Sunday, April 29, 2007

Post-Olmert Israel

I must admit I feel a bit bad for Ehud Olmert. Saddled with the responsibility of leading one of the first legitimate centrist political movements in Israeli history after it had been decapitated in infancy by Ariel Sharon's stroke, Olmert found himself, a mere mortal, trying to do the work of a Titan. Given that he lacked the founding-father credibility of his predecessor, not to mention any sort of charisma, he was bound to be a bit of a disappointment. I must emphasize, though, that I feel only a bit bad as I watch the Prime Minister suffer all the slings and arrows that the outrageous fortunes of Israeli politics can hurl at him. It's one thing to not quite measure up to expectations. It's quite another to lead one's country into a disaster. As the Winograd Commission's recent report documents in scathing detail, Olmert and his top civilian and military advisors, notably the Secretary of Defense and the IDF's Chief of Staff, were headache-inducingly incompetent in the way they conducted last summer's war against Hezbollah. Reading the report, it is difficult to imagine precisely what these people thought their attack was going to accomplish (as a side note, I do find it depressingly ironic that the report, with modified names, would be a piercingly accurate description of the current American administration's prosecution of the war in Mesopotamia).

In any case, what's done is done. Looking forward to a post-Olmert environment (call me foolish, but when mass demonstrations and his own Cabinet Ministers are calling for his resignation, I don't see how he can hang on for very long, protests to the contrary aside), the question is how the Israeli people will react to this whole mess. Will they retreat to the false comfort of a Neanderthal like Netanyahu, or will they somehow choose a government with a mandate to tackle the painful choices that Israel must make in the coming years? As many people have pointed out, Israel is by most measures in very good shape at the moment. The economy is humming along nicely (growth measured recently at 8%), with the high-tech sector booming and foreign direct investment up, but Israel's political class seems completely bereft of leadership capabilities (anyone noticing a theme on this blog?). In the last twenty years, the bulk of Israeli popular opinion has moved in the direction of some kind of accommodative peace with its regional neighbors. The question is whether or not that energy (or should it be called exhaustion?) can be channeled into concrete results absent strong leadership. Oddly enough, Israel's post-Olmert future could be quite interesting.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Barack Obama

Let me be clear, I don't mean to spend very much time on this blog writing about the U.S. Presidential election. For one thing, it is still more than a year away, for another, this blog is meant to be about global politics writ large, not the slings and arrows of American electoral wrangling. Still, the President of the United States remains by almost any reasonable estimate the most powerful individual on Earth, thus it seems reasonable to devote a bit of space musing about how the various candidates would handle themselves in office. Barack Obama, evidently making an effort to dispel the notion that he is all fluff and no substance, recently gave a foreign policy address at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. I must say I'm fairly impressed, though the speech does not appreciably add to his thoughts on international affairs outlined in the Senator's most recent book The Audacity of Hope. Obama seems to be, at least in rhetoric, a sensible leader in the making. Seth Weinberger gives the Senator's speech mixed reviews, in particular on Iraq and military reform, but I take serious issue with some of his criticisms:

First, there is increasing evidence that the surge is paying dividends. It's too early to claim that it's working, but it does seem to be creating the possibility of success in the future. It's clear that Congress is not going to stand up to the president's veto and try to enforce a hard withdrawal deadline. What's not so obvious is how the tune changes when a presidential candidate becomes president... Candidate Obama may want to bring the boys home, but President Obama will see that decision in a different light.

Paying dividends? Hardly. It is instructive that the first article Dr. Weinberger cites to support his case, from the Washington Post, paints a picture far more grim than positive. The one American strategy the article cites as creating some progress - that of walling off neighborhoods - has recently been roundly rejected by the local population and Iraqi government (such as it is). The grizzly details, the killings, the suicide bombings, have not appreciably slowed down, certainly not when Iraq is taken in aggregate rather than reduced to events in Baghdad. A somewhat more sobering assessment was offered recently in a Washington Post op-ed by Senator Joe Biden of Delaware. A few highlights:

The problem is that for every welcome development, there is an equally or even more unwelcome development that gives lie to the claim that we are making progress. For example:

  • While violence against Iraqis is down in some Baghdad neighborhoods where we have "surged" forces, it is up dramatically in the belt ringing Baghdad. The civilian death toll increased 15 percent from February to March. Essentially, when we squeeze the water balloon in one place, it bulges somewhere else.
  • It is true that Sadr has not been seen, but he has been heard, rallying his followers with anti-American messages and encouraging his thugs to take on American troops in the south. Intelligence experts believe his militia is simply waiting out the surge.
  • Closing markets to vehicles has precluded some car bombs, but it also has prompted terrorists to change tactics and walk in with suicide vests. The road from the airport to Baghdad may be safer, but the skies above it are more lethal -- witness the ironic imposition of "no-fly zones" for our own helicopters.

