יום חמישי, 17 במאי 2012

Learning from America - United Arab States

America is praised for its democracy, for freedom, for the genius of Federalist Papers, for its Constitution, for stability, for economic and military power and for many other well deserved exceptional qualities. Yet less abstract characteristics, what Alexis de Tocqueville called 'habit of mind,' may explain better its uniqueness.

Holocaust Museum  Washington DC
America has created a vision of nation building without an nationalistic ethos. To be a French, or German, or Russian, or Polish one must carry on his or her shoulders the history, language, culture, sometimes religion, and other attributes, without which one is not considered a full member of the nation. America is different: by some magical process one becomes an American the next day after getting citizenship, and without the immediate burden of culture and history. New Americans may have taken rudimentary citizenship 101 course about George Washington, the Constitution and the Civil War, but they feel American not because of that. Furthermore, usually the new Americans are more patriotic than citizens born there.

When one becomes an American, one is accepted as he or she is. His English may be less than perfect, it doesn't matter. If his sense of humor is unconventional, perhaps perhaps we could learn something new. His clothes are different? So what? Henry Kissinger still retains traces of German accent, but nobody cares. It is hard to imagine French, or Russian Foreign Ministers with less than impeccable French or Russian accents respectively. Did Bashevitz Singer write in Yiddish? Nobody remembers. He is an American Nobel winner, isn't he? He writes about a bygone strange world. It does not matter, we can live it through reading his stories.

What is perhaps more important, America welcomes the ties of new or old Americans with their previous homelands. Those ties become somehow a pillar of American community life. In the past they used to say that a New York politician must visit the three i's: Ireland, Italy and Israel before running for an office. Because of this attitude, after the State of Israel was established, the ties of Jews to the new country seemed natural. In fact they strengthened the status of American Jews as Americans.

Even the language issue of Spanish American is more or less tolerated. Turkish commentator, who recently visited Florida, was wondering how America tolerates Spanish easily while Kurdish in Turkey is almost a sin.

When Arabs become in 'habit of mind' Americans, they reject terror and are open to any discussions which concern the Arab world. CAIR and similar organizations damage Muslims not because of their real or alleged support of human rights but because they make it harder for Muslims to become Americans.

The ability of the people of United States to accept new Americans as equals from day one is, in my mind, the most important quality of the “exceptional” America. Individuals, communities and countries around the world should learn and imitate it not as a tribute to the US, but as first rate service for their own existence.

The hard Left will benefit too from taking a rest from its usual agenda and take a hard look at what their country really is.

The European concept of nation state is quite new. Even in late Middle Age there were no modern nation states. If a Lord of the King of France decided to shift his loyalty to the King of Prussia, all inhabitants of his fief became "Germans" without much ado. The rise of nationalism in the modern age created the concept of nation state, the pioneers of which were Italy and Poland. In this sense Palestinians and almost everybody else are "invented" nations.

The idea of nation state maintained that nation was, or should have been the dominant social structure of the community, more important than any other such structure. The nation was was somehow vaguely defined by ethnicity, language, religion and territory. Since in all countries there were minorities which didn't fit into definition of the "nation," minorities became a key negative factor in defining nationalism. They were the "other," without which nation was, in fact, impossible. They were "not us," and thus a subject of prejudice and hate. There was strong affinity between nationalism and fascism. Most of the new nation states established after the First World War had strong fascistic tendencies. 


The Arab states came into being by strokes of pen of imperialist powers, which defined rather arbitrarily borders according to power politics of France, Britain and to lesser extent Germany and Russia, and according to internal politics of the pretending dictators, monarchs and other rulers. Those states didn't reflect the social structures that mattered to people more than the the artificial states: tribes, religious sects and territorial loyalties. The new Arab states had fascist tendencies because other states had them too, and because such tendencies made life easier for the semi-independent rulers. Furthermore, political parties established at the beginning of the last century in the Arab world, be it the religious Muslim Brothers or the secular Ba'ath looked at fascist Germany and Italy as inspiring models.

The ever simplistic orientalist view of the West presumes that Arab states are God created structures and that "free election" will bring democracy and prosperity, following which there will be a happy beach party. Without preexisting democracy free elections are meaningless. In fact the worst totalitarian regimes in the twentieth century, came about by "free election."

Arabs will have to find by themselves the social and territorial structure. In doing that they should rely to their own culture and history and observe critically the world around. Examining the success of the United States may give them some clues as to why Unites Arab States could become the future success of world history.

