Mar 9, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 25 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Sometimes a speech is just a speech. Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech about Iran policy on March 3 will not be his first address to Congress. It will make familiar, if important, arguments. One might assume that, like the vast majority of speeches, it would soon be overtaken by events in Israel and the United States and the world.
But the Obama administration’s reaction to the Israeli prime minister’s appearance suggests Netanyahu’s is more than just another speech. An administration that disdains the use of disproportionate force has been, to say the least, disproportionately forceful in its efforts to undermine Netanyahu’s message and discredit the messenger. What is Obama so worried about? What is he, if we may put it indelicately, so scared of?
We can get a clue from the almost equally disproportionate reaction of Obama’s surrogates to Rudy Giuliani’s suggestion that Barack Obama doesn’t love his country. Why, really, should anyone care about Giuliani’s comment? We have no crime of lèse majesté in this country. But Obama defenders did care. Did they suspect Giuliani had struck a nerve?
It seems he did. After days in which the entire media and most politicians, including many Republicans, hurried to condemn Giuliani and to assure everyone that Barack Obama loves our country as much as the next red-blooded American, a new poll from YouGov reports only 47 percent of respondents saying they think the president loves America, with a slight majority either thinking he does not (35 percent) or being unsure (17 percent). By contrast, 58 percent think Rudy Giuliani loves America, and only 10 percent think not. As for themselves, 85 percent of respondents say they love America, and only 6 percent say they do not.
What does this have to do with Netanyahu? Agree with his policies or not, no one doubts he loves his country. In fact, he seems to like America a lot, too. One suspects that if asked, respondents to the YouGov poll might have judged Netanyahu more of an America-lover than Barack Obama. And they would in a sense have been right.
After all, Obama is not just a citizen of America. He’s a citizen of the world. And he’s a disbeliever in American exceptionalism in any sense stronger than the British believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks in Greek exceptionalism. There’s nothing surprising about this. Obama is very much in the mainstream of modern progressive thought in his embrace of cosmopolitanism and his distrust of nationalism. He’s not interested in riding a high horse equipped, as he would see it, with patriotic blinders or nationalist spurs.
Netanyahu, by contrast, is a patriot and a nationalist. He’s an Israeli patriot and nationalist. But he also appreciates the historic role and accomplishments of the great nation-states of the West. History—the history of the Jewish people, but not only the Jewish people—is always on his mind. He is inspired by the example of Ze’ev Jabotinsky—and also of Winston Churchill. He appreciates the legacy of David Ben-Gurion—and also of Harry Truman.
When Netanyahu walks to the podium of the House of Representatives on March 3, he’ll undoubtedly have in mind an earlier speech given by a foreign leader to a joint meeting of Congress. On December 26, 1941, Winston Churchill addressed Congress, though in the smaller Senate Chamber rather than in the House, as so many members were out of town for Christmas break.
Churchill enjoyed the great advantage in December 1941 of having an American president who, after Pearl Harbor, was a clear and unambiguous ally in the war for the West. Netanyahu has no such advantage. So it might be hard for him to say, as Churchill did, that here in Washington he had “found an Olympian fortitude which, far from being based upon complacency, is only the mask of an inflexible purpose and the proof of a sure, well-grounded confidence in the final outcome.”
But Netanyahu won’t be speaking only to the Obama administration, which has, after all, made clear its lack of interest in listening to Netanyahu and whose allies won’t be there to listen. He’ll be speaking to the American people.
So he can echo Churchill in appealing to them and warning that, in the struggle in which we’re engaged, “many disappointments and unpleasant surprises await us.” He can echo Churchill in expressing confidence that the West, led by the United States, will prevail. And he can look forward to a time when an Israeli prime minister will be able to say what Churchill could say in December 1941: “Lastly, if you will forgive me for saying it, to me the best tidings of all—the United States, united as never before, has drawn the sword for freedom and cast away the scabbard.”