The second article Weinberger cites is taken from The Weekly Standard. Enough said. The fact is, there is simply no way our military or citizenry can or will countenance a large troop presence in Iraq for years to come. The United States will be out of Iraq shortly into the next presidency, the only question is how we will leave.

I certainly don't think Obama's approach to Iraq is perfect. For one thing, while he acknowledges that a political solution is necessary in order to leave Iraq in a state of something other than genocidal anarchy, he offers no such solution. I happen to believe that a loose federal arrangement, what David Brooks has called a "soft-partition," presents the best chance for success, but irrespective of whether or not the Illinois Senator agrees, he needs to present something.

As for Obama's proposal to increase the size of our military, it is not a bad idea per se, though once again I must vehemently disagree with Dr. Weinberger's comments:

...the military doesn't just need to grow, it needs to do so smartly. The US military is clearly sufficiently large and well-equipped and trained to deal with a traditional military threat. Now, the US military needs to develop a nation-building capability. The needs of nation-building are not the same as combat, and the US needs to be capable of both.

The only reason the United States would need to transform its military into a "nation-building" institution (by which I assume Dr. Weinberger means a military capable of fighting large-scale counter-insurgencies, propping up governments, building national infrastructure at high speed, winning the trust of the local population in the context of a long occupation etc.) would be if we were planning on repeating the Iraq experience. While I strongly agree with Senator Obama that Americans must not turn inward in disgust from the Iraq experience - the world needs responsible U.S. leadership more than ever - we ought not focus on increasing our capacity to act as a nineteenth century colonial power. Our military must be able to respond to large scale conventional threats, and it must have the kind of flexibility to conduct low-level special forces operations and play advisory roles against shadowy terrorist networks (as it is currently doing with little fanfare in the Philippines), but the army's post-Vietnam decision to turn away from counter-insurgency and large-scale occupations was the right one, and it ought to be reinforced by the Mesopotamian debacle.

Overall, Obama (along with several other Democratic candidates) seems ready to revive the kind of muscular, pragmatic liberalism that the United States sorely needs to embrace in the coming years. I am impressed, though not awed, by Obama's vision. I hope elements of it make it into the White House, whoever its next occupant may be.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mais Apres Nous, la Deluge...

I find the results of the first round Presidential elections in France both heartening and dismaying; heartening because it is nice to see that my own country is not alone in having a political class beset by paralysis and bereft of the capacity to solve pressing problems, dismaying because France will be ill-served by either candidate.

Forgetting for a moment the contortions Mme. Royal and M. Sarkozy are performing in order to attract the critical 18% of centrist voters who put their support behind Bayrou in this most recent round, let’s examine the two candidates’ visions for the future of France. The French, it seems to an outsider, have three central political issues to resolve as the 21st Century moves out of the starting gate. The first is European integration, that is, how much further to enmesh France politically and economically within the E.U., and how to relate to that body now that its growth in membership precludes France being its undisputed boss. The second is the effective integration of non-European immigrants, Muslims in particular, into France’s economy and society in a way that is fair and just but that does not produce a socially corrosive xenophobic backlash. The third is the economy writ large, namely, how to build a dynamic French economy capable of effectively competing in the global market without dismantling the mechanisms of economic justice that the French hold so dear.

These issues are, of course, all linked. To cite some obvious examples, one main question with respect to the European Union concerns France’s support of Turkey’s admission to the body, an event that would surely have a huge impact on Muslim immigration. Economically, France’s soaring unemployment rate, hovering somewhere around 9%, is disproportionately concentrated among immigrant youth, exacerbating cultural tensions with parallel divisions of class. Any solution to these myriad problems must be holistic, integrated and dramatic. Neither Mme. Royal nor M. Sarkozy present such a program.

Ségolène Royal, the socialist who has made much of breaking with the aging “elephants” of her party seems to lack the direction and resolve to institute the difficult reforms that her people sorely need. She has some good ideas, true, particularly with respect to reforming the education system to make sure France has the human capital necessary to compete in a global economy (would the leadership of a certain other country could make some similar propositions); however, she does not propose any serious measures to shake the stagnant French welfare state out of its lethargy, encourage dynamic entrepreneurship (so very Anglo-Saxon I know) or increase per-capita productivity.