יום חמישי, 10 במאי 2012

Striking Iran: the Decision

None of the Israeli major intelligence services, SHABAK, MOSSAD and Military Intelligence, 
predicted the Arab Spring. After it started they were unable to predict the fall of Mubarak
Even now, they do not have a clear idea as to its outcome. In this they are not different 
from other intelligence services, and from the so called experts and journalists. Be this as it may,
the knowledge of what happens next door is of paramount importance to Israel. This 
failure of  of intelligence is not less important than any other such failure in the 65 years of 
Israel's existence. 

Failures of intelligence are in fact failures in analysis of raw, frequently contradictory, data in 
drawing conclusions and making decisions. The process is much wider than strictly 
professional intelligence. Most of the times the failure or success is determined by other 
military and civilian leaders. At the end it is the commander in chief, whatever his or her 
formal title is, who makes the decision. 

In summer of 1973, 44 years old Major Shlomo Baum serving his 30 days annual reserve 
service in Sinai not far from the Suez Canal noticed unusual movements of the Egyptian 
Army across the canal. He reported it to his superior officers, who dismissed the 
information. Baum who knew Ariel Sharon from the famous, some would say infamous, 101 
Unit, called him up. At that time General Sharon was the Commander of the Southern 
Command. Sharon ordered alert. Baum's superiors did as ordered, but complained about 
the unnecessary move, because of friendship of Baum and Sharon. In his memoir of the 
Yom Kippur war Saadat wrote that he planned the war for summer, but the alert of IDF forced 
him to change plans. 

Israeli intelligence was surprised by the war which was launched in October. Newspapers 
blamed the ruling conventional wisdom concepts, which they called the “conception,” or 
CONSEPTSYA, which precluded war. Without concepts thinking, decision making is 
impossible. The concepts must however be constantly evaluated and criticized. Pierre 
Bourdieu in very different context regarded the inability of social and political scientists to 
Commander in Chief
reflect critically on their assumptions and concepts a major weakness of these disciplines.

In the first few days Yom Kippur was, to say the least, difficult for Israel. On the basis of 
the same intelligence the Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan, the adored hero military leader 
and the Prime Minister, the grandma Golda Meir reached opposite decisions. Dayan 
wanted to admit defeat, Meir thought that victory can still be achieved. She became the de 
facto commander in chief, and made strategic and tactical military decisions. 
Truman - against the "wise men"

Many times failures of intelligence stem 
from the fact that heads of such services
do not fully understand, or perhaps 
cannot internalize the rules of decision 
making. Human decision takes place only under uncertainty. 
The future and its consequences are unknown, and
in spite of that a decision has to be taken. 
If everything is known, there is no decision, 
a computer would do the job better. 

In 1948 the US had to decide whether to recognize soon to 
be born the new State of Israel. George Marshall, the 
legendary war hero, whom Churchill called the “organizer of 
the victory,” the originator of the Marshall Plan for Europe, was the Secretary of State. He 
strongly objected to recognition of Israel. The “wise men” in the Department, Acheason
Kennan, Bohlen and others supported him, so did the CIA, which predicted that Jews will 
lose the war. Marshall threatened to resign. He insisted that the written protocol of meeting with
Truman will state that he will not vote for him, if overruled. Truman decided to 
Begin - Osiris Strike - against the Mossad
recognize Israel. The strong objections of Marshall 
and the “wise men” are remembered only as a 
footnote to history. 

Meir Dagan, the former head of MOSSAD, and  
Yuval Diskin, the former head of SHABAK do not 
think that failure in the past precludes them from 
continuing to be experts about the future. They claim 
to know what Iran is and how it will respond to attack 
by Israel. 

The fact is, however, that future in the matter of Iran 
is unchartered territory, not only for Israel and the 
United States, but probably for Iran too. 

It will take a missile several minutes to reach Israel. Israel is a tiny country, even if it has a 
massive nuclear capability, second strike may be too late. Is Iran “rational” as some claim? 
Rational or not, it is difficult to understand the rationale of sending children to war with 
formal passport to heaven if they die as it did in Iraq-Iran war, and to figure out what was the 
political or military gain in killing 85 Jews in Buenos Aires in the eighties. 

Will military attack destroy or delay Iran's capability to make a nuclear weapon? Will such 
attack remove the clerics from power? Can Israel rely on the US? How far will Obama go 
with Iran if he is reelected? 

Those are hundreds more questions do not have easy, clear and easy answers. Uncertainty and 
difficulties notwithstanding, a decision must be taken. The commander in chief will have to make