as a prophet. Either way he loses --
the paradox of prophecy. And so he bolts, only to discover that God will
let him out of that bind. Jonah must be swallowed by a big fish before
begrudgingly accepting his mission.

Jonah's quandary is routinely encountered by national leaders, especially
during crises. Winston Churchill, for example, prophetically warned of the
Nazi threat in the 1930s, but if he had convinced his countrymen to strike
Germany pre-emptively, would he have been hailed for preventing World War
or condemned for initiating an unnecessary conflict? As president in 1945,
Harry Truman predicted that Japan would never surrender and that a quarter
of a million GIs would be killed invading it. And so he obliterated
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, only to be vilified by many future historians. But
what if the atomic bombs were never dropped and the Battle for Japan
countless casualties -- would history have judged Truman more leniently?

Recent presidents, in particular, have struggled with such dilemmas while
wrestling with the question of terror. Jimmy Carter failed to retaliate
the takeover the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Ronald Reagan pulled the U.S.
Marines out of Beirut in 1983 after Islamist bombers destroyed their
headquarters, and Bill Clinton remained passive in the face of successive
Qaeda attacks. And yet, had these presidents gone to war, would Americans
today credit them with averting a 9/11-type attack or would they have been
denounced for overreacting? If American leaders had stood firmly earlier
Iran, Lebanon or Afghanistan, would U.S. troops today be battling in Iraq?

President Bush presents a striking example here. After 9/11, he cautioned
that the United States would again be attacked unless it acted
in Iraq. But while there is no way of knowing whether terrorists would
struck America if President Bush had refrained from invading Iraq, many
Americans now denounce the president for initiating an avoidable,
war. This is the tragedy of leadership. Policy makers must decide between
costly actions and inaction, the price of which, though potentially
will ultimately remain unknown -- a truly Jonah-like dilemma.

Unlike presidents, of course, Jonah knew the outcome of his decision: A
penitent Nineveh would not be destroyed by God. And yet he so feared the
paradox of prophecy that he risked his life to escape it. In the end, the
citizens of Nineveh repented and were saved -- and the Book of Jonah was
revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

America's leaders, by contrast, are unlikely to replicate Jonah's good
fortune. They must decide whether to keep troops in Iraq, incurring untold
losses of American lives and resources, or whether to withdraw and project
an image of weakness to those who still seek to harm the U.S. If
efforts fail to deter Iran from enriching uranium, American policy makers
will have to determine whether to stop the Islamic Republic by force or
coexist with a highly unstable, nuclear-armed Middle East. They will be
reproved for the actions they take to forestall catastrophe, but may
no credit for averting cataclysms that never occur. For Mr. Bush and his
successors, this will remain the tragic dilemma of leadership. It is an
worth contemplating on this and every Yom Kippur.

Mr. Oren, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center and author of "Power,
and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present," is a
professor at Yale. Mr. Gerson is co-founder and chairman of the Gerson
Lehman Group.

2. In the spirit of Yom Kippur? Benny Morris, once the godfather of Ben
Gurion University Post-Zionism, has written a surprisingly good column:

Want electricity? Stop the rockets
By Benny Morris
September 22, 2007
'It's about time" was the reaction of most Israelis to the government's
decision on Wednesday to impose further economic sanctions on the Gaza
Strip and to define it as "hostile territory." The government spoke
specifically of cutting off electricity to Gaza's inhabitants if more
Kassam rockets were launched from the Hamas-controlled territory, and of a
possible fuel cutoff down the road.

A variety of terrorist groups -- Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the
Fatah-associated Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade -- have been firing the
primitive, home-made Kassams at Israel's border settlements since the end
of 2001, and the first ones landed in the border town of Sderot in March
2002. The rockets have so far inflicted relatively few casualties and
little damage -- more than 1,000 have been fired, killing about a dozen
Israelis and seriously injuring several dozen -- but they have caused
widespread unease or panic in Sderot. Dozens of families have moved out of
the area in recent months after the Israel Defense Forces, deploying a
variety of means including cross-border armored incursions, ambushes and
helicopter missile attacks on the rocket teams, proved unable to stop the
rocketeers. The IDF measures sometimes resulted in collateral damage and
casualties, triggering condemnation by human rights groups and Western
politicians and media.

How did it come to this? In the summer of 2005, then-Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon unilaterally pulled the IDF out of Gaza and uprooted Israel's
settlements in the area, leaving the territory -- but not the border
crossings to it -- completely in Palestinian hands. The Israeli leadership
hoped that this would result in the cessation of terrorism from the area.
But the opposite occurred: The number and variety of rockets hitting
Israel increased.

Since June, when Hamas took control of Gaza, it has allowed Islamic Jihad
and other terror groups to continue rocketing Israel, and it supplies
these groups with Kassams when they run short, according to Israeli
intelligence. Hamas engineers are said, also by Israeli intelligence, to
be hard at work on producing Kassams with more powerful warheads and
longer ranges. Indeed, a handful of improved Kassams even reached the
southern outskirts of the city of Ashkelon, north of Gaza. Last week, a
rocket hit a tent camp of IDF trainees, injuring 50 soldiers, three of
them severely.

Wednesday's decision by the government, bowing to public opinion, is the
response to the continued rocketing. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his
Cabinet clearly hope that a staggered cutoff of electricity -- Israel
supplies the strip with 120 megawatts of its 200-megawatt consumption (the
remaining 80 megawatts come from Egypt and an Arab-owned plant inside
Gaza) -- will lead to popular local pressure on Hamas to stop the
rocketing, which most Israelis regard as insufferable on both a symbolic
and practical level. The government clearly hopes that this measure will
receive Washington's blessing -- and less diplomatic fallout than military

The Israeli cutoff of electricity will leave Gaza with sufficient energy
to run all its hospitals, government offices and other vital services but
will no doubt result in many of the 1.5 million inhabitants suffering
periodic blackouts. If a fuel cutoff is eventually added to this --
Israeli government lawyers are looking into the matter in terms of
international humanitarian law -- the result could be far more severe. But
this is what Israel is threatening -- if Palestinian terrorists continue
to rocket Israel's border.

3, And when these 90 murder Jews, the whole country will be able to say .

4. Tasers:

5. Yes indeed, let us restore the property to refugees:

6, Israel's Left as Fifth Column:,7340,L-3452067,00.html

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?