This may sound hypocritical coming from the last American on Earth to hold a 35 hour per week job (the nonprofit sector is a wonderful thing), but a modern industrialized economy simply cannot remain competitive with a citizenry that lives as relaxed a lifestyle as that of modern France. The advantages in education, technology, infrastructure and military prowess that have kept Western nations wealthy for the last two centuries are rapidly fading, and nations like France will have to figure out how to compete with rising behemoths like China and India on a more level playing field. This will not happen if 25% of the workforce continues to be employed in stable, safe, low-stress, wholly unproductive government jobs. If France wants to arrest its slow-but-steady decline from wealth and economic prominence, its people will have to accept a job market that is a bit more fluid, a social safety net that is a bit less robust, and a schedule that allows for a bit less time camping by the Loire. Mme. Royal has spent her campaign in the unfortunate pursuit of promising everything to everyone, and I fear that many will have to be disappointed should she take office.

M. Sarkozy, on the other hand, combines marginally more sensible economic principles with barely-masked xenophobia, a bullish attitude towards the poor and immigrants, and a vision for the future of Europe that would make Samuel Huntington proud. His economic policy, calling for a reformed tax structure and a reexamination of the 35 hour work week among other things, may indeed rouse the French economy from its zombie-like state. Unfortunately, his overly-nationalist vision of France will only serve to alienate other members of the increasingly moribund E.U. His opposition to the entry of Turkey, the one secular Muslim democracy on the face of the Earth, would do almost as much as the U.S. invasion of Iraq to cement the notion of a civilizational clash between the West and the Islamic world, and given France’s large number of Muslim immigrants, that clash is as likely to play itself out in the banlieux of Paris as it is on the streets of Beirut. Also, much as it pains me to say it, while Bush is in office I’d caution against a French leader getting overly chummy with the United States.

As I say, heartened and dismayed. Looking at this election from abroad, I cannot help but get the sense that neither candidate has a real, integrated, dynamic vision for twenty-first century France. I am reminded of the late Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s comments about American politics in 1985: “our masters are intellectually baffled and analytically impotent before the long-term crises of our age – … they know neither causes nor cures and are desperately improvising on the edge of catastrophe.” In many ways, it’s a small world.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Iraqi Oil

An English-language summary of an op-ed piece in Al-Hayat, which cites a recent report by IHS inc. regarding potentially undiscovered oil reserves in Iraq caught my eye today. First off, let me say I treat the report with some healthy skepticism. While I have no expertise whatsoever in the science of the oil industry, I have read enough to know that first-glance estimates of oil reserves often prove to be inflated to say the least. That said, the notion that significant oil may exist in 'Sunni territory' is heartening, though not for quite the same reasons espoused on IraqSlogger.

While I think the oil law wending its way through the Iraqi government is a step in the right direction in terms of handing over control of resources to local governments, the notion that the current US-supported government in Baghdad will be able to set policy in that manner strikes me as a bit far-fetched. The prospect of more evenly-distributed oil resources does seem to open the way towards the kind of loose federal system that increasingly seems to be the only possible positive (ish) conclusion to the madness in Iraq. If the three main ethno-sectarian groups in Iraq feel that they have a measure of economic independence from one another, it may make some kind of peaceful coexistence possible. One key quote by Mohamed Zine caught my eye: "...given a stable political and civil environment, Iraq has the potential to produce four million barrels a day in the near term..." I have long felt that Iraq's oil resources would be difficult to exploit any time in the near future because their uneven distribution would guarantee that political instability would be too high for complex, high-tech oil extraction and distribution infrastructure to operate effectively. If, however, the various sectarian groups could essentially operate their own oil infrastructure (with the Shiites shipping it out of the Gulf, the Sunnis pumping it through Syria and the Kurds pumping it through Turkey), it might provide the basis for separate functioning economies that could provide the necessary environment for a federal system to function. Granted, all of this would be quite a feat given the current grizzly state of affairs in Iraq, but one can always hope.