9:10 AM, Feb 26, 2015 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
The crisis between the United States and Israel has been manufactured by the Obama administration. Building a crisis up or down is well within the administration’s power, and it has chosen to build it up. Why? Three reasons: to damage and defeat Netanyahu (whom Obama has always disliked simply because he is on the right while Obama is on the left) in his election campaign, to prevent Israel from affecting the Iran policy debate in the United States, and worst of all to diminish Israel’s popularity in the United States and especially among Democrats.
The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy.Mar 2, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 24 • By LEE SMITH
Last week, outgoing chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces Benny Gantz told an American audience that it’s important the international community defeat both camps of regional extremists. The way Gantz sees it, on one side there are Sunni radicals, like the Islamic State, al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Nusra Front, an al Qaeda affiliate. On the Shiite side are Iran and the Revolutionary Guards expeditionary unit, the Quds Force, as well as Hezbollah and Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite militias.
There’s no way Iran will ever help fight al Qaeda. Mar 2, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 24 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
Not long after his inauguration in January 2009, President Barack Obama penned a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran. As a presidential candidate, Obama had promised to conduct “tough, direct diplomacy” with the Iranians. And Obama figured, correctly, that all diplomatic entreaties would end up on Khamenei’s desk. So, the newly elected president decided to write Iran’s ultimate decision-maker directly. And he has written several letters since.
3:38 PM, Feb 3, 2015 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
The Islamic State, a self-proclaimed “caliphate” that rules over large portions of Iraq and Syria, has released a video showing a Jordanian pilot, Mu’adh al Kasasibah, being burned alive. He is shown standing and praying in the middle of a cage as a fighter sets fire to him. The video is horrific, but not surprising. We should know by now that there is no limit to the group’s brutality.
Feb 2, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 20 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Otto von Bismarck may never have said what’s often ascribed to him: “There is a special Providence for drunkards, fools, and the United States of America.” But he could have, and it probably sounds even better in German. In any case, one can certainly see, looking back, why the apparently apocryphal quotation became famous. It’s true, after all, that America has seemed providentially fortunate at times. It’s true that we’ve managed to survive some near misses, and to flourish despite a fair amount of folly.
10:51 AM, Dec 19, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Concerned Veterans for America has launched a new video series on the failures of the Obama administration's foreign policy doctrine of "leading from behind." The launch begins with Libya as a case study in what's gone wrong with U.S. foreign relations. Watch the video below:
12:01 PM, Dec 17, 2014 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
Imagine for a moment that you are a Saudi, Emirati, Jordanian, or Israeli. Your main national security worry these days is Iran—Iran’s rise, its nuclear program, its troops fighting in Iraq and Syria, its growing influence from Yemen through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon.
8:44 AM, Nov 28, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
You won't find the British royals in the holy land. Elliott Abrams calls it, "The bizarre story of the refusal of British royals to visit Israel, while they are constantly in the Arab world, continues."
Dec 8, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 13 • By MICHAEL MAKOVSKY and WILLIAM KRISTOL
So the November 24 deadline for reaching a comprehensive agreement with Iran over its nuclear program—itself an extension of an earlier deadline—has come and gone with a whimper, and with another extension. The frenetic, feverish, and foolish pursuit of a deal by the Obama administration, marked by one concession after another to Iran, raised the real possibility that the United States and its international partners would make a historically dangerous mistake that could ensure a nuclear-weapons-capable Iran in short order.
Nov 24, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 11 • By LEE SMITH
It's not clear when (or whether) the Obama White House will conclude a final agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. The extended deadline for the interim deal known as the Joint Plan of Action is set to expire November 24. And the president very much wants a deal that would cement his foreign policy legacy. On the other hand, there are still gaps on key issues, like how many centrifuges Iran gets to keep.
Nov 17, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 10 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
With the Republicans winning control of the Senate last week, The Scrapbook is hopeful that the country might be protected from the Obama administration’s worst foreign policy instincts, especially regarding Iran. At the end of this month, the interim agreement with Tehran over its nuclear program expires, and many are concerned that the White House is likely to settle for a very bad permanent agreement. After all, Obama aides have made it clear that an Iran deal is Obama’s foreign policy priority—as central to his legacy, they say, as the Affordable Care Act.