Mr. Netanyahu goes to Washington

Image (above): Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther, oil painting by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1660. Netanyahu drew on the story of Esther, the Jewish queen of Persia, in his speech to the U.S. Congress. The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, addressed a joint session of Congress on Tuesday. This time, he […]

Uprising in Iran

Elections in Iran on Friday returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a second term as president. Supporters of challenger Mir-Hossein Mousavi, a conservative reformer, have taken to the streets in protest. Violence has broken out, and people have been shot to death by police. Remarkably, the Islamic republic’s leading cleric, Ali Khamenei, has called for an investigation of the election results. So have other members of the Iranian ruling class.

Regardless of the outcome, the United States needs to stay out of this. Mousavi’s supporters and Iran experts are clear about this. Given the history of U.S. intervention in Iranian affairs since World War II, and the anti-Americanism that was a theme of the 1979 revolution, any effort by our government to promote the opposition is guaranteed to backfire and to help unify and expand Ahmadinejad’s support. This is why Mitt Romney’s remarks this weekend have been self-serving and irresponsible. Obama’s balancing act — expressing doubt about the election’s fairness without taking sides — is the right move for this moment in the chess game. Continue reading “Uprising in Iran”

Iraq and the American Revolution

Liberty BellNow British forces are ending combat operations in Iraq. I always thought it was remarkable to see U.S. troops in Iraq serving alongside British units, some of whose service histories must go back to the struggle against American revolutionaries in the 1770s and 1780s. The two armies have fought together several times since 1917, of course, but the current conflict in Iraq is, to me, the most reminiscent of that first one between British redcoats and American rebels.

At that time Britain was acknowledged to be wealthiest, most technologically advanced nation in what we now call the “West,” and its people enjoyed the highest known degree of liberty. British colonists in America agreed: From 1756 to 1763 patriotic Americans had fought side-by-side with British troops to defeat the despised French and Indians and expand the British Empire. When London sought to recover some of the costs of that war by raising taxes and tightening administrative control over the colonies, the reaction from the colonists — boycotts, demonstrations, petitions, and open defiance of the laws — seemed utterly excessive. The colonists also objected to King George’s measures to protect his American Indian subjects from encroachments by white settlers. They accused the king of trying to enslave them, while they themselves held Africans in bondage. What could be more absurd? Clearly Britain was justified in sending troops to control these American insurgents — who were aided by terrorist radicals from Spain, Prussia, Bavaria, Italy, Poland — and especially France.

There was no 9/11 attack to confuse the British public with. But there was the threat of the French, Britain’s habitual enemies just across the Channel. Once the American rebels allied themselves with the hated French, the morality of the war seemed plain to many in Britain. The disciplined British soldiers who shipped out to suppress the American rebellion were told that they were vindicating not just their national interest but the cause of liberty. Washington, the principal insurgent leader, was getting help from foreign jihadists who would overthrow the legitimate governments of Europe if they got their way. Soldiers must fight in America in order that Britons could sleep safely at home. Continue reading “Iraq and the American Revolution”