Sunday, August 31, 2014

Blaming 'manifest destiny'

In a case of timing so bad that it would seem close to unbelievable (not that any time would be good for this), the Netanyahu government has announced its intent to convert 1,000 acres of land on the West Bank into 'state land' (here).

The linked Wash. Post story has generated a torrent of comments, which at a glance appear to be mostly negative, not surprisingly. One somewhat history-challenged commenter insists the 19th-cent. U.S. doctrine of 'manifest destiny' is to blame for the current situation in the Mideast. Why? Well, according to this commenter the Zionist movement at the turn of the twentieth century must have taken its cue from the U.S.'s westward expansion and the concomitant displacement, resettling, brutalization, killing etc. of Native Americans. I asked this person if there is any evidence that Herzl or the other early Zionists were even aware of the phrase 'manifest destiny' or anything in detail about the U.S.'s westward expansion. (I'd be surprised if there were such evidence, though I'm not sure.) Anyway, drawing a straight line from the Trail of Tears to the displacement of Palestinians in the 1948 war and subsequently strikes me as -- how shall I put it? -- tenuous. (As if Israeli soldiers in 1948, when asked for their heroes, would have answered: "why, Andrew Jackson, of course.")    

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Stent vs. Mearsheimer

Caught them on the radio last night. Although the conversation made it sound as if they disagreed about almost everything, I'm not sure they actually did. To the extent they did disagree, I think Stent had a somewhat more nuanced perspective on what's going on in Ukraine. (Which may be what happens when you put a regional expert up against an IR theorist, especially one who, like Mearsheimer, doesn't often "do" nuance; he could if he wanted, but my impression is he usually doesn't.)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

"Intent" does not matter here

Based on the circumstances as reported here, the criticism of the IDF missile firing that killed ten people near a UN school is justified. Targeting three people on a motorcycle riding by a compound where civilians are lining up to buy food and other items amounts to an attack on civilians; the missile, according to the linked article, "hit the motorcycle" and then "crashed into the road," sending shrapnel flying "in every direction." The fact that the three people riding the motorcycle were the intended targets (and were apparently killed along with the others) does not matter, under standard notions of proportionality. So the UN Sec-Gen's statement ("a moral outrage and a criminal act") is justified.

(Note: Post edited slightly after initial posting.)

Update: Hank in comments has pointed out that the WaPo article, standing alone, does not provide enough info to determine whether this was a legal violation, because for that judgment one has to know what the personnel in the plane knew about the situation on the ground when they fired the missile. That point is right, although as I say in the comments it seems likely to me, as someone admittedly ignorant of jet-fighter technology, that the personnel in the plane either knew or could have informed themselves about what the situation on the ground was, i.e., that the motorcycle when they fired on it was passing a school with civilians standing outside.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A word on the 1976 Democratic presidential campaign

As various commenters have pointed out at LGM, anyone who thinks liberal Democrats supported Carter in any significant numbers in the 1976 primary campaign is wrong. Maybe Perlstein has some poll figures to show otherwise, but I don't believe it. The 1976 Democratic primary campaign is a live memory for me. I think Perlstein was probably not born yet. (Off the internet for the weekend.)

On how to save twenty dollars

I came close to buying the updated (2014) edition of Mearsheimer's Tragedy of Great Power Politics today in a B&N where I happened to see it. It's the same as the orig. ed. except it has a concluding chapter arguing M's view, with which I disagree, that China is unlikely to "rise peacefully." My pb copy of the orig. ed. has fallen apart so I figured why not buy the updated one. But then I decided to buy two CDs for $4.99 each, plus the current (summer) issue of NYRB, and in light of that I decided I really couldn't afford and didn't need the Mearsheimer. What I can afford is a somewhat elastic concept, but it boils down to "why the @#! am I spending this &%!@# money?"

ETA: On similar grounds I ask myself why I flush $130 down the toilet every year to maintain my 'inactive' D.C. Bar membership. There's sort of an answer, albeit not a very good one, but it would be boring and take too long to go into.

ETA (again): TBA will be pleased to know there was a prominent small table in the B&N given over to WW1 bks, including handsome (and not inexpensive, of course) new matched pb eds. of Tuchman's Guns of August and The Proud Tower. They said on them "Barbara Tuchman's great war series," even though Proud Tower is about pre-war Europe. Random House is not dumb.