As for the other bits of Raghida Dirgham's op-ed, I find it interesting that he criticizes Fouad Ajami's 'Shiite victory' discourse as divisive and beneficial to Iraq's enemies by attacking his ethnic roots and calling him, in essence, a self-hating Arab. How does Mr. Dirgham's column not fuel precisely the division he is trying to combat? In any case, as an American armchair blogger who does not even speak Arabic I don't feel qualified to wade too deep into the particulars of an ethnic tiff halfway around the World. Just my initial reaction.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Cooperation with the Kremlin in Missile Defense... hmm

I must admit I was surprised to read this article detailing the new U.S. offer to cooperate with Russia in the construction of its missile defense network in Europe. While I am, at best, a tepid supporter of the notion of missile defense (there are better ways to spend defense dollars), I am shocked and gladdened to see my leadership displaying some rudimentary sense of diplomacy and strategic thinking. It is leading to a bit of cognitive dissonance on my part given past experience, but not in a bad way.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Progress in Darfur? Well... kind of

This past week has, surprisingly enough, seen a bit of potentially positive movement in the Darfur crisis (along with the usual flood of bad news). The New York Times reported a few days ago that China, in the face of a growing international grassroots campaign excoriating China's support for the Sudanese regime, is beginning, finally, to put some pressure on Khartoum to curb the horrors taking place in Darfur. It would seem that an increasingly image-conscious China does not want to go down in history as hosting the "Genocide Olympics" next year. Also in recent days, the Times reported that many of the anti-government rebel groups in the region have been discussing forming a multi-ethnic alliance against the central administration which has the potential to re-shape the conflict. Finally, today, Khartoum has officially withdrawn its objection to the deployment of a 'phase two' UN force into Darfur as a step towards quelling the violence.

Let me be clear, my optimism at this point is tempered by more than three years of watching the international community do virtually nothing to stop the carnage in the Sudan (or Chad, or the DRC or...). I also have absolutely no confidence that President Bashir is making anything beyond a minor adjustment to his murderous policies in response to pressure that, finally, is beginning to build from all sides (witness the simultaneous revelation that Khartoum has been shipping arms to the region in violation of UN sanctions). Irrespective of whether or not anything comes of these recent developments, however, they do have some lessons to impart to analysts of global politics writ large:

Lesson One: Self-interest still rules the day. The unfortunate fact is that the supposed leaders of the international community - The United States, the EU, Russia, China - have dumbly watched one of the greatest crimes of recent decades unfold before their eyes with full knowledge that they had the power to stop, or at the very least curb, its effects. For all the posturing, moralizing, and talk about building constructive international solutions, these leaders have done next to nothing to stem the slaughter. In this instance, I blame not only the relevant governments (though they get the lion's share of it), but the relevant populations as well. Though support for intervening more forcefully in Darfur has been broad-based for some time (at least in the West), there is a difference between supporting a policy and pressuring political leadership to implement one. Broadly speaking, the populations of the worlds powerful nations (among whom, to my embarassment, I count myself) have not brought serious pressure on their governments to stop the genocide (witness Nick Kristoff's latest column on the political economy of genocide).

The reasons for this are somewhat understandable. The United States is fighting (and losing) several major wars. The threat of terrorism now seems ubiquitous, and not just in America. In nations rich and poor, people have been trying to come to grips with the dislocating effects of globalization and demographic and cultural transformation. Global warming poses an increasingly imminent threat to the ways of life we all take for granted. Add to all that the fact that intervening in Darfur, even in a non-military context, has the capacity to impose serious political costs (yet another Western intervention into the internal affairs of an Arab state - must be to take its oil) and the failure of leadership in Darfur becomes less baffling, if no more excusable. For better or worse, Darfur demonstrates that consistent, aggressive, muscular intervention by world powers in times of humanitarian crisis remains more of a dream than a reality.

Lesson Two: Grassroots action works... sort of. What progress has been made, notably in bringing the issue to the eyes of the world in the first place, and in shaming international governments into taking what paltry action they have, has been the result of concerted, coordinated efforts by groups of active citizens worldwide. While some may look at this pessimistically - noting that years of focused action has produced little in the way of results - I prefer to take a more optimistic view, believing that, in the future, the global citizenry will be capable of more effective action.

Lesson Three: Legitimacy Matters. One of the reasons the United States has had difficulty showing leadership on the Darfur issue (other than the fact that the United States has abysmal leadership of late) is that our credibility as a quasi-legitimate, relatively benign global leader capable of commanding respect has been shattered by Guantanamo, Iraq, Abu Gharaib (insert inexcusable scandal here). Ten years ago, had the U.S. offered a muscular response to Darfur, the notion that America was using the crisis as a cynical excuse to gain control over Sudanese oil would have gained few adherents. Now, it would get traction. America has lost the moral credibility necessary to provide effective leadership, and it must be regained before U.S. power will be effective in any positive way.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Contra Krauthammer (Vol. 1)

A moment of full disclosure: I intend on spilling an enormous amount of ink on this blog (digitally speaking) criticizing Charles Krauthammer. I know the standards of blogging to which I subscribe discourage ad hominum attacks, so let me be clear: I bear Mr. Krauthammer no personal ill will. I actually took a couple of classes under a former professor of his, and have been told he is a smart, engaging, fundamentally decent man. I wish him all the happiness this life has to offer. I take up a bit of a pet agenda against him, however, because I see in his writing the quintessence of all that is wrong with the way recent American leadership has conducted foreign policy. His views on the nature of international order, and the nature of power more generally, belong in a different century. His logic is simplistic and relies on a pseudo-Manichean worldview that distorts his diagnoses of problems and renders his policy prescriptions asinine and dangerous. He seems capable of adjusting neither his overarching philosophy nor his concrete advice when world events expose both as misguided. In short, he is the popular-academic equivalent of the Bush administration (indeed, he has provided the current leadership with considerable intellectual firepower). On a somewhat more personal level, both Mr. Krauthammer and I are McGill grads, and I feel obligated to give my alma mater a voice that is not his (even if, speaking from his perch as a nationally syndicated Washington Post columnist, his voice is a bit louder than mine).

This column (admittedly a bit dated) in which he argues that Iraq is the most important front in the war on terror, is perfectly emblematic of the problems with Mr. Krauthammer's way of thinking. Putting aside for a moment the difficulty of fighting a "war on terror" (it is hard to fight a war if one doesn't even know who one's enemies are), Krauthammer's arguments are simply not informed by reality. He considers ridiculous, for example, the notion that "the world's one superpower, which spends more on defense every year than the rest of the world combined, does not have the capacity to fight an insurgency in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan." What is ridiculous is to judge a nation's power - or even the power of a nation's military - based simply on how much it spends on its fighting forces. Yes, the United States spends enormous amounts of money on its military, but it has clearly not put those resources into building a counter-insurgency force. American cash supports a global navy, an air force, and an impressive (if somewhat frightening) array of high tech weapons systems, in addition to training and equipping its 'boots on the ground.' The US volunteer military is not designed to fight long, drawn out counter-insurgencies. Indeed, the military made a conscious decision to turn away from such tasks after the debacle in Vietnam.

The focus on military spending also shows that Mr. Krauthammer has no notion of the modern realities of asymmetric warfare. We don't live in the nineteenth century, and the assumption that great powers can continue to behave essentially as colonizers, engaging in hostile occupations as they see fit, has been disproven time and again in recent years (Russia in Chechnya, Israel in Lebanon, and now the US in Iraq and Afghanistan come to mind as immediate examples). Putting such larger concerns aside for the moment, it has become clear that the US does not have the capacity to fight simultaneous counter-insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, however much Mr. Krauthammer wishes it did. Time's recent cover story only highlights what many people in the military have been saying for some time now: the army is nearing its breaking point, and cannot continue to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan indefinitely. Since the war in Iraq is now all but un-winnable (in a military sense) absent drastic and politically-unfeasable measures such as the institution of a draft, it strikes me as perfectly reasonable to begin refocusing American military resources on Afghanistan, where victory remains possible by most accounts.

Beyond the common neo-conservative mistake of wildly overestimating America's ability to enforce its will upon the world, Mr. Krauthammer's column betrays his skewed strategic priorities. He argues that Iraq is clearly of greater strategic importance than Afghanistan because it is "one of the three principal Arab states, with untold oil wealth, an educated population, an advanced military and technological infrastructure that, though suffering decay in the later years of Saddam Hussein's rule, could easily be revived if it falls into the right (i.e., wrong) hands. Add to that the fact that its strategic location would give its rulers inordinate influence over the entire Persian Gulf region, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf states." Does Mr. Krauthammer actually believe that a US withdrawal from Iraq would lead to any person or group taking over the levers of a functioning Iraqi state and economy? A protracted, fluid, bloody civil war seems to be a far more likely outcome. While that situation would induce many headaches for US foreign policy makers, I doubt the worry that Iraq's conventional military capacity could be harnessed to negative ends would be chief among them. Keeping the region from imploding around a collapsing Iraqi society would be the far more difficult task.

Mr. Krauthammer's focus on the problems that could arise if a functioning Iraqi state fell into the wrong hands serves to highlight one of the principal problems of the neo-conservative worldview: the continued focus on the threats posed by state power in a world where the chaos wrought by failed states is far and away the more significant menace. I don't disagree with Krauthammer when he asserts that a US defeat in Iraq will cause massive problems, I simply think that he grossly misidentifies what those problems will be.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Israel Wins in Iraq? Hardly

The latest issue of Foreign Policy devotes a large section, promoted by a rather dramatic piece of cover art, to trying to tease out what ideas, nations and actors are likely to derive some benefit from the aftermath of the war in Iraq. Some, like ‘Motaqa al-Sadr’ and ‘the price of oil’ clearly belong on the list. The inclusion of others, like ‘Old Europe’ and ‘Iran,’ I believe is more debatable. The inclusion of one “winner,” though, left me flabbergasted: Israel. The University of Haifa’s Amatzia Baram spends about six paragraphs trying to argue that Israel’s security has been improved by the American invasion.

He brings up several points, but his argument basically boils down to the notion that by eliminating Saddam, the United States removed a key financial backer of anti-Israeli terror (Saddam’s regime was reputed to have provided financial compensation to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, as well as to have financed terrorist organizations more generally), as well as a larger, more existential threat to Israel as a state. He notes that before the war Saddam was ever-so-slowly wiggling his way out of the international sanctions regime that had left Iraq isolated and crippled its military base. Baram posits that an re-invigorated Ba’athist regime in Iraq could have posed a strategic threat through a re-constituted WMD program or through providing front-line states with an arms reserve in the event of large-scale hostilities (Iraq proved instrumental in replenishing the Syrian army during the Yom Kippur war). Baram also argues that the American invasion was a key factor in intimidating the Libyan government into giving up its nuclear program and beginning to normalize relations with the international community.

His points are intriguing. No doubt many of the American war planners who dreamt up the current Mesopotamian adventure had some of them in mind. Still, Mr. Baram’s arguments would be far more credible in the context of an American victory. If Saddam’s Iraq had been replaced by even a rough approximation of the liberal democratic utopian paradise that Douglas Feith et al. envisioned, Israel would indeed be in a somewhat more favorable position, perhaps better able to convince its people to countenance a withdrawal from West Bank settlements (which, in addition to their religious significance, act as a bulwark against Iraqi tanks) and make a final peace deal.

The current situation, though, can only be viewed as problematic for Israel. Thomas Ricks’ excellent book Fiasco takes pains to demonstrate how very flimsy a paper tiger Saddam’s Iraq really was on the eve of the invasion. The nation’s economy was in ruins, its military was degraded, it was internationally isolated and it lacked the respect or support of even those Arab neighbors that in theory ought to have treated the country with some sympathy. Iraq was, though, under the reasonably firm control of Saddam’s administration. In short, it was precisely the kind of international actor that a country like Israel knows how to deal with.

If the sixty-year history of the Israeli state has any lessons to impart to us today, it is that malignant ideologies, given the proper breeding environment, can prove far more threatening to modern states’ security than the armies of other states. Israel spent its first thirty years of existence fighting wars with its neighbors in order to secure its position in the region, but after several defeats that ranged from bad to catastrophic, the governments of Egypt, Jordan and Syria basically gave up on the notion that their tanks could drive the Jewish state into the Mediterranean. It has been Lebanon and the Palestinian territories – the two areas intractably caught in the space between occupation, civil war, poverty and outright anarchy – that have provided Israel with a much more challenging security dilemma. One can sign a peace treaty with Sadat’s Egypt and achieve a tacit understanding with Assad’s Syria, but how does one establish peace with an ever-shifting constellation of terrorist networks, political parties and mass-movements, many of which often exist under the same banner?

This is the problem with which Israel is now presented. With Saddam’s fall, Iraq has ceased to be a decrepit lion only to become a pit of snakes. Like Afghanistan during the 1980s, but on a much larger scale, the conflict in Iraq provides the international Jihadist movement with recruits, training, organizational capacity and experience. The now-inevitable departure of the United States will likely leave a far more intractable, slippery and dangerous group of enemies in its wake than Saddam ever was, and Israel remains a prime target.

Those truly concerned with the long-term safety of Israel need to stop fighting the bogeymen of yesteryear. Aging Arab dictators like Saddam and Qadaffi long ago ceased to be Israel’s primary concern. Israel, like most status-quo powers in this day and age, has far more to fear from instability and chaos – even among the ranks of its enemies – than it does from state power. The anarchy in Iraq may indeed produce some winners, but with due respect to Mr. Baram, Israel will not be counted among